The Hill’s Morning Report — Biden to visit Buffalo after mass shooting
Officials on Sunday struggled anew to identify how the most expert and powerful in America charged with keeping citizens safe can prevent more massacres committed by lone white gunmen filled with hate or fear or both.
President Biden, speaking Sunday during a previously scheduled National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service in Washington with law enforcement officers, said the shooting deaths on Saturday of 10 people, including a retired police officer, at a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store is under investigation as a hate crime.
Hours later, across the country in California, one person was killed and five senior citizens were wounded during a lunchtime shooting at an Orange County Taiwanese Presbyterian church. An Asian man in his 60s was subdued by congregants who tackled him, hogtied him with an extension cord and grabbed his two weapons before his arrest. A motive was not immediately identified, but authorities said the shooter, who had sealed the doors to prevent attendees at the reception from escaping, did not reside in the area (The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times).
Acknowledging the outpouring of public anger and grief following the New York state shootings, Biden condemned hate and racism in America and denounced domestic terrorism. The president plans to travel to Buffalo on Tuesday to “grieve with the community,” according to the White House (CNN).
“A racially motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation. Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideology, is antithetical to everything we stand for in America. Hate must have no safe harbor,” Biden said. “We must do everything in our power to end hate-fueled domestic terrorism.”
Authorities said they have video and eyewitness evidence, a 180-page manifesto that describes the accused shooter’s fear that whites are being replaced by Blacks and Jews, and details premeditation and planning. They arrested and charged Payton Gendron, 18, who opened fire wearing body armor and wielding an assault rifle at a Tops Friendly Market before surrendering to police. Gendron, who is accused of shooting 13 people, 11 of them Black, has pleaded not guilty.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said she believes there should be a federal statute that classifies assault based on race or religion as a terror attack. Gendron can be prosecuted under both federal and state laws, and Hochul said it’s unlikely the suspect will ever leave law enforcement custody (CBS News).
“It was a straight up racially motivated hate crime,” said John Garcia, the Erie County, N.Y., sheriff (The New York Times).
The murders of 10 people and injuries to three bystanders put a national spotlight back on mass killings in America and white gunmen who act alone, often steeped in social media and conservative warnings of “replacement” of white Americans by Blacks, Latinos and Jews (The New York Times).
Officials reacted with frustration on Sunday, diagnosing national problems more readily than potential solutions. They spoke of a need for “sensible gun control” (Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, an independent), the prevalence of guns (Hochul) and the challenge of getting gun safety legislation through the Senate (Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.).
Hochul said CEOs of social media companies should be held accountable to monitor hate speech on their platforms.
Others urged relatives and those on social media to take seriously racist threats and diatribes by potentially radicalized lone wolves who could pose risks to others and to contact law enforcement — a challenging suggestion in a country that values individual rights and free speech. FBI Director Christopher Wray has spoken publicly about law enforcement’s challenges in chasing leads about homegrown suspects thought to be on the “hate spectrum.”
Some analysts on Sunday called on politicians and elected officials to publicly work harder to denounce race-based hatred and eschew toxic rhetoric and to support national conversations about race with the goal of greater national understanding. It was a reminder of former President Clinton’s One America Initiative, which was mocked in some quarters at the time. In 2022, as in the past, political parties are actively working to mobilize blocs within the electorate based on partisanship, race and ethnicity, regions, cultural identity, economic strata, and often gender.
About 60 percent of the extremist murders committed in the United States between 2009 and 2019 were committed by people espousing white supremacist ideologies such as replacement theory, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
“It is the most mass-violence-inspiring idea in white supremacist circles right now,” Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, told The New York Times. “This particular idea has superseded almost everything else in white supremacist circles to become the unifying idea across borders.”
© Associated Press / Manuel Balce Ceneta | President Biden and first lady Jill Biden at National Peace Officers’ Service on Sunday.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), 63, announced on Sunday night that he was treated for a “minor stroke” after experiencing “lightheadedness and acute neck pain” while delivering a speech. An angiogram showed he experienced “a small venous tear” at the back of his head. Van Hollen tweeted that he had “no long-term effects or damage,” but would be under observation and hospitalized in Washington for a few days. He said he plans to return to work in the Senate later this week (The Hill).
■ The Washington Post: The Buffalo shooting suspect was investigated and brought to a hospital less than a year ago by state police for making a threatening statement.
■ The Associated Press: Buffalo shooter targeted a Black neighborhood, according to officials.
■ WHAM ABC13: FBI joins Buffalo shooting investigation, suspect receiving mental health treatment.
■ The Wall Street Journal: Buffalo shooting suspect wrote in school about wanting to carry out a mass attack.
Virtual Event Invite
The Hill’s Mental Health Summit, Tuesday, May 17, 1 p.m. ET
The pandemic and its toll on the mental health of Americans is often described as a “dual crisis.” What is being done to address the mental health crisis in our country? During Mental Health Awareness Month, The Hill hosts a discussion on policy recommendations that promote prevention and care for Americans experiencing mental illness. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), National Institute of Mental Health Director Dr. Joshua Gordon, Headspace CEO Russ Glass and more. RSVP today.
LEADING THE DAY
The Pennsylvania Senate race took another turn on Sunday, this time on the Democratic side, as Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), the party’s likely nominee, announced he had a stroke on Friday, suffers from atrial fibrillation and remains hospitalized.
Fetterman, the overwhelming favorite heading into Tuesday’s primary contest, said that he suffered a stroke “that was caused by a clot from my heart being in an A-fib rhythm for too long.” He added that doctors removed a clot and he anticipates a full recovery.
“The good news is I’m feeling much better, and the doctors tell me I didn’t suffer any cognitive damage,” Fetterman said. “They’re keeping me here for now for observation, but I should be out of here sometime soon,” he continued, adding that he needs “to take a minute, get some rest, and recover.”
According to the most recent Franklin & Marshall University poll, Fetterman leads Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) by nearly 40 percentage points.
Across the aisle in the Keystone State, former President Trump made his long-awaited play in the gubernatorial contest by endorsing state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R), who has echoed Trump’s false claims that there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election (The Hill). Mastriano has led in polling throughout the primary season, leading Republicans elsewhere to attempt to coalesce behind former Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) due to fears that Mastriano’s sheer presence atop the ticket would hand the governor’s race to state Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) (The Hill).
“Pretty much everyone expects the worst,” one Pennsylvania-based GOP operative told the Morning Report, noting that the party is now preparing to shift resources to shore up state legislative contests due to Mastriano’s likely win. A recent Fox News poll showed that Mastriano leads Barletta by 12 points.
In the commonwealth’s Senate race, sources indicate the contest is deadlocked as Mehmet Oz, Kathy Barnette and David McCormick near the finish line in the push to replace Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
As The Hill’s Niall Stanage notes, Barnette in particular has roiled the contest in the final days, as she has shot up in the polls while Oz and McCormick have engaged in an intense ad war for months. Now, they are training their fire on the new challenger. Oz said over the weekend that a 2015 tweet in which Barnette said that “pedophilia is a Cornerstone of Islam,” is “reprehensible” and “disqualifying” (The Associated Press). Oz would be the first Muslim GOP senator if elected.
■ The New York Times: Barnette says she “can’t provide a lot of context” for anti-Islamic tweets.
■ James Hohmann, The Washington Post: Who is, and isn’t, MAGA is no longer Trump’s to decide.
■ The Hill: Seven primary races to watch on Tuesday.
Elsewhere on the political scene, the leaked draft opinion out of the Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade has put increased weight on state attorney general contests this fall as Democrats consider the role the last line of defense to protect reproductive rights.
As The Hill’s Julia Manchester notes, 13 states currently have trigger laws on the books that would take effect automatically if the landmark 1973 decision is overturned, leading Democratic attorney general incumbents and candidates to make that a central part of their campaign messages.
■ The Associated Press: Justice Clarence Thomas says abortion leak has changed Supreme Court.
■ The Hill: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) warns tribes not to create abortion havens.
■ NBC News: House Judiciary Committee to hold hearing on impact of overturning Roe.
■ The Hill: Canada, Mexico brace for influx of Americans seeking abortions.
According to a new NBC News poll, 63 percent said that they oppose overturning Roe, with 60 percent saying that they believe abortion should be legal.
Nationally, pressure is being heaped on Biden and Democrats to develop a strategy in response to the 1973 court ruling being struck down in the coming months. Protests and rallies took place across the country over the weekend, but advocates argue that the initial calls by Biden and other lawmakers to elect more pro-choice candidates in the upcoming midterm elections failed to grasp the urgency of the moment (The Hill).
■ The Associated Press: Biden’s leadership of Democrats faces test in next primaries.
■ The Hill: Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) secures rising star status in her first year as GOP chair.
■ The Wall Street Journal: Election officials steel themselves for threats as midterm season gears up.
■ The Hill: Biden leans into organized labor amid midterm fears over workers.
■ Politico: How former Vice President Mike Pence climbed back into the 2024 race.
■ The Hill: Pelosi calls Title 42 hold-up in COVID-19 bill “blackmail.”
■ The Hill: Trial set to test special counsel probe, Trump’s 2016 allegations.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➤ UKRAINE CRISIS
Finland and Sweden both took key steps over the weekend toward becoming the 29th and 30th members of NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war between the two nations.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Sunday maintained the nation’s plans to join the alliance during a joint news conference in Helsinki, with Niinisto declaring that it is a “historic day” for the Nordic nation.
“A new era begins,” Niinisto added.
Finland, which shares an 800-mile border with Russia, has long been nonaligned but has been forced to recalibrate that status after Moscow’s move westward into Ukraine. The move is considered a shot at Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has issued veiled threats in the past at the possibility of its neighbor deepening ties with the West. Niinisto told CNN on Sunday that Putin received news of the NATO decision “calmly” when they spoke last week (The Hill).
In Sweden, the leading Social Democratic party threw its weight behind the nation’s application to join the seven-decade-old alliance. As The Associated Press notes, the Swedish parliament will discuss the move today, with Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s Cabinet set to make an announcement hours later. Sweden has nonaligned for more than 200 years dating back to the Napoleonic Wars.
■ The Associated Press: Small wins buoy Ukraine; West says Russians losing momentum.
■ The Hill: United Kingdom: Russia has likely lost one-third of its ground combat forces in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) became the latest major U.S. political figure to travel to Kyiv over the weekend as he and other GOP senators met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday.
Zelensky called the visit by McConnell and Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) “a powerful signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from the United States Congress and the American people.” McConnell’s visit comes on the heels of Pelosi’s appearance in Kyiv two weeks ago and first lady Jill Biden’s surprise meeting with Zelensky’s wife, Olena Zelenska, on Mother’s Day.
■ The Associated Press: McConnell: Finland, Sweden “important additions” to NATO.
■ Politico: McConnell takes on MAGA with Ukraine visit.
■ The Hill: McConnell urges Biden to name Russia a state sponsor of terrorism.
© Associated Press / Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP | Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday.
🏡 The White House this morning released a plan to increase the supply of affordable housing and reduce costs for renters and homeowners while also calling on Congress to pass pending bipartisan legislation (The Hill and CNN).
The Interior Department could end up writing the future of domestic oil drilling. Stakeholders await a pending plan from the administration to deal with offshore oil drilling leases. The Hill’s Rachel Frazin reports that conflicting incentives, both political and legal, raise all kinds of questions about the government’s forthcoming plan.
Because of the Commerce Department, lawmakers are battling over the government’s tariff probe involving China, international trade and solar panel parts (The Hill). Members of Congress echo the U.S. solar industry’s concerns about a department investigation to determine whether Chinese manufacturers are skirting longstanding U.S. duty rules on solar imports from China by funneling components through affiliates in four nearby countries — Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam — where panels are assembled for export to the U.S. (NPR).
■ The Black victims of the Buffalo shooting were killed by white supremacy, by Eugene Robinson, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3PrH4Ij
■ Biden can do much more to fight inflation, by Matthew Yglesias, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion https://bloom.bg/3Mkkwr1
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at noon.
The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. and will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to a vote on the Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act 2022.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will hand out Public Safety Officer Medals of Valor at a ceremony at 11:45 a.m. The president will hold a bilateral meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at 3:30 p.m., and, along with the first lady, will host a reception in his honor at 5 p.m.
Vice President Harris arrived today in Abu Dhabi to lead a delegation to offer U.S. condolences on the death of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates. U.S. representatives including Harris will visit with UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and hours later depart to return to Washington. Harris is joined in the UAE by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is participating in the Group of Seven finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Bonn, Germany.
The White House daily briefing is scheduled at 2:30 p.m. Biden’s new press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, gets to work today (The Guardian). Jean-Pierre has received a flurry of media attention in this midterm election year. “President Biden has broken one more barrier for African Americans in politics,” Jamal Simmons, the vice president’s communications director, said (The Hill).
The number of people in this country receiving COVID-19 vaccine booster doses has plateaued, leaving tens of thousands of vulnerable people at risk of serious infection and possibly death (The Hill). Infections are rising steadily and hospitalizations have increased 20 percent in the past two weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Immunity wanes over time, and health officials say boosters are a key part of maintaining protection during the ongoing pandemic.
In Shanghai, officials said today that less than 1 million of the city’s 25 million people are currently under a strict lockdown as the largest Chinese city is set to move toward a reopening following weeks of intense restrictions. Grocery stores, restaurants and malls opened their doors once again today, and movements around the city remain limited as it remains unclear when life can return to normal due to China’s “zero-COVID” policy (The Associated Press).
Politico: Africa finally has enough COVID-19 shots. Is it too little, too late?
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 999,602. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 266, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of today, 77 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 65.7 percent is “fully vaccinated,” according to the Bloomberg News global vaccine tracker and the government’s definition. The percentage of Americans who have received third or booster doses is 30.2.
The recent plunge in cryptocurrency values and the collapse of popular tokens alarms investors and escalates pressure on Washington to step in, reports The Hill’s Sylvan Lane.
Pope Francis, 85, canonized 10 new saints on Sunday, marking the Catholic Church’s first such ceremony at the Vatican in more than two years. The pope is having knee problems, used a wheelchair during the ceremony and rode in the popemobile to make his way around St. Peter’s Square to greet attendees (The Associated Press).
➤ AT THE MOVIES
“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” still sells 36 years later — literally. A ticket to the Sept. 24, 1985, ballgame between the Chicago Cubs and Montreal Expos at Wrigley Field sold for $1,050 in recent days. The game is best known as the same one featured in the movie where Ferris, played by Matthew Broderick, catches a foul ball and is briefly shown on television before Mr. Rooney, the menacing school principal investigating his whereabouts, glances at the screen (ESPN).
© Associated Press / U.S. Postal Service | Forever stamp.
And finally … 📫 As inflation flares, 2 cents might not seem like a huge jump for the price of Forever stamps to post 1 oz. letters, but let’s face it, 60 cents per electric bill and birthday card adds up. Americans could buy a haircut for 60 cents in 1953, see a movie for that much in theaters in 1958, grab a McDonald’s quarter-pounder for 60 cents in 1972, ride the New York City subway in 1981 for the same amount and enjoy a hefty Sunday edition of many U.S. newspapers in 1985 for the same price as a tiny piece of postage.
Stamp prices rose to 58 cents per letter in August, lending a new definition to the meaning of “forever.” The newest proposed hike, part of a larger plan to rein in the U.S. Postal Service’s red ink, is expected to be approved to launch July 10 (USA Today).
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