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D.C. Memo: What’s changed?

Reporting on the anniversary of George Floyd’s death; Rep. Pete Stauber calls Donald Trump back to Minnesota; and some drama at the southern border.

Gianna Floyd, daughter of George Floyd, along with other family members and lawyers, raised fists and said his name while facing reporters at the White House following their meeting with President Joe Biden on Tuesday.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Gianna Floyd, daughter of George Floyd, along with other family members and lawyers, raised fists and said his name while facing reporters at the White House following their meeting with President Joe Biden on Tuesday.
Hello and welcome back to the D.C. Memo. This week you can find me reflecting on what the last year has meant for Minnesotans and the rest of the country after the killing of George Floyd, the protests that followed and the first conviction of a white police officer killing a Black man in the history of Minnesota. In the memo this week, we’re talking about some highlights of the reporting on that anniversary; Rep. Pete Stauber calls Donald Trump back to Minnesota; and some drama at the southern border.

It’s been a year

Tuesday marked one year since the day George Floyd was killed by former police officer Derek Chauvin outside Cup Foods at 38th & Chicago.

MinnPost reporter Solomon Gustavo spoke with five Minnesotans about what it’s like to be Black in the state — before and after the killing of George Floyd. If you haven’t read this piece yet, I highly recommend you take the time to do that today.

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For me, anniversaries are usually a time for reflection: What has changed in the last year? How are you different now than you were on May 24, 2020? Will companies live up to their promises of diversifying staff and clients? Did Minnesota — or the U.S. for that matter— actually make the changes to policing people are calling for?

Lots of reporters tried to answer those questions this week. The Hill’s Black politics reporter Marty Johnson wrote about what has really changed in the last year. Johnson writes that there is a new president in office “who represents a sea of change from the Trump era… yet there are also new police killings of Black men and women on a regular basis, and Chauvin’s conviction remains a rarity.”

Minnesotans have lived through the original trauma of George Floyd’s killing and the retraumatization that occurred during Chauvin’s trial. Chauvin’s conviction, surrounded by the police killings of numerous Black people — Daunte Wright, Ma’Khia Bryant and Andrew Brown Jr., among others — was a bittersweet moment for many.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, the lead prosecutor in the state’s case against Derek Chauvin, spoke to Washington Post Live to mark one year since the death of George Floyd. Among other issues, he addressed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and leading the prosecution for the Daunte Wright case: “Cases are unique as fingerprints. Our approach will be tailored to the case itself. And I don’t want anyone to expect that because we did one thing in one case that we’re going to do the same thing in another case.”

On the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and the issue of qualified immunity, Ellison said: “I want Cory Booker and Karen Bass to fight like hell. I want Tim Scott to go back to his colleagues and say: ‘We got to pass this even if qualified immunity is in it.’ But, don’t let the bill die over an item that we can come back for later….There are literally millions of families across this country who, their loved ones will be saved, their lives will be saved because of this bill. If you don’t pass anything, then what did George Floyd die for?”

Despite widespread liberal support for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, many activists warn that some of the proposed reforms have not been enough to stop past police abuses. This reflects a divide within the movement over what would constitute real progress.

Floyd family meets with Biden

In a private meeting at the White House on Tuesday, President Joe Biden renewed a promise to Floyd’s family that he would pass a police reform bill in his name, promising justice not only for Floyd but for “a nation still reeling from a year of killings and protests.”

Biden acknowledged that he had missed a self-imposed deadline of signing the bill by the first anniversary of Floyd’s death. According to Brandon Williams, a nephew of Floyd, Biden told the family that although he’s not happy about missing the deadline, he wants the bill to be right.

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“We have to act. We face an inflection point,” the president said in a statement. “The battle for the soul of America has been a constant push and pull between the American ideal that we’re all created equal and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart. At our best, the American ideal wins out. It must again.”

The Trump effect

“Pete Stauber for Congress” sent an email to its mailing list over the weekend, asking: “Did you hear that President Trump is having rallies again?? Wouldn’t it be amazing if President Trump returned to Minnesota for one of his very first rallies? … Sign the petition and join the Official List of Trump Supporters.  NOBODY can excite a crowd like ‘45’ can and we are ready for him!”

The Stauber campaign’s call for Trump to return is a bit interesting given that during his last visit to Duluth in September of last year, the former president vowed: “If I lose Minnesota, I’m never coming back.”

Trump revealed his positive COVID-19 status one day after that rally, and he did lose the state. Trump has a habit of not holding true to his words, though, so it’s possible he’ll make his way back to the North Star state one day.

A call for more relief

The Small Business Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund received more than 372,000 applications seeking around $76 billion, which far exceeds the $28.6 billion Congress made available. These funds are meant to help restaurants that lost business in the pandemic due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing rules. Congress ordered the agency to prioritize applications from women and veterans, as well as minority business owners who meet certain income and asset limits.

Minnesota Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn wasn’t happy about these stipulations, telling the New York Times the prioritization system is discriminatory. Those who won’t make the funding cutoff “happen to be, let’s just be honest with it, white men that own bars and restaurants,” Hagedorn said.

Another Minnesotan weighed in: Democratic Rep. Angie Craig said she was “disappointed” many restaurants would be shut out from the funding, and encouraged her colleagues to extend the program’s funding. “Our government asked them to shut down during a public health crisis,” Craig said. “We need to work together to uphold our ongoing commitment and replenish this fund.”

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More on this subject: Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips has helped introduce a bipartisan bill called the Restaurant Recovery Fairness Act, which has the goal of adding an oversight component to the Small Business Association’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Northerners at the southern border

Republican Reps. Pete Stauber and Jim Hagedorn visited the U.S. border with Mexico in El Paso, Texas, along with a dozen other lawmakers from 11 different states.

Hagedorn said that he wanted to see Biden’s immigration policies firsthand. He tweeted after his visit that Biden’s policies are “America last,” as opposed to former President Trump’s border policies, many of which Biden has still left in place.

Upon his return, Stauber told the Duluth News Tribune that the situation he observed at the border was “a humanitarian crisis” as thousands of migrant children attempt to reach the U.S. every month. Stauber said he wanted to see firsthand and get educated by talking to border patrol agents at the border. The representative also blamed President Biden’s decisions for “exacerbating an influx of migrant children to America.”

DFL Party Chair Ken Martin called Stauber’s visit “grandstanding,” and said he was only exploiting the visit for personal gain.

“The Republicans had four years to fix the immigration system and only made it worse by ending DACA, gutting asylum and cutting legal immigration,” Martin told the Tribune.

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What I’m reading

  • Doug Emhoff didn’t want this life — but he’s happy as hell to be here, POLITICO. This is a delightful profile of second gentleman Doug Emhoff, who’s still navigating the weightier responsibilities of his new perch — like how to take on food insecurity — with, well, just being a dude. For instance, when he showed up at an Annapolis bookstore last week and made a request, it wasn’t for a thick presidential biography but a new memoir by Seth Rogen. Many more fun details about the nation’s number one “wife guy.”
  • Doing the work at work: What are companies desperate for diversity consultants actually buying? The Cut. As I mentioned earlier, I still have questions about whether companies that claimed they were committed to diversity around this time last year actually followed through. This story looks into the explosion of fortune for diversity consultants — people who companies hire for training on and analysis of their diversity policies — who before 2020 had seen a decline in interest from major corporations.
  • How we survived COVID-19 in prison, The Marshall Project. If you’re not familiar with the Marshall Project, it’s a nonprofit news outlet that covers prisons in America, and includes voices of incarcerated people in many stories, including stories written by people currently behind bars. This story is a firsthand chronicle of four incarcerated people as they experienced daily life with the coronavirus.

That’s it from me this week. Thanks for reading! As always, please feel free to send questions, comments or any self-reflections you’ve had over the last year to ahackett@minnpost.com. You can also reach me on Twitter @byashleyhackett.