Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 24, 2020

Harold Maass
A protester with a Breonna Taylor sign
Natasha Moustache/Getty Images

1.

Ex-Louisville officers not charged for shooting Breonna Taylor

A grand jury has indicted an officer involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in her Louisville home, but the former Louisville police officer, Brett Hankison, was charged with endangering lives in a neighboring apartment when he fired indiscriminately, not for the five shots that hit Taylor. Ben Crump, an attorney for Taylor's family, tweeted that it was "outrageous and offensive" nobody was charged for killing Taylor, a Black emergency medical worker. Hankison and two other officers forced their way into Taylor's Louisville home in a March 13 raid. Taylor's boyfriend, fearing intruders, fired his gun, and the officers responded with a flurry of gunfire. The other officers were not charged. Two officers were shot in unrest after the indictment. Authorities took a suspect into custody. [NBC News, The Washington Post]

2.

GOP-led committee finds no wrongdoing by Biden in Ukraine

The Republican-led Senate Homeland Security Committee said in a report released Wednesday that it found no improper influence or wrongdoing by Joe Biden in his Ukraine dealings as vice president. Committee chair Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) had hoped to prove Biden's "unfitness for office" as Election Day approaches, but he conceded the investigation found no "massive smoking guns" regarding Biden or his son Hunter Biden. The younger Biden served on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma while his father was leading U.S. Ukraine policy as vice president. The investigation concluded that Hunter Biden "cashed in" on his father's name and created an "awkward" situation for U.S. diplomats. The Trump campaign called the report "explosive." Biden's campaign accused Johnson of trying to reinforce a Russian disinformation campaign against Biden. [The New York Times]

3.

Ginsburg honored in Supreme Court ceremony

Members of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's family, her fellow justices, and her former law clerks gathered at the Supreme Court on Wednesday to honor her as a pioneer for women's rights and a judge of enduring influence. Chief Justice John Roberts noted in an 18-minute ceremony that Ginsburg had wanted to be an opera singer but pursued law, then faced gender discrimination at law school and on the job before becoming one of the nation's leading fighters against discrimination. Roberts said Ginsburg's 483 opinions — majority, concurringm, and dissenting — would "steer the court for decades" to come. After the ceremony, Ginsburg's casket was moved to the building's portico, where members of the public could pay their respects. Ginsburg died last week at 87. On Friday, she will be the first woman to lie in state in the Capitol. [CNN, The New York Times]

4.

Wolf: White supremacists pose most lethal domestic security threat

White supremacists have become the "most persistent and lethal" domestic security threat in the United States, Chad Wolf, acting Homeland Security secretary, told senators on Wednesday. Wolf's assessment came despite repeated statements by President Trump and Attorney General William Barr depicting "left-wing" extremists rioting over racial injustice as the nation's biggest internal security threat. Despite a series of racially motivated attacks last year, Trump said he didn't consider "white nationalism" to be a growing problem. Wolf, whom Trump has nominated to officially become the department's secretary, was accused earlier this month by a whistleblower of downplaying the threat of white supremacists. Wolf rejected the allegation during his Wednesday confirmation hearing, calling it "patently false" and "a fabrication." [Bloomberg, Reuters]

5.

Johnson & Johnson starts phase 3 trial of single-shot coronavirus vaccine

Johnson & Johnson announced on Wednesday it has launched the third and final phase of trials for its coronavirus vaccine candidate. Johnson & Johnson's drug is the fourth vaccine candidate to start phase 3 trials in the United States, but the first that would be administered in a single injection. Experts said a vaccine requiring just one dose would prove advantageous when it comes to getting it out to as many people as possible quickly. Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky called the new trial stage, which will involve up to 60,000 participants, a "pivotal milestone." The company said that if the vaccine proves to be safe and effective, it's expecting that "the first batches" could be "available for emergency use authorization in early 2021." [The Washington Post]

6.

Newsom bans sale of new gas-powered cars in California by 2035

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed an executive order Wednesday requiring all cars sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2035. The order focuses on new car sales, so people will be able to keep or sell their gas-powered cars after 2035. The order was part of the state's effort to boost electric vehicles in the nation's biggest automobile market, and fight pollution. California's transportation sector is responsible for more than half of carbon pollution in the state, Newsom said, and increasing carbon emissions have contributed to climate change and worsening wildfire seasons. "Our cars shouldn't make wildfires worse — and create more days filled with smoky air," Newsom said. The Trump administration slammed the order as overreach. "This is yet another example of how extreme the left has become," White House spokesman Judd Deere said. [The Wall Street Journal]

7.

Trump refuses to commit to peaceful transfer of power if he loses

President Trump on Wednesday refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the November election. "We're going to have to see what happens," Trump said. "I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster." More people are expected to use mail-in ballots in the general election because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Trump has repeatedly made baseless claims that this will lead to voter fraud to benefit Democrats. "Get rid of the ballots," Trump said, and there will be "a very peaceful — there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation," he said. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said it was "unthinkable and unacceptable" for a president to suggest he might not respect something so "fundamental to democracy." [CNN]

8.

Ex-NSC official says White House falsely accused Bolton of revealing secrets

A former National Security Council official filed a letter in federal court on Wednesday accusing White House officials of trying to block former National Security Adviser John Bolton from releasing his best-selling memoir by falsely claiming it contained classified information. The former official, Ellen Knight, oversaw prepublication review of Bolton's book and in April cleared it for its planned June 23 publication. Her lawyer said the process was then "commandeered by political appointees seemingly for a political purpose," resulting a Justice Department lawsuit to block the publication. Knight also claimed she was reassigned after refusing to sign a false statement to be used in the lawsuit. The Justice Department said the letter merely proved that "Bolton did not receive the appropriate and required written, pre-publication approval." [Reuters]

9.

Eric Trump must testify in fraud case before election

A New York state judge on Wednesday ordered President Trump's son Eric Trump to answer questions under oath in a fraud investigation before the presidential election. Last week, Eric Trump's lawyers said he was prepared to give a deposition in the inquiry into the Trump family real estate businesses, but they argued the interview should be done after the vote, citing their client's "extreme travel schedule" and concerns that the interview could be used "for political purposes." The judge, Arthur Engoron, said those arguments were "unpersuasive," giving Trump until Oct. 7 to testify. State Attorney General Letitia James is investigating whether President Trump and his company committed fraud by inflating the value of assets to qualify for loans and tax benefits. [The New York Times]

10.

NFL Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers dies at 77

Gale Sayers, the Chicago Bears' legendary running back, died Wednesday. He was 77. Sayers had been living with dementia, which his wife previously suggested was partially a result of his football career. On the gridiron, Sayers was considered one of the best running backs the NFL has ever seen, particularly when he got out into the open field. Sayers was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977 at just 34 years old. Off the field, Sayers was known for being a great teammate and the friendship he developed with his Bears backfield mate, Brian Piccolo. Sayers, who was Black, and Piccolo, who was white, became roommates after the Bears dropped their policy of segregating players by race for hotel room assignments. Their friendship was depicted in the 1971 film Brian's Song. [The Associated Press]