The Past 24 Hours or So – Protests/Race Relations and Trump Administration News

Read Time: 3 Minutes

Protests/Race Relations

  • Open Society Foundation, the philanthropic organization founded by billionaire George Soros, is investing $220 million in efforts to promote racial equality, including grants to Black-led organizations working to expand voting rights and advocate for police reform.
  • Residents in Norman, Oklahoma launched a petition this week to recall the city’s mayor and several members of its city council as they express outrage over its decision to vote to cut the police budget by over $800,000 in the wake of nationwide protests, accusing the city council of having “succumbed to an angry mob.”
  • In 1828, North Carolina Supreme Court Judge Thomas Ruffin wrote that a slave owner must have “uncontrolled authority over the body” of a slave to “render the submission … perfect.” Today Thomas Ruffin’s statue was removed from the NC Court of Appeals.
  • A man was recorded on video throwing red paint onto the Black Lives Matter mural that was recently painted on the street in front of Trump Tower, and which President Trump has sharply criticized as a “symbol of hate.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio later clapped back, tweeting: “To whoever vandalized our mural on 5th Avenue: nice try. [NYC Department of Transportation] has already fixed it. The #BlackLivesMatter movement is more than words, and it can’t be undone.”

Administration News

  • The Trump administration is moving forward with the end of a long-standing ban on the sale of gun silencers, also known as suppressors, to foreign buyers, handing a victory to firearm manufacturers after President Trump’s former deputy assistant and White House lawyer launched a campaign as a lobbyist for a gun silencer trade group.
  • President Donald Trump’s executive clemency to his longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone not only commuted the veteran Republican operative’s prison term but it also spared him a fine and two years of supervised release.

“I commute the entirety of the prison sentence imposed upon the said Roger Stone, Jr. to expire immediately,” according to Trump’s order.

“I also commute the entirety of the two-year term of supervised release with all its conditions, and finally, I remit any unpaid balance of the $20,000 fine imposed.”

  • A federal judge in Washington, D.C., again blocked the Trump administration from resuming executions just hours before the first federal death sentence since 2003 was scheduled to be carried out.
  • A private company that President Trump criticized over its efforts to construct a wall near the U.S.-Mexico border received $1.7 billion in federal contracts from the administration after lobbying the president personally on cable news, according to a new report.
  • More than 350 facilities nationwide have taken advantage of a temporary Environmental Protection Agency rule that lets companies forgo monitoring their water pollution during the coronavirus pandemic. The move is causing great concern among environmentalists: “Where facilities don’t monitor their own discharges and emissions, that can present significant environmental problems depending on what wasn’t reported that got into the environment.”
  • President Trump says the federal government may “take over cities” to combat rising crime: “Numbers are going to be coming down even if we have to go and take over cities.”
  • The United States budget deficit grew to a record $864 billion in June as the federal government continued pumping money into the economy to prop up workers and businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic
  • The Chinese government announced that it would impose sanctions on three American lawmakers and a diplomat in retaliation for similar moves last week by the Trump administration against four officials in China.

The sanctions targeted Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey, all of whom are Republicans. Also named was Trump’s ambassador at large for international religious freedom, Sam Brownback.

The Trump administration banned four Chinese officials and a Chinese government agency last Thursday from accessing American banks and other financial institutions. It also restricted them from obtaining visas to the United States.

The sanctions are mostly symbolic on both sides, as neither the Chinese officials nor the Americans are known to have assets in each other’s financial systems.

  • A federal appeals court has ruled that the Trump administration cannot withhold federal grants from California sanctuary cities, affirming previous rulings in the state.

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

The Past 24 Hours or So – Coronavirus, Race Relations, and Trump Administration News

Read TIme: 7 Minutes

Coronavirus/COVID 19 Update

  • The World Health Organization reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases on Sunday, with the total rising by 230,370 in 24 hours.
  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Sunday that she intends to have American schools open for in-person classes this fall, and insisted that this can be done safely despite concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

DeVos called on schools to reopen despite CDC guidelines that say children meeting in groups can put everyone at risk: “There is going to be the exception to the rule. But the rule should be that kids go back to school this fall.”

The Secretary also reiterated President Trump’s threat to withhold funding from schools that do not reopen.

“American investment in education is a promise to students and their families,” she said. “If schools aren’t going to reopen and not fulfill that promise, they shouldn’t get the funds.” ““There’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous.”

  • The White House is seeking to discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, as President Donald Trump works to marginalize him and his dire warnings about the shortcomings in the U.S. coronavirus response.

In a remarkable broadside by the Trump administration against one of its own, a White House official told NBC News on Sunday that “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things.” To bolster the case, the official provided NBC News with a list of nearly a dozen past comments by Fauci earlier in the pandemic that the official said had ultimately proven erroneous.

  • According to initial data reported by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, there were zero new COVID-19 deaths on July 11 for the first time since the state’s first death was recorded on March 11.
  • New Jersey announced 16 more deaths attributed to COVID-19 and 349 additional positive tests.
  • Florida reports 15,300 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the highest single-day increase for any US state, and 44 new deaths.

Floridians are testing positive every five and a half seconds. 

  • A 30-year-old man who believed the coronavirus was a hoax and attended a “Covid party” died after being infected with the virus, according to a Texas hospital.

The man had attended a gathering with an infected person to test whether the coronavirus was real, said Dr. Jane Appleby, chief medical officer at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, where the man died.

  • Top officials in Houston are calling for the city to lock back down as hospitals strain to accommodate the onslaught of COVID-19 patients. Texas health officials reported 8,196 new cases statewide, 80 more deaths and a total 10,410 people hospitalized.
  • Some parts of the Midwest are beginning to look alarmingly like the South and West did just a month ago. Cases have been trending upward in every Midwestern state except Nebraska and South Dakota.
  • Minnesota announced its highest daily case totals since May on Sunday and Saturday.
  • Indiana was among the first states in the Midwest to begin reopening in early May. The state was on track to enter its final phase (Phase 5) of reopening by the Fourth of July but as cases began rising, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) announced the state would instead enter an interim “Phase 4.5.” Mr. Holcomb’s amended executive order stops short of fully reopening but allows fairs and festivals, youth overnight camps and even conventions of up to 250 people to continue. Face coverings are “strongly recommended” but not required.
  • In Kansas, average daily case counts are at their highest levels and in Sedgwick County, which includes Wichita, cases have more than doubled since June 25. Local officials in Wichita have attempted to slow the spread by issuing a universal mask ordinance and banning gatherings of more than 45 people.
  • Parents and teachers discovered that one version of the reopening drafts for the Canyons School District in Utah included a recommendation that crisis communication employees have a “template letter” ready in case a student or teacher died of the virus.

The reference went viral on social media, but it’s not unusual at all for an organization to have a crisis plan in place in case someone dies. A newer draft of the district’s plans does not have that reference, as the reopening drafts are still in the planning phases.

  • The California Assembly is suspending its session until further notice following five confirmed COVID-19 cases among lawmakers and employees.

Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, D-Inglewood, has tested positive for COVID-19 and will remain in quarantine with her daughter until a doctor instructs her otherwise, she wrote on Twitter on Monday.

Burke had “mask to mask” exposure to the virus on June 26, she said — the same day that an Assembly employee was last in the Capitol before testing positive. That employee wore a face covering at all times, according to an Assembly Rules Committee email.

Protests/Race Relations

  • The federal government has denied Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’ request for aid to help rebuild and repair Twin Cities structures that were damaged in the unrest following George Floyd’s death.
  • Lewis Hamilton shows his support for the Black Lives Matter movement during his victory in the Styrian Grand Prix.

Hamilton secured his first win of the season in Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix. Before and after the race, Hamilton made a more definitive statement by kneeling ahead of the anthem and raising his fist on the winner’s podium.

  • A man who was seen on video going off on a racist tirade against an Asian American family at a restaurant has resigned from his job as CEO of a tech company in California after drawing viral backlash.

Michael Lofthouse, the now-former CEO of San Francisco-based cloud computing firm Solid8, confirmed his resignation to Fox Business.

  • Protesters gathered outside the Allentown, PA police department Saturday night after a  39-second video showed a Pennsylvania police officer with his knee on a man’s neck and head.

The clip, shot outside a hospital in Allentown doesn’t show what prompted the confrontation, but three officers can be seen restraining a man lying face down on the ground and yelling.

One of the officers is seen thrusting his knee and elbow into the man’s head and neck. Earlier this month, the Allentown Police Department released a new excessive force policy. The policy bans neck restraints or chokeholds unless officers are preventing “imminent death or serious bodily injury” to a citizen or themselves.

The Lehigh County district attorney is investigating and in a statement said, “Although significant, the entirety of the interaction is being reviewed,” adding that witnesses were being interviewed and that other videos were being reviewed.

  • The NFL’s Washington franchise announced they are retiring the team’s name and logo. A new name has not yet been announced.

Administration News

  • Following an op-ed by former special counsel Robert Mueller published Saturday in The Washington Post, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says he will grant a request by Democrats to have  Mueller testify before the committee about his investigation. 
  • President Trump floated the idea of selling Puerto Rico as the territory struggled in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, former acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke told The New York Times.

Duke, who served in the role for four months, told the Times on Friday that she was shocked when the president raised the suggestion of “divesting” or “selling” Puerto Rico.

  • President Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has told several White House staffers he’s fed specific nuggets of information to suspected leakers to see if they pass them on to reporters — a trap that would confirm his suspicions. “Meadows told me he was doing that,” said one former White House official. “I don’t know if it ever worked.”
  • Donald Trump has criticised a group of his supporters who privately financed and built a wall along the US-Mexico border in South Texas earlier this year because the wall is already deteriorating from erosion.

The privately-funded wall was “only done to make me look bad,” the president tweeted on Sunday – despite the group, “We Build the Wall,” raising $25million in two years to erect it, in a show of support for Trump’s immigration and border security initiatives.

The group first launched its fundraising effort during the government shutdown of December 2018 when Congress would not agree to fund Trump’s wall proposal.

  • Senate Democrats are demanding they be allowed to see any copies of intelligence briefs that were presented to President Trump regarding evidence that Russia was paying the Taliban bounties for attacks on U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan.

Presidential Campaign

  • After months of insisting that the Republican National Convention go off as scheduled despite the pandemic, President Donald Trump is slowly coming to accept that the late August event will not be the four-night infomercial for his reelection that he had anticipated.

After a venue change, spiking coronavirus cases and a sharp recession, Trump aides and allies are increasingly questioning whether it’s worth the trouble, and some are advocating that the convention be scrapped altogether. Conventions are meant to lay out a candidate’s vision for the coming four years, not spark months of intrigue over the health and safety of attendees, they have argued.

Aides are pushing Trump to move his acceptance speech outdoors to minimize risk of virus transmission. But Trump has expressed reservations about an outdoor venue, believing it would lack the same atmosphere as a charged arena.

  • The Trump campaign canceled the president’s planned rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire because of concerns that COVID-19 fears and a forecasted thunderstorm would lead to low attendance, people close to the campaign told NBC News. 

In its statement, the Trump campaign announcing the rally was being called off blamed a forecasted thunderstorm in the area and “safety reasons” for the decision. But officials told NBC that it was one of several factors that the campaign feared would lead to low attendance at the event, prompting the cancellation.

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

The Past 24 Hours or So – Trump Administration News

Read Time: 3 Minutes

Administration News

  • The White House announced that President Trump is set to sign an executive order shifting the focus while hiring for the federal government from college degrees to skills. The federal government is the largest employer in the country and includes 2.1 million non-military workers.

“This will ensure that we are able to hire based on talent,” Ivanka Trump said. “The president built the most inclusive workforce in the history of the country prior to the pandemic and we will rebuild it.”

  • The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Trump administration does not have the authority to use military funding to pay for construction of a border wall. The panel found that diverting $2.5 billion Congress had appropriated for the military violated the Constitution and is unlawful.
  • George Nader, a key witness in the special-counsel probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release for transporting a child into the country for sex and possessing child pornography.
  • The U.S. economy shrank at a 5.0% rate in the first quarter with a much worse decline expected in the current three-month economic period because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Commerce Department reported that the decline in the gross domestic product, the total output of goods and services, in the January-March quarter was unchanged from the estimate made a month ago.

  • President Trump has just nominated William Perry Pendley, who has controversially served as the acting head of the Bureau of Land Management for months, to lead the agency. Opponents say Pendley should not lead an agency that he has “spent an entire career trying to undermine” as he’s authored multiple books opposing public lands and calling to sell them.
  • American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.

The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will not take up Douglas Benevento’s nomination for the No. 2 position at the Environmental Protection Agency  after Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) announced her opposition.
  • The Energy Department on Friday announced a new initiative that aims to boost the declining coal industry by creating new uses for the fossil fuel. 

The department said in a statement that it will make about $122 million available to create “coal product innovation centers” to make new products from coal and develop new methods to extract critical minerals from it.

  • President Trump tore into Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot after a string of violent incidents struck Chicago, accusing the two lawmakers of failing the city. 

“Your lack of leadership on this important issue continues to fail the people you have sworn to protect,” he wrote in a letter, a copy of which was released by the White House. “I am concerned that it is another example of your lack of commitment to the vulnerable citizens who are victims of this violence and a lack of respect for the men and women of law enforcement.”

  • Caroline Hunter, a Republican commissioner on the Federal Election Commission, announced Friday that she is stepping down next week, leaving the agency without a quorum and unable to vote on enforcement actions.

Hunter’s resignation came just weeks after the FEC had regained a quorum of four commissioners following the Senate confirmation of Republican Trey Trainor.

Trump on Friday took immediate action to fill Hunter’s position, nominating Allen Dickerson to serve as a commissioner.

Sources:  ABC News, Axios, Bloomberg, 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