February 21, 2015

Making an unannounced visit to Kabul on Saturday, new Defense Secretary Ash Carter suggested that the United States' troop withdrawal from Afghanistan may be slowed to ensure that "progress sticks," Reuters reports.

"President Obama is considering a number of options to reinforce our support for President (Ashraf) Ghani's security strategy, including possible changes to the timeline for our drawdown of U.S. troops," Carter said on Saturday.

The current schedule would wind the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan down to just more than 5,000 by the end of 2015, with a target of lowering that on to a "normal" troop presence at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan by the end of 2016. Sarah Eberspacher

10:59 p.m.

Former President Jimmy Carter is mourning the death of his former vice president, Walter Mondale, saying in a statement that Mondale was a "dear friend, who I consider the best vice president in our country's history."

Mondale died Monday at his home in Minnesota, at the age of 93. Carter, 96, and Mondale spent four years in the White House, losing their re-election bid in 1980. They were the longest-living post-presidential team in U.S. history, Axios reports.

Carter praised Mondale for using his "political skill and personal integrity to transform the vice presidency into a dynamic, policy-driven force that had never been seen before and still exists today." Not only was Mondale an "invaluable partner and an able servant of the people of Minnesota, the United States, and the world," Carter said, but also "provided us all with a model for public service and private behavior." Catherine Garcia

10:37 p.m.

On the day before he died, former Vice President Walter Mondale spoke with Vice President Kamala Harris on the phone, one of several conversations he had on Sunday with current and former politicians, his friend and former staffer Tom Cosgrove told Axios.

Mondale, who served under former President Jimmy Carter, died Monday at age 93. More than three decades before Harris became the country's first female vice president, Mondale, as the 1984 Democratic presidential nominee, picked Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, making her the first woman to run on a major-party presidential ticket.

In a statement, Harris said Mondale was "so generous with his wit and wisdom over the years," and during their conversation, she "thanked him for his service and his steadfastness. I will miss him dearly." It wasn't just Harris that Mondale chatted with over the weekend, Cosgrove said — he also spoke with Carter, President Biden, former President Bill Clinton, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D). Mondale and his family believed that "death was imminent," Axios reports, but after his phone calls, he "perked up," Cosgrove said.

Mondale also wrote an email to be sent upon his death to 320 former staffers, including many who worked for him decades ago. In the email, shared with Axios, Mondale thanked them for their work and declared that "never has a public servant had a better group of people working at their side! Together we have accomplished so much and I know you will keep up the good fight. Joe in the White House certainly helps." Cosgrove told Axios that Mondale was concerned about what would happen to democracy if former President Donald Trump had been re-elected. "There was a difference after the inauguration — a letting go," Cosgrove said. "There was a big exhale of relief." Catherine Garcia

9:47 p.m.

Walter Mondale, the former vice president who served under Jimmy Carter and was the Democratic nominee for president in 1984, died Monday at his home in Minneapolis. He was 93.

Mondale's spokeswoman, Kathy Tunheim, announced his death, but did not reveal a cause.

Born on Jan. 5, 1928, in Ceylon, Minnesota, Mondale became involved in politics in his 20s, working on campaigns. At 32, he was appointed attorney general of Minnesota, and four years later, was tapped to fill the Senate seat vacated by his mentor, Hubert Humphrey, who went to serve as Lyndon B. Johnson's vice president.

Mondale, who pushed for anti-poverty programs and open housing, was selected by Carter to be his running mate in 1976, and they narrowly won the election. While at the White House, Mondale went on several overseas missions for Carter, The Washington Post reports, and was the president's sounding board. They did not win re-election in 1980, losing to Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

Mondale gave the White House another shot four years later, and as the Democratic nominee, chose Geraldine Ferraro, a Democratic congresswoman from New York, as his running mate, making her the first woman to run on a major-party presidential ticket. They didn't win, and after two decades in politics, Mondale went back to law, practicing in Minnesota. In 1993, President Bill Clinton named Mondale ambassador to Japan.

Mondale's wife, Joan, died in 2014, and their daughter, Eleanor Mondale Poling, died of brain cancer in 2011. He is survived by his sons Theodore Mondale and William Mondale and a brother. Catherine Garcia

8:51 p.m.

A federal judge on Monday ordered that two leaders of the far-right Proud Boys group be detained while awaiting trial on charges they helped plan and coordinate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Joseph Biggs of Florida and Ethan Nordean of Washington were indicted on March 10, and face charges of conspiring to obstruct the certification of President Biden's electoral victory; both men pleaded not guilty. U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly on Monday determined that the men "facilitated political violence" and are dangerous, and they should not be free ahead of their trial.

Last month, federal prosecutors asked for Biggs' pretrial release to be revoked, citing new evidence that shows he poses a "grave danger" to the community, The Associated Press reports. Their indictment states that on the morning of the Capitol riot, Biggs and Nordean met with other Proud Boys members at the Washington Monument and led them on a march to the Capitol. Authorities say several Proud Boys entered the Capitol building after other protesters broke windows and doors in order to gain access.

Federal prosecutors have described more than two dozen of the Capitol riot defendants as being leaders, members, or associates of the Proud Boys. Nordean has served as a Proud Boys chapter president and member of the group's national "Elders Council," and Biggs is a self-described Proud Boys organizer, AP says. Catherine Garcia

7:25 p.m.

At a ceremony Monday commemorating the 26th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department is "pouring its resources into stopping domestic violent extremists before they can attack, prosecuting those who do, and battling the spread of the kind of hate that leads to tragedies like the one we mark here today."

The bombing targeted the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, and killed 168 people, including 19 children in a day care center. Domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh was convicted of the bombing in 1997 and executed in 2001. Garland oversaw the bombing investigation and prosecution while working at the Justice Department in the 1990s, and said that even though "many years have passed, the terror perpetrated by people like Timothy McVeigh is still with us."

There has been a renewed focus on domestic extremism in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and in March, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence wrote a report saying white supremacists and militias are the most lethal domestic threat. Often, these extremists "radicalize independently by consuming violent extremist material online and mobilize without direction from a violent extremist organization, making detection and disruption difficult," the report stated. Catherine Garcia

6:02 p.m.

The jury began deliberations en route to reaching a verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Monday. They'll take into account two weeks' worth of witness and expert testimony about the arrest and death of George Floyd, as well as Monday's closing arguments from the defense and the prosecution.

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher kicked off the final stretch, telling the jury to "believe your own eyes," referring to bystander videos, which showed Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes.

Then, over the course of two-plus hours, defense lawyer Eric Nelson focused on whether there's any reasonable doubt as to what caused Floyd's death, citing the possibility that substances found in his system and heart issues may have been the culprit. He also argued Chauvin acted reasonably and within the grounds of his training.

Finally, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell issued his rebuttal to Nelson, noting that his team was not required to prove that Chauvin's actions were the sole cause of Floyd's death, only that they were a substantial factor. And with his parting words, he rejected the theory that Floyd died because of an enlarged heart. Tim O'Donnell

4:52 p.m.

Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick suffered two strokes and died of natural causes after defending the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot, Washington, D.C.'s chief medical examiner Francisco Diaz ruled Monday.

Diaz told The Washington Post that Sicknick's autopsy found no evidence that the officer suffered any internal or external injuries or an allergic reaction to chemical irritants, such as bear spray, which two men are accused of assaulting him with during the riot. Diaz said if Sicknick did have an allergic reaction, his throat would have quickly seized, which did not happen. The ruling "likely will make it difficult for prosecutors to pursue homicide charges" in Sicknick's death, the Post writes.

Citing privacy laws, Diaz did not divulge whether Sicknick had a pre-existing medical condition that may have contributed to the 42-year-old's death, though he did say "all that transpired" during the highly tense situation at the Capitol on Jan. 6 "played a role in his condition." Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

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