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Political notebook

Biden announces choices for foreign postings

Thomas Nides has been nominated to serve as ambassador to Israel.
Thomas Nides has been nominated to serve as ambassador to Israel.J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press/File/2012

President Biden announced his first slate of political ambassadors Tuesday, selecting longtime Washington hands for key foreign postings.

Biden will nominate Thomas R. Nides, a former State Department official, to serve as the ambassador to Israel; Julie Smith, a former Biden national security adviser, as the ambassador to North Atlantic Treaty Organization; and Ken Salazar, the former secretary of the interior and senator from Colorado, as the ambassador to Mexico.

The Washington Post previously reported the three were expected in those spots.

Biden will also nominate C. B. “Sully” Sullenberger, III, who safely landed a plane on the Hudson River in 2009, as the representative to the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization, and Dr. Cynthia Ann Telles, a UCLA professor of psychiatry, to serve as ambassador to Costa Rica.

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Washington Post

July Fourth celebration planned at White House

The White House will host a 1,000-person gathering on the South Lawn on the Fourth of July, a celebratory display meant to signal that President Biden delivered on a promise that Americans could expect to return to some semblance of normal life by the holiday.

Essential workers and military families will be invited to participate in the South Lawn event, and administration officials have encouraged local leaders to hold their own celebrations: “America is headed into a summer dramatically different from last year. A summer of freedom. A summer of joy. A summer of reunions and celebrations,” an e-mail circulated to local leaders by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs said.

The National Parks Service announced that visitors are encouraged to attend a holiday fireworks display on the National Mall and that all nearby monuments will be open. (Last year, attendees were advised to stay socially distanced and to avoid traveling into the capital.)

Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington also issued a statement that “D.C. is open and ready to welcome back visitors” for the holiday.

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“We thank President Biden and his team for acting with urgency to get the vaccine to the American people so that we could save lives, get our country open, and celebrate together once again,” Bowser said.

The large celebration goes well beyond the scope of what Biden had promised three months ago. In a televised address in March to mark the anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring the spread of the coronavirus a pandemic, Biden said the country could expect to celebrate with friends and family on the Fourth of July, as long as they took the chance to get vaccinated and did not prematurely abandon mask wearing, social distancing and other measures to contain the virus.

“July 4th with your loved ones is the goal,” he said. “This is not the time to let up.”

The modest expectations Biden laid out in his speech have given way to the largest planned event of his presidency, one designed to emphasize the speed with which the Biden administration has gotten shots in arms. Still, with a recent slowdown in vaccination rates, particularly in Southern states, Biden may not reach his goal of 70 percent of Americans vaccinated by July 4. If the pace of adult vaccination continues on the seven-day average, the nation will come in just shy of Biden’s target, with roughly 67 percent of adults partly vaccinated by July 4, according to a New York Times analysis.

New York Times

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Rohrabacher says he was with crowd outside Capitol in Jan.

Former congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, said Monday that he was among the crowds outside the US Capitol on Jan. 6, but claimed that he was there to protest the election and did not join others in storming the building.

Rohrabacher acknowledged his presence outside the Capitol in an interview with a Maine newspaper. Over the weekend, social media users began circulating photos that appeared to show the former congressman and an associate standing among the pro-Trump crowd.

“I marched to protest, and I thought the election was fraudulent and it should be investigated, and I wanted to express that and be supportive of that demand,” Rohrabacher, 73, said in the interview with the Portland Press Herald. “But I was not there to make a scene and do things that were unacceptable for anyone to do.”

Rohrabacher could not immediately be reached for comment.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, and dozens of court challenges seeking to overturn President Biden’s victory failed.

Nearly 140 police officers were assaulted during the insurrection, authorities said, facing some rioters armed with ax handles, bats, metal batons, wooden poles, hockey sticks, and other weapons.

The House last month passed legislation that would form an independent commission to investigate the attack. But the measure failed to advance in the Senate, with nearly all Republicans in the chamber banding together in opposition.

During his time as a member of Congress, Rohrabacher earned a reputation as among the most vocal defenders of Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. In June 2016, then-House majority leader Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, asserted in a private conversation with other Republican leaders: “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”

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Rohrabacher served in Congress for 30 years. After losing reelection in 2018, he moved to Maine and has been active in the cannabis industry. He and his wife, Rhonda, have also taken steps toward becoming active in local politics in their new hometown of York.

According to the Portland Press Herald, videos of the Jan. 6 riot show the former congressman was nearly 500 feet inside the restricted zone surrounding the Capitol, but there are no signs that he tried to enter the building.

In the interview with the newspaper, Rohrabacher also promoted a false narrative about the storming of the Capitol, claiming without evidence that “leftist provocateurs” led the charge.

“By going into the building, they gave the left the ability to direct the discussion of what was going on in a way that was harmful to the things we believe in,” Rohrabacher said.

Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, has made similar false claims about the identities of those who stormed the Capitol. Federal officials have said there is no substantial evidence of left-wing provocation or that anti-fascist activists posed as Trump supporters during the riot.

Washington Post