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Political News

Alabama State University receives Wall Street firm’s historic endowment assistance

Courtesy of Kayleigh Dunn

(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) -- Alabama State University is partnering with private equity firm Neuberger Berman to manage the school's $125 million endowment – making it the largest such partnership between a Wall Street firm and a public historically Black college and university (HBCU) ever.

The new relationship is a "blessing," according to ASU President Quinton T. Ross, Jr. He called the partnership overwhelmingly impactful for ASU.

"Through this partnership with Neuberger Berman, not only do we look at the long term stability of the institution, but also the investment in students who will be receiving scholarships for generations to come," Ross said. "Because of monies generated by our endowment, because of this partnership, we ensure that students are able to benefit from what we're doing."

Ross is confident both scholarships and internships will benefit current students like rising junior Kayleigh Dunn. The finance major said she is still pinching herself after landing a coveted summer job at the firm in New York City.

That dream job, Dunn said, will allow her to merge interests in equity and personal finance. Both her dad and grandparents attended the school, so she wants to show that HBCU students have long deserved these opportunities.

"I feel like HBCU students are coming hard," she said. "We know the work we can do. And we know if we get a chance to be there, and we get a chance to put our best foot forward, we're going to make waves."

As higher education faces a watershed moment with attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion and the Supreme Court's elimination of race-based admissions, Ross said the partnership excites the ASU community.

"Longevity is in our DNA and through that we have to continue to wave the banner to let them know that HBCUs really are the greatest thing that happened within the African American community when you look at the production of powerful citizens across this nation," he said.

Ross told ABC News attaining financial wealth management from the sixth largest private equity firm in the world will also address decades of underfunding

"As the endowment grows, we will be able to use some of those funds, not only for scholarships, but also to help to secure and stabilize our infrastructure," he said, adding "That's why it's necessary to make sure that you have the right partner [Neuberger Berman] with the right vision, because they can move along with you in that time of growth."

Dominique Baker, associate professor of education and public policy at the University of Delaware, said the partnership is unique for HBCUs.

"Public HBCUs have been denied their rightful funding from the state and the federal government for a significant period of time," Baker said. "And so getting these types of fund managers is not enough when it comes to thinking about the type of funding support that public HBCUs should be receiving," she added.

Meanwhile, Neuberger Berman Private Wealth Adviser Xavier Peoples said he is helping invest ASU's endowment so the school reaches its long-term financial goals.

Issuing a call for support from more companies, Peoples told ABC News "when HBCUs do well, America does well."

"When HBCUs do better, when their endowments do better, America does better," he said. "It gives America a greater [pool] of college graduates that can come in to our workforce. Wall Street firms should be all in on working with historically Black colleges and universities and helping their endowments to be the best that they can be."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Democrats look to band together after Maryland's bruising Senate primary

Marilyn Nieves/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Angela Alsobrooks emerged as the victor in a bruising Democratic Senate primary in Maryland -- and now the state's Democratic Party faces the challenge of reuniting to take on a formidable Republican opponent in the general election.

Alsobrooks, a county executive in a Maryland suburb outside the nation's capital, defeated Rep. David Trone and now faces the daunting task of taking on a popular Republican challenger, Larry Hogan, a two-term former GOP governor.

While Maryland is a deep blue state, Alsobrooks is not on a glide path to a Senate win. Experts tell ABC News that Democrats, wounded in the Alsobrooks-Trone battle, needs to realign to take on Hogan -- with nothing short of control of the U.S. Senate at stake.

Both Alsobrooks and Trone sounded a conciliatory note in their election night speeches on Tuesday, signaling a hope to mend the party and keep the Senate seat -- vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin -- in Democratic hands.

"I want you to know we are united in order to keep the Senate blue," Alsobrooks said.

Trone urged his supporters to "come together to support the Democratic Party so we can hold this U.S. Senate."

The Maryland Democratic Party is also showcasing what it says is a unified front, releasing statements from members of Maryland's congressional delegation and from local leaders praising Alsobrooks and Trone. One of those statements came from Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., who had endorsed Trone, but now urged Democrats to band together to not let "Mitch McConnell's handpicked candidate turn control of the U.S. Senate over to Republicans."

Former Democratic state party chair Yvette Lewis told ABC News that the grassroots work to bridge the gap between the candidates' supporters began right after the primary.

"People started making phone calls and mending fences [on Wednesday] -- I was a part of that -- to make sure that everybody knows that the primary is over, and that it's time for us to come together for the general election," Lewis said.

"You can't just brush people aside and say, OK, this is over. Now it's time to come to the table … What you have to do is validate them, validate their work and thank them for the work that they did. And then welcome them to this new coalition."

Susan Turnbull, another former state party chair for the Maryland Democratic Party, expressed similar optimism: "What we do in Maryland, is work as Team Maryland," she told ABC News.

One official who endorsed Trone, Prince George's County State's Attorney Aisha Braveboy, said she's "eager to rally behind [Alsobrooks] to retain control of the Senate and ensure Maryland remains blue."

Michael Hanmer, director of the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement at the University of Maryland, told ABC News that Trone and Alsobrooks must now work together to show party unity.

"Another key piece of strategy is not just to get Trone to say nice things and be supportive in words [about Alsobrooks], but to go out and work with Alsobrooks … rather than just be on the sidelines," Hanmer said.

Alsobrooks and Trone's campaigns did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News about their next steps after the primary.

Lewis said that Trone supporters can be a vital part of Alsobrooks' success as well.

"We want them to canvass, we want to phone bank, we want them to help us raise the money … we want them to be part of the entire process," she said.

Alsobrooks wasted no time as the newly-minted Democratic nominee in aiming criticism at Hogan, reminding supporters of the stakes for Democrats in their upcoming battle.

"The fight ahead will not be easy. There are a lot of people in our state who say, 'Oh you know it's Maryland. It's a blue state. We can worry about another race someplace else …' but it will only stay a blue state if we put in the work," Alsobrooks said at her election night event.

Hogan, speaking to supporters on Tuesday night, said he already anticipated the politicking ahead.

"Over the next few months, you are going to hear a whole lot more of this political BS, and Marylanders are going to be inundated with scare tactics and false attacks. Don't let them get away with it," he said.

Hanmer anticipates that Democrats will need to articulate how they feel Hogan will be different as a senator -- and a potential deciding vote in the chamber -- than during his time as governor working with a Democratic-controlled legislature. He said it will be a challenge to get people to rethink their approach to Hogan, who won the governor job by about 5 points in 2014 and 12 points in 2018, and he left with sky-high approval ratings.

Hanmer said Democrats face a challenge in that Alsobrooks doesn't have as much statewide recognition as Hogan.

"[Alsobrooks] hasn't had a statewide position before, so I think there's still going to be a lot of people that need to get to know her."

ABC News' Tal Axelrod contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Trump attends son Barron's high school graduation on day off from court

FILE, Steven Hirsch-Pool/Getty Images

(WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.) -- Former President Donald Trump attended his son Barron's high school graduation at Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach on Friday, after the judge overseeing his hush money trial in New York granted him a day off court to allow him to attend.

It was a break from sitting in the courtroom for the former president, who, as a defendant, has been requited to attend his trial most days of the week over the past five weeks, except on Wednesdays when the court is not in session.

The trial is usually in session on Fridays but Judge Juan Merchan canceled court this Friday to let Trump attend the graduation ceremony.

Before arriving at the ceremony, Trump posted on his social media platform: "Going to Barron's High School Graduation. Great student, wonderful boy! Very exciting! DJT"

Trump, who arrived at the school in a motorcade Friday morning sporting a black suit and a blue tie, sat in the front center row of the bleachers throughout the graduation ceremony, with former first lady Melania Trump, Barron's mother, sitting next to him and her father Viktor Knavs sitting next to her.

The former president and the former first lady occasionally clapped and waved at the direction of where the graduates were, including when Barron walked up the stage.

Trump stayed throughout the graduation ceremony, which was a private event and lasted for about an hour. Oxbridge Academy is a private preparatory school for grades 6-12.

Barron Trump, who recently turned 18, made headlines last week when he was selected as one of Florida's at-large delegates for the Republican National Convention, along with other members of the Trump family who have played more active role in Trump's campaign, including Trump's older sons, Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle and Trump's youngest daughter, Tiffany Trump.

Following the news of Barron Trump being selected as a delegate, Trump repeatedly said during media interviews that his son likes politics and he's "all for" his son delving into the political world -- while stressing he's still "very young."

Trump even said Barron Trump tries to give him political advice, saying it's "very cute."

But just days after the delegate selection news came out, Melania Trump's office announced that Barron Trump would be declining an opportunity to serve as Florida's GOP at-large delegate to the Republican National Convention due to "prior commitments."

"While Barron is honored to have been chosen as a delegate by the Florida Republican Party, he regretfully declines to participate due to prior commitments," her office said in a statement to ABC News.

Trump has used Barron Trump's graduation as his campaign message and a fundraising opportunity, repeatedly blasting the judge in the hush money trial for forcing him to skip his family's important moment -- although the judge had not ordered that -- before the judge allowed him to take time off the trial.

Trump uses similar rhetoric to claim the court schedule is keeping him off the campaign trail during a critical period of the election cycle, though earlier this week, he used Wednesday, his usual day off from the trial, to fundraise with wealthy donors in Ohio and Kentucky. On Tuesday, after court, Trump attended another high-dollar fundraiser in Manhattan.

And on Friday, Trump is not sticking around in Florida to spend the rest of the day with his family. He's flying out to Minnesota to headline the Minnesota Republican Party's Lincoln Reason Gala fundraiser -- in a state he and his campaign have recently been targeting in an effort to expand the battleground map.

"We're also looking really great in the state of Minnesota, which hasn't been one since 1952, and we're leading in the polls and the state of Virginia," Trump said at a rally in New Jersey last weekend.

On Saturday, he's scheduled to deliver remarks at a National Rifle Association event in Dallas.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden announces new grants to further desegregate schools on Brown v. Board anniversary

Caroline Purser/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Friday announced new grants aimed at further desegregating magnet schools, as he marked the 70th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that desegregated America's public schools.

"My Department of Education is investing $300 million, including another $20 million announced today to support diversity in our schools," Biden said in remarks at an NAACP event at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The $20 million in new grants is for school districts in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina and Texas, to create magnet programs geared toward "attracting students from different social, economic, ethnic and racial backgrounds," the White House said.

The Education Department earlier this week released a report that found there remain gaps in education among Black and Latino students and their white counterparts in high school math, science and computer science.

The White House frames these steps as an effort to "continue the work" of the landmark Supreme Court ruling.

"After [the] Brown vs. Board [of Education] decision, the public schools gradually -- and often much too slowly -- were integrated. Graduation rates for Black and Latino students increased significantly though," Biden said. "The Brown decision proves a simple idea: we learn better when we learn together."

Biden used his speech to take on political rival, former President Donald Trump, whom he referenced simply as "my predecessor."

"My predecessor, and his extreme MAGA friends, are now going after diversity, equity and inclusion all across America. They want a country for some, not for all," the president said.

Biden sought to draw a contrast between himself and Trump.

"I've always believed that the promise of America is big enough for everyone to succeed, and I mean that, everyone to succeed," Biden said. "That's what Brown is all about. That's what we're all about. That's what America's about."

The grant announcement is part of a larger multi-day push by the Biden administration to make inroads with Black voters who his campaign is counting on in November's presidential election.

On Thursday, the administration announced it is taking formal next steps to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III. Also, Biden met with plaintiffs from the landmark Brown case and their families on Thursday.

"Once upon a time, they were excluded from certain classrooms. But 70 years later, they're inside the most important room of all, the Oval Office, where they belong," Biden said. "They're a living reminder that once upon a time, wasn't that long ago."

Biden added that despite this progress, there is more to do.

Biden also said that before his remarks on Friday he met with the "Little Rock Nine," the children who first integrated their district's public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Later Friday, Biden was set to meet privately with the leaders of the historically Black "Divine Nine" fraternities and sororities, before traveling this weekend to deliver the commencement address at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

"The founders of Morehouse understood something fundamental: education is linked to freedom," Biden said. "Because to be free means to have something that no one can ever take away from you. And that's the power of an education. That's why the Brown decision to commemorate today is so important."

Biden also used his remarks to tout the work his administration is doing in higher education to ease the economic toll on young people.

"While college degrees are still a ticket to the middle class, that ticket is becoming too expensive," Biden said. "Too many, too many young people, Black students are dealing with unsustainable debts in exchange for a college degree."

Michelle Stoddart contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Johnson disappointed that House committee meeting devolved into chaos over Greene's 'fake eyelash' comments

ABC

(WASHINGTON) -- Speaker Mike Johnson on Friday said he is disappointed in the chaos and name-calling that happened during a raucous House Oversight Committee markup on Thursday night when Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez clashed over Greene's comments that Rep. Jasmine Crockett wore "fake eyelashes."

"It was not a good look for Congress," the speaker told ABC News. "We all -- I think -- need to control the emotions better and get the job done."

Tension flared Thursday night during the committee's markup of a resolution to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over the audio recording of President Biden's interview with Special Counsel Robert Hur. However, the drama had nothing to do with that, and led to a nearly hourlong disruption where lawmakers shouted over eachother.

"I think the decorum in the house is an important tradition to maintain," said Johnson, the top Republican in Congress who is known for his civility. "So we'll be talking about that with our members. I think Hakeem Jeffries needs to do the same on the Democrat side."

It all began when the Georgia Republican made a crack about the Texas Democrat's eyelashes -- "I think your fake eyelashes are messing up what you're reading" -- which was made when Crockett pushed back to a line of questioning from Greene.

Democrats called for Greene's eyelash comment to Crockett to be stricken from the record and the congresswoman to be barred from speaking for the rest of the proceedings. Greene repeatedly shouted she was "not apologizing."

"That is absolutely unacceptable, how dare you attack the physical appearance of another person," Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, said.

"Are your feelings hurt?" Greene responded.

"Oh baby girl … don't even play," Ocasio-Cortez shot back.

The proceedings devolved then into further chaos with lawmakers shouting over each other and Democrats repeatedly trying to force Greene to apologize. At times, House Oversight Committee chair James Comer said he struggled to hear over the shouting and repeatedly worked to bring order to the proceedings. Comer even called a brief recess to figure out how to parliamentary respond to Greene's remarks.


"Why don't you debate me … you don't have enough intelligence," Greene said to Ocasio-Cortez during the exchange.

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., made a crack about Democrats on the committee not wanting to work.

Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., shot back, "like showing up for a vote?" -- presumably a jab at the fact that Luna and several other members missed much of Thursday on Capitol Hill attending former President Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York.

"You have a lot to say being that you're on retainer for the judge's daughter. Sorry trust fund kid," Luna replied -- a reference to the daughter of Judge Juan Merchan, who is overseeing Trump's trial. The judge's daughter has been the target of Trump and Republican's criticism over her work for a digital consulting firm that they claim creates an "ongoing financial interest" tied to the former president's criminal trial.

Luna also said Democrats should be disciplined for making unspecified cracks about "Marjorie's body."

"I hope you brought your popcorn," Greene added, then moved on to talking about how her "body is pretty good" given how she is "going to turn 50 this month."

After a vote to strike Greene's comments failed along party lines, Greene eventually continued her remarks and the hearing continued.

Despite the chaos and disorder that unraveled during the markup, the GOP-led House Oversight Committee ultimately voted 24-20 late Thursday to approve a report recommending a contempt of Congress resolution against Attorney General Merrick Garland for his failure to turn over audio recordings of the Special Counsel Robert Hur interview with President Joe Biden.

The Garland contempt resolutions now head to the full House for a vote.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Pentagon's temporary pier off Gaza is ready to begin delivering aid

U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), U.S. Navy Sailors assigned to Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, and Israel Defense Forces emplace the Trident Pier on the Gaza coast, May 16, 2024. -- U.S. Central Command Public Affairs

(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon's temporary floating pier system was anchored onto a beach in Gaza on Thursday amid the Israel-Hamas war, and U.S. officials say humanitarian aid will begin flowing "in the coming days."

Officials did, however, stress that while the pier -- formally called the Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore, or JLOTS, capability -- will help bring aid to the strip, the real long-term solution in Gaza is to fully open the land routes so more aid can flow in.

Pentagon officials said aid will begin flowing quickly, though initially it will be at a slow pace to ensure the system is working properly before operations are scaled up.

"This morning, just a few hours ago, the pier was successfully affixed to the beach in Gaza, and in the coming days, we will commence the delivery of aid," Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters Thursday.

"The pier is temporary in nature," he added. "This maritime route is additive and is not meant to replace land routes into Gaza."

Several aid organizations, including United Nations organizations, have warned Gaza is experiencing "catastrophic" levels of hunger and need, and a top U.N. official recently warned northern Gaza is experiencing a "full-blown famine."

Cooper said there are currently 500 tons of aid waiting to be transported ashore via JLOTS, a complex operation involving a floating platform, small ships and an 1,800-foot pier or causeway where food aid will be offloaded for distribution by nongovernmental aid agencies inside Gaza.

Located a few miles offshore, the floating platform is a way station for aid as it's unloaded off cargo ships onto trucks that are then carried aboard small vessels that will take them to the causeway, which is attached to land. It enables the U.S. to deliver aid without having troops on the ground in Gaza.

While U.S. officials said the flow of aid would begin "in the coming days," the Pentagon's deputy press secretary, Sabrina Singh, told reporters Thursday the process will play out slowly at first.

"We have to we have to make sure that everything operates in a seamless [way], so you're gonna see us again, go from that crawl, walk, run," Singh said during a Pentagon press conference. "It's going to start off small and scale up."

Singh emphasized that once ashore, the food aid will be distributed inside Gaza and will not be warehoused in the area where the pier is attached to land.

"We believe that aid should flow without any stoppage," Singh said.

The expectation is that the JLOTS system will be able to bring between 90 and 150 truckloads a day of aid, equivalent to 2 million meals, but U.S. officials said it was more accurate to focus on the number of tons of aid that will be flowing into Gaza instead of the "imperfect measure" of truckloads.

"The real measure that we're striving toward getting at and understanding is what is reaching the people and communities in need and making sure it's the right assistance," said Sonali Korde, assistant to the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.

Security for U.S. forces and nongovernmental organizations participating in the JLOTS system is a top priority, officials said, adding the Israel Defense Forces will provide security at the point where the aid will arrive and be transferred to the United Nations and other NGOs.

But officials said the security for those working on bringing aid ashore could still be improved.

"The deconfliction measures are not where they need to be at, given the complexity of the environment," Korde said. "So those conversations are ongoing. They need to continue and they need to get to a place where humanitarian aid workers feel safe and secure and able to operate safely, and I don't think we're there yet."

Weather conditions that caused high sea states delayed the anchoring of the JLOTS system by more than a week, and Cooper acknowledged weather conditions may affect JLOTS operations in the future.

"There are light storms, medium storms, heavy storms. One ... variable we cannot control here is the weather. So we'll just see what that looks like," Cooper said. "It's very favorable here in the coming days and week or so. And our goal is to move as much humanitarian assistance as possible during that period, and then we'll make assessments going forward as we would with any military operation and the weather."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden asserts executive privilege over audio of interview with special counsel Hur

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department on Thursday informed House Republicans that President Joe Biden has formally asserted executive privilege over the audio of his interview with special counsel Robert Hur, who investigated Biden's handling of classified documents.

It's a move that the department said effectively shields Attorney General Merrick Garland from any criminal exposure, though Republican lawmakers moved ahead anyway toward trying to hold him in contempt of Congress.

The GOP-led House Oversight Committee voted 24-20 late Thursday to approve a report recommending a contempt of Congress resolution against Garland for his failure to turn over audio recordings of Special Counsel Robert Hur's interview with Biden.

The Garland contempt resolutions now head to the full House for a vote. It’s not clear when that vote will occur, but Speaker Johnson’s office tells ABC News it won’t be tomorrow/Friday.

Republicans sought access to the audio recording of Hur's interview of Biden as part of their stalled impeachment probe into the president.

The DOJ previously provided a transcript of Biden's interview to House Republicans. The White House, in its reasoning for asserting executive privilege, expressed concern the tapes would be unfairly manipulated by GOP lawmakers.

The special counsel's yearlong probe into Biden's handling of classified documents ended with no criminal charges being recommended because the evidence wasn't sufficient to support a conviction.

However, the 388-page report Hur released created a political firestorm as the special counsel described Biden as someone who could appeal to a jury as an "elderly man with a poor memory" and detailed instances where Hur said Biden couldn't remember when his son died or what years he was vice president. Republicans jumped on the assertions made in the report related to Biden's mental acuity, which the White House forcefully pushed back on.

House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, as his committee met Thursday to markup the contempt report, argued the audio recordings are "necessary” and the transcripts “alone are not sufficient evidence of the state of the president's memory."

"Clearly President Biden and his advisors fear releasing the audio recordings of his interview because it will again reaffirm to the American people that President Biden’s mental state is in decline," House Oversight Chairman James Comer said in a statement obtained by ABC News.

Garland, in rare public comments Thursday morning speaking to reporters outside his office, accused House Republicans of mounting a series of "unprecedented" and "unfounded" attacks on the DOJ.

"We have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the committees get responses to their legitimate requests, but this is not one," Garland said defending the decision to exert privilege. "To the contrary, this is one that would harm our ability in the future to successfully pursue sensitive investigations."

The attorney general added, "Look, the only thing I can do is continue to do the right thing. I will protect this building and its people."

Hur's yearlong probe into Biden's handling of classified documents ended with no criminal charges being recommended because the evidence wasn't sufficient to support a conviction. However, the 388-page report Hur released created a political firestorm as the special counsel described Biden as someone who could appeal to a jury as an "elderly man with a poor memory."

House Republicans were first informed of the privilege decision in a letter from Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte, who cited what the department called its "extraordinary" cooperation and "good faith" efforts to provide Republicans with all relevant materials from Hur's probe.

Uriarte further detailed in his letter how the department previously made available the transcript of Biden's interview with Hur, and argued Republicans have failed to provide any reason that the audio would add further value to their efforts to investigate Biden.

In explaining the move to have Biden formally assert executive privilege over the remaining materials sought by Republicans -- which includes the audio of the interview with Biden's ghostwriter Mark Zwonitzer -- Uriarte pointed to longstanding DOJ policy "held by administrations of both parties that an official who asserts the President's claim of executive privilege cannot be prosecuted for criminal contempt of Congress."

"With the information you now have, the Committees ought not to proceed with contempt and should instead avoid unnecessary and unwarranted conflict," Uriarte said.

White House Counsel Ed Siskel also wrote a letter to Jordan and Comer explaining the decision to assert executive privilege over the recordings.

In it, Siskel argued Biden has a responsibility to protect the executive branch's law enforcement agencies from "undue partisan interference."

"The absence of a legitimate need for the audio recordings lays bare your likely goal -- to chop them up, distort them, and use them for partisan political purposes," Siskel wrote.

ABC News' Mary Bruce, Lauren Peller and Will Steakin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Harris accepts CBS News' VP debate offer for the summer

Shawn Thew/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Vice President Kamala Harris has accepted an offer from CBS News to participate in a vice-presidential debate this summer, the Biden campaign said Thursday.

Harris accepted CBS News' proposed dates of July 23 or Aug. 13, the campaign said.

"The Biden-Harris campaign has informed CBS News that we accept the network's invitation to participate in a Vice Presidential debate, in studio, on either of two dates," the campaign said.

Trump has not yet made his vice-presidential pick, thought several potential hopefuls appear to be working to get in the former president's good graces through participation in his fundraisers and attending his New York criminal trial.

The news of the vice-presidential debate came a day after President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, agreed to two debates before the general election. One will be a prime-time debate at ABC News studios on Sept. 10. The debate will air on ABC News, ABC News Live and Hulu. Before that, they will participate in a CNN debate on June 27 in Atlanta.

The vice presidential debate would have the same guidelines that the Biden campaign outlined on Wednesday -- including that it would not have an in-person audience, that there be firm time limits for answers, alternate turns to speak and candidate's microphone should only be on when it is their turn to speak.

As part of the debate negotiations, the Biden campaign proposed a vice-presidential debate in late July after the Republican National Convention. The former president has said he doesn't plan to make an announcement about his vice-presidential pick until closer to the RNC.

"Well, I'm not in a rush and we'll do it sometime around the convention, but we have a lot of great people in the Republican Party," Trump said in an interview with ABC affiliate WPVI in April, when asked about a potential vice presidential candidate.

"We look forward to the Trump campaign accepting one of these dates so that the full debate calendar for this campaign can be set," the Biden campaign said.

Like the presidential debates, the vice-presidential debates are happening on an accelerated timeline.


Vice presidential debates have traditionally been held within the first two weeks of October. Harris and former Vice President Mike Pence squared off on Oct. 7, 2020.

ABC News' Sarah Beth Hensley, Lalee Ibsaa and Soorin Kim contributed to this report.

 

 

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Pentagon report to show significant drop in unwanted sexual contact in military

In this 2011 file photo, female U.S. Marines are shown marching. (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) -- Soon to be released Pentagon figures will show a significant almost 19% reduction in the number of service members who say they have experienced some type of unwanted sexual contact over the previous survey conducted two years ago, according to a U.S. official.

There was also a drop in the number of sexual assault reports involving service members filed last year, according to the official.

Every two years, the U.S. military carries out an anonymous survey that Defense Department officials believe is a better indicator of the prevalence of sexual assault in the military than the annual reports where victims may be reluctant to step forward to report a sexual assault.

This year's survey indicated close to 29,000 reported unwanted sexual contacts, an almost 19% reduction from the 35,800 reported in the survey carried out in 2021.

The Pentagon survey defines unwanted sexual contact as ranging from unwanted touching to rape.

The reduction was the first in over eight years and drew comments from President Joe Biden as he met with senior U.S. military leaders at the White House on Wednesday.

"I'm proud that for the first time in nearly a decade, rates of sexual assault and harassment ... within active duty forces are down -- are down because of your leadership," he said.

Separately, the number of reports of sexual assault also decreased in 2023 to 8,515 from 8,942 in 2022, according to the official.

The Pentagon has increased the support and care it provides to victims of sexual assault and has raised the awareness encouraging victims to step forward with what is often underreported.

But numbers of incidents and reports have gone up in years that those efforts have increased, so it’s unclear what might be behind the new drop in numbers.

The previous survey of sexual prevalence in the military showed a dramatic increase from 20,000 to 35,800, but defense officials noted that was because of changes in how the survey was carried out.

That made full comparisons between those two surveys impossible until the upcoming release of this year's survey.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


After trying week, RFK Jr. brings Nicole Shanahan on campaign trail for rare appearance

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spent a week dogged by self-damaging rhetoric, leaving him to defend the state of his health and scramble to rework his position on abortion after facing dissent from within his own campaign.

But on Monday, he had something to celebrate: the prospect that he had earned a spot on the ballot in Texas, a coup for an independent candidate in a state that forces independents to gather at least 113,000 signatures from registered voters across the state, a much larger haul than required in most states. The campaign delivered boxes of signatures to the Texas Secretary of State's Office, a spokeswoman for whom told ABC News the campaign's petition is "under review."

Kennedy touted the accomplishment at an Austin rally alongside his running mate, Nicole Shanahan, whose appearance itself was noteworthy, as the California lawyer had maintained a reclusive approach to the campaign trail since she was announced as Kennedy's running mate in late March.

Texas is the 14th state in which the Kennedy campaign says it has met the criteria for ballot access. The signature requirement also made it the most grueling.

"If you can get on in Texas, you can get on everywhere," Kennedy said on stage in Austin.

Yet the campaign still faces hurdles to gain ballot access in each state, a goal Kennedy and his aides say they will achieve.

Already, they face the prospect of starting their signature-gathering from scratch in Nevada after they submitted petition forms that lacked the name of a vice presidential candidate, violating the state's rules.

And Democrats will likely try to obstruct Kennedy's progress, as they already attempted in Hawaii, where the state ruled against the Hawaii Democratic Party after it challenged the ballot access petition of a new political party created just for Kennedy.

Shanahan makes trail debut, but some Kennedy voters still skeptical

Much of the spotlight this weekend was on Shanahan, who made her debut on the campaign trail in Houston on Saturday before accompanying Kennedy at the Austin rally two days later.

The Houston event was an intimate panel-like forum that focused on criminal justice reform and allowed Shanahan, who has invested time and money into addressing issues in the justice system, to showcase what appears to be her most tangible attribute: her authenticity and passion for the things she cares about.

Before she addressed the audience in Houston, she turned to each panelist, all of whom had described scarring experiences with the law, and thanked them one by one. She then fought tears during her remarks as she discussed the "legacy of the ruthlessness of the American psyche."

She even came prepared with a quote from the psychologist Carl Jung, reading it with dramatic effect.

But at times during her Texas appearances, her delivery felt dissonant with the desires of her audience, especially among attendees of the Austin rally, who seemed more eager for an injection of energy than a perfectly woven soliloquy.

The crowd of about 800 cheered loudly when Shanahan was introduced, but soon fell quiet when the candidate, whose appearance marked one of her first public events, opened her speech by saying, "I want to talk about soil," prompting a minuteslong metaphor about the need to fix America's "foundation."

Shanahan eventually hit the populist and anti-establishment themes that tie together many of Kennedy's supporters, criticizing Democrats and Republicans and painting politicians as out for themselves. But her appearance left some Kennedy supporters still trying to figure her out.

"I don't know much about her," Tammy Markham, a 54-year-old entrepreneur, told ABC News after leaving the event. "So I want to find out more about her. I just know that when he announced that he was going to have her as vice president, I know a lot of us supporters were like, woah, OK, who is this?"

Markham said she was impressed with Shanahan's speech in Austin, but, she cautioned, "it takes more foundation and rock-solid knowledge for me to be impressed than just the brouhaha."

A week of damage control

Though they were a united front on Monday, Kennedy and Shanahan seemed confused last week about Kennedy's abortion stance.

Kennedy told podcast host Sage Steele in an interview released last week that "we should leave it to the woman" to choose to have the procedure, "even if it's full term."

When Steele relayed Kennedy's position in a separate conversation with Shanahan, the running mate appeared visibly surprised.

"My understanding is that he absolutely believes in the limits on abortion," she told Steele. "And we've talked about this. I don't know where that came from."

At the same time, Angela King, a Kennedy staffer and anti-abortion activist, aired her dissent to Kennedy's "full term" comments on social media, an embarrassingly public undressing of the candidate she advises, which led Kennedy to walk back the abortion comments in a lengthy X post Friday night.

"I support the emerging consensus that abortion should be unrestricted up until a certain point," he wrote, in part. "I believe that point should be when the baby is viable outside the womb."

Kennedy also found himself last week responding to unearthed comments where he claimed a doctor told him that a parasitic worm was found in his brain more than a decade ago. Also, that he suffered from mercury poisoning -- both of which he said gave him "cognitive problems."

Kennedy assured he has made a full recovery from each issue and even tried to lean into the worm issue, which garnered significant media attention: making a surprise appearance at a Los Angeles comedy show on Friday, he cracked, "My brain worm wrote some jokes for me." He also joked last week on X that he would "offer to eat 5 more brain worms and still beat President Trump and President Biden in a debate."

On Friday, the candidate issued an explanation for an admission he made on a podcast that he offered his children fake vaccine cards during the COVID-19 pandemic so they could attend universities, which required the shot without actually getting one (he said his children did not accept his offer since "they didn't want to lie.")

"Coercion to force submission to illegal vaccine mandates became the norm during Covid," Kennedy wrote on X. "As Martin Luther King, Jr. observed, 'One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.' I acted accordingly."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Senators unveil 'roadmap' for government-funded AI research, regulation

Drnadig via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- A bipartisan group of senators, led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, on Wednesday unveiled a "roadmap" for lawmakers aimed at guiding Congress on regulating artificial intelligence.

They said the recommendations are a critical step as Congress considers legislation to increase innovation and safeguard against negative uses of the rapidly-evolving technology.

The document called for a hefty increase in funding for AI innovation to be worked into Congress' annual funding process -- funding to the tune of $32 billion over several years, an amount recommended by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence.

That money, Schumer said during a news conference will help to "cement America's dominance in AI."

Schumer said that separate funding, perhaps additional billions, will likely also be needed in coming years to address defense and national security concerns related to artificial intelligence.

"Congress faced a momentous choice: We could either watch from the sidelines as AI reshape our world or make a novel earnest bipartisan effort to harness and regulate this industry," Schumer said. "We knew if we did nothing real problems could merge in terms of the lack of maximizing the benefits of AI and the lack of minimizing the detriments of AI."

He said he'll strive to make the effort not only bipartisan but bicameral and that he would soon meet with House Speaker Mike Johnson to discuss AI policy. Schumer said he thinks Johnson is "very interested" in moving forward.

The working group of senators has been focused on artificial intelligence in recent months and it includes Schumer, Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D, and Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.

Before releasing the "roadmap" Wednesday, the group convened a series of "AI insight forums" over the last several months that featured high-profile names in tech as well as stakeholders across a number of industries. More than 150 experts participated across the nine forums.

The document is the end result of that work. It does not include legislative text, but is meant to help inform lawmakers as they continue to grapple with how best to pass legislation to reign in artificial intelligence. Senate committees have been holding hearings on a number of AI topics relevant to their specific committees and the document encourages the continuation of those discussions.

"We always knew we would have to go to the committees to get the specifics done. There's so many different aspects of AI in so many different areas, that it would take many committees to do it," Schumer said. "We are very now hopeful that the bipartisan momentum that we fostered and the recommendations we made will extend into the committees and their process."

There are a vast number of policy priorities that committees can seize upon, and Schumer said he's hopeful some AI-oriented legislation will be approved by the Senate before the year is out. The Senate, Schumer said, will advance AI legislation as it is ready, and will not wait for a massive package of AI bills to be voted on at one time.

In a major boon to that effort, the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday advanced several pieces of bipartisan legislation aimed at safeguarding elections from challenges posed by artificial intelligence, including a bill that would ban the use of AI to generate "materially deceptive content" depicting federal candidates.

These so-called "deepfakes" are a focus of the bipartisan report released Wednesday. In addition to backing efforts to regulate fake content concerning elections, the senators also identify a need to regulate destruction of "non-consensual" "intimate" images generated on AI. This issue came into particular focus in January when a sexually explicit AI-generated images of Taylor Swift made the rounds on the internet.

Senators also highlighted in the report the need to consider how to create a federal data privacy framework, how to lead in the adoption of these new technologies in a way that will build up national security, and how ensure that existing laws regulating AI are fully enforced.

They're also said they were excited by the innovative possibilities of AI. Young and Rounds both highlighted the impact that artificial intelligence could have in curing illnesses like cancer and Alzheimer's, and said Congress needs to invest in the innovative technology to avoid medical costs to taxpayers down the line.

"Imagine a world in which we cure cancer, Alzheimer's and other crippling diseases in just a few years' time," Young said. "Imagine a world in which government can be far more efficient, in which we actually figure out how to dramatically cut the healthcare cost curve down."

The senators also say it's important for Congress to consider growing concerns about the impact AI could have on the workforce, including the possibility that workers could be displaced from their jobs by artificial intelligence. They encourage the lawmakers to engage stakeholders across unions and civil society to ensure that workers are trained and retrained to work with AI rather than be displaced by it.

There has not yet been a major piece of legislation regulating AI to pass Congress. While early efforts have seen some evidence of bipartisanship, it's not yet clear what sort of support large scale regulatory efforts would ultimately receive.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Jury sworn in for bribery trial of New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez

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(NEW YORK) -- A jury was selected and sworn in Wednesday for the bribery trial of Sen. Bob Menendez.

Federal prosecutors in New York have alleged that the New Jersey Democrat accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in the form of cash, gold bars, mortgage payments and a luxury convertible in exchange for the senator's political clout. Three New Jersey businessmen who were also charged, along with the governments of Egypt and Qatar, were the alleged recipients.

Menendez has pleaded not guilty to 16 federal charges including bribery, fraud, acting as a foreign agent and obstruction.

The seated jury includes a retired economist, an occupational therapist who likes "hanging out with my dog," an attorney originally from Michigan and someone who "had a nephew locked up for molestation." All pledged to be fair.

"I'm going to ask, to the extent you feel comfortable, to minimize your news intake," Judge Sidney Stein told prospective jurors at one point.

Menendez, 70, remained seated at the defense table in a navy suit and dark pink tie, occupying himself by reading or merely sitting with his hand on his chin, while his attorneys decided which prospective jurors to accept and reject. Two co-defendants were seated behind him in the Manhattan federal courtroom.

A third co-defendant pleaded guilty ahead of the trial.

The senator's wife, who was also charged in the case, will be tried separately in July due to a medical condition.

Opening statements in Menendez's trial are scheduled to begin Wednesday afternoon.

Before opening statements, the judge precluded testimony from a psychiatrist the defense hoped would bolster Menendez's claim that he stashed cash in his home as a result of a "fear of scarcity." Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, has said it was part of his upbringing to keep cash lying around, but Stein said the psychiatrist's testimony "just doesn't stand up."

Menendez is the first sitting member of Congress to be charged with conspiracy by a public official to act as a foreign agent.

The senator has maintained his innocence since his initial indictment last year.

In March, he announced that will not seek another term as a Democrat but he left open the possibility of running in November as an independent.

 

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


House GOP pushes bill to force Biden to continue transfer of weapons to Israel

Photo by Mike Kline (notkalvin)/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- House Republicans are pushing ahead with a bill to condemn President Joe Biden's approach to Israel and force him to send arms shipments, even after the administration notified Congress about a new $1 billion weapons deal to the U.S. ally.

The developments come amid continued fallout from Biden's pause of a bomb shipment to Israel and his warning the U.S. won't supply weapons that could be used in an invasion of Rafah, a city in southern Gaza where more than a million civilians have sought shelter.

Republicans have seized on the actions to attack Biden, accusing him of betraying Israel due to political pressure. The White House and many Democrats have countered the GOP-led bill is misleading and distorts Biden's policy on the Israel-Hamas war.

The Biden administration informed Congress on Tuesday that it's moving forward with more than $1 billion in new arms agreements with Israel, according to sources familiar with the matter at the White House and on Capitol Hill.

Speaker Mike Johnson, however, signaled the move wouldn't stop Republicans from bringing the GOP's Israel Security Assistance Support Act to the floor.

"We'll have to see what effect that has on the legislation," Johnson said of the new weapons deal, "but I think it is important for us to express again the will of Congress on the matter, and so I don't think we'll be changing what we do on the legislation."

The legislation urges the "expeditious delivery" of defense articles and services to Israel, and reaffirms Israel's right to self-defense. It would withhold funds for certain administration officials like secretary of defense and secretary of state until such defense articles are delivered.

The chamber is expected to hold a vote on the bill either Wednesday or Thursday.

The White House has said it "strongly opposes" what it called an "unnecessary" bill that could undermine the president's ability to carry out foreign policy. If it came to Biden's desk, the White House said the president would veto it.

Johnson, in response to the administration's threat of a veto, on Wednesday claimed Biden "has turned his back on Israel and is now carrying water for Hamas and Iran."

"I think it is a dangerous decision for wrongful legal purposes," Johnson added. "And it could have catastrophic effects with our very important ally Israel. And we’ve denounced it. And we’ll continue to do so.”

While the bill is likely to garner overwhelming support among Republicans, it will force a difficult vote for Democrats -- and clearly show the divide on where the party stands regarding Israel.

House Democratic Caucus chairman Pete Aguilar, at the party's weekly press conference, downplayed the divisions in the party Republicans are pouncing on.

"We understand that there's different viewpoints within our own caucus on this, but overwhelmingly House Democrats will reject this overly political bill," Aguilar said.

Aguilar added that the "important thing" is Democratic support to protect Israel, noting the party provided significant votes to help pass the foreign aid package and government funding bill -- both of which included funds for Israel.

"That's overwhelmingly where we stand on these issues," he said.

The GOP bill could garner some Democratic support specifically from the 26 lawmakers who wrote a letter to the White House last week raising concerns over Biden's decision to halt sending bombs to Israel amid fears of civilian casualties in case of a large-scale invasion into Rafah.

The White House ramped up the rhetoric last week against Israel's expected invasion of Rafah but attempted to turn down the temperature this week.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan, in lengthy remarks at Monday's daily press briefing, said he wanted to get back to the "basics" as he reiterated the administration's view on the war, including that Israel has a right to defend itself from the threat posed by Hamas but also their duty to protect civilians and the need to secure a cease-fire deal in exchange for the release of hostages.

On weapons transfers specifically, Sullivan said the administration is "continuing to send military assistance and we will ensure that Israel receives the full amount provided in the supplemental. We have paused the shipment of 2,000-pound bombs because we do not believe they should be dropped in densely populated cities. We are talking to the Israeli government about this."

The administration has also sought to stress its overall support for Israel.

"The bill is a misguided reaction to a deliberate distortion of the Administration’s approach to Israel," the White House said in a statement of administrative policy. "The President has been clear: we will always ensure Israel has what it needs to defend itself. Our commitment to Israel is ironclad."

ABC News' Selina Wang and Allison Pecorin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden, Trump agree to ABC News and CNN debates

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden and Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, are set to face off in an ABC News presidential debate in September.

Trump and Biden said they have both agreed to a prime-time debate at ABC News studios on Sept. 10.

Before that, they will participate in a CNN debate on June 27 in Atlanta. The debates were scheduled hours after Biden on Wednesday challenged the former president to two debates, which Trump said he was "ready and willing" to do, but pushed for more than two.

"We propose a debate in June, a debate in July, a debate in August, and a debate in September, in addition to the Vice Presidential debate," said Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles, with the Trump campaign, said in a memo. "Additional dates will allow voters to have maximum exposure to the records and future visions of each candidate."

Trump said on his social media platform that he accepted an invitation from Fox News to debate on Oct. 2. Biden has not yet weighed in of he would participate in that debate.

Biden announced Wednesday morning through his campaign that he is bucking the decades-old tradition of fall meetings organized by the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates -- and instead called on Trump to join him for two televised presidential debates in June and September organized by news organizations.

"Donald Trump lost two debates to me in 2020. Since then, he hasn't shown up for a debate," Biden said in a video message his campaign posted to social media. "Now he's acting like he wants to debate me again. Well, make my day, pal."

Trump, who skipped all four Republican National Committee-sanctioned 2024 primary election debates and pulled out of one of his three debates with Biden in 2020, said in response that he was willing to debate Biden during the proposed dates, but said there should be more than two debates.

"I am Ready and Willing to Debate Crooked Joe at the two proposed times in June and September. I would strongly recommend more than two debates," Trump posted on his social media platform.

He added, "Just tell me when, I'll be there. 'Let's get ready to Rumble!!!'"

The Biden campaign outlined some conditions for the debates.

The campaign said that the first debate should be hosted by "any broadcast organization that hosted a Republican Primary debate in 2016 in which Donald Trump participated, and a Democratic primary debate in 2020 in which President Biden participated -- so neither campaign can assert that the sponsoring organization is obviously unacceptable," Biden Campaign Chair Jen O'Malley Dillon wrote in a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates, obtained by ABC News.

Also, "the moderator(s) should be selected by the broadcast host from among their regular personnel, so as to avoid a 'ringer' or partisan."

The Biden campaign said debates have been "structured like an entertainment spectacle and not a serious exchange of ideas that reflect the enormous stakes of the election." With that in mind, the campaign said the debate should not have an in-person audience full of "raucous or disruptive partisans and donors, who consume valuable debate time with noisy spectacles of approval or jeering," Dillon wrote in the letter.

"As was the case with the original televised debates in 1960, a television studio with just the candidates and moderators is a better, more cost-efficient way to proceed: focused solely on the interests of voters," Dillon wrote.

The Biden campaign said all debates should be just between Trump and Biden -- meaning it would bar Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., an independent candidate, from participating.

Kennedy criticized the move, accusing Biden and Trump from "colluding" to keep him from debating.

"They are trying to exclude me from their debate because they are afraid I would win," Kennedy wrote in a statement on X. "Keeping viable candidates off the debate stage undermines democracy."

Kennedy has been vocal about his desire to debate both candidates. But the early date of the CNN debate makes it incredibly unlikely Kennedy will meet that debate’s qualifications, which include registering at least 15% in certain national polls and having his name on the ballot in enough state ballots to reach the 270 electoral college threshold.

Addressing one of the cited issues with the Commission on Presidential Debates, the Biden campaign said, "There should be firm time limits for answers, and alternate turns to speak -- so that the time is evenly divided and we have an exchange of views, not a spectacle of mutual interruption," and that a candidate's microphone should only be on when it is their turn to speak.

Both the Trump and Biden campaigns has expressed concerns with the organization of the debates by the Commission on Presidential Debates -- one slated for September and two planned for October -- saying that the scheduled debates don't conclude until well after early voting has already started.

Earlier this month, the Commission on Presidential Debates pushed back, saying that, "as it always does, the CPD considered multiple factors in selecting debate dates in order to make them accessible by the American public," including religious and federal holidays, early voting, and the dates on which individual states close their ballots.

On Sept. 16, the day of the first debate, Pennsylvania voters can receive, complete and return ballots at their county boards of elections, the commission noted. Minnesota is one of the first states to offer in-person early voting, and voters there can begin to cast ballots on Friday, Sept. 20.

In a statement to ABC News, the CPD said it will proceed with its scheduled debates.

"Our 2024 sites, all locations of higher learning, are prepared to host debates on dates chosen to accommodate early voters. We will continue to be ready to execute this plan," the statement reads.

CPD had announced it plans to hold the first debate on Sep. 16 at Texas State University, the second on Oct. 1 at Virginia State University and the third on Oct. 9 at The University of Utah, Salt Lake City. It plans to hold a vice presidential debate on Sept. 25 at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.

The Biden campaign proposed a vice-presidential debate in late July after the Republican National Convention.

ABC News' Sarah Beth Hensley, Isabella Murray and Will McDuffie contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Senate considers making Black Wall Street a national monument

Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- More than 100 years after the nation's deadliest race massacre, the Senate is considering a bipartisan bill to grant national monument status to Greenwood, Oklahoma, also known as "Black Wall Street."

In 1921, Black Wall Street was burned to ashes by white mobs who attacked the then-thriving and predominantly Black neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The state of Oklahoma originally recorded 36 deaths from the massacre; however, a 2001 state commission reported that the number killed was likely as high as 300 people.

The bill has gained bipartisan support and has been introduced by Sens. Cory Booker and James Lankford. Ahead of Wednesday's hearing, Tulsa Race Massacre descendants were on Capitol Hill advocating for the monument status. The group, led by Tiffany Crutcher, head of the Terence Crutcher Foundation, and Reuben Gant, executive director of the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, met with lawmakers. Their written testimony has been added to the congressional record.

The Historic Greenwood District Black Wall Street National Monument Coalition said it believes the national monument designation would "help catalyze the resurgence of this economic and cultural hub after the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre gutted one of the most remarkable success stories that America has ever seen."

"May 31, 2024, marks 103 years since the start of a ruthless effort to wipe Black Wall Street off the map -- and a state-sponsored campaign to erase it from America's memory," the group said. With one voice, we stress to this subcommittee that the time is now to help us preserve the rich heritage and lessons that make this community such an indelible part of our nation's story."

There are two remaining survivors of the century-old massacre" Viola Fletcher, known as "Mother Fletcher," who turned 110 this month, and Lessie Benningfield Randle, known as "Mother Randle." She is 109.

In 2021, the two women, along with Mother Randle's brother, Hughes "Uncle Red" Van Ellis, who died in October, testified in front of the Senate in 2021 about their memories of the incident and the aftermath of the experience as they tried to appeal to the senate for reparations and an acknowledgment of what happened to them.

Mother Fletcher, who was just 7 at the time of the massacre, told lawmakers: "I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire."

She added, "I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams. I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot. I will not, and other survivors do not. And our descendants do not."

The coalition urged Congress on Wednesday to act quickly on the effort.

"Fortunately, there are still massacre survivors who are alive and eager to witness Congress take a historic step toward making the Greenwood community whole. But we're running out of time," the coalition said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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