10 things you need to know today: June 23, 2022
Uvalde school district suspends its embattled police chief, judge postpones Proud Boys sedition trial to avoid clashing with Jan. 6 committee, and more
Uvalde school district suspends police chief
The Uvalde, Texas, school district placed its police chief, Pedro "Pete" Arredondo, on administrative on Wednesday, a day after Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw called local law enforcement's response to last month's massacre at Robb Elementary School an "abject failure." Arredondo was identified as the on-scene commander who delayed a team of heavily armed officers from confronting the gunman, who killed 19 children and two teachers in two adjoining classrooms. Victims' relatives harshly criticized Arredondo during a tense Tuesday school board meeting. "He failed us," said Berlinda Irene Arreola, grandmother of shooting victim Amerie Jo Garza. Arredondo has said he didn't consider himself the incident commander, and didn't order officers not to enter the classrooms.
Judge postpones Proud Boys trial to avoid conflicts with Jan. 6 hearings
A federal judge on Wednesday postponed the trial of five Proud Boys leaders charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack. Prosecutors and defense attorneys jointly asked for the delay to keep the trial and the work of the House committee investigating the attack from interfering with each other. Judge Tim Kelly put off the start of jury selection until Dec. 12, and possibly after the holidays. He said the need to push back the trial was "the first thing that all of the parties in this case have agreed on," even though one defendant — former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio — opposes the delay.
Jan. 6 committee members get ramped-up security after threats
Members of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack have received a surge of threats this week, following the start of their public hearings, and all are expected to be assigned a security detail, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing three people involved with the investigation. The panel, which is conducting its fifth public hearing on Thursday, is focusing on the effort by then-President Donald Trump and his allies to pressure other Republicans to overturn Trump's 2020 election loss to President Biden. Over the weekend, one of the two Republicans on the committee, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), warned that "there is violence in the future" after his wife received a written death threat at their home.
Biden calls on Congress to approve gas-tax holiday
President Biden on Wednesday urged Congress to suspend federal taxes on gasoline and diesel through September to help Americans deal with high fuel prices. The taxes add 18 cents per gallon of gas and 24 cents per gallon of diesel. "I fully understand that the gas tax holiday alone is not going to fix the problem," Biden said. "But it will provide families some immediate relief." The plan faces tough opposition in Congress. Economists and even some of Biden's fellow Democrats questioned whether the move would help much. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Biden's "big new idea is a silly proposal that senior members of his own party have already shot down well in advance."
European leaders to approve Ukraine as candidate to join E.U.
The European Council on Thursday is expected to accept designating Ukraine as a candidate for membership in the European Union, the big early step in a long process to join the trading bloc. The decision comes at the start of a two-day summit of the leaders of the 27 E.U. countries in Brussels. The European Commission, the E.U.'s executive arm, recommended approval of Ukraine's status last week, just four months after it applied, in a show of support as the country struggles to resist a Russian invasion. "Ukraine has gone through hell and high water for one simple reason: and that's their desire to join the European Union," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday in a speech to the European Parliament. The show of support comes as Russia intensifies its push to control eastern Ukraine.
Afghanistan earthquake death toll rises above 1,000
The death toll from a 5.9-magnitude earthquake that hit Afghanistan on Wednesday rose to at least 1,000, and authorities warned it could go higher as rescue crews rush to find survivors trapped in the rubble. "Many people are still buried under the soil," a health worker at a hospital in the hard-hit Paktika province said. Heavy rains and landslides were making rescue work difficult. Many hillside villages shaken by the quake remained inaccessible. The emergency response is an early major test for the Islamist Taliban government that took control of the country last August, causing the country to lose much of its international assistance following two decades of war. "My village is finished," said Abdulhanan Wazir, who lost 18 members of his family when their house collapsed.
Fed chair says recession possible
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday that a recession is possible but unlikely. He said the central bank is committed to taming high inflation, which hit a four-decade high of 8.6 percent in May, through interest-rate hikes and other measures. "We need to get inflation back down to 2 percent," Powell said. "We're using our tools to do that." Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said the Fed shouldn't raise borrowing costs so high it sparks mass layoffs while supply-chain problems continue to push prices higher. "You know what's worse than high inflation and low unemployment?" Warren said. "It's high inflation and a recession with millions of people out of work."
Florida's Gillum arrested on fraud charge
The FBI on Wednesday arrested Andrew Gillum, the Democrat who narrowly lost Florida's 2018 gubernatorial election to Ron DeSantis. Gillum faces a 21-count federal indictment on charges of wire fraud, conspiracy, and lying to the FBI. The former Tallahassee mayor and his mentor, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, were charged in connection with campaign contributions they and others allegedly solicited unlawfully from undercover FBI agents who were investigating public corruption in Florida's capital city. Gillum said in a statement that he is innocent and the "case is not legal, it is political." A trial is scheduled for Aug. 16. Gillum, once considered a rising star in the Florida Democratic Party, got out of politics after he was found passed out in a Miami Beach hotel room in March 2020 with two other men, one suffering from a drug overdose.
Georgia Supreme Court tosses out conviction of father who left toddler in hot car
The Georgia Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned Justin Ross Harris' 2016 murder conviction for leaving his 22-month-old son in a hot car all day. Chief Justice David Nahmias wrote in an opinion that the conviction was tainted by an "extensive amount of improperly admitted evidence" about sexually explicit messages Harris sent to multiple women and underage girls. Prosecutors argued that Harris left his son, Cooper, in the car on purpose for seven hours on a hot day while he was at work, intending to kill the child so he would be free from parenting. Nahmias said much of the evidence "was extremely and unfairly prejudicial," and might have influenced the jury's guilty verdict. Harris' wife, Leanna Taylor, eventually divorced him and was never accused of wrongdoing in Cooper's death.
DeSantis edges out Trump in New Hampshire poll
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pulled narrowly ahead of former President Donald Trump as the favorite of likely 2024 Republican presidential primary voters in New Hampshire, according to a University of New Hampshire poll released Wednesday. DeSantis was preferred by 39 percent of the survey participants, followed by Trump with 37 percent, a statistical tie given the poll's margin of error. In October, Trump led DeSantis 43 percent to 18 percent. Former Vice President Mike Pence placed third in the new poll, with 9 percent, up from up from 4 percent in October. Former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley got 6 percent in both polls.