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Trump Criticizes FBI Investigation Into “Trump Train” Convoy

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  • Texas Democrats canceled three campaign events on Friday citing “safety concerns ” after a convoy of Trump supporters surrounded a Biden-Harris tour bus.
  • In one dramatic moment, an SUV carrying at least one campaign staffer and a truck with pro-Trump flags briefly collided into one another. While local law enforcement did not issue any traffic violations, the FBI is now investigating the incident.
  • President Donald Trump criticized the FBI investigation on Sunday, calling his supporters “patriots” and claiming that the convoy was “protecting” the tour bus, even though those supporters claimed the goal was to run the bus out of Texas.
  • “Folks, that’s not who we are,” Democratic challenger Joe Biden said in response to Trump’s comments. “We are so much better than this. We’re so much better than this. It’s not who we are.”

Biden Tour Bus Surrounded in “Trump Train”

President Donald Trump is defending his supporters who formed a convoy around a Biden campaign tour bus in Texas on Friday. In a Twitter post on Sunday, he called those supporters “patriots” and criticized the FBI for launching an investigation into the stunt. 

“In my opinion, these patriots did nothing wrong,” the president wrote. “Instead, the FBI & Justice should be investigating the terrorists, anarchists, and agitators of ANTIFA, who run around burning down our Democrat run cities and hurting our people!”

As the situation began to unfold Friday afternoon, some supporters in the caravan promoted the stunt on social media, with many dubbing it the “Trump train.”

“Trolling is FUN!!” one post reads. “Join us in #SanAntonio to escort the Biden Bus coming through San Antonio. We are on the bridges & will intercept at Walters/I35!!” 

In a subsequent video, a number of vehicles can be seen surrounding that bus, many of them sporting Trump campaign flags. According to a campaigner who spoke to people on the bus, those Trump supporters began honking their horns and shouting, 

The Biden campaign has also claimed that multiple trucks pulled in front of the bus and tried to slow it down. 

In another video, a woman in that convoy calls the stunt “hilarious” and says that it is running the tour bus out of Texas. Moments later, she expresses pure shock when she sees an SUV and a truck directly behind the tour bus colliding into each other briefly.

Neither of those vehicles reportedly pulled over, and it is still unknown what prompted them to run into each other; however, it has since been confirmed that the SUV was a staff member vehicle with the Biden campaign. 

While neither Democratic candidate Joe Biden nor running mate Kamala Harris were on the tour bus, Texas Congressional candidate and former state senator Wendy Davis (D) reportedly was.

Following the incident, Texas Democrats canceled three campaign events that had been scheduled for Friday, citing “safety concerns.” 

What are Trump and Biden Saying?

Tariq Thowfeek, Texas communications director for the Biden campaign, immediately condemned the “Trump train” incident.

“Rather than engage in productive conversation about the drastically different visions that Joe Biden and Donald Trump have for our country,” he said, “Trump supporters in Texas [Friday] instead decided to put our staff, surrogates, supporters, and others in harm’s way.”

According to The Texas Tribune, Texas GOP Chairman Allen West was dismissive of the incident. 

“It is more fake news and propaganda,” he said. “Prepare to lose… stop bothering me.”

Naomi Narvaiz, another Texas GOP official, told the Tribune, “We decided we would jump on 35 to show support for our president. I didn’t see anyone being overly aggressive.”

“We sent the @JoeBiden @KamalaHarris bus out of Hays [County]!” Narvaiz said on Twitter. “Your kind aren’t welcome here!” 

On Saturday, Trump endorsed the “Trump train,” saying on Twitter: “I LOVE TEXAS!”

On Sunday, he also spun the story a much different way in front of his supporters while at a campaign rally.

“Did you see the way our people, they were, ya know, protecting this bus… because they’re nice. They had hundreds of cars. Trump! Trump! Trump and the American flag,” he said.

To be clear, there is no evidence that this convoy was aiming to protect the Biden bus. In fact, many of those supporters have outright claimed themselves that they were trying to run this bus out of town.

Following Trump’s comments, Biden himself addressed the situation, saying at an event in Pennsylvania, “Folks, that’s not who we are. We are so much better than this. We’re so much better than this. It’s not who we are.” 

FBI Now Investigating “Trump Train”

As far as the collision from that incident goes, Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler, a Republican up for re-election this year, said that the Biden campaign failed to notify his office it would be passing through the county. Because of that, Cutler said law enforcement was not prepared for any possible confrontations,

“The planning of this was questionable,” he said of the Biden campaign.

Cutler’s response has drawn wider criticism, especially as Democratic officials argue that the “Trump train” was the one creating a dangerous situation. 

No police or sheriff’s departments in the area has filed any traffic violation citations; however, as of Saturday, the FBI now says it’s investigating the collision, but so far, no other details have been released. 

See what others are saying: (The Texas Tribune) (The New York Post) (USA Today)

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Judges Uphold North Carolina’s Congressional Map in Major GOP Win

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The judges agreed that the congressional map was “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting” but said they did not have the power to intervene in legislative matters.


New Maps Upheld

A three-judge panel in North Carolina upheld the state’s new congressional and legislative maps on Tuesday, deciding it did not have the power to respond to arguments that Republicans had illegally gerrymandered it to benefit them.

Voting rights groups and Democrats sued over the new maps, which were drawn by the state’s Republican legislature following the 2020 census.

The maps left Democrats with just three of North Carolina’s 14 congressional seats in a battleground state that is more evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Previously, Democrats held five of the 13 districts the state had before the last census, during which North Carolina was allocated an additional seat.

The challengers argued that the blatantly partisan maps had been drawn in a way that went against longstanding rules, violated the state’s Constitution, and intentionally disenfranchised Black voters.

In their unanimous ruling, the panel — composed of one Democrat and two Republicans — agreed that both the legislative and congressional maps were “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting.”

The judges added that they had “disdain for having to deal with issues that potentially lead to results incompatible with democratic principles and subject our state to ridicule.”

Despite their beliefs, the panel said they did not have a legal basis for intervening in political matters and constraining the legislature. They additionally ruled that the challengers did not prove their claims that the maps were discriminatory based on race.

Notably, the judges also stated that partisan gerrymandering does not actually violate the state’s Constitution. 

The Path Ahead

While the decision marks a setback to the plaintiffs, the groups have already said they will appeal the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court.

The state’s highest court has a slim Democratic majority and has already signaled they may be open to tossing the map.

There are also past precedents for voting maps to be thrown out in North Carolina. The state has an extensive history of legal battles over gerrymandering, and Republican leaders have been forced to redraw maps twice in recent years.

A forthcoming decision is highly anticipated, as North Carolina’s congressional map could play a major role in the control of the House in the 2022 midterm elections if they are as close as expected. 

See what others are saying: (Politico) (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal)

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Biden Administration Says Private Insurers Will Have to Cover 8 At-Home Tests a Month

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The policy will apply to all the nearly 150 million Americans who have private insurance.


New At-Home Testing Policy

The Biden administration announced Monday that private health insurers will now be required to pay for up to eight at-home rapid tests per plan member each month.

Under the new policy, starting Saturday, private insurance holders will be able to purchase any at-home test approved by the FDA at a pharmacy or online. They will either not be asked to pay any upfront costs or be reimbursed for their purchase through their provider.

The move is expected to significantly expand access to rapid tests that other countries have been distributing to their citizens free of charge for months. 

According to reports, nearly 150 million Americans — about 45% of the population — have private insurance. 

Each dependent enrolled on the primary insurance holder’s account is counted as a member. That means a family of four enrolled on a single plan would be eligible for 32 free at-home rapid tests a month.

Potential Exemptions

All tests may not be fully covered depending on where they are purchased. 

In order to help offset costs, the Biden administration is incentivizing insurance providers to establish a network of “preferred” pharmacies and stores where people in the plan can get tests without paying out of pocket.

As a result, health plans that do create those networks will only be required to reimburse up to $12 per test if they are purchased out of that network, meaning people could be on the hook for the rest of the cost.

If an insurer does not set up a preferred network, they will have to cover all at-home tests in full regardless of the place of purchase.

During a briefing Monday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said tests should be “out the door in the coming weeks.”

“The contracts [for testing companies] are structured in a way to require that significant amounts are delivered on an aggressive timeline, the first of which should be arriving early next week,” she added.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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Biden Administration Unveils Plan To Replace All Lead Pipes

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The effort builds on the $15 billion allocated under the bipartisan infrastructure bill for lead pipe replacement, but industry leaders say $60 billion will be needed for nationwide revitalization.


White House Outlines Actions on Lead Pipes and Paint

The Biden administration rolled out a sweeping plan on Thursday to remove all the nation’s lead pipes over the next decade and take other steps to prevent lead paint contamination.

Lead, which was commonly used in piping for municipal water systems all over the country until it was banned in 1978, is a dangerous neurotoxin that can cause serious nervous system damage, especially in children.

Contamination from lead pipes seeping into water supplies has caused multiple high-profile public health and environmental catastrophes over the last decade, including the notorious crisis in Flint, Michigan.

According to a White House factsheet, an estimated 10 million households are connected to water through lead pipes. Children and teenagers in 400,000 schools and child care facilities also risk exposure to lead-contaminated water.

“Because of inequitable infrastructure development and disinvestment, low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to these risks,” the factsheet stated.

To address those disparities and revitalize water systems across the nation, the White House outlined 15 new action items the Biden administration is taking, including:

  • Launching “a new regulatory process to protect communities from lead in drinking water” through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • Clarifying that state, local, and Tribal governments can use the $350 billion aid allocated under the American Rescue Plan to replace lead service lines.
  • Establishing federally-operated regional technical assistance hubs “to fast track lead service line removal projects in partnership with labor unions and local water agencies.”
  • Awarding federal grants through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to remove lead paint in low-income communities.
  • Directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand childhood lead testing.
  • Establishing “a new Cabinet Level Partnership for Lead Remediation in Schools and Child Care Centers.”

The White House also said it will direct the EPA to allocate $3 billion for state, local, and Tribal governments to replace lead pipes through funding that was approved under the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden last month.

A Matter of Funding

In total, Congress provided $15 billion to revitalize the nation’s lead-pipe systems under the infrastructure bill. 

However, industry experts have estimated that it will cost $60 billion to entirely overhaul all the remaining lead pipes in the U.S.

As a result, the Biden administration has proposed several additional funding mechanisms in the social safety net package, known as the Build Back Better Act, that is currently being negotiated by Congress.

Specifically, the legislation would set aside $9 billion for lead remediation grants to disadvantaged communities, $1 billion for rural water utilities to remove lead pipes, and $5 billion for mitigation efforts such as removing lead-based water fixtures in low-income households.

The Build Back Better Act would additionally provide $65 billion for public housing agencies and $5 billion for other federally-assisted housing organizations to improve housing quality, including by replacing lead pipes and service lines.

The status of that legislation, as well as what provisions will remain in the final version, remain in limbo. While Democratic leadership has pushed to pass the sweeping social bill before the new year, all 50 of the party’s members in the Senate will need to sign on, and moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has continued to withhold his support.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Axios) (The Washington Post)

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