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News Brief: Biden's Address, Cuomo's Investigation, Breonna Taylor Death Anniversary

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

President Biden will require all states to make all American adults eligible for a coronavirus vaccine by May 1.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

He made the announcement during an address to the nation last night. The president also reflected on the past year and laid out a new effort to get the nation closer to normal by the Fourth of July. To do that, though, he says he needs the country on board.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: There is hope and light of better days ahead if we all do our part.

DETROW: Joined now by White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe. Ayesha, I guess first question - is the NPR Politics Fourth of July party at my house or yours at this point?

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: It'd have to be yours right now. I'm sticking my house together (laughter).

DETROW: Well, let's talk about that that July Fourth goal that the president laid out. But first, this more immediate May 1 goal - vaccine rollout has been picking up steam. Still, a lot of people aren't eligible, though, and some eligible people are still having struggles getting that appointment. What exactly does this new May 1 goal mean?

RASCOE: States have been handling vaccine distribution on their own and they have had very different rates at this point. In New Mexico and Alaska, for example, more than 25 percent of the population has at least one dose. But the rate is much lower in states like Georgia, Texas and in Washington, D.C. The federal government is now trying to step up efforts to boost those rates. Biden said they will double the number of pharmacies offering the vaccine to more than 20,000. That's about one-third of the pharmacies in the nation. They want to increase the number of people who can give vaccines. That means expanding the pool to include people like dentists, midwives and even veterinarians. And there will be a new website supported by the federal government that will help people find appointments. And that has been a real challenge, especially for people without Internet or computer access. But Biden did clarify that that May 1 go, doesn't mean everyone will get a vaccine by then, but they should at least be able to get in line.

DETROW: And that would set the stage for this symbolic July Fourth goal that the president talked about. He said he wants the nation kind of at a normal place by then. Things are trending up. We are still in a pandemic, though. What would it take to get us to that July Fourth goal?

RASCOE: He said Americans need to get vaccinated when they can, and he urged people to help their friends and families do the same. But he also warned that Americans will still need to continue following health guidelines like wearing masks and other things, you know, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. You know, this is a much more aggressive timeline than they had been given. Before, it was maybe a return to normal by Christmas. Normal will mean different things. Biden said he hopes Americans will be able to hold small gatherings by the Fourth of July. Here's more from him on that.

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BIDEN: If we do this together, by July the 4, there's a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day.

DETROW: And, Ayesha, this wasn't just a big speech. This is also the day that the president signed a major spending plan, $1.9 trillion of relief, into law.

RASCOE: This is a big moment for Biden. And the speech reflected on the challenges of the last year, but it also served as a marker that the pandemic is hopefully turning around. Passing that relief bill had been his No. 1 priority.

DETROW: And next week, looks like the president will be on the road selling this plan. We will be talking about that next week. NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe. Ayesha, thanks.

RASCOE: Thank you.

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DETROW: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is staring down something hard to imagine this time last year, possible impeachment.

MARTIN: Six women have now accused Cuomo of sexual misconduct. And yesterday, the New York state Assembly's leading Democrat authorized the start of an investigation that opens the door to impeachment.

DETROW: Joining us now, WNYC's Brigid Bergin. Brigid, good morning.

BRIGID BERGIN, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

DETROW: New allegations keep emerging. What are the political and legal repercussions for the governor now?

BERGIN: So Governor Cuomo has really managed to wield power in Albany without a strong check by the state legislature for a long time. No more. They are really pushing back. The Albany Police Department has received a complaint related to that latest allegation against the governor, and this could trigger a criminal investigation. The complaint concerns the most recent of the six allegations reported by the Albany Times Union. A young staffer from the governor's team was summoned to his residence in Albany. She alleges that when she was in a room with him, he reached under her blouse and groped her. In the governor's earlier statements, where he apologized if he offended the other women who had come forward, he's really made a point of saying he never physically touched anyone.

DETROW: Is it fair to say that the most recent allegation made the possibility of his ouster more real due to just the number of allegations out there and how serious this latest one was?

BERGIN: It really does feel like the start of a reckoning. And that became clear after a long, intense meeting yesterday among the state Assembly Democratic conference, who are in the majority. Their plan to begin investigating the allegations includes the power to subpoena testimony under oath. Now, some lawmakers describe this as the best next step, a form of due process, so they could understand if there was evidence against him. But for others, this was really a reluctant compromise. Earlier in the day, more than 50 lawmakers in both statehouses had called for the governor's resignation. And they really want this investigation to lead to an impeachment proceeding. And, Scott, I should note that only one other governor in New York state history has ever been impeached, and that was back in 1913.

DETROW: If Cuomo does leave office one way or the other, who becomes governor?

BERGIN: Next in succession is Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.

DETROW: And this is so serious for Cuomo because this isn't even the only investigation, right? The attorney general is already looking into this.

BERGIN: So it should not. She's made clear that no matter what other investigations ensue and regardless of whether Cuomo remains in office, her team will conduct a full and thorough investigation. Just yesterday, they set up a new website, agindependentinvestigation.com. So if any other individuals want to come forward, they know exactly how to do it.

DETROW: You know, this time last year, Andrew Cuomo was a man who said exactly what he wanted on the stage he wanted. What has his response been as all of the swirls around him and gets more serious?

BERGIN: We actually haven't heard the governor speak publicly since Tuesday, which was before the sixth woman came forward and the new Assembly investigation was authorized. His last statement was released on Wednesday night. There he said again, nothing like this has ever happened.

DETROW: WNYC's Brigid Bergin, thank you so much.

BERGIN: Thank you.

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DETROW: Tomorrow marks a year since police in Louisville, Ky., shot and killed Breonna Taylor.

MARTIN: Taylor was a 26-year-old emergency room technician. Officers were serving what's called a no-knock search warrant when they burst into her apartment in the middle of the night. Taylor's boyfriend thought they were intruders, so he drew a gun and fired a single shot. The police fired 32 bullets in response, fatally striking Taylor five times. Her death inspired months of protests and calls for justice.

DETROW: Jess Clark of member station WFPL joins us now to talk about how people in Louisville will mark the one-year anniversary. A lot of one-year anniversaries to note this year, a lot of them grim. This is another one. How are people commemorating this?

JESS CLARK, BYLINE: Yeah. Well, on Saturday, organizers have planned the first major action since the fall. We've got national groups coming to town, like the New York-based Until Freedom. And then a lot of local civil rights groups are organizing, like Black Lives Matter. And people are going to gather in the small park that's become known as Injustice Square. It's really been the center of protests here. And they will continue calls for justice for Taylor, which many feel has still not been delivered.

DETROW: You've been speaking to people. What have they been saying about how they're impacted by this death a year out? It's grown to global implications.

CLARK: Yeah. So I'm an education reporter, and I was most curious how Taylor's death affected Black high school girls and young women, especially since I've seen so many at the protests. And one of the students I talked to was Nabou Diallo. She's 18, and she's a senior in high school. And Nabou was already pretty nervous around police before Breonna Taylor was killed. Her dad had the talk with her that many young Black kids get about, you know, what to do when you're pulled over by police. But Taylor's death made Nabou even more afraid.

NABOU DIALLO: She was simply in her bed. And she got up to see who was there. It just makes me feel like no matter what I do, like, even if I'm in the comfort of my own house - I'm just minding my business - like, I'm not safe from being killed.

CLARK: So Nabou is one of many young Black women who are really struggling with a heightened sense of anxiety. At the same time, she's 18 years old, and she has this wonderful youthful idealism that 18-year-olds have. And she's really motivated to create change.

DETROW: You know, court proceedings are beginning in some of the other high-profile killings from the past year. Have protesters in Louisville gotten any of the accountability that they've demanded?

CLARK: Well, when it comes to criminal charges, that answer is no. Protesters are still pretty upset with Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron's decision to charge just one officer, Brett Hankison. And those were for bullets that were shot into a neighbor's apartment and not directly related to Breonna Taylor's death. So there are still calls for more officers to face more charges. Three officers have been fired, but they are all appealing those decisions. And the police union here is very powerful. So we have yet to see how that will shake out. And then there's a lot of systemic changes that protesters are demanding. And, you know, that includes shifting funding from the police department to social services. And when it comes to those changes, there has been some movement, but it's not the transformational change that I think protesters are really seeking. So we'll see how protests continue as the weather warms up.

DETROW: Jess Clark with member station WFPL in Louisville, thanks so much.

CLARK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.