With a 70-year-old bridge as a backdrop, President Biden on Thursday made an appeal for bipartisan support for his infrastructure plan during an event in Lake Charles, La., where he was introduced by the city’s Republican mayor in a state handily won last year by Donald Trump.

I’ve never seen a Republican or Democrat road. I just see roads,” Biden said at the event, the first of two stops planned in the state. He later traveled to New Orleans to spotlight that city’s antiquated water system.

Here’s what to know:

  • Weekly jobless claims hit a pandemic-era low for the fourth consecutive week, the Labor Department reported.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed broad legislation that imposes new rules on voting and new penalties for those who do not follow them.
  • Deputy White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Florida’s new voting law is “built on a lie” and that the state is moving “in the wrong direction.”
  • Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who is poised to replace Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as the third-ranking House Republican, gave a full-throated defense of Trump’s “big lie” about the 2020 election, throwing her support behind the audit of the election results in Arizona.
1:42 a.m.
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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms will not seek reelection, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms will not seek reelection for a second term later this year, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Thursday night, based on two people who were on a private call with the mayor Thursday.

Bottoms (D) and representatives for the mayor did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Bottoms, who was elected mayor of Georgia’s capital city in 2017, is a rising Democratic star and had at one point been a serious contender to be President Biden’s running mate. She turned down a role in Biden’s Cabinet in December, saying she wanted to focus on the people of Atlanta.

Bottoms already had one challenger for the Nov. 2 election — Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore — and the incumbent mayor’s decision not to seek reelection is likely to attract several more candidates.

12:30 a.m.
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Bannon partner in alleged border wall fundraising fraud scheme hit with new tax charges

An Air Force veteran who prosecutors allege worked with Stephen K. Bannon — President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist — to defraud donors to a fundraising campaign for a U.S.-Mexico border wall has been indicted on new tax charges.

Brian Kolfage, a conservative activist who lost three limbs in Iraq and was the founder and public face of the We Build the Wall fundraising campaign, was charged in federal court in Florida with filing a false tax return. In an indictment, prosecutors alleged that Kolfage claimed to the Internal Revenue Service in his 2019 tax return that he had a total income of just over $63,000 and did not report hundreds of thousands of dollars deposited into his personal bank account from We Build the Wall and other sources.

Federal prosecutors in New York last year charged Bannon, Kolfage and two others with defrauding donors to the campaign, which was publicly supported by several of Trump’s allies and raised more than $25 million from hundreds of thousands of donors. In an indictment in that case, prosecutors alleged that the men lied when they said they would not take any compensation from the campaign.

12:26 a.m.
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Texas state lawmakers debate new voting restrictions

Texas state Rep. Briscoe Cain (R) struggled Thursday to field Democratic colleagues’ questions about legislation that would place new restrictions on voting in their state, part of a flurry of GOP proposals across the country.

Advocates frame it as an anti-fraud initiative needed to shore up voters’ trust. Opponents say the measure would disenfranchise people of color while drumming up baseless claims of electoral wrongdoing promoted by Republicans. The House has moved ahead with proposals different from those passed earlier by the state Senate.

State Rep. Jessica González (D) grilled Cain on the Texas secretary of state’s assessment that elections are already secure. “If it’s not broken, what are we trying to fix?” she said.

“We don’t need to wait for bad things to happen to try to secure our elections,” Cain said.

Asked whether he or the attorney general’s office had analyzed how the proposed changes could affect minority voters, Cain admitted that he had not checked on the matter. At one point, as González argued that the bill could criminalize harmless matters, Cain agreed that a fix might be necessary.

Cain maintained that he did not support a voting “suppression” bill, but rather a voting “enhancement” bill, insisting that the measure was designed to protect “all voters.”

Rep. Chris Turner (D) pressed Cain on the thousands of staff hours the attorney general’s office has spent investigating alleged election fraud. He asked Cain how many instances of fraud were found.

Cain said he was not sure.

The attorney general’s office found only 16 instances in a state of nearly 30 million people, Turner told him.

Cain seemed to try to distance the bill from former president Donald Trump’s baseless allegations of a rigged presidential election. “Is this bill simply a part and continuation of the ‘big lie’ perpetrated by Donald Trump?” Turner asked.

“This bill is not about 2020 … this bill is not a response to 2020,” Cain said.

Rep. Rafael Anchía (D) scrutinized the measure’s wording, saying its reference to “purity” of the ballot box harked back to the disenfranchisement of Black voters during the Jim Crow era.

“Those are troubling things,” Cain acknowledged as Anchía went through the history of the “purity” language.

12:17 a.m.
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Arizona Republicans push back against Justice Department concerns, setting up possible clash over Maricopa County recount

Arizona officials involved with a Republican-commissioned recount of the November presidential election in the state’s largest county on Thursday brushed off concerns by the Justice Department this week, raising the possibility of a clash between state and federal authorities over the audit.

Pamela S. Karlan, who heads the Justice Department’s civil rights division, wrote a letter to the president of the Arizona Senate on Wednesday suggesting that the recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County by a private contractor may not comply with federal law, which requires that ballots be securely maintained for 22 months after a federal election.

“We have a concern that Maricopa County election records, which are required by federal law to be retained and preserved, are no longer under the ultimate control of elections officials, are not being adequately safeguarded by contractors, and are at risk of damage or loss,” she wrote.

11:35 p.m.
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Biden once asserted that Republicans would have an ‘epiphany.’ Now he admits he doesn’t understand them.

Joe Biden was speaking in a barn to a sparse campaign crowd in Iowa when he offered a prediction. “If we defeat Donald Trump,” he said that summer day in 2019, “you’re going to see, as we say in southern Delaware, an altar call. You’re going to see people all of a sudden see the Lord.”

The Republican Party, Biden suggested, would no longer be beholden to one man. Its leaders would not be intimidated by the former president’s blowback. Politics would return to a state where the two parties could argue fiercely without vitriolic personal attacks or the embrace of falsehoods.

But on Wednesday, in the fourth month of his presidency, Biden offered a more flummoxed, less confident assessment: “I don’t understand the Republicans.”

Biden’s political calling card for decades has been that he is one Democrat who does understand the Republicans. That ostensible familiarity caused him headaches during the primary campaign; other Democrats ridiculed Republicans, but Biden went out of his way to call GOP leaders “good and decent.” (With Trump, he offered a qualifier: “He’s probably a decent guy.”)

11:18 p.m.
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Biden tours New Orleans water treatment plant as part of push for infrastructure plan

As part of his visit Thursday to Louisiana to promote his $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, President Biden toured a water treatment plant in New Orleans that workers said was old and struggling to meet higher standards for drinking water.

Biden was accompanied by New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D), as well as a half-dozen other local officials and workers.

“This is an honor,” Ghassan Korban, executive director of the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans, told the president before they started, noting that Biden was “the first president who highlighted and elevated the water infrastructure as an issue for the whole country.”

Biden said he had dealt with water issues when he served on the New Castle County Council in Delaware in the 1970s.

With temperatures in the 80s, Biden and the group toured the 74-acre facility, which provides drinking water and generates power for drainage pumps. Korban told the president that the plant was very old and that “the whole system could fail,” according to a pool report.

Biden has said rebuilding clean drinking-water infrastructure will be a key part of his plan.

“Infrastructure is all about making life livable for ordinary people,” Biden said.

10:49 p.m.
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More than half of Georgia voters oppose MLB moving All-Star Game, poll finds

About 54 percent of Georgia voters oppose Major League Baseball’s decision in April to move this year’s All-Star Game from metro Atlanta to Colorado in protest of Georgia’s new voting law, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll conducted by the University of Georgia.

The Republican-backed law, signed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) in March, prompted outcry from Democrats and voting rights advocates, as well as condemnation from several corporations, including Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines.

The opposition from the state’s voters to moving the All-Star Game helped explain some of the stances of Georgia lawmakers.

Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.) urged other businesses and athletes not to leave Georgia but rather protest the law by “coming here and fighting voter suppression head on, and hand-in-hand with the community.”

Before MLB made its decision, Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) said he opposed the efforts to move the All-Star Game. He then criticized the GOP after the MLB announced the move, blaming Republicans for Georgia “hemorrhaging business and jobs because of their disastrous new Jim Crow voting law.”

Stacey Abrams, a voting rights advocate and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, said she was “disappointed” in MLB’s decision but also “proud of their stance on voting rights.”

10:13 p.m.
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Biden, Louisiana governor share pocket rosaries on tarmac in Lake Charles

Biden and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) connected through their shared Catholic faith Thursday, briefly showing each other the pocket rosaries they carry after Biden arrived in Lake Charles, La., to pitch his $2 trillion infrastructure bill.

Biden, a devout Catholic, has frequently been seen reciting the rosary with prayer beads he has with him. When he served as vice president, he reportedly was fingering his rosary beads in the Situation Room of the White House as he was huddled with President Barack Obama and other administration members during the mission to kill Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Biden has been carrying rosary beads that belonged to his late son, Beau Biden, since about 2015, his way of maintaining a connection to him, the president has said. He mentioned those rosary beads as recently as last weekend during a virtual meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Paul Kane contributed to this report.

9:18 p.m.
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Analysis: Why is Caitlyn Jenner running this particular campaign?

With 1.6 million state residents signing a petition in support of the effort, Californians will have the opportunity later this year to go to the polls and decide whether Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) keeps his job. The polling — Newsom’s approval numbers, views of the trajectory of the state, opinions of the recall effort itself — suggests a highly likely outcome: Newsom will stay governor.

There are no sure things in a one-off special election, of course. It’s possible that the voters who turn out will lopsidedly favor recalling Newsom. But the Public Policy Institute of California, evaluating the likelihood of Gov. Gray Davis being recalled in 2003, found support for ousting Davis at 53 percent weeks before the vote itself, in which 55 percent of voters supported his removal. PPIC’s most recent polling has the Newsom recall failing with 56 percent of the state opposing it.

It’s important to understand how the process works. There will be two questions on the ballot: Should Newsom be recalled and, if so, who should replace him? If the first question fails, the second one doesn’t matter. This isn’t a first-past-the-post contest in which the governorship is suddenly thrown wide open. For someone to replace Newsom, he has to be recalled first, and both polling and the state’s political composition suggest that isn’t likely to happen. This is a state that supported Joe Biden for president in 2020 by a 5 million-vote margin — about what George W. Bush earned in the state in total in 2004. It’s a much more blue state that views Newsom positively on net. The recall is unlikely.

7:57 p.m.
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Fact Checker: Stefanik defends election falsehoods told on Jan. 6

“In Georgia, there was unconstitutional overreach when the Secretary of State unilaterally gutted signature matching for absentee ballots and in essence eliminated voter verification required by state election law. In addition, more than 140,000 votes came from underage, deceased, and otherwise unauthorized voters — in Fulton County alone. And many individuals testified to not being able to meaningfully observe the counting of ballots.”

— Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), in an opinion column in the Albany Times-Union, Jan. 6, 2021

Stefanik has emerged as a potential replacement for Cheney as the third-ranking member of the House Republican leadership. Cheney has repeatedly called out Trump for his falsehood that he won the 2020 presidential election, causing angst in the Republican caucus.

Stefanik, by contrast, has regularly echoed Trump’s falsehoods. Our colleague Aaron Blake first spotted this claim, and it cries out for a fact check now that the lawmaker may soon be a senior leader in the House.

The whole opinion column is riddled with false claims, many of which we debunked previously, but we are going to keep our focus on Georgia, as that state — which Biden narrowly won — is run top-to-bottom by Republicans. So it leaves out any question of partisanship.

7:50 p.m.
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Navy ‘looking into’ case of Navy SEAL acquitted of murder after he speaks on podcast, Pentagon chief says

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday that the Navy is “looking into” the case of a Navy SEAL who was acquitted of murder in 2019 but who said on a podcast this week that he and other U.S. troops had the “intention” of killing an Islamic State fighter who had been taken prisoner.

Austin declined to say anything more about the case at the end of a Pentagon news conference, saying, “I don’t have a comment for you.” But his acknowledgment that the Navy is reviewing the case of Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, the retired Navy SEAL, still marks the first time that defense officials have left the door open to reviewing the case.

Gallagher was accused of stabbing the prisoner in Mosul, Iraq, in 2017 and was charged with premeditated murder and attempted murder. He was acquitted after another SEAL, Special Operator 1st Class Corey Scott, surprised the prosecution and testified that he himself had killed the prisoner. Scott had been granted immunity from prosecution.

Gallagher addressed the case in an interview for “The Line,” a new Apple podcast. Gallagher, in remarks first aired Tuesday, indicated that he and his fellow platoon members were in favor of carrying out medical treatments on the prisoner until he died.

“I didn’t stab that dude,” he said. “That dude died from all the medical treatments that were done. And there was plenty of medical treatments that were done to him.”

Gallagher added: “We killed that guy. Our intention was to kill him. Everybody was on board.”

After his acquittal, the Navy demoted Gallagher and moved to take away his Navy SEAL Trident, effectively shunning him. But Trump intervened in the Trident review, also ordering the Navy to reinstate Gallagher’s rank as he retired.

7:02 p.m.
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Biden pitches his infrastructure and jobs proposal in state that backed Trump

President Biden on May 6 pitched the bipartisan nature of his jobs and infrastructure plan in Lake Charles, La. (The Washington Post)

Biden pitched his $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan Thursday in the Deep South, arguing that repairing aging bridges is long overdue and that the proposal will benefit Americans of all political stripes.

“When it comes to bridges and roads and the like, I’ve never seen a Republican or Democrat road,” he said with Lake Charles, La., as a backdrop. “I just see roads.”

Former president Donald Trump won Louisiana in 2016 and 2020, but Biden is trying to secure support for his legislative proposal from the state’s voters despite criticism from the Republican lawmakers representing them in Washington. Biden wants to fund his plan by raising taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans — a move GOP lawmakers adamantly oppose.

Biden said lawmakers have promised infrastructure updates for years but haven’t followed through.

“I got so tired of hearing ‘infrastructure week.’ Nothing has happened,” he said.

The American Jobs Plan aims to create a million jobs that could help bring those bridges, along with highways and other infrastructure projects, up to date, the president said.

The president spoke near the Calcasieu River Bridge, which opened in 1952. Biden said the structure was designed handle 37,000 crossings a day but years later had been categorized as being in poor condition at its last inspection.

“But today, every day more than 80,000 cars and trucks cross over that bridge,” Biden said. “And it doesn’t have the modern safety features that bridges need to have now.”

“After decades of politicians studying it and talking about it, Governor (John Bel) Edwards is finally moving forward with a project to actually replace the bridge, one with six lanes, new interchanges that safely reduce congestion,” he added. “And it shouldn’t be as hard, shouldn’t be this hard or take so long to fix a bridge.”

6:02 p.m.
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Stefanik tells Bannon she supports the Arizona audit of 2020 election results

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who is poised to replace Cheney as the third-ranking House Republican, gave a full-throated defense of Trump’s “big lie” about the 2020 election, throwing her support behind the audit of the election results in Arizona.

“I fully support the audit in Arizona. We want transparency and answers for the American people. What are the Democrats so afraid of?” Stefanik said, appearing Thursday morning on the podcast of 2016 Trump campaign manager Stephen K. Bannon to make her case to his audience that she is one of them and not a member of the Republican establishment.

In her interview, she described Trump’s critics as suffering from “Trump derangement syndrome,” referred to the probe into 2016 election interference as the “Russia hoax” and suggested there were other “major, major issues” with voting across the country in the 2020 election.

Stefanik is being rewarded by her Republican peers for defending Trump during both of his impeachments and voting against certifying Biden’s election victory the evening of Jan. 6 after the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Cheney, on the other hand, is being punished for being among the handful of House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the violence at the Capitol and continues to condemn him for peddling the falsehood that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

5:41 p.m.
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McConnell, White House clash on potential worker shortage as labor pressures intensify

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on Thursday alleged that the Biden administration’s stimulus law, which included $1,400 checks and new unemployment assistance for millions of Americans, had created a massive labor shortage that threatens to hold back the country’s economic recovery.

“We have flooded the zone with checks that I’m sure everybody loves to get, and also enhanced unemployment,” McConnell said. “And what I hear from business people, hospitals, educators, everybody across the state all week is, regretfully, it’s actually more lucrative for many Kentuckians and Americans to not work than work. So we have a workforce shortage and we have raising inflation, both directly related to this recent bill that just passed.”

Employers across a range of industries have complained that it is difficult to find workers, even though millions of Americans remain unemployed. Republicans have alleged this is primarily the consequence of the trillions of dollars in government aid that Congress authorized in response to the coronavirus during the past year.

But Democrats argue that the federal dollars helped people in greatest need and helped stave off an even worse economic decline. They increasingly say any disruption in the labor market is probably the result of employers that have tried to lure people back with low wages, on top of troubles facing families that continue to struggle to find adequate child care.