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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative May 2020 news and views

Note: Excerpts are from the authors' words except for subheads and occasional "Editor's notes" such as this.

 

June Update

June 1

Top Stories

Virus Victims, Responses

U.S. Anti-Brutality Protests, Looting

World News

U.S. Courts, Injustice 

U.S. 2020 Elections

Media News

Top Stories

minneapolis cnn fire may 28 2020

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump rebukes governors, urges them to use force against unruly protests, Robert Costa, Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey, June 1, 2020. Some governors say president is inflaming tensions. The remarks by President Trump came during a conference call with the state leaders.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)President Trump on Monday berated the nation’s governors on a conference call, describing them as “weak” in the face of growing racial unrest and urging them to try to “dominate” unruly protests.

Trump also called on the governors to take back the streets and use force to confront protesters. He said if they did not, they would look like “fools,” alarming several governors on the call as they communicated privately.

“If you don’t dominate you’re wasting your time,” Trump said.

The Washington Post obtained a recording of the call.

Trump told the governors that “you have to use the military” and “we have a wonderful military,” and he mused about the Occupy Wall Street movement and said it was a “disgrace” that was ended by governors and mayors being tough.

gretchen whitmer o horizontal CustomThe president said that people arrested at the protests should serve 10-year prison sentences.

“The president repeatedly and viciously attacked governors, who are doing everything they can to keep the peace while fighting a once-in-a-generation global pandemic,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), shown at left in a file photo, said in a statement. “The president’s dangerous comments should be gravely concerning to all Americans, because they send a clear signal that this administration is determined to sow the seeds of hatred and division, which I fear will only lead to more violence and destruction. We must reject this way of thinking.”

jay pritzker CustomTrump and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), right, had a testy exchange. Pritzker called out the president’s rhetoric. The president replied that he does not like Pritzker’s rhetoric, either, and that Pritzker mishandled his state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s inability to speak convincingly to anyone but his base is a unique liability in the moment, Philip Bump​, ​June 1, 2020. The president’s demonstrated disinclination to do so is a problem of its own.

djt economist cover aug 19 2017These are the moments that define presidencies. Overlapping crises in which the foundation of the country seems to quiver. Americans in fear. Americans enraged.

It's in these moments that we've so often seen elected leaders speak to the public, assuring them specifically that tensions would fade and offering a path to do so. Presidents, speaking in front of the familiar Oval Office windows, assuring the country that the turbulence would smooth and the country would endure.

President Trump has not done so. The Washington Post reported late Sunday that this was in part because he wasn’t ready to.

“Some of his advisers calculated that he should not speak to the nation because he had nothing new to say and had no tangible policy or action to announce yet,” our Philip Rucker reported.

There’s almost nothing that Trump could say. He has no experience in attempting to appeal to audiences other than his core base of political support. He has never demonstrated any interest in doing so.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Trump attacks voting by mail, GOP builds 2020 strategy around limiting its expansion, Amy Gardner, Shawn Boburg and Josh Dawsey, June 1, 2020.  President Trump’s persistent attacks on mail-in voting have fueled an unprecedented effort us mail logoby conservatives to limit expansion of the practice before the November election, with tens of millions of dollars planned for lawsuits and advertising aimed at restricting who receives ballots and who remains on the voter rolls.

The strategy, embraced by Trump’s reelection campaign, the Republican National Committee and an array of independent conservative groups, reflects the recognition by both parties that voting rules could decide the outcome rnc logoof the 2020 White House race amid the electoral challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Helping drive the effort is William Consovoy, a veteran Supreme Court litigator who also serves as one of Trump’s personal lawyers. Consovoy’s Virginia-based law firm is handling a battery of legal actions on behalf of the RNC, several state GOPs and an independent group called the Honest Election­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­s Project, which is connected to a Trump adviser.

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: We saw it with our own eyes: Trump wants to go to war against America, Jennifer Rubin, right, June 1, 2020. President Trump somehow imagined it was a good idea to unleash law enforcement on peaceful demonstrators before the 7 p.m. curfew Monday night as he stepped into the Rose Garden to give a knockoff version of Richard M. Nixon’s “law and order” message.

The president who called NFL protesters peacefully taking a knee “sons of bitches,” lied when he declared that he is a friend of peaceful demonstrators. The police firing rubber bullets and launching tear gas at protesters in Lafayette Square in front of the White House said otherwise. Then, as if the scene was not evidence enough of his desire to raise the level of violence, he pledged to deploy the U.S. military on U.S. soil, against U.S. civilians, if governors did not heed his incendiary advice to fill the streets with National Guard troops. It was later revealed that Trump instigated the assault on protesters specifically to make a gesture of walking to St. John’s church.

Nothing could be more representative of the dangerous narcissism of a president in over his head, resorting to threats of violence against a country he ostensibly is supposed to lead. The deliberate instigation of violence for his own photo op tells Americans how deeply twisted and deformed his character is.

Those who think our unhinged president’s recent mania about a murder two decades ago that never happened represents his moral nadir have missed the lesson of his life: There is no such thing as rock bottom. So, assume that the worst is yet to come. Which implicates national security: Abroad, anti-Americanism sleeps lightly when it sleeps at all, and it is wide-awake as decent people judge our nation’s health by the character of those to whom power is entrusted. Watching, too, are indecent people in Beijing and Moscow.

washington post logogeorge f willWashington Post, Opinion: Trump warns that he will dispatch troops if local officials do not crack down, George F. Will, right, June 1, 2020. Those who think our unhinged president’s recent mania about a murder two decades ago that never happened represents his moral nadir have missed the lesson of his life: There is no such thing as rock bottom.

So, assume that the worst is yet to come. Which implicates national security: Abroad, anti-Americanism sleeps lightly when it sleeps at all, and it is wide-awake as decent people judge our nation’s health by the character of those to whom power is entrusted. Watching, too, are indecent people in Beijing and Moscow.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates on George Floyd Protests: Overnight Mayhem Follows Peaceful Rallies, Staff Reports, June 1, 2020. Police and Protesters Clash on Sixth Day of Turmoil. Peaceful protests descended into chaos in major U.S. cities in the sixth day of american flag upside down distressunrest since the death of George Floyd last week in Minneapolis.

A man was killed in Louisville, Ky., after the National Guard and the police were shot at and returned fire.

The White House went dark as protesters set fires nearby, and thousands again defied curfews to demonstrate against police brutality. Reporters for The Times were on the ground in dozens of cities across the country. Here’s what they saw.

Fires burned outside the White House, the streets of New York City were gripped by mayhem and stores in Santa Monica, Calif., were looted after another day of peaceful protests descended into lawlessness in major cities across the United States.

On the sixth day of unrest since the death of George Floyd last week in Minneapolis, hundreds were arrested as streets seethed with unrest. Even as businesses braced for looting, stores were ransacked. In Manhattan, the owners of the upscale Chanel store had boarded up its windows, only to wake on Monday to find that thieves had found their way inside.

The National Guard was deployed in more than two dozen states to assist overwhelmed police departments, and dozens of mayors extended curfews.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Minnesota governor extends curfew, Staff reports, Independent autopsy concludes asphyxia caused George Floyd’s death, June 1, 2020. Trump views protesters’ violence as ‘unacceptable,’ White House press secretary says. Minneapolis truck driver may have panicked in midst of protest crowd, official says.

ny times logoNew York Times, Protests Could Set Off a Second Coronavirus Wave, Experts Warn, Roni Caryn Rabin, Updated June 1, 2020. Across the country, mayors, public health experts and other officials worry that even though many protesters are wearing masks, the risk of new coronavirus cases will increase as thousands gather.

Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people out of their homes and onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases.

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus fallout will haunt U.S. economy for years, costing it $8 trillion through 2030, CBO says, Jeff Stein, June 1, 2020. The stark illustration of the pandemic’s potential economic impact comes one week after White House officials confirmed they would not release their own updated projections this summer.

Fallout from the coronavirus pandemic will shrink the size of the U.S. economy by roughly $8 trillion over the next decade, according to new projections released by the Congressional Budget Office on Monday.

In a letter to U.S. lawmakers, the CBO said the U.S. economy will grow by $7.9 trillion less from 2020 to 2030 than it had projected in January. That amounts to a 3 percent decline in U.S. gross domestic product compared to its initial estimate.

The stark illustration of the pandemic’s potential economic impact comes one week after White House officials confirmed they would not release their own updated projections this summer in their annual “mid-session” budget review.

The pandemic will hamper U.S. economic growth by reducing the amount of consumer spending and closing numerous businesses, the CBO said. Part of the impact will be mitigated by the more than $2 trillion the federal government has already approved in emergency spending for households and businesses.

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Global updates: Infections Spike and Wane Unevenly Across the U.S., Staff reports, June 1, 2020. The virus has persisted on a stubborn but uneven path, with meaningful progress in some cities and alarming new outbreaks in others.Hong Kong has banned an annual Tiananmen Square vigil, citing the virus. Protests in the United States have raised concerns about a second wave of infections.

ny times logoNew York Times, States Warn That Virus May Doom Climate Projects, Christopher Flavelle, June 1, 2020. A billion-dollar program to protect cities from climate change is at risk of failing because the pandemic.

Connecticut is preparing to build a first-of-its-kind underground flood wall. Virginia has planned an intricate system of berms, pump stations and raised roads to keep the flood-prone city of Norfolk dry. Louisiana has broken ground on a new community for people forced to flee a village on its sinking coast, the country’s first government-resettled climate migrants.

Projects in 13 cities and states, which were part of the Obama administration’s push to protect Americans from climate change after the devastation from Hurricane Sandy, are now in jeopardy because of the coronavirus pandemic, state and local officials warn. And they need Republicans in Congress to save those projects.

On Monday, officials are expected to tell lawmakers that the coronavirus will prevent them from meeting the conditions of a $1 billion Obama-era program for large-scale construction projects that defend cities and states against climate-related disasters. That money must be spent by the fall of 2022.

U.S. Anti-Brutality Protests, L:ooting

washington post logoWashington Post, Live DC/VA/MD Updates: Police, National Guard sweep protesters from Lafayette Square ahead of curfew, Staff reports, June 1, 2020.  Trump speaks in front of St. John’s church after protesters pushed out from area. Bowser welcomes federal law enforcement to protect federal land after Trump vows aggressive action in D.C. Crowd of 1,000 marches through downtown Baltimore.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Takes Us to the Brink, Paul Krugman, June 1, 2020. Will weaponized racism destroy America? Last fall Bob Kroll, the head of the Minneapolis police union, appeared at a Trump rally, where he thanked the president for ending Barack Obama’s “oppression of police” and letting cops “put the handcuffs on criminals instead of us.”

The events of the past week, in which the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody led to demonstrations against police brutality, and these demonstrations were met by more police brutality — including unprecedented violence against the news media — have made it clear what Kroll meant by taking the handcuffs off. And Donald Trump, far from trying to calm the nation, is pouring gasoline on the fire; he seems very close to trying to incite a civil war.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that America as we know it is on the brink.

How did we get here? The core story of U.S. politics over the past four decades is that wealthy elites weaponized white racism to gain political power, which they used to pursue policies that enriched the already wealthy at workers’ expense.

Until Trump’s rise it was possible — barely — for people to deny this reality with a straight face. At this point, however, it requires willful blindness not to see what’s going on.

I still see occasional news reports that describe Trump as a “populist.” But Trump’s economic policies have been the opposite of populist: They have been relentlessly plutocratic, centered largely on a successful effort to ram through huge tax cuts for corporations and the rich, and a so far unsuccessful attempt to take health insurance away from poor and working-class families.

Nor have Trump’s trade wars brought back the good jobs of yore. Even before the coronavirus plunged us into depression, Trump had failed to deliver major employment growth in coal mining or manufacturing. And farmers, who supported Trump by large margins in 2016, have suffered huge losses thanks to his trade wars.

So what has Trump really offered to the white working class that makes up most of his base? Basically, he has provided affirmation and cover for racial hostility.

And nowhere is this clearer than in his relationship with the police.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Looters Ransacked Lower Manhattan on Sunday, Ali Watkins, Derek M. Norman and Nate Schweber, June 1, 2020. As the protesters moved north, fringe groups hung back, setting fires, breaking windows and grabbing goods from a string of luxury boutiques in SoHo.

All Sunday night, the scene repeated itself as protesters moved through Lower Manhattan. After the main marchers would advance, fringe groups would hang back, and then the shattering glass would begin.

By morning, the devastation in Manhattan was unlike anything New York had seen since the blackout of 1977. Block after block of boutiques in the Flatiron district had their windows shattered and’ their goods looted.

All down Broadway and through the side streets of SoHo, the destruction was widespread and indiscriminate, from chain drugstores to the Chanel boutique, from the Adidas outlet to Dolce & Gabbana.

Looters moved from storefront to storefront, picking through the rubble to fill garbage bags with shoes, clothes, electronics and other goods. The SoHo outpost of Bloomingdale’s was ransacked.

The police said that more than 400 people were arrested in New York overnight on Sunday, mostly for looting and burglary.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Military helicopter uses ‘show of force’ on protesters, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, June 1, 2020. As scores of protesters made their way into Washington D.C’s Chinatown district, a Blackhawk helicopter with U.S. Army markings descended to rooftop level, kicking up dirt, debris and snapping trees that narrowly missed several people. The maneuver, often conducted by low flying jets in combat zones to scare away insurgents, is known as a show of force.

In this case it was successful. The crowd quickly dispersed into surrounding blocks, and minutes later the helicopters returned for another pass.

Biden and Clinton condemn Trump’s photo op at church: Democratic political leaders wasted no time in condemning President Trump’s photo op at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, for which hundreds of peaceful protesters were cleared out with tear gas.

In a tweet, Joe Biden, Trump’s rival in November’s election, attacked the president for “using the American military against the American people” in order to set up a photo for himself.

Hillary Clinton characterized the situation as “a horrifying use of presidential power against our own citizens." She wrote, "Tonight the President of the United States used the American military to shoot peaceful protestors with rubber bullets & tear gas them. For a photo op."

Palmer Report, Opinion: Anderson Cooper blurts out “Oh my God” after learning the real reason for Donald Trump’s deranged military stunt, Bill Palmer, June 1, 2020. This evening Donald Trump had the U.S. military fire tear gas on peaceful protesters outside the White House, so he could give an idiotic speech and then walk across the street and take a photo outside St. John’s church. Now Trump’s real motivation is surfacing, and let’s just say that it’s about as small minded as you might have expected.

While Anderson Cooper was hosting his CNN show tonight, one of his guests reported on air that Trump staged the entire stunt of walking to the church solely because he didn’t like how he’d been mocked for hiding in an underground bunker. When Cooper heard the news, he blurted out “Oh my God” and then added “We’re in trouble.”

Anderson Cooper is speaking for us all. Donald Trump has virtually no muscle left at this point, and he can’t send the military to the states without the approval of the governors, which he doesn’t have. But all that said, Trump is an increasingly unhinged maniac who’s unraveling in real time, even as the nation is barely holding itself together.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Poor Countries Face a Debt Crisis ‘Unlike Anything We Have Seen,’ Mary Williams Walsh and Matt Phillips, June 1, 2020. Dozens of countries that borrowed from private investors have debt payments coming due as their economies have crashed because of the virus.

The low interest rates of the past decade led to an unlikely alliance between poor countries and international investors. Governments, state-owned companies and other businesses were able to raise money relatively cheaply to finance their growth, while investors searching for better returns than they were getting at home gobbled up that debt. As a result, developing countries owe record amounts of money to investors, governments and others outside their borders: $2.1 trillion for countries ranked as “low income” and “lower-middle income” by the World Bank, including Afghanistan, Chad, Bolivia and Zimbabwe.

Now, the pandemic is fraying that alliance. Economic activity has ground to a halt, closing ports, shutting factories, canceling flights and emptying resorts. Governments are on the hook for billions of dollars in interest and principal repayments — payments suddenly made more expensive by volatility in the currency markets at the same time that their public health costs are skyrocketing. And their investors are not in a forgiving mood.

justin trudeau twitterPolitico via Yahoo News, Trudeau: Russia's return to the G-7 not acceptable, Andy Blatchford, June 1, 2020. Justin Trudeau, right, says inviting Russia back to the G-7 table would be unacceptable, even as Donald Trump plans to open the 2020 summit's doors to Vladimir Putin.

The U.S. president proposed Saturday to expand the group by adding four non-member nations, including Russia. The other countries on Trump's longer invitee list were India, Australia and South Korea.

The group suspended Russia's membership in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea in Ukraine.

Asked about Trump's proposal, the Canadian prime minister told reporters Monday that Russia should not be welcomed back. The U.K. also said Monday that it would veto any such plan.

"Its continued disrespect and flaunting of international rules and norms is why it remains outside of the G-7 and it will continue to remain out," said Trudeau, who later added in French: "It will not be acceptable to accept it within the G-7."

Trudeau has urged Putin, Russia's president, in the past to play a more positive role in the world.

U.S. Courts, Injustice 

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge Sullivan says he is not required to ‘rubber stamp’ DOJ’s bid to dismiss Flynn case, Ann E. Marimow and Carol D. Leonnig, Former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s lawyers want the D.C. federal court to immediately dismiss the case after the Justice Department abandoned its prosecution.

Michael Flynn Harvard 2014U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan should not be required to act as a “mere rubber stamp” for the government’s unusual move to undo the guilty plea of President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the judge’s lawyers told a federal appeals court in Washington on Monday.

Sullivan’s attorneys asked the appeals court to stay on the sidelines to give the judge an opportunity to ensure the “integrity of the judicial process” and to rule on the Justice Department’s request to dismiss Flynn’s case.

The judge must evaluate Flynn’s dramatically different claims, Sullivan’s lawyer Beth Wilkinson told the court: “What, if anything, should Judge Sullivan do about Mr. Flynn’s sworn statements to the court, where he repeatedly admitted to the crime and to the voluntariness of his guilty plea, only to now claim that he never lied to the government and was pressured and misled into pleading guilty?”

The filing from Sullivan, defending his investigation into the Justice Department’s reversal, is the latest development in the extraordinary case. It comes after Flynn’s lawyers asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to immediately order Sullivan to get rid of the matter and accused him of bias.

Judge puts Justice Department’s move to drop charges against Michael Flynn on hold

The Justice Department joined Flynn in a separate filing Monday urging the appeals court to quickly bring the case to a close. The executive branch, not the judiciary, has the “power to decide when — and when not — to prosecute potential crimes” and Sullivan cannot independently initiate criminal charges, the filing says.

Federal rules do not give the judge the authority to “stand in the way of a dismissal the defendant does not oppose,” according to the filing. Those who signed the filing include Solicitor General Noel Francisco, Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski, Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin and Jocelyn Ballantine — the remaining career prosecutor on Flynn’s case, who did not sign the government’s May 7 motion to dismiss the case.

With the government and Flynn now on the same side, Sullivan defended the decision to appoint retired federal judge John Gleeson to argue against the department’s position. Gleeson is also charged with examining whether Flynn should face a criminal contempt hearing for perjury after pleading guilty to a crime that he and the Justice Department now say did not happen.

djt william barr doj photo march 2019

In an open letter, some two thousand former Justice Department employees wrote Attorney General William Barr, shown above at right with Donald Trump, had “once again assaulted the rule of law” in moving to drop the case against Michael Flynn, as reported by the Washington Post.

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, William Barr’s State of Emergency, Mattathias Schwartz, June 1, 2020. The attorney general has long held an expansive view of presidential power. With multiple crises converging in the run-up to the 2020 election, he is busy putting his theories to work.

Now nearing the end of his career, Barr did not take his current job for the glory. He had already been attorney general once, in President George H.W. Bush’s administration, winning him a reputation as a wise old man — a reputation that, in the eyes of some, his tenure in the Trump administration has tarnished. Nor is he doing it for the money. His time in corporate America earned him tens of millions of dollars in compensation and stock options, and his bearing is still that of a Fortune 500 counsel, cozy manners wrapped around a harder core.

One has to assume that Trump is keeping a close eye on the 70-year-old Barr right now. The powers of the attorney general, as the executive branch’s rule interpreter and law enforcer, peak during moments of social unrest. Barr knows these powers well: He led the Justice Department through the Los Angeles riots of 1992, when Bush invoked the Insurrection Act and deployed thousands of soldiers and Marines. (Later, Barr said the L.A. riots were “opportunistic” gang activity and not “the product of some festering injustice.”) Like Trump, Barr is a stalwart believer in the righteousness of the police; those communities that fail to give the police “respect and support,” he said in a December speech, “might find themselves without the police protection they need.” Last summer, Barr dropped the department’s federal case against the New York police officer who killed Eric Garner during an arrest in 2014.

Barr’s role also gives him influence over three major political fronts heading into November.

william barr new oFirst, there is Trump’s fight to open the nation’s economy, which could depend in no small part on Barr’s interpretation of federal authority and willingness to twist governors’ arms. Then there are the mechanics of the vote itself, a topic of great partisan controversy about which the Justice Department has shown a growing willingness to weigh in. Finally, there is the ongoing investigation led by John Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut, into the origins of the F.B.I.’s Russia probe in the run-up to the 2016 election, the findings of which are widely expected to be announced before November.

ny times logoNew York Times, Campaign Funds for Judges Warp Criminal Justice, Study Finds, Adam Liptak, right, June 1, 2020. Judges in Harris adam liptakCounty, Texas, were far more likely to appoint lawyers who had donated to their campaigns to represent poor criminal defendants.

Nearly 60 years ago, the Supreme Court decided the case of Clarence Gideon, a Florida drifter accused of breaking into a poolroom who was tried and convicted without a lawyer. In a unanimous ruling, Gideon v. Wainwright, the court transformed criminal justice in America, announcing that poor people accused of serious crimes were entitled to lawyers paid for by the government.

But the court did not say how the lawyers should be chosen, and many states settled on a system that invites abuses: They let the judge appoint the defendant’s lawyer.

That system has long been criticized for promoting cronyism and dampening the zeal of lawyers who want to stay in the good graces of judges.

A new study documents a more troubling objection. Elected judges, the study found, tend to appoint lawyers who contribute to their campaigns.

“Campaign finance is perverting the criminal justice system,” said Neel U. Sukhatme, a professor at Georgetown Law and an author of the study.

Drawing on six sets of data, the study examined Harris County in Texas, which is home to Houston and is the third most populous county in the nation, with more than four million residents. There is reason to think the problem identified by the study is widespread, as the same basic incentives exist in many jurisdictions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court upholds Puerto Rico oversight board from constitutional challenge, Robert Barnes, June 1, 2020. The court’s ruling avoids a disruption of other home-rule laws, in the District of Columbia and elsewhere.

The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously upheld the financial oversight board Congress created to fix Puerto Rico’s catastrophic economic problems.

The court held that the process for appointing members of the board did not violate the Constitution, as a lower court had held.

Because the duties of the Financial Oversight and Management Board are primarily local, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote for the court, their appointments did not meet the constitutional requirement of Senate confirmation.

The question involved whether such members should be considered officers of the United States whose work was more federal or local.

U.S. 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republican senators, it’s not too late to help save your country, Fred Hiatt (Post Editorial Page Editor),  June 1, 2020. If Trump is reelected, history will remember you far less kindly. Five years ago, could any of you have imagined excusing a leader who praised white supremacists, called his former opponent a criminal and a “skank,” mocked the weight and appearance of your fellow leaders?

Could you have imagined tolerating a president who sought to bend law enforcement, diplomacy and intelligence collection to his personal needs and whims?

So why not hang together, announce you are voting for Biden, and help save your country? Explain that the president has left you no other honorable choice. You can still campaign for a Republican majority in the Senate to act as a check on a Democratic administration and its judicial picks. At best, you might help save your party and rescue your country.

Palmer Report, Opinion: President Obama comes out swinging after Donald Trump’s insane speech, Bill Palmer, June 1, 2020. Donald Trump stepped into the White House Rose Garden and threatened to send U.S. military troops to murder Americans in their own streets. He can’t actually do this, because even the Insurrection Act states that governors must ask the president to send troops. But even Trump’s bluff was enough to send chills down the spine of every reasonable American, because it’s more clear than ever that Trump isn’t an American.

bill palmer report logo headerMoments after Trump finished speaking, President Obama came out swinging. He tweeted the words of George Floyd’s brother Terrence Floyd: “Let’s do this another way. Let’s stop thinking our voice don’t matter and vote. Not just for the president…educate yourself and know who you’re voting for. And that’s how we’re going to hit ’em.”

In so doing, President Obama is reminding us that there is only one true way out of this nightmare: voting Donald Trump out of office in record numbers.

 Tara Reade (AP photo by Donald Thompson)

ny times logoNew York Times, Tara Reade’s Tumultuous Journey to the 2020 Campaign, Jim Rutenberg, Stephanie Saul and Lisa Lerer, Updated June 1, 2020. To better understand Ms. Reade, shown above, who accused Joe Biden of sexual assault, The Times interviewed nearly 100 people and reviewed court records and her writings.

Last spring, after years of strife with friends and neighbors and a constant struggle for money, Tara Reade was making a fresh start in a new town, Grass Valley, Calif., near the outskirts of Tahoe National Forest.

But trouble would find her in Grass Valley, too. Work would be hard to come by. Her car would be repossessed. Rent would fall into arrears. Acquaintances who tried to help would accuse her of failing to repay the money they had lent her, of skipping out on bills and misleading them, just as others had done in the places she had left behind.

It was a messy life, played out in obscurity.

Then came accusations from several women that former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had made them uncomfortable by touching or kissing them inappropriately in public settings.

Ms. Reade was reminded of her own experience with Mr. Biden, as a junior aide in his Senate office in 1993, and she went public in her local paper. Mr. Biden, she said, would rest his hands on her shoulder and run a finger along her neck. After he requested that she serve drinks at a reception because he “liked my legs,” she said, she refused, only to be marginalized and ultimately forced out.

Eleven months later, after alleging behavior that in her own telling fell short of “sexual misconduct” — it was “about abuse of power,” she said then — she would level a much more serious charge, of sexual assault, which Mr. Biden flatly denies.

Now Ms. Reade’s own back story has been caught up in the churn of #MeToo-era politics, as rising questions about her credibility add fuel to the social-media combat between Mr. Biden’s defenders and detractors.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Seeking to Hold Michigan, Trump Can Be His Own Worst Enemy, Jonathan Martin and Kathleen Gray, June 1, 2020 (print ed.). The state provides a case study in how President Trump’s impulsive and insulting statements can undermine his push for re-election.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosEven before the coronavirus infected more than 56,000 residents and left it with the second-worst unemployment rate in the country, Michigan was shaping up to be the most difficult state for Mr. Trump to win a second time. Now his prospects there appear dimmer — in part because of his own conduct.

Michigan amounts to a one-state case study on how Mr. Trump’s impulsiveness, inattention to detail and penchant for personal insults have eroded his political standing and diminished his chances to win re-election.

In addition to his ultimatum over federal funding, Mr. Trump has ridiculed a half-dozen of the state’s female leaders, proposed cutting support for the Great Lakes and suggested a beloved former lawmaker from Michigan is in hell.

Media News

ny times logo

New York Times, Fall Is Now Jam-Packed for Book Publishers. That Could Be a Problem, Alexandra Alter, June 1, 2020. Books scheduled for release this spring and summer are now on track for fall, when authors will be fighting for attention in the midst of a presidential election and an ongoing crisis.

Delaying a book’s publication is a calculation that authors and publishers throughout the industry have made and wrestled with in recent months, as the pandemic has devastated the retail landscape and led to canceled tours, book fairs, literary festivals and media appearances. As publishers scramble to limit the economic fallout and sales declines driven by the epidemic, hundreds of books that were scheduled to come out this spring and early summer have been postponed, in some cases until next year. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Record Ratings and Record Chaos on Cable News, Ben Smith, June 1, 2020 (print ed.). Cable networks are facing threats, and opportunities, in a national crisis. Now, Fox is fighting back and CNBC is looking to the right. CNN is defined by Jeff Zucker, and he may run for mayor.

fox news logo SmallIf Twitter is the twisted heart of America’s public conversation, cable news is its aorta, carrying fear and anger, as the rapper and activist Killer Mike put it last week, into the body politic. The coronavirus pandemic and the new urban crisis have made it impossible to look away, and journalists have at times become targets for the police. In this extraordinary news moment, the primacy of this supposedly dying medium has never been clearer, its ratings higher than ever.

msnbc logo CustomBut behind the scenes, chaos and uncertainty are also reaching record highs. I spent last week speaking to homebound executives, producers and on-air talent at the three cable news networks and found them wrestling in wildly different ways with an exceptional news moment that does not fit into cable’s familiar boxes: the coronavirus story, the economic crisis, and the protests and fires in the streets of American cities.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ryan Grim helped push the Tara Reade story into the mainstream. What does he think of it now? Paul Farhi, June 1, 2020. The Washington editor of the Intercept has been both hero and scourge for various factions of liberals.

The past few weeks haven’t been kind to Tara Reade, the woman who has accused former vice president Joe Biden of sexual assault. Several of Reade’s former landlords and acquaintances say she manipulated and deceived them. Lawyers say she inflated her résumé as a prosecution witness in several criminal cases, and a district attorney in California is investigating whether she perjured herself. Her attorney quit on her after just two weeks.

Ryan Grim is unmoved.

Grim — a journalist whose work has given prominence and credence to Reade’s allegations, which Biden has firmly denied — thinks the latest revelations don’t really change the story’s basic contours.

“It’s messy and getting messier,” he said last week. Those “who don’t believe her, or don’t want to believe her, have plenty to cling to. People who do believe her, or who want to believe her, do as well, though many people in the middle have shifted to the doubtful camp as more questions have arisen.”

As Washington bureau chief of the Intercept, he was among the first journalists to showcase Reade’s latest allegations of abusive treatment when she worked in Biden’s office. And when, shortly thereafter, she alleged on a podcast that Biden had sexually assaulted her in 1993, Grim was noisy in his efforts to call attention to the story — both on Twitter, where he has more than 150,000 followers, and in interviews discussing each twist and turn.

New reporting puts focus on Tara Reade’s inconsistencies

He also broke an important piece of the story last month when he uncovered a recording of Reade’s late mother calling in to CNN in 1993 and telling host Larry King about unspecified “problems” her daughter had working for “a prominent senator.” The call “isn’t conclusive, but it buttresses [Reade’s] credibility,” Grim said in a webcast interview. “It adds to the pile of evidence” supporting Reade, who had previously said she told her mother about the alleged assault when it happened.

Biden partisans have accused Grim and the Intercept of promoting the story to boost Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Biden’s last rival for the Democratic nomination, who remained in the race until mid-April and would be the likeliest benched candidate to see his hopes resurrected if Biden dropped out. (Biden’s campaign representatives declined to comment.)

Critics note that the Intercept — co-founded in 2014 by Pulitzer-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar — is known for taking whacks at the Democratic establishment and championing the party’s insurgent wing.

Grim has been attacked by Neera Tanden, a former Obama administration official who is the president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning think tank. “We’ve had story after story that demonstrates massive inconsistencies at best and lies at worst by Reade. And silence by @ryangrim, who pushed this story online for weeks,” she tweeted May 21. Tanden went on to accuse him of being among a group of journalists “who spend years pushing a certain candidate, he loses the primary, and then those journalists push stories to torpedo the candidate who won.”

Grim fired back by calling Tanden “delusional” and defending his coverage of the primaries — maintaining that, far from seeing him as an ally, Sanders supporters have attacked him for his tough reporting on their candidate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Misinformation about extent of D.C. unrest surges across Twitter, Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Fenit Nirappil​, June 1, 2020. Misinformation about the extent of the unrest in Washington, D.C. and false claims about widespread communications outages burgeoned on Twitter Monday, making the #DCblackout hashtag into a nationwide trend on the platform.

Started by an account with just three followers, the hashtag exploded in popularity, generating about half a million tweets in its first nine hours after being created. The thread swelled with untrue claims that authorities had somehow blocked protesters from communicating from their smartphones in order to crack down on the unrest, which included looting and some fires.

Several Twitter accounts shared images of a major fire burning out of control near the Washington Monument, but others noted that the image appeared to have been copied from the television show “Designated Survivor.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook employees blast Zuckerberg’s response to Trump posts, Rachel Siegel, June 1, 2020. Facebook’s stance on the president’s post stands in stark contrast to Twitter, which for the first time limited the public’s ability to view or share his tweet.

As protests swept the nation over the weekend, several Facebook employees publicly chastised CEO Mark Zuckerberg for his hands-off approach to a divisive post on the demonstrators by President Trump — one that Twitter took the unprecedented step of flagging as inflammatory on its site.

“I am not proud of how we’re showing up,” tweeted Jason Toff, director of product management. “The majority of co-workers I’ve spoken to feel the same way. We are making our voice heard.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Police injure, arrest reporters covering unrest, Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi, June 1, 2020 (print ed.). Even when displaying a press badge, some were hit with pepper spray or rubber bullets. “I have never been fired at by police,” said one startled war correspondent, “until tonight.”

May 31

Top Stories

american flag upside down distress

More On Brutality Protests

World News

Virus Victims, Recovery, Oversight

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

U.S. Crime, Courts, Scandals

U.S. Media News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Wave of rage and anguish sweeps dozens of U.S. cities, Staff reports, May 31, 2020. A day of widespread protests devolved into a night of fire and fury across the nation as tensions boiled over in dozens of American cities. Police cars and government buildings were set aflame, windows were shattered, stores were ransacked, monuments were vandalized american flag upside down distressand authorities in riot gear fired pepper pellets, tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators who had amassed to protest the death of a black man in police custody.

Curfews were enacted in more than two dozen cities and the National Guard was summoned in at least 12 states and the District of Columbia as officials pleaded for peace. But mayhem convulsed the country, leaving scores of police officers and protesters injured and parts of America smoldering.

Here are some significant developments:

Demonstrators, police clash across nation in another night of protest, Confederate monuments vandalized across the South; Night of chaos in New York City; Fox News host joins other conservatives in urging Trump to give national address.

washington post logoWashington Post, Social distancing strictures fall away as crowds gather, Karen DeYoung, Chelsea Janes, Gregory S. Schneider and Scott Farwell, May 31, 2020 (print ed.). Many Americans, eager to recapture a sense of normalcy and seemingly confident that the risk was low, enjoyed public recreation and seemed unbothered by the crowds.

Melissa Shapiro, 26, sat in the sun under a sign suggesting social distancing at the Redhead Lakeside Grill on Saturday, as dozens stood shoulder-to-shoulder in waist-deep water before her. “We’re not in L.A. or New York,” she observed. “We’re at Lake of the Ozarks, and if there were as many people here as there was last weekend, we’d leave.”

Besides, Shapiro said, “we’re millennials, we’re healthy,” and she and her friends planned to isolate themselves for 14 days after returning home to St. Louis.

Proprietors at a number of the bars and eateries that line the Missouri vacation spot said the crowds were about normal for an early summer weekend — albeit smaller than the hordes that packed into the area on Memorial Day. Images of the holiday revelry went viral online.

ny times logoNew York Times, Appeals for Calm as Sprawling Protests Threaten to Spiral Out of Control, John Eligon, Matt Furber and Campbell Robertson, May 31, 2020 (print ed.). Outrage over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has traversed a razor’s edge between protest and civic meltdown.

The chaos and rage on such a broad scale evoked the Black Lives Matter demonstrations of recent years; the Los Angeles riots that followed the 1992 acquittal of four police officers charged in connection with the beating of Rodney King the year before; and even the racial strife of the 1960s, when the fury and despair of inner-city African-Americans over racism and poverty erupted in scores of cities, reaching a climax in 1967 and 1968, two years that saw more than 150 riots.

This moment has not produced anything close to the violence of that era. But it is playing out under dystopian circumstances, with a pandemic that has kept much of the nation at home for months, Depression-era job losses and the public bitterly divided on politics and culture.

 George Floyd, left, and Derek Chauvin

The Atlantic, Opinion: How Do You Kneel on a Neck for Nine Minutes? Graeme Wood, May 31, 2020. I don’t see how anyone could remain in that position unless he was, at best, totally indifferent to the person’s survival. The tactile experience of kneeling into a human neck is not familiar to most people, and the video of Derek Chauvin, then a Minneapolis police officer and now a civilian charged with murder, kneeling into the neck of George Floyd is about as disturbing as anything most of us have ever seen.

atlantic logo horizontalEven I — a veteran watcher of snuff films — cannot recall ever seeing someone killed in this way. (ISIS would stab people slowly in the heart, or smoosh them with tank treads, or burn them alive.)

To understand what happened to Floyd, I tried to simulate the position of his killer. My crude simulator involved a stopwatch and kneeling on a rolled-up yoga mat, on top of which I placed a gelatinous pad used by medical students to imitate human skin. (I have these things in my house.) A yoga mat and a fake-skin pad are no substitute for the neck of a dying, pleading man, and thank goodness for that. I used the times noted in the coroner’s report: five minutes and 53 seconds of kneeling before officers declared that Floyd was unresponsive, followed by two minutes and 53 seconds of continued pressure. That totals just less than nine minutes.

At about 20 seconds (far sooner than I had expected), my knee started to throb. Normally when you kneel, you get to shift your weight a little, to give each knee a little vacation from the stress. If you are trying to hold down someone who does not want to be pinned, you probably want to drive your weight hard into one vulnerable place—and if you let up, you will assume that he’ll wriggle around and make you start all over again. The steady pressure builds.

At about one minute, the throb turned decisively to pain and stress....

washington post logoWashington Post, Tensions flare in front of the White House for second night, Marissa J. Lang, Michael E. Miller, Hannah Natanson and Peter Jamison, May 31, 2020. By nightfall, nearly 1,000 people protesting the death of George Floyd in police custody were circling the perimeter of the White House grounds, which was fortified with law enforcement vehicles, metal barriers and rows of armored Secret Service, D.C. police and U.S. Park Police officers.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)Crowds protesting the killing of George Floyd clashed with U.S. Secret Service, Park Police and D.C. police officers in the nation’s capital Saturday afternoon and evening, the second outburst of violent confrontations in less than 24 hours between law enforcement and activists decrying police brutality.

By nightfall, nearly 1,000 protesters were circling the perimeter of the White House grounds, which was fortified with law enforcement vehicles, metal barriers and rows of armored Secret Service, D.C. police and U.S. Park Police.

Sweating, packed closely together and shouting through masks worn to protect themselves from the deadly coronavirus still consuming the Washington region, the protesters launched fireworks and threw bottles at the officers, who swung batons and fired pepper-spray projectiles to push them back. As the sun began to set, D.C. National Guard trucks rumbled through the streets.

As demonstrators made little headway in their efforts to approach the White House, they dispersed into smaller groups through downtown D.C., burning and breaking windows as they went. A CVS, optometrist’s office, liquor store and Indian restaurant several blocks from the White House were looted.

Around Farragut Square, City Center and Georgetown, they smashed the facades of businesses with rocks and baseball bats.

washington post logoWashington Post, Officials blame outsiders for violence in Minn., but contradict each other on who they think is responsible, Shane Harris, May 31, 2020 (print ed.). Federal, state and local leaders blamed far-right nationalists, left-wing radicals and even foreign actors for the looting and rioting, but offered little evidence.

As unrest continued in Minneapolis on Saturday following the death of George Floyd during his detention by local police, leaders at the federal, state and local levels said large numbers of outsiders had seized upon protests begun by Minnesotans to advance their own political agendas.

But the officials offered little evidence to show who was responsible and contradicted each other on who was to blame.

They variously assigned responsibility for the escalating violence to far-right nationalists, left-wing radicals, drug cartels and possibly foreign agents in statements, news conferences and presidential tweets.

Ultimately, the confusion of rioting and looting that officials said had outstripped the capabilities of local law enforcement and prompted a historic deployment of the National Guard offered little clarity and ample opportunity for opposing political parties to advance their own theories.

tim walz o CustomMinnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D), right, told reporters he had no doubt that protests over Floyd’s death began with Minnesotans frustrated and outraged “with inequality, inequities and quite honestly racism that persisted” in the state.

But state officials have assessed that up to 80 percent of those protesting or rioting came from outside Minnesota, Walz said. He suggested that far-right white supremacists and perhaps organized drug cartels were chiefly responsible.

A federal law enforcement official was not aware of any intelligence about cartels infiltrating the protests.

State officials said that after reviewing posts online, they were confident far-right racist groups had encouraged their followers to descend on the state and take advantage of the crisis.

spacex launch may 30 2020

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: SpaceX Updates: NASA Astronauts Arrive at Space Station, Kenneth Chang, May 31, 2020.  The trip by two NASA astronauts to the space station was the first from American soil since 2011 when the space shuttles were retired.

More On Brutality Protests

bo michelle hands up Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Barack and Michelle to the rescue, Ron Leshnower, May 31, 2020. When a heartless, racist, and revolting tragedy such as the murder of George Flynn happens, it is time for the President of the United States to stand up strongly and earnestly to offer genuine comfort to the grieving family. It is also time for the President to launch an unprecedented campaign to assure an aching and divided nation that such an ugly event cannot be who we are and will not happen again.

bill palmer report logo headerSadly, we are far past the point of expecting anything resembling heartfelt sentiments or spiritual leadership from the current occupant of the Oval Office. Donald Trump is a craven creature who cares only about promoting himself and wounding others. In his nearly 74 years on the planet he has been attempting to devastate through environmental deregulation, Trump has displayed a rare enthusiasm for being a sadistic wrecking ball, taking glee in ruining relationships, tarnishing reputations, defrauding and betraying all who trust him, violating norms, and destroying countless innocent and precious lives.

By contrast, Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, was exactly the type of leader we need today. Although Obama is no longer President, America is fortunate that he is still around and does not hesitate to add his voice to the conversation when we need to hear it. We are also fortunate to have Michelle Obama offer her thoughts as we paddle through the political morass this gaslighting con artist has created while chewing on the souls of his minions.

In an Instagram post on Friday, Michelle Obama wrote that she is “pained by these recent tragedies” and “exhausted by a heartbreak that never seems to stop.” She urged Americans to engage in self-examination and focus more on compassion and empathy so that we can “do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting [racism] out.” Obama then pointed out that racism can’t continue to be something that “many of us grow up learning to just deal with,” and she added that she prays “we all have the strength for that journey.”

Michelle Obama’s words dovetailed her husband’s equally sincere statement on Twitter. Barack Obama suggested that as we long to return to normal in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and accompanying economic uncertainty, we should focus on achieving a “new normal.” He urged Americans to remember that for millions of us, unequal treatment based on race is “tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal’” and that “we can and must do better.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: In Days of Discord, a President Fans the Flames, Peter Baker, Updated May 31, 2020. President Trump has presented himself as someone who seeks conflict, not conciliation, a fighter, not a peacemaker. And he has lived up to his self-image at an inopportune time.

Raw Story, ‘Rattled’ Trump rushed to the bunker as protesters surrounded the White House: report, Sarah K. Burris, May 31, 2020  The New York Times is reporting that President Donald Trump rushed to the bunker as protesters surrounded the White House.

On Friday, as protests continued escalating across the United States, those standing against police brutality and demanding action came to the White House. It was only a few hundred people, far eclipsed by the crowd marching through the streets of Washington, D.C. on Sunday.

The Secret Service hasn’t said what prompted them to take Trump to the underground bunker on Friday, but there is a protocol to get him to safety if they feel the White House and the president are threatened. The only other notorious use of the bunker was when Vice President Dick Cheney was brought on Sept. 11, 2001, as planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

It has been designed to withstand the force of a passenger jet crashing into the White House above it.

Trump was reportedly “rattled” and spent the evening in the bunker with his family.

He “emerged on Saturday morning to boast that he never felt unsafe and vow to sic ‘vicious dogs’ and ‘ominous weapons’ on intruders. Melania Trump, anxious about the protests, opted at the last minute not to travel to Florida for the rocket launch on Saturday,” said the Times.

After watching the SpaceX launch on Saturday, protesters approached the White House again. Washington police blocked off roads for several blocks around the White House. Trump then took to Twitter to attack the police for not helping the Secret Service.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, by contrast, took to the streets Sunday to listen to the concerns of protesters and spoke on the phone with many mayors in the country.

washington post logoval demings o CustomWashington Post, Opinion: My fellow brothers and sisters in blue, what the hell are you doing? Val Demings, right, May 29, 2020. Val Demings, a Democrat, represents Florida’s 10th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

As a former woman in blue, let me begin with my brothers and sisters in blue: What in the hell are you doing?

I joined the Orlando Police Department when I was 26 years old — a young black woman, fresh out of an early career in social work. I am sure you can imagine the mental and physical stress of the police academy. Not only exams and physical training, but the daily thoughts of, “What am I doing here?” as I looked around and did not see many people who looked like me.

But I made it. I was elected class president and received the Board of Trustees’ Award for overall excellence. I proudly took an oath to the Constitution and to protect and serve. I was on my way to fulfill my dream of “saving the world.” Of course, I went straight to the midnight shift, but I loved the job. I truly felt like I was serving my community, responding to calls from people in distress.

When citizens were in trouble (if they had to call the police, they weren’t having a good day), they called really believing that when we arrived, things would get better. That they would be safe. But we are painfully reminded that all too often, things do not get better. Matter of fact, they can get much worse — with deadly results.

When an officer engages in stupid, heartless and reckless behavior, their actions can either take a life or change a life forever. Bad decisions can bring irrevocable harm to the profession and tear down the relationships and trust between the police and the communities they serve. Remember, law enforcement needs that trust just as the public does. Think before you act! Remember, your most powerful weapon is the brain the good Lord gave you. Use it!

We all know that the level of force must meet the level of resistance. We all can see that there was absolutely zero resistance from George Floyd. He posed no threat to anyone, especially law enforcement. djt smiling file

Palmer Report, Opinion:  Donald Trump’s “Antifa” stunt is already backfiring on him, Bill Palmer, May 31, 2020. As America’s problems continue to get worse, and Donald Trump continues to provide no leadership or solutions, his poll numbers continue to drop. So now he’s trying his latest desperate stunt in the hope of getting back into election contention.

This afternoon Trump declared on Twitter that “The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization.” That’s cute, but there are two fundamental problems here. The first is that, to hear Trump tell it, “Antifa” is a far-left domestic terrorist organization based in the United States. But various legal experts have pointed out that under U.S. law, the government can’t declare any domestic group to be a terrorist group. So Trump’s “designation” is nonsense that he can’t actually act on.

bill palmer report logo headerThe second and bigger problem for Donald Trump is that “Antifa” basically doesn’t exist. Who are its leaders? There aren’t any. Where is it based? Nowhere. What acts of terrorism has this group committed? None. “Antifa” is essentially just a leftover name from the World War II era (it literally stands for “anti-fascist”), and conspiracy theory lunatics like Donald Trump Jr like to throw the term around at anyone on the left they don’t like.

It’s not as if Donald Trump’s stooge Bill Barr can round up “Antifa leaders” who don’t exist, and charge them for “terrorist attacks” that don’t exist.

Trump is gambling that by pretending to designate an imaginary entity as a terrorist group, Americans at large will naively believe that he’s doing something to make things better. No one outside his own base is that stupid. And as his worsening numbers keep showing us, Trump can’t win in November with his base alone. There’s a reason most people are making fun of Trump over this: it’s a feeble attempt at changing the narrative that won’t make a dent, except to make him look even more stupid.

Virus Victims, Recovery, Oversight

washington post logoWashington Post, Pandemic’s overall death toll likely surpassed 100,000 weeks ago, Andrew Ba Tran, Leslie Shapiro and Emma Brown, May 31, 2020 (print ed.). A state-by-state analysis shows that deaths officially attributed to covid- 19 only partially account for unusually high mortality during the pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s exit from World Health Organization meets with dismay from global health experts, Karla Adam, May 31, 2020. Germany said it was “disappointing” while the European Union asked President Trump to “reconsider” his decision. The United States has been the single biggest financial contributor to the U.N. agency.

washington post logoWashington Post, First Person Commentary: Researchers warn virus could cause debilitating long-term illness in some patients, Brian Vastag and Beth Mazur, May 31, 2020 (print ed.). The aftereffects of viral infections can be life-altering and are devastatingly common.

In the fall of 2009, one of us, Beth, was hit by an illness she suspects was H1N1 flu, which was circulating then. In 2012, the other, Brian, developed a sudden fever, which his doctors said was also likely of viral origin.

Neither of us recovered, and we’re both disabled to this day.

I was once a hard-working person. Now, I’m disabled with a mysterious illness.

The long-term illnesses that can follow viral infections can be devastating — and are devastatingly common. In 2015, the nation’s top medical advisory body, the Institute of Medicine, estimated that between 800,000 and 2.5 million U.S. residents live with the illness or illnesses awkwardly named myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). An estimated three-quarters of these cases were triggered by viral or bacterial infections.

Now, as a new pandemic virus is burning through the world and causing many deaths, researchers are raising alarms that the novel coronavirus and the covid-19 disease it causes will also leave in its wake a potentially large population with post-viral problems that could be lifelong and, in some cases, disabling.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Major Sports Might Risk Comebacks During the Pandemic, Matthew Futterman, May 31, 2020. After months of pessimism, the biggest sports leagues have made a flurry of announcements about plans to return. What changed?

With reopening plans underway in all 50 states and with elected officials and the public anxious for business activity to resume, league officials had a growing sense that there would be minimal opposition if they moved ahead with plans.

Also, people who work closely with the leagues and team owners said, the financial consequences of not returning, potentially billions of dollars in losses across the leagues, made trying to come back vital.

“The economics of missing an entire season are just really, really bad,” said Irwin Raij, co-chairman of the sports law practice at O’Melveny & Myers, who is in constant contact with numerous team officials and owners.

Finally, while certain players have expressed concerns about their safety, especially those with compromised immune systems, most are like any other furloughed worker who wants to return to work and get paid, even if that means doing so without the usual comforts of the job.

“We are all going to have to be a little less judgmental,” said Alison Riske, a tennis player who participated in a four-player event last weekend on a private court in the backyard of an estate in Florida, without her usual support team. “We have to roll with the punches.”

World News

 ny times logoNew York Times, Live Virus Updates: Nations Forge Ahead With Openings, as Global Cases Surpass 6 Million, Staff reports, May 31, 2020. Two of Islam’s holiest sites reopened to worshipers on Sunday for the first time in more than two months. President Trump postponed the G7 summit after Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said she would not attend, citing the pandemic. Here’s the latest.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Postpones G7 Meeting After Angela Merkel Says She Won’t Attend, Staff reports, May 30, 2020. President Trump told reporters on Saturday that he was postponing a Group of 7 meeting scheduled to be held in the United States next month. Earlier Saturday, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, right, said she would not attend in person, citing concerns about the coronavirus.

Angela MerkelMr. Trump also announced that he wants to invite Russia to rejoin the group.

Making the announcement while returning from the SpaceX launch in Florida, he said he also planned to invite South Korea, Australia and India to the summit, with an adviser adding that the idea was to bring together traditional allies to discuss China. He said he now wants to hold the meeting in September.

“I don’t feel that as a G7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world. It’s a very outdated group of countries,” Mr. Trump said. But his decision to say he will unilaterally invite Russia — which was indefinitely suspended in March 2014 after the annexing of Crimea — is certain to inflame other member nations.

Holding the summit in June would have underscored Mr. Trump’s message that America can reopen and that the worst of the coronavirus crisis has passed, even as many public health experts warned that a rush to do that could lead to a new wave of infections.

But given that most international and even diplomatic travel has been on hold for months, his proposal struck many foreign policy experts as fanciful. World leader summits like the G7 typically involve hundreds of officials and support staff, as well as elaborate security.

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden expands his lead over Trump to 10-point margin in Post-ABC poll, Dan Balz and Emily Guskin, May 31, 2020. Former vice president Joe Biden is now holding a clear lead nationally as Americans give President Trump negative ratings for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Americans give President Trump negative ratings for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and as the crisis has persisted his prospects for reelection in November have eroded, with former vice president Joe Biden now holding a clear lead nationally, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

joe biden 2020 button CustomOverall, Americans offer mixed assessments of Trump and Biden, and although the presumptive Democratic nominee is viewed less favorably overall today than he was last fall, he fares better than the president on several personal attributes. At the same time, Trump’s supporters are notably more enthusiastic and committed to voting for him in the fall than are those who currently back Biden.

Biden leads Trump 53 percent to 43 percent among registered voters nationally. That 10 percentage-point margin compares with what was a virtual dead heat between the two candidates two months ago, when Biden was at 49 percent and Trump 47 percent. Among all adults, Biden’s margin widens to 13 points (53 percent to 40 percent).

ny times logoNew York Times, Black Americans’ Message for Democrats: Not Being Trump Is Not Enough, Astead W. Herndon, May 31, 2020. Joe Biden wants to heal the country in a moment of protest and loss, and win the White House. Simply telling people to vote may not help with either goal.

The Democratic Party is the political home of most black Americans. The former vice president, one of the Senate architects of the modern criminal justice system, cannot confront racism without addressing systemic inequalities, and he cannot address systemic inequalities by simply returning to a pre-Trump America.

“Our needs aren’t moderate,” Mr. Jackson said in a recent interview. “The absence of Trump is not enough.”

Mr. Biden’s win in South Carolina was a turning point for his once-flailing campaign. His support came from across all demographics, but his particular strength was older black voters — people who said the community’s familiarity with and trust of Mr. Biden, combined with his perceived ability to beat Mr. Trump, earned their backing.

To win in November, and to deliver on his promise of American unity, Mr. Biden is likely to need more than the coalition that brought him his primary victory. And to engage younger voters, he’ll need to offer more than the promise of ousting Mr. Trump as an answer to current despair.

washington post logoWashington Post, Copying GOP, Democrats aim to disseminate data, Paul Kane, May 31, 2020 (print ed.). Former presidential candidate Howard Dean is leading a private company that will provide precise information that could be critical for Democratic campaigns in close elections.

U.S. Crime, Courts, Scandals

NBC News logoNBC News, FBI's top lawyer, Dana Boente, ousted amid Fox News criticism for role in Flynn investigation, Julia Ainsley and Pete Williams, May 30, 2020. Boente was asked to resign on Friday and two sources familiar with the decision to dismiss him said it came from high levels of the Justice Department rather than directly from FBI Director Christopher Wray.

dana boenteAfter a 38-year career with the Justice Department, the FBI's top lawyer Dana Boente, right, was asked to resign on Friday. Two sources familiar with the decision to dismiss Boente said it came from high levels of the Justice Department rather than directly from FBI Director Christopher Wray.

His departure comes on the heels of recent criticism by Fox News for his role in the investigation of former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

A spokesman for the FBI confirmed to NBC News that Boente did in fact resign on Friday.

fox news logo SmallFox News has recently criticized Boente's role in the investigation of Flynn, whose criminal charge for lying to the FBI was recently dropped by the Justice Department based in part on the argument that his lies were not material to an underlying investigation.

Michael Flynn Harvard 2014Boente also said in a recently leaked memo that material put into the public record about Flynn was not exculpatory for the former national security advisor. The memo undermines the Justice Department's latest position that material about Flynn was mishandled by prosecutors.

Fox Business host Lou Dobbs said on April 27 that, "Shocking new reports suggest F.B.I. General Counsel Dana Boente day was acting in coordination with F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray to block the release of that evidence that would have cleared General Flynn."

U.S. Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Reporter’s Cry on Live TV: ‘I’m Getting Shot! I’m Getting Shot!’ Frances Robles. Updated May 31, 2020. From a television crew assaulted by protesters to a photographer struck in the eye, journalists have found themselves targeted on the streets of America.

Linda Tirado, a freelance photographer, activist and author, was shot in the left eye Friday while covering the street protests in Minneapolis.

Ms. Tirado is one of a number of journalists around the country who were attacked, arrested or otherwise harassed — sometimes by police and sometimes by protesters — during their coverage of the uprisings that have erupted nationwide after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

With trust in the news media lagging, journalists have found themselves targeted.

A television reporter in Louisville, Ky., was hit by a pepper ball on live television by an officer who appeared to be aiming at her, causing her to exclaim on the air: “I’m getting shot! I’m getting shot!”

Outside the White House, protesters attacked a Fox News correspondent and his crew, taking the journalist’s microphone and striking him with it.

In Atlanta, masses of protesters on Friday night convened on the CNN headquarters, where they broke through the front door, lobbed fireworks and vandalized the building. Earlier in the day, Omar Jimenez, a reporter for the network, was detained as he reported live, despite calmly offering to move to the location of the police officer’s liking. On Saturday, he reported that his crew’s cameraman and producer were hit by rubber bullets.

Ms. Tirado, 37, drove to Minneapolis from Nashville to photograph the protests, and donned goggles to protect her eyes. In the commotion of running from tear gas, they slipped off her face.

“I was aiming my next shot, put my camera down for a second, and then my face exploded,” she said in a telephone interview after being released from the hospital. “I immediately felt blood and was screaming, ‘I’m press! I’m press!’”

Ms. Tirado said the shot, which she thought was a rubber bullet, came from the direction of the police. Protesters carried her out, and she had surgery within the hour. Although doctors told her that she is not likely to recover her vision, she is grateful for one thing: she shoots with her right eye.

 May 30

Top Stories

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Trump v. Social Media

World News

U.S. Crime, Courts, Scandals

Pandemic Victims, Oversight

U.S. 2020 Elections / Politics

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Protests Over George Floyd Death Reach Trump Tower and Across N.Y.C., Alan Feuer and Azi Paybarah, May 30, 2020. In a third day of demonstrations, protesters also blocked the West Side Highway and scuffled with the police in Brooklyn.

Thousands of demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd took to the streets of New York City for a third day on Saturday, blocking traffic, setting fire to police vehicles and scuffling with officers at simultaneous marches that raged through all five boroughs and briefly stopped outside of Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan.

Through much of the afternoon until well after dark, crowds of protesters holding signs and chanting slogans made their way through Harlem, the East Village, Times Square, Columbus Circle, Jackson Heights in Queens, the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and portions of the Bronx and Staten Island, sometimes seeming to move independently but at other moments appearing to break apart, come together and re-splinter in a way that tested the ability of the police to maintain control.

washington post logoWashington Post, Officials blame outsiders for violence in Minn., but contradict each other on who they think is responsible, Shane Harris, May 30, 2020. Federal, state and local leaders blamed far-right nationalists, left-wing radicals and even foreign actors for the looting and rioting, but offered little evidence.

As unrest continued in Minneapolis on Saturday following the death of George Floyd during his detention by local police, leaders at the federal, state and local levels said large numbers of outsiders had seized upon protests begun by Minnesotans to advance their own political agendas.

But the officials offered little evidence to show who was responsible and contradicted each other on who was to blame.

They variously assigned responsibility for the escalating violence to far-right nationalists, left-wing radicals, drug cartels and possibly foreign agents in statements, news conferences and presidential tweets.

Ultimately, the confusion of rioting and looting that officials said had outstripped the capabilities of local law enforcement and prompted a historic deployment of the National Guard offered little clarity and ample opportunity for opposing political parties to advance their own theories.

tim walz o CustomMinnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D), right, told reporters he had no doubt that protests over Floyd’s death began with Minnesotans frustrated and outraged “with inequality, inequities and quite honestly racism that persisted” in the state.

But state officials have assessed that up to 80 percent of those protesting or rioting came from outside Minnesota, Walz said. He suggested that far-right white supremacists and perhaps organized drug cartels were chiefly responsible.

A federal law enforcement official was not aware of any intelligence about cartels infiltrating the protests.

State officials said that after reviewing posts online, they were confident far-right racist groups had encouraged their followers to descend on the state and take advantage of the crisis.

George Floyd, left, and Derek Chauvin

washington post logoWashington Post, Fired officer charged with third-degree murder in Floyd’s death, Marisa Iati, Kim Bellware, Mark Berman, Lateshia Beachum and John Wagner, May 30, 2020 (print ed.). Medical examiner says no evidence of 'traumatic asphyxia or strangulation’ in preliminary findings in Floyd’s death.

derek chauvin mug CustomFired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, shown above at right and at left, has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, shown at left in a file photo, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Friday afternoon. Agents with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension arrested Chauvin, authorities said.

Chauvin is the former police officer who was captured on video pressing his knee into George Floyd’s neck on Monday as Floyd repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.” Floyd later died.

“That’s less than four days," Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said. "That’s extraordinary. We have never charged a case in that time frame.”

tim walz o CustomEarlier on Friday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D), right, said in an emotional news conference that the unrest that has destabilized Minneapolis and St. Paul this week is the result of ‘generations of pain, of anguish’ over racism in policing.

“Their voices went unheard, and now generations of pain is manifesting itself in front of the world,” Walz said. “And the world is watching.”

The governor vowed “swift” justice for the officers involved in Floyd’s killing. He also pleaded for an end to the violence and noted the difficulty in requiring the same institution that sparked the unrest to restore order. But he said the underlying issues involved in George Floyd’s death could not be addressed until the literal fires are extinguished.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Outrage over Floyd’s death spreads across U.S., Staff reports, May 30, 2020. The death of George Floyd: What video and other records show about his final minutes; American cities localize their grief as protests escalate; Portland police declare ‘unlawful assembly’ as protest turns violent; Minnesota Gov. Walz: ‘You need to go home!’; Georgia Gov. Kemp issues state of emergency.

Protests raged across America on Friday on a brutal night in cities where people gathered to grieve and demand justice for George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody. Demonstrations that began peacefully turned chaotic and dangerous as the night wore on. They resulted in widespread property damage, numerous injuries and at least one death: Police in Detroit said shots were fired from a vehicle into a crowd of demonstrators there, killing a 19-year-old man.

In Minneapolis — where Floyd died Monday after a white officer pressed his knee into the 46-year-old's neck — businesses were torched and shots were fired at police, who struggled to enforce an 8 p.m. curfew enacted after several nights of unrest. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) called it “absolute chaos” and said he would “take responsibility for underestimating the wanton destruction and the sheer size of this crowd.”

In New York, officers were seen struggling with demonstrators, holding some down on the ground, amid screams. In Lincoln, Neb., police urged residents to shelter in place because a gathering there was “no longer a peaceful protest.”

Vice, Armed extremists are showing up to protests and urging a “boogaloo” — code for civil war — online, Tess Owen, May 29 2020. Far-right extremists are showing up, with guns, to the protests against police brutality that have exploded across the country.

Others are egging on the violence from behind their computers, urging followers to carry out acts of violence against black protesters with the goal of sparking a “race war.”

Their presence makes an uneasy addition to the escalating unrest, which was triggered by the death of George Floyd, a black man who was choked to death by a white Minneapolis police officer earlier this week.

But there’s a range of motivations that’s driving far-right interest toward the protests, which are being led by community members and Black Lives Matter, and bolstered by antifascists.

For example, the so-called Boogaloo Bois — a group of armed anti-government extremists made visible by their Hawaiian shirts — have reportedly shown up to some of the protests.

The “boogaloo” is code for impending civil war or violent confrontation with law enforcement, and that’s what they’re hoping to get out of the protests. Their main reason for being there is their antipathy toward law enforcement, and so they’re trying to position themselves as allies of Black Lives Matter protesters. They’ve made police brutality one of their central issues, which was explored at length in a Bellingcat article this week.

Their approach to police brutality links the victims of the deadly standoff with federal agents at Ruby Ridge in 1992, to the victims of modern police brutality, including Floyd. But unlike the vast majority of protesters, they refuse to acknowledge the fact that police brutality is an issue that disproportionately impacts people of color.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1266142878889316353

What followed then was further criminal damage at the AutoZone, which eventually led to a fire being set in the store, and at several more buildings in the area, including a Wendy's and an affordable housing complex, both of which burned down.

OpEdNews, Opinion: Police Infiltration Of US Protests, Caitlin Johnstone, May 30, 2020. A video has been circulating of a white man casually smashing the windows of a Minneapolis shop with a hammer during protests against the police murder of George Floyd. The man is clearly trying to hide his identity by wearing a gas mask, carrying a large umbrella, and wearing full-length black clothing.

Protesters can be seen intervening to stop his destructive behavior in the video.

"Are you a f*cking cop?" one asks.

An officer with the Saint Paul Police Department has been publicly named by someone identified as the officer's ex-wife, who said his voice, walk and gas mask made her "90% sure" it was him. The Saint Paul Police Department has denied this.

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but it is a very safe bet that it's a law enforcement officer of some kind. Disruptive police infiltration of protest movements is a historical constant in America, after all. It is the norm, not the exception.

Protests have spread throughout the United States since the emergence of that footage. Journalist Max Blumenthal has uploaded a very interesting video of an encounter he had with an undercover cop posing as a protester in Washington, DC.

Look what I found outside #dcprotest. An obvious cop dressed like a protester getting out of an unmarked car and telling me he's a CNN reporter. Beware of the lying provocateurs out here! pic.twitter.com/f90wYSjbGS

- Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) May 30, 2020

Blumenthal began following a man he reports he'd spotted coming out of an unmarked vehicle in an area that had been completely sealed off by marked police cars, meaning the police were restricting who came and went from that area. Blumenthal began questioning the man, asking him if he'd been to the protests and if he was a cop. The man said he'd been to the protests but denied he was a cop, saying that he worked with CNN.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gripped by disease, unemployment, outrage at the police, America plunges into crisis, Matt Zapotosky and Isaac Stanley-Becker, May 30, 2020 (print ed.). The nation’s persistent political dysfunction and racial inequality were laid bare this week.

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 washington post logoWashington Post, Transcripts of calls between Flynn, Russian diplomat show they discussed sanctions, Devlin Barrett and Greg Michael Flynn Harvard 2014Miller, May 30, 2020 (print ed.). Transcripts of phone calls in late 2016 between President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn and a Russian diplomat were released Friday, showing that the two did discuss sanctions as the incoming administration sought to avoid escalating the conflict over Russian interference in the presidential election.

The conversations were secretly monitored by U.S. agents as part of intelligence-gathering on then-Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents in early 2017 when he was asked if he discussed sanctions with the ambassador. He has since argued he was unfairly targeted by the FBI, and earlier this month the Justice Department asked a judge to toss out his guilty plea.

The fate of the retired U.S. Army general has divided Republicans and Democrats months before the presidential election, while Trump, who fired Flynn in February 2017, now casts him as a hero. (Excerpt continued below.)

ny times logoNew York Times, SpaceX Lifts NASA Astronauts to Orbit, Launching New Era of Spaceflight, Staff reports, May 30, 2020. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are on their way to the International Space Station aboard the Crew Dragon capsule. A private company for the first time launched astronauts into orbit, nearly a decade after the U.S. retired the storied space shuttle program.

The United States opened a new era of human space travel on Saturday as a private company for the first time launched astronauts into orbit, nearly a decade after the government retired the storied space shuttle program in the aftermath of national tragedy.

Two American astronauts lifted off at 3:22 p.m. from a familiar setting, the same Florida launchpad that once served Apollo missions and the space shuttles. But the rocket and capsule that lofted them out of the atmosphere were a new sight for many — built and operated not by NASA but SpaceX, the company founded by the billionaire Elon Musk to pursue his dream of sending colonists to Mars.

Anti-Brutality U.S. Riots, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden says Floyd’s death is a reminder that America is ‘a country with an open wound,’ Colby Itkowitz, May 30, 2020 (print ed.). Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, called on every American to confront the nation’s history of racial injustices and said those who remain silent are “complicit in perpetuating these cycles of violence.”

In a live virtual address Friday afternoon, the former vice president to the nation’s first African American president spoke gravely about the killing of George Floyd, casting it as one more unnecessary death of a black American in a long list that dates back hundreds of years.

“The original sin of this country still stains our nation today,” Biden said. “And sometimes we manage to overlook it. We just push forward with a thousand other tasks in our daily life. But it’s always there. And weeks like this, we see it plainly that we’re a country with an open wound.”

Without mentioning him by name, Biden also condemned President Trump over a tweet flagged by Twitter as inciting violence against people protesting Floyd’s killing in Minnesota.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Trump threatened protesters outside the White House with “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons,” Maggie Haberman, May 30, 2020. The president also said that his base “love the black people” before traveling to Florida to watch a rocket launch.

A day after claiming he didn’t mean to suggest that law enforcement officials should shoot people who were part of the unrest in Minnesota, President Trump said on Saturday that the Secret Service had been prepared to sic the “most vicious dogs” on protesters outside the White House gates on Friday night.

“Great job last night at the White House by the U.S. @SecretService,” Mr. Trump tweeted in a string of four posts on Saturday. “They were not only totally professional, but very cool. I was inside, watched every move, and couldn’t have felt more safe.”

He continued that the Secret Service allowed the protesters to “scream & rant as much as they wanted” and only acted when “someone got too frisky or out of line.”

“The front line was replaced with fresh agents, like magic,” he added. “Big crowd, professionally organized, but nobody came close to breaching the fence. If they had they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least.”

Mr. Trump claimed that Secret Service agents told him they were clamoring for engagement with the protesters. “We put the young ones on the front line, sir, they love it, and good practice,” he claimed he had been told.

He also appeared to invite his own supporters to amass outside the White House on Saturday to counter the protesters, despite a ban against gatherings of more than 10 people in effect in Washington amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???” he tweeted. Mr. Trump’s renewed threat of violence against the protesters came as protests erupted in cities across the country.

ABC News, Good Morning America: 'No Blame?' ABC News finds 54 cases invoking 'Trump' in connection with violence, threats, alleged assaults, Mike Levine, Good Morning America, May 30, 2020. President Donald Trump has repeatedly distanced himself from acts of violence in communities across America, dismissing critics who point to his rhetoric as a potential source of inspiration or comfort for anyone acting on even long-held beliefs of bigotry and hate.

"I think my rhetoric brings people together," he said last year, four days after a 21-year-old allegedly posted an anti-immigrant screed online and then allegedly opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 and injuring dozens of others.

But a nationwide review conducted by ABC News has identified at least 54 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.

After a Latino gas station attendant in Gainesville, Florida, was suddenly punched in the head by a white man, the victim could be heard on surveillance camera recounting the attacker’s own words: “He said, ‘This is for Trump.'" Charges were filed but the victim stopped pursuing them.

When police questioned a Washington state man about his threats to kill a local Syrian-born man, the suspect told police he wanted the victim to "get out of my country," adding, "That’s why I like Trump."

Reviewing police reports and court records, ABC News found that in at least 12 cases perpetrators hailed Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of physically assaulting innocent victims. In another 18 cases, perpetrators cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others. And in another 10 cases, Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant's violent or threatening behavior.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Postpones G7 Meeting After Angela Merkel Says She Won’t Attend, Staff reports, May 30, 2020. President Trump told reporters on Saturday that he was postponing a Group of 7 meeting scheduled to be held in the United States next month. Earlier Saturday, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, said she would not attend in person, citing concerns about the coronavirus.

Mr. Trump also announced that he wants to invite Russia to rejoin the group.

Making the announcement while returning from the SpaceX launch in Florida, he said he also planned to invite South Korea, Australia and India to the summit, with an adviser adding that the idea was to bring together traditional allies to discuss China. He said he now wants to hold the meeting in September.

“I don’t feel that as a G7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world. It’s a very outdated group of countries,” Mr. Trump said. But his decision to say he will unilaterally invite Russia — which was indefinitely suspended in March 2014 after the annexing of Crimea — is certain to inflame other member nations.

Holding the summit in June would have underscored Mr. Trump’s message that America can reopen and that the worst of the coronavirus crisis has passed, even as many public health experts warned that a rush to do that could lead to a new wave of infections.

But given that most international and even diplomatic travel has been on hold for months, his proposal struck many foreign policy experts as fanciful. World leader summits like the G7 typically involve hundreds of officials and support staff, as well as elaborate security.

Trump v. Social Media

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter hid Trump’s tweet for ‘glorifying violence.’ The White House reposted it, Tony Romm and Allyson Chiu, May 30, 2020 (print ed.). The social media company took the unprecedented step of limiting the public’s ability to view the tweets.

President Trump took to Twitter early Friday to condemn Minneapolis demonstrators as “THUGS,” threaten military intervention and predict local looting could lead to “shooting,” prompting the social-media company to take the unprecedented step of limiting the public’s ability to view and share his tweet.

The label Twitter appended -- which the company also added later to a tweet from the White House -- marks the second time in a week the tech giant has taken action in response to Trump’s controversial remarks. Trump and his allies again decried the move as censorship, promising to regulate the company a day after he signed an executive order that could open the door for the U.S. government to punish social-media sites for their handling of political speech online.

Trump fired off his early morning comment as protests over the death of George Floyd intensified in Minneapolis. Fires raged across the city Thursday night as demonstrators took to the streets because Floyd, who was black, died in police custody. The unrest has reverberated nationwide, including in Louisville, where Breonna Taylor, a black woman and aspiring nurse, was killed by police earlier this month.

“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” Trump tweeted shortly before 1 a.m. Friday, adding, “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

[Trump signs order that could punish social media companies for how they police content, drawing criticism and doubts of legality]

Critics immediately condemned Trump’s tweet, asserting that he was promoting violent retaliation against protesters, and Twitter took swift action. “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence,” read a gray box that now hides Trump’s tweet from public view unless a user clicks to see it. In doing so, Twitter also prevented other users from liking the president’s tweet or sharing it without appending comment.

“We’ve taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts, but have kept the tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance,” said Trenton Kennedy, a spokesman for the company.

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter Places Warning on a Trump Tweet, Saying It Glorified Violence, Raymond Zhong and Russell Goldman, May 29, 2020. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” President Trump wrote. Twitter is making users read a notice before seeing the post.

Twitter added a warning label early Friday to a tweet from President Trump implying that protesters in Minneapolis could be shot, in a move likely to escalate tensions between Mr. Trump and his favorite social media megaphone.

The company said Mr. Trump’s post violated its rules against glorifying violence, and it prevented users from viewing the tweet without reading a brief notice, the first time it has restricted one of the president’s messages in this way. Twitter also blocked users from liking or replying to Mr. Trump’s post, though they were still allowed to retweet it if they added a comment of their own.

But Twitter did not take the tweet down, saying it was in the public’s interest that the message remain accessible.

In the tweet, posted early Friday morning, Mr. Trump called the protesters “thugs” and said he had told Minnesota’s governor that the military was “with him all the way.”

“Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” the president wrote. “Thank you!”

Twitter said it had decided to restrict the tweet “based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today.”

The company’s decision comes a day after Mr. Trump signed an executive order that seeks to limit the legal protections shielding social media companies from liability for the content posted on their platforms. The president had fulminated over Twitter’s decision earlier this week to add fact-checking labels for the first time to two of his tweets. In response, he accused Twitter of stifling speech and said that he would end the interference.

U.S. Crime, Courts, Scandals

washington post logojohn roberts oWashington Post, Supreme Court rules California may enforce certain restrictions on religious gatherings, Robert Barnes, May 30, 2020 (print ed.). Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., right, sided with the court’s liberal justices in response to a petition brought by a church in California that had argued the state’s pandemic-related restrictions violated constitutional protections for places of worship.

Slate, Analysis: Roberts Upholds COVID-19 Restrictions on Churches, Scolds Kavanaugh, Mark Joseph Stern, May 30, 2020. Friday at midnight, the Supreme Court rejected a church’s challenge to California’s COVID-19 restrictions by a 5–4 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the liberals. In a pointed opinion, Roberts indicated that he will not join conservative judges’ escalating efforts to override public health measures in the name of religious freedom. Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s dissent, by contrast, falsely accused the state of religious discrimination in an extremely misleading opinion that omits the most important facts of the case. Roberts went out of his way to scold Kavanaugh’s dishonest vilification of the state.

SCOTUS’ late-night order in South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom divided the justices into two camps: those who acknowledge reality, and those who ignore it to score ideological points. The case began when a California church accused Gov. Gavin Newsom of violating its religious freedom. Newsom’s current COVID-19 policy limits attendance at houses of worship to 25 percent of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower. At the same time, it allows certain secular businesses, like grocery stores, to operate under looser guidelines, allowing more people to enter. The church claimed this disparate treatment between churches and commercial establishments runs afoul of the First Amendment.

As Roberts noted, however, California does not impose uniform rules on all places where people assemble. The state does strictly limit church attendance. But it applies “similar or more severe restrictions” to “lectures, concerts, movie showings, spectator sports, and theatrical performances.” So the question for the court is less constitutional than scientific: From an epidemiological perspective, are churches more like grocery stores or concerts? And that, the chief justice concluded, is a question for lawmakers, not federal judges.

“The precise question of when restrictions on particular social activities should be lifted during the pandemic,” Roberts declared, “is a dynamic and fact-intensive matter subject to reasonable disagreement.” The Constitution leaves such decisions “to the politically accountable officials of the state,” whose decisions “should not be subject to second-guessing” by judges who lack “background, competence, and expertise to assess public health.” Multiple coronavirus outbreaks in California have been traced back to religious services. California has good reason to treat churches more like concerts—where people “congregate in large groups” and “remain in close proximity for extended periods”—than grocery stores, where they can social distance. For courts, that should be the end of the matter.

Kavanaugh, in dissent, viewed the case through a different lens. Whereas Roberts began by noting that COVID-19 has “killed thousands of people in California and more than 100,000 nationwide,” Kavanaugh crafted a narrative of invidious religious discrimination. His dissent reads like a brief by the church, not a judicial opinion. Kavanaugh alleged that Newsom’s order “indisputably discriminates against religion” in violation of the free exercise clause. For support, the justice insisted that “comparable secular businesses,” like grocery stores and pharmacies, “are not subject” to the same restrictions imposed on churches. California must have a “compelling justification” for this disparate treatment, and he saw none.

But Kavanaugh’s assertion that California treats churches and “comparable secular businesses” differently begs the question: what is a comparable secular business? When it comes to the spread of infectious disease, is a church really just like a grocery store, where people spend as little time as possible, separated by aisles and shopping carts, rarely speaking to one another? Or is it more like a concert, where people congregate for lengthy periods, shoulder to shoulder, often speaking or singing and thereby spreading droplets that may contain the coronavirus?

What is genuinely shocking about Kavanaugh’s dissent is that he does not even address this question. The dispute lies at the heart of the case, and Kavanaugh ignores it. He simply takes it as a given that churches are “comparable” to grocery stores when it comes to risk of spreading COVID-19. By warping the facts, Kavanaugh paints California’s rules as irrationally discriminatory, when in fact they are based on medical advice Newsom has right now. If the justice wants to override public health measures during a pandemic, shouldn’t he at least admit that he’s substituting his own scientific judgment for that of a democratically elected lawmaker’s?

NBC News, FBI's top lawyer, Dana Boente, ousted amid Fox News criticism for role in Flynn investigation, Julia Ainsley and Pete Williams, May 30, 2020. Boente was asked to resign on Friday and two sources familiar with the decision to dismiss him said it came from high levels of the Justice Department rather than directly from FBI Director Christopher Wray.

dana boenteAfter a 38-year career with the Justice Department, the FBI's top lawyer Dana Boente, right, was asked to resign on Friday. Two sources familiar with the decision to dismiss Boente said it came from high levels of the Justice Department rather than directly from FBI Director Christopher Wray.

His departure comes on the heels of recent criticism by Fox News for his role in the investigation of former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

A spokesman for the FBI confirmed to NBC News that Boente did in fact resign on Friday.

Fox News has recently criticized Boente's role in the investigation of Flynn, whose criminal charge for lying to the FBI was recently dropped by the Justice Department based in part on the argument that his lies were not material to an underlying investigation.

Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics

Boente also said in a recently leaked memo that material put into the public record about Flynn was not exculpatory for the former national security advisor. The memo undermines the Justice Department's latest position that material about Flynn was mishandled by prosecutors.

Fox Business host Lou Dobbs said on April 27 that, "Shocking new reports suggest F.B.I. General Counsel Dana Boente day was acting in coordination with F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray to block the release of that evidence that would have cleared General Flynn."

washington post logoWashington Post, Transcripts of calls between Flynn, Russian diplomat show they discussed sanctions, Devlin Barrett and Greg Miller, May 30, 2020 (print ed.). Transcripts of phone calls in late 2016 between President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn and a Russian diplomat were released Friday, showing that the two did discuss sanctions as the incoming administration sought to avoid escalating the conflict over Russian interference in the presidential election.

Michael Flynn Harvard 2014The conversations were secretly monitored by U.S. agents as part of intelligence-gathering on then-Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents in early 2017 when he was asked if he discussed sanctions with the ambassador. He has since argued he was unfairly targeted by the FBI, and earlier this month the Justice Department asked a judge to toss out his guilty plea.

The fate of the retired U.S. Army general has divided Republicans and Democrats months before the presidential election, while Trump, who fired Flynn in February 2017, now casts him as a hero.

In the transcript of a Dec. 29, 2016, call between Flynn and Kislyak, it is clear that Flynn was trying to convince Russia not to respond aggressively to the Obama administration decision that day to eject 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives from the U.S. and impose sanctions on Russian intelligence agencies. The administration’s actions came in response to Russian hacking to influence the election.

The newly declassified transcript — which was released by the Trump administration to lawmakers, who then made the documents public — veers between what appear to be direct quotes and summaries of each man’s remarks.

Flynn’s message to Moscow was: “Do not allow this administration to box us in right now!” according to the transcript. “I know you have to have some sort of action,” Flynn said, but he added he would like Russia “to only make it reciprocal; don’t go any further than you have to because I don’t want us to get into something that have [sic] to escalate to tit-for-tat.”

Kislyak replied that he understood, but sentiments “are raging now in Moscow.”

The Flynn case has provoked vastly different responses from Republicans and Democrats, as conservatives claim he was railroaded by anti-Trump investigators in the FBI, and liberals and many current and former Justice Department lawyers see the abandonment of the case as an alarming cave by the department to pressure from Trump.

adam schiff march 20 2019 hearing cnn screenshot“These transcripts clearly demonstrate that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn lied to the FBI and the Vice President when he denied discussing sanctions,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), left, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “It should be no surprise that the President and his allies wish to promote conspiracy theories to distract and rewrite history, as the true facts and history are so damning.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he would continue to push for “additional relevant disclosures until we are satisfied that the American people know the full truth.”

When he first asked about his conversations with Kislyak on Dec. 29 and thereafter, Flynn and White House officials claimed he had talked about a number of other issues, but not sanctions. The transcripts show that a significant majority of the conversation was about sanctions, and those other topics were mentioned only briefly.

The transcripts also make clear that Moscow’s decision not to retaliate was influenced by Flynn.

World News

 washington post logoWashington Post, Merkel declines Trump’s G-7 invitation, citing coronavirus travel concerns, Anne Gearan​, May 30, 2020. The leader Angela Merkelof Europe’s largest economy, right, objected to his decision to revive an in-person meeting in Washington.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have indicated they will attend, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, is expected to do so.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not committed, citing health concerns. Italy’s participation is unclear.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s exit from WHO meets with dismay from global health experts, Karla Adam, May 30, 2020. Germany said it was “disappointing” while the European Union asked Trump to “reconsider.” The United States is the single biggest financial contributor to the U.N. agency.

washington post logoMahmoud Abbas Washington Post, Palestinian leader cuts ties with Israel over annexation plans. His own people feel the pinch, Steve Hendrix and Sufian Taha, May 30, 2020. West Bank residents are already suffering the economic effects of the coronavirus shutdown. The announcement by President Mahmoud Abbas, right, makes it harder for some to travel to Israel for work and medical care.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Moves to Strip Hong Kong of Special U.S. Relationship, Michael Crowley, Edward Wong and Ana Swanson, May 30, 2020 (print ed.). President Denounces China’s Crackdown and Virus Response, President Trump said that as punishment for China’s crackdown, he would strip away Hong Kong’s privileges with the United States.

China FlagHe voiced a range of grievances, angrily denouncing the country’s trade and security practices and its handling of the initial coronavirus outbreak.

President Trump said Friday that his administration would “begin the process” of ending the American government’s special relationship with Hong Kong, including on trade and law enforcement, and that he was withdrawing from the World Health Organization, as part of a broad effort to retaliate against China.

But the president was unclear about the speed and full scope of the actions, and his remarks left many questions unanswered. Stock markets rose after Mr. Trump’s speech in the White House Rose Garden, suggesting that investors had feared the president would take even more draconian steps against China, the world’s second-largest economy.

Mr. Trump voiced a range of grievances against China’s “malfeasance,” angrily denouncing the country’s trade and security practices and its crackdown on civil liberties

U.S. 2020 Elections / Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, With ‘shooting’ tweet, Trump inflames rather than soothes tensions, Philip Rucker and Toluse Olorunnipa, May 30, 2020 (print ed.). Having contributed to another national cleavage over racial justice, the president elected to lead the nation through crises retreated from the responsibility of doing so on this one.

Nobody forced the crisis in Minneapolis upon President Trump. He chose to inflame the tinderbox himself when he issued an ultimatum to people protesting the death of a black man there under the custody of a white police officer.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mailing of ballots to all Las Vegas-area voters puts sharp focus on election safeguards, Elise Viebeck, May 30, 2020 (print ed.). The decision by Nevada’s most populous county to mail ballots to all registered voters ahead of the state’s June 9 primary has intensified a partisan debate about the security of all-mail voting, putting sharp focus on how states are handling a process President Trump claims without evidence leads to widespread election fraud.

Officials in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, began sending ballots to 1.1 million active voters this month as part of Nevada’s first all-mail election, prompted by the coronavirus epidemic. Roughly 200,000 more inactive voters — those who did not vote in two consecutive general elections — also received ballots in the mail after Democrats sued to make voting in the primary more accessible.

In recent days, Republicans have seized on a few accounts of what appeared to be unattended or discarded ballots in residential areas of Las Vegas as proof that mailing ballots to all voters opens the door to massive election fraud that will benefit Democrats.

May 29

minneapolis cnn fire may 28 2020

Washington Post, Minnesota governor activates National Guard as upheaval continues in Twin Cities (CNN Photo)

Top Stories

Anti-Brutality U.S. Riots, Responses

Trump v. Social Media

World News

U.S. Crime, Courts, Scandals

Pandemic Victims, Oversight

U.S. 2020 Elections / Politics

 

Top Stories

George Floyd, left, and Derek Chauvin

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cnn logoCNN, CDC forecast projects more than 123,000 total deaths by June 20, Arman Azad, May 29, 2020. A forecast published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now projects more than 123,000 coronavirus deaths in the US by June 20.

The so-called ensemble forecast relies on more than a dozen individual forecasts from outside institutions and researchers. The new projections, published Thursday, forecast about 123,200 deaths by June 20, with a possible range of 115,400 to 134,800 deaths.

cdc logo Custom“This week’s national ensemble forecast indicates that the rate of increase in cumulative COVID-19 deaths is continuing to decline. Nevertheless, total COVID-19 deaths are likely to exceed 115,000 by June 20,” the CDC says on its website.

CNN reported also: At least 101,621 people have died in the US from coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University, with at least 1,721,926 cases recorded across the country.

The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases. The US has the highest number of deaths and cases globally.

ny times logoNew York Times, Millions Relying on Pandemic Aid Can See Its End, and They’re Scared, Ben Casselman, May 29, 2020 (print ed.).  Emergency programs have cushioned the shutdown’s impact on workers and businesses and lifted the economy, but may not outlast the coronavirus crisis.

For millions of Americans left out of work by the coronavirus pandemic, government assistance has been a lifeline preventing a plunge into poverty, hunger and financial ruin.

This summer, that lifeline could snap.

The $1,200 checks sent to most households are long gone, at least for those who needed them most, with little imminent prospect for a second round. The lending program that helped millions of small businesses keep workers on the payroll will wind down if Congress does not extend it. Eviction moratoriums that are keeping people in their homes are expiring in many cities.

And the $600 per week in extra unemployment benefits that have allowed tens of millions of laid-off workers to pay rent and buy groceries will expire at the end of July.

Related stories:

The latest sign of the economic strain and the government’s role in easing it came Thursday when the Labor Department reported that millions more Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week. More than 40 million have filed for benefits since the crisis began, and some 30 million are receiving them.

The multitrillion-dollar patchwork of federal and state programs hasn’t kept bills from piling up or prevented long lines at food banks. But it has mitigated the damage. Now the expiration of those programs represents a cliff they are hurtling toward, for individuals and for the economy.

“The CARES Act was massive, but it was a very short-term offset to what is likely to be a long-term problem,” said Aneta Markowska, chief financial economist for the investment bank Jefferies, referring to the legislative centerpiece of the federal rescue. “This economy is clearly going to need more support.”

Even the possibility that the programs will be allowed to expire could have economic consequences, Ms. Markowska said, as consumers and businesses gird for the loss of federal assistance.

President Trump and other Republicans have played down the need for more spending, saying the solution is for states to reopen businesses and allow companies to bring people back to work. So despite pleas from economists across the political spectrum — including Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair — any federal action is likely to be limited.

The House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to give businesses more time to use money borrowed under the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers forgivable loans to small businesses that retain or rehire their workers. The bill’s fate in the Senate is uncertain, but a deal seems likely.

Anti-Brutality U.S. Riots, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Fires Rage in Minneapolis and Protests Spread Across U.S., Staff reports, May 29, 2020. Issuing threat, President warns of violent response. A Minneapolis police station was set on fire as people protested the death of George Floyd, an African-American man, in police custody.

Twitter said President Trump violated its rules by posting a tweet suggesting that Minneapolis protesters could be shot. A CNN crew was arrested on live television while covering the protests Friday morning.

breonna taylor Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, 7 People Shot at Louisville Protest Over the Death of Breonna Taylor, Mike Baker, May 29, 2020. The protests in Kentucky were prompted by the shooting death of a black woman (shown above in a file photo), who was killed when the police entered her home in March.

Seven people were struck by gunfire at a protest in Louisville, Ky., on Thursday night as tensions there continued to escalate over the fatal shooting of a black woman by three white police officers in March.

Of those reported injured in the demonstration, two were taken for surgery and five were in good condition, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said early Friday morning. Mr. Fischer said no officers discharged their weapons and that the violence came from within the crowd.

Videos posted on social media appeared to show shots being fired while demonstrators surrounded a police vehicle. No officers were among those injured and it was too early to determine who was responsible, said the Louisville Metro Police Department.

Protesters had gathered in the streets to call for police accountability in the fatal shooting of the woman, Breonna Taylor, chanting “no justice, no peace, prosecute police.”

Louisville police officers fatally shot Ms. Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, at her home during a narcotics investigation in March. Police have said officers knocked on the door, announced their presence, then forced their way into the home after midnight before being met by gunfire.

The officers have since been placed on administrative leave but have not been charged with a crime.

Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, told investigators he did not hear police announce themselves and was terrified when the door was knocked down. In a 911 call just after the shooting, Mr. Walker told the dispatcher that “somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend,” according to a recording released on Thursday.

Questions have continued to mount about the handling of the case. Authorities had initially charged Mr. Walker with attempted murder for shooting a police officer in the leg during the intrusion. Last week, prosecutors said they were dropping those charges, saying further investigation was needed.

In a lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, lawyers said police already had the main suspect in the narcotics investigation in custody before going into the home. No drugs were found in the apartment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Police chiefs react with disgust to Minneapolis death, try to reassure their own cities, Tom Jackman, May 29, 2020 (print ed.). In years past, police officials probably would have called for full, time-consuming investigations and patience from angry citizens until all the facts were in. Not this time.

“The death of Mr. Floyd is deeply disturbing and should be of concern to all Americans,” said the Major Cities Chiefs, headed by Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo. “The officers’ actions are inconsistent with the training and protocols of our profession and MCCA commends Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo for his swift and decisive action to terminate the employment of the officers involved.”

cnn logoCNN, The Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd's neck had 18 previous complaints against him, police department says, Dakin Andone, Hollie Silverman and Melissa Alonso, updated May 29, 2020. The former Minneapolis police officer seen in a video with his knee on George Floyd's neck had 18 prior complaints filed against him with the Minneapolis Police Department's Internal Affairs, according to the police department.

derek chauvin mug CustomIt's unclear what the internal affairs complaints against the officer, Derek Chauvin, were for. MPD did not provide additional details.

Chauvin, left, was fired this week, along with three other MPD officers who were present when Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck. Police have said they were responding to an alleged forgery at a corner store.

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was unarmed and handcuffed, pleaded that he could not breathe. He was soon after declared dead at a nearby hospital, according to authorities.

Floyd's death and video of the incident have sparked widespread anger, destructive protests and calls for the officers involved to face criminal charges.

Only two of the 18 complaints against Chauvin were "closed with discipline," according to a MPD internal affairs public summary. In both cases, the "discipline issued" column indicated that a letter of reprimand had been issued in response.

Chauvin was not the only officer on the scene that day with a history of complaints against him.

Former officer Tou Thao had six complaints filed with internal affairs, one of which was still open, according to the public summary released Thursday. The other five complaints had been closed without discipline.

The two other officers involved had no complaints filed against them, per MPD internal affairs.

CNN has reached out to attorneys representing the officers for comment.

Thao was also part of a 2017 excessive force lawsuit that was settled by the city of Minneapolis, according to a settlement obtained by CNN and an attorney for the plaintiff in the case.

The lawsuit was brought by Lamar Ferguson, who claimed in the suit that Thao and another officer subjected him to "cruel and unusual" punishment when they arrested him in October 2014. Sccording to the lawsuit, the officers used "unreasonable force," including "punches, kicks and knees to the face and body while Ferguson was defenseless and handcuffed." As a result, Ferguson suffered broken teeth, bruising and trauma, the lawsuit says.

The city would go on to pay Ferguson and his attorney $25,000 to settle the lawsuit on December 11, 2017. Both the city and the officers denied liability in the settlement, according to a 2017 statement from the city of Minneapolis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Minnesota governor activates National Guard as upheaval continues in Twin Cities, Kim Bellware, Holly Bailey, Mark Berman and Hannah Knowles, May 28, 2020. Local leaders begged for calm amid nationwide outrage and local protests that gave way to violence in the wake of the death of George Floyd, shown above at left in a file photo and on the ground, in police custody.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: The Supreme Court Lets Cops Get Away With Murder, Editorial Board, May 29, 2020. The courts protected police abuses for years before George Floyd’s death. It’s time to rethink “qualified immunity.”

  • Washington Post, Opinion: Trump just threatened to have looters shot. Biden urged calm. That says it all, Greg Sargent, May 29, 2020.
  • Washington Post, Opinion: Disbelieving black victims is the default position of conservatives. It’s shameful, Michael Gerson, May 29, 2020.

Trump v. Social Media

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter hid Trump’s tweet for ‘glorifying violence.’ The White House reposted it, Tony Romm and Allyson Chiu, May 29, 2020. The social media company took the unprecedented step of limiting the public’s ability to view the tweets.

President Trump took to Twitter early Friday to condemn Minneapolis demonstrators as “THUGS,” threaten military intervention and predict local looting could lead to “shooting,” prompting the social-media company to take the unprecedented step of limiting the public’s ability to view and share his tweet.

The label Twitter appended -- which the company also added later to a tweet from the White House -- marks the second time in a week the tech giant has taken action in response to Trump’s controversial remarks. Trump and his allies again decried the move as censorship, promising to regulate the company a day after he signed an executive order that could open the door for the U.S. government to punish social-media sites for their handling of political speech online.

Trump fired off his early morning comment as protests over the death of George Floyd intensified in Minneapolis. Fires raged across the city Thursday night as demonstrators took to the streets because Floyd, who was black, died in police custody. The unrest has reverberated nationwide, including in Louisville, where Breonna Taylor, a black woman and aspiring nurse, was killed by police earlier this month.

“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” Trump tweeted shortly before 1 a.m. Friday, adding, “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

[Trump signs order that could punish social media companies for how they police content, drawing criticism and doubts of legality]

Critics immediately condemned Trump’s tweet, asserting that he was promoting violent retaliation against protesters, and Twitter took swift action. “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence,” read a gray box that now hides Trump’s tweet from public view unless a user clicks to see it. In doing so, Twitter also prevented other users from liking the president’s tweet or sharing it without appending comment.

“We’ve taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts, but have kept the tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance,” said Trenton Kennedy, a spokesman for the company.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump signs order targeting social media companies for how they police content, Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin, May 29, 2020 (print ed.). The directive was a major broadside against Silicon Valley that triggered wide-ranging political opposition and threats of a legal challenge.

President Trump on Thursday signed an executive order that could open the door for the U.S. government to assume oversight of political speech on the Internet, a broadside against Silicon Valley that a wide array of critics derided as a threat to free speech.

The new directive seeks to change a federal law that has spared tech companies from being sued or held liable for most posts, photos and videos shared by users on their sites. Tech giants herald these protections, known as Section 230, as the bedrock of the Internet. But Trump repeatedly has argued they allow Facebook, Google and Twitter to censor conservatives with impunity — charges these companies deny.

“We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers,” Trump said before signing the document.

The order signed Thursday encourages the Federal Communications Commission to rethink the scope of Section 230 and when its liability protections apply. The order also seeks to channel complaints about political bias to the Federal Trade Commission, an agency that the White House has asked to probe whether tech companies’ content-moderation policies are in keeping with their pledges of neutrality.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Executive Order on Social Media Could Muzzle Him, Peter Baker and Daisuke Wakabayashi, Updated May 29, 2020. Without certain liability protections, companies like Twitter would have to be more aggressive about policing messages that press the boundaries — like the president’s.

President Trump, who built his political career on the power of a flame-throwing Twitter account, has now gone to war with Twitter, angered that it would presume to fact-check his messages. But the punishment he is threatening could force social media companies to crack down even more on customers just like Mr. Trump.

The executive order that Mr. Trump signed on Thursday seeks to strip liability protection in certain cases for companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook for the content on their sites, meaning they could face legal jeopardy if they allowed false and defamatory posts. Without a liability shield, they presumably would have to be more aggressive about policing messages that press the boundaries — like the president’s.

That, of course, is not the outcome Mr. Trump wants. What he wants is the freedom to post anything he likes without the companies applying any judgment to his messages, as Twitter did this week when it began appending “get the facts” warnings to some of his false posts on voter fraud. Furious at what he called “censorship” — even though his messages were not in fact deleted — Mr. Trump is wielding the proposed executive order like a club to compel the company to back down.

It may not work even as intended. Plenty of lawyers quickly said on Thursday that he was claiming power to do something he does not have the power to do by essentially revising the interpretation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the law passed by Congress in 1996 that laid out the rules of the road for online media. Legal experts predicted such a move would be challenged and most likely struck down by the courts.

But the logic of Mr. Trump’s order is intriguing because it attacks the very legal provision that has allowed him such latitude to publish with impunity a whole host of inflammatory, harassing and factually distorted messages that a media provider might feel compelled to take down if it were forced into the role of a publisher that faced the risk of legal liability rather than a distributor that does not.

“Ironically, Donald Trump is a big beneficiary of Section 230,” said Kate Ruane, a senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, which instantly objected to the proposed order. “If platforms were not immune under the law, then they would not risk the legal liability that could come with hosting Donald Trump’s lies, defamation and threats.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter Places Warning on a Trump Tweet, Saying It Glorified Violence, Raymond Zhong and Russell Goldman, May 29, 2020. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” President Trump wrote. Twitter is making users read a notice before seeing the post.

Twitter added a warning label early Friday to a tweet from President Trump implying that protesters in Minneapolis could be shot, in a move likely to escalate tensions between Mr. Trump and his favorite social media megaphone.

The company said Mr. Trump’s post violated its rules against glorifying violence, and it prevented users from viewing the tweet without reading a brief notice, the first time it has restricted one of the president’s messages in this way. Twitter also blocked users from liking or replying to Mr. Trump’s post, though they were still allowed to retweet it if they added a comment of their own.

But Twitter did not take the tweet down, saying it was in the public’s interest that the message remain accessible.

In the tweet, posted early Friday morning, Mr. Trump called the protesters “thugs” and said he had told Minnesota’s governor that the military was “with him all the way.”

“Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” the president wrote. “Thank you!”

Twitter said it had decided to restrict the tweet “based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today.”

The company’s decision comes a day after Mr. Trump signed an executive order that seeks to limit the legal protections shielding social media companies from liability for the content posted on their platforms. The president had fulminated over Twitter’s decision earlier this week to add fact-checking labels for the first time to two of his tweets. In response, he accused Twitter of stifling speech and said that he would end the interference.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump makes his dictatorial move, Wayne Madsen, May 29, 2020. On May 28, Trump signed a wayne madesen report logo"paper tiger" Executive Order -- breathtaking in its illegality and unconstitutionality -- that authorizes the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission, two regulatory agencies independent from the White House, to penalize social media platforms that refuse to carry content from neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members, violence-prone involuntary celibates (incels), and other radical white supremacists who are banned under Twitter and other [Terms of Services] from posting inflammatory language.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The President Versus the Mods, Kevin Roose, May 29, 2020. President Trump’s taking aim at Twitter for fact-checking his tweets is part of a tradition upheld by aggrieved internet trolls, our columnist writes.

As a teen in the early 2000s, I spent a lot of time on online message boards. They were funny, chaotic places where my fellow nerds and I spent hours arguing about everything under the sun: sports, music, video games, the latest episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

No matter the topic, there was one universal experience: On every board, some divisive issue would inevitably erupt into conflict, and an angry group of users — often led by a single, vocal one who felt they were being treated unfairly — would lead a rebellion against the “mods,” the moderators who had the privileges to delete posts, ban unruly users, and set the rules of the board.

Sometimes, the mods quelled the fight or struck a compromise, and brought the board back into harmony. Other times, the angry users broke off and started their own forum, or the board simply became so intolerable that everyone left.

That internet is long gone now. Social media apps killed the messy, unruly message boards and replaced them with slick personalized feeds. The new mods are mostly robots. And the people who make the rules — Jack Dorsey of Twitter, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Susan Wojcicki of YouTube, and a handful of others — have become some of the world’s richest and most influential people, with the power to shift global politics and curate the information diets of billions.

This week, President Trump declared war on the mods after Twitter appended a fact check to his tweets for the first time. On Thursday, he issued an executive order threatening to narrow legal protections for platforms that censor speech for ideological reasons, and sent his followers after an individual Twitter employee he accused, wrongly, of censoring him. And he made it clear that he would seek to punish Facebook, YouTube, or other platforms that interfered with his ability to communicate directly with his followers.

Palmer Report, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey fires back after Donald Trump goes on insane late night Twitter rampage, Bill Palmer, May 29, 2020. Late on Thursday night, Donald Trump went on a Twitter rampage about how the protesters in Minneapolis were “thugs” and how he might send in troops to shoot them.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump also asserted that Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was a “very weak radical” and threatened to somehow take control of the city away from him.

jacob frey ballotpediaAs it turns out, Mayor Frey, right, was holding a late night press conference about the situation in his city, and a reporter asked him about Trump’s tweet.

Frey said this: “Weakness is refusing to take responsibility for your actions. Weakness is pointing your finger at somebody else during a time of crisis. Donald Trump knows nothing about the strength of Minneapolis. We are strong as hell. Is this a difficult time period? Yes. But you better be damn sure that we’re gonna get through this.”

U.S. Crime, Courts, Scandals

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge Sullivan’s refusal to immediately dismiss Flynn’s case raises novel questions about the limits of judicial power, Ann E. Marimow, May 29, 2020. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan’s decision not to immediately dismiss the case of President Trump’s former national security adviser has led to an extraordinary situation in which the District Court judge in Washington is under orders to defend his actions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s ‘Horrifying Lies’ About Lori Klausutis May Cross a Legal Line, Peter H. Schuck (emeritus professor of law at Yale and Darling Foundation visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, this semester), May 29, 2020 (print ed.). The president’s innuendo about the death of a congressional staffer in 2001 could lead to a costly court judgment against him.

President Trump and his minions relentlessly grind out despicable acts — gratuitous insults to war heroes, over 18,000 (and counting) false or misleading statements, many decisions courts have ruled illegal. But Mr. Trump’s wantonly cruel tweets about the tragic death in 2001 of Lori Klausutis are distinctive: They may constitute intentional torts for which a civil jury could award punitive damages against him.

Last week, Timothy Klausutis, Lori’s widower husband, wrote a remarkably restrained, poignant letter to Jack Dorsey, the head of Twitter, citing the pain that Mr. Trump’s “horrifying lies” about his wife’s death have caused him and the family, and asking Mr. Dorsey to remove Mr. Trump’s tweet.

Mr. Dorsey has refused, most likely because the 1996 Communications Decency Act probably protects him from defamation claims for publishing the words of another. However Twitter added a warning label to the president’s false tweets on Tuesday about mail-in ballots, the first time the service has taken such a step.

Mr. Trump’s first tort is called intentional infliction of emotional distress, which the courts developed precisely to condemn wanton cruelty to another person who suffers emotionally as a result. This tort, which is sometimes called “outrage,” readily applies to Mr. Trump’s tweets about Ms. Klausutis. They were intentional and reckless, and were “extreme and outrageous” without a scintilla of evidence to support them. And they caused severe emotional distress — the protracted, daily-felt grief described in Mr. Klausutis’s letter to Mr. Dorsey.

Although the tweets targeted Mr. Scarborough, his own infliction of emotional distress claim may be weaker than Mr. Klausutis’s.

Even so, Mr. Scarborough might succeed in a defamation suit against Mr. Trump for reputational harm. After all, the president’s innuendo that Mr. Scarborough may have murdered Lori Klausutis — presumably credible to the many Trump Twitter followers who subscribe to conspiracy theories — may seriously harm Mr. Scarborough’s reputation with them and others.

Mr. Trump, moreover, often aims his tweets to lead multiple news cycles affecting well beyond his Twitter followers. The president will surely argue that he has not actually accused anyone of murder and was merely “raising questions.” But courts have held that such calculated innuendo can constitute defamation, depending on the facts. This would be for a jury to decide.

Mr. Scarborough, as a public figure in his own right, must satisfy the Supreme Court’s demanding test for defamation liability in its landmark New York Times v. Sullivan decision.

Under this test — designed to free public debate from being unduly constrained by fear of legal liability — Mr. Scarborough must prove that Mr. Trump made his defamatory comment either with actual knowledge that it was false or with “reckless disregard” for whether it was true or false. But the president’s tweets about the Klausutis case probably satisfy this test. After all, he has not cited any evidence to support his calumny either before the tweets or in response to the backlash since then. If the jury found for Mr. Scarborough, it could require Mr. Trump to pay substantial punitive damages in addition to compensation for his reputational harm.

Under the court’s unanimous 1998 ruling in Paula Jones’s sexual harassment suit against President Bill Clinton, both of these lawsuits — by Mr. Klausutis and by Mr. Scarborough — could proceed against the president while he is still in office. Because his tweets reach followers nationwide, the lawsuits could probably be brought in any state.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Moves to Strip Hong Kong of Special U.S. Relationship, Michael Crowley, Edward Wong and Ana Swanson, May 29, 2020. President Denounces China’s Crackdown and Virus Response, President Trump said that as punishment for China’s crackdown, he would strip away Hong Kong’s privileges with the United States.

He voiced a range of grievances, angrily denouncing the country’s trade and security practices and its handling of the initial coronavirus outbreak.

President Trump said Friday that his administration would “begin the process” of ending the American government’s special relationship with Hong Kong, including on trade and law enforcement, and that he was withdrawing from the World Health Organization, as part of a broad effort to retaliate against China.

But the president was unclear about the speed and full scope of the actions, and his remarks left many questions unanswered. Stock markets rose after Mr. Trump’s speech in the White House Rose Garden, suggesting that investors had feared the president would take even more draconian steps against China, the world’s second-largest economy.

Mr. Trump voiced a range of grievances against China’s “malfeasance,” angrily denouncing the country’s trade and security practices and its crackdown on civil liberties

washington post logoWashington Post, Researchers ponder why covid-19 appears more deadly in the U.S. and Europe than in Asia, Simon Denyer and Joel Achenbach​, May 29, 2020 (print ed.). Parts of Asia reacted quickly to the threat, but researchers are also examining other factors, including differences in genetics and immune system responses, separate virus strains and regional contrasts in obesity levels and general health.

China, where the virus emerged late last year in Wuhan, has recorded fewer than 5,000 deaths, which translates to three deaths per million inhabitants. Japan has around seven per million, Pakistan six, South Korea and Indonesia five, India three and Thailand fewer than one per million. Vietnam, Cambodia and Mongolia say they have recorded zero covid-19-related deaths.

european union logo rectangleCompare that with about 100 deaths per million in Germany, about 180 in Canada, nearly 300 in the United States and more than 500 in Britain, Italy and Spain.

ny times logoNew York Times, China Officially Expands Power to Rein In Hong Kong, Despite Outcry, Keith Bradsher, May 29, 2020 (print ed.). Beijing ordered that a new law be written to suppress subversion, secession, terrorism and other acts that might threaten national security in Hong Kong.

The specifics of the legislation, to be hashed out in the coming weeks, will help determine the fate of Hong Kong. Early signals from Chinese authorities point to a crackdown once the law takes effect, which is expected by September.

China FlagChina officially has the broad power to quash unrest in Hong Kong, as the country’s legislature on Thursday nearly unanimously approved a plan to suppress subversion, secession, terrorism and seemingly any acts that might threaten national security in the semiautonomous city.

As Beijing hashes out the specifics of the national security legislation in the coming weeks, the final rules will help determine the fate of Hong Kong, including how much of the city’s autonomy will be preserved or how much Beijing will tighten its grip.

Early signals from Chinese authorities point to a crackdown once the law takes effect, which is expected by September.

Activist groups could be banned. Courts could impose long jail sentences for national security violations. China’s feared security agencies could operate openly in the city.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon prepares for Trump order to pull thousands more troops from Afghanistan, Dan Lamothe and Susannah George, May 29, 2020 (print ed.). U.S. officials expect the president to cut troop levels as he seeks to deliver on a promise to end America’s “forever wars.”

Virus Victims, Relief

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion:100,000 deaths later, there are no more excuses. We know what we need to do, Leana S. Wen, May 29, 2020. What have we learned about preventing the next 100,000?

First, early action saves lives. Countries that have successfully contained covid-19 have this in common: They took early, decisive action. Without a vaccine, the most effective intervention is the shelter-in-place order. One study estimated that had the United States implemented social distancing restrictions even a week earlier, it could have saved 36,000 lives.

Now that all 50 states are in various stages of reopening, there will be an increase in infections once again. We need surveillance systems to detect these increases as they happen. Waiting for a rise in hospitalizations or deaths is too late: By the time these lagging indicators rise, the outbreak is well underway.

Two types of surveillance testing are required. First is regular testing of vulnerable populations such as nursing-home residents and those who are incarcerated. The initial case is the canary in the coal mine: Finding one means there are almost certainly dozens of others. Second is random population testing. If we only test those with symptoms or exposure, we will never know the true prevalence of asymptomatic covid-19 in a community.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Puerto Rico, an economic disaster looms amid fears of coronavirus, Arelis R. Hernández, May 29, 2020. Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced's stay-at-home policies curbed new infections in the U.S. territory without overwhelming its compromised health system. But the island’s swift lockdown has further frayed a safety net strained by hurricanes and political upheaval.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amid coronavirus concerns, dentists face a fraught road to reopening, Chelsea Janes, May 29, 2020. The proximity to patients and the cost of stepped-up protections test dental practices.

As states begin allowing dentists to resume treating patients, they navigate a complicated logistical reality: In conducting their duties in and around patients’ mouths, they land especially close to the respiratory system.

But unlike doctors treating covid-19 patients, dentists are not considered frontline workers and until recent days had largely been left out of the nationwide triaging of personal protective equipment, according to interviews with leaders of several state dental associations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Children with perplexing syndrome may be experiencing a ‘cytokine storm,’ Ariana Eunjung Cha, May 29, 2020. A study about the children, ages 13, 12, 10, and 5, published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, provides the first detailed look at the rapid progression of a mysterious syndrome linked to covid-19 that has alarmed public health officials.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month issued an alert warning doctors to be on the lookout for what they are calling multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, which is now believed to have impacted approximately 300 U.S. children. It appears to have some characteristics in common with Kawasaki disease, a rare illness that typically impacts children under the age of 5 and whose cause is unknown.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: On the Economics of Not Dying, Paul Krugman, right, May 29, 2020 (print ed.). What good is increasing G.D.P. if paul krugmanit kills you?

America is now engaged in a vast, dangerous experiment. Although social distancing has limited the spread of the coronavirus, it is far from contained. Yet despite warnings from epidemiologists, much of the country is moving to open up for business as usual.

You might think that such a momentous move would come with elaborate justifications — that politicians pushing an end to social distancing, from Donald Trump on down, would at least try to explain why we should take this risk. But those calling for quickly reopening have been notably silent about the trade-offs involved. Instead, they talk incessantly about the need to “save the economy.”

That is, however, a very bad way to think about economic policy in a pandemic.

What, after all, is the economy’s purpose? If your answer is something like, “To generate incomes that let people buy things,” you’re getting it wrong — money isn’t the ultimate goal; it’s just a means to an end, namely, improving the quality of life.

Now, money matters: There is a clear relationship between income and life satisfaction. But it’s not the only thing that matters. In particular, you know what also makes a major contribution to the quality of life? Not dying.

And when we take the value of not dying into account, the rush to reopen looks like a really bad idea, even in terms of economics properly understood.

You might be tempted to say that we can’t put a price on human life. But if you think about it, that’s silly; we do it all the time.

We spend a lot on highway safety, but not enough to eliminate every preventable fatal accident. We regulate businesses to avoid lethal pollution, even though it costs money, but not tightly enough to eliminate all pollution-related deaths.

In fact, both transportation and environmental policy have in the past been explicitly guided by numbers placed on the “value of a statistical life.” Current estimates are around $10 million.

True, Covid-19 deaths have been concentrated among older Americans, who can expect fewer remaining years of life than average, so that we might want to use a lower number, say $5 million. But even so, doing the math says that social distancing, while it reduced G.D.P., was well worth it.

That’s the conclusion of two studies that estimated the costs and benefits of social distancing, taking the value of a life into account. Indeed, we waited too long: A Columbia University study estimated that locking down just a week earlier would have saved 36,000 lives by early May, and a back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that the benefits of that earlier lockdown would have been at least five times the cost in lost G.D.P.

So why are we rushing to reopen?

The point is that the push to reopen doesn’t reflect any kind of considered judgment about risks versus rewards. It’s best seen, instead, as an exercise in magical thinking.

Trump and conservatives in general seem to believe that if they pretend that Covid-19 isn’t a continuing threat, it will somehow go away, or at least people will forget about it. Hence the war on face masks, which help limit the pandemic but remind people that the virus is still out there.

One way to put it: Trump and his allies don’t want us to wear face masks but do want us to wear blinders.

How will this exercise in denial end? Again, there’s a lot of uncertainty in epidemiological projections. Trump and friends could get lucky; their insistence that we should quickly go back to business as usual might not lead to a large number of deaths.

But it probably will, because the push for reopening rests on a foundation of willful ignorance.

Never mind G.D.P.; the most fundamental job of any leader is to keep his people alive. Unfortunately, that’s a job Trump doesn’t seem interested in doing.

U.S. 2020 Elections / Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: ‘The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat,' Aaron Blake, May 29, 2020. Twice in 25 hours, Trump tweets conspicuous allusions to violence.

At 12 a.m. Thursday, President Trump retweeted a video in which a supporter says, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” At 12:53 a.m. Friday, he followed this up by referring to riots in Minneapolis and saying, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

This is all apparently part of one big misunderstanding about Trump actually advocating violence — one that for some reason keeps happening over and over again.

If there were ever a tweet tailor-made for promotion by President Trump, it might be the first one. In the video, the supporter, a county commissioner in New Mexico, offers the above quote but quickly qualifies that he was not speaking literally. The president felt this was the kind of message that people needed to see. “Thank you Cowboys. See you in New Mexico!” he said in a retweet.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Romney strategist Stuart Stevens joins Lincoln Project, Robert Costa and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, May 29, 2020. The veteran of many presidential campaigns will advise the super PAC started by a group of longtime GOP operatives seeking to defeat President Trump.

Stuart Stevens, the former chief strategist for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, said Thursday that he has joined the Lincoln Project, a super PAC launched by a group of veteran Republican operatives seeking to defeat President Trump.

Stevens said in an interview with The Washington Post that the group will likely be his sole political endeavor for the remainder of the year and that he will advise its team on anti-Trump advertising and strategy.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump holds disastrous press conference, refuses to take questions, leaves, Bill Palmer, May 29, 2020. The United States is in the midst of a pandemic, an economic collapse, social unrest after a white police officer murdered a black man in Minneapolis, and social media controversy after Twitter buried Donald Trump’s violent tweet last night. So what did Trump focus on during his press conference today? Would you believe China?

bill palmer report logo headerThat’s right, with everything going on, Trump held a press conference in the White House Rose Garden – and made everyone wait nearly an hour for it to finally start – just so he could stumble through some prepared text about how awful he thinks China is. After Trump finished his scripted rant, he refused to take any questions and promptly left the stage.

Pandemic Victims, Relief Oversight

washington post logoWashington Post, Administration initially allotted scarce covid-19 drug to some hospitals that didn’t need it, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, Lena H. Sun and Laurie McGinley, May 29, 2020 (print ed.). The first tranche of 607,000 vials of remdesivir was delivered in some cases to the wrong hospitals, to hospitals with no ICUs and therefore no eligible patients, and to facilities with no available refrigeration, according to nine current and former senior administration officials.

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washington post logoWashington Post, 100,000 U.S. DEATHS: Pandemic has exposed nation’s vulnerabilities and dangerous divide, Marc Fisher, May 28, 2020. The marker of 100,000 deaths comes less than three months after the first American was reported to have died. The people most ravaged are those whose suffering often is unseen — the elderly, African Americans and working poor.

One hundred thousand Americans dead in less than four months.

american flag upside down distressIt’s as if every person in Edison, N.J., or Kenosha, Wis., died. It’s half the population of Salt Lake City or Grand Rapids, Mich. It’s about 20 times the number of people killed in homicides in that length of time, about twice the number who die of strokes.

The death toll from the coronavirus passed that hard-to-fathom marker on Wednesday, which slipped by like so many other days in this dark spring, one more spin of the Earth, one more headline in a numbing cascade of grim news.

Nearly three months into the brunt of the epidemic, 14 percent of Americans say they know someone who has succumbed to the virus.

These 100,000 are not nameless numbers, nor are they mostly famous people. They are, overwhelmingly, elderly — in some states, nearly two-thirds of the dead were 80 or older. They are disproportionately poor and black and Latino. Among the younger victims, many did work that allowed others to stay at home, out of the virus’s reach.

For the most part, they have died alone, leaving parents and siblings and lovers and friends with final memories not of hugs and whispered devotion, but of miniature images on a computer screen, tinny voices on the phone, hands pressed against a window.

washington post logoWashington Post, Americans have filed more than 40 million jobless claims in past 10 weeks, Tony Romm​, May 29, 2020 (print ed.). The new Labor Department data said 2.1 million Americans filed for jobless claims last week, adding to an already tremendous number of people who have been laid off.

Americans have filed more than 40 million claims for jobless benefits in the past 10 weeks, according to new Labor Department data, laying bare a tremendous and sudden disruption in the U.S. economy that is already changing the types of jobs desperate workers are looking to fill.

About 2.1 million of those new unemployment claims were filed just last week, the federal data show, marking a slight decrease from prior weeks while still reflecting the historic toll wrought by a pandemic that has temporarily - and in some cases permanently - shuttered businesses nationwide.

In recent weeks, many states have started lifting restrictions imposed in March meant to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which by Wednesday, had killed more than 100,000 across the country.

But the recovery process has been uneven, hamstringing some states and employers more than others. In a number of states, a very large segment of the labor force is now collecting unemployment benefits. For example, 26.7 percent of the labor force in Nevada is collecting unemployment benefits, as are 25 percent in Florida. Even 20.6 percent of the labor force in California -- the U.S.'s most populous state -- is collecting jobless claims.

washington post logoWashington Post, A numbers-obsessed Trump is uncharacteristically silent on this bleak milestone, Ashley Parker, May 28, 2020.  The president’s public schedule this week contains no special commemoration, no moment of silence, no collective sharing of grief.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Minneapolis Protests Over Death of George Floyd Turn Destructive, Staff reports, May 28, 2020. A wave of protests erupted overnight, with the police firing tear gas and rubber bullets as people set buildings on fire. The police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at crowds, and Mayor Jacob Frey called for the arrest of the white police officer who pressed his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck.

The Justice Department said it had made a federal investigation into Mr. Floyd’s death a “top priority” and has assigned experienced prosecutors and investigators to the case.

washington post logoWashington Post, Police chiefs react with disgust to Minneapolis death, try to reassure their own cities, Tom Jackman, May 28, 2020. In years past, police officials probably would have called for full, time-consuming investigations and patience from angry citizens until all the facts were in. Not this time.

“The death of Mr. Floyd is deeply disturbing and should be of concern to all Americans,” said the Major Cities Chiefs, headed by Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo. “The officers’ actions are inconsistent with the training and protocols of our profession and MCCA commends Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo for his swift and decisive action to terminate the employment of the officers involved.”

cnn logoCNN, The Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd's neck had 18 previous complaints against him, police department says, Dakin Andone, Hollie Silverman and Melissa Alonso, May 28, 2020. The former Minneapolis police officer seen in a video with his knee on George Floyd's neck had 18 prior complaints filed against him with the Minneapolis Police Department's Internal Affairs, according to the police department.

It's unclear what the internal affairs complaints against the officer, Derek Chauvin, were for. MPD did not provide additional details.
Chauvin was fired this week, along with three other MPD officers who were present when Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck. Police have said they were responding to an alleged forgery at a corner store.

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was unarmed and handcuffed, pleaded that he could not breathe. He was soon after declared dead at a nearby hospital, according to authorities.

Floyd's death and video of the incident have sparked widespread anger, destructive protests and calls for the officers involved to face criminal charges.

Only two of the 18 complaints against Chauvin were "closed with discipline," according to a MPD internal affairs public summary. In both cases, the "discipline issued" column indicated that a letter of reprimand had been issued in response.

Chauvin was not the only officer on the scene that day with a history of complaints against him.

Former officer Tou Thao had six complaints filed with internal affairs, one of which was still open, according to the public summary released Thursday. The other five complaints had been closed without discipline.

The two other officers involved had no complaints filed against them, per MPD internal affairs.

CNN has reached out to attorneys representing the officers for comment.

Thao was also part of a 2017 excessive force lawsuit that was settled by the city of Minneapolis, according to a settlement obtained by CNN and an attorney for the plaintiff in the case.

The lawsuit was brought by Lamar Ferguson, who claimed in the suit that Thao and another officer subjected him to "cruel and unusual" punishment when they arrested him in October 2014. Sccording to the lawsuit, the officers used "unreasonable force," including "punches, kicks and knees to the face and body while Ferguson was defenseless and handcuffed." As a result, Ferguson suffered broken teeth, bruising and trauma, the lawsuit says.

The city would go on to pay Ferguson and his attorney $25,000 to settle the lawsuit on December 11, 2017. Both the city and the officers denied liability in the settlement, according to a 2017 statement from the city of Minneapolis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Breaking precedent, White House won’t release formal economic projections this summer, Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey, May 28, 2020. The forecasts would almost certainly codify an administration assessment that the pandemic has led to a severe economic downturn ahead of the election.

Budget experts said they were not aware of any previous White House opting against providing forecasts in this “mid-session review” document in any other year since at least the 1970s.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Researchers ponder why covid-19 appears more deadly in the U.S. and Europe than in Asia, Simon Denyer and Joel Achenbach​, May 28, 2020. Parts of Asia reacted quickly to the threat, but researchers are also examining other factors, including differences in genetics and immune system responses, separate virus strains and regional contrasts in obesity levels and general health.

China, where the virus emerged late last year in Wuhan, has recorded fewer than 5,000 deaths, which translates to three deaths per million inhabitants. Japan has around seven per million, Pakistan six, South Korea and Indonesia five, India three and Thailand fewer than one per million. Vietnam, Cambodia and Mongolia say they have recorded zero covid-19-related deaths.

european union logo rectangleCompare that with about 100 deaths per million in Germany, about 180 in Canada, nearly 300 in the United States and more than 500 in Britain, Italy and Spain.

ny times logoNew York Times, China Officially Expands Power to Rein In Hong Kong, Despite Outcry, Keith Bradsher, May 28, 2020. Beijing ordered that a new law be written to suppress subversion, secession, terrorism and other acts that might threaten national security in Hong Kong.

The specifics of the legislation, to be hashed out in the coming weeks, will help determine the fate of Hong Kong. Early signals from Chinese authorities point to a crackdown once the law takes effect, which is expected by September.

China FlagChina officially has the broad power to quash unrest in Hong Kong, as the country’s legislature on Thursday nearly unanimously approved a plan to suppress subversion, secession, terrorism and seemingly any acts that might threaten national security in the semiautonomous city.

As Beijing hashes out the specifics of the national security legislation in the coming weeks, the final rules will help determine the fate of Hong Kong, including how much of the city’s autonomy will be preserved or how much Beijing will tighten its grip.

Early signals from Chinese authorities point to a crackdown once the law takes effect, which is expected by September.

Activist groups could be banned. Courts could impose long jail sentences for national security violations. China’s feared security agencies could operate openly in the city.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. to Expel Chinese Graduate Students With Ties to China’s Military Schools, Edward Wong and Julian E. Barnes, May 28, 2020. Many university officials say the government is paranoid, and that the United States will lose out.

The Trump administration plans to cancel the visas of thousands of Chinese graduate students and researchers in the United States who have direct ties to universities affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army, according to American officials with knowledge of the discussions.

The plan would be the first designed to bar the access of a category of Chinese students, who, over all, form the single largest foreign student population in the United States.

It portends possible further educational restrictions, and the Chinese government could retaliate by imposing its own visa or educational bans on Americans. The two nations have already engaged in rounds of retribution over policies involving trade, technology and media access, and relations are at their worst point in decades.

American officials are discussing ways to punish China for its passage of a new national security law intended to enable crackdowns in Hong Kong, but the plans to cancel student visas were under consideration before the crisis over the law, which was announced last week by Chinese officials. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the visa plans with President Trump on Tuesday in a White House meeting.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon prepares for Trump order to pull thousands more troops from Afghanistan, Dan Lamothe and Susannah George, May 28, 2020. U.S. officials expect the president to cut troop levels as he seeks to deliver on a promise to end America’s “forever wars.”

U.S. 2020 Elections / Politics

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 ny times logoNew York Times, Executive Order Is Expected to Curtail Protections for Social Media Companies, Maggie Haberman and Kate Conger, May 28, 2020. The move is almost certain to face a court challenge and signals the latest salvo by President Trump to crack twitter bird Customdown on online platforms.

The Trump administration is preparing an executive order intended to curtail the legal protections that shield social media companies from liability for what gets posted on their platforms, two senior administration officials said early Thursday.

facebook logoSuch an order, which officials said was still being drafted and was subject to change, would make it easier for federal regulators to argue that companies like Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter are suppressing free speech when they move to suspend users or delete posts, among other examples.

The move is almost certain to face a court challenge and is the latest salvo by President Trump in his repeated threats to crack down on online platforms. Twitter this week attached fact-checking notices to two of the president’s tweets after he made false claims about voter fraud, and Mr. Trump and his supporters have long accused social media companies of silencing conservative voices.

youtube logo CustomWhite House officials said the president would sign the order later Thursday, but they declined to comment on its content. A spokesman for Twitter declined to comment.

Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, online companies have broad immunity from liability for content created by their users.

But the draft of the executive order, which refers to what it calls “selective censoring,” would allow the Commerce Department to try to refocus how broadly Section 230 is applied, and to let the Federal Trade Commission bulk up a tool for reporting online bias.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Donald Trump isn’t the one with the leverage here, Bill Palmer, right, May 28, 2020. As is increasingly the case these bill palmer report logo headerbill palmerdays, Donald Trump is attempting to write checks he can’t cash when it comes to the threats he’s making.

He spent all of Wednesday threatening to punish Twitter, or even shut it down entirely, because the site dared to place a fact check warning on two of his false tweets.

Here’s the thing, though. On Wednesday night we saw Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey fire back at Trump, and that’s a good thing. But while watching the exchange play out between Trump and Jack, something occurred to me: they’re both using Jack’s platform to do it.

donald trump twitterYes, Trump has other ways of getting his message across, including television. But it’s long been clear that Trump considers Twitter to be his most effective communication tool. The fact that Trump had to use Twitter to threaten to shut down Twitter means that Trump isn’t the one with the leverage here.

Yes, Twitter will take a hit in the popularity department if Donald Trump stops using it as his main platform.

But Trump has more to lose.He’s on track to lose a presidential election, and he’ll end up indicted and put on criminal trial in New York if he loses. If Trump sees tweeting as one of his key campaign strategies, he’s not at all in a position to walk away from Twitter. Twitter might lose some traffic if this feud escalates, but Trump could lose everything.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cuomo presses Trump to spend big on infrastructure to ‘supercharge’ coronavirus recovery, Griff Witte, May 28, 2020 (print ed.). New York's governor said after a White House visit that the president “gets it,” but he slammed congressional Republicans for not wanting to inject additional money into states where finances have been pummeled by the virus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Anti-Trump super PAC launched by Republicans takes aim at McConnell, John Wagner, May 28, 2020. In a new ad, the Lincoln Project accuses the Senate majority leader of neglecting his home state, Kentucky, during his long tenure in Washington.

The Lincoln Project, a super PAC launched by veteran Republican operatives seeking to oust President Trump from office, has now trained its sights on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), accusing him in a new ad of neglecting his home state.

The 60-second spot accuses McConnell of enriching himself during his long tenure in Washington, dubbing him “Rich Mitch,” while noting Kentucky’s low rankings among states in job opportunity, education and health care.

george conway postThe Lincoln Project has a much smaller war chest than other independent groups going after Trump. But it is aiming to make the most of its unique position by directly antagonizing the president, who appears particularly piqued by the involvement of lawyer George T. Conway, right, who is married to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

While the group’s primary focus is Trump, it has also sought to needle other Republicans it accuses of enabling Trump’s presidency.

In a statement, George Conway cited McConnell’s moves to limit the scope of Trump’s impeachment trial, focused on the president’s conduct toward Ukraine, as among the motivations for targeting him.

“When he fixed the impeachment trial by blocking evidence of Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors, McConnell violated and abased the solemn oaths he took as a United States Senator,” Conway said. “Add in the fact that, as our ad shows, he’s managed to do much better for himself than for the people of Kentucky, and it becomes a no-brainer: McConnell has to go.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Larry Kramer, Author and Outspoken AIDS Activist, Dies at 84, Daniel Lewis, May 28, 2020 (print ed.). He sought to shock the country into dealing with AIDS as a public-health emergency and foresaw that it could kill millions regardless of sexual orientation.

Larry Kramer, the noted writer whose raucous, antagonistic campaign for an all-out response to the AIDS crisis helped shift national health policy in the 1980s and ’90s, died on Wednesday morning in Manhattan. He was 84.

His husband, David Webster, said the cause was pneumonia. Mr. Kramer had weathered illness for much of his adult life. Among other things he had been infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, contracted liver disease and underwent a successful liver transplant.

An author, essayist and playwright — notably hailed for his autobiographical 1985 play, “The Normal Heart” — Mr. Kramer had feet in both the world of letters and the public sphere. In 1981 he was a founder of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the first service organization for H.I.V.-positive people, though his fellow directors effectively kicked him out a year later for his aggressive approach. (He returned the compliment by calling them “a sad organization of sissies.”)

He was then a founder of a more militant group, Act Up (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), whose street actions demanding a speedup in AIDS drugs research and an end to discrimination against gay men and lesbians severely disrupted the operations of government offices, Wall Street and the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

“One of America’s most valuable troublemakers,” Susan Sontag called him.

Even some of the officials Mr. Kramer accused of “murder” and “genocide” recognized that his outbursts were part of a strategy to shock the country into dealing with AIDS as a public-health emergency.

The infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was one who got the message — after Mr. Kramer wrote an open letter published in The San Francisco Examiner in 1988 calling him a killer and “an incompetent idiot.”

“Once you got past the rhetoric,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview for this obituary, “you found that Larry Kramer made a lot of sense, and that he had a heart of gold.”

DOJ Probes Reporter After Barr Exposé

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Barr's DOJ demanded and received access to WMR editor's email / iPhone account, Wayne Wayne MadsenMadsen, left, May 28, 2020. On February 14, 2019, William Barr was sworn in as Attorney General, a position in which he has proceeded to act as Donald Trump's personal lawyer and hatchet man.

wayne madesen report logoA little over a month from Barr assuming his position, his Department of Justice issued a legal demand to Microsoft and Apple, approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, "for data related to your Email account."

On March 29, 2019, the same day Barr's Justice Department demanded from Microsoft and Apple access to this editor's Hotmail and iPhone data, WMR published a scathing article concerning Barr. Something in the article obviously triggered Barr into demanding access to Hotmail and Apple data, possibly to discover potential leakers in DOJ or the FBI.

U.S. Crime, Courts, Scandals

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s ‘Horrifying Lies’ About Lori Klausutis May Cross a Legal Line, Peter H. Schuck (emeritus professor of law at Yale and Darling Foundation visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, this semester), May 28, 2020. The president’s innuendo about the death of a congressional staffer in 2001 could lead to a costly court judgment against him.

President Trump and his minions relentlessly grind out despicable acts — gratuitous insults to war heroes, over 18,000 (and counting) false or misleading statements, many decisions courts have ruled illegal. But Mr. Trump’s wantonly cruel tweets about the tragic death in 2001 of Lori Klausutis are distinctive: They may constitute intentional torts for which a civil jury could award punitive damages against him.

Last week, Timothy Klausutis, Lori’s widower husband, wrote a remarkably restrained, poignant letter to Jack Dorsey, the head of Twitter, citing the pain that Mr. Trump’s “horrifying lies” about his wife’s death have caused him and the family, and asking Mr. Dorsey to remove Mr. Trump’s tweet.

Mr. Dorsey has refused, most likely because the 1996 Communications Decency Act probably protects him from defamation claims for publishing the words of another. However Twitter added a warning label to the president’s false tweets on Tuesday about mail-in ballots, the first time the service has taken such a step.

Mr. Trump’s first tort is called intentional infliction of emotional distress, which the courts developed precisely to condemn wanton cruelty to another person who suffers emotionally as a result. This tort, which is sometimes called “outrage,” readily applies to Mr. Trump’s tweets about Ms. Klausutis. They were intentional and reckless, and were “extreme and outrageous” without a scintilla of evidence to support them. And they caused severe emotional distress — the protracted, daily-felt grief described in Mr. Klausutis’s letter to Mr. Dorsey.

Although the tweets targeted Mr. Scarborough, his own infliction of emotional distress claim may be weaker than Mr. Klausutis’s.

Even so, Mr. Scarborough might succeed in a defamation suit against Mr. Trump for reputational harm. After all, the president’s innuendo that Mr. Scarborough may have murdered Lori Klausutis — presumably credible to the many Trump Twitter followers who subscribe to conspiracy theories — may seriously harm Mr. Scarborough’s reputation with them and others.

Mr. Trump, moreover, often aims his tweets to lead multiple news cycles affecting well beyond his Twitter followers. The president will surely argue that he has not actually accused anyone of murder and was merely “raising questions.” But courts have held that such calculated innuendo can constitute defamation, depending on the facts. This would be for a jury to decide.

Mr. Scarborough, as a public figure in his own right, must satisfy the Supreme Court’s demanding test for defamation liability in its landmark New York Times v. Sullivan decision.

Under this test — designed to free public debate from being unduly constrained by fear of legal liability — Mr. Scarborough must prove that Mr. Trump made his defamatory comment either with actual knowledge that it was false or with “reckless disregard” for whether it was true or false. But the president’s tweets about the Klausutis case probably satisfy this test. After all, he has not cited any evidence to support his calumny either before the tweets or in response to the backlash since then. If the jury found for Mr. Scarborough, it could require Mr. Trump to pay substantial punitive damages in addition to compensation for his reputational harm.

Under the court’s unanimous 1998 ruling in Paula Jones’s sexual harassment suit against President Bill Clinton, both of these lawsuits — by Mr. Klausutis and by Mr. Scarborough — could proceed against the president while he is still in office. Because his tweets reach followers nationwide, the lawsuits could probably be brought in any state. And since the subject of his tweets had nothing to do with his presidential responsibilities, he probably could not hide behind an assertion of executive privilege.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr appoints Texas prosecutor to review Obama officials’ ‘unmasking’ requests, Devlin Barrett, May 28, 2020. This is an offshoot of an investigation underway by the U.S. Attorney of Connecticut, who was tapped by Barr to investigate the origins of the 2016 election interference probe that has overshadowed Trump’s presidency.

Attorney General William P. Barr has appointed a U.S. attorney in Texas to scrutinize Obama-era officials who sought to identify anonymized names in government documents that turned out to be people connected to then-President-elect Trump, a Justice Department official said Wednesday.

In an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said the attorney general had tasked John Bash, the U.S. attorney in the Western District of Texas, to examine the practice of “unmasking,” which many Republicans charge was abused by the previous administration to unfairly target people close to Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. brings massive N. Korean sanctions case, targeting state-owned bank and former government officials, Spencer S. Hsu and Ellen Nakashima, May 28, 2020. The U.S. government has charged 28 North Korean and 5 Chinese individuals with facilitating more than $2.5 billion in illegal payments for Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile program while operating overseas in countries including China, Russia and Thailand.

In a 50-page federal indictment unsealed Thursday in Washington, D.C., the Justice Department accused the individuals of operating an illicit global financing network while affiliated with a branch of North Korea’s state-owned Foreign Trade Bank, in what officials called the largest ever North Korean sanctions violations case.

The FTB, North Korea’s primary foreign currency bank, opened covert branches in Thailand, Libya, Austria, Russia, Kuwait and China in a scheme that allegedly moved at least $2.5 billion through 250 front companies — money that transited the U.S. banking system — according to charging documents.

Those charged include two former FTB presidents, Ko Chol Man and Kim Song Ui; and Han Ki Song, who allegedly who operated FTB’s covert branch in Thailand and served as a member of North Korea’s primary intelligence agency, its Reconnaissance General Bureau.

The indictment is accompanied by forfeiture demands, and states the U.S. government has already quietly seized more than $63 million since 2015.

Pandemic Victims, Relief Oversight

washington post logoWashington Post, Administration initially allotted scarce covid-19 drug to some hospitals that didn’t need it, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, Lena H. Sun and Laurie McGinley, May 28, 2020. The first tranche of 607,000 vials of remdesivir was delivered in some cases to the wrong hospitals, to hospitals with no ICUs and therefore no eligible patients, and to facilities with no available refrigeration, according to nine current and former senior administration officials.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Live Virus Updates:U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll, Highest in World, Surpasses 100,000, Staff Reports, May 27, 2020. The milestone comes just months after the country’s first known case was confirmed, according to a New York Times tally; Scientists are revising the timeline of how the virus spread; Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said she would direct public school districts to share federal aid with private schools; The House held its first partly remote vote on Wednesday, using a new proxy voting system instituted for the pandemic.

betsy devos oThe death toll, far higher than in any other nation, exceeds the number of U.S. military combat fatalities in every conflict since the Korean War.

California reached at least 100,000 known infections. Scientists are revising their timelines of how the virus spread. Here’s the latest.

The toll exceeds the number of U.S. military combat fatalities in every conflict since the Korean War. It matches the toll in the United States of the 1968 flu pandemic, and it is approaching the 116,000 killed in another flu outbreak a decade before that.

The pandemic is on track to be the country’s deadliest public health disaster since the 1918 flu pandemic, in which about 675,000 Americans died.

The scene at Lake of Ozarks in Missouri over Memorial Day weekend this year (Twitter photo by @lawler50 via Reuters and the New York Times)

The scene at Lake of Ozarks in Missouri over Memorial Day weekend this year (Twitter photo by @lawler50 via Reuters and the New York Times)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says mask wearing is ‘politically correct.’ Biden calls him a ‘fool,’ Colby Itkowitz, May 27, 2020 (print ed.). Wearing a mask to slow the spread of the disease has become the latest casualty of Trump-era partisanship.

President Trump dismissed a mask-wearing reporter as being “politically correct” on Tuesday while the presumptive Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, called him a “fool” for mocking their use.

The president’s refusal to wear a face mask in public, defying recommendations from public health experts, has become a symbol for his supporters resisting stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus crisis. To wear one then is seen by some as being anti-Trump.

In early April, Trump announced new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that Americans wear face coverings in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus, reversing the administration’s earlier recommendations that masks weren’t necessary. The president was clear, however, that he would not be wearing a mask — even though “it may be good” advice.

• Washington Post, Critic’s Notebook: A single accessory can define the presidency, Robin Givhan

 Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, visit War Memorial Plaza in New Castle, Delaware on May 25, 2020 (Reuters photo by Carlos Barria).

Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, visit War Memorial Plaza in New Castle, Delaware on May 25, 2020 (Reuters photo by Carlos Barria).

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Ugly Even for Him’: Trump’s Media Allies Recoil at His Smear of MSNBC Host, Michael M. Grynbaum, Marc Tracy and Emily Cochrane, May 27, 2020. The Wall Street Journal, New York Post and Washington Examiner chastised the president for his unfounded attacks on Joe Scarborough.

Some of President Trump’s most stalwart media defenders broke ranks with him on Wednesday, aghast at his baseless smears against the MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, whom Mr. Trump has all but accused of killing a former staff member two decades ago despite a total lack of evidence.

The backlash even spread to the senior levels of Mr. Trump’s party on Capitol Hill, where the No. 3 House Republican, Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, said the president should drop the matter and focus on leading the country through the coronavirus pandemic. “I would urge him to stop it,” she told reporters, referring to the false allegations.

The vast majority of Republican officials have kept silent about the president’s Twitter barrage against Mr. Scarborough, and the most prominent conservative voices on Fox News, like Sean Hannity, let the subject go unmentioned on recent broadcasts.

ny times logoNew York Times, SpaceX Launch Live: Weather Delays Mission, Staff Reports, May 27, 2020. Weather problems led to a last-minute postponement of the launch of NASA’s astronauts.Weather conditions did not clear up in time for the SpaceX mission planned for Wednesday. The next opportunity to launch is Saturday afternoon.

With gray clouds above and choppy waves in the Atlantic, SpaceX called off a rocket launch for NASA that was to be the first to take American astronauts to orbit from American soil in nearly a decade.

The launch of two NASA astronauts on a rocket built by SpaceX, the rocket company started by billionaire Elon Musk, would mark the start of an era of human spaceflight that extends beyond national space agencies. For this launch, SpaceX was in charge, although in consultation with NASA officials.

NASA is the customer for this mission to take two astronauts, Robert L. Behnken and Douglas G. Hurley, to the International Space Station. But SpaceX could also start selling flights to orbit to other people, companies and even other nations, promising new possibilities of tourism, manufacturing and research while circling Earth.

Flying separately, President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence arrived from Washington to be at NASA’s space center to watch the launch.

Pandemic Victims, Oversight

ny times logoNew York Times, An ‘Avalanche of Evictions’ Could Be Bearing Down on America’s Renters, Sarah Mervosh, May 27, 2020. The economic downturn is shaping up to be particularly devastating for renters, who are more likely to be lower-income and work hourly jobs cut during the pandemic.

christi grimm hhs djt

washington post logoWashington Post, Top HHS watchdog being replaced by Trump says inspectors general must work free from political intrusion, Amy Goldstein, May 27, 2020 (print ed.). The chief watchdog for the Department of Health and Human Services, being replaced as part of President Trump’s purge of inspectors general, told lawmakers on Tuesday that freedom from political intrusion is “a key safeguard for the programs we oversee.”

Christi Grimm, shown above when the U.S. death total was nearly 35,000 smaller than on May 26, HHS’s principal deputy inspector general, spoke out for the first time since she was excoriated by the president for a report from her office that found “severe shortages” earlier this spring of supplies to help hospitals cope with the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Grimm defended that inquiry and its findings, telling members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that it was warranted, though she said the department has since addressed some of the problems it identified.

“Personally and professionally, I cannot let the idea of providing unpopular information drive decision-making in the work we do,” Grimm said, speaking calmly as the sole witness at a briefing conducted by videoconference. Calling independence “the cornerstone of what any office of inspector general does,” she said government watchdogs must “go right down the middle in providing facts and letting facts take us where they may.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Millions of Children Face ‘Dire’ Wait for Hunger Aid, Jason DeParle, May 27, 2020 (print ed.). Child hunger is soaring, but two months after Congress approved billions to replace school meals, only 15 percent of eligible children had received benefits.

As child hunger soars to levels without modern precedent, an emergency program Congress created two months ago has reached only a small fraction of the 30 million children it was intended to help.

The program, Pandemic-EBT, aims to compensate for the declining reach of school meals by placing their value on electronic cards that families can use in grocery stores. But collecting lunch lists from thousands of school districts, transferring them to often-outdated state computers and issuing specialized cards has proved much harder than envisioned, leaving millions of needy families waiting to buy food.

Congress approved the effort in mid-March as part of the Families First act, its first major coronavirus relief package. By May 15, only about 15 percent of eligible children had received benefits, according to an analysis by The New York Times. Just 12 states had started sending money, and Michigan and Rhode Island alone had finished.

The pace is accelerating, with millions of families expected to receive payments in the coming weeks. But 16 states still lack federal approval to begin the payments and Utah declined to participate, saying it did not have the administrative capacity to distribute the money. Many Southern states with high rates of child hunger have gotten a slow start.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘It’s the Death Towers’: How the Bronx Became New York’s Virus Hot Spot, Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, Winnie Hu and Lindsey Rogers Cook / Photographs by Gabriela Bhaskar, Updated May 27, 2020.  The city’s poorest borough has the highest rates of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Could more have been done?

washington post logoWashington Post, Price of remdesivir in drug firm’s hands despite U.S. funding, Christopher Rowland, May 27, 2020 (print ed.). Critics say the government deserves more credit for tens of millions in public money spent to develop the drug used to treat some coronavirus patients.

The drug that buoyed expectations for a coronavirus treatment and drew international attention for Gilead Sciences, remdesivir, started as a reject, an also-ran in the search for antiviral drugs. Its path to relevance didn’t begin until Robert Jordan plucked it from mothballs.

A Gilead scientist at the time, Jordan convinced the company seven years ago to let him assemble a library of 1,000 castoff molecules in a search for medicines to treat emerging viruses. Many viral illnesses threaten human health but don’t attract commercial interest because they lack potential for huge drug sales.

“I kept asking them, ‘Is this okay?’ ” said Jordan, who is now a vice president at a pharmaceutical start-up. “These don’t represent a commercial opportunity but a public health opportunity. Gilead gave me their blessing to do this on the side.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: There Are 3 Things We Have to Do to Get People Wearing Masks, Angela Duckworth, Lyle Ungar and Ezekiel J. Emanuel, May 27, 2020.  Persuasion works better than compulsion.

Hong Kong has so far reported a grand total of four coronavirus-related deaths, while New York City has reported over 20,000.

Here’s another striking comparison: Close to 99 percent of Hong Kong residents have been wearing masks, to prevent the wearer from spreading the virus, since early February. According to a mid-April Gallup poll, only a third of Americans say they always wear a mask or cloth face covering outside the home. Another third of us sometimes wear a mask in public, and a third never do.

Universal face mask adoption isn’t the only difference between Hong Kong and the United States, and it’s not a substitute for physical-distancing, hand-washing and other preventive practices. But masks — even just a scarf, bandanna or an old T-shirt and two rubber bands — are widely viewed as critical to stopping the transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Nevertheless, face-mask compliance on this side of the Pacific has been uneven. This is especially worrisome in closed, crowded spaces like subways and buses, grocery stores and offices where it’s not easy to maintain a distance of six feet from other people and avoid spontaneous coughs and sneezes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senior GOP senator says White House response on IG firings insufficient, Seung Min Kim, May 27, 2020 (print ed.). Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) says the White House counsel’s letter “failed” to meet the legal requirement of telling Congress the specific reasons for the firings of the inspectors general.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter labels Trump’s tweets with a fact check for the first time, Elizabeth Dwoskin​, May 27, 2020 (print ed.). The move was made in response to two recent tweets in which President Trump falsely claimed that mail-in ballots are fraudulent.

twitter bird CustomTwitter on Tuesday slapped a fact-check label on President Trump’s tweets for the first time, a response to long-standing criticism that the company is too hands-off when it comes to policing misinformation and falsehoods from world leaders.

The move, which escalates tensions between Washington and Silicon Valley in an election year, was made in response donald trump twitterto two Trump tweets over the past 24 hours. The tweets falsely claimed that mail-in ballots are fraudulent. Twitter’s label says, “Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” and redirects users to news articles about Trump’s unsubstantiated claim.

The tweets, said Twitter spokeswoman Katie Rosborough, “contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”

The label directs users to articles by CNN, The Washington Post and the Hill, along with selections from the articles and a page summarizing the findings of fact-checkers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump doubles down on conspiracy theory about woman’s death, ignoring grieving widower’s plea for peace, Toluse Olorunnipa, Elizabeth Dwoskin and John Wagner, May 27, 2020 (print ed.).  President Trump’s online stream of baseless allegations, misinformation and pseudoscience has intensified in recent weeks, sparking renewed calls for social media platforms to take action.

ny times logoWashington Post, Trump lashes out at social media companies after Twitter labels his tweets with fact checks, Elizabeth Dwoskin, May 27, 2020. President Trump alleged anti-conservative bias and threatened to "strongly regulate" social media "or close them down."

His attacks came a day after Twitter attached a label reading "Get the facts" to two of Trump's tweets that made unsubstantiated claims about voting by mail.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook hasn’t warned investors about illegal activity, including drug sales, whistleblowers allege, Nitasha Tiku, May 27, 2020. The new complaint to the SEC claims the social media company is aware of illegal activity on its platform and has failed to properly police it.

A consortium of Facebook insiders and critics filed a confidential whistleblower’s complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission late Tuesday, claiming the social media giant is aware of illegal activity on its platform, such as the sale of opioids, and has failed to properly police it.

facebook logoThe complaint, which was obtained by The Washington Post, includes dozens of pages of screenshots of opioids and other drugs for sale on Facebook and its photo-sharing site Instagram, with some having seemingly obvious tags such as “#buydrugsonline.” It also notes that Facebook has a pattern of taking down content when it is pointed out by media or activists, only to have it reappear later.

The filing is part of a campaign by the National Whistleblowers Center to hold Facebook accountable for unchecked criminal activity on its properties. By petitioning the SEC, the consortium is attempting to get around a bedrock law — Section 230 of the Communications and Decency Act — that exempts Internet companies from liability for the user-generated content on their platform.

Instead, the complaint focuses on federal securities law, arguing that Facebook’s failure to tell shareholders about the extent of illegal activity on its platform is a violation of its fiduciary duty. If Facebook alienates advertisers and has to shoulder the true cost of scrubbing criminals from its social networks, it could affect investors in the company, the complaint argues.

U.S. Police Brutality

George Floyd, left, and Derek Chauvin

washington post logoWashington Post, Four Minneapolis officers are fired after video shows one kneeling on neck of black man who later died, Brittany Shammas, Timothy Bella, Katie Mettler and Dalton Bennett, May 27, 2020 (print ed.). Four Minneapolis police officers were fired Tuesday, authorities said, amid protests and outrage after a viral video showed one of them, shown above at right, kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed black man who cried that he could not breathe and later died.

A bystander’s video of the incident on the city’s south side captured George Floyd, shown above at left in a file photo, telling the officers “I cannot breathe” as he is pinned to the ground, and as an increasingly distraught crowd of onlookers pleads with the officer to move his knee.

The officers involved in the incident have not been identified, but Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (D) announced Tuesday afternoon that they had been terminated.

“It is the right decision for our city, the right decision for our community. It is the right decision for the Minneapolis Police Department,” Frey said at a news conference with Police Chief Medaria Arradondo. “We’ve stated our values, and ultimately we need to live by them.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Another unarmed black man has died at the hands of police. When will it end? Editorial Board, May 27, 2020 (print ed.). In Minneapolis on Monday evening, a white officer bore down with his knee on the neck of a handcuffed black man who lay sprawled on the street, rasping, “I cannot breathe” and “Don’t kill me.” The man died a short time after.

The suspect, George Floyd, was in his 40s. He was arrested when officers responded to what they called a suspected “forgery in progress.” They said the man appeared to be intoxicated and that he resisted arrest, though no evidence has been presented for either assertion.

There is plain evidence of what came next, however, from a video recorded by someone in a group of witnesses who stood a few feet away. In it, the white officer appears impassive, almost bored, as the suspect gasps for breath. He is unmoved as witnesses curse and plead with him to get off the suspect’s neck, as they warn that the man’s nose is bleeding, that he can’t breathe, that he isn’t resisting. Nor does the officer relent when an ambulance medic arrives and checks the man’s neck for a pulse.

When, finally, the officer lifts his knee, the man appears to have lost consciousness as he is dragged onto a stretcher.

On Tuesday, that officer and three others were fired. Now the FBI is investigating the incident. Now the outrage and condemnation are erupting in social media. It is all painfully familiar.

Police killed 1,099 people last year in the United States, according to Mapping Police Violence. Black Americans represented 24 percent of those who died, nearly twice their proportion of the population.

U.S. 2020 Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial Board, Republicans Tried to Suppress the Vote in Florida. And Failed, Editorial Board, May 27, 2020 (print ed.). Voters overwhelmingly wanted to restore former felons’ voting rights.

Who gets to cast a ballot in Florida, the nation’s largest swing state, could well determine who will be the next leader of the country, and in the middle of the biggest global crisis in generations.

With stakes this high, literally every vote matters. That’s why a ruling on Sunday by a federal judge in Tallahassee is so important.

The opinion, by Judge Robert L. Hinkle of U.S. District Court, is 125 pages long, but nearly everything you need to know is summed up in its opening sentence: “The State of Florida has adopted a system under which nearly a million otherwise-eligible citizens will be allowed to vote only if they pay an amount of money.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Mike Pompeo Is the Worst Secretary of State Ever, Thomas L. Friedman, May 27, 2020 (print ed.). Where’s mike pompeo portraitthe Republican uproar over what’s gone on under his watch?

If you thought the volume on the Trump-Twitter-Fox noise distraction machine was turned up extra loud in the past few weeks, it was not only to deflect attention from the nearly 100,000 Americans who’ve died from Covid-19, but also from the confirmation that on President Trump’s watch our country suffered the first deadly terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 that was planned abroad.

You read that right. Last week, Attorney General William Barr and the F.B.I. said that data from cellphones of a Saudi Air Force trainee who killed three U.S. sailors and wounded eight others at a Navy air base in Pensacola, Fla., on Dec. 6 confirmed that it was an act of foreign-planned “terrorism.”

The phone data “definitively establishes” that the trainee, Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, had “significant ties to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — not only before the attack, but before he even arrived in the United States” in August 2017. He had actually joined the Saudi military to carry out a “special operation.”

That Alshamrani was able to kill three sailors at an American base was a massive failure of U.S. and Saudi intelligence. I mean, who should be getting more scrutinized before they come train in the U.S. on an air base than Saudi pilots?

washington post logoPresident Donald Trump officialWashington Post, Trump wants to know ‘within a week’ whether North Carolina can hold August convention amid pandemic, Annie Linskey, May 27, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump said Tuesday that he needs a guarantee from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper “within a week” that the state can hold a large in-person convention amid the coronavirus pandemic or he will move the gathering elsewhere.

Trump ramped up his ultimatum to the Democratic governor and threatened to break the Republican National Committee’s contract with Charlotte as two Republican governors seized on Trump’s moves to offer their states as alternative venues.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s bullying cannot disguise his weakness, Jennifer Rubin, right, May 27, 2020. The flap over the jennifer rubin new headshotRepublican National Convention has all the markings of a self-made scandal.

President Trump, evidencing zero concern for the health of his fellow Republicans, first responders or Charlotte residents, has insisted that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) guarantee him he can have a full convention there in August. It would be impossible and irresponsible to speculate as to conditions more than two months from now. Trump, Roy Cooper 2019nevertheless, threw in a one-week deadline.

Do we know why Trump even started this? Maybe he knows the convention cannot go forward and hoped to shift blame to a Democratic governor. (If that was his intent, it backfired, and the president now has multiple, reckless Republican governors offering to have a convention involving crowds of thousands of people — many of whom refuse to wear masks.)

Alternatively, maybe Trump wanted to create a fight with a Democratic governor (so many have outshone and out-polled him of late), rnc logodisregarding that Cooper is hugely popular and that North Carolina is a swing state.

Should Trump actually pull the convention and set up a pandemic hot spot in another state, he will manage to insult both North Carolinians (those upset he left) and residents of the new state (who don’t want the danger and costs associated with a convention as they are fighting a pandemic).

Politico, Trump's 2016 campaign brass warns he's in trouble in 2020, Alex Isenstadt, Updated May 27, 2020. Corey politico CustomLewandowski and David Bossie told the president he's down in swing states, prompting campaign chiefs in Arizona and Florida to travel to D.C.

David Bossie and Corey Lewandowski, two key allies and former political advisers to Donald Trump, went to the White House last week to issue him a warning: The president was slipping badly in swing states, and he needed to do something to fix it.

Three days later, the Trump campaign’s political directors in Arizona and Florida — states the president won in 2016 but where surveys show him lagging — were summoned to the White House Roosevelt Room. The officials offered a detailed rundown of his organization in the battlegrounds and tried to reassure the president that he was on firm ground.

After his May 18 meeting with Bossie and Lewandowski, Trump called his top campaign lieutenants to vent his frustration about his political standing.

Bossie and Lewandowski, who served as top aides on Trump’s 2016 effort, complained to the president about his political operation. Trump’s campaign team, in response decided to rush their Arizona and Florida representatives onto airplanes for a Thursday meeting with the president.

Republicans involved with setting up the Thursday meeting with Trump's state directors said they were taken aback by Bossie and Lewandowski’s warning. They felt the need to mollify Trump, who has been kept abreast of his reelection effort but hasn’t always been aware of the granular, on-the-ground details.

On Tuesday, the campaign announced that it was promoting former White House political director Bill Stepien to deputy campaign manager. The move was described as an attempt to provide additional support to campaign manager Brad Parscale, though some in the White House viewed it as a check on Parscale.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s house of cards is falling apart in real time, Bill Palmer, May 27, 2020.  Donald Trump is currently on track to lose badly in November, but does he know it?

bill palmer report logo headerThat’s the gist of a surreal new Politico report, which reveals that some of Donald Trump’s top 2016 campaign advisers spent the past week trying to convince him of just how badly he’s losing in swing states, even as Trump’s top 2020 campaign advisers have tried to convince him that he’s doing just fine in those states. Why the discrepancy?

Our guess is that Trump’s 2016 campaign advisers are trying to take over the 2020 campaign by making Trump realize that his 2020 advisers are running a sham of a campaign. And why wouldn’t they want in on the action? Trump’s 2020 campaign is a sham, with widespread reporting that his top advisers are paying themselves handsomely while producing terrible results.

democratic donkey logoRoll Call, Ratings update: Democrats more likely to boost majority than lose it, Nathan L. Gonzales, May 27, 2020. Battlefield shrinking, as some who flipped Trump districts now look safer. The battlefield for control of the House is shrinking and divided, and that’s bad news for Republicans. Indeed, Democrats at this point in the cycle look more likely to gain seats than to lose their majority.

World News

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washington post logoWashington Post, $825 billion rescue plan would expand power of E.U., Michael Birnbaum and Loveday Morris, May 27, 2020. The proposal to allow Brussels to raise and distribute money for the first time is a step toward a more federal European Union that was made possible by a change of heart in Germany, which has long opposed such centralization.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The Cummings scandal shows the gap between the U.S. and U.K., Ishaan Tharoor, May 27, 2020. A scandal rocking Britain would ruffle few feathers in President Trump’s America.

dominic cummings file CustomBritain is agog over the Dominic Cummings saga. According to reports in the Guardian and the Daily Mirror published Friday, the special adviser, right, to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in late March defied the lockdowns that United Kingdom flagJohnson’s government had imposed on the country and carried out a 260-mile family road trip while both he and his wife had symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

The news sparked a severe backlash, with figures even within the ruling Conservative Party decrying Cummings’s behavior at a time when countless Britons were themselves unable to leave quarantine. Johnson has stood by his adviser.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hong Kong protesters defy police crackdown to resist China’s tightening grip, Shibani Mahtani, May 27, 2020.  Beijing’s allies in the financial hub are pushing through a measure Wednesday that would make it a crime to disrespect the Chinese national anthem.

More On Virus Victims

ny times logoNew York Times, DeVos Demands Public Schools Share Pandemic Aid With Private Institutions, Erica L. Green, May 27, 2020. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, defiant amid criticism that she is using the coronavirus to pursue a long-sought agenda, said she would force public school districts to spend a large portion of federal rescue funding on private school students, regardless of income.

Ms. DeVos announced the measure in a letter to the Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents state education chiefs, defending her position on how education funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, should be spent.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says she will force public school superintendents to share coronavirus rescue funds with private schools.

A range of education officials say Ms. DeVos’s guidance would divert millions of dollars from disadvantaged students and force districts starved of tax revenues during an economic crisis to support even the wealthiest private schools. The association representing the nation’s schools superintendents told districts to ignore the guidance, and at least two states — Indiana and Maine — said they would.

Ms. DeVos accused the state education chiefs of having a “reflex to share as little as possible with students and teachers outside of their control,” and said she would draft a rule codifying her position to “resolve any issues in plenty of time for the next school year.” The proposed rule would need to go through a public comment process before it could take effect.

Private school leaders​​​, who serve about 5.7 million of the nation’s children, say they, too, are in crisis. Enrollment and tuition revenues are plunging along with philanthropic donations and church collections that help some religious schools operate. Many of those schools serve low-income students whose parents have fled failing public schools. Private school groups say 30 percent of ​the​ families​ they serve have​ annual incomes below $75,000, and those families are most at-risk without federal aid. ​

washington post logoWashington Post, A third of Americans show signs of clinical anxiety or depression, Census Bureau finds, Alyssa Fowers and William Wan, May 27, 2020 (print ed.). A third of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression, Census Bureau data shows, the most definitive and alarming sign yet of the psychological toll exacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

When asked questions normally used to screen patients for mental health problems, 24 percent showed clinically significant symptoms of major depressive disorder and 30 percent showed symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.

The findings suggest a huge jump from before the pandemic. For example, on one question about depressed mood, the percentage reporting such symptoms was double that found in a 2014 national survey.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live U.S. Virus Updates: Many Americans have delayed medical care during pandemic, poll finds, Staff reports, May 27, 2020. In wake of GOP lawsuit, House leaders continue to spar over proxy voting.

U.S. NASA-SpaceX Launch

ny times logoNew York Times, Meet Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, SpaceX’s First NASA Astronauts, Kenneth Chang, May 27, 2020 (print ed.). They’re best friends and veterans of the astronaut corps, and each is married to another astronaut.

ny times logoWashington Post, Weather forecast for historic SpaceX launch of NASA astronauts worsens, Jason Samenow, May 27, 2020.  There's an increasing risk of thunderstorms, which could postpone the first human launch to orbit from U.S. soil in nearly a decade.

American astronauts will launch into space from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade Wednesday. That is, if weather permits. The chance of thunderstorms that could scrub the planned launch of NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station has increased since Tuesday, from 40 to 50 percent.

May 26

Top Stories

Pandemic Victims, Oversight

U.S. 2020 Elections / Politics

World News

U.S. Crime, Courts, TV

Top Stories

The scene at Lake of Ozarks in Missouri over Memorial Day weekend this year (Twitter photo by @lawler50 via Reuters and the New York Times)

The scene at Lake of Ozarks in Missouri over Memorial Day weekend this year (Twitter photo by @lawler50 via Reuters and the New York Times)

 Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, visit War Memorial Plaza in New Castle, Delaware on May 25, 2020 (Reuters photo by Carlos Barria).

Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, visit War Memorial Plaza in New Castle, Delaware on May 25, 2020 (Reuters photo by Carlos Barria). The visit marked the candidate's first public appearance outside his home since early March as he complied with his state's stay-at-home public health requirements. Biden also won primaries in Hawaii and Oregon, with 62 delegates in total compared to 23 for his now-withdrawn rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders.

ny times logoNew York Times, Joe Biden, Wearing Mask, Attends Veterans Memorial, Katie Glueck, May 26, 2020 (print ed.). The presumptive Democratic nominee made a public appearance for the first time since mid-March, after campaigning from home for over two months.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, visit War Memorial Plaza in New Castle, Delaware on May 25, 2020 (Reuters photo by Carlos Barria).Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has been campaigning from his home for more than two months amid the coronavirus crisis, on Monday made his first public appearance since mid-March for a Memorial Day visit to a veterans memorial in Delaware.

He and his wife, Jill Biden, wearing black masks, right, laid a wreath in a visit that was not publicly announced before the trip. Mr. Biden, a practicing Catholic, made the sign of the cross.

“Thanks for your service,” Mr. Biden said, appearing to salute another individual from afar, as he walked out.

Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, cut a sharp visual contrast with President Trump, who has generally declined to wear a mask in public despite federal health guidance, including at a memorial service on Monday.

The Bidens’ late son, Beau Biden, served in the Iraq war. He died of brain cancer five years ago this week.

The visit comes as some Democrats, including some close allies, have grown impatient to see Mr. Biden leave his Wilmington, Del., home and find ways to connect publicly, even in the era of social distancing. Mr. Biden’s campaign did not immediately have a comment when asked whether his Memorial Day outing signaled the beginning of more public appearances.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘An international example of bad judgment’: Local officials stunned by raucous Memorial Day festivities, Meagan Flynn, May 26, 2020. A pandemic couldn't stop America from celebrating the holiday weekend, which included pool parties, thousands of spectators at a racetrack and a dance party in the streets of Daytona Beach.

A pandemic couldn’t cancel America’s most crowded parties this Memorial Day weekend, even as the novel coronavirus took at least 2,000 more American lives.

At a flashy club in Houston, dozens splashed around the pool and sipped on drinks on the patio. In rural North Carolina, thousands packed the stands shoulder to shoulder at Ace Speedway on its opening night, where face masks were the exception. And in Daytona Beach, Fla., even after an event called “Orlando Invades Daytona” was canceled, hundreds still danced in the street and on top of cars near the boardwalk.

“It looks like there are two people out the sunroof throwing money,” the seemingly perplexed pilot of a police helicopter said over his radio, flying over the wild scene near the beach to get a closer look. “They’re clearly throwing cash at the crowd.”

The raucous events across the country over the holiday weekend led some local officials to sound the alarm Monday, warning that consequences could be dire if such behavior continued unchecked.

Some, like Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D), vowed to crack down on businesses failing to enforce capacity restrictions. Turner chastised the clubbers who may end up exposing responsible people “who chose to do the right thing” by staying home. In Missouri, viral images of pool parties at waterfront bars and yacht clubs in the Lake of the Ozarks even led St. Louis County officials to issue a travel advisory, calling the scenes an “international example of bad judgment.”

The weekend’s crowded festivities could presage the challenges local officials may face this summer as governors gradually roll back restrictions and residents flood reopened businesses. In areas that no longer have enforceable executive orders, authorities insist there is little they can do to require people to practice social distancing. The mayor of Osage Beach, Mo., where the viral pool parties took place, said he views it as essential that his town’s tourist-dependent businesses reopen, while police there said they couldn’t enforce any restrictions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Some States Show Uptick in Cases, as National Picture Improves, Staff reports, May 26, 2020. States that reopened earlier — or never fully shut down — are among those showing signs of further spread. The New York Stock Exchange’s trading floor reopened, and the S&P 500 rose more than 2 percent in early trading. A U.S. official resigned after he was sidelined as the head of a watchdog panel overseeing the spending of relief money. Here’s the latest.

About a dozen states are seeing an uptick in new coronavirus cases, bucking the national trend of staying steady or seeing decreases — and at least half of the states seeing more infections were part of an early wave of reopenings in late April or early May.

Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee are among the states that have had recent growth in newly reported new cases, several weeks after moving to reopen. Arkansas, North Dakota and Oklahoma, which did not have statewide stay-at-home orders in place but began reopening businesses, are also reporting an uptick in new cases.

The Washington D.C., region, which has been locked down for weeks, also saw a jump in new cases as the city approaches a planned reopening on Friday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Meat shortages could worsen as coronavirus infections multiply at U.S. processing plants, Staff reports, May 26, 2020. Member of Boris Johnson’s government resigns over Dominic Cummings scandal; Even experts struggle with coronavirus unknowns.

For many Americans, Memorial Day marks the start of barbecue season. But the ripple effects of the coronavirus pandemic are likely to cause meat shortages to worsen as the virus spreads through America’s meatpacking plants. Even though the industry has introduced new safety measures, coronavirus infections at three of the nation’s largest meat processors have quadrupled over the past month.

Similar concerns are mounting in Europe, where outbreaks have been linked to slaughterhouses and processing plants in Spain, Germany, Ireland and Britain.

Pandemic Victims, Oversight

ny times logoNew York Times, Wealthiest U.S. Hospitals Got Billions in Bailout for Struggling Health Providers, Jesse Drucker, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Sarah Kliff, Updated May 26, 2020 (print ed.). Twenty large chains received more than $5 billion in federal grants even while sitting on more than $100 billion in cash.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Meat Plants Reopen, Companies Won’t Say How Many Workers Are Sick, Michael Corkery, David Yaffe-Bellany and Derek Kravitz, May 26, 2020 (print ed.). Local officials got conflicting signals from state leaders and companies about how much information to release on outbreaks in plants, emails show.

As dozens of plants begin reopening, meat companies’ reluctance to disclose detailed case counts makes it difficult to tell whether the virus is contained.

The Smithfield Foods plant in Tar Heel, N.C., is one of the world’s largest pork processing facilities, employing about 4,500 people and slaughtering roughly 30,000 pigs a day at its peak.

And like more than 100 other meat plants across the United States, the facility has seen a substantial number of coronavirus cases. But the exact number of workers in Tar Heel who have tested positive is anyone’s guess.

Smithfield would not provide any data when asked about the number of illnesses at the plant. Neither would state or local health officials.

“There has been a stigma associated with the virus,” said Teresa Duncan, the director of the health department in Bladen County, where the plant is located. “So we’re trying to protect privacy.”

Along with nursing homes and prisons, meatpacking facilities have proven to be places where the virus spreads rapidly. But as dozens of plants that closed because of outbreaks begin reopening, meat companies’ reluctance to disclose detailed case counts makes it difficult to tell whether the contagion is contained or new cases are emerging even with new safety measures in place. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were nearly 5,000 meatpacking workers infected with the virus as of the end of last month. But the nonprofit group Food & Environment Reporting Network estimated last week that the number has climbed to more than 17,000. There have been 66 meatpacking deaths, the group said.

And the outbreaks may be even more extensive.

For weeks, local officials received conflicting signals from state leaders and meatpacking companies about how much information to release, according to internal emails from government health agencies obtained through public records requests by Columbia University’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation and provided to The New York Times. The mixed messages left many workers and their communities in the dark about the extent of the spread in parts of Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado.

U.S. 2020 Elections / Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, What Biden and Trump Could Learn from Obama, McCain and 2008, Adam Nagourney, May 26, 2020. Barack Obama and John McCain were rocked by a national emergency during the 2008 campaign. There are lessons there for Joe Biden and President Trump.

djt hands up mouth open CustomWith its staggering death toll, surging unemployment and economic devastation, the Covid-19 crisis confronting the nation today is far more cataclysmic than the 2008 meltdown.

But Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain faced a series of choices — on leadership, empathy and tone, on executing political strategy and navigating fast-moving events on Wall Street, Main Street and Washington — that are relevant and even illuminating as President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. try to navigate another campaign playing out against the backdrop of a national emergency.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: In Praise of Fallible Leaders, Paul Krugman, right, May 26, 2020 (print ed.). We need a president who can admit it paul krugmanwhen he’s wrong.

Last week Joe Biden made an off-the-cuff joke that could be interpreted as taking African-American votes for granted. It wasn’t a big deal — Biden, who loyally served Barack Obama, has long had a strong affinity with black voters, and he has made a point of issuing policy proposals aimed at narrowing racial health and wealth gaps. Still, Biden apologized.

And in so doing he made a powerful case for choosing him over Donald Trump in November. You see, Biden, unlike Trump, is capable of admitting error.

Everybody makes mistakes, and nobody likes admitting having been wrong. But facing up to past mistakes is a crucial aspect of leadership.

Trump’s pathological inability to admit error — and yes, it really does rise to the level of pathology — has been obvious for years, and has had serious consequences. For example, it has made him an easy mark for foreign dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, who know they can safely renege on whatever promises Trump thought they made. After all, for him to condemn Kim’s actions would mean admitting he was wrong to claim he had achieved a diplomatic breakthrough.

But it took a pandemic to show just how much damage a leader with an infallibility complex can inflict. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that Trump’s inability to acknowledge error has killed thousands of Americans. And it looks likely to kill many more before this is over.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Beware of the new Trump-Rove alliance, Wayne Madsen, May 26, 2020. George W. Bush political wayne madesen report logoKarl Rovedirty tricks and battleground state election rigging mastermind Karl Rove has been enlisted by the White House and the Trump re-election campaign to assist in a strategy to overcome presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's consistent lead in the polls.

Rove, who, in 2016, called Trump a "complete idiot" and "graceless and divisive," only to later meet with Trump at casino tycoon Steve Wynn's home in Manhattan, has been in regular contact with Trump presidential adviser Jared Kushner and Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale. 

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump sure doesn’t want this, Bill Palmer, May 26, 2020. Donald Trump spent the weekend playing golf while he was supposed to be managing a pandemic, complaining about the widespread criticism he’s receiving for playing golf, and complaining that he had to go a couple months without playing golf. Trump had so little interest in yesterday’s Memorial Day ceremonies, he showed up severely late, and made clear with his body language and tone of voice that he didn’t want to be there.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump doesn’t want any of this. He doesn’t want to be President anymore. He arguably never did. He certainly never wanted to put in the work required, which is why he’s only ever done the absolute bare minimum that he thought he could get away with. Sure, he likes the power, the control, the ability to bully people, the opportunity to embezzle government money. But Trump clearly does not want to be President.

So why doesn’t he just announce that his first term has been such a tremendous success, he doesn’t need a second term? The short answer is that he can’t. The minute he’s no longer President, he gets indicted and arrested. Even if he manages to weasel himself out of the federal charges, he’s definitely going down on the far more straightforward state charges – which he can’t even try to pardon himself on.

That said, at this point even Trump seems to understand that he’s likely to lose his reelection bid. So why not offer to resign, or not to seek reelection, as part of some kind of plea deal? It’s the only play he has left. Of course it may be too early for that. Trump still has to hold out hope that as the election grows closer, he’ll get lucky and find himself in contention. But if and when that doesn’t happen, is Trump really willing to bet his life on his slim reelection odds? Even if he wins, he sure doesn’t want to be doing this job anymore. It’s a prison sentence for him either way.

djt mistake refusal cnn april 13 2020 Custom

New York Post, Trump threatens to move Republican National Convention out of North Carolina, Mark Moore, May 26, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump (shown above in a file photo) pressed the Democratic governor of North Carolina on Monday to “guarantee” that he will allow “full capacity” at this summer’s Republican National Convention, dangling the economic blow Charlotte would take if the event were held elsewhere.

rnc logo“I love the Great State of North Carolina, so much so that I insisted on having the Republican National Convention in Charlotte at the end of August. Unfortunately, Democrat Governor, @RoyCooperNC is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed full attendance in the Arena,” the president wrote on Twitter.

djt maga hatTrump said Republicans “must be immediately given an answer by the Governor as to whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied. If not, we will be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site.”

“This is not something I want to do. Thank you, and I LOVE the people of North Carolina!,” Trump continued.

He said the RNC would spend millions of dollars “building the Arena to a very high standard without even knowing if the Democrat Governor would allow the Republican Party to fully occupy the space. Plans are being made by many thousands of enthusiastic Republicans, and others, to head to beautiful North Carolina in August.”

Roy Cooper 2019Cooper’s office put out a statement saying state health officials “are working with the RNC and will review its plans as they make decisions about how to hold the convention in Charlotte.” Roy Cooper is shown in a file photo.

“North Carolina is relying on data and science to protect our state’s public health and safety,” it said.

North Carolina, which has more than 22,000 coronavirus cases, entered Phase 2 of its reopening plan on Friday, with Governor Roy Cooper describing it as a “modest” approach.

Cooper’s executive order replaced the stay-at-home orders with “safer-at-home” guidelines, The Charlotte News and Observer reported.

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Biden wins AFL-CIO endorsement as organized labor targets working-class voters, Sean Sullivan, May 26, 2020. Labor leaders have vowed to try to draw back to the Democratic fold voters who switched in 2016 to Donald Trump.

joe biden 2020 button CustomThe AFL-CIO, the country’s largest coalition of labor unions, endorsed Joe Biden for president Tuesday, with the organization’s top official vowing to wage an aggressive effort to help him defeat President Trump by reaching out to working-class voters.

Union officials cemented their support for the former vice president in a vote of the organization’s general board, joining a long roster of influential labor groups backing the presumptive Democratic nominee. In an interview with The Washington Post, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said his group will be “playing hard” in about a dozen battleground states where it plans to urge members to support his candidacy.

Minnesota Star Tribune, Rep. Ilhan Omar says she believes Tara Reade's sex assault claims against former Vice President Joe Biden, Kevin Diaz, May 26, 2020 (print ed.). First-term U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, who won the DFL Party endorsement this weekend in her re-election bid, told the Sunday Times of London that she believes Tara Reade, a former U.S. Senate staffer who has leveled sexual assault allegations against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

ilhan omar o“I do believe Reade,” Omar, right, told the newspaper in an interview that ran Sunday, the same day she won the DFL endorsement. “Justice can be delayed but should never be denied.”

In a subsequent tweet on Monday, Omar said “believing survivors is consistent with my values,” but added she will still vote for Biden and help him defeat President Donald Trump.

The former vice president has flatly denied Reade’s claims, which have grown in different interviews she has given to journalists. Her original accounts of an incident she said took place at the U.S. Capitol in the early 1990s did not include an allegation of sexual assault.

Omar also told the Times that if it were up to her, Biden wouldn’t be the Democratic presidential nominee. Omar was a prominent supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has suspended his presidential campaign and thrown his support behind Biden. Another prominent Sanders supporter in the Minnesota DFL, Attorney General Keith Ellison, has yet to publicly endorse Biden.

antone melton meaux CustomOmar won the DFL endorsement in a single round of balloting Sunday with 65% of the party vote. Her main challenger, attorney and mediator Antone Melton-Meaux, left, received nearly 31%.

Melton-Meaux, criticizing Omar’s penchant for controversy, has vowed to continue his challenge in the Aug. 11 Democratic primary.

“Ilhan Omar’s insistence on propping up a serious allegation without evidence against our presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is not only wrongheaded but dangerous,” Melton-Meaux said in a statement Monday. “Casually promoting right wing attacks to smear Vice President Biden because he’s not your preferred kind of Democrat shows that Rep. Omar does not take seriously the stakes of this election.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Why we must win decisively, Robert Harrington, May 26, 2020. A recent Stanford University study revealed that voting by mail provides no partisan advantage.

Whether voting by mail is bad for Republicans or not, there is a real danger in voting by mail that may prove complicated for Democrats. Imagine a scenario where, come election night, the presidential race is too close to call. It would be necessary, then, for election officials to await the result of mail-in ballots in order to decide the race. Such a delay could mean the final outcome may not be known for days after the election.

bill palmer report logo headerIf Joe Biden were to win the election under such circumstances, the months that Donald Trump spent undermining confidence in vote by mail will come home to roost. It is impossible to imagine Trump accepting defeat at the hands of mail in ballots. It is easy to imagine that he and his followers will make considerable trouble over it for everyone.

Many people who favor a third party candidate, or are bitter because Bernie Sanders lost, who wonder why voting for Biden is necessary, may now have another reason to think about. Anything short of a decisive Biden win in November is going to make trouble for everyone.

Not only will Trump’s defeat be bitterly disputed by the dregs of his ignominious supporters, it will become a battleground they will continue to contend over for years and even decades afterward, not unlike what was done in the American Civil War. The closer the race, the more trouble it will make for us down the road.

This is why a victory alone, while good, is not our best path. We must not merely win in November, ours must be a crushing win, a death blow, a victory so complete as to put to rest forever the idea that Americans will tolerate another Donald Trump. Not only must we be rid of Trump, we must be rid, to whatever extent it’s possible, of any future dialog about Trump.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump sure doesn’t want this, Bill Palmer, May 26, 2020. Donald Trump spent the weekend playing golf while he was supposed to be managing a pandemic, complaining about the widespread criticism he’s receiving for playing golf, and complaining that he had to go a couple months without playing golf. Trump had so little interest in yesterday’s Memorial Day ceremonies, he showed up severely late, and made clear with his body language and tone of voice that he didn’t want to be there.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump doesn’t want any of this. He doesn’t want to be President anymore. He arguably never did. He certainly never wanted to put in the work required, which is why he’s only ever done the absolute bare minimum that he thought he could get away with. Sure, he likes the power, the control, the ability to bully people, the opportunity to embezzle government money. But Trump clearly does not want to be President.

djt prison palmer reportSo why doesn’t he just announce that his first term has been such a tremendous success, he doesn’t need a second term? The short answer is that he can’t. The minute he’s no longer President, he gets indicted and arrested. Even if he manages to weasel himself out of the federal charges, he’s definitely going down on the far more straightforward state charges – which he can’t even try to pardon himself on.

That said, at this point even Trump seems to understand that he’s likely to lose his reelection bid. So why not offer to resign, or not to seek reelection, as part of some kind of plea deal? It’s the only play he has left.

Of course it may be too early for that. Trump still has to hold out hope that as the election grows closer, he’ll get lucky and find himself in contention. But if and when that doesn’t happen, is Trump really willing to bet his life on his slim reelection odds? Even if he wins, he sure doesn’t want to be doing this job anymore. It’s a prison sentence for him either way.

World News

Associated Press, Sweden steadfast in strategy as virus toll continues rising, David Keyton, May 26, 2020. Sweden's government defended its response to the COVID-19 global pandemic on Tuesday despite the Scandinavian country now reporting one of the highest mortality rates in the world with 4,125 fatalities, or about 40 deaths per 100,000 people.

“Transmission is slowing down, the treatment of COVID-19 patients in intensive care is decreasing significantly, and the rising death toll curve has been flattened,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde told foreign correspondents at a briefing in Stockholm. “There is no full lockdown of Sweden, but many parts of the Swedish society have shut down.”

More than 76,000 people have been made redundant since the outbreak of the disease and unemployment, which now stands at 7.9%, is expected to climb higher.

sweden flagSweden took a relatively soft approach to fighting the coronavirus, one that attracted international attention. Large gatherings were banned, but restaurants and schools for younger children have stayed open. The government has urged social distancing, and Swedes have largely complied.

But opponents to the government’s strategy gained an influential voice this week after the country’s former state epidemiologist, Annika Linde, expressed doubt about the strategy adopted by the Swedish health authority. She said that in retrospect she believes an early lockdown could have saved lives.

“Most likely, we would still be a bit worse off (than other Nordic countries), but better off than we are now, and we would possibly have gained time to prepare the strategy to protect the elderly,” she told The Associated Press in a phone interview on Monday.

Sweden’s epidemiologist from 2005 to 2013, Linde headed the country’s response to swine flu and SARS and says she felt provoked by comments from a leading member of the health agency claiming Sweden’s strategy was the best in the world, irrespective of the number of deaths.

“I felt this can’t go on,” she told the AP. “Such a denial may prevent us from acting rationally.”

Sweden’s health policy is traditionally based on recommendations issued by medical authorities and followed by the political leadership. But as the death toll mounts, Linde believes elected officials would have been more cautious in risking the lives of citizens.

“In retrospect, I think it would have been worthwhile trying the strategy of Denmark, Norway and Iceland and Finland,” she said.

Yet for the Swedish government, it’s still too early to tell what measures have worked and which have failed.

“This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde said. “It’s a good thing that many experts are saying what they think. We have freedom of speech in Sweden,” when asked about Annika Linde’s remarks.

SouthFront, Venezuela’s Attorney General Requests Supreme Court Declare Juan Guaido And His Party “Terrorists,” Staff report, May 26, 2020. On May 25th, Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek William Saab asked the Supreme Court to declare opposition leader and US-Proclaimed President Juan Guaido’s party a “terrorist organization,” blaming it for the ridiculous failed sea invasion.

Saab accused the Voluntad Popular (“Popular Will”) party and its leader Guaido of promoting destabilizing actions during the coronavirus pandemic. Both US mercenaries that were arrested by Venezuelan authorities – Luke Alexander Denman and Airan Berry, from Silvercorp USA – were charged with terrorism.

Voluntad Popular “categorically rejected the accusations” in a statement.

In the days leading up to the Attorney General’s request, Venezuela continued investigating the failed raid, and even offered the US Congress help in investigating the situation. The Venezuelan Prosecutor’s Office sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives President Nancy Pelosi whereby the South American country offers its collaboration so that the lawmakers can make an exhaustive investigation about the failed raid against Venezuela.

ny times logoNew York Times, On a Scottish Isle, Nursing Home Deaths Expose a Covid-19 Scandal, Benjamin Mueller, May 26,, 2020 (print ed.). At the Home Farm nursing home on the Isle of Skye, more than a quarter of its residents died and nearly all were infected with coronavirus. Families are furious.

On the Isle of Skye off the western coast of Scotland, residents thought they had sealed themselves off from the coronavirus. They shuttered hotels. Officials warned of police checks. Traffic emptied on the only bridge from the mainland.

But the frailest spot on the island remained catastrophically exposed: Home Farm, a 40-bed nursing home for people with dementia. Owned by a private equity firm, Home Farm has become a grim monument of the push to maximize profits at Britain’s largest nursing home chains, and of the government’s failure to protect its most vulnerable citizens.

Today, all but seven of the residents have been stricken. More than a quarter are dead.

Telegraph, Dominic Cummings says 'no regrets' for 'legal and reasonable' Durham trip as Boris Johnson stands by his man, Cat Neilan, dominic cummings file CustomMay 26, 2020 (print ed.). Dominic Cummings, right, has said he has no regrets about driving from London to Durham during lockdown, arguing he did what he thought was "the smallest risk to the smallest number of people".

United Kingdom flagSpeaking from Downing Street's Rose Garden, Boris Johnson's chief adviser said he drove his sick wife and their four-year old son more than 260 miles to his parents' property over fears they would not be able to look after their child if they were both struck down with coronavirus.

U.S. Crime, Courts, TV

Politico, California DA launches investigation into Tara Reade testimony, Natasha Korecki, May 26, 2020. ‘We are investigating whether politico CustomMs. McCabe gave false testimony under oath,’ said a Monterey County prosecutor.

The Monterey County District Attorney’s office has launched an investigation into whether Tara Reade lied on the witness stand while acting as an expert witness.

Reade, under the name Alexandra McCabe, for years testified as an expert in domestic violence cases for the California D.A.’s office. Among the issues is whether she lied about her credentials to qualify as an expert.

“We are investigating whether Ms. McCabe gave false testimony under oath,” Monterey County Chief Assistant District Attorney Berkley Brannon told POLITICO on Tuesday.

Brannon said the office does not yet know in how many cases Reade testified as an expert.

“We have no database or search engine to use to determine in how many cases she testified,” Brannon said. “However, that effort is ongoing.”

Reade in March accused Joe Biden of sexual assaulting her in 1993 when she worked as an aide in his Senate office. Biden has denied the accusation.

Recent news reports have raised questions about Reade’s testimony under oath, including whether she falsely claimed to have completed her bachelor’s degree, gave false testimony about taking the bar exam and exaggerated her job duties in Biden’s office.

Last week, the school where she testified to completing a bachelor’s degree, Antioch University in Seattle, confirmed to POLITICO that Reade attended for only three academic quarters and did not graduate. The university also denied Reade’s assertion she had a special arrangement with a former chancellor to credit her with an undergraduate degree under a different name.

Seattle University Law School confirmed that Reade, under the name Alexandra McCabe, did graduate from law school. But officials wouldn’t comment on whether she had a valid undergraduate degree, which is required under the law school’s current admission standards.

jeffrey epstein mcc cell 60 minutes

Jeffrey Epstein died in August at MCC Manhattan (shown above in a photo via CBS "60 Minutes") while awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused dozens of girls as young as 14 and young women in New York and Florida. His cell is seen above after his death. His death was ruled a suicide by hanging by the New York City medical examiner, but his attorneys have contested that finding. His cell is seen above after his death. His death was ruled a suicide by hanging by the New York City medical examiner, but his attorneys have contested that finding.

washington post logoWashington Post, TV Review: Netflix’s Jeffrey Epstein docuseries honors his victims and their stories, but the creep still gets, Hank Stuever, May 25, 2020. The key requirement, it seems, to fully comprehending the sordid tale of Jeffrey Epstein, shown below right, is the ability to remain interested even when it becomes apparent that the whole story cannot be told.

jeffrey epstein sex offenderThere’s no way to avoid getting lost in its details. Some find fuel in the ongoing outrage of it, on behalf of Epstein’s many alleged victims — young women and teenage girls who have said they were lured into an abusive existence of criminal sexual acts and prostitution.

Others tend to be more intrigued by the boldface names who were, to varying degrees, caught in Epstein’s orbit, including President Trump, Bill Clinton, Britain’s Prince Andrew and billionaire clothing magnate Les Wexner, to name just a few. Still others want to know something definitive about the slipshod circumstances surrounding Epstein’s apparent suicide in August while he was in custody awaiting federal charges of sex trafficking minors.

It’s a lot to sort through (and get angry about), but, in Lisa Bryant’s four-part Netflix docuseries, “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” (premiering Wednesday), the urgency gives way to long stretches of recapping, becoming less-than-riveting stuff.

Nauseating, sure. But in the three episodes provided for this review, there’s never a unifying theme or reason that helps a viewer understand why the Epstein saga still merits four hours of our undivided attention.

“Filthy Rich” often plays like a longer, fancier episode of NBC’s “Dateline,” in which facts that are mostly already known are recounted by victims, investigators, attorneys and journalists (including The Washington Post’s Marc Fisher), and then arranged in the most logical manner, with an emphasis on the sex crimes and the courage of victims who are speaking out.

May 25

Top Stories

U.S. Memorial Day

Pandemic Politics

Virus Victims, Remedies

U.S. Politics, Safety Nets

Media News

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, The Coronavirus Is Deadliest Where Democrats Live, Jennifer Medina and Robert Gebeloff, May 25, 2020 (print ed.). Beyond perception and ideology, there are starkly different realities for red and blue America right now.

The staggering American death toll from the coronavirus, now approaching 100,000, has touched every part of the country, but the losses have been especially acute along its coasts, in its major cities, across the industrial Midwest, and in New York City.

american flag upside down distressThe devastation, in other words, has been disproportionately felt in blue America, which helps explain why people on opposing sides of a partisan divide that has intensified in the past two decades are thinking about the virus differently. It is not just that Democrats and Republicans disagree on how to reopen businesses, schools and the country as a whole. Beyond perception, beyond ideology, there are starkly different realities for red and blue America right now.

Democrats are far more likely to live in counties where the virus has ravaged the community, while Republicans are more likely to live in counties that have been relatively unscathed by the illness, though they are paying an economic price. Counties democratic donkey logowon by President Trump in 2016 have reported just 27 percent of the virus infections and 21 percent of the deaths — even though 45 percent of Americans live in these communities, a New York Times analysis has found.

The very real difference in death rates has helped fuel deep disagreement over the dangers of the pandemic and how the country should proceed. Right-wing media, which moved swiftly from downplaying the severity of the crisis to calling it a Democratic plot to bring down the president, has exacerbated the rift. And even as the nation’s top medical experts note the danger of easing restrictions, communities across the country are doing so, creating a patchwork of regulations, often along ideological lines.

washington post logoWashington Post, Covid-19’s new surge across rural America, Reis Thebault and Abigail Hauslohner, May 25, 2020 (print ed.). As deaths near 100,000, the pandemic that first struck cities now strains counties with acres of farmland, cramped meatpacking plants, isolated prisons and few hospital beds.

The novel coronavirus arrived in an Indiana farm town mid-planting season and took root faster than the fields of seed corn, infecting hundreds and killing dozens. It tore though a pork processing plant and spread outward in a desolate stretch of the Oklahoma Panhandle. And in Colorado’s sparsely populated eastern plains, the virus erupted in a nursing home and a pair of factories, burning through the crowded quarters of immigrant workers and a vulnerable elderly population.

As the death toll nears 100,000, the disease caused by the virus has made a fundamental shift in who it touches and where it reaches in America, according to a Washington Post analysis of case data and interviews with public health professionals in several states. The pandemic that first struck in major metropolises is now increasingly finding its front line in the country’s rural areas; counties with acres of farmland, cramped meatpacking plants, out-of-the-way prisons and few hospital beds.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Trump removes federal watchdogs, some loyalists replacing them have ‘preposterous’ conflicts, Lisa Rein and Tom Hamburger, May 25, 2020 (print ed.). The political appointee President Trump installed last week to investigate waste, fraud and abuse at the Transportation Department is the same official in charge of one of the agency’s key divisions.

That means Howard “Skip” Elliott is now running an office charged with investigating his own actions.

howard skip elliott o CustomElliott, left, serves simultaneously as the Transportation Department’s inspector general and head of the department’s pipeline and hazardous materials agency, whose mission includes enforcement of safety regulations on nearly 1 million daily shipments of gas, oil and other dangerous compounds.

danielle brian“The idea that an independent IG could simultaneously be part of the political team running an agency they are supposed to oversee is preposterous,” said Danielle Brian, right, executive director of the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight.

Elliott’s appointment was the fifth in two months in which Trump, chafing from oversight he perceived as criticism, replaced a career investigator with an appointee considered more loyal to the president. In three of the cases, Trump has installed new leadership drawn from the senior ranks of the agencies the inspectors general oversee.

For the first time since the system was created in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, inspectors general find themselves under systematic attack from the president, putting independent oversight of federal spending and operations at risk as over $2 trillion in coronavirus relief spending courses through the government.

transportation dept logoInspectors general, some in acting roles to begin with, have been fired and demoted with no notice, leaving their staffs in disarray, multiple inspectors general said. Adding to their alarm, several White House nominees awaiting Senate vetting for permanent roles do not meet traditional qualifications for the job.

Some say the 40-year era of independent oversight of the executive branch is under threat more than ever.

“The Trump administration is attempting to make lap dogs out of watchdogs,” said Gordon Heddell, a former inspector general appointed to audit the Labor Department — and later the Defense Department — by President George W. Bush and who continued to serve in the Obama administration.

Past presidents removed federal watchdogs — but only occasionally. Lately, it’s been an almost weekly occurrence, leaving the offices that monitor wrongdoing across the government wary of who could be the next to go.

Elliott’s dual role at the Transportation Department is brimming with conflicts. Auditors who now work for him are monitoring the pipeline agency he leads. His boss is Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao — whose department he is supposed to investigate.

U.S. Memorial Day

Donald Trump, center, with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other miliitary leaders at the White House (October 2019 photo for the New York Times by Doug Mills)

Donald Trump, center, with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other miliitary leaders at the White House (October 2019 photo for the New York Times by Doug Mills)

ny times logoNew York Times, Highly Visible in the Military, but Almost Invisible at the Top, Helene Cooper, May 25, 2020. Seventy-five years after integration, the military’s upper echelons remain the domain of white men.

A photograph of President Trump and his top four-star generals and admirals, tweeted in October by Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, was meant as a thank-you to the commander in chief. But it angered a lot of others, and not just those who erupted on Twitter.

“You would have thought it was 1950,” said Lt. Col. Walter J. Smiley Jr., who is African-American and fought in Iraq and Afghanistan before retiring last year after 25 years in the Army. Dana Pittard, a retired major general, also African-American, was equally frustrated. “It’s America’s military,” he said. “Why doesn’t this photo look like America?”

Department of Defense SealYet the picture of the president surrounded by a sea of white faces in full military dress is an accurate portrait of the top commanders who lead an otherwise diverse institution.

Some 43 percent of the 1.3 million men and women on active duty in the United States military are people of color. But the people making crucial decisions, such as how to respond to the coronavirus crisis and how many troops to send to Afghanistan or Syria, are almost entirely white and male.

Of the 41 most senior commanders in the military — those with four-star rank in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard — only two are black: Gen. Michael X. Garrett, who leads the Army’s Forces Command, and Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr, the commander of Pacific Air Forces.

ny times logoNew York Times, They Survived the Worst Battles of World War II, and Died of the Coronavirus, Ellen Berry, May 25, 2020. Inside the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home was a former jailer to Hitler’s top aide, a man who rescued Japanese kamikaze pilots and a man with memories of a concentration camp.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Beleaguered U.S. Observes Memorial Day, With Tone Varying by State, Staff report, May 25, 2020 (print ed.). Americans took a varied approach to the holiday weekend, with crowded pool parties in some places and shuttered beaches in others.

Countries are struggling to resume air travel. The U.S. banned passengers from Brazil; India restored domestic flights. The head of the virus lab in Wuhan, China, denied that it was the source of the novel coronavirus. Here’s the latest.

President Trump and the first lady visited Arlington National Cemetery on Monday morning for a wreath-laying ceremony, then traveled to Fort McHenry in Baltimore “to honor the American heroes who have sacrificed their lives serving in the U.S. Armed Forces,” a White House statement read.

The president’s visit to Baltimore, a city he once called “disgusting, rat and rodent infested,” had drawn protest, and the city’s mayor asked him to rethink the visit.

President Trump, Vice President Pense, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left to right, at Memorial Day ceremonies 2020

President Trump, Vice President Pense, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left to right, at Memorial Day ceremonies 2020

Fox News, Trump lays wreath at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Memorial Day, Staff report, May 25, 2020. President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary Mark Esper pause to remember America's soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery; Mark Meredith reports from the White House.

President Trump was marking Memorial Day with appearances at Arlington National Cemetery and Baltimore’s historic Fort McHenry, honoring fallen military members while also sending a clear signal to the country that his agenda will be business-as-almost-usual amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A 21-gun salute greeted Trump as he arrived at the solemn ceremony by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Monday morning. Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Pence and second lady Karen Pence attended to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of America’s freedoms

Baltimore Mayor Bernard "Jack" Young late last week urged Trump to forgo his planned visit amid the city’s stay-at-home order.

"I wish that the president, as our nation's leader, would set a positive example and not travel during this holiday weekend," Young, a Democrat, said in a statement. “That President Trump is deciding to pursue nonessential travel sends the wrong message to our residents, many of whom have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 virus."

The price tag for the visit in terms of security and personnel will hamper the city, which is already facing revenue losses of $20 million each month amid business closures and a fractured economy, Young said.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, visit War Memorial Plaza in New Castle, Delaware on May 25, 2020 (Reuters photo by Carlos Barria).

Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, visit War Memorial Plaza in New Castle, Delaware on May 25, 2020 (Reuters photo by Carlos Barria).

washington post logoWashington Post, Retropolis: Explorers find wreck of USS Nevada, the ship that almost escaped Pearl Harbor, Michael E. Ruane, May 25, 2020. As Japanese bombers swarmed overhead on Dec. 7, 1941, the battleship tried to escape the devastation and nearly made it to safety.

The stricken battleship loomed out of the smoke and wreckage that morning, hurrying past sunken and burning ships, straining to get out of Pearl Harbor and into the open sea.

Past the doomed USS Arizona, which exploded in a fireball, the old ship rushed. It had a hole the size of house in its hull, and its captain was ashore. The frantic crew had chopped the mooring ropes and got the ship underway as Japanese planes swarmed overhead.

The USS Nevada raced to escape the unfolding catastrophe of Dec. 7, 1941. “Out of this pall came a sight so incredible that its viewers could not have been more dumbfounded had it been the legendary Flying Dutchman,” historian Gordon W. Prange wrote.

Earlier this month, undersea explorers announced they had found the wreck of the famous Nevada: It had failed to make good its escape at Pearl Harbor, but it had survived, was repaired and returned to sea to serve out World War II.

It had been found in 15,000 feet of water, purposely sunk by the Navy in 1948 after a career that spanned three decades of service, fromWorld War I to the atomic bomb.

Pandemic Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, On weekend dedicated to war dead, Trump tweets insults, promotes baseless claims and plays golf, Anne Gearan, May 25, 2020 (print ed.). As the death toll in the coronavirus pandemic neared 100,000 Americans this Memorial Day weekend, President Trump derided and insulted perceived enemies and promoted a baseless conspiracy theory, in between rounds of golf.

donald trump twitterIn a flurry of tweets and retweets Saturday and Sunday, Trump mocked former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’s weight, ridiculed the looks of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and called former Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton a “skank.”

He revived long-debunked speculation that a television host with whom Trump has feuded may have killed a woman and asserted without evidence that mail-in voting routinely produces ballot stuffing.

He made little mention of the sacrifice Americans honor on Memorial Day or the grim toll of the virus.

In fact, Trump’s barrage of social media attacks stood in sharp contrast to a sober reality on a weekend for mourning military dead — the number of Americans whose lives have been claimed by the novel coronavirus has eclipsed the combined total of U.S. deaths from wars in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Trump plans to attend a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday and visit Fort McHenry in Baltimore, where the 1814 battle that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” was fought. The city’s Democratic mayor had discouraged the visit, saying it sent conflicting messages about the importance of staying home and protecting other Americans.

ny times logopeter baker twitterNew York Times, Trump Tweets and Golfs, but Makes No Mention of Virus’s Toll, Peter Baker, right, May 25, 2020 (print ed.). Coronavirus deaths in the United States approached a staggering 100,000, a number the president once predicted would never be reached.

As President Trump’s motorcade pulled into his golf club in Virginia on an overcast Sunday, a small group of protesters waited outside the entrance. One held up a sign.

“I care do U?” it read. “100,000 dead.”

Mr. Trump and his advisers have said that he does, but he has made scant effort to demonstrate it this Memorial Day weekend. He finally ordered flags lowered to half-staff at the White House only after being badgered to do so by his critics and otherwise took no public notice as the American death toll from the coronavirus pandemic approached a staggering 100,000.

While the country neared six digits of death, the president who repeatedly criticized his predecessor for golfing during a crisis spent the weekend on the links for the first time since March. When he was not zipping around on a cart, he was on social media embracing fringe conspiracy theories, amplifying messages from a racist and sexist Twitter account and lobbing playground insults at perceived enemies, including his own former attorney general.

Virus Victims, Remedies

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Global Updates: Memorial Day weekend crowds cause concern, Staff reports, May 25, 2020. Tokyo lifts state of emergency, braces for ‘new lifestyle’ with the virus; British prime minister’s top aide Cummings set to make statement, amid mounting pressure to resign; While U.S. struggles to roll out coronavirus contact tracing, Germany has been doing it from the start.

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, Some churches tentatively open as Memorial Day crowds descend on tourist hot spots, Felicia Sonmez, Meryl Kornfield and Derek Hawkins, May 25, 2020 (print ed.). More than two months after much of the United States shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, some houses of worship are beginning to reopen their doors, albeit with a long list of social distancing guidelines in place.

The reopenings have been cheered by President Trump, who vowed on Friday to “override” any governors who do not allow the immediate resumption of in-person religious services.

But they have also been met with skepticism from some elected officials, who argue that as the country’s coronavirus death toll nears 100,000, it remains too risky to allow large groups of people to gather — even as images of crowded pools and beaches emerged on social media over the holiday weekend.

washington post logoWashington Post, Administration pledges to buy, distribute 100 million swabs by year’s end, Amy Goldstein, May 25, 2020 (print ed.). In a plan for a national testing strategy delivered to Congress, the administration doubled down on its stance that states should bear primary responsibility for carrying out diagnostic tests.

In a report to Congress, the Trump administration is pledging to buy 100 million swabs by the year’s end and distribute them to states to help expand the nation’s capacity to test for the novel coronavirus.

The report, delivered on the Sunday deadline lawmakers had set for federal health officials to submit a national testing strategy, doubles down on the administration’s stance that individual states, not the federal government, should bear primary responsibility for carrying out diagnostic tests to help curb the pandemic.

The Washington Post obtained the 81-page document, called Covid-19 Strategic Testing Plan, from an individual on Capitol Hill who was not authorized to disclose it. Federal health officials did not release it publicly, submitting it to four congressional committees as required by law.

U.S. Politics,Safety Nets

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Biden Can Beat Trump … if He Doesn’t Blow It, Charles M. Blow, right, May 25, 2020 (print ed.). Joe being charles blow customstuck at home during an election year may turn out to be a good thing. 

Trump put politics, his own political fortunes, over the lives of the American people, and the result has been catastrophic. As CNN has reported, researchers at Columbia University created a model gauging transmission rates from March 15 to May 3, and found that if the United States had started social distancing just two weeks earlier, it could have prevented 84 percent of deaths and 82 percent of cases.

But Trump had spent the previous week downplaying the severity of the virus and blaming growing coverage of it and alarm over it on the media.

On March 10, when there were 959 confirmed cases and 28 deaths, Trump said to reporters after a meeting with Republican senators: “We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

Trump dragged his feet, trying to con his way through a pandemic, to rewrite reality, to pacify the public until the virus passed, and that has led to untold numbers of people dead who never had to die.

There is not only blood on Trump’s hands, he is drenched in it like the penultimate scene from the movie “Carrie.”

No amount of deflecting blame to China or Obama or the governors can change this. No amount of playing to people’s impatience about reopening and optimistic desires that the worst is behind us can change this.

In America, this is Donald Trump’s plague, and he is yoked with that going into the election in November.

joe biden 2020 button CustomJoe Biden needs to do little, despite what many pundits may think. He doesn’t need a daily presence in the news. He doesn’t need to “own the internet.” He doesn’t need large rallies or even that much sizzle.

In fact, his being stuck in his house and giving limited interviews from his basement may be the best thing to ever happen to his campaign.

Biden is a well-known gaffe machine. Every time he speaks, there is the very real chance that he will do more damage than good. America doesn’t need that. We just need a person to replace Trump who is, for one thing, not so cavalier about deaths connected to his poor response or poor policy — whether they be hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, children separated from their parents at the border or victims of a virus.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Biden surge continues, Shirley Kennedy, May 25, 2020. Joe Biden won the Hawaii and Oregon Democratic primaries [in counts announced over the weekend]. Both Hawaii and Oregon voted entirely by mail, confirming that voting by mail does work, contrary to “president” Donald Trump’s continued ranting.

bill palmer report logo headerCNN reported that Trump is especially angry that both Michigan and Nevada, two swing states, have approved voting by mail for the November election. Trump can find nothing wrong or unlawful about mail-in voting. He merely claims that it will “hurt” his chances of reelection.

I hate to be the one to tell Trump, but mail-in voting is the least of his worries.

Though Republicans have opposed federal interference in how states conduct their elections — repeatedly, according to CNN — Trump missed the memo, threatening to withhold funding to Michigan “if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!” He is so incredibly stupid. He will do literally anything to win.

Trump’s campaign just spent $1 million to “take advantage” of Biden’s comment that if you vote for Trump “you ain’t black” on The Breakfast Club radio show with Sanders supporter “Charlamagne Tha God.”

This comment has been so taken out of context, primarily by whites who see it as offensive to blacks.

I am about as black as they come. Trust and believe that I will let you know when I am offended. I do not need anyone to do that for me. Trump is a racist, and anyone who votes for him is not black. I get it. Do not let Trump fool you into doing something so incredibly foolish that we will not recover from it — like voting for him. Tune out the noise and keep focused on our future. Biden is certainly doing that.

Washington Post, Opinion: Can we stop pretending Trump is fit to be president? Paul Waldman, May 25, 2020. At various times over the past three and a half years, many of us have asked what would happen if President Trump truly went over the edge or if his behavior became so frightening that his unfitness for the most powerful position on Earth could no longer be denied.

But the human capacity for denial is apparently almost infinite. Let’s review what our president has been up to in the past few days:

With the death toll from covid-19 about to top 100,000, Trump has offered almost nothing in the way of tributes to the dead, sympathy for their families, or acknowledgement of our national mourning. By all accounts he is barely bothering to manage his administration’s response to the pandemic, preferring to focus on cheerleading for an economic recovery he says is on its way, even as he feeds conspiracy theories about the death toll being inflated. This weekend, he went golfing.

In a Twitter spasm on Saturday and Sunday, Trump retweeted mockery of former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’s weight and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) looks, along with a tweet calling Hillary Clinton a “skank.”

Eager to start a new culture war flare-up, he urged churches to open and gather parishioners in a room to breathe the same air, threatening that he would “override” governors whose shutdown orders still forbade such gatherings. The president has no such power.

He all but accused talk show host Joe Scarborough of murdering a young woman who died in 2001 in the then-congressman’s district office, bringing untold torture to her family from the conspiracy theorists who will respond to his accusation.

He has repeatedly insisted that the upcoming election is being “rigged” because states run by both Republicans and Democrats are making it easier to vote by mail, seeking to delegitimize a vote that has yet to occur, despite the substantial evidence that mail voting advantages neither party.

The truth is that Trump is not much more despicable of a human being than he has always been; it’s just that standard Trumpian behavior becomes more horrifying when it occurs during an ongoing national crisis. It is reality that changed around him, and he was incapable of responding to it.

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Florida Law Restricting Felon Voting Is Unconstitutional, Judge Rules, Patricia Mazzei, May 25, 2020 (print ed.). A federal judge said the law would result in discrimination against felons who cannot afford to pay court fines and fees.

A Florida law requiring people with serious criminal convictions to pay court fines and fees before they can register to vote is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled on Sunday, declaring that such a requirement would amount to a poll tax and discriminate against felons who cannot afford to pay.

robert hinkleFlorida did not explicitly impose a poll tax, Judge Robert L. Hinkle of the United States District Court in Tallahassee wrote, but by conditioning felons’ voting rights to fees that fund the routine operations of the criminal justice system, it effectively created “a tax by any other name.”

“The Twenty-Fourth Amendment precludes Florida from conditioning voting in federal elections on payment of these fees and costs,” Judge Hinkle wrote, calling the restriction an unconstitutional “pay-to-vote system.”

The judge granted a permanent injunction to civil rights groups that challenged the law as discriminatory for the majority of felons, many of whom are indigent. The state is expected to appeal.

“This really is a landmark decision for voting rights,” said Julie Ebenstein, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups that sued. “It’s a decision that will likely affect hundreds of thousands of voters — and it’s been a long time coming.”

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosFor decades, all Florida felons were barred from the ballot box. But in 2018, voters approved a landmark measure known as Amendment 4, automatically restoring voting rights for people who have completed their sentences for felonies other than murder or sex crimes.

The Republican-controlled Legislature then adopted a new restriction — that felons had to settle their financial obligations to the court before having their eligibility to vote restored. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed it into law last year.The state’s lawyers argued that voters knew when they supported Amendment 4, the measure restoring voting rights, that felons would have to pay their outstanding debts before becoming eligible to vote.

But the judge roundly rejected that argument — and noted that the state has no uniform way to let felons know how much they owe or have already paid.

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: Even before covid-19, Social Security was facing a shortfall, Michelle Singletary, May 25, 2020. Absent legislative action to fix a coming shortfall, Social Security will have only enough tax income to pay out 76 percent of scheduled payments, a trustee report said. Social Security’s cost will exceed income beginning in 2021, report says, and that’s not counting coronavirus downturn.

So much focus has been on efforts to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, and on the economic fallout that has resulted in millions losing their jobs, that the most recent report on the financial health of the Social Security Trust Funds didn’t get much news coverage. While Social Security isn’t bankrupt, it’s certainly facing a serious shortfall in income to cover promised payments.

By next year, Social Security’s cost is estimated to exceed total income, according to the latest trustee report for the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.

“The projected cost of Social Security increases faster than projected income through 2040 primarily because the ratio of workers paying taxes to beneficiaries receiving benefits will decline as the baby-boom generation ages and is replaced at working ages with subsequent lower birthrate generations,” the trustee report said. “While the effects of the aging baby boom and subsequent lower birth rates will have largely stabilized after 2040, annual cost will continue to grow faster than income.”

The reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund (OASI), which pays retirement and survivor benefits, will be unable to pay full benefits in 2034, the trustee report projected. Absent legislative action to fix the shortfall, OASI will have only enough tax income to pay out 76 percent of scheduled payments, according to the trustee report.

Courts, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, What the appeals court should — and shouldn’t — do in the Flynn case, J. Michael Luttig, May 25, 2020. A Republican appointee, J. Michael Luttig served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit from 1991 to 2006. 

The politically charged issue of whether a federal judge should grant the government’s request to dismiss the prosecution against former national security adviser Michael Flynn has brought out the partisan mobs on all sides of the issue. Fortunately for our country, the issue will be decided not by the rule of mobs, but by the rule of law.

The rule of law instructs that U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan has the power — indeed, the obligation — to determine whether dismissal of Flynn’s case would be in the public interest and whether the integrity of the judicial process would be compromised by granting the government’s dismissal request. This authority stems from the federal criminal rules of procedure and the trial judge’s inherent authority. If this authority were properly exercised, the judge’s refusal to dismiss the case would not impermissibly usurp the executive’s exclusive constitutional power to decide whether to bring or maintain a criminal prosecution.

The devil is in the word “properly.” In Flynn’s case, the judge has already abused his wide discretion by inviting outside advocates to weigh in, which would make a circus of the solemn judicial proceeding, and by selecting an outside party to make the case against dismissal who has already made clear his bias against dismissal via this very newspaper.

In response, Flynn’s lawyers have taken the unusual step of asking the federal appeals court to order Sullivan to dismiss the case, arguing that prosecutors have the sole power to decide whether to continue the prosecution. Ordinarily, this effort would fail.

However, this is not the ordinary case. In this highly extraordinary case, the appeals court should step in even at this early stage — not to order that the case be dismissed, but to send it back to a different trial court judge for further review. The court of appeals is bound to permit (and require) a trial court to decide in the first instance those questions that are now before the court.

Ordering the trial judge to dismiss the case at this stage would be premature. The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure allow the government to dismiss an indictment only “with leave of court.” Those words contemplate that the trial judge has a constitutionally important role to play in whether a prosecution is dismissed. If the court of appeals were to order Sullivan to dismiss the case now, the full appeals court or, if not, the Supreme Court, should reverse that error.

The appeals court, though, would be justified in intervening in the case now to correct the process the judge has established for moving to decision. Sullivan has done two highly unusual, and troubling, things. First, he invited amici, or outside “friends of the court,” to submit arguments on whether dismissal of the prosecution would be in the public interest. These are questions for the judge to decide, not for the public to debate.

Second, and more disturbing, he tasked a retired federal judge, John Gleeson, with making the case that Flynn’s guilty plea should not be dismissed. Bringing in an outside party in essence to argue for the continued prosecution of the case is unusual enough, but Gleeson, though a well-respected former judge, is the wrong choice. In an op-ed piece in which he all but argued that Sullivan should not grant the motion to dismiss, he revealed his bias on the very question in which his impartial advice is being sought.

Media News

martin luther king injustice quote

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: In Memphis, Journalism Can Still Bring Justice, Margaret Renkl, May 25, 2020. The nonprofit newsroom MLK50, founded by Wendi C. Thomas, aims to carry on the work that Martin Luther King Jr. started.

Wendi C. Thomas launched MLK50 in 2017 as a one-year project to make the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a time to consider the current state of economic justice in the city where he was murdered while advocating for a living wage.

“Underpaid black workers and their plight drew Dr. King to Memphis more than 50 years ago,” Ms. Thomas said in a phone interview last week. “That’s why he was here. And while I wouldn’t say that Memphis has made no progress, it’s hard to fathom that Dr. King would be proud of where we’re at.” It is a city where almost 28 percent of the population lives in poverty, and that number is growing.

Ms. Thomas was under no illusion that simply telling the stories of underpaid workers, immigrants and other vulnerable Memphians would sort out the economic issues that make it so difficult for them to emerge from poverty. “The city has made a commitment, a commitment, to low-wage industries, which means low-wage labor, which means systems that exploit, for the most part, black and brown workers,” she said. But telling their stories was a start. Three years later, her one-year project is still going strong.

Educated in Memphis schools, Ms. Thomas is a veteran journalist with more than 25 years of reporting and editing experience at daily newspapers in Indianapolis, Nashville and Charlotte, N.C. For 11 years, she served as a columnist and assistant managing editor at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. By the time she’d completed a year as a fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, she had both the knowledge and the experience to build a newsroom from scratch.

What she didn’t have was funding. In the beginning, for weeks on end, she worked 16- and 18-hour days, living off her credit cards while creating a news source unlike any other in Memphis. “We unapologetically exist to dismantle the status quo where it doesn’t serve low-income residents in Memphis, the overwhelming majority of whom are black,” Ms. Thomas said. “We’re not a black publication, but we frame the news from the perspective of the most vulnerable.”

Ms. Thomas’s investigative series on predatory debt collection by a nonprofit hospital system affiliated with the United Methodist Church, the largest hospital chain in the Memphis area, revealed that these hospitals sued their own low-income employees for failing to pay their medical debts. In other words, a faith-based hospital system both failed to pay its employees a living wage and sued them for being unable to pay their bills. To add insult to injury, workers’ health-insurance policies did not cover care at rival hospitals with more generous financial-assistance policies.

In the three years since MLK50 launched, the publication has grown to include a managing editor, a visuals director and a senior editor, and it hires a range of freelancers, all of whom are paid. Thanks to large grants from the American Journalism Project and the Racial Equity in Journalism Fund at Borealis Philanthropy, Ms. Thomas is now poised to expand her nonprofit newsroom to include a development director and an operations manager. A full-time Report for America corps member will join the team, as well.

washington post logoWashington Post, Florida family grieves as Trump spreads debunked conspiracy theory to attack MSNBC host, Craig Pittman, May 25, 2020 (print ed.). A little after 8 a.m. on July 20, 2001, a couple arriving for an appointment opened an unlocked front door at an office in the Florida panhandle town of Fort Walton Beach and discovered a woman lying on the floor, dead. Her name was Lori Kaye Klausutis and she was just 28.

The police said they found no signs of foul play. The medical examiner concluded her lonely death was an accident. She had fainted, the result of a heart condition, and hit her head on a desk, he said.

joe scarborough headshotNow, nearly 20 years later, Klausutis’s death has captured the attention of the country’s most prominent purveyor of conspiracy theories — the president of the United States — who has without evidence speculated that she might have been murdered and that the case should be reopened.

msnbc logo CustomThe reason for President Trump’s fixation:

At the time of her death, Klausutis was working for a Republican congressman from Pensacola named Joe Scarborough, left, — the same Scarborough who today, as host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, is a fierce critic of Trump and has in recent weeks decried the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as a failure.

ny times logoNew York Times, The New Model Media Star Is Famous Only to You, Ben Smith, May 25, 2020 (print ed.). With short videos and paid newsletters, everyone from superstars to half-forgotten former athletes and even journalists can, as one tech figure put it, “monetize individuality.”

Back in March, I was trying to persuade my dad to stop taking the subway to work in Manhattan and join me upstate. So I paid $75 to Leonard Marshall, a retired New York Giants defensive lineman we both loved in the 1980s, to send the message.

“I put a few guys in the hospital, Bob,” he told my father solemnly. “I need you to play defense in these crazy times.”

It worked, and my father hasn’t been to Times Square since.

I had reached Mr. Marshall through Cameo, a service that allows you to buy short videos from minor celebrities. I also used Cameo to purchase a pep talk from an Olympic triathlete for my daughter ($15), an ingratiating monologue for my new boss from a former Boston Red Sox manager ($100) and a failed Twitter joke delivered by the action star Chuck Norris ($229.99).

Cameo is blowing up in this strange season because “every celebrity is really a gig economy worker,” says Steven Galanis, the company’s chief executive. They’re stuck at home, bored and sometimes hard up for cash as performances, productions and sporting events dry up. The company’s weekly bookings have grown to 70,000 from about 9,000 in early January, it says, and Mr. Galanis said he anticipated bringing in more than $100 million in bookings this year, of which the company keeps 25 percent. The company expects to sell its millionth video this week.

World News

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Britain: Johnson's Pandemic Management Is Trashing His Authority, b, May 25, 2020. Britain seems to have a meltdown of trust in the government over its handling of the novel coronavirus epidemic.

United Kingdom flagWhile other European countries have reopened, Britain is still under lockdown and has still some 2,400 new Covid-19 cases per day. The numbers must go down much further to safely reopen the country. But after several missteps it is now unlikely that the people will continue to follow the government's advice.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not take the issue seriously and even boasted of shaking hands with coronavirus patients. He then caught the disease himself and nearly died from it. He has since been a bit more cautious.

Reuters, Russia seeks 18-year jail term for ex-U.S. Marine in spying trial, Tom Balmforth and Alexander Marrow, May 25, 2020. Russian prosecutors asked a court on Monday to sentence former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who is on trial accused of spying for the United States, to 18 years in a maximum security prison, his lawyer said.

Reuters, WHO fears 'silent' virus epidemic unless Africa prioritizes testing, Peter Graff, May 25, 2020. Africa has so far been spared the worst impact of the coronavirus, but the World Health Organization is worried the continent could face a "silent epidemic" if its leaders do not prioritize testing for it, a WHO envoy said on Monday.

May 24

Top Headlines

U.S. Politics, Congress, Elections

U.S. Crime, Courts

More World News

 

Top Headlines

ny times logoamerican flag upside down distressNew York Times, An Incalculable Loss, Staff report, May 24, 2020. Our front page compiled a long list of names to frame the incalculable loss of nearly 100,000 U.S. deaths.

America is fast approaching a grim milestone in the coronavirus outbreak — each figure here represents one of the nearly 100,000 lives lost so far. But a count reveals only so much. Memories, gathered from obituaries across the country, help us to reckon with what was lost.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Sows Doubt on Voting, Keeping Some People Up at Night, Reid J. Epstein, May 24, 2020.  A group of worst-case scenario planners — mostly Democrats, but also some anti-Trump Republicans — have been gaming out how to respond to various doomsday options for the 2020 presidential election.

  • In October, President Trump declares a state of emergency in major cities in battleground states, like Milwaukee and Detroit, Democratic-Republican Campaign logosbanning polling places from opening.
  • A week before the election, Attorney General William P. Barr announces a criminal investigation into the Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr.
  • After Mr. Biden wins a narrow Electoral College victory, Mr. Trump refuses to accept the results, won’t leave the White House and declines to allow the Biden transition team customary access to agencies before the Jan. 20 inauguration.

Far-fetched conspiracy theories? Not to a group of worst-case scenario planners — mostly Democrats, but some anti-Trump Republicans as well — who have been gaming out various doomsday options for the 2020 presidential election. Outraged by Mr. Trump and fearful that he might try to disrupt the campaign before, during and after Election Day, they are engaged in a process that began in the realm of science fiction but has nudged closer to reality as Mr. Trump and his administration abandon longstanding political norms.

The anxiety has intensified in recent weeks as the president continues to attack the integrity of mail voting and insinuate that the election system is rigged, while his Republican allies ramp up efforts to control who can vote and how. Just last week, Mr. Trump threatened to withhold funding from states that defy his wishes on expanding mail voting, while also amplifying unfounded claims of voter fraud in battleground states.

washington post logoWashington Post, One final viral infusion: Trump’s move to block travel from Europe triggered chaos and a surge of passengers from the outbreak’s center, Greg Miller, Josh Dawsey and Aaron C. Davis, May 24, 2020 (print ed.). In the final days before the United States faced a full-blown epidemic, President Trump made a last-ditch attempt to prevent people infected with the coronavirus from reaching the country.

“To keep new cases from entering our shores,” Trump said in an Oval Office address on March 11, “we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.”

Across the Atlantic, Jack Siebert, an American college student spending a semester in Spain, was battling raging headaches, shortness of breath and fevers that touched 104 degrees. Concerned about his condition for travel but alarmed by the president’s announcement, his parents scrambled to book a flight home for their son — an impulse shared by thousands of Americans who rushed to get flights out of Europe.

european union logo rectangleSiebert arrived at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago three days later as the new U.S. restrictions — including mandatory medical screenings — went into effect. He encountered crowds of people packed in tight corridors, stood in lines in which he snaked past other travelers for nearly five hours and tried to direct any cough or sneeze into his sleeve.

When he finally reached the coronavirus checkpoint near baggage pickup, Siebert reported his prior symptoms and described his exposure in Spain. But the screeners waved him through with a cursory temperature check. He was given instructions to self-isolate that struck him as absurd given the conditions he had just encountered at the airport.

“I can guarantee you that people were infected” in that transatlantic gantlet, said Siebert, who tested positive for the virus two days later in Chicago. “It was people passing through a pinhole.”

The sequence was repeated at airports across the country that weekend. Harrowing scenes of interminable lines and unmasked faces crammed in confined spaces spread across social media.

The images showed how a policy intended to block the pathogen’s entry into the United States instead delivered one final viral infusion. As those exposed travelers fanned out into U.S. cities and suburbs, they became part of an influx from Europe that went unchecked for weeks and helped to seal the country’s coronavirus fate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Memorial Day weekend draws big crowds as states ease restrictions, Staff reports, May 24, 2020.  Earliest signs of vaccine effectiveness not until autumn, says head of global vaccine alliance; California counties report new coronavirus clusters linked to churches amid debate over in-person worship

With the U.S. coronavirus death toll climbing toward 100,000, crowds flocked to some of the country’s beaches and other public spaces for Memorial Day festivities. Governors rolled back pandemic restrictions in an effort to revive business and return to some semblance of normal at the start of the summer season, even as public health experts warned that reopening too soon could trigger new waves of cases.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Vice President Pence said Saturday that China will be held accountable for its contribution to the spread of the novel coronavirus throughout the world, continuing the heavy finger-pointing from the Trump administration at Beijing.
  • Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) said indoor religious services could resume soon statewide with some limits, days after two churches said they would begin holding services next week, regardless of a ban.
  • Democrats are discussing expanding the footprint of their August nominating convention with multiple satellite events held across the presidential battleground map, an option reflecting stepped-up local warnings about holding traditional mass gatherings amid an ongoing pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Crowds pack venues in Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks, ignoring social distancing, Derek Hawkins, May 24, 2020. Vacationers flocked to the Lake of the Ozarks over the holiday weekend, flouting social distancing guidelines as they packed into yacht clubs, outdoor bars and resort pools in the Missouri tourist hot spot.

The scenes underscored how some have interpreted the loosening of coronavirus restrictions ahead of the Memorial Day holiday as an invitation to return to a pre-pandemic version of normal. Amid varied and sometimes conflicting orders from state and local officials, people across the country have been left to decide on their own how strictly to follow the rules.

The images elicited a barrage of criticism from people angered by the open disregard for the guidelines that public health experts have spent months promoting.

“I don’t even know what to say anymore,” Meghan McCain, co-host of ABC’s “The View,” tweeted.

Live updates: Coronavirus cluster traced to high school pool party amid concerns about second wave

Like most of the country, Missouri has allowed some businesses to reopen and rolled back pandemic-related bans on nonessential activities, even as researchers warn the virus is still spreading at epidemic rates in Missouri and 23 other states.

washington post logoWashington Post, China tells U.S. to stop taking them ‘to the brink of a new Cold War,’ Anna Fifield, May 24, 2020. Relations between Beijing and Washington are at their worst in 40 years.

China FlagThe United States should abandon its “wishful thinking about changing China” and stop pushing the two countries “to the brink of a new Cold War,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Sunday, trying to position Beijing as the grown-up in an increasingly fractious bilateral relationship.

With tensions between the world’s two largest economies mounting by the day, Wang used the opportunity of a news conference during the annual piece of political theater known as the National People’s Congress to send a direct message to Washington.

“China has no intention to change, still less replace the United States,” Wang said Sunday before a selected group of journalists. “It’s time for the United States to give up its wishful thinking of changing China and stopping 1.4 billion people in their historic march toward modernization.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Hong Kong police use tear gas against thousands protesting new China law, Shibani Mahtani, May 24, 2020. The new law put forward by Beijing will largely end Hong Kong’s autonomy. Refrains of last years protests — “fight for freedom,” “stand with Hong Kong” — echoed on the streets among people of all ages.

Police fired multiple rounds of tear gas and used a water cannon to disperse protesters and later arrested over a hundred opposing China FlagBeijing's plan to unilaterally impose a sweeping national security law, marking a return to the demonstrations that defined this city last year.

Despite social distancing measures still in place over the coronavirus outbreak that bar gatherings of more than eight, as well as existing laws on illegal assembly, tens of thousands thronged by early afternoon through Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay shopping district. Calls to assembly were made online, without a formal organizer or permit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: Trump’s demonization of China puts U.S. in financial peril, Allan Sloan, May 24, 2020 (print ed.). allan sloanBlaming China for the coronavirus might seem like smart politics, but insulting a creditor when the U.S. is running up a huge debt to stimulate the economy isn’t a good idea.

Would you spend your days insulting and demonizing a potential lender when you’re running an operation that needs to borrow incredible amounts of money? Would you also be threatening to renege on the debt that you already owe this potential lender?

I sure wouldn’t do that, and I can’t imagine that you would, either. But that’s what the Trump administration and its fellow travelers are doing with China.

Trump express anger that his China trade deal is off to a rocky start but he lacks obvious remedies

The United States, of course, is running massive budget deficits as part of our attempt to stimulate our economy and limit the financial damage that covid-19 is inflicting on our people, businesses and institutions.

In the last three months, according to Treasury statistics, our national debt has risen by an astounding $2 trillion — that’s trillion, with a T. It’s currently about $25.4 trillion and will rocket upward in future months.

washington post logoWashington Post, Netanyahu’s corruption trial opens with a sitting Israeli premier in the dock for the first time, Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash, May 24, 2020. The combative prime minister has refused to step down during three years of investigation.

Benjamin Netanyahu smile TwitterThe long-awaited corruption trial of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, gets underway in a Jerusalem courtroom Sunday, teeing up an unprecedented clash between the country's criminal justice system and a sitting head of government.

The case stems from accusations that Netanyahu steered government policy in exchange for goods and favors at multiple points in his career and pits a prosecution that has steadfastly pursued the explosive charges against a leader who has refused to step aside. The courtroom confrontation threatens to further divide a sharply polarized nation.

The prime minister was expected to appear personally in Jerusalem District Court for the afternoon hearing, which kicks off what could be a trial of two years or longer.

His lawyers had asked that he be excused from the trial’s mostly procedural opening day on the grounds that his security contingent would not be able to comply with social distancing requirements related to the coronavirus epidemic. In rejecting that request, the three judges overseeing the trial said Israel’s longest-serving premier would be treated like any other defendant.

U.S. Politics, Congress, Elections

chuck grassley screams at patrick leahy confidential records screenshot

washington post logoWashington Post, Grassley facing stiffest challenge in Senate career as inspectors general defender, Seung Min Kim, May 24, 2020.  Amid President Trump’s rapid-fire dismissals of the watchdogs, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (shown above in a video screenshot), in a self-appointed role, has refrained from taking aggressive action.

The 665-word letter had gone, as expected, unanswered. So Sen. Charles E. Grassley fired off an email to the White House Counsel’s Office, pressing for an explanation as to why President Trump abruptly dismissed an inspector general who had played a key role in the Ukraine scandal that led to Trump’s impeachment.

Pat Cipollone called Grassley (R-Iowa) directly, promising he would get a response to the senator quickly on the controversial firing of Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community watchdog who had alerted lawmakers to a whistleblower’s complaint about Trump pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival.

The two would speak again last week, with the White House lawyer promising an answer to Grassley by Tuesday that would detail the reasons for firing Atkinson and another inspector general who had recently been ousted by Trump.

Grassley is facing the stiffest challenge of his nearly four-decade Senate career to his self-appointed role as a champion of inspectors general: a president from his own party who has made clear that he has no use for internal government watchdogs and no hesitation to get rid of those he considers disloyal.

Grassley says he resents Democrats questioning his dedication to protecting these government officials. But so far amid Trump’s rapid-fire dismissals of the watchdogs, he has refrained from taking aggressive action beyond sending carefully worded letters that don’t appear to have had much, if any, impact on Trump’s attitude or actions toward inspectors general.

ny times logoNew York Times, Elizabeth Warren to Hold Big-Dollar Fund-Raiser for Joe Biden, Reid J. Epstein, May 24, 2020 (print ed.). Ms. Warren, in the mix for the vice-presidential nomination, had made opposition to events with big donors a central part of her own presidential bid.

elizabeth warren o purpleSenator Elizabeth Warren, whose full-throated opposition to high-dollar fund-raising events was a central tenet of her presidential campaign, has agreed to host such a gathering of donors for Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, who is considering her to be his running mate.

The online event is set to take place on June 15, according to three people with knowledge of the plans, who spoke under condition of anonymity to share the details.

During her presidential run, Ms. Warren explicitly vowed not to attend private fund-raisers or dial up rich donors. A Massachusetts progressive, she championed tax increases on the wealthy and at times sharply criticized big-money donors. Her rise in public opinion polls last summer deeply concerned many veteran Democratic donors, particularly those on Wall Street and in the banking sector who believed she would damage their industries.

Ms. Warren built a network of high-dollar donors as a senator from Massachusetts and previously attended fund-raising events, building up her own campaign war chest before she entered the Democratic presidential race. But in late February 2019, as she sought to gain traction in online presidential fund-raising, especially among progressives who Senator Bernie Sanders was also courting, she ruled out big-money events.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Donald Trump has to worry about what Ann Coulter just did to him, Bill Palmer, May 24, 2020. As a general rule I refuse to write about what Ann Coulter says, because nearly every time she opens her mouth it’s in order to purposely and calculatedly say something stupid, for the purpose of drawing attention to herself and selling more of her books. I only make an exception when Coulter occasionally says something that gives away what’s happening on Donald Trump’s side of the fence – and today is one of those days.

bill palmer report logo headerCoulter has feuded with Trump on Twitter before, but usually only on specific issues, and in ways that they both know can ultimately be glossed over later. But Coulter is doing something different today. She’s posted about a dozen scathing anti-Trump tweets, pointing out his crimes in the Trump-Russia scandal, explaining how he screwed up the Alabama Senate election, and apologizing for having believed that Trump was going to be remotely competent.

Coulter is clearly hoping Trump will attack her in return, and he probably will. But while this is yet another attempt at publicity, it’s not some one-off feud. Coulter is trying to clearly establish herself as an anti-Trump conservative who thinks Trump is a complete idiot across the board. So why do this? She must have calculated that the bulk of her own far-right audience is turning against (or will end up turning against) Trump, and she’s looking to very loudly get out ahead of it.

It’s easy to think of Ann Coulter as a dope because she says so many stupid things. But she’s spent years playing this game (and winning, in terms of book sales) by saying the precise kinds of stupid things that are calculated to drive sales of her books. Four years ago she correctly bet that the smart money on the far right was to be made by loudly supporting Trump. Now she’s betting that going forward, the smart money on the right is to be made by loudly slamming Trump. She deserves absolutely no credit for any of this, of course. But here’s hoping she’s betting correctly, and that Trump is going down

Axios, Sneak Peek: Inside the secret talks to overhaul the GOP platform, Jonathan Swan, May 24, 2020. For the past six months, top Trump campaign officials, reporting to Jared Kushner, have been working on a radical overhaul of the Republican Party platform.

Driving the news: The Trump campaign's Bill Stepien has been leading the process, working with campaign colleagues and the Republican National Committee. As with all significant campaign matters, they've been reporting back to Kushner.

The president's son-in-law and top adviser has told confidants he wants to shrink the GOP's extensive platform of policy beliefs and principles down to a single card that fits in people's pockets. That's a huge change. The 2016 platform runs 58 pages — the product of extensive debate and heated negotiations.

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge hires high-powered D.C. attorney to defend his actions in Flynn case, Carol D. Leonnig and Spencer S. Hsu, May 24, 2020 (print ed.). The federal judge who refused a Justice Department request to immediately drop the prosecution of former Michael Flynn Harvard 2014Trump adviser Michael Flynn, right, has hired a high-profile trial lawyer to argue his reasons for investigating whether dismissing the case is legally or ethically appropriate.

In a rare step that adds to this criminal case’s already unusual path, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan has beth wilkinsonretained Beth Wilkinson, left, to represent him in defending his decision to a federal appeals court in Washington, according to a person familiar with the hire who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is now examining the judge’s actions and the larger case against Flynn after lawyers for President Trump’s former national security adviser asked the court to force Sullivan to toss Flynn’s guilty plea.

Wilkinson, known for her top-notch legal skills and get-results style, is expected to file a notice with the court in the coming week about representing the judge. She declined to comment when reached Friday evening. Sullivan also declined to comment through his office.

emmet sullivan 2012A federal judge doesn’t typically hire private counsel to respond to an appeals court, and yet so much about Flynn’s case has been a departure from the norm. A defendant doesn’t normally plead guilty under oath and then try to withdraw that admission, as Flynn did. The Justice Department almost never drops a case once it essentially won a conviction, a signed guilty plea, as Attorney General William P. Barr ordered earlier this month.

About two weeks ago, Sullivan, left, pushed off Barr’s request and paused Flynn’s case to invite outside groups and a retired federal judge to argue against the Justice Department’s proposal.

Sullivan also asked retired New York judge John Gleeson to examine whether Flynn may have committed perjury while pleading guilty to lying about his pre-inauguration contacts with Russia’s ambassador. Flynn’s lawyers then accused Sullivan of bias and asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to intervene.

On Thursday, that higher court took the extraordinary step of ordering Sullivan to answer within 10 days. The court also invited the Justice Department to comment.

  • Washington Post, FBI director orders internal review of Michael Flynn case, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, May 23, 2020 (print ed.). The president had accused FBI Director Christopher A. Wray of “skirting” controversies about the bureau’s investigation.

More World News

washington post logoWashington Post, As tankers head toward the Caribbean, growing Iran-Venezuela ties draw U.S. concern, Anthony Faiola, Missy Ryan and Iran FlagErin Cunningham, May 24, 2020 (print ed.). Iran is warning of a looming confrontation with the United States. U.S. officials are downplaying talk of military action.

Venezuela and Iran, U.S. adversaries that have been stung by sanctions and hobbled by the novel coronavirus, are forging a closer strategic partnership, providing embattled President Nicolás Maduro a vital lifeline and offering Tehran the prospect of a new center of influence just across the Caribbean Sea from Florida.

The most public display of the deepening relationship: five oil tankers steaming across the Atlantic Ocean, carrying what analysts estimate to be 60 million gallons of Iranian gasoline, which they say was bought with Venezuelan gold, an allegation Iran denies. The first of the ships was set to arrive in Venezuelan waters Saturday evening to relieve fuel shortages so dire that the sick can’t get to hospitals and produce is rotting on farms.

Flag of Turkeywashington post logoWashington Post, As military power shifts in Libya, Turkey and Russia control country’s fate, Sudarsan Raghavan, May 24, 2020. Turkish support for a U.N.-backed government pushed back warlord Khalifa Hifter, whose allies include Moscow.

washington post logoWashington Post, Boris Johnson’s top aide accused of violating quarantine with 260-mile road trip, William Booth and Karla Adam, May 24, 2020. United Kingdom flagCritics in Britain say government officials set coronavirus rules that they themselves don’t follow.

U.S. Media / Politics

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s projection is showing, Bill Palmer, May 24, 2020. For all his erratic and maniacal behavior, Donald Trump is consistently predictable in certain ways. For instance, he’s so deeply lost in a haze of projection that whenever he randomly accuses an adversary of something awful, it usually turns out Trump himself is guilty of that same exact thing.

That brings us to Donald Trump’s behavior over the past few days. For instance, Trump just said that he doesn’t think Joe Biden can bill palmer report logo headerremember what he said or did yesterday. If you follow Biden, you know that he gets roughly as tongue-tied these days as he did in his youth, but he’s still plenty sharp. Trump’s false assertion that Biden is so far gone he can’t remember what he was doing yesterday? That sounds like Trump admitting that he can’t remember what he was doing yesterday – and if you follow Trump’s behavior, it’s pretty clear that he’s in severe cognitive decline.

djt smiling fileIn another disturbing example, Trump tripled down last night on his insistence that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough once murdered an intern. This is absolutely not the case, and Trump is certainly not helping his cause by continuing to make this false accusation. But considering Trump’s sense of projection, it does make you wonder if Trump has gotten violent with his own female employees in the past, and that’s why he’s so obsessively trying to pin this same crime on Scarborough.

The point of projection is to try to steer blame and attention away from yourself by pinning your failings on others. But Donald Trump keeps getting worse at this. At this point he’s being so blatant and oddly specific about it, he’s practically telegraphing what we should go digging for in his past, in his medical records, and so on. Trump can’t even do projection right anymore. His mind really does seem to be failing – as he seemed to acknowledge when when he essentially admitted that he can no longer remember what he’s doing from one day to the next.

May 23

Top Headlines

Virus Victims, Relief

Pandemic Politics

 U.S. 2020 Elections

World News

U.S. Crime, Courts

  • Washington Post, FBI director orders internal review of Michael Flynn case

 

Top Headlines

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: As U.S. Nears 100,000 Deaths, Trump Disputes the Toll, Staff reports, May 23, 2020. President Trump and members american flag upside down distressof his administration have been questioning the official toll as most experts say the numbers are probably an undercount. Brazil overtakes Russia in the number of confirmed virus cases. Follow the latest global updates.

• How to have a safe Memorial Day weekend.
• China reported no new coronavirus deaths or symptomatic cases.
• Will the coronavirus kill what’s left of Americans’ faith in Washington?
• German church opens its doors to Muslims amid restrictions on Eid celebrations.
• An antigovernment rally protests Spain’s response to the pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, America Enters a Memorial Day Weekend to Remember (or Forget), Farah Stockman, May 23, 2020 (print ed.). Crowded parades. Mobbed beaches. Jam-packed backyard barbecues. Memorial Day typically brings millions of Americans shoulder to shoulder.

But this year these first rites of summer are taking place as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. Public health officials warn that the impulse for social interaction and fun could result in an uptick in cases.

Virus Victims, Relief

washington post logoWashington Post, Study says 24 states may still have uncontrolled spread, Joel Achenbach, Rachel Weiner and Isaac Stanley-Becker, May 23, 2020 (print ed.). The coronavirus may still be spreading at epidemic rates in 24 states, particularly in the South and Midwest, according to new research that highlights the risk of a second wave of infections in places that reopen too quickly or without sufficient precautions.

Researchers at Imperial College London created a model that incorporates cellphone data showing that people sharply reduced their movements after stay-at-home orders were broadly imposed in March. With restrictions now easing and mobility increasing with the approach of Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer, the researchers developed an estimate of viral spread as of May 17.

washington post logoWashington Post, Government has spent decades studying what a life is worth. It hasn’t made a difference in this crisis, Todd C. Frankel, May 23, 2020 (print ed.)There's a statistic that puts a price tag on a human life. The government has used it for decades to calculate the cost-benefit of regulations, but it's not using it in its response to the pandemic.

Pandemic Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Political fights break out as dozens of states modify voting rules in light of pandemic, Elise Viebeck, May 23, 2020 (print ed.). In response to covid-19, nearly 30 states have changed voting rules or practices this year, affecting roughly 86.6 million registered voters. But the largely bipartisan wave of change has been hit by political turbulence as President Trump attacks voting by mail and threatens to punish states where Democratic leaders are facilitating it.

The coronavirus pandemic is rapidly transforming this year’s elections, changing the way tens of millions of people cast ballots and putting thousands of election officials at the center of a pitched political fight as they rush to adapt with limited time and funding.

In a watershed moment for American voting, nearly 30 states have changed rules or practices for this year’s primaries or the general election in response to the public health threat posed by covid-19, according to a tally by The Washington Post. The new policies affect roughly 86.6 million registered voters — including more than 40 million people who now have the temporary right to cast an absentee ballot because of the virus.

This striking shift in the voting landscape encompasses nearly every part of the country, red and blue states alike. But with November less than six months away, the largely bipartisan wave of change has been hit by political turbulence as President Trump raises unfounded doubts about the security of voting by mail and threatens to punish states where Democratic leaders are facilitating it.

Battles over voting in the age of the coronavirus are defining the 2020 presidential cycle, with intense partisan fights over the rules erupting in states such as Wisconsin and Texas. The outcome will shape how easy it will be for people to cast their ballots in November — and in some cases, whether certain mail-in votes will be counted.

Trump escalates campaign to discredit mail balloting, threatening federal funds to two battleground states

As more than two dozen legal battles wend their way through the courts, local and state officials are racing to figure out how to administer the election amid the health crisis, propelled by an unyielding calendar.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon leaves open possibility that some National Guard members could fall short of accruing benefits in virus response, Dan Lamothe, May 23, 2020 (print ed.). The Pentagon is open to having some National Guard members stay on federal orders beyond a June 24 date set by the Trump administration, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on Friday, but he did not rule out that some involved in the coronavirus response could fall short of accruing some military benefits.

Department of Defense SealThe issue arose after the administration decided to end federal deployment orders for National Guard members on June 24. The decision would leave some who were placed under federal orders in late March just short of reaching a 90-day threshold that would allow them to collect retirement benefits early, before turning 60. The date also would cut short access to some GI Bill benefits, though that could be earned later.

Esper, in an appearance on the “Today” show, declined to comment on whether he thinks the date was set by design and said he is “fully committed to supporting our National Guard members and our active-duty members as well.”

Esper said that he is open to extending federal status for Guard members “if they’re working a valid mission assignment” but that he was “not worried about the number of days” they did so.

“What I’m worried about … is making sure that we win the fight against the coronavirus and we fully support the young men and women who are serving on the streets of America in the National Guard,” Esper said.

The issue has grown contentious because under federal law, Guard members who are activated for 90 days within a fiscal year are allowed to begin collecting retirement pay early on a sliding scale. The policy states that Guard members begin collecting retirement pay at age 60 as a baseline, with benefits available early for each year they are activated 90 days or more on federal status.

Several Democratic lawmakers and the National Guard Association of the United States, which lobbies for Guard members, have blasted the administration for adopting the June 24 date after it was reported in a Politico story this week.

washington post logodoug burgum o CustomWashington Post, Analysis: N.D. governor makes emotional plea to anti-mask crowd: Stop this senseless culture war, Aaron Blake, May 23, 2020. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R), right, choked up as he said mask wearers “might be doing it because they have a 5-year-old child who’s been going through cancer treatments.”

 U.S. 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump is lying to sway his reelection, and Democrats aren’t paying attention, Colbert I. King, right, May 23, 2020 (print ed.). When President Trump announced this week that he is taking the drug colbert king 2003hydroxychloroquine, I was working my way through The Post’s new book, Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth, written by the newspaper’s Fact Checker staff.

The thought that Trump would ignore warnings from the Food and Drug Administration and deliberately ingest a drug that could have serious side effects was disturbing. Equally upsetting, however, was the thought that the president may have taken to the airwaves to tell a flat-out lie. Why should we believe he’s taking the drug? After all, America has come to this: a president of the United States whose word cannot be trusted.

Fact Checker editor and chief writer Glenn Kessler labels Trump “the most mendacious president in U.S. history.” And the 344-page book backs up that charge.

Mendacity lies at the heart of his reelection strategy: Keep them — we know who — away from the polls by any means necessary. If that requires telling lies about absentee balloting, making false voter-fraud charges, and misrepresenting disenfranchisement and voter-suppression schemes, so be it.

And, depressingly, some Democrats are making it easy for Trump.

Instead of joining a nationwide strategy to protect polling places from intimidation and safeguarding the U.S. Postal Service’s ability to deliver mailed ballots unimpeded by budget strictures — and at a time when focus belongs on protecting the right to vote, encouraging voter registration and ensuring access to a ballot — Democrats are furiously debating which woman should be Joe Biden’s running mate.

ny times logoNew York Times, Firing a Salvo in Culture Wars, Trump Pushes for Churches to Reopen, Peter Baker, May 23, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump threatened to overrule states that refuse to open places of worship. Legal experts said he did not have such authority.

President Trump may not consider church essential to his personal life, but it may be to his political future. And so he waded into the culture wars on Friday by demanding that states allow places of worship to reopen “right away” and threatening to overrule any that defy him.

Marching into the White House briefing room for a hastily called announcement, Mr. Trump declared places of worship “essential” operations that should hold services in person this weekend regardless of state quarantine orders stemming from the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 96,000 people in the United States.

jeff sessionsPalmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions are having an epic feud – and they’re both losing, Bill Palmer, May 23, 2020. Disgraced racist Jeff Sessions, right, is trying to get his old Senate seat back, and he’s currently engaged in a Republican primary battle with Tommy Tuberville, the winner of which will then take on incumbent Democratic Senator Doug Jones.

The thing is, Trump is siding with Tuberville, partly to try to extract revenge on Sessions – and the feud between Trump and Sessions is boiling over tonight.

bill palmer report logo headerIt all started tonight when Donald Trump tweeted this while endorsing Tuberville: “3 years ago, after Jeff Sessions recused himself, the Fraudulent Mueller Scam began.” Sessions then fired back at Trump: “Look, I know your anger, but recusal was required by law. I did my duty & you’re damn fortunate I did. It protected the rule of law & resulted in your exoneration. Your personal feelings don’t dictate who Alabama picks as their senator, the people of Alabama do.” This set off a firestorm.

For starters, Trump was never “exonerated” on anything. Yet here we have Trump and Sessions fighting over an issue that they’d both be better off if people forgot about it entirely.

djt jeff sessions palmer Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes off the deep end and takes Jeff Sessions with him, Bill Palmer, May 23, 2020. These two idiots just don’t know when to stop. Yesterday Donald Trump stabbed his former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, above right, in the back by endorsing his Alabama Senate Republican primary opponent Tommy Tuberville. Trump also blamed Sessions for allowing the Mueller probe to happen. Sessions then fired back, falsely claiming that Trump was “exonerated” by Mueller. Now the two goons are at it again.

bill palmer report logo headerAfter Sessions dared to respond to Trump, Trump fired back with this heap of lies: “Jeff, you had your chance & you blew it. Recused yourself ON DAY ONE (you never told me of a problem), and ran for the hills. You had no courage, & ruined many lives. The dirty cops, & others, got caught by better & stronger people than you. Hopefully this slime will pay a big.”

Meanwhile, back in the real world, half a dozen of Donald Trump’s people have been convicted of felonies in relation to the Mueller probe, and Trump himself is already earmarked for prison on eleven counts of felony obstruction of justice if he loses the election. Trump would do well to stop reminding the world of his treason plot against the United States. But then again, Trump is an idiot.

 U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, husband Jerry Sprecher, president of the New York Stock Exchange, and Vice President Mike Pence

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, husband Jerry Sprecher, president of the New York Stock Exchange, and Vice President Mike Pence.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just threw GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler under the bus, Bill Palmer, May 23, 2020. Bill Barr’s Department of Justice appears to be singling out Republican Senator Richard Burr in the coronavirus insider trading scandal, in a now-successful attempt at forcing Burr to give up his position as Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

bill palmer report logo headerThere is no indication that the DOJ is seriously investigating Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, who was also a part of the scandal. But now the Trump regime is throwing Loeffler under the bus in a different way.

Kelly Loeffler has seen her poll numbers crater since the scandal, to the point that she’s now as much as forty points behind her Republican primary challenger, Doug Collins. Earlier this week it was reported that Loeffler’s husband donated a million dollars to a Trump-related Super PAC, in a rather blatant attempt at currying Trump’s favor. But while that may be enough to keep the Trump DOJ from arresting the Loefflers, it hasn’t bought them Trump’s support in the election.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration discussed conducting first U.S. nuclear test in decades, May 23, 2020 (print ed.). The Trump administration has discussed whether to conduct the first U.S. nuclear test explosion since 1992 in a move that would have far-reaching consequences for relations with other nuclear powers and reverse a decades-long moratorium on such actions, said a senior administration official and two former officials familiar with the deliberations.

Department of Defense SealThe matter came up at a meeting of senior officials representing the top national security agencies May 15, following accusations from administration officials that Russia and China are conducting low-yield nuclear tests — an assertion that has not been substantiated by publicly available evidence and that both countries have denied.

A senior administration official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive nuclear discussions, said that demonstrating to Moscow and Beijing that the United States could “rapid test” could prove useful from a negotiating standpoint as Washington seeks a trilateral deal to regulate the arsenals of the biggest nuclear powers.

ny times logoNew York Times, China’s Power Grab Leaves Hong Kong Protesters Reeling, Vivian Wang and Austin Ramzy, May 23, 2020 (print ed.). Beijing’s move to take a direct hand in the territory’s affairs will pit the pro-democracy movement against the Communist Party.

The last time they faced a proposal that would have curbed their autonomy from mainland China, Hong Kong residents flooded the city’s streets, stormed its legislature and clashed with police amid flames and clouds of tear gas. They stared down local leaders, who they said were doing the bidding of Beijing, and ultimately the government relented.

But Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition movement is now confronting the prospect of Beijing imposing its will regardless of what they think.

The Chinese government’s plan, unveiled on Thursday, to take a stronger, more direct hand in Hong Kong’s affairs surprised members of the territory’s leaderless protest movement. For many protesters, the move raised questions about how to oppose the direct power of the Chinese Communist Party, which does not tolerate dissent and is fiercely resistant to compromise.

“They are dealing a knockout blow to the democracy movement,” said pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo. “All the fear, the desperation, the antipathy is now being answered by this national security law.” Stunned and saddened, many protesters on Friday seemed demoralized and uncertain of their next move.

U.S. Crime, Courts

  • Washington Post, FBI director orders internal review of Michael Flynn case, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, May 23, 2020 (print ed.). The president had accused FBI Director Christopher A. Wray of “skirting” controversies about the bureau’s investigation.

May 22

Top Headlines

U.S. Virus Victims, Relief

World News

U.S. Courts, Crime

Inside DC

Trump Family

 

Top Headlines

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Live Updates: Study Shows Hydroxychloroquine May Harm Coronavirus Patients, Staff reports, May 22, 2020. New research suggested a drug championed by President Trump could be harmful. The Fed chief warned the U.S. faced a downturn “without modern precedent.” american flag upside down distressFlags were ordered lowered over Memorial Day weekend for those who died from the virus.

More than 1.5 million people in the United States have been infected by the coronavirus, a New York Times database shows, and nearly 95,000 have died.

• The Fed chief warned of ‘a whole new level of uncertainty’ as financial pain deepens.
• Hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment funds were lost to fraud even as jobless claims soar.
• The country enters a Memorial Day weekend to remember (or forget).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Many Will Die for the Dow? Paul Krugman, right, May 22, 2020 (print ed.). In a pandemic, Trump is reverting to type. In mid-paul krugmanMarch, after weeks in denial, Donald Trump finally admitted that Covid-19 was a serious threat and called on Americans to practice social distancing.

The delayed acknowledgment of reality — reportedly driven by concerns that admitting that the coronavirus posed a threat would hurt the stock market — had deadly consequences. Epidemiological modelers believe that tens of thousands of deaths might have been avoided if America had started lockdowns even a week earlier.

Still, better late than never. And for a little while it seemed as if we were finally settling on a strategy for containing the virus while also limiting the djt i want you to die Customeconomic hardship caused by the lockdown.

But Trump and the Republican Party as a whole have now given up on that strategy. They won’t say this explicitly, and they’re throwing up various disingenuous explanations for what they’re doing, but their basic position is that thousands of Americans must die for the Dow.

What was the strategy Trump abandoned? It was the same strategy that has worked in other countries, from South Korea to New Zealand. First, use a lockdown to “crush the curve”: reduce the number of infected Americans to a relatively low level. Then combine gradual reopening with widespread testing, tracing of contacts after an infected individual is identified, and isolation of those who might spread the disease.

Now, an extended lockdown means a large loss of income for many workers and businesses; indeed, almost half of the adult population lives in households that have lost employment income since early March. So it has to be accompanied by disaster relief, especially generous unemployment benefits and aid to small businesses, to make the lockdown tolerable. And the fact is that disaster relief has been more effective than is widely recognized.

At first, overwhelmed unemployment offices were unable to process the flood of applications. But they have been gradually catching up, and at this point most unemployed Americans appear to be receiving benefits that replace a large share of their lost wages.

But that safety net will be snatched away over the next few months unless Congress and the White House act to maintain it. Small businesses have only an eight-week window to convert loans into grants, which means that many will start laying off workers within a month or so. Expanded unemployment benefits will expire on July 31.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: With Unemployment Expected to Reach 20% Senators Take a Vacation, Editorial Board, May 22, 2020. Facing a calamity on par with the Great Depression, they left without a new relief package in place. After three weeks in session, the United States Senate emptied out again on Friday, as lawmakers fled Washington for the Memorial Day recess. They left without even pretending to tackle the next round of coronavirus relief.

This is how the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, wants it. Many Republicans, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, are reluctant to embrace more government spending, so Mr. McConnell is taking a wait-and-see approach.

us senate logoThe Democratic-led House passed a $3 trillion relief package on May 15. That bill was imperfect but it was something. Mr. McConnell, on the other hand, has repeatedly said he’s in no hurry for the Senate to offer its own proposal. He has put talks on an indefinite pause, saying he wants to see how the economy responds to previous relief measures. The Senate may get around to putting together a plan when it reconvenes next month. Or perhaps it will in July.

This course of inaction is unsustainable. Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, warned this week that the economic damage from the pandemic could stretch through the end of next year. Over the past nine weeks, new jobless claims have hit nearly 39 million, and the official unemployment rate is expected to approach 20 percent this month. Behind these numbers are real people suffering significant hardship.

The Senate’s sluggish response in addressing this suffering has begun to discomfit even some of Mr. McConnell’s fellow Republicans. “I think June doesn’t need to come and go without a phase four,” said Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi on Wednesday, referring to the next round of aid.

Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado and Susan Collins of Maine — both facing tough re-election races — have been especially eager to assure constituents that they take their pain seriously. “Congress has a tremendous responsibility to help mitigate the impact of this crisis on our states and our local communities and on the families they serve,” Ms. Collins said in a floor speech on Wednesday. “We must not wait. We should act now.”

U.S. Virus Victims, Relief

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s signature effort to direct farm surplus to needy families abruptly withdraws large contract, Laura Reiley, May 22, 2020. The first $1.2 billion of the Farmers to Families Food Box contracts have been awarded. Food industry experts wonder who some of these people are.

The Trump administration withdrew one of the largest contracts in its signature effort to use farm surplus to feed hungry Americans, capping a chaotic process that industry experts say relied too heavily on companies with little demonstrated experience in farming, food chains or food banks.

Contracts totaling more than $107 million went to a San Antonio event planner, an avocado mail-order company, a health-and-wellness airport kiosk company and a trade finance corporation, according to the Agriculture Department’s announcement of contract awards.

But the USDA bypassed the country’s three largest food distribution companies, as well as nonprofit organizations with long histories of feeding the poor on a large scale, according to Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Produce Association (UFPA).

ny times logoNew York Times, C.D.C. Test Counting Error Leaves Epidemiologists ‘Really Baffled,’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sheila Kaplan and Sarah Mervosh, May 22, 2020. The Centers for Disease Control has been lumping together tests for active coronavirus with tests for recovered patients, boosting testing totals but muddying the pandemic’s course.

cdc logo CustomAs it tracks the coronavirus’s spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is combining tests that detect active infection with those that detect recovery from Covid-19 — a system that muddies the picture of the pandemic but raises the percentage of Americans tested as President Trump boasts about testing.

Now that serology tests, which look for antibodies in the blood of people who have recovered, are more widespread, C.D.C. officials said Friday they would work to separate them from the results of diagnostic tests, which detect active infection. One of the agency’s data tracker websites has been lumping them together.

Stunned epidemiologists say data from antibody tests and active virus tests should never be mixed because diagnostic testing seeks to quantify the amount of active disease in the population. Serological testing can also be unreliable. And patients who have had both diagnostic and serology tests would be counted twice in the totals.

“It just doesn’t make any sense; all of us are really baffled,” said Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida.

Epidemiologists, state health officials and a spokeswoman for the C.D.C. said there was no ill intent; they attributed the flawed reporting system to confusion and fatigue in overworked state and local health departments that typically track infections — not tests — during outbreaks. The C.D.C. relies on states to report their data.

If the agency intended to bolster the testing numbers for political purposes, the advantage to Mr. Trump would be minimal. The Atlantic reported that on Monday, one of the C.D.C.’s trackers reported that 10.2 million viral tests had been conducted nationwide since the pandemic began. On Wednesday, after the C.D.C. stopped differentiating virus tests, the number went to 10.8 million.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I had to choose being a mother’: With no child care or summer camps, women are being edged out of the workforce, Caroline Kitchener, May 22, 2020. There’s evidence that women are being laid off or furloughed at a significantly higher rate than men. But there is another threat to women’s paid labor that can be harder to see: With families forced to take on more domestic labor, women are opting out of the workforce.

Women’s jobs — concentrated in service industries — are particularly vulnerable in the coronavirus economy; there’s evidence that women are being laid off or furloughed at a significantly higher rate than men. But there is another threat to women’s paid labor that can be harder to see: With kids at home, and families forced to take on significantly more domestic labor, women are opting out of the workforce.

Nearly all of the women interviewed for this story — who had either stopped working because of the virus, or were planning to — said the hiatus was temporary. Once schools and day-care centers reopen, they say, they plan to go back.

It might not be so easy.

World News

djt xi

 ny times logoimages/djt-china-xi-jinping-april-2017.jpgNew York Times, Trump May Face Tough Decisions About His Ties With Xi, Michael Crowley and Edward Wong, May 22, 2020 (print ed.). A proposed new security law has senators calling for sanctions. But President Trump is reluctant to jeopardize his ties to President Xi Jinping (shown above in a file photo and at right with their wives.

ny times logoNew York Times, China, Facing Challenges, Mounts Show of Strength, Keith Bradsher and Chris Buckley, Updated May 22, 2020. Top leaders struck a hard line at the National People’s Congress, confronting defiance in Hong Kong and economic damage from the coronavirus. They announced sweeping laws to place Hong Kong more firmly under their rule. On the economy, China abandoned setting an annual growth target for 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sons of Jamal Khashoggi forgive his killers, clearing path for official pardons, Kareem Fahim, May 22, 2020. The sons of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi posted a message on social media early Friday saying that they have forgiven their father’s killers, a declaration that could allow Saudi authorities to commute the death sentences of five Saudi officials convicted of Khashoggi’s murder.

The statement was posted on the Twitter account of Salah Khashoggi, the journalist’s eldest son, who lives in Saudi Arabia. “We, sons of the martyr Jamal Khashoggi, announce that we forgive those who killed our father,” said the message, which cited a tradition of granting pardons during the holy month of Ramadan.

The Saudi justice system allows families of victims in some capital cases to grant clemency to convicted killers. There had been widespread speculation that Khashoggi’s children, who have refrained from criticizing the Saudi leadership, would take such a step, though it was not clear whether their expression of forgiveness was extended willingly or coerced.

Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, criticized the Khashoggi family statement on Friday. “No one has the right to pardon his killers,” she wrote on Twitter. “I and others will not stop until we get #JusticeForJamal.”

Khashoggi, a veteran journalist who contributed columns to The Washington Post, was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 when he went to collect documents that would allow him to remarry. The killers were Saudi government agents, dispatched to Turkey on the orders of top advisers to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to Turkish and Saudi prosecutors.

U.S. Courts, Crime

Norma McCorvey, center left, raises arm in triumph with her attorney Gloria Allred following 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, as portrayed in new FX documentary

Norma McCorvey, center left, raises arm in triumph with her attorney Gloria Allred and Supreme Court building in background following 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, as portrayed in new FX documentary "AKA Jane Roe," illustrated by Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Jane Roe’s Pro-Life Conversion Was a Con, Michelle Goldberg, right, May 22, 2020. Norma McCorvey makes a shocking michelle goldberg thumbdeathbed confession.

In 2006, I went to Jackson, Miss., to report on the weeklong siege of the state’s last abortion clinic by the anti-abortion group Operation Save America. Flip Benham, then the group’s leader, had T-shirts made up, black with white lettering, saying, “Homosexuality Is Sin! Islam Is a Lie! Abortion Is Murder! Some Issues Are Just Black and White!”

By his side was Norma McCorvey, the Jane Roe in Roe v. Wade. In 1995 Benham opened the headquarters of Operation Rescue, an earlier iteration of Operation Save America, next to the Texas abortion clinic where McCorvey worked, and converted her during her smoke breaks. In Mississippi, she tore up the decision bearing her alias, telling the abortion protesters: “You’re so beautiful. I’m so sorry for what I did.” That night, the group burned all the scraps in a church parking lot. McCorvey lit the match.

It was a cultural coup for the right when McCorvey publicly turned against legal abortion. Jane Roe rejecting Roe v. Wade was something abortion opponents could throw in the faces of pro-choice activists. So it is a bombshell that McCorvey has revealed, in the posthumous new documentary AKA Jane Roe, that it was, at least in some sense, an act. “I am a good actress,” she said.

The movie, which debuts on Friday on FX, also makes clear that anti-abortion leaders understood this. They’ve been perpetrating a scam on us all for 25 years.

In the documentary’s final 20 minutes, McCorvey, who died of heart failure in 2017, gives what she calls her “deathbed confession.” She and the pro-life movement, she said, were using each other: “I took their money, and they put me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say, and that’s what I’d say.”

In her career as a pro-life icon, she collected nearly half a million dollars. But at the end of her life, she once again affirmed a belief in the right to abortion, and evinced pride in Roe v. Wade. “Roe isn’t going anywhere,” she said early on election night in 2016, when she thought Hillary Clinton was going to win. “They can try, but it’s not happening, baby.”

Given the political damage done by her cynical about-face, it’s surprising how sympathetic McCorvey — campy, foul-mouthed and irreverent — comes off. She was a lost soul from a traumatic background. Her father was absent and her mother beat her, and she ended up in reform school after running away from home at 10. She entered an abusive marriage at 16, became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and lost custody of her first child.

norma mccorvery fx documentary

Christianity Today, Opinion: Deathbed Apology: Norma McCorvey’s Pro-Life Friends Tell Another Story, Jonathon Van Maren, May 22, 2020. What the ‘AKA Jane Roe’ documentary gets wrong.

"In February 1970, I was Norma McCorvey, a pregnant street person, a twenty-one-year-old woman in big trouble,” writes McCorvey in her 1994 memoir I Am Roe. “I became Jane Roe at a corner table at Columbo’s, an Italian restaurant at Mockingbird Lane and Greenville Avenue in Dallas.”

That short meeting with Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, two lawyers looking for the right case to strike a blow on behalf of abortion rights, transformed McCorvey’s life. The following month, Weddington and Coffee filed a lawsuit against Dallas district attorney Henry Wade for enforcing Texas’s abortion law and used McCorvey as their lead plaintiff. The case ended up at the United States Supreme Court, and on January 22, 1973, the justices overturned the law seven-to-two and legalized abortion in all fifty states.

norma mccorvey jane roe 1989On that day, Norma McCorvey (shown at left in a 1989 photo) became Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade — part symbol, part person, trapped in the maelstrom of history and the sound and fury of America’s abortion wars. When she left the abortion industry for the pro-life movement in 1994, she made headlines across the nation.

Now again, McCorvey is making headlines as the bombshell subject of a new FX documentary, AKA Jane Roe, which claims that she changed her mind a second time and reverted back to a pro-abortion position. Producer Nick Sweeney tells a story in which McCorvey’s relationship with the pro-life movement was strictly a financial one.

In a series of interviews that she dubbed her “deathbed confession,” McCorvey calls it all an “act.”

“I was the big fish,” McCorvey says in the documentary. “I think it was a mutual thing … I took their money and they’d put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say.”

Numerous headlines have suggested that McCorvey was “paid to change her mind” on abortion, despite the fact that those are not actually her words. In trying to unearth the real narrative, I spoke with many of her close friends, three of whom went on the record. Those three, in addition to others, reject the idea that she was bribed into switching sides. Their story of McCorvey and their relationship with her is much more complex, intimate, and humane.

“For this new documentary to quote Norma saying she was not genuinely pro-life is very suspicious,” said Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life. “I knew Norma. Her pro-life convictions were not an act.”

Pavone was part of McCorvey’s faith story. As she described in her second memoir, Won By Love, her relationship with various pro-lifers led her to Christianity and also to the pro-life movement. On August 8, 1995, she was baptized in a backyard swimming pool in Dallas, Texas. In 1998, she became a Roman Catholic and adopted Pavone as her spiritual director. (His organization recently released a statement on the Sweeney documentary.)

Starting the year of her baptism, McCorvey spoke at numerous pro-life events and publicly expressed remorse for her role in the legalization of abortion. In 2004, she even sought to have the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade based on new evidence that abortion hurts women. (The case was dismissed the following year.)

Was McCorvey bribed for her ongoing contributions to the movement? Sweeney’s evidence for this claim — that over the decades, McCorvey had been paid at least $456,911 in gifts — supports an opposite conclusion, in my opinion. The figure is not a high one, considering that some pro-life speakers often earn upwards of $10,000 for a single speaking engagement. And being paid to advocate for a position is not the same thing as being paid to change your mind.

More importantly, my sources suggest that these monetary contributions were primarily given not for coercive purposes but for supportive ones. McCorvey’s pro-life friends cared deeply for her and often helped her financially when she was in need.

Tara Reade (AP photo by Donald Thompson) 

ny times logoNew York Times, As Tara Reade’s Expert Witness Credentials Are Questioned, So Are Verdicts, Lisa Lerer, Jim Rutenberg and Stephanie Saul, Updated May 22, 2020. Defense lawyers are reviewing cases in which Ms. Reade, the former Senate aide who has accused Joe Biden of sexual assault, gave expert testimony.

Defense lawyers in California are reviewing criminal cases in which Tara Reade, the former Senate aide who has accused Joseph R. Biden Jr. of sexual assault, served as an expert witness on domestic violence, concerned that she misrepresented her educational credentials in court.

Then known as Alexandra McCabe, Ms. Reade testified as a government witness in Monterey County courts for nearly a decade, describing herself as an expert in the dynamics of domestic violence who had counseled hundreds of victims.

But lawyers who had faced off against her in court began raising questions about the legitimacy of her testimony, and the verdicts that followed, after news reports this week that Antioch University had disputed her claim of receiving a bachelor’s degree from its Seattle campus.

The public defender’s office in Monterey County has begun scrutinizing cases involving Ms. Reade and compiling a list of clients who may have been affected by her testimony, according to Jeremy Dzubay, an assistant public defender in the office.

Roland Soltesz, a criminal defense lawyer, says he believes Ms. Reade’s testimony made a significant difference in the outcome of the 2018 trial of his client Victoria Ramirez. Both Ms. Ramirez and her co-defendant, Jennifer Vasquez, received life sentences for attempted murder, arson and armed robbery.

“People have been convicted based upon this, and that’s wrong,” said Mr. Soltesz, adding that he “could care less about the politics of this whole thing.”

Ms. Reade has accused Mr. Biden of assaulting her in the Senate complex in 1993, placing his hand under her dress and penetrating her with his fingers. Mr. Biden flatly denies her accusation.

Questions about Ms. Reade’s education background were first reported by CNN. Ms. Reade told The New York Times that she had obtained her degree through a “protected program” for victims of spousal abuse, which, court records show, she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband in the mid-1990s. That history, she said, caused her to change her name, leading to confusion about her status at the school. She later received a law degree from Seattle University.

But an Antioch spokeswoman, Karen Hamilton, told The Times that while Ms. Reade had attended classes, she was certain Ms. Reade had not received a degree.

Related stories:

ABC News, Under oath, Biden accuser Tara Reade cited Biden’s work for women; defense attorneys now question her other testimony, Mike Levine, May 22, 2020. Tara Reade has often testified as an expert witness in domestic violence cases. At least three times in the past two years, Tara Reade – the woman who now accuses Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of sexual assault – took the witness stand in a trial centered on domestic violence.

Each time, before a judge would allow her to describe the insidious cycles of domestic violence, she had to show she was qualified to testify in court as a so-called “expert witness.” And each time, she began her answer by citing two things: Biden’s past efforts to protect women from violence, and her time on his Senate staff in the early 1990s, when she now says the sexual assault took place.

“What’s your experience specifically with respect to domestic violence?” Monterey County Deputy District Attorney Robin Duffy asked Reade during a trial in California early last year, according to a transcript of the testimony.

“Well,” Reade responded, “I worked originally for former U.S. senator Joseph Biden as a legislative aide. He worked on the Violence Against Women Act.”

In the January 2019 testimony, Reade seemed to praise what Biden started as a U.S. senator, saying that “going way back to my former boss, Joe Biden,” there has been a “movement” to “take the onus off the victim” by encouraging neighbors or other associates of victims to report domestic violence to authorities.

She also cited Biden and the Violence Against Women Act during testimony in October last year, six months after she first publicly accused Biden of inappropriately touching her nearly two decades ago, limiting her complaints then to allegations he stroked her neck and twirled her curly hair between his fingers.

 jesse theodore mcfadden

Click on Detroit, Michigan man plans to steal helicopter for hospital attack to free COVID-19 patients, police say, Derick Hutchinson, May 22, 2020. A Michigan man (shown above) devised a plan to steal a helicopter from the Coast Guard in order to attack a police station and shooting up a hospital to disrupt the power and free the coronavirus (COVID-19) patients, authorities said.

Jesse Theodore McFadden, 70, is accused of calling Arenac County dispatchers around 8 a.m. Sunday to say he was on his way to the United States Coast Guard Station in Bay City, Michigan, to steal a helicopter, according to officials.

McFadden told dispatchers the helicopter would further his plan to attack a police station and shoot up a hospital, court records show. He wanted to disrupt the power to the hospital, unlock the doors and release patients under COVID-19 quarantine, officials said.

McFadden told authorities he was armed with a machine gun, police said. Dispatchers said they called police and the Coast Guard Station Saginaw River about the threat. They also revealed McFadden’s criminal history of brandishing weapons and resisting police, court records say.

Coast Guard workers at the Saginaw River station in Essexville said McFadden arrived around 10:30 a.m. in a black Ford open-bed pickup truck registered to another person.

He tried to get into the station using the gate keypad, officials said. After he failed to get in several times, he called the station communications center and demanded access, according to authorities.

His request was denied, so McFadden threatened to ram the gate open with his truck, court records show.

michael flynn djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Michael Flynn and the Presumption of Guilt, Bret Stephens, right, May 22, 2020. A distrust of prosecutorial power bret stephensshould not be abandoned. Of all the low moments in the 2016 Republican presidential convention — there were many — Michael Flynn’s speech ranks high.

“Damn right, exactly right,” the fired, retired three-star general said in answer to audience chants of “lock her up.” “And you know why we’re saying that? We’re saying that because if I, a guy who knows this business, if I did a tenth, a tenth of what [Hillary Clinton] did, I would be in jail today.”

This was said by a man who, as a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and top foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump, had already taken $45,000 from the K.G.B. regime in Moscow and would later take $530,000 from the Islamist regime in Ankara as an unregistered foreign agent. If Flynn had been prosecuted, judged and sentenced according to his own moral arithmetic, he’d be behind bars today.

Fortunately he isn’t, because sleazy behavior isn’t the same as criminal conduct. By now, every thoughtful observer should have learned two things from the experience of the Trump administration.

The first is that few things in politics are as despicable as efforts to use the power of the state to criminalize a political opponent. That’s why Trump’s efforts to bully a foreign ally into digging up dirt on his domestic opponent was so reprehensible. That’s why Trump deserved his impeachment.

Justice Department log circularThe second is that civil liberties matter, never more so than when a government seeks to prosecute the people it dislikes by hiding exculpatory evidence, using deceptive methods, relying on outdated laws or threatening them with financial or familial ruin.

Yet as Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake lays out in painstaking detail in an essay for Commentary magazine, this is what happened to Flynn. This has been obscured by the fact he twice pleaded guilty to a crime he likely did not commit, as part of an investigation into a conspiracy that the Mueller investigation could not prove. It’s obscured because some of the sensational reporting about him that once appeared solid later turned out to be dubious.

And it’s obscured because the administration’s inveterate critics have a hard time conceding that the theory in which they were politically and emotionally invested — that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia to steal the election — was built on a shaky foundation.

What, after all, is the supposed case against Flynn? There’s the claim that he undermined American interests by urging the Russian ambassador not to expel American diplomats in Russia. But that was a request in the service of American interests, not against them. There’s the argument that the call violated the 1799 Logan Act. But nobody has been convicted under that act and calls between incoming administration officials and foreign diplomats are hardly unprecedented.

Sergey KislyakThere is his alleged lying to F.B.I. agents about his conversation with the Russian ambassador [Sergei Kislyak, right]. But the bureau’s record of the interview shows the agents thought Flynn “did not give any indicators of deception,” according to the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss the case. There is the suggestion that Flynn exposed himself to Russian blackmail by supposedly lying to Mike Pence about the call with the ambassador. But as Lake astutely points out, “Perhaps it was Pence who lied, because he was asked a question he found difficult to answer on national television.”

Of course, there is Flynn’s guilty plea. But Flynn — like so many defendants in the U.S. justice system— pleaded guilty to avoid having a different charge, in his case the foreign-registration issue in the Turkish matter, thrown at him and his son. What that has to do with an investigation into Russian meddling in the American election is a question to ponder.

Against all this, consider the behavior of the F.B.I. In December, the Justice Department’s independent inspector general noted that the bureau repeatedly misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court in its investigation of Russian collusion.

As for Flynn, the F.B.I. discouraged him from having counsel present for the interview. It did not alert him that he was a target of a secret investigation. It withheld the transcript of his call, meaning that any discrepancy between Flynn’s memory and the transcript could be termed a lie rather than simple misremembering. It did not ask him direct questions about his conversations with Pence, though the rationale for the interview was to clear up supposed discrepancies between the record of his call and Pence’s televised comments. It later withheld from his counsel a key memo detailing the F.B.I.’s previous attempts to find evidence that he was a Russian asset, which had come up empty-handed.

What this amounts to, Lake writes, is “not only an injustice against Flynn but an assault on the peaceful transition of presidential power. The F.B.I.’s job is not to entangle the new president’s national-security adviser in a spurious investigation.”

Liberals used to have a healthy distrust of prosecutorial power, just as they had a healthy belief in the presumption of innocence. In the Tara Reade story, they’ve been reminded of the political folly of abandoning the second belief. It may not be long before they learn a similar lesson about the folly of abandoning the first.

SCOTUSblog, Analysis: Results from the court’s experiment with a new oral argument format, Adam Feldman, May 22, 2020. Editor’s note: This is the second post in a series analyzing the Supreme Court’s telephonic oral arguments with live audio instituted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Data for this project was provided by Oyez, a free law project by Justia and the Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School. Kalvis Golde and Katie Bart both provided invaluable assistance in aggregating data for this post.

We recently witnessed what was likely the biggest experiment in the history of Supreme Court oral arguments. As former Chief Justice William Rehnquist described in his essay looking at shifts in the focus of Supreme Court advocacy from oral arguments to the briefs, the biggest changes in the structure of oral arguments historically had to do with the time allotted to individual arguments.

Now, even though potentially ephemeral, the new structure implemented in May included unprecedented changes to the argument format. The three main alterations were that the arguments occurred remotely, so for the first time during arguments the justices were not in the same room with the advocates and one another; that the court used an ordering mechanism whereby the justices asked questions individually and in order of seniority; and, critically, that the justices were limited in the time they could question.

With this new ordering mechanism, Chief Justice John Roberts took on a new role as timekeeper. In this role, Roberts noted when it was time to shift between each justice’s turn questioning the advocate. This did not always move smoothly, because certain justices were hampered by still-activated mute buttons that prevented them from seamlessly assuming the role of questioner. Transitions between questioning justices also were made difficult because Roberts needed to decide when was an appropriate point to end one justice’s turn and move to another.

Roberts could have granted the justices equal time, simply cutting a justice off when their time was over, but instead he attempted to let justices finish their questions. In certain instances this meant stopping an advocate or justice in the middle of a statement, and in other instances it meant allowing a justice or advocate more time to finish a question or statement after the time allotted was already complete. Beyond Roberts’ timekeeping methods, the justices, knowing they were limited in their individual time to interact with the advocates, needed to decide how to balance their time between questions and answers. This post examines how time was kept and spent during the May oral argument sitting.
Methods

Because these arguments were different in kind from previous arguments, new methods were used to track speech across justices than in prior posts. To track time, we used Oyez’s time-stamped oral argument data. We initially pulled the JavaScript Object Notation, known as JSON, text from each oral argument from the May sitting from Oyez’s repository and transformed it into spreadsheet format. The JSON data tracks each actor’s speech and the time taken for each speaking instance starting at time zero. For instance, Roberts may have said something from 0-5 seconds, then Justice Clarence Thomas from 5-7 and then an attorney from 7-10. This would tell us that Roberts spoke for five seconds, Thomas for two and the attorney for three. Using this method, we tracked the amount of time each actor spoke across each speaking turn in each of the arguments.

Inside DC

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mike pompeo portraitny times logoNew York Times, Pompeo Quietly Visits Donors and Political Figures on Official Trips, Edward Wong and Lara Jakes, May 22, 2020. The meetings, often kept off his public schedule, took place as Mike Pompeo considered a Senate run and as he nurtures plans to run for president in 2024.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a secretive trip in January to a Florida retirement enclave populated by prominent Republican donors while on the tail end of a diplomatic trip to Latin America.

He held the same kind of quiet meeting in December with Republican donors over a hotel dinner on a State Department trip to London.

And last October, he huddled with Charles G. Koch, the Republican billionaire and a longtime supporter of his, while on an official visit to Kansas. That trip was made aboard a government aircraft.

In each of those instances, Mr. Pompeo did not put the visits on his public schedule. He and his aides avoided telling the reporters traveling with them about the meetings, though some news organizations reported them afterward. And they took place as Mr. Pompeo was considering a run for the Senate from his adopted home state of Kansas and as he nurtures plans for a presidential bid in 2024.

  • New York Times, Why Clean Shirts Become the Stuff of Dirty Laundry, May 22, 2020. Mike Pompeo is accused of having an aide fetch his dry cleaning. “It is always the dry cleaning,” a consumer advocate said. “It always seems to start there.”

Trump Family

Above the Law, Tiffany Trump Earns A Tweet From Dad For Her Law School Graduation, Staci Zaretsky, May 21, 2020. Donald Trump is thrilled to be related to a lawyer.

"Congratulations to my daughter, Tiffany, on graduating from Georgetown Law. Great student, great school. Just what I need is a lawyer in the family. Proud of you Tiff!"

President Donald Trump, using Twitter to congratulate his daughter, Tiffany Trump, on her recent graduation from Georgetown Law. Tiffany is the first law school graduate among all of Trump’s five children, and given his propensity to threaten to file lawsuits, this is great news for him.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump reveals a little more about his Nazi father, Wayne Madsen, left, May 22, 2020. Speaking in wayne madesen report logoWayne MadsenYpsilanti, Michigan on May 21 at the Rawsonville Ford Motor factory manufacturing ventilators, Donald Trump, perhaps inadvertently, provided the public with another insight into the political beliefs of his father, Fred Trump, during the 1930s.

Donald Trump has been keen on not providing or fabricating many details of his father's activities before and during World War II.

U.S. 2020 Elections

Real Clear Politics, Opinion: For at-Risk GOP Senate, Trump Is an Albatross, A.B. Stoddard, May 22, 2020. For at-Risk GOP Senate, Trump Is an Albatross. If there is one thing Senate Republicans trying hard to get reelected in November can count on, it’s that President Trump will make it even harder for them.

From his gross mismanagement of a deadly pandemic to the nonstop, self-absorbed grievance parade he wants Senate Republicans to indulge during a deadly pandemic, Trump seems intent on making sure the out of control virus, the powerful issue of health care, and a tanking economy aren’t their only campaign headaches.

In just this past week Trump has threatened two states with extortion of federal funds, accused them of fictional crimes, continued firing inspectors general and publicly taunted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell -- himself a candidate who was outraised last quarter by his challenger -- to “get tough” on former President Obama. He descended on the Senate GOP lunch Tuesday on short notice to lecture them on party unity and earth-scorching.

Probes into Hunter Biden or Joe Biden or Obama, while we are nearing 100,000 deaths from a fatal disease, are not exactly top of mind for the independent and swing voters vulnerable GOP senators need to win this fall. Many of those voters disapprove of all of those incumbents (save for Sen. Susan Collins) declining to hear from witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial. Investigating Trump’s political enemies can only hurt Republicans trying to hold their majority this fall. And they are well aware they may lose it.

If things looked bad for Senate Republicans two months ago, the scenario now is much worse. As Republicans defend 23 seats, and Democrats just 12, forecasters now say the battle for control of the chamber is a 50-50 tossup.

Palmer Report, Opinion: More bad news for Donald Trump, Shirley Kennedy, May 22, 2020. Prepare to be inundated with polls by the time November rolls around. Some may be more accurate than others, which is why CNN analyzes them for more accuracy. Polls are obviously trying to make predictions. That is what they do, but none are more accurate than the predictions made by Oxford Economics. Oxford has been accurate in its predictions since 1948, missing only twice: once in 1968 and once in 1976. Not a bad record if you can earn it. Where am I going with this? Oxford’s latest prediction may well knock some socks off.

bill palmer report logo headerAccording to Oxford, “president” Donald Trump will lose 2020 in a landslide. They predict that Trump will earn only 35% of the popular vote, primarily due to coronavirus and its impact on the economy.

The latest model shows Joe Biden flipping Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, which were narrowly won by Trump in 2016. In addition to those states, Biden is predicted to win Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, and North Carolina. Trump succeeded in 2016 by edging Clinton out in the swing states, giving him the electoral college numbers necessary to win even though Clinton won the popular vote.

To understand just how shocking this prediction is, last fall Oxford projected that Trump would win reelection with 55% of the vote. So, what happened? Trump’s mishandling of coronavirus and rising unemployment numbers coupled with inflation. Oxford predicts that the economy will “be in a worse state than at the depth of the Great Depression,” which does not favor Trump and could favor Democrats; however, a Democratic victory will ultimately depend on voter turnout, and as the pandemic continues to evolve, uncertainty remains over much of life as a whole.

March 21

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U.S. Crime, Courts

World News

Media News

U.S. Politics

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, 2.4 million filed jobless claims last week; GOP seeks to roll back benefits, Tony Romm and Jeff Stein, May 21, 2020. The White House and Republican lawmakers want to begin rolling back expanded benefits for the unemployed, arguing that they have created disincentives for people to return to work.

us labor department logoPresident Trump and top Republican lawmakers are mounting fresh opposition to extending enhanced unemployment benefits to the millions of Americans who are still out of work, even as the administration released new jobless figures Thursday showing 2.4 million Americans sought benefits last week.

The reluctance by the White House and top GOP leaders drew sharp rebukes from congressional Democrats, who argue the coronavirus outbreak threatens to further ravage the U.S. workforce unless the government authorizes additional aid. Their clash could intensify in the next six weeks, as policymakers stare down a July deadline while the country’s labor market is expected to only worsen.

More than 38.6 million Americans have sought unemployment benefits over nine weeks, the Labor Department reported in its most recent update, illustrating the rolling devastation wrought by the pandemic.

At issue is the enhanced unemployment aid Congress approved in late March, which includes an extra $600 in weekly payments to out-of-work Americans. On Tuesday, President Trump articulated his reluctance to extend those benefits during a closed-door lunch with Senate Republicans, many of whom share his concern that the expanded federal payments deter people from returning to work. The enhanced benefits expire in July.

washington post logoWashington Post, Social distancing a week earlier could have saved 36,000 American lives, study says,Teo Armus, May 21, 2020. On March 8, it was mostly business as usual in the United States. With 500 coronavirus infections reported nationwide at the time, the outbreak seemed like a distant threat to many Americans.

But by the following Sunday, the nation had entered a different universe: 2,000 confirmed cases, dozens of deaths, and shutdown orders in Illinois, Ohio and New York City, among other parts of the country.

What if those sweeping measures imposed by March 15 — a federal warning against large gatherings, health screenings at airports, states of emergency declared by governors and mayors — had been announced a week earlier?

ew research from Columbia University epidemiologists offered one possible answer on Wednesday. If the same kind of social distancing had been in place seven days earlier, their study found, the United States could have prevented 36,000 deaths through early May — about 40 percent of fatalities reported to date.

“If you don’t take steps to fight the growth rate aggressively, you get much worse consequences,” Jeffrey Shaman, an environmental health sciences professor who led the study, told The Washington Post.

His team’s analysis used infectious-disease modeling to examine the spread of the virus from March 15, when many people nationwide began staying home, until May 3. The researchers examined transmissions within each county, movement between counties and deaths to chart how the virus spread — and killed — over seven weeks.

ny times logoNew York Times, Many Jobs May Vanish Forever, Patricia Cohen, May 21, 2020. One economist estimates that 42 percent of recent layoffs will result in permanent job loss. Even as restrictions on businesses began lifting across the United States, another 2.4 million workers filed for jobless benefits last week, the government reported Thursday, bringing the total to 38.6 million in nine weeks.

And while the Labor Department has found that a large majority of laid-off workers expect their joblessness to be temporary, there is growing concern among economists that many jobs will never come back.

“I hate to say it, but this is going to take longer and look grimmer than we thought,” Nicholas Bloom, an economist at Stanford University, said of the path to recovery.

Mr. Bloom, a co-author of an analysis of the coronavirus epidemic’s effects on the labor market, estimates that 42 percent of recent layoffs will result in permanent job loss.

“Firms intend to hire these people back,” Mr. Bloom said, referring to a recent survey of businesses done by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. “But we know from the past that these aspirations often don’t turn out to be true.”

In this case, the economy that comes back is likely to look quite different from the one that closed. If social distancing rules become the new normal, causing thinner crowds in restaurants, theaters and stores, at sports arenas, and on airplanes, then fewer workers will be required.

Large companies already expect more of their workers to continue to work remotely and say they plan to reduce their real estate footprint, which will, in turn, reduce the foot traffic that feeds nearby restaurants, shops, nail salons and other businesses.

Concerns about working in close quarters and too much social interaction could also accelerate the trend toward automation, some economists say.

New jobs, mostly at low wages — as delivery drivers, warehouse workers and cleaners — are being created. But many more jobs will vanish.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates: Global cases top 5 million as WHO reports worst day yet for new infections, Staff reports, May 21, 2020. More than 1.5 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the United States; the death toll will likely reach 100,000 by the end of May.

As leaders around the world struggle with how and when to loosen — or even reimpose — pandemic restrictions, the novel coronavirus continues its deadly spread. The number of confirmed infections worldwide surpassed 5 million after the worst day yet for new cases. World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday that more than 100,000 new infections were reported over the previous 24 hours, world health organization logo Customthe highest one-day total since the outbreak began late last year.

Nearly two-thirds of the new infections came from just four countries — including the United States, which has more than 1.5 million cases and a soaring death toll that appears likely to reach 100,000 by the end of May. “We still have a long way to go in this pandemic,” Tedros said.

As experts warn that the push to reopen the United States could lead to a second wave of infections across parts of the South and Midwest, some communities are already starting to see their health-care systems buckle: Montgomery, Ala., Mayor Steven Reed warned Wednesday that his city is out of intensive care beds. “Right now, if you’re from Montgomery, and you need an ICU bed, you’re in trouble,” Reed said.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Jobless claims topped 2 million for the ninth week in a row according to Labor Department figures released Thursday. More than 38 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic began.
  • Ahead of President Trump’s trip Thursday to a Ford manufacturing plant in Michigan, the state’s attorney general said if the president does not wear a face mask during his tour, he will be asked not to return to similar facilities.
  • Guidance for reopening churches and other houses of worship has been put on hold due to a dispute between Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House.
  • Trump threatened to “hold up” federal funding for Michigan and Nevada because those states plan to expand voting by mail during the pandemic.

U.S. Crime, Courts

Actress Lori Loughlin with husband and co-defendant Mossimo Giannulli, a fashion designer (AFP photo by Joseph Prezioso)

Actress Lori Loughlin with husband and co-defendant Mossimo Giannulli, a fashion designer (AFP photo by Joseph Prezioso)

washington post logoWashington Post, Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli agree to plead guilty in college admissions case, Susan Svrluga and Nick Anderson, May 21, 2020. The actress is expected to spend two months in prison and her husband is expected to spend five months in prison, according to prosecutors.

Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli have agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy charges in connection with a scheme to get their two daughters Justice Department log circularfraudulently admitted to college.

Loughlin, an actress, and Giannulli, a designer, were two of the most prominent parents in a national scandal that cast a spotlight on corruption in college admissions. The couple was expected to go to trial in October on charges that they paid $500,000 to get their daughters admitted to the University of Southern California as recruits to the crew team, even though their daughters were not rowers.

Last spring, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts revealed a sweeping scheme, nicknamed “Varsity Blues” by prosecutors, in which a private consultant named William “Rick” Singer helped children of rich parents get into elite schools by gaming their standardized test scores and falsely presenting them as athletic recruits.

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Cohen released from federal prison over coronavirus concerns, Matt Zapotosky, May 21, 2020. Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, was released from federal prison to home confinement Thursday as part of the Justice Department’s push to stem michael cohen ap file croppedthe spread of coronavirus among the inmates it houses, his lawyer said.

The lawyer, Jeffrey Levine, said he had spoken with Cohen, right, around 9 a.m. He said he would likely issue a statement later in the day, after speaking further with Cohen.

The move, though expected, is likely to rile Trump, who has derided his former attorney as a “rat.” Cohen, 53, once affectionately considered himself Trump’s “fixer,” but as he became ensnared in multiple federal investigations, Cohen turned on his former client — cooperating with federal investigators scrutinizing the president, and airing out in federal court and before Congress what he saw as Trump’s misconduct.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Storytelling at the Supreme Court, Linda Greenhouse, May 21, 2020. Two recent cases on religion are about more than the tales they tell. Every Supreme Court decision tells a story, its author attempting to marshal the facts and the law in such a way as to make the conclusion appear not only obvious but inevitable. A divided decision will tell two or more competing stories, which is why I usually read dissenting opinions first. That way, by the time I get around to the majority opinion, I’m aware of the alternative narrative path that could have led the court to a different destination.

Often there’s nothing particularly subtle about this. Take the case the court heard last week on whether three committees of the House of Representatives are entitled to see President Trump’s personal and business-related financial records.

What’s the story of this high-octane dispute? Partisan-driven legislative overreach that threatens to weaken the presidency? Or unjustified stonewalling that will impair Congress in its oversight role?

Other times, it takes more work to unearth the competing story lines. That’s particularly true in religion cases, because we’re not inclined to frame these disputes as stark dichotomies.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Will Withdraw U.S. From Another Major Arms Accord, David E. Sanger, May 21, 2020. He will inform Russia tomorrow that the U.S. is pulling out of the three-decade-old Open Skies Treaty, according to senior administration officials.

President Trump has decided to withdraw from another major arms control accord, according to senior administration officials, and will inform Russia on Friday that the United States is pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty, negotiated three decades ago to allow nations to fly over each other’s territory with elaborate sensor equipment to assure they are not preparing for military action.

Mr. Trump’s decision will be viewed as more evidence that he also may be poised to exit the one major arms treaty remaining with Russia: New START, which limits the United States and Russia to 1,550 deployed nuclear missiles each. It expires weeks after the next presidential inauguration.

American officials have long complained that Moscow was violating the Open Skies accord by not permitting flights over a city where it was believed Russia was deploying nuclear weapons that could reach Europe, as well as forbidding flights over major Russian military exercises.+

And, in classified reports, the Pentagon and American intelligence agencies have contended the Russians are also using flights over the United States to map out critical American infrastructure that could be hit by cyberattacks.

American officials also note that Mr. Trump was angered by a Russian flight directly over his Bedminster, N.J., golf estate, in 2017. But Mr. Trump’s decision, rumored for some time, is bound to further aggravate European allies, including those in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, who are also signatories to the treaty.

Media News

Axios, The Atlantic lays off almost 20% of staff, Sara Fischer, May 21, 2020. The Atlantic is laying off nearly 20% of staff, according to an internal note from David Bradley, the publication's chairman, that was obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: It's the latest media company that's been been forced to take drastic measures to survive the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

atlantic logoThe state of play: The 68 staff cuts are mostly attributable to the collapse of the company's events business, which was one of its strongest pillars for many years.

atlantic logo horizontalIn the memo, Bradley says that sales, editorial and events staff are all impacted."There is no fault on the part of people leaving the firm. What makes this so particularly difficult is that these are exceptional and beloved Atlantic colleagues. They are exactly the same good people who were selected to join us at the outset Measure for measure, they have contributed to The Atlantic as have those who are remaining. It is only that the ground has shifted," Bradley wrote in his note to staff.

"I had thought that I would spend some substantial part of this memo explaining the reasoning behind our decision. But, I think it may speak for itself. The particular timing is clear — a global pandemic that has shuttered the economy generally, advertising acutely, and in-person events altogether," he added.

Between the lines: The Atlantic's new majority ownership stake from Emerson Collective, the impact investment vehicle owned by Laurene Powell Jobs, has allowed the company to accelerate its growth in recent years, including a major staff increase and expansion that began in 2018.

The big picture: The pandemic is forcing dozens of major media companies, including newer, digitally-native media companies and older magazine companies, to carry out layoffs and pay cuts.

The Atlantic joins The Hollywood Reporter, Fortune, Billboard, The Economist Group, Group Nine Media, BuzzFeed News, Vox Media, Bustle Digital Group, Cheddar, Maven Media, G/O Media, Protocol and others who have resorted to layoffs and furloughs.

U.S. Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Approves John Ratcliffe for Top Intelligence Job in Sharply Split Vote, Julian E. Barnes and Nicholas Fandos, May 21, 2020. The congressman from Texas was confirmed by a divided Senate to take over an office at the center of the Trump administration’s investigations of Obama administration officials.

john ratcliffe headshot CustomA divided Senate voted on Thursday to confirm Representative John Ratcliffe of Texas, a fierce conservative ally of President Trump’s with relatively little intelligence experience, to lead the nation’s spy agencies.

Every Senate Democrat opposed the nomination, making Mr. Ratcliffe the first national intelligence chief installed with no support from the opposition party since the post was created in late 2004. But Democrats agreed to dispense with the normal rules and accelerate Mr. Ratcliffe’s confirmation in an effort to more quickly oust the acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, who has declassified documents to the political benefit of the White House. The final tally in the Senate was 49 to 44.

The partisan outcome reflected the extent to which Mr. Trump has further polarized Washington. Attacking career intelligence analysts and his own appointees, he has tossed aside the notion of unpoliticized intelligence to recast the relatively staid spy agencies as players in one big partisan fight.

The speedy confirmation of Mr. Ratcliffe was a sharp change of fortune from last summer, when Mr. Trump first tapped him to oversee the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies. Mr. Ratcliffe withdrew from consideration within days amid doubts about his qualifications, his partisan political background as a House member and reports that he had inflated his résumé from his time as a federal prosecutor in Texas.

Mr. Ratcliffe’s luck turned after Mr. Trump replaced the previous acting intelligence chief, Joseph Maguire, in February with Mr. Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and a fierce partisan on behalf of the president. As the acting director, Mr. Grenell has embarked on a campaign to declassify sensitive records that would benefit Mr. Trump politically and reorganize the intelligence director’s office, moves that prompted unease among some lawmakers of both parties.

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida and the acting chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said he was “confident” that Mr. Ratcliffe would lead the agencies “with integrity” and stressed the importance of having a permanent director approved by the Senate.

 ny times logoNew York Times, A Campaign Milestone: ‘I Was Drugged and Raped,’ Heard in a Candidate’s Ad, Lisa Lerer and Giovanni Russonello, May 21, 2020. A Democratic congressional candidate in Virginia is releasing a TV spot where she speaks candidly about assault, a new step in a political landscape altered by the #MeToo movement.

The photo could have been taken at any prom or sorority formal. Girls with long hair and fancy dresses, their arms draped around one another’s shoulders, smiling wide.

claire russo Custom 2Just five seconds into the campaign ad, a narrator makes clear that the image had not captured a celebratory kind of night.

“It was 2004,” says Claire Russo, 40, right, a former combat veteran running for Congress in Virginia. “I was attending the Marine Corps Ball when I was drugged and raped by a superior.”

Ms. Russo, a Democrat, spent the next few years trying to get her day in court, she says. After the Marine Corps decided not to charge her superior and denied her request to transfer to another base, she took her case to the San Diego district attorney’s office. Her attacker pleaded guilty to sodomy before his civilian trial began and was sentenced to three years in prison. After serving about half of his jail time, he received an honorable discharge from the Marines, according to reports.

Now, Ms. Russo is placing her assault and the battle that followed at the center of her campaign to be the Democratic candidate in a southern Virginia congressional race. Her television ad is the first to feature a candidate’s personal recollection of rape, according to political strategists and organizations that track political ads. Set to air on broadcast and cable networks starting this week, the spot is expected to make up a major portion of her advertising, according to her campaign.

“I have been someone whose voice has been silenced. I have been someone who was denied justice,” Ms. Russo said in an interview. “It is important to show the voters in this district that we can win and that we can take power back.”

As she leans into her history as a survivor of sexual violence, Ms. Russo is aligning herself with a powerful element of the Democratic Party’s identity in the #MeToo era: that it is the party for women, by women. Over the last three years, many Democrats expressed a zero-tolerance stand on sexual misconduct.

Though occasionally divisive within the party, that position has allowed Democrats to draw a clear contrast with President Trump. Frustration over Mr. Trump’s history of misogynistic remarks and allegations of sexual violence, as well as the treatment of Christine Blasey Ford during Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings in 2018, helped Democrats win control of the House in the midterm elections — largely on the support of suburban women.

But the party’s position grew far more complicated in March, when Joseph R. Biden Jr. was accused of sexual assault by Tara Reade, a former Senate aide. As Democrats have rallied to the defense of their presumptive presidential nominee, Republicans are seizing on the issue, slamming the party as hypocritical for continuing to support Mr. Biden.

Public polling has found that a significant number of Americans of all political stripes are uncertain about whom to believe regarding Ms. Reade’s allegations. Even so, some experts say, the charges of hypocrisy could be weaponized to undermine the Democratic Party’s credibility on gender issues — particularly in swing suburban areas with independent voters who are likely to be a key voting bloc in November.

May 20

Top News Headlines

Pandemic Media News

Virus Victims, Responses

Pandemic Politics / Media

U.S. Courts, Crime

U.S. 2020 Elections

Personal Virus Solutions

World News

 

Top News Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Live U.S. Updates: C.D.C. Releases Guidance That the White House Had Rejected, Staff reports, May 20, 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released more detailed guidance for schools, businesses and transit systems hoping to reopen safely. Discrepancies remain in how states are deciding to open up, with some forging far ahead of others. Follow our live updates.

cdc logo CustomAs of today, all 50 states will have begun to reopen. Hundreds of migrant children have been deported during the pandemic.

The coronavirus has killed at least 91,900 people in the United States, according to a New York Times database, and sickened more than 1.5 million.

President Trump on Wednesday morning threatened to withhold federal funds to Michigan and Nevada if the states proceed in expanding vote by mail efforts, an escalation in his often fact-challenged assault against mail voting. Mr. Trump’s threat came as severe flooding struck central Michigan on Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents and raising fears of virus risks in shelters after two dams were breached and days of heavy rainfall.

christi grimm hhs djt

washington post logoWashington Post, HHS watchdog who exposed hospital shortages to testify before House panel, Mike DeBonis, May 20, 2020. The federal watchdog who issued an early report documenting acute shortages of coronavirus tests and personal protective equipment at overwhelmed hospitals will testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday, a congressional aide said.

Christi A. Grimm, shown above in a file photo with earlier statistics, the principal deputy inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, documented “severe shortages” of supplies in late March and described hospitals’ intense frustration with government authorities who were unequipped to address the scarcity.

After Grimm issued her report on April 3, President Trump criticized her for serving during the Obama administration and disputed the findings. On May 1, Trump nominated a permanent HHS inspector general to replace Grimm — one of several moves he has made to oust inspectors general who served Barack Obama and previous presidents.

Grimm’s appearance before the Oversight and Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), stands to be a high-profile moment of public scrutiny of the Trump administration by the Democratic-controlled House, which has struggled to secure Trump administration witnesses for oversight hearings.

The testimony and questioning — billed as a member briefing, not a hearing — is set to be conducted entirely by videoconference, with the proceedings live-streamed to the public.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cyclone Live Updates: Storm Makes Landfall as India and Bangladesh Take Shelter, Staff reports, May 20, 2020 (print ed.). Cyclone Amphan is hitting a starkly vulnerable and densely populated region that is still under coronavirus lockdown.

Cyclone Amphan slammed into India’s coast on Wednesday afternoon, knocking down huge trees, bringing ropes of rain and sending millions of poor villagers rushing into evacuation shelters.

The emergency response was complicated by the coronavirus. India and Bangladesh are still under lockdown, and many people living along India and Bangladesh’s swampy coast were fearful of packing into crowded shelters where the chances of infection could be much higher.

“First Covid-19, now cyclone,” said a headline on the Indian broadcaster NDTV on Wednesday evening.

The storm made landfall around 4 p.m. near the Indian town of Digha, on the eastern coast, with wind speeds between 100 and 115 miles per hour. Meteorologists were calling Amphan, which has been fueled by the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal, one of the most powerful cyclones in decades.

Daily Commercial News (Canada), World Trade Center 7 building did not collapse due to fire: Report, Ian Harvey, May 20, 2020. A group of engineers and architects is demanding the American National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) retract and correct a 2008 report that concluded one of three World Trade Center buildings collapsed because fire weakened the steel supporting it in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911T) has formally filed a Request for Correction with the NIST following a new and detailed four-year analysis by a team at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF).

It says the World Trade Center (WTC) building 7 collapse was a “near-simultaneous failure of every column in the building” and dismissed the NIST finding that heat from the fire caused beams to “walk off” their moorings.

Sept. 11, 2001 is the tragedy of when two hijacked planes hit the WTC 1 and WTC 2 towers sending debris tumbling onto WTC 7. The NIST claimed that embers ignited a fire which then caused the 47-storey building to collapse on itself at 5:20 p.m., hours after the initial incident that morning.

Architects & Engineers For 9/11 Truth, Advocacy: Canada’s Top Construction News Site Covers Ongoing Challenge to NIST Report, Staff report, May 20, ae for 9 11 truth logo2020. The top construction news site in Canada did something today that few mainstream news outlets have done in nearly two decades: It offered unbiased coverage of a major development in the ongoing effort to uncover the truth about what really happened at the World Trade Center on 9/11.

The nearly 1,000-word article in Daily Commercial News gives some much-deserved fair treatment to the report issued in March by Dr. Leroy Hulsey at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and to the request for correction submitted by AE911Truth to the National Institute of Standards and Technology regarding the agency’s 2008 report on World Trade Center Building 7.

We encourage you to read the article and share it widely!

Pandemic Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, How the ‘Plandemic’ Movie and Its Falsehoods Spread Online, Sheera Frenkel, Ben Decker and Davey Alba May 20, 2020 (print ed.). A video wrongly claimed a shadowy cabal of elites was using the virus and a potential vaccine to gain power. This is how it tipped into the mainstream.

facebook logo“Plandemic” went online on May 4 when its maker, Mikki Willis, a little-known film producer, posted it to Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo and a separate website set up to share the video. For three days, it gathered steam in Facebook pages dedicated to conspiracy theories and the anti-vaccine movement, most of which linked to the video hosted on YouTube. Then it tipped into the mainstream and exploded.

Just over a week after “Plandemic” was released, it had been viewed more than eight million times on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and had generated countless other posts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Misinformation about covid-19 finds new avenues on unexpected sites, Elizabeth Dwoskin, May 20, 2020. Despite a tougher approach during the pandemic, misinformation continues to elude social media firms' best efforts to police it.

Within days of social media companies taking down a viral video touting conspiracy theories about the novel coronavirus, a clip popped up on YouTube telling viewers about another way they could still access the banned footage: through a link to the video on the file-sharing service Google Drive.

Google Drive is not a social media platform, nor is it set up to tackle the problems that social media companies face: the weaponization of their services to amplify dangerous content. But the use of the Drive link, to the trailer for a documentary called “Plandemic,” reflects a wave of seemingly countless workarounds employed by people motivated to spread misinformation about the virus — efforts that continue to thwart social media google logo customcompanies’ attempts at preventing hoaxes and conspiracy theories from spreading in the midst of the greatest public health crisis in decades.

During the pandemic, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have adopted a more aggressive approach to policing misinformation than in the past. They have introduced new rules, such as removing posts that contradict guidance from public health agencies, deny that the virus exists or promote bogus scientific claims.

That has prompted those spreading covid-19 misinformation to try new methods, including using social media services that have not historically been platforms for news, such as the short video app TikTok, and productivity tools such as Google Drive and Google Docs. They’ve even used digital library Internet Archive. These services have more limited systems for policing content compared with the major social media platforms, which have spent years investing in moderation efforts in response to criticism.

ny times logofox news logo SmallNew York Times, At Fox News, Mixed Message on Malaria Drug: ‘Very Safe’ vs. ‘It Will Kill You,’ Michael M. Grynbaum, May 20, 2020 (print ed.). For two days running, Neil Cavuto has warned that a drug taken by President Trump, hydroxychloroquine, carries risks. Some of his colleagues disagree.

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, In some nations, government isolation centers helped reduce infections. The U.S. has resisted the strategy, Chelsea Janes, May 20, 2020. The facilities appeared helpful in breaking the chain of transmission, but experts have expressed concern about the legal and social consequences of requiring out-of-home isolation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prototype Vaccines Protect Monkeys From Coronavirus, Carl Zimmer, May 20, 2020 (print ed.). Animal experiments could point the way to an effective human vaccine, scientists said.

A prototype vaccine has protected monkeys from the coronavirus, researchers reported on Wednesday, a finding that offers new hope for effective human vaccines.

Scientists are already testing coronavirus vaccines in people, but the initial trials are designed to determine safety, not how well a vaccine works. The research published Wednesday offers insight into what a vaccine must do to be effective and how to measure that.

“To me, this is convincing that a vaccine is possible,” said Dr. Nelson Michael, the director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

Scientists are engaged in a worldwide scramble to create a vaccine against the new coronavirus. Over a hundred research projects have been launched; early safety trials in humans have been started or completed in nine of them.

Next to come are larger trials to determine whether these candidate vaccines are not just safe, but effective. But those results won’t arrive for months.

In the meantime, Dr. Dan Barouch, a virologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and his colleagues have started a series of experiments on monkeys to get a broader look at how coronaviruses affect monkeys — and whether vaccines might fight the pathogens. Their report was published in Science.

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Raged at City Jails, Leaving 1,259 Guards Infected and 6 Dead, Jan Ransom, May 20, 2020. Correction officers in New York City live in fear of bringing the virus home to families. They say the city has not protected them.

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on New York City’s 9,680 correction officers and their supervisors, who, like the police and firefighters, are considered essential workers. So far, 1,259 have caught the virus and six have died, along with five other jail employees and two correctional health workers. The officers’ union contends that the death of one other guard is also the result of Covid-19.

The virus has sickened more correction officers in New York, the center of the pandemic in the United States, than in most other large American cities, including Chicago, Houston, Miami and Los Angeles combined, according to data collected by The New York Times.

A majority of the officers in New York City are black and Hispanic and come from neighborhoods with high rates of Covid-19. They have been even more deeply affected than inmates, who also have been hit hard. At least three inmates have died in custody, and two succumbed within hours of being released. Among about 3,900 inmates left in the city’s jails, 363 currently have tested positive for the coronavirus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Millions of people lost their jobs in hard-hit New England. Many fear their homes could be next, Tony Romm, May 20, 2020.  Widespread unemployment -- and soon-expiring federal aid -- could create a major financial crisis for homeowners and renters without more action from Washington, experts say.

As the coronavirus pandemic threatens to lapse late into the year, many families in New Hampshire and across the six-state New England region are coming to a similar, scary realization: It’s never been easy to afford a home or apartment here, and it’s about to become even more difficult.

ny times logoNew York Times, They Beat the Virus. Now They Feel Like Outcasts, Sarah Maslin Nir, May 20, 2020. Some survivors of the coronavirus describe being shunned by relatives and friends.

On the day Elizabeth Martucci and her 11-year-old son were deemed to have recovered from the coronavirus, they emerged from their home on the Jersey Shore with some sidewalk chalk to sketch a message in the driveway. “We are Covid survivors,” they wrote.

“I thought I’m going to tell everybody, ‘I had this, and I’m OK,’ just to show people it’s not a death sentence,” Ms. Martucci said.

Ms. Martucci soon learned that she had drastically underestimated the anxiety she and her son, Marcus, would encounter. Even now, a month into their recovery, some neighbors see them and run.

“It didn’t even occur to me — being shunned,” said Ms. Martucci, a real estate investor. “You’re looked at as a contagion, versus as a survivor.”

She said she had put the “Covid Survivor” T-shirts away.

Feeling stigmatized is not what many survivors said they expected after their tough bouts of illness. It carries a particular sting given the worldwide discussions about how reopening society will hinge in part on people with antibodies being able to return to work, and about how those who have recovered can donate convalescent plasma for experimental treatments of those who are still sick.

Pandemic Politics / Media

washington post logoWashington Post, Taxpayers face delays as IRS struggles with backlog, Lisa Rein, May 20, 2020 (print ed.). Out of 11,000 employees the agency has tried to reinstate, only 3,000 have returned to the office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Steps Up Attacks on Mail Vote, Making False Claims About Michigan, Reid J. Epstein, May 20, 2020. President Trump threatened to withhold federal funding for Michigan and Nevada if the states moved forward in expanding vote by mail.

“Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of primaries and the general election,” the president tweeted. “This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue secretary of state. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this voter fraud path!”

donald trump twitterThe Twitter post was the latest in a series of broadsides the president has aimed at the vote-by-mail process that has become the primary vehicle for voting in an electoral system transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Michigan’s secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, announced on Tuesday that she will send absentee ballot applications — and not actual ballots, as the president claimed — to the state’s voters, replicating an effort that elections officials across the country have made during the health crisis.

In a tweet posted on Wednesday, Ms. Benson, said that the state “sent applications, not ballots. Just like my G.O.P. colleagues in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia.” The president is scheduled to visit Michigan on Thursday.

Georgia’s Republican secretary of state and municipal officials in Milwaukee have also said they will send vote-by-mail applications to registered voters in hopes of easing stress on in-person voting locations.

us mail logoMr. Trump, along with many of his Republican allies, have during the coronavirus pandemic launched a series of false attacks to demonize mail voting as fraught with fraud and delivering an inherent advantage to Democratic candidates — despite there being scant evidence for either claim.

The president himself, along with the first lady, Melania Trump, voted by mail in Florida’s presidential primary in March.

Mr. Trump’s attacks on mail voting have come largely in states with little history of large numbers of people casting absentee ballots, like Wisconsin. But he has not addressed mail voting in states where it has long been popular, such as Florida and Arizona, and often used to great success by Republican campaigns. Nor has Mr. Trump denigrated mail voting in the five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — that conduct elections entirely by mail.

U.S. Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The key, often overlooked context of the investigation into Michael Flynn, Philip Bump, May 20, 2020. President Trump’s presentation of what happened with former national security adviser Michael Flynn is simple: Flynn was unfairly targeted in early 2017 as anti-Trump forces within the administration of Barack Obama — including Obama himself — sought to undercut the incoming president. The reality is far more complicated and far less suggestive than Trump’s “Obamagate” formulation would suggest.

Michael Flynn Harvard 2014We should start at the end. Earlier this month, the Justice Department filed a motion to drop charges Flynn, right, faced for lying to investigators. That motion was deeply controversial, contingent upon an interpretation of events that casts Flynn in a surprisingly charitable light — and former Justice Department officials in a surprisingly negative one. The motion followed the release of documents focused on a January 2017 interview in which Flynn made the false statements (by his own admission).

FBI logoMore broadly, the investigation of Flynn, since shortly after his resignation from his position in the Trump administration, has been cast as an effort by the Obama administration to bend the rules and target a Trump ally. When Trump in March 2017 claimed that Trump Tower was wiretapped during the election campaign (a claim for which there is no evidence), his ally Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) revealed that there was some surveillance at play: Flynn’s interactions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were “unmasked” by Obama administration officials.

Now we should step back. It's easy to consider the actions of the FBI and the Obama team in the context of what we know now, but it's more useful to consider it in the context of what they knew then.

At the end of July 2016, the Justice Department was told about an interaction between a Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, and an Australian diplomat. Papadopoulos told the diplomat that he had learned that Russia had material incriminating Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 opponent. After material stolen from the Democratic National Committee began being released by WikiLeaks that month, the Australian government informed the United States about the Papadopoulos interaction. On July 31, the FBI launched an inquiry into Papadopoulos’s connections to Russia called “Crossfire Hurricane.”

Remember, the hacking of the DNC was publicly reported by The Post the month prior and quickly attributed to Russia. As far back as May 2016, then-Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. indicated that there were signs Russian hackers were targeting political campaigns. By the end of July, Clapper had publicly articulated suspicions that Russia might be trying to interfere in the election. By August, the CIA provided the White House with a report documenting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s specific instructions to do so.

Trump won the election and, on Nov. 17, announced that he would appoint Flynn as his national security adviser. That appointment came against Obama’s explicit recommendation. When the two met in the Oval Office on Nov. 10, Obama warned Trump against including Flynn in his administration. When that fact first emerged, it was attributed to Obama’s view of Flynn, which led to Flynn’s ouster from his position at the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014. We now know, of course, that Flynn was the subject of a counterintelligence investigation.

He may also have already been under investigation for his lobbying on behalf of Turkey. By the end of November, federal officials informed Flynn that his lobbying activity was being scrutinized.

It’s not clear when or how often Flynn spoke with Kislyak after being named as the incoming national security adviser. At least to us; federal intelligence agencies were clearly tracking Kislyak’s communications. In fact, that’s central to Flynn’s eventual fate.

richard burr djt palmer collage Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: We told you something wasn’t right with the Trump DOJ’s investigation into Richard Burr, Bill Palmer, May 20, 2020. Based on what’s already publicly known, it’s clear that Republican Senator Richard Burr (shown above) committed some form of insider trading when he dumped his personal stock portfolio based on what he learned about the coronavirus crisis in a classified briefing. The FBI/DOJ investigation into Richard Burr, which saw his cellphone seized earlier this month, is well warranted.

bill palmer report logo headerBut Richard Burr wasn’t the only GOP Senator who did this, and yet he appears to be the only one who’s being seriously targeted. This has all been a bit too convenient for Donald Trump, considering it’s already resulted in Burr losing his position as Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, just before the committee was set to release a report which would have helped confirm that Russia rigged the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. Now the whole thing is even more suspicious.

Now it turns out Bill Barr’s Department of Justice is making a point of handling the insider trading probe in-house, according to a new Politico expose. This is a big deal because the cases were supposed to have gone to the DOJ branch at the SDNY, which has jurisdiction because that’s where Wall Street is.

There is only one reason for Bill Barr to keep this insider trading investigation in-house: he wants to make sure the outcome fits his agenda, and the agenda of Donald Trump.

Bill Barr has incompetently bungled a number of things, from the McCabe case to the Roger Stone case to the Michael Flynn case. Barr isn’t nearly as skilled at these antics as people think he is. But it appears that, for now at least, Barr is successfully twisting the Burr case to suit his needs.

justin walker mouth open

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Judges or Federalist Society Judges? Try Both, Caroline Fredrickson and Eric J. Segall, May 20, 2020 (print ed.).The group says it doesn’t endorse nominees for public office. Say what?

When the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, called the chamber back into session two weeks ago, he did not do it to debate legislation regarding Covid-19 or other essential, time-sensitive business. Rather, as usual, he seemed mostly interested in having the Judiciary Committee consider confirming judges — this time most significantly Justin Walker, Mr. McConnell’s protégé, to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

This isn’t a surprise. The majority leader’s major priority for the last three years has been to confirm President Trump’s judicial nominees. Most of them have ties to the Federalist Society.

Despite having served for only six months as a federal district judge in Western Kentucky, a post for which the American Bar Association rated him unqualified because of his lack of trial or litigation experience, Judge Walker, 37, will no doubt be confirmed. (The A.B.A. now says he is qualified because of his legal scholarship and analytic ability.) He would be the youngest judge seated on the appeals court in Washington since 1983.

No doubt the urgency of his confirmation grows out of his full-throated defense of Brett Kavanaugh, for whom he served as a law clerk, at the Senate’s Kavanaugh hearings in 2018, and Judge Walker’s history in conservative legal circles, including the Federalist Society, which he joined his first year in law school.

The Federalist Society was in the news recently after the United States Judicial Conference issued a draft advisory opinion suggesting that federal judges should not be members of the society or of its liberal counterpart, the American Constitution Society, which one of us led for 10 years, and for which the other serves as a board member of its Georgia chapter.

This suggestion prompted a highly unusual letter from over 200 federal judges, nearly a quarter of the federal judiciary, condemning the idea.

Whether judges should be members of such organizations, including the American Bar Association, which rates judicial nominees, is a difficult question. But what this controversy has shown beyond doubt is that the Federalist Society has distorted how it actually operates.

The society describes itself as “a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order.” It adds that it does “not lobby for legislation, take policy positions, or sponsor or endorse nominees and candidates for public service.” (The American Constitution Society, by contrast, explains on its website its interest in seeing progressives on the bench.)

In their letter, the judges said that “it is simply not true that the Federalist Society takes legal or policy decisions.” Significantly, though, the judges were silent on whether the group supports nominees for public service. That omission makes sense, because the representation made by the Federalist Society on its website is misleading at best and demonstrably false at worst.

For years, the Federalist Society’s leadership has been at the center of conservative efforts to reshape the judiciary, led by the group’s co-chairman and former executive vice president, Leonard Leo, who after the 2016 election took a “leave of absence” from the group to assist the White House in its efforts to find and confirm federal judges.

As The Times reported in 2017, Mr. Leo “sits at the nexus of an immensely influential but largely unseen network of conservative organizations, donors and lawyers who all share a common goal: Fill the federal courts with scores of judges who are committed to the narrow interpretation of the Constitution that they believe the founders intended.”

Despite billing itself as a scholarly organization that promotes open debate, there is no doubt where the Federalist Society stands when it comes to federal judges.

Ms. Fredrickson is a former president of the American Constitution Society. Mr. Segall is a law professor at Georgia State University. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Dilemma: Reject DeVos Debt Forgiveness Rollback or Anger Veterans, Erica Green, May 20, 2020. Nancy Pelosi sent the president a bipartisan resolution to reverse his education secretary’s tightening of student debt forgiveness rules. He must decide whether to sign it during an economic crisis.

Amid mounting coronavirus deaths, a faltering economy and slipping poll numbers, President Trump faces a fresh dilemma with possible consequences for his re-election: Should he stand by his education secretary’s efforts to roll back loan forgiveness for students bilked by their colleges?

On Tuesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent Mr. Trump Congress’s bipartisan resolution to overturn an Education Department rule that would make it considerably harder for students to have their federal loans forgiven, even if they could show they were victims of unscrupulous universities.

If the president signs it, he will hand Education Secretary Betsy DeVos a humiliating defeat, the first reversal of a major Trump administration regulation. If he vetoes it, he stands to enrage veterans groups that have come out strongly against Ms. DeVos’s loan-forgiveness policy — and whose favor he has long courted.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigators Say Man Who Filmed Arbery’s Killing Was More Than a Witness, Rick Rojas, May 22, 2020. The video captured by William Bryan brought the world’s attention to the case. Authorities said he participated in the deadly confrontation.

From the beginning, William Bryan has portrayed himself as a concerned citizen, one drawn by commotion when he pulled out his phone and filmed the fatal encounter between two of his white neighbors and Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was running in their neighborhood.

On Friday, the authorities said Mr. Bryan, who also is white, had been more than a bystander, and had done more than record the final 30 seconds of Mr. Arbery’s life.

In charging him with murder, officials said that Mr. Bryan, who had joined the pursuit of Mr. Arbery and filmed the confrontation in late February from a short distance, had contributed to his death by attempting to “confine and detain” Mr. Arbery with his vehicle. Mr. Bryan, 50, was also charged with criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

“If we believed he was a witness, we wouldn’t have arrested him,” Vic Reynolds, the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, told reporters at a news conference on Friday.

Fox 9 (Minneapolis-St. Paul), Law professor falsely accused of rape, wins defamation case, Tom Lyden, May 20, 2020. A University of Minnesota Law fox news logo SmallSchool professor, Francesco Parisi, has won a nearly $1.2 million defamation case against a woman who had falsely accused him of rape.

In his blistering ruling on Tuesday, Hennepin County Judge Daniel Moreno wrote that Parisi’s former lover, Morgan Wright, had pursued an “untruthful narrative crusade,” and her “accusations were false, and made with malice.”

It is believed to be the largest defamation judgement in Minnesota. The vast majority of the judgement, $814,514 is for economic losses, as well as reputational and emotional damages. Only $100,000 was for punitive damages.

Parisi, below left, walked out of jail three years ago, his life in shambles.

francesco parisi headshotHe was criminally charged with raping Wright and trying to run over her with his car. While in jail for three weeks, with his bail set at a half-million dollars, his mother died in his native Italy.

Days later, the Hennepin County Attorney would drop charges because of insufficient evidence. Prosecutors privately conceded there was no evidence.

But the damage was already done. “It was a horror movie,” said Parisi.

Many of his law school students, especially the women, assumed he was guilty. Enrollment in his classes dropped by 60 percent with some classes cancelled

And in the eyes of the internet, he might as well have been convicted.

“Even after those charges were dropped, people Google my name and only see a professor accused of so many crimes," Parisi explained.

A Real Estate Deal, A Rape Allegation

The relationship between Parisi and Wright began in September of 2014 with a chance meeting outside his condo on Washington Avenue in the North Loop.

That night they had sex. And quickly were involved in a real estate venture together to partition Parisi’s large condo to create a studio for Wright.

Parisi’s attorney, John Braun, said there were red flags from the beginning.

But the deal fell apart, and the relationship soon soured.

There were protracted legal proceedings over the next year as Parisi tried to evict Wright from the property.

Days after the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld Wright’s eviction in June 2016, Wright reported to Minneapolis Police that Parisi had raped her 18 months earlier, on January 22, 2015.

The rape allegation was jaw dropping. Wright claimed Parisi had anally raped her, smashing her face into a concrete floor. She claimed the attack left her with three broken teeth, a prolapsed rectum, and a damaged colon.

But there was no evidence, not even medical reports, or corroborating accounts from people she might’ve told about the attack.

Wright had not mentioned any rape allegation in previous court filings for restraining orders.

Wright also accused Parisi of attempting to run her over with his car in broad daylight in downtown Minneapolis. Once again, there was no evidence. And the allegations were nearly identical to those she made a decade earlier against an ex-husband who is now deceased.

“It turns out the allegations were all false, lies,” said John Braun, Parisi’s attorney, who added, “there were plenty of red flags.”

“One Minneapolis Police Officer actually read the case that way and declined it for prosecution,” he said. “Morgan Wright came back six months later and found another police officer and the whole thing started over again.”

Judge Moreno meticulously details a half-dozen other fabrications in his findings. She lied about having a degree in music from Julliard, about being a doctor, and having other advanced degrees.

She has also claimed her father was former U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskhold, who was a bachelor, likely gay, and died in a plane crash. She even adopted his name.

And while Wright claims to be destitute and on disability for a seizure disorder, she lives in a luxury downtown condo and is known to drive a Mercedes convertible.

When FOX 9 reached her by phone, Wright declined to comment referring a reporter to her attorneys. Her attorneys, Cassandra Merrick and Matthew Pelikan, of the law firm Madel PA, did not return calls or emails requesting comment.

Parisi, a noted legal scholar in Italy and U.S., said he has lost numerous speaking engagements and business opportunities, becoming a pariah in his profession.

His personal life is a vacuum.

“I used to be the popular guy at parties,” he said. “I’m Italian, I bring the good wine. I don’t get so many invitations now.”

Parisi said he regrets that his mother never got to see him vindicated. He fears his reputation is buried with her.

Parisi, who is the father of five daughters, said he believes in the "Me Too" movement, and believes the tragedy of the case is that it could take away credibility from real victims who should be heard and believed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: ‘Jane Roe,’ from Roe v. Wade, made a stunning deathbed confession. Now what? Monica Hesse, May 20, 2020. What to make of Norma McCorvey?

This week, a new documentary drops a boulder into the already complicated legacy of the woman better known as “Jane Roe” — the plaintiff in the landmark 1973 case that legalized abortion in America. In the mid 1990s, McCorvey had made a public religious and political conversion. She was baptized on television in a backyard swimming pool; she wore overalls and came out beaming. She declared herself newly pro-life, and spent the last two decades of her life crusading against the ruling her own case had made possible.

But in “AKA Jane Roe,” premiering Friday on FX, McCorvey turns to the camera with an oxygen tube dangling from her nose and tells director Nick Sweeney, “This is my deathbed confession.”

She never really supported the antiabortion movement, she tells Sweeney, in a scene filmed in 2017. “I took their money and they put me out in front of the camera and told me what to say, and that’s what I’d say.”

“It was all an act?” the director asks.

“Yeah,” she says. “I was good at it, too.”

The revelation comes 60 minutes into the 80-minute documentary. By minute 70, McCorvey has died, succumbing to illness, leaving the people she knew on both sides of the most polarizing cultural debate in America slack-jawed and stunned.

McCorvey never had an abortion. A lot of people don’t realize that. By the time the Supreme Court handed down its decision, she’d been forced to carry out her pregnancy; the child had already been adopted.

It was her third time giving birth. One daughter had been primarily raised by McCorvey’s mother; McCorvey placed a second child for adoption. McCorvey strung together low-paying jobs in Texas and at various points struggled with substance abuse; she wasn’t prepared to become a parent.

Her desperate circumstances were what made her a suitable plaintiff. If she’d had money to travel to a locale where abortion was already legal, her attorneys wouldn’t have been able to argue that the current state-by-state solution placed an impossible burden on their client.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court for now stops House Democrats from seeing secret Mueller material, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, May 20, 2020. Justices put on hold for now a lower-court ruling that granted the House Judiciary Committee access to some grand jury material.

supreme court CustomThe court, without noted dissent, agreed with a request from the Department of Justice to put on hold a lower court decision granting the House Judiciary Committee some previously undisclosed material from Mueller’s investigation.

Solicitor General Noel Francisco told the Supreme Court it should withhold the sensitive information until it could review for itself significant separation of powers issues raised in the case. Despite the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Congress has no immediate need for the information, Francisco wrote in a brief to the court.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bible museum to forfeit another ancient artifact, Peggy McGlone, May 20, 2020. The rare tablet’s owner, Hobby Lobby, is suing Christie’s to recoup its $1.7 million purchase price.

U.S. 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump blames Democrats for his grounded campaign, even as bipartisan restrictions ban his signature rallies, Toluse Olorunnipa, May 20, 2020. The president has said he will soon be filling arenas for his political events.

President Donald Trump officialPresident Trump, approaching his longest stretch without a political rally since he announced his candidacy five years ago, has taken to blaming Democrats for grounding his campaign.

But even as several states begin relaxing their coronavirus restrictions, Trump has not scheduled any rallies in Republican-led states — and his campaign has not reached out to governors in swing states to inquire about holding large political events.

The claim of politically motivated closures was outlined most directly by Trump’s son, Eric, who accused Democrats of trying to strip the president of his greatest reelection weapon.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bernie Sanders, seeking peace with Joe Biden, asks his own delegates to turn down the volume, Sean Sullivan, May 20, 2020. Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose delegates staged a raucous rebellion against Hillary Clinton at the 2016 Democratic convention, is trying to engineer a different outcome this year — by turning down the volume on his social media-driven army of 2020 delegates.

The campaign of the senator from Vermont has told some supporters picked to represent him this year to sign agreements barring attacks on other candidates or party leaders, combative confrontations on social media or talking to reporters without approval.

The move, which carried a threat of being removed as a delegate, has the effect of blunting one of the most powerful if divisive tools of Sanders’s movement — its unrestrained online presence and tendency to stoke controversy through other media, which has at times spiraled into abuse of his opponents, perceived and real.

“Refrain from making negative statements about other candidates, party leaders, Campaigns, Campaign staffers, supporters, news organizations or journalists. This Campaign is about the issues and finding solutions to America’s problems,” said the social media policy sent to some delegates. “Our job is to differentiate the senator from his opponents on the issues — not through personal attacks.”

“Do your best to avoid online arguments or confrontations,” the policy said. “If engaging in an adversarial conversation, be respectful when addressing opposing viewpoints or commenting on the opposition.”

The agreements angered some Sanders delegates, and the campaign is now working with delegates to adjust its demands.

The rules, which were obtained by The Washington Post and confirmed by the Sanders campaign, were sent to some delegates last week. It was not known how broadly the rules were dispersed or who ordered them, but they included a social media policy, a nondisclosure agreement and a delegate code of conduct. The campaign declined to say what revisions it was planning.

“When delegates attend the Democratic convention, they will be representing Sen. Sanders, the ideas he ran on and the millions of working people who supported his campaign,” Sanders campaign spokesman Mike Casca said in a statement. “That is a serious responsibility and we’re asking them to follow a basic code of conduct while carrying out that duty.”

OpEdNews, The 100 Million Who Don't Vote: Who Are They and Why? Marta Steele, May 20, 2020. A Brennan Center for Justice webinar answered this question today, with parts surprising, others predictable. The source document was a groundbreaking study released by the Knight Foundation, "The 100 Million Project: The Untold Story of American Non-Voters." Twelve thousand non-voters were surveyed, all residents of swing states.

They turned out to be a diverse cross-section of Americans. If any generalizations were possible, the group tended to be "less educated, lower-income, and younger."

Many of them have no trust in the system or the impact of their vote, said Myrna Perez, Director of the Voting Rights & Elections division of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center, and moderator of the event. Thirty-eight percent of them dislike the system and don't trust in the accuracy of the vote count. Another large percentage believe that their vote will have no impact on their personal lives.

washington post logoWashington Post, Targeting Hunter Biden, Senate panel approves subpoena for lobbying firm over Democrats’ objections, Mike DeBonis, May 20, 2020. A Senate committee moved Wednesday to subpoena documents related to the son,right, of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden hunter bidenin an escalation of GOP congressional scrutiny of Biden’s time as vice president.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the subpoena on a party-line vote, more than two months after its chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), indicated that he planned to seek the documents concerning Hunter Biden’s work for the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

Johnson’s quest has generated fierce objection from Democrats, who argue that the inquiry is simply an election-year witch hunt meant to sling mud at President Trump’s likely November opponent. Some, including the committee’s top Democrat, have suggested that Johnson is serving as an unwitting pawn in a Russian disinformation campaign.

burisma logoJohnson’s subpoena targets documents and testimony in the custody of Blue Star Strategies, a lobbying firm that acted on behalf of Burisma and employed Andrii Telizhenko, a Ukrainian national linked to the energy company. Burisma employed Hunter Biden as a board member, paying him hundreds of thousands of dollars for a sinecure that he has acknowledged was the result, at least in part, of his father’s famous name.

At the time Hunter Biden served on Burisma’s board, his father was acting on behalf of the Obama administration to combat corruption in Ukraine. But no evidence has emerged to suggest that Joe Biden acted in that capacity to benefit his son.

In a letter to the panel Wednesday, Blue Star said there was no reason a subpoena would be necessary: “At no time have we ever stated or indicated in any way that we would not cooperate. Therefore, we are puzzled, despite our willingness to cooperate, why the Committee is proceeding to vote on a subpoena.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine’s Zelensky pulled back into U.S. political fray after leaked Biden audio, David L. Stern and Isabelle Khurshudyan, May 20, volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshot2020. The Ukrainian leader,right, called on law enforcement to investigate conversations between Biden and then-President Petro Poroshenko and said they might be perceived “as high treason.”

ukraine flagSpeaking at a news conference at Kyiv’s Mariinsky Park to mark the first anniversary of his presidency, Zelensky was again pulled into U.S. politics just eight months after a phone conversation between him and President Trump became the subject of an impeachment inquiry in Washington.

The recordings, which were first played at a news conference Tuesday in Kyiv, shed relatively little new light on Biden’s role in ousting Ukraine’s prosecutor general four years ago. But Zelensky’s comments Wednesday could have been aimed at appeasing Trump, discrediting a rival in Poroshenko and deflecting to investigators all in one swipe.

washington post logoWashington Post, Believer in QAnon conspiracy theory wins Republican Senate nomination in Oregon, Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis, May 20, 2020. Oregon Republicans on Tuesday elected a Senate nominee who believes in QAnon, the baseless conspiracy theory that has taken root among some far-right supporters of President Trump.

Jo Rae Perkins bested three other candidates to win the GOP nomination to face Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) in November.

In a video posted to her Twitter feed Tuesday night, Perkins declared that she supports the conspiracy theory, which revolves around “Q,” an anonymous Internet user claiming to be a government agent with top security clearance.

“Where we go one, we go all,” Perkins said in the video, reciting a QAnon slogan. “I stand with President Trump. I stand with Q and the team. Thank you Anons, and thank you patriots. And together, we can save our republic.”

djt beauty contests Custom

Crooks & Liars, Opinion: Kellyanne Suggests Biden Wants To Sexually Assault His Female VP Pick, John Amato, May 20, 2020. Kellyanne Conway insanely defends Trump, an admitted serial 'p***y-grabber' and does so this time by projecting Trump's actions onto Joe Biden.

In her usual flippant and despicable fashion, Kellyanne Conway made this disgusting statement to toadie Ed Henry. Conway said, “You’ve seen the long shortlist of Joe Biden’s V.P. choices. They all happen to be female. He sounds like a co-ed at the end of a frat party: ‘I need a woman!'”

"So now he has binders of women he's looking through," she said as if he's conducting a casting couch session for teenage beauty pageant contestants. Ring any bells for you, Kellyanne?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Ted Cruz is having a really bad night, Bill Palmer, May 20, 2020. You’re Ted Cruz. You’re still on Donald Trump’s team, even though he insulted your wife.

bill palmer report logo headerAfter Donald Trump inexplicably declassified a Susan Rice email that proves President Obama handled the Michael Flynn case properly, Ted Cruz tweeted this nonsense: “Wow. Ongoing spying from an outgoing POTUS on the incoming POTUS—directed by Obama himself—is unprecedented in the 243 years of our nation’s history.”

Everyone quickly piled on, telling Ted Cruz precisely where to shove it. Former FBI Assistant Director Frank Figliuzzi pointed out that Trump’s stunt had backfired on him. Patricia Arquette took a dig at Trump: “I prefer Presidents who care about National Security.” Adam Parkhomenko said this: “remember, Ted, it wasn’t President Obama who told the whole world your wife is ugly, you pathetic kiss ass.”

Reade Allegationtara reade ap photo via twitter

Tara Reade in an interview with the Associated Press in Nevada City, Ca. (Donald Thompson / AP Photo)

The Nation, Opinion: We Should Take Women’s Accusations Seriously. But Tara Reade’s Fall Short, Katha Pollitt, May 20, 2020. I would vote for Joe Biden even if I believed Reade’s account. Fortunately, I don’t have to sacrifice morality to political necessity. 

I would vote for Joe Biden if he boiled babies and ate them. He wasn’t my candidate, but taking back the White House is that important.

Four more years of Trump will replace what remains of our democracy with unchecked rule by kleptocrats, fascists, religious fanatics, gun nuts, and know-nothings. The environment? Education? Public health? The rights of voters, workers, immigrants, people of color, and yes, women? Forget them. And not just for the next four years: A Trump victory will lock down the courts for decades. I cannot believe that a rational person can grasp the disaster that is Donald Trump and withhold their support from Biden because of Tara Reade.

I would say this even if I had no problems with Reade’s account—after all, Biden will be running against Trump, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by 25 women and has confessed to “grab[bing] them by the pussy” on tape. (I’ll leave it to others to explain why the writer E. Jean Carroll’s claim last summer that Trump raped her in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s was a one-day story, while Reade has been all over the news for weeks.)

Fortunately, I may not have to sacrifice morality to political necessity. When I started writing this piece too many long days ago, Trumpies, Berners, and many feminists alike supported Reade’s allegation, first made public on March 25 on Katie Halper’s podcast, that Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993 when she was a staffer in his Senate office.

I was on the fence. I wrote, “I’d like to know more” on Twitter and Facebook and was reviled as a feminist hypocrite—interestingly enough, mostly by men. It was also mostly men who demanded that I sign on immediately to #IBelieveTara.

I take women’s accusations very seriously, but there have always been reasons to be skeptical about this one. To believe Reade, you have to believe that Biden put her up against a wall and penetrated her with his fingers on the spur of the moment in a hallway in the Capitol complex, where she says she was looking for him to give him his gym bag. This corridor, which she can’t precisely identify, is a public space. (Her lawyer said he assaulted her in “a semi-private area like an alcove.”) Indeed, Reade told Megyn Kelly that before she caught up with Biden, he was talking to another person. It was the middle of a workday. To believe Reade, you have to believe Biden would take that risk.

Here are some of the difficulties I have with Reade’s accusation:

She has changed her story — not just added to it, as her defenders claim, but altered it over and over. She has said she was essentially forced out, given one month to find a new job, but she has also said she left to follow her boyfriend to the Midwest, to pursue a career as an actress, and because she loved Russia and hated imperialism. Her former colleague in Biden’s office told CNN that she told him at the time her employment was terminated because of a health issue she had. She tweeted positively about Biden, aka “my old boss,

Inside DC

Business Insider, Trump is refusing to unveil Obama's portrait at the White House, breaking a 40-year tradition, John Haltiwanger, May 19, 2020.  President Donald Trump will not hold a ceremony at the White House for the unveiling of former President Barack Obama's portrait, NBC News reported.

This marks a break from a 40-year tradition honored by presidents from both parties. Trump and Obama have had an extraordinarily contentious relationship, which hit a new low in recent days as Trump made unfounded accusations that his predecessor committed an unspecified crime.

U.S. Safety Threats

ny times logoNew York Times, 2 Dams Fail in Michigan, Forcing Thousands to Evacuate, Daniel Victor and Christine Hauser, Updated May 20, 2020. The failure of the dams was expected to bring record-setting flooding, with the response complicated by the coronavirus.

Severe flooding struck central Michigan on Wednesday after two dams were breached by rain-swollen waters, forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents and prompting officials to warn of life-threatening danger.

The failures on Tuesday of the Edenville Dam and the Sanford Dam, about 140 miles northwest of Detroit, led the National Weather Service to issue a flash-flood warning for areas near the Tittabawassee River, with downstream effects expected from Midland to Saginaw.

Residents in nearby towns, including Edenville, Sanford and Midland, were evacuated. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said at a news conference on Tuesday that downtown Midland, with a population of more than 41,000, could be under nine feet of water by Wednesday morning.

About 10,000 people were evacuating from Midland, and about 1,000 more residents in townships outside of the city were ordered to leave their homes, Bridgette Gransden, a Midland County spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

World News

Daily Commercial News (Canada), World Trade Center 7 building did not collapse due to fire: Report, Ian Harvey, May 20, 2020. A group of engineers and architects is demanding the American National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) retract and correct a 2008 report that concluded one of three World Trade Center buildings collapsed because fire weakened the steel supporting it in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911T) has formally filed a Request for Correction with the NIST following a new and detailed four-year analysis by a team at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF).

It says the World Trade Center (WTC) building 7 collapse was a “near-simultaneous failure of every column in the building” and dismissed the NIST finding that heat from the fire caused beams to “walk off” their moorings.

Sept. 11, 2001 is the tragedy of when two hijacked planes hit the WTC 1 and WTC 2 towers sending debris tumbling onto WTC 7. The NIST claimed that embers ignited a fire which then caused the 47-storey building to collapse on itself at 5:20 p.m., hours after the initial incident that morning.

“We have filed a request for correction because the NIST report is wrong,” says Ted Walter, spokesperson for AE911T, which is a group of 3,000 engineers, scientists and architects, including more than a dozen Canadians ones, that paid US$316,000 for the study.

“From an engineering perspective it is imperative to understand how and why this building came down under design load conditions,” said Walter.

The study says NIST made some fundamental errors in how engineers estimated the rigidity of the outside building frame and that the heat generated by the fire did not trigger “thermal movements” at a critical base plate support.

Further, the group, which includes families of those killed, asserts that the investigation is flawed and that the conclusions as to what happened must be based on “science and engineering” and accept that controlled demolition is a plausible cause.

For expediency and because it was not hit by a plane, the study looked only at WTC 7 not the other two but AE911T has long claimed all three were subject to something beyond heat induced failure.

“The report notes that the outside frame was more flexible than the inside framing which is where the elevator shafts were,” says McMaster University professor emeritus of civil engineering, Robert Korol, a fellow of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineering who is also one of two peers who reviewed the UAF study.

“Under the conditions described, the displacement of the outside steel would have been only one inch, not the 6.25 NIST claimed and not enough to cause failure.”

Further, he says, the debris from WTC 1 which fell 943 feet to WTC 7 did not attain sufficient mass to cause structural damage to the steel in that building.

The bottom line, he says, is that the NIST report is flawed and of no value to future engineering or architectural learning.

The Alaska report adds new momentum to long standing claims by the AE911T that all three of the buildings should not have collapsed in the spectacular and deadly manner they did. Further, and Korol underlines this, there was nothing in the offices beyond basic desks, chairs, computers and paper that would be of such a combustible nature so as to feed a fire and raise the temperature to above 1,400 degrees Celsius and melt the steel structure.

“We don’t even know if the steel was fireproofed,” says Korol.

The group makes no assertion as to why it may have been a “controlled demolition” and says its only interest is in ensuring that there’s no need to rethink the structural steel design of highrises because the design was not at fault.

Dr. Leroy Hulsey trailer thumb headshot CustomUAF civil engineering professor Leroy Hulsey, left, principal investigator, his research assistants, Feng Xiao, now an associate professor at Nanjing University of Science and Technology and Zhili Quan, now a bridge engineer for the South Carolina Department of Transportation, found that the design standard of the building was not exceeded by the fire and that simultaneous and controlled demolition caused the structural steel to fail.

“Fires could not have caused weakening of displacement of structural members capable of initiating any of the hypothetical local failures alleged to have triggered the total collapse of the building,” the report states. “Nor could any local failures, even if they had occurred, have triggered a sequence of failures that would have resulted in the observed total collapse.”

The NIST report held that lateral support beams buckled because of thermal expansion from the fire and because they had “nowhere to go” and thus deformed and weakened the structural integrity. Other failures were triggered when joists and means “walked off” their connections, NIST found.

It was also the first NIST finding of a highrise collapse from thermal deformation caused by fire which the 125-page Alaska report disputes.

It presents arguments showing it was a simultaneous global failure not a localized failure causing a domino effect.

Hulsey et al argue that the collapse was straight down in a pancake fashion with about 2.25 to 2.5 seconds for free fall acceleration.

“In a typical building collapse (given a localized structural steel failure) WTC 7 would be expected to experience a combination of axial rotation and bending of members, resulting in a disjointed, asymmetrical collapse at less than free-fall acceleration,” the report states.

The study team undertook extensive computer and physical modelling, paying particular attention to the area around Column 79 which had been identified as the critical juncture of failure.

Their conclusion is that Columns 79, 80, and 81 did not fail at the lower floors of the building and were not subjected to heat above floor 30 because there were no fires there.

washington post logobrazil flag wavingWashington Post, Coronavirus seizes São Paulo as Trump ponders Brazil travel ban, Marina Lopes, May 20, 2020. Confirmed cases in the city have soared 34 percent and at least 510 people have died in the past week as the public health infrastructure buckles and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro continues to shrug off the crisis.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Is Playing the China Card. Who Believes Him? Susan E. Rice, May 20, 2020 (print ed.). He attacks Joe Biden to deflect blame for his terrible handling of Covid-19 and record of appeasing Beijing.

Desperate to obscure the reality of more than 90,000 American deaths and 36 million unemployed amid Mr. Trump’s utterly incompetent handling of the pandemic, Republicans have no better strategy than to play the China card. The Republicans are executing a 57-page campaign memo that recommends branding opponents “soft on China” and reveals their rationale for repeated refrains of the “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan lab.”

For Mr. Trump, attacking former Vice President Joe Biden on China serves three purposes: to dampen turnout among populist Democrats; to deflect blame for his deadly mishandling of the coronavirus for which he takes no “responsibility at all”; and most cynically, to try to turn his own blatant weakness on China into a political weapon. Mr. Trump’s penchant for projecting his personal failings onto others is one of his most familiar and dishonest ploys — whether the subject is corruption, nepotism, sexual assault or Russian interference in the 2016 election, as with so-called Obamagate.

china flag SmallOn China, Mr. Trump has much to fear from his own record.

To preserve his prized “Phase One” trade deal, which failed to change China’s unfair trading practices after a costly tariff war, Mr. Trump downplayed the risk of the coronavirus and heaped praise on President Xi Jinping. Fifteen times in January and February, Mr. Trump lauded Mr. Xi’s leadership on Covid-19. He fawned, “on behalf of the American people, I want to thank President Xi,” and insisted that “they are doing a very professional job,” despite strong evidence of China’s deceptive handling of the virus. Since early in his presidency, Mr. Trump has repeatedly kowtowed to Mr. Xi, gushing about his becoming “president for life” and proclaiming that his “respect and friendship with President Xi is unlimited.”

More dangerously, Mr. Trump’s policies have strengthened China at America’s expense. By antagonizing our Asian and European partners, he has lent impetus to China’s longstanding goal of rupturing our alliances, which constrain China’s global ambitions. By withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, Mr. Trump has left friends and foes alike to doubt American resolve, while ceding to China the mantle of steadfast global leader.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: How the Virus Pushed Germany to Shift Course, Steven Erlanger, May 20, 2020 (print ed.). Some may not like it back home, but in the twilight of her career, Angela Merkel joined with France to try to save the European Union.

In her time as chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel has seen the European Union put to the test by Brexit, a wave of migration, the Greek debt crisis and populism, and still she held to a largely steadfast course.

Then came the coronavirus.

german flagFaced with a tarnishing of her own legacy and a deep recession gutting her own country and its main trading partners, Ms. Merkel this week agreed to break with two longstanding taboos in German policy.

Along with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, Ms. Merkel proposed a 500 billion euro fund to help the European Union member states most ravaged by the virus.

The proposal, which is hardly a done deal, departs from two central elements of German orthodoxy, said Jean Pisani-Ferry, an economist and former French government adviser.

It would allow the transfer of funds from richer countries to those more in need. And it would do so with money borrowed collectively by the European Union as a whole.

It will not be popular in Germany, and it may help populist opponents on the political extremes. But Ms. Merkel, in the twilight of her long political career, has put the interests of the 27-nation union — which embeds Germany into Europe as much as NATO does — before her domestic concerns.

washington post logoWashington Post, Saudi Arabia, other gulf states reimpose strict measures after coronavirus cases spike during Ramadan, Sarah Dadouch, May 20, 2020. Saudi Arabia had recorded about 15,000 cases when Ramadan began.

But in less than a month, the kingdom’s numbers quadrupled, with nearly 60,000 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, making it the Arab world’s new hotbed of infection.

ny times logoNew York Times, More Than 900 Children Have Been Expelled Under a Pandemic Border Policy, Caitlin Dickerson, May 20, 2020. Since the coronavirus broke out, the Trump administration has deported hundreds of migrant children alone, sometimes without notifying their families.

The last time Sandra Rodríguez saw her son Gerson, she bent down to look him in the eye. “Be good,” she said, instructing him to behave when he encountered Border Patrol agents on the other side of the river in the United States, and when he was reunited with his uncle in Houston.

The 10-year-old nodded, giving his mother one last squinty smile. Tears caught in his dimples, she recalled, as he climbed into a raft and pushed out across the Rio Grande toward Texas from Mexico, guided by a stranger who was also trying to reach the United States.

Ms. Rodríguez expected that Gerson would be held by the Border Patrol for a few days and then transferred to a government shelter for migrant children, from which her brother in Houston would eventually be able to claim him. But Gerson seemed to disappear on the other side of the river. For six frantic days, she heard nothing about her son — no word that he had been taken into custody, no contact with the uncle in Houston.

Finally, she received a panicked phone call from a cousin in Honduras who said that Gerson was with her. The little boy was crying and disoriented, his relatives said; he seemed confused about how he had ended up back in the dangerous place he had fled.

Hundreds of migrant children and teenagers have been swiftly deported by American authorities amid the coronavirus pandemic without the opportunity to speak to a social worker or plea for asylum from the violence in their home countries — a reversal of years of established practice for dealing with young foreigners who arrive in the United States.

The deportations represent an extraordinary shift in policy that has been unfolding in recent weeks on the southwestern border, under which safeguards that have for decades been granted to migrant children by both Democratic and Republican administrations appear to have been abandoned.

washington post logoWashington Post, The pandemic may forever change the world’s cities, Ishaan Tharoor, May 20, 2020. The imperatives of social distancing have plunged the world into a giant experiment in remote work, and some office workers may never want to return to the stresses, steep housing costs and public health risks associated with life in a dense, big city.

washington post logoindia flag mapWashington Post, Cyclone Amphan makes landfall in India and Bangladesh as millions are evacuated, Joanna Slater and Niha Masih, May 20, 2020 (video). The storm brought winds of up to 115 miles an hour and surging waters as high as 16 feet to low-lying areas of India and Bangladesh.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bellicose U.S.-China rhetoric looms over inauguration of Taiwan’s president, Gerry Shih, May 20, 2020. Taiwan has emerged as a focal point in the U.S.-China rivalry as Tsai Ing-wen begins her second term.

Personal Virus Solutions

washington post logoWashington Post, An RV retirement is still possible. Just expect to spend more time in your own driveway, Gregory Scruggs, May 20, 2020. For those who spent years planning to hit the open road in retirement, the coronavirus has forced a whole suite of decisions about housing and finances.

“We’re going after Virginia with your crazy governor. … They want to take your Second Amendment away. You know that right? You’ll have nobody guarding your potatoes.”

President Trump, to farmers assembled at the White House

washington post logoWashington Post, Humor: I am a simple potato guardian who needs my Second Amendment rights, Alexandra Petri, May 20, 2020. I am a potato guardian. This is the only life I have known. Here is my tale, one no doubt familiar to you, just as the concept of a person who guards potatoes in Virginia is familiar.

May 19

Top Pandemic Stories

Virus Victims, Remedies

Trump Scandals

Trumped Up Justice.

2020 U.S. Election News

U.S. Courts, Crime

Inside DC

World News

 

Top Pandemic Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Trump Says He Takes Drug Against Covid-19. There’s No Proof It Works, Staff Reports, May 19, 2020 (print ed.). Despite a lack of evidence that the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine can prevent Covid-19, President Trump said he had been taking it.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Favorable Result Seen in First Small Human Trial of Coronavirus Vaccine, Denise Grady, May 19, 2020 (print ed.). The manufacturer, Moderna, said it is on an accelerated timetable to begin a larger human trial soon.

The first coronavirus vaccine to be tested in people appears to be safe and able to stimulate an immune response against the infection, the manufacturer, Moderna, announced on Monday, offering a glint of hope to a world desperate for ways to stop the pandemic.

The preliminary findings, in the first eight people who each received two doses of the experimental vaccine, must now be repeated in far larger tests in hundreds and then thousands of people, to find out if the vaccine can work in the real world. Moderna’s technology, involving genetic material from the virus called mRNA, is relatively new and has yet to produce any approved vaccine.

The promising early news sent Moderna’s stock soaring by more than 25 percent on Monday afternoon and helped drive Wall Street to its best day in six weeks. Stocks were also lifted by statements from the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, that the central bank would continue to support the economy and markets.

Trading on Monday had all of the characteristics of a rally focused on prospects for a return to normal: The S&P 500 rose more than 3 percent; stock benchmarks in Europe were 4 percent to 6 percent higher; and oil prices also jumped. Among the best performers in the S&P 500 were travel-related companies, like United Airlines, Expedia Group and Marriott International.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mnuchin, Powell try to defend efforts to revive economy as senators press for answers, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein, May 19, 2020. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) alleged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was putting workers’ lives at risk by pressing to quickly reopen economy.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday tried to defend the Trump administration’s economic response to the coronavirus pandemic, facing pointed questions from one Democratic senator who alleged workers’ lives were being put at risk.

During a Senate Banking Committee hearing, conducted by videoconference, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) pressed Mnuchin on the White House’s push to rapidly reopen parts of the economy even as health care advisers have urged more caution.

“How many workers should give their lives to increase our [gross domestic product] by half a percent?” Brown asked Mnuchin.

“No workers should give their lives to do that, Mr. Senator, and I think your characterization is unfair,” Mnuchin responded.

President Trump has said in the past that it is possible the push to reopen parts of the economy quickly could lead to more deaths, but his advisers have said numerous precautions are being taken to prevent problems.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell also testified at the hearing. He and Mnuchin were asked numerous questions about whether the government was acting quickly enough to try to arrest the economic downturn. Powell also told lawmakers that more spending could help prevent the recession from deepening.

  • Washington Post, Trump’s senior advisers predict swift economic recovery, despite warnings that major problems could persist, May 19 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump threatens to permanently cut WHO funding, leave body if changes aren’t made within 30 days, Teo Armus, May 19, 2020.  Trump said the WHO had floundered in its early responses to the coronavirus outbreak as he continued to attack the global health agency and its chief for being too soft on China.

world health organization logo CustomPresident Trump threatened Monday to permanently halt U.S. funding to the World Health Organization and “reconsider” the country’s membership in the U.N. body if it does not “commit to major substantive improvements” within the next 30 days.

In a letter to the WHO posted in a late-night tweet, Trump said the global health agency floundered in its early responses to the coronavirus outbreak. In particular, he continued to attack the organization and its director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, accusing them of being too soft on China, where the virus is believed to have originated.

Trump temporarily suspended U.S. payments in April for 60 days, an unpopular move that critics said was aimed at distracting from his own administration’s response to the pandemic. His ultimatum Monday, which came as WHO member countries conferred about the pandemic, donald trump twittermay provoke more backlash at the international level.

The president did not specify what changes were needed for him to restore U.S. donations, the WHO’s largest single source of funding. But he said discussions between the United States and the agency’s leaders were already underway.

“It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world,” Trump wrote.

Although Trump at first praised China’s efforts to combat the outbreak earlier this year, he has since shifted to slamming the WHO for allegedly promoting misinformation from Beijing. His letter reiterated many of his accusations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: China hits back at Trump’s 30-day WHO funding ultimatum,Staff reports, May 19, 2020. Former FDA commissioner says limited exposure is probably keeping Trump safe,

China FlagChinese officials hit back Tuesday at President Trump’s threat to permanently halt U.S. funding to the World Health Organization, calling his announcement an attempt to mislead the public and “shift blame” for his administration’s “incompetent response” to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to the WHO that he tweeted late Monday, Trump said he would “reconsider” U.S. membership if the U.N. body does not “commit to major substantive improvements” within the next 30 days. The president froze U.S. funding in April over a 60-day period, cutting off the agency’s largest single source of funds.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (2018 photo via D. Procofieff and Flickr) CustomTrump’s letter to the WHO reiterated claims that the global health body and its director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, floundered in their early responses to the coronavirus outbreak and were too soft on China, where the coronavirus is believed to have originated. But the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Trump’s announcement was a cheap shot to “smear China” and shirk financial obligations that had been jointly determined by WHO member states.

“The unilateral U.S. move to stop funding is a violation of its own international obligations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters Tuesday. “We are still in a critical juncture, and supporting the WHO is upholding multilateralism and supporting international anti-pandemic cooperation to save lives.”

Chinese state media soon revved into gear on official channels and on social media to portray the Chinese president as a world leader who cared for the global “community” and the WHO as an indispensable agency that coordinated the international response and offered technical guidance.

Meanwhile, Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb said President Trump is probably protected from the novel coronavirus because of the White House’s stringent measures to screen those who interact with him.

“My belief would be that he’s at very low risk of contracting covid,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Tuesday morning. “I would hope that even if there was a drug that could provide some prophylactic value, some preventative value, the president himself wouldn’t need to use it because he’d be in a bubble.”

Trump told reporters on Monday he is taking the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and zinc with the White House doctor’s knowledge, despite warnings of side effects and a lack of scientific evidence that the drug can ward off the coronavirus.

Gottlieb said some doctors in Europe were taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure, but he noted data has not supported the effectiveness of the drug against the virus.

Virus Victims, Remedies

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 89,000 people have died from coronavirus in the U.S., Joe Fox, Brittany Renee Mayes, Kevin Schaul and Leslie Shapiro, covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Data as of May 19 at 8:09 a.m. At least 1,502,000 cases have been reported.

The disease caused by the novel coronavirus has killed at least 89,000 people in the United States. The country’s earliest covid-19 fatality was thought to be a 58-year-old man near Seattle, whose death was announced Feb. 29. But on April 22, officials in California announced that tissue from two people who had died in early and mid-February in Santa Clara County had tested positive, signaling that the virus may have spread in the country weeks earlier than was previously thought.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opportunists are benefiting in a chaotic underground market for face masks, Desmond Butler, Juliet Eilperin and Tom Hamburger, May 19, 2020 (print ed.). In the absence of a White House strategy to supply the nation with adequate personal protective equipment, hospitals compete with states and the federal government in an international marketplace so full of chicanery that nearly every transaction is suspect.

Alexis Wong, a Hong Kong-based trader who’s been exporting medical masks since the early days of the covid-19 crisis, says the business brings out every species of crook. But she likes to joke that the market for the iconic N95 mask is in perfect balance.

“You have buyers with no money and sellers with no product,” she says.

The international market for desperately needed medical masks is riddled with fraud. Up and down the supply chain, from factories to hospitals, opportunists are benefiting from the chaotic market as prices have quintupled. Rampant price gouging and fraud has provoked dozens of lawsuits and hundreds of cease-and-desist orders, from major mask manufacturers as well as state attorneys general.

While profiteers and crooks make their fortunes, medical workers across the United States are rationing masks, recycling them and treating infected patients without them. The federal government has taken steps to address the shortages, but emergency management experts say the efforts were distressingly inadequate. The Trump administration ignored early warnings that it needed to shore up its stockpile of masks and other personal protective equipment and has fallen behind several other Western nations in the race to secure them, documents and interviews show.

washington post logoWashington Post, The need to go is a big barrier to going out. Why public bathrooms are a stumbling block for reopening, Marc Fisher, May 19, 2020 (print ed.). Concerns about catching the coronavirus in public restrooms are keeping some people home, and that could be a major issue for concert venues, sports arenas, movie theaters and schools.

Trump Scandals

washington post logoWashington Post, House tells Supreme Court that Mueller grand jury material is needed now, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow May 19, 2020 (print ed.). Justices should reject the Justice Department’s request for another delay, House lawyers told the court.

U.S. House logoA House committee’s investigation of President Trump “did not cease with the conclusion of the impeachment trial,” congressional lawyers told the Supreme Court on Monday, and it would be stymied if the Justice Department continues to withhold grand jury material.

The new filing comes in response to the department’s request that the Supreme Court put aside court orders that Congress receive secret grand jury evidence from Robert S. Mueller III’s special-counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump administration asks Supreme Court to stop release of Mueller material

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in March upheld a lower-court finding that Congress can obtain grand jury materials in connection with impeachment proceedings — an exception to secrecy rules that typically prevent release of such evidence.

Last week, the Justice Department said the decisions created “serious separation-of-powers concerns” that demand the Supreme Court’s attention and asked that it put on hold release of the information until the court decides whether to get involved.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s rage at a Fox News anchor contains a key tell, Greg Sargent, May 19 2020. President Trump watches Fox News obsessively and constantly tweets examples of Fox News personalities extolling his glorious greatness. But every now and then, Trump explodes with rage at the network — when it departs from its mission to function as his personal 24/7 propaganda channel and lapses into momentary truth-telling.

Trump is again raging at Fox News, because anchor Neil Cavuto challenged Trump’s new declaration that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine. Cavuto noted that numerous studies have shown the drug’s benefits are unproven and that taking it with preexisting conditions can kill you.

That set off Trump. Only this time, there’s a key tell lurking underneath Trump’s fury: His own doctor has yet to say whether Trump is actually taking the drug.

It’s often said Trump has badly perverted a crucial aspect of a president’s duties. By downplaying the threat posed by the virus, he has prioritized his own political needs over the imperative of setting a presidential example that might lead Americans to better protect themselves.

But in this case, the perversion may be even deeper. Trump is trying to persuade Americans to believe hydroxychloroquine is safe, only he’s doing so without genuinely confirming that he himself is taking it.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s death spiral, Robert Harrington, May 19, 2020. So, we have an obese president who will be 74 years old next month, whose diet is a calamity of junk composed of greasy hamburgers, french fries and fried chicken, food bereft of anything like fresh vegetables, who abuses drugs and never exercises — giving medical advice. Specifically, he is once again advocating taking hydroxychloroquine.

bill palmer report logo headerHe takes it (or so he claims) and he’s not dead and he says he tests negative for coronavirus so it must be good stuff, right? Also, there are no uncaged wild lions roaming the streets of Washington DC so, by the same logic, routine hydroxychloroquine use also prevents uncaged wild lions.

Trump confirmed that he was taking hydroxychloroquine during a Monday night press briefing. Fox News host Neil Cavuto interrupted the briefing to stress that hydroxychloroquine can and will kill you if you take it. It is a documented fact that taking hydroxychloroquine has killed people with medical conditions. In response, Trump retweeted a tweet from Bill Mitchell who states categorically that “CAVUTO IS AN IDIOT. THIS DRUG DOES NOT KILL PEOPLE.” So there you have it, science by simple contradiction via tweet. Welcome to the deadly modern world.

The problem is — and it really does give me pain to write this — that because Trump is a tyrant he appeals to other tyrants, and men (and occasionally women) who are in Trump’s thrall and hold tyrannical sway over their families will now begin to systematically murder their families with hydroxychloroquine. The connection is inescapable. Look for deaths from hydroxychloroquine soon. In a world where “more is better” among the ignorant, look for overdoses of the stuff too. Because that’s how things work in the Information Age.

Trumped Up Justice.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s attempts to smear Obama could backfire spectacularly, Eugene Robinson, right, May 19, 2020 (print ed.). Provoking eugene robinson headshot Customthe man who could inspire millions of African Americans to vote in 2020 just isn’t smart.

President Trump’s increasingly frantic attempts to smear former president Barack Obama reek of panic. As disgusting as these efforts are, they are likely to backfire, perhaps in spectacular fashion.

Late last month, according to widely published reports, Trump’s campaign aides presented him with internal polling that showed him losing to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the key swing states. The aim was to get Trump to curtail his unhinged daily novel coronavirus briefings, and he grudgingly complied. But he also launched an all-out attack on Obama and his legacy — a gambit that should cause GOP candidates nationwide to lose sleep.

Polls show the Republican Party in danger of losing not only the presidency but also the Senate in November. A key element of the party’s strategy for remaining in power is using the made-up specter of “voter fraud” to depress Democratic turnout. You will recall that if Hillary Clinton had squeezed just a total of 80,000 more votes out of three Democratic strongholds — Milwaukee, Detroit and Philadelphia — she would now be campaigning for reelection and Trump would be just another Twitter troll.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: William Barr just punched a hole in Trump’s baseless ‘Obamagate’ trial balloon, Aaron Blake, May 19, 2020 (print ed.). Barr's comments about "ginning" up investigations into political opponents could be read to be about President Trump and the Russia investigation as well as Trump's baseless "Obamagate" push.

william barr new oLast week, President Trump baselessly accused former president Barack Obama and former vice president Joe Biden of engaging in corrupt activities.

On Monday, Trump’s own attorney general, William P. Barr, punched a hole in that conspiracy theory — whether he intended to or not.

During a news conference at the Justice Department, Barr said that he did not foresee any criminal investigations involving Obama or Biden, despite Trump’s push. And he went on to decry the kind of politics that leads to such thinly substantiated allegations.

“The legal tactic has been to gin up allegations of criminality by one’s political opponents based on the flimsiest of legal theories,” Barr said. He added that “as long as I’m attorney general, the criminal justice system will not by used for partisan political ends. And this is especially true for the upcoming elections in November.”

Barr went on: “We cannot allow this process to be hijacked by efforts to drum up criminal investigations of either candidate. And I’m committed that this election will be conducted without this kind of interference.”

The comments came in response to a question about Trump’s “Obamagate” allegations, but they could be read as also about Trump and the Russia investigation, which Barr has repeatedly derided in stark terms. Barr made a point to spotlight those allegations in his comments Monday.

  • Washington Post, Barr installs top DOJ aide, prosecutor of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago trespasser, over U.S. prosecutors in Washington, May 19, 2020 (print ed.).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: ‘Obamagate’ is here to stay, Hugh Hewitt, May 19, 2020 (print ed.). Al Sharpton asked me this on his Saturday cable news show: “What is ‘Obamagate?’ ”

“The intentional interference with the peaceful transition of power,” I responded.

I explained that the American tradition of peaceful transition of power is the “glory of the Republic.” The central charge of the many for which “Obamagate” is shorthand: Senior members of the administration of President Barack Obama made efforts to cripple President Trump’s ability to govern via unconstitutional methods throughout the transition and even into the first three years of his term.

Zerlina Maxwell, opposite me on Sharpton’s virtual set, characterized the term “Obamagate” as a racist talking point.

Those on the left who seek to diminish Obamagate should know that what they are doing is attempted censorship, an obvious effort to delegitimize the most legitimate of inquiries: Did Obama or any of his senior team — in the White House, the FBI or Justice Department or any of the intelligence agencies, with or without his knowledge — act to sabotage Trump’s assumption of power and effective administration of the executive branch?

This question haunts the left; they fear it and assert without any evidence that those who demand answers are birthers. Like Joe McCarthy branding liberals “communists,” the new McCarthyists on the left are trying use a label to defame opponents rather than study the record.

2020 U.S. Election News

538.com, Analysis: We’ve Updated Our Pollster Ratings Ahead Of The 2020 General Election, Nathaniel Rakich, May 19, 2020. The competitive phase of the 2020 presidential primaries is over — which means we’ve updated FiveThirtyEight’s pollster ratings.

These ratings cover this year’s presidential primaries, the 2019 gubernatorial elections and the occasional straggler poll we only just discovered from a past election. They include polls conducted in the final 21 days1 before every presidential, U.S. Senate, U.S. House and gubernatorial general election (including special elections), as well as every presidential primary since 1998. We encourage you to check out the new ratings, especially when a new poll comes out and you want to gauge its reliability.

So far, it hasn’t been a great year for pollsters. The 2020 presidential primary polls had a weighted average3 error — i.e., the absolute difference between a poll’s margin (between the top two candidates) and the actual vote share margin4 — of 10.2 percentage points.5 That’s roughly tied with the 2016 presidential primaries for the biggest error in primary polling this century.

But we don’t blame pollsters too much for this: They have some good excuses because the 2020 Democratic primary race changed so quickly. In the span of a week (from roughly Feb. 25 to Super Tuesday), former Vice President Joe Biden dramatically reversed his electoral fortunes, and surveys just weren’t able to keep up with how fast the mood of the electorate was changing. We can see that by breaking down the error of 2020 primary polls by election date:

U.S. Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court says victims of al-Qaeda bombings entitled to billions in punitive damages, Robert Barnes, May 19, 2020 (print ed.). In case brought by Sudan, the justices unanimously said Congress authorized such penalties.

Victims of the 1998 bombings by al-Qaeda of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania are entitled to billions of dollars in punitive damages from Sudan, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The bombings killed 224 people and injured thousands, and courts determined long ago that Sudan enabled them by letting Osama bin Laden operate from the country and providing passports to al-Qaeda members.

A judge in Washington approved more than $10 billion in damages, of which $4.3 billion was for punitive damages.

The question before the court concerned a 2008 amendment to the federal Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which generally protects foreign governments from lawsuits but also details the exceptions to such protection. Acts of terrorism are one such exception.

But a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2017 said Congress had not been specific when authorizing retrospective lawsuits that punitive damages were allowed.

In a unanimous decision written by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, the Supreme Court disagreed. (Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh recused himself, presumably because he had been involved with the case while on the D.C. Circuit.)

While perhaps not explicit, “Congress was as clear as it could have been when it authorized plaintiffs to seek and win punitive damages for past conduct” by amending the law to allow suits for past acts of terrorism, Gorsuch wrote.

Damages for the attacks, in which 12 Americans died, were awarded by default, because Sudan did not defend itself in the initial proceedings. It retained lawyers to fight the punitive damages award, however.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s pick for top intelligence post clears divided Senate panel, Shane Harris, May 19 2020. Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.), a staunch Trump supporter who faced difficult questions about his credentials and whether he is capable of acting independently, is expected to be confirmed in a full Senate vote in coming weeks.

Texas congressman John Ratcliffe (R) took a step closer to becoming President Trump’s top intelligence adviser on Tuesday, after the Senate Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to move his nomination to the full Senate.

Committee members voted 8 to 7 in favor of Ratcliffe as the next director of national intelligence, following an extraordinary hearing earlier this month held under social distancing guidelines. Ratcliffe sat far back from masked senators who questioned him on his credentials and whether he was capable of acting independently of his political allegiance to the president.

Concerns that the Trump administration is attempting to use classified intelligence to political ends flared again last week, after the acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, gave Attorney General William P. Barr a list that he had declassified of former Obama administration officials, including former vice president Joe Biden, who may have received intelligence documents identifying former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The practice, known as unmasking, is commonplace in government.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s use of unproven drug prompts concerns, ridicule, Allyson Chiu, May 19 2020. “He’s our president, and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump moves to return medical supply chains to the U.S., David J. Lynch, May 19 2020. Trump administration said it has awarded a $354 million contract to a Virginia start-up that will manufacture a variety of generic drugs and their ingredients — including medicines used to treat covid-19 — at advanced manufacturing facilities in the United States.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Greenhouse gases saw a dramatic 17 percent plunge due to coronavirus lockdowns, Chris Mooney, Brady Dennis and John Muyskens, May 19 2020. The plunge is equivalent to more than a billion tons of carbon dioxide that never made its way into the atmosphere. But experts say emissions could quickly bounce back as social distancing ends and economies reopen.

May 18

Pandemic Top Headlines

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Pandemic Victims, Solutions

Inside DC

U.S. Courts

2020 U.S. Elections /  Politics

#MeToo Cases 

 

Pandemic Top Headlines

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S.-China Feud Over Coronavirus Erupts at World Health Assembly, Andrew Jacobs, Michael D. Shear and Edward Wong, May 18, 2020. China’s president pledged $2 billion to fight the virus, a move the U.S. criticized as an effort to head off scrutiny of its handling of the pandemic.

world health organization logo CustomA meeting of the World Health Organization that was supposed to chart a path for the world to combat the coronavirus pandemic instead on Monday turned into a showcase for the escalating tensions between China and the United States over the virus.

President Xi Jinping of China announced at the start of the forum that Beijing would donate $2 billion toward fighting the coronavirus and dispatch doctors and medical supplies to Africa and other countries in the developing world.

The contribution, to be spent over two years, amounts to more than twice what the United States had been giving the global health agency before President Trump cut off American funding last month, and it could catapult China to the forefront of international efforts to contain a disease that has claimed at least 315,000 lives.

But it was also seen — particularly by American officials — as an attempt by China to forestall closer scrutiny of whether it hid information about the outbreak to the world.

Mr. Xi made his announcement by videoconference to the World Health Assembly, an annual decision-making meeting of the W.H.O. that is being conducted virtually this year because of safety considerations during the pandemic. Mr. Trump declined to address the two-day gathering, providing the Chinese president an opening to be one of the first world leaders to address the 194 member states.

“In China, after making painstaking efforts and sacrifice, we have turned the tide on the virus and protected lives,” Mr. Xi said. “We have done everything in our power to support and assist countries in need.”

In videotaped remarks to the assembly after Mr. Xi spoke, Alex M. Azar II, the U.S. secretary of health and human services, countered with sharp criticism of both the W.H.O. and China, saying their handling of the coronavirus outbreak led to unnecessary deaths.

ny times logoNew York Times, Poor Countries Borrowed Billions From China. They Can’t Pay It Back, Maria Abi-Habib and Keith Bradsher, May 18, 2020. Nations want Beijing to forgive or renegotiate loans as their economies suffer. Doing so would be costly, but saying no could hurt China’s global image.

As the coronavirus spread around the globe, Pakistan’s foreign minister called his counterpart in Beijing last month with an urgent request: The country’s economy was nose-diving, and the government needed to restructure billions of dollars of Chinese loans.

Similar requests have come flooding in to Beijing from Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka and a number of African nations, asking to restructure, delay repayments or forgive tens of billions of dollars of loans coming due this year.

With each request, China’s drive to become the developing world’s biggest banker is backfiring. Over the last two decades it unleashed a global lending spree, showering countries with hundreds of billions of dollars, in an effort to expand its influence and become a political and economic superpower. Borrowers put up ports, mines and other crown jewels as collateral.

Now, as the world economy reels, countries are increasingly telling Beijing they can’t pay the money back.

ny times logoNew York Times, Thinking of Buying a Bike? Get Ready for a Very Long Wait, Christina Goldbaum, May 18, 2020. As life in major U.S. cities shrinks, hundreds of thousands of Americans are flocking to one of the most basic forms of mobility: the bicycle.

Some bicycle shops in Brooklyn are selling twice as many bikes as usual and drawing blocklong lines of customers. A chain of shops in Phoenix is selling three times the number of bikes it typically does. A retailer in Washington, D.C., sold all its entry-level bikes by the end of April and has fielded more preorders than ever in its 50-year history.

As the coronavirus pandemic shrinks life in major American cities — limiting pastimes and discouraging use of buses and subways — hundreds of thousands of Americans are flocking to one of the most basic forms of mobility: the bicycle.

In March, nationwide sales of bicycles, equipment and repair services nearly doubled compared with the same period last year, according to the N.P.D. Group, a market research company. Sales of commuter and fitness bikes in the same month increased 66 percent, leisure bikes jumped 121 percent, children’s bikes went up 59 percent and electric bikes rose 85 percent.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigator Fired by Trump Had Examined Weapons Sales to Saudis, May 18, 2020. Edward Wong and David E. Sanger, May 18, 2020. A Democratic House committee chairman said the inquiry might have been “another reason” that President Trump fired the State Department inspector general.

The State Department inspector general fired by President Trump on Friday was in the final stages of an investigation into whether the administration had unlawfully declared an “emergency” last year to allow the resumption of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their air war in Yemen.

Employees from the office of the inspector general, Steve A. Linick, presented preliminary findings to senior State Department officials in early March, before the coronavirus forced lockdowns across the United States. But it was not clear whether that investigation, or others that Mr. Linick had underway, led to his dismissal.

Mr. Trump, speaking about the latest in his series of firings of inspectors general around the government, said on Monday of Mr. Linick: “I don’t know him. Never heard of him. But they asked me to terminate him.” He apparently was referring to a recommendation he received from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“I have the absolute right as president to terminate,” Mr. Trump added. “I said, ‘Who appointed him?’ and they say, ‘President Obama.’ I said, ‘Look I’ll terminate him.’”

The investigation into how Mr. Pompeo moved to end a congressional hold on arms sales to the Saudis was prompted in part by demands from the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, who said on Monday that the subsequent investigation might have been “another reason” for the firing of Mr. Linick. The White House announced the firing Friday night under a provision that requires 30 days’ notice to Congress before removing an inspector general.

Democratic leaders in Congress and several Republican lawmakers said on Monday that Mr. Trump had not given sufficient justification for the firing and that they wanted answers during the 30-day review period.

Pandemic Top Stories

The Atlantic, Investigation: State and Federal Data on COVID-19 Testing Don’t Match Up, Robinson Meyer and Alexis C. Madrigal, June, 2020. The CDC has quietly atlantic logostarted releasing nationwide numbers. But they contradict what states themselves are reporting.

For the past 11 weeks, the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic has been the country’s only reliable source for national testing data. (The tracker compiles the number of tests reported by each U.S. state and territory daily.) While the CDC has provided only occasional and rudimentary tallies of total tests, data from the COVID Tracking Project have been used by Johns Hopkins University, governors and members of Congress, and the White House.

atlantic logo horizontalWith the new CDC site, the federal government is providing regular testing data again, and for the first time ever, it is doing so on a state-by-state level. But an initial analysis of the CDC’s state-level data finds major discrepancies between what many states are reporting and what the federal government is reporting about them. In Florida, for example, the disparity is enormous. The state government reported on Friday that about 700,000 coronavirus tests have been conducted statewide since the beginning of the outbreak.

This count should be authoritative: Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered hospitals and doctors to report their test results to the Florida Department of Health. Yet the CDC reported more than 919,000 tests in the state in that same period. That’s 31 percent more tests than Florida itself seems to think it has conducted. (Because the CDC says it does not update its data on the weekends, we have, throughout this article, compared its figures against the numbers reported by each state on Friday.) When we asked the CDC to explain the discrepancy in Florida, the agency declined to comment on the record.

“If this is what they’re getting, the CDC should pick up the phone and call the state of Florida and say, ‘What’s happening?’” Ashish Jha, the K.T. Li Professor of Global Health at Harvard, told us.

Given the complexity and the multisource nature of the data, some variations should certainly be anticipated. But the inconsistencies we found suggest that Florida is not an outlier. Using the state numbers that match the CDC’s output most closely, in 22 states, the CDC’s reported number of tests diverges from the number reported by the state government by more than 10 percent. In 13 states, it diverges by more than 25 percent. In some cases, the CDC’s tallies are much higher than what states are reporting; in others, much lower.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Obama Says U.S. Lacks Leadership on Virus in Virtual Commencement Speeches, Audra D. S. Burch and John Eligon, Updated May 18, 2020 (print ed.). The virus has “torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” former President Barack Obama said.

Without the springtime rituals of traditional graduation ceremonies, former President Barack Obama delivered two virtual commencement addresses on Saturday, urging millions of high school and college graduates to fearlessly carve a path and “to seize the initiative” at a time when he says the nation’s leaders have fumbled the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The speeches, aired hours apart, combined the inspirational advice given to graduates — build community, do what is right, be a leader — with pointed criticism of the handling of an outbreak that has killed more than 87,000 Americans and crippled much of the economy.

“More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” Mr. Obama said in his first address, directed at graduates of historically black colleges and universities. “A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”

Although Mr. Obama did not mention President Trump by name, some saw his comments as criticism of his successor.

In speeches that spoke to social inequities, Mr. Obama said the pandemic was a wake-up call for young adults, showing them the importance of good leadership and that “the old ways of doing things just don’t work.”

“Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy — that’s how little kids think,” he said during a prime time special for high school seniors. “Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grown-ups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still think that way — which is why things are so screwed up. I hope that instead, you decide to ground yourself in values that last, like honesty, hard work, responsibility, fairness, generosity, respect for others.”

Mr. Obama’s comments were one of his few public addresses to a national audience during the outbreak, and he said a leadership void had created a clear mandate for the graduates: “If the world’s going to get better, it’s going to be up to you,” he said.

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has berserk profane late night meltdown after Fox News lashes out at him, Bill Palmer, May 18, 2020.  After Donald Trump announced today that he’s taking hydroxychloroquine, despite its lack of effectiveness against the coronavirus and its deadly side effects, Fox News host Neil Cavuto put his foot down. Cavuto flat out said to Trump, “It will kill you.” He also urged Fox viewers not to take Trump’s advice regarding the drug.

bill palmer report logo headerLet’s just say that Donald Trump isn’t taking any of this very well. After someone tweeted “What an asshole” about Neil Cavuto, Trump retweeted it. Trump added, “Fox News is no longer the same. We miss the great Roger Ailes. You have more anti-Trump people, by far, than ever before. Looking for a new outlet!”

Donald Trump went on to call Cavuto “foolish & gullible” while hurling a bunch of other insults at him. Trump is completely losing it. This is a disturbing meltdown even for him.

2020 U.S. Elections / Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Race to Assemble Bold Governing Agenda for Pandemic Era, Alexander Burns, May 18, 2020 (print ed.). Joseph R. Biden Jr. has shed his primary-season theme of restoring political normalcy, replacing it with promises of sweeping economic change. He signaled that he is willing to reopen his platform, announcing task forces combining his supporters with left-wing allies of Senator Bernie Sanders.

More than 36 million Americans are suddenly unemployed. Congress has allocated $2.2 trillion in aid, with more likely to be on the way as a fight looms over government debt. Millions more people are losing their health insurance and struggling to take care of their children and aging relatives. And nearly 90,000 are dead in a continuing public health catastrophe.

This was not the scenario Joseph R. Biden Jr. anticipated confronting when he competed for the Democratic nomination on a conventional left-of-center platform.

Now, with Mr. Biden leading President Trump in the polls, the former vice president and other Democratic leaders are racing to djt maga hatassemble a new governing agenda that meets the extraordinary times — and they agree it must be far bolder than anything the party establishment has embraced before.

So far, neither Mr. Biden nor Mr. Trump has defined in itemized terms what an agenda for the first 100 days of a new presidency in the coronavirus era might look like. But on the Democratic side, far more than within the Republican Party, there is an increasingly clear sense of the nature and scale of the goals a new administration would pursue.

Mr. Biden’s campaign has been rapidly expanding its policy-drafting apparatus, with the former vice president promising on Democratic-Republican Campaign logosMonday to detail plans for “the right kind of economic recovery” within weeks. He has already effectively shed his primary-season theme of restoring political normalcy to the country, replacing it with promises of sweeping economic change.

U.S. Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, Passed By for Decades, Clarence Thomas Is a New Symbol of the Trump Era, Nicolas Casey, May 18, 2020. He isn’t yet the pop culture star that Ruth Bader Ginsburg — “Notorious R.B.G.” to many — is. But his fans think he could be.

clarence thomas official wAmong certain conservatives, an idea has started to take hold: Could Justice Clarence Thomas ever be the kind of pop-culture icon to his followers that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become to hers?

Justice Ginsburg, 87, has a book to her name, a touring museum exhibition and a surprise box-office hit in a 2018 documentary about her life. She is tattooed on her fans. Her personal trainer has his own book out. She was appointed to the bench in 1993 but came to realize and embrace this level of celebrity in recent years when her dissents became liberal rallying calls, leading to the nickname homage — and then best-selling book on her life — “The Notorious R.B.G.”

Justice Thomas, the Supreme Court’s most conservative member, is catching up in his own way at age 71.

After 28 years of rarely speaking from the bench, Justice Thomas is newly in the public eye (or ear) as he regularly asks questions during oral arguments that are being conducted by conference call and broadcast live during the pandemic.

He was the subject of a recent book, The Enigma of Clarence Thomas, which led to a flurry of articles and book reviews on his life and legal thought. A new biographical documentary, made by the conservative filmmaker Michael Pack, airs Monday on PBS. For the project, the justice spoke to filmmakers for 30 hours — an astounding feat for a jurist who once went 10 years without asking a question from the bench.

“He would have never said, ‘Gee whiz, I should be an icon,’” said Helgi Walker, a lawyer at the firm Gibson Dunn who clerked for Justice Thomas in 1995 and 1996. “But life is long, and it’s amazing how things can turn out sometimes.”

clarence virginia thomas swearing inThomas is shown taking an office oath in 1991, with his wife Virginia "Ginni" Thomas and Chief Justice William Rehnquist administering the oath.

Since his confirmation hearings in 1991, which included sexual harassment allegations, Justice Thomas has largely been out of the public eye. And for decades, his legal thinking was considered too extreme even for the court’s conservative members, who often declined to join his dissents and concurrences.

Justice Thomas hasn’t changed, nor has his bitterness about the way his confirmation hearings unfolded. But the political moment has. Renewed interest in his life, work and philosophy may be coming from the same place as that in Justice Ginsburg: the Trump era.

Justice Thomas, currently the longest-serving justice, is known as Mr. Trump’s favorite on the court, with many in the legal world citing the numerous former Thomas clerks who have been tapped for the federal bench.

As Justice Ginsburg has become the flag bearer of the Supreme Court’s diminished judicial left, Justice Thomas, who spent years dissenting on the fringes, is a potent symbol for an ascendant conservative wing.

“He’s the most right-wing member of the court, and we are in a right-wing moment,” said Randall Kennedy, a professor at Harvard Law School and critic of the justice. In a piece in The Nation last fall, he criticized those who he said had recently “been solicitous of Thomas” in terms of his biography and his legal thinking, writing that he’d once been the same himself.

Last November in Washington, when gathering in a group was festive and not contested, a largely libertarian crowd convened at the Cato Institute to watch the documentary about Justice Thomas, “Created Equal: Clarence in His Own Words,” in which Justice Thomas laid out again his side of the confirmation showdown. Archival footage showed a younger Mr. Thomas in a red-and-grey tie.

“As far as I am concerned, it is a high-tech lynching,” the younger Mr. Thomas said of the hearing as the film’s audience nodded approvingly.

The camera then flipped to another man who has re-emerged into the political debate lately: Joe Biden, who was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time. There were guffaws until the camera turned elsewhere. Justice Thomas then appeared on the screen years later, in a dark suit and with white hair.

“I mean, come on, we know what this is all about,” he says to the camera. “This is the wrong black guy. He has to be destroyed, just say it.”

The line had an impact on Carol M. Swain, a former law professor and conservative political commentator who recently watched the film and said she saw the 1991 hearings in the context of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s in 2018. “It’s not just an agenda to derail a nomination, it’s an effort to destroy a person,” she said.

Many conservatives also now see vindication in the way the court has recently begun to adopt Justice Thomas’s thinking. His legal views spent the 1990s and the early 2000s bottled up as dissents and concurrences that his colleagues often did not sign onto. Now, many are becoming the law of the land.

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Is Ronan Farrow Too Good to Be True? Ben Smith, May 18, 2020 (print ed.). He has delivered revelatory reporting on some of the defining stories of our time. But a close examination reveals the weaknesses in what may be called an era of resistance journalism.

Ronan Farrow, in Los Angeles in February, may now be the most famous investigative reporter in America.Credit...Danny Moloshok/Reuters

It was a breathtaking story, written by The New Yorker’s marquee reporter and published with an attention-grabbing headline: “Missing Files Motivated the Leak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records.”

ronan farrowIn it, the reporter, Ronan Farrow, right, suggests something suspicious unfolding inside the Treasury Department: A civil servant had noticed that records about Mr. Cohen, the personal lawyer for President Trump, mysteriously vanished from a government database in the spring of 2018. Mr. Farrow quotes the anonymous public servant as saying he was so concerned about the records’ disappearance that he leaked other financial reports to the media to sound a public alarm about Mr. Cohen’s financial activities.

The story set off a frenzied reaction, with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes calling it “an amazing shocking story about a whistle-blower” and his colleague Rachel Maddow describing it as “a meteor strike.” Congressional Democrats demanded answers, and the Treasury Department promised to investigate.

Two years after publication, little of Mr. Farrow’s article holds up, according to prosecutors and court documents. The Treasury Department records on Michael Cohen never went “missing.” That was merely the story put forward by the civil servant, an Internal Revenue Service analyst named John Fry, who later pleaded guilty to illegally leaking confidential information.

The records were simply put on restricted access, a longstanding practice to prevent leaks, a possibility Mr. Farrow briefly allows for in his story, but minimizes. And Mr. Fry’s leaks had been encouraged and circulated by a man who was barely mentioned in Mr. Farrow’s article, the now-disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti, a passionate antagonist of Mr. Cohen.

Mr. Farrow may now be the most famous investigative reporter in America, a rare celebrity-journalist who followed the opposite path of most in the profession: He began as a boy-wonder talk show host and worked his way downward to the coal face of hard investigative reporting. The child of the actress Mia Farrow and the director Woody Allen, he has delivered stories of stunning and lasting impact, especially his revelations about powerful men who preyed on young women in the worlds of Hollywood, television and politics, which won him a Pulitzer Prize.

I’ve been watching Mr. Farrow’s astonishing rise over the past few years, marveling at his ability to shine a light on some of the defining stories of our time, especially the sexual misconduct of the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, which culminated with Mr. Weinstein’s conviction in February just before the pandemic took hold. But some aspects of his work made me wonder if Mr. Farrow didn’t, at times, fly a little too close to the sun.

ronan farrow catch and kill CustomBecause if you scratch at Mr. Farrow’s reporting in The New Yorker and in his 2019 best seller, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, you start to see some shakiness at its foundation. He delivers narratives that are irresistibly cinematic — with unmistakable heroes and villains — and often omits the complicating facts and inconvenient details that may make them less dramatic. At times, he does not always follow the typical journalistic imperatives of corroboration and rigorous disclosure, or he suggests conspiracies that are tantalizing but he cannot prove.

Mr. Farrow, 32, is not a fabulist. His reporting can be misleading but he does not make things up. His work, though, reveals the weakness of a kind of resistance journalism that has thrived in the age of Donald Trump: That if reporters swim ably along with the tides of social media and produce damaging reporting about public figures most disliked by the loudest voices, the old rules of fairness and open-mindedness can seem more like impediments than essential journalistic imperatives.

That can be a dangerous approach, particularly in a moment when the idea of truth and a shared set of facts is under assault.

The New Yorker has made Mr. Farrow a highly visible, generational star for its brand. And Mr. Farrow’s supporters there point out the undeniable impact of his reporting — which ousted abusers like New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, and helped rewrite the rules of sex and power in the workplace, sometimes with his colleague Jane Mayer. Ken Auletta, The New Yorker writer who helped Mr. Farrow take his work from NBC to the magazine, said that the important thing is that Mr. Farrow helped reveal Mr. Weinstein’s predatory behavior to the world and bring him down.

“Are all the Ts crossed and the Is dotted? No,” Mr. Auletta said of some of Mr. Farrow’s most sweeping claims of a conspiracy between Mr. Weinstein and NBC to suppress his work.

“You’re still left with the bottom line — he delivered the goods,” Mr. Auletta said.

David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, defended Mr. Farrow’s reporting, calling it “scrupulous, tireless, and, above all, fair.”

“Working alongside fact checkers, lawyers and other editorial staff members at The New Yorker, he achieved something remarkable, not least because he earned the trust of his sources, many of whom had to relive traumatic events when they talked to him,’’ Mr. Remnick said in a statement. “We stand by Ronan Farrow’s reporting. We’re proud to publish him.”

Mr. Farrow, in his own statement to The New York Times, said he brings “caution, rigor, and nuance” to each of his stories. “I’m proud of a body of reporting that has helped to expose wrongdoing and to bring important stories into public view.”

It’s impossible, however, to go back and answer the question of whether Mr. Farrow’s explosive early reporting would have carried such power if he’d been more rigorous and taken care to show what he knew and what he didn’t. Is the cost of a more dramatic story worth paying? Because this much is certain: There is a cost.

That becomes clear in an examination of Mr. Farrow’s debut article on Mr. Weinstein, back in October 2017, which provided the first clear, on-the-record claim that Mr. Weinstein had gone beyond the systematic sexual harassment and abuse revealed days earlier by The Times into something that New York prosecutors could charge as rape. The accuser was Lucia Evans, a college student whom Mr. Weinstein had approached at a private club, and then later lured to his office with a promise of acting opportunities. There, she told Mr. Farrow, he forced her to perform oral sex on him.

But a fundamental principle of the contemporary craft of reporting on sexual assault is corroboration: the painstaking task of tracking down friends and neighbors a traumatized victim may have confided in soon after the assault, to see if their accounts align with the victim’s story and to give it more — or less — weight. In much of the strongest #metoo reporting, from the stories about Mr. Weinstein in The New York Times to The Washington Post’s exposé of Charlie Rose and even some of Mr. Farrow’s other articles, clunky paragraphs interrupt the narrative to explain what an accuser told friends, and often, to explore any conflicting accounts. Americans are now watching this complicated form of reporting play out in the stories about Tara Reade, who has accused Joe Biden of assaulting her.

Mr. Farrow’s first big story on Mr. Weinstein offered readers little visibility into the question of whether Ms. Evans’s story could be corroborated. He could have indicated that he had, or hadn’t, been able to corroborate what Ms. Evans said, or reported what her friends from the time had told the magazine. He wrote instead: “Evans told friends some of what had happened, but felt largely unable to talk about it.”

It appears Mr. Farrow was making a narrative virtue of a reporting liability, and the results were ultimately damaging.

A crucial witness, the friend who was with Ms. Evans when both women met Mr. Weinstein at the club, later told prosecutors that when a fact checker for The New Yorker called her about Mr. Farrow’s story, she hadn’t confirmed Ms. Evans’s account of rape. Instead, according to a letter from prosecutors to defense lawyers, the witness told the magazine that “something inappropriate happened,” and refused to go into detail.

But the witness later told a New York Police Department detective something more problematic: That Ms. Evans had told her the sexual encounter with Mr. Weinstein was consensual. The detective told the witness that her response to the magazine’s fact checker “was more consistent” with Ms. Evans’s allegation against Mr. Weinstein and suggested she stick to The New Yorker version, prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorneys office later acknowledged. The detective denied the exchange, but when Mr. Weinstein’s lawyers unearthed the witness’s contradictory accounts, the judge dismissed the charge. Mr. Weinstein’s lawyers gloated, though, of course, their client was ultimately convicted on other counts.

#MeToo Cases

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: ‘Believe All Women’ Is a Right-Wing Trap, Susan Faludi, May 18, 2020. Joe Biden has been accused of sexual assault, and conservatives are having a field day, exultant that they’ve caught feminists in a new hypocrisy trap.

A woman, with no corroboration beyond contemporaneous accounts, charges a powerful man with a decades-old crime? Hmm, doesn’t that sound mighty close to Christine Blasey Ford’s complaint against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh? Yet this time, many liberals who’ve championed the #MeToo movement seem skeptical?

May 17

Trump Reprisals,Oversight

Pandemic Top Headlines

bo virtual commencements 5 16 2020

2020 U.S. Elections /  Politics

Virus Victims, Relief

World News

Media News

 

Trump Reprisals Continue

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washington post logoWashington Post, With firing of State Dept. inspector general, Trump ramps up retaliatory purge, Philip Rucker, Karen DeYoung, Lisa Rein and Hannah Knowles, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). The termination of Steve A. Linick again showed the president challenging norms of U.S. governance in his push to rid the federal bureaucracy of officials he considers insufficiently loyal to or protective of him and his administration.

President Trump accelerated his retaliatory purge of public servants by firing the State Department’s inspector general, who had played a minor role in the president’s impeachment proceedings and was said to have begun investigating alleged misconduct by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

steve linick 2013 CustomActing on Pompeo’s recommendation, Trump abruptly terminated Steve A. Linick, left, late Friday night, again challenging established norms of American governance in his push to rid the federal bureaucracy of officials he considers insufficiently loyal to or protective of him and his administration. Trump replaced Linick with Stephen J. Akard, a trusted ally of Vice President Pence and the diplomat who directs the Office of Foreign Missions. He also replaced the acting inspector general at the Department of Transportation on Friday night.

Inspectors general serve as internal government watchdogs conducting oversight of federal agencies — and although they technically are political appointees, their independence has long been protected. Trump’s move — his fourth such firing during the coronavirus pandemic — drew swift condemnations from Democrats and at least one Republican on Capitol Hill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) decried what she termed a “dangerous pattern of retaliation against the patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking Democrat, Robert Menendez (N.J.), jointly launched an investigation Saturday into Linick’s firing.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Trump Ousted State Dept. Watchdog at Pompeo’s Urging, Catie Edmondson and Michael D. Shear, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). Congressional Democrats opened an investigation into what they said “may be an act of illegal retaliation” by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The lawmakers said Steve Linick, the State Department’s inspector general, had opened an investigation into Secretary of State’s conduct.

mike pompeo portraitSecretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, urged President Trump to fire the official responsible for fighting waste and fraud in his department, a White House official said Saturday, a recommendation certain to come under scrutiny after congressional Democrats opened an investigation into what they said “may be an act of illegal retaliation.”

Mr. Trump told Speaker Nancy Pelosi late Friday night that he was ousting Steve A. Linick, who led the office of the inspector general at the State Department, and replacing him with an ambassador with close ties to Vice President Mike Pence.

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, immediately called the decision to remove Mr. Linick an “outrageous act” meant to protect Mr. Pompeo from accountability.

By Saturday, Mr. Engel and Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had opened an investigation into Mr. Linick’s removal, citing a pattern of “politically motivated firing of inspectors general.”

In letters to the White House, the State Department and Mr. Linick, the two Democrats wrote that they believed Mr. Linick had opened an investigation into wrongdoing by Mr. Pompeo and that Mr. Pompeo had responded by recommending that Mr. Linick be fired. The lawmakers did not provide any more details, but a Democratic aide said that Mr. Linick had been looking into whether Mr. Pompeo improperly used a political appointee at the State Department to perform personal tasks for him and his wife.

Since starting his current job in April 2018, Mr. Pompeo has come under growing public scrutiny for what critics say is his use of the State Department’s resources for personal endeavors. Mr. Menendez has called for Mr. Pompeo to explain how he can justify frequent trips to Kansas, his adopted home state, using State Department funds and aircraft. He has brought his wife, Susan Pompeo, on many trips abroad, telling others she is a “force multiplier” for him. And CNN reported last year that congressional officials were looking at potential misuse of diplomatic security personnel for personal errands. That did not result in the opening of a formal inquiry.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s slow-motion Friday night massacre of inspectors general, Aaron Blake, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). The unprecedented spate of removals and their timing have reinforced how President Trump is rather obviously seeking to undermine independent oversight of his administration.

The Friday news dump — also known as the Friday night news dump — is a political trick with plenty of precedent. Wait till the vast majority of the news business clocks out for on the week, and announce something you’d rather they not cover as much. People won’t be reading as much news at that point anyway, and perhaps it’ll be dismissed as old news by Monday morning.

Few are as blatant about using this tactic, though, as the Trump White House.

News broke late Friday night that Trump had removed the inspector general for the State Department, Steve Linick. It’s the third time in six weeks that such a move has been announced on a Friday night, with each inspector general having done something to pretty obviously alienate Trump. The unprecedented spate of removals has reinforced how Trump is rather obviously seeking to undermine independent oversight of his administration — and the timing of each of them only reinforces that.

djt tweet kayleigh supergirl Custom

The impeached Donald Trump retweeted on Saturday the above image of his new communications director.

Palmer Report, Opinion: There goes that argument, Bill Palmer, May 17, 2020. This past week’s Supreme Court arguments were made remotely via audio conference, so we’ll just have to assume that Donald Trump’s attorneys had a straight face when they argued that Trump is simply too busy in his role as President of the United States to bother answering a subpoena from Congress, or from a grand jury.

bill palmer report logo headerBut if Trump’s attorneys told him to play along with the ruse this week by acting like he was busy, then Trump didn’t get the memo, or he didn’t know how to read the memo. Trump spent Saturday tweeting a video of himself poorly superimposed into the movie Independence Day, and tweeting a disturbing image of his new White House Press Secretary in some kind of Supergirl cosplay costume.

Again, this is at a time when Donald Trump’s attorneys are trying to convince the Supreme Court that he’s too busy with the duties of the office to comply with a lawful subpoena. John Roberts will cast the deciding vote using the same methodology he always uses: whatever he thinks is going to make him a power broker, as opposed to what the Constitution says.

Roberts saved Obamacare because he wanted to create an environment where the left and right cater their cases to him, because he craves power. We’ll see what side he comes down on this time. But if Roberts is looking for an excuse to vote against Donald Trump, these idiotic tweets are in fact a solid legal argument that Trump isn’t too busy with his duties to answer the subpoena.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: There is a huge difference between Christine Blasey Ford and Tara Reade, Jennifer Rubin, right, May 17, 2020. When Tara jennifer rubin new headshotReade, a former staffer in the office of then-Sen. Joe Biden, stepped forward to make a claim that Biden had sexually violated her, an endless stream of commentary ensued: It’s hard to not believe her if you believed Christine Blasey Ford (who accused Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexual assault when both were teenagers). Democrats are in a pickle! Live by the “believe women” rule!

This effort at moral equivalency made the same error that all such comparisons do: It attempted to treat unequal things as equal. In the case of Ford, she had never changed her account of an assault at a party, which Kavanaugh denies. She testified under oath, credibly recounting the episode. There was also another alleged incident of sexual misconduct from Kavanaugh’s time at Yale, which a credible third party reported having witnessed (which Kavanaugh has also denied). Although we will never know for certain, Kavanaugh’s denial of heavy drinking and his implausible explanations about his calendar undercut his testimony.

In the case of Reade, the overwhelming weight of evidence suggests no sexual assault occurred. To conclude she is telling the truth, you would have to believe that, for the first and only time in his career, Biden decided to assault a woman in a fully visible spot in the Capitol. Reade, as previously reported, repeatedly modified her story. At one point she claimed the assault had been documented in a written complaint. After Biden denied the incident, she said come to think of it, the complaint wouldn’t have included the assault portion. There was plenty here to set off alarm bells. Sure enough, the more media entities investigated, the more flaky Reade’s story seemed.

PBS published a massive investigation on Friday, which included interviews with 74 former Biden staffers, 62 of them women. Rather than any hint of impropriety, “people who spoke to the NewsHour described largely positive and gratifying experiences working for Biden, painting a portrait of someone who was ahead of his time in empowering women in the workplace.” (Some did, however, acknowledge his nonsexual touchy-feely conduct, for which Biden has apologized.) In addition, the investigation spoke to a staffer who sat next to Reade and “told the NewsHour that Reade was fired for her poor performance on the job, which he witnessed — not as retaliation for her complaints about sexual harassment.”

Finally, the specifics of her allegation — that Biden accosted her in a hallway when she brought him his gym bag — turn out to be wholly improbable:

Reade’s attorney told the NewsHour that Reade recalls the assault happening “in a semiprivate area like an alcove” and that it was “somewhere between the Russell (building) and/or Capitol building.” He pointed out that survivors often have difficulty with specifics about trauma. … A recent walk through that area showed the subway tunnel contains no out-of-view areas, like an alcove. The remaining portion of the route includes multiple stairwells as well as corridors lined with offices. It is a main thoroughfare for senators and staffers.

Politico also investigated Reade’s charge, interviewing more than a dozen people. “A number of those in close contact with Reade over the past 12 years, a period in which she went by the names Tara Reade, Tara McCabe or Alexandra McCabe, laid out a familiar pattern: Reade ingratiated herself, explained she was down on her luck and needed help, and eventually took advantage of their goodwill to extract money, skip rent payments or walk out on other bills,” Politico found. “The people [interviewed] provided copies of past emails, screenshots of Facebook Messenger or text exchanges with Reade, copies of billing invoices or court records detailing their grievances or correspondence.

“Believe women” does not mean we must be blind to facts or engage in willful blindness. Sexual assault is a crime. In our system of justice and in the court of public opinion, facts still matter, and not all allegations are equally meritorious. Some are downright false. With regard to Reade, it’s long past time the media stopped indulging in the notion that if you believe Ford, you must believe Reade.

Pandemic Top Stories

The Atlantic, Investigation: State and Federal Data on COVID-19 Testing Don’t Match Up, Robinson Meyer and Alexis C. Madrigal, June, 2020. The CDC has quietly atlantic logostarted releasing nationwide numbers. But they contradict what states themselves are reporting.

For the past 11 weeks, the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic has been the country’s only reliable source for national testing data. (The tracker compiles the number of tests reported by each U.S. state and territory daily.) While the CDC has provided only occasional and rudimentary tallies of total tests, data from the COVID Tracking Project have been used by Johns Hopkins University, governors and members of Congress, and the White House.

atlantic logo horizontalWith the new CDC site, the federal government is providing regular testing data again, and for the first time ever, it is doing so on a state-by-state level. But an initial analysis of the CDC’s state-level data finds major discrepancies between what many states are reporting and what the federal government is reporting about them. In Florida, for example, the disparity is enormous. The state government reported on Friday that about 700,000 coronavirus tests have been conducted statewide since the beginning of the outbreak.

This count should be authoritative: Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered hospitals and doctors to report their test results to the Florida Department of Health. Yet the CDC reported more than 919,000 tests in the state in that same period. That’s 31 percent more tests than Florida itself seems to think it has conducted. (Because the CDC says it does not update its data on the weekends, we have, throughout this article, compared its figures against the numbers reported by each state on Friday.) When we asked the CDC to explain the discrepancy in Florida, the agency declined to comment on the record.

“If this is what they’re getting, the CDC should pick up the phone and call the state of Florida and say, ‘What’s happening?’” Ashish Jha, the K.T. Li Professor of Global Health at Harvard, told us.

Given the complexity and the multisource nature of the data, some variations should certainly be anticipated. But the inconsistencies we found suggest that Florida is not an outlier. Using the state numbers that match the CDC’s output most closely, in 22 states, the CDC’s reported number of tests diverges from the number reported by the state government by more than 10 percent. In 13 states, it diverges by more than 25 percent. In some cases, the CDC’s tallies are much higher than what states are reporting; in others, much lower.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Global Updates: 8,000 Quarantined in China Amid New Infections, Staff reports, May 17, 2020. Qatar is threatening people who don’t wear masks with prison time. A Nigerian fraud ring is suspected of siphoning millions of dollars in U.S. unemployment payments. Here’s the latest.

• Chinese officials have quarantined 8,000 people in the country’s northeast.
• How France was left defenseless in the face of a pandemic.
• Nigerian fraud ring is implicated in a vast attack on U.S. unemployment agencies.
• From a New Jersey hotel room, an Indian musician plays with artists from around the world.
• In Brazil, national confusion helped fuel the virus’s spread.
• Will Cirque du Soleil rise again?
• U.S. roundup: Barack Obama criticized the virus response in two virtual commencement speeches.

Officials concerned about a virus resurgence have quarantined 8,000 people and reintroduced lockdown measures in northeastern China, even as other parts of the country further relax restrictions.

Residents of Jilin, the second-largest city in Jilin Province, have been mostly barred from leaving the city, state news media reported, after a cluster of infections was reported there and in Shulan, another city under its administration. Shenyang, capital of the neighboring province of Liaoning, said on Saturday that anyone who had traveled there from the city of Jilin since April 22 would be quarantined in a hospital for three weeks.

Jilin has traced nearly 700 contacts of coronavirus patients for testing and quarantine, while officials in Liaoning Province have found more than 1,000 contacts and about 6,500 people at high risk for infection.

2020 U.S. Elections / Politics

washington post logoruth marcus twitter CustomWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s strategy: First, dismantle Mueller. Then peddle ‘Obamagate,’ Ruth Marcus, right, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump wants to wipe away the stain of Russian interference on his behalf in the 2016 election. There are two tracks in this effort: one that reached its culmination in the past week, the other percolating for years but weaponized recently by Trump himself.

Think of the first as “The Great Undoing,” the effort to unravel the work of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The second can be best described as “Lock Her Up 2,” a cynical plan to deploy rhetoric that is as overheated as it is unspecific — “OBAMAGATE!” — in the service of tarnishing the opposition.

The Great Undoing has been long in the making. The president has seethed since the moment his first attorney general recused himself from the Russia inquiry and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein appointed a special counsel to oversee the investigation.

The entire point of naming a special counsel is that it would undermine public confidence in the impartiality of the outcome if the ordinary leadership of the Justice Department ran the investigation. Therefore, bringing in an outside party would be in “the public interest,” as the regulation explains.

But, of course, Trump has no conception of the public interest, only of his own interest. He cannot fathom — and he earned himself an obstruction-of-justice investigation as a consequence — that the department is supposed to operate independently of the White House, or that the attorney general is not, in fact, intended to function as his own personal Roy Cohn.

Axios Sneak Peek, Trump leans toward keeping total cut to WHO funding, Jonathan Swan, May 17, 2020. President Trump is leaning toward preserving his total funding cut for the World Health Organization after being on the brink of announcing he'd restore partial funding to the global health agency, according to three sources familiar with the situation. A fourth source, a senior administration official, cautioned that the decision-making was fluid and was still subject to change.

Behind the scenes: Trump spent his weekend at Camp David with some of his closest Republican allies in the House of Representatives. A source familiar with the private discussions said that House members at Camp David pressed Trump "to not give a dime to WHO."

2. Why Deborah Birx is the real power doctor. Don't be fooled by the grandmotherly demeanor and whimsical scarf collection. Administration officials say they've been taken aback by Deborah Birx's masterful political skills — including a preternatural ability to get what she wants while telling people what they want to hear.

She's better than any of the other public health officials at talking to Trump. While MAGA-land has spent weeks trying to get Anthony Fauci fired, Birx has been far more adept at influencing the president and shaping the administration's response to the global coronavirus pandemic.

djt mitch mcconnell Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump picks weird fight with Mitch McConnell as his presidency falls apart, Bill Palmer, May 17, 2020. Donald Trump, whose cognitive abilities are collapsing in real time, and his campaign advisers, who are all complete idiots, have decided that their best bet in 2020 is to promote a laughably phony scandal about President Obama. Trump’s problem with this “Obamagate” nonsense is two-fold.

First, this is an incredibly stupid idea. Donald Trump is historically unpopular, and by promoting an obviously fake scandal about the historically popular Obama, he’s merely going to cost himself votes. That’s why Mitch McConnell doesn’t seem to want anything to do with it. McConnell is corrupt and evil, but he’s not an idiot. He’s not willing to throw away the Senate in November just because Trump wants jealous revenge on Obama.

bill palmer report logo headerSo now Trump has decided that he needs to pick a fight with McConnell of all people. Trump tweeted this: “Mitch, I love you, but this is 100% true. Time is running out. Get tough and move quickly, or it will be too late. The Dems are vicious, but got caught. They MUST pay a big price for what they have done to our Country. Don’t let them get away with this!” Then he posted multiple retweets with a similar message.

Donald Trump seems to think that by picking a fight with Mitch McConnell in public like this, Trump’s base will begin placing so much pressure on McConnell and the GOP Senate, McConnell will have to cave and start doing things like asking President Obama to testify. One can only hope McConnell ends up caving, because Trump’s strategy here is unbelievably self defeating.

Trump also has to be careful here. Mitch McConnell has been propping Trump up all along, but only because McConnell has felt that it was what was best for himself and his own career. If McConnell ultimately decides that Trump is becoming too much of a liability, McConnell can selfishly push Trump out of office and take his chances in 2020 with a different republican presidential nominee. Trump is playing a dangerous game. But then again, desperate stupid people usually are playing it dangerously.

Virus Victims, Relief

washington post logoWashington Post, Crisis exposes how U.S. has hollowed out its government, Dan Balz, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). Its halting response represents chronic weaknesses and years of underinvestment, compounded by President Trump’s open hostility to the federal bureaucracy.

The government’s halting response to the coronavirus pandemic represents the culmination of chronic structural weaknesses, years of underinvestment and political rhetoric that has undermined the public trust — conditions compounded by President Trump’s open hostility to a federal bureaucracy that has been called upon to manage the crisis.

Federal government leaders, beginning with the president, appeared caught unaware by the swiftness with which the coronavirus was spreading through the country — though this was not the first time that an administration seemed ill-prepared for an unexpected shock. But even after the machinery of government clanked into motion, missteps, endemic obstacles and lack of clear communication have plagued the efforts to meet the needs of the nation.

washington post logoWashington Post, After comparing virus measures to Nazi rule, lawmaker says Hitler was not white supremacist, Hannah Knowles and Candace Buckner, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). An Alaska lawmaker emailed his statehouse colleagues to compare health screening stickers to badges that singled out Jews during the Holocaust.

The uproar began when an Alaska lawmaker emailed all 39 of his statehouse colleagues to compare health-screening stickers to the badges that singled out Jews during the Holocaust.

“If my sticker falls off, do I get a new one or do I get public shaming too?” Rep. Ben Carpenter (R) wrote Friday, sharing his dismay at a new requirement for legislators returning to the Alaska Capitol amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. “Are the stickers available as a yellow Star of David?”

The backlash was swift: “Ben, this is disgusting,” one Jewish representative wrote back in emails first posted by the Alaska Landmine. “I don’t think a tag that we’re cleared to enter the building is akin to being shipped to a concentration camp,” responded another. The leader of the state House’s Republican delegation said Carpenter should apologize.

But Carpenter dug in.

“Can you or I — can we even say it is totally out of the realm of possibility that covid-19 patients will be rounded up and taken somewhere?” he said later in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News, arguing that officials are overreacting to the virus with limits on people’s liberty. “People want to say Hitler was a white supremacist. No. He was fearful of the Jewish nation, and that drove him into some unfathomable atrocities.”

That provoked a new round of denunciations from fellow lawmakers, one of whom said he’s seen similar arguments making the rounds online. The comments echo comparisons made by some protesters opposed to stay-at-home orders who argue that strict public health measures are akin to slavery and genocidal dictatorships — governors have been likened to Nazis — in rhetoric that many view as inappropriate in a national debate about measures to curb the coronavirus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Major nursing home chain violated federal standards meant to stop spread of disease, records show, Debbie Cenziper, Sidnee King, Shawn Mulcahy and Joel Jacobs, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). As the coronavirus spread, inspectors found that staffers in some Life Care homes failed to wash hands, wear masks and isolate patients.

Nursing homes operated by Life Care Centers of America, one of the largest chains in the industry, violated federal standards meant to stop the spread of infections and communicable diseases even after outbreaks and deaths from covid-19 began to sweep its facilities from the Pacific Northwest to New England, inspection reports show.

Over the past six weeks, as the nationwide death toll among the elderly soared, government inspectors discovered breakdowns in infection control and prevention at nine Life Care nursing homes that underwent covid-19 inspections overseen by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That does not include deficiencies found at the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Wash., which suffered the country’s first reported outbreak of the novel coronavirus in February.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s strange comments on possibly ‘overrated’ tests, Aaron Blake, May 16, 2020. Throughout the coronavirus outbreak, the president has questioned the need for a vast amount of tests and suggested that the discovery of new cases are a liability for him rather than a necessary part of getting a handle on the problem.

  • Washington Post, Reality star charged with spending funds from federal small business program on jewelry, Rolls-Royce, Jonathan O'Connell, May 16, 2020.

World News

felicien kabuga wanted

washington post logoWashington Post, Félicien Kabuga, tycoon who helped launch Rwandan genocide, arrested in Paris, Max Bearak, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). He was one of the most-wanted fugitives sought by Rwanda’s post-genocide government.

After a quarter century on the run, Félicien Kabuga, indicted on charges of using his wealth and influence to stir Rwanda's 1994 genocide, was arrested Saturday in Paris and will face trial before an international court.

The office of the prosecutor for an international tribunal in The Hague said in a statement that Kabuga, now 84, had been living under a false identity in Asnieres-sur-Seine north of Paris and had been hiding with the complicity of his children. He was arrested in a “sophisticated, coordinated operation with simultaneous searches across a number of locations” by French police.

“The arrest of Félicien Kabuga today is a reminder that those responsible for genocide can be brought to account, even 26 years after their crimes,” the statement said.

In 1994, Kabuga was one of Rwanda’s richest men and co-owned Radio Television Milles Collines, a radio station whose broadcasts incited hatred toward Rwanda’s Tutsi minority by the Hutu majority. More than 800,000 were killed in the span of just three months during the Rwandan genocide. Most were Tutsis. The slaughter was ended by a Ugandan-supported army of Tutsis led by Paul Kagame, who has been president of Rwanda since the genocide ended.

Media News

The Atlantic, Opinion: The Conspiracy Theorists Are Winning, Jeffrey Goldberg, June, 2020. America is losing its grip on Enlightenment values and reality atlantic logoitself. The Middle East is a cauldron of conspiracy, a place where the most bizarre theories often have real policy consequences. Saul Lieberman once said, “Nonsense is nonsense but the history of nonsense is scholarship.” I would add: The influence of nonsense, when unchecked by science, by direct observation, by a shared epistemological reality, can be profoundly damaging.

atlantic logo horizontalEight years later, in a windowless Austin, Texas, warehouse, the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was explaining to me why he, like Mustafa Mahmoud, disbelieved the investigated and proven truth of what happened on 9/11. Jones is a top-tier conspiracist, a professional one, too, and I visited him at his headquarters to find out for myself if he actually believed the idiocy he peddled—that the government controls the weather; that Bill Gates is secretly a genocidal eugenicist. The list of absurdities has no end. It always seemed outlandish to me that otherwise smart people (Mustafa Mahmoud was one of Egypt’s leading physicians) could sincerely believe in theories that stand in opposition to logic, Occam’s razor, and accreted fact. My assumption about people like Jones was that they were nihilistic grifters, exploiting innocent people seeking to satiate the deep human need for coherence.

Jones told me he was busy; I could have 30 minutes. Four hours later he was still talking—we were having dinner at a Mexican restaurant by then—and I was looking for an exit. He was nuts, and therefore exhausting. It was an afternoon filled with statements like this: “We’re living under tyranny. The bankers, the New World Order, they’re using the War Powers Act to grab our guns. This isn’t a republic. Come on, if you say the bankers are forcing fluoride on us, if you call 9/11 an inside job, they’ll destroy your life, that’s how evil they are.”

Trump does not defend our democracy from the ruinous consequences of conspiracy thinking. Instead, he embraces such thinking. A conspiracy theory—birtherism—was his pathway to power, and, in office, he warns of the threat of the “deep state” with the ferocity of a QAnon disciple. He has even begun to question the official coronavirus death toll, which he sees as evidence of a dark plot against him. How is he different from Alex Jones, from the conspiracy manufacturers of Russia and the Middle East?

He lives in the White House. That is one main difference.

  • The Atlantic, Birtherism of a Nation, Adam Serwer, June, 2020. The conspiracy theories surrounding Obama’s birthplace and religion were much more than mere lies. They were ideology.

May 16

Pandemic Top Headlines

Trump Reprisals Continue

 U.S. Pandemic Politics

Virus Victims, Relief

World News

Inside DC

U.S. Crime and Courts: Flynn Judge

U.S. 2020 Elections

 

Pandemic Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Scientists say Trump’s timeline on wide vaccine availability is unrealistic, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Laurie McGinley, Josh Dawsey and Christopher Rowland, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump promised hundreds of millions of doses by January, but outside scientists say it’s dangerous to set public expectations on a timetable given the unknowns.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2President Trump formally unveiled an initiative Friday afternoon aimed at making hundreds of millions of doses of a coronavirus vaccine broadly available by year’s end — a goal that many scientists say is unrealistic and could even backfire by shortchanging safety and undermining faith in vaccines more broadly.

The Rose Garden news conference added to a week of confusing and contradictory remarks about the prospects and timeline for a vaccine, which is seen as the key to returning to normal life. A day earlier, a former top U.S. vaccine official testified before Congress that he was doubtful about the 12-to-18-month time frame frequently touted as a goal. The head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases testified Tuesday that 12 to 18 months was possible but there was no guarantee a vaccine would work at all.

But Trump and other officials projected certainty Friday that an effective vaccine would be widely available by year’s end from among 14 promising candidates that had been winnowed from a field of more than 100. The chief scientist of the new initiative, pharmaceutical industry veteran Moncef Slaoui, even teased that he had seen early clinical data from an unspecified vaccine trial that gave him hope.

Outside scientists said it was dangerous to set public expectations that a vaccine could be available by any deadline, given the many scientific unknowns and the fact that the first candidates are just now being injected into humans. It was unclear which vaccine trial Slaoui was referring to, and the initial small safety trials underway are not designed to show whether a vaccine actually works.

“It’s unfair to the American public to have science by news release — or in this case, ‘I’ve taken a look behind the curtain, and I’ve seen something good, and you have to trust me.’ If there are data, let’s see them,” said Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “We have a fragile confidence in vaccines in this country. And we need to manage expectations.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Drug promoted by Trump as coronavirus ‘game changer’ increasingly linked to deaths, Toluse Olorunnipa, Ariana Eunjung Cha, and Laurie McGinley, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). As the president continues to pitch hydroxychloroquine, several medical experts have called for the FDA to revoke its emergency use authorization.

djt hands up mouth open CustomFor two months, President Trump repeatedly pitched hydroxychloroquine as a safe and effective treatment for coronavirus, asking would-be patients “What the hell do you have to lose?”

Growing evidence shows that, for many, the answer is their lives.

Clinical trials, academic research and scientific analysis indicate that the danger of the Trump-backed drug is a significantly increased risk of death for certain patients. Evidence showing the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in treating covid-19 has been scant. Those two developments pushed the Food and Drug Administration to warn against the use of hydroxychloroquine outside of a hospital setting last month, just weeks after it approved an emergency use authorization for the drug.

The latest on the pandemic and the Trump administration’s response

Alarmed by a growing cache of data linking the anti-malaria drug to serious cardiac problems, some drug safety experts are now calling for even more forceful action by the government to discourage its use. Several have called for the FDA to revoke its emergency use authorization, given hydroxychloroquine’s documented risks.

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Cases Slow in U.S., but the Big Picture Remains Tenuous, Julie Bosman, Amy Harmon and Mitch Smith, May 16, 2020. The number of new coronavirus cases confirmed in the United States has steadily declined in recent days. But that progress is uncertain. With more than two-thirds of states significantly relaxing restrictions, an uptick in cases is widely predicted.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s strange comments on possibly ‘overrated’ tests, Aaron Blake, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). Throughout the coronavirus outbreak, the president has questioned the need for a vast amount of tests and suggested that the discovery of new cases are a liability for him rather than a necessary part of getting a handle on the problem.

Early this week, Anthony S. Fauci and other leading members of President Trump’s coronavirus task force pressed the importance of a vastly expanded national testing regime.

“I’m not sure you can practically do … testing every day; that I don’t think would be feasible,” Fauci said in Senate testimony. “But something that is much more aggressive than has been done in the past, I believe, should be done.”

Two days later, President Trump offered a very different view of testing, repeatedly suggesting that it’s “overrated” and that doing too much testing can needlessly drive up the infection numbers.

“When you test, you have a case,” Trump said. “When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases.”

Left unsaid in Trump’s comments: If you don’t test, you also don’t know who might be spreading the disease — nor might you know how to effectively treat someone to avoid the worst outcomes.

But Trump’s comments Thursday were of a sort. Throughout the coronavirus outbreak — and as criticism of the amount of testing has proliferated — Trump has repeatedly questioned the need for a vast amount of tests and suggested that rising numbers are a liability for him rather than a necessary part of getting a handle on the problem.

Trump Reprisals Continue

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washington post logoWashington Post, State Dept. inspector general fired as Democrats decry ‘pattern of retaliation,’ Hannah Knowles, May 16, 2020. The firing of Steve mike pompeo portraitLinick is the latest in a string of weekend removals of oversight officials who clashed with the Trump administration. The House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman said Linick was fired after opening an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right.

State Department Inspector General Steve Linick was fired Friday in a late-night ouster that drew condemnations from Democrats, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warning of an acceleration in a “dangerous pattern of retaliation” against federal watchdogs.

Linick, below at left, a 2013 Obama appointee who has criticized department leadership for alleged retribution toward staffers, will be replaced by Stephen J. Akard, a State Department spokesperson confirmed Friday. It was the latest in a string of weekend removals of oversight officials who have clashed with the Trump administration.

steve linick 2013 CustomRep. Eliot L. Engel (D.-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, claimed the State Inspector General was fired after opening an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and said the timing suggested “an unlawful act of retaliation.” The State Department did not explain Linick’s removal or address criticism, and the White House did not immediately respond to an inquiry Friday night.

A Democratic congressional aide said that Linick was looking into Pompeo’s “misuse of a political appointee at the Department to perform personal tasks for himself and Mrs. Pompeo.”

President Trump said in a Friday letter to Pelosi that the inspector general no longer had his “fullest confidence” and would be removed in 30 days, the required period of advance notice to lawmakers.

The firing came weeks after Trump removed Christi Grimm as principal deputy inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, after Grimm’s office criticized the administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic — detailing “severe shortages” of testing kits, delays in glenn fine officialgetting coronavirus results and “widespread shortages” of masks and other equipment at U.S. hospitals. Trump had lashed out publicly at Grimm.

Last month the president ousted intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who handled the explosive whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment. He also pushed out Glenn Fine, right, the chairman of the federal panel Congress created to oversee his administration’s management of the government’s $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.

U.S. Pandemic Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, With Move to Remote Voting, House Alters What It Means for Congress to Meet, Nicholas Fandos, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). For 231 years, to cast a vote or fully participate in a hearing, lawmakers were required to be present. The House’s planned vote on Friday to allow lawmakers to work from afar will fundamentally change how Congress operates.

When the House of Representatives acts on Friday to allow remote voting and virtual hearings, the coronavirus pandemic will have officially succeeded in doing what Philadelphia’s yellow fever outbreak of 1793, the Spanish influenza of 1918, the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and generations of agitators for institutional change never could: Untethering Congress from its mandate to come together physically.

U.S. House logoThose earlier crises prompted novel contingency plans and prolonged recesses. But for 231 years, since the founding members of the body first laid out their rules in 1789, to cast a vote or fully participate in a hearing, lawmakers were required to be present, notwithstanding the state of the nation. To be a Congress, as the word suggests, people had to come together.

“No member shall vote on any questions,” the rules adopted by the first House say, “in any case where he was not present when the question was put.”

No longer. With Friday’s vote, as long as the public health emergency persists, lawmakers from Alaska to Florida need not leave the safety of their own homes to question witnesses at a hearing, sign subpoenas or vote on legislation.

The new rules immediately allow for any member to vote remotely by giving precise, binding instructions to a proxy who is able to be present on the House floor. They also provide, pending certification, for a process in which lawmakers would eventually be able to cast their votes technologically from home, either via a secure online portal or a video conferencing system.

washington post logoWashington Post, Growing friction between White House, CDC hobbles pandemic response, Lenny Bernstein, Josh Dawsey and Yasmeen Abutaleb, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). The meager guidelines for safely reopening the country released this week are the latest sign of the Trump administration’s efforts to sideline the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the increasing tension between the White House and the world-renowned public health agency.

cdc logo CustomWith Americans waiting for expert advice on how to resume a semblance of normal life during the pandemic, the CDC released just six short “decision trees” Thursday while the rest of its lengthy proposal remains under review at the White House, where it has been for weeks.

Instead of assuming its traditional lead role in a public health crisis, the 73-year-old agency has become just one of many voices providing often contradictory instructions to a confused and imperiled public.

“Punishing the agency by marginalizing and hobbling it is not the solution,” the venerable British medical journal the Lancet noted Friday in a stinging editorial that called the U.S. response “inconsistent and incoherent.”

“Only a steadfast reliance on basic public health principles, like test, trace, and isolate, will see the emergency brought to an end, and this requires an effective national public health agency.”

Donald Trump shown signing a MAGA hat in a visit to Iraq in December 2018

Donald Trump shown signing a MAGA hat in a visit to Iraq in December 2018

Strategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: Lack of Empathy Equates to a Lack of Leadership Skills, Wayne Madsen, right, May 16, 2020. U.S. Army Field Manual 6-22, titled “Leadership Development,” states that the ability wayne madsen screen shoto show empathy toward others is a key factor in exhibiting Army leadership qualities.

Donald Trump, who is ordering all 1000 graduating U.S. Army cadets at West Point back to campus on June 13 from sheltering at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, does not possess the leadership skills that have been drilled into each of the new Army Second Lieutenants who will be present for Trump’s commencement address. In fact, Trump’s overly-acquiescent Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, had to issue a waiver for the cadets to travel because he had previously banned military personnel from travel until June 30.

The Army Field Manual states that “The capacity for empathy is an important attribute for leaders to possess. Empathy can allow leaders to strategic culture logounderstand how their actions will make others feel and react. Empathy can help leaders to understand those that they deal with including other Soldiers, Army Civilians, local populace, and even enemy forces. Being able to see from another’s viewpoint enables a leader to understand those around them better.” During Trump’s scheduled commencement speech, which will be full of his usual right-wing vitriol, will be directed at a class of non-political newly-minted Army officers. None of what Trump says will comply with the Army’s leadership training.

On May 8, Trump visited Washington, DC’s World War II Memorial to honor the veterans of World War II on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day. Trump, traveling by motorcade from a White House rife with Covid-19 cases, including inside the presidential private quarters and his Secret Service protective detail, refused to wear a mask, thus putting at risk World War II veterans, including some between the ages of 96 and 100, to being infected with the highly-contagious virus. Esper, a coward of the first degree, hid behind the veterans while also refusing to wear a mask.

Trump’s designated “blond bimbo” and PR flack masquerading as a White House Press Secretary, former CNN blathering head Kayleigh McEnany, placed the onus for being exposed to the virus on the elderly veterans, stating, “They made the choice to come here.” McEnany, whose idea of personal sacrifice is not being able to dine at Washington’s chic restaurants during the pandemic, was absolutely galling in her airy dismissal of the virus threat posed by her draft-dodging boss to veterans of Monte Cassino, Omaha Beach, Anzio, and the Ardennes.

boris johnson tieBritish Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, like Trump and Bolsonaro, gave the impression that Covid-19 was a bad case of influenza and even bragged about shaking hands with people, including coronavirus patients, because of his role as a politician. That was before March 27, when Johnson entered self-isolation after he tested positive for the coronavirus.

Johnson was later admitted to the intensive care unit of a National Health Service (NHS) hospital. Johnson, who mocked the seriousness of Covid-19 and the NHS, became a bit more empathetic after he nearly died from the virus and was saved by NHS medical personnel. Johnson and his fiancée gave their newly-born son the middle name of Nicholas in honor of the two NHS doctors, Drs. Nicholas Hart and Nicholas Price, who helped save his life.

Johnson’s token empathy for coronavirus sufferers is in marked contrast to that of Trump and the even more despicable Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has done everything possible to set the worst possible example in encouraging Brazilians to ignore public health restrictions.

washington post logoWashington Post, CDC offers few guidelines for reopening safely, Lenny Bernstein, William Wan, Josh Dawsey and Holly Bailey, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). The advice, which places the onus on state and local governments, was released on the same day that President Trump called testing “overrated” as a tool to track and control the virus.

djt hands up mouth open CustomWith hundreds of millions of people still seeking advice on resuming their lives safely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a scant six pages of recommendations Thursday to guide schools, businesses, day-care facilities and others into the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

cdc logo CustomThe six checklists — which also address restaurants, mass transit and camps — come days, and in some cases weeks, after many states have begun to lift restrictions on their own. The advice is less detailed than draft recommendations the agency sent to the White House for review last month.

The nation is still awaiting that detailed technical guidance, which the White House has held up and not shared publicly. The delay has left the responsibility for decision-making about reopening to states and localities. It has also left many health experts clamoring for greater transparency.

Virus Victims, Relief

ny times logoNew York Times, Hospitals Are Losing Millions of Dollars a Day: ‘It’s Uncontrollable,’ Sarah Kliff, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). Surgeries are canceled. Business models are shifting. Some of the hardest-hit hospitals may close, leaving patients with fewer options for care.

When the top-ranked Mayo Clinic stopped all nonemergency medical care in late March, it began to lose millions of dollars a day.

The clinic, a Minnesota-based hospital system accustomed to treating American presidents and foreign dignitaries, saw revenue plummet as it postponed lucrative surgeries to make way for coronavirus victims. The hospital network produced $1 billion in net operating revenue last year, but now expects to lose $900 million in 2020 even after furloughing workers, cutting doctors’ pay and halting new construction projects.

The future offers little relief, at least until the pandemic subsides and the economy recovers. The Mayo Clinic will have to rely more heavily on low-income patients enrolled in the Medicaid program, as others will be hesitant to travel across the country, or the world, for care. “It’s uncontrollable,” said Dennis Dahlen, the clinic’s chief financial officer.

washington post logoWashington Post, A majority of Americans going to work fear exposing their household to virus, poll finds, Tim Craig and Emily Guskin, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). Nearly 1 in 3 Americans have continued to leave the house for work at least once a week as states issued stay-at-home orders, the Washington Post-Ipsos poll also found.

A Washington Post-Ipsos poll of more than 8,000 adults in late April and early May found that nearly 6 in 10 Americans who are working outside their homes were concerned that they could be exposed to the virus at work and infect other members of their household. Those concerns were even higher for some: Roughly 7 in 10 black and Hispanic workers said they were worried about getting a household member sick if they are exposed at work.

ny times logoNew York Times, She Escaped Sex Work for College. Now the Virus Threatens Her New Life, Ginia Bellafante, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). Her dorm closed for the quarantine. In a month she ages out of foster care. What happens when there is no safety net?

Last fall, toward the end of her first semester in college, Destiny Moura turned in a paper for an English composition class in which she described her introduction, at the age of 14, to “the life.’’ The “life’’ referred to the exploitation of girls by pimps, traffickers, manipulators.

In Destiny’s case, these abuses brought to conclusion a childhood that never had any proper beginning. A great deal of instability preceded this point; so much sadness and shame followed. But by the end of last year, Destiny, at 20, had rebuilt herself, as a student at Borough of Manhattan Community College with a grade-point average of 3.4.

Fearing a surge in these bleak outcomes, late last month, a group of lawyers who advocate for children in poverty, wrote to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, asking him to issue an executive order suspending terminations from foster care for 180 days during the current crisis. Several other states, including California and Rhode Island, had already done something similar. So far, no action has been taken.

The coronavirus outbreak has derailed a beleaguered child-welfare system in varied ways, all of them disturbing. It has separated imperiled children from the teachers and administrators who are required to report suspicions of abuse; contracted the family-court system to virtual hearings held only in the most dire cases; halted the important visits between birth mothers and the children whose custody they are training to regain.

But there is a distinct tragedy in the narrative of reversal — of young people so close to the threshold of transformation suddenly watching the line pulled away to a future no one can foresee.

  • Washington Post, Reality star charged with spending funds from federal small business program on jewelry, Rolls-Royce, Jonathan O'Connell, May 16, 2020.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Sweden Stayed Open. A Deadly Month Shows the Risks, Lauren Leatherby and Allison McCann, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). While Sweden has avoided Europe’s worst outbreaks, seen in Britain, Italy and Spain, it has also experienced an extraordinary increase in deaths, mortality data shows.

sweden flagBy late March, nearly every country in Europe had closed schools and businesses, restricted travel and ordered citizens to stay home. But one country stood out for its decision to stay open: Sweden.

The country’s moderated response to the coronavirus outbreak has drawn praise from some American politicians, who see Sweden as a possible model for the United States as it begins to reopen. “We need to observe with an open mind what went on in Sweden, where the kids kept going to school,” Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Republican, said at a hearing on Tuesday.

european union logo rectangleBut while Sweden has avoided the devastating tolls of outbreaks in Italy, Spain and Britain, it also has seen an extraordinary increase in deaths, mortality data show.

In Stockholm, where the virus spread through migrant communities, more than twice the usual number of people died last month. That increase far surpasses the rise in deaths in American cities like Boston and Chicago, and approaches the increase seen in Paris.

Across Sweden, almost 30 percent more people died during the epidemic than is normal during this time of year, an increase similar to that of the United States and far higher than the small increases seen in its neighboring countries. While Sweden is the largest country in Scandinavia, all have strong public health care systems and low health inequality across the population.

“It’s not a very flattering comparison for Sweden, which has such a great public health system,” said Andrew Noymer, a demographer at the University of California at Irvine. “There’s no reason Sweden should be doing worse than Norway, Denmark and Finland.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Bombs Made in America Have Been Killing Civilians in Yemen, Michael LaForgia and Walt Bogdanich, May 16, 2020. With billions at stake, Raytheon found an ally in Peter Navarro, President Trump’s trade adviser, who helped elevate economic considerations in the administration’s approval of arms sales.

Weapons supplied by American companies, approved by American officials, allowed Saudi Arabia to pursue the reckless campaign. But in June 2017, an influential Republican senator decided to cut them off, by withholding approval for new sales. It was a moment that might have stopped the slaughter.

Not under President Trump.

With billions at stake, one of the president’s favored aides, the combative trade adviser Peter Navarro, made it his mission to reverse the senator. Mr. Navarro, after consulting with American arms makers, wrote a memo to Jared Kushner and other top White House officials calling for an intervention, possibly by Mr. Trump himself. He titled it “Trump Mideast arms sales deal in extreme jeopardy, job losses imminent.”

Within weeks, the Saudis were once again free to buy American weapons.

The intervention, which has not been previously reported, underscores a fundamental change in American foreign policy under Mr. Trump that often elevates economic considerations over other ones. Where foreign arms sales in the past were mostly offered and withheld to achieve diplomatic goals, the Trump administration pursues them mainly for the profits they generate and the jobs they create, with little regard for how the weapons are used.

NBC News, Ex-Green Beret captured in Venezuela believed U.S. backed overthrow plot: family, Rich Schapiro, May 16, 2020.  Luke Denman would have never knowingly participated in a rogue operation to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, his relatives say.

Frank Denman was at his home in Austin last January when he received a call from his son, Luke.

A former Green Beret, Luke had been searching for his calling after leaving the service. On the phone that day, he suggested to his father that he had found it.

“He said I had something come up in Florida,” Frank recalled. “He said it was a confidential kind of thing.”

The elder Denman still remembers exactly what Luke said next: “But I can tell you it’s the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Luke had been working as a commercial diver on offshore oil rigs in Louisiana. His father thought that he may have been talking about a salvage operation involving a historic ship.

But it was just a hunch. Frank didn’t pry, and Luke didn’t divulge any details. From Luke’s days in the Special Forces, that’s how their conversations often went.

It wouldn’t be until several months later, in early May, when Frank found out what his son had actually been talking about.

Luke Denman, 34, was one of two ex-Green Berets arrested in a foiled plot to oust Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro. He’s now locked up in a Venezuelan jail, his fate in the hands of a leader the U.S. government considers a dictator responsible for tens of millions of his people going hungry.

“I get it now,” Frank said, referring to his son’s cryptic words about his new, meaningful opportunity. “Everyone knows about the suffering of the Venezuelan people.”

“And the motto of the Green Berets,” he added, “is free the oppressed.”

Two weeks on, much remains unknown about the ill-fated operation. According to the Venezuelan government, eight “mercenary terrorists” were killed and several captured, including Denman and fellow Army veteran Airan Berry, during an attempt to seize Maduro and topple his government.

A third ex-Green Beret, Jordan Goudreau, claimed responsibility for the plot. A decorated former U.S. commando, Goudreau operated a Florida-based private security company called Silvercorp USA.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump expresses anger that his China trade deal is off to a rocky start, but he lacks obvious remedies, David J. Lynch, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump may be irritated with China’s failure to buy more American products as required under the trade deal he celebrated at a White House ceremony in January. But he doesn’t seem prepared to do much about it.

The president this week has been openly critical of China’s performance in the deal’s first months, even threatening to “cut off the whole relationship” after Chinese orders for American products in the first quarter came in lower than last year.

“I made a great trade deal. The ink wasn’t dry when the plague came over from China. The ink wasn’t dry,” the president told Fox Business on Thursday. “I’m very disappointed in China. I will tell you that right now.”

Trump, who earlier this week ruled out renegotiating the deal, said he still expects China to buy the $200 billion in goods and services it promised. The president had threatened to “terminate” the deal if China did not deliver. But for now, he seems inclined to confine his response to public grumbling while counting on an export surge later this year -- even though some experts say it is now impossible for China to meet the deal’s targets.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Faced with a Trumpian barrage of attacks, Joe Biden chooses to look the other way, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey, May 16, 2020.The former vice president’s senior advisers dismiss the most explosive Trump volleys as distractions, though ones aimed at his competence and economic record stir more concern.

washington post logoWashington Post, House changes its rules to allow remote voting for the first time in its 231-year history, Mike DeBonis, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). Democratic leaders say the changes are temporary as the House tries to balance its constitutional responsibility with health risks related to the coronavirus.

The House on Friday approved the most radical change to its rules in generations, allowing its members to cast committee and floor votes from afar — the culmination of a months-long struggle to adapt the 231-year-old institution to the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. House logoDespite bipartisan frustrations with the virus’s effect on the legislative process, the changes, which include temporarily authorizing remote committee work and proxy voting on the House floor, were adopted along party lines. The vote was 217 to 189.

Democratic leaders pushed forward with the changes this week after failing to come to terms in two weeks of negotiations with Republicans, who firmly opposed several key measures in the proposal.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and top Democrats said the changes were temporary and tailored to the current crisis — which has made mass gatherings of lawmakers hazardous — but necessary to ensure that the House fulfills its constitutional obligations.

The House has sputtered for the past two months as other organs of the federal government — most notably the Supreme Court — and schools, localities and the private sector have embraced video technology to conduct business. The smaller, 100-member Senate returned May 4 and has relied on remote committee work for hearings, though senators still must be present for roll-call votes.

The proxy voting proposal allows any member attending a House vote to cast as many as 10 votes on behalf of colleagues who have authorized those votes by letter to the House clerk.

U.S. Crime and Courts: Flynn Judge

washington post logoWashington Post, Flynn judge one of federal bench’s most probing skeptics of Justice Dept. misconduct, legal observers say, Spencer S. Hsu, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). In pausing the Justice Department’s efforts to reverse the guilty plea of former Trump aide Michael Flynn, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan this week bolstered a reputation built over 36 years as one of the department’s most probing skeptics on the federal bench.

emmet sullivan 2012Sullivan, left, on Wednesday appointed former federal judge John Gleeson to oppose the department’s request to abandon its two-year-long prosecution and exonerate the former national security adviser. Sullivan also asked Gleeson to examine whether Flynn may have committed perjury by admitting, under oath in December 2017, to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts and later claiming innocence.

Sullivan’s extraordinary action recalled to many his excavation of one of the Justice Department’s worst scandals a decade ago — the botching of a campaign finance investigation into Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

Justice Department log circularSullivan’s work then won plaudits from former prosecutors and fierce critics of government tactics alike. After overturning Stevens’s 2009 conviction of lying on disclosure forms, the judge named a special prosecutor who found that at least two federal prosecutors withheld evidence that would have acquitted the nation’s then-longest-serving senator. A third prosecutor died by suicide before the report was completed.

“Judge Emmet Sullivan, to all those who seek, hallow, and do Justice. With the greatest respect and gratitude for your honorable service,” one former U.S. prosecutor and white-collar defense appeals specialist wrote to Sullivan in April 2014.

The writer was Sidney Powell, Flynn’s current defense attorney. She wrote the tribute when signing and sending Sullivan a copy of her book, “Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice,” the judge recalled in court when she joined Flynn’s case in June. The book alleged misconduct by prosecutors investigating the 2001 collapse of the Houston energy company Enron.

To lawyers who practice before him and judicial colleagues who work alongside him, Sullivan’s intolerance for official misconduct is a defining characteristic, backed by his plain talk and comfort in the spotlight.

“Judge Sullivan usually gives prosecutors a hard time, not because they’ve necessarily done anything wrong but because he holds the government to a very high standard,” Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor who has often appeared before Sullivan, said in 2018.

That instinct has played out to Flynn’s disadvantage at times, he said.

“And why?” Kirschner said. “The defendant was a high-ranking government official” who admitted to egregious conduct, he said.

Sullivan, 72, is no stranger to Washington controversies. The D.C.-born son of a police officer is a graduate of Howard University School of Law and the longest-serving active federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Washington needs a new U.S. attorney, Editorial Board, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). In a few short months, interim U.S. attorney Timothy J. Shea, whom Attorney General William P. Barr, right, installed, has presided over two extraordinary retreats from justice, in both william barr new ocases to help associates of President Trump, and in both cases over the objections of career prosecutors.

Such extraordinary malpractice calls out for an extraordinary response. Fortunately, one is at hand.

Mr. Shea’s moves, benefiting Trump ally Roger Stone and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, have elicited an outraged letter from 2,000 former Justice Department officials and the resignation of a career prosecutor.

But that is not enough. Mr. Shea’s stint leading the U.S. attorney’s office in the District is up in early June, and Mr. Trump has nominated no one to succeed him. In these circumstances, federal law empowers district court judges to select an interim replacement. In normal times, Washington’s federal judges would likely tap the interim U.S. attorney to stay longer or ask the attorney general for advice on whom to appoint. This time, they should make their own choice, installing someone who will do the job fairly and competently.

timothy shea headshot Custom 2Mr. Shea, left, has proved he is not that person. In the Stone case, he revoked a sentencing memorandum prosecutors had submitted, recommending that Mr. Stone receive lighter punishment for obstructing Congress and witness tampering, despite the fact that the prosecutors’ original recommendation was in line with sentencing guidelines.

In the Flynn case, Mr. Shea moved to have charges dropped, even though the former national security adviser had already pleaded guilty to lying to investigators — a plea deal that headed off potential charges on other matters. Justice Department experts and former officials said they had never seen the department make such a retreat, and certainly not on behalf of a presidential favorite.

Each of these decisions is a scandal, and together they put the Justice Department’s legitimacy in more peril than it has been in a generation.

Mr. Barr has insisted that he is righting wrongs and that critics are motivated by partisanship only — and never mind that the wrongs he discovers consistently benefit the president’s friends. Whether Mr. Shea personally supports these actions or is simply willing to follow orders is immaterial; for the judges to ask Mr. Shea to continue in office would be to endorse this perversion of the justice system.

U.S. 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Justin Amash says he won’t run for president, David Weigel, May 16, 2020. Amash, a former Republican turned independent, previously said he’d seek the Libertarian Party’s nomination.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Justin Amash cuts and runs, Bill Palmer, May 16, 2020. Earlier this month, far-right Congressman Justin Amash announced he justin amashwas forming an exploratory committee to decide whether to run as the Libertarian candidate for president. At the time, Palmer Report explained that this meant Amash, right, very much wanted to run, but that he could be talked out of it.

Since that time, a whole lot of you have indeed worked hard to talk Justin Amash out of it. He could barely so much as post a tweet without facing an endless string of comments urging him not to interfere in the most important election in our lifetime. Sure enough, Amash tweeted this today: “After bill palmer report logo headermuch reflection, I’ve concluded that circumstances don’t lend themselves to my success as a candidate for president this year, and therefore I will not be a candidate.”

That means he’s cutting and running – but in this instance he’s doing the right thing by cutting and running. The Libertarian Party will still run a spoiler candidate in the 2020 presidential election, in the hope of cashing in on he hoopla. The good news, though, is that it won’t be Amash – and if the Libertarian candidate is someone with a lower profile, that candidate will siphon off fewer votes.

There is always endless debate about which of the major candidates will be hurt the most by a third party spoiler candidate. The reality is that it’s unpredictable. One theory is that Amash would have taken votes from Trump because they’re both conservatives. The more likely scenario was that Amash would have taken the votes of anti-Trump conservatives who might otherwise have voted for Biden just to stop Trump.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Lincoln Project is back, and Donald Trump is going to absolutely hate this, Bill Palmer, May 16, 2020. The last time the bill palmer report logo headerLincoln Project posted a television ad, Donald Trump went on an obsessively unhinged tirade that lasted for days. Trump is afraid of the anti-Trump republican group, because it threatens to further cut into his weak support. Now the Lincoln Project is back, and Trump is going to absolutely hate this ad.

May 15

Pandemic Top Headlines

Pandemic Politics

Virus Victims, Relief

2020 U.S. Elections / Politics

Sexual Claims Against Biden

Sex Assault, Invester Scammer Probed

Inside DC

 

Pandemic Top Headlines

washington post logoWashington Post, Ousted official doubts U.S. ability to handle another virus wave, Aaron C. Davis, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner, May 15, 2020 (print ed.). A former top U.S. vaccine official and an executive of a medical mask maker in Texas each told Congress on Thursday they believe lives were lost because of missteps by the Trump administration in its early handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

rick brightRick Bright, right, who filed a whistleblower complaint after he was removed from a senior post at the Department of Health and Human Services last month, said his superiors dismissed urgent warnings in January and early February about an impending shortage of N95 respirator masks. Bright also said the administration delayed potential work on a U.S.-made vaccine by not acting fast enough or forcefully enough to press China for samples of the virus. And Bright said his removal showcased how, generally, politics overtook science as President Trump took center stage in responding to the U.S. crisis.

cdc logo CustomBright alleged he was reassigned to a lesser post and locked out of his email account as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority after pushing back against plans for the government to invest in unproven covid-19 treatments such as the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. The therapeutic that Trump touted largely has been abandoned by the government as trials since showed it can cause heart problems and other side effects in covid-19 patients.

Bright said there is still “no master plan” for assessing the need for and distribution of masks, testing swabs and other medical equipment. Bright also said the government was doing a disserve to Americans by playing down the possibility that it could take years to develop a vaccine that could be ready for mass distribution.

The United States faces the “darkest winter in modern history” if it does not develop a more coordinated national response, he said. “Our window of opportunity is closing.”

Roll Call, House narrowly passes $3 trillion coronavirus aid bill, Jennifer Shutt, May 15, 2020. Near party-line vote sends massive relief bill to the Senate, where GOP leaders say they won't take it up without major changes.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi muscled a $3 trillion aid package through the House late Friday, overcoming defections from her party's moderate wing who would have preferred to vote for a bipartisan measure.

The near party-line tally was 208-199, with 14 Democrats voting against sending the bill to the Senate. Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., was the lone Republican to support the measure, citing robust aid for states and localities like his suffering from revenue shortfalls and high numbers of COVID-19 cases.

U.S. House logoAmong the Democrats who announced in advance they'd vote against the package were Cindy Axne of Iowa, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Ben McAdams of Utah and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia. All are moderates in GOP-leaning districts.

"I think it's something that should have had more broad bipartisan support," said Cunningham. He argued that aid legislation "needs to be more narrowly focused on the people who are suffering as a result of the pandemic."

Cunningham won his seat in 2018 in a major upset; he's considered a top GOP target in November in a district that backed President Donald Trump in 2016 by nearly 11 points. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the contest a Toss-up.

washington post logoWashington Post, Nearly 3 million Americans filed jobless claims last week; eight-week total at 36.5 million, Tony Romm, May 15, 2020 (print ed.). Many of these workers lost their jobs because of closures and a huge drop in spending and travel during the pandemic. The White House and some us labor department logogovernors are struggling to reopen parts of the economy.

Roughly 3 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department reported on Thursday, as the coronavirus pandemic continued to unleash widespread economic havoc on an already depleted U.S. workforce.

The new applications for aid add to the total 36.5 million workers that have sought to receive weekly unemployment checks in the past eight weeks, according to the new federal data, erasing years of economic gains and threatening lasting devastation to the country that rivals even the Great Depression.

The flood of new claims threatens to add to the tension between President Trump and public-health officials over how quickly to try and restart parts of the economy, with Trump on Thursday alleging that some Democrats are trying to slow the process down in order to hurt him politically.

“The less successful we are in reopening, the better they are, maybe for an election," the president said during an interview on Fox News. "They would rather see our country fail, and you know what that means, because part of failure is death, than have me get elected.”
Image without a caption

The dour new numbers arrive a week after the Labor Department officially registered the country’s April unemployment rate at an historic 14.7 percent. Job losses in that period were roughly double than those experienced during the financial crisis between 2007 and 2009, experts said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Prestigious medical journal slams Trump as U.S. death toll surpasses 85,000, Staff reports, May 15, 2020.  A noose, an ax and Trump-inspired insults: Anti-lockdown protesters ratchet up violent rhetoric.

djt quizzical uncredited palmer CustomAs the confirmed U.S. death toll surpassed 85,000, one of the world’s oldest and best-known medical journals slammed President Trump’s “inconsistent and incoherent national response” to the novel coronavirus pandemic and accused the cdc logo Customadministration of relegating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to a “nominal” role.

The Lancet’s unsigned editorial concluded that Trump should be replaced. “Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics,” said the journal, which was founded in Britain in 1823.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Retail Sales Plunged Last Month as America Shut Down, Staff reports, May 15, 2020. U.S. sales fell 16.4 percent in April for the biggest two-month decline on record. Stores are reopening, but some may not survive. A bitter fight is expected in Congress over a $3 trillion dollar relief package, including billions for states. The White House has threatened a veto. Here’s the latest.

• The latest retail sales report depicts the largest two-month decline on record.
• The House will vote today on a $3 trillion relief package, and the White House has threatened a veto.
• The new vaccine czar says finding one by January is a ‘credible,’ but difficult, goal.
• More of the country is open for business as governors ease restrictions.
• The stay-at-home order for N.Y.C. is extended, while some areas upstate are allowed to reopen.
• A test used by the White House may produce false negatives, according to the F.D.A.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Move to Remote Voting, House Alters What It Means for Congress to Meet, Nicholas Fandos, May 15, 2020. For 231 years, to cast a vote or fully participate in a hearing, lawmakers were required to be present. The House’s planned vote on Friday to allow lawmakers to work from afar will fundamentally change how Congress operates.

When the House of Representatives acts on Friday to allow remote voting and virtual hearings, the coronavirus pandemic will have officially succeeded in doing what Philadelphia’s yellow fever outbreak of 1793, the Spanish influenza of 1918, the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and generations of agitators for institutional change never could: Untethering Congress from its mandate to come together physically.

Those earlier crises prompted novel contingency plans and prolonged recesses. But for 231 years, since the founding members of the body first laid out their rules in 1789, to cast a vote or fully participate in a hearing, lawmakers were required to be present, notwithstanding the state of the nation. To be a Congress, as the word suggests, people had to come together.

“No member shall vote on any questions,” the rules adopted by the first House say, “in any case where he was not present when the question was put.”

No longer. With Friday’s vote, as long as the public health emergency persists, lawmakers from Alaska to Florida need not leave the safety of their own homes to question witnesses at a hearing, sign subpoenas or vote on legislation.

The new rules immediately allow for any member to vote remotely by giving precise, binding instructions to a proxy who is able to be present on the House floor. They also provide, pending certification, for a process in which lawmakers would eventually be able to cast their votes technologically from home, either via a secure online portal or a video conferencing system.

washington post logoWashington Post, CDC offers few guidelines for reopening safely, Lenny Bernstein, William Wan, Josh Dawsey and Holly Bailey, May 15, 2020. The advice, which places the onus on state and local governments, was released on the same day that President Trump called testing “overrated” as a tool to track and control the virus.

djt hands up mouth open CustomWith hundreds of millions of people still seeking advice on resuming their lives safely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a scant six pages of recommendations Thursday to guide schools, businesses, day-care facilities and others into the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

cdc logo CustomThe six checklists — which also address restaurants, mass transit and camps — come days, and in some cases weeks, after many states have begun to lift restrictions on their own. The advice is less detailed than draft recommendations the agency sent to the White House for review last month.

The nation is still awaiting that detailed technical guidance, which the White House has held up and not shared publicly. The delay has left the responsibility for decision-making about reopening to states and localities. It has also left many health experts clamoring for greater transparency.

ny times logoNew York Times, DeVos Funnels Coronavirus Relief Funds to Favored Private and Religious Schools, Erica L. Green, May 15, 2020. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, right, is using the $2 trillion coronavirus stabilization law to throw a lifeline to education sectors she has long championed, directing millions of federal dollars intended primarily for public schools and colleges to private and religious schools.

betsy devos oThe Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, signed in late March, included $30 billion for education institutions turned upside down by the pandemic shutdowns, about $14 billion for higher education, $13.5 billion to elementary and secondary schools, and the rest for state governments.

Ms. DeVos has used $180 million of those dollars to encourage states to create “microgrants” that parents of elementary and secondary school students can use to pay for educational services, including private school tuition. She has directed school districts to share millions of dollars designated for low-income students with wealthy private schools.

And she has nearly depleted the 2.5 percent of higher education funding, about $350 million, set aside for struggling colleges to bolster small colleges — many of them private, religious or on the margins of higher education — regardless of need. The Wright Graduate University for the Realization of Human Potential, a private college in Wisconsin that has a website debunking claims that it is a cult, received about $495,000.

 ny times logomaya gay twitter croppedNew York Times, Opinion: ‘I Wish I Could Do Something for You,’ My Doctor Said, Mara Gay, right, May 15, 2020. Young, healthy people like me are getting very, very sick from the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The day before I got sick, I ran three miles, walked 10 more, then raced up the stairs to my fifth-floor apartment as always, slinging laundry with me as I went.

The next day, April 17, I became one of the thousands of New Yorkers to fall ill with Covid-19. I haven’t felt the same since.

If you live in New York City, you know what this virus can do. In just under two months, an estimated 24,000 New Yorkers have died. That’s more than twice the number of people we lost to homicide over the past 20 years.

Now I worry for Americans elsewhere. When I see photographs of crowds packing into a newly reopened big-box store in Arkansas or scores of people jammed into a Colorado restaurant without masks, it’s clear too many Americans still don’t grasp the power of this disease.

The second day I was sick, I woke up to what felt like hot tar buried deep in my chest. I could not get a deep breath unless I was on all fours. I’m healthy. I’m a runner. I’m 33 years old.

In the emergency room an hour later, I sat on a hospital bed, alone and terrified, my finger hooked to a pulse-oxygen machine. To my right lay a man who could barely speak but coughed constantly. To my left was an older man who said that he had been sick for a month and had a pacemaker. He kept apologizing to the doctors for making so much trouble, and thanking them for taking such good care of him. I can’t stop thinking about him even now.

I want Americans to understand that this virus is making otherwise young, healthy people very, very sick. I want them to know, this is no flu.

Pandemic Politics

djt anthony fauci

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Pointedly Criticizes Fauci for His Testimony to Congress, Katie Rogers, May 15, 2020 (print ed.).  “He wants to play all sides of the equation,” the president said of the nation’s top infectious disease expert.

President Trump on Wednesday criticized congressional testimony delivered a day earlier by Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who had warned against reopening the country too quickly and stressed the unknown effects the coronavirus could have on children returning to school.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos“I was surprised by his answer,” Mr. Trump told reporters who had gathered in the Cabinet Room for the president’s meeting with the governors of Colorado and North Dakota. “To me it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools.”

The president’s desire to reopen schools and businesses in order to bring back the economy has often led to public clashes over the guidance provided by Dr. Fauci, who has warned that taking a cavalier attitude toward reopening the country could invite unnecessary suffering caused by a virus scientists are still struggling to understand. He reiterated that position on Tuesday in testimony before a Senate committee.

“He wants to play all sides of the equation,” Mr. Trump said on Wednesday, before bragging that the economy next year would be “phenomenal.”

Dr. Fauci also told the Senate panel that a vaccine for the coronavirus would almost certainly not be ready in time for the new school year, and warned of the dangers of the virus to children.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: Covid-19 Reality Has a Liberal Bias, Paul Krugman, right, May 15, 2020 (print ed.). Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t care about political spin.

On Tuesday, the U.S. government’s top experts warned that Covid-19 was by no means under control, and that premature easing of social distancing could have disastrous consequences. As far as I can tell, their view is shared by almost all epidemiologists.

But they were shouting into the wind. Clearly, the Trump administration and its allies have already decided that we’re going to reopen the economy, never mind what the experts say. And if the experts are right and this leads to a new surge in deaths, the response won’t be to reconsider the policy, it will be to deny the facts.

Indeed, virus trutherism — insisting that Covid-19 deaths are greatly exaggerated and may reflect a vast medical conspiracy — is already widespread on the right. We can expect to see much more of it in the months ahead.

At one level, this turn of events shouldn’t surprise us. The U.S. right long ago rejected evidence-based policy in favor of policy-based evidence — denying facts that might get in the way of a predetermined agenda. Fourteen years have passed since Stephen Colbert famously quipped that “reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

At another level, however, the right’s determination to ignore the epidemiologists is politically reckless in a way previous denials of reality weren’t.

As many people have pointed out, the emerging right-wing strategy for dealing with this pandemic — or, more accurately, not dealing with it — closely follows the Republican Party’s longstanding approach to climate change: It’s not happening, it’s a hoax perpetrated by liberal scientists, and besides, doing anything about it would destroy the economy.

Indeed, the antilockdown demonstrations of recent weeks appear to have been organized in part by the same people and groups that have spent decades denying climate change.

ny times logoNew York Times, In 3 States That Elected Trump, Bitter Divisions on Reopening, Kay Nolan, Julie Bosman and Campbell Robertson, Updated May 15, 2020. The response to the coronavirus in three key swing states is becoming a confused blend of health guidance, protest and partisan politics.

Virus Victims, Relief

ny times logoNew York Times, Hospitals Are Losing Millions of Dollars a Day: ‘It’s Uncontrollable,’ Sarah Kliff, May 15, 2020. Surgeries are canceled. Business models are shifting. Some of the hardest-hit hospitals may close, leaving patients with fewer options for care.

When the top-ranked Mayo Clinic stopped all nonemergency medical care in late March, it began to lose millions of dollars a day.

The clinic, a Minnesota-based hospital system accustomed to treating American presidents and foreign dignitaries, saw revenue plummet as it postponed lucrative surgeries to make way for coronavirus victims. The hospital network produced $1 billion in net operating revenue last year, but now expects to lose $900 million in 2020 even after furloughing workers, cutting doctors’ pay and halting new construction projects.

The future offers little relief, at least until the pandemic subsides and the economy recovers. The Mayo Clinic will have to rely more heavily on low-income patients enrolled in the Medicaid program, as others will be hesitant to travel across the country, or the world, for care. “It’s uncontrollable,” said Dennis Dahlen, the clinic’s chief financial officer.

washington post logoWashington Post, A majority of Americans going to work fear exposing their household to virus, poll finds, Tim Craig and Emily Guskin, May 15, 2020.  Nearly 1 in 3 Americans have continued to leave the house for work at least once a week as states issued stay-at-home orders, the Washington Post-Ipsos poll also found.

A Washington Post-Ipsos poll of more than 8,000 adults in late April and early May found that nearly 6 in 10 Americans who are working outside their homes were concerned that they could be exposed to the virus at work and infect other members of their household. Those concerns were even higher for some: Roughly 7 in 10 black and Hispanic workers said they were worried about getting a household member sick if they are exposed at work.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, House changes its rules to allow remote voting for the first time in its 231-year history, Mike DeBonis, May 15, 2020. Democratic leaders say the changes are temporary as the House tries to balance its constitutional responsibility with health risks related to the coronavirus.

The House on Friday approved the most radical change to its rules in generations, allowing its members to cast committee and floor votes from afar — the culmination of a months-long struggle to adapt the 231-year-old institution to the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. House logoDespite bipartisan frustrations with the virus’s effect on the legislative process, the changes, which include temporarily authorizing remote committee work and proxy voting on the House floor, were adopted along party lines. The vote was 217 to 189.

Democratic leaders pushed forward with the changes this week after failing to come to terms in two weeks of negotiations with Republicans, who firmly opposed several key measures in the proposal.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and top Democrats said the changes were temporary and tailored to the current crisis — which has made mass gatherings of lawmakers hazardous — but necessary to ensure that the House fulfills its constitutional obligations.

The House has sputtered for the past two months as other organs of the federal government — most notably the Supreme Court — and schools, localities and the private sector have embraced video technology to conduct business. The smaller, 100-member Senate returned May 4 and has relied on remote committee work for hearings, though senators still must be present for roll-call votes.

The proxy voting proposal allows any member attending a House vote to cast as many as 10 votes on behalf of colleagues who have authorized those votes by letter to the House clerk.

washington post logoruth marcus twitter CustomWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s strategy: First, dismantle Mueller. Then peddle ‘Obamagate,’ Ruth Marcus, right, May 15, 2020. President Trump wants to wipe away the stain of Russian interference on his behalf in the 2016 election. There are two tracks in this effort: one that reached its culmination in the past week, the other percolating for years but weaponized recently by Trump himself.

Think of the first as “The Great Undoing,” the effort to unravel the work of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The second can be best described as “Lock Her Up 2,” a cynical plan to deploy rhetoric that is as overheated as it is unspecific — “OBAMAGATE!” — in the service of tarnishing the opposition.

The Great Undoing has been long in the making. The president has seethed since the moment his first attorney general recused himself from the Russia inquiry and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein appointed a special counsel to oversee the investigation.

The entire point of naming a special counsel is that it would undermine public confidence in the impartiality of the outcome if the ordinary leadership of the Justice Department ran the investigation. Therefore, bringing in an outside party would be in “the public interest,” as the regulation explains.

But, of course, Trump has no conception of the public interest, only of his own interest. He cannot fathom — and he earned himself an obstruction-of-justice investigation as a consequence — that the department is supposed to operate independently of the White House, or that the attorney general is not, in fact, intended to function as his own personal Roy Cohn.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: The List: the favorite tool of fascists, Wayne Madsen, right, May 15, 2020. Lists have long been used by fascists and wayne madesen report logoproto-fascists to intimidate and do even worse to their political opponents. Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin had wayne madsen screen shothis infamous lists of "Communists" in the State Department and “pansies” elsewhere in government.

And now, Donald Trump has his list of what he calls "traitors," those he is accusing of treason for unmasking the names of American intelligence targets suspected of colluding with foreign interests in the 2016 presidential election.

washington post logoWashington Post, North Dakota businesses dominated the PPP. Their secret weapon? A century-old bank founded by radical progressives, Andrew Van Dam, May 15, 2020. How North Dakota small businesses secured more Paycheck Protection Program dollars per employee than any other sba logo new Custom Customstate, with the help of the last bank of its kind.

Small businesses there secured more PPP funds, relative to the state’s workforce, than their competitors in any other state — more than $5,000 per private-sector worker as of May 8, according to a Washington Post analysis.

In the program’s troubled first round in particular, the state put business lenders in the rest of the country to shame. North Dakota small businesses appeared to have a significant advantage in administration and organization.

  • Washington Post, J.C. Penney files for bankruptcy, plans to close some stores, Abha Bhattarai​, May 15, 2020. The department store chain, grappling with $4 billion in debt, became the fourth major U.S. retailer to seek Chapter 11 protection this month.

 2020 U.S. Elections / Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We need to prepare for the possibility of Trump rejecting election results, Brian Klaas, May 15, 2020. I’ve studied genuinely rigged elections across the globe. The tactics, context and strategies vary enormously from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe. But one trait they have in common is this: The winner doesn’t claim they were rigged.

Not so with Trump. In 2016, when he narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton despite losing the popular vote by a historic margin, he claimed that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally. That is a lie. But it raised an obvious question: If Trump claimed that an election he won was rigged, what will he do with an election he loses?

joe biden 2020 button CustomAlready, he has insinuated that Democratic victories are the result of rigged elections. It’s part of a deliberate strategy to discredit the legitimacy of his political opponents, but it also endangers the peaceful transfer of power, which is a cornerstone of democratic government.

It’s worth reiterating that Trump’s claims are lies. The evidence is clear. Voter fraud is a minuscule problem in the United States. One comprehensive study found 31 cases of voter fraud out of more than 1 billion ballots cast from 2000 to 2014, a rate of 0.0000031 percent of all votes. And lest you think that study was somehow biased against Republican claims, George W. Bush’s Justice Department went looking for voter fraud and basically came up empty. Indeed, as Lorraine Minnite, a political science professor at Rutgers University has noted, in 2005, more people were charged with violating migratory-bird statutes than voter fraud. And that was while Bush’s administration was actively seeking fraud cases to prosecute.

What will happen if Trump loses and then takes to Twitter to say he actually won? It’s not hard to see how deadly that could become, particularly given that Fox News personalities are already absurdly throwing around the word “coup” to describe lawful investigations and oversight of the president’s conduct. When people in positions of authority and influence invoke the language of political violence and then lose power, violence often ensues. It would be a mistake to assume the United States is somehow immune from that possibility.

Republicans who care about the republic must act now: They need to call out the president when he spreads lies and stokes fears about voter fraud that are rooted only in conservative mythology. Otherwise, we can pretend to be shocked, but nobody should be surprised if Trump tries to discredit the 2020 election — no matter the consequences — if he loses.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats scrutinize State Dept. plan to overhaul Social Security, John Hudson, May 15, 2020. The “Eagle Plan” is among the options that have circulated in the Trump administration to address concerns about the ballooning national debt. It calls for giving Americans $10,000 upfront in exchange for curbing their federal retirement benefits, such as Social Security.

The Democratic chairmen of two House panels are scrutinizing a State Department plan to overhaul Social Security that they say unfairly takes away Americans’ entitlement benefits in exchange for a quick cash payment.

The policy proposal, known as the “Eagle Plan,” is one of the options that have circulated in the Trump administration to address concerns about the ballooning national debt due to massive federal spending to combat the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Reps. Joaquin Castro (Tex.), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on oversight and investigations, and John B. Larson (Conn.), the chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security, sent a letter to a State Department official on Thursday asking for the “complete and unredacted” version of the plan, a list of the individuals who contributed to it and any other related documents.

  • Washington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Biden and Trump wage an ad battle over China and the coronavirus, Glenn Kessler, May 15, 2020. Both candidates are attacking each other as soft on China. Here's a guide to their claims.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Obama aides angry over Ronny Jackson’s embrace of Trump’s conspiracy theories, Colby Itkowitz, May 15, 2020. The former White House doctor adopted President Trump's conspiracy that former president Barack Obama and his administration "weaponized the federal government" to hurt Trump.

Former Obama officials expressed anger and a sense of betrayal after onetime White House doctor Ronny L. Jackson echoed President Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories about their former boss, President Barack Obama.

ronnie jacksonThe retired Navy admiral, right, who served as the physician to the president under George W. Bush, Obama and Trump, released a lengthy statement Thursday doubling down on a tweet he’d sent the day before calling Obama, and people who worked for him, “a Deep State traitor” who “deserves to be brought to justice for their heinous actions.”

Jackson’s comments followed a tirade of tweets from Trump proclaiming “Obamagate,” over unsubstantiated claims that the Obama administration was working to take down Trump. Jackson accused his former boss of weaponizing “the highest levels of our government to spy on Trump.”

“I will never apologize for standing up to protect America’s national security interests and constitutional freedoms, even if that means triggering liberals and the ‘mainstream media,' ” Jackson said in his statement.

Former Obama officials who worked with Jackson in the White House reacted with surprise and hurt that their former colleague was embracing Trump’s conspiracy theory, which he has called “the biggest political crime and scandal in the history of the USA” and “worse than Watergate” — though he’s been short on specifics, telling reporters who asked Monday, “You know what the crime is.”

“During my time in the White House Ronny L. Jackson was my colleague, my friend and my doctor. I thanked him in my book for his good care,” tweeted Alyssa Mastromonaco, Obama’s onetime deputy chief of staff. “His comments yesterday and today leave me confused, angry, and heartbroken. I don’t recognize this version of Ronny at all.”

Others struggled to square Jackson’s rhetoric with the person who they say was once friends with Obama and his team.

“Ronny L. Jackson palled around with us Deep State Traitors for 8 years and did nothing but smile and say kind things about Barack Obama, who made him an Admiral,” Jon Favreau, Obama’s onetime speechwriter, wrote on Twitter.

One of Favreau’s podcast co-hosts on “Pod Save America,” former Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor, also referenced Jackson’s friendship and accused him of adopting Trump’s conspiracy theories for political purposes.

“Ronny L. Jackson was friends with Obama and his entire staff,” Vietor tweeted. “I never heard him make a partisan statement. So it’s really been sad to watch him debase himself by lying for Trump … to win a Congressional primary. Truly shameful.”

Jackson left his White House post after 12 years in 2018, and shortly afterward, Trump nominated him to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. But Jackson withdrew amid growing allegations of professional misconduct.

Trump took a liking to Jackson after the doctor answered questions from reporters following the president’s first physical exam at the White House. Jackson gave a fawning report of Trump’s mental and physical health, telling reporters “that if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old.”

Jackson is running for Congress as a Republican in Texas. He ran in a crowded primary where no candidate received a majority of the vote, so he and th

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It is far too early for Democrats to panic over Biden, Karen Tumulty, May 15, 2020. Where’s Joe Biden?, Democrats keep asking. Why isn’t he doing anything?

joe biden 2020 button CustomThe party is in a state of high anxiety over the fact that its nominee-in-waiting appears trapped at home, like so many of the rest of us are during the covid-19 pandemic.

Donors and other allies fret over technical glitches in the former vice president’s online appearances, and point to the disadvantage that he has against President Trump when it comes to money, organization and digital resources.

The criticism is justified, and Biden’s campaign says it is moving to address its weaknesses. On Friday, strategists said Biden forces will have 600 organizers in place in battleground states within the next month — and are doubling their digital team. They talk boldly of how states such as Arizona, Texas and Georgia could be put into play this fall.

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e other top vote-getter are competing in a runoff election May 26 to determine who runs in November. Trump has endorsed Jackson in the race.

Sexual Claims Against Biden

PBS, What 74 former Biden staffers think about Tara Reade’s allegations, Daniel Bush and Lisa Desjardins, May 15, 2020. Over his decades-long career in the Senate, former Vice President Joe Biden was known as a demanding but fair and family-oriented boss, devoted to his home life in Delaware and committed to gender equality in his office.

He was not on a list of “creepy” male senators that female staffers told each other to avoid in the elevators on Capitol Hill.

Yet Biden, now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, was also a toucher, seemingly oblivious to whether physical contact made some women uncomfortable. That behavior has persisted in recent years. Biden is now facing fresh scrutiny after a former aide in March charged that he sexually assaulted her when she worked in his Senate office in the early 1990s, an allegation Biden has categorically denied.

The PBS NewsHour spoke with 74 former Biden staffers, of whom 62 were women, in order to get a broader picture of his behavior toward women over the course of his career, how they see the new allegation, and whether there was evidence of a larger pattern.

None of the people interviewed said that they had experienced sexual harassment, assault or misconduct by Biden. All said they never heard any rumors or allegations of Biden engaging in sexual misconduct, until the recent assault allegation made by Tara Reade. Former staffers said they believed Reade should be heard, and acknowledged that their experiences do not disprove her accusation.

In all, the NewsHour tried to contact nearly 200 former staffers of Biden’s, based primarily on public records of his time in the Senate and White House and also from interviews with current campaign advisers. They include former interns and senior aides, from his 1972 Senate campaign through his time at the White House.

Some are still in politics, others left long ago to pursue other careers. They were asked about Reade’s allegation but also whether they, or anyone they know, were ever uncomfortable around Biden. Many said that her sexual assault allegation was at odds with their knowledge of Biden’s behavior toward women.

The interviews revealed previously unreported details about the Biden office when Reade worked there, such as an account that she lost her job because of her poor performance, not as retaliation for lodging complaints about sexual harassment, as Reade has said.

Other recollections from former staffers corroborated things she has described publicly, such as Biden’s use of the Senate gym and a supervisor admonishing her for dressing inappropriately.

Overall, the people who spoke to the NewsHour described largely positive and gratifying experiences working for Biden, painting a portrait of someone who was ahead of his time in empowering women in the workplace.

“The one thing about Joe Biden is, he is a man of the highest character and that’s why these accusations are so surreal and just can’t comport with the man I worked with,” said Marcia Lee Taylor, a senior policy advisor on the Judiciary Committee, where women held leading roles when Biden served as chairman.

But he had blindspots, which Biden himself has publicly acknowledged, when it came to how his interactions with women in public could make them uncomfortable.

Reade declined the NewsHour’s interview request but her attorney, Doug Wigdor, sent detailed answers to a number of questions by email. He wrote that Biden’s public touching is evidence that he could have mistreated his client in the way she claims.

“I don’t think anyone would describe these situations as normal,” Wigdor wrote. “They are troublesome, to say the least.”

Many former Biden staffers said they believe Reade’s allegation is false.

Addressing Tara Reade’s allegations

Since Reade went public with her assault accusation in March, former staffers of Biden’s world have been scanning their memories, considering the details of her story and their own experiences.

Reade, in interviews with multiple news outlets, has alleged that Biden attacked her in the Senate complex when she met him on an errand. But her accusations are also more sweeping. She has charged that the Biden office was a toxic place to work, that the senator touched her shoulders and neck multiple times, and that she was asked to serve drinks because he thought she was pretty. Reade has also claimed she was demoted and ultimately pushed to leave because she complained about workplace harassment.

The NewsHour spoke with more than 20 people who worked for Biden when Reade was also a staffer. Some remembered her, many did not.

Ben Savage, who said his desk was next to Reade’s in the Biden mailroom, disputed her charge that she was forced out of her job in retaliation for a sexual harassment complaint she claims to have filed.

Savage, who worked as the office’s systems administrator, overseeing computers and information processing, told the NewsHour that Reade was fired for her poor performance on the job, which he witnessed — not as retaliation for her complaints about sexual harassment.

But according to Savage, Reade had been mishandling a key part of her job and an essential office task — processing constituent mail, something they worked on together. Savage said he recalls reporting these issues to his boss, deputy chief of staff Dennis Toner. After that, Savage said he began diminishing Reade’s duties, taking over some of her tasks and rerouting parts of the process to exclude her.

“Of all the people who held that position, she’s the only one during my time there who couldn’t necessarily keep up or who found it frustrating,” said Savage, who worked in the office for three years, from 1993 to 1996.

Toner, who was Savage’s direct supervisor, told the NewsHour that he did not remember Reade. He said he did remember Savage as a good worker who stood out in the office.

“I can’t take issue with Ben saying that her job performance was not up to par. We would have had a discussion with Tara or whomever the employee would have been to see how we could make it work,” Toner said. “I do not recall Tara being in the office. I can’t comment on why she would have left or anything like that,” he added.

Wigdor, Reade’s attorney, said that she does not remember Savage specifically, but said his story is wrong and her performance had nothing to do with her termination.

“Ms. Reade recalls that there was a lot of nitpicking regarding her performance in the office,” he wrote. “She was also very nervous at that point and distracted so it is possible that from time to time there was a mistake made … but her performance had nothing to do with her termination.”

 tara reade screenshot via the hill Custom

Tara Reade (screenshot via The Hill newspaper).

Politico, ‘Manipulative, deceitful, user’: Tara Reade left a trail of aggrieved acquaintances, Natasha Korecki, May 15, 2020. A number of those who crossed paths with Biden’s accuser say they remember two things: She spoke favorably about her time working for Biden, and she left them feeling duped.

Harriet Wrye did a double take the first time she saw Tara Reade on television lodging sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden.

“Jim, that’s Tara,” the 79-year-old author and psychologist called out to her husband, “but she has a different name.”

Wrye and her husband knew Reade as Tara McCabe, the woman who had rented a yurt on their 12-acre California property and tended to the couple’s horses — and her own — for about 10 months beginning in 2017. They were well-acquainted with their former tenant, who frequently knocked on the door of their home seeking emotional support, asking for financial help or forgiveness for late rent payments, which they granted.

“I would sit down and talk to her and try to be encouraging and supportive,” said Wrye, who noted Reade “had heart and some good qualities.”

“This lack of money was hugely problematic for her, she was always on the ropes in that way.”

Reade had spoken highly of Biden, the former boss who employed her as a staff assistant from late 1992 to August 1993, and never mentioned assault or harassment, Wrye recalls. But what Wrye remembers most is that by the time Reade left their property and moved on, Wrye felt burned.

After her husband suffered a brain injury that forced the couple to sell the property, Wrye said, Reade turned on them.

“She became really difficult,” Wrye said. “She said, ‘You’re going to have to pay me to get me to leave.’”

“She was manipulative,” said Wrye, a self-described feminist and social activist. “She was always saying she was going to get it together, but she couldn’t. And ‘could you help her’?”

Wrye’s distressing experience with Reade wasn’t an isolated case. Over the past decade, Reade has left a trail of aggrieved acquaintances in California’s Central Coast region who say they remember two things about her — she spoke favorably about her time working for Biden, and she left them feeling duped.

As part of an investigation into Reade’s allegations against Biden — charges that are already shaping the contours of his campaign against a president who has been accused of sexual assault and misconduct by multiple women — POLITICO interviewed more than a dozen people, many of whom interacted with Reade through her involvement in the animal-rescue community.

A number of those in close contact with Reade over the past 12 years, a period in which she went by the names Tara Reade, Tara McCabe or Alexandra McCabe, laid out a familiar pattern: Reade ingratiated herself, explained she was down on her luck and needed help, and eventually took advantage of their goodwill to extract money, skip rent payments or walk out on other bills.

The people quoted in this article provided copies of past emails, screenshots of Facebook Messenger or text exchanges with Reade, copies of billing invoices or court records detailing their grievances or correspondence. POLITICO also reviewed dozens of public records, including court documents, divorce filings and Reade’s 2012 bankruptcy records.

The accounts paint a picture of Reade’s life in the years leading up to her allegations, in which she spoke often of her connection to Biden but also of troubles in her personal life and a need for money. Sexual abuse victims sometimes offer contradictory information about their alleged abusers, so her comments do not necessarily refute her claims against the former vice president. But they add weight to the evidence that she spoke positively about him in the years before she accused him of digitally penetrating her in the early ’90s.

tara reade youngerReached by phone, Reade (shown at left in a file photo from her younger days) declined to answer specific questions and referred the matter to her attorney, Douglas Wigdor.

Wigdor argued that Reade’s favorable comments about Biden are no different than how some of Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein’s accusers continued to have contact with him even after they said he abused them.

“Sort of like some of the late victims of Harvey Weinstein,” said Wigdor, who has represented several Weinstein accusers. “That is not uncommon.”

But many of those who knew her well in recent years said she frequently lied or sought to manipulate them, in many instances taking advantage of their desire to help a person they felt was down on her luck.

“You can use these words: manipulative, deceitful, user,” said Kelly Klett, an attorney who rented Reade a room in her home in 2018. “Looking back at it all now, that is exactly how I view her and how I feel about her.”

“She has a problem,” said Lynn Hummer, who owns a horse sanctuary where Reade volunteered for two years, beginning in 2014.

She described Reade as “very clever, manipulative. ... I do think she’s a liar.”

Hummer provided an email from an exchange in which, within weeks of starting at the ranch, Reade asked whether she could bring her car on Hummer’s property to hide it from “the repo man.” Hummer declined.

In another instance, Reade came by the ranch desperately seeking $200 to pay the rent, Hummer said. On the way to Reade’s house, Hummer said she didn’t notice that Reade texted her and upped her request from $200 to $350.

Hummer also alleged Reade called a veterinarian to the ranch to service her personal horse, leaving Hummer to pay a $1,400 bill.

Hummer has publicly leveled that charge and others since Reade’s accusations against Biden have gone public. On social media last month, Reade denied them.

“A lawyer will be in contact with you for defaming me,” Reade said over Twitter. “You may not continue to spread false information regarding my life.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden says he does not remember Tara Reade, Annie Linskey, May 15, 2020. Joe Biden says on MSNBC that he does not recall the former senate aide, who worked for him in the early 1990s.

Former vice president Joe Biden said Thursday that he does not remember Tara Reade, who has accused him of sexually assaulting her when she was working in his Senate office in the early 1990s.

Asked by MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell if he remembers Reade, Biden said: “To be honest with you, I don’t.”

Biden made the remarks in an interview that aired Thursday evening on “The Last Word.” The presumptive Democratic nominee for president appeared alone in one segment of the program, and was then joined by Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial nominee.

Abrams is a potential vice-presidential pick for Biden, and he asked that she join him on the program. He complimented her work on voting rights, saying she “knows what she’s doing and she’s incredibly capable person.”

tara reade joe biden CustomBefore Abrams, Biden was asked about Reade and made his most extensive comments since he first addressed the accusation on “Morning Joe” earlier this month.

“Her story has changed considerable times,” Biden said at one point. “This claim has changed as it’s gone on.”

Last year, Reade was among several women who said that Biden had made her feel uncomfortable. She told The Washington Post that he touched her neck and shoulders but did not mention the alleged assault.

This year Reade added to the story, saying that he pushed her against a wall in a Senate hallway and put his hand up her skirt.

“Nothing like this ever happened,” Biden said Thursday. “She should be heard and the story should be vetted but ultimately the truth matters.”

Biden also addressed the distress that the accusation has caused on the left, in which some activists take her claims seriously but also want to defeat President Trump, who has been accused of sexual assault by at least 16 women.

Sex Claim, Investor Scam Promoter Pursued

Jacob Wohl, whose supposed investment acumen as a 17-year-old, was featured by Fox Business News (screenshot)

Jacob Wohl, whose supposed investment acumen as a 17-year-old, was featured by Fox Business News (screenshots). Separate from his investment activities, Wohl has become known as a promoter of scandal allegations against perceived opponents of Donald Trump and other Republicans. On May 7, Diana Andrade and Jacob Wohl (Andrade photo via Reason.com)2020, Reason Magazine published a column quoting Diana Andrade, shown below right in a photo with Wohl when she said they were dating, in a story headlined as follows: Reason, She Said Anthony Fauci Sexually Assaulted Her. Now She Says Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman Paid Her to Lie.

Salon, Arizona attorney general “actively pursuing” right-wing troll Jacob Wohl, Roger Sollenberger, May 15, 2020. Right-wing provocateur Jacob Wohl owes $43,000 in Arizona, and the state AG is prepared to come for him. The Arizona attorney general's office is actively pursuing collection efforts against right-wing social media provocateur Jacob Wohl, who has not made any payments toward nearly $38,000 in fines from a 2016 investment fraud ruling against him, Salon has learned.

A spokesperson for the Arizona Corporation Commission notified Salon about Wohl's delinquency in response to a Salon article last week.

"The Commission, through the Arizona Attorney General's Office, is actively pursuing collection efforts against Mr. Wohl," the spokesperson told Salon in an email.

"Mr. Wohl has not paid anything since the matter was sent to the Attorney General's Office for collections," the spokesperson wrote in an email. "Given his indictment last year, I would venture that any available funds are going to pay his criminal defense counsel."

The Commission said it retains the right to take further action against Wohl "if he violates any part of the order or if he commits additional actions that violate the Arizona Securities Act or the Investment Management Act."

According to the court order, the commission said, Wohl accrues interest on any unpaid amount.

"Between penalty and restitution, Mr. Wohl owes approximately $43,000," the commission spokesperson said. "The Attorney General's office has engaged California counsel to assist in collections efforts. Those lawyers are utilizing all statutorily allowed collection methods to obtain the funds owed to the state."

The 22-year-old Wohl, who has achieved a modest measure of media infamy with a series of hapless attempts to fabricate smears of sexual impropriety against Democratic elected officials and other public figures — including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former special counsel Robert Mueller, and, most recently, Dr. Anthony Fauci — apparently cut his teeth on investment fraud beginning in his late teens.

In 2017 the Arizona Corporation Commission filed a cease-and-desist order against Wohl, at the time 20 years old, alleging that he and his business partner broke the law in 2015 and 2016 when they misled clients about how much of their money would be at risk and exaggerated the size of their company.

jacob wohl screen Shot 2018 11 02 CustomThe commission ordered Wohl, shown at left, to pay his victims $32,919 in restitution, plus $5,000 in penalties. Wohl asked for a continuance. "I'm wondering why we're going through this exercise, and why you think your client is going to make payment on a later date if he's not able to make payment today," Commissioner Boyd Dunn said to Wohl's counsel at a hearing.

"This is a relatively small amount," the attorney replied. "I know you guys have seen hundreds of thousands of dollars for these types of cases."

"It's not a small amount to the investor. So don't belittle it," Dunn said. The commission accommodated Wohl with a four-week continuance, after which he was required to pay his fine in monthly installments of $1,371.61. Arizona Central reported in 2018 that Wohl had not paid any of it, and that balance remains unchanged today.

The scams earned Wohl a lifetime ban by the National Futures Association, and led directly to felony charges currently facing him in California. (Wohl has denied wrongdoing.)

In 2016 an Arizona man tipped off the Riverside County district attorney's fffice that Wohl and his business partner, Matt Johnson, 30, had swindled him out of $75,000 he invested through Wohl Capital Investment Group. The man killed himself shortly afterward, according to Wohl's arrest warrant.

The tip led the Riverside County DA to open an investigation into a separate matter, which led the office to indict Wohl, who lives in Corona, California, as well as Johnson, on two counts of selling unregistered securities. The Daily Beast first reported those charges last September.

In February, Wohl and Johnson pleaded not guilty, but their hearing, set for April 24, was postponed due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and has not been rescheduled.

The tip led the Riverside County DA to open an investigation into a separate matter, which led the office to indict Wohl, who lives in Corona, California, as well as Johnson, on two counts of selling unregistered securities. The Daily Beast first reported those charges last September.

In February, Wohl and Johnson pleaded not guilty, but their hearing, set for April 24, was postponed due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and has not been rescheduled.

More Media / Political News

The Atlantic, Investigation Into The Prophecies of Q, Adrienne LaFrance, June 2020. American conspiracy theories are entering a dangerous new phase. This article is part of “Shadowland,” a project about conspiracy thinking in America.

Conspiracy theories are a constant in American history, and it is tempting to dismiss them as inconsequential. But as the 21st century has progressed, such a dismissal has begun to require willful blindness. I was a city-hall reporter for a local investigative-news site called Honolulu Civil Beat in 2011 when Donald Trump was laying the groundwork for a presidential run by publicly questioning whether Barack Obama had been born in Hawaii, as all facts and documents showed. Trump maintained that Obama had really been born in Africa, and therefore wasn’t a natural-born American—making him ineligible for the highest office. I remember the debate in our Honolulu newsroom: Should we even cover this “birther” madness? As it turned out, the allegations, based entirely on lies, captivated enough people to give Trump a launching pad.

[With] Trump now president, a series of ideas began burbling in the QAnon community: that the coronavirus might not be real; that if it was, it had been created by the “deep state,” the star chamber of government officials and other elite figures who secretly run the world; that the hysteria surrounding the pandemic was part of a plot to hurt Trump’s reelection chances; and that media elites were cheering the death toll. Some of these ideas would make their way onto Fox News and into the president’s public utterances. As of late last year, according to The New York Times, Trump had retweeted accounts often focused on conspiracy theories, including those of QAnon, on at least 145 occasions.

The power of the internet was understood early on, but the full nature of that power — its ability to shatter any semblance of shared reality, undermining civil society and democratic governance in the process — was not. The internet also enabled unknown individuals to reach masses of people, at a scale Marshall McLuhan never dreamed of. The warping of shared reality leads a man with an AR-15 rifle to invade a pizza shop. It brings online forums into being where people colorfully imagine the assassination of a former secretary of state. It offers the promise of a Great Awakening, in which the elites will be routed and the truth will be revealed. It causes chat sites to come alive with commentary speculating that the coronavirus pandemic may be the moment QAnon has been waiting for. None of this could have been imagined as recently as the turn of the century.

QAnon is emblematic of modern America’s susceptibility to conspiracy theories, and its enthusiasm for them. But it is also already much more than a loose collection of conspiracy-minded chat-room inhabitants. It is a movement united in mass rejection of reason, objectivity, and other Enlightenment values. And we are likely closer to the beginning of its story than the end. The group harnesses paranoia to fervent hope and a deep sense of belonging. The way it breathes life into an ancient preoccupation with end-times is also radically new. To look at QAnon is to see not just a conspiracy theory but the birth of a new religion.

What might have languished as a lonely screed on a single image board instead incited fervor. Its profile was enhanced, according to Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins of NBC News, by several conspiracy theorists whose promotion of Q in turn helped build up their own online profiles. By now, nearly three years since Q’s original messages appeared, there have been thousands of what his followers call “Q drops” — messages posted to image boards by Q. He uses a password-protected “tripcode,” a series of letters and numbers visible to other image-board users to signal the continuity of his identity over time. (Q’s tripcode has changed on occasion, prompting flurries of speculation.) As Q has moved from one image board to the next — from 4chan to 8chan to 8kun, seeking a safe harbor — QAnon adherents have only become more devoted. If the internet is one big rabbit hole containing infinitely recursive rabbit holes, QAnon has somehow found its way down all of them, gulping up lesser conspiracy theories as it goes.

It’s impossible to know the number of QAnon adherents with any precision, but the ranks are growing. At least 35 current or former congressional candidates have embraced Q, according to an online tally by the progressive nonprofit Media Matters for America. Those candidates have either directly praised QAnon in public or approvingly referenced QAnon slogans. (One Republican candidate for Congress, Matthew Lusk of Florida, includes QAnon under the “issues” section of his campaign website, posing the question: “Who is Q?”)

QAnon has by now made its way onto every major social and commercial platform and any number of fringe sites. Tracy Diaz, a QAnon evangelist, known online by the name TracyBeanz, has 185,000 followers on Twitter and more than 100,000 YouTube subscribers. She helped lift QAnon from obscurity, facilitating its transition to mainstream social media. (A publicist described Diaz as “really private” and declined requests for an interview.) On TikTok, videos with the hashtag #QAnon have garnered millions of views. There are too many QAnon Facebook groups, plenty of them ghost towns, to do a proper count, but the most active ones publish thousands of items each day. (In 2018, Reddit banned QAnon groups from its platform for inciting violence.)

Adherents are ever looking out for signs from on high, plumbing for portents when guidance from Q himself is absent. The coronavirus, for instance — what does it signify? In several of the big Facebook groups, people erupted in a frenzy of speculation, circulating a theory that Trump’s decision to wear a yellow tie to a White House briefing about the virus was a sign that the outbreak wasn’t real. On March 9, Q himself issued a triptych of ominous posts that seemed definitive: The coronavirus is real, but welcome, and followers should not be afraid. The first post shared Trump’s tweet from the night before and repeated, “Nothing Can Stop What Is Coming.” The second said: “The Great Awakening is Worldwide.” The third was simple: “GOD WINS.”