News Headlines 6/17/21

NO BREAKTHROUGHS AS BIDEN CLOSES EUROPE TRIP WITH PUTIN MEETING: President Biden ended his eight-day European trip yesterday (June 16th) with a meeting in Geneva with Russian President Vladimir Putin. There were no breakthroughs at the summit, but both leaders did agree to return their chief diplomats to the other’s capital after both were recalled home amid a worsening relationship in recent months, as well as to begin work on a plan to strengthen the last remaining treaty between the U.S. and Russia limiting nuclear weapons. In a joint statement afterward, the two said the meeting showed the, quote, “practical work our two countries can do to advance our mutual interests and also benefit the world.” Biden said he made clear to Putin that if Russia crossed certain lines, including cyberattacks on major American infrastructure, the U.S. would respond and, quote, “the consequences of that would be devastating.” However, Putin continued to publicly claim Russia had nothing to do with recent cyberattacks against U.S. companies. Biden raised human rights issues with Putin, including the case of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, as well as election interference. Both leaders held separate press conferences after the summit, and Biden said when asked if he thought Putin would change his behavior, “I’m not confident he’ll change his behavior. What will change his behavior is the rest of the world reacts to them, and they diminish their standing in the world. I’m not confident in anything.”

ADMINISTRATION ENDS TRUMP RULES MAKING ASYLUM HARDER FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC, GANG VIOLENCE: Attorney General Merrick Garland yesterday (June 16th) instructed immigration judges to stop following rules put in place under former President Donald Trump‘s administration that made it harder for immigrants to qualify for asylum in the U.S. as a victim of domestic violence or gang violence. Many Central Americans trying to come to the U.S. are fleeing gang violence in their countries. Garland said he was making the change after President Biden ordered his office and the Department of Homeland Security to draft rules about complex issues regarding who should qualify for asylum.

BIPARTISAN SENATE GROUP TRYING TO REACH INFRASTRUCTURE DEAL DOUBLES TO 21: A bipartisan group of senators trying to reach an infrastructure deal more than doubled in size yesterday (June 16th) from 10 senators to 21 — 11 Democrats and 10 Republicans — giving their effort more momentum. President Biden, who was returning yesterday from his European trip, said he hadn’t seen the proposal they’re working on yet, but is still hopeful a bipartisan agreement can be reached. At the same time, as talks have been going on for weeks now, Democrats in Congress are also moving on a parallel track of preparing to pass what they can on their own if the bipartisan effort ultimately fails.

BILL TO MAKE JUNETEENTH FEDERAL HOLIDAY HEADS TO BIDEN AFTER APPROVED BY CONGRESS: Legislation that would make Juneteeth, which is on June 19th, a new federal holiday is heading to President Biden for his expected signature after being approved by Congress. The House passed the measure on a 415-14 vote Wednesday (June 16th) after it had been approved under unanimous consent in the Senate a day earlier. Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S., marking when the last slaves learned they were free on June 19, 1865. Union soldiers brought the news of the Confederate surrender two months earlier to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas. It would be the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983.