May 15, 2019

In an opinion earlier this month, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel decided that the Food and Drug Administration "lacks jurisdiction" over drugs used to kill inmates through lethal injection, The Washington Post reports. The Justice Department is siding with Texas, which sued the FDA in early 2017 over the agency's 2015 seizure of 1,000 vials of the anesthetic sodium thiopental — once commonly used in lethal-injection cocktails — from an unregistered overseas distributor.

The issue has caused tension in the Trump administration. More than a year ago, the Post reports, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb — both of whom left the administration last year — had a heated argument in the White House Situation Room, with Sessions demanding that Gottlieb allow execution drugs into the U.S. without any scrutiny and Gottlieb refusing.

The Justice Department's new opinion is pretty sweeping, arguing that "articles intended for use in capital punishment by a state or the federal government cannot be regulated as 'drugs' or 'devices'" by the FDA. But the opinion applies only to the death penalty, the OLC added, not whether the FDA "has jurisdiction over drugs intended for use in physician-assisted suicide."

It isn't clear what affect the OLC decision will have. Imports of sodium thiopental have been blocked under a federal injunction since 2012. Hospira, the sole U.S. maker of sodium thiopental, stopped producing it in 2011, citing its use in capital punishment. The OLC opinion seems aimed at "giving a green light" to states to import execution drugs from China, India, and other countries that don't object to their use in executions, Deborah Denno, a law professor at Fordham University, tells the Post. "It has the potential to open the floodgates."

But the 2012 injunction is still in effect for now, the Post notes, and "it is not clear whether the Justice Department will seek to have that injunction lifted, a move that could spark a long legal tussle." Peter Weber

4:42 p.m.

The family of George Floyd is demanding stronger charges for the former Minneapolis police officer arrested Friday in connection with Floyd's death. Derek Chauvin received third-degree murder and manslaughter charges, despite evidentially ignoring police training that would have taught that restraining a person in such a way as he did Floyd is "inherently dangerous," according to the criminal complaint.

"We want a first-degree murder charge," the family's statement said. "And we want to see the other [three] officers arrested. We call on authorities to revise the charges to reflect the true culpability of this officer."

The disturbing complaint describes how Chauvin placed "his left knee in the area of Mr. Floyd's head and neck. Mr. Floyd said, 'I can't breathe' multiple times and repeatedly said 'Mama' and 'please' as well. The defendant [Chauvin] and the other two officers stayed in their positions."

Floyd then stopped breathing or speaking. One of the officers checked his pulse and said "I couldn't find one," but Chauvin did not remove his knee for several more minutes. An ambulance eventually arrived; Floyd was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The autopsy "revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation" but "Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease" that, along with the police restraint, could have contributed to his death. The report adds that "the defendant had his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in total. Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive." Jeva Lange

4:25 p.m.

President Trump on Friday attempted to clean up his recent comments about the protests in Minneapolis that Twitter said violated its rules but surprisingly left a subsequent event without addressing the situation at all.

Trump in a late-night tweet wrote in reference to the protests in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts," a message that Twitter attached a warning label to saying it violated its rules against glorifying violence. On Friday afternoon, Trump claimed that he meant to say that "looting leads to shooting" but that "I don't want this to happen," confusingly adding that this was "spoken as a fact, not as a statement."

The president shortly after spoke at a supposed news conference in the Rose Garden, and aides had said plans were in place for him to address the protests in Minneapolis, CNN's Sarah Westwood reports. Instead, he left without answering a single question or addressing Minneapolis, and Westwood writes it "remains unclear" why the plans apparently changed. PBS' Yamiche Alcindor described seeing Trump leave without talking about the situation Minneapolis as "stunning." Brendan Morrow

2:51 p.m.

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was arrested in connection with the death of George Floyd, has now been charged with murder.

Prosecutors on Friday announced that Chauvin, who was fired after he was filmed kneeling on Floyd's neck for almost 10 minutes while Floyd said that he couldn't breathe, has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The charges were unveiled shortly after Chauvin's arrest was announced and four days after Floyd's death, which has sparked nationwide outrage and protests.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman in a press conference said this is "by far the fastest we've ever charged a police officer."

"We can only charge a case when he have sufficient, admissible evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt," he said. "As of right now, we have that."

An investigation into the other officers involved in the incident is ongoing, Freeman said, adding that "I anticipate charges." A complaint is being processed and will be released later today.

Shortly after the charges were announced, Attorney General William Barr said in a statement that the Department of Justice is "conducting an independent investigation to determine whether any federal civil rights laws were violated," saying "I am confident justice will be served." Brendan Morrow

2:19 p.m.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has responded to criticism of her time as Minneapolis' top prosecutor.

Before she was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006, Klobuchar was the Hennepin County attorney in Minnesota, in charge of prosecution for the state's most populous county. Reports have indicated Klobuchar did not go after numerous police officers who shot civilians, and when MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell asked her about that on Friday, Klobuchar described her decisions as routine procedure, but also expressed regret for how she handled those cases.

"When I was county attorney, cases we had involving officer-involved shootings went to a grand jury. I think that was wrong now," Klobuchar said. "It would have been much better if I took responsibility and looked at cases and made a decision myself." Still, Klobuchar maintained that "we did not blow off these cases. We brought them to a grand jury, presented the evidence for a potential criminal prosecution, and the grand jury would come back with the decision."

Klobuchar also addressed a 2006 shooting that involved former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was arrested Friday after kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, who later died. Klobuchar was elected to the Senate a week after Chauvin was implicated in the shooting of a suspect who was allegedly attacking police, and left her attorney position just a few months into an investigation into the incident. She said it's "absolutely false" that she declined to prosecute the case involving Chauvin, describing it as a case handled by her successor that a grand jury later declined to prosecute.

Klobuchar went on to call for "systematic change" following Floyd's death both in Minnesota and "across the country." Kathryn Krawczyk

1:35 p.m.

President Trump isn't helping the situation in Minnesota with his tweets, the state's governor says.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) spoke in a news conference on Friday amid the ongoing protests in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died Monday after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes. In a late-night tweet about the protests, Trump wrote that "these THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd" and that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

"It's just not helpful," Walz said when asked for his reaction to Trump's tweets. "In the moment where we're at, in a moment that is so volatile, anything we do to add fuel to that fire is really, really challenging."

Walz, who said he spoke to the president, added that "there's a way to do this without inflaming." Trump's tweet earned a warning label from Twitter, which said the tweet violated its rules against glorifying violence. The White House later posted the exact same tweet, and was hit with the same warning label from Twitter. Brendan Morrow

1:32 p.m.

Ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been arrested in relation to the death of George Floyd, Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington announced Friday. Chauvin is the officer who was filmed kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly 10 minutes as Floyd protested "I can't breathe;" he was fired from the department earlier this week.

According to KARE 11, the local NBC affiliate, Chauvin's charging decision has not yet been made. Nevertheless, Harrington called Floyd's death a "murder," explaining "that's what it looked like to me … I'm just calling it what I see at that point." The nation has been rocked by protests since Floyd's death, with many of the protesters demanding justice and expressing anger that the officers involved had not yet faced legal repercussions.

Chauvin had at least 10 conduct complaints during his 19-year tenure before he was fired. In particular, he was involved in the shooting death of a man who had stabbed other people before attacking police, as well as some other undisclosed complaints. Additionally, he was placed on leave when he and other officers shot and wounded a Native American man in 2011. Jeva Lange

12:55 p.m.

Disney's story of a rabbit and a fox recognizing and overcoming police bias was apparently used to educate human police officers.

More specifically, St. Paul, Minnesota's police force — which has been pulled into the protests in neighboring Minneapolis — watched Zootopia a few years ago as part of its annual anti-bias training. The animated movie specifically covers discrimination against a young police officer and suspects based on their species, but many officers "never saw the parallels with real life" until they watched it in training, Sgt. Amanda Heu told local station Fox 9 back in 2017.

Zootopia tells the story of the first rabbit to join the animal-run city of Zootopia's police department. She's placed on parking duty and doubted because of her species, but also discriminates against a fox con artist because of his, with nods to human race relations — the fox plays with a sheep's "hair," for instance — along the way.

"When you see the story, it has bias and prejudice woven throughout," Hua said at the time. She specifically pointed to a moment where the fox notes "if the world is only going to see a fox as shifty and untrustworthy, there's no point in trying to be anything else," saying "it boiled down the psychological construct that perpetuates discrimination and prejudice in America." But because the movie used animals instead of humans, officers "could learn from it without being judged," Hua said.

At the time, St. Paul was considering passing the Zootopia training idea on to other departments. Read more at how the Zootopia training went down at Fox 9. Kathryn Krawczyk

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