That’s all from me for the day. Here are the top news stories to be aware of from today:
- The supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was discharged from the hospital and is “doing well”.
- Media executive James Murdoch announced he has resigned from the board of News Corp over editorial disagreements.
- Adult film star Stormy Daniels still cannot sue Donald Trump for defamation over a tweet he published about her in 2018, a court has ruled.
- The Trump administration has proposed a change to the Endangered Species Act that would reduce habitat protections for imperiled animals.
- Donald Trump is in Florida, where he suggested in a press conference that recent reports Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers was a “hoax”.
- The Department of Homeland Security surveilled protesters’ messages in Portland, a new document obtained by the Washington Post revealed.
That’s all. Have a good weekend!
An internal Department of Homeland Security document shows the department surveilled electronic messages between protestors in Portland, Oregon during Black Lives Matters protests this year.
The leaked document reported on by the Washington Post shows conversations were written up in an “intelligence report” disseminated to federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, as well as state and local governments.
This runs counter to claims a Senior Department of Homeland Security official made to a Senate committee earlier this month that the department had not collected, exploited or analyzed information from the electronic devices or accounts of the protesters.
The report obtained by the Post analyzed messages protesters exchanged on the Telegram messaging app in which they discussed which routes to take during marches and how to avoid the police. It was published six days before the official claimed these interactions were not tracked.
Speaking upon his arrival in Florida, Donald Trump suggested that the recent reports that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers were a “hoax”.
Trump claimed to have not been told about it, though the New York Times reported Trump was briefed and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March and that the administration discussed several potential responses.
Many have noted that many among the small group of supporters greeting Donald Trump when he touched down in Florida were not wearing masks or adhering to social distancing guidelines.
The president reportedly greeted dozens of supporters after his plane landed, working his way down a small rope line with no mask himself. Trump is there to meet with the governor regarding the explosion of Covid-19 infections in recent days.
A Michigan teen who was detained for not doing online coursework has been ordered to be released “immediately” through an emergency motion filed by the Michigan court of appeals.
The plight of the Black teenager, whose story was reported under the pseudonym “Grace”, drew public outcry over racism in school systems after ProPublica first reported on it earlier this month.
Reporter Jodi Cohen of ProPublica said the teen’s mother was able to pick her up from detention within two hours of the ruling.
The Joe Biden campaign team may soon be finalizing its decision on a running mate, the Associated Press reported Friday.
The campaign hasn’t announced a date for naming a running mate, but three people who spoke on condition of anonymity with the Associated Press said a public announcement likely wouldn’t happen before the week of Aug. 10. That’s one week before Democrats will hold their convention to officially nominate Biden as their presidential nominee.
The leading contenders include California Sen. Kamala Harris, California Rep. Karen Bass and Obama national security adviser Susan Rice. The deliberations remain fluid, however, and the campaign has reviewed nearly a dozen possible running mates.
The Trump administration has proposed a change to the Endangered Species Act that would reduce protections for imperiled animals, potentially putting more at risk as climate change upends ecosystems.
The proposal, obtained in advance by the Associated Press, will restrict what land and water areas can be declared as “habitat” under the Endangered Species Act for the first time.
The proposed definition says habitat includes “places that a species depend upon to carry out one or more life processes,” such as breeding or eating.
It comes in response to a 2018 US supreme court ruling involving a highly endangered southern frog - the dusky gopher frog – in which a dispute arose after the Fish and Wildlife Service designated 1,500 acres (607 hectares) of land and ponds in neighboring Louisiana as critical habitat for the frog even though none lived there.
In the gopher frog case, a unanimous court said the government had to decide what constitutes suitable habitat for the frogs before it could designate some of those areas as “critical habitat” for the species, which survives in just a few ponds in Mississippi.
Trump administration officials said the proposal would apply to relatively few cases and provide “more consistency” and “more transparency” for private landowners, companies and states.
But environmentalists say areas where a species does not yet live should be protected for future habitats as climate change pushes endangered species to new spaces.
The recent proposal comes after Trump changed the Endangered Species Act in August 2019 to reduce protections for animals in danger of extinction. The rules, lauded by industry, would draw more attention to the economic impact of protecting a species.
A final decision on the proposal to define “habitat” is expected by year’s end.
A court on Friday upheld a decision ruling adult film star Stormy Daniels cannot sue Donald Trump for defamation over a tweet he published about her in 2018.
Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, accused Trump of defaming her after he publicly cast doubt on her claims she was threatened by a man in a Las Vegas parking lot for attempting to go public with her affair with Trump.
Trump later retweeted a photo of a sketch she produced of the alleged strongman, saying he is “nonexistent” and that Daniels’ story was “a total con job, playing the Fake News Media for fools.” The court on Friday accepted arguments from Trump’s lawyers that “he was merely offering his opinion and not leveling any factual claims of his own”.
“Viewed through the eyes of an objectively reasonable reader, the tweet here reflects Mr. Trump’s opinion about the implications of the allegedly similar appearances of Ms. Clifford’s ex-husband and the man in the sketch,” the court said in its nine-page ruling.
In the ruling the judges also rejected Daniels’ claim Trump’s tweet was a denial of her underlying claim of the sexual encounter.
The Supreme Court on Friday declined to halt the Trump administration’s construction of portions of the border wall with Mexico as proceedings over its legality continue.
The vote means the wall will continue to be built until the judgement is heard, which could be until after the November election, and follows a recent lower court ruling that the administration improperly diverted money to the project.
The vote was split 5-4, with all four liberal justices dissenting, saying they would have prohibited construction while a court challenge continues, after a federal appeals court ruled in June that the administration had illegally sidestepped Congress in transferring the Defense Department funds.
“The Court’s decision to let construction continue nevertheless I fear, may operate, in effect, as a final judgment,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in a brief dissent for the four liberals.
The case has its origins in the 35-day partial government shutdown that started in December of 2018. Trump ended the shutdown after Congress gave him approximately $1.4 billion in border wall funding, but that was far less than the $5.7 billion he was seeking. Trump then declared a national emergency to take cash from other government accounts to use to construct sections of wall.
The Supreme Court is on break for the summer but does act on certain pressing items. It will begin hearing cases again in October.
James Murdoch, British-American businessman and son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, announced Friday he has resigned from the board of News Corp.
Murdoch was previously CEO of 21st Century Fox from 2015 until 2019. He cited “disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions” as reasons for his resignation.
US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was discharged from the hospital on Friday after her latest medical procedure, the court announced.
Ginsburg was hospitalized earlier in the week for a “minimally invasive non-surgical procedure” at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer City in New York City to revise a bile duct stent originally installed in August 2019. Stent revisions are routine, doctors said, and the procedure was low-risk.
“She is home and doing well,” the court said, according to CNN.
Hello, lovely readers. Kari Paul here in San Francisco to blog you through the news this afternoon. Stay tuned for updates.
Late afternoon summary
It’s been a very lively day in US political news so far, dominated by the coronavirus crisis, where the US now has 4.5 million confirmed cases and a death toll of almost 153,000, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
Congress has failed to reach a deal on continued federal unemployment supplements as economic aid amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and the nation heads into a tense weekend in terms of public health and financial news.
My west coast colleague Kari Paul will take readers through the next few hours of events.
Here are the main events so far today:
- Not only is there a lack of a comprehensive national plan for getting the coronavirus pandemic under control in the US, there appears also to be no clear plan for how any successful vaccine will be distributed to Americans.
- There have been three arrests in the case of the giant Twitter hack earlier this month affected the accounts of prominent figures including Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Kanye West, Elon Musk, others. The DoJ made an announcement.
- A federal appeals court overturned the death sentence of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He will be sentenced anew for helping carry out the 2013 attack, which killed three people and wounded more than 260.
- Donald Trump is visiting Tampa, Florida, where governor Ron DeSantis plans to meet him to discuss next steps in tackling a surge in coronavirus that has seen four consecutive days of record deaths from the virus in the state.
As scientists and pharmaceutical companies work at breakneck speed to develop a vaccine for coronavirus, public health officials and senior US lawmakers are sounding alarms about the Trump administration’s lack of planning for its nationwide distribution.
The federal government traditionally plays a principal role in funding and overseeing manufacturing and distribution of new vaccines during pandemics, which often draw on scarce ingredients and need to be made, stored and transported carefully, Reuters reports.
At a congressional hearing this morning, top public health expert Anthony Fauci said the government was coordinating research and testing with the private sector players in the US.
There won’t be enough vaccine for all 330 million Americans right away, so the government also has a role in deciding who gets it first, and in educating a vaccine-wary public about its potential life saving merits.
Right now, it is unclear who in Washington is in charge of oversight, much less any critical details, some state health officials and members of Congress told Reuters.
Last week, a senior Trump administration official told Reuters that Operation Warp Speed, the White House vaccine task force was “committed to implementing the (vaccine) plan and distributing medical countermeasures as fast as possible.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes it will spearhead distribution of the new vaccine when (hopefully rather than if) a safe and effective one is approved.
Health officials and lawmakers say they worry that without thorough planning and coordination with states, the vaccine distribution could be saddled with the same sort of disruptions that led to chronic shortages of coronavirus diagnostic tests and other medical supplies.
Senator Patty Murray, the senior Democrat on the health program funding committee, said a poorly-executed rollout would mean “we will be sitting here two years from now, three years from now, in the same economic and health position we are today,” she said.
Donald Trump insists everything is in place.
“We’re all set to march when it comes to the vaccine,” Trump said at a White House briefing on Thursday. The details of that plan, if there is one, are opaque.
Three arrests in Twitter hacking case that targeted famous names inc Biden, Obama, Musk, West
Three individuals have been charged today for their alleged roles in the Twitter hack that occurred on July 15, 2020, the US Department of Justice has announced.
Nima Fazeli, aka “Rolex,” 22, of Orlando, Florida, was charged in a criminal complaint in the Northern District of California with aiding and abetting the intentional access of a protected computer, federal prosecutors said.
One defendant is a juvenile. With exceptions that do not apply to this case, juvenile proceedings in federal court are sealed to protect the identity of the juvenile. Pursuant to the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act, the Justice Department has referred the individual to the State Attorney for the 13th Judicial District in Tampa, Florida, the DoJ statement said.
Also, Mason Sheppard, aka “Chaewon,” 19, of Bognor Regis, in the United Kingdom, was charged in a criminal complaint in the Northern District of California with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and the intentional access of a protected computer, the DoJ reports.
“There is a false belief within the criminal hacker community that attacks like the Twitter hack can be perpetrated anonymously and without consequence,” said US Attorney David L. Anderson for the Northern District of California. “Today’s charging announcement demonstrates that the elation of nefarious hacking into a secure environment for fun or profit will be short-lived. Criminal conduct over the Internet may feel stealthy to the people who perpetrate it, but there is nothing stealthy about it. In particular, I want to say to would-be offenders, break the law, and we will find you.”
“The hackers allegedly compromised over 100 social media accounts and scammed both the account users and others who sent money based on their fraudulent solicitations,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“Weeks ago, one of the world’s most prolific social media platforms came under attack. Various political leaders, celebrities, and influencers were virtually held hostage as their accounts were hacked,” said Kelly R. Jackson, IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge of the Washington DC field office.
“The public was confused, and everyone wanted answers. We can now start answering those questions.”
The cyber crimes unit “analyzed the blockchain and de-anonymized bitcoin transactions allowing for the identification of two different hackers. This case serves as a great example of how following the money, international collaboration, and public-private partnerships can work to successfully take down a perceived anonymous criminal enterprise,” agent Jackson said.
The Guardian’s coverage of the hacking news.
A federal appeals court has overturned Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death penalty sentence for helping carry out the 2013 attack, which killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.
The 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld much of Tsarnaev’s conviction but ordered a lower-court judge to hold a new trial strictly over what sentence Tsarnaev should receive for the death penalty-eligible crimes he was convicted of, Reuters reports.
A spokeswoman for US Attorney Andrew Lelling said his office is reviewing the decision and will have more to say “in the coming days and weeks.” A lawyer for Tsarnaev did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan sparked five days of panic in Boston on April 15, 2013, when they detonated two homemade pressure cooker bombs at the marathon’s finish line and then tried to flee the city.
Breaking news: U.S. Appeals Court overturns Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's death sentence
We’ll bring the details as they come, but here is the bare news item.
Donald Trump spoke to the reporting pool at the White House earlier, before he departed for a trip to Florida. In the Cabinet Room the president and vice president, Mike Pence, sat with leadership of the National Association of Police Organizations.
The leading theme on the agenda appeared to be partisan division. Federal law enforcement agents under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security are in the process of withdrawing from Portland, Oregon, after clashes with protesters.
They had been very controversially dispatched there by the Trump administration ostensibly to guard the federal courthouse but have been witnessed plucking protesters off the streets and into unmarked vehicles and behaving, in the words of the Oregon governor Kate Brown, like an “occupying force”.
In the Cabinet Room earlier, Trump said the federal agents in Portland had been “strictly defensive”, which many local witnesses will dispute.
“They’re not allowed to be offensive unfortunately,” Trump said. There has been some tension between Black Lives Matter core peaceful protests and unwelcome fringe agitators infiltrating in Portland, as my colleague Chris McGreal has reported.
But Trump ups the ante, saying in sweeping terms that any issues in Portland have been caused by radical anarchists, “in many cases professionals”.
He pledged that: “If it doesn’t clean up we’re going to do something very powerful ... we have no choice” and referred to an “offensive force”.
He said “left wing extremists have spread mayhem throughout the streets of different cities”, said his rival for the White House, Joe Biden, supports defunding the police (which Biden has disputed) and is now further left than Bernie Sanders, which would be a surprise to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
Trump mentioned New York, Seattle, Milwaukee, and said: “As a result of the outrageous attacks on law enforcement violent crime has surged in certain Democrat run cities.
He said Chicago is “far worse than Afghanistan” and contrasted these places with “well run cities” that he said are “largely Republican.”
Here’s McGreal’s report from today. Things have calmed down considerably in Portland now the feds are leaving. Protests there have been going on daily since George Floyd, a Black American man, was killed in Minneapolis under the knee of a white police officer in May.
Arrests in case of hacking of prominent figures' Twitter accounts
This headline rings a bell from July 16.
Twitter hack: accounts of prominent figures, including Biden, Musk, Obama, Gates and Kanye compromised.
My colleagues Julia Carrie Wong and Kari Paul wrote at the time that:
Twitter suffered a major security breach on Wednesday that saw hackers take control of the accounts of major public figures and corporations, including Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Apple.
The company confirmed the breach Wednesday evening, more than six hours after the hack began, and attributed it to a “coordinated social engineering attack” on its own employees that enabled the hackers to access “internal systems and tools”. Twitter said it was “looking into what other malicious activity they may have conducted or information they may have accessed” in addition to using the compromised accounts to send tweets.
The hack unfolded over the course of several hours, and in the course of halting it, Twitter stopped all verified accounts from tweeting at all – an unprecedented measure. The company had restored most accounts by Wednesday evening, but warned that it “may take further actions”. The company said that it had also locked the compromised accounts and “taken steps to limit access to internal systems and tools” while it continues its investigation.
Well now there have been three arrests. More details to follow, per DoJ.
Florida has seen four successive days of record deaths from coronavirus.
The state has reported yet another record for Covid-19 deaths — 257 listed on Friday’s pandemic data report. Nearly 100 of the victims were from Miami-Dade County, the Sun-Sentinel reports.
The state has now had four consecutive days of reporting a new high mark of coronavirus fatalities. These are people who died within recent weeks, but finally confirmed by authorities tracking the state’s deadliest infectious disease.
For the entire month of July, Florida has reported 3,362 deaths from Covid-19 complications. For all of 2019, there were 2,703 deaths attributed to the flu and pneumonia in the state, the paper notes.
Public health experts say Florida should slowly improve in August, as the number of new Covid-19 cases has remained under 10,000 for six straight days.
Parts of South Florida remain under hurricane watch, relating to Hurricane Isaias, which is approaching from the south-east.
The paper has published an editorial, meanwhile, calling on governor Ron DeSantis to take more action to tackle the raging outbreak, with the headline “Help us out, Governor DeSantis, we’re dying.”
Donald Trump is on his way to Florida, a down-and-back trip to Tampa.
He has an event with Florida sheriffs, participates in a roundtable on Covid response and storm preparedness (as a hurricane barrels towards the coast), and speaks at a fundraiser at a golf club in nearby Belleair.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis is on his way to meet the president to request authorization for more troop assistance in the Covid-19 crisis, which is affecting the state badly (so badly that Trump has canceled the Republican National Convention that he was going to hold in Jacksonville, Florida, after moving it from North Carolina, in a summer of chaos).
Is this a first?
Donald Trump has praised Jim Jordan and Anthony Fauci in the same tweet after the congressional coronavirus hearing this morning.
Jordan is one of the president’s favorite congressional attack dogs, as a Republican representative of Ohio, who kept trying to goad Fauci into saying people shouldn’t protest and/or that the government should stop people protesting, because of the risk of spreading Covid. Fauci declined to take the bait.
And Fauci, the top US infectious disease public health experts who has served six presidents so far, told the hearing that the US must not rush to reopen without following federal health guidelines (which many states have failed to do).
But also told the hearing he is cautiously optimistic about the progress of US public-private research towards a vaccine and that the US could still (six months in) get control of the pandemic IF Americans wore masks in public, practiced social distancing, avoided crowds (especially bars), washed their hands and health authorities did more testing and contact tracing and had a steady decline in new cases before reopening.
It’s been a very lively morning in US politics news and we haven’t even got to some of it yet, such as what the president has been saying about federal law enforcement and protests.
Donald Trump will be on his way to Florida shortly, where the coronavirus surge is having a terrible impact. More on all this shortly, stay tuned.
Here’s what else has happened this morning:
- The House special committee on the coronavirus crisis finished its hearing a little while ago without any sign that there is a comprehensive national plan to bring the pandemic under control in America.
- Congresswoman Maxine Waters asserted that the death from coronavirus of Herman Cain, a past Republican presidential candidate and active surrogate for Donald Trump, stemmed from his attendance at the president’s indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last month, where crowds eschewed masks. There is not confirmation or publicly-available proof of this.
- White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said there was no deal with congressional leaders about further federal coronavirus economic aid, chiefly legislation to continue the $600 weekly supplementary payments keeping more than 30 million Americans’ heads above water. Payments expire today.
- America’s top public health expert Anthony Fauci assured Congress that any approved US vaccine for coronavirus will be safe and made available to all who need it, with one hopefully emerging by the end of the year.
- James Clyburn, Democratic congressman from South Carolina, and chairman of the special coronavirus House committee, said the Covid-19 pandemic is still “raging out of control” in the US.
No comprehensive national plan to control pandemic
The US is no closer to an agreed national grand plan for tackling the Covid-19 outbreak that has killed more than 150,000 people in America and is still “raging out of control”.
After questioning the public health experts on the White House coronavirus task force for more than three hours today, there is no change from what the special coronavirus House committee chairman James Clyburn said at the start of the day, when he slammed the Trump administration saying it had “still not developed and implemented a national strategy to protect the American people” after more than six months of the outbreak.
The top public health expert, Anthony Fauci, has contradicted Donald Trump on many fundamental aspects of the crisis this month, from decrying the president’s false promotion of anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid to reiterating repeatedly that everyone should wear a face mask when out and about, and that the virus is not under control and is not going away.
And assistant health secretary Brett Giroir, who was pretty quiet at today’s hearing, said last night on CNN that it was not acceptable that some people in the US who needed coronavirus testing still can’t get it, despite the president both boasting about US levels of testing and musing inaccurately that there would be fewer cases if there was less testing.
Fauci spoke to that point as raised by New York Democrat Nydia Velazquez at the hearing.
California internal medicine specialist Dr Jorge Rodriguez told CNN after the hearing that he believed the gap between the White House and public health scientists was dangerous and that the experts should speak out more loudly about this and the lack of a comprehensive national plan to bring Covid-19 under control.
Clearly the measured tones we hear from people like Fauci (who Rodriguez said he has known for a long time), the CDC’s Robert Redfield, Giroir and coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx are not strong enough for Rodriguez, even though Fauci has made dire predictions in public about the pandemic’s trajectory in the US if urgent action is not taken, Birx has decried hydroxy on TV and Redfield said the pandemic has brought America “to its knees”.
“They need to step up [further],” Rodriguez told CNN. “They are being muzzled.”
Coronavirus hearing chairman James Clyburn, of South Carolina, along with representative Nydia Velazquez, of New York, both Democrats, have decried the hugely disproportionate impact of coronavirus on African American and Latino communities across US hotspots.
This intersects so many layers of society, with Clyburn commenting that “our Black and brown communities already faced health and wealth disparities before this crisis”.
He quoted the famous line from Martin Luther King Jr’s 1963 letter from Birmingham jail.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
My colleague Kenya Evelyn has written several vital articles on the issues.
And her article today is a must-read:
The coronavirus committee hearing in Washington is beginning to wrap up.
It’s not clear that there is any more of a Trump administration national plan to control the pandemic than there was just over three hours ago when the hearing began.
The title of the hearing remains relevant: The urgent need for a national plan to contain the coronavirus.
There was a partisan argument earlier, where Ohio Republican Jim Jordan railed against law enforcement officers being put at risk of contracting coronavirus by having to police Black Lives Matter protests around the nation.
Democrat Jamie Raskin of Maryland countered that if police officers patrolling protests would go lightly on tear gas and tactics such as, he cited, pulling down protesters’ masks and spraying them directly in the face with pepper spray, causing them to cough and sneeze, risks of infection would be lower.
It’s an ugly partisan battle that has been raging since the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in May sparked a new wave of sustained protests against police brutality and systemic racism in America. Fauci again refused to be drawn.
First Amendment group files new suit against Trump over blocked Twitter users
A group on Friday filed a new lawsuit against Donald Trump demanding he unblock additional Twitter users from viewing his account.
Trump lost a prior lawsuit in May 2018 on behalf of other Twitter users and agreed to unblock those accounts, Reuters reports.
The new lawsuit filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in US District Court in Manhattan is on behalf of five additional individuals who remain blocked.
The White House and Twitter did not immediately comment.
Katie Fallow, senior staff attorney at the Knight Institute, said: “It shouldn’t take another lawsuit to get the president to respect the rule of law and to stop blocking people simply because he doesn’t like what they’re posting.”
A federal appeals court in July 2019 in a 3-0 ruling upheld the ruling and the full 2nd US Circuit Appeals Court in March declined to reverse that ruling.
The Trump administration has until August 20 to petition the US supreme court to seek review.
“The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise-open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees,” wrote circuit judge Barrington Parker.
Anthony Fauci says 250,000 people have registered on a National Institutes of Heath website to take part in experimental vaccine trials in the US.
Fauci’s testimony comes at the end of a month when US coronavirus deaths rose by almost 25,000 and cases doubled in at least 18 states during July, according to a Reuters tally, dealing a crushing blow to hopes of quickly reopening the economy.
The Guardian pays closest attention to the Johns Hopkins tracker and its frequently-updated Covid map of the US and the world. But it and Reuters tallies are similar.
Most questions at this hearing have been for Fauci. Witnesses Robert Redfield of the CDC and Brett Giroir have been much less prominent.
Maxine Waters: Herman Cain contracted virus after attending Trump rally
Back to the coronavirus hearing on Capitol Hill, but still regarding the death of Herman Cain yesterday, the former Republican candidate for president.
Democratic representative Maxine Waters just went there.
It has not been confirmed, or at least made public, where Cain may have become infected.
However, Waters said: “I’m going to send my condolences to Herman Cain’s family ... he was a friend of the president, who happened to be at the [Trump] rally in Tulsa [Oklahoma] on June 20, with no mask on, a group of people around him, no masks on, and he is dead. He has died. I’m told he contracted the virus as a result of attending the rally.”
Waters prior to that said that “the virus is not Democrat or Republican”.
She also noted the passing of Georgia Democratic congressman John Lewis, civil rights icon and so-called “Conscience of the Congress”, earlier this month from cancer. His funeral was held in Atlanta yesterday.
It was a strange and jarring juxtaposition and statement, to say the least.
Meanwhile, #ICYMI, here is Barack Obama giving a blistering eulogy at John Lewis’s funeral yesterday, which earned him a standing ovation by the masked congregation. Former presidents George W Bush and Bill Clinton also attended and gave addresses. Former president Jimmy Carter is too frail to travel and sent a message that was read out at the church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Jr previously preached.
Obama called Lewis “perhaps” King’s “finest disciple”. Then he lit into the Trump administration in an impassioned speech focussing, among other issues, on voter suppression.
The death of Republican figure and former presidential candidate Herman Cain yesterday, from coronavirus, came up at the White House press briefing, which just wrapped up.
It is not know exactly when, where or how Cain contracted Covid-19 but he had been in hospital for the past few weeks and his death was announced on his website and social media pages yesterday.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany is speaking at the podium during the ongoing briefing.
She took questions about Republican in-fighting holding up a deal to continue the special $600 weekly unemployment payment supplements the federal government has supplied as aid in the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which expire today.
McEnany said recent offers put forward by the GOP have been rejected by Democrats.
Dems want a comprehensive new aid package worth $3 trillion. The latest offer from the GOP focuses on a narrow, short-term continuation of those payments.
“How many proposals have the Democrats made? Zero,” she said. That’s not accurate.
Reuters reports that:
Negotiations over another coronavirus relief bill continue, the No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives said as a federal jobless benefit was set to expire on Friday with no sign of a deal between the White House and Democrats.
“We’re going to be negotiating every minute that is possible,” despite the Republican-led Senate’s adjournment for the weekend, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told MSNBC in an interview.
Lawmakers and the White House are at odds over efforts to further shore up the economy and manage the novel coronavirus pandemic that has left tens of millions of Americans out of work and killed at least 152,384 people in the United States.
In a meeting on Thursday night between top White House officials and congressional Democratic leaders, negotiations focused on an extension of the expiring unemployment benefit.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent senators home for the weekend without reaching a deal to extend the extra $600 per week unemployment benefits many received amid the outbreak.
According to a person familiar with the closed-door negotiations, the White House proposed reducing the $600 weekly payment to $400 for the next four months. While that was a move toward the demands of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, the source said they rejected it as insufficient.
On Thursday, Senate Republicans tried, without success, to pass a bill reducing the jobless benefit to $200 per week.
For weeks, McConnell has said that any deal with Democrats would require a shield for companies and schools from liability lawsuits as they reopen during the pandemic.
The source, who asked not to be identified, said the White House hinted that it could embrace a deal without that provision.
Besides the $600 “enhanced” payment, Democrats are seeking a wide-ranging economic stimulus bill that would include about $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments experiencing plunging revenues during the economic downturn.
In mid-May, the Democratic-controlled House passed a $3 trillion bill that the Republican-controlled Senate has ignored.
Crunch day for federal $600 weekly supplements for the unemployed in the coronavirus crisis
A White House press briefing is now belatedly underway. Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows is saying, in summary, no agreement yet in Washington about extending the $600 a week federal enhanced unemployment payments that are helping to keep at least 30 million Americans afloat right now.
The payments technically expire today. Talks late last night between leading Republicans and Democrats did not result in a deal. It’s crunch day.
My New York colleague Amanda Holpuch writes today:
For millions of unemployed Americans dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression a $600 payment each week from the government has been a vital lifeline, allowing them to keep their homes and put food on the table despite losing their jobs.
But now many of those hit hard by the economic disaster caused by the coronavirus pandemic are bracing for a steep drop in income this week as Republican party infighting delays a replacement for an expansion to weekly unemployment benefits, meaning many could have that vital lifeline cut or taken away.
Anthony Fauci sets out his “five basics” for curbing the spread of coronavirus.
Masks (yes), Crowds (no), Distancing (yes), bars (cheers, but nope), washing hands (yes).
He said that congregating in any crowds can increase the risk of catching Covid-19.
New York Democrat Nydia Velázquez pointed out that “it does not matter what you say if it’s undermined by the President of the United States.”
Further, on a vaccine, Fauci said he is “cautiously optimistic” that a US vaccine will be ready by the end of 2020. Distribution would then follow as 2021 unfolds.
He said he did not think other countries were ahead of the US in their research in any way that would mean the US would have to rely on other countries for a vaccine for Americans.
Then Fauci got into a spat with Republican Jim Jordan, who tried to lure Fauci into talking about the difference between gathering in church and gathering to protest, in the risks of spreading Covid, and what the government can or should do about both of those activities. Fauci wouldn’t take the bait. Urged folks to avoid all crowds.
Coronavirus vaccine: 'Any American that needs it will get it,' Fauci says
Republican representative of Indiana Jackie Walorski just asked White House coronavirus task force public health expert Anthony Fauci if it is “safe to say” that all Americans will be able to get a coronavirus vaccination once one is approved.
She said that she believed the question was a “when” not an “if” and saluted the cooperation between the government and the private sector in the coordinated mission to develop a successful inoculation as soon as possible.
Fauci said: “I believe ultimately, over a period of time...if we have, and I think we will have a safe and effective vaccine, that every American will be able to have it. Not immediately...but within a reasonable period of time.” He emphasized that the national plan to bring a vaccine to fruition quickly, Operation Warp Speed, “allows that any American that needs it will get it.”
Fauci said the process now being followed is rapid “but prudent”.
Walorski asked Fauci to promise that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates medicines, “is not compromising safety standards”.
Fauci explained that the National Institutes of Health (his employer) is leading the US vaccine studies with the variety of leading private sector pharmaceutical companies that are developing them, then when they have candidates “the FDA will make a determination on safety and efficacy” before such a vaccine is approved.
Walorski asked Fauci, again, to promise that “no way, no how is the FDA going to compromise safety standards?”
Fauci said: “The American public should be assured the proper steps will be taken” and “when the vaccine becomes available it will be important to take the vaccine.”
Fauci did not specify what he regarded as a reasonable period of time.
According to the Johns Hopkins University database, to which the Guardian pays closest attention, the death toll in the US from confirmed coronavirus cases passed the grim milestone of 150,000 on Wednesday of this week, six months after the first American case of coronavirus was confirmed in Washington state.
The latest toll is 152,075. Johns Hopkins updates its figures multiple times a day. It currently shows there are 4,495,375 cases of Covid-19 in the US.
Around the world, the case total is currently 17.3 million and a death toll of 673,936.
The US has the highest confirmed death toll in the world.
Calling time in Ohio.
Democratic committee chairman James Clyburn is showing a graph that depicts new coronavirus cases in the US rising sharply in recent weeks, while the European Union has plateaued and is going down.
He asks Fauci why the US infections are surging in so many states.
Fauci says 95+% of many European countries shut down their societies, while the US only locked down about 50% of its society as Covid was spreading.
“When we opened up the country [again], particularly in the southern states recently, you saw 50,000, 60,000, 70,000 new cases a day. It’s coming down a bit now.”
But he said that where federal health guidelines were not followed in the late spring - mandating or encouraging the universal wearing of face masks in public, social distancing and making sure infections had been declining steadily before reopening businesses, the surge in cases occurred.
Fauci has been repeating these basic facts for weeks. He finished by saying he believes “we can still turn this around”.
Assistant secretary for health, and the Trump administration’s coronavirus “testing tsar”, Brett Giroir, is giving his opening statement.
Committee chairman James Clyburn, in his blistering opening indictment of the government’s performance, criticized the lack of testing resources in the US that still prevails, and the slowness in those tested being able to get their results.
Giroir is rolling out numbers, millions of this and that, the kind of summary that doesn’t mean a whole lot to the average member of the public waiting in huge lines for a test in many states, with a long wait for results.
Here’s a withering report from Axios this morning on testing, the top of which says:
Testing is once again becoming a critical weakness in America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and experts say we may need to revive tighter standards about who can get a test.
Why it matters: Although testing has gotten a lot better over the course of the pandemic, the pandemic has gotten worse, and that means the U.S. needs to prioritize its resources — which might mean that frequent testing solely to help open businesses or schools just isn’t feasible.
Where it stands: The US is conducting more than 800,000 tests per day, on average — an enormous leap from the severe testing shortages the country experienced in the spring. But it’s still not enough to keep up with demand.
- Getting the results of a test often takes take longer than a week, and sometimes almost two weeks, which makes them a lot less helpful. The longer it takes to identify positive cases, the more time the virus has to spread.
- “That dramatic scale up is unprecedented, but demand has also been unprecedented,” said Julie Khani, president of the American Clinical Laboratory Association.
Multiple candidate vaccines rapidly under development in US - Fauci
Public health expert Anthony Fauci says the US government has standardized and coordinated research around the efforts to develop a safe and effective vaccine to combat coronavirus.
He called Covid-19 “a terrible scourge”. He added there are “multiple candidate vaccines that are moving along at a rapid pace”. He spoke of the federal overview of the process of testing in order to ensure the various parties “learn from each other”.
Representative Steve Scalise, the ranking (most senior) Republican on this special coronavirus committee, is on his opening statement and said: “The Chinese Community Party lied to the world” about the seriousness of Covid-19 when the coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, China, at the turn of the year.
A quick update for our readers, the other witnesses, Robert Redfield and Brett Giroir, are at the hearing in person after all. There was a delay in their arrival.
The witnesses were just sworn in and Anthony Fauci, who has served six presidents as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, has taken off his mask to deliver his opening statement.
The witnesses are sitting at a distance from each other and the hearing room is thinly populated, with many who would normally be there tuning in remotely.
Clyburn: coronavirus is 'raging out of control'
House hearing chairman James Clyburn is on a scorcher of an opening statement.
He said that coronavirus is “raging out of control” in the US, while the White House has been “sidelining” its public health and science experts.
“We do not need to lose another 150,000 American lives” but says without urgent action it is “well within the realm of possibility”.
Clyburn pointed out that when the CDC recently devised guidelines on the tight measures needed to carefully reopen schools at the end of the summer break, “The White House pressured the agency to change their advice” to encourage full reopening for in-person teaching.
“The result is that the virus is raging out of control and our nation’s economic misery continues,” he said.
Clyburn called on the Trump administration immediately to come out with “a national plan that prioritizes science over politics”.
Clyburn: 'Our nation is in the midst of a public health catastrophe'
Hearing chairman James Clyburn has opened the hearing with a scorching fact.
“Our nation is in the midst of a public health catastrophe”.
As the US death toll has now reached 152,075 and there are almost 4.5 million confirmed cases in the nation, Clyburn said the level of death and hospitalizations is “unacceptable”.
He slammed the Trump administration saying the government had “still not developed and implemented a national strategy to protect the American people”, after more than six months of the outbreak.
Coronavirus hearing on Capitol Hill gets underway
The chairman of this House special committee is Representative James Clyburn.
You may recall the member for South Carolina was pivotal in Democrat Joe Biden pulling ahead of Bernie Sanders in the primaries earlier this year, to sweep Super Tuesday and go on to become the presumptive nominee.
The committee is rumbling into action, some tech issues there this morning. Fauci is there in person, looks like Redfield and Giroir are attempting to tune in remotely.
Here’s my colleague Daniel Strauss on Clyburn and that moment.
The top US infectious disease expert and leading medic on the White House coronavirus task force, Anthony Fauci, told CNN last night that the nation needs to “pull out all the stops” to curtail the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said that if we do we will be getting towards having coronavirus under control in America. “If we do not we cannot make a prediction about how long this will last.”
The hearing this morning, which is running a few minutes behind (though Fauci is in place, in his Washington Nationals baseball mask, ready to testify), is a session of the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis.
The title today is: The Urgent Need for a National Plan to Contain the Coronavirus.
Here’s my colleague David Smith’s take on “testing tsar” Brett Giroir, who will be testifying alongside Fauci and Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Key coronavirus hearing on Capitol Hill
This is Joanna Walters in New York taking over from my colleague Martin Belam in London. We’re awaiting the start of the latest coronavirus hearing in Washington at the top of the hour. Fauci, Redfield, Giroir. Stay tuned!
Etan Thomas has written for us today, to say that words are not enough, and that sports team CEOs must use their influence to effect change. He argues that it is their money that they can use to bring about change, rather than graciously allowing players to wear slogans on their uniforms or make gestures before games.
Can these teams and their billionaire CEOs use their power and influence to bring about tangible change beyond statements of support and solidarity? What if NBA CEOs took proactive roles in their respective cities and pressured police departments to move toward specific reforms and more accountability? It’s not as if men such as Mark Cuban in Dallas or Micky Arison in Miami are lacking in clout in the cities where their teams play. They are billionaires. What if they followed the recent example of FedEx [who pressured Dan Snyder to change the Washington NFL team’s name], which showed the power of money when it comes to combatting racism.
Poll: Two-thirds of Americans continue to disapprove of Trump's handling of coronavirus crisis
A new ABC News/Ipsos Poll is out this morning, based on interviews conducted on the 29 July and 30 July, and it delivers a triple-blow to Donald Trump’s administration over Covid-19, Russia and Black Lives Matter.
Two-thirds of Americans continue to disapprove of the way Trump is handling the response to the coronavirus. On top of that, 63% of Americans disapprove of the way Trump is handling relations with Russia, and 64% disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling the response to protests happening across the country.
Even parts of the electorate where you might assume Trump would still have support are turning against him. Older Americans, for example, rate the president’s handling of the protests better, but even then a majority (54%) disapprove.
Only Republican supporters and white people without a college degree are more likely to say the presence of federal law enforcement officers at protests, sent in by Trump, have made the situation in America’s cities better.
Chris McGreal has been in Portland for us, where, after weeks of heated confrontations, in the absence of federal officers, last night’s protest passed off without major incident.
In the absence of confrontation, and with the state police remaining largely unseen inside the courthouse, tensions quickly eased. Without the federal forces to draw attention, protest organisers kept the focus on Black Lives Matters and reform of the Portland police. Some in the crowd worked to avoid trouble by stopping demonstrators from lighting fires and shooting fireworks at the courthouse as they had done on previous nights. Dan Thomas, an African American man, stood in the street shouting at people not to cause a confrontation with the state police. “Attacking the federal building is not Black Lives Matter. Leave it alone. You’re playing into Trump’s hands,” he said.
Marine killed, eight others missing, in training accident off California coast
A US marine has died, two have been injured and eight others are missing after a “tragic incident” involving an assault amphibious vehicle (AAV) off the coast of California on Thursday, the US Marine Corps have said.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident. I ask that you keep our Marines, sailors and their families in your prayers as we continue our search,” Colonel Christopher Bronzi, commanding officer of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said on Twitter.
There has been no further official explanation of what has happened, although local reports suggest that “Marines in the AAV reported that the vehicle began to take on water during a routine exercise at approximately 5:45 p.m. Thursday evening.”
NBC News are reporting this morning on the efforts of more than 500 State Department employees to resist being sent back to work in-person while they still feel they are at an unacceptably high risk of catching coronavirus. The move comes after an employee who works near secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s office tested positive.
On Monday, the State Department told employees it would be moving to having offices at 80% occupancy. The staff, however, contend that the department has failed to follow its own safety guidelines about reopening, having moved to working from home during the coronavirus outbreak.
NBC News says that it obtained access to the document and that more than 540 employees had signed it.
Jamelle Bouie has written for the New York Times this morning a piece in the wake of the death of Rep. John Lewis, titled “Trump doesn’t know what democracy is. John Lewis embodied it”
In it he harks back to American philosopher and psychologist John Dewey’s 1888 essay on the ethics of democracy, drawing a stark contrast between the ideals that democracy strives for, and the way it is currently implemented in the Trump administration. Bouie concludes, though, that despite the president’s threat yesterday to the conduct of November’s election, it is the people that will win out. He writes:
While many of our institutions have not been up to the task of confronting Trump, our democracy, meaning individuals and communities and civil society, has. Protest put Trump on the defensive in the days after he took office; protest drew attention to his abuses at the border; and protest over the last three months has helped galvanized many millions more against him. If Trump is defeated, and if he does leave office, it will be because Americans understood, and took seriously, the idea that democracy is a way of living as much as it is a form of government, that it is, as Lewis told us, an act and not a state.
It’s worth a couple of minutes of your time: Jamelle Bouie – Trump doesn’t know what democracy is. John Lewis embodied it
Associated Press are reporting that an aide to Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s senate campaign was fired yesterday after a history of racist, sexist and homophobic tweets surfaced.
Evan McCullers, who joined the Bullock campaign in June as deputy press secretary, sent a series of offensive tweets between 2012 and 2014, when he was in high school and college.
“The tweets are inappropriate and do not reflect Montana values. When we learned about them, he was let go,” said Olivia Bercow, the campaign’s communications director, in a statement.
The tweets included derogatory language about Black people, women, homosexuality. In a statement released by the campaign, McCullers apologized for his tweets, calling them “vile, inappropriate and unacceptable.”
“I especially owe an apology to the women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community that these posts have rightly offended, and to my family and others who will receive undeserved negative attention because of my actions,” McCullers said in a statement.
“More importantly, I will continue to listen to those with different life experiences than mine and learn from my mistakes that cause others pain I could never understand, just as I have in the years since those hurtful words.”
Yesterday Secretary of state Mike Pompeo was up in front of the Senate, where as well as getting a grilling, he had an opportunity to give a wide brief on American foreign policy, which inevitably included criticism of China and Iran. It was always unlikely that this would pass without a response.
Reuters are reporting that this morning Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has attacked the US in his televised speech marking the Muslim religious holiday of Eid al-Adha.
Khamenei called the US Iran’s “main enemy”, and urged Iranians to resist US pressure. He ruled out negotiations with Washington, saying Donald Trump would use talks for propaganda as he did with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“At the negotiating table, America wants us to abandon our nuclear industry altogether, reduce our defence capabilities and relinquish our regional influence,” he said.
He also accused the US of trying to stir anti-government protests.
“Their short-term goal was to make our people so fed up and tired that they would stand up against the system. Their long-term aim is to bankrupt the country, the state, in other words to make the economy collapse.”
This morning we have an incredibly powerful piece first-person piece from Thomas Owen Baker. The title says it all: As a cop, I killed someone. Then I found out it happens more often than we know
I started to have bad dreams and anxiety. I was hyper-vigilant bordering on paranoid. I made things worse by self-medicating with Captain Morgan after my shifts ended. I gained more than 60 pounds. I continued to work hard and produce the type of results expected of me, but something had changed. I started to question the idea of individual culpability. As I investigated burglaries, robberies and homicides, interviewing thousands of suspects over the years, it became clear that a myriad of social forces drove people to behave the way they did. The man I’d killed wasn’t completely autonomous but also a product of an environment we’d all contributed in creating.
In it Baker discusses how his initial feelings about taking a life while on duty turned into a life of trying to measure and understand just what is happening with police-involved fatalities in the US. It is well worth a read.
Good morning, here’s our live coverage of US politics, the Black Lives Matter protest movement and the coronavirus crisis for the day. Here’s a catch-up on where we are, and what we can expect from Friday
- Yesterday the US reported more than 1,000 coronavirus fatalities for the fourth consecutive day. The total number of cases nationwide increased by more 67,000
- Republicans took no action to extend federal unemployment benefits before the Senate adjourned. As a result, as many as 30 million Americans will see their incomes drop as the $600 expansion disappears. The country’s economy just suffered its sharpest contraction since the second world war
- Dr. Anthony Fauci will be among health experts testifying this morning in a hybrid session of the Select subcommittee on coronavirus crisis. The title of the session is “The urgent need for a national plan to contain the coronavirus”
- There’s anger after St Louis county officials announced that the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri will not face charges
- Donald Trump’s tweet about delaying the election – which he can’t do – got short shrift from fellow Republicans
- Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany is holding a briefing this morning. Trump is meeting the National Association of Police Organizations Leadership, and then later on is out and about in Florida where he will be talking about the Covid-19 response and attending a fundraiser
You get in touch with me at [email protected], I’ll be here for the next couple of hours