Biden news – live: President moves vaccine dates forward as Trump compared to Al Capone by biographer

Biden says US will have enough vaccines for every adult by end of May

President Joe Biden has moved forward his aim for enough Covid vaccine doses for every American adult across the US by two months, having said that the administration will aim to have enough shots for everyone who wants one by the end of May.

The target comes as the president faces ongoing challenges in the formation of his cabinet, which is taking shape at the slowest pace of any in modern history with just over a dozen nominees for top posts confirmed more than a month into his tenure.

Elsewhere, Donald Trump’s biographer has compared the former president to notorious American gangster Al Capone, as prosecutors were closing in on the Trump Organisation’s longtime chief financial officer for details about the former president’s financial dealings.

In an interview on Tuesday, biographer Timothy L O’Brien, author of Trumpnation: The Art of Being the Donald, made the comments amid discussions that New York state prosecutors are sharpening their focus on the company’s longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg.

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House oversight committee subpoenas Trump’s tax records

The House Oversight Committee has reissued a subpoena to Donald Trump’s accounting firm for information that is likely to include the former president’s tax returns, House counsel Doug Letter said in a filing on Tuesday.

Investigators are working to get eight years of Mr Trump’s tax records from the accounting firm Mazars USA. The Supreme Court recently refused to block a request for access to the tax returns from prosecutors as part of an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney.

In a joint status report, House attorneys attached a copy of the subpoena that was served to Mazars last week on 25 February, demanding financial documents related to Mr Trump, the Trump Organisation, the Trump Foundation, and other related entities by 11 March.

Stuti Mishra reports:

Louise Hall3 March 2021 12:25

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‘Dolly gets a dose of her own medicine’

Dolly Parton has shared a video of her receiving her first Covid-19 vaccination, after she donated $1 million to help fund coronavirus research last year.

The country singer got a shot of the Moderna vaccine and joked on social media that she had got “a dose of her own medicine”.

Parton urged her followers to get the vaccination if they are eligible and said that she was “old enough” and “smart enough” to get the jab.

She riffed on her hit “Jolene” by singing: Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine. I’m begging of you please don’t hesitate…”

The singer’s donation was partly used to fund Moderna’s Covid vaccines last year.

Louise Hall3 March 2021 12:16

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Cuomo avoids public eye amid harassment allegations

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has continued to avoid the public eye amid sexual harassment allegations as some members of his own party call for him to resign.

Mr Cuomo, whose daily public briefings became essential viewings for many Americans at the start of the pandemic, has not taken questions from reporters since a 19 February briefing.

The governor last appeared before video cameras on Thursday, when he introduced President Joe Biden at a virtual meeting of the National Governor’s Association, which he chairs. 

The Democratic governor is facing allegations of sexual harassment from two former female aides in his office, which he says he thought was “playful” banter.

A third woman also came forward this week to accuse Andrew Cuomo of inappropriate behaviour, alleging that he asked to kiss her at a wedding.

Neither Mr Cuomo nor his spokespeople have commented on the latest allegation made against him Monday night.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

Louise Hall3 March 2021 12:08

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House Democrats poised to pass sweeping elections and ethics bill

House Democrats are poised to pass a sweeping elections and ethics bill as a powerful counterweight to voting rights restrictions advancing in Republican-controlled statehouses across the country.

The bill, which touches on virtually every aspect of the electoral process, would restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, strike down hurdles to voting, and bring transparency to a murky campaign finance system that allows wealthy donors to anonymously bankroll political causes.

“Our purpose was to remove … obstacles of participation for Democrats or Republicans. That’s what the law requires, that was the right thing to do,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday on the House floor. “That’s what this legislation does.”

For Republicans, however, the bill would herald a massive expansion of the federal government’s role in elections, overruling state laws that limit ballot access in the name of election security.

“If this were to become law it would be the largest expansion of the federal government’s role in our elections that we’ve ever seen,” said Rep Rodney Davis, R-Ill.

Reporting by the Associated Press

Louise Hall3 March 2021 11:48

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New book claims Obama saw Biden’s White House run as ‘ageing politician having his last hurrah’

A new book has claimed that Joe Biden did not have the support of former president Barack Obama and won the November elections because coronavirus presented a distraction to his “bland message and blank agenda.”

The new book, titled: Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency, argues that Mr Biden was able to hide his weaknesses due to the coronavirus pandemic, which exposed mismanagement of the Trump administration.

The authors, senior political analyst for NBC News, Jonathan Allen, and senior correspondent with The Hill, Amie Parnes, explore Mr Biden’s path to the White House.

The authors go so far as to claim that Mr Obama refused to support his former vice-president initially and feared his November run-up could become a “tragicomic caricature of an ageing politician having his last hurrah.’’

Louise Hall3 March 2021 11:31

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Trump took $10bn from hospital funds to pay for Warp Speed instead of asking Congress for cash

The Trump Administration removed $10bn from a pot of money aimed to help hospitals and other healthcare providers endure the pandemic and put the money towards the Operation Warp Speed effort instead.

The Department of Health and Human Services apparently made a move that allowed them to spend taxpayer funds without notifying Congress, and recieved permission from the top lawyer at the health department to go ahead with the plan, STAT reported.

The $10bn was set aside by Congress to help care providers pay for staffing, protective gear, care for the uninsured and distributing the vaccine.

Operation Warp Speed was an initiative created by the Trump administration to facilitate and accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of the vaccine to the public.

Gustaf Kilander has the story:

Louise Hall3 March 2021 11:00

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Over 100 million vaccines delivered across country, CDC says

Over 100 million vaccine doses have been delivered across the US, with 78 million shots having been administered in total, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to data from the CDC, the country has delivered more than 102,000,000 jabs to 50 states since the rollout began in December, with over 51 million people having received one shot of the vaccine.

Louise Hall3 March 2021 10:48

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‘Reckless and dangerous’: Texas governor abandons Covid safeguards sparking backlash

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to drop Covid-19 restrictions in the state has been met with fierce backlash from health experts high profile figures who have described the decision as “mass murder” and a “reckless mistake”.

Mr Abbott announced on Tuesday that he would allow all businesses to reopen at 100 per cent capacity and lift a statewide mask mandate, reversing restrictions put in place to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The bold announcement came despite the state having the third-highest number of Covid-19 deaths in the US and less than 7 per cent of people fully vaccinated.

Texas representative Joaquin Castro called the governor’s decision “reckless and dangerous” and a desperate attempt to distract Texans from their failure of handling the devastating winter storm and subsequent power outages.

Chip Franklin, American talk show host, comedian and musician, suggested that the Texas governor should be tried for “premeditated mass murder” in light of the decision.

Shweta Sharma reports on the reaction to the controversial move:

Louise Hall3 March 2021 10:36

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Biden’s Cabinet half-empty after slow start in confirmations

President Joe Biden continues to face ongoing challenges in the formation of his Cabinet over a month into office as it takes shape at the slowest pace of any in modern history.

Just over a dozen nominees for top posts have been confirmed since the president took office on 20 January, with the White House withdrawing Neera Tanden’s nomination on Tuesday.

Among Biden’s 23 nominees with Cabinet rank, just 13 have been confirmed by the Senate, or a little over half. Among the 15 core nominees to lead federal agencies, 10 have been confirmed, or about two-thirds.

According to the Center for Presidential Transition, about a month into their first terms, the previous four presidents had 84 per cent of their core Cabinet picks confirmed.

The slow pace in confirmations comes in part due to the delay in the transition process by former president Donald Trump and his second week-long impeachment trial.

The Biden administration has prioritized confirming those nominees who are key to national security, the economy, and public health decisions.

However, the delay in confirmations means some departments are left without their top decision-makers as they attempt to put in place policies to address the overlapping crises brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Reporting by the Associated Press

Louise Hall3 March 2021 10:20

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Biden ‘grateful’ Democrats reintroduced firearm background check bill

President Joe Biden thanked House and Senate Democrats on Twitter for moving to introduce legislation to strengthen the country’s background check system for the sale or transfer of all firearms.

On Tuesday, Democrats reintroduced legislation to expand background checks on all commercial gun sales in the first significant move on gun control since the party won majorities in both chambers of Congress.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut’s bill, called the Background Check Expansion Act, would extend a background check requirement to unlicensed and private firearm sellers before selling a firearm.

Under current law, unlicensed and private sellers are not required to undergo background checks before transferring firearms.

“I helped pass the Brady background check bill as a Senator — and I’m committed to continuing that work and passing common-sense gun safety reforms as president,” Mr Biden tweeted late on Tuesday.

Louise Hall3 March 2021 10:04

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