Biden postpones event promoting Covid relief in Atlanta to meet with Asian American leaders

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The Biden administration on Thursday nixed plans for a political event to sell the president’s Covid relief bill in Atlanta on Friday, announcing plans instead to meet with Asian American leaders there in the wake of a string of shootings at spas earlier this week.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris had originally planned to travel to Atlanta on Friday as part of the White House’s “Help is Here” tour to tout the benefits of the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill he signed last week. But the White House announced Thursday that it would push the political event to a later date.

During the trip, Biden and Harris will now talk with Asian American leaders and others about the ongoing threats and violence against the Asian American community amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the White House said. The president and vice president will also visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for updates on efforts to fight the pandemic.

On Thursday, Biden also ordered that American flags be flown at half-staff on federal grounds to honor those killed in the three attacks on Atlanta-area spas. Eight people died in the attacks, among them seven women and six people of Asian descent.

Georgia law enforcement officials have received widespread criticism after suggesting the suspect, a white man, may not have been "racially motivated" in the killings. Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County, Ga., sheriff’s office said the suspect claimed to suffer from a sex addiction and saw the spas as a "temptation … to eliminate."

Biden has rolled out an aggressive strategy to sell his relief plan over the pas week, traveling himself and sending other administration emissaries to battleground states to broadcast to the plan’s benefits.

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