Rep. Demings slams police killings as a ‘stain on our country’

Rep. Val Demings, one of several women being vetted to be Joe Biden’s running mate and a former Orlando police chief, urged a nationwide review of police practices in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, whose death after he was detained by Minneapolis police has sparked protests there for the past week.

In the blistering op-ed in The Washington Post, Demings (D-Fla.), who is black, outlined her professional origins as a police officer, detailing her pride and love for the job. But she slammed police violence against men and women of color, calling their actions a “stain on our country” and asking her fellow police officers bluntly: “What the hell are you doing?”

The op-ed was published after a third consecutive day of unrest in Minneapolis, where protesters set fire to a police precinct and other local businesses. Protests in Minneapolis began to erupt on Tuesday, a day after Floyd’s death.

In her Post op-ed, Demings emphasized the outsize amount of power and responsibility police hold, writing that “when citizens were in trouble (if they had to call the police, they weren’t having a good day), they called really believing that when we arrived, things would get better.

“But we are painfully reminded that all too often, things do not get better. Matter of fact, they can get much worse — with deadly results,” she continued. “When an officer engages in stupid, heartless and reckless behavior, their actions can either take a life or change a life forever. Bad decisions can bring irrevocable harm to the profession and tear down the relationships and trust between the police and the communities they serve.”

In the video of Floyd’s confrontation with police that went viral, Floyd can be seen lying handcuffed while Officer Derek Chauvin presses his knee against Floyd’s neck. Floyd can be heard on the video pleading with the officers that he can’t breathe, while bystanders call out for help. The video captures Floyd as he eventually stops talking and moving. The 46-year-old man then was taken from the scene on a gurney and pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Chauvin and three other officers involved in Floyd's death have been fired by the Minneapolis Police Department and their actions have been condemned across the political spectrum. None of the officers yet face any charges for their roles in Floyd’s death, but the FBI has stepped in to investigate the death alongside local agencies.

Demings has seen her national profile rise over the past five months. This winter, her law enforcement credentials helped her secure a position as a House impeachment manager in the Senate trial of President Donald Trump. And last week, she announced that she was being vetted as Biden’s possible vice presidential pick.

The congresswoman argued in her op-ed that in the case of Floyd, there is “no choice but to hold the officers accountable through the criminal-justice system." But she also demanded more systemic changes to address what she described as a much deeper issue plaguing the country.

“We must conduct a serious review of hiring standards and practices, diversity, training, use-of-force policies, pay and benefits (remember, you get what you pay for), early warning programs, and recruit training programs,” she wrote.

Members of law enforcement who don’t uphold their oath to protect and serve, she said, “must go. That includes those who would stand by as they witness misconduct by a fellow officer.”

Demings concluded the op-ed by noting that "everyone wants to live in safer communities and to support law enforcement and the tough job they do every day." She described the status quo as unsustainable.

"We have got to get this one right," she wrote.

While the events of the last few days could bolster Demings’ standing as a vice presidential contender — with Biden already under immense pressure to choose a woman of color as his running mate — they could dent the stock of another rumored prospect, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Klobuchar has faced renewed scrutiny in recent days over her record on criminal justice, concerns that she struggled to overcome during her own presidential campaign earlier this year. Black activists had warned Biden against choosing Klobuchar even before Floyd’s death prompted a fresh look at her record as the prosecutor in Hennepin County, home to Minneapolis and the largest county in Minnesota.

The senator has faced accusations in recent days that she declined to bring charges against Chauvin for his involvement in the 2006 of a stabbing suspect, though Klobuchar said Friday she had already been sworn into the Senate when that case was heard by a grand jury.

In an interview on MSNBC, Klobuchar thanked anchor Andrea Mitchell for the opportunity to “set the record straight” and expressed regret for her practice of sending cases of officer-involved shootings to a grand jury, a forum critics say tends to be more favorable to police.

But “there is institutional racism” in law enforcement, she added, arguing that prosecutors should begin" taking responsibility themselves” for reviewing cases like Floyd’s and that police hiring and training practices should be reexamined.

The senator defended her record on criminal justice while serving as Hennepin County prosecutor and in the Senate. Klobuchar rejected the notion that any of it should disqualify her from being selected as Biden’s running mate but emphasized that the decision is up to the former vice president.

“He's going to make the best decision for him, for our country, for the pandemic and the crisis we're facing to take over leadership of who's the best partner with him to come in there with the competence that he is going to show, with the compassion he's going to show, with his strong support and understanding of the African-American community,” she said. “He will make that decision. He'll decide who he's considering.”

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‘Nothing to celebrate whatsoever’: Romney rejects White House testing boasts

Sen. Mitt Romney on Tuesday admonished the Trump administration for touting its coronavirus testing operation in recent days after weeks of missteps, accusing the White House’s testing czar of playing politics.

“I understand that politicians are going to frame data in a way that is most positive politically,” the Utah Republican told Adm. Brett Giroir, a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service, during a Senate hearing on the pandemic. “Of course, I don’t expect that from admirals.”

Romney pointed out that the day before, Giroir stood in the White House Rose Garden and “celebrated” the U.S. surpassing South Korea’s number of coronavirus tests conducted per capita, after South Korea’s handling of its outbreak came to be viewed as something of a gold standard around the world.

“But you ignored the fact that they accomplished theirs at the beginning of the outbreak, while we treaded water during February and March,” the senator continued. “And, as a result, by March 6 the U.S. had completed just 2,000 tests, whereas South Korea had conducted more than 140,000 tests.”

The Trump administration’s failure to facilitate widespread testing in the U.S. from the outset has been widely criticized, and is seen by many — including Romney — as one of the major reasons the virus was able to spread, undetected and unchecked, throughout the country in February and March.

It was “partially” because of the White House’s lag, Romney asserted, that South Korea’s death toll from the virus is only around 250 while the U.S. death toll has surpassed 81,000, despite each country publicly reporting its first coronavirus cases on the same day.

“I find our testing record nothing to celebrate whatsoever,” Romney said.

The White House has made serious progress in expanding testing capabilities in recent weeks — though public-health experts have warned that millions more tests per week are needed to safely reopen the country — and held the Rose Garden news briefing on Monday in which Giroir spoke to highlight those improvements.

“If you look at per capita, everyone talks about South Korea being the standard today,” Giroir said on Monday. “We will have done more than twice their per capita rate of testing that was accomplished in South Korea.”

At that event, President Donald Trump boasted that the United States has “prevailed on testing” as he rolled out a plan to help states test at least 2 percent of their populations — or 12.9 million people — in the month of May. In Tuesday’s hearing, Giroir predicted that the figure nationwide could be ramped up to 50 million by September.

The White House has bristled at the continued criticism, as detractors assert that the uptick in testing is too little too late. In a briefing at the White House on Tuesday, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany complained to reporters about coverage of the previous day’s event.

“You can’t demand that we reach South Korea and say that we are bragging when we do,” she said.

But Romney, a frequent critic of Trump and the only Republican in Congress to vote to convict the president earlier this year on an article of impeachment, posited that there was a grim reason for testing numbers in the United States having caught up to South Korea’s.

“The fact is their test numbers are going down, down, down now, because they don’t have the kind of outbreak we have,” he said of South Korea. “Ours are going up, up, up as they have to. I think that’s an important lesson for us as we think about the future.”

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Manchin: Trump needs ‘to act like a responsible adult, and he’s not’

Sen. Joe Manchin on Monday brushed off the stream of insults hurled at him by President Donald Trump, offering the president some stern advice: Grow up.

“I expect — every American and myself would like my president and our president to act like a responsible adult, and he's not,” Manchin told CNN's "New Day." “For the sake of the country, I hope he does.”

Manchin’s retort followed three straight days of attacks by the president on Twitter as part of his broader campaign against those who supported his impeachment. Trump launched insults against the West Virginia Democrat's intelligence, labeling him a "puppet" of the Democratic Party and referring to him as Joe “Munchkin.”

Manchin had been considered among the likeliest Democrats in the Senate to break with his party and vote against Trump’s removal from office, especially after the senator floated the idea of a censure of the president instead. But ultimately, Manchin has said, he found the evidence that Trump abused his office and obstructed Congress’ investigation “overwhelming.”

The West Virginia lawmaker, who votes with Trump more often than any other Democrat in the Senate, on Monday fired off what appeared to be a warning at the president.

“Here’s the thing. I'm his best chance of having anything in a bipartisan way,” the senator said.

In an interview on MSNBC later Monday, Manchin swatted back more forcefully at Trump's "Munchkin" moniker and Trump’s assertion that the senator “couldn’t understand the Transcripts” of events at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

“First of all, the munchkin, I'm taller than him, I think, a little bit bigger than he is,” he quipped. “Not heavier — he's much heavier than me, but I’m a little taller than him so I guess he got that little bit off.”

Manchin added that he didn’t know Trump’s intent when the president referenced the transcripts.

“I hope he wasn't referring to because I’m from West Virginia, that we can’t understand or comprehend,” he said. “I think we do a pretty good job of that, and I understood it very well. I read it and I understood it.”

But he also said that while he expected Trump's broadsides, he would not stoop to the level of name-calling that Trump had.

“Do you think names bother me? Do I look like I’m small and fragile?” he asked. “Names don’t bother me. The president knows he can’t get to me that way. I'm not going to retaliate.”

He continued: “The people want a mature adult — that's what the president should be. That's who we want as our president. I want him to succeed. This is not personal with me. I mean, he can call me all the names he wants to. It makes him look like an immature adult. I hope he rises above that. I think it's best for our country.”

Manchin also bemoaned conservatives’ fury toward those who crossed Trump throughout the impeachment inquiry, including two impeachment witnesses who were removed from their administration posts and Sen. Mitt Romney, the only Republican to vote for the president's removal. Romney in particular has faced significant backlash from Trump and others in the GOP over his vote.

“It's hard to believe we've stooped this low,” Manchin said of the Romney fallout.

“We're separated enough,” he told MSNBC. “We have a divider in chief. What we need is a uniter in chief and I hope the president comes back to that.”

Still, he expressed confidence that the country would bounce back from this period of partisan animosity.

“I believe in our country, I believe in my state of West Virginia as Mitt believes in Utah. Good people. And good people finally come — basically they can only pull the wool over their eyes so long,” he said. “I hope the president changes his ways, I hope he becomes a responsible adult and I hope he succeeds. I'm going to work with him if we can, but I'm going to be an honest broker.”

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Trump goes on a post-impeachment revenge tour

President Donald Trump lashed out at yet another impeachment foe on Friday, turning his ire to Sen. Joe Manchin and calling the West Virginia Democrat a “puppet” of his party after he voted in favor of removing Trump from office earlier this week.

"I was very surprised & disappointed that Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted against me on the Democrat’s totally partisan Impeachment Hoax,” Trump said in a pair of tweets, asserting that nevertheless, “no President has done more for the great people of West Virginia than me (Pensions), and that will always continue.”

Trump’s attack came shortly after Manchin appeared on Fox News to defend his vote to convict the president on both articles of impeachment. The red-state Democrat, easily among the most conservative in his caucus, had kept mum on which way he planned to vote until the last minute on Wednesday.

But he told Fox News’s Bill Hemmer that while he “labored over” the vote, calling it “most difficult decision” he’d had to make in nearly four decades of public life, the evidence against Trump was “overwhelming.”

“I said if I can come home and explain it, I can vote for it. I can explain this vote. It might not be popular in my state but we will see. History will tell. The bottom line is the evidence was very clear,” Manchin said, adding that he was hoping the chamber would vote to hear from new witnesses or admit new evidence that could have tilted the case more clearly in one way or the other.

"I was hoping, I truly was hoping that we would see evidence, that we would see new witnesses. Maybe he could get some doubt or clarity. What we saw was overwhelming," he said.

Ultimately, Manchin concluded, the allegation that Trump asked Ukraine's inexperienced president for investigations for his own political benefit proved to be "just an affront that I couldn't get over."

He said he was also put off by a controversial argument made by one of Trump's lawyers about the expansive powers of the presidency.

Trump on Friday also kept up his battering of Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who was the lone Republican in either chamber of Congress to split from his party and vote to convict Trump.

Romney, in an emotional floor speech announcing his decision, said he leaned heavily on his faith to guide him. For the last 24 hours, Trump has mocked that explanation, claiming Friday that “every Republican Senator except Romney, many highly religious people, all very smart, voted against the Impeachment Hoax.”

But Romney, like Manchin on Friday, insisted that he’d struggled greatly with his decision to vote for Trump’s removal, and both senators also said that they’d voted to hear from new witnesses with the hope that maybe one of those witnesses could clear Trump.

Since Wednesday’s acquittal, Trump has set out on a vindictive victory lap.

He railed against Democrats, Romney and administration officials who testified against him in a freewheeling White House address on Thursday, and on Friday, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, one of the key impeachment witnesses, was pushed out of his post at the National Security Council.

In his tweets Friday, Trump praised Manchin’s fellow senator from West Virginia, Republican Shelley Moore Capito. Capito, Trump wrote, “was all in (a great person). I was told by many that Manchin was just a puppet for Schumer & Pelosi. That’s all he is!”

Capito had appeared on Fox News the day before, where she implied Manchin only voted against Trump because he had a “noose” around his neck controlled by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Manchin took offense to Capito’s assertion, pointing out that he breaks with his party quite frequently, including on several high-profile votes.

“My goodness,” Manchin exclaimed. “I've taken some tough votes that are very unpopular with the caucus and I'm sure that Schumer and everybody else might not have been happy with it but it's a vote that I can live with.”

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Maryland Gov. Hogan says ‘Congress didn’t do its job’ with partisan impeachment

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday ripped both chambers of Congress — and the parties that control them — for their handling of President Donald Trump’s impeachment proceedings, calling the process “a sham and a joke.”

Hogan, the Republican leader of a deep blue state, has found himself frequently at odds with the president and called for his impeachment in October. The president’s Senate impeachment trial ended Wednesday in a mostly partisan acquittal on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, ending an acrimonious four month battle in Washington.

But speaking at POLITCO’s 10th annual State Solutions conference, Hogan said that he had faith American voters would pick up Congress’ slack at the polls in November.

“I don’t think Congress did their job. But the American people will, and I have more faith in the American people to make that decision in November, and that’s what they're going to get to do,” he predicted.

Hogan is not the first member of his family to break ranks with the Republican Party against a sitting GOP president. The Maryland governor’s father, Larry Hogan Sr., was the first Republican congressman to come out in favor of impeaching former President Richard Nixon in 1974. The governor on Friday noted that as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, his father fought for Nixon to be able to call and cross examine witnesses and to be able to mount a defense during his impeachment hearings.

“Only after seeing all the evidence,” significant portions of which were forcibly turned over by federal court orders, was Hogan Sr. able to make a decision, the governor said.

The Maryland governor noted that he’d had doubts from the outset that any impeachment proceeding in such a polarized environment would be fair and objective, smacking the majority parties of both the House and Senate for their conduct over the last four months.

“I thought the Democrats in the House had already decided before the hearings that the president should be impeached and I didn’t think it was going to be fair and objective,” he said.

Hogan added that he thought the impeachment trial was equally as fruitless in the Senate, and that the GOP-led chamber would acquit the president “no matter what the facts were.”

“Pretty much what I said in October is what happened,” he pointed out. “I’m very frustrated.”

Hogan asserted that there was plenty of criticism to go around, and reiterated his assertion from October that “I didn’t like anything that I was hearing” about Trump’s actions with regard to Ukraine and that “we needed to get to the facts.”

In particular, he objected to the lack of bipartisanship in the initial House inquiry, saying he disagreed with Republicans’ inability to call their own witnesses and with initial depositions for the investigation taking place in a classified setting behind closed doors.

House Democrats refused to honor Republicans’ requests for witnesses like former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as the intelligence community whistleblower whose complaint set off the series of events leading to the inquiry, brushing them aside them as irrelevant to the case.

Hogan also criticized Senate Republicans for blocking efforts to hear from new witnesses in the case, a main point of contention in the trial.

“Neither of those things happened, so the whole process was kind of a sham and a joke,” Hogan concluded.

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