President Biden, Vice President Harris, countless Democrats, and some prominent Republicans rallied behind that message shortly after a Minneapolis jury found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering Floyd last May.
“Nothing is going to make it all better, but at least — God! — now there’s some justice,” Biden told Floyd’s family by telephone from the Oval Office moments after the verdicts, before promising to confront “genuine systemic racism.”
Later, in prepared remarks delivered from the Cross Hall of the White House residence, Biden declared “we can’t stop here” and urged Americans to confront “head on, systemic racism and the racial disparities that exist in policing and in our criminal justice system more broadly.”
And Harris, introducing the president, said, “We still have work to do. We still must reform the system,” and called for unraveling America’s “long history of systemic racism.”
Implicit in their assessment: The real test of political clout for the Black Lives Matter movement and its supporters lies ahead, in the coming weeks and months, in Congress and statehouses where debates over policing changes are playing out.
“True justice is about much more than a single verdict in a single trial,” former president Barack Obama and Michelle Obama said in a statement, underlining how “millions of people” last year marched and protested for policing overhauls in the aftermath of Floyd’s death.
“While today’s verdict may have been a necessary step on the road to progress, it was far from a sufficient one. We cannot rest. We will need to follow through with the concrete reforms that will reduce and ultimately eliminate racial bias in our criminal justice system. We will need to redouble efforts to expand economic opportunity for those communities that have been too long marginalized,” the Obamas said.
There’s at least one cautionary example for those who think the political momentum is on the side of those who want to overhaul American policing: The nearly ritualistic cycle of outrage and grief, but ultimately inaction, that follows mass shootings.
It was unclear whether the verdict would speed or slow bipartisan negotiations in Congress over the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which the White House supports.
The legislation passed the House last month with only Democratic votes and now faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, where passage requires 10 Republican votes, assuming Democrats stick together.
My colleagues Felicia Sonmez and Colby Itkowitz explained last month:
“The legislation would ban chokeholds, end racial and religious profiling, establish a national database to track police misconduct and prohibit certain no-knock warrants. It also contains several provisions that would make it easier to hold officers accountable for misconduct in civil and criminal court. One proposal long sought by civil rights advocates would change ‘qualified immunity,’ the legal doctrine that shields officers from lawsuits, by lowering the bar for plaintiffs to sue officers for alleged civil rights violations.”
The proposal’s lead Democratic author in the House, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) has been discussing the way forward with Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), the only Black Republican in the Senate. On Tuesday, Scott said “the jury reached the right verdict” and underlined: “There is more work to be done to ensure the bad apples do not define all officers.”
For many, the dominant emotion on Tuesday was relief, after a year-long journey that led millions around the world to watch the harrowing video of Floyd’s death, filmed by a 17-year-old bystander named Darnella Frazier.
Without her, the last word on the incident might have been a Minneapolis police department statement entitled “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction,” which was how they described Chauvin keeping a knee pressed on Floyd’s neck and back for nine minutes and 29 seconds.
The incident, my colleague Holly Bailey noted, “sent millions into the streets demanding justice and forcing a national reckoning on race and policing” and culminated in “the highest-profile police brutality case since the 1991 beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles.”
Some prominent Republicans seemed to agree with Biden that the verdict could not just be a one-off event.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said the nation must learn from this painful episode.
Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont was even more explicit about the need to confront “systemic racism.”
The Business Roundtable, a lobbying group that represents the chief executives of more than 220 large companies, said America must now “take steps to address its long history of racial inequity in law enforcement.”
“Business Roundtable will continue to work with Members of Congress and the Administration on bipartisan policing reforms that implement national policing standards, and greater accountability, training, community engagement and transparency,” the organization said.
After a 2020 partly defined by Black Lives Matter protests, a number of Republican-led states are pushing ahead with measures to punish protests, Reid J. Epstein and Patricia Mazzei report at the New York Times.
“The laws carry forward the hyperbolic message Republicans have been pushing in the 11 months since Black Lives Matter protests against racial injustice swept the country: that Democrats are tolerant of violent and criminal actions from those who protest against racial injustice. And the legislation underscores the extent to which support for law enforcement personnel and opposition to protests have become part of the bedrock of G.O.P. orthodoxy and a likely pillar of the platform the party will take into next year’s midterms.”
In his conversation with the Floyd family, Biden recalled Floyd’s daughter Gianna predicting that her father’s death would change the world.
“We’re going to start to change it now,” the president said.
Quote of the day
“Justice for Black America is justice for all of America,” said Floyd family lawyer Ben Crump.
What’s happening now
The Justice Department will investigate the Minneapolis Police Department for possible patterns of excessive force. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the sweeping civil inquiry this morning, saying it would determine whether “Minneapolis police engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing.” “He said the civil probe will examine whether the Minneapolis police have engaged in excessive force, discriminatory conduct or abused those with mental or physical disabilities,” David Nakamura reports. The Biden administration moved just last week to reinstate consent decrees, or settlements with department's found to engage in repeatedly abusive tactics, after they were banned during the Trump administration.
Protesters marched in Columbus, Ohio, after a Black teenager died in a police shooting moments before the Chauvin verdict was announced. “They chanted the name of Ma’Khia Bryant, identified as the teenager killed by an officer when police responded to an attempted stabbing call at about 4:45 p.m. on the southeast side,” the Columbus Dispatch reports. “Many organizers who addressed the crowd said Bryant's slaying overshadowed what would have otherwise been a positive development in their fight for racial justice and police accountability.”
The Baltimore plant with contaminated Johnson & Johnson vaccines had multiple failures and unsanitary conditions, the Food and Drug Administration says, Christopher Rowland reports.
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Lunchtime reads from The Post
- “Lawmakers lobby to bring home big bucks as Congress wrangles over $2 trillion infrastructure plan,” by Tony Romm: “They may not agree on the size and scope of some of Biden’s most ambitious changes, but lawmakers from both parties still share a fervent desire to seize on a rare political opportunity and bring some of the big bucks back home.”
- “Top Republicans who challenged election results rake in campaign cash, as individual donations boom,” by Tory Newmyer and Anu Narayanswamy: “A handful of congressional Republicans … shattered their fundraising performances from two years earlier. Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) each pulled in more than $3 million. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) ... raised more than $3.2 million. That earned her the second-highest fundraising haul among House Republicans.”
… and beyond
- “Biden's made-for-TV inauguration celebration was bankrolled by dozens of corporations who do business with government,” by Insider’s Dave Levinthal: “Several companies contributed $1 million, including Bank of America, AT&T, Comcast Corp., Boeing ... [and] drug maker Pfizer. ... Several [others] donated ... at the $500,000 level, including drug maker Amgen, ... Dow Chemical Company, FedEx, General Motors [and] Microsoft.”
At the table
Today, we’re lunching with journalist Stephen Gutowski, a certified firearms instructor who just founded TheReload.com, a news site focused on firearms with an eye on remedying what he sees as shortcomings in mainstream media coverage. He’ll present a point of view not often covered in mainstream media at a time when The Washington Post has reported 2020 was the deadliest year for gun violence in decades and a big year for firearm purchases. This year has seen a spate of mass shootings, fueling another round of a uniquely American debate, as polls showing overwhelming support for background checks don’t guarantee action in Congress.
Stephen, who has already been breaking news on The Reload, can be found on Twitter at @stephengutowski. This has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Knox: Could you give us a couple of examples of things mainstream journalists get wrong that you will get right?
Gutowski: One of the big ones is how current firearms laws work. You often see mistakes made by journalists when it comes to things like how background checks, how that system works. Often you’ll see people say that gun shows have a special sort of exemption in federal law, which is not the case. [Editor's note: It’s complicated.] You’ll also see common mistakes on how firearms themselves work. You’ll see people make the mistake of conflating fully automatic firearms, where one pull of the trigger causes a continual firing of rounds until you either let go or run out of ammunition, with semiautomatic firearms, which are much more common in the United States and only fire one round per pull of the trigger.
Knox: What can we expect the Reload to focus on? Who’s your reader?
Gutowski: The Reload is going to focus on a facts-first reporting about firearms policy and politics, and also gun culture, interesting stories that often go untold about who American gun owners are, the fact that they’re becoming much more diverse and why that is and why these people of wildly different backgrounds choose to own firearms because oftentimes they have different reasons for doing that.
And so I think the audience for the Reload is anyone who wants a sober, serious approach to reporting on guns in America, and all the different aspects of how guns impact people’s lives daily. Because oftentimes, most major media only covers events like mass shootings, or gun legislation, and occasionally gun sales. And the rest is left unsaid, unreported.
Knox: Tell me a little more about the diversity in gun cultures in America?
Gutowski: People own firearms for all sorts of reasons. I think there’s a certain stereotype that gets played up which makes gun owners out to be rural White men who like to hunt. And while those people certainly exist, they’re no longer the driving force behind gun ownership in America, because other demographics have become far more likely to own guns over the last decade or so, and especially over the last year. You’ve seen a massive increase in the number of African American gun owners, the number of Asian American gun owners, the number of female gun owners.
Where they live is changing, too. You’re seeing more people who live in more suburban and urban areas owning guns. And the reasons are not necessarily because they like to go hunting. Instead, they’re more focused on things like self-defense and the shooting sports, which can include stuff like your traditional skeet shooting but also things like “3-gun,” which is a much higher energy, higher paced competition style that incorporates popular firearms like AR-15s.
Knox: I’m going to ask a transparently leading question: Is it time for mainstream outlets to have reporters who specialize in firearms — the way they might have a climate crisis reporter, a Supreme Court reporter, health-care reporters, et cetera?
Gutowski: Recent polling indicates that as many as 120 million Americans report having a gun in the home, yet we don’t have a single major outlet that has a gun beat. We don’t have dedicated reporters for this topic. We have dedicated reporters for the 7 percent of Americans who live in union households. Every major outlet has labor reporters — and rightfully so, it’s an important constituency in America. They have a lot of power in American politics and a long history in American culture. But so do gun owners.
Probably one of the biggest problems when it comes to major media covering guns is they don’t have dedicated reporters who can build up the expertise about the topic, and so oftentimes the coverage is left to people who don’t have that level of knowledge and make common mistakes. Yes, I think things should change.
That’s what I’m hoping the Reload will show: that this is a successful template for other outlets to re-create — [laughs] hopefully after it’s already established and I’m stable, my income.
Knox: How do you think the National Rifle Association’s financial troubles affect the current debate about proposed restrictions on firearms?
Gutowski: I think a lot of people get the dynamic there wrong. The NRA isn’t powerful because of the people that run it. The NRA is powerful because it has 5 million people who are willing to pay dues to be members. And those people vote and are representative of a much larger group. That’s really why, often, gun-control advocates don’t get what they want even when the NRA is not performing at its top ability. Because it’s not about whether or not the NRA has pull on any given moment on [Capitol] Hill. It’s about whether gun owners generally do. The NRA is just not the be-all and end-all when it comes to gun politics.
The first 100 days
The White House climate summit starts tomorrow. Biden will propose cutting U.S. emissions in half by 2030.
- “Biden will release the new goal during a virtual summit at the White House on Thursday and Friday, part of an effort to assert global leadership on climate issues amid tensions with China,” the Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Restuccia, Timothy Puko and Sha Hua report. “The new target seeks to reduce over the next nine years emissions by 50% from levels in 2005.”
- Among the 40 countries invited to this week’s summit are 17 responsible for about 80 percent of global emissions, the White House noted. “Some developing countries are expected to use the summit to urge wealthier nations to help finance efforts to reduce emissions and to adapt to the effects of a warming planet.”
The Trump administration sidelined experts in writing car pollution rules, the EPA watchdog found.
- “The EPA’s inspector general found top political leaders at the agency failed to properly document and consider the concerns of staff experts while unwinding standards for tailpipe emissions set under President Barack Obama,” Dino Grandoni reports. “On paper, the [new] lower emissions standards were signed jointly by the EPA and the Transportation Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. … But according to the inspector general’s report, [then] EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided that the NHTSA, and not his own experts, would complete ‘all modeling and analysis on behalf of both agencies.’ The result was that many EPA staffers felt shut out of the process of making one of the agency’s most important rules.”
The White House assembled an all-star climate team.
- Jigar Shah, “a green finance legend ... agreed to take over the Department of Energy’s long-dormant loan office, because he believed that Biden was deeply committed to the clean-energy revolution,” Politico’s Michael Grunwald reports. Now, Shah “has recruited a Who’s Who of veteran climate leaders along with a mission-driven posse of outspoken younger climate wonks and activists to help him take on global warming.” The group includes former deputy Interior secretary David Hayes and celebrated marine scientist Jane Lubchenco. “Even Biden’s top foreign and domestic climate aides, John Kerry and Gina McCarthy, accepted less prestigious positions than they had as Secretary of State and EPA Administrator to try to help move the needle on global warming.”
- McCarthy, who saw the Trump administration undo her climate work at the EPA, now has to make Biden’s policies stick, writes the Times’s Coral Davenport. McCarthy hopes to push Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure bill further “possibly by mandating that power companies produce a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar. That will be a tough sell to many Republicans — but if it passes Congress, it could stand as the Biden administration’s permanent climate legacy.”
Republicans are considering a $600 billion to $800 billion infrastructure counteroffer.
- “Two people who attended Tuesday’s GOP lunch said the plan, spearheaded by Environment and Public Works ranking member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) on behalf of a group of centrist Republicans, would cost roughly $600 billion to $800 billion, depending how many years the plan lasted,” Politico’s Tanya Snider, Marianne Levine and Burgess Everett report. “Capito proposed paying for the plan with user fees that would extend to electric and hydrogen-powered cars, which don’t pay gas taxes but which as yet make up a vanishingly small minority of vehicles on the road, and with money left over from the Covid relief package.”
The new world order
Vladimir Putin warned this morning anyone threatening Russia “will regret it like they’ve never regretted anything before.”
- Putin's “veiled threats to the West come amid tense relations with Moscow: Russia's military buildup along the Ukrainian border has been widely criticized and it's embroiled in a diplomatic feud with the Czech Republic after authorities there said Russian agents were responsible for a 2014 ammunition depot explosion,” Isabelle Khurshudyan reports.
- “We don’t want to burn bridges, but when someone views our good intentions as indifference or weakness and intends to blow up these bridges in turn, they must know Russia’s response will be asymmetrical, swift and harsh,” Putin said. “I hope no one will cross the red line.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged the United States to restart nuclear negotiations with North Korea.
- In an interview with the Times’s Choe Sang-Hun, Moon pushed Biden to talk with Kim Jong Un's government. Denuclearization, he said, was a “matter of survival” for South Korea.
- Moon also urged the United States to cooperate with China on North Korea. “If tensions between the United States and China intensify, North Korea can take advantage of it and capitalize on it,” he said.
- On Trump’s efforts on North Korea, Moon said “he beat around the bush and failed to pull it through.” “I hope that Biden will go down as a historic president that has achieved substantive and irreversible progress for the complete denuclearization and peace settlement on the Korean Peninsula,” Moon said.
Hot on the left
“A Virginia officer gave $25 to Kyle Rittenhouse and said he ‘did nothing wrong.’ He was swiftly fired,” Katie Shepherd reports. Last year, Norfolk Police Lt. William K. Kelly anonymously sent Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old charged with fatally shooting two protesters, $25. A data breach revealed Kelly’s identity, and the city of Norfolk fired him after an internal investigation found he had violated policies by sending the donation.
Hot on the right
“Anti-anti-Chauvinism,” by the Bulwark’s Benjamin Parker: “Some observers, though, seem less concerned about the murder of George Floyd and more concerned about — well, it’s hard to say what they are concerned about. Some of them are claiming that the trial was a set-up. Rigged. That the jury had it in for Chauvin. Or that Chauvin didn’t really matter because the real villains were Joe Biden and Maxine Waters and Don Lemon. ... By fixating on all of this, the Extremely Online right has been doing something interesting in the hours since the verdict was announced. They’re not willing to be pro-Chauvin, exactly. Well, most of them ... But there is an awful lot of anti-anti-Chauvinism. So much so that it might well become the latest article of faith for conservatives in good standing.”
Vaccine doses in the U.S., visualized
At least 133.3 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the United States, per The Post's tracker:
Today in Washington
Biden will deliver a speech today at 1:15 p.m. on the current state of vaccinations and his administration's efforts to battle the pandemic.
Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff will promote vaccinations on opposite sides of the country. The first lady will visit a health-care center in Albuquerque with New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, while the second gentleman will visit a health-care center in Burlington with Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R).
The Senate could vote as early as today to narrowly confirm civil rights lawyer Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general.
Stephen Colbert said it is hard to celebrate Chauvin’s guilty verdict, “because a man is still dead”: