Summary

We’ll be shutting down today’s blog shortly. Here’s a glance at today’s major news items:

The US economy could benefit if the nation were to “lock down really hard” for four to six weeks, a top Federal Reserve official said on Sunday, adding that Congress can well afford large sums for coronavirus relief efforts.

The economy, which in the second quarter suffered its biggest blow since the Great Depression, would be able to mount a robust recovery, but only if the virus were brought under control, Neel Kashkari, president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, told CBS’s Face the Nation.

“If we don’t do that and we just have this raging virus spreading throughout the country with flare-ups and local lockdowns for the next year or two, which is entirely possible, we’re going to see many, many more business bankruptcies,” Kashkari said.

“That’s going to be a much slower recovery for all of us.”

Winnetka, Illinois
A man walks past a retail store that is going out of business due to the coronavirus pandemic in Winnetka, Illinois. Photograph: Nam Y Huh/AP

He said Congress was positioned to spend big on coronavirus relief efforts because the nation’s budget gap can be financed without relying on foreign borrowing, given how much Americans are saving.

“Those of us who are fortunate enough to still have our jobs, we’re saving a lot more money because we’re not going to restaurants or movie theaters or vacations,” Kashkari said.

“That actually means that we have a lot more resources as a country to support those who have been laid off,” he said.

The Democratic-led US House of Representatives approved a $3tn relief bill in May, while Senate Republicans, many of whom have expressed concerns about mounting debt, countered by proposing a $1tn aid package last week.

Efforts to craft a compromise appear stalled.

In an interview with ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said president Donald Trump would spend what was needed, but that the deficit was a factor.

“There’s obviously a need to support workers and support the economy,” he said.

“On the other hand, we have to be careful about not piling on enormous amount of debts for future generations.”

Our Berlin correspondent Kate Connolly reports the US government’s decision to withdraw thousands of troops from bases across southern and western Germany will have a huge impact on affected communities, according to local politicians.

Up to 12,000 troops from the air force and army are due to leave the region, the US defense secretary, Mark Esper, said this week in a move attributed to long-term planning by the Pentagon, but which Donald Trump said was a punishment for Berlin’s low defense spending.

According to initial reports, thousands of troops are due to be repositioned to bases within other Nato countries, such as Belgium, Italy and Spain, while around 6,400 will return to the US.

...

Fritz Kühn, mayor of the southern city of Stuttgart, in the state of Baden-Württemberg, home to EUCOM, the United States European Command, said his city was being punished for the breakdown in relations between Trump and the German government. “I think what is happening is simply not OK. It does not reflect the good relations which exist between the city of Stuttgart and the Americans,” he said.

The city’s economy would be hit badly by the withdrawal, he said. “The city will miss the consumer power of the Americans. But even more than that is the loss of the German-American tradition. The Americans like the city. They visit our markets, our wine festivals ... they enjoy our way of life.

“This announcement is like a rejection of that tight association. Trump doesn’t think much of the transatlantic partnership and Putin is the one who profits from those insecurities. Trump is playing Putin’s tune and that’s dangerous.”

It could be tick-tock for TikTok, according to Mike Pompeo.

The US secretary of state said Donald Trump “will take action in the coming days” on Chinese apps, including the massively popular short-video sharing platform, citing a broad array of national security risks presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party.

“Here’s what I hope that the American people will come to recognize: These Chinese software companies doing business in the United States, whether it’s TikTok or WeChat there are countless more ... are feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist Party, their national security apparatus,” Pompeo told Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo during an interview on Sunday Morning Futures.

He continued: “Could be their facial recognition patterns. It could be information about their residence, their phone numbers, their friends, who they’re connected to. Those those are the issues that President Trump has made clear we’re going to take care of.”

China’s ByteDance has agreed to divest the US operations of TikTok completely in a bid to save a deal with the White House, after Trump said on Friday he had decided to ban the app, two people familiar with the matter said on Saturday.

ByteDance’s concession will test whether Trump’s threat to ban TikTok is a negotiating tactic or whether he is intent on cracking down on a social media app that has up to 80 million daily active users in the US.

Donald Trump is back at the White House after another Sunday morning at Trump National in Potomac Falls, marking the 13th day he’s spent at one of his golf courses in the past 37 days.

Once again the presidential motorcade passed by several dozen supporters and protestors lining both sides of the street in front of the club as it departed.

Trump National Golf Club
A protestor in a grim reaper costume holds up a sign with the number 152K to represent the number of victims of the coronavirus disease in the US outside Trump National Golf Club on Sunday. Photograph: Cheriss May/Reuters
Trump National Golf Club
Protesters and supporters Donald Trump gather outside the Trump National Golf Club on Sunday. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Trump National Golf Club
Protesters gather outside Trump National Golf Club on Sunday. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sunday reported 4,601,526 coronavirus cases, an increase of 58,947 cases from its previous count, and said that the number of Covid-19 deaths in the country had risen by 1,132 to 154,002.

The CDC reported its tally of cases of Covid-19 as of 4 pm ET on 1 August, versus its previous report a day earlier.

Thousands of people in California were under evacuation orders Sunday after a wildfire in mountains east of Los Angeles exploded in size as crews battled the flames in triple-digit heat.

The blaze, dubbed the Apple Fire by local firefighters, was straddling Riverside and San Bernardino counties and consumed more than 23sq miles (about 60sq km) of dry brush and timber, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

There was zero containment early Sunday. The cause is under investigation.

The blaze began as two adjacent fires reported Friday evening in Cherry Valley, an unincorporated area near the city of Beaumont about 85 miles (137km) east of downtown Los Angeles.

Flames leapt along brushy ridge tops and came close to homes while firefighters attacked it from the ground and air.

Apple Fire
Firefighters monitor flames as they skirt a hillside near a residential area during the Apple Fire in Banning, California. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Bands of heavy rain from Isaias lashed Florida’s east coast on Sunday while officials dealing with surging cases of coronavirus kept a close watch on the weakened tropical storm, the Associated Press reports.

Isaias was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm Saturday afternoon, but was still expected to bring heavy rain and flooding as it crawled just off Florida’s Atlantic coast.

“Don’t be fooled by the downgrade,” Florida governor Ron DeSantis warned at a news conference after the storm spent hours roughing up the Bahamas.

“It’s a tale of two storms,” said Stacy Stewart, senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami on Sunday.

“If you live on the west side of the storm, you didn’t get much. If you live east of the storm, there’s a lot of nasty weather there.”

Florida is on the west side of Isaias.

Authorities closed beaches, parks and virus testing sites, lashing signs to palm trees so they wouldn’t blow away.

DeSantis said the state is anticipating power outages and asked residents to have a week’s supply of water, food and medicine on hand.

Officials wrestled with how to prepare shelters where people can seek refuge from the storm if necessary, while also safely social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.

Isaias
A satellite image obtained on Sunday at 12.10 UTC shows tropical storm Isaias off the southeast coast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean. Photograph: Lizabeth Menzies/RAMMB/NOAA/NESDIS/AFP/Getty Images

Isaias put another burden on communities already hit by other storms and sickness.

In Palm Beach County, about 150 people were in shelters, said emergency management spokeswoman Lisa De La Rionda, adding that the evacuees are physically distant from each other and wearing masks, due to the virus.

In Indian River County, north of West Palm Beach, Florida, emergency shelters were clearing out Sunday after Isaias was downgraded to a tropical storm.

Officials told TCPalm newspapers that 38 people registered at three schools used as shelters.

Those areas now must be cleaned to ensure no traces of the coronavirus remain as teachers and staff report Monday to prepare for the upcoming school year.

No one checked in with Covid-19 symptoms.

Temperature checks were done at the door, officials said, and isolation rooms were designated in case anyone came in with symptoms.

A record high percentage of US companies are beating analysts’ forecasts this earnings season, giving investors a glimmer of hope in what is still expected to be the slowest profit period since the financial crisis.

More than halfway through second-quarter earnings, 82.1% of companies reporting have surpassed profit expectations, which would be the highest in the history of Refinitiv IBES data going back to 1994, according to Reuters.

What’s more, the size of the beats is well above what is typical. S&P 500 companies have beaten earnings expectations by a whopping 21.7%, also set to be the highest on record since 1994, based on Refinitiv’s data as of Friday.

The latest big boost to numbers came late last week, when results from Facebook and trillion-dollar market value companies Apple, Amazon.com and Google parent Alphabet surpassed forecasts.

Apple store
People walk past an image of an iPhone displayed at an Apple store on Saturday in Ahmedabad, India. Photograph: Ajit Solanki/AP

In many cases, estimates had been lowered so much ahead of earnings season that they were easier to beat, strategists said.

Still, the results bolster the case for investors betting that the impact of coronavirus-led lockdowns and layoffs on companies’ bottom lines may not be quite as dire as previously believed.

“What it’s saying is there are pockets of absolute strength in corporate America,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.

Tech results in particular suggested “there is spending going on globally,” she said.

William Barr was hungry. “Mr Chairman, could we take a five-minute break?” the attorney general asked Jerry Nadler of the House of Representatives’ judiciary committee. “No,” retorted Nadler, his hearing almost done. Barr responded sardonically: “You’re a real class act.”

It was pure Barr: a proud, combative, unflappable and unapologetic partisan warrior in the loyal service of the White House.

During the five-hour session on Capitol Hill in Washington this week, Barr made clear why he has been dubbed Donald Trump’s faithful protector and personal henchman. He defended using federal forces in US cities, denied giving Trump’s allies favorable treatment and demurred on issues such as foreign election interference or whether November’s poll can be postponed.

For critics, it was proof positive that Barr’s unswerving loyalty to the president has torn down the wall that separates the White House and justice department and ensures law enforcement operates independent of politics. Some believe he now poses an existential threat to democracy itself.

You can read the full article below:

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said Covid-19 figures in his state are “all very good news” in a briefing on Sunday.

At the height of the pandemic in New York, the state was recording hundreds of deaths a day. On Sunday, three deaths were reported and 556 people were hospitalized with Covid-19, a figure that Cuomo said is “the lowest number since we began.” A total of 531 people tested positive for Covid-19 in the state over the last 24 hours, out of 58,951 tests.

As well as his appearance on CNN, Democrat congressman Jim Clyburn has also appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation.

He is asked whether the Democrats are hurting Americans by failing to agree a new deal with the Republicans to aid people taking an economic hit during the pandemic.

“I think what Democrats are doing, trying to keep ordinary people in focus, people who we depended on as so-called essential workers, the people seem not to think about- at least the Republicans,” Clyburn says. “Why would you put a 100% deduction for business lunches in this plan? That tells you a little bit what they’re thinking about.”

Clyburn worked as a teacher before entering politics, and he is asked whether he would be happy returning to school if he was still in the profession.

“Absolutely not, not until we have a national plan that the school district here in South Carolina ought to be coordinated,” he says. “We can’t have children going to school when we have not laid out a plan for there to be social distancing, for there to be everybody required a mask. I saw where a school district down in Georgia, I believe, they are saying well you’ve got to have a mask on the bus but in the classroom is optional. Come on. That’s not the way to run this stuff.”

He also says that broadband needs to be available to everyone, especially in rural communities, to help with distance learning.

“That’s why I have been such a long time proponent of having universal access to broadband,” he says. “Everything that’s great about this country, and the Internet is one of those great things, it ought to be accessible, ought to be affordable for everybody.”

According to one congressional candidate for America’s House of Representatives, Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement are a screen “for pedophilia and human trafficking”.

Another has claimed the US has a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out”, while several others running for national office have posted cryptic memes hinting at a powerful global elite that must be abolished.

These believers in QAnon, a conspiracy theory labelled a potential domestic terror threat by the FBI, are all running for national office – not as fringe independents, but as Republican candidates.

In some cases they have been backed by Republican money, and promoted by Donald Trump himself, and in certain Republican heartland states, the QAnon candidates are even likely to be elected in November.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, from Georgia, is among the QAnon supporters with the best chance of winning in November. She has also been the most strident with her beliefs.

“Q is a patriot,” Greene said in 2017, referring to her belief in the conspiracy theory’s anonymous online poster who claims to have knowledge of a secret ring of powerful, deep-state sex-traffickers and pedophiles, and is said to be a part of the Trump administration.

“He is someone that very much loves his country and is on the same page as us, and he is very pro-Trump. He appears to have connections at the highest levels.”

You can read the full article below:

Congressman Jim Clyburn: Trump has no plans to leave White House

House majority whip Jim Clyburn has compared the president to Mussolini during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union.

After Trump’s suggestion earlier this week that he would consider delaying the election, Democrat congressman Clyburn compared Trump to the Italian dictator who was in power for 20 years.

“I don’t think [Trump] plans to leave the White House,” Clyburn said. “He doesn’t plan to have fair and unfettered elections. I believe that he plans to install himself in some kind of emergency way to continue to hold on to office.”

The extra weekly $600 payments to the unemployed during the Covid-19 pandemic expired on Friday night, causing fears that many will be plunged into poverty as a result. Democrats and Republicans have yet to reach a new deal on the matter.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was on CBS’s Face the Nation and admitted a deal is some way off. He, along with treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin, met with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to discuss the deal on Saturday.

“Yesterday was a step in the right direction. Our staffs are actually working today. We’ll be meeting again tomorrow. But I’m not optimistic that there will be a solution in the very near term,” he said during his appearance on CBS.

He also denied that Donald Trump had looked into delaying the November election, despite the fact that the president floated the possibility of doing so earlier this week, to widespread criticism from Democrats and Republicans.

“He has not looked at delaying any- any election,” said Meadows. “What we will do is if we try to transform this and start mailing in ballots all across the country, all 50 states, what we will see is a delay because they’re just not equipped to handle it.”

There is no substantial evidence mail-in voting is subject to fraud, as Trump suggested when he spoke about delaying the election. You can read more about it here:

Giroir says US needs to move on from hydroxychloroquine

Hydroxychloroquine has been back in the news recently, thanks to Dr Stella Immanuel.

The Houston-based doctor and pastor said the drug can “stop Covid in its tracks in 30 days” but then again she also believes some women’s medical problems are caused by sex with “spirit husbands”. Donald Trump, who has touted hydroxychloroquine himself in the past, called Immanuel “impressive” earlier this week.

During an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, Trump’s coronavirus testing tsar, Brett Giroir, said there is no evidence hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for Covid-19.

“I think most physicians and prescribers are evidence-based and they’re not influenced by whatever’s on Twitter or anything else and the evidence just doesn’t show that hydroxychloroquine is effective right now,” he said. “I think we need to move on from that and talk about what is effective.”

Updated

US congresswoman Karen Bass has emerged as a frontrunner to be Joe Biden’s running mate in November, and she confirmed she is willing to take the job if offered.

“I think anybody that is willing to become vice president, if they’re invited, should be ready and I think that I am,” Bass said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday.

Bass is seen by some in the Biden camp as being less likely to clash with their man than another strong candidate, Kamala Harris. However, Bass and Biden differ on healthcare with the congresswoman in favour of “Medicare for all”. Biden believes private healthcare still has a big part to play in the US system.

Karen Bass is a frontrunner to become Joe Biden’s running mate
Karen Bass is a frontrunner to become Joe Biden’s running mate. Photograph: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

“No, I don’t think that the vice president is wrong at all,” Bass said when asked about the difference in their policies. “What I do believe in is that health care should be a right. I think that we should be like the rest of the industrial nations and provide health care. But what I believe specifically is that we need to repair the damage that was done and has been done over the last ten years to the Affordable Care Act. We need to repair the damage, we need to expand that, and then over time we need to figure as a nation, how do we make health care as a right for everyone.”

Bass also said she had reconsidered a statement she made when Fidel Castro died in 2016, At the time, she described his death as a “great loss” for Cuba.

“I absolutely would have not put that statement out [now] and I will tell you that, after talking to my colleagues who represent the state of Florida [and] raised those concerns with me, lesson learned. [I] would not do that again for sure,” she said.

Illinois senator Tammy Duckworth, a potential running mate for Joe Biden in November, has appeared on Fox News Sunday. She was asked if she was ready to step up and become president if needed.

“I think any one of the women whose names have been mentioned being considered are fabulous women and well prepared to step up and do the job of vice president or step up and take over as president if needed,” she said.

She also said that Trump has “failed to respond to this pandemic” as deaths from Covid-19 reach more than 155,000 in the US. Duckworth has criticized Trump’s decision to send federal agents to some US cities in response to anti-racism protests. She said the president should be concentrating on gun control rather than protesters if he wants to alleviate violence in US cities.

“If President Trump truly wants to go after violence in our country, he should call Mitch McConnell right now and ask for a sensible vote on uniform background checks,” she said. “That is, let’s get rid of those gun show loopholes.”

Republican governor says Trump should accept election result

Arkansas’ Republican governor Asa Hutchinson has seen a rise in cases in his state over the last few weeks, but has denied that shutting down bars and restaurants will help curb that trend.

“So far we have not seen any correlation between an increase in cases and lifting of restrictions,” he told CNN on Sunday morning. He added that wearing masks in public is vital “of course the most important about that is that people comply with it.”

He was also asked about Donald Trump’s suggestion earlier this week that he may delay the November election over (unfounded) fears of mail-in voting fraud.

“As everyone has indicated, there shouldn’t be any change in the date of the election ... It is constitutional. It is required,” said Hutchinson. “The president should accept the results just like presidents in the past have accepted the results.”

More from Deborah Birx’s appearance on CNN. Covid-19 is seen by many as an urban disease that spreads in cities where people are crammed together, particularly after cities such as New York and Detroit were hit hard in the early stages of the pandemic. But Birx warned people in rural areas that Covid-19 is a danger for them too.

“To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus,” Birx said. “If you’re in multi-generational households, and there’s an outbreak in your rural area or in your city, you need to really consider wearing a mask at home, assuming that you’re positive, if you have individuals in your households with comorbidities ... [the pandemic] is both rural and urban.”

She was also asked if schools should practice remote learning in areas where there is a 5% positivity rate.

“If you have high case load and active community spread, just like we are asking people not to go to bars, not to have household parties, not to create large spreading events, we are asking people to distance learn at this moment so we can get this epidemic under control,” Birx said.

Trump campaign adviser says election will not be delayed

Donald Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller is on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.

He is asked about Trump trailing in the polls to Joe Biden.

“We think we’re in a great shape,” he says as polls show Trump trailing to his presumptive opponent in several key battleground states. Miller says Trump is leading “or within the margin of error” in states he needs to win in November. He adds that Trump was down to Clinton in 2016 at a similar stage, and says public polling is “lagging behind” private polls conducted by the Trump campaign.

He is then asked by Wallace if he will guarantee the Trump campaign will not accept information about Biden or his family from foreign officials or governments.

He says that Wallace has asked a “silly question ... we’re going to beat Biden fair and square.” Wallace then asks Miller to give him a flat yes or no in regards to whether he would accept foreign information. “There is no foreign assistance in this campaign,” says Miller, not quite denying Wallace’s question. He also says Wallace should ask the same question to the Biden campaign.

The interview ends with Wallace asking Miller about Trump’s suggestion earlier this week that he could delay November’s election.

“The election is going to be on 3 November,” says Miller. He says it is actually Democrat governors who want the election delayed by introducing mail-in voting, where ballots can arrive after 3 November.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi turned her attention to Deborah Birx on ABC’s This Week, and didn’t exactly give her a ringing endorsement.

“I think the president has been spreading disinformation about the virus and [Birx] is his appointee so, I don’t have confidence there, no,” said Pelosi when asked if she had confidence in Birx.

Birx, , meanwhile, was asked about Pelosi’s comments when she appeared on CNN on Sunday morning. Birx said she believed Pelosi was referring to an article in the New York Times that depicted her as being too optimistic about the fight against the virus.

“This was not a pollyannish view. I’ve never been called pollyannish, or non-scientific, or non-data driven,” Birx said. “I will stake my 40-year career on those fundamental principles of using data to implement better programs and save lives.”

Reports earlier this week said Pelosi criticized Birx in a meeting with treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

“Deborah Birx is the worst. Wow, what horrible hands you’re in,” Pelosi said according to Politico.

Pelosi is also to said to have described infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci, who has been sidelined by the White House, as a “hero”.

Dr Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, has appeared on CNN’s State of the Union. She said that Covid-19 has taken a hold over large parts of the US, and is no longer restricted to large cities as was the trend in the early stages of the pandemic.

“What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It’s into the rural as equal urban areas,” Birx said.

She also warned people who have been to areas hit hard by the disease, such as Florida, to “assume you’re infected.”

Birx said she had been to 14 states in the last three weeks as part of her job, and had witnessed how Americans are continuing to travel across the country, potentially spreading the virus. “I can tell you across America right now, people are on the move,” she said.

More than 150,000 people have died in America due to Covid-19. According to Yahoo News, the Centers for Disease Control forecast earlier this week that the death toll could rise as high as 182,000 by 22 August.

Good morning. The main news is that Republicans have decided the press will be barred when Donald Trump is formally declared the party’s nominee for president later this month.

“Given the health restrictions and limitations in place within the state of North Carolina, we are planning for the Charlotte activities to be closed [to] press Friday, August 21–Monday, August 24,” a convention spokeswoman said.

“We are happy to let you know if this changes, but we are working within the parameters set before us by state and local guidelines regarding the number of people who can attend events.”

The Associated Press’s White House correspondent, Zeke Miller, has called the decision “ill-advised”, while veteran CNN host Wolf Blitzer called the decision to bar the press from a major part of the country’s democratic process “unthinkable”.

In a sign that the backlash may have got to the GOP, Miller later reported that “the decision is not final and that they are still working through press coverage options. Hopefully they’ll give the American people the access they deserve.”