(WASHINGTON) -- Critics of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy hoped Thursday's confirmation hearing for President Joe Biden's three nominees to the U.S. Postal Service's governing board would mark the beginning of the end for the embattled mail chief.
But even if Biden's picks are approved by the Senate, industry insiders suspect the board is unlikely to have enough votes to oust DeJoy, in part because its chairman -- Ron Bloom, a Trump-appointed Democrat -- has recently expressed strong support for the postmaster general.
"Right now, I think [DeJoy] is the proper man for the job," Bloom told The Atlantic this week. "He's earned my support, and he will have it until he doesn't. And I have no particular reason to believe he will lose it."
Tapped to lead the Postal Service last summer, DeJoy's tumultuous tenure has been marked by intense partisan scrutiny and an ill-fated reform effort that slowed mail service ahead of the 2020 election. Last month, DeJoy formally unveiled a controversial 10-year plan that would cut costs and lengthen delivery times, prompting renewed calls from Democrats for his dismissal.
Despite the sustained scrutiny of DeJoy, Bloom told lawmakers in February that "the board of governors believes the postmaster general, in very difficult circumstances, is doing a good job." Bloom, a former Obama administration official, has also taken on a key role in selling DeJoy's 10-year plan to Congress and other postal stakeholders.
"The current governors selected DeJoy, and given Chairman Bloom's recent hearing appearance, it looks like [DeJoy] still has very solid support there," Michael Plunkett, the president of PostCom, an alliance of postal consumers, told ABC News.
Thursday's confirmation hearing, being held by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, will consider Biden's choices to fill the board's three vacant seats: Ron Stroman, a former deputy postmaster general; Amber McReynolds, a mail voting advocate; and Anton Hajjar, the former general counsel of the American Postal Workers Union.
"We thank the president for nominating governors to the Board of Governors," a Postal Service spokesperson told ABC News about the board, which has the power to hire and fire the postmaster general. "The public interest and the Postal Service are best served by having governors who bring diverse insights, unique perspectives, leadership and professional experiences to help inform our decision making."
Although Biden's nominations reflect his first step toward reshaping the ailing postal service, his picks -- two Democrats and an independent -- are unlikely to satisfy some Democrats' calls for DeJoy's removal.
Shortly after Biden's inauguration, dozens of congressional Democrats urged him in a letter to fill the remaining three postal board vacancies "as expeditiously as possible" in order to "seriously consider whether the current Postmaster General is suitable to continue in his role." And a coalition of progressive groups recently circulated a petition saying that "to save our Postal Service, the Senate must swiftly confirm [Biden's] nominees -- and the Board must then fire and replace DeJoy."
The board's six sitting members -- comprised of two Democrats and four Republicans -- were all appointed by former President Donald Trump, and if Biden's three nominees are confirmed, Democrats or Democrat-appointed members would gain enough of a majority to unseat DeJoy. But Bloom could complicate the math for Democrats if his support for DeJoy continues.
DeJoy's apparent job security has prompted calls from some Democrats for more drastic measures. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., has requested that Biden remove all six current members -- including Bloom and the board's other Trump-appointed Democrat, Lee Moak -- and nominate an entirely new slate of governors.
"There should not be any toleration for [the board's] silence or complicity in overseeing these harmful policy changes that have also eroded the public trust in this agency," Duckworth wrote in a February letter to Biden.
Duckworth later followed up in March with a letter encouraging the Board of Governors to fire DeJoy after DeJoy unveiled his 10-year plan, writing that "failure to remove PMG DeJoy will confirm my worst fears about each member of this board of governors. Namely, that you are unwilling to admit error and thus incapable of fixing a grave mistake."
While presidents do not have the power to remove the postmaster, they do have the ability to remove members of the board -- but only "for cause."
"If the administration thinks there are things in the 10-year plan that constitute 'cause,' then maybe there is an argument," Plunkett told ABC News. "But I think such a move would meet with strong resistance."
Biden, when he was on the campaign trail, once derided DeJoy as "the president's guy" -- and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in February that Biden "believes the leadership can do better, and we are eager to have the board of governors in place." But nearly 100 days into his tenure as president, Biden has yet to publicly support calls for DeJoy's removal.
A former logistics company executive and Republican donor with close ties to Trump, DeJoy oversaw an overhaul of the agency last year that prompted accusations that he was undermining mail-in voting ahead of the presidential election. Few leaders from the Trump era garnered as much scrutiny -- and few are as inextricably linked to the president they served -- as DeJoy.
He has apologized repeatedly for slower delivery service during his time as postmaster general.
Having held his position since last Jane, DeJoy seems intent on remaining in the role, telling lawmakers in February, "Get used to me."
(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden will announce a new goal on greenhouse gas emissions Thursday -- calling on the U.S., by 2030, to slash emissions by 50-52% from record-high 2005 emission levels.
Biden is set to make the announcement during his global climate summit kicking off on Earth Day, with 40 world leaders taking part in the virtual gathering, including major economies like China, India and Russia.
Administration officials said the announcement was in line with Biden's aim to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement -- to prevent worsening impacts of climate change by dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions -- and he would pressure other countries to follow suit.
"The United States is not going to wait. The cost of delay are too great and our nation is resolved to act right now," an official said on a call with reporters.
The administration provided few details about how Biden would meet the target, saying that they see "multiple paths to reach the goals," and stressed that it would be met economy-wide and not relying on any one sector to do so.
The White House pushed the idea that the policy is a jobs and economic opportunity for the country. Echoing promises made for Biden's infrastructure bill, the officials said that addressing climate change would mean employing workers to update the electricity grid, close abandoned oil and gas wells, and manufacture more electric vehicles.
"There's just a tremendous opportunity we have and I think that you'll hear from the president tomorrow about how focused we are on chasing after the big economic opportunity and the big job creation potential that tackling the climate crisis represents. That's what this is all about," an administration official said Wednesday on a call with reporters.
Nathaniel Keohane, senior vice president for climate with the Environmental Defense Fund, said the new goal could put the U.S. in a good economic position to keep up with the climate investments other countries are already making.
"The really big question for the American economy is do we position the United States to compete and win in that new, clean-energy economy? And the most important step to do that is to be a leader here at home. And so I think that's, you know, fundamentally what this is about," he said.
The White House said the plan will follow Biden's previous goals of getting the country to carbon-free electricity by 2035 and a net-zero carbon economy by 2050, in part, by making housing more energy efficient and reducing carbon emissions from transportation.
Transportation made up 29% of greenhouse gas emissions released in the United States in 2019, making it the biggest contributor, followed by electricity use and industrial activity.
As of 2019, the U.S. has reduced greenhouse gas emissions 12% compared to 2005 levels, according to the energy research firm Rhodium Group.
When asked how they settled on the specific 50-52% range, administration officials said they looked at different sectors like energy, transportation and industry and consulted with different federal agencies to determine what goal they would be able to achieve.
The White House did not provide more details about specific policies Biden will pursue to accomplish these goals, but climate policy experts said the government could use incentives on renewable energy and electric vehicles, and regulations to reduce emissions and pollution from industries like oil and gas production.
Biden's emissions-slashing objective is a sharp contrast from the Trump administration, which withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement negotiated during the Obama administration.
Climate policy experts said it's crucial for the federal government to push for the U.S. to transition to cleaner energy and take other steps to reduce emissions, both to support efforts already underway in the country but to also set an example on the international stage.
"Our collective global climate ambitions really need to be brought in sharp focus, we are in a very consequential decade now and this summit is about us -- not just being back in the Paris agreement -- but coming back with a robust commitment that shows where we're a responsible country, we're gonna play our part and we expect other countries to as well," said Rachel Cleetus, policy director with the climate and energy program with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
(NEW YORK) -- Hillary Clinton is taking on the thriller genre for her next book.
This fall, Clinton and her long-time friend, Canadian mystery novelist Louise Penny, will publish their book, State of Terror, a political-mystery novel that follows a novice secretary of state.
"Writing a thriller with Louise is a dream come true," Clinton said in a statement released by publishers Simon & Schuster and St. Martin's Press. "I've relished every one of her books and their characters as well as her friendship. Now we're joining our experiences to explore the complex world of high stakes diplomacy and treachery. All is not as it first appears."
In their book, the secretary of state has joined the administration of her rival, a president inaugurated after four years of American leadership that shrank the world stage.
In real life, Clinton served as secretary of state under President Barack Obama -- her competitor in the 2008 Democratic primary -- from 2009 to 2013.
After a series of terrorist attacks throws the global order into disarray, the secretary is tasked with assembling a team to unravel the deadly conspiracy in a scheme carefully designed to take advantage of an American government dangerously out of touch and out of power in the places where it counts the most.
"When it was suggested my friend Hillary and I write a political thriller together, I could not say yes fast enough," Penny said in the press release. "What an incredible experience, to get inside the State Department. Inside the White House. Inside the mind of the Secretary of State as high stake crises explode."
Penny added, "Before we started, we talked about her time as Secretary of State. What was her worst nightmare? STATE OF TERROR is the answer."
(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has urged residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as more than 40% of the state's counties are seeing a decrease in demand for doses.
Out of Iowa's 99 counties, 43 have declined some or all of their vaccine allotment for next week "so that supply doesn't exceed the current demand," Reynolds said Wednesday during a press briefing.
The declined doses will be reallocated to more populous counties and metro areas where demand is still high, the governor added.
"But even in larger communities clinics are now filling up over the course of a couple of days rather than just a few hours," she said. "Some pharmacies are seeing appointments remain still open. This shift isn't ... unique to Iowa. Vaccine hesitancy is beginning to become a real factor across the country."
Reynolds posited that Iowans may be "reconsidering" whether to get vaccinated after the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for a pause last week on the use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine after rare incidents of a blood clot disorder following vaccination.
Serious reactions to the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, like anaphylaxis, are very rare, the CDC reported.
Younger demographics may also be delaying vaccination, she said. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 25% of those age 18 to 29 are opting to "wait and see," compared with 17% overall. To help combat that, the state has been focusing on vaccinating college students before they return home, she said.
The governor downplayed the suggestion from a reporter that there also may be political opposition to getting vaccinated. A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll conducted last month found that 41% of Iowa Republicans don't plan to get vaccinated, compared with 8% of Democrats and 30% of independents.
"I laid out some of the dynamics in the age bracket -- where we're seeing the largest hesitancy," she said. "We need to really do a deep dive and take a look at what's behind it, what can we do to help ensure Iowans that they are safe and this is the right thing to do."
Just over 37% of Iowans ages 18 and up are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, ranking it among the top 15 states.
"We are making great progress, but we can always do better, and in this case we absolutely should," the Republican governor said. "I want to appeal to everyone who's hesitating: If you're opting to wait and see, what are you waiting for? If you've been a hard 'no' from the start, what's your reason? And if you can't answer those questions, maybe, we hope that you take the time to reconsider."
As part of that appeal, Iowa National Guard Adjutant General Benjamin Corell shared his experience battling COVID-19 in November, when he was hospitalized for a week due to the virus.
"I understand that COVID-19 affects people differently," he said during the briefing. "My case, it was very real, very serious, nothing to mess with."
Five months after his illness, he said he still has shortness of breath and lung-capacity issues, and he would consider himself a COVID-19 long-hauler. He said he completed his second dose of the Moderna vaccine in March.
Corell called on hesitant Iowans, as well as fellow members of the Iowa National Guard, where he said currently one-half of members have not yet been vaccinated, to get the shots.
"It's going to take all of us working together to defeat this pandemic," he said. "For those of you sitting on the fence, wondering about getting vaccinated, do it. It's the right thing to do for you, your family, your neighbors and our communities."
(WASHINGTON) -- Key lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said they see an opportunity to reform policing practices in the wake of Derek Chauvin's conviction in Minneapolis.
While breaking through the logjam remains a struggle, there are signs that a compromise could be afoot -- particularly with the stickiest of issues -- the sweeping legal protection federal officers enjoy against lawsuits known as qualified immunity.
"There is a way to put more of the onus or the burden on the (police) department or on the employer than on the employee," Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., told reporters Wednesday. "I think that is a logical step forward and one that as I've spoken with (Congresswoman) Karen Bass over the last several weeks, it's something that the Democrats are quite receptive to."
But Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., seemed to indicate Wednesday that the proposed Scott compromise is far from settled.
"We need the individual officers and the agencies to be accountable, because I think if the agencies, the cities -- if they're concerned about lawsuits -- they will not want to have problem officers," Bass told reporters, adding that a conviction ensures offending police officers cannot be rehired.
"If (Chauvin) had not been convicted, even though he was fired, he could be rehired again because of the union. The union contract that they have there says that if a police chief fires an officer, that officer can go to arbitration and can be rehired again against the desire of the chief," said Bass.
Scott has been working behind the scenes in recent weeks with Bass, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., the latter two being the lead sponsors of policing reform legislation that passed the House last year, but was shelved in the Senate when Republicans controlled the chamber.
The Justice Act, Scott's own bill to reform policing practices, stalled in the Senate last year as well amid Democrats' concerns that it failed to hold police officers accountable by ending qualified immunity and banning practices like chokeholds and no-knock warrants.
Instead, Scott's bill leverages federal funds to compel police departments to enact change, such as ending those controversial practices, increasing the use of body cameras, making lynching a federal hate crime, increasing training and deescalation tactics and establishing a commission to study the use of no-knock warrants in drug cases -- a move that could, Scott has said, eventually lead to a ban.
The House bill, named for George Floyd who died at the hands of Chauvin, would ban chokeholds, carotid holds, no-knock warrants in federal narcotics cases, eliminate qualified immunity, limit military-grade equipment being sent to localities and establish a national police misconduct database.
Bass on Sunday said Republicans this time around "are operating in good faith."
"I am hopeful, because the group of people where we have been having just informal discussions are very sincere, and it's a bipartisan group," Bass said. "And I believe that we want to make something happen."
Booker on Wednesday agreed, refusing to offer any details about the closed-door discussions, which he said have also included the White House.
"Sen. Scott and I are friends. He's an honest broker. And again, I've committed to getting something done and we'll see how it all works," Booker told reporters, adding that he did not want to "do anything to jeopardize the good faith, good energy of all of the conversations." That refusal to offer any details on negotiations is typically a sign of real progress on Capitol Hill.
That was a stark about-face from last June when Booker eviscerated the Scott bill, calling it "shameful," saying it represented merely "a desire to turn a page to point a finger of blame" and said if it were to pass, it would "not be a matter of 'if' but 'when'" Congress would be forced back to the policy table "after another Brenna Taylor is murdered in her own home after a no-knock warrant, after another Eric Garner is suffocated to death on a sidewalk with a no-knock warrant."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega Wednesday that "of course" there is room for negotiation on policing reform and consideration of the Scott legislation, but, she added, "They're going to have to decide where they can find agreement, moving forward. Ultimately, the President believes, as he conveyed quite passionately last night, that we need to put in place police reform measures. They're long overdue."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would not say when legislation, bipartisan or otherwise, would be brought to the floor for consideration this year, but he did promise action from the chamber.
"The Senate will continue that work as we strive to ensure that George Floyd's tragic death will not be in vain," Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a floor speech Wednesday. "We will not rest until the Senate passes strong legislation to end the systemic bias in law enforcement."
Any legislation in the evenly split chamber would require the support of at least 10 Republicans to overcome any filibuster.
A number of other issues are in play in the current bipartisan talks, according to Scott, including eliminating federal chokeholds, no-knock warrants and the use of surplus Defense Department equipment in localities.
But Scott did delineate one red line as he attempts to navigate a thorny political issue amid GOP skepticism of systemic problems in policing, telling reporters that lowering the threshold of criminal intent required for convicting a federal law enforcement officer is "off the table."
"I think it's important to have accountability, but I also don't support making line officers routinely subject to potentially destructive civil liability," said Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and senior member of the Judiciary Committee. "So I think the better area of focus is on training and improving the policies within police departments to avoid misconduct and to avoid horrific abuses, such as the conduct that led to the death of George Floyd."
Staffers of Scott, Booker and Bass have been working behind the scenes, as well. Though Scott said the differences could be resolved in "one to two weeks," multiple congressional aides told ABC News that his timeline is too ambitious.
Bass has set her own aggressive timeline, saying she wanted to have the legislation through Congress by the anniversary of George Floyd's death on May 25. It's a schedule that, in the current partisan environment, seems equally ambitious.
But the bipartisan group said the pressure to come up with a solution now is great.
"We have a crisis in this country, and there needs to be more accountability. This is why I've been committed to this issue since I became a senator and before. We have a lot of work to do as a nation," Booker said.
ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega, Molly Nagle and Allison Pecorin contributed to this report.
(WASHINGTON) -- A bipartisan group of Congressional lawmakers proposed a new bill Wednesday that would ban federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies from buying user data collected from smartphones, social media and other digital sources from third-party data brokers.
The “The Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act” calls for government agencies to obtain a court order before accessing personal information collected online, including geolocation information and electronic surveillance data.
“[The bill] closes the legal loophole that allows data brokers to sell Americans’ personal information to law enforcement and intelligence agencies without any court oversight,” Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said in the press release Wednesday.
“Doing business online doesn’t amount to giving the government permission to track your every movement or rifle through the most personal details of your life,” Wyden added.
Clearview AI, a facial-recognition software company, was specifically named as a data collector whose data should be protected from being sold to the government due to privacy concerns, according to the press release.
The New York Times reported in January 2020 that Clearview AI’s system includes an extensive database of more than three billion images that have been taken from social media accounts and millions of other websites without user’s knowledge.
Although the software has reportedly been used to solve some crimes, along with data privacy concerns, it could potentially lead to the misidentification of suspects as well, according to The New York Times.
Hoan Ton-That, the CEO of Clearview AI, said in a statement to ABC News that the company “only collects publicly available photos from the open internet that are accessible from any computer anywhere in the world.”
“While we haven’t seen this particular bill yet, we plan to carefully review it and provide feedback if given the opportunity,” the statement read in part.
The bill, introduced by Wyden and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, is sponsored by 18 other members of the Senate.
“The Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure ensures that the liberty of every American cannot be violated on the whims, or financial transactions, of every government officer,” Paul said in the press release.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York and House Committee Chair Rep. Zoe Lonfgren of California also introduced the House’s version of the act on Wednesday, according to the press release.
The House Judiciary Committee will examine the legislation in the coming months, Nadler said in the statement.
“The principle here is simple,” he said. “The government should not be allowed to purchase its way around the rules Congress has enacted to protect the privacy of American citizens.”
(WASHINGTON) -- Journalist Susan Page, author of a new biography about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said the speaker is a "master of the inside game of politics" in a Wednesday interview with ABC’s "Powerhouse Politics" podcast.
Page borrowed a phrase from journalist John Bresnahan, formerly of Politico and now at Punchbowl, in describing Pelosi as "an iron fist in a Gucci glove."
"That struck me as the perfect description of Nancy Pelosi's leadership," she told ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein.
The book, "Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power," was released Tuesday. Page, who is also the Washington Bureau chief of USA Today, conducted 150 exclusive interviews for it, including 10 with Pelosi herself.
"She’s not so great about the public stuff. She's not great at giving a speech, she can stumble when she speaks extemporaneously -- she is a master of the inside game of politics and of being a legislative leader," Page said, noting that Pelosi stood up for California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters when Republicans tried to censure her this week.
"She also can bring down the hammer in a way that holds her caucus in line," Page added. "And of course, never has she needed that skill more than today when she can only lose two Democratic votes and get something through the House on a party line; that's the narrowest margin that either party has had in modern times."
In the book, Page reveals that Pelosi originally planned to step down after the 2016 election but changed her mind after former President Donald Trump was elected. On "Powerhouse Politics," she brought up another time Pelosi was thinking about stepping down -- after the 2010 election when Republicans retook the House.
"Aides to Pelosi told me, and in fact, she told me herself, that she was quite distressed about what happened because, you know, once you're the leader you take some responsibility for what happens to everybody in your caucus including when you lose power," Page said. "And she went back to San Francisco and she was seriously contemplating stepping down. "
Behind the scenes, Page said, some of Pelosi’s allies began a campaign to "buck her up" and keep her in leadership.
"One of them was Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO, who told me that he heard about this. He was distressed, he thought it would be bad for the party if she stepped down, called her, encouraged her not to step down," she said. "[Pelosi] told me that she spoke to almost every member-- almost every Democrat in Congress at that point, came back, stayed in the leadership."
Page said she thinks Pelosi has made it pretty clear this is her last term. She also briefly touched on Pelosi’s relationship with Trump during his presidency, saying "she had so little respect for him, that he had, I think, more respect for her than she had for him."
(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden announced Wednesday his administration will meet the goal of 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered during his first 100 days by the end of the day, the 92nd of his administration.
"Today, we did it, today we hit 200 million shots in the 92nd day in office," Biden said in prepared remarks. "This is an American achievement, a powerful demonstration of unity and revolve -- what unity will do for us, and a reminder of what we can accomplish when we pull together, as one people, to a common goal."
After reaching his initial goal of 100 million shots by Day 58, Biden subsequently doubled the goal. Biden's total does not include 13 million doses which were administered at the end of the Trump administration.
Biden noted that the achievement marks a new phase of the vaccination effort, one that will be marked by greater supply and less demand. He noted that the U.S. is "not yet" at the tipping point where insufficient demand is the problem, but his administration is already taking steps to address that problem.
Biden highlighted Wednesday an incentive to encourage those who are hesitant to seek out the shot. The president discussed a paid leave tax credit to employers to fully pay for any time off employees need to either get a shot, or recover from any side effects afterwards.
"I'm calling on every employer, large and small, in every state, to give employees the time off they need, with pay, to get vaccinated. Any time they need with pay to recover, if they're feeling under the weather after the shot. No working American should lose a single dollar from their paycheck because they chose to fulfill their patriotic duty of getting vaccinated," Biden said.
On an earlier call with reporters, administration officials highlighted research from the Society of Human Research Management indicating about a quarter employees said they would be more likely to get a shot if their employer offered incentives like a gift card, while one-fifth said they would be more likely to get a shot if they were offered additional paid time off.
The tax credit the administration is offering employers was included in Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan that has already been signed into law.
The credits are meant for businesses with fewer than 500 employees -- the Small Business Administration's definition of a small business -- and will reimburse companies up to $500 per day per employee. Many large companies, an administration official said on a call, have informed the White House they are already offering incentives to their employees to get vaccinated, like providing time off.
"Businesses and employers... should be supported for doing the right thing," Biden said.
Polls consistently show Republican voters are less likely to consider getting vaccinated than Democrats or Independents. White House officials did not directly say their efforts to recruit employers to the cause was designed to appeal to conservatives, although the administration has frequently suggested local leaders are more likely to be effective messengers than federal government officials.
"We do feel confident that if the public sees other people getting vaccinated, including in their workplace, including their employer, people that they know, and hear from local experts, that they will do their homework and make the decision more and more likely to get vaccinated," an administration official said when asked if the effort was designed to reach skeptical conservatives.
ABC News's Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.
(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Wednesday that the Justice Department is launching a "pattern or practice" investigation into the Minneapolis police department.
"Today, I am announcing that the Justice Department has opened a civil investigation to determine whether the Minneapolis Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional, unlawful policing," he said.
The Justice Department will assess whether the department has a pattern of using excessive force in arrests or at protests, whether the department's officer's engage in discriminatory conduct and whether its treatment of people with behavioral disabilities violates the law, Garland said.
Garland announced the investigation during public remarks Wednesday morning, acknowledging the death of George Floyd a day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of Floyd's murder.
"I know such wounds have deep roots," Garland said. "And that too many communities have experienced those wounds, firsthand. Yesterday's verdict in the state criminal trial does not address, potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis."
He said the effort will be staffed by attorneys and others from the DOJ's Civil Rights Division and the US Attorney's Office for the District of Minnesota.
"The new civil investigation is separate from and independent of the federal criminal investigation into the death of George Floyd, that the Justice Department has previously announced," he added.
Garland said the DOJ "also has the authority to bring a civil lawsuit" and that when the DOJ "finds unlawful practices or patterns or practices, the local police department enters into a settlement agreement or a consent decree to ensure that prompt and effective action is taken to align policing practices with the law."
In his remarks, Garland acknowledged the long history of "the challenges we face."
"They did not arise today, or last year, building trust between community and law enforcement will take time and effort by all of us. But we undertake this task with determination and urgency, knowing that change cannot wait."
Garland had previously told ABC News' Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas during an interview he was "shocked" at the footage of George Floyd in custody when he first saw it and that the Justice Department is committed to using pattern or practice investigations to hold law enforcement accountable.
"I said in my Senate Judiciary Committee testimony that I thought that pattern-or-practice investigations are an important tool of the justice department to ensure police accountability and ensure that departments are using the best methods," he said.
Garland waited until Wednesday to announce the probe so as not to influence the state trial against Chauvin, senior DOJ officials said.
Career officials in the DOJ's Special Litigations Section had previously been in touch with stakeholders on the ground as part of a preliminary review of the Minneapolis Police Department practices, officials said, and those career officials made the recommendation that led to formally opening the civil investigation.
MPD was informed Wednesday morning that the investigation had been launched and has since issued a statement pledging cooperation, according to the officials.
The DOJ is already enforcing 16 settlements with law enforcement agencies, including 12 consent decrees that came out of previous pattern or practice investigations, according to a fact sheet provided by the Justice Department.
It has four open investigations that have been made public, including Wednesday's newly announced probe.
(WASHINGTON) -- The faces of climate change activism have been dominated by young people in recent years, from Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg to thousands of young people organizing and protesting in the United States.
As President Joe Biden prepares to host a climate change summit on his first Earth Day in office, ABC News spoke to a group of young activists with diverse views on what they hope to see from the president.
Levi Draheim, 13, is the youngest plaintiff in a lawsuit where a group of young people sued the Obama administration, and later the Trump administration, for failing to address climate change. He said he got involved because he loves being outside swimming and sailing in his hometown in Satellite Beach, Florida, but he's already seen the impact of climate change in his community -- dunes are eroding, increasing the risk of flooding.
"If the dunes erode," he said, "then there will be a higher chance that the barrier island that I grew up on will be flooded, and [we] won't be able to show that to my baby sister -- or if I have children, I wouldn't be able to show it to my kids. We really need to be able to focus on the small things like that."
"Individually, we need to make sure that we're doing all that we can and we're educating ourselves -- educating ourselves on what is happening just in our community -- so that we'll be able to take action that way," he added. "And then, like, globally we need to all think about, like, policy changes that will be enacted to help to protect the Earth.
John Paul Mejia also said his roots in Florida motivated him to become a climate activist.
His hometown of Miami "is beautiful and a place that is filled with people that I love, and I know how much the climate crisis threatens us," he said. "And so to give up, to not have ambition, to not pursue goals at the scope of the crisis means to me that I'm giving up on my people. That I consider my people disposable. That I'm not ready to fight tooth and nail to defend people in places I love."
Silas Neeland, a 13-year-old member of the White Earth Nation, said his community also motivates him in his activism against a Line 3 tar sands pipeline in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Neeland recently traveled to Washington, D.C., with the Indigenous Environmental Network to ask Biden to halt pipeline construction.
Neeland lives in Rice Lake, Minnesota, and said he's concerned the pipeline could leak and pollute the Wild Rice River, where his tribe still harvests rice.
"Water is life, we're made out of mostly water, everything's made out of water," he added. " Wild rice, my ancestors harvested it -- you know my kids are gonna harvest it."
The young activists said they want to see Biden live up to the promises he made during the campaign to make climate change one of his top priorities.
Mejia is a rising college freshman who works with the Sunrise Coalition, a group of youth climate activists that burst onto the national stage during protests on Capitol Hill in support of the Green New Deal. He said he wants Biden to fulfill his promise for aggressive action that can "tackle this crisis at the speed, scope and scale necessary, by enacting government-wide plans ... completely transform our infrastructure over the next 10 years, to go from a very carbon-intensive, dirty, dangerous economy to one that's clean."
Brooklyn Brown, a high school junior, works with a conservative climate group called the American Conservation Coalition. She grew up in Utah near beautiful outdoor spaces, like Zion National Park, and said she's noticed an increase in air pollution nearby.
"I'm sure all of us here can agree what we need to do is look to science and look to evidence," Brown said. "When we look at what the data suggests, then we can find solutions -- instead of supporting a politician, support evidence and data ... no matter where we are in the political spectrum."
Mejia agreed that climate change is too vital to be bogged down by politics.
"Bridging the divide, like Brooklyn said, is absolutely something that's necessary," Mejia added. "No matter the color of your skin or how much money you have in your pocket, you have the right to clean air, clean water, a livable future and good health, and that's what we're fighting for."
(WASHINGTON) -- As the cost of federal elections rises almost every year, just 12 megadonors from both sides of the aisle -- at least eight of whom are billionaires -- made up a combined $3.4 billion in contributions to federal candidates and political groups in the past decade, a new report shows.
This means that the top dozen donors -- six of whom largely supported Democrats and six of whom generally supported Republicans -- accounted for 7.5% of the $45 billion donated to federal political causes between January 2009 and December 2020, according to the analysis by Washington-based good-government group Issue One, based on campaign finance data compiled by the nonpartisan research group Center for Responsive Politics.
The analysis offers a sobering account of the level of influence that a handful of wealthy donors have on modern U.S. politics, especially as politicians and political groups increasingly emphasize grassroots support and small-dollar donations.
"Americans are losing faith in our democratic institutions," Issue One Executive Director Meredith McGehee wrote in the report.
"They see political gridlock and a broken campaign finance system that gives undue influence to billionaires and millionaires across the political spectrum, while the vast majority of ordinary citizens lack a seat at the table," McGehee said. "Congress must urgently act to restrain the growing influence of money in our politics and build a system that truly represents all Americans, not just the wealthy few."
The $3.4 billion from the 12 biggest donors amounts to one in every $13 that all federal campaigns and outside groups raised over the past decade, the analysis shows.
Roughly $1.4 billion of that came from the self-funding of the unsuccessful 2020 presidential campaigns of Bloomberg L.P. founder Michael Bloomberg and hedge fund manager Tom Steyer -- with Bloomberg alone dropping more than $1 billion of his own money into his historically expensive presidential bid.
The rest of the $2 billion from the top dozen megadonors -- some of whom are individuals and some of whom are married couples -- was funneled into various federal candidates and political party committees, like the Republican and Democratic National Committees, as well as into super PACs, which, unlike campaigns and regular political committees, are allowed to accept donations of unlimited amounts.
According to the data, the 2020 election cycle saw a record $14 billion in contributions to the presidential election and congressional elections -- more than twice the total amount spent during the 2016 election cycle.
The single biggest Republican donor on the Republican side was Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who, with his wife Miriam Adelson, gave more than $218 million to Republican campaigns and outside groups during the 2020 cycle.
The GOP megadonor, who passed away in January, funneled a whopping $90 million to a new pro-Trump super PAC that popped up to boost then-President Donald Trump in the final two months of the election, campaign finance reports show.
On the Democratic side, in addition to the unprecedented amounts Bloomberg and Steyer put into their respective presidential campaigns, the two billionaires each put another $300 million into supporting various other Democratic causes.
Other top Democratic megadonors were New York-based financier Donald Sussman, mathematician and hedge fund manager Jim Simons, Illinois-based media mogul Fred Eychaner, and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, according to the report.
Other Republican megadonors were shipping industry executive Richard Uihlein, hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, Pan Am Systems Chairman Timothy Mellon, former TD Ameritrade CEO and Chicago Cubs co-owner Joe Ricketts, and hedge fund manager Paul Singer, the report said.
In its analysis of political contributions by zip code, Issue One found that the top 12 megadonors and their spouses accounted for roughly 25% of the money contributed by all residents of the 100 top-giving zip codes, suggesting that their contributions dwarfed even other affluent donors.
These 100 zip codes are home to approximately 2.5 million people -- less than 1% of the entire population of the United States -- but donors living in those areas accounted for about 20% of the $45 billion that federal candidates and political groups raised between January 2009 and December 2020, according to the analysis.
(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris each made a point of saying that there's still work to be done while delivering remarks on the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was found guilty in the death of George Floyd.
"Today, we feel a sigh of relief. Still, it cannot take away the pain," Harris said. "A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice. This verdict brings us a step closer and, the fact is, we still have work to do. We still must reform the system."
Biden agreed that Tuesday's verdict was "not enough."
"Today, a jury in Minnesota found former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd last May," Biden said Tuesday evening. "It was a murder in the full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism the vice president just referred to, the systemic racism that is a stain on our nation's soul, the knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans, profound fear and trauma, the pain, the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day."
"Today’s verdict is a step forward," he continued. "I also spoke with George Floyd's family again, a remarkable family of extraordinary courage. Nothing can ever bring their brother, their father back. But this can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America."
The president called on the Senate to confirm two of his appointees to the Department of Justice, who he said are committed to "restoring trust" between Americans and law enforcement. He also expressed his dismay at the delay in Congress of passing meaningful policing reform legislation, pointing to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which includes a ban on police chokeholds. He said it "shouldn't take a whole year" to get the legislation passed.
Biden also repeated a call for any reactions to the verdict to be peaceful, saying that Floyd's legacy should be one of "peace, not violence."
"Peaceful expression of that legacy are inevitable and appropriate, but violent protest is not," Biden said. "And there are those who will seek to exploit the raw emotions of the moment -- agitators and extremists who have no interest in social justice -- who seek to carry out violence, destroy property, fan the flames of hate and division, who will do everything in their power to stop this country's march toward racial justice. We can't let them succeed."
The president and the vice president watched the verdict with staff in the private dining room, according to a report by a pool of reporters.
Following the announcement of the verdict, Biden spoke with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz. Biden, Harris and first lady Jill Biden also spoke with Philonise Floyd from the Oval Office. Attorney Ben Crump tweeted a video of the family during the call.
"I think of Gianna's comment, 'my daddy is going to change the world, he's going to start to change it now,'" the president said on the call.
He also said he was "so relieved" that Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts.
"You've been incredible, you're an incredible family. I wish I were there to put my arms around you," he continued. "I'm anxious to see you guys. I really am. We're going to get a lot more done, we're going to do a lot. We're going to stay at it 'til we get it done."
Biden then turned the phone over to the vice president.
"This is a day of justice in America and your family has been real leaders at this moment where we needed you, and in George's name and memory, we are going to make sure his legacy is in tact and history is going to look back at this moment and know that this inflection moment, you had to sacrifice so much as a family too, but we really do believe with your leadership and the president we have in the White House, we're going to make something good come out of this tragedy," Harris said.
Earlier Tuesday, Biden weighed in on his hopes for a verdict, after speaking with Floyd's family at the start of jury deliberations.
"I'm praying the verdict is the right verdict, which is -- I think it's overwhelming, in my view," Biden told reporters in the Oval Office. "I wouldn't say that unless the -- the jury was sequestered now and not hearing me say that."
(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Merrick Garland will announce Wednesday that the Justice Department is launching a "pattern or practice" investigation into the Minneapolis police department, looking at whether the department has a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing.
Garland is expected to announce the investigation during public remarks Wednesday morning a day after the guilty verdicts against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, convicted of murdering George Floyd.
A DOJ spokesman declined to comment on that matter.
(WASHINGTON) -- Partisan divides were on full display Tuesday morning as the Senate Judiciary Committee discussed a wave of restrictive voting legislation introduced in statehouses across the country and federal legislation that would standardize voting laws.
Republicans across 47 states have introduced 361 voting-related bills in their legislative sessions this year with the premise of restoring confidence in elections -- setting off outrage from Democrats and advocacy groups who are dubbing the trend "The New Jim Crow." The title of Tuesday's hearing was "Jim Crow 2021: The Latest Assault on the Right to Vote."
Debate centered around the voting laws in various stages in state legislatures as well as the Democratic-led "For the People Act," which would put in place federal regulations on running elections, including expanded access to absentee voting and mandates around early voting periods, which states would be required to follow.
Republicans pushed back on the idea of federal interference in state-run elections, while Democrats argued the necessity of a federal law in light of conservatives in statehouses across the country, including in Georgia, pursuing changes as to how voters can cast their ballots and who is permitted to vote absentee.
California Sen. Alex Padilla pointed to the history of Jim Crow-era tactics that kept minority voters away from the polls.
"Voter suppression is rooted in white supremacy. During the Jim Crow era, we know that racially-targeted, racially-motivated voter suppression was often blatant. Legislatures adopted overtly racist policies like literacy tests and poll taxes in an effort to shape the electorate," Padilla, a Democrat, said.
"Today's voter suppression playbook is still rooted in white supremacy and motivated by the same factors as their Jim Crow predecessors but looks different. Overtly racist policies have been replaced by facially neutral ones, like mandated in-person voting requirements, decommissioning of polling sites and manipulated, discriminatory photo ID laws..."
A recent Quinnipiac poll found the nation is split on whether voter fraud or voter suppression is the bigger problem in the country, 43% to 49%, respectively. Fifty-four percent of respondents say they’d like to keep in place the expanded voting access in 2020 due to the coronavirus. But baseless fears of voter fraud -- perpetuated by former President Donald Trump and others -- still exist despite assurances made top Trump administration officials, including former Attorney General Bill Barr, and top Republicans across the country that there were no signs of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
"I can't help but wonder why, after the Trump administration top elections security official and Georgia's own election officials vouched for the integrity of the last elections, did seemingly every Republican-controlled legislative body in the country... file and move voter suppression bills," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said.
"The lie of massive, rampant voter fraud is serving the same function today as it did during the rise of Jim Crow," Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said. "It stokes fear in a segment of the population that democracy is in peril, and thus provides cover for laws that target Black voters with race-neutral language in the 21st century."
One of the most restrictive elections bills this year has come out of Georgia, a target of Trump’s in the aftermath of the 2020 election. After the state turned blue with the election of President Joe Biden and the flipping of two Senate seats, Republicans pushed and passed SB 202 -- a massive omnibus voting bill that set new guidelines for early, in-person voting and gave the General Assembly greater control over election administration, among other provisions.
While some Republicans argue that voters' faith in the system needed to be restored, many Democrats contended Tuesday that Republicans are changing the law in Georgia and other states to solidify wins in subsequent contests -- and that they are targeting Black voters in particular to make that happen. The response to that, they say, is federal legislation.
"If we had not acted in 1965, what would our country look like?" said Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., who gave testimony at the hearing, referring to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. "Surely I would not be sitting here, only the 11th Black senator in the history of our country, and the first Black senator in Georgia."
“And maybe that is the point,” he added.
Republicans said that the point of new legislation is not to disenfranchise Black people and that federal legislation would usurp state's rights.
“Nowhere in the Constitution does it empower the federal government to completely usurp the role of the states in holding elections,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said. “Yet through H.R. 1, Congress is not acting as a check, it's acting like a hijacker to take over the constitutional authority from the states, and acting as a sole arbiter in how an election is running in rural Vermont, or downtown Chicago."
Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the committee, called the title of the hearing "offensive."
"At a time when voters on both sides of the aisle have doubts about the integrity of our elections, polarizing rhetoric that distorts history is not helpful,” he said.
He warned against perpetuating claims of voter suppression, saying that "basic claims of voter suppression are just as corrosive to our democracy as baseless claims of voter fraud."
Still, the hearing kept returning to the question of whether "Jim Crow" is at work in new voter legislation in states across the country.
"Let me concede at the outset that Jim Crow at its worst was more violent than the situation we face today," Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Tuesday.
"But I think the bottom-line question which we are addressing in this hearing is whether there is a design or an intent in legislation that is being considered and passed in many states, including the state of Georgia, to limit or restrict the right to vote of minority populations, with the intent of having an influence on the outcome of the election," he added.
Former state House Democratic leader and voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams said that, in fact, is the intent of the Georgia law.
"The intent, always matters, sir, and that is the point of this conversation, that is the point of the Jim Crow narrative -- that Jim Crow did not simply look at the activity, it looked at the intent, it looks at the behavior and the targeted behaviors that were disproportionately used by people of color," she said.
(WASHINGTON) -- As the verdicts were being read in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday evening in Minneapolis, 56 Black members of Congress huddled together on Capitol Hill holding their collective breath.
The Congressional Black Caucus, gathered to watch the verdicts handed down, then came to the cameras, with Chair Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, telling reporters that while the group "certainly" agrees with the guilty verdicts, this is "just a first step."
"We will fight continuously for all of those who died or have been injured senselessly by law enforcement," Beatty said. "We know that there are still the mothers, the families, the children who are shedding tears today, because the verdict will not bring back their family."
Rep. Cori Bush, a Missouri Democrat, lamented that these situations had become so commonplace, saying stopping them is her goal as a lawmaker.
"This was accountability, but it's not yet justice," Bush said. "Justice for us is saving lives."
Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., said that it is crucial that Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, citing that since his death, many other Americans have died at the hands of law enforcement.
"So now we have to focus on transforming policing in the United States since George Floyd's murder of a year ago, over 100 people have died at the hands of police," Bass said. "As a matter of fact, since the trial started on March 29, 63 people have died at the hands of police. In my opinion, this is [a] human rights issue in the United States of America "
The George Floyd Policing Act, which among other provisions bans the use of police chokeholds, passed in the House by a vote of 236-181 in June 2020 but has since stalled in the Senate. Shortly after the Floyd verdict was handed down, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced that the committee would hold a hearing next month addressing police reform.
Appearing with the Congressional Black Caucus members, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drew some online criticism for saying Floyd had sacrificed his life.
"So again, thank you George Floyd for sacrificing your life for justice, for being there to call out to your mom, how heartbreaking was that home out to your mom," she said. "I can't grip it, but because of you, and because of thousands, millions of people around the world. It came out for justice, Your name will always be synonymous with justice."
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Black Republican in the Senate, told a reporter he was "absolutely" relieved, and said that the verdicts strengthened his belief in the system.
"I think our justice system is getting more just, I'm thankful for the verdict and certainly thought it was murder and so that last, my first thought or shortly thereafter and believe that this reinforces the fact that while we all may need to grow our confidence in parts of the system," Scott said. "The truth of the matter is that this reinforces a commitment that we can have confidence that the justice system is becoming more just."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the decision in a tweet, and also called for police reform.
America was forever changed by the video of Derek Chauvin killing George Floyd
However, a guilty verdict doesn’t mean the persistent problem of police misconduct is solved
"However, a guilty verdict doesn’t mean the persistent problem of police misconduct is solved," Schumer said. "We'll keep working for meaningful change."
ABC News' Benjamin Siegel, Trish Turner and Mariam Khan contributed to this report.
America was forever changed by the video of Derek Chauvin killing George Floyd
However, a guilty verdict doesn’t mean the persistent problem of police misconduct is solved
"However, a guilty verdict doesn’t mean the persistent problem of police misconduct is solved," Schumer said. "We'll keep working for meaningful change."
ABC News' Benjamin Siegel, Trish Turner and Mariam Khan contributed to this report.