Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 24, 2021

Capitol security officials testify on security failings, Biden and Trudeau pledge cooperation on climate change, and more


Capitol security officials testify on security failings

Former U.S. Capitol security officials testified before Senate committees on Tuesday in the first hearings about the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters seeking to overturn his election loss to President Biden. Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned after the insurrection, said inadequate intelligence left police unprepared to deal with the attack. "A clear lack of accurate and complete intelligence across several federal agencies contributed to this event, and not poor planning by the United States Capitol Police," Sund said. Sund — who said he regrets resigning in the riot's aftermath — testified that he requested assistance from National Guard troops two days before the attack, but was shot down by former House sergeant-at-arms Paul Irving because of concerns about "optics."


Biden, Trudeau pledge to work together to fight climate change

President Biden spoke to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by videoconference on Tuesday in his first virtual meeting with a foreign leader. Biden and Trudeau pledged to work together closely on fighting climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. Biden said just before the meeting that both countries are "best served when the United States and Canada work together and lead together." Trudeau, whose country is one of the closest U.S. allies and a key trading partner, had clashed with former President Donald Trump, who insulted him as "weak" and "dishonest." He told Biden he was "really excited to be working with the U.S. on climate change, a priority he shares with Biden. "U.S. leadership has been sorely missed over the past years," Trudeau said on Tuesday.


Judge bars Biden administration from enforcing deportation moratorium

President Biden's effort to reverse former President Donald Trump's harsh immigration policies hit obstacles this week. On Tuesday, a federal judge indefinitely blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a 100-day moratorium on most deportations. Texas had asked U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton for the preliminary injunction, arguing that Biden's ban violated federal law and threatened to be costly for the state. Tipton's ruling won't require the Biden administration to continue deportations at any particular pace, as federal agencies have latitude over the enforcement of immigration law. Earlier this week, the Biden administration reopened an emergency shelter for teens as coronavirus restrictions cut capacity at facilities for migrant children. Immigration lawyers and advocates criticized the move as an unnecessary step backward.


Texas power-grid board members resign after blackouts

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said Tuesday in a regulatory filing that the chair and four other members of the Texas power grid operator's board were stepping down after rolling blackouts left millions of Texans without electricity during a deadly winter storm last week. The resignations of chair Sally Talberg, vice-chair Peter Cramton, and board members Vanessa Anesetti-Parra, Raymond Hepper, and Terry Bulger came as ERCOT faces harsh criticism for the blackouts, which hit as cold weather sent demand for heat soaring while power supply dropped as some power plants were knocked offline. The board members acknowledged the backlash in a joint resignation letter, saying they were leaving to "allow state leaders a free hand with future direction and to eliminate distractions."


Retired NYPD officer accused of attacking Capitol officer during riot

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday accused a retired New York police officer, Thomas Webster, of attacking a Capitol Police officer during the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters. Webster allegedly went to the Capitol wearing a bulletproof vest, prepared for "armed conflict," prosecutors said. He allegedly attacked the Capitol Police officer using a flagpole flying a Marine Corps flag. Prosecutors said in court that Webster choked the officer by pulling down his mask, and calling him a "commie motherf-----." The charging document said FBI investigators spotted Webster on body camera video and "open source media" from Twitter. He is accused of assaulting, resisting, and impeding officers with a deadly weapon, among other charges.


Senate confirms Vilsack, Thomas-Greenfield

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Vilsack, who was approved in a 92-7 vote, led the department under the Obama administration, and told lawmakers that he would prioritize "investing in renewable energy ... and delivering science-based solutions to help mitigate and reduce climate change." Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted against Vilsack's confirmation, making him the first lawmaker who caucuses with Democrats to vote against a Biden Cabinet nominee. Thomas-Greenfield meanwhile was confirmed in a 78-20 vote. She joins the Biden administration after a long career as an international diplomat. Republicans opposed her stance on China, pointing to a 2019 speech at an institute accused of pushing Chinese propaganda.


Pfizer and Moderna plan to boost vaccine shipments

Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna told lawmakers on Tuesday that they would sharply increase deliveries of their COVID-19 vaccines, resulting in 140 million more doses over the next five weeks. Currently, the companies are distributing up to 5 million vaccine doses each week. Pfizer plans to up that to 13 million doses per week by mid-March; Moderna is working to distribute 40 million doses per month, the companies told the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Moderna plans to ship at least 100 million doses by the end of May. The news of the increased production came after a vaccine rollout that has been criticized as too slow. Both Moderna and Pfizer are testing booster shots that may work better against more transmissible COVID-19 variants.


Rochester police who killed Daniel Prude won't face charges

A grand jury has decided that Rochester, New York, police officers will not be charged in the death of Daniel Prude, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday. In March 2020, Prude's family called police after he ran out of their home in what seemed to be a mental health crisis. Video later showed police putting a spit hood over Prude's head and holding him down for several minutes. Prude's death was later ruled a homicide by asphyxiation. James' team had taken over prosecution of the case after it appeared the Rochester Police Department had tried to downplay Prude's killing to avoid "violent blowback," and seemingly modified documents to make Prude, a Black man, seem more threatening. Rochester's police chief and other top leaders stepped down at the time, and the officers involved in the case were suspended.


Poet and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti dies at 101

Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a publisher and counterculture icon who supported generations of artists and writers, has died at age 101. Ferlinghetti was a co-founder of City Lights, a paperback bookstore in San Francisco's North Beach, where he lived for 40 years in the second-floor walk-up apartment he died in on Monday from a degenerative lung condition. Ferlinghetti was a champion of the Beat movement, and he published many of its major poets, including Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Michael McClure. He was arrested on charges of "willfully and lewdly" printing "indecent writings" for publishing Ginsberg's most famous poem, "Howl." Ferlinghetti wrote dozens of volumes of verse, including A Coney Island of the Mind in 1958 and, most recently, the novel Little Boy, his final book.


Tiger Woods seriously injured in solo car accident

Golf star Tiger Woods was hospitalized and underwent surgery on Tuesday after his car crashed in Southern California. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said the legendary golfer was involved in a "single vehicle roll-over traffic collision" on Tuesday. The Genesis GV80 SUV was mangled, and firefighters and paramedics had to extricate Woods through the car's windshield. Woods, who was the only person in the vehicle, was reportedly in serious condition at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. He "suffered multiple leg injuries," his manager, Mark Steinberg, said. A source familiar with the golfer's condition said his injuries included a shattered ankle. Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Woods was "lucky to be alive" after such a crash.


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