President Biden on Thursday touted the nation’s coronavirus vaccine campaign and other efforts to combat the pandemic, calling it “a great day for America” hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed federal masking guidelines to say that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors.

“I think it’s a great milestone, a great day,” Biden said in remarks from the White House. “It’s been made possible by the extraordinary success we’ve had in vaccinating so many Americans so quickly.”

Biden urged those who have not yet gotten the shot to do so as soon as possible and to wear a mask until they been fully vaccinated.

“It’s going to take a little more time for everyone who wants to get vaccinated to get their shots. So all of us, let’s be patient with one another,” Biden said.

Earlier Thursday Biden said the FBI continues to believe that the Russian government was not behind the cyberattack that led to the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline but that “the criminals who did the attack are living in Russia.” In remarks from the White House, Biden also urged U.S. motorists not to panic amid fuel shortages and predicted a return to normalcy this weekend.

Biden also convened an Oval Office meeting with six Republican senators as he continues to try to build support for a sweeping infrastructure package.

Here’s what to know:

  • Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) is seeking to shore up support to replace Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) in the No. 3 leadership position among House Republicans. Cheney was ousted Wednesday by her colleagues as conference chairwoman.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the degree to which Republican lawmakers minimized the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, likening the assault to a visit of tourists, “fell into the range of sick.”
  • After verbally harassing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in the Capitol on Wednesday night, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) escalated her attacks in tweets.
  • The president of the nation’s second-largest teachers union is calling for a return to full-time school this fall, a move that could smooth the way to a return to normalcy.
12:34 a.m.
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Rep. Liz Cheney to Bret Baier: Fox News ‘has a particular obligation’ to say election was not stolen

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) on Thursday appeared on “Fox News” and argued that the network has “a particular obligation” to emphasize to its overwhelmingly Republican viewers that the election was not stolen, continuing her vow to push back on former president Donald Trump’s baseless claims that there was widespread fraud in the presidential race.

“We all have an obligation, and I would say Fox News, especially — especially Fox News — has a particular obligation to make sure people know the election wasn’t stolen,” said Cheney, who on Wednesday was ousted as the House Republican Conference chair for her opposition to Trump.

“We’ve said that numerous times,” Fox News host Bret Baier said in response. Baier interrupted Cheney numerous more times before she could continue.

“We need to make sure that the American people recognize and understand that the election wasn’t stolen, that we shouldn’t perpetuate the ‘big lie,’ and that there’s a real danger — you know, I’ve worked in countries around the world where we don’t have peaceful transitions of power. And all of us who are elected officials have got to make sure that we obey and abide by the oath that we swore to the Constitution, and that the peaceful transition of power is key to that,” Cheney said.

To Baier’s question about why her Wyoming constituents should stick with her if they wanted someone to “block the Biden agenda,” Cheney insisted: “My constituents believe firmly in the rule of law. They believe firmly in the Constitution. They know we do not swear allegiance to any individual.”

Cheney insisted that she was still staunchly opposed to several aspects of Biden’s agenda and had led the party in such a way since Biden took office.

“So the issue isn’t whether or not we stand against the Biden policies,” Cheney said. “The issue is: Are we going to be party that sits by silently while the former president continues to perpetuate lies about the election? And it is the case that there are too many people in the leadership of the Republican Party today who have been willing not only to sit by silently but to help enable that.”

11:47 p.m.
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As Colonial Pipeline recovers from cyberattack, leaders point to ‘wake-up call’ for energy infrastructure

A major East Coast fuel pipeline lurched back to life Thursday as the nation continued to deal with the fallout from the biggest known cyberattack on U.S. energy infrastructure, but the Biden administration warned it would take time for fuel shortages to ease and pledged to take additional action to prevent a similar crisis.

Colonial Pipeline, which suspended operations Friday after a ransomware attack on the company’s computer systems, said Thursday that its pipeline connecting Texas to New Jersey has been fully reactivated and that fuel shipments have resumed. But significant shortages continued across numerous states, and drivers again complained of being stuck in long lines and encountering empty gas stations.

President Biden and top aides sought to ease growing political fallout over the fuel shortages, as Republicans accused the White House of failing to defend the importance of American-made energy and responding inadequately to the hack.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called the ransomware attack a “wake-up call” that raises questions about whether the nation’s laws and political system are prepared for what he called “the cyber era.” And Biden touted a new Justice Department task force to go after DarkSide, a hacker group that infiltrated Colonial Pipeline’s servers and said it would not relinquish control without a ransom.

11:40 p.m.
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Former aide says congressman recklessly exposed staff to coronavirus, let son live in Capitol basement

A former aide accused Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) of allowing his son to live in a storage space in the basement of the U.S. Capitol for several weeks and recklessly exposing staffers to the coronavirus, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday.

Former aide Brandon L. Pope accused Lamborn, 66, of consistently disregarding “ethical rules and guidelines” for lawmakers, including taking a “reckless” approach to the pandemic and retaliating against Pope when he raised objections.

Pope, whose lawsuit said he was fired after working from May until December as a defense and business adviser, asked a federal judge to find that the eight-term member of Congress violated workplace rights under the Congressional Accountability Act and to award compensatory and punitive damages.

10:13 p.m.
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‘I support Elise, by far, over Chip!’: Trump makes preference clear in Roy-Stefanik No. 3 GOP position bid

Former president Donald Trump poured cold water on Rep. Chip Roy’s long-shot bid to become the next Republican conference chair.

“Can’t imagine Republican House Members would go with Chip Roy — he has not done a great job, and will probably be successfully primaried in his own district,” Trump said in a statement Thursday.

“I support Elise, by far, over Chip!” Trump added, referring to Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who has the support of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and is widely considered the front-runner for the No. 3 position in GOP leadership. Stefanik, who has voted as a moderate Republican, has in recent months supported Trump in sowing doubts about the 2020 election results.

A spokesman for Roy confirmed Thursday that the Texas Republican is challenging Stefanik for the position. House Republicans will vote Friday on a replacement for Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who was ousted as conference chair Wednesday after pushing back on Trump’s baseless claims that the election was stolen.

Roy, a member of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, in January highlighted his colleagues’ hypocrisy when it came to challenging electoral college votes. Earlier this week he had expressed reservations about moving too quickly to replace Cheney with Stefanik, arguing that her voting record was not conservative enough.

9:24 p.m.
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Blinken rejects GOP calls to suspend Iran talks over support to Hamas

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday rejected calls from Republican lawmakers to end nuclear negotiations with Iran over its support for the militant group Hamas, saying Tehran’s “malign activities” only underscore the importance of “doing everything we can” to ensure it doesn’t acquire nuclear weapons.

“An Iran with a nuclear weapon, or with the capacity to have one in very short order, is an Iran that’s likely to act with even greater impunity when it comes to these other actions,” Blinken told reporters at the State Department ahead of a meeting with Australia’s foreign minister.

The remarks were a response to a letter signed by 44 Republican senators urging Biden to “immediately” end negotiations with Iran, which are aimed at dismantling its nuclear program, because of its support for “Palestinian terrorists in Gaza.” As Israeli-Palestinian violence has surged, Republicans have sought to distinguish themselves from some Democrats in wholly backing Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Hamas.

The violence has divided Democrats, with the party leadership expressing support for Israel’s right to defend itself and younger lawmakers calling on the United States to hold Israel to greater account for mounting civilian casualties from its air campaign in Gaza.

Despite the pressure from the left, Blinken made clear that he places more blame on Hamas, saying there is a “fundamental difference between a terrorist organization in Hamas that is indiscriminately targeting civilians and Israel, which is defending itself.”

Blinken and Biden’s insistence that Israel has a right to defend itself has been criticized by several liberal lawmakers, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who said it fails to acknowledge “what precipitated this cycle of violence — namely the expulsion of Palestinians and attacks” on al-Aqsa Mosque.

“This is not neutral language. It takes a side — the side of occupation,” she tweeted Wednesday.

9:17 p.m.
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Ocasio-Cortez responds to Greene’s continued verbal attacks, says she won’t be intimidated

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Thursday reacted to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s verbal assault, saying she wouldn’t let someone who aligns with white supremacists intimidate her.

“I refuse to allow young women, people of color, people who are standing up for what they believe to see this kind of intimidation attempts by a person who supports white supremacists,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

She also said that when she worked as a bartender, Greene (R-Ga.) was the kind of person she “threw out of bars all the time.”

Ocasio-Cortez “can’t call me a bully because I’m trying to talk with her about policy that will change our economy. … What she is a coward and a fraud and a fake,” Greene told reporters afterward.

Earlier, Greene escalated her attacks on Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter after verbally assaulting her in person in the Capitol on Wednesday night.

Greene called Ocasio-Cortez a “fraud and a hypocrite” for ignoring the Georgia Republican’s demand that they debate, Greene also again accused Ocasio-Cortez of supporting terrorists, falsely claiming she backs Hamas and antifa and lumping Black Lives Matter in with those groups.

Greene also referred to the “squad” of four liberal congresswomen of color as well as Vice President Harris, who is also a woman of color, as the “JihadSquad.”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who has been among the most outspoken about his worries for the future of his party, came to Ocasio-Cortez’s defense.

“While I may not agree with @AOC on issues, I’ve never seen her confront a colleague like this,” he tweeted. “The house was created to debate emotional issues professionally, and it seems some just want attention or cannot handle their emotions.”

8:48 p.m.
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HUD Secretary Fudge violated the Hatch Act, Office of the Special Counsel rules

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge violated the Hatch Act when she promoted Democrats for the Ohio Senate race from the White House, the Office of the Special Counsel ruled.

In a letter sent Thursday, the Office of the Special Counsel wrote it had issued Fudge a warning letter and closed the case.

“Considering that shortly after the incident Secretary Fudge expressed remorse about her statement and that HUD ethics officials counseled her about the Hatch Act, OSC has closed this matter by issuing her a warning letter,” Ana Galindo-Marrone, the chief of the office’s Hatch Act unit, wrote in the letter.

The letter was sent to the Americans for Public Trust, a conservative group that filed a Hatch Act complaint after The Washington Post reported Fudge’s comments were likely a violation of the law. The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch officials from engaging in political activities in an official capacity.

In March, Fudge joined White House press secretary Jen Psaki at a news briefing and answered a question about Democrats’ chances in the Ohio 2022 Senate race. She said Democrats “have a good shot at it,” adding she believed “we can win the Senate race.”

After the briefing, Fudge said she should not have answered the question.

8:28 p.m.
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GOP lawmakers optimistic after Biden infrastructure meeting

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) on May 13 said Republicans would rework a counter-proposal before their next infrastructure meeting with the White House. (The Washington Post)

Republican lawmakers who met with Biden and members of his administration at the White House on Thursday said they were optimistic a compromise could be reached on an infrastructure package, an upbeat assessment the president later echoed.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who is leading the GOP’s negotiations on infrastructure, described the White House meeting as “very productive” and a “more than courteous give-and-take.”

“We did talk specifics, and the president has asked us to come back and rework an offer so that he can then react to that and re-offer to us,” Capito told reporters after the meeting. “So we’re very encouraged. We feel very committed to the bipartisanship that we think that this infrastructure package should carry forward.”

She added that Biden had asked for more details in their counterproposal and did not name any specific points of contention.

“The attitude that the president had in the Oval Office with us was very supportive, very much desirous of striking a deal,” Capito said.

After delivering remarks on vaccinations Thursday afternoon, Biden told reporters: “I am very optimistic that we can reach a reasonable agreement,” adding that he plans to talk to the senators again next week.

Another attendee, Sen. Mike Crapo (Idaho), told reporters on Capitol Hill that Biden and the lawmakers have “got real negotiations underway.”

“I was cautiously optimistic. I leave this meeting with solid optimism,” Crapo said.

Others in the meeting included Vice President Harris, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Republican Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.).

8:26 p.m.
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Maskless Biden, Harris hail CDC guidance that fully vaccinated Americans don’t have to wear masks

President Biden spoke about the new CDC guidelines that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors and outdoors in most cases on May 13. (The Washington Post)

A maskless Biden, with a maskless Harris by his side, celebrated the CDC guidance that fully vaccinated Americans can now go without a mask indoors and out, calling it a “good day for the country.”

But even as Biden took a victory lap, commending Americans for getting to this point quicker than previously thought possible, he cautioned those who weren’t vaccinated to still wear a face covering to protect themselves and others who are not yet vaccinated, and urged all Americans to get the shot.

The choice is yours. You all made this possible. Now let’s finish the work of beating this virus and getting everything back to normal,” he said.

The president also said that after more than a year of wearing masks, some people might be uncomfortable taking them off and pleaded with Americans not to bully others for that choice.

“Please treat them with kindness and respect. We’ve had too much conflict, too much bitterness, too much anger, too much polarization on this issue about wearing a mask. Let’s put it to rest,” he said.

We will rebuild our economy, reclaim our lives and get back to normal life again, we will know joy again and will smile again,” Biden said. “Now see one another’s smile, look at the smiles on people’s faces. Better days are ahead. I promise you.”

7:56 p.m.
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Immigration officials fear losing expulsion powers at U.S.-Mexico border

Immigration officials fear legal challenges will stop them from expelling migrants from the southwest border, a practice the nation’s top immigration enforcer said Thursday has been “critical” to preventing covid-19 deaths in detention.

More than 700,000 migrants from Central America, Haiti and other areas have been expelled from the United States to Mexico or their homelands since the Trump administration issued the order in March 2020, citing Title 42 of the public health code to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Many migrants have been expelled more than once.

“There’s certainly a concern that we may lose our Title 42 authority,” Tae Johnson, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, testified at a hearing before the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security. “It’s all stemming from a number of lawsuits that are out there. I’m not aware that it would be lifted voluntarily. With the large number of single adults that are being expelled, we think that in this covid environment, that is extremely helpful.”

Thursday is the deadline for the American Civil Liberties Union to decide whether to proceed with a federal lawsuit seeking to stop the expulsion of migrant families under the Title 42 order, which the Biden administration has largely kept in place. ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt said in an email, separate from the hearing, that any extension this week “could be the last one.”

Gelernt also said that a new lawsuit to stop the expulsions of single adults is “something we see discussing.”

Johnson told the committee that the Title 42 order mainly affects single adults, the largest group crossing the southwest border this fiscal year. Most are expelled, he said.

Unaccompanied children and teens are exempt from the order, and Johnson told the committee that 75 percent of migrant families are also being admitted into the United States, which officials say happens when Mexico will not accept them.

But lifting the Title 42 order could require the U.S. government to accept approximately 3,000 to 3,500 single adults a day, Johnson said, which could increase the number of migrants in detention. He said the expulsions have been “critical to ICE’s efforts to ensure adequate space for social distancing” and to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“The only way we’ve been able to survive and have so few covid-related deaths in custody over the last 15 months has been because of Title 42,” Johnson said.

Nine detainees have died of covid-19, according to ICE, among more than 14,000 confirmed infections. About 2,000 immigrants in custody currently have the virus.

Customs and Border Protection officials made 178,622 arrests in April, the highest one-month total in two decades.

The administration has said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reviewing the Title 42 order.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at a separate hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday that the administration “will not keep the Title 42 restrictions in place longer than necessary for public health,” according to his prepared remarks.

7:56 p.m.
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White House no longer will require vaccinated staff to wear masks

The White House will no longer require staff who are fully vaccinated to wear masks following revised guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In an email sent Thursday afternoon, obtained by The Washington Post, Anne Filipic, the director of management and administration, said the new guidance was effective immediately.

“We are excited to be taking this step towards a return to normal operations and are grateful to the efforts of healthcare workers, first responders, and countless others across the country who have helped to make this possible,” she wrote.

Filipic said that masking was the only policy change but that other changes would follow per CDC guidance.

Meanwhile, as news of the new CDC guidance hit Capitol Hill, senators shed their masks. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), took hers off and raised the roof with her hand. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) walked into the chamber, removed her mask and swung it in the air.

“Free at last,” a maskless Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was heard saying as he left the Senate.

7:10 p.m.
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‘Harassment is not making someone feel uncomfortable,’ Cuomo says. New York state law says otherwise.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) on Thursday answered questions about his treatment of women by telling a young female reporter that “harassment is not making someone feel uncomfortable” — a statement that is at odds with New York state law.

Cuomo, who is under investigation for alleged sexual harassment, also told the reporter, Rebecca C. Lewis of City & State NY, that she could hypothetically accuse him of harassment after the news conference.

Cuomo’s remarks prompted condemnation from Charlotte Bennett, one of the former aides who has accused him, as well as the Sexual Harassment Working Group, a worker collective that advocates for a New York state government free of harassment.

In February, after Bennett went public with her accusations against Cuomo, the governor said in a statement that he “never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm.”

“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended,” Cuomo said at the time.

At Thursday’s news conference in the Bronx, Lewis read Cuomo part of his statement on Bennett and asked the governor, “Do you acknowledge the fact that your intentions, according to the law, don’t matter in sexual harassment?”

Cuomo responded that he said he “never meant to make anyone feel uncomfortable” and that he “never said anything I believe is inappropriate.”

He then suggested a hypothetical situation involving the reporter herself.

“You can leave this press conference today and say, ‘Oh, the governor harassed me,’ ” Cuomo said. “You can say that. I would say, ‘I never said anything that I believed was inappropriate. I never meant to make you feel that way. You may hear it that way. You may interpret it at that way. And I respect that. And I apologize to you if you — I said something you think is offensive.’ ”

According to New York Attorney General Letitia James’s office, sexual harassment “is a form of gender-based discrimination” that can include the creation of “an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”

“Sexual harassment may be verbal, visual and/or physical,” including “sexually offensive remarks or jokes,” according to James’s office. Cuomo himself signed sweeping sexual harassment legislation into law in 2019.

“According to the law, a harasser’s intention doesn’t matter,” Lewis noted at Thursday’s news conference.

Cuomo responded: “Harassment is not making someone feel uncomfortable. That is not harassment. If I just made you feel uncomfortable, that is not harassment. That’s you feeling uncomfortable.”

Not long after the exchange, Bennett responded in a tweet.

“When @NYGovCuomo propositioned me for sex, he broke the law,” she said. “It is very simple: the issue is about his actions, it is not about my feelings. He broke the law (you know, the one he signed). Apologies don’t fix that, and neither do denials.”

The Sexual Harassment Working Group, which was formed by former state legislative staffers and has previously called on Cuomo to resign, said in a statement that “just because you believe you can’t make anyone ‘feel’ harassed by your actions, doesn’t make it legally true.”

“If the Governor tried that before a judge he’d get laughed out of court,” the group said.

6:10 p.m.
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Biden reiterates willingness to compromise on infrastructure as he meets with GOP senators

President Biden met with Republican senators on May 13 to discuss potential compromises on a proposed infrastructure plan. (The Washington Post)

Biden on Thursday reiterated his willingness to compromise on an infrastructure package as he welcomed a group of six Republican senators to the Oval Office of the White House, a meeting he said came together at their “mutual request.”

Biden said he believes the Republicans, including Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who has taken the lead in promoting a more modest infrastructure package than one proposed by Biden, are operating in “good faith.” Biden said he hoped the discussion would include what “constitutes infrastructure from both our perspectives” as well as funding levels.

Asked by a reporter if he is prepared to make a lower offer, Biden, said, “I’m prepared to compromise.”

Biden was joined by Vice President Harris, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

Other Republican senators attending the meeting were John Barrasso (Wyo.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.), and Roger Wicker (Miss.).

5:55 p.m.
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Asked about reported pipeline payment, Psaki says it’s not in companies’ interest to pay ransom to hackers

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on May 13 said it was not in companies' interest to pay hackers following a report that Colonial Pipeline paid hackers. (The Washington Post)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that it is not in the interest of companies to pay ransoms to hackers after a report that Colonial Pipeline paid millions to help restore operation of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline.

Psaki referred journalists to the Alpharetta, Ga.-based company for confirmation on whether the company paid millions in ransom to hackers allegedly based in Russia after the fuel pipeline was shut down temporarily. But she reiterated the federal government’s general position on the matter.

“It continues to be the position of the federal government, the FBI, that it is not in the interests of the private sector for companies to pay ransom because it incentivizes these actions,” she said at a briefing. “I will say that one of the lessons that other companies should take away from this hack is that it’s important to harden your cybersecurity, to take the necessary steps to ensure that you’re protected.”

Bloomberg News has reported that Colonial paid nearly $5 million.

Intelligence agencies are investigating a cyberattack last week that led to a shutdown of the pipeline and caused a jump in gas prices over the past weekend. Criminal organizations operating in foreign safe havens beyond the jurisdiction of America’s criminal justice system are believed to be behind the crippling ransomware attacks.

Biden told people not to “panic,” before declining to comment on whether he’d been briefed on the hacking, “I know seeing lines at the pumps or gas stations with no gas can be extremely stressful. But this is a temporary situation. Do not get more gas than you need in the next few days.”

“Panic buying will only slow the process,” he added.