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Police killing in Minneapolis puts new scrutiny on Biden pick

The killing by police of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis has aimed the national spotlight at systemic racism in America. It’s also added pressure on Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden eyes bigger US role in global vaccination efforts Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech Kemp: Pulling All-Star game out of Atlanta will hurt business owners of color MORE to pick an African American running mate. 

George Floyd’s death after a police officer put his knee to Floyd’s neck while pinning him to the ground closely followed the killing of another black man, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, who was fatally shot while jogging in Georgia after a confrontation with two white men.

Both incidents broke through the coronavirus pandemic to make headlines and capture national attention, while underscoring a growing sense that there are two Americas with seemingly different forms of justice for black and white people.

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The killings come at a sensitive time for Biden, whose off-hand remark last week that African Americans “ain’t black” if they vote for President TrumpDonald TrumpHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Man arrested for allegedly threatening to stab undercover Asian officer in NYC Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech MORE sparked controversy over whether he was taking black voters for granted.

Some House lawmakers are actively calling on Biden, who has previously said he would pick a woman to be his running mate, to select an African American.  

“We want people to not take our votes for granted and to work actively and urgently to address some of the issues that persist in our communities,” Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOmar rips Bezos amid union fight: Forces workers to 'defecate in bags' Omar slams Biden admin for continuing 'the construction of Trump's xenophobic and racist wall' The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's infrastructure plan triggers definition debate MORE (D), whose district includes the part of Minneapolis where Floyd was killed, said when asked how the recent deaths of black men might influence Biden’s VP decision.

“Those who are closest to the pain should be closest to the solution,” Omar added.

Sources close to Biden — who served eight years as vice president to Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaUS raises concerns about Iran's seriousness in nuclear talks Matt Stoller calls on Biden administration to keep McKinsey away from infrastructure Obamas describe meeting Prince Philip in statement mourning his death MORE, the first black president — say the rash of racial incidents haven't gone unnoticed by Biden and his team and will likely play a role in any decision making going forward. 

“I think this definitely makes him think twice and a third time about it,” said one longtime Biden ally close to the campaign. “He's definitely going to get increased pressure from the black community. You're already seeing that with new hires.”

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Biden has condemned Floyd’s killing, comparing it to the 2014 death of Eric Garner, another unarmed black man who died in 2014 after New York police put him in a chokehold.

“It sends a very clear message to the black community and black lives that are under threat every single day,” Biden said during a virtual campaign event on Wednesday.

He also said police have to be held “more fully accountable” while calling for an investigation by the FBI.

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisPelosi planned on retiring until Trump won election: report How Kamala Harris can find the solution for the migration crisis White House unveils official portraits of Biden and Harris MORE (D-Calif.), who is on the shortlist of candidates to be Biden’s running mate, has called for the officer involved in the killing to be arrested on murder charges.

Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeBiden funding decision inflames debate over textbooks for Palestinian refugees 10 Democrats join NAACP lawsuit against Trump White House delays release of budget plan MORE (D-Calif.), a former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, has called on Biden to pick an African American woman like Harris, who was previously the attorney general of California.

A new Biden administration must understand that “black lives do matter, and for generations African American men and women have been subjected to unequal justice, have been killed, have been murdered,” Lee, who represents Oakland, told The Hill.

“So it’s time for Biden to select a vice president and attorney general who’s going to make sure there is equal justice under the law and say very loudly and clearly that black lives do matter and this country will no longer tolerate what has taken place,” Lee added.

Biden is expected to announce his pick before Aug. 1. It will be his first major decision as his party’s standard-bearer, and he is facing pressure from different parts of the party.

Progressives are pushing for him to pick a liberal such as Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOn The Money: Biden .5T budget proposes major hike in social programs | GOP bashes border, policing provisions Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists POW/MIA flag moved back atop White House MORE (D-Mass.), who supporters argue would energize the Democratic grass-roots.

Others have touted swing-state politicians who might help Biden win Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, the three Rust Belt states that President Trump won from Democrats in 2016.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) is a favorite of some, as is Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharLobbying world New small business coalition to urge action on antitrust policy Bottom line MORE (D-Minn.), whose state is now the center of the latest storm over an African American death.

Other African American women believed to be on Biden’s shortlist include former United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice; Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsTrump hands Rubio coveted reelection endorsement in Florida Democrats urge Biden to take executive action on assault-style firearms Vanita Gupta will fight for all as associate attorney general MORE (D-Fla.), a former Orlando police chief; and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. 

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Biden himself faces pressure to pick an African American woman given the boost black people gave to his campaign when he won the South Carolina primary. Before that victory, his campaign looked like it might never take off.  

“He knows that through the course of the campaign and the reason he's the nominee is the base of support he's received from the African American community,” one ally of Biden said.

This ally also contrasted Biden with Trump, saying he would continue to talk about racial justice and show how American leadership would be different under a new president.

Biden quickly apologized last week for his “cavalier” comments to black radio host Charlamagne tha God that “you ain’t black” if African Americans vote for Trump, and there are differences of opinion about how much the remarks hurt him.

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson warned that Biden “cannot take the African American vote for granted,” and one Biden fundraiser told The Hill that the remarks should lead him to pick a black woman as his running mate.

Other Democrats close to Biden downplayed the remarks.

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Asked about the “you ain’t black” remark, Demings, who’s being vetted for VP, replied that Biden “shouldn’t have said it.”

“But by the same token, if we are keeping score, the president of the United States certainly has a greater responsibility than someone running for president,” Demings told The Hill outside the Capitol. "And unfortunately President Trump, since before he was elected, did everything in his power to divide us, particularly along racial lines."

“America needs to get this right. We’ve seen these unfortunate types of incidents happening for decades,” Demings added. “I think Joe Biden is committed to selecting the best running mate possible. I think he has some really good choices; I’m glad that my name is being called.”