Police shoot mars Biden nominated for US ambassador to Japan

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried to explain his handling of a 2014 police shooting of a black teenager that took place on the same date seven years ago when he appeared before a Senate committee Wednesday.

Chicago police shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who they said had refused to put down a knife. But that turned out to be a cover story and critics allege that Emanuel agreed with the fiction until he won re-election months later.

On the anniversary of McDonald’s death, Emanuel, a nominee to be the U.S. ambassador to Japan, was held accountable for his handling of the McDonald’s assassination and failed police reform efforts while he was mayor.

President Joe Biden has fought for Senate approval for nominees for key diplomatic posts in the face of Republican delay tactics. The Senate is seeing candidates for ambassador to Japan and a host of other high-profile positions this week.

Emanuel’s confirmation may depend on his account of the McDonald affair. When the police dash cam video released 13 months after the murder, it showed McDonald was shot 16 in the back while walking away from the police. Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted of murder and a controversy over what Emanuel knew, then as mayor, engulfed the city.

“A great tragedy occurred, seven years ago to this day, on the streets of the city of Chicago. And that tragedy accompanies me, like every day, every week, for the last seven years, “Emanuel told the Senate foreign relations committee on Wednesday.

But “no one suggested or concluded that someone in my office, or myself, did something inappropriate,” Emanuel said, citing a letter of support from Pastor Marvin Hunter, a church leader and McDonald’s relative.

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to Japan, said he “ did nothing wrong ” in connection with the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 while walking away from police. in 2014. [File: Kiichiro Sato/AP Photo]

Emanuel, who was former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff before running for mayor of Chicago, has repeatedly claimed that he did not know the actual details of the McDonald’s shooting until police video was made public.

At the time, there were calls for Emanuel’s resignation amid accusations that he had tolerated the initial police cover-up to protect his reelection prospects. Emails from his staff published under the Freedom of Information Act showed that there had been close coordination between the mayor’s office and the police.

Emanuel created a “Task Force on Police Responsibility” and introduced reforms, including training in de-escalation and the use of non-lethal force. But the Chicago police shootings have continued and Emanuel acknowledged Wednesday that his efforts have been largely ineffective.

Liberal members of the US House of Representatives who have been leading advocates for police reform are urging senators to vote against Emanuel’s nomination, according to The Associated Press.

Representative Mondaire Jones, a progressive Democrat, tweeted Wednesday that Emanuel should not be allowed to evade responsibility for his handling of the McDonald shooting.

Among the Democrats most critical of Emanuel’s nomination are Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who called the election “deeply embarrassing,” and Cori Bush, a Black Lives Matter activist, who called on the Senate to “do the right thing and block your nomination. ” ”.

The director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and several police reform activists have also spoken out against Emanuel’s appointment.

Months before the video of the McDonald’s shooting was released, the city of Chicago reached a $ 5 million settlement with his family. They had reviewed the video evidence under a confidentiality agreement that Emanuel defended.

“I know you said you never saw the videos, but no one told you about the fact that it was an unusual case where a child had been shot 16.” Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley asked Emanuel on Wednesday

“It seems hard to believe that all of those things happened and yet he was never informed of the details of the situation,” Merkley said.

Kina Collins, who is running for the US House of Representatives, speaks during a rally to protest the nomination of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as ambassador to Japan on October 19. [Paul Beaty/AP Photo]

In Chicago, a group of activists asked the Senate Tuesday to reject Emanuel’s nomination, noting that in addition to the McDonald shooting, his tenure as mayor was marred by the closure of dozens of public schools and several mental health clinics in predominantly minority neighborhoods. as the city grappled with a budget crisis, The Associated Press reported.

But most Democrats on the Senate committee seemed willing to approve of the Chicago police shooting of Emanuel.

“You can’t be mayor, particularly of a city like Chicago, without getting a little scar tissue along the way,” said Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia state Democrat who had served as mayor of the city. of Richmond. Virginia.

Kaine, a political ally of President Joe Biden, praised Emanuel for having “served admirably.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki rejected criticism of Emanuel’s nomination, telling reporters on October 19 that Biden’s “commitment to police reform speaks for itself.”

“At the same time, he selects and has nominated a variety of ambassadors to serve the United States abroad because of their qualifications, be it business, public service, or other reasons that would qualify them for these positions,” said Psaki.

So far, only two of Biden’s 69 nominees for ambassadorial positions, Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the United Nations and Ken Salazar in Mexico, have been confirmed by the Senate, according to the United States Foreign Service Association.

By comparison, former President Donald Trump had won confirmation of 24 ambassadors by this point in his presidency, and Barack Obama had 59, according to data from the Center for Presidential Transition.

Senator Bill Hagerty, a Republican, who served as former President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Tokyo, answered for Emanuel at Wednesday’s committee hearing and said he would vote to support Emanuel’s confirmation as ambassador.


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