The Past 24 Hours or So

Read Time: 7 Minutes

5/21

Administration News 

  • The White House went into lockdown on Friday night as protests over the death of George Floyd raged nearby, according to reporters who said they were in the building at the time. Footage showed one person spray painting “fuck Trump” on the building adjacent to the White House and a large crowd of protesters nearby.
  • White House social media director Dan Scavino said that Twitter was “full of shit” for warning that one of President Trump’s tweets violated the company’s policies by glorifying violence.

“Twitter is targeting the President of the United States 24/7, while turning their heads to protest organizers who are planning, plotting, and communicating their next moves daily on this very platform.”

  • Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe announced that he has declassified the transcripts related to Michael Flynn’s conversations with a Russian diplomat during the presidential transition.

The newly declassified transcripts show that Michael Flynn urged a top Russian diplomat in late 2016 to make a “reciprocal” response to the Obama administration’s sanctions on the Kremlin for its interference in the recently completed presidential race, arguing against escalating matters.

  • President Trump on Friday announced his administration is preparing a slew of changes to the full range of U.S. agreements between the U.S. and Hong Kong, saying the territory no longer appeared autonomous from Beijing.
  • The Trump administration is ramping up efforts to secure land along the U.S.-Mexico border for construction of a wall by increasing the pace at which it brings lawsuits against private landowners, filing 13 such lawsuits in March alone, the highest since Trump took office. Acquisition of private land for Trump border wall construction is a particularly thorny issue in Texas, where a majority of land on the border is privately owned.
  • President Trump is doubling down on his claims that “looting leads to shooting,” as he faces widespread backlash for the comments, but says he’s not inciting any violence: “Looting leads to shooting, and that’s why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night,” Trump told reporters Friday. “It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement. It’s very simple, nobody should have any problem with this other than the haters.”
  • Vice President Mike Pence offered prayers for the families of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, two unarmed black men who were killed in high-profile incidents.

“We have no tolerance for racism in America. We have no tolerance for violence inspired by racism. And as President Trump said, justice will be served. We also believe in law and order in this country. We condemn violence against property or persons.”

  • First lady Melania Trump issued her first public comments on the violent demonstrations surrounding the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man who died in Minneapolis policy custody.

Mrs. Trump Tweeted: “Our country allows for peaceful protests, but there is no reason for violence. I’ve seen our citizens unify & take care of one another through COVID19 & we can’t stop now. My deepest condolences to the family of George Floyd. As a nation, let’s focus on peace, prayers & healing.”

  • President Trump early Friday morning lashed out at protesters demonstrating in Minneapolis against the police killing of George Floyd, threatening to send National Guard troops.

“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen … Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

  • Twitter placed a warning on a tweet from the official White House account Friday that mirrored one it has placed on President Trump’s identical tweet threatening military action against protesters, reading “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

The label notes that that the language violated the platform’s policies on “the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today.”

  • President Trump accused Twitter of unfairly targeting him and other Republicans, just hours after the social media giant said his tweet threatening military action against “thugs” protesting in Minnesota violated the company’s policies by glorifying violence.
  • A top Trump official at the Interior Department, Assistant Interior Secretary Douglas Domenech, was found to have violated federal ethics rules by using his government connections to help a family member secure a job at the Environmental Protection Agency, according to an internal government watchdog.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel has rebuffed Donald Trump’s invitation to attend a G7 summit, which the president is keen to portray as a symbol of a return to normality from the upheaval of the coronavirus crisis.
  • AG William Barr announced a federal civil rights investigation into the death of George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis police this week.
  • President Trump has vetoed bipartisan legislation that would have overturned new regulations from the Education Department to restrict access to federal student loan forgiveness. The move is a victory for DeVos over veterans groups that said her rules, which rolled back Obama-era regulations, make it harder for veterans to get loans forgiven if they say were cheated by dishonest for-profit colleges.
  • At a White House event, a reporter asked Donald Trump about his concerns regarding border tensions between India and China. The president described a call he had with  Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi..

“They have a big conflict going with India and China. Two countries with 1.4 billion people. Two countries with very powerful militaries. And India is not happy, and probably China is not happy. But I can tell you, I did speak to Prime Minister Modi. He’s not — he’s not in a good mood about what’s going on with China.”

Reuters reported that this conversation apparently did not occur in reality.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not spoken with Trump about the nation’s military standoff with China. A government source said, “There has been no recent contact between PM Modi and President Trump,” a government source said. “The last conversation between them was on April 4, on the subject of hydroxychloroquine.”

A report in The Hindu added officials in India were particularly “taken by surprise” when Trump reflected publicly on Mondi’s “mood,” despite the fact that the two had not spoken.

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates

  • In the midst of a global pandemic, President Trump has announced that the United States is “terminating” its relationship with the World Health Organization over its response to the novel coronavirus.
  • Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said that he disagrees with President Trump’s decision to end U.S. membership in the World Health Organization, adding a prominent Republican voice to criticism of the move from health experts and Democrats. 

“I disagree with the president’s decision,” Alexander said in a statement.

“Certainly there needs to be a good, hard look at mistakes the World Health Organization might have made in connection with coronavirus, but the time to do that is after the crisis has been dealt with, not in the middle of it,” he said.

  • Texas on Thursday recorded 1,855 new coronavirus infections and 39 related deaths, the highest single-day tally for new cases that the state has seen as it continues to reopen its economy.
  • A troop of monkeys attacked a lab technician in India and stole blood samples of patients who tested positive for COVID-19, authorities confirmed on Friday.

According to Reuters, the eccentric attack happened this week after a laboratory technician was walking on the campus of a state-run medical college in Meerut near Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state.

  • A class-action lawsuit filed Friday accuses the Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin of illegally seizing student loan borrowers’ tax refunds even after Congress halted government debt collection during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • More than 11,000 cases of COVID-19 have been tied to plants of the three top U.S. meat processors, Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods and JBS, according to a new analysis that follows President Trump’s executive order to compel meat processing plants to stay open after coronavirus outbreaks sparked closures and led to shortages at grocery stores and fast-food chains.
  • “Right now, we’re not in the second wave. We’re right in the middle of the first wave globally,” World Health Organization Mike Ryan said. “We’re still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up.”
  • Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel claimed in a new letter to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper that the GOP can adopt a set of safety protocols to hold a full, in-person convention in Charlotte later this year despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Sources:  ABC News, Axios, CBS News, CNN, Financial Times, Fox News,The Hill, NBC News, NPR, NY Times, Politico, Reuters, Salon, Slate, Vanity Fair, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post

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