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State of the Union live updates and analysis: 'Finish the job,' Biden expected to say

Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden delivers his second State of the Union address at 9 p.m. ET, marking a pivotal moment as he lays out not only his accomplishments and agenda, but makes the case for his leadership ahead of an expected announcement on whether he'll run for reelection.

Unlike his first two years in office, Republicans now control the House of Representatives and Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who will sit behind the president for the first time, has threatened to block Biden's agenda.

ABC News will broadcast special coverage and stream the address on ABC News Live. Partners at FiveThirtyEight will provide analysis in the live blog below during Biden's speech.

Please check back for updates. All times Eastern.

Feb 07, 7:03 PM EST
Some of the guests who will attend Biden's speech

Often, those invited to a president's State of the Union address represent the topics he is expected to focus on during his remarks.

First lady Jill Biden's office announced Tuesday morning who will join her in her viewing box at her husband's speech later in the day.

She won't be the only one bringing guests. Here's a look at some of the notable names:

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff will join Jill Biden with his guest, Holocaust survivor Ruth Cohen of Rockville, Maryland.

The Congressional Black Caucus initially invited the family of Tyre Nichols -- the Memphis, Tennessee, man who died after being attacked by police last month -- and the White House announced that Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells, and stepfather, Rodney Wells, will sit in the first lady's box.

Also in the first lady's box will be Brandon Tsay of San Marino, California, who disarmed the shooter in the Monterey Park, California, shooting; former Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul Pelosi, who was attacked by an intruder last fall; U2's Bono for his work fighting HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty; and Oksana Markarova, Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says he invited former NBA player Enes Freedom as his guest.

Freedom, an outspoken critic of China's reported abuse of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, has met with House GOP several times this year. He wrote in a tweet that he was "deeply honored and humbled to attend the State of the Union address" and appreciates McCarthy's "friendship, leadership and support."

-ABC News' Ben Gittleson and Lauren Peller

Feb 07, 6:30 PM EST
Biden to say America's democracy is 'bruised' but remains 'unbroken'

In his speech tonight, President Biden will speak about the state of American democracy as he addresses Congress and the nation.

"The story of America is a story of progress and resilience … We are the only country that has emerged from every crisis stronger than when we entered it. That is what we are doing again," Biden is expected to say, according to excerpts of his prepared speech released by the White House, as has become a tradition.

Biden will specifically tout his administration's response to the economic crisis, COVID-19 and attacks on democracy.

"Two years ago our economy was reeling," he's expected to say in the address. "As I stand here tonight, we have created a record 12 million new jobs -- more jobs created in two years than any president has ever created in four years. Two years ago, COVID had shut down our businesses, closed our schools, and robbed us of so much. Today, COVID no longer controls our lives."

"And two years ago, our democracy faced its greatest threat since the Civil War. Today, though bruised, our democracy remains unbowed and unbroken."

Feb 07, 6:21 PM EST
Schumer and Jeffries: Expect Biden to draw contrasts with GOP

Ahead of the president's State of the Union address, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said that Biden should not only tout what he's done for the American people but also draw a contrast with the GOP alternative during his later remarks.

While meeting with a small group of reporters, the Brooklyn Democrats noted that even as Biden faces headwinds in the polls, he would do well in highlighting the legislative wins their party have secured for average Americans while drawing a clear contrast between Democrats who they said are "unified with a sense of purpose" and what they called "the chaos and dysfunction and extremism" in the Republican Party.

When asked by ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott about a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showing 41% of Americans believe they are not as well off since Biden took office, Schumer argued Democrats don't need a reset.

"You know, it's not going to be you know, a huge campaign rally speech," Schumer said, before pushing back on poll numbers. "I don't think we need a reset. Most of it hasn't been implemented a lot of it hasn't even had the regulations implemented at the executive level yet. You know, if it's a year from now, maybe that's a valid argument but I don't think it will be that way a year from now."

– ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott

Feb 07, 6:05 PM EST
Potential debt ceiling standoff looms large

When Biden delivers his State of the Union address, it will be the first with new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy sitting over his shoulder.

Shaping up to be the first major obstacle that McCarthy and Biden must work together to overcome is how Congress should go about raising the federal borrowing limit, which the Treasury Department has indicated will need to be done as soon as June to make sure none of the federal government's bills go unpaid.

The conflict, along with the potentially calamitous economic consequences of a debt default, will no doubt color some of Biden's remarks as he looks to reassure the 53% of Americans who are "very" concerned about that outcome, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Biden and McCarthy say they agree that the nation cannot default on its debt, but with the Treasury already using "extraordinary measures" to keep the nation out of the red, that's about all they agree on.

The speaker looked to preempt Biden's State of the Union speech in remarks Monday night in which he outlined what he saw as the major risks the nation faces by failing to cut spending. McCarthy described the $31.4 trillion national debt as the "greatest threat to our future."

The Biden administration, meanwhile, maintains that the debt limit must be raised without any political negotiation or bargaining, as has been done under both parties over many years.

-ABC News' Allison Pecorin

Feb 07, 6:01 PM EST
The State of the Union doesn’t usually affect the president’s approval rating

Biden and Democrats might be hoping that Tuesday night's State of the Union address will give him a political boost, but history shows that’s unlikely to be the case.

When we compare Gallup polls taken just before State of the Union addresses since 1978 to Gallup polls taken just after them, we see that the president’s approval rating typically doesn’t move very much.

On average, a president’s approval rating shifts by just 2.6 points after State of the Union addresses. But that shift is just as likely to be negative as it is positive. As a result, the average president has gotten just 0.4 points more popular after the State of the Union.

While a few presidents, such as Bill Clinton in 1998, have emerged from the speech in a significantly improved position, they are the exception, not the rule. And those changes may not even be attributable to the State of the Union; for example, then-President Donald Trump’s approval rating rose 6 points after his 2019 address -- but the 2018-19 government shutdown came to an end just a few days before his speech.

-FiveThirtyEight's Nathaniel Rakich

Feb 07, 5:59 PM EST
Congressional Black Caucus, other Democrats to wear pins advocating policing reform

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other Democrats will wear black pins tonight to highlight policing reform, an issue that has stalled on Capitol Hill but for which there have been renewed calls in the wake of Tyre Nichols' beating and death.

The round, black pins members are wearing have the year "1870" bolded in white. The year, they say, refers to the first known instance of an unjustified police officer killing of a Black person in the U.S, according to lawmakers.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., was passing out the pins along earlier with a card noting police killed Henry Truman in 1870.

"153 years later, nothing has changed," the card said.

Meanwhile, some Republican members have been wearing lapel pins resembling AR-15 rifles in recent weeks, distributed by Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ariz.

Biden is expected to address policing reform in his State of the Union address and has invited Nichols' parents to attend as his guests.

-ABC News' Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott

Feb 07, 5:52 PM EST
What Biden promised in last year's State of the Union: Report card

Biden will deliver his second State of the Union in a matter of hours, raising the question: What did he promise last year, and was he able to achieve what he laid out?

Among the top priorities he outlined last March were rallying American support for Ukraine in its effort to repel the Russian invasion and efforts to fight record-setting inflation. He said the State of the Union was strong "because you, the American people, are strong."

Yet, a new ABC News/Washington Post shows just 36% of Americans think Biden has accomplished a great deal or good amount as president; 62% say he's accomplished not very much or nothing at all.

And with Biden appearing poised to run for a second term -- and looking to use this year's speech to make his case -- nearly six in 10 Democratic-aligned adults don't want to see him nominated again -- and his approval rating after two years in office is well below average compared with the previous 13 presidents. Only one, former President Donald Trump, has lower numbers.

Here are highlights of what Biden said last year and how things turned out.

Feb 07, 5:29 PM EST
McConnell blasts Biden ahead of address

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed Joe Biden for what he called the nation’s economic woes under two years of Democratic control -- just hours ahead of the president’s State of the Union address.

The Kentucky Republican appeared to rely heavily on new ABC News/Washington Post polling -- while not citing the data directly -- in remarks on the Senate floor, claiming Biden has created an America in which only 16% of citizens feel they are in a better financial situation than they were in two years ago.

"For 84 percent of Americans, one party Democratic control of Washington either failed to live up to its consequences or actively made life worse,” McConnell said.

McConnell hit Biden on inflation, immigration, the Afghanistan withdrawal, school choice, and more in the lead up to Biden's speech tonight.

He also criticized the administration for its handling of the Chinese spy balloon, arguing that it was "ludicrous to suggest that Canada and the United States had no choice but to let this thing traipse across the continent from coast to coast. "

–ABC News’ Allie Pecorin

Feb 07, 4:43 PM EST
McCarthy sees no need for fencing reinstalled around Capitol

Speaking earlier Tuesday with reporters, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy signaled that there were no security threats ahead of the State of the Union to justify the fencing put up around the Capitol as it was after Jan. 6, 2021

"I don't think you need it," McCarthy said when asked about the high, non-scalable fence installed in recent days. "There's no intel that there's any problem, any groups, or anything else," he added.

McCarthy said that while the House Sergeant at Arms did not see a need for the fencing, the Secret Service, the Senate Sergeant at Arms, and the Architect of the Capitol did.

"They'll pay for it -- take it up, take it down," he said. "I just don't think it's the right look. There's not a need."

The speaker's comments follow House Republicans moving to open the House side of the Capitol to visitors and to remove magnetometers, among other changes, after taking the majority in January.

-ABC News' Gabe Ferris

Feb 07, 4:34 PM EST
Where Biden’s approval rating stands before he addresses the country

Biden is expected to announce within months that he is seeking reelection in 2024, a source previously told ABC News.

As he prepares his next move, FiveThirtyEight’s polling average shows that his approval numbers are slowly ticking up from where they were last fall. On Feb. 7, Biden hit a 43% approval rating in FiveThirtyEight’s average -- an increase of 2 points since Nov. 8, the day of the 2022 midterm elections.

This might not seem like a huge increase in the grand scheme of things, but in the current age of strong partisan polarization, any upward trajectory is likely encouraging for Biden ahead of him officially announcing another run.

On the other hand, polling does show that Biden enjoys relatively mild support for another campaign from inside his own party, with only 58% of Democratic primary or caucus voters saying they want Biden to be their nominee in 2024, according to an Emerson College poll released in late January, while 42% said it should be someone else.

That 58% is a 6-point drop from when Emerson asked Democrats the same question in June. But Biden has stronger support among some key demographic groups: According to the poll, 75% of Black Democratic voters and 72% of Hispanic Democratic voters want Biden to be their standard-bearer. White Democrats are more divided, with 51% saying someone besides Biden should be the nominee.

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll found similar concerns among Democrats about Biden being renominated in 2024.

-FiveThirtyEight's Alex Samuels

Feb 07, 4:22 PM EST
Sarah Huckabee Sanders to cast Biden as unfit in GOP response, her team says

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders will cast Biden as an unfit commander in chief when she delivers the Republican response to his State of the Union address, her team said Tuesday.

Sanders, 40, currently the youngest governor in the country, is expected to talk about a new generation of leadership as she follows an address from the oldest sitting president in American history.

She is expected to say that the choice is no longer between right or left -- the choice is between normal or crazy. She is expected to accuse Biden of not defending American borders, skies and people, according to her team.

-ABC News' John Santucci

Feb 07, 4:00 PM EST
'Finish the job,' Biden expected to say

"Finish the job" will be a common refrain in the president's State of the Union address, according to a White House official.

"This evening during the State of the Union, President Biden will speak directly to the American people and outline the historic progress we have made over the past two years and his agenda for the future," the official said. "President Biden ran for office for three main reasons: to rebuild the backbone of the country, to unite the country and to restore the soul of the nation. In the State of the Union, he’ll say that we need to finish the job."

This theme also plays into the groundwork that Biden is laying for a reelection bid.

Biden is also expected to specifically highlight the heroism of Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the Monterey Park shooter, and reference the parents of Tyre Nichols in the audience, as he calls for gun and policing reforms.

-ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Mary Bruce and Molly Nagle

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Some of George Santos' constituents come to Capitol Hill to demand his expulsion

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- About 45 constituents of Republican Rep. George Santos traveled from New York's 3rd Congressional District to Capitol Hill Tuesday to demand Congress vote to expel him.

"We are here because Speaker McCarthy apparently cannot hear us when we speak from Long Island," said Jody Kass. Kass is the coordinator of Concerned Citizens of NY-03, a nonpartisan group who want to see Santos ousted from office.

"Speaker McCarthy, if the GOP is so concerned about election integrity, how about doing something about the con man who lied his way into the House and perpetrated the greatest fraud on the electorate in American history?" she said.

The constituents were also joined by Reps. Daniel Goldman and Ritchie Torres, the New York Democrats who recently filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee where the investigative process has started.

McCarthy told reporters Tuesday the committee is "moving through" the complaint and suggested the House would take action if the committee found wrongdoing.

"George Santos, I give him credit, he's the greatest fiction writer in the history of Congress," Torres said.

"But the time has come to end the tragedy and the comedy that is George Santos. You should no longer be deprived of the representation that you deserve," he continued to cheers from the crowd.

"Congressman Torres and I filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee a couple of weeks ago as one of the first things that we did as part of this Congress because we saw the unbelievable and unprecedented amounts of fraud, deception, and lies that a single person has brought to what should be the hallowed halls of the Capitol," Goldman said.

Taiba Ahmad, a teacher from Santos' district and an Afghan refugee, said she works to help other refugees. While she previously worked with the constituent service team for former Rep. Tom Suozzi, Santos' predecessor, she cast doubt on the work Santos will be able to do.

"Constituents depend on their member of Congress daily to assist them with issues, some as unusual as mine, but even for everyday things like filing our taxes or applying for government services," Ahmad said.

"This is not a Republican or Democrat issue," she said. "It comes down to whether the residents of New York-03 deserve to have a real representation in Congress. Right now, we do not have a legitimate representation that we can depend on."

Santos tweeted in late January that he was "getting the job I signed up for done."

The Long Island constituents then dropped off petitions calling for Santos' resignation to the offices of Rep. Michael Guest, chair of the House Ethics Committee, Speaker McCarthy, and Santos.

When the group arrived at Santos' office, a staffer came out to accept the petition, but the embattled congressman was nowhere to be found, prompting chants of "Where's George?"

"Today, we found out that he is a chicken because he is afraid of his constituents," Kass told reporters after leaving Santos' office.

ABC News' Katherine Faulders contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


How search for UFOs helped lead US government to Chinese spy balloons

Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. intelligence community's review of UFO incidents reported by U.S. military personnel in recent years played a role in the detection of China's fleet of surveillance balloons, according to a U.S. official.

In the wake of the shootdown of a surveillance balloon this past weekend, U.S. officials have disclosed that China has developed a fleet of surveillance balloons like the one that traversed the United States last week before being shot down on Saturday.

On Monday, Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, told reporters that there had been earlier intrusions near or in U.S. airspace by Chinese surveillance balloons during the Trump administration -- but that they had not been detected by his command at the time.

"We did not detect those threats and that's a domain awareness gap that we have to figure out," VanHerck told reporters.

VanHerck said that U.S. intelligence made NORAD aware of the threat posed by the surveillance balloons after the fact through "additional means of collection and made us aware of those balloons that were previously approaching North America or transit in North America."

But the senior military commander responsible for threats to the United States would not specify what techniques were employed by U.S. intelligence to determine the capabilities of the balloons.

It appears that the ongoing review by the U.S. intelligence community and the Pentagon of hundreds of Unexplained Anomalous Phenomena (UAP) incidents reported by military personnel was one of the techniques that helped identify that China was carrying out a foreign surveillance program using balloons, according to a U.S. official.

Unexplained Anomalous Phenomena is the federal government’s new term to describe UFOs.

That review of UAP incidents in recent years, required by congressional legislation, helped inform the identification process of the threat posed by China's balloon program and how it was being done according to the official.

However, a senior U.S. official stressed that the UAP findings should not be conflated with the balloons being used with those being used by China. Another official emphasized that China's fleet of surveillance balloons was detected through a broad variety of means.

The UAP review, led by the Pentagon's All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office and the Director of National Intelligence, seeks to find explanations for hundreds of reported incidents that now number more than 500.

The DNI's most recent update released a month ago found terrestrial explanations for more than half of the 366 new reported incidents since the first unclassified report released in the summer of 2021.

Balloons or balloon-like entities were found to be the reason for the vast majority of those terrestrial explanations.

The original 2021 DNI report indicated that some of the possible reasons that could eventually be found for the many unexplained incidents in that report might include technologies deployed by China, Russia, other nations, or a non-government entity

In October, ABC News reported that foreign surveillance was also deemed to a factor in recent incidents according to a U.S. official who added that it could not be determined who was responsible though the most likely candidates would be China and Russia since they have the most interest in monitoring the U.S. military.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden is set to propose higher taxes for the rich. Here's how they work.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Tuesday is expected to tout the nation's economic health in his State of the Union Address, just days after a blockbuster jobs report showed a strong labor market has coincided with a monthslong easing of inflation.

Looking ahead, however, Biden is expected to propose solutions for what he considers an ongoing economic ill: income and wealth inequality.

The wealth of the top 1% increased by $6.5 trillion in 2021, according to a study the Federal Reserve released last year. That wealthiest sliver of Americans controls 32% of the country's wealth, the study found.

The Biden administration's agenda, set to be announced Tuesday night, includes two policy proposals: a new tax on billionaires and the sharp increase of a current tax on corporate stock buybacks.

"The idea is to have a commitment to reducing inequality," Reuven Avi-Yonah, a law professor at the University of Michigan who focuses on corporate taxes, told ABC News. "There's no indication that the increase in inequality is stopping anytime soon and something should be done about it, so the Democrats say."

Here's what to know about Biden's anticipated tax proposals for wealthy individuals and corporations:

Billionaire's tax

A key part of Biden's new economic policy agenda is a billionaire's tax, which would set a minimum tax for the wealthiest Americans, the White House said.

The Biden administration has offered scant details about the proposal, but it appears to closely resemble a policy that Biden put forward last March. At that time, he called for a tax rate of at least 20% on Americans who bring in at least $100 million per year.

The tax rate would apply both to income and unrealized gains, a measure of the value a person's unsold investments have accumulated.

"President Biden is a capitalist and believes that anyone should be able to become a millionaire or a billionaire," the White House said in a statement Tuesday. "He also believes that it is wrong for America to have a tax code that results in America's wealthiest households paying a lower tax rate than working families."

Between 2018 and 2020, the nation's wealthiest 400 families paid an average tax rate of 8%, the White House's Council of Economic Advisers found.

The wealthiest 25 people saw their worth increase a combined $401 billion between 2014 and 2018, but they paid an average federal income tax of 3.4% on that wealth, ProPublica found last year. By contrast, the median American making $70,000 a year pays an average federal income tax of 14%, the outlet said.

The proposal likely will face staunch Republican opposition, giving it a low probability of becoming law, since Republicans control the House of Representatives, Avi-Yonah of the University of Michigan said.

In response to previous efforts to tax wealthy Americans, Republicans have said the measures disincentivized business investment and wealth creation, hindering economic growth.

"The truth is it will not pass now with Republicans in control of the House," Avi-Yonah said. "So it's rhetoric."

Increase to the tax on stock buybacks

In addition to the billionaire's tax, the Biden administration is expected to propose a sharp increase of a current tax on corporate stock buybacks.

Companies opt to purchase shares of their own stock as a means of returning money to shareholders, since the move typically raises the price of shares.

The Biden administration takes issue with the practice because it provides money for shareholders while evading the taxes on income imposed when a company disperses money to shareholders through dividends, according to the White House. Instead, stock buybacks return money to investors as capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate.

"Stock buybacks enable corporations to funnel tax-advantaged payouts to wealthy and foreign investors," the White House said Tuesday.

The Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law by Biden in August 2022, imposed a 1% tax on stock buybacks. If a company purchases $100 million worth of shares, for instance, it must pay $1 million in tax.

In his State of the Union Address, Biden is expected to propose quadrupling that tax to 4%, the White House said.

As with the billionaire tax, the levy on stock buybacks is expected to face strong Republican opposition and long odds to become law.

Jesse Fried, a professor at Harvard Law School focused on corporate governance, said he opposes a tax on stock buybacks because the measures force companies to either hold onto excess capital or invest it in wasteful initiatives.

Instead, stock buybacks allow companies to return money to shareholders, who can then invest or spend the money, spurring economic activity, he said.

"You're just going to have more cash bottled up in companies," he said.

Avi-Yonah, meanwhile, said proponents of a higher tax on stock buybacks argue that the measure could pressure companies to invest money in initiatives with greater social benefit.

Supporters of the policy say companies "should be using money for other things like hiring people," Avi-Yonah said. "Stock buybacks are regressive and benefit the rich at the expense of everyone else."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Mother takes call for police reform to Biden's State of the Union after her son's deadly arrest: 'See my pain'

Valerio Rosati/EyeEm/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Amid national outrage after the release of the video showing the deadly beating of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police, Mona Hardin was reminded of the pain she felt after learning that her son Ronald Greene died after a struggle with Louisiana State Police in May 2019.

"My legs went out from under me," Hardin said in an interview with ABC News, describing how she felt when she learned of her son's death. "I felt that same weakness when I saw Tyre."

"It was so gut wrenching … it was like seeing Ronnie all over and then seeing a lot of the other victims all over," Hardin said.

Greene died in May 2019 after a struggle with Louisiana State Police officers following a high-speed chase near Monroe where Greene failed to stop for a traffic violation.

And now Hardin, along with other families of Black men who died after encounters with police, are bringing their call for police reform to the nation's capital on Tuesday where they are set to attend President Joe Biden's second State of the Union address.

"There's an ugliness and there's a comfort at the same time because only these families know what's in each other's hearts," Hardin said. "All these families know the excruciating, shattering pain. Our lives will never be the same. That is the common thread that binds all of us together."

The White House announced on Tuesday that RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells – the mother and stepfather of Nichols – are set to attend Biden's address as guests of First lady Jill Biden. Nichols died several days after a violent traffic stop on Jan. 7 captured in body camera and street surveillance footage, which shows officers repeatedly beating him. Five officers were fired and have been charged so far in connection with his death and a sixth police officer was also fired.

ABC News confirmed that Democratic lawmakers invited other family members of Black men who died after encounters with police, including Jayland Walker's mother -- Pamela Walker, Michael Brown's father -- Michael Brown, Sr., Eric Garner's mother -- Gwen Carr, and Amir Locke's father, Andre Locke.

Hardin said when she got a call from Rep. Troy Carter, D-Louisiana, inviting her to attend the State of the Union she was "stunned" and "elated" because she says for years her son's case had been "dormant."

Hardin worked to raise awareness about her son's case for three and a half years before the Union Parish district attorney John Belton convened a grand jury to examine the case in November 2022, resulting in charges against five Louisiana police officers in December 2022 in connection with Greene's arrest.


Trooper Kory York was charged with one count of negligent homicide and 10 counts of malfeasance. Union Parish Deputy Christopher Harpin was charged with three counts of malfeasance. Trooper John Clary faces one count of malfeasance and one count of obstruction of justice, while former Troop Commander John Peters and trooper Dakota Demoss each face one count of obstruction of justice.

The attorneys representing York and Harpin told ABC News on Monday that their clients will plead not guilty during the arraignment hearing on Feb. 22.

ABC News has reached out to the attorneys of the three other officers but requests for comment were not returned.

The initial police report said Greene died due to a car crash. But in May 2021, two years after Greene's death, Louisiana State Police released hours of body camera video that showed a violent struggle between Greene and police. State troopers are seen punching and using a stun gun on Greene after he crashed his car following a pursuit in northern Louisiana on May 10, 2019.

"What happened to Ronnie was a cover up," Hardin said, vowing to continue her fight for justice.

An autopsy report by the Union Parish Coroner's Office found blunt force injury to Greene's head, neck and torso. The cause of death was listed as "cocaine-induced agitated delirium complicated by motor vehicle collision, physical struggle, inflicted head injury and restraint."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division are also investigating Greene's deadly arrest. Meanwhile, Greene's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the troopers involved in the incident, as well as their supervisors.

The death of Nichols in January renewed calls for accountability and intensified a push for police reform as legislation stalls in Congress. The president, who met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the wake of Nichols' death, is expected to address police reform as he urges lawmakers to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which initially passed in the House in May 2021 but languished in the Senate.

Asked what she would like to hear from Biden, Hardin said, "please don't look through me, look at me."

"Look into my heart, see my pain. See the pain of all our families. Because if changes aren't made, you're looking right through us," she added.

ABC News' Amanda Su contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Missouri AG: Allowing abortion pills to be mailed a 'flawed reading' of federal statute

ABC News

(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.) -- The Justice Department gave its approval this month for the United States Postal Service to deliver abortion drugs to states that have banned the procedure. Walgreens and CVS have applied for certification to provide the pills through their online pharmacies.

But attorneys general from 20 states with strict abortion bans have issued a stark warning to pharmacies that following through on mailing abortion pills would violate federal and some state laws.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey wrote the letter. He spoke to ABC News Live’s Linsey Davis about why the attorneys general issued the warning and whether women who receive the medication could face prosecution:

DAVIS: Attorney General Bailey, we thank you so much for talking with us tonight. First, can you explain to us, the U.S. Justice Department has said that mailing these pills, which can have various of uses, that it does not violate federal law. Why do you and your fellow attorneys general believe that it does?

BAILEY: Well, it's a flawed reading of the statute, and someone somewhere is going to hold the Biden administration and these unelected federal bureaucrats accountable, because shipping abortion drugs through the mail absolutely does violate the plain text of federal statute and state law here in Missouri. And so for us, this is about protecting the rule of law. It's about protecting women and protecting children.

DAVIS: Why did you decide to spearhead this multistate warning to the pharmacies?

BAILEY: Well, at this point, the states are the vanguard in the fight against the rise of the unelected federal administrative state, and state attorneys general are the tip of the spear in that fight. And I'm proud to be leading this effort of 20 states, 20 like-minded attorneys general, who believe, like I do — that it's worth standing up and saying no and fighting back in order to protect children and protect the health of women.

DAVIS: Some, including abortion opponents, have expressed concern that this could result in the prosecution of women who receive the medications via the mail. Is that your intent?

BAILEY: Certainly not. This is not about prosecuting women. It's about protecting women's health and protecting children and holding corporations accountable if they attempt to violate state and federal law.

DAVIS: So, what would happen? I mean, that would be the end result, right? If I happen to live in your state and I want to get this mail shipped to me and I get the mail shipped to me, then would you prosecute me?

BAILEY: No, the law doesn't permit prosecution of women who obtain the drugs. The law is designed and intended to prevent the shipment of the drugs in the first place. And that's what our letter’s all about. It's directed towards the pharmacies who would ship the abortion drugs through the mail. Because I would also point out that these drugs are proven to be harmful. They're harmful to the health of the children first and foremost, but they're six times more likely to cause complications for women. And so, the health and safety of the women is codified in the prohibition of the shipment of these drugs. And the prohibition is against the pharmacies from doing it. And that's why we're standing up to protect the rule of law and enforce the laws as written.

DAVIS: So, I want to pick up on your idea there that it's harmful. In your letter to the pharmacies, you specifically say the medication abortion is higher risk than other methods. The American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists consider the method to be safe and effective in terms of the women's health and safety. What is your concern? Because you're saying that it's harmful. These doctors who specialize in abortions say that it's not.

BAILEY: Well, the research runs counter to what they're saying. But also, I would point out that the health and safety concerns, the health and safety of the women and children are codified in state and federal statute. The policy makers in government, our elected representatives, have spoken on this issue. And again, that's why it's about protecting the rule of law for us as much as it is about protecting the health and safety of women and children.

DAVIS: And I realize also, you're saying you're trying to protect the women and children. If the women have decided based on their own conversations with their doctors, that this is a safe alternative for them, then why not let them take the risk? I mean, risk comes with a lot of different kinds of medications, no?

BAILEY: Well, it's a rule of law issue for us. And I think that, again, is expressed in our letter. And 19 other state attorneys general agree with that proposition, that we've got to stand up and enforce the laws as written. The plain text of the statute means something. And so unelected federal bureaucrats and the Biden administration don't get to read out or read around the law by enacting and promulgating a rule that undermines the will of the people as expressed through their elected representatives. So, we're going to fight to enforce the rule of law.

DAVIS: Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, we thank you so much for your time and your insight.

BAILEY: Thank you, ma'am.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


George Santos' constituents speak out, worry about services: 'You obviously can't take his word'

A neatly-taped sign on the door of Santo's office is the only external indicator that the office belongs to Santos rather than the district's former congressman. -- Peter Charalambous/ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- For the roughly 750,000 people who live in New York's 3rd Congressional District, embattled Rep. George Santos is more than the near-daily headlines he makes.

The freshman congressman, a Republican, sits at the center of controversy over his past falsehoods and embellishments and multiple ongoing investigations. (He's denied wrongdoing.)

But he is also his district's direct link to the federal government and its chief representative in national policymaking. As state Assemblymember Charles Lavine put it to ABC News, the scandals have severely curtailed Santos' ability to advocate for his constituents, leaving him as "a congressional representative in name only" -- who many residents would prefer to see out of office.

A Newsday/Siena College survey released last week of 653 voters in Santos' district, conducted in late January, found that 78% said they want him to resign.

Santos has rebuffed calls to step down, saying it's up to the voters to reelect him, or not, in 2024.

"They deserve somebody who's going to come here and fight and not get involved with the media nonsense that we're seeing take place," Santos said in an interview on Steve Bannon's "War Room" podcast in January.

Last week, he temporarily recused himself from his two committee assignments -- on the small business and science, space and technology panels -- and told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott it was "in interest of the voters."

"This [controversy] will not deter me ... I will be effective. I will be good," he told The New York Post in December.

But according to the new Newsday/Siena poll, 75% of polled constituents said they believe Santos will not in fact be able to be an effective representative, compared to 16% who said they believe he can. A group of constituents headed to Washington on Tuesday with a petition they said was signed by more than 1,000 people in the district who want Santos out of office.

ABC News spoke with more than a dozen residents or workers in Santos' district to better understand their views on the congressman.

Santos' office did not comment for this story.

'Why are you there?'

Santos recently opened a constituent office in the Douglaston neighborhood of New York City. When ABC News visited the location over two days in late January, it lacked any Santos signage except for a taped piece of paper on the door and instead appeared to still be held by Santos' predecessor, Tom Suozzi.

No constituents visited, though the office was up and running.

James Schnacker, an Army veteran who said he had been medically discharged, who now works as employee at an Oyster Bay, New York, hardware store, said he would not be confident approaching Santos' office for services.

"You obviously can't take his word," Schnacker said.

State Assemblymember Lavine, a Democrat, said he has pledged to work with Santos to assist their shared constituents but still has serious concerns. Lavine gave an example of a hypothetical resident who may need help with their immigration status after overstaying a visa.

"I have no way of knowing whether Mr. Santos is going to report this person to immigration, who then may look for him to arrest that person," Lavine said, describing Santos' problem as a "crisis of trust."

State Sen. Kevin Thomas, a Democrat who like Lavine shares constituents with Santos, said he intends to forward constituent issues to New York's senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, though their offices typically take more time to respond.

"[Congressional district] three, the constituents there, will not have representation," Thomas said.

Thomas shared similar worries as Lavine, given some of the fraud accusations Santos faces. Brazilian prosecutors said in January they were seeking to revive charges against him for allegedly paying for goods with a stolen checkbook when he was 19, and sources previously told ABC News that prosecutors in New York were looking at Santos' financial filings, which show he became wealthy between 2020 and 2022.

Santos told The New York Post in December, "I am not a criminal here -- not here or in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world."

But Thomas said he was concerned: "How can I possibly send a kid who wants to go to the military academy … to a congressperson who has the reputation that he has?"

And if a local resident were to need help with a passport, a common issue for constituent offices, Thomas said he would hesitate to send them to Santos.

"Given his history ... I would be afraid to send over a constituent giving their passport information over to that office," he said.

Santos stepping down from his committees -- which his office said last week would be temporary "until he has been properly cleared of both campaign and personal financial investigations" -- also "handicaps" his ability to help his district because of how committees shape legislation and policy, Thomas said.

"You're going to Congress, you're not resigning and you're not going to do the work that they've assigned you. Why are you there?" Thomas said.

Nancy Rosenblum, a former chair of Harvard University's government department, agreed that Santos has low odds of achieving legislative success for his district: "He can't participate. He doesn't have the equipment to do it. He can't negotiate. He knows nothing."

On Monday, Santos made what appears to be his first major policy push as a lawmaker, speaking from the House floor to advocate for expanding the government's World Trade Center Health Program to cover more conditions for people affected by 9/11 and its aftermath.

"I ask my colleagues that we work together and find a solution," he said in a speech, which will now be one of his few major tools to spotlight issues.

Sept. 11 has become a personal point of controversy for Santos, who maintains that his mother survived the terror attacks and later died from the "toxic dust" that blanketed parts of New York City.

However, U.S. immigration records reviewed by ABC News indicate she wasn't in the country at the time.

Locals see 'broken' system

A question in the Newsday/Siena polling indicates 77% of voters in Santos' district see him as an example of a "broken" political system rather than an outlier.

Multiple residents who spoke with ABC News echoed that.

"I trust better racketeers than a politician," said Angelo DiLorenzo, who works at a jewelry store in Manhasset, New York.

While none of the residents who spoke with ABC News on the record had positive impressions of Santos, the Newsday/Siena poll found that he has not been universally rejected: 18% of Republicans and 17% of independents said he shouldn't step down; 25% of Republicans and 17% of independents said he can be effective in Congress; and 31% of those who voted for Santos said they still would have done so if they knew about the controversies over his life story.

Yascha Mounk, a Johns Hopkins University international affairs professor and writer on the successes and failures of democracies, told ABC News that Americans generally expect politicians to tell white lies.

"People have some tolerance for embellishment," Mounk said, and Santos insists some of his past falsehoods were in the vein of padding his resume.

However, Mounk said that more significant lies -- about substantive policy misrepresentations or biographical falsehoods -- can have a more damaging effect, especially when other government officials let it slide.

"It's less about the fact that there's one guy who is a compulsive liar, who has managed to get away with it, when in fact this whole system lets him get away with it," Mounk said.

Some locals also placed blame on the news media for not ferreting out problems with Santos' background sooner.

"Where was any one of the media outlets, you know, doing an investigation into somebody new running for elected office?" said Scott Feigeles, a pharmacist at a Manhasset drug store.

Harvard professor Danielle Allen said Feigeles' concerns were valid given the loss of vital local news outlets in many parts of the county.

"The fact that he was able to be elected with so many fraudulent claims is a real indicator of how weakened our news ecosystem is," Allen said.

Democrat Robert Zimmerman, who lost to Santos in the fall, has said he has his own regrets. "Trust me: No one's more frustrated than me," he told The Washington Post. "There are a few times I shouted into my pillow: 'Why didn't this come out earlier?'"

Amid the cavalcade of revelations after Santos won, his constituents said they are left with a congressman far different from the one they knew in November.

Guy Finocchialo cast a ballot for Santos three months ago but now says, "If I could go back and change my vote, I probably would."

Another constituent, Tom Andresakes, said he still thinks Santos should resign, however unrealistic that might be.

"I'm holding my breath for two years," he said.

ABC News' Luke Barr, Aicha El Hammar Castano, Lalee Ibssa, Aaron Katersky and Will McDuffie contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Department of Homeland Security limits no-knock warrants, chokeholds in updated use-of-force policy

ninjaMonkeyStudio/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday updated its use-of-force policy for when the 80,000 officers under the agency's authority encounter the public.

The new guidelines limit the use of no-knock warrants, bar the use of chokeholds under unnecessary circumstances and beef up training for officers.

DHS has nine law enforcement agencies under its purview, including Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Secret Service.

"[Law enforcement officers] may use force only when no reasonably effective, safe and feasible alternative appears to exist and may only use the level of force that is objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting the LEO at the time force is applied," according to a memo signed by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

It is the first update to the use-of-force guidelines since 2018, according to DHS who said they came to these policies with department leaders and national labor organizations.

The Department of Homeland Security said the update to the use of force policy has clear "standards" the policy sets forth "including prohibitions on the use of deadly force against a person whose actions are only a threat to themselves or property."

"At the beginning of the Biden-Harris Administration, I announced the first Law Enforcement Coordination Council at DHS, designed to improve the ways we listen to and support our law enforcement agents and officers, the largest force in the federal government," Mayorkas said. "Through the Council, law enforcement leaders from across the Department carefully crafted these updates to ensure we are living up to our values. Law enforcement agents and officers have profound responsibilities in their noble profession. We are grateful for the sacrifices they make every day and are confident that, working together, we can build safer and fairer processes to enforce our laws."

DHS is limiting the use of no-knock warrants only to situations "where knocking would create an imminent threat of physical violence to the LEO or another person or only for evidence perseveration in national security matters."

No-knock warrants have been the subject of scrutiny after the Louisville Police Department used one when entering the residence of of Brionna Taylor – fatally killing her.

Mayorkas also barred chokeholds from being used "unless deadly force is authorized."

Additionally, the Department wants their agencies to collect data on use of force incidents to better study the issue.

DHS is also reshaping the training officers are going through, with an emphasis on de-escalation training, deadly force, duty to intervene and implicit bias training.

The law enforcement officers under DHS' authority also include border agencies such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Border Patrol.

DHS offices and agencies will draft and issue updated individual Use of Force Policies that meet or exceed the requirements set forth in the updated Department-wide policy, according to DHS.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden to deliver State of the Union address before empowered GOP

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden's second State of the Union address comes at a pivotal moment as he lays out not only his accomplishments and agenda, but makes the case for his leadership ahead of an expected announcement about whether he'll run for reelection.

Unlike his first two years in office, though, Republicans now control the House of Representatives, determined to block his priorities -- and already forcing a high-stakes battle over spending cuts that could cause the nation to default on its debt.

If he does run again, the president -- at 80, the oldest in the nation's history -- will have to persuade voters, expressing record economic discontent, that they would be better off with him when even many Democrats have their doubts.

Pushing bipartisanship amid acrimony

In his remarks -- which he worked on with advisers over the weekend at Camp David, according to the White House -- he's expected to call on Republicans to work together with him, underscoring "the progress the American people want us to make by working together in the year ahead," a White House official said.

His prime-time speech, though, comes as he faces constant antagonism from those same Republicans -- including over his possible mishandling of classified documents, for which he is under investigation by a special counsel. The White House has deflected questions about why it has not been more transparent throughout the saga.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have also criticized the president's handling of the suspected Chinese spy balloon the U.S. military shot down off the Atlantic coast Saturday; many GOP politicians have said the administration should have taken it out before it traversed the country.

Whereas Biden devoted nearly a fifth of his State of the Union speech last year to the days-old Russian invasion of Ukraine, his remarks this year will likely focus more on his legislative accomplishments -- how the federal government is "investing in America," as he has said during recent remarks.

Whereas he declared during his speech last year that the U.S. had "reached a new moment in the fight against COVID-19," in recent months Biden has focused less and less of his public remarks on the coronavirus pandemic, with Americans -- and the economy -- largely moving on.

The president, the White House official said, "will highlight the progress we have already made -- and will keep fighting to make -- on these and other commitments and priorities, illustrating in real terms how transformational his pieces of legislation are for Americans across the country."

It's a calculated political move that comes just before he may launch his reelection effort.

The next two years of his presidency will not likely see the same degree of legislative accomplishments he enjoyed during the first two, with Republicans in the House determined to put roadblocks in the way.

Persuading Americans they're better off

As the fruits of those laws only now just begin to become tangible for Americans -- shovels breaking ground on infrastructure projects, the price of insulin dropping, taxes falling on clean technologies -- Biden is hoping to take credit and boost his perennially low approval ratings.

"Next week, I'll be reporting on the state of the union," he said Friday, as he celebrated the surprisingly large number of jobs created in January. "But today -- today, I'm happy to report that the state of the union and the state of our economy is strong."

But it'll be an uphill battle persuading Americans he has helped improve their personal finances.

In a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, four in 10 Americans said they've gotten worse off financially since Biden became president -- the most in nearly three dozen ABC/Post polls to ask the question since 1986. Just 16% said they were better off.

That said, Biden is helped by the way Americans view Republicans. In the same poll, the public took Biden's side in the debt ceiling debate, with 65% backing his approach of handling debt payments and federal spending as separate issues; just 26% support that of the newly minted speaker of the House of Representatives, Republican Kevin McCarthy, who has threatened to let the U.S. default on its debt if the president does not agree to spending cuts.

Touting accomplishments as Americans don't give credit

The economy is central to the president's message -- and Americans' concerns about the future.

Biden aides argue the president has numerous monumental achievements to speak of -- and that people are just now beginning to see the impact.

Biden has several positive indicators he can point to on Tuesday evening: High inflation is moderating, gas prices have fallen from their highs last year and the labor market remains strong.

In the past year, the president pushed through two significant pieces of legislation tackling his domestic priorities: a massive health, climate and tax bill known as the Inflation Reduction Act and a significant investment in semiconductor manufacturing, through the CHIPS and Science Act.

"On all three of the major pieces of legislation -- on infrastructure, CHIPS and Science, and on the inflation Reduction Act, 2023 is the year in which the most significant impact will begin to occur," Biden's top economic adviser, Brian Deese, told reporters Monday.

Biden has also celebrated other bills passed by Congress in the past year, including the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages, and the Safer Communities Act, which included a number of gun reform measures.

But broadly speaking, Americans see it very differently, according to the recent ABC/Post poll.

Just 36% of Americans said they thought Biden had accomplished a great deal or good amount as president; 62% said he had accomplished not very much or nothing.

Nor did Biden get much credit for a disparate list of items he might raise in Tuesday's address. Unemployment has dropped from 6.3% when Biden took office to 3.4% now -- a low since 1969 -- and the economy added a robust 517,000 jobs last month -- yet the public, by 60-34%, said he has not made progress "creating more good jobs in your community."

In an effort to combat that perception, Biden hit the road three times last week, highlighting his infrastructure law's investments in major train tunnel projects in Baltimore and New York and in replacing lead pipes in Philadelphia.

He also renewed a push for Congress to enshrine paid family and medical leave into law; Republicans and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, prevented that from happening in 2021.

"I want to talk to the American people and let them know the state of affairs -- what’s going on and what I'm looking forward to working on from this point on, what we've done," Biden told reporters Monday. "And just have a conversation with the American people."

While Biden's pitching himself to Republicans, he also needs to make the case to Democrats.

In the ABC/Post poll, just 31% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said the party should nominate Biden for reelection; 58% said it should pick someone else.

Will guns and policing reform take a backseat?

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how much of his speech Biden will devote to the issues of gun control and policing reform, two areas where Democrats have fallen short of reaching their lofty goals of reform.

Recent mass shootings in California and the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols at the hands of five police officers in Memphis have once again put pressure on Biden to use his bully pulpit to prioritize those issues.

Asked last week how much emphasis Biden would place on policing reform, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre would not say.

On Thursday, she told ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Mary Bruce that Biden had "been working on his speech for some time" and that Americans could expect to hear from Biden about "how he is optimistic about the future of his country" and "the possibilities that we have as a country, especially as we look at our economy."

McCarthy-Biden relationship to put bipartisanship push to the test

Like last year, Biden is expected to call for bipartisanship, underscoring "the progress the American people want us to make by working together in the year ahead," the White House official said.

This year, the official said, "the president will once again amplify his belief that Democrats and Republicans can work together, as they did in the last two years and as he is committed to doing with this new Congress to get big things done on behalf of the American people."

Tuesday's address will mark the first time a Republican, McCarthy, will sit in a position of power on the dais behind the president while he speaks.

How Biden's relationship with McCarthy develops in the coming months will put his desire for bipartisanship to the test.

The president and the speaker met in the Oval Office last week as Republicans threaten a catastrophic default if the White House does not agree to broad, unspecified spending cuts. Afterward, both men called their talks "good."

While Ukraine dominated his speech last year, it is unlikely to play such a major role. The White House official did say, though, that Biden will "outline the progress made on maintaining international alliances to defend Ukraine, compete with China, and assert American leadership in the world."

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders plans to deliver this year's official Republican response to the State of the Union address. She will likely paint a picture of an economy that has struggled under Biden.

Sanders, formerly President Donald Trump's press secretary, has also made "culture war" issues a focus of her governorship since taking office last month.

"Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the youngest governor in the nation and a powerful advocate for the popular, commonsense conservative principles that will put our country back on a better course," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement last week.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Tyre Nichols' family, Monterey Park massacre hero among State of the Union guests

Tim Graham/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- First lady Jill Biden on Tuesday will sit during the State of the Union with the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S., the parents of Tyre Nichols and the man who last month wrestled the gun away from a shooting suspect in Monterey Park, California.

Many of the guests present in the first lady’s viewing box were invited because they “personify issues or themes” President Joe Biden is expected to address in his speech, the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.

Others “embody the Biden-Harris Administration’s policies at work for the American people."

Nichols' mother and stepfather, RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, will sit in the first lady's box on Tuesday, weeks after their son died following a traffic stop that turned into a a violent altercation with police.

"President Biden has made clear that we must take action to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again," White House officials said in an announcement.

The White House also invited Brandon Tsay, the California man who disarmed the suspect in last month's mass shooting in Monterey Park.

"Tsay is credited with preventing the gunman, who had killed 11 people and injured 10 others, from carrying out a second attack in Alhambra," the White House said.

Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador, will join Jill Biden in "recognition of sustained U.S. support for Ukraine nearly a year after Russia launched its unprovoked attack," the White House said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


What Biden promised in last year's State of the Union: Report card

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- When President Joe Biden delivers his second State of the Union on Tuesday, he'll no doubt tout a list of what he considers his greatest accomplishments.

But that raises the question: What did he promise last year, and was he able to achieve what he laid out?

Among the top priorities he outlined last March were rallying American support for Ukraine in its effort to repel the Russian invasion and efforts to fight record-setting inflation.

Ultimately, he said, the State of the Union was strong "because you, the American people, are strong."

Yet, a new ABC News/Washington Post shows just 36% of Americans think Biden has accomplished a great deal or good amount as president; 62% say he's accomplished not very much or nothing at all.

And with Biden appearing poised to run for a second term -- and looking to use this year's speech to make his case -- nearly six in 10 Democratic-aligned adults don't want to see him nominated again -- and his approval rating after two years in office is well below average compared with the previous 13 presidents. Only one, former President Donald Trump, has lower numbers.

Here are highlights of what Biden said last year and how things turned out:

War in Ukraine

Just six days before Biden's first State of the Union address, Russia invaded Ukraine and he spent a large portion of his speech, not on usual domestic concerns, but condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Putin has unleashed violence and chaos -- but while he may make gains on the battlefield, he will pay a continuing high price over the long run," Biden vowed, receiving bipartisan applause.

Biden said the Justice Department was assembling a task force to go after the crimes of Russian oligarchs and that the U.S. would join allies in closing off American air space to all Russian flights "further isolating Russia and adding an additional squeeze on their economy," he said.

"Tonight, I say to the Russian oligarchs and corrupt leaders who have bilked billions of dollars off this violent regime no more," he continued. "We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts your luxury apartments your private jets. We are coming for your ill-begotten gains."

It's a warning the U.S. delivered on. Week after week in the months to follow, the U.S. announced new sanctions on Russia, targeting banks and individuals including Putin's adult daughters. As of last summer, the U.S. had frozen more than $30 billion of Russian oligarchs' assets.

The U.S. has also committed more than $24.9 billion in security assistance to Ukraine over the last year, but it has not sent American troops to the war -- a promise Biden made and has, so far, kept.

"Let me be clear, our forces are not engaged and will not engage in conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine," he said last year. "Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine, but to defend our NATO allies."

While everyday Americans have appeared to rally around Ukraine's people, Biden holds just a 38% approval on his handling of the war, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.

US economy

Tempering expectations on the cost of war at home, Biden transitioned to the U.S. economy saying, "To all Americans, I will be honest with you, as I've always promised. A Russian dictator, invading a foreign country, has costs around the world."

Biden said his "top priority is getting prices under control."

But one year later, according to new ABC News/Washington Post, four in 10 Americans say they've gotten worse off financially since Biden became president, the most in ABC News/Washington Post polls dating back 37 years. Only 37% of Americans approve of his handling of the economy

Biden attempted to brace Americans for the war causing gas prices to go up, announcing the U.S. would release 30 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Biden later expanded that release to 180 million barrels -- a move Republicans condemned as driven by politics.

"These steps will help blunt gas prices here at home. And I know the news about what's happening can seem alarming. But I want you to know that we are going to be OK," Biden said at the time.

But gas prices did continue to rise, peaking over the summer and concerning Democrats ahead of the midterm elections.

Addressing inflation, Biden pitched his plan to cut costs by promoting some of the pillars of "Build Back Better" -- capping prescription drugs, lowering energy costs, and instituting free, universal pre-K, among other initiatives -- all without ever using the plan's name.

"I have a better plan to fight inflation," he said. "Lower your costs, not your wages."

As the year went on, it wasn't looking promising for Biden's Build Back Better plan, but after a closely-guarded deal was made between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin over the summer, everything changed.

Democrats, with Republican support, passed the CHIPS and Science Act, aimed at countering China, just before Manchin joined his party to pass a stripped-down Build Back Better plan, newly-rebranded as the Inflation Reduction Act -- in a major victory for Biden.

COVID pandemic

Congress dropped its mask mandate last year just one day ahead of Biden's optimistic address, so the president notably spoke before a crowded and mostly mask-free chamber.

"Because of the progress we've made, because of your resilience and the tools we have, tonight I can say we are moving forward safely, back to more normal routines," Biden said. "We've reached a new moment in the fight against COVID-19, with severe cases down to a level not seen since last July."

But it's dangerous to predict the unpredictable, and COVID deaths went on to peak for the year over the summer as cases increased with the more transmissible Omicron variant.

More than 267,000 people died of COVID last year, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, with the disease continuing to be a leading cause of death in the U.S., despite Americans moving away from mitigation measures.

This year's address comes as the Biden administration has confirmed it will end both the COVID-19 national emergency and public health emergency on May 11. The current public health emergency is in place through April, while the national emergency is in place until March.

"I know some are talking about 'living with COVID-19.' Tonight, I say that we will never just accept living with COVID-19," Biden said last year.

Lawmakers were required last year to have a negative COVID test to enter the chamber. Several Republicans boycotted the speech by refusing to test -- and in a sign the virus was still virulent at least four positive cases turned up afterward.

Gun violence and policing

Biden took a moment last year to talk about policing too, prompting Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans to stand up and applaud.

"We should all agree: The answer is not to defund the police. The answer is to FUND the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities," Biden said.

He then briefly called on Congress to pass gun-safety legislation, saying the laws wouldn't infringe on the Second Amendment but "save lives."

"I ask Congress to pass proven measures to reduce gun violence. Pass universal background checks. Why should anyone on a terrorist list be able to purchase a weapon? Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines," he said. "Repeal the liability shield that makes gun manufacturers the only industry in America that can't be sued."

Congress did, in May, pass gun safety legislation following mass shootings at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, though the legislation fell far short of what he asked.

As the administration continues to call on lawmakers to renew the long-expired ban on assault weapons, the public appears more divided on the question: 47% support such a ban, and 51% oppose it, according to the latest ABC/Post poll. That reflects a nine-point drop in support since 2019, despite recent gun violence.

While it's unclear how the president will address gun violence and policing in this year's address, in the wake of Tyre Nichols' beating and death, it's clear that compromise on gun violence and policing legislation is increasingly rare.

Infrastructure

Biden took a victory lap last year in touting the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law, which he's hailed as landmark to his presidency.

"Now our infrastructure is ranked 13th in the world. We won't be able to compete for the jobs of the 21st century if we don't fix that," he said. "That's why it was so important to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law -- the most sweeping investment to rebuild America in history."

He said the U.S. was "done talking about infrastructure weeks" and moving forward to "have an infrastructure decade."

Biden spent the week ahead of this year's address by touting his infrastructure agenda around the country, a tour he plans to continue later this week as money from the legislation starts to flow and projects can be started.

'Unity agenda'

Near the end of his address, Biden ticked through broad ideas with bipartisan support in proposing "a unity agenda for the nation."

Beating the opioid epidemic, focusing on mental health in children, supporting U.S. veterans, and ending "cancer as we know it," he said, were the pillars of the unity agenda.

While those initiatives earned applause on both sides of the chamber, they're longstanding, long-term issues without a clear end-game established.

In terms of unity in Washington, Biden will address a newly-empowered Republican House majority for the first time on Tuesday, and while Speaker Kevin McCarthy has vowed to block Biden's agenda, the two appeared to have a cordial meeting at the White House last week.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden expected to address policing reform in State of the Union, Tyre Nichols' parents to attend

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- When President Joe Biden delivers his second State of the Union speech Tuesday night, two guests are expected to be in the audience: the mother and stepfather of Tyre Nichols.

Nichols died after being beaten during a violent encounter with Memphis police last month. His death has sparked calls for police reform at the federal level. His parents, RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, will sit in the first lady's box on Tuesday.

RowVaugh made a tearful plea for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act at his funeral last week.

"We need to get that bill passed, because if we don't, that blood, that next child that dies -- that blood is going to be on their hands," she said.

It's a topic Biden is likely to address as he speaks to lawmakers and the nation in what could be his largest audience of the year. But how far he'll will go in calling for reform, and how far his comments will go in a divided Congress, remains to be seen.

"Criminal justice reform and fears about racism have been top issue concerns for Black Americans and Black voters for several cycles," Karen Finney, a Democratic strategist and former Hillary Clinton adviser, told ABC News.

"I think given that Tyre Nichols' parents will be in the audience, we should expect that the president will talk about that," Finney added.

Biden said he was "outraged and deeply pained" when graphic footage of Nichols' fatal confrontation with police was released last month showing officers striking and kicking Nichols. He's called on Congress to send the George Floyd Justice in Policing reform bill to his desk, and met last week with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss possible paths forward.

Vice President Kamala Harris, in remarks delivered at Nichols' funeral, said the beating of the 29-year-old Nichols was "not in pursuit of public safety."

"When we talk about public safety, let us understand what it means in its truest form," the vice president said. "Tyre Nichols should have been safe."

The country's confidence in police practices have hit new lows, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. Just 39% of Americans expressed confidence that the police are trained to avoid excessive force, and 41% were confident the police treat Black and white people equally.

"People are going to be listening very closely for what's the vision for what public safety and reforms look like," Finney said of Biden's speech, "because it's got to go hand in hand."

What police reform advocates want Biden to address

"I sincerely hope he doesn't double down on throwing more police at the problem because the calculus of that would be very wrong," Damon Hewitt, the president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told ABC News ahead of the State of the Union address.

Last year, Biden, as part of his administration's crime prevention proposal, called for nearly $13 billion to hire 100,000 police officers around the country over the next five years.

Hewitt said he hopes to hear Biden call for comprehensive legislation, noting the odds of passing a police reform package may be slim but "that doesn't mean that any member of Congress, regardless of party affiliation, should be let off the hook."

The George Floyd policing bill passed the Democrat-controlled House in 2020 and 2021 but stalled in the Senate. It now faces bigger hurdles now that the House is controlled by a Republican majority.

Rashad Robinson, the president of civil rights advocacy group Color of Change, told ABC News he wants to see Biden talk about the need to end qualified immunity, create a database of police misconduct, more power to the Department of Justice for policy and practices, and more policies.

But he also said it's even more important for the president to use the national address to speak more directly to the American people to inspire them to get more organized around police reform.

"People don't remember all of the list of demands, or the things that the president wants on his desk," Robinson said. "But it is an opportunity to tell a story … He needs to tell a story about why we haven't actually gotten change, and who is standing in the way."

"It's something that I think is going to be necessary to actually build the momentum to win something real," he said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


New bill would give Gov. DeSantis control over Disney's special Florida district

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(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- In the latest development in Florida's conflict with Walt Disney World, a bill filed Monday during the state's special legislative session would give Gov. Ron DeSantis the ability to appoint a board to run Disney's Reedy Creek Improvement District -- the small, autonomous region that encompasses the company's theme parks outside Orlando.

Those selected by the governor for the oversight board would then go through confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Currently, Disney elects the members because it owns the district, essentially allowing the company to govern the region around its businesses.

According to the 189-page bill, none of the appointees to the oversight board could be recent Disney employees or have had a contractual relationship with a theme park within the past three years.

Another change that would be enacted would be the name of the district. The bill would rename it the "Central Florida Tourism Oversight District."

The proposal follows a law passed by the state legislature last year to eliminate the current district, which has granted Disney expansive authority over the carved-out area around its parks.

Instead of eliminating the district, the new bill gives the governor authority over who runs it.

The changes all come after Disney publicly criticized a controversial DeSantis-backed law banning discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in certain K-12 classrooms.

The Parental Rights in Education Law has been dubbed by critics as "Don't Say Gay," while its supporters say it ensures age-inappropriate topics are kept out of class.

Disney, citing concerns of discrimination, has said it "should never have passed and should never have been signed into law." (The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC News.)

DeSantis' office insisted on Monday that the changes to the district were an effort to ensure corporate accountability.

"Florida is dissolving the Corporate Kingdom and beginning a new era of accountability and transparency," Bryan Griffin, DeSantis' press secretary, said in a statement.

Griffin explained that the proposed government oversight of the special district would allow imposing taxes on Disney for possible road projects outside the district's boundaries and imposing Florida law on the area.

The legislation would also keep the district's current financial obligations in place, including outstanding debts, staying in line with DeSantis' promise that neighboring Orange and Osceola counties would not be responsible for the district's $1 billion debt despite the legal changes.

Disney said in a statement on Monday that they were watching the "the progression of the draft legislation, which is complex given the long history of the Reedy Creek Improvement District."

"Disney works under a number of different models and jurisdictions around the world, and regardless of the outcome, we remain committed to providing the highest quality experience for the millions of guests who visit each year," said Jeff Vahle, the president of Walt Disney World Resort.

With Republicans having control of both chambers of the state legislature, the bill is likely to be considered quickly before being approved and sent to DeSantis to become law.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Potential debt ceiling standoff looms large over State of the Union

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(WASHINGTON) -- When President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address on Tuesday with new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy sitting over his shoulder, looming between the two will be a possible standoff over raising the federal debt ceiling.

The management of how to increase the borrowing limit, which the Treasury Department has indicated will need to be done as soon as June to make sure none of the federal government's bills go unpaid, is shaping up to be the first major obstacle that McCarthy and Biden must work together to overcome.

The conflict, along with the potentially calamitous economic consequences of a debt default, will no doubt color some of Biden's remarks on Tuesday as he looks to reassure the 53% of Americans who are "very" concerned about that outcome, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Biden and McCarthy agree that the nation cannot default on its debt.

But with the Treasury already using "extraordinary measures" to keep the United States out of the red, that's about all they agree on.

Now that Republicans narrowly control the House, raising the debt limit cannot be accomplished without GOP votes, giving McCarthy increased influence over negotiations, if he can wrangle his conference. But McCarthy captured the gavel in the House only after a protracted speaker election that required him making concessions to the right wing of his party.

Many of those members see a debt limit hike as a powerful bargaining chip in their efforts to slash what they see as out-of-control federal spending. McCarthy has taken to their position.

The speaker looked to preempt the president's State of the Union speech in remarks on Monday night in which he outlined what he saw as the major risks the nation faces by failing to cut its spending. He described the $31.4 trillion national debt as the "greatest threat to our future."

"President Biden wants Congress to raise the debt limit yet again … without a single, sensible change to how government spends your hard-earned money. None. Does that sound responsible to you?" McCarthy said. "What Americans want -- and what Republicans are fighting for -- is a responsible debt limit increase that puts us on a path towards a healthier economy."

But that's a nonstarter for the Biden administration, which maintains that the debt limit must be raised without any political negotiation or bargaining, as has been done under both parties over many years.

"It's just that simple. There should be no hostage-taking here. There should be no attempts to exploit the debt ceiling or to leverage it," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a briefing last month.

Biden has also pushed McCarthy to "show me your budget" -- a call for the Republican speaker to outline exactly which cuts to the federal budget he'd like to see made in exchange, given his criticism of federal spending.

McCarthy has yet to present such a budget and his remarks on Monday night again lacked details about what sorts of specific cuts he'd call for.

And while McCarthy has publicly insisted that decreasing funds for Medicare or Social Security is "off the table," Democrats and the White House have pointed to the ambiguity around his plan to suggest otherwise.

McCarthy's comments on Monday came after he and Biden discussed the debt limit and other issues at White House last week, their first meeting since McCarthy became speaker. The sit-down yielded no commitments or outcomes, but both McCarthy and Biden described it optimistically.

"I think, at the end of the day, we can find common ground, I really do," McCarthy told reporters in the White House driveway.

A few minutes later, the White House released its take on the meeting, saying the two men had a "frank and straightforward dialogue" and that the conversation would continue.

Both parties said no concessions were made.

Separately, top Biden administration officials have indicated that the White House will negotiate on spending and the budget in parallel talks -- as long as the debt ceiling is raised without strings attached.

"One is not appropriate for negotiation; the other one is," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

The emerging impasse echoes the 2011 debt crisis, during which the country came so close to default that its creditworthiness was downgraded for the first time in the nation's history.

At the time, the Republican-controlled House was again looking to exact spending concessions from a Democratic president.

Months before a deal, brokered in part by then-Vice President Joe Biden and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, was passed, then-President Barack Obama addressed the nation's debt in his own State of the Union address.

Obama called for a five-year freeze to domestic spending that would "require painful cuts" to slow ballooning debt growth.

"I'm willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without," he. "But let's make sure that we're not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


George Santos, who claimed mom survived 9/11, invites ground zero volunteer to SOTU

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(WASHINGTON) -- New York Rep. George Santos, who continues to claim his mother was in downtown Manhattan on 9/11 despite immigration documents indicating she wasn't even in the United States, has invited a former ground zero volunteer firefighter to President Joe Biden's State of the Union address on Tuesday.

According to a Monday news release from Santos' office, his guest, Michael Weinstock, joined first responders in New York City on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and was later diagnosed with neuropathy, a nerve disorder.

"[Weinstock's] condition is a direct result of the dust and toxins released from the World Trade Center, and the condition is not covered under the World Trade Center Health Program," the news release states, referring to the federal coverage for people sickened in the attacks and their aftermath.

In a statement quoted in the news release, Weinstock, a former Democratic congressional candidate, said: "I have travelled to Washington to bring attention to firefighters with neuropathy. This is an issue that transcends politics and speaks to my heart."

In a phone interview with ABC News on Tuesday, Weinstock said that after he received a call from Santos inviting him to the State of the Union address, he accepted the invitation after talking it over with friends and family -- despite the controversy surrounding Santos -- because he "decided the subject of rescue workers is so important."

"I didn't vote for George Santos," Weinstock said from Washington, D.C. "I'm not going to vote for [him] if he ever runs for office again, but having the opportunity to talk about the firefighters who weren't receiving medical care is important stuff."

"That's why I'm here," said Weinstock.

When asked about Santos' numerous misrepresentations, Weinstock said his "goal is to help firefighters" and that he does not plan on asking Santos about his falsehoods.

"My goal is to help firefighters get the medical care that they deserve," Weinstock said, "and I'm going to stay focused on that goal."

Weinstock said that he and Santos struck up a friendship in 2019 when Weinstock was running for Congress as a Democrat. They stayed in touch periodically, Weinstock said, and Santos visited him when he was in the hospital for his condition.

"As I told George, I'm not going to jump on the George Santos pile-on," Weinstock told ABC News. "You visited me when I couldn't walk, and I'm appreciative of that."

Santos took to the House floor on Monday to advocate for expanded health coverage for people who suffer from 9/11-related illnesses. He also displayed a photo of what he said was Weinstock on Sept. 11.

"Since the World Trade Center Health Program does not cover neuropathy, people like Michael must pay out of pocket for treatment, medications and other medical needs. I ask my colleagues that we work together and find a solution and have conditions such as neuropathy be covered under the World Trade Center Program Act," Santos said.

9/11 has become a point of controversy for Santos as one of several key parts of his biography that have been shown to be false, exaggerated or disputed by other information.

He maintained in an interview with One America News last week that "the toxic dust that permeated throughout Manhattan and my mother being present [in] downtown Manhattan" led to her death in 2016.

Santos' campaign website also currently states that his mother "was in her office in the South Tower on September 11, 2001, when the horrific events of that day unfolded."

However, ABC News previously obtained documents showing Santos' mother was not in New York during the Sept. 11 attacks.

According to the documents from the Department of Homeland Security's U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, Santos' mom, Fatima Devolder, applied in February 2003 for an immigrant visa from the American consulate in Brazil. The form states that she had not been in the United States since June 1999.

During his interview with OAN, Santos said he didn't understand the immigration documents showing his mom wasn't in the U.S. on 9/11.

"That, to me remains a mystery because I was here and I was 13 years old. So I want to understand where they're coming from with this," he said.

He added that while his family believes his mother died from a 9/11-related illness, "We've never been able to prove that through claims and we've never been able to qualify for claims as a family and we just let it go."

Weinstock has previously been the subject of questions surrounding his own involvement with 9/11. There are a number of pictures that clearly show his presence at ground zero that day, but the president of his former firehouse publicly said in 2019, when Weinstock was running for Congress, that "according to our records, Weinstock neither volunteered to assist with those efforts nor participated in those efforts as a member of" the firehouse.

Philip Katz, the president of the Vigilant Engine & Hook & Ladder Company, Inc., told ABC News on Tuesday that though Weinstock was a member of that volunteer fire company that day, "he was not particularly active that year." Weinstock was also removed from a firefighters benevolent association in "bad standing" over the same issue, Katz said.

"I think he fits very well with George Santos," Katz told ABC News. "He's a kindred spirit."

Weinstock says he was in Brooklyn on 9/11 when he saw the attacks, and jumped into action. Other firefighters have also defended his record.

"I immediately grabbed my trauma bag, fire department T-shirt, and waved down the first rig I saw, which happened to have been an ambulance," Weinstock said. "We arrived and both towers were still standing."

Weinstock told ABC News that questions over his service "stung," and alleged they were aimed at him with the goal of supporting his congressional opponent.

Santos, a first-term Republican representing New York's 3rd Congressional District, has been dealing with controversy and investigations since before he took office last month. On Tuesday, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy said that Santos was under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, but later walked back those comments and indicated that the investigative process has started and that Santos is expected to face a House Ethics Committee investigation.

County, state and federal authorities are looking into a number of issues raised about Santos, including related to his campaign's finances, while Brazilian prosecutors have said they are seeking to revive check fraud charges against Santos from when he was a teenager and New York Democrats Reps. Dan Goldman and Ritchie Torres have filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee.

Santos said in December that "I am not a criminal."

"This [controversy] will not deter me from having good legislative success. I will be effective. I will be good," he told The New York Post.

Last week, Santos told House Republicans he would temporarily recuse himself from his two assigned committees, on small business and on science, space and technology.

A spokesperson for Santos told ABC News at the time that "the congressman is reserving his seats on his assigned committees until he has been properly cleared of both campaign and personal financial investigations."

Speaker Kevin McCarthy indicated that if he were to fill Santos' committee seats, it would be on a temporary basis.

McCarthy insisted to reporters last week that he did not pressure Santos to recuse himself but said he has "some new questions" about the embattled congressman.

"I think going through ethics will answer some others. I think until he goes through that, it would be better that he doesn't serve on committees," McCarthy said on Wednesday.

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JET

2007-2009

"Always in our Heart! "