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House Democrats Unveil Sweeping Policing Legislation, Enabling Easier Prosecution Of Officers

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(CBS News) House Democrats unveiled legislation Monday morning to offer a blueprint for reforming policing policies in what is expected to be a massive bill focusing on holding law enforcement officers accountable for any misconduct and increasing transparency. The bill comes amid nationwide protests in response to the death of George Floyd

The bill, led by the Congressional Black Caucus, was announced in a press conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, and other congressional Democrats on Monday morning. The bill is 136 pages, and includes reforms to make it easier to prosecute police officers for misconduct in civil court. Text of the bill, called the Justice in Policing Act 2020, was provided to CBS News by a House Democratic staffer.

Before rolling out their sweeping police reform measure, Democrats kneeled in silence in Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol for eight minutes and 46 seconds to honor Floyd and other African-Americans who have died at the hands of law enforcement.

“The world is witnessing the birth of a new movement in our country,” Congresswoman Karen Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said during a press conference, adding that “a profession where you have the power to kill should be a profession that requires highly trained officers who are accountable to the public.”

Bass said the package has more than 200 cosponsors in the House and Senate.

“This moment of national anguish is being transformed into a movement of national action as Americans from across the country peacefully protest to demand an end to injustice,” Pelosi said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the bill to the Senate floor for debate and a vote before July.

“Americans who took to the streets this week have demanded change,” he said. “With this legislation, Democrats are heeding their calls.”

The bill would amend the requirement of intent in the federal criminal statute to prosecute police misconduct, by changing the standard of prosecution from “willfulness” to “recklessness.” It would also reform qualified immunity, meaning that individuals would be able to recover damages when their constitutional rights are violated by law enforcement officers.

The bill aims to implement structural reforms at the Justice Department by granting the department’s Civil Rights Division subpoena power. The bill would also incentivize state attorneys general to conduct pattern and practice investigations of local police departments, and provide grants for states to create structures for investigating police-involved deaths.

The legislation attempts to improve transparency by creating a National Police Misconduct Registry, and mandate state and local law enforcement turn over data on use of force broken out by race, gender, disability, religion and age.

The bill also aims to address cultural biases in police stations by mandating racial training. It would also change the standard for evaluating whether use of force was justified. Currently, officers only need to prove that use of force was reasonable. The bill would change the standard so that officers need to prove that use of force is necessary. The bill would also require that federal law enforcement officers wear body cameras, and limit transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.

It would ban no-knock warrants in drug cases, meaning that police officers could not barge into people’s homes without knocking first. Protesters have called for ending the practice after police officers in Louisville, Kentucky, shot and killed Breonna Taylor in her bed after entering her home on the basis of a no-knock warrant. The bill would also ban police chokeholds. Floyd died after he was pinned down by a police officer with a knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The bill includes a section that makes lynching a hate crime, after the Senate failed to pass an anti-lynching bill last week. It is unclear whether this package would receive support in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Some protesters have called for defunding police departments, but the House bill does not include any funding specifically for police departments and instead would implement grants to community organizations with the aim of building partnerships which allow for greater accountability.

President Trump has accused former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, of supporting this policy, although Biden has largely remained silent on that specific issue. In a speech last week, Biden called for chokeholds to be eliminated and for police training to be improved.

Read the proposed legislation, in its entirety, here or below.

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Trump Pardons Steve Bannon In One of His Final Acts As 45th President

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(CNN)— President Donald Trump has decided to pardon his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, in a last-minute decision made only hours before he is scheduled to depart the White House for a final time.

Officials cautioned CNN that Trump’s decision was not final until he signed the paperwork. Trump told people that after much deliberation, he had decided to pardon Bannon as one of his final acts in office.

Bannon’s pardon would follow a frantic scramble during the President’s final hours in office as attorneys and top aides debated his inclusion on Trump’s outgoing clemency list. Despite their falling out in recent years, Trump was eager to pardon his former aide after recently reconnecting with him as he helped fan Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election.

It was a far cry from when Trump exiled Bannon from his inner circle after he was quoted in a book trashing the President’s children, claiming that Donald Trump Jr. had been “treasonous” by meeting with a Russian attorney and labeling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick.” Those statements from Bannon drove Trump to issue a lengthy statement saying he had “lost his mind.”

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Trump said at the time.Things shifted in recent months as Bannon attempted to breach Trump’s inner circle once again by offering advice before the election and pushing his false theories after Trump had lost.

Since Trump’s election defeat, the President has leaned further into his expansive pardon powers — granting pardons to his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, longtime ally Roger Stone and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, among others.

Among Trump’s pardons earlier in his term were those for former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza and financier Michael Milken.

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California Governor Formally Appoints Alex Padilla To Fill US Senate Seat Vacated By Kamala Harris

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(CNN) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom formally submitted the appointment of Alex Padilla to the US Senate today, according to a press release from the governor’s office. 

Padilla formally resigned as Secretary of State this morning and Gov. Newsom also submitted his nomination letter for Assembly member Shirley Weber to replace him. The Deputy Secretary of State, James Schwab, will be the Acting Secretary of State.

“It is fitting that on the same day we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — a civil rights icon who fought for justice and representation — we also move forward the appointment of California’s first Latino U.S. Senator Alex Padilla and the nomination of Dr. Shirley Weber who will serve as the first-ever African American Secretary of State. Both will be strong defenders of our democracy during this fragile moment in our nation’s history,” said Gov. Newsom.

“I am humbled and honored by your trust in me to represent California in the United States Senate. I look forward to continuing to serve the great State of California as a United States Senator and to ensuring that the rights and democratic principles we cherish are protected and preserved for all people,” Padilla wrote in a letter to Gov. Newsom.

Some context: Earlier today, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris formally resigned her seat as one of California’s US Senators. She’ll be inaugurated as vice president on Wednesday, Jan. 20. In a farewell addressed posted to Twitter, Harris said, “Of course, I’m not saying goodbye. In many ways, I’m now saying hello as your vice president.”

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Capitol Police Arrests Man With ‘Unauthorized’ Inauguration Credential & Gun

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(New York Times) — The U.S. Capitol Police arrested a man at a security checkpoint in Washington on Friday after he flashed what an officer described as an “unauthorized” inauguration credential and a search of his truck found an unregistered handgun and more than 500 rounds of ammunition, the authorities said.

A federal law enforcement official said that the man, Wesley A. Beeler, 31, worked as a contractor, and that his credential was not fake, but was not recognized by the police officer. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the arrest.

Mr. Beeler’s father, Paul Beeler, said in an interview that his son was part of a security team working alongside the Capitol Police and the National Guard, and that his son must have simply left his personal gun in his truck. Wesley Beeler has an active private security license in Virginia and was approved to have a handgun, shotgun or patrol rifle while on assignments, according to a state website.

“It was an honest mistake,” Mr. Beeler told The Washington Post after being released on Saturday afternoon. He said he had been working a security job in Washington, was running late to work, and had forgotten that his firearm was in his truck. He denied having 500 rounds of ammunition, as listed in the police report.

“I pulled up to a checkpoint after getting lost in D.C. because I’m a country boy,” he told The Post. “I showed them the inauguration badge that was given to me.”

The arrest comes as law enforcement officials have tried to fortify Washington ahead of Inauguration Day on Wednesday, when they fear that extremists emboldened by the attack on the Capitol by President Trump’s supporters on Jan. 6 could seek to cause violence. A militarized “green zone” is being established downtown, National Guard members are flooding the city, and a metal fence has gone up around the Capitol grounds in advance of the swearing-in of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Beeler, of Front Royal, Va., had driven up to a security checkpoint less than half a mile from the Capitol grounds on Friday evening and presented “an unauthorized inauguration credential,” according to a statement from a Capitol Police officer filed in a District of Columbia court on Saturday. The officer, Roger Dupont, said that he had checked the credential against a list and found that it did not give Mr. Beeler authority to enter the restricted area.

A spokeswoman for the Capitol Police later described the credential that Mr. Beeler had shown as “nongovernment issued.”

Officers searched his truck, which had several gun-related bumper stickers, and found a loaded Glock pistol, 509 rounds for the pistol and 21 shotgun shells, the police said. Mr. Beeler had admitted having the Glock in the truck’s center console when he was asked if there were weapons in the car, they said.

Mr. Beeler was charged with five crimes, including possessing a weapon and ammunition in Washington without having it registered as required. He and his lawyer did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.

Paul Beeler said his son, a father of four, had held other security jobs over the years. “He was proud of the work he was doing with the police and the National Guard,” the father said.

Asked if he thought his son supported a peaceful transition of power, Paul Beeler said, “That’s the reason he’s there.”

The elder Beeler said he had grown worried about his son when he did not return his text messages on Friday night, and that he had called him on Saturday morning, when he thought his son would be returning to Virginia after his shift. He and his wife discovered that Mr. Beeler had been arrested when she received a call from a reporter, he said.

Law enforcement officials have said they are alarmed by chatter among far-right groups and other racist extremists who are threatening to target the nation’s capital to protest Mr. Biden’s electoral victory. Federal agencies have tried to keep some people who breached the Capitol with weapons earlier this month from returning to the city, including by restricting their ability to board commercial planes, according to an administration official.

Mr. Biden has resisted calls to move the inauguration ceremony indoors for the sake of safety. His inauguration committee had already been planning a scaled-back celebration with virtual components because of the coronavirus.

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