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Kamala Harris calls Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearing "illegimate" and "reckless"

Sen. Kamala Harris condemned the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett as both "illegitimate" and "reckless," citing the more than 9 million Americans who have already voted in the 2020 election and the coronavirus risks that have prompted the Senate to suspend all other floor business.

Why it matters: Harris, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee in addition to being Joe Biden's running mate, encapsulated the Democrats' strategic message for the confirmation fight at the first day of Barrett's hearings on Monday.

  • She accused Republicans of "jamming President Trump's nominee through the Senate" in order to strip away health care protections under the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court is hearing a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the ACA on Nov. 10.
  • "These are not abstract issues. We need to be clear about how overturning the Affordable Care Act will impact the people will represent," Harris said via Zoom, choosing to attend the hearing remotely after two members of the committee tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

The big picture: Democrats realize they have little hope of stopping Barrett's confirmation, so they are instead seeking to use the hearings as an opportunity to mobilize voters on key issues, like health care and voting rights.

  • But they also recognize they risk energizing Republicans if they go too far in their attacks, and they're hoping to minimize self-damage when pressing her on topics about abortion and her deeply conservative religious views.
  • A number of Democrats brought posters of their constituents who suffer from pre-existing conditions, for which the Affordable Care Act protects coverage.

The other side: Judiciary Republicans have largely used their opening statements to praise Barrett's legal record and personal story as a mother of seven. Some have condemned Democrats over perceived attacks on Barrett's religious background, though no Democrat has explicitly brought up her Catholic faith during the hearing.

The bottom line: “This is probably not about persuading each other unless something really dramatic happens,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham acknowledged “All the Republicans will vote yes, all the Democrats will vote no.”

Defense makes closing arguments in Chauvin trial

Chauvin's defense attorney Eric Nelson opened his closing argument on Monday by reminding the jury that Derek Chauvin "does not have to prove his innocence."

Why it matters: The jury's verdict in Chauvin's murder trial is seen by advocates as one of the most crucial civil rights cases in decades.

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Merrick Garland: Domestic terrorism is "still with us" and remains critical threat

In his first major speech, Attorney General Merrick Garland warned the nation Monday to remain vigilant against the rising threat of domestic extremism.

Why it matters: Domestic terrorism poses an "elevated threat" to the nation this year, according to U.S. intelligence. Garland has already pledged to crack down on violence linked to white supremacists and right-wing militia groups.

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"Nine minutes and 29 seconds": Prosecutors begin closing arguments in Chauvin trial

Steve Schleicher, an attorney for the prosecution in Derek Chauvin's trial, began closing arguments on Monday by describing in detail George Floyd's last moments — crying out for help and surrounded by strangers, as Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

Why it matters: The jury's verdict in Chauvin's murder trial, seen by advocates as one of the most crucial civil rights cases in decades, will reverberate across the country and have major implications in the fight for racial justice.

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European soccer goes to war over wealthy clubs' plans for exclusive "Super League"

Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

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81% of S&P 500 companies have reported a positive earnings surprise for Q1

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

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NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hopping the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.

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All U.S. adults now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine, meeting Biden's April 19 deadline

All 50 U.S. states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, have now made U.S. adults over the age of 16 eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, meeting President Biden's April 19 deadline.

Why it matters: The landmark speaks to the increased pace of the national vaccination campaign, but will increase pressure on the federal government, states and pharmaceutical companies to provide adequate vaccine supply and logistics.

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Minneapolis braces for a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial

Minneapolis is waking up to images of an occupied city on Monday, as the city and the world await a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.

What it's like: Residents running errands, picking up dinner and heading to the dog park in recent days encountered heavily-armed National Guard troops stationed throughout the city.

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