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Trump retweets Russian propaganda about Biden that US intel agencies say is intended to influence 2020 election
By Zachary Cohen and Marshall Cohen, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump on Sunday night retweeted Russian propaganda about former Vice President Joe Biden that the US intelligence community recently announced was part of Moscow's ongoing effort to "denigrate" the Democrat ahead of November's election. Late Sunday, Trump amplified a tweet that contained audiotapes of a 2016 conversation between Biden and then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko -- material that was released earlier this year by Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker named by the US intelligence community in its August 7 statement about Russia's disinformation campaign against Biden. US authorities labeled Derkach's efforts as disinformation because they are intentionally designed to spread false or misleading information about Biden. By retweeting material that the US government has already labeled as propaganda -- and doing so with the 2020 Democratic National Convention kicking off on Monday -- Trump demonstrated once again that he is willing to capitalize on foreign election meddling for his own political gain. There is no proof of wrongdoing on the tapes of Biden and Poroshenko. But Trump and his allies, as well as Kremlin-controlled media outlets, have used the tapes to foment conspiracies about Biden's dealings with Ukraine.

'A willing mouthpiece'
Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, responded to Trump's retweet Monday by calling out the President for amplifying Russian disinformation. "The President of the United States should never be a willing mouthpiece for Russian propaganda," Warner wrote in a tweet of his own. Trump's amplification of this disinformation comes as Biden is set to accept the Democratic presidential nomination this week, and it poses a significant challenge for US intelligence and national security officials tasked with protecting the 2020 election from foreign interference. A Twitter spokesman told CNN on Monday that the account Trump retweeted had been suspended "for violations of the Twitter Rules on platform manipulation and spam." The original post, which contained snippets of the Biden tapes, was no longer online as of Monday night.

Louis DeJoy: is Trump's new post office chief trying to rig the election?
Since taking office in June, DeJoy has executed sweeping changes at the struggling USPS, leading to delays in mail delivery – and fears mail-in ballots won’t arrive on time
The Guardian

About a month ago, a United States Postal Service (USPS) mail carrier named Mark arrived at his post office in central Pennsylvania and got some shocking news from his station manager. Mark and his coworkers were told they would have to depart the office for deliveries a few hours earlier each day, even if that meant leaving behind much of the day’s mail. In the weeks that followed, higher-ups at the station instructed carriers to abandon hundreds of pieces of mail in order to depart a mere 10 or 20 minutes earlier. As the days went on, the excess mail started to pile up, and now Mark estimates there are thousands of undelivered letters and packages sitting in his station.

“The supervisors are cracking the whip, making sure we leave,” Mark told the Guardian. “Meanwhile carriers are walking by and saying, ‘Look at all this fucking mail we’re walking past, it’s just sitting there.’” When Mark and his coworkers confronted the station manager he said he was only following orders from the new USPS postmaster general, Louis DeJoy. Since taking office in June, DeJoy has executed sweeping changes at the struggling US Postal Service, shaking up agency leadership and rolling out policies that have led to delays in mail delivery. These changes, which DeJoy has said are designed to cut down on labor costs, have angered advocates and Democratic politicians, who have accused him of trying to tamper with the election just weeks before millions of Americans start casting their ballots through the mail.

‘Asking for a disaster’: White House continues crusade against mail-in voting
Democrats counter that Republicans are trying to suppress votes.

Top White House and campaign aides fanned out on Sunday to defend President Donald Trump’s opposition to universal mail-in voting, casting widespread access to voting amid a global pandemic as a disaster waiting to happen.

Top Democrats, meanwhile, called on officials with the U.S. Postal Service to testify before a congressional committee next week, a high-stakes hearing that would occur on the opening day of the Republican National Convention. The split screen comes as the Postal Service has emerged as a top political issue, with Democrats asking for $25 billion in funding and the president candidly observing in a Fox Business Network interview last week that leaving the service without aid would make universal mail-in voting impossible. The Postal Service has already sent letters to 46 states and Washington, D.C., warning that some ballots might not arrive in time to be counted for the November election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders on Saturday discussed whether to reconvene the House, which is currently in recess, to address the Postal Service crisis. Pelosi and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, on Sunday invited Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors, Robert Duncan, to testify at a hearing next Monday.

“The hearing will examine the sweeping operational and organizational changes at the Postal Service that experts warn could degrade delivery standards, slow the mail and potentially impair the rights of eligible Americans to cast their votes through the mail in the upcoming November elections,” they said in a statement. “The Postmaster General and top Postal Service leadership must answer to the Congress and the American people as to why they are pushing these dangerous new policies that threaten to silence the voices of millions, just months before the election.”

Trump staffers have been cited 13 times for violating a law prohibiting government officials from campaigning
Andrea Bernstein

President Donald Trump's recent musings about staging his Republican National Convention speech at the White House drew criticism from government ethics watchdogs and even one Republican senator, John Thune of South Dakota. The suggestion wasn't an isolated blending of official presidential duties and the campaign. It was part of a yearslong pattern of disregarding such boundaries in the Trump White House. There is a law, called the Hatch Act, that prohibits most government officials from engaging in politicking in the course of their official work.

The law does not apply to the president or vice president. While other presidents took campaign advantage of the trappings of the office, something that came to be known as the "Rose Garden strategy," they typically refrained from explicit electoral appeals or attacks on their opponents at official presidential events. Federal election law and measures governing appropriations prohibit using taxpayer dollars for electioneering.

Since resuming official travel at the beginning of May after a coronavirus-imposed pause, Trump has held 25 presidential out-of-town events. Of these events, transcribed on the official White House website, the president spoke about the election or attacked his opponent, Joe Biden, at 12 of them, nearly half. His presidential stage provided a venue for supporters to urge others to vote for Trump in November at three additional events. Administration officials have been cited for breaking the Hatch Act 13 times by federal investigators at the Office of Special Counsel (not to be confused with special counsel Robert Mueller). Twelve more investigations are underway. The law dates from the New Deal era, enacted after a scandal where employees of the Works Progress Administration were pressured to work on the campaigns of candidates friendly to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Tom Porter

President Donald Trump is fixated on mail-in ballots and spends considerable time trying to figure out how to "block" such voting, a senior administration source told The Washington Post. According to the source, the president spends considerable time "reading news reports and other materials about mail-in ballots, talking about the topic with his advisers and thinking about how to block such voting."

The Post reports that Trump recently met with congressional Republicans to air his concerns, citing a recent election fraud case in New Jersey.Election experts told NPR is very rare and highlighted the effectiveness of existing measures to guard against fraud. White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews defended Trump in a statement to the Post, and said he's working "to ensure the security and integrity of our elections."

Analysis by Maeve Reston, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump sought to reframe the fall election two days before the Democratic National Convention, arguing on Saturday that key economic and pandemic indicators were moving in his favor, while attempting to shift blame for US Postal Service funding problems to Democrats and refusing to acknowledge his administration's efforts to undermine the agency three months before Election Day. The President's finger-pointing and misinformation about the upheaval within the USPS was his latest attempt to rewrite history in real time into a version that better suits his reelection narrative.

He's long done the same with the economy. Glossing over the fact that the US economy contracted at a 32.9% annual rate during the second quarter and tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, Trump claimed Saturday that the US is witnessing "the fastest economic recovery in American history" because of the "foundation" set by his administration. He touted an all-time high in retail sales and gains in the stock market as evidence of a rebound that would sway voters to support him in November.  "If I win, which — I hope to win, how can you not when you see numbers like this both on the virus and on the economy?" Trump said during a Saturday news conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. "I mean, we should win. We should all keep this incredible thing going. And I built it once and I'll build it again."

Blaming Democrats
At a time when his administration is engulfed in controversy over its efforts to curtail USPS operations when the demand for mail-in ballots has grown exponentially due to the pandemic, Trump tried to blame the agency's funding woes on Democrats. He said they are blocking negotiations on the next stimulus package due to an impasse over the Democrats' proposed aid package for states that drained their coffers while fighting the pandemic.
On Friday, the postal service, which is mired in longstanding funding problems, warned nearly all 50 states and Washington, DC, that mail-in ballots may not be received by election offices in time to be counted. CNN and other news organizations reported Friday that the postal service has reduced operating hours in several states and was removing letter collection boxes off streets in some states, according to union officials. (As of Saturday afternoon, representatives at the USPS' national headquarters in Washington were still unable to confirm whether they would stop removing letter collection boxes until after the election.) Trump admitted last week during a Fox News interview that he opposes at least part of the proposed emergency funding infusion for the post office, because he believes the uptick in mail-in ballots during the pandemic will favor Democrats. In the NPR/PBS/Marist poll released last week, 62% of Joe Biden's supporters say they plan to cast their ballot by mail, while 72% of Trump supporters say they will vote in person.

By Fredreka Schouten, CNN

(CNN) The Trump campaign is working to dispatch tens of thousands of election monitors to battleground states in what is shaping up as the Republican Party's largest-ever poll-watching operation. The party's aggressive plans for poll-monitoring have sparked charges from Democrats and voting-rights groups that Republicans are gearing up to suppress voting in key states as President Donald Trump repeatedly claims, without evidence, that voter fraud will imperil November's election. Republicans say their new push will allow them to protect election integrity and better coordinate their get-out-vote operations. Both sides are headed for a legal showdown on the issue in Pennsylvania -- a state Trump won in 2016 by about 44,000 votes out of 6 million cast. The Trump campaign is fighting a Pennsylvania law that restricts poll watchers to monitoring voting in the county in which they live -- one of dozens of lawsuits filed by Republicans and Democrats that challenge the ground rules of a fast-approaching election that state and local officials are racing to carry out in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

"By and large, having these mobilized security forces out at the polls is just a powder keg," Wendy Weiser, of the liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice, said of the Republican poll observers. "There is just a very high risk in a hotly contested and emotionally heated environment of people crossing the line." In a statement to CNN, Trump campaign general counsel Matthew Morgan, said, "Republicans will be ready to make sure the polls are being run correctly, securely, and transparently as we work to deliver the free and fair election Americans deserve." The massive build-up to monitor voting marks the first time since the 1980 election that the Republican presidential nominee and the Republican National Committee will work together to monitor polling activity. In 2018, a federal judge allowed a consent decree to expire that for decades had sharply restricted the RNC's "ballot security" activities without prior judicial approval. The 1982 decree stemmed from a Democratic National Committee lawsuit that accused the RNC of trying to suppress votes in New Jersey by posting armed, off-duty police officers at the polls in minority neighborhoods and erecting posters that warned of penalties for violating election laws.

Washington Post

Speaking from Bedminster, N.J., on Aug. 15, President Trump responded to questions from reporters, saying he agrees the Postal Service needs more funds before the upcoming election and blaming Democrats for the lack of monetary relief approved so far. Asked why he has not personally sat down with lawmakers, he said he would when the time was "right." Read more:

President Trump’s furious objection to mail-in balloting and a new Trump-allied postmaster general are raising fears about the election and the Postal Service.
By Luke Broadwater, Jack Healy, Michael D. Shear and Hailey Fuchs

DARBY, Pa. — Each day, when Nick Casselli, the president of a Philadelphia postal workers union, sits down at his desk on Main Street in this historic town where trolley cars still run and the post office is a source of civic pride, his phone is full of alarmed messages about increasing delays in mail delivery. Mr. Casselli and his 1,600 members have been in a state of high alert since Louis DeJoy, a Republican megadonor and an ally of President Trump’s, took over as postmaster general in May. Overtime was eliminated, prompting backups. Seven mail-sorting machines were removed from a nearby processing center in West Philadelphia, causing further delays. Now, post offices are being told to open later and close during lunch.

“I have some customers banging on my people’s doors: ‘Open up!’” Mr. Casselli said. “I’ve never seen that in my whole 35-year postal career.” Similar accounts of slowdowns and curtailed service are emerging across the country as Mr. DeJoy pushes cost-cutting measures that he says are intended to overhaul an agency suffering billion-dollar losses. But as Mr. Trump rails almost daily against the service and delays clog the mail, voters and postal workers warn a crisis is building that could disenfranchise record numbers of Americans who will be casting ballots by mail in November because of the coronavirus outbreak.

By Aristos Georgiou

President Donald Trump has said he would protect officers who "fight back" against unruly protesters during a speech on Friday evening. The president made the remarks during a mini-rally at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey with members of the New York City Police Benevolent Association (NYCPBA), the largest police union representing officers from the NYPD, in attendance, Mediaite reported.

Trump began his speech by citing several recent incidents where police have been attacked by members of the public. These included an NYPD sergeant who was struck by a hit-and-run driver in the Bronx, a woman who threw a Molotov cocktail at a police vehicle in Brooklyn during a George Floyd protest and an incident where three officers were assaulted on the Brooklyn Bridge.

By Betsy Klein and Evan Perez, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump on Thursday again attacked his own FBI director, whom he appointed, and pushed Attorney General William Barr to pressure the Justice Department's investigation of the Russia probe. During a discussion about the Justice Department's probe into the Russia investigation, Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo asked the President whether FBI director Christopher Wray should step down. "We know that the FBI lied to the Senate in February of 2018. Christopher Wray was running the FBI. Mr. President, is Christopher Wray hiding all of this stuff and protecting the FBI? Should he step down?" Bartiromo asked.

Bartiromo appeared to be referring to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham's claims that a declassified document he released Sunday shows that the FBI had misled the Senate Intelligence Committee in February 2018 about a "primary sub -source" of information in the infamous Steele dossier. The opposition research dossier, compiled by ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele on Trump and Russia in 2016, played no role in the opening of the FBI investigation, according to an inspector general report.

Trump railed against Wray, who he said should provide more documents to John Durham, who was tapped by Barr to lead the review into the origins of the Russia investigation. "So Christopher Wray was put there. We have an election coming up. I wish he was more forthcoming, he certainly hasn't been. There are documents that they want to get, and we have said we want to get. We're going to find out if he's going to give those documents. But certainly he's been very, very protective," the President said on Fox Business.

This power play by UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed is a boon for Trump and Netanyahu. It won't bring real peace
Medea Benjamin - Ariel Gold

"HUGE breakthrough today," crowed Donald Trump on tTwitter as he announced the new peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The deal makes the UAE the first Gulf Arab state and the third Arab nation, after Egypt and Jordan, to have diplomatic ties with Israel. But the new Israel-UAE partnership should fool no one. Though it will supposedly stave off Israeli annexation of the West Bank and encourage tourism and trade between both countries, in reality, it is nothing more than a scheme to give an Arab stamp of approval to Israel's status quo of land theft, home demolitions, arbitrary extrajudicial killings, apartheid laws and other abuses of Palestinian rights.

The deal should be seen in the context of more than three years of Trump administration policies that have tightened Israel's grip on the Palestinians: moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, and creating a so-called peace plan with no Palestinian participation or input. While no U.S. administration has successfully brokered a resolution to Israel's now 53-year-long occupation, the Trump years have been especially detrimental to the Palestinian cause. Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi wrote on Twitter that with this deal, "Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it's been doing to Palestine illegally & persistently since the beginning of the occupation."

Just one country joins US in vote, highlighting Washington’s isolation as it seeks more drastic action against Iran
Julian Borger in Washington

The US has suffered a humiliating defeat at the United Nations as its proposal to extend an arms embargo on Iran won support from only the Dominican Republic at the security council vote. The US resolution was never likely to be passed in the face of Russian and Chinese opposition. It was proposed as a ploy by the Trump administration to open the way to more drastic action against Iran. But the scale of the defeat on Friday underlined US isolation on the world stage ahead of a major diplomatic confrontation that threatens to consume the security council and further sap its authority.

The US stripped anti-Iran rhetoric from earlier drafts of the resolution in the hope of recruiting more supporters, but its insistence that an extension to the UN embargo would be indefinite made that impossible. Estonia and Tunisia withstood eleventh-hour US pressure to support the revised draft, a measure of diminished American clout at the UN. Russia and China voted against the resolution, the US and the Dominican Republic voted in favour, and all the other council members abstained. In his response to the vote, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, lashed out at other member states. “The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable,” he said in a statement issued even before the result of the vote had been declared.

By Daily News Editorial Board

Without free and fair elections, the United States of America isn’t the United States of America. And this year, as a highly contagious virus rages, that means ensuring the Postal Service can get a massive influx of mail-in ballots from point A to point B and back. In their moment of deepest need, President Trump is doing his darndest to tie cinder blocks to the feet of our mail carriers, thereby disenfranchising untold thousands or millions of voters.

In May, Trump named a new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, a major Republican fundraiser who, according to CNN, has conflicts of interest totaling tens of millions of dollars. DeJoy has instituted a series of dramatic changes that are radically slowing mail delivery. DeJoy says he’s cutting costs, but that can wait until after a November election more dependent than ever on the efficiency of the Postal Service. Meanwhile, Trump, like a mob boss running a protection racket, refuses to provide pre-election emergency funds to the USPS. He has cast absentee ballots himself, but he now tries to thwart any and all postal voting that might threaten his reelection.

David Shepardson, Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General is investigating reports of service disruptions and other issues raised by lawmakers, a spokeswoman for Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Friday. “We have learned that the United States Postal Service Office of the Inspector General is investigating all aspects of our request from August 7th and that they’ve already requested documents as part of the review,” spokeswoman Saloni Sharma said. A spokeswoman for U.S. Postal Service Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb said the office is “in receipt of the congressional request and are conducting a body of work to address concerns raised,” but declined to comment further.

The Aug. 7 letter from a number of U.S. lawmakers asked for “a thorough audit of all operational changes put in place in recent weeks to determine the rationale behind these changes, if any analyses of their impact were conducted before implementation, their effect on the quality of mail delivery, and how it will impact services needed for the 2020 election.”

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson was the largest supporter for Trump in 2016, which was partially the result of his promise to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and to end the Iran nuclear deal.
Allison Kaplan Sommer

Two Democratic members of Congress have officially asked the FBI to investigate a phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who was the largest donor to Trump and the Republican Party in the 2016 election. During the phone call between Trump and Adelson, which according to news reports took place last week, Trump reportedly berated Adelson for not providing enough support to his re-election campaign. The two also discussed the coronavirus relief bill during the conversation. Adelson’s support for Trump in 2016 was at least partially the result of his promise to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and to end the Iran nuclear deal.

Adelson is one of the richest people in the United States and is also the owner of the pro-Netanyahu “Israel Hayom” newspaper in Israel. In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Democratic lawmakers Ted Lieu and Kathleen Rice asked to investigate the phone call, suggesting that it could have been a criminal act. The representatives sent a letter to the intelligence agency on Monday alleging that “a crime may have occurred” during the conversation, because linking of legislative action to donor funds would be illegal.

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) Former President Barack Obama took on President Donald Trump's attempts to stall funding for the United States Postal Service in a podcast published Friday, slamming his successor's opposition to the much-needed funds as a craven attempt to boost his chances of winning in November.
Obama, in a podcast with David Plouffe, his former campaign manager, took on the Trump administration in direct terms, including calling out Vice President Mike Pence by name. "What we've seen in a way that is unique to modern political history is a President who is explicit in trying to discourage people from voting," Obama said. "What we've never seen before is a President say, 'I'm going to try to actively kneecap the postal service to encourage voting and I will be explicit about the reason I'm doing it.'" Obama added: "That's sort of unheard of."

Obama is referring to ongoing negotiations between Democrats and Republicans on the latest coronavirus stimulus bill. Democrats are packing a proposal by the postal service's Board of Governors that calls for $25 billion in funding for the beleaguered federal entity. Trump, as part of his long running campaign against mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic, tied the postal service funding to voting, telling Fox Business that if the postal service does not receive the additional funding, then he believes the Post Office won't be able to handle the influx of mail-in ballots in the upcoming election.

President's former attorney revisits statements from Congressional testimony and allegations about his personal life
Alex Woodward

Donald Trump's former longtime attorney Michael Cohen has released an excerpt from his tell-all book about the president and the 2016 election, revealing how the president's "fixer and designated thug" allegedly witnessed crimes committed by candidate Trump and became an "active and eager participant." Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to lying to Congress on the president's behalf and orchestrating hush money to women who have claimed to have had affairs with the president. He claims to know the president "better than anyone else."

"I knew him better than even his family did because I bore witness to the real man, in strip clubs, shady business meetings, and in the unguarded moments when he revealed who he really was: a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, a con man," Cohen writes. Cohen was briefly sent back to jail for allegedly violating the terms of his release by writing the book before a judge ruled the was "retaliatory" and therefore illegal. The White House has called the book "fan fiction."

Kevin Breuninger

Former President Barack Obama slammed President Donald Trump on Friday, accusing his administration of undermining the U.S. Postal Service and attempting to suppress votes during the coronavirus pandemic. “Everyone depends on the USPS. Seniors for their Social Security, veterans for their prescriptions, small businesses trying to keep their doors open,” Obama said on Twitter in a series of posts. “They can’t be collateral damage for an administration more concerned with suppressing the vote than suppressing a virus.” Trump’s Democratic predecessor urged eligible voters in states with early-voting options to “do that now.” “The more votes in early, the less likely you’re going to see a last minute crunch, both at polling places and in states where mail-in ballots are permitted. Then tell everyone you know,” Obama said.

By Priscilla Alvarez, CNN

(CNN) The appointments of Chad Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli to the top two leadership roles at the Department of Homeland Security are invalid, the Government Accountability Office found in a new report, delivering a major rebuke to the Trump administration, which has repeatedly tried to skirt the confirmation process. The Trump administration has increasingly relied on filling top posts with people on a temporary basis, fielding criticism from lawmakers. The Department of Homeland Security -- the third-largest federal department -- is no exception. It hasn't had a Senate-confirmed secretary since Kirstjen Nielsen, who resigned in April 2019. Since 2017, the department has had five secretaries -- only two of which were confirmed by the Senate: John Kelly and Nielsen. The others have occupied the role in an acting capacity, often leaving the department's leaders at the whims of the President and as a result, vulnerable to increased politicization. A Justice Department attorney said at a Friday court hearing that the Office of Legal Counsel will review the GAO's opinion and come to a decision on it.

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) Sometimes -- OK, a lot of times -- Donald Trump says the quiet part out loud. Like during an interview on Fox Business with Maria Bartiromo on Thursday morning when Trump flatly admitted the real reason why he is blocking the inclusion of any money for the United States Postal Service in a coronavirus relief bill in Congress. Here's exactly what he said: "They want $3.5 billion for something that will turn out to be fraudulent, that's election money basically. They want $3.5 trillion -- billion dollars for the mail-in votes, OK, universal mail-in ballots, $3.5 trillion. They want $25 billion, billion, for the Post Office. Now they need that money in order to have the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots... " ... Now, if we don't make a deal, that means they don't get the money. That means they can't have universal mail-in voting, they just can't have it. So, you know, sort of a crazy thing. Very interesting." Let's be very, very clear about what Trump is saying here.

1) Democrats want funding in a coronavirus relief bill for the Postal Service.

2) They want that money so that the USPS can adequately deal with what is expected to be a major surge in mail-in and absentee balloting due to concerns about in-person voting spreading Covid-19.

3) Trump refuses to give them that money -- or include it in any sort of deal -- because, without it, there won't be the ability for the people to cast more mail-in ballots, or -- and this is really important -- for election officials to effectively count them all.

So, yeah. (And that's putting aside the fact that in blocking the coronavirus bill because of the money allotted for the Postal Service, the President is blocking a whole lot of other things, including increased education funding and rent/mortgage assistance, that many people in the country badly need.) This is the President of the United States purposely trying to make it harder for votes to be counted. Why? Because he believes that mail-in balloting is ripe for fraud. The problem with that view is that it is simply not supported by any real data. While Trump likes to focus on 500,000 absentee ballot applications being sent with the wrong return address in Virginia recently, the truth of the matter is that while mistakes like that one can get made, there's just no evidence of widespread purposeful voting fraud.

SV Dáte takes the president to task for repeated untruths but is quickly cut off
Helen Sullivan

SV Dáte had waited five long years to ask Donald Trump one question: “Mr President, after three and a half years [of Trump’s presidency], do you regret at all, all the lying you’ve done to the American people?” Confronted with Dáte’s question at Thursday’s White House briefing, Trump responded with a question of his own. “All the what?” he said. Dáte: “All the lying, all the dishonesties.” Trump: “That who has done?” “You have done,” said Dáte, who is the Huffington Post’s White House correspondent. “Tens of thousan–”, he began to say, before Trump cut him off and called on another journalist, who asked a question about payroll tax.

In July, the Washington Post reported that Trump had told more than 20,000 “false or misleading claims” over the course of his presidency. Speaking to the Guardian, Dáte said that he asked the question because it was the first time that he had had the chance. “I don’t know why he called on me, because I’ve tried to ask him before [in March] and he’s cut me off mid-question. Maybe he didn’t recognise me this time,” he said. “You know, he has this group of folks that he normally asks questions of.” It was Dáte’s turn on White House in press pool, and so he had a prominent seat. “I had always thought that if he ever did call on me, this is the one thing that is really central to his presidency,” he said.

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

(CNN) Colorado's top elections official on Thursday accused President Donald Trump of lying about vote by mail as the President continues to baselessly assert that mail-in voting is wrought with fraud and abuse. "President Trump is lying about vote by mail. He is lying about mail ballots," Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, told CNN's Erin Burnett on "OutFront." "Colorado has a very clean history of running great elections with vote by mail. We have safeguards in place to make sure we would catch any type of double voting including signature verification, rules about ballot collection and a lot of other safeguards." Earlier Thursday, the President said on Fox Business that he opposes much-needed funding for the United States Postal Service because he doesn't want to see it used for mail-in voting this November. Trump has railed against mail-in voting for months amid efforts to expand it during the coronavirus pandemic.

Griswold said on CNN that the President's comments amounted to "voter suppression because mail ballots are the best way to vote during a pandemic." "To force Americans into the choice of risking their lives to cast a ballot is a measure to decrease turnout in November," she said. "We should all be very alarmed at where the President is going." She argued that vote by mail is "like wearing a mask" because it's "the way we can save Americans' lives." "Americans shouldn't have to choose between risking their life and casting a ballot," she said.

By Leonard PItts Jr. For The Baltimore Sun

“Nobody likes me.” — Donald Trump. “Truth or Consequences” is the name of a town in New Mexico, and of a game show from the 1940s. But it’s also one of the primal laws of existence. Where an important truth is denied, consequences follow. So none of us can be surprised at the state of the union after seven months of President Donald Trump’s lies, alibis and magical thinking in the face of one of the worst public health crises in history. More than 150,000 of us are dead, the U.S. economy just endured its worst quarter on record and there is no sign the disaster is going to abate any time soon. To the contrary, the federal government is adding to the list of “red zone” states — i.e., states where the COVID-19 infection rate continues to climb. Twenty-one states — nearly half the country — now make the list, including Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Mississippi.

And it should be lost on none of us that the “red zone” states are also mostly red states. Nineteen of the 21 — California and Nevada are the outliers — went for Mr. Trump in 2016. Red states, not to put too fine a point on it, are those we’d expect to be most susceptible to his lies, alibis and magical thinking — and most resistant to masks and social distancing. Again, this is no surprise. As has been noted repeatedly in this space, truth doesn’t care about your feelings. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump doesn’t care about truth, so on behalf of 330 million of us, he chose consequences instead. And this country will be years in recovering, if it ever does.

All of which lends to a sense of astonishment at the morose monologue quoted above. It came during a news conference last week, called ostensibly to provide an update on the nation’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic. But the briefing also offered a squirm-inducing glimpse into Mr. Trump’s fragile psyche as he ruminated over the fact that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the face of his coronavirus task force, is more popular than he is.

“Can you believe it?” the CNN host asked. “Is it 2011 all over again? What is going on?”
Matt Wilstein

Don Lemon opened his CNN broadcast Thursday night with a blistering monologue taking President Donald Trump to task for using the same birther tactics he used against Barack Obama on vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris. “Every single day, another lie, another conspiracy theory, another racist dog whistle,” a clearly exasperated Lemon said at the top of his show. “He’s using the podium in the White House briefing room, that you pay for, to lie to you. And he’s starting with birtherism. Can you believe it? Is it 2011 all over again? What is going on?” “Birtherism now against Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s vice presidential nominee who is a Black woman,” the host continued. “Does that ring a bell to you?”

Lemon went on to play a clip from the briefing when Trump was asked about a “discredited” Newsweek column questioning Harris’ eligibility to serve as vice president. Instead of dismissing it, the president said he would look into it, telling reporters, “I have no idea if that’s right. I would’ve assumed the Democrats would’ve checked that out before she gets chosen to run for vice president.” “This man is so full of it, y’all,” Lemon said of Trump. “Come on. He knows better than that. He’s the president of the United States. Shouldn’t he have a modicum of decency and class to just say, ‘Look, come on, let’s talk about something real. A lot of people have died from the coronavirus. That’s serious. Kamala Harris is on the vice presidential ticket. Move along.’”

QAnon, the conspiracy theory that Trump is exposing Dem/Hollywood pedophiles, will get its first member of Congress. “The Daily Show” host breaks down why that’s truly bananas.
Marlow Stern

On Wednesday night, Trevor Noah took aim at Marjorie Taylor Greene, a woman who recently won a Georgia Republican primary and will surely be elected to Congress in her deep red 14th District. “Congress is about to get a lot crazier,” offered Noah. Greene, 46, has a long history of racism and pushing conspiracy theories. She’s recently called the Jewish businessman George Soros a “Nazi”; compared the elections of Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to Congress to “an Islamic invasion”; said minorities find themselves unemployed because they are “lazy”; accused the Democratic Party of keeping Black people in “a modern-day form of slavery”; and said Black people should be “proud” of Confederate monuments. Greene has also been endorsed by a number of prominent white supremacists.

On top of all that, Greene is an adherent of QAnon—a wild conspiracy theory alleging that an anonymous secret agent named “Q” is dropping insider information revealing that Hollywood and Democratic Party elites (Hillary Clinton, Oprah, etc.) are operating an underground child sex-trafficking ring and that President Donald Trump is waging a one-man war on them. “That’s right: A QAnon conspiracy theorist is about to become a member of Congress,” Noah explained. “And if you’re wondering, what’s QAnon? Well, it’s a movement that believes that Hollywood and the Democratic Party are actually a secret worldwide child sex-trafficking ring whose members harvest the blood of children for its life-extending properties, and that the only person protecting the world from this evil is Donald Trump.”

“I’ve never seen a villain give away a plan like that without seeing James Bond tied to a chair in front of him,” the “Daily Show” host said.
Matt Wilstein

If Americans think that “rigged elections” are something that only happens in far-off countries like Belarus, Trevor Noah had a rude awakening for them. “It already, it’s already starting to rear its ugly head right here,” he said.

The Daily Show host was of course talking about President Donald Trump’s stunning admission in a Fox News interview on Thursday morning that he is actively blocking funding for the U.S. Postal Service to prevent them from being able to accommodate universal mail-in voting. “They need that money in order to have the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo of two provisions he opposes in the Democrat’s coronavirus relief bill. “But if they don’t get those two items that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting, because they’re not equipped to have it.”

Jeff Brady

Despite opposition from the oil and gas industry it aims to help, the Trump administration is rolling back an Obama-era rule designed to reduce climate-warming methane emissions. Methane is the main ingredient in natural gas. But when it's released before it burns, say from a leaky valve at a drilling site, it's far more potent than carbon dioxide. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the oil and gas industry is the largest source of methane emissions in the United States. The Trump administration rule would eliminate a 2016 requirement that oil and gas companies monitor and limit methane leaks from wells, compressor stations and other operations.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the change in Pittsburgh, the heart of gas drilling region in Pennsylvania, a state that voted for Trump in 2016 but is leaning Democratic this year. Wheeler said the new rules deliver on President Trump's 2017 executive order to promote energy independence and economic growth. "EPA has been working hard to fulfill President Trump's promise to cut burdensome and ineffective regulations for our domestic energy industry," he said.

The weakening of Obama-era efforts to fight climate change amounts to a gift to many oil companies. Researchers warn that the decision ignores science.
By Coral Davenport

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration formally weakened a major climate-change regulation on Thursday — effectively freeing oil and gas companies from the need to detect and repair methane leaks — even as new research shows that far more of the potent greenhouse gas is seeping into the atmosphere than previously known. The rollback of the last major Obama-era climate rule is a gift to many beleaguered oil and gas companies, which have seen profits collapse from the Covid-19 pandemic. But it comes as scientists say that the need to rein in methane leaks at fossil fuel wells nationwide has become far more urgent, and new studies indicate that the scale of methane pollution could be driving the planet toward a climate crisis faster than expected. Andrew Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced at an event in Pittsburgh on Thursday that he had completed the legal process of lifting the methane regulation. He was speaking in a city at the heart of the nation’s natural-gas boom, and in a state that will be critical to winning this fall’s presidential election. “E.P.A. has been working hard to fulfill President Trump’s promise to cut burdensome and ineffective regulations for our domestic energy industry,” he said. “Regulatory burdens put into place by the Obama-Biden administration fell heavily on small and medium-sized energy businesses.”

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

(CNN) A federal judge in Pennsylvania told the Trump campaign and the Republican Party that they must produce evidence they have of vote-by-mail fraud in the state by Friday. The judge's order, in a high-profile case about vote-by-mail in the battleground state, essentially forces the Trump campaign to try to back up President Donald Trump's false claims about massive voter fraud in postal voting. "The Court finds that instances of voter fraud are relevant to the claims and defenses in this case," District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan wrote on Thursday, telling Republicans that they need to provide evidence of fraud to the Democratic Party and the Sierra Club, which are part of the lawsuit. The Democrats had asked for information and documents that would show steps the Republicans took to study the possibility of fraud, especially related to the use of dropboxes, ballot collection and mailed-in ballots in the primary elections.

A group of Pennsylvania voters are asking state officials to extend the counting deadline beyond Election Day.
By Dennis Romero

The U.S. Postal Service says it's unlikely there will be enough time to request, complete and return mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania to be counted for the Nov. 3 presidential election. Thomas J. Marshall, general counsel and executive vice president of the agency warned in a July 29 letter to State Secretary Kathy Boockvar of "a risk that ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them." The letter was revealed Thursday in a filing that's part of an ongoing lawsuit by a group of Pennsylvania voters who want state officials to extend the counting deadline beyond Election Day as a result of anticipated U.S. Postal Service delays for mail-in ballots.

The USPS did not immediately respond to request for comment Thursday night. State officials, including Boockvar, said in the filing Thursday that the plaintiffs were correct in claiming that there will be mail delays; state officials now say the deadline to receive mail-in ballots should be extended three days beyond Nov. 3 so long as there's not evidence a ballot was mailed after Election Day. The Postal Service sent a similar letter and warning to Washington's secretary of state, Kim Wyman, the Spokane Spokesman-Review reported Monday.

The concerns about mail delays and whether votes sent via the Postal Service will be counted come amid a political battle over providing funding for the agency so it can gear up to handle the extra volume. Pennsylvania last year passed a law that allows all its voters to vote by mail. Social distancing because of the pandemic has inspired officials coast-to-coast to limit polling places and encourage citizens to use the mailbox.

By Kevin Liptak, Abby Phillip and Devan Cole, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump requested mail-in ballots for Florida's primary election on Tuesday, according to Palm Beach County records, despite the President's frequent attacks on voting by mail. The records from the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections website show the ballots were mailed Wednesday to Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club, which he made his permanent residence last year. Despite Trump's rhetoric about voting by mail, the President has recently claimed that Florida's voting system is secure, tweeting earlier this month: "Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True. Florida's Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail!" White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere told CNN that "the President supports absentee voting, not universal mail-in voting, which contain several safeguards that prevent fraud and abuse."

Book by president’s former lawyer will be released in September after justice department gag order to stop publication was dropped
Guardian staff

A teaser for Michael Cohen’s book about his time as Donald Trump’s lawyer and fixer and his fall from grace was released on Thursday, after the US justice department had issued a gag order to stop the book’s publication that was later dropped. The book, entitled Disloyal: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J Trump, is slated to be released sometime in September, ahead of the presidential election in November. Cohen ginned up pre-sales and tweeted about it on Thursday. In the book’s foreword Cohen, 53, mentions writing in his federal prison cell in upstate New York in his green inmate uniform. He details his feelings of bewilderment at falling foul of the president of the United States after years of being “Trump’s first call every morning and his last call every night”.

“In some ways, I knew him better than even his family did because I bore witness to the real man,” he writes, calling Trump a con man, a predator, a racist, a bully and a liar. In his cell, Cohen was about a year in to serving a three-year sentence on federal charges of tax evasion, making false statements, lying to Congress and facilitating illegal payments to silence women about their alleged affairs with Trump in the past, which the president denies. But Cohen was released in May after fears of Covid-19 spreading in federal prisons. After tweeting that he was nearly finished with his book in July, Cohen was sent back to prison. The ACLU ended up joining a lawuit on his behalf to get him out, saying he was being retaliated against by the authorities, which was ultimately successful. A gag order from the justice department to halt the book’s publication was also dropped.

By Daniel Dale, Holmes Lybrand and Tara Subramaniam, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump spent years pushing lies about the birthplace and presidential eligibility of President Barack Obama, the first Black president. On Thursday, he started floating a new birther lie about Sen. Kamala Harris, who, if elected, would be the first Black and Asian American vice president. Trump's incendiary nonsense about Harris was part of a Thursday self-described "news conference" he largely used to campaign against his Democratic election opponents. Trump also made a series of false claims about former Vice President Joe Biden, Democrats more broadly, and, again, about mail-in voting.

Kamala Harris's eligibility
Trump was told about claims on "social media" that Harris might be ineligible to serve as president and vice president. He was then asked if he can definitively say that she meets the requirements. Trump said, "I heard today that she doesn't meet the requirements." He referred to a lawyer who raised the issue in a Newsweek article, Chapman University professor John Eastman, as "very highly qualified." Trump then said he has "no idea" whether it's true Harris doesn't meet the requirements. He then asked the reporter if she was saying Harris doesn't qualify because Harris "wasn't born in this country."

Facts First: Harris was born in Oakland, California. Therefore, as a natural born citizen, she meets the Constitution's requirements to serve as vice president or president. There is no serious question about this. The fact that Harris's parents were immigrants -- her father came from Jamaica, her mother from India -- does not change the fact that she is indisputably eligible.

Kevin Breuninger

President Donald Trump said that negotiations on additional coronavirus relief funding are at an impasse on Capitol Hill in large part because Democrats want to give billions of dollars to support the U.S. Postal Service and mail-in voting efforts. "They need that money in order to have the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots," Trump said in a Fox Business interview Thursday morning. "But if they don't get those two items that means you can't have universal mail-in voting, because they're not equipped to have it."

"If we don't make a deal, that means they don't get the money, that means they can't have universal mail-in voting. They just can't have it," Trump said. "Sort of a crazy thing. Very interesting." Trump had been asked what specifically was causing a breakdown in communication between the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill. The president has repeatedly claimed that the 2020 election will be "rigged" and rife with fraud if an expected surge of mail-in ballots is allowed to take place. Election experts say those claims are false.

By Ellie Kaufman, Marshall Cohen, Jason Hoffman and Nicky Robertson, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump said Thursday that he opposes much-needed funding for the United States Postal Service because he doesn't want to see it used for mail-in voting this November. By directly linking USPS funding to mail-in voting, Trump is fueling allegations that he is trying to manipulate the postal system for political gain. The pandemic has led to record-shattering levels of voting-by-mail, but Trump has tried to restrict the voting method because he says it will hurt his re-election and Republicans across the board. During an interview on Fox News, Trump said that if USPS does not receive the additional $25 billion funding request that Democrats included in the ongoing stimulus negotiations, then he believes the Post Office won't be able to handle the influx of mail-in ballots in the upcoming election.

"They want three and a half billion dollars for something that'll turn out to be fraudulent, that's election money basically. They want three and a half billion dollars for the mail-in votes. Universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion, billion, for the Post Office. Now they need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots," Trump said, repeating his false claims that mail-in voting would be "fraudulent." "But if they don't get those two items that means you can't have universal mail-in voting because you they're not equipped to have it," Trump added. Trump has criticized mail-in voting for months, baselessly asserting that it will lead to voter fraud. There is not widespread voter fraud in US elections, and nonpartisan experts say neither party automatically benefits when states expand access to mail-in voting.

By Abby Phillip, Jim Acosta and Betsy Klein, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump met with United States Postmaster General Louis DeJoy at the White House last week amid his ongoing attacks on mail-in voting and ahead of DeJoy's meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. "It was a congratulatory meeting," White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere told CNN. DeJoy, a longtime ally and prolific Trump fundraiser, took the post office's top role on June 15 amid a time of incredible strain at the US Postal Service. The agency is facing funding shortages and DeJoy has already faced bipartisan criticism for implementing disruptive changes in the role, including eliminating overtime for many workers. The meeting took place on August 3, Deere said. DeJoy met with Pelosi and Schumer on August 5.

Asked days later, August 9, in New Jersey about the Post Office's issues, Trump said he "didn't speak" to DeJoy and lauded him as "a very good businessman." "Well, I didn't speak to the Postmaster General of the Post Office. I know this: He's a very good businessman. He's very successful. And I know he wants to make the Post Office at least somewhat lose a lot less money than -- they've lost so much money over the decade. Nobody has ever -- nothing loses money like the Post Office. And he wants to make it successful," Trump told reporters at his Bedminster club, adding, "Let's see what he can do." The Washington Post first reported the meeting between the President and DeJoy. DeJoy acknowledged to USPS employees this week that recent procedural changes have had "unintended consequences," but described them as necessary.

Camila Domonoske

Israel and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to forge a path toward normal diplomatic relations, and Israel said as part of the agreement it will suspend its controversial plans to annex more territory in the West Bank. The historic deal was brokered during a call between leaders of the two nations and President Trump. The UAE's leader, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed, announced on Twitter that the deal calls for "setting a roadmap towards establishing a bilateral relationship." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the deal a historic breakthrough toward peace in the Middle East and the launch of a "new era" in Israeli relations with the Arab world.

Egypt and Jordan are the only two Arab nations that currently have normal diplomatic relations with Israel. The UAE has had informal contact with Israel for some time, and relations have been improving. The White House released a joint statement from the three countries, saying Israel and the UAE "will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, the establishment of reciprocal embassies and other areas of mutual benefit."

Randall Lane Forbes Staff

Exclusive new details on the ongoing conversations between the rap-and-sneaker mogul and “my boy,” the president’s son-in-law, just as his spoiler campaign heats up. As Kanye West’s bizarre presidential campaign has moved from Twitter sideshow to potential spoiler—the billionaire rapper this week released a website and campaign platform as he moves to get on the ballot in pivotal states—those around him increasingly worry about his mental health issues. And specifically whether one consigliere is trying to exploit them. According to multiple sources, White House senior advisor Jared Kushner has been speaking with West regularly since his July 4 tweet declaring that he was running for president.

While Republican operatives rush to try get him on ballots across the country, the New York Times reported earlier today that Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, met with West last weekend in Telluride, Colorado. The connection goes much further. West has been telling associates that he and Kushner speak “almost daily.” Forbes spoke with four people who have direct access to either West or Kushner, including two with direct knowledge of their conversations.

One thing that particularly upsets those close to the Yeezy sneaker mogul, who is openly bipolar, is his apparent delusion about his chances of winning: When I pointed out to West last week during an interview that he won’t be on enough ballots to win, and thus seemed intent on running a spoiler campaign designed to hurt presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, he responded, “I’m not going to argue with you.” But a few hours after the story appeared, West responded with a change of heart: “THE GOAL IS TO WIN,” he blared in a tweet that was liked more than 260,000 times.

Ron Stroman, who stepped down as deputy postmaster general this year, warned new policies at USPS could disenfranchise voters
The fight to vote is supported by
The Guardian

A former top official at the United States Postal Service (USPS) has warned that recent changes at the agency, now led by a Trump ally, could “disenfranchise” voters as they are implemented just months ahead of an election in which a record number of Americans are expected to vote by mail. Amid reports of significant mail delays, Ronald Stroman, who stepped down earlier this year as the second in command at USPS, said he was concerned about the speed and timing of changes that appeared to be implemented after Louis DeJoy, the new postmaster general, took office in June. USPS faces a financial crisis and every postmaster general is interested in cost savings and efficiency, Stroman said, but the question was how to balance those changes with the public’s needs.

“The concern is not only that you’re doing this in a pandemic, but a couple of months before an election with enormous consequences,” said Stroman, now a senior fellow at the Democracy Fund. “If you can’t right the ship, if you can’t correct these fast enough, the consequence is not just, OK, people don’t get their mail, it’s that you disenfranchise people. “Making these changes this close to an election is a high-risk proposition,” he added. Some delays this year have been because USPS workers have been unable to work during the Covid-19 pandemic. But fears increased after DeJoy, a major Trump donor with no prior USPS experience, took over the agency. Shortly after he started at the postal service, the Washington Post and other news organizations obtained internal documents saying the agency was prohibiting overtime and that postal workers should leave mail behind at processing plants if it would cause them to leave late.

Emails reveal experts at San Bernardino national wildlife refuge repeatedly sounded the alarm over grave threat to rare species
Nina Lakhani

Stark warnings by federal scientists and wildlife experts about the grave threat posed by Donald Trump’s border wall to rare and endangered species were repeatedly ignored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), according to documents seen by the Guardian. A cache of emails obtained using the Freedom of Information Act (Foia) by environmental groups reveal multiple efforts over several months by experts at the San Bernardino national wildlife refuge in south-eastern Arizona, to save rare desert springs and crystalline streams which provide the only US habitat for the endangered endemic Río Yaqui fish.

Even before Trump’s water-guzzling concrete barrier, the border region’s water reserves were depleted due to prolonged drought linked to the climate crisis. The expansion of water-intensive cash crops and urban growth have also drained aquifers in the arid region, leaving several endangered and threatened species wholly reliant on the freshwater ponds found in the refuge. In an email sent last October, the long-serving refuge manager, Bill Radke, warned colleagues at the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that the threat of groundwater depletion was a “dire emergency”.

By Clare Foran, Manu Raju and Haley Byrd, CNN

Washington (CNN) Top Republicans, including President Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, are embracing their party's nominee for a House seat in Georgia, despite her history of racist and anti-Semitic remarks and promotion of the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.
Trump gave a full-throated endorsement of Marjorie Taylor Greene on Wednesday after she won a primary runoff in Georgia, calling her a "future Republican Star" and "a real WINNER!" in a tweet.

Greene has drawn backlash from some GOP lawmakers -- and has even previously been rebuked by McCarthy and other House Republican leaders -- and put the party in a difficult position during an election year where control of the White House and Congress are at stake. But top Republicans are now backing her after she defeated John Cowan in a runoff. Top House Republican leaders were silent on Greene's victory Tuesday night and didn't weigh in for hours on Wednesday morning, but then offered an endorsement in response to questions from CNN.

CBS News

The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that Russia is actively seeking to boost President Trump's candidacy ahead of the 2020 presidential election. In an unprecedented statement outlining the candidate preferences of several foreign actors, National Counterintelligence and Security Center director Bill Evanina also said China "prefers that President Trump - whom Beijing sees as unpredictable - does not win reelection," and that Iran may try to "undermine" U.S. democratic institutions and the president, primarily through online and social media content.

By Tami Luhby

Police gather outside BLM activist home without warrant From cereal startups to fast-food chains, everyone wants to cash… CNN logo Coronavirus has already dealt a blow to Social Security's finances. Trump's payroll tax holiday could make it worse. President Donald Trump's executive action deferring, and possibly forgiving, payroll taxes could leave Social Security and Medicare on even shakier ground. The entitlement programs' finances have long been troubled. And the crush of coronavirus-induced layoffs has only deepened the problem by slashing the amount of payroll tax revenue going into their trust funds.A big fan of payroll tax cuts, Trump signed an executive action Saturday deferring the employee portion of payroll taxes -- 6.2% for Social Security and 1.45% for Medicare -- for workers making less than $100,000 a year through the rest of 2020.

If he's reelected, Trump said, he plans to forgive the taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll taxes. "I'm going to make them all permanent," he said. Otherwise, presumably, workers would have to pay the taxes at the end of the year. Trump sought to include the controversial measure -- which won't do anything to help the unemployed -- in the latest coronavirus relief package currently being hashed out on Capitol Hill. Republican senators have refused to do so, so the President is taking matters into his own executive hands, saying it has wide support.

By Daniel Dale

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump abruptly ended a Saturday news conference after a reporter challenged him on a lie about veterans health care he has told more than 150 times. Trump, speaking at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, had claimed again that he is the one who got the Veterans Choice program passed -- adding, "They've been trying to get that passed for decades and decades and decades and no president's ever been able to do it, and we got it done." In fact, former President Barack Obama signed the Choice program into law in 2014. The law, which allowed eligible veterans to be covered by the government for care provided by doctors outside the VA system, was a bipartisan initiative spearheaded by two senators Trump has repeatedly criticized, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and the late John McCain of Arizona. What Trump signed was a 2018 law, the VA MISSION Act, that modified and expanded the eligibility criteria from the Choice program. Rather than tout that bill, Trump has claimed over and over that he created Veterans Choice itself -- after others had failed for "50 years."

Blake Montgomery

Speaking at his resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, at his second press conference in two days Saturday, President Donald Trump abruptly ended a briefing when a CBS reporter challenged him on a lie he has repeated multiple times. Trump called on White House Correspondent Paula Reid, and she asked, “Why do you keep saying you passed Veterans Choice?” Trump attempted to move on to another reporter, but Reid continued speaking. “It was passed in 2014. But it was a false statement, sir.” Trump said earlier in the press conference that he had passed the Veterans Choice Act, which makes it possible for veterans to use their government health benefits at providers other than Veterans Administration hospitals. In reality, it was passed in 2014 under President Barack Obama. After Trump refused to answer the question multiple times, he cut off the briefing to the cheers of his supporters. Reid retweeted video of the exchange in its aftermath.

Tamara Keith, Matthew S. Schwartz

At his Bedminster, N.J., golf resort on Saturday, President Trump signed four executive actions to provide economic relief amid the coronavirus pandemic. The actions amount to a stopgap measure, after failing to secure an agreement with Congress. The three memorandums and one executive order call for extending enhanced unemployment benefits, extending a moratorium on evictions, continuing the suspension of student loan repayments, and deferring payroll taxes. Trump promised that funds would be "rapidly distributed" to Americans in need, although it remains unclear whether the president has the authority to do this unilaterally without congressional approval. In any case, legal challenges are expected, which could delay any disbursement of funds. In one memorandum, Trump authorized the federal government to pay $300 per week for people on unemployment. States would be asked to pay an additional $100, for a total of $400 weekly for unemployed workers. "If they don't, they don't. That's up to them," Trump said when asked what happens if governors don't have the funds available. "The states have the money. It's sitting there."

The president said his unmasked supporters were exempt from coronavirus regulations because they were engaged in a “peaceful protest” by way of jeering journalists.
Blake Montgomery

Members of President Trump’s New Jersey golf club derailed a Friday press conference with him to jeer at a reporter who confronted the president about COVID-19 deaths and noted that the guests themselves weren’t wearing masks. The moment arose after Trump repeated the lie that the new coronavirus pandemic, which he continually referred to as “the China virus,” would “disappear” and that it was already on track to do so. COVID-19 cases are actually rising across the country. A reporter pushed Trump about his well-documented habit of downplaying the virus: “You said that the pandemic is disappearing, but we lost 6,000 Americans this week, and just in this room, you have dozens of people not following the guidelines in New Jersey ... ”

Trump’s supporters at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster began booing before the reporter could finish his sentence, and the president shot back at the journalist: “No, they don’t have to. It’s a political activity. You’re wrong on that because they have exceptions for political activity. It’s also a peaceful protest.” To deafening cheers from his country club guests, Trump claimed that “it looks like they all have masks on” and pointed to “an exclusion in the law.” “It says, ‘Peaceful protests or political activity.’ You can call that political activity, but I’d call it peaceful protest because they heard you were coming up, and they know the news is fake. They understand it better than anybody,” he said, as his supporters cheered him on again.

Kevin Breuninger

Russia is trying to “undermine” presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s candidacy, while China and Iran are against President Donald Trump’s reelection, a leading U.S. intelligence official said Friday. The analysis of the three U.S. adversaries’ alleged interference efforts came in a statement from William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, who said he released the information to help Americans “play a critical role in safeguarding our election.” While many foreign actors have views on who should hold the White House, “We are primarily concerned about the ongoing and potential activity by China, Russia, and Iran,” Evanina said.

He warned that “foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process” ahead of the Nov. 3 election. “We are all in this together as Americans,” Evanina said in the statement. “Our election should be our own. Foreign efforts to influence or interfere with our elections are a direct threat to the fabric of our democracy.”

By Dan Berman, Katelyn Polantz and Ariane de Vogue, CNN

(CNN) The House of Representatives can sue to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify, a federal appeals court ruled Friday, but McGahn can continue to challenge the House's subpoena and likely will not have to appear anytime soon. A divided US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said McGahn's refusal to testify is grounds for the House to sue. The ruling is a win for Congress as a whole, emphasizing that it can sue to take an administration to court when there's a standoff between the branches, and a loss for President Donald Trump and the administration's attempt to expand executive powers. But in letting McGahn continue to challenge the subpoena on other grounds, the practical impact is that the court case is ongoing and he may not have to testify before the election.

In a 7-2 decision, the D.C. Circuit holds that the House has standing to ask courts to enforce subpoenas for executive branch information

A federal appeals court dealt a major setback Friday to President Donald Trump’s bid to prevent his former White House counsel Don McGahn from being forced to testify to a House committee. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled Friday, 7-2, that the House has legal standing to use the courts to compel McGahn to appear in response to a House Judiciary Committee subpoena. But the appeals court left open other legal arguments against the subpoena to McGahn, leaving it unclear when or if the former White House lawyer will actually be hauled before the House panel. The ruling Friday also left open the issue of what questions McGahn would have to answer. In short, it increased the possibility that the House panel might get to lob questions at McGahn before the November election, but it remains doubtful lawmakers will get much in the way of revealing answers any time soon.

The Justice Department argued in the case that under the Constitution the courts should not enforce House subpoenas demanding testimony or records from Executive Branch officials. But the D.C. Circuit majority rejected that position, drawing heavily on a Supreme Court ruling last month on separate cases involving House demands for the president’s financial records. Writing for the majority, D.C. Circuit Judge Judith Rogers noted that McGahn’s testimony was sought in connection with the House’s efforts to pursue its constitutional power to impeach the president. “To level the grave accusation that a President may have committed ‘Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,’ the House must be appropriately informed. And it cannot fully inform itself without the power to compel the testimony of those who possess relevant or necessary information,” wrote Rogers, an appointee of President Bill Clinton.

DOJ announced it filed two civil forfeiture complaints on Thursday: one for an office park in Dallas, and the other for an office tower in Louisville.

The Justice Department has moved to seize property from a powerful Ukrainian oligarch, according to court filings released Thursday. That oligarch, Igor Kolomoisky , has long been seen as allied with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Both men were important characters in the saga that led to President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The department filed two civil forfeiture complaints on Thursday: one for an office park in Dallas, and the other for an office tower in Louisville, Ky. The department estimates the properties together are worth $70 million. The complaints allege that Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Bogolyubov, his longtime business partner, embezzled and defrauded billions of dollars from a Ukrainian bank they owned, PrivatBank. The Ukrainian government seized control of the bank in 2016, and the top regulator who led that move subsequently faced a long series of death threats.

“Mr. Kolomoisky emphatically denies the allegations in the complaints filed today by the Department of Justice,” a lawyer for the oligarch said in a statement. As part of efforts by Rudy Giuliani to push Ukraine’s president to find dirt on Vice President Joe Biden, two then-allies of the former New York Mayor met with Kolomoisky in Tel Aviv in April 2019. Kolomoisky told a Ukrainian media outlet that the two men, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, wanted him to connect Giuliani with Zelensky. Kolomoisky called them “two clowns” and predicted the episode would end in scandal. The court filings do not charge Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov with any crimes. But the documents allege they stole billions of dollars from the bank, forcing the Ukrainian government to bail it out to stave off an economic crisis. They also paint a picture of an aggressive and sometimes-dangerous magnate.


In this week's edition of 'Unfiltered from Home,' host SE Cupp discusses presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's pick for vice president, which has yet to be announced. Cupp, a conservative, says she may vote for Joe Biden because she's so sick of President Donald Trump's behavior.


President Donald Trump issued executive orders that would ban the social media apps TikTok and WeChat from operating in the US in 45 days if they are not sold by their Chinese-owned parent companies. CNN’s Hadas Gold reports.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump's barrage of challenges to the reputation, structures and traditions of elections is conjuring up a contentious and potentially constitutionally critical three-month period for America's democracy. Trump is casting false accusations of massive fraud in mail-in voting, though has now reversed his position on the practice in must-win Florida, leaving the absurd impression it's only fair in states with Republican governors.
"I'm doing our country a big favor by bringing it up, and you know, from a common sense standpoint, if you look at it just out of common sense and pure basic beautiful intelligence -- you know it can't work," Trump said Wednesday.

Trump has baselessly claimed that the result of the November 3 vote will not be known for "years" -- apparently seeking to discredit in advance an election that polls suggest he is currently losing to Democrat Joe Biden. His campaign has now also initiated a new attempt to wring advantage from the customary arrangements for three presidential debates. It wants a fourth encounter added and for the clashes to start before the scheduled date of September 29, to take into account early voting that starts in some key states six weeks before the election. "Move the First Debate up," Trump tweeted on Thursday morning.

By Dan Merica and Jeff Zeleny, CNN

(CNN) Republican operatives, some with ties to President Donald Trump, are actively helping Kanye West get on presidential general election ballots in states ranging from Vermont to Arkansas to Wisconsin. The effort is raising questions about whether Republicans are pushing for the rapper's addition to the ballot as a way to potentially siphon voters from presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Until Tuesday, West's attempts to get his name on the ballot have only focused on states that are either dominated by Republicans or Democrats in presidential elections. But West's expected addition to the ballot in Wisconsin means the rapper will likely be a choice for voters in a battleground state that is key to both Trump and Biden's path to winning in November. "I like Kanye very much," Trump said at the White House on Wednesday evening. "I have nothing to do with him being on the ballot. I'm not involved."

Democrats in Wisconsin and beyond called it a blatant attempt to appeal to young Black voters who may be unenthused about the Biden campaign. Any downturn in turnout for Biden among young black voters, a group the Trump campaign has tried to target in the race against the former vice president, could impact the outcome in states with traditionally narrow margins, like Wisconsin. "Thankfully the Trump team is showing their cards that the real force driving Kanye West to run is not people but Trump," state Rep. David Bowen, a Democrat who represents Milwaukee, told CNN. "This is clearly a targeted effort by Republican operatives to cause confusion and problems for typically Democratic voters on Election Day."

By Manu Raju and Clare Foran, CNN

Washington (CNN) A Senate GOP leader raised concerns on Wednesday over President Donald Trump's unsubstantiated claims that mail-in-voting leads to mass fraud, arguing that Republicans should instead be encouraging voters to use the method in order to compete in a consequential election that will determine control of Congress and the White House. "Mail-in voting has been used in a lot of places for a long time," Senate Majority Whip John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said in the Capitol. "And honestly, we got a lot of folks, as you know, who are investing heavily to try to win that war, it's always a war too for mail-in ballots. Both sides compete and it's always an area where I think our side -- at least in my experience -- has done pretty well." The South Dakota Republican added, "I don't want to discourage -- I think we want to assure people it's going to work. It's secure and if they vote that way, it's going to count."

The comments come as a range of Republican officials throughout the country have reacted with growing alarm to the President's attacks on mail-in ballots, saying his unsubstantiated claims of mass voting fraud are already corroding the views of GOP voters, who may ultimately choose not to vote at all if they can't make it to the polls come November. Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has the potential to worsen in the fall, voting by mail is becoming an increasingly popular option since many voters may prefer not to wait in long lines at polling stations. Democrats could be handed a major advantage if their voters send their ballots by mail while Republican voters forgo that option because they are listening to the concerns of the President.
Asked by CNN if he's worried Trump will depress the GOP vote if he continues to make the claims, Thune said: "I think it's been expressed to him already in some states -- and I hope that message has been well received."

By Paul R. La Monica, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business) Moderna, one of the companies working on a treatment for Covid-19, said Wednesday that it's on track to finish enrollment for a phase 3 study of its vaccine by the end of September. The biotech, which has received funding from the United States' Operation Warp Speed program, also said it had about $400 million of customer deposits for a potential supply of its mRNA-1273 vaccine. Moderna made the announcement in its earnings release Wednesday morning. The company posted a loss that was smaller than expected but revenue that topped forecasts.

Gupta to Moderna exec: What's the likelihood vaccine works? 02:59 Shares of Moderna (MRNA) fell about 4% on the news, but the stock has soared nearly 300% this year on hopes that it will be able to develop a successful coronavirus vaccine. The company has also come under scrutiny from some investors as several insiders have sold stock as it has surged. People have also been closely watching to see what drug companies plan to charge for treatments after biotech Gilead Sciences (GILD) revealed in June that its remdesivir drug would cost $520 a vial, or $3,120 for a five-day course of six vials, for people covered by private heath insurance plans. But Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel vowed during a conference call with analysts that its vaccine would be affordable.

The Guardian

The Census Bureau will end its efforts to count every living person in the US a month earlier than expected, a move that will probably lead to an undercount of communities of color, poorer Americans and other hard-to-count groups. Such an undercount would be catastrophic for those communities. The numbers from the census, which happens every 10 years, are used to determine how nearly $1.5tn in federal funds get allocated and how electoral districts are drawn for the next decade. The bureau will shorten the deadline to respond to the census by a month and will end counting on 30 September, it announced on Monday. In April, the agency said it needed until 31 October to finish the count and asked Congress to give it a four-month extension of the 31 December deadline to produce data because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Monday’s announcement came after the bureau quietly removed references to the 31 October deadline from its website and offered no explanation for the reversal and the decision to cut back on the timeline. The abrupt reversal comes as Trump has shown renewed interest in using the census for partisan gain, and the decision to drop the additional follow-up appears to be an effort to produce data that disadvantages minority groups to use for the next decade. After unsuccessfully trying to add a citizenship question to the census, Trump ordered the Census Bureau last month not to count undocumented immigrants in the tally it uses to determine how districts are drawn. The order, already being challenged in court, is probably unconstitutional. The US constitution specifically requires the census to count all “persons”.

The shortened deadline will also curtail a critical census operation called non-response follow-up (NRFU), when bureau employees knock on doors to follow up with people who have not responded to the census. Experts and census advocates are deeply worried about curtailing the operation, noting that NRFU is one of the most important ways the bureau ensures traditionally hard-to-count groups get included in the census. “If you reduce your efforts, the most likely populations you’re not going to count are the hard-to-count,” said John Thompson, the director of the Census Bureau from 2013 to 2017.

By Jennifer Hansler and Michael Conte, CNN

Wasnington (CNN) Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday that "most believe" that the explosion in Beirut "was an accident, as reported," despite President Donald Trump's claim a day prior that it was an attack. The US is "still getting information on what happened" in regard to the blast in the Lebanese capital, Esper said. US defense officials also told CNN there was no indication the explosion was an attack, despite Trump's assertion Tuesday. Esper's remarks came as part of a discussion at the annual Aspen Security Forum, where he said he spoke about the blast with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Wednesday morning. "We're reaching out to the Lebanese government, have reached out. We're positioning ourselves to provide them whatever assistance we can, humanitarian aid, medical supplies, you name it, to assist the people of Lebanon," said Esper. On Wednesday, Pompeo spoke with Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, expressing his condolences and pledging assistance in the wake of the explosion that rocked Beirut Tuesday.

"The secretary reaffirmed our steadfast commitment to assist the Lebanese people as they cope with the aftermath of this terrifying event," a readout from State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Cale Brown said. "Secretary Pompeo further stressed our solidarity with and support for the Lebanese people as they strive for the dignity, prosperity, and security they deserve." Although the cause of the blast is unclear, Diab said Wednesday that about 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material, had been stored at a port warehouse for the past six years "without preventive measures."

Carrie Johnson

Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates defended a sensitive Justice Department investigation into onetime Trump aide Michael Flynn on Wednesday, telling lawmakers Flynn was essentially "neutering" American sanctions and undercutting the Obama administration by "making nice" with a foreign adversary after Russia's unprecedented attack on the 2016 election. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Yates said Flynn's lies to the FBI were "absolutely material to a legitimate investigation" — contradicting the rationale the Justice Department has now offered in seeking to dismiss the case.

Yates, who was a prosecutor for nearly 30 years, said the effort to drop a prosecution against a defendant who twice pleaded guilty was "highly irregular." "If Gen. Flynn didn't think he was doing anything problematic, then he wouldn't have needed to do anything to cover it," Yates said of Flynn's false statements about his conversations with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in late 2016. Flynn told Vice President Pence and then FBI investigators he hadn't asked Kislyak to press his government not to escalate its retaliation against punitive steps the outgoing administration of President Barack Obama was taking. Actually, documents later proved, Flynn had.

David Choi

President Donald Trump repeatedly stopped short of describing the late Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia as an impressive individual, and instead, boasted about his own credentials as it relates the African-American community, during an Axios interview that aired on Monday. Asked by Axios reporter Jonathan Swan about how history would remember Lewis, Trump replied: "I don't know. I really don't know."

"He chose not to come to my inauguration," Trump said. "He chose, I never met John Lewis, I don't believe." Lewis, the longtime lawmaker from Georgia and civil rights leader, died at 80 in July, seven months after he was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. Lewis's accomplishments for the civil rights movement, which include marches with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., were widely praised by both Republicans and Democrats. Following Swan's initial question, the reporter pressed Trump for a clearer answer: "Do you find him impressive?"

Trump replied that he could not "say one way or the other" if Lewis was impressive, adding that the Democrat did not come to his inauguration. "I find a lot of people impressive," Trump said. "I find many people not impressive, but no, he didn't come to my inauguration. "He didn't come to my State of the Union speeches, and that's ok," Trump added. "That's his right. And again, nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have. He should've come. I think he made a big mistake."

New York’s Cyrus Vance is seeking eight years of tax returns. Reports of ‘extensive and protracted criminal conduct’ cited
Associated Press

A New York prosecutor trying to access Donald Trump’s tax returns told a judge on Monday that he was justified in demanding them, citing public reports of “extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization”. Trump’s lawyers last month said the grand jury subpoena for the tax returns was issued in bad faith and amounted to harassment of the president. The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, is seeking eight years of the Republican president’s personal and corporate tax records, but has disclosed little about what prompted him to request the records, other than part of the investigation relates to payoffs to women to silence them about alleged affairs with Trump in the past.

In a court filing on Monday, though, attorneys for Vance said Trump’s arguments that the subpoena was too broad stemmed from “the false premise” that the investigation was limited to so-called “hush-money” payments. “This Court is already aware that this assertion is fatally undermined by undisputed information in the public record,” Vance’s lawyers wrote. They said that information confirms the validity of a subpoena seeking evidence related to potentially improper financial transactions by a variety of individuals and entities over a period of years.

By Kara Scannell and Erica Orden, CNN

(CNN) Manhattan prosecutors on Monday asked a federal judge to dismiss President Donald Trump's lawsuit challenging a subpoena for his financial records, emphasizing that their investigation extends beyond hush-money payments and pointing to public reports of "extensive and protracted criminal conduct" at the Trump Organization. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance's lawyers have previously said the probe is expansive, and on Monday they pointed out that when the subpoena was issued, "there were public allegations of possible criminal activity at Plaintiff's New York County-based Trump Organization dating back over a decade." Last week, lawyers for Trump filed an amended complaint seeking to block the state grand jury subpoena to Trump's long-time accountant Mazars USA for eight years of personal and business records by arguing the subpoena was "wildly overbroad" and issued in bad faith. Trump's latest legal challenge comes after the US Supreme Court ruled last month that the President does not have broad immunity from a state grand jury subpoena.

In their court papers earlier Monday, lawyers for Vance wrote of Trump's amended complaint: "This 'new' filing contains nothing new whatsoever, and Plaintiff has utterly failed to make a 'stronger showing of bad faith than he previously made to this Court." The district attorney's office added that Trump's lawyers are relying on a false assumption that the investigation is limited to hush-money payments made to two women during the 2016 presidential campaign who alleged affairs with Trump. Trump has denied the affairs. "Plaintiff's argument that the Mazars Subpoena is overbroad fails for the additional reason that it rests on the false premise that the grand jury's investigation is limited to so-called 'hush-money' payments made by Michael Cohen on behalf of Plaintiff in 2016," the district attorney's office said. CNN has previously reported that Vance is investigating other transactions that go beyond the hush-money payments.

Source: AP

In an extraordinary clip from Jonathan Swan's Axios interview with Donald Trump, the president rifled through a sheaf of graphs to claim that the US has lower numbers of coronavirus than other nations. The pair debated Trump's point that America has a lower number of deaths as a percentage of coronavirus cases, but when Swain pointed instead to the number of US Covid-19 deaths as a population percentage, Trump said: 'You can't do that'

By Ryan Browne, CNN

(CNN) A controversial Trump administration pick for a top Pentagon post has been placed into a senior role days after his nomination hearing was canceled amid bipartisan opposition to his nomination. Retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata has formally withdrawn his nomination to be the Defense Department undersecretary of defense for policy and has been designated "the official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy reporting to the Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Dr. James Anderson," a Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement.

When the nomination hearing for Tata was canceled Thursday, President Donald Trump told aides the plan was to put him in a position he could have without a confirmation hearing, according to a source familiar with the discussions. The role he'll be in now is essentially the deputy of the role he had been nominated for. It was previously reported that Trump had a call with Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe the evening prior and that the Oklahoma Republican bluntly told the President his nominee was in trouble. Tata was expected to face a tough nomination hearing on Thursday before the committee after CNN's KFile reported that he made numerous Islamophobic and offensive comments and promoted conspiracy theories.
"There are many Democrats and Republicans who didn't know enough about Anthony Tata to consider him for a very significant position at this time," Inhofe said last week.

A GOP aide to a lawmaker who previously expressed concern about Tata's nomination told CNN that the administration's move regarding Tata "was a matter of when, not if." Withdrawing his nomination was legally necessary so he could be placed in a role to perform the duties. Steve Vladeck, a CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law, said in a tweet Sunday the administration's move is "all a naked end-run around" the federal provision that bars Tata from being named to the same position he was nominated for -- unless he's spent 90 days as the first assistant to the position. "That clock is now running," Vladeck said. House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith, a Washington Democrat, expressed opposition to the move in a statement Sunday.

Anthony Tata has been designated as the official 'performing the duties of' the deputy undersecretary of defense policy.

President Donald Trump has installed a nominee for a top Pentagon job in a senior Department of Defense post on a temporary basis after lawmakers abruptly canceled his confirmation hearing last week amid lingering questions about his fitness for the role. Retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, a novelist, former state government official and Fox News regular, withdrew Sunday from consideration to be undersecretary of defense for policy, a position that requires Senate confirmation, the Pentagon said in a statement emailed to POLITICO Sunday. Instead, he has been designated as the official "performing the duties of" the deputy undersecretary of defense policy. The position Tata will assume is one that James H. Anderson was confirmed for in June; Anderson has also been serving as acting undersecretary of defense policy and will remain in that post.

Since Trump announced his intent to nominate Tata earlier this year, the former Army general has been widely criticized for tweets calling former President Barack Obama a "terrorist leader" and referring to Islam as the "most oppressive violent religion I know of," among other controversial statements. Tata later said he regretted the now-deleted tweets. His nomination to be undersecretary of defense for policy, the department's number three official, was upended Thursday when the Senate Armed Services Committee canceled his confirmation hearing minutes before it was scheduled to begin.

The president’s long campaign against the Postal Service is intersecting with his assault on mail-in voting amid concerns that he has politicized oversight of the agency.
By Michael D. Shear, Hailey Fuchs and Kenneth P. Vogel

WASHINGTON — Welcome to the next election battleground: the post office. President Trump’s yearslong assault on the Postal Service and his increasingly dire warnings about the dangers of voting by mail are colliding as the presidential campaign enters its final months. The result has been to generate new concerns about how he could influence an election conducted during a pandemic in which greater-than-ever numbers of voters will submit their ballots by mail.

In tweet after all-caps tweet, Mr. Trump has warned that allowing people to vote by mail will result in a “CORRUPT ELECTION” that will “LEAD TO THE END OF OUR GREAT REPUBLICAN PARTY” and become the “SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES.” He has predicted that children will steal ballots out of mailboxes. On Thursday, he dangled the idea of delaying the election instead.

Members of Congress and state officials in both parties rejected the president’s suggestion and his claim that mail-in ballots would result in widespread fraud. But they are warning that a huge wave of ballots could overwhelm mail carriers unless the Postal Service, in financial difficulty for years, receives emergency funding that Republicans are blocking during negotiations over another pandemic relief bill.

At the same time, the mail system is being undercut in ways set in motion by Mr. Trump. Fueled by animus for Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, and surrounded by advisers who have long called for privatizing the post office, Mr. Trump and his appointees have begun taking cost-cutting steps that appear to have led to slower and less reliable delivery.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has begun an inquiry into multiple reports in the Brazilian media that the U.S. ambassador was framing negotiations over ethanol tariffs in partisan terms.
By Ernesto Londoño, Manuela Andreoni and Letícia Casado

RIO DE JANEIRO — Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Friday they were “extremely alarmed” by assertions that the American ambassador in Brazil had signaled to Brazilian officials they could help get President Trump re-elected by changing their trade policies. In a letter sent Friday afternoon, Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel demanded that the ambassador, Todd Chapman, produce “any and all documents referring or related to any discussions” he has held with Brazilian officials in recent weeks about their nation’s tariffs on ethanol, an important agricultural export for Iowa, a potential swing state in the American presidential election.

The committee’s letter was sent in response to reports in the Brazilian news media this week saying that Mr. Chapman, a career diplomat, made it clear to Brazilian officials they could bolster Mr. Trump’s electoral chances in Iowa if Brazil lifted its ethanol tariffs. Eliminating tariffs would give the Trump administration a welcome trade victory to present to struggling ethanol producers in Iowa, where the president is in a close race with his Democratic rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

By Brooke Seipel

Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee say they are "extremely alarmed" by reports out of Brazil that the U.S. ambassador in the country framed trade negotiations as being beneficial to reelecting President Trump, according to a report by The New York Times. News media in Brazil have reported that U.S. ambassador Todd Chapman told officials in the country it would give a boost to Trump's reelection chances if the two nations were able to reach a deal on lifting ethanol tariffs. Brazil currently has tariffs on the key export from Iowa, a swing-state that will be crucial in November as polls already show a tight race. The State Department has asserted in a statement to the Times that the allegation "Chapman has asked Brazilians to support a specific U.S. candidate are false," and that the US will keep working to reduce the tariffs.

A day before, Trump suggested the vote in the United States should be postponed.
By Ben Gittleson

The White House on Friday condemned Hong Kong for delaying its upcoming legislative elections for a year even as President Donald Trump a day earlier elicited significant backlash for suggesting the United States postpone its own November vote. Earlier Friday, Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam used emergency powers to push back the city's hotly contested legislative council elections, a day after a dozen pro-democracy activists had been barred from running. "We condemn the Hong Kong government's decision to postpone for one year its Legislative Council elections and to disqualify opposition candidates," White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at a news conference.

She went on, "This action undermines the democratic processes and freedoms that have underpinned Hong Kong's prosperity and this is only the most recent in a growing list of broken promises by Beijing, which promised autonomy and freedoms to the Hong Kong people until 2047 in the Sino-British Joint Declaration."

Lam cited the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus for her decision to delay the vote, in which pro-democracy candidates were expected to gain a historic majority in the legislature. They had gained support amid anti-Beijing protests and the unpopularity of a restrictive national security law enacted by mainland China. The White House's censure of a foreign government delaying its election came just one day after Trump had suggested postponing this year's general election in the United States.

Miles Parks

President Trump's claims about why November's election could be marred and illegitimate shifted again Thursday, after he walked back his desire to potentially delay voting. Trump falsely claimed that the U.S. is sending out "hundreds of millions of universal mail-in ballots" and also repeated a conspiracy theory about foreign countries counterfeiting ballots. "We are sending out hundreds of millions of universal mail-in ballots," Trump said. "Where are they going? Who are they being sent to?" Trump seemed to be referencing California, which has decided to send a mail ballot to all of the state's more than 20 million registered voters ahead of the presidential election. A handful of states also send ballots to all registered voters, but no states send ballots out to people who are not registered to vote.

In May, Trump similarly falsely claimed that California was sending ballots to anyone, "no matter who they are or how they got there." Twitter added a fact-check warning to the tweet shortly after it was published. Trump also repeated a fear that he and Attorney General William Barr have raised, about foreign countries counterfeiting ballots. Neither Trump nor Barr have explained how such a plot could successfully pass the numerous safeguards election officials have in place, like barcodes and signature verification, instead they have said as Trump did Thursday, that the threat was "obvious."

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

(CNN) The Department of Homeland Security has gathered intelligence reports on two US journalists who published leaked unclassified government documents while covering the unrest in Portland, Oregon, The Washington Post reported Thursday. Three Open Source Intelligence Reports that were sent to federal law enforcement agencies and obtained by the Post summarize tweets sent by two journalists -- New York Times reporter Mike Baker and Benjamin Wittes, the editor-in-chief of the blog Lawfare -- and note that both had published leaked DHS documents. Some of those documents, the newspaper reported, disclosed the techniques of intelligence analysts and laid bare issues of DHS confusion about the nature of the protests in Portland.

The department told the Post in a statement that the reports "were produced under pre-established classified intelligence reporting requirements that are developed through a rigorous process to include legal and Intelligence oversight guidelines." CNN has reached out to DHS for comment on the story. But a collection of current and former officials told the newspaper they were alarmed about the inclusion of reporters in a government system designed to disseminate information about suspected terrorists. John Sandweg, who previously served as acting general counsel for the department, told the Post, "This has no operational value whatsoever." "This will just damage the intelligence office's reputation," he said. That message was echoed by Steve Bunnell, who served as the department's general counsel for years under President Barack Obama.

By Nikki Schwab, Senior U.s. Political Reporter and Emily Goodin, Senior U.s. Political Reporter For Dailymail.com

Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain died from the coronavirus. The news was posted on his personal website and reported by Newsmax, a conservative media company he had recently joined. He had been in an Atlanta-area hospital for COVID-19 all month, two days after testing positive for the virus. Cain attended Trump's disastrous June 20th rally in Tulsa, where eight members of the advance team tested positive for the coronavirus and the campaign staff had to self-isolate afterward in case of infection.

'Herman Cain embodied the American Dream and represented the very best of the American spirit,' tweeted White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany Thursday. 'Our hearts grieve for his loved ones, and they will remain in our prayers at this time. We will never forget his legacy of grace, patriotism, and faith.' Cain was 74.    

CBS News

Federal agents tear-gassed protesters again and made arrests as several hundred people demonstrated in downtown Portland late Wednesday and early Thursday, hours after state leaders announced federal agents would soon leave the city, CBS Portland affiliate KOIN-TV reports. It was the 62nd night in a row of protests there. Governor Kate Brown said early Wednesday that all Customs and Border Protection & ICE agents would depart Portland and be replaced by Oregon State Police beginning Thursday. But acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said the agents would stay put "until we are assured that the Hatfield Federal Courthouse and other federal properties will no longer be attacked." Federal agents issued their first warning of the night shortly before 11 p.m., cautioning people to leave the fence around the courthouse alone or face potential arrest. A few minutes later, they started deploying tear gas and crowd control munitions. Some people could be seen climbing over the fence and climbing back out at about 11:30 p.m. Federal agents fired another round of tear gas and stun grenades but a large crowd remained crushed against the fence, undeterred.

Rachel Treisman

A number of people arrested at demonstrations in Portland, Ore., say the terms of their release prevent them from attending protests going forward, a stipulation First Amendment experts have called cause for concern. ProPublica reported on Tuesday that at least a dozen protesters arrested in recent weeks are prohibited from attending demonstrations within city or state limits, or in general, while they await trials on federal misdemeanor charges. Protesters say this was one of several conditions — including abiding by a curfew, avoiding the area surrounding the federal courthouse and appearing for court dates — that they had to agree to in order to leave jail.

Bailey Dreibelbis, 23, is one such protester. He told NPR's Vanessa Romo that he was arrested on the evening of July 22 and released the following afternoon on certain conditions, including that he would not attend any more protests in Portland. Of the terms of his release, Dreibelbis said his public defender was "pretty clear that if I wanted to be out of there that day, that I would have to take them." "She kind of chuckled with me, because I didn't do anything illegal upon arrest," he added. "I did not assault an officer, I did not set anything on fire."

By Kevin Liptak and Betsy Klein, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump explicitly floated delaying November's presidential election on Thursday, lending extraordinary voice to persistent concerns that he would seek to circumvent voting in a contest where he currently trails his opponent by double digits. Trump has no authority to delay an election, and the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the date for voting. Yet Trump's message provides an opening -- long feared by Democrats -- that both he and his supporters might refuse to accept the results of the presidential results. But in his tweet on Thursday morning -- coming 96 days before the election and minutes after the federal government reported the worst economic contraction in recorded history -- Trump offered the suggestion because he claimed without evidence the contest will be flawed. "With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA," he wrote. "Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"

Opinion by Max Boot

So Jonathan Swan of Axios did what Chris Wallace of Fox News did not do in an otherwise admirable interview with President Trump: He asked about the reports of Russia placing bounties on the heads of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. The responses were as appalling as you might expect, with the “America First” president once again turning into a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Swan began by asking whether Trump had discussed the reported bounties during his phone call with Putin on July 23. “No, that was a call to discuss other things,” Trump said, explaining that they discussed “nuclear proliferation, which is a very big problem.” Nuclear proliferation is indeed important, although it’s doubtful that Putin has either the ability or the willingness to do much about it. But Putin does have it in his power to stop the headhunting of U.S. troops — if, in fact, it has occurred. But Trump did not ask him to do so or upbraid him for reportedly having carried out such operations in the past. To listen to Trump, the threat to the soldiers under his command wasn’t important enough to bring up.

Trump again cast doubt on the extensive reports, calling them “fake news.” In fact, according to news reporting, the CIA was convinced of the veracity of the claims — especially after Navy SEALs uncovered $500,000 in cash at a Taliban outpost — while the National Security Agency was more skeptical. But the intelligence was credible enough to be widely circulated. Trump flat-out lied when he claimed: “It never reached my desk.” It was reportedly included in the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) in late February. Granted, Trump seldom reads the PDB (in spite of his laughable claim to Swan that “I read it a lot,” and “I comprehend extraordinarily well, probably better than anyone you’ve interviewed in a long time”), but that’s no excuse.

By Betsy Klein, CNN

(CNN) White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was pressed Wednesday on why a coronavirus stimulus bill includes $1.75 billion for a new FBI building. "So, this was part of the President's priority of updating the FBI building, keeping it in DC, and it's been one of the things that's been mentioned that's in this bill and it's a part of one of the President's priorities and it's been a priority for several months," she said during an appearance on CBS News. Asked again what that provision was doing in the coronavirus bill, McEnany couldn't say, but said it is "not a dealbreaker."
President Donald Trump said later Wednesday that a new FBI building has been in the works "for many years," and he thought it was "crazy" that they would consider moving it to the suburbs of Virginia or Maryland.

Jamie Ross

President Donald Trump appeared to excuse Russia providing weapons to the Taliban, saying that the United States once did the same thing. In an interview with Axios on HBO, Trump dismissed intelligence that Russia offered bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops—and then went on to cast doubt on claims that Russia supplies arms to the insurgents. The former head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan has said clearly and on the record that Russia does indeed smuggle weapons across the Tajik border to the Taliban. Asked about whether he believes that is the case, Trump said: “Well, we supplied weapons when they were fighting Russia too.

Jonathan Swan, Dave Lawler

President Trump has never confronted Vladimir Putin with intelligence indicating Russia paid the Taliban to kill U.S. troops, he told “Axios on HBO” in an interview on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Democrats have seized on the issue, and Trump's reluctance to discuss it, as evidence he’s unwilling to challenge Putin even when American lives are at stake. Trump spoke with Putin on Thursday, and subsequently deflected a question about whether he’d raised the alleged bounty scheme, saying on Monday: “We don't talk about what we discussed, but we had plenty of discussion.” In Tuesday’s interview, he was definitive: “I have never discussed it with him.” Pressed on why he didn’t raise the matter in Thursday’s call, he said: “That was a phone call to discuss other things, and frankly that’s an issue that many people said was fake news.” President Trump has never confronted Vladimir Putin with intelligence indicating Russia paid the Taliban to kill U.S. troops, he told “Axios on HBO” in an interview on Tuesday.

The president is pushing the coronavirus theories of a Houston doctor who also says sexual visitations by demons and alien DNA are at the root of Americans’ common health concerns.
Will Sommer

A Houston doctor who praises hydroxychloroquine and says that face masks aren’t necessary to stop transmission of the highly contagious coronavirus has become a star on the right-wing internet, garnering tens of millions of views on Facebook on Monday alone. Donald Trump Jr. declared the video of Stella Immanuel a “must watch,” while Donald Trump himself retweeted the video. Before Trump and his supporters embrace Immanuel’s medical expertise, though, they should consider other medical claims Immanuel has made—including those about alien DNA and the physical effects of having sex with witches and demons in your dreams. Immanuel, a pediatrician and a religious minister, has a history of making bizarre claims about medical topics and other issues. She has often claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches.

She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by “reptilians” and other aliens. Immanuel gave her viral speech on the steps of the Supreme Court at the “White Coat Summit,” a gathering of a handful of doctors who call themselves America’s Frontline Doctors and dispute the medical consensus on the novel coronavirus. The event was organized by the right-wing group Tea Party Patriots, which is backed by wealthy Republican donors.

In her speech, Immanuel alleges that she has successfully treated hundreds of patients with hydroxychloroquine, a controversial treatment Trump has promoted and says he has taken himself. Studies have failed to find proof that the drug has any benefit in treating COVID-19, and the Food and Drug Administration in June revoked its emergency authorization to use it to treat the deadly virus, saying it hadn’t demonstrated any effect on patients’ mortality prospects.

DREAMers are facing limbo yet again as Trump explores ending DACA for a second time.
By Nicole Narea

The Trump administration announced Tuesday that it is considering trying again to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and will not be accepting new applications from immigrants who hope to gain its protections, throwing the future of hundreds of thousands young immigrants who came to the US as children into doubt. The Supreme Court ruled on June 18 that President Donald Trump couldn’t end the program, which has allowed almost 700,000 unauthorized immigrants known as “DREAMers” to live and work in the US free from fear of deportation, without a more robust rationale. In the weeks since that decision, the administration had remained silent as to whether it would consequently start accepting new applications for the program, causing confusion among those who have been waiting for years for a chance to apply.

Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, clarified Tuesday that the administration is reviewing the policy further and may well move forward with ending the program. In the meantime, it will impose new restrictions on applicants — a move that immigrant advocates say is a blatant violation of the Supreme Court’s decision. That review will examine the legality of the DACA program, which former President Barack Obama created via executive order in 2012, and its impact on immigration trends, a senior administration official told reporters. “I have concluded that the DACA policy, at a minimum, presents serious policy concerns that may warrant its full rescission,” Wolf wrote in a policy memorandum issued Tuesday. “At the same time, I have concluded that fully rescinding the policy would be a significant administration decision that warrants additional careful consideration.”

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Spurred on by President Donald Trump’s demand to pull troops out of Germany, the U.S. will bring about 6,400 forces home and shift about 5,400 to other countries in Europe, U.S. defense officials said Wednesday, detailing a Pentagon plan that will cost billions of dollars and take years to complete. The decision fulfills Trump’s announced desire to withdraw troops from Germany, at least in part due to its failure to spend enough on defense. U.S. officials said that some moves will begin in months, and would likely send air and ground forces to countries that already have an American troop presence. The plan leaves about 25,000 troops in Germany.

The announcement is closely tied to the plan to increase the U.S. troop presence in Poland, a shift long-desired by Warsaw and Polish President Andrzej Duda. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss plans not yet announced, said the moves will cost “billions” and require construction at bases in the U.S. to accommodate the additional forces. The officials said that in the future other troops would rotate in and out of Europe. Members of Trump’s own political party have criticized the troop move as a gift to Russia and a threat to U.S. national security. Twenty-two Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee fired back with a letter to Trump saying a reduced U.S. commitment to Europe’s defense would encourage Russian aggression and opportunism. It’s also unclear if the plan would survive if Trump is not reelected.

By Ryan Browne and Zachary Cohen, CNN

(CNN) The US is to withdraw nearly 12,000 troops from Germany in a move that has attracted bipartisan congressional opposition and roiled key allies who see the move as a blow to NATO. President Donald Trump's decision to pull thousands of troops will take years to execute and will potentially cost billions of dollars to bring about, according to US defense officials. The plan to pull US troops from the long-time NATO ally has been met with broad bipartisan opposition amid concerns that it will weaken the US military's position vis a vis Russia, however the Trump Administration has decided to proceed with the move.

Approximately 11,900 US troops, a mix of Army and Air Force units, will be removed from Germany to meet Trump's mandated cap of 25,000 US forces in Germany, according to a senior US defense official, a number higher than the figure of 9,500 that was used when the reduction was first announced. The formal announcement was made Wednesday during a briefing at the Pentagon by Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
"The current EUCOM plan will reposition approximately 11,900 military personnel from Germany, from roughly 36,000 down to 24,000, in a manner that will strengthen NATO, enhance the deterrence of Russia, and meet the other principles I set forth," he told reporters, referring to US European Command which oversees US military forces on the continent.

The president’s halting attention to the civil rights icon’s death stands in contrast to the immediate praise he offered for TV personality Regis Philbin.

When John Lewis, the civil rights icon and longtime Democratic congressman from Georgia, died at the age of 80 a little over a week ago, President Donald Trump publicly ignored his passing for about 12 hours. As the news broke late on a Friday and remembrances poured in, the president was blasting out nearly four dozen tweets and retweets about various other topics, from his niece’s scathing new book to former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump’s muted reaction to the death of a historic figure — albeit one with whom he disagreed — is just the latest instance of how he struggles to respond as a typical president would in these situations, an issue that critics have pounced on in recent months as coronavirus deaths continue to pile up with only passing mentions from Trump.

It’s also an illustration of the strikingly different ways Trump has treated the passing of iconic figures, a contrast that was brought into stark relief by how he reacted to the death of a beloved TV personality on Saturday. “One of the greats in the history of television, Regis Philbin has passed on to even greater airwaves, at 88,” Trump wrote on Twitter shortly after news of the longtime entertainer’s death broke. “He was a fantastic person, and my friend.” Philbin, Trump noted, “holds the record for ‘most live television’, and he did it well. Regis, we love you … And to Joy, his wonderful wife who he loved so much, my warmest condolences!!!” Trump added that Philbin had always urged him to run for president. Trump did finally address Lewis’ death, issuing a 23-word tweet on the afternoon of July 18 that described his sadness at hearing the news and sent prayers to the lawmaker and his family. A few hours before that, the White House issued a proclamation from Trump ordering flags be flown at half-staff for the rest of the day.

Jacob Pramuk

Critics of President Donald Trump’s new budget are accusing him of breaking a key campaign promise ahead of his 2020 re-election bid. His fiscal 2020 proposal unveiled Monday calls for reductions in funding for Medicare and Medicaid relative to current law. Over a decade, the plan would shave an estimated $800 billion or more off Medicare, which covers older Americans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation and various reports. It would also cut spending on Medicaid, the federal-state program that insures low-income Americans, by more than $200 billion while setting up block grants to states.

Congress ultimately decides what money to spend, and Trump’s proposal is not likely to get through Capitol Hill. Still, a budget represents a president’s priorities even if it may not ultimately impact Americans’ lives. For Trump — who during his 2016 presidential bid promised not to cut the popular Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security programs — the proposal opens another vulnerability as he tries to hold on to the White House. In 2015, he declared that he “was the first and only” possible GOP presidential candidate to “state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid.”

By Marissa J. Lang

PORTLAND, Ore. — Protesters who say they were tear-gassed, shot at, pepper-sprayed and assaulted outside a federal courthouse while peacefully demonstrating and rendering aid to others sued the Trump administration Monday over its use of force during nightly demonstrations in downtown Portland. A group of five women and two organizations, including longtime Black Lives Matter protesters and the yellow-clad Wall of Moms group that assembles nightly to stand between protesters and federal law enforcement officers, filed a lawsuit alleging that several agencies — the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Federal Protective Service — have violated their constitutional rights of free speech, assembly and due process and against unreasonable seizures.

The agencies named in the lawsuit have deployed agents to protect the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse from a nightly barrage of fireworks and projectiles, including water bottles, canned food and paint, during demonstrations against police violence, racial inequity and what many in Portland have come to view as a federal occupation. The lawsuit marks the latest court battle to rise from the smoke and gas of the nightly standoffs in Oregon’s largest city. The American Civil Liberties Union in the past week sued the Trump administration and the Portland police department over alleged attacks on street medics, volunteers who render medical aid to injured demonstrators. U.S. District Judge Michael Simon issued a restraining order that bars federal agents from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest or targeting journalists or legal observers at protests.

By Morgan Chalfant

President Trump does not plan to visit the Capitol to honor the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), he told reporters Monday. “I won’t be going, no,” Trump said before departing the White House for a trip to North Carolina when asked if he planned to visit the Capitol either Monday or Tuesday to pay his respects to Lewis. Vice President Pence and second lady Karen Pence are scheduled to visit the Capitol, where Lewis will lie in state in the rotunda, Monday evening after the vice president returns from a trip to Florida to discuss coronavirus vaccine research.

Lewis’s casket arrived at the Capitol just as Trump was leaving Washington, D.C., for North Carolina. The casket will be displayed outside at the top of the steps of the Capitol later Monday so that members of the public can pay their respects while maintaining distance because of the coronavirus pandemic. The outdoor public viewing will be continued during the day Tuesday.

In 1920, an honest federal official exposed outrageous raids on 'radicals.' One longs for an executive branch official with the guts to stand up to Trump.
Ellis Cose Opinion columnist

If President Donald Trump has his way,federal law enforcement agents like those in Portland, Oregon, could soon head to other cities with Democratic mayors: “I’m going to do something — that, I can tell you. Because we’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these … we’re not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats.” The horrible “these,” as described by Trump, are “rioters, arsonists and left-wing extremists” spouting “Marxism,” who seek “the destruction of the United States system of government."

If what we have seen in Portland is any indication of what lies ahead, the mayors are right to be nervous. Heavily armed camouflaged men, obscuring their identities, beating people and spiriting others away to who knows where are not what we normally associate with democracy in America.Rather than simply protecting federal property, their core responsibility, they are provoking some confrontations with protesters and abusing their legal authority. Already, in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, a judge has issued a temporary restraining order protecting journalists and legal observers.

By Megan Sheets For Dailymail.com

A viral video purportedly shows section of the border wall separating the US and Mexico collapsing under strong winds and heavy rains from Tropical Storm Hanna. The video posted to Twitter by journalist Yadith Valdez on Sunday shows construction workers standing by and watching as fierce gusts knock the steel structure to the ground. The clip became the target of widespread ridicule on social media as critics likened the section's collapse to the re-election campaign of President Donald Trump, who has already spent more than $11billion building the wall that is expected to cost an estimated $21.6billion to complete. Some users pointed out that just a few weeks ago Trump boasted that his wall is 'the most powerful and comprehensive border wall structure' in the world. But others users called the validity of the footage into question, noting that its unclear when and where it was recorded.

Huileng Tan

China would prefer to see U.S. President Donald Trump win a second term in office as it would allow Beijing to continue to pursue its international ambitions, said an analyst on Monday. “Bluntly, Beijing would prefer to see the Trump administration continue,” said Rodger Baker, senior vice president of strategic analysis at Stratfor, a consultancy. “The reason is that at least, thus far, the way the Trump administration has acted and the perception internationally of that administration — and what you see going on domestically inside the United States and the polarization inside the United States — gives Beijing an advantage,” said Baker.

He added that what Beijing would really fear is a concerted U.S. policy and a coordinated international policy that constrains China. U.S.-China relations have become increasingly strained in recent years as the two sides spar on a range of issues, culminating in the closure of two consulates in the last week. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a sweeping address at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, saying the U.S. will no longer tolerate Beijing’s playbook to usurp global order and calling on allies to “induce China to change.” Pompeo also called for the engagement and empowerment of the Chinese people, whom he described as “dynamic and freedom-loving people who are completely distinct from the Chinese Communist Party.”

By Tom Tapp

While promoting her book Too Much and Never Enough, Mary Trump has said some harsh things about her uncle, President Donald Trump. She has said the president had someone else take his SAT. She has said he used racial and anti-Semitic slurs. She has said he should resign. But what she told Stephen Colbert on Wednesday may, well, Trump them all.

Asked if her uncle displayed sociopathic traits Mary said, “Donald has so many pathologies and they’re so complex, there’s so much co-morbidity that it’s really difficult to tease out what’s exactly going on without testing. “Clearly, he’s comfortable doing heartless things,” she continued. “Clearly he doesn’t seem to be interested in empathy. So I think it’s safe to say he demonstrates sociopathic tendencies. I think it’s safe to say he’s not high-functioning at all.”

By Kevin Liptak and Eric Bradner, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump announced Thursday that Republicans have scrapped plans to hold convention activities in Jacksonville, Florida.
The move is a striking turnaround for Trump, who moved the convention to Jacksonville after North Carolina's governor raised public health concerns about having massive gatherings in Charlotte, as the GOP had long planned. Pared-back events in Charlotte will still be held, Trump said. Despite urges to ignore them, Trump was closely watching as several Republican lawmakers said they weren't going to Jacksonville or were considering not going, a person familiar said. Trump was wary of having sparse attendance at the convention. Just a month ago, the Trump campaign was playing up expectations for a massive crowd at the President's first rally since the pandemic began, but those crowds in Tulsa, Oklahoma, were much smaller than expected.
Campaign manager Bill Stepien and Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel met with Trump recently, telling him it was still possible to go forward with the convention but that canceling was also still an option, according a GOP source with knowledge of the process. They presented the option to cancel as a chance for Trump to demonstrate leadership, and he was much more open to the idea than he had been in the past, the source said. Trump said on Thursday he informed his team that his focus was on protecting the American people, even though aides advised him they could make an in-person convention safe. "I looked at my team and I said the timing for this event is not right. It's just not right," Trump said at the White House. "To have a big convention, it's not the right time."

By David Shortell, CNN

(CNN) A judge in Portland, Oregon, barred federal law enforcement officers from arresting or using physical force against journalists and legal observers mixed in with the crowds at nightly protests near a complex of government buildings there if they're not suspected of committing crimes. Federal Judge Michael H. Simon issued the temporary restraining order Thursday evening ahead of another night of expected protests in the city's downtown. Videos taken by news crews there have captured harrowing moments -- like when the city's mayor was overcome by tear gas deployed to disperse a crowd on Wednesday -- and the American Civil Liberties Union had filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security and the US Marshals Service, which command the officers, detailing several examples of identified journalists allegedly being abused by the authorities. The order, which Simon opened with a series of quotes about the importance of the free press, also says journalists can ignore dispersal orders issued by authorities.

The order could present federal law enforcement with new challenges as it continues to carry out its mission of protecting federal property. For the past two months, rioters have regularly torn down fencing and attempted to break into the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse -- where Simon's chambers are located -- in a confrontation that has been seized on by President Donald Trump and spun into a political hot-button issue featured in his reelection messaging. More than 40 people have been arrested by the federal officers, and at least 26 charged federally, including one man accused of hitting an officer with a sledgehammer and others who allegedly pointed lasers at officers' eyes, leaving some with potentially permanent vision damage.

By David Shortell, CNN

(CNN) The Justice Department's independent watchdog agency said Thursday that it will investigate the use of force by federal law enforcement officers in Portland, Oregon, and Washington, DC, where violent crackdowns on protesters have punctuated a summer that's been rocked by protests against police brutality. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in a statement that his review of the law enforcement responses would include an examination of the instructions officers received and their compliance with policies regarding proper identification and the use of chemical agents. The Department of Homeland Security's inspector general is also probing the response of officers from his agency in Portland, including allegations that they improperly detained and transported some protesters, he said in a letter to Congress.

The Trump administration's treatment of the protests in both cities, which swelled after the killing in May of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, has drawn sharp criticism from the President's detractors, including accusations that they amounted to authoritarian suppression. The announcements from the inspectors general on Thursday represent some of the federal government's most serious attempts to account for the violence and follows a litany of requests for oversight from current and former public officials and key congressional Democrats.

Dan Mangan

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the release from prison of President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen by Friday afternoon. Judge Alvin Hellerstein found that Cohen was taken into custody July 9 and returned to prison in retaliation for balking at a condition that he not publish a book — about Trump or anyone else  — while serving the remainder of his three-year criminal sentence on home confinement. “I’ve never seen such a clause, in 21 years in being a judge and sentencing people,” Hellerstein said at a Manhattan federal court hearing held after Cohen sued this week to win his re-release from prison.

“How can I take any other inference but that it was retaliatory? Hellerstein asked about the condition, which also would have barred Cohen from speaking to journalists or posting on social media. Cohen, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to multiple felonies, was furloughed from the federal prison in Otisville, N.Y., in late May due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

The Housing and Urban Development proposal instructs shelters to try to identify trans women by height, facial hair, and Adam’s apples.
By Katelyn Burns

A proposed Housing and Urban Development rule would allow federally funded homeless shelters to judge a person’s physical characteristics, such as height and facial hair, in determining whether they belong in a women’s or men’s shelter, according to a copy of the rule’s text obtained by Vox. Advocates say this ultimately targets both trans women and cisgender women with masculine features, which could force them into men’s shelters and put them at risk for harm.

The proposed rule, first announced by HUD in a press release issued on July 1, would essentially reverse the Obama-era rule that required homeless shelters to house trans people according to their gender identity. While the new rule would bar shelters from excluding people based on their transgender status, it would also allow shelters to ignore a person’s gender identity — and instead house them according to their assigned sex at birth or their legal sex. In other words, a trans woman can’t be turned away from a shelter for being trans, but she can be forced to go to a men’s shelter. Dylan Waguespack, a spokesperson for True Colors United, an advocacy group that focuses on supporting LGBTQ homeless youth, told Vox in early June that HUD Secretary Ben Carson is “talking out of both sides of his mouth.”

Frank Langfitt

U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Robert Wood "Woody" Johnson IV told embassy staff in 2018 that his friend, President Trump, asked him to help get the British Open golf tournament held at one of the Trump family's golf resorts in Scotland. U.S. Embassy staff have separately complained that Johnson made racist and sexist comments on the job. The State Department's inspector general has been looking at these claims as part of a routine review of the embassy, according to people familiar with the matter. The inquiry was first reported by the New York Times and CNN.

Lewis Lukens, the embassy's former second-in-command, confirmed in a text to NPR that Johnson told him about the president's request. "I advised him that doing so would violate federal ethics rules and be generally inappropriate," Lukens wrote. But Johnson apparently went ahead and raised the matter with David Mundell, then secretary of state for Scotland, according to a person familiar with the conversation. In a statement, the British government said Mundell met with Johnson in early 2018, "but Johnson made no request regarding the British Open or any other sporting event."

By Jennifer Hansler, Kylie Atwood and Nicole Gaouette, CNN

Washington (CNN) The billionaire NFL owner who serves as President Donald Trump's ambassador to the United Kingdom was investigated by the State Department watchdog after allegations that he made racist and sexist comments to staff and sought to use his government position to benefit the President's personal business in the UK, multiple sources told CNN. Robert Wood "Woody" Johnson, the top envoy since August 2017 to one of the United States' most important allies, made racist generalizations about Black men and questioned why the Black community celebrates Black History Month, according to exclusive new information shared with CNN by three sources and a diplomat familiar with the complaints to the State Department inspector general.

His comments about women's looks have been "cringeworthy," a source with knowledge of the situation said, and two sources said it was a struggle to get him on board for an event for International Women's Day. "He's said some pretty sexist, racist," things, the diplomat with knowledge of the complaints made to the IG said of Johnson, an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune and one of the owners of the New York Jets. Asked about the specific allegations reported by CNN, Johnson did not deny them. He called it an "honor of a lifetime" to serve as ambassador and "to lead the talented, diverse team of the U.S. Mission to the United Kingdom." Johnson called the team "the best in diplomacy" adding, "I greatly value the extraordinary work that each and every member of the team does to strengthen and deepen our vital alliance."

The state's lawsuit is part of a growing pushback against the Trump administration's use of federal agents against protesters.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Attorneys for Oregon argued Wednesday for a restraining order against federal agents deployed to quell protests in Portland, in a standoff that some legal experts have warned could lead to a constitutional crisis in an election year. A federal judge heard the state's and the U.S. government's arguments in a lawsuit filed by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who accuses federal agents of arresting protesters without probable cause, whisking them away in unmarked cars and using excessive force to quell the unrest. Federal authorities have disputed that. The lawsuit is part of a growing pushback against the Trump administration's use of federal agents in Portland and its plans to do the same in other cities that is deepening the country’s already considerable political divides. Democratic mayors of 15 cities — including Portland and cities where President Donald Trump has sent or threatened to send federal forces — condemned the use of the agents in a letter to the attorney general.

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