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Capitol attack committee to reportedly seek phone records of Trump and inner circle – live | US news


2.54pm EDT

Psaki confirmed the US is investigating reports of civilian casualties from a drone strike on Sunday in Kabul, but said she could not “speak to or confirm” the number of lives lost. Accounts from the scene say that nine people from one family were killed, including seven children.

The Guardian’s world affairs editor Julian Borger has more on those accounts, here:

The press secretary also said an objective was to not leave US equipment in the Taliban’s possession, “but that is not always possible.”

“We are not going to do anything that will let terrorists grow or prosper in Afghanistan,” Psaki said.

She said that an attack can happen at any time in Afghanistan. “It is a very dangerous situation on the ground,” she said.

2.34pm EDT

White House press secretary Jen Psaki is responding to questions about Afghanistan at the daily press briefing. She said the president would likely address the public in the coming days in response to the withdrawal of troops ending tomorrow.

“The president stands by his decision to bring our men and women home from Afghanistan,” Psaki said. “We would have sent thousands of troops in harm’s way to fight a war that Afghans weren’t willing to fight in to preserve their government.”

Psaki said the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, would be meeting with other allies to discuss plans to help people who want to leave Afghanistan after troops are withdrawn on 31 August. “There is also of course a discussion about what our diplomatic presence might look like going forward,” Psaki said.

2.25pm EDT

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said US attorney general is asking judges and lawyers to prevent evictions after the Supreme Court ruled last week to end an eviction ban instituted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Decisions on whether or not to evict someone ultimately fall on local judges who review the cases.

The CDC had the eviction moratorium in place to stop the spread of Covid-19 as cases rise to their highest levels since the winter surge. Hundreds of local agencies are also working to distribute almost $47bn in federal rental assistance to renters and landlords. So far, only 11% of that money has been distributed.

“Today attorney general Merrick Garland is calling on the entire legal community to prevent unnecessary evictions during this public health emergency,” Psaki said.

2.08pm EDT

Joe Biden is in a briefing about Hurricane Ida with senior advisor, Cedric Richmond, at his side, and regional leaders on video conference.

Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards said he believes closer to 2 million people could be affected by power outages from the hurricane. Power is out across the entire city of New Orleans.

President of Jefferson parish in Louisiana, Cynthia Lee Sheng, described limited communications with first responders who went out to help in the state’s coastal areas.

Biden said cell phone coverage has been expanded so people in the affected areas can use the network of any provider to make calls, no matter which company they pay for cell phone service.

1.52pm EDT

Texas could become the first state in decades to ban most abortions, if a federal court allows a law called SB8 to take effect on 1 September.

A hearing was originally scheduled on Monday on whether the court should block the law. But the fifth circuit court of appeals cancelled the hearing late on Friday and denied reproductive rights group an emergency motion on Sunday.

“If this law is not blocked by 1 September, abortion access in Texas will come to an abrupt stop,” said Marc Hearron, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights in a statement.

SB8 effectively puts a $10,000 “bounty” on the head of abortion providers and anyone else who helps a woman obtain an abortion past roughly six weeks’ gestation, by allowing private citizens to sue those who “aid and abet” women in exercising this constitutional right.

Opponents have warned the law could also provide a back door to attack other controversial civil rights, such as gun rights or free speech.

1.37pm EDT

The US education department has opened civil rights investigations into five states for banning mask mandates, meant to stop the spread of Covid-19, in public schools.

The Washington Post said the move “ups the Biden administration’s battle with Republican governors over pandemic policies for schools”.

The states under investigation are Iowa, South Carolina, Utah, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Regarding other high-profile battles over mask mandates and attempts to ban them, the department said it had “not opened investigations in Florida, Texas, Arkansas, or Arizona because those states’ bans on universal indoor masking are not currently being enforced as a result of court orders or other state actions.

“Due to these rulings and actions, districts should be able to implement universal indoor masking in schools to protect the health and safety of their students and staff.

“However, the department will continue to closely monitor those states and is prepared to take action if state leaders prevent local schools or districts from implementing universal indoor masking or if the current court decisions were to be reversed.

Miguel Cardona, the education secretary, said: “It’s simply unacceptable that state leaders are putting politics over the health and education of the students they took an oath to serve.

“The department will fight to protect every student’s right to access in-person learning safely and the rights of local educators to put in place policies that allow all students to return to the classroom full-time in-person safely this fall.”

1.19pm EDT

6 January committee to seek phone records – reports

More news to make some leading Republicans sweat, as Reuters and CNN report that the 6 January committee intends to make a third round of requests for records as it investigates the deadly assault on the US Capitol by Trump supporters seeking to overturn the election result.

More than 600 people have been arrested over the assault, around which five people died. The records in question may include those of Donald Trump himself, and his family members.

Last week the House panel, predominantly Democratic but with two Republican members in the Trump critics Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, ordered federal agencies and social media companies to hand over records related to the violence.

The committee also intends, Reuters reports an anonymous source as saying, to ask telephone companies to preserve records of people involved in organizing the rally that preceded the riot.

That was a “Stop the Steal” event near the White House which was addressed by, among others, Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. As Reuters puts it:

The source on Monday confirmed a CNN report that the committee’s request is expected to include preservation of phone records of then-President Donald Trump, his daughter Ivanka, and his sons Eric and Donald Jr. CNN said the list of individuals whose records the committee is asking phone companies to preserve also includes Republican members of Congress who were strong supporters of Trump and his false claims that Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the November 2020 election was tainted by fraud.

The committee hasn’t commented but one person who has is Sidney Blumenthal, the Clinton aide-turned Lincoln biographer who is also a Guardian contributor.

In two pieces this summer, Blumenthal has concentrated on what Jim Jordan of Ohio, a leading rabble-rouser on the right in the House, knew about the assault and when, and on a possible precedent for compelling Jordan to testify in front of the 6 January committee. The latter follows at the end of this post.

On Sunday, Politico reported that Jordan had a hitherto undisclosed second conversation with Donald Trump as the riot unfolded:

After a group of lawmakers were evacuated from the House chamber to a safe room … Jordan was joined by Matt Gaetz (of Florida) for a call during which they implored Trump to tell his supporters to stand down, per a source with knowledge of that call. The source declined to say how Trump responded to this request.

The plot, as they say, thickens.

1.05pm EDT

Afternoon summary

  • The Pentagon was questioned about civilian casualties from a drone strike on Kabul on Sunday. The Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby said: “We are not in a position to dispute it right now, and … we’re assessing, and we’re investigating.”
  • The US is due to complete its troop withdrawal form Afghanistan in the next 48 hours. The White House this morning said it had evacuated 1,200 people from Kabul in a 24-hour period which began at 3am ET on Sunday.

More details on Afghanistan here:

12.47pm EDT

The EU’s latest guidance on requiring restrictions for travelers from the US, such as quarantine and Covid-19 testing, comes after a summer where American tourists could travel to Europe without restrictions.

The US, however, has always had a travel ban in place for most travelers from Europe and the UK, even when case rates and hospitalizations were higher in the US and vaccination rates were higher in Europe.

Lawful US permanent residents and the spouses, minor children, parents or legal guardian’s of US citizens can travel to the US, according to the State department. But the US has kept families separated by, for instance, blocking British citizens who work in the US from being to re-enter the US if they travel to the UK to visit family unless they can obtain a waiver, are diplomats, meet other criteria or can afford to spend two weeks quarantine in a third country before their return to the US.

12.28pm EDT

EU recommends against lifting Covid-19 restrictions for US travelers

The European Union has removed the US from a Covid-19 ‘white list’ of places whose tourists should be permitted entry without restrictions such as mandatory quarantine.

A majority of EU countries had reopened their borders to Americans in June, in the hope of salvaging the summer tourism season although most required a negative test ahead of travel. The move was not, however, reciprocated by the US.

The EU’s “white list” necessitates having fewer than 75 new cases daily per 100,000 people over the previous 14 days – a threshold that is not currently being met in the US.

According to Johns Hopkins University, the US suffered the world’s highest number of infections over the past 28 days. Also removed from the EU’s safe list due to a spike in Covid infections are Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, and the Republic of North Macedonia.

The guidance is non-binding and the recommendation is that the fully vaccinated should nevertheless be granted entry for non-essential travel.

12.00pm EDT

Elsewhere in US foreign policy, lawyers for hundreds of survivors and families of people killed in Yemen’s civil war have called on the International Criminal Court to open an investigation of military forces led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the US for alleged war crimes.

Lawyer Almudena Bernabeu is representing victims of a 2018 airstrike that struck a school and said that earlier promises by the Saudi-led coalition to investigate the attack and bring those responsible to justice had not been fulfilled.

“Of course, they did no such thing,” Bernabeu said in a statement. “As the court of last resort, victims and families have no choice but to call on the International Criminal Court to ensure justice is done.”

11.29am EDT

Afghanistan: Pentagon questioned about civilian casualties from drone strike

The Guardian’s world affairs editor, Julian Borger, is monitoring the latest updates on Afghanistan.

Responding to repeated questions about civilian casualties from a drone strike on Kabul on Sunday, the Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby said: “We are not in a position to dispute it right now, and … we’re assessing, and we’re investigating.”

The Pentagon insists that the target was an Islamic State car bomb heading for the airport, but reports from Kabul say there were many civilian casualties, including at least six children.

Kirby said that the strike would be thoroughly scrutinised, but added decisions about such strikes had to be made very quickly because of the nature of suicide attacks carried out by IS.

“We have to try to be as quick and as nimble as [IS] are. ..We believed this to be an imminent threat,” Kirby said. “We took the action that we believed was the most necessary at the best opportunity to thwart that attack.”

11.11am EDT

The US health department is preparing to launch an office focused on the climate crisis as a public health issue, something it outlined in a January executive order.

The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, said resources for the new Office of Climate Change and Health Equity are being assembled now. The WSJ reports:

The new office is likely to spur initiatives touching on many aspects of healthcare, according to people briefed on the planning and White House releases. It is expected to offer protections for populations most at risk—including the elderly, minorities, rural communities and children—and could eventually lead to policies compelling hospitals and other care facilities to reduce carbon emissions, the people said.

US health secretary Xavier Becerra has already appointed Arsenio Mataka as senior adviser for health equity and climate in the health department. Mataka was previously an environmental adviser to Becerra when he served as California’s attorney general.

10.46am EDT

The US is due to complete its troop withdrawal form Afghanistan in the next 48 hours.

The White House this morning said it had evacuated 1,200 people from Kabul in a 24-hour period which began at 3am ET on Sunday. Since 14 Aug, the US has evacuated or helped evacuate about 116,700 people, the White House said.

The Associated Press is reporting that Qatar “played an outsized role” in US evacuation efforts because of its ties with the Taliban and Washington. The country has hosted Taliban political leadership for peace talks with the Afghanistan government and US.

The AP said: For some of the most sensitive rescue efforts in Afghanistan, Qatar conducted the operation with just a few hundred troops and its own military aircraft. Qatar evacuated a girls’ boarding school, an all-girls robotics team and journalists working for international media, among others. Qatar’s ambassador accompanied convoys of buses through a gauntlet of Taliban checkpoints in Kabul and past various Western military checkpoints at the airport, where massive crowds had gathered, desperate to flee.

10.16am EDT

In Los Angeles, 6,500 students missed one or more days of the first week of school in the second largest district in the country because of Covid-19 cases, according to data obtained by the LA Times.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is requiring all students and staff to be tested each week, providing a model for other districts in the country on how to track Covid-19 cases in their schools, an important tool for preventing the spread of the illness.

Students who missed school in Los Angeles last week were a mix of about 3,000 who had tested positive for Covid-19 and 3,500 others who were told to quarantine after being identified as close contacts of those who had tested positive.

Of the 60,000 employees tested, about 1,000 missed one day of work because they either tested positive or were required to quarantine after being in contact with a person who tested positive.

There are 451,000 students attending classes in-person in the district while about 10,000 have opted to attend school online.

9.58am EDT

Uncertainty for US schools amid Delta variant threat

It is the first day of school in some parts of the country today, and there is uncertainty about what the school year will actually look like with the patchwork of Covid-19 rules and the spread of the delta variant.

Last week, a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that an unvaccinated teacher in a California elementary school infected half her students and 26 people in total in May. The teacher did not wear a mask as she read to students, even though the school required face coverings indoors and they were one of only two staff members at the school who were unvaccinated.

More than 180,000 Covid-19 cases were reported in children from 12 August to 19 August and represented about 22.4% of the weekly reported cases, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

As of 25 August, 11.7m children under age 18 had received the first dose of the vaccine.

There are also tensions around how rules to prevent the spread of Covid-19 will be enforced and the response from parents. When school started two weeks ago in northern California’s Amador county, a parent attacked a principal over a mask dispute.

We will have updates on that and other US news today in the blog.


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