10 things you need to know today: March 18, 2021
Atlanta spa shooting suspect is charged with murder, Russia recalls ambassador after U.S. says Putin ordered election meddling, and more
Atlanta spa shooting suspect charged with murder
Outrage intensified on Wednesday over the shooting spree that left eight people dead at three metro-Atlanta Asian spas. Seven of the victims were women, six of whom were of Asian descent. Four were identified Wednesday. Suspect Robert Aaron Long, a white man who was captured Tuesday night after a police chase, said he was addicted to sex and targeted the women at the spas to eliminate temptation. Long was charged with murder Wednesday, but experts agreed that prosecutors also could charge him with hate crimes. "Whatever the motivation was for this guy, we know that the majority of the victims were Asian," Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said. "We also know that this is an issue that is happening across the country. It is unacceptable, it is hateful, and it has to stop."
Russia recalls ambassador after election-meddling allegation
Russia summoned Ambassador Anatoly Antonov from Washington to Moscow for consultations on Wednesday, a day after the Biden administration declassified a U.S. intelligence report that for the first time directly accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering efforts to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Previously, U.S. intelligence reports said Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election to help former President Donald Trump and was trying to do so again in 2020, but without tying Putin to the efforts. The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement that the U.S. was leading relations between the two countries down "a blind alley," and that it was seeking ways to fix things.
More charges filed against Proud Boys leaders
FBI agents have filed more charges against leaders of the far-right Proud Boys group, whose members took an active role in the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, The New York Times reported Wednesday, citing three law enforcement officers. In the latest indictment, prosecutors accused Charles Donohoe of North Carolina, and Zach Rehl, the president of the group's Philadelphia chapter, of conspiring to interfere with police at the Capitol and obstruct the certification of President Biden's electoral victory over Trump. Two other high-ranking Proud Boys — Ethan Nordean of Washington state and Joseph Biggs of Florida — who already faced riot charges also were implicated in the conspiracy. Thirteen people now have been identified in court papers as Proud Boys members.
Judge dismisses 2 jurors in Derek Chauvin trial
The judge in former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial for the death of George Floyd dismissed two jurors on Wednesday after questioning them about news that the city had reached a $27 million settlement with Floyd's family. One of the jurors reportedly told Judge Peter Cahill that the settlement would make it difficult for him to be impartial in the case and confirmed "my opinion that I already had." Another said the "sticker price obviously shocked me and swayed me a little bit," and suggested that "the city of Minneapolis felt that something was wrong and they wanted to make it right." Seven jurors remained seated in the trial. Chauvin, who pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes before he died, faces murder and manslaughter charges.
IRS to delay tax filing deadline
The Internal Revenue Service plans to delay this year's tax filing deadline about a month from April 15 to the middle of May, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing two senior House Democrats. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the plans had not been finalized, but The Washington Post reported the new filing deadline will be May 15. Last year's tax filing deadline was delayed from April 15 to July 15 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers recently called for the date to be pushed back this year, too, writing that "taxpayers will need additional time to fully understand how" their tax liability might be affected by Congress' recent COVID-19 relief bill. The Post also reported that the IRS was facing "a massive backlog that has left it unable to fully process" about 24 million tax filings.
Intelligence agencies warn election fraud claims inspiring domestic terrorists
U.S. intelligence agencies warned that "narratives of fraud" in the 2020 election and "the emboldening impact" of the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol attack by supporters of former President Donald Trump will likely trigger violence by domestic terrorists this year, according to an unclassified summary of a joint assessment released Wednesday. The full report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice was prepared in response to a request from President Biden, and sent to the White House and Congress. The report says that the "most lethal" threats from domestic terrorists come from "racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists" and "militia" extremists. The assessment also concluded that lone offenders or small cells were more likely to strike than large organizations.
Texas man arrested with gun, ammo near vice-presidential residence
D.C. Metropolitan Police said Wednesday that they arrested a Texas man, identified as 31-year-old Paul Murray, near the Naval Observatory on weapons charges. The official vice-presidential residence is located at the Naval Observatory, although it is undergoing repairs, so Vice President Kamala Harris is staying temporarily at Blair House near the White House. Secret Service agents first detained Murray after receiving an intelligence bulletin from Texas. Investigators recovered a rifle and ammunition, as well as a large capacity ammunition feeding device, inside Murray's car, a Black Chevy Impala. The arrest came as security in the nation's capital remained high after the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters.
Fed says economy growing but it won't hike rates
The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that economic growth was picking up, but it still did not expect to raise interest rates through 2023. As expected, the central bank's Federal Open Market Committee voted to keep interest rates unchanged near zero at the end of a two-day policy meeting. Fed policy makers also agreed to continue buying at least $120 billion worth of bonds per month, as the Fed has been doing to help the economy recover from the damage of the coronavirus pandemic. "Following a moderation in the pace of the recovery, indicators of economic activity and employment have turned up recently, although the sectors most adversely affected by the pandemic remain weak," the committee said in its post-meeting statement.
Warnock says GOP voter restrictions revive Jim Crow suppression
Sen. Raphael Warnock, who won a January special election to become Georgia's first Black senator and tip Senate control to Democrats, said Wednesday in his first floor speech that new voting restrictions Republicans are pushing in several states amounted to an attack against "democracy itself." "We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights and voter access unlike anything we have seen since the Jim Crow era," Warnock said. "One person, one vote is being threatened right now." Warnock's speech came as senate Democrats introduced a sweeping overhaul of election law, the "For the People Act." The House passed its version last month along party lines. Republicans cast restrictions they support as necessary to prevent voter fraud and boost confidence in elections.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli dies at 61
Tanzania's president, John Magufuli, died Wednesday at a hospital in Dar es Salaam. He was 61. The country's vice president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, said the cause of death was "heart complications." Opposition leaders had made unconfirmed claims that Magufuli, who had not been seen in public since Feb. 27, had been hospitalized in Nairobi for COVID-19, but the government denied it. Magufuli, a chemist and former teacher, was elected in 2015 after serving for a decade as minister of public works. His government started out by cracking down on fraud but slowly became more authoritarian, and over the past year he rejected scientific data on the coronavirus pandemic and urged constituents to resort to prayer instead of wearing masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.