Thursday's politics & policy stories

Former prosecutor indicted for misconduct in Ahmaud Arbery investigation

Protesters march in Boston as one holds up a painting of Ahmaud Arbery. Photo: Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A Georgia grand jury on Thursday indicted a former prosecutor on charges of misconduct related to the investigation into the death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced in a press release.

Why it matters: Arbery's death was one of the catalysts for nationwide Black Lives Matter protests last summer.

Here are the next states that could pass abortion bans after Texas

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Data: Axios Research; Map: Sara Wise/Axios

An abortion ban in Texas successfully went into effect, making the procedure illegal when cardiac activity is detected, usually as soon as six weeks and well before many people know they are pregnant.

The big picture: Over a dozen states have tried to enact laws similar to the near-total abortion ban in Texas, but they have mostly been blocked or struck down by federal or state judges. Now, with this current precedent, some of these states could try again.

Ousted Tennessee vaccine chief sues state officials for defamation over firing

Michelle Fiscus. Photo: William DeShazer for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Michelle Fiscus, Tennessee’s fired vaccine chief, filed a federal defamation lawsuit on Thursday, alleging state officials skewed facts and misled the public as part of a coordinated campaign to destroy her reputation.

The backdrop: Fiscus was fired in July after facing criticism from Republican lawmakers over messaging to teenagers about the COVID-19 vaccine. A public battle ensued over Fiscus and her job performance.

New York extends statewide eviction moratorium to January

People gather to call for a stop to evictions on Tuesday. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a law on Thursday to extend the statewide eviction moratorium to Jan. 15, 2022.

Why it matters: The new moratorium will continue to protect tenants struggling to pay rent because of the pandemic. More than 700,000 New York households are behind on rent, per the National Equity Atlas.

Sep 2, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Manchin to Democrats: "Hit the pause" on $3.5T reconciliation talks

Sen. Joe Manchin. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is urging his Democratic colleagues to "hit the pause button" on a $3.5 trillion spending bill, citing more urgent priorities like the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Why it matters: Democrats plan to pass that legislation via the budget reconciliation process, paving the way for a massive infrastructure infusion without Republican votes. In a 50-50 Senate, they'll need every single Democrat's support, including Manchin's.

Alleged Capitol rioter sent back to jail after watching conspiracy theory event

A group interacts with police during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

An Iowa man charged with participating in the Capitol riot was sent back to jail Thursday after he was caught violating the terms of his release by streaming an event featuring election fraud conspiracy theories, according to court filings.

Driving the news: The suspect, Doug Jensen, spent six months in a Washington, D.C., jail before securing pretrial release in July after promising he had renounced his belief in QAnon and agreeing to abide by the court's order that he stay off the internet.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Sep 2, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Afghanistan's humanitarian paradox

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America stands ready to help the people of Afghanistan, while at the same time actively hindering the government of Afghanistan's ability to help its own citizens directly. That's the rather confused message sent by Secretary of State Tony Blinken in a major speech on Monday.

Why it matters: Afghanistan is a desperately poor country in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. There's no realistic way to get help to its citizens without the Taliban having some kind of access to that aid — they control the country, after all. But America's foreign policy seems to be predicated on that impossibility.

Dolores Huerta leans toward parole for Robert F. Kennedy's assassin

Dolores Huerta ( in red) stands next to Robert F. Kennedy before he was fatally shot on June 5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Photo: Frank Carroll/NBC NewsWire

Dolores Huerta, the Mexican American civil rights leader who stood next to Robert F. Kennedy moments before his assassination, told Axios Latino it's probably a "good thing" his convicted assassin may be granted parole after more than a half-century in prison.

The big picture: The California Parole Board recommended last week the release of Sirhan Sirhan, 77, sparking a public split among Kennedy family members.

Biden taps Cedric Richmond to lead Hurricane Ida response

Cedric Richmond and President Biden at a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on July 22. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden on Thursday said his administration is "working around the clock" to respond to damage from Hurricane Ida, which made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane on Sunday.

Driving the news: Biden said White House senior adviser and director of the Office of Public Engagement Cedric Richmond would lead Hurricane Ida recovery efforts. Richmond was a Louisiana congressman for 10 years.

Pelosi: House will vote to codify Roe v. Wade to counter Texas abortion ban

Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) slammed the Supreme Court's "cowardly, dark-of-night decision" to allow Texas' ban on most abortions to remain in place on Thursday, vowing to pass the Women's Health Protection Act when the House returns from recess.

Why it matters: The bill would "enshrine into law reproductive health care for all women across America," Pelosi said, codifying Roe v. Wade. The legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate, however, where it is unlikely to have enough votes to overcome the 60-vote filibuster.

Biden blasts Supreme Court's "unprecedented assault" on abortion rights

President Biden in the White House on Sept. 1. Photo: Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images

President Biden condemned the Supreme Court's decision to allow Texas' ban on most abortions to remain in place as "an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights," pledging to launch a "whole-of-government" effort to protect access to safe and legal abortion in the state.

Why it matters: The ban, which took effect Wednesday, is the most restrictive abortion law to be enforced since the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.

"Stunning": Read the dissents on the Supreme Court Texas abortion ban ruling

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sonia Sotomayor in 2013. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to leave the Texas ban on most abortions in place, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the three liberal judges in the dissent.

Why it matters: The Texas law is the most restrictive abortion ban allowed to be enforced since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision enshrined abortion as a constitutional right. The Supreme Court decision will likely prompt other states to pass similar laws, reproductive rights groups say.

Virginia Supreme Court clears way for removal of Lee statue in Richmond

An 8-foot fence was erected around the Robert E. Lee monument on Jan. 25, in Richmond, Va. Photo: Eze Amos/Getty Images

The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled on Thursday that the state can remove a six-story-tall statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia.

Why it matters: The 130-year-old, 60-foot-tall statue will be the latest Confederate monument to come down. Proponents of its removal say such statues pay deference to America's legacy of slavery and racism.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Sep 2, 2021 - Energy & Environment

U.S.-China tensions spill into climate talks

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Chinese officials have used special climate envoy John Kerry's visit to warn the U.S. that mutual work on climate change can't be untethered from other tensions between the two powers.

Driving the news: "The Sino-U.S. climate change cooperation cannot be separated from the overall environment of Sino-U.S. relations," the country's foreign ministry said.

Updated Sep 2, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Texas banned abortion after 6 weeks. Here’s what happens next

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The most restrictive abortion ban in the U.S. went into effect in Texas on Wednesday, effectively making the procedure illegal after six weeks — well before many women know they are pregnant.

Details: The Texas law does not provide any exceptions for rape or incest. It also allows for people to sue anyone suspected of helping a person to obtain an abortion, regardless of whether they have a direct relationship with the person or not. Those who are successful can be awarded at least $10,000.

Jan. 6 select committee elevates Liz Cheney to vice chair

Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool via Xinhua via Getty Images

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chair of the House select committee in charge of investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, announced Thursday that he has named Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as vice chair.

Why it matters: Cheney, who was already the committee's top Republican, is now the panel's second-ranking member, an unusual move for a committee dominated by Democrats due to House GOP leadership's refusal to participate.

Exclusive: New boss for government's tech "SWAT team"

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Courtesy the Office of Management and Budget

Mina Hsiang will lead the U.S. Digital Service, the Office of Management and Budget told Axios Thursday, as the Biden administration beefs up its cadre of technological special forces tasked with solving problems across the federal government.

Why it matters: Washington is preparing to spend trillions in infrastructure money allocated by the president's top-priority legislation, and building and tuning the digital systems for those programs will demand know-how.

Updated Sep 2, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court allows Texas abortion ban to remain in place

Abortion rights advocates protest against the Texas law at the state Capitol in Austin in May. Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

The Supreme Court allowed Texas' ban on most abortions in the state to remain in place in a 5-4 vote late Wednesday, rejecting an emergency application by reproductive rights groups to block the restrictive law.

Why it matters: The law, which took effect earlier Wednesday, is the most restrictive abortion ban allowed to be enforced since the Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. Reproductive rights groups fear the court's decision will prompt other states to pass similar laws.

First look: Beto launching "drive-to-you" voter registration tool

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Former congressman and presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke is launching a new voter registration tool on Thursday, which will allow eligible Texans to register to vote right at home by deploying volunteers to their houses when requested.

Why it matters: The announcement comes just two days after the Republican-controlled Texas legislature passed a bill widely criticized by Democrats and voting rights activists for making it more difficult for some Texans to vote.

Prosecutors: Capitol rioters committed over 1,000 assaults on police

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces on their way to storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

Video footage shows that rioters committed more than 1,000 assaults against police officers during the U.S. Capitol insurrection, according to a court filing by prosecutors Wednesday.

Why it matters: The statistic highlights the level of violence police faced trying to defend the Capitol and lawmakers who were inside the building certifying the Electoral College vote for President Biden on Jan. 6.

Top general: It's "possible" U.S. will coordinate with Taliban on ISIS-K strikes

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a press briefing Sept. 1. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a press briefing Wednesday that it's "possible" that the U.S. will coordinate with the Taliban to conduct airstrikes against ISIS-K in Afghanistan.

Why it matters: The U.S. has coordinated with Taliban commanders to evacuate Americans and Afghans out of the country. But administration officials have emphasized that it has been out of shared interest, and doesn't mean they "trust' the insurgents.