This article titled “Biden visits site of Pittsburgh bridge collapse and promises action with infrastructure law –as it happened” was written by Maanvi Singh (now) and Vivian Ho (earlier), for theguardian.com on Saturday 29th January 2022 00.07 UTC
- A bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh just hours before Joe Biden was set to travel to the city to tout the $1tn bipartisan infrastructure law. Biden took a detour to visit the collapse site and made a point to speak about the 45,000 bridges in the US rated in poor condition. “That is simply just unacceptable,” he said.
- The New York mayor’s office is asking New Yorkers who came in contact with Sarah Palin to test for Covid-19 after she went out to eat at several Upper East Side restaurants despite her positive status. The former Alaska governor’s positive test delayed her defamation trial against the New York Times earlier this week.
- The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack on Friday issued subpoenas to lead participants in an audacious scheme to send fake Trump slates of electors to Congress. The development comes as the panel seeks to learn whether the plan was coordinated by the Trump White House. The committee has also subpoenaed former White House spokesperson Judd Deere, per CNN.
– Vivian Ho and Hugo Lowell
Speaking with reporters as he deplaned this evening, Joe Biden said the US will move troops to Eastern Europe in the “near term”.
Per the White House press pool, Biden said: “I’ll be moving US troops to Eastern Europe in the Nato countries in the near term. Not a lot.”
A few days ago, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said it was possible that the US would deploy more than the 8,500 troops in Europe who were already on alert.
“I’m not going to rule out the possibility that there will be more such direction given to additional units at home or even abroad in terms of their readiness posture,” Kirby said.
January 6 panel subpoenas figures in scheme backing fake Trump electors
The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack on Friday issued subpoenas to lead participants in an audacious scheme to send fake Trump slates of electors to Congress.
The development comes as the panel seeks to learn whether the plan was coordinated by the Trump White House.
The fake certificates – which falsely declared Donald Trump the winner of the 2020 election, though the states had officially declared otherwise – are significant as they appear to have been a central tenet of the former president’s effort to return himself to power.
The fake slates of electors were sent to Congress from seven contested states that were in fact won by Joe Biden. Trump and his allies might have hoped to use them as justification for having Biden’s wins in those states rejected.
Congressman Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the select committee, said that he had authorized subpoenas to 14 Republicans who were listed as the chairperson and the secretary of each group of “alternate electors” in order to learn how the scheme was coordinated.
The move by the select committee comes days after the deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco, confirmed that the justice department had opened an investigation into the scheme, raising the stakes for the fake electors and any Trump White House aides who may have been involved.
Thompson issued subpoenas to the two most senior Republicans who signed onto the fake certificates in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, including several prominent current and former state Republican party leaders.
The subpoena targets included: Nancy Cottle, Loraine Pellegrino, David Shafer, Shawn Still, Kathy Berden, Mayra Rodriguez, Jewll Powdrell, Deborah Maestas, Michael McDonald, James DeGraffenreid, Bill Bachenberg, Lisa Patton, Andrew Hitt and Kelly Ruh.
The House committee investigating the 6 January insurrection has reportedly issued a subpoena for former White House spokesperson Judd Deere, CNN is reporting.
The committee is seeking both documents and a deposition next month from former deputy White House press secretary Judd Deere, who helped with “formulating White House’s response to the January 6 attack as it occurred,” according to the panel’s letter. In its letter to Deere, the committee specifically said it wanted to speak with him about the January 5 staff meeting in the Oval Office with the President.
The committee said it had obtained information that Trump repeatedly asked in the meeting: “What are your ideas for getting the RINOs to do the right thing tomorrow? How do we convince Congress?”
The committee has already subpoenaed and met with former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, as well as others in Trump’s administration and inner circle.
The Biden administration is monitoring the Nor’easter expected to move through mid-Atlantic states this weekend.
“We will be actively monitoring the storm’s projected impacts and working closely with FEMA to ensure that we are prepared to support any needs for Federal assistance that may arise in your community,” said Dr Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, homeland security advisor.
Blizzard warnings have been issued for parts of Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Long Island, Massachusetts and Eastern Maine.
Bette Midler had harsh words for the governor of West Virginia after he showed his dog’s backside at the end of his State of the State speech, in a bizarre rejoinder to the actor, singer and activist.
Responding on Thursday to a tweet in which Midler called West Virginia “poor, illiterate and strung out”, the Republican Jim Justice said she could kiss his dog’s “hiney”.
On Friday, Midler retweeted a picture of the stunt with the caption: “Here we can see a dog’s asshole. Right next to it is the butt of Jim Justice’s dog.”
Midler also tweeted: “Here are the state rankings of all the areas and agencies for which the so-called ‘governor’ of West Virginia, Jim Justice, is responsible. Judging from these rankings, I’d say his dog’s ass would make a better governor than him!”
The graphic, from US News and World Report, showed Virginia scoring poorly in healthcare, education, economy and other categories and 47th overall among the 50 US states. The state tends to score poorly in such rankings.
Justice, 70, a coalmining magnate who was elected as a Democrat, is an eccentric figure who often uses his English bulldog, Babydog, as a political prop. His State of the State speech, at the capitol in Charleston, was delayed after he contracted Covid-19.
Midler angered the governor with comments prompted by her own anger towards the West Virginia senator Joe Manchin.
Manchin, a Democrat, recently sank Joe Biden’s Build Back Better spending plan, then stood in the way of Senate reform to facilitate the passage of voting rights protections.
“What Joe Manchin, who represents a population smaller than Brooklyn, has done to the rest of America, who wants to move forward, not backward, like his state, is horrible,” Midler tweeted.
“He sold us out. He wants us all to be just like his state, West Virginia. Poor, illiterate and strung out.”
She later apologized to “the good people” of West Virginia.
Agencies contributed to this reporting.
Today so far
- A bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh, the city with the most bridges in the entire country, just hours before Joe Biden was set to travel to the city to tout the $1tn bipartisan infrastructure law that will fund the improvement of bridges and roadways across the country.
- In Pittsburgh, Biden took a detour to visit the collapse site and made a point to speak about the 45,000 bridges in the US rated in poor condition. “That is simply just unacceptable,” he said.
- The New York City mayor’s office is asking all New Yorkers who came in contact with Sarah Palin to test for Covid-19 after the unvaccinated former Alaska governor, whose positive test delayed her defamation trial against the New York Times earlier this week, went out to eat at several Upper East Side restaurants despite her positive status.
- The Bidens welcomed a pet cat named Willow to the White House.
News of justice Stephen Breyer retiring from the supreme court is having a ripple effect on the Senate:
For more on the leading contenders to succeed Breyer:
Andrew Hitt, the former chair of the Wisconsin Republican party, has issued a statement saying he is will cooperate with a subpoena issued by the House select committee tasked with investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol:
Joe Biden made a little slip in his Pittsburgh address when it came to Pennsylvania politics:
Congressman Conor Lamb and John Fetterman, lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, are among the Democratic frontrunners in the senate race.
Even though his Pittsburgh trip began with a disaster of a bridge collapse, this address in the home state of Joe Biden was overall always going to be positive: there have been 367,000 manufacturing jobs created since Biden took office, something sure to go over well in a manufacturing town like Pittsburgh.
And with the bridge collapse, Biden could hammer home the importance of the $1tn bipartisan infrastructure law, which has been one of the biggest achievements of his legislative agenda yet.
“Right here in Pittsburgh, the future is being built on this city’s storied past,” Biden said. “We know what happens when we stop investing in places like Pittsburgh.”
It’s a bit of a homecoming for Joe Biden in Pittsburgh, who grew up not far away in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The lack of fatalities and life-threatening injuries from the earlier bridge collapse has given him the opportunity to have some fun, and he’s taken on a jovial tone, joking with the crowd about the renamed “Joe Biden Way” expressway.
“I’m coming home,” Biden said. “I’m coming home.”
Biden: It’s ‘about time’ we upgrade and maintain our bridges
Joe Biden began his remarks in Pittsburgh by addressing the bridge collapse that took place earlier that day, noting that it had been rated in poor condition for more than 10 years. He pointed out that in Pennsylvania alone, there are “3,300 bridges here in Pennsylvania – some of which are just as old and in just as decrepit condition as that bridge was, including in Pittsburgh, the city of bridges.”
“Across the country there are 45,000 bridges in poor condition,” Biden said. “That is simply just unacceptable. That is why your governor, your members of Congress and your mayor has been saying for years.
He continued: “I’ve talked about it every time I’ve come to Pittsburgh, and we finally got it done: a bipartisan infrastructure law, including the largest investment in our nation’s bridges since Eisenhower put together the interstate highway system.”
Joe Biden was originally scheduled to begin delivering his remarks on the economy and the $1tn bipartisan infrastructure law at Carnegie Mellon University about an hour ago, but his Pittsburgh trip has been upended after bridge collapsed just hours before his arrival.
He made a trip to visit the collapsed bridge, which officials said had been in need of repair for some time. Under the new infrastructure law, Pennsylvania has $1.63bn of federal funds specifically earmarked for bridge improvements.
The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland and Julian Borger discuss Joe Biden’s strategy when it comes to potential war with Russia over Ukraine, as well as some potentially good news at home for the president as he gets the chance to nominate a liberal pick to the supreme court:
Some more striking pictures from the scene of the Pittsburgh bridge collapse:
Biden visits scene of Pittsburgh bridge collapse
Joe Biden visited the site of the collapsed bridge in Pittsburgh on Friday, hours after the structure fell while cars and a bus were traveling along it.
Biden is on a pre-planned trip to Pittsburgh to promote his $1tn infrastructure initiative, which he signed into law in November after it passed through Congress with exceptionally rare bipartisan support.
The president met with first responders and surveyed the empty space where the Forbes Avenue bridge once stood. There were no fatalities.
“If this would have occurred an hour later, this is a road that gets probably about 15,000 cars on it a day, and if it was rush hour, we would be looking at a couple hundred cars down in that valley,” Corey O’Connor, a Pittsburgh city council member, said earlier in the day.
“We got very, very lucky today, and hopefully those individuals at the hospital recover quickly and they’re home safe in the next couple days.”
The $1tn infrastructure bill is designed to inject vastly needed resources into the repair of the country’s roads, railways, drinking water and bridges. Under the scheme, Pennsylvania is earmarked for $1.63bn of federal funds specifically for bridge improvements.
Biden arrives in Pittsburgh to speak on infrastructure hours after bridge collapse
Joe Biden has touched down on the tarmac at an airport on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, as he prepares to promote his infrastructure package hours after an early-morning bridge collapse just a few miles from where he is scheduled to speak.
The president told reporters “we’re going to see the bridge,” after descending the steps from Air Force One.
White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that the president spoke with Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf and Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey before taking off and offered federal support.
“Our team remains in touch with state and local officials on the ground on updates and any additional assistance we can provide,” she said.
Congressman Pat Fallon, a Republican from Texas, has introduced a joint resolution to implement term limits for Congress.
Biden administration meeting with banks to discuss possible Russia sanctions
Bloomberg is reporting that the Biden administration has been meeting with the the country’s largest banks on possible sanctions against Russia.
As tensions continue to rise at the Ukraine border, members of the national security council and other senior administration officials spoke with executives from banks including Citigroup, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Goldman Sachs Group.
One focus of the discussions has been on a package that would include targeting Moscow’s ability to convert currency. Officials have also been voicing concerns about triggering a possible repeat of 2018, when sanctions against Russia disrupted the global supply chain for aluminum and sent prices for the metal soaring 30%.
Defense secretary Lloyd Austin will host a joint press conference with joint chief of staff chair Mark Milley later today.
A 2019 law allowing anyone in Pennsylvania to vote by mail is unconstitutional, a state court ruled on Friday.
The ruling is likely to quickly be appealed to the state supreme court and will be paused as the body decides whether to take up the case. Nonetheless, it is a hugely significant decision in a key swing states where a record 2.6m people voted by mail in the 2020 election. Donald Trump has railed against mail-in voting in the state, even though there is no evidence of widespread fraud or wrongdoing.
In a 3-2 ruling, judges on the Pennsylvania commonwealth court ruled that no-excuse absentee voting was prohibited by several provisions in the state’s constitution that outline the conduct of elections. One of those provisions lays out the specific conditions under which someone may vote absentee, cites absence from their home on election day, as well as illness, physical disabilities and a religious exemption. Another provision says “all elections by the citizens shall be by ballot or by such other method as may be prescribed by law.”
The court ruled that those provisions meant that the state legislature could not make it so that anyone could vote by mail without an excuse.
“A constitutional amendment must be presented to the people and adopted into our fundamental law before legislation authorizing no-excuse mail-in voting can “be placed upon our statute books,” Mary Hannah Leavitt wrote for the majority.
But the two dissenting judges argued that the constitution does authorize the legislature to enact no-excuse absentee voting. The provision that says elections must be conducted by ballot “ or by such other method as may be prescribed by law,” authorizes it, they said.
“The General Assembly is constitutionally empowered to enact Act 77 to provide for qualified and registered electors present in their municipality of residence on an election day to vote by no excuse mail-in ballot,” they wrote.
The newly inaugurated conservative administration of Virginia continues to make waves, with the attorney general today issuing an opinion that public state universities cannot mandate the Covid-19 vaccine as a condition for enrollment or in-person attendance.
Reminder that prior to the pandemic, public schools across the country have required some form vaccine for a number of illnesses, including measles, mumps and rubella.
The New York City mayor’s office is asking any New Yorkers who came in contact with former Alaska governor Sarah Palin to get tested for Covid-19, the Gothamist is reporting.
This comes after the unvaccinated Palin tested positive ahead of her defamation trial against The New York Times, postponing proceedings – and then went on to dine at multiple restaurants on the Upper East Side.
In his State of the State address, Jim Justice, governor of West Virginia, told his haters – specifically, Bette Midler – to his kiss the “hiney” of his pet English bulldog, Babydog.
He then picked Babydog up and flipped her around so he could flash her posterior to the crowd.
“They told every bad joke in the world about us,” Justice said. “So from that standpoint, Babydog tells Bette Midler and all those out there: kiss her hiney.”
Justice’s beef with Midler goes back to an angry tweet she sent out last month about Joe Manchin, the senator from West Virginia, when he refused to support the Build Back Better bill in Congress. “He sold us out,” Midler wrote. “He wants us all to be just like his state, West Virginia. Poor, illiterate and strung out.”
She later tweeted an apology:
Justice Clarence Thomas is facing calls for his recusal in the case over race-based affirmative action in college admissions that the supreme court agreed this week to hear.
That’s because his conservative powerhouse wife, Ginni Thomas, sits on the board of the National Association of Scholars, which filed an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit accusing Harvard University admissions of being prejudiced against Asian students and stereotyping them as “uninteresting, uncreative and one-dimensional”.
Read more here:
The First Family has grown by a whisker: first lady Jill Biden tweeted today that the Bidens have fulfilled their promise to get a White House cat.
Willow the cat joins Commander Biden, a purebred German shepherd puppy who the Bidens first welcomed to the White House last month.
Commander’s German shepherd predecessors, Champ Biden, passed away in June at the age of 13 while Major Biden – a three-year-old rescue dog with two biting incidents under his collar – had to be rehomed permanently to a quieter environment.
Update on the bridge collapse in Pittsburgh: while authorities are now reporting that three people have been transported to the hospital for non-life threatening injuries, there appear to have been no fatalities.
As for the $1tn bipartisan infrastructure law that Joe Biden will be traveling to Pittsburgh to speak about later today:
White House press secretary Jen Psaki has gone on Twitter to say that the White House is in touch with state and local officials regarding the Pittsburgh bridge collapse. Joe Biden will proceed with his trip to the city as planned, she said.
Bridge collapses in Pittsburgh ahead of Biden’s infrastructure remarks
Joe Biden is heading to Pittsburgh today to deliver remarks about supply chains, manufacturing jobs and above all, the $1tn bipartisan infrastructure law that will go toward improving roadways and bridges across the country.
No doubt the bridge collapse will bolster Biden’s stance for why the infrastructure law was so necessary – an American Road and Transportation Builders Association analysis of the Department of Transportation’s 2020 national bridge inventory found that more than 220,000 bridges across the country are in need of repair, with 45,000 considered structurally deficient. That’s 36% – more than a third – of all bridges in the US.
But Punchbowl News is reporting that prior to the bridge collapse, Biden was focusing his remarks on economic growth, in particular on the 367,000 manufacturing jobs created since Biden took office. In talking about the infrastructure law, he was going to talk about how it has strengthened the supply chain.
We’ll see how his remarks will change with the bridge collapse – and if talking about what has been a feather in his legislative agenda should help with his approval ratings. A new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll had Biden’s approval was at 32-62 – not great.
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