President Biden on Thursday welcomed Israel’s approval of a cease-fire in its 11-day conflict with Hamas in brief remarks at the White House. “The Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy,” Biden said in reiterating that Israel has a right to defend itself and promising U.S. support to help Israel replenish its Iron Dome defense system.

Earlier in the day, Biden signed into law a bill to expedite a review of pandemic-related hate crimes, with an emphasis on an increase in attacks targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. “Every time we’re silent, every time we let hate flourish, we make a lie of who we are as a nation,” Biden told Republicans, Democrats and guests in the East Room.

Here’s what to know

  • The House narrowly passed a $1.9 billion spending package to pay for security improvements at the U.S. Capitol, with Democrats scrambling to overcome defections just one day after party leaders won hearty bipartisan backing for an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot carried out by supporters of former president Donald Trump. The vote was 213 to 212, with three members voting present.
  • Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), a surprise vote to convict Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, opposes the establishment of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the deadly assault.
  • Efforts to challenge the 2020 election persist across the country as Trump supporters press local officials to revisit the results, wrongly insisting that he won.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Biden’s first slate of judicial nominations, including Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace Attorney General Merrick Garland on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Trump blasts McConnell as ‘hopeless,' criticizes ‘weak’ Republicans who don’t push election falsehoods

12:29 a.m.
Link copied

Former president Donald Trump blasted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as “weak” and “hopeless” in an interview that aired Thursday on the right-wing One America News.

Trump, who has been suspended or banned from several social media outlets, including his formerly preferred platform Twitter, spent most of the interview pushing his baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election had been “rigged and stolen.” He faulted “Republicans in name only” for not fighting hard enough on his behalf to advance his false claims of voter fraud.

“The weak Republicans don’t want to talk about it — the weak or stupid or RINOs or call it whatever you want,” Trump said. “If Mitch McConnell fought in the Senate for election integrity, you would have lots of vetoes coming out right now in the White House because you’d have a different president. But other than fundraising, he’s very weak.”

Later in the interview, Trump also criticized McConnell for not standing up effectively against President Biden’s agenda.

“[Democrats] get whatever they want approved. McConnell is hopeless and he can’t stop anything,” Trump said.

The former president, who continued to insist that he won the 2020 election, touted partisan efforts in Arizona to audit the election results in Maricopa County, which has spurred Trump loyalists to push for similar challenges to the 2020 election across the country.

Biden commends Netanyahu for cease-fire, promises to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome defense system

10:37 p.m.
Link copied

Biden on Thursday praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for agreeing to a cease-fire after an 11-day conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip and also said he had promised Israel the full support of the United States to replenish the nation’s Iron Dome defense system.

“I commended him for the decision to bring the current hostilities to a close in less than 11 days,” Biden said from the White House late Thursday afternoon, referring to a conversation he had with Netanyahu earlier in the day.

“I also emphasized what I said throughout this conflict: The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks from Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel,” Biden added.

The “mutual, unconditional” cease-fire was set to begin in less than two hours, he said. According to local officials Wednesday, the Palestinian death toll in Gaza stands at 232, including at least 65 children, while the death toll in Israel stands at 12, including two children.

“These hostilities have resulted in the tragic deaths of so many civilians, including children, and I send my sincere condolences to all the families, Israeli and Palestinian, who have lost loved ones,” Biden said.

Biden noted he had spoken with Netanyahu six times in the past 11 days, as well as with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and with Egyptian officials. He described having “intensive, high-level discussions, hour-by-hour, literally” with officials in the region, “with an aim of avoiding this sort of prolonged conflict we’ve seen in previous years.”

“I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy,” Biden said. “My administration will continue our quiet and relentless diplomacy.”

Arizona secretary of state says Maricopa County should replace millions of dollars worth of voting equipment because of GOP-backed recount

9:54 p.m.
Link copied

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D), the state’s chief elections officer, advised Maricopa County Thursday that it should replace all voting machines that were turned over to a private contractor for an audit of the 2020 presidential election, citing “grave concerns regarding the security and integrity” of the machines that makes them unusable for future elections.

Hobbs’s guidance, outlined in a letter to county officials, is the latest fallout from a review of the election ordered by Republicans in the Arizona state Senate, who used a subpoena to order the county to turn over voting machines and nearly 2.1 million ballots to reexamine last fall’s vote.

The chief executive of the private company hired to conduct the audit has echoed false allegations that the election was stolen, and the process has been widely criticized by election experts as unsecure and unprofessional.

House panel grants appeals to Reps. Clyburn, Rogers over fines for bypassing security screening

9:33 p.m.
Link copied
Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) slammed new House rules to install metal detectors in the Capitol, following the Jan. 6 riots. (The Washington Post)


An earlier version of this item incorrectly stated that the House Ethics Committee was considering appeals for Reps. Clyburn and Rogers. It has granted appeals for both congressmen. This item has been corrected.

The House Ethics Committee said Thursday that it had granted appeals to House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who were fined last month after bypassing House security screening measures.

Both were fined $5,000 in mid-April for bypassing security screening set up outside House chambers after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The House implemented hefty fines in February for anyone who didn’t comply, after several Republican lawmakers protested having to walk through metal detectors and refused to comply with the security measures.

According to Politico, Clyburn was fined after he reportedly left the House chamber to use the restroom and walked around a metal detector upon his return, while Rogers reportedly did not complete his entire security screening before continuing into the chamber to cast a vote. Both Clyburn and Rogers appealed their fines.

On Thursday the House Ethics Committee said a majority of the committee members had agreed to grant appeals to both congressmen, dropping their fines.

Biden signs legislation to investigate hate crimes, especially those targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

7:09 p.m.
Link copied
President Biden on May 20 signed a bill to expedite a review of pandemic-related hate crimes, particularly ones targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. (The Washington Post)

President Biden praised rare congressional bipartisanship as he signed legislation on Thursday focused on aggressively investigating hate crimes, especially those targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, amid an increase during the coronavirus pandemic.

The president made the remarks to a maskless crowd in the East Room of the White House that included Vice President Harris, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

Biden said core values and beliefs unite “America as Americans. One of them is standing together against hate, against racism, the ugly poison that has long haunted and plagued our nation. Today, I can say that because of all of you, many of you sitting right in front of me, you’ve taken that first step. That’s important.”

The legislation would assign an official in the Justice Department to review and expedite all reports of hate crimes related to the coronavirus pandemic, expand support for local and state law enforcement agencies responding to these crimes, and issue guidance on mitigating the use of racially discriminatory language to describe the pandemic.

Biden credited Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who introduced the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act in March after attacks on Asian Americans increased in the wake of the emergence of the coronavirus in China. Just five days after Hirono introduced the legislation, eight people were killed — including six Asian women — in a mass shooting at three Atlanta-area spas.

He also hailed Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), the sponsor of the legislation in the House, and thanked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). In April, the bill passed the Senate 94 to 1; Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was the lone no vote. On Tuesday, the House passed the measure 364 to 62; all the votes in opposition came from Republicans.

“We simply haven’t seen this kind of bipartisanship for much too long in Washington. You’re showing that our democracy can work and deliver for the American people just days after the mass shooting in Atlanta area,” Biden said.

Harris said that the legislation is a crucial step but that more work needs to be done.

“Here is the truth. Racism exists in America. Xenophobia exists in America. Antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia. It all exists. And so the work to address injustice wherever it exists remains the work ahead,” she said.

The East Room was filled with lawmakers and guests, who were seen hugging and shaking hands after a year of social-distancing and masks.

Sen. Burr, surprise vote to convict Trump on charge of inciting Jan. 6 insurrection, opposes commission to probe attack

7:06 p.m.
Link copied

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), a surprise vote to convict Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, announced Thursday that he opposes the establishment of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the deadly assault.

Burr, who once led the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the attack by a mob of Trump supporters that left five dead “a grim day for our nation” and alluded to the impeachment trial. He was one of seven Senate Republicans to join all members of the Democratic caucus in voting to convict Trump on a charge of “incitement of insurrection” in February. The 57 votes fell short of the two-thirds necessary to convict the former president.

“The Justice Department is currently conducting one of the largest federal criminal investigations in history and has already made hundreds of arrests. Congress has also been conducting multiple ongoing investigations,” Burr, who is retiring at the end of his term in 2022, said in a statement. “These investigations are being led by the committees with jurisdiction, and I believe, as I always have, this is the appropriate course. I don’t believe establishing a new commission is necessary or wise.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is pressing ahead with a vote on the commission, which passed the House on a bipartisan vote Wednesday. He faces growing Republican opposition and the likelihood of a GOP filibuster as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objects to the measure and several Republicans who had voted to convict Trump, such as Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah), Susan Collins (Maine) and Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.), have been noncommittal about the legislation.

Joining Burr in opposing the commission was his fellow North Carolina Republican, Sen. Thom Tillis.

“While I have full confidence in the current [Justice Department] investigation and Senate efforts that appear to be on a bipartisan track, I have no confidence in Speaker Pelosi’s proposal, which is why I will vote against it,” Tillis said.

In fact, the legislation is a bipartisan proposal negotiated by the top Democrat and Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee. It secured the backing of 35 Republicans when the House passed the measure Wednesday.

Psaki defends Biden’s approach to conflict between Israeli and Hamas

6:34 p.m.
Link copied

White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended how the Biden administration is handling the deadly conflict between Israel and Hamas, saying the president and his aides have used “quiet and intensive diplomacy” to push for an end to the fighting.

“We have seen reports of a move toward a potential cease-fire. That’s clearly encouraging. Obviously, we can’t get ahead of any agreement that may be brokered,” she said during her daily news briefing. “Our objective, as we’ve talked about a bit in here, is to take every step we can through diplomatic channels, through quiet and intensive diplomacy, to bring an end to this conflict.”

Psaki stressed that Biden officials have had “80 engagements with senior leaders in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and across the region, either in person or by phone,” including four conversations between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Asked about Netanyahu ignoring Biden’s call for a de-escalation, Psaki said there is work in that direction.

“We have believed that they are in a position to start winding their operations down,” she said, “and certainly that is what we’ve been conveying and that is what we expect to happen in short order.”

After the briefing, the White House released a short readout of Biden’s phone call with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, who Psaki said had an “important role to play in influencing Hamas.”

“The two leaders discussed efforts to achieve a cease-fire that will bring an end to the current hostilities in Israel and Gaza,” the readout said. “They agreed that their teams would stay in constant communication toward that end, and the two leaders would stay closely in touch.”

McCarthy says he’d be willing to testify about his Jan. 6 call with Trump

5:48 p.m.
Link copied

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Thursday that he would be willing to testify before an independent, bipartisan commission investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters.

Asked at a Capitol Hill news conference whether he would testify about his contact with Trump that day, McCarthy told reporters, “sure.”

Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), who recently was ousted from leadership by House Republicans after frequently criticizing Trump’s repeated falsehoods about the election, said McCarthy should have to provide more information about his personal experiences and more on that day.

“He absolutely should and I wouldn’t be surprised if he were subpoenaed,” Cheney said Sunday on ABC News’s “This Week.”

McCarthy has been vocal in his criticism of the commission, calling it politically motivated and unnecessary — after giving Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) his proxy to negotiate a bipartisan deal. The violent attack resulted in the death of five people and left 140 police officers injured.

If he testifies, McCarthy is likely to be asked about his Jan. 6 phone call with Trump. A shaken McCarthy reportedly asked the then-president to help calm his supporters who had broken into the Capitol with some of them threatening to hang Vice President Mike Pence and physically harm House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Trump seemed uninterested, according to a statement from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who heard from McCarthy.

“When McCarthy finally reached the president on January 6 and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol,” Herrera Beutler said in a statement earlier this year. “McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’ ”

At the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki said it was “incredibly disappointing” to see Republicans turn the commission into a political issue.

“The attack on the Capitol on January 6th was an unprecedented assault on our democracy. It demands a full and independent investigation into what happened,” Psaki said. “This is not a political issue in the president’s view. This is a question of how we secure our democracy and the rule of law.”

House spending bill includes $66.7 million for D.C.’s emergency security fund

5:40 p.m.
Link copied

The House on Thursday approved more than $66 million to replenish the District’s emergency security fund, which was repeatedly depleted as costs spiked for protests and other events during the Trump administration, including the Jan. 6 Capitol breach.

The federal funds are allocated to the District so it can coordinate and staff major events related to the federal presence in the nation’s capital, such as demonstrations near the White House, presidential parades and the quadrennial inauguration.

City officials said the federal government left the fund dangerously under-resourced while Donald Trump was in office, even as his presidency unleashed a wave of mass demonstrations on Washington’s streets.

Then came a summer of racial justice protests, a tense and sometimes provocative federal response, and a mob of Trump supporters who breached the Capitol as Congress was certifying President Biden’s electoral victory.

Chris Cuomo took part in strategy calls advising his brother, the New York governor, on how to respond to sexual harassment allegations

5:16 p.m.
Link copied

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo advised his brother, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and senior members of the governor’s staff on how to respond to sexual harassment allegations made earlier this year by women who had worked with the governor, according to four people familiar with the discussions.

Cuomo, one of the network’s top stars, joined a series of conference calls that included the Democratic governor’s top aide, his communications team, lawyers and a number of outside advisers, according to the people familiar with the conversations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private sessions.

The calls occurred earlier this year, when a growing number of claims that Andrew Cuomo made inappropriate comments or touched women without their permission had escalated into a political crisis for the three-term governor.

Schumer vows to bring Jan. 6 commission bill to Senate floor, accuses GOP leaders of ‘utter spinelessness’

Link copied
On May 19, the FBI released new video of two suspects in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection attacking officers with metal knuckles and a police baton. (Federal Bureau of Investigation)

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) pledged Thursday to bring to the floor legislation that would form an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, arguing that Republicans are “trying to whitewash what happened.”

“All of the shameful comments by Republicans reveal that a bipartisan commission is even more necessary than it once was,” Schumer said in floor remarks Thursday. He accused Republican leaders of “utter spinelessness” in opposing the legislation at the 11th hour.

A number of Republicans in recent days have sought to play down the Jan. 6 insurrection, which resulted in five deaths and left more than 140 police officers injured.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Wednesday was the latest.

“The fact of the matter is even calling it insurrection, it wasn’t,” Johnson falsely stated during an interview on Fox News Channel. “I condemned the breach. I condemn the violence. But to say there were thousands of armed insurrectionists breaching the Capitol intent on overthrowing the government is just simply false narrative.”

Thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump marched down Pennsylvania Avenue that day after attending a rally where people were encouraged to descend on the Capitol to prevent the counting of the 2020 electoral votes.

Some rioters built a guillotine and fires, while others spoke of plans to hang Vice President Mike Pence and physically harm House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over their refusal to overturn the election results. The FBI on Wednesday also released new video of two suspects in the insurrection attacking officers with metal knuckles and a police baton.

But Johnson continued to mischaracterize the rioters’ actions and intentions — something the fervent Trump supporter has done repeatedly.

“By and large, it was peaceful protests, except for there were a number of people, basically agitators, that whipped the crowd and breached the Capitol,” he said.

Schumer criticized Johnson without naming him Thursday.

“Here’s what one Senate Republican said about the attack last night: ‘By and large, it was a peaceful protest, except for a few agitators,’ he said. ‘Even calling it an insurrection,' this senator continued, ‘was wrong,’ ” Schumer said.

“If there was ever a justification for creating a bipartisan commission to study and report on the truth behind the attack of January 6, the comments of that senator provide it,” he added. “Republicans in both chambers are trying to rewrite history in fealty to — or in fear of — the former president, Donald Trump.”

House narrowly passes $1.9 billion supplemental funding to secure the Capitol

4:36 p.m.
Link copied

The House narrowly passed nearly $2 billion in emergency supplemental funding to enhance security at the Capitol in response to the Jan. 6 attack that, unlike the vote to create an independent commission to review the attack, garnered no Republican supporters.

The final vote was 213-212-3. Several members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus voted either “no” or “present.”

The bill includes money to secure the Capitol grounds, which could mean “redesign of Capitol landscape architect, retractable or ‘pop-in’ fencing, and security sensors.” There’s money to reimburse D.C., the National Guard and the Capitol Police, among other entities, for costs incurred because of the Jan. 6 insurrection. It also provides money for six new mental health counselors and wellness resilience specialists for Capitol police personnel who endured the attack. There’s also funding to enhance security for lawmakers in their districts and when they travel.

“Congress owes it to every single person who works in or visits the United States Capitol to provide funding to recover, rebuild and keep all who serve in the legislative branch safe, healthy and secure,” said Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.) on the House floor.

Republicans opposed to the bill said it was too rushed before security assessments were complete and without their input, or buy-in from either party in the Senate. Many GOP lawmakers also claimed the bill would aim to militarize the Capitol.

Several Republicans who voted for the creation of the Jan. 6 independent commission spoke against the emergency funding.

“This is one of the most disappointing days that I’ve had when it comes to figuring out a way to protect this Capitol complex,” said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), who was among the 35 House GOP lawmakers who broke with leadership to support the independent commission.

“Let’s understand what our security needs are before we throw money at the problem,” said Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), who also supported the commission.

Democratic Reps. Cori Bush (Mo.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.) voted against the bill, while Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.) voted “present.”

Facebook won’t take down an ad that Rep. Ilhan Omar’s office says could lead to harassment and death threats

4:27 p.m.
Link copied

Facebook has refused to remove a widely viewed attack ad that links Rep. Ilhan Omar to Hamas, even after her aides told the tech giant that the message is inaccurate, hateful and could subject her to death threats.

The controversy could further inflame tensions between Facebook and Democratic lawmakers, who say the social media company has not policed its platform against known, viral falsehoods and has refused to heed their cries about the real-world consequences of online speech.

The Minnesota Democrat’s office first contacted Facebook on Tuesday after viewing ads from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby. In one of the ads, Omar’s face is superimposed onto Hamas rockets, with text that claims: “When Israel targets Hamas, Rep. Omar calls it an act of terrorism.”

Divided Senate panel advances Biden appeals court nominees

3:52 p.m.
Link copied

A divided Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced Biden’s first slate of judicial nominations, including his picks for federal appeals courts in Washington and Chicago.

The committee voted 13 to 9 to approve Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, with all but two Republicans opposing the trial court judge who would replace Merrick Garland, who became Biden’s attorney general. Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) backed Jackson’s nomination.

Jackson, 50, is a former public defender and member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission who has served on the District Court in Washington for eight years.

Biden is moving quickly to try to make his mark on the federal courts after President Donald Trump installed more than 200 judges at a record pace. All five of Biden’s picks advanced by the Senate committee Thursday are people of color, underscoring the administration’s emphasis on nominating diverse candidates from a wide range of professional backgrounds.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said that his opposition to Biden’s two circuit court picks was in large part a response to Democrats having voted against most of Trump’s judicial nominees during his four-year tenure.

“There can’t be one set of rules for Republicans and another for Democrats,” Grassley said.

He praised Jackson’s credentials and background, but said that “unless a circuit nominee can show he or she is affirmatively committed to the Constitution as originally understood, I don’t think he or she should be confirmed.”

The committee also voted 12 to 10 to send Candace Jackson-Akiwumi’s nomination for the Chicago-based appeals court to the full Senate. Jackson-Akiwumi, 41, spent 10 years at the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Chicago, where she represented 400 indigent clients.

If Jackson and Jackson-Akiwumi are confirmed, they would join just five other Black women out of 286 judges sitting on a federal appeals court bench. Jackson is often mentioned as someone Biden could eventually choose to fulfill his pledge to name the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. After graduating from Harvard and Harvard Law School, she was a law clerk to Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the high court’s oldest justice, who is under pressure from Democrats to retire.

The committee also advanced the nominations of three District Court picks: New Jersey nominees Julien Neals, the acting Bergen County administrator, and Zahid N. Quraishi, a magistrate judge who would be the first Muslim American to serve on a District Court bench. For Colorado, the committee approved Regina M. Rodriguez, a former federal prosecutor. All three District Court nominees received some backing from Republicans on the panel.