‘The whole nation is mourning with these families,’ Biden says in Miami
Joe Biden is now delivering remarks in Miami after meeting with first responders and the families of the victims of the Surfside condo collapse.
The president commended the “remarkable” coordination between state and local officials of both parties as search-and-rescue efforts continue at the site of the condo collapse.
“They’ve all cooperated in ways I haven’t seen in a long time,” Biden said.
The president noted the federal government is deploying extensive resources to help respond to this disaster, with FEMA providing temporary housing for the survivors.
Biden praised the commitment and the sacrifice of the first responders who have been leading the search-and-rescue operation.
“These folks are always showing up, no matter what,” Biden said. “They’re always risking their lives to save lives.”
The president also offered his condolences to the families of the victims, as many of them await word on their loved ones. More than 140 people remain unaccounted for.
“The whole nation is mourning with these families,” Biden said. “They’re going through hell.”
Joe Biden was scheduled to start speaking in Miami about 30 minutes ago, but he is running late, as he very often is.
The White House has indicated the president’s remarks about last week’s tragic condo collapse will be short, likely less than 10 minutes long, according to the latest White House press pool report.
The speech comes after Biden met with first responders and families of the victims. The condo collapse has already claimed at least 18 lives, and 145 people remain unaccounted for.
Joe Biden’s meeting with the families of the victims of the Surfside condo collapse has now concluded, after the president spent more than two hours with the group.
A senior administration official told the White House press pool, “He made brief remarks from the center of the room and then went from table to table. … POTUS stayed until everyone had a chance to speak with him.”
First lady Jill Biden, senator Marco Rubio, senator Rick Scott, governor Ron DeSantis, lieutenant governor Jeanette Nuñez, congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Miami Dade county mayor Daniella Levine Cava were also in attendance for the meeting.
A video posted to Instagram showed the president telling the families, “I just wish there was something I could do to ease the pain.” Biden also told them they were all in his prayers as they await word on their loved ones.
The condo collapse has already claimed at least 18 lives, and more than 140 people remain unaccounted for.
Biden will soon start delivering remarks in Miami, so stay tuned.
The Guardian’s Dominic Rushe and Victoria Bekiempis report:
According to prosecutors the Trump Organization paid employees rent, utility bills, garage fees, school expenses and other living expenses without properly declaring them “so that they could and did pay federal, state and local taxes in amounts that were significantly less than the amounts that should have been paid”.
Carey Dunne, general counsel for the Manhattan district attorney, said the 15-year-long arrangement was “a sweeping and audacious illegal payments scheme”.
The scheme was “orchestrated by the most senior executives” at the Trump Organization, according to prosecutors, and chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg was “one of the largest individual beneficiaries” of the scheme.
He received $1.75m in illegal payments, according to the prosecutors, including rent, bills and garage fees for his Manhattan apartment and tuition expenses for Weisselberg’s family members.
Weisselberg and a lawyer for the Trump Organization pleaded not guilty.
Noah Bookbinder, the president of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), said today’s indictment is hugely consequential.
“It is hard to overstate how big a deal this is,” Bookbinder said in a statement released by CREW.
“Criminal charges against corporations are exceedingly rare. For the Trump Organization and one of its top executives to face 15 counts on a scheme to defraud that goes back at least 15 years is extraordinary. These are serious charges, and they may be just the beginning.
“Donald Trump, both as president and in his private life, has a long record of ignoring the law for his personal benefit. Today’s indictment is a much-needed step toward accountability for these abuses, and we hope and trust there will be more accountability to come.”
Donald Trump told ABC News that today’s proceedings have been “shameful,” as the CFO of the former president’s family company, Allen Weisselberg, was charged with tax crimes.
When informed that Weisselberg entered the courtroom wearing handcuffs this afternoon, Trump said, “Disgrace, disgrace, disgrace.”
The former president described Weisselberg, who is accused of engaging in a tax avoidance scheme for at least 16 years, as “a tremendous person”.
The Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg, were charged with scheme to defraud in the first degree, according to the indictment.
“Beginning from at least 2005 to on or about June 30, 2021, the defendants and others devised and operated a scheme to defraud federal, New York State, and New York City tax authorities,” the indictment says.
“The scheme was intended to allow certain employees to substantially understate their compensation from the Trump Organization, so that they could and did pay federal, state, and local taxes in amounts that were significantly less than the amounts that should have been paid.”
Trump Organization CFO pleads not guilty to tax crime charges
The Guardian’s Dominic Rushe and Victoria Bekiempis report:
The Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, have been charged with tax-related crimes, marking the first criminal charges against the former president’s company following a years-long investigation by New York prosecutors.
Weisselberg, who has worked for the Trump family for nearly 50 years, surrendered to the authorities at the Manhattan criminal courthouse at 6.20am on Thursday and was charged by the Manhattan district attorney with failing to properly report company perks, including rent-free apartments, school fees and cars, in the latest stage of an escalating battle between New York prosecutors and the former president.
Reporters and TV trucks gathered outside the 100 Centre Street courthouse waiting for the hearing to start.
Weisselberg has pleaded not guilty and his lawyers said he would “fight these charges in court”.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the delta variant of coronavirus is spreading across the US, as many Americans remain unvaccinated despite the accessibility of vaccines.
Speaking at the White House pandemic response team’s briefing today, Dr Rochelle Walensky said that the delta variant now accounts for nearly one quarter of new coronavirus infections in the US.
“Looking across the country, we have made incredible progress,” the CDC director said. “However, looking state by state and county by county, it is clear communities where people remain unvaccinated are communities that are vulnerable.”
According to Walensky, there are about 1,000 US counties where less than 30% of the community is vaccinated, making it much easier for the delta variant to spread.
Walensky’s warning comes days before US Independence Day on July 4. Joe Biden had set a goal of having 70% of American adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4, but the US is expected to fall short of that.
According to CDC data, about 67% of American adults have now received at least one shot, and 58% of adults are fully vaccinated.
No one could accuse Donald Trump of lying low when the long arm of the law finally caught up with him.
On Wednesday the former US president visited the Mexico border, highlighting his favourite campaign issue, then held an hour-long televised town hall with Sean Hannity, his favourite Fox News host.
It looked like a typically Trumpian bid to deflect attention from a scandal that had been expected to erupt that day: tax-related charges against his company and its longtime money man, Allen Weisselberg.
As it transpired, Weisselberg did not surrender himself to the Manhattan district attorney’s office until 6.20am on Thursday, with a court appearance later in the day. But it is already clear that Trump intends to use all his old tactics to deflect, punch back and undermine the rule of law itself.