Brakkton Booker

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.

He covers a wide range of topics including issues related to federal social safety net programs and news around the mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

His reporting takes him across the country covering natural disasters, like hurricanes and flooding, as well as tracking trends in regional politics and in state governments, particularly on issues of race.

Following the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, Booker's reporting broadened to include a focus on young activists pushing for changes to federal and state gun laws, including the March For Our Lives rally and national school walkouts.

Prior to joining NPR's national desk, Booker spent five years as a producer/reporter for NPR's political unit. He spent most to the 2016 presidential campaign cycle covering the contest for the GOP nomination and was the lead producer from the Trump campaign headquarters on election night. Booker served in a similar capacity from the Louisville campaign headquarters of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014. During the 2012 presidential campaign, he produced pieces and filed dispatches from the Republican and Democratic National conventions, as well as from President Obama's reelection site in Chicago.

In the summer of 2014, Booker took a break from politics to report on the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

Booker started his career as a show producer working on nearly all of NPR's magazine programs, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and former news and talk show Tell Me More, where he produced the program's signature Barbershop segment.

He earned a bachelor's degree from Howard University and was a 2015 Kiplinger Fellow. When he's not on the road, Booker enjoys discovering new brands of whiskey and working on his golf game.

The House of Representatives and Senate approved a waiver Thursday for retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as President Biden's defense secretary. Both votes were overwhelming and bipartisan.

Normally the House has no role in confirming Cabinet secretaries. But Austin retired from the military four years ago, short of the seven years required by law to take the civilian job without a waiver from both houses of Congress.

A Senate vote on Austin's confirmation is expected as soon as Friday.

Updated 4:50 p.m. ET

As the United States inaugurated Joe Biden as the 46th president, world leaders, citizens and former officials offered congratulations and expressed hope that the new administration will lead to better relations and reverse some of the policies of his predecessor.

"The United States is back. And Europe stands ready," Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, proclaimed in a tweet hours before the swearing-in Wednesday.

Updated 7:10 p.m. ET

Gen. Lloyd Austin, President-elect Joe Biden's pick to head the Pentagon, went before the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday in a bid to make history by being confirmed as the nation's first Black secretary of defense.

During his opening statement, Austin, 67, addressed the biggest issue hovering over his nomination.

Sean Urbanski, a former University of Maryland student who stabbed and killed a Black Army lieutenant at a bus stop in May 2017, was sentenced to life in prison for what prosecutors said was a racially motivated hate crime.

A Prince George's County Circuit Court judge handed down the life sentence for Urbanski, 25. However, the judge denied the prosecution's request for a sentence without parole.

"I'm absolutely satisfied that justice was served," said Maryland State's Attorney Aisha Braveboy, whose office prosecuted the case.

The Michigan Attorney General's Office Thursday announced criminal charges for eight former state officials, including the state's former Gov. Rick Snyder, along with one current official, for their alleged roles in the Flint water crisis.

Together the group face 42 counts related to the drinking water catastrophe roughly seven years ago. The crimes range from perjury to misconduct in office to involuntary manslaughter.

Updated at 9:02 p.m. ET

Klete Keller, the Olympic gold medalist swimmer, is facing federal charges in connection with the insurrection last week at the U.S. Capitol.

He has been released from custody without posting bond but with orders to stay away from Washington, D.C., except for court hearings and to consult with his lawyers, according to The Associated Press. He appeared before a federal judge in Denver.

Updated at 9:28 p.m. ET

Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis, an environmental disaster that contaminated the majority Black city's drinking water with lead nearly seven years ago.

Updated 3:15 p.m. ET

Local and federal security officials expect about 20,000 National Guard members to be involved in securing Washington, D.C., for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration next week.

"I think you can expect to see somewhere upwards of beyond 20,000 members of the National Guard that will be here in the footprint of the District of Columbia," Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said on Wednesday.

A Minnesota judge has ruled that the former Minneapolis police officer seen in cellphone video kneeling on George Floyd's neck for several minutes last summer, will stand trial alone in March.

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill ruled that the trial for Derek Chauvin, who is facing charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter for his role in Floyd's death, will begin on March 8.

Social media giants Twitter and Facebook have announced stricter measures on their platforms aimed at curbing misinformation and further unrest in response to last week's deadly insurrection led by pro-Trump extremists at the U.S. Capitol.

Facebook is targeting content with the phrase "stop the steal," referring to false claims of election fraud. Twitter is targeting accounts that focus on the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Social media behemoth Facebook announced Monday it has created a new executive role at the company and that it will be filled by a veteran of the Obama administration.

Roy Austin Jr. has been named vice president of civil rights with the mandate to oversee Facebook's accountability on racial hatred and discrimination on its platform. He's slated to start Jan. 19.

Updated at 1:40 p.m. ET

Still reeling from the aftermath of the deadly insurrection at the seat of the U.S. government last week, U.S. Capitol Police have designated Yogananda Pittman as the law enforcement agency's acting chief.

She has been with the force since April 2001 and was named acting chief on Friday, according to the U. S. Capitol Police (USCP) website. That came two days after pro-Trump extremists faced off and eventually overwhelmed security forces at the U.S. Capitol complex.

Officer Brian Sicknick, 42, died after sustaining injuries in the line of duty at the U.S. Capitol.
U.S.

Updated at 3:15 a.m. ET

A pair of Louisville, Ky., police officers connected to the raid on Breonna Taylor's apartment last year were formally terminated from the force, a spokesperson for the Louisville Metro Police Department confirmed Wednesday.

Bestselling author Eric Jerome Dickey, whose novels depicted romance, erotica and suspense from the Black perspective, including Milk in My Coffee, Sleeping with Strangers and Friends and Lovers, has died. He was 59.

He died in Los Angeles on Jan. 3 after a long illness, his longtime publicist confirmed Tuesday.

His publisher, Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Random House, referred to the popular writer as "an iconic author and friend" on social media.

Updated 5:08 p.m. ET

Kyle Rittenhouse, a young gunman facing criminal charges in the killing of two men and the serious injury of a third this summer in Kenosha, Wis., entered not guilty pleas to all charges during an arraignment Tuesday.

Updated 7:58 p.m. ET

A Wisconsin prosecutor announced that no charges will be brought against the white Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, several times at close range in August.

"It is my decision now, that I announce today before you that no Kenosha law enforcement officer in this case will be charged with any criminal offense," Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

Updated at 5:25 p.m. ET

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday afternoon that the state had identified its first case of the U.K. variant of the coronavirus. Cuomo said the individual was a jewelry store worker in his 60s in Saratoga Springs who had no known travel history suggesting community spread of the variant is happening. The man is now recovering, Cuomo said.

Updated 3:32 p.m. ET

The start of the NBA 2020-2021 season is already off to a bumpy start with the postponement of the Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder matchup Wednesday because of coronavirus issues.

It was just Day 2 of competition for the fledgling NBA season.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an aggressive new measure aimed at keeping a new variant of the coronavirus that is sweeping across London and southern England from spreading to the largest city in the United States.

The mayor said effective immediately, law enforcement officials will be deployed across the city to enforce its 14-day quarantine for anyone flying into New York City from the United Kingdom.

Antarctica is no longer the only continent free of the pandemic.

Thirty-six people stationed at the General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme Antarctic base had tested positive for the virus, Chilean officials said this week. The permanent research station is located on tip of the continent south of Chile.

One of the most prestigious newspapers in the midwestern United States issued an apology for what it called "both action and inaction in shaping and misshaping" the history of Missouri's most populous city and its surrounding region.

The head of the German pharmaceutical company BioNTech expressed confidence that his company's vaccine would be effective against a coronavirus variant rapidly infecting people across London and southern England.

U.K. officials have warned the new variant is likely to be more contagious than the various strains already circulating, though there is no evidence suggesting it is more deadly.

Updated 2:30 p.m. ET

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Monday attempted to reassure skittish European neighbors that his government had the threat of a new strain of the coronavirus under control.

In a press conference at No. 10 Downing St., Johnson also said he was in talks with France, one of several nations that have banned entry from the U.K. since the weekend, causing chaos for travelers and cargo shipments.

Updated at 9:12 p.m. ET

Confirmed coronavirus infections and virus-related deaths are soaring in California, the nation's most populous state, setting new records as hospitals struggle to keep up with the onslaught of cases.

It has prompted the state to activate its "mass fatality" program, which coordinates mutual aid across several governmental agencies.

Major League Baseball has for years acknowledged the contributions and the legacy of the thousands of Black athletes who played in the Negro Leagues.

On Wednesday, the league went a step further, saying it was officially "correcting a longtime oversight in the game's history" and recognizing those professionals as Major League-caliber players. The league said it will also include their statistics and records as part of MLB history.

Two Los Angeles police officers will not face criminal charges in the 2018 shootout at a Trader Joe's store that injured the armed suspect the officers were pursuing, and resulted in the death of the store's assistant manager.

In a newly released memorandum from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, prosecutors determined the officers were justified in using deadly force because they were trying to protect themselves and the public.

Maryland's Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is joining the bipartisan group No Labels as its new national co-chairman.

Hogan joins Joseph Lieberman, a one-time vice presidential nominee and former Connecticut senator, who served as a Democrat before switching to an independent in his final years on Capitol Hill.

Together they will help lead the organization that promotes centrist political ideas as a new Congress is set to convene early next year.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's senior official for infectious diseases, predicts the United States could begin to achieve early stages of herd immunity against the deadly coronavirus by late spring or summer. And if that happens, Fauci anticipates, "we could really turn this thing around" toward the end of 2021.

With nation's confirmed coronavirus infections surging, the NCAA announced Monday it plans to stage the entire Division I women's basketball tournament in one geographic area when it tips off in March.

Talks are already underway with officials in San Antonio to host the 64 teams that will compete in the single-elimination tournament.

NCAA officials said it aims to limit the spread of the virus by cutting down on the amount of travel required by teams.

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