Biden reads Brittney Griner’s plea for freedom
No word yet on if and how he’ll respond though. Plus: The latest on the Highland Park shooting and the origin story of the “We did it, Joe!” meme.
In a harrowing letter sent to President Joe Biden on the day dedicated to the nation’s independence, basketball star Brittney Griner petitioned for the leader of the free world to level up his efforts to restore her freedom.
“I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don't forget about me and the other detainees,” Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February after being accused of paraphernalia with traces of cannabis oil, wrote by hand to the Biden. “As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday told reporters that she was with the president when he read the letter and reaffirmed his commitment to exhaust every tool at his disposal to bring her home as quickly as possible safely.
Jean-Pierre did not speak share any details on the president’s emotions after he read the letter out of respect for the president’s privacy, she said. There were also scant particulars on if and how Biden will respond to the letter.
Griner’s wife Cherelle, who has been making the rounds to keep Brittney’s name in the news cycle, wants a meeting with President Biden. But there’s been little indication her wish will be granted anytime soon. Instead, the White House has connected her with officials like National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, with whom she spoke on Saturday, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
To those close to Griner, including her WNBA coach Vanessa Nygaard, this reflects a discouraging double standard.
“If it was LeBron [James], he'd be home, right?” Nygaard asked. “It’s a statement about the value of women. It’s a statement about the value of a Black person. It’s a statement about the value of a gay person. All of those things. We know it, and so that’s what hurts a little more.”
Jean-Pierre pushed back against this characterization and said bringing Brittney home is a top priority for his administration.
“I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore,” Griner wrote in her letter. “I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.”
Griner is due back in court this Thursday. If she’s convicted, she could face 10 years in a Russian prison.
The latest on the Highland Park shooting
Local officials have been updating the public on the progress of their investigation into the July 4th mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois at a rapid pace.
As I was about to send this post, the suspect in the shooting was charged with seven counts of first-degree murder, according to the Lake County state’s attorney’s office — with dozens of more charges expected. Here are more recent developments from Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department:
The death toll has risen by one from seven to six. 30 more people were injured by gunfire during the attack, all of whom were transported to the hospital or self-transported for treatment.
The suspect, who will turn 22 this September and is thought to have planned the shooting for weeks, dressed as a woman to conceal his identity. This allowed him to blend in with the crowd as they fled the scene. He escaped to his mother’s house after the shooting and left in her car — there’s no indication he told her about what he’d allegedly just done.
The weapons he purchased, including the high-powered rifle he used during the attack and the one located in his vehicle when he was arrested, were purchased legally. He fired at least 70 rounds into the crowd at random.
By all indications, it appears the suspect was acting by himself. He is still in custody as investigators and the state’s attorney’s office continue to review the information they’ve gathered. He had no prior crime-related interactions with the police.
President Joe Biden is scheduled to travel to Ohio tomorrow afternoon to promote his economic agenda but there are currently no plans for him to travel to visit Chicago, which is about 345 miles away from Cleveland by car — according to my homie Siri. Jean-Pierre noted that the president issued a statement, spoke about the shooting twice last night and held a moment of silence, for what it’s worth. (The White House said Biden also currently does not plan to visit Akron, where Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old Black man was killed during a foot chase following what law enforcement officials said was an attempted traffic stop that ended with officers firing more than 90 bullets at Walker.)
Vice President Kamala Harris is currently in Chicago to speak at a conference for the National Education Association. But while en route, a White House official said there were no changes to her schedule although she’s expected to share remarks on the shooting during the speech. Harris connected with Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois and Democratic Mayor Nancy Rotering of Highland Park to discuss the mass shooting while traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago.
The WH sidesteps questions on anti-abortion judge
Politics Twitter was abuzz last week after reports surfaced that President Biden brokered a deal with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to nominate Chad Meredith, a conservative anti-abortion lawyer to a lifetime appointment to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, in exchange for McConnell’s commitment to no longer hold up Biden’s future federal nominations.
Jean-Pierre, the White House spokesperson, declined on multiple occasions during Monday afternoon’s press briefing to speak on the reports. She cited each time an administration policy to not speak on open judgeships with open vacancies.
The potential nomination has earned the ire of Kentucky Democrats, including Rep. John Yarmuth who said he was completely blindsided by the move, which he called a huge mistake last week and Gov. Andy Beshear whose office apparently leaked the email from the White House announcing President Biden’s plan to nominate MeredithJune 24 — the Friday that Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. (Jean-Pierre declined to confirm if the Biden announcement was scheduled for that day.)
It also doesn’t help that the administration’s response to the Supreme Court decision has frustrated Democrats who feel as though the White House should have countered with aggressive executive actions and forceful rhetoric that rose to the level of the party’s indignation.
But inside the administration, officials are exasperated by what they feel are expectations that are misaligned with reality. The long-term remedy in their minds through elections
No matter how true it may be, this argument just won’t fly with voters who expected more from a federal government that technically is under Democratic leadership despite slim margins in both chambers and two senators who gain more from defying the party on its economic agenda than cooperating with it. It doesn’t help that many of these voters have been conditioned to expect instant gratification in a system designed to offer anything but.
During Tuesday’s briefing, eight pro-choice advocacy groups released a joint statement against Meredith’s possible nomination to a lifetime judgeship, pointing to his record on abortion and their belief that we’re in this moment because anti-abortion judges were intentionally nominated at every level to restrict access to abortion care.
“We are in a national abortion crisis. Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, states have already moved to ban and restrict abortion access — including Kentucky,” the organizations said in the statement. [The nomination] is unacceptable at any time, but especially on the heels of six Supreme Court justices taking away a fundamental right from millions of people.”
Jean-Pierre declined to comment when asked if President Biden would commit to not nominating anti-choice judges going forward.
Harris reveals the “We did it, Joe!” origin story
On a final note, Vice President Harris traveled to New Orleans over the long weekend to attend the ESSENCE Festival and participate in a fireside conversation with Keke Palmer, the Emmy Award-winning actress, leading millennial voice and star of some of my favorite memes.
Speaking of memes, few were as popular last year as the “We did it, Joe!” gif that instantly earned viral status. And now we finally have the story behind the iconic meme’s origin.
The vice president told Palmer that she and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, who were staying in Delaware to be near the Bidens while they waited for the election to be officially decided, had just finished their morning workout. As Emhoff kept walking to cool down, Harris returned to the house to take a shower.
“I’m just going to give you all kinds of information you weren’t expecting,” Harris said, as she narrated the moment she received a text with the news that the race was declared:
I ran downstairs. I didn’t even turn off shower. I ran downstairs. And I come out the house, “Doug! Doug!” I’m trying to find my husband. He’s down the hall — or down the pathway, and he’s got his earbuds in. So I’m they’re saying, “They called the race.” And I’m waving at him. And he’s just waving back because he’s listening to music. (Laughs.)
He’s just waving back. And then he came up. And then the President called — Joe Biden called. And so that meme is from my husband standing there videotaping me having the call with the President. That’s what that was.
Harris went on to discuss the implications of the overturning of Roe v. Wade for women of color and those without the means to travel across state lines for abortion care. She spoke about her work on maternal health and how the administration is working to lower gas prices and the cost of food. The vice president also highlighted the work of young activists on the frontlines to advance civil rights, environmental justice and voting rights.
“Here’s what I would encourage folks to do who want to be more active. First of all, use your voice to talk to the people in your life — your family members, your neighbors, the people you work with — about how issues are impacting you,” Harris said. “Speak that in a way that people understand that you have an immediate investment in the outcome of the issue.”
The crowd at ESSENCE Fest was the largest audience the vice president had spoken to since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe and Harris’s first time back at the festival since the beginning of the administration.
After the conversation with Palmer, the vice president also met with the leaders of reproductive justice organizations.
In the Know
— Democrats raised $80 million within one week of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Party officials want these funds to go electing state and local pro-choice candidates though instead of to national campaigns. (Brian Slodysko / AP News)
— Private nonprofit institutions are overrepresented among graduate programs with high debt-to-earnings ratios. Three degree types — social work; clinical, counseling and applied psychology; and mental and social health services — account for nearly half of these programs, while public universities, manage to offer a broad range with much lower loan burdens. (Jason D. Delisle and Jason Cohn / Urban Institute)
Read All About It
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— Bryce Covert on America after the eviction moratorium: “The long-predicted nationwide wave of lockouts is finally cresting.”
— Abha Bhattarai on how inflation is making homelessness worse: “Rising prices and soaring rents are taking their toll across the country.”
— Mara Gay on the Republican war on sex: “One day I hope to become a mother. But for now, I have sex just because I like it. Sex is fun. For the puritanical tyrants seeking to control our bodies, that’s a problem.”
— Related: Amanda Gardner on things to know about the clitoris for people looking to maximize pleasure: “The clitoris is the body’s only organ with pleasure as its sole function. The more you know about it, the more satisfaction you and any partners will get out of it.”
— Jonathan Chait on why the Democratic Party needs better moderate politicians:“The centrists have lots of complaints but no solutions.”
— Emilia Petrarca on how to survive the 2022 wedding season: “Since Memorial Day, my feed has been a constant stream of wedding content. But it’s only the beginning.”
— Emily Laber-Warren on why adults should support teen friendships: “Parents may be wary of peers who could steer their children toward risky behaviors, and research does suggest that hanging out with underage drinkers, rule-breakers or petty criminals can lead to trouble. But positive peer influences can be equally powerful. Studies have shown that children who develop supportive, trusting friendships with others their age are more likely to become healthy, happy and professionally successful adults.”
— Michael Gerson on why he will never live without a dog again: “In human relationships, the transforming presence of love is worth the inevitability of grief. Can dogs really love? Science might deny that the species possesses such complex emotions. But I know dogs can act in a loving fashion and provide love’s consolations. Which is all we really know about what hairless apes can manage in the love department as well.”
— Hannah Goldfield on learning to love an induction stove: “Cooking with fire feels ancestral, elemental, effective. Could there be a better way?”
— Allie Volpe on why being spontaneous and unstructured matters: “A looser schedule can allow for serendipity.”