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FEMA Chief ‘Adds a Human Touch’ to Disaster Response

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WASHINGTON — Within the final 10 days, Deanne Criswell, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Administration Company, logged 13,000 miles in air journey, flying to Puerto Rico after it was battered by Hurricane Fiona, then later to western Alaska, the place officers have been feverishly working to recuperate from injury wrought by Hurricane Merbok.

And but, it is just in latest days that the majority Individuals could have seemingly grow to be conversant in Ms. Criswell, because the face of the federal authorities’s response to Hurricane Ian.

On Tuesday, she appeared on the White Home press briefing, urging Floridians to take the storm severely. On Wednesday, Michael Coen, her chief of workers, mentioned she hunkered down in a convention room at FEMA’s headquarters in southwest Washington, surrounded by tv screens streaming protection of the storm’s trajectory, with workers members submitting in with common updates, taking breaks for cable information interviews.

She left the constructing at 10:30 p.m. and took her final name from officers updating her on the storm barely earlier than 1 a.m. She was again within the constructing six hours later and appeared in a collection of tv interviews on Thursday morning, in her navy full-zip FEMA fleece, giving sobering updates on the injury Hurricane Ian had up to now precipitated.

Her workers says she is keen to get on the bottom in Florida, the place she is anticipated to go to hard-hit areas on Friday and can attempt to attain shelters to talk with catastrophe survivors concerning the federal help out there to them as they attempt to rebuild their lives.


It’s a grueling schedule by any measure, however one she has stored all through her profession, which started in 1994 at a neighborhood hearth division in Aurora, Colo., and landed her on the helm of FEMA — making her the primary girl nominated to guide the nation’s prime catastrophe response company.

“She must be on the market the place the motion is, the place the persons are, the place the native officers are,” mentioned Marty Bahamonde, a 30-year FEMA veteran and the director of catastrophe operations within the company’s exterior affairs division. “She is out the door at a second’s discover that one thing is occurring.”

For Ms. Criswell, a firefighter for greater than 20 years and a triathlete with three Iron Man competitions behind her, responding to advanced disasters has been a mainstay of her profession. In one in all her postings with the Colorado Air Nationwide Guard’s hearth division, Ms. Criswell oversaw greater than 500 firefighters on army bases throughout 9 international locations within the Center East.

After the Sept. 11 assaults, Ms. Criswell deployed to al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait as a senior hearth official assigned to crash rescue. In 2002, Ms. Criswell grew to become the primary girl to carry the place of fireplace chief within the Colorado Air Guard’s wing. She later led New York Metropolis’s preliminary response to the coronavirus pandemic, in her function because the commissioner of the town’s emergency administration division — additionally the primary girl to serve in that function.

Since Ms. Criswell started main FEMA, she tends to go to catastrophe websites a number of instances to make sure that the group is getting what it wants from the federal authorities.


“She could be very fingers on, very current,” Gov. Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico mentioned, noting that she has made three journeys to the island since she took the helm of the company in April 2021 — the most recent go to being at some point after Hurricane Fiona hit the southwestern coast. “She provides a human contact to what she does.”

President Biden additionally praised her on Thursday, calling Ms. Criswell the “M.V.P. right here.” Complimenting FEMA shouldn’t be with out peril, on condition that the company has typically been synonymous with maddening layers of forms, purple tape and, at instances, botched responses — most infamously with Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The truth is, Mr. Biden’s praise could have most definitely rekindled reminiscences of former President George W. Bush praising his FEMA director, Michael D. Brown, simply days after Hurricane Katrina left a path of destruction in New Orleans: “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” — a comment that’s ceaselessly connected to the federal government’s finally bungled response.

The problem dealing with FEMA and Ms. Criswell from Hurricane Ian is simply starting. It additionally comes at a time when the 2 prime politicians involved with the hurricane’s response — Mr. Biden and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican — are locked in a feud over immigration coverage.

Ms. Criswell has tried to avoid that dynamic. She spoke with Mr. DeSantis days earlier than the hurricane made landfall in Florida and has been responding to the governor’s issues.

With out lavishing reward on FEMA, Mr. DeSantis has acknowledged how nicely the preparations for the storm have been.

“I don’t assume we’ve ever seen an effort mobilized for this many rescues this rapidly,” he mentioned on Thursday.

That has a big half to do with Ms. Criswell’s coordination efforts behind the scenes.


“She actually must be the home diplomat,” mentioned Rebecca Rouse, the affiliate director of emergency and safety research at Tulane College.

Ms. Criswell’s collaborative persona has been a marked departure from previous FEMA directors, who have been extra keen to criticize native governments.

Craig Fugate, who ran FEMA throughout the Obama administration, faulted native governments for permitting building in high-risk areas.

Brock Lengthy, the FEMA administrator underneath President Donald J. Trump, was additionally keen to name out state and native governments for failing to take extra duty for safeguarding folks in opposition to disasters.

Individuals who have labored with Ms. Criswell say her broad expertise at many ranges of emergency administration is maybe her largest asset. She will work with officers on the native degree as a result of she was as soon as a kind of officers.


Mr. Bahamonde, who has labored for eight FEMA directors, mentioned Ms. Criswell was essentially the most proactive but.

In between briefings and media interviews on Monday on the Nationwide Hurricane Middle in Miami, Ms. Criswell known as the governors of Georgia and South Carolina, the place Hurricane Ian’s influence is anticipated to succeed in, to verify that they had her cellphone quantity.

“I’ve by no means labored with one other administrator who has talked to extra governors and extra native officers than she has,” Mr. Bahamonde mentioned.

Nonetheless, Ms. Criswell faces huge challenges to reform insurance policies inside FEMA.

Rob Moore, a senior coverage analyst on the Pure Assets Protection Council, gave Ms. Criswell credit score for tackling plenty of coverage challenges, together with attempting to enhance racial fairness in catastrophe support and making it simpler for smaller communities to get funding for local weather resilience tasks. (Catastrophe packages disproportionately favor white catastrophe victims in contrast with their Black and Hispanic counterparts, analysis reveals.)


On the identical time, he cited plenty of areas the place FEMA might make progress however has not. For instance, he mentioned the company might require cities and cities to impose safer constructing requirements so as to add higher safety in opposition to storms like Hurricane Ian; the company sought proposals on that concept, however has but to behave on them.

“We’re quickly approaching the midway level of the Biden administration,” Mr. Moore mentioned. “Should you don’t have a few of your massive regulatory adjustments within the pipeline on the midway level, you run a really actual danger of them not being accomplished.”

Christina Farrell, the primary deputy commissioner of New York’s emergency administration division, labored with Ms. Criswell in New York. Ms. Farrell described her as a “very decisive chief” who introduced a humanizing factor to her staff as they labored draining hours throughout the metropolis’s early response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Ms. Criswell would typically share footage of her golden retriever, Wilson, on an inside messaging platform she had began for cute pet footage.

“If the commissioner is exhibiting an image of her canine throughout critical instances,” Ms. Farrell mentioned, “it type of lets different folks really feel like they will open up.”

Those that have identified her most of her life say she has all the time been the identical witty, down-to-earth, hard-working individual. When she was rising up in northwestern Michigan, everybody known as her “Cookie.” Now Ms. Criswell, a 56-year-old grandmother of three, goes by “Grandma Cookie,” Mr. Coen mentioned.


Cindy Martinelli, who fought fires with Ms. Criswell throughout her days on the Aurora Fireplace Division and stays a detailed buddy, mentioned she was texting with Mr. Criswell late Wednesday evening, relaying how buddies have been sending clips of Ms. Criswell on tv. “It’s all the time ‘hometown lady made it massive,’” she mentioned.

Christopher Flavelle contributed reporting.

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Brittney Griner Is Freed as Part of a Prisoner Swap With Russia

Press Room



That set in movement a set of extremely choreographed actions in each Russia and the US, all finished with strict secrecy.

Two days in the past, Russians moved Ms. Griner from the penal colony to Moscow, in preparation for a attainable swap, based on a senior White Home official. On Thursday morning, Russians put Ms. Griner on a aircraft and flew her to an airport within the United Arab Emirates, whose authorities had agreed to function the situation for the swap.

In a video posted by the Russian state information company RIA Novosti, Ms. Griner is proven boarding a aircraft within the snow with two duffel baggage. As soon as aboard and in her seat, she is requested by an unidentified particular person, “What’s your temper?”

She replies, “Completely satisfied.”

Late on Wednesday afternoon, American officers put Mr. Bout on a aircraft headed to the U.A.E. One other video launched by Russia’s state media exhibits the second of the swap. Ms. Griner, sporting a pink jacket and trousers, walks with three males in fits towards one other man and Mr. Bout, who’s clutching a brown envelope and holding a coat over one arm.


One man shakes Mr. Bout’s hand and embraces him, after which a second man additionally shakes his hand. Ms. Griner then veers off towards one other group of males, together with what seems to be an U.A.E. official clad in flowing robes, as they shake her hand.

As soon as American officers confirmed that Ms. Griner was able to return to the US, the president signed a conditional grant of clemency to Mr. Bout, who was captured in Bangkok in 2008, extradited to the US in 2010 and sentenced in 2012 to 25 years in jail.

Across the time that Mr. Bout took off, the administration despatched an official to Chappaquiddick, Mass., to let Elizabeth Whalen, his sister, know what was about to occur, a step they didn’t take when the federal government agreed to the same swap in April for Trevor Reed, an ailing U.S. Marine veteran held for 2 years on what his household thought of to be bogus prices of assault.

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Oops! White House press secretary Jean-Pierre reads wrong script during briefing

Press Room



White Home press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, recognized for studying scripted solutions throughout every day press briefings, bought her statements combined up on Monday earlier than catching and correcting herself.

A reporter requested Jean-Pierre about New Hampshire Sen. Jean Shaheen, a Democrat, not attending a ball that night time as a result of President Biden endorsed a proposal to place South Carolina forward of New Hampshire within the main schedule.

White Home press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds the every day information convention within the Brady Press Briefing Room on the White Home in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Photos)

The transfer, the reporter stated, had Shaheen involved that it could make New Hampshire susceptible through the primaries.



Jean-Pierre instructed the reporter the White Home honors the Hatch Act, which handed in 1939 to limit political exercise involvement by federal staff.

“However wanting backward is the final word irony,” she stated. “You already know, the 2020 election was confirmed by the Trump administration’s homeland…oops. Sorry. I believe I bought forward of myself right here.”

Jean-Pierre then continued and stated the White Home takes the Hatch Act very critically, including she wanted to watch out in what she says because the 2024 election approaches.

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Is the Supreme Court About to Upend American Election Laws?

Press Room



Amicus briefs poured in, together with from conservative authorized students who, breaking with proponents of the unbiased state legislatures principle, stated the Republican lawmakers’ case was rooted in unhealthy legislation and a slanted studying of historical past. Others argued that the justices would discover themselves pulled more and more into petty political squabbles if North Carolina lawmakers had their manner. The Biden administration warned {that a} wrongly determined case would “wreak havoc within the administration of elections throughout the nation,” confronting voters with one algorithm for state elections and one other for Congress and the presidency.

Going into this week’s oral arguments, not less than three justices, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, had expressed sympathy for the Republican Get together’s place, however the views of the courtroom’s three others conservatives had been much less clear. So on Wednesday, Neal Katyal, a former appearing solicitor normal representing teams who oppose the doctrine, proposed a compromise: that the Supreme Court docket set a “sky-high” customary earlier than overruling its state counterparts. “It’s the final affront to sovereignty of a state,” he stated, “to say its personal state courtroom acquired issues incorrect.”

It may be hazardous to guess what the Supreme Court docket will do. However as Adam Liptak, the chief authorized correspondent for The New York Occasions, famous in our dialogue, a majority of justices is perhaps able to make some large modifications to the way in which American democracy works.

Listed below are a number of noteworthy factors from my dialog with Liptak:

It sounded to me like six justices had been skeptical of the argument that state legislatures can’t be sure by state courts in relation to federal elections. Principally, everyone however Alito, Gorsuch and Thomas. Does that sound correct?


That’s one strategy to put it, and it’s not incorrect. There didn’t appear to be a majority able to undertake essentially the most excessive model of a principle that will bar state courts from reviewing state legal guidelines regarding federal elections below their very own constitutions.

However a majority of the courtroom did appear ready to take what would nonetheless be a giant step: to let federal courts second-guess state rulings on state legislation in not less than some circumstances the place federal elections are at subject.

Lots of liberal teams had been panicked that the Supreme Court docket took up this case. The gist of their concern was {that a} conservative majority would throw out a long time of established election legislation and strip state courts of their capability to examine what they view as a variety of harmful, undemocratic legal guidelines coming from Republican-controlled state legislatures. Primarily based on what you heard, is there nonetheless cause for them to fret? Or was that concern exaggerated?

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