Democratic field grows
Colorado and Washington
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announced their presidential candidacies this week. Inslee, 68, promised to “make defeating climate change our nation’s No. 1 priority,” while Hickenlooper, 67, touted Colorado’s economic growth during his two terms in office. Several Democratic heavy hitters, however, announced they would not be joining the race. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ended speculation that he would run for president, as did Barack Obama’s attorney general Eric Holder and Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley. Bloomberg, a political moderate with a fortune worth more than $50 billion, said, “I am clear-eyed about the difficulty of winning the Democratic nomination in such a crowded field.” Hillary Clinton confirmed this week that she will not make a third run.
No charges for cops
California’s attorney general announced this week that the state would not bring charges against two police officers who shot and killed an unarmed black man, 22-year-old Stephon Clark, in March 2018. The state cited video evidence suggesting the officers “reasonably believed” they were in danger when they mistook Clark’s cellphone for a gun and shot him seven times in his grandmother’s backyard. Video suggests that after Clark smashed car windows and a neighbor’s glass door he advanced toward police, ignoring orders to raise his hands. The Sacramento district attorney, who also investigated the case, had earlier announced a similar conclusion. More than 80 people were arrested in protests against the city’s decision not to bring charges, including veteran Sacramento Bee reporter Dale Kasler, who live-streamed the demonstrations.
FDA chief leaves
Scott Gottlieb, head of the Food and Drug Administration, resigned this week, ending a tenure marked by a crackdown on e-cigarettes. Gottlieb, a physician and venture capitalist, often said curbing tobacco use was the best way to improve public health, and he proposed sweeping rules to stem an “epidemic” of teen vaping. Critics, however, said his initial hesitation allowed the epidemic to come about. An outlier in the antiregulatory Trump administration, Gottlieb maintained the president’s support and said he was resigning to spend more time with his three children. His tenure was also marked by support for biotech and the rapid approval of generic drugs. This week the FDA accused Walgreens, Walmart, Kroger, and Family Dollar of selling tobacco products to minors. Investigators also found more than one-third of gas station stores illegally selling to kids.
Prosecutors bow out
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami recused itself this week in the victims’ rights case involving financier Jeffrey Epstein, who allegedly sexually abused more than 30 girls. Federal prosecutors in Atlanta will take up the case. The move comes after a federal judge ruled last month that the Miami prosecutors who reached a plea agreement with Epstein in 2007 illegally concealed it from his victims, who were entitled to learn of such a deal. Police say Epstein, now 66, abused girls as young as 13 in his Palm Beach, Fla., home. Yet the sealed plea agreement—under then–U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, who’s now U.S. secretary of labor—allowed Epstein to serve just 13 months in county jail with frequent work releases, then travel to New York and his private Caribbean island while under house arrest. Acosta is the focus of a federal probe into prosecutorial misconduct.
Freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) continues to elicit complaints of anti-Semitism from her House colleagues, who this week rebuked her comments on U.S.-Israel policy. Omar, a Muslim Somali refugee, has drawn fire for suggesting U.S. politicians are pressured by lobbyists into offering unconditional support for Israel. She fanned the already smoldering flames by saying Israel’s defenders have been pushed into “allegiance to a foreign country.” Jewish members of Congress said the comment plays on an anti-Semitic “dual loyalty” smear, leading Speaker Nancy Pelosi to call a vote on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. The House passed a similar resolution last month after Omar’s earlier comments. House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel, who is Jewish, called her latest words “vile.” While Omar issued an apology last month, she and several other Democratic House members are now accusing their colleagues of invoking anti-Semitism to distract from the substance of Omar’s criticism.
A home destroyed
The country’s deadliest tornado in six years leveled a rural community this week, killing 23 people and injuring dozens more. The deceased, ranging in age from 6 to 89, included four children and an extended family of seven. A mile-wide tornado tore through 70 miles of eastern Alabama with winds reaching 170 mph, launching mobile homes and cars dozens of feet into the air and tearing trees out of the ground. Sirens wailed and cellphone alerts came in the early afternoon about 12 minutes before the tornado hit Beauregard, a poor town with few options for shelter. Many towns in northern and central Alabama built large community shelters after 62 tornadoes killed about 250 people on a single day in 2011, but strong tornadoes are less common in Lee County. Two corporations anonymously pledged to pay for all the victims’ funerals.