Some grocery store chains are bringing back limits on purchasing certain items including toilet paper as COVID-19 cases spike in the U.S.
In a statement to USA TODAY, Kroger said they have “proactively and temporarily set purchase limits to two per customer” on items including toilet paper, paper towels, disinfecting wipes and hand soap. The limits went into effect around Monday, the grocer chain said.
Kroger operates stores under multiple brands in 35 states and the District of Columbia. The limits apply to both in-store and online orders.
H-E-B, which manages more than 400 stores mostly in Texas, imposed limits as of Oct. 31 on toilet paper and paper towels to stores in Border, Central Texas, Gulf Coast and San Antonio regions, according to a link on its website tracking purchase limits.
The chain also instituted purchase limits on items including disinfecting wipes as of Oct. 21.
The Giant Co., headquartered in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, has about 190 stores across the U.S., said on Oct. 29 it began limiting customers to buying one bundle of toilet paper and paper towels six rolls or larger and up to four single rolls or 4-roll packs of toilet paper and paper towels. The limits were placed “as the supply chain for these products remains challenged,” the company said in a statement to USA TODAY.
“To be clear, we are seeing little evidence of stockpiling, and there is no need to create panic,” Giant said.
Wegmans, a Rochester, New York-based supermarket chain, said in a statement they have had limits on purchasing toilet paper and paper towels since May and will continue to maintain them.
When the coronavirus pandemic first upended the lives of Americans in March, consumers rushed to stores to stockpile products such as toilet paper, paper towels and disinfecting wipes.
The new limits arrive as COVID-19 cases surge. On Thursday, more than 121,000 cases of coronavirus were tallied across the country, the day after the U.S. moved past 100,000 cases a day for the first time ever.
Some Americans say they plan to stockpile food as fears of a bump in COVID-19 cases and potential election unrest rise. A poll from Sports and Leisure Research Group, Engagious and ROKK Solution found slightly more than half of Americans said they already have or plan to stockpile food and other essentials.
Federal appeals court denies Trump campaign effort to revive Pennsylvania lawsuit saying ‘claims have no merit’
A federal appeals court on Friday denied the Trump campaign’s effort to revive a federal lawsuit challenging the election results in Pennsylvania, ruling “the claims have no merit.”
A panel of three judges for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request by the Trump campaign, led by Rudy Giuliani, to amend its lawsuit, which had been previously rejected.
“The Campaign never alleges that any ballot was fraudulent or cast by an illegal voter,” wrote Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee, for the panel. “It never alleges that any defendant treated the Trump campaign or its votes worse than it treated the Biden campaign or its votes. Calling something discrimination does not make it so. The Second Amended Complaint still suffers from these core defects, so granting leave to amend would have been futile.”
“Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,” the judges added in their opinion.
The President and some of his allies have been questioning the legitimacy of the 2020 election, saying without evidence that it was fraudulent and seeking to use legal battles to overturn results in key states. Most recently, a handful of Pennsylvania Republicans, alongside Giuliani, held a “hearing” in Gettysburg on Wednesday over their baseless allegations of voter fraud.
The judges also rejected the President’s motion to undo Pennsylvania’s certification of votes. The Keystone state on Tuesday certified its general election results, formally awarding President-elect Joe Biden 20 electoral votes.
“The Campaign’s claims have no merit. The number of ballots it specifically challenges is far smaller than the roughly 81,000-vote margin of victory. And it never claims fraud or that any votes were cast by illegal voters. Plus, tossing out millions of mail-in ballots would be drastic and unprecedented, disenfranchising a huge swath of the electorate and upsetting all down-ballot races too. That remedy would be grossly disproportionate to the procedural challenges raised,” the judges wrote.
Biden campaign spokesperson Mike Gwin, following the federal appeals court decision, said that “this election is over and Donald Trump lost” and argued “meritless lawsuits” will not change the outcome.
“Desperate and embarrassingly meritless lawsuits like this one will continue to fail and will not change the fact that Joe Biden will be sworn in as President on January 20, 2021,” added Gwin.
Jenna Ellis, an attorney for Trump’s campaign, said on Twitter following the ruling that “the activist judicial machinery in Pennsylvania continues to cover up the allegations of massive fraud,” and pledged to take the case to the Supreme Court.
The President’s campaign had appealed a scathing ruling last weekend when Judge Matthew Brann threw out the lawsuit ruling it could not be amended and refiled.
Brann compared it to “Frankenstein’s monster … haphazardly stitched together,” and slammed the request to disenfranchise nearly seven million voters in a complaint littered with “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations.”
The appeals court referenced the Trump campaign’s multiple attempts to alter its lawsuit and praised Brann’s handling of the matter. State and local election officials have said there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and both a federal court and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court have dismissed lawsuits seeking to prevent the state from certifying the results of the election.
“We commend the District Court for its fast, fair, patient handling of this demanding litigation,” the panel wrote.
Trump announces pardon for Michael Flynn in tweet
President Donald Trump announced in a tweet Wednesday that he has granted his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, a “full pardon,” wiping away the guilty plea of the intelligence official, lobbyist and conservative fringe darling for lying to the FBI.
The pardon, coming as Trump enters his last days as President, bookends his four years in office and his supporters’ revisionist take on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Since January 2017, the Flynn case has been among the defining scandals and sagas of Trump’s presidency and Attorney General William Barr’s leadership of the Justice Department.
Flynn’s criminal charge had hung over the Trump presidency and shaded nearly every major scandal Trump faced, because Flynn’s lies to the FBI had occurred days into the new administration and were about his transition-time contacts with Russia, which opened the door for warmer relations with a country that had just meddled in the US presidential election.
The pardon also ends a three-year legal saga where, most recently, Flynn’s charge hung in an appeals court in a fight over separation of powers, while the Justice Department was trying to drop the case. The trial-court judge overseeing the case had not taken action since the appeals fight, and was considering whether to dismiss the case or to sentence Flynn. The Justice Department has said Flynn never should have been investigated by the FBI and that his lies to them in January 2017 were immaterial, while Flynn recanted his admissions of guilt.
The White House, in a statement following the President’s announcement, insisted on Flynn’s innocence, with press secretary Kayleigh McEnany saying in part: “The President has pardoned General Flynn because he should never have been prosecuted.”
The pardon brings “to an end the relentless, partisan pursuit of an innocent man,” McEnany wrote. The White House did not provide any evidence of Flynn’s innocence in the statement.
Trump said in March that he was “strongly considering” pardoning Flynn and had told aides in recent days that he planned to pardon him before leaving office.
A Justice Department official said on Wednesday that they were not consulted about a pardon and instead were notified in advance of the President exercising his pardon power for Flynn. The Department would have preferred to have seen the case resolved with a dismissal in court, the official added.
The judge in Flynn’s case, Emmet Sullivan of the US District Court in DC, may also have questions left in the case, as could the next Justice Department in the Biden administration. In addition to pleading guilty to one charge, Flynn admitted to lying about his lobbying for Turkey but was not charged with that crime. During the legal proceedings, Sullivan has also asked probing questions about the lawyering around the case, and it is unclear if the judge will attempt to continue his inquiries.
The pardon is likely to play into Trump’s legacy, as he continues to rail against democratic institutions and had used Flynn as a political symbol to rally his supporters. Trump’s critics have claimed for months the administration has abused its power and undermine the rule of law to help former advisers and friends.
Flynn’s pardon is the second presidential act of clemency related to prosecutions of advisers of the President. The first was Roger Stone.
“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to [Flynn] and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!” Trump’s tweet on Wednesday afternoon said.
Flynn, apparently in response, tweeted a reference to a Bible verse from the Book of Jeremiah: ” ‘They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.”
Calls to Russia
Over the past two years, the retired lieutenant general twice appeared before federal judges and admitted, under oath, that he was guilty of lying to the FBI while serving as national security adviser when they asked him about his calls in December 2016 with the then-Russian ambassador. But in recent months, Flynn claimed his innocence, saying he had been duped and positioning himself as a right-wing martyr in Trump’s fight against “deep state” Obama-era leaders and intelligence officials.
The Justice Department never admitted that much. Instead, the department added fuel in recent months to Flynn’s and Trump’s claims that he had been wrongfully investigated and tried to dismiss his charge. Former prosecutors and law enforcement officials widely criticized that legal approach, calling Barr a politically corrupt lackey of Trump’s atop the Justice Department.
The Flynn matter from the beginning has raised questions about Trump’s apparent appeasement of Russia.
After the election in late 2016, Flynn spoke to then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on the phone several times, requesting that Russia “reciprocate moderately” to US sanctions for its interference in the election and to oppose the Obama administration in an upcoming United Nations vote. He had discussed the calls with Trump transition officials, special counsel Robert Mueller found, and admitted to not documenting the discussions because they could have been perceived as Trump’s transition team getting in the way of the Obama administration’s foreign policy.
“Let’s keep this at even-kill (sic) level; then when we come in, we will have a better conversation where we are going to go regarding our relationship,” Flynn told Kislyak on December 29, 2016, according to transcripts of the calls released by the Trump administration this year.
When FBI agents asked Flynn about the calls in the West Wing in January 2017, Flynn falsely said he had not made the requests of Russia.
In his guilty plea, Flynn also admitted to not telling the Justice Department, which regulates foreign agents in the US, about lobbying for Turkey in 2016. He was not charged with this crime, though the department made clear previously that he could have been.
The aftermath of the Flynn calls with Kislyak, including Trump’s encouragement of then-FBI Director James Comey to go easy on Flynn, contributed to the eventual appointment of Mueller as special counsel, a development that has fueled Trump’s anger for years.
Mueller ultimately found Russia sought to help Trump win in 2016 by leaking stolen Democratic documents, that the Trump political operation embraced those leaks and that Trump repeatedly attempted to thwart the Russia investigation once he became President.
Flynn’s departure from the White House in 2017, days after the FBI interview, came not just because of his lies to the agents. He also lied about his contacts with Kislyak to senior administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence. Senior national security officials at the time believed the lies opened up the possibility Russia could blackmail Flynn.
“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI,” Trump tweeted in December 2017. “He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
Long road for Flynn
Flynn cut a deal with Mueller’s team to cooperate in late 2017, early in that investigation. With that step, he potentially avoided more serious criminal charges, and spent hours with investigators sharing details about the Trump campaign’s and transition’s contacts with Russians as well as Trump’s actions to potentially obstruct the Russia investigation in 2017.
But as his case swerved toward a possible brief prison sentence, Flynn fired his lawyers, replacing them with a defense team that worked to unravel his plea in court and publicly campaigned for the pardon.
Ultimately, Flynn scored the pardon after his team attacked the FBI, Mueller prosecutors and his prior defense team in court — even after a federal judge had rejected the theory of Flynn’s team that the FBI had entrapped him. Trump had also folded regular tweets about Flynn into his continued railings about Comey, the FBI, the courts and “Obamagate,” a vague moniker of right-wing conspiracy theory.
Flynn’s lawyers in April had filed hundreds of pages of arguments in court encouraging further investigation of officials. They had made public, for instance, a handwritten note from a top FBI official in 2017 that suggested if Flynn didn’t admit to a crime of improperly negotiating with Russia during the transition and lied to the FBI instead, the Justice Department could prosecute or “get him fired.” Though not a legally improper approach, the FBI official’s blunt planning helped draw additional attention to Flynn’s case, as did findings by other investigators that the FBI had made missteps in its initial handling of the Russia investigation.
The Justice Department subsequently sent several more internal documents without context to Flynn’s team, allowing the private lawyers to make them public and draw attention to their case. Some have mentioned Joe Biden, though Barr has publicly announced Biden isn’t being investigated.
Sullivan held a hearing in September regarding the case, and was still considering those documents. At the hearing, he asked Flynn’s attorney Sidney Powell about how much she spoke with the President about the case. She responded they had spoken but she had asked Trump not to pardon Flynn.
In public, both she and Trump had said they wanted the legal system to clear Flynn’s name. But that seemed to grow more unlikely with Trump’s loss of the presidency.
In recent weeks, Powell has been one of the more outspoken advocates for Trump’s conspiracy theories of election fraud, which have been repeatedly rejected by judges. Though the Trump campaign has distanced itself from Powell, Trump has tweeted about her assistance to him in fighting his election loss, and his attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis posed in a picture with Flynn that Ellis posted online.
Powell also spoke at a news conference alongside Giuliani a week ago, vowing to fight for Trump.
Trump’s approach to Flynn’s case clearly shifted as well over the three years since his plea.
“What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!” Trump tweeted this April. Pence in late April also said that he now felt more inclined to believe Flynn hadn’t intentionally lied to him.
Trump allies celebrate
Several Trump allies celebrated the news of Flynn’s pardon.
Trump’s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, congratulated Flynn and called it “a well deserved day for an American Patriot.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the President “is right to pardon the respected three-star general.” And Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan simply tweeted, “God Bless Michael Flynn!”
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, meanwhile, said in a statement that the President “abused the pardon power to reward Michael Flynn, who chose loyalty to Trump over loyalty to his country.”
“There is no doubt that a president has broad power to confer pardons, but when they are deployed to insulate himself, his family, and his associates from criminal investigation, it is a corruption of the Framer’s intent,” the California Democrat said, adding, “It’s no surprise that Trump would go out just as he came in — crooked to the end.”
He added later on CNN that Trump’s pardon of Flynn is a “body blow to our national security. It’s also a body blow to the rule of law and, I think, makes a mockery of our democracy to those watching from around the world.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also a California Democrat, called the pardon an “act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power.”
While the President has continued to falsely insist publicly that he won the presidential election rather than Biden, the pardon of Flynn is a sign Trump understands his time in office is coming to a close. He’s expected to issue a string of additional pardons before leaving the White House, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussion.
Read from source: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/11/25/politics/trump-pardon-michael-flynn/index.html
Biden cabinet: Inner circle get key posts as John Kerry named climate envoy
Former US Secretary of State John Kerry will act as climate envoy when US President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Mr Kerry was one of several people named for top positions by the Biden transition team on Monday.
Other key picks included long-time Biden aide Antony Blinken as secretary of state, while reports say former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen will be the choice for treasury secretary.
It comes as calls are growing for Donald Trump to concede the election.
He has made unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud and is continuing to pursue legal challenges over the result.
Mr Biden is projected to beat President Trump by 306 votes to 232 when the US electoral college meets to formally confirm the winner on 14 December. This is far above the 270 votes he needs.
In a statement following the announcement on Monday, Mr Biden said: “I need a team ready on day one to help me reclaim America’s seat at the head of the table, rally the world to meet the biggest challenges we face, and advance our security, prosperity, and values. This is the crux of that team.”
Some of the positions require confirmation in the US Senate.
Who is John Kerry and what will he do?
Mr Kerry was chosen for the role of special presidential envoy for climate.
The Biden transition team said the position would see him “fight climate change full-time”. He is also set to be the first official dedicated to climate change to sit on the National Security Council.
Mr Kerry signed the Paris climate agreement on behalf of the US in 2016. The deal committed countries to working to limit the global temperature rise.
Under Mr Trump, the US recently became the first country to formally withdraw from the agreement. But Mr Biden has said he plans to rejoin the accord as soon as possible.
In 2019, Mr Kerry launched a coalition of world leaders and celebrities – dubbed World War Zero – to call for climate change action and net zero carbon emissions.
Following news of his new role on Monday, he tweeted: “America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is.”
Mr Kerry previously served as secretary of state during Barack Obama’s second term as president. A veteran Democratic politician, he lost to incumbent Republican George W Bush in the 2004 presidential election.
He was a senator for 28 years and chairman of the foreign relations committee.
He endorsed Mr Biden to be the Democratic Party’s candidate in the 2020 race and joined him on the campaign trail.
What about the other roles?
Mr Blinken was nominated as secretary of state – the most important foreign policy position. The 58-year-old was deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration, in which Mr Biden served as vice-president.
He is expected to manage a Biden foreign policy agenda that will emphasise re-engaging with Western allies.
Avril Haines was nominated as the first female director of national intelligence. Ms Haines is a former deputy director of the CIA and deputy national security adviser.
Alejandro Mayorkas was the first Latino nominated to serve as secretary of homeland security. He previously served as deputy secretary of homeland security under President Obama.
Jake Sullivan was named White House national security adviser. Mr Sullivan served as Mr Biden’s national security adviser during Mr Obama’s second term.
Long-time diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield was nominated US ambassador to the UN. She also served under President Obama, including as assistant secretary of state for African affairs between 2013 and 2017.
Biden projects stability and familiarity
In his choice of a national security team, Joe Biden has signalled that the US is resuming its conventional international role, after four turbulent years of Donald Trump’s America First.
He’s appointing Obama administration veterans to top positions and elevating a long-serving career diplomat sidelined by the Trump administration.
His pick for secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, is an advocate of global alliances. Mr Blinken will lead the charge to re-establish ties with allies and rejoin agreements and institutions rejected by Trump. And there’s no doubt that he’ll be speaking for the man in the White House: Mr Blinken has advised Biden on foreign policy for so long he’s been described as an alter ego.
Another familiar face is former Secretary of State John Kerry. The president-elect’s decision to give him a new cabinet-level position as climate envoy shows he’s treating the issue as a significant national security threat.
But even with the old team this is not going to be Obama 2.0: the landscape has shifted in both America and the world during the last four years. Still, Mr Biden is projecting stability and familiarity, and international leaders know what they will be getting
What about the calls for Trump to concede?
President Trump is continuing to refuse to concede and facilitate a smooth presidential transition. He has been pursuing so-far fruitless legal challenges in several states to try to overturn his loss.
His latest legal setback came on Saturday when a judge dismissed his attempt to have millions of postal votes in Pennsylvania invalidated.
It comes as calls are growing for him to accept defeat.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a prominent Trump ally, called the president’s legal team a “national embarrassment”.
“I have been a supporter of the president’s. I voted for him twice. But elections have consequences, and we cannot continue to act as if something happened here that didn’t happen,” he told ABC.
High-profile Trump supporter Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of investment company Blackstone, also said it was time for Mr Trump to accept he lost.
“Like many in the business community, I am ready to help President-elect Biden and his team as they confront the significant challenges of rebuilding our post-Covid economy,” he said in a statement reported by US media.
Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2020-55046714
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