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US Monthly Headline News May 2020 Page 1

In Minneapolis, police tear-gas unarmed protesters opposing racist violence — but armed Trumpers get the red carpet
By Amanda Marcotte

On Memorial Day, four Minneapolis police officers killed a black man named George Floyd. In a video taken by a bystander, one can hear Floyd, who is on the ground and not resisting as an officer named Derek Chauvin kneels on his neck, pleading for his life, saying, "I can't breathe" and moaning in pain. (Chauvin was involved in at least two previous police shootings of civilians.) Onlookers can also be heard begging the police not to kill Floyd, while another cop named Tou Thao just glares at them, indifferent to the gathered crowd's increasing panic. As the cops take Floyd's unconscious body away, one man can be heard yelling, "You just really killed that man, bro." The video is incredibly disturbing, so it's no surprise that thousands of people hit the streets in protest on Tuesday, breaking lockdown in a city with a rising rate of coronavirus infection to register their outrage. The vast majority of protesters weren't violent and none were armed. But Minneapolis police showed up ready to rumble. News photos show the cops pouring out of vehicles fully clad in riot gear and as soon as a handful of protesters committed minor acts of property damage and threw some water bottles (the Star Tribune reports that peaceful protesters pleaded with others to stop the vandalism), cops used that as a pretext to shoot tear-gas canisters into the crowd. Those images are much like the ones we've grown accustomed to in the era of Black Lives Matter protests (though this time with the addition of face masks): Cops in riot gear striding like conquering soldiers through clouds of tear gas, unarmed protesters running in terror and weeping, surreal images of people's faces covered in milk as they try to wash the tear gas from their eyes. But what I can't get past — and judging from the reactions on social media, I'm not alone — is how wildly different that scene played out compared to the astroturf anti-lockdown protests staged in various state capitals across the country over the past month or so. In places like Lansing, Michigan, and Columbus, Ohio, right-wing protesters have showed up literally armed to the hilt, carrying assault rifles and menacing state legislators who were simply trying balance public safety and the economic needs of their citizens. In Michigan, protesters literally stormed the state capitol and stood in the galley with guns, in an obvious effort to intimidate the politicians below.  

Author of "Alt-America": What happens this year will be a "key turning point" on the path from democracy to fascism
By Chauncey DeVega

The U.S. government has the official public policy of never negotiating with terrorists, paying them ransom or otherwise surrendering to their demands. The logic is simple: to give in to terrorists is to encourage more violence and other attacks. It would appear that the state of Michigan does not follow the same policy. The U.S. government has the official public policy of never negotiating with terrorists, paying them ransom or otherwise surrendering to their demands. The logic is simple: to give in to terrorists is to encourage more violence and other attacks. It would appear that the state of Michigan does not follow the same policy. Matters are now so dire that even the New York Times, which views itself as a neutral "journal of record," is sounding the alarm about Trump's armed paramilitary groups. Last Friday, columnist Roger Cohen published an op-ed entitled "The Masked versus the Unmasked" in which he issued this warning:  

Journalists report and record being shot at, teargassed, arrested and intimidated
By Michael Safi

Journalists covering the protests and riots that have erupted in US cities after the killing of George Floyd have reported being shot at, teargassed and arrested, as well as being intimidated by crowds. More than 50 incidents of violence and harassment against media workers were reported on social media and in news outlets on Friday and Saturday, according to a tally the Guardian collated. They included the blinding of Linda Tirado, a freelance photojournalist and activist who has contributed to the Guardian, who was hit in the eye with a nonlethal round while covering unrest in Minneapolis; the arrest of the HuffPost US reporter Chris Mathias during protests in New York; and the shooting of the Swedish foreign correspondent Nina Svanberg, who was struck in the leg by several rubber bullets on Friday night. “They’re sighting us in,” a member of a CBS News crew was heard saying in another incident in Minneapolis on Saturday, as police fired rubber bullets at the team, who said they were wearing press credentials and carrying large cameras. A sound engineer was struck in the arm, a journalist from the outlet said. A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation journalist, Susan Ormiston, was hit with a gas canister also while covering the protests in the city. “The thing is, we were in that parking lot all by ourselves,” she said in a broadcast. The police “fired at us to clear us away but we clearly had our camera equipment visible”. Minneapolis was the scene of especially acute unrest on Saturday night as authorities imposed a curfew and deployed the Minnesota state national guard to clear the streets and prevent the rioting and looting of the previous night.

The move comes after violent protests across the country over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
By Allan Smith

President Donald Trump said Sunday that he will designate antifa as a terrorist organization after Democratic and Republican officials pointed to extremist groups and out of town demonstrators as responsible for violent episodes at protests in major cities across the country. Trump and Attorney General William Barr had earlier pointed to anti-fascist organizers and anarchists as culprits behind the mayhem following the death of a 46-year-old black man, George Floyd, at the hands of Minneapolis police. Others said right-wing extremists such as Boogaloo followers, who hope to bring about a second Civil War, were pushing for such uprising in the protests. In a Sunday statement, Barr said the Justice Department is taking aim at "apprehending and charging the violent radical agitators who have hijacked peaceful protest and are engaged in violations of federal law." The attorney general said that "to identify criminal organizers and instigators," federal law enforcement officials are utilizing "our existing network of 56 regional FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces." "Preventing reconciliation and driving us apart is the goal of these radical groups, and we cannot let them succeed," Barr added. "The violence instigated and carried out by antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly."

By Alex Rogers, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump pledged a crackdown of the protests that arose from the police killing of George Floyd, sparking concerns from some Democrats and Republicans that his response to the crisis further deepens the divide in a country already unnerved by a pandemic, distressed economy and racial unrest. Mayors from at least 25 cities issued curfews for Saturday night, as police responded with rubber bullets, tear gas and arrests to disperse occasionally violent crowds. In the nation's capital, more than 1,000 demonstrators hit the streets, including some who threw bricks and dispersed only early Sunday morning when the Secret Service began to fire tear gas. The President tweeted on Saturday that if protesters breached the White House's fence, they would "have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen." And he called on Democratic officials to "get MUCH tougher" or the federal government "will step in and do what has to be done, and that includes using the unlimited power of our Military and many arrests." Elected officials on both sides of the aisle said on Sunday that the President should instead focus on unifying the nation or decline to address the country at all. "He should just stop talking," said Democratic Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on CNN's "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper. "He speaks and he makes it worse." "It's sort of continuing to escalate the rhetoric," added Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on CNN. "I think it's just the opposite of the message that should have been coming out of the White House. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, also urged Trump to help "calm the nation" and to stop sending "divisive tweets" in an interview Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." Her comments followed a press conference Saturday where Bowser noted how Trump's reference to the "vicious dogs" was "no subtle reminder" of segregationists who would attack African Americans with dogs.

CNN

In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, national security adviser Robert O'Brien denied that systemic racism exists across the nation's police forces and discussed the nationwide protests following the death of unarmed black man George Floyd. #CNN #News

High Fidelity actor also pledged to ‘kick Trump’s loathsome Nazi ass out of the White House’
By Adam White

John Cusack has been attacked by Chicago police after filming protests and riots in the city. The Say Anything actor has been using social media to document the protests that have arisen in the city in the wake of the death of George Floyd. The 46-year-old was killed after a white police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes, while Floyd pleaded for his life. Peaceful and non-peaceful protests, riots and looting have occurred across the USA in recent days. Cusack wrote on Twitter: “Cops didn’t like me filming the burning car so they came at me with batons. Hitting my bike.”

The original comment was made by a public official in New Mexico.
By Bethania Palma

On May 27, 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump retweeted a video posted to Twitter by the group “Cowboys for Trump” in which the group’s leader, Cuoy Griffin, a commissioner for Otero County in New Mexico, stated, “I’ve come to a place where I’ve come to the conclusion that the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” Trump, a Republican, retweeted the video and added the comment, “Thank you Cowboys. See you in New Mexico!”

A video posted to U.S. President Donald Trump's Facebook page drew instant criticism.
By Bethania Palma

In late May 2020, readers asked Snopes to verify whether U.S. President Donald Trump’s Facebook page had shared a video showing the logo of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign superimposed on a coffin, implying that either Biden was (figuratively) inside the coffin or his campaign was dead. No caption was included with the video, leaving interpretation up to the viewer. The queries from readers came the same week Trump and the official White House Twitter account were flagged by Twitter for posting tweets that violated the platform’s rules against “glorifying violence.” It’s true that on May 26, the Donald J. Trump Facebook page did post such a video. The video features a troupe of Ghanian pallbearers who have gone viral for performing exuberant dance routines while carrying coffins at funerals. The video posted to Trump’s Facebook page shows Biden stating, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black.” It then shows the dancing pallbearers video with Biden’s campaign logo superimposed on the coffin.

Several US states activate National Guard troops as protests over police killings of unarmed Black people grow.
by Ted Regencia, Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath &  Lucien Formichella

Another round of protests is gripping major cities across the United States against police brutality and violence, especially against unarmed Black people. Several states have called in National Guard troops to help quell the protests, with some turning violent with fires and looting. Cities nationwide have also implemented curfews, but protesters appear undeterred. Protesters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, have pledged to stay in the streets until all four officers involved in the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, are charged. Floyd died on Monday after a white officer pinned his neck to the ground. The officer - Derek Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The other officers have not been charged. Trump orders Pentagon to put military police on alert, saying they may be deployed to Minnesota. Latest updates:

by Reubyn Coutinho

Joe Burrow hit the headlines last month as he became the top draft pick in the NFL’s first-ever virtual draft. However right now, like most of his peers Burrow is not focused solely on football. Instead, he is using his social media reach to speak out on atrocities against minorities in the present day. Joe Burrow speaks out on George Floyd’s death. The Bengals quarterback joins a host of American as well as international sports personalities like The Rock, Evander Kane, Derrick Carr, Alex Morgan, Lewis Hamilton, and LeBron James in speaking against the brutal murder. Burrow wrote, “The black community needs our help. They have been unheard for far too long. Open your ears, listen, and speak. This isn’t politics. This is human rights.”

By Jason Hanna, CNN

(CNN) A CNN crew was arrested while giving a live television report Friday morning in Minneapolis -- and then released about an hour later -- as the crew covered ongoing protests over the death in police custody of George Floyd. State police detained CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, his producer and his photojournalist shortly after 5 a.m. CT (6 a.m. ET) as Jimenez was reporting live from a street south of downtown, near where a police precinct was earlier set ablaze. Jimenez could be seen holding his CNN badge while reporting, identifying himself as a reporter, and telling the officers the crew would move wherever officers needed them to. An officer gripped his arm as Jimenez talked, then put him in handcuffs. "We can move back to where you like. We are live on the air here. ... Put us back where you want us. We are getting out of your way -- wherever you want us (we'll) get out of your way," Jimenez said to police before he was led away. "We were just getting out of your way when you were advancing through the intersection," Jimenez continued. Police told the crew they were being detained because they were told to move and didn't, one member of the CNN crew relayed to the network.

Another CNN reporter says he was 'treated much differently'
CNN's Josh Campbell, who also was in the area but not standing with the on-air crew, said he, too, was approached by police, but was allowed to remain.
"I identified myself ... they said, 'OK, you're permitted to be in the area,'" recounted Campbell, who is white. "I was treated much differently than (Jimenez) was." Jimenez is black and Latino. Kirkos is white, and Mendez is Hispanic. "A CNN reporter and his production team were arrested this morning in Minneapolis for doing their jobs, despite identifying themselves -- a clear violation of their First Amendment rights. The authorities in Minnesota, including the Governor, must release the three CNN employees immediately," CNN said in a statement shortly after their arrest. Former Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey, a CNN law enforcement analyst, said the arrest made no sense. "State police are going to have a lot to answer for this arrest here," Ramsey said. "(Jimenez is) standing there ... you can see his credential. Just move him where you want to be."

By Dakin Andone, Hollie Silverman and Melissa Alonso, CNN

(CNN) The former Minneapolis police officer seen in a video with his knee on George Floyd's neck had 18 prior complaints filed against him with the Minneapolis Police Department's Internal Affairs, according to the police department. It's unclear what the internal affairs complaints against the officer, Derek Chauvin, were for. MPD did not provide additional details. Chauvin was fired this week, along with three other MPD officers who were present when Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck. Police have said they were responding to an alleged forgery at a corner store. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was unarmed and handcuffed, pleaded that he could not breathe. He was soon after declared dead at a nearby hospital, according to authorities. Floyd's death and video of the incident have sparked widespread anger, destructive protests and calls for the officers involved to face criminal charges. Only two of the 18 complaints against Chauvin were "closed with discipline," according to a MPD internal affairs public summary. In both cases, the "discipline issued" column indicated that a letter of reprimand had been issued in response. Chauvin was not the only officer on the scene that day with a history of complaints against him. Former officer Tou Thao had six complaints filed with internal affairs, one of which was still open, according to the public summary released Thursday. The other five complaints had been closed without discipline. The two other officers involved had no complaints filed against them, per MPD internal affairs. CNN has reached out to attorneys representing the officers for comment

By Justin Wise

Wednesday strongly hit back at claims from President Trump that mail-in voting leads to high levels of fraud, asserting that there is "no basis" for such allegations and that the falsehoods "may well undermine the American people's faith in our democracy." In a more-than-60-tweet thread on the subject, Weintraub cited a range of reports and news stories to argue that there is no evidence that voting by mail leads to widespread voter fraud. She described the president's claims as "dead wrong," "crying wolf," "false" and a "debunked lie." "There's simply no basis for the conspiracy theory that voting by mail causes fraud. None," Weintraub said, pointing to fact-checks from The Washington Post and CNN, as well as reports from other organizations about the effectiveness of the voting method.

By Elizabeth Crisp

President Donald Trump is expected to issue an executive order related to social media Thursday after Twitter—his favored mode of direct communication to his supporters—attached a fact-check disclaimer to his tweets about mail-in voting this week. What the order will say is not yet clear. However, two of Trump's close GOP allies in Congress signaled earlier Wednesday a willingness to strip the social media giant of the special speech liability immunity it receives because of the fact-checking flap. Trump's move, in the end, is widely expected to be a strong-arming of the platform into not flagging his tweets. Trump declined to answer reporters' questions about his plans after he returned to the White House following a trip to Florida on Wednesday. However, he expressed his frustration—on Twitter no less—about the messaging platform. "Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen," Trump tweeted Wednesday. "Twitter has now shown that everything we have been saying about them (and their other compatriots) is correct. Big action to follow!" One of Trump's supporters, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday questioning the platform's "unprecedented decision to single out the President for disfavor, based on his political speech."

By Andrew Kaczynski, CNN

(CNN) Donald Trump repeatedly attacked then-President Barack Obama for golfing during times of tragedy and disaster from 2011 to 2016, a CNN KFILE review of his comments finds. In media appearances, posts on social media, and speeches as a commentator and later as candidate for president, Trump said Obama's golfing made it appear he was tired of being president, adding that Obama should have given up golf when his White House term started. "He may play more golf than any human being in America, and I'm not sure that's good for the President," Trump said in one January 2015 comment. The President is now facing his own criticism for golfing twice during Memorial Day weekend as the coronavirus death toll in the United States approaches 100,000 -- an action he defended as "exercise" accompanied by attacks on Obama's golfing habits. Trump previously drew criticism for golfing during Hurricane Dorian in September of 2017 and later that month attended a golf tournament and his own New Jersey club after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico. Trump said the media never covered, "all of the time Obama spent on the golf course, often flying to Hawaii in a big, fully loaded 747, to play. What did that do to the so-called Carbon Footprint?" "Barack was always playing golf," he added in a tweet. Since taking office, Trump has golfed and traveled more than Obama, a CNN fact check on Monday reported -- with the President spending one out of every 4.92 days so far at a golf property. Speaking on Fox News in March 2011, Trump criticized Obama for golfing when Japan was hit by the earthquake and tsunami that damaged several nuclear facilities. "For him to be playing golf, simultaneously with that happening -- you're talking about the day of and the day after -- to be playing golf I think is very inappropriate," Trump said at the time. "The image of him on a golf course, while Japan is in that kind of trouble," he added. "This is catastrophic trouble, I think is totally inappropriate." In a tweet on November 18, 2013, a day after several tornado outbreaks struck the Midwest, Trump tweeted, "President Obama played golf yesterday???" Trump's trip this past weekend to the golf course was his first since March 8, when there were 550 cases of the coronavirus in the US.

2014 criticisms
Trump was a frequent critic of Obama golfing in 2014, attacking him for golfing after the beheading of journalist James Foley and when there were two confirmed cases of Ebola in the United States. "This was a bad time to be playing golf," he added. Speaking on Fox News' "On The Record" in October 2014, Trump said Obama's golfing after the beheading made it appear he was tired of being president. "You wouldn't think that that's something that's not a PR person has to say it's not a good time for you to be playing golf," he said. "That's really bad. That was just bad. And it just looks to me like he's tired of the position." In September 2014, Trump mixed mockery with his criticism, offering Obama a lifetime of free golf if he resigned from office in a viral tweet. "If Obama resigns from office NOW, thereby doing a great service to the country—I will give him free lifetime golf at any one of my courses!," Trump tweeted. "It was a terrible image," Trump said of Obama golfing after a news conference of Foley's beheading.

One set of reports listed the tower’s 2010 profits as $13.3 million; a second put them at $16.1 million. That helped the Trump Organization borrow $73 million more than it had before.
by Heather Vogell

A decade ago, loan filings showed Trump Tower in New York City had a reported profit of about $13.3 million. But when the tower refinanced its debt soon after, the profits for the same year — 2010 — somehow appeared higher. A new lender listed the profits as $16.1 million, or 21% more than they had been recorded previously. The next year’s earnings for the building also “improved” between the two filings. Profits for 2011 were listed as 12% higher under the new loan than the old, according to reports by loan servicers and data provider Trepp. ProPublica uncovered the Trump Tower discrepancies by examining publicly available data for mortgages that are packaged into securities known as commercial mortgage-backed securities, comparing the same years in reports for different CMBS. If a bank had held onto the loan, instead of selling it to investors, such information would have been kept private. No evidence has emerged that the Trump Organization was involved in changing the profit figures. Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s chief legal officer, said: “Not only were the numbers provided to the servicer accurate, but Trump Tower is considered one of the most underleveraged commercial buildings around.” The discrepancies in the tower profits match a pattern described in a whistleblower complaint filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which ProPublica revealed this month. The complaint accuses commercial lenders of fraudulently inflating the income numbers underlying loans in many CMBS. The complaint named seven servicers and 14 lenders, including two of the country’s biggest issuers of CMBS — Ladder Capital and Wells Fargo. Both were involved in the more recent Trump Tower loan, one as the lender, the second as the financial institution that packaged the loan into a CMBS. The complaint does not say which entities altered specific numbers and does not address whether borrowers were involved in, or knew about, the alleged fraud.

Zach Fuentes, former deputy chief of staff to President Trump, won the contract just days after registering his company. He sold Chinese masks to the government just as federal regulators were scrutinizing foreign-made equipment.
by Yeganeh Torbati and Derek Willis

A former White House aide won a $3 million federal contract to supply respirator masks to Navajo Nation hospitals in New Mexico and Arizona 11 days after he created a company to sell personal protective equipment in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Zach Fuentes, President Donald Trump’s former deputy chief of staff, secured the deal with the Indian Health Service with limited competitive bidding and no prior federal contracting experience. The IHS told ProPublica it has found that 247,000 of the masks delivered by Fuentes’ company — at a cost of roughly $800,000 — may be unsuitable for medical use. An additional 130,400, worth about $422,000, are not the type specified in the procurement data, the agency said. What’s more, the masks Fuentes agreed to provide — Chinese-made KN95s — have come under intense scrutiny from U.S. regulators amid concerns that they offered inadequate protection. “The IHS Navajo Area Office will determine if these masks will be returned,” the agency said in a statement. The agency said it is verifying Fuentes’ company’s April 8 statement to IHS that all the masks were certified by the Food and Drug Administration, and an FDA spokesperson said the agency cannot verify if the products were certified without the name of the manufacturer. Hospitals in the Navajo Nation, which spans Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, have been desperate for protective supplies as the numbers of coronavirus infections and deaths have grown quickly. As of Friday, the Navajo Nation reported 4,434 COVID-19 cases and 147 deaths, a crisis that has prompted outcries from members of Congress and demands for increased funding.

Trump’s former deputy chief of staff won a $3 million federal contract just days after registering his company. He delivered masks to Navajo hospitals that may not work. Rep. Gerry Connolly asked the HHS inspector general’s office to look into it.
by Yeganeh Torbati

A senior Democratic congressman on Tuesday called for a watchdog probe into a $3 million Indian Health Service contract given to a former White House official to provide masks to Navajo Nation hospitals hit hard by the coronavirus. ProPublica reported on Friday that IHS granted the contract for 1 million respirator masks to Zach Fuentes, a former deputy chief of staff to President Donald Trump, 11 days after Fuentes formed his company. The contract was granted with limited competitive bidding. IHS told ProPublica last week that 247,000 of the masks delivered by Fuentes’ company may be unsuitable for medical use, and that an additional 130,400 were not the type specified in the procurement data. During testimony on Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services’ principal deputy inspector general, Christi Grimm, before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia mentioned the ProPublica report and asked Grimm if her office would be looking into the contract and how it was awarded. IHS is housed within HHS. “We’ve talked about waste, fraud and abuse,” Connolly said. “Here is a prime candidate — don’t want to prejudge — but there’s something suspicious about awarding a contract to somebody who has no experience, who formed his company 11 days before the award of the contract, and provided unsuitable equipment reportedly to just a devastated community, the Navajo Nation. It seems to me a prime candidate for your office to look at.” Grimm said she could not “confirm the existence of an investigation” and said her office would be in touch with Connolly’s to get more information after the hearing. “We will take a look at that issue,” she said. A spokeswoman for the HHS inspector general’s office, Katherine Harris, said in a brief phone call that her office is in touch with Connolly’s and other stakeholders in Congress on contracting issues related to the coronavirus.

By Christopher Rowland

The drug that buoyed expectations for a coronavirus treatment and drew international attention for Gilead Sciences, remdesivir, started as a reject, an also-ran in the search for antiviral drugs. Its path to relevance didn’t begin until Robert Jordan plucked it from mothballs. A Gilead scientist at the time, Jordan convinced the company seven years ago to let him assemble a library of 1,000 castoff molecules in a search for medicines to treat emerging viruses. Many viral illnesses threaten human health but don’t attract commercial interest because they lack potential for huge drug sales. “I kept asking them, ‘Is this okay?’ ” said Jordan, who is now a vice president at a pharmaceutical start-up. “These don’t represent a commercial opportunity but a public health opportunity. Gilead gave me their blessing to do this on the side.” To make progress, Gilead needed help from U.S. taxpayers. Lots of help. Three federal health agencies were deeply involved in remdesivir’s development every step of the way, providing tens of millions of dollars of government research support. Now that big government role has set up a political showdown over pricing and access. Despite the heavy subsidies, federal agencies have not asserted patent rights to Gilead’s drug, potentially a blockbuster therapy worth billions of dollars. That means Gilead will have few constraints other than political pressure when it sets a price in coming weeks. Critics are urging the Trump administration to take a more aggressive approach. “Without direct public investment and tax subsidies, this drug would apparently have remained in the scrapheap of unsuccessful drugs,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.), chairman of the House Ways and Means health subcommittee, said earlier this month. Doggett and Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.) have asked Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar for a detailed financial accounting of federal support for remdesivir’s discovery and development.

The senators had made stock transactions during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.
By MARIANNE LEVINE

The Justice Department is dropping its investigations into controversial stock trades made by Sens. Kelly Loeffler, Dianne Feinstein and Jim Inhofe in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, their offices confirmed Tuesday. The decision comes after the FBI served Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) a search warrant and seized his cellphone earlier this month, as part of its broader investigation into his financial transactions. Burr, along with Loeffler (R-Ga.), Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Inhofe (R-Okla.) have come under scrutiny for making stocks trades after receiving private briefings on the coronavirus and before the pandemic roiled markets. All four senators have denied any wrongdoing. The Wall Street Journal was first to report the Justice Department’s decision to drop the investigations into Loeffler, Feinstein and Inhofe. A spokesperson for Burr declined to comment. The Justice Department also declined to comment. Amid the controversy, Burr has stepped down temporarily as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

By Zack Budryk

President Trump on Tuesday evening accused Twitter of “stifling FREE SPEECH” and interfering in the 2020 election by fact-checking one of his tweets on the issue of voting by mail. “@Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election. They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post,” the president tweeted Tuesday evening. “Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” The social media site placed a warning on two of Trump’s tweets for the first time earlier in the day, noting that his claim that California would send mail-in ballots to anyone living in the state was false and that mail-in ballots are already in use in several states, including Oregon, Utah and Nebraska. Trump himself also voted by mail in the Florida Republican primary this year.

The senators had made stock transactions during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.
By MARIANNE LEVINE

The Justice Department is dropping its investigations into controversial stock trades made by Sens. Kelly Loeffler, Dianne Feinstein and Jim Inhofe in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, their offices confirmed Tuesday. The decision comes after the FBI served Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) a search warrant and seized his cellphone earlier this month, as part of its broader investigation into his financial transactions. Burr, along with Loeffler (R-Ga.), Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Inhofe (R-Okla.) have come under scrutiny for making stocks trades after receiving private briefings on the coronavirus and before the pandemic roiled markets. All four senators have denied any wrongdoing. The Wall Street Journal was first to report the Justice Department’s decision to drop the investigations into Loeffler, Feinstein and Inhofe. A spokesperson for Burr declined to comment. The Justice Department also declined to comment. Amid the controversy, Burr has stepped down temporarily as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

By Karen Ruiz For Dailymail.com

Shocking video has emerged showing a white Minneapolis police officer pinning a black man to the ground by his neck with his knee, moments before the suspect loses consciousness and dies. The disturbing footage was taken by a bystander in south Minneapolis on Monday evening and has now sparked an FBI investigation into the man's death. The Minneapolis Police Department confirmed the man died in a statement later that night, after the arresting officers responded to a 'forgery in progress.'  Police found the man, believed to be in his 40s, matching the suspect's description in his car.

By April Siese

A video has gone viral of a white woman calling the cops on a black man who simply asked her to leash her dog. The woman was in an area in New York City's Central Park known as the Ramble, where rules require that dogs be leashed. The sister of the man who filmed the confrontation, Melody Cooper, explained that he had asked the woman to put her dog on its leash. When she refused to, he began filming. He asks her not to come any closer, and the exchange escalates. She then threatens to call the police and tell them a black man is threatening her life. The woman repeatedly identifies the man by his race in her 911 call in which she demands they "send the cops immediately." "There's an African-American, he's recording me and threatening me and my dog," she claims. The video doesn't show the man threatening the woman. She is also be seen pulling on the dog's collar rather than leashing the animal throughout the apparent call. The woman was quickly identified on social media, prompting the company where she works to issue a statement.

By Daniel Dale and Holmes Lybrand, CNN

Washington (CNN) Criticized for golfing twice on a Memorial Day weekend during which the US coronavirus death toll approached 100,000, President Donald Trump responded Sunday and Monday by drawing attention, again, to former President Barack Obama's golfing. Trump denounced the media, which he called "sick with hatred and dishonesty," for supposedly failing to mention that Saturday was his first time golfing in three months. (CNN, among other outlets, did note that it was his first golf outing since March 8.) Trump also accused the media of failing to talk about "all of the time Obama spent on the golf course, often flying to Hawaii in a big, fully loaded 747, to play. What did that do to the so-called Carbon Footprint?" "Barack was always playing golf," he said in one of his five golf-related tweets. Facts First: Trump has spent much more time playing golf than Obama did through this point of the term -- after repeatedly attacking Obama's golfing and claiming he would not play if he got elected himself. Just Trump's airplane trips to his Mar-a-Lago Club and residence in Florida, from which he has often taken a motorcade ride to a nearby golf course he owns, have required far more air travel than Obama's once-a-year Hawaii vacations did through this point in the term.

Obama vs. Trump: Golf by the numbers
Obama played 98 rounds of golf through this point in his presidency, according to data provided to CNN by Mark Knoller, a veteran CBS News White House correspondent who is known for tracking presidential activities. By contrast, Knoller said, Trump has spent all or part of 248 days at a golf course. CNN's own count has Trump at 266 days spending some time at a Trump golf course. Since Trump and his aides often refuse to confirm that he actually played golf during a visit to a golf club, even when he has been spotted in golf attire, it is not possible to definitively say how many times Trump has golfed as President. And some of Trump's rounds, like when he plays with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, mix leisure with official business. Regardless, it is clear that Trump has spent more time golfing than Obama. And Trump's own golf-related "carbon footprint" has been bigger than Obama's even if you count only air travel. Through this point in his first presidential term, Obama had made three vacation trips to his birth state of Hawaii for a total of 29,978 miles in the air, Knoller tweeted, while Trump has made 30 trips to Palm Beach, Florida, the home of Mar-a-Lago, for a total of 51,540 miles. Obama played 333 rounds during his eight years as president, according to Knoller. In other words, Obama played golf once every 8.77 days as president. Trump, conversely, has been at a golf club once every 4.92 days so far.

By Christina Zhao

A Philadelphia pastor has warned his congregation that President Donald Trump's order for churches to be allowed to reopen immediately is "political pandering," and that science still suggests it's not safe to gather in large crowds. Trump on Friday pushed for the reopening of churches across America that have been closed amid the pandemic to stop people gathering and worsening the coronavirus outbreak. "Allow these very important, essential places of faith to open right now for this weekend. If they don't do it, I will override the governors," the president said at the White House. "In America we need more prayer, not less." Senior pastor Alyn Waller, of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, home to one of the city's largest African American congregations, told his 31,000 Facebook followers in a video on Saturday that Trump's move is "political pandering to the right, extreme right-wing, to make a point for their votes." Waller maintained that while the church is "essential," it is more than just a Sunday morning in-person service. "If your church was closed because you could not worship in a sanctuary, then you weren't being the church," he said. The pastor also informed his congregation that he will continue to hold services through Zoom and Facebook Live until health authorities deem it safe to gather in large groups. "The truth of the matter is the science still suggests that it is not safe to gather in large crowds," Waller said.

By Yelena Dzhanova

The World Health Organization on Monday temporarily suspended its trial of hydroxycholoroquine, the drug backed by President Donald Trump to combat the deadly coronavirus, over safety concerns. “The Executive Group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity Trial while the safety data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a press briefing. “The other arms of the trial are continuing,” Tedros said. “This concern relates to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloraquine in Covid-19. I wish to reiterate that these drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria.” Hydroxychloroquine, which Trump has repeatedly touted as a potential game changer in fighting the coronavirus, is an anti-malarial drug that’s also used by doctors to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Numerous clinical trials are looking to see if it’s effective in fighting the coronavirus, but it is not a proven treatment. But despite the lack of scientific evidence presenting hydroxychloroquine as a viable coronavirus treatment option, Trump told reporters earlier this month that he has been taking the drug to avoid contracting the disease.

By JEREMY B. WHITE

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Republican Party has thrown its full weight behind challenging California’s move to a mail-ballot November election during the coronavirus pandemic. A lawsuit from the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the California Republican Party seeks to invalidate Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order that county election officials mail every registered California voter a ballot. While Newsom and California election overseers have said the switch is necessary to balance public health with civic participation, opponents argue that Newsom has overstepped his authority. The lawsuit argues that Newsom exceeded the limits of his powers by not seeking the consent of the state Legislature, accusing him of a “brazen power grab” that “was not authorized by state law” and transgressing the Constitution. Republicans in California and nationally have battled efforts to expand remote balloting for the November election, warning that mail ballots increase the risk of voter fraud. President Donald Trump has amplified that critique, including a string of Memorial Day weekend tweets, and additionally bemoaned mail ballots on the grounds that they disproportionately benefit Democrats. - Voter suppression is voter fraud, republicans have to suppress the vote to win.

By Jason Breslow

In a decision with potentially far-reaching implications for November's election, a federal judge in Florida has determined a state law that would have required felons to pay any outstanding court fees and fines before they can register to vote is unconstitutional. The ruling on Sunday by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle moves hundreds of thousands of felons who have completed "all terms of their sentence including probation and parole" one step closer to winning back their right to vote. The case at the center of the decision stems from a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved by Florida voters in 2018 overturning a 150-year-old law that permanently disenfranchised people with felony convictions. The result was celebrated by supporters as the nation's largest expansion of voting right in decades, but seven months later, the state's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, signed a bill limiting the law only to those who have successfully paid their court-related debts. DeSantis said the law was needed in order to clarify what the amendment meant by "all terms," but critics charged that the measure amounted to a "poll tax." In a 125-page ruling, Hinkle sided with critics of the bill, saying it discriminates against those who cannot afford to pay. The judge said the law is a violation of the 24th Amendment, which says the right to vote shall not be denied "by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax."

By Greg Sargent - Opinion writer

During the impeachment of President Trump, an expert witness called by Democrats floated a theoretical scenario involving the president threatening a state hammered by a natural disaster, to illustrate the corruption of Trump’s shakedown of Ukraine. What would we think if Trump dangled federal disaster aid as leverage to force a governor to do his political bidding, asked Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan, adding: “Wouldn’t you know in your gut that the president had abused his office? That he betrayed the national interest?” Trump has now done something very close to this. And the answer to Karlan’s question is: Yes, Trump is abusing his office and betraying the national interest: Trump is referring to the Michigan secretary of state’s announcement that applications for absentee ballots will be mailed to 7.7 million residents. That’s to ensure that Michiganders can vote safely amid a pandemic that has brought more than 50,000 cases of coronavirus to the state and killed more than 5,000 people. Trump’s new threat is not a precise parallel to Karlan’s scenario. But Trump is threatening to somehow withdraw federal aid unless Michigan drops vote-by-mail, a naked effort to extort Michigan into doing something that could help him politically. (Trump rage-tweeted a similar threat at Nevada.) That last point is crucial. It has been widely reported that Trump’s advisers fear he’s losing Michigan, which he probably needs again, especially with Arizona at risk. We also know Trump fears vote-by-mail can hurt his chances. Trump explicitly admitted that with such Democratic voting rights measures, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” And so, in lodging this threat, Trump is saying the corrupt part out loud — with a bullhorn. There have long been grounds for asking whether Trump has corrupted the process of doling out aid to states. A Post investigation found big disparities in how states are treated, which has left some officials “wondering whether politics is playing a role in the response.” Now Trump has made the threat as explicit as anyone could imagine.

What Trump threatened is illegal
As a threshold matter, what Trump is threatening is illegal, according to Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “The federal government does not have the power to withhold funding from states because the president disagrees with something the states are doing,” Vladeck told me. “There’s no legal mechanism by which he can do that.” Theoretically, Trump might try to do this. Under the Cares Act, which recently passed Congress, states get allotted coronavirus aid money from the Treasury Department, and then subsequently certify that they used it all on coronavirus-related purposes, a spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee tells me.

Businesses are reopening in Missouri, but a local leader warned that’s only safe if contact tracers can keep up with potential exposures.
By Jane Lytvynenko BuzzFeed News Reporter

Two hairstylists in Springfield, Missouri, have tested positive for COVID-19 and possibly exposed more than 140 clients, underscoring the difficulty local health departments will face in tracing the coronavirus as businesses reopen. The Springfield-Greene County Health Department announced the potential exposures in press conferences Friday and Saturday, adding that their team of seven contact tracers is in the process of getting in touch with anyone who may have been affected. They will undergo an interview with an immunologist and will be asked to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. Though businesses in Missouri have been legally reopening, the health department’s director, Clay Goddard, warned that can only continue safely if contact tracers can keep up with potential exposures. “This scenario is well within our capacity of our staff to contact trace and hopefully contain,” said Clay Goddard, Springfield-Greene County Health Department Director, in a press conference. “But I’m going to be honest with you, we can’t have many more of these. We can’t make this a regular habit or our capability as a community will be strained and we will have to reevaluate what things look like going forward.” Both hairstylists worked while exhibiting symptoms but, according to Goddard, the salon had a strict face mask policy for employees and customers which may have helped minimize the damage. Great Clips has also closed the salon for deep cleaning to lower the potential for future exposure.

Now that Trump reportedly is toying with a resumption of nuclear testing, the Kremlin intends to take full advantage.
By Julia Davis

President Donald J. Trump has announced the U.S. intends to exit the “Open Skies” treaty. The 34-nation agreement allows the United States, Russia and other countries to conduct observation flights over each other’s territories in the interests of transparency and international security.

“An infectious disease specialist for the Russian Health Ministry said Trump must really be taking hydroxychloroquine, since it’s known to cause psychotic side effects.  ”

Speaking to reporters, Trump said: “We’re going to pull out, and they’re going to come back and want to make a deal. We’ve had a very good relationship lately with Russia.” While the Trump administration is citing Russia’s various violations of the agreement as the main reason for the U.S. withdrawal, Russian experts and government officials believe that the abrupt decision is rooted in Trump’s desire to throw all international treaties out the window in pursuit of a bigger, better deal which he can claim to pursue during his election campaign even if it comes to nothing. Such flippant methods may work for reality television, but tend to backfire in real life. Case in point, Trump's gambit with Iran, where U.S withdrawal from the nuclear deal led to the expansion of Tehran’s nuclear stockpile. Now that Trump reportedly is toying with the idea of resuming nuclear testing as well, the Kremlin intends to take full advantage of that harebrained idea. Washington’s approach reportedly is rooted in the flawed assumption that renewed nuclear testing would prompt the Kremlin to pressure the Chinese into joining a trilateral agreement with the United States and Russia. This concept was dismissed out of hand by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. During an online forum conducted by the Gorchakov Fund, a Russian think tank, Ryabkov asserted that the Kremlin didn’t intend to apply any pressure to China to please Washington.  

By Martin Pengelly in New York

After Donald Trump told supporters in Alabama “do not trust” Jeff Sessions and backed his opponent for the Republican Senate nomination, the man Trump trusted to be his first attorney general did something rare: he snapped back. The president was “damned fortunate”, Sessions said on Friday night, that he recused himself from the Russia investigation. Sessions, 73, said his March 2017 decision, forced because he did not disclose to Congress contacts with the Russian ambassador during the 2016 election, “protected the rule of law and resulted in your exoneration”. In fact, special counsel Robert Mueller, appointed by then deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein on 17 May 2017, said in his report that though he had not found evidence of criminal conspiracy between Moscow and the president, he was not exonerating Trump. Sessions’ claim otherwise was consistent with that of Trump and his supporters.Sessions was fired after the midterm elections in 2018 and replaced by William Barr, an attorney general who has proved much more to Trump’s liking, working to protect the president and to reject the findings and premise of the justice department investigation into Russian election interference. Sessions is an immigration hardliner and mentor to the hard-right Trump adviser Stephen Miller. He was the first senator to endorse Trump in 2016. On Friday, he wrote: “Look, I know your anger, but recusal was required by law. I did my duty and you’re damn fortunate I did. It protected the rule of law and resulted in your exoneration. “Your personal feelings don’t dictate who Alabama picks as their senator, the people of Alabama do.”

By Joan E Greve and Joanna Walters

Joe Biden has apologised for saying that if African Americans “have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black”, a remark which prompted a storm of controversy and fierce attacks from supporters of the president. “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,” Biden said on a call with the US Black Chambers, an African-American business group, which was added to his public schedule. “I shouldn’t have been so cavalier.” Biden also said he would never “take the African American community for granted”. The former vice-president made the offending remark in an interview with Charlamagne tha God, a co-host of the radio show The Breakfast Club. After Biden had been pressed on issues including the legalization of marijuana and his choice of running mate, a campaign aide interjected to say he had to wrap it up, prompting the host to say: “You can’t do that to black media.” Saying “I do that to black media and white media”, Biden said his wife needed to use his studio. Charlamagne said: “Listen, you’ve got to come see us when you come to New York, VP Biden. It’s a long way until November. We’ve got more questions.” “You’ve got more questions?” Biden said. “Well I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” “It don’t have nothing to do with Trump,” the host said. “It has to do with the fact [that] I want something for my community.” “Take a look at my record, man!” Biden said, before claiming his record as a senator and vice-president was “second to none”. Biden has been criticized and attacked for previous positions and comments on race, such as when he reminisced about past “civility” in the Senate by recalling his work with two senators who opposed racial integration. His comment about black voters and Trump prompted fierce and instant backlash. - Biden has a point why would any black person vote for Trump a known racist. Have black people forgotten Trump did not want to rent to black people and when he did, he charged them a higher rate.

'It's party over country, and they will do whatever they can to hold on to power'
By Andrew Feinberg - Washington DC

If you’ve paid any attention to the news over the past few days, you might come away with the impression that Michigan is where President Donald Trump’s hopes for reelection will rise or fall on November 3. On Wednesday, the Great Lakes State was one of two he targeted with threats over election officials’ decision to mail absentee ballot request forms to every resident of that state. “Michigan sends absentee ballot applications to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election. This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!” Trump tweeted that afternoon, having been shamed into deleting a previous tweet which falsely claimed that actual ballots had been mailed out. It’s not the first time Trump has made baseless assertions about the integrity of American elections. Since winning the 2016 election, he has made innumerable false claims about “voter fraud,” including suggesting that more than 3 million voters making up Hillary Clinton’s popular vote margin of victory had voted “illegally”, as well as claims about nonexistent Democratic malfeasance during the 2018 midterms (in which the only documented case of absentee ballot fraud was committed by a North Carolina Republican candidate for Congress). And given Michigan’s importance as a potential source of electoral votes for former Vice President Joe Biden — Trump’s presumptive opponent — it’s no surprise that he’s a bit fixated on it. After all, Michigan is one of the three states that handed Trump electoral votes that had gone to Democratic candidates for decades, and in doing so delivered the presidency into his hands. It’s also one of the states into which his campaign is pouring inordinate amounts of effort and resources, in hopes of keeping enough Michiganders in his corner to equal — or improve — his 10,704 vote margin of victory from four years ago. Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who studies elections, said spurious claims about election results are par for the course for Trump. “This is a pattern that we've seen throughout his presidency where he, even after winning, wanted to throw down on the fact that he had lost the popular vote and made allegations about non-citizens voting that would explain why he had lost the popular vote,” McDonald said, though he took care to note that such allegations were “of course, completely unfounded”. He added that Trump appears to be engaged in “a similar pattern of throwing down on the electoral system, where it may either in the future or afterwards adversely affect him”. While McDonald noted that Trump and Republicans in Congress have little power to push back on election results once they have been certified and the electoral college has met, he suggested that the greater risk to a legitimate election comes not from Republicans in Washington making baseless claims about fraud in Michigan, but from those in a neighboring state with a notoriously gerrymandered legislature: Wisconsin.

What happened in Michigan this week was no "mistake." Infrastructure was privatized for profit, and it's crumbling
By Sophia Tesfaye

President Trump spent another week feuding with a Democratic governor, this time as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer dealt with historic levels of rainfall which led to the collapse of a pair of privately-owned dams in the state. Instead of momentarily pausing his politics of petty revenge, Trump made matters worse, as is his wont. The president diverted already strained resources for a campaign stop in Michigan that doubled as a political stunt, advertising his personal refusal to wear a mask, even in settings where everyone else is required to. Trump's antagonistic rhetoric towards a state that is facing multiple life-or-death crises at the same time was widely criticized. But what he did more quietly this week reveals just how vulnerable his deregulatory actions have left America. In a move strikingly reminiscent of the Ukraine scandal, Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to threaten to withhold federal funding from Michigan, even as floodwaters from the two breached dams forced thousands of residents of the city of Midland to flee their homes. Trump's apparent goal was to coerce Michigan officials not to send vote-by-mail applications to the state's 7.7 million registered voters. As usual, the president was unclear about exactly what funding he had in mind. Hours later he sent another tweet claiming that his administration had already activated military and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) response teams but said Gov. Whitmer "must now 'set you free' to help." Whitmer said at a news briefing on Tuesday that she had already contacted federal officials for help and activated the National Guard. Once again, nobody really knows what Trump was talking about. Nevertheless, the salient point here is that the president of the United States, after witnessing the flooding of an entire region amid a major public health crisis, was to suggest, in public, that the government and people of Michigan owed him something in exchange for federal aid. Trump then traveled to a Ford plant in Michigan on Thursday and offered this explanation for the failure of the privately-owned dams: "Perhaps there was a mistake."  Like many disasters, the beginnings of the Michigan dam failures are far removed in time from the actual event, so this event can hardly be described as a mistake. All indications are that this week's historic flooding was caused by years of neglect and mismanagement of a public good that was co-opted for private profit. It doesn't help that the headquarters of Dow Chemical, including a Superfund site with known cancer-causing chemicals, is directly downstream of all this floodwater.

By Laura Collins, Chief Investigative Reporter For Dailymail.com

Evangelical anti-abortionists 'cut checks' and 'stuffed hundred-dollar bills' into 'Jane Roe,' Norma McCorvey's hands, even though they knew she did not believe in their message, because her dramatic public 'conversion' to their cause turned her into 'a prize they could not afford to lose.' This is the startling admission made by Reverend Robert Schenck, 61, who was speaking exclusively to DailyMail.com as a new FX documentary 'AKA Jane Roe' is set to air. McCorvey died of heart failure 2017. She was 69. As 'Jane Roe,' she was 22 when she became the protagonist of Roe v Wade - the case that legalized abortion in America. In later years she shed her anonymity and made a stunning about face to become an outspoken member of the anti-abortion movement. But shortly before her death she gave a series of interviews to filmmaker Nick Sweeney and claimed that her anti-abortion campaigning was 'all an act' paid for by evangelical church leaders. Now Schenck, a key figure in McCorvey's story and evangelical leader, has admitted to paying her hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep her on side and told DailyMail.com that he and others ignored signals that 'she wasn't with us,' as long as she 'said the right things in public.'

By Robert Kuznia, Curt Devine and Nick Valencia, CNN

(CNN) In the early weeks of the US coronavirus outbreak, staff members in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had tracked a growing number of transmissions in Europe and elsewhere, and proposed a global advisory that would alert flyers to the dangers of air travel. But about a week passed before the alert was issued publicly -- crucial time lost when about 66,000 European travelers were streaming into American airports every day. A whistleblower holding an envelope. The delay, detailed in documents obtained by CNN, is the latest example to emerge of a growing sense of disconnect between the CDC and the White House. In interviews with CNN, CDC officials say their agency's efforts to mount a coordinated response to the Covid-19 pandemic have been hamstrung by a White House whose decisions are driven by politics rather than science. The result has worsened the effects of the crisis, sources inside the CDC say, relegating the 73-year-old agency that has traditionally led the nation's response to infectious disease to a supporting role.

By Arman Azad

(CNN) In new guidance for mathematical modelers and public health officials, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is estimating that about a third of coronavirus infections are asymptomatic. The CDC also says its "best estimate" is that 0.4% of people who show symptoms and have Covid-19 will die, and the agency estimates that 40% of coronavirus transmission is occurring before people feel sick. The agency cautions that those numbers are subject to change as more is learned about Covid-19, and it warns that the information is intended for planning purposes. Still, the agency says its estimates are based on real data collected by the agency before April 29. The numbers are part of five planning scenarios that "are being used by mathematical modelers throughout the federal government," according to the CDC. Four of those scenarios represent "the lower and upper bounds of disease severity and viral transmissibility." The fifth scenario is the CDC's "current best estimate about viral transmission and disease severity in the United States." In that scenario, the agency described its estimate that 0.4% of people who feel sick with Covid-19 will die. For people age 65 and older, the CDC puts that number at 1.3%. For people 49 and under, the agency estimated that 0.05% of symptomatic people will die.

Expert pushes back
Under the most severe of the five scenarios outlined -- not the agency's "best estimate" -- the CDC lists a symptomatic case fatality ratio of 0.01, meaning that 1% of people overall with Covid-19 and symptoms would die. In the least severe scenario, the CDC puts that number at 0.2%. One expert quickly pushed back on the CDC's estimates. "While most of these numbers are reasonable, the mortality rates shade far too low," biologist Carl Bergstrom of the University of Washington told CNN. Bergstrom, an expert in modeling and computer simulations, said the numbers seemed inconsistent with real-world findings.

A woman who took the politicized anti-malarial drug for 19 years to treat lupus still contracted COVID-19
By Matthew Rozsa

A woman in Wisconsin who has taken hydroxychloroquine for 19 years to treat her lupus has a message for the rest of America: I got COVID-19, despite taking the medicine, so you shouldn't assume it will keep you safe. The lupus patient, who only identified herself as Kim, told the local ABC affiliate WISN on Wednesday that she has taken the anti-malarial drug for nearly two decades to help manage the pain caused by her lupus. Between that, and the fact that she only left her home to visit the grocery store once the pandemic started, Kim believed she was safe from a possible coronavirus infection. That changed in mid-April when she began to experience COVID-19 symptoms including fever, coughing and weakness. After her oxygen saturation levels tested at 78 SpO2 (95 or higher is normal), she was sent to an emergency room where she tested positive for COVID-19. "When they gave the diagnosis, I felt like it was a death sentence. I was like, 'I'm going to die,'" Kim told WISN. "I'm like, 'How can I be sick? How? I'm on the hydroxychloroquine.' They were like, 'Well, nobody ever said that was the cure or that was going to keep you safe' and it definitely did not." President Donald Trump has spent months touting hydroxychloroquine as a possible cure for COVID-19, despite the dearth of reliable scientific evidence supporting his assertion. On Monday he told reporters that he had been taking the drug, gloating, "I was just waiting to see your eyes light up when I said this."

Republicans will control a seat on the state Supreme Court for an extra two years.
By Ian Millhiser

The state of Georgia was supposed to hold an election Tuesday to fill a seat on the state Supreme Court. Justice Keith Blackwell, a Republican whose six-year term expires on the last day of this year, did not plan to run for reelection. The election, between former Democratic Rep. John Barrow and former Republican state lawmaker Beth Beskin, would determine who would fill Blackwell’s seat. But then something weird happened: Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and the state’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, canceled Tuesday’s election. Instead, Kemp will appoint Blackwell’s successor, and that successor will serve for at least two years — ensuring the seat will remain in Republican hands. On May 14, the state Supreme Court handed down a decision that effectively blessed this scheme to keep Blackwell’s seat in the GOP’s hands. The court’s decision in Barrow v. Raffensperger is unusual in many regards — among other things, six of the state’s regular Supreme Court justices recused from the case, and they were replaced by five lower court judges who sat temporarily on the state’s highest court. The court’s decision in Barrow turns upon poorly drafted language in the state constitution, which does suggest that Blackwell, Kemp, and Raffensperger’s scheme was legal.

The scheme, briefly explained
In late February, just a few days before the deadline for candidates to file to run to replace Justice Blackwell was about to expire, Blackwell sent a letter to Kemp announcing that he intends to resign his seat, effective November 18. That means that Blackwell will leave office a few weeks before his term was set to expire on December 31. - Republicans have no shame they just stole an election and deprived American voters their right to vote.


President Donald Trump blasts plans to expand voting by mail in Michigan but dropped threats to withhold federal funding for the state after an avalanche of criticism from Democrats.

"Bet you stay home now you hypokrits" was written in parking lot at church that had sued the city over its public health orders.
By Phil Helsel

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said he's "heartbroken and furious" after a fire this week at a church that has challenged coronavirus restrictions. The fire is being investigated as arson. The fire Wednesday in Holly Springs destroyed the First Pentecostal Church, and investigators found graffiti in the church parking lot that reads, “Bet you stay home now you hypokrits," NBC affiliate WMC of Memphis reported. The church was "burned to the ground" and had been trying to open services, Reeves tweeted Thursday. First Pentecostal filed a lawsuit last month against the city over its public health order on in-person worship services, the station reported. "This is not who we are," the governor said at a daily news conference on the coronavirus epidemic and the state's response. "Obviously, we have to ensure that this investigation is done and that it is completed," Reeves said. "But if this is in fact what it looks like, I want you to know that we're going to do everything in our power to find whomever burned this church down." Stephen Crampton, attorney for the church, told WMC that he has no doubt that the fire was connected to the lawsuit. "To find that that graffiti is spray painted in there — 'I bet you stay home now, you hypocrites,' right — seems very clearly directed at this particular lawsuit and the church's stand for its own Constitutional rights," he said.

Trump's favorite morning show thinks fences can't stop beachgoers — yet they somehow work at the southern border
By Roger Sollenberger

As "Fox & Friends" co-host Brian Kilmeade criticized New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's warning that the city might have to install fencing to keep people off of beaches over Memorial Day weekend, he made an unexpected omission: "Walls and fences don't work." Kilmeade's remarks came in response to Judge Andrew Napolitano, who demanded that DeBlasio open the city lest New Yorkers take matters into their own hands. "We have a mayor in New York that loves asserting power and controlling people — even to the point of sending police to disrupt religious orgs in the middle of the ceremony," Napolitano said. "This is not right, and it's got to end. Enough is enough." "Judge, you're 100% right," Kilmeade replied. "And this mayor [says], 'I'm going to shut down the beaches, put up fences' —  which, by the way, don't work, walls and fences don't work, we all know that — 'and stop people from going to the beach.'" The cast of "Fox & Friends" has vacillated over the years on the value of President Donald Trump's quixotic border wall project. At first, they suggested that he seek corporate sponsors. During a discussion with Napolitano in 2019, the hosts parried Trump's proposal to pull funds from the Pentagon through a national emergency declaration, saying it was likely unconstitutional and would get tossed by the Supreme Court. Nine months later, the show — which critics have mocked as Trump's "real Cabinet" — defended that same plan. Kilmeade on Thursday continued to mock DeBlasio, saying: "'But if you want to go to the beach — go to Long Island beaches, as if the problem is the New York City sand." A number of Fox News personalities are currently broadcasting from their Long Island estates while the network's coronavirus stay-home policy is in effect, including Kilmeade's own co-host Ainsley Earhardt, who last month questioned Trump's plan to ban immigration during the pandemic because over concerns that it might impact her au pair.

By Jonathan Capehart Opinion writer

When I interviewed Jaime Harrison, the former chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party now running against Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), he told me about a campaign event he did in a county that gave 61 percent of its vote to President Trump in 2016. What happened there surprised him. “I walk in the room and they stand up and they start clapping and they start chanting, ‘Send Lindsey home! Send Lindsey home!’,” Harrison recounted when we talked in February. “And a number of them come up to me afterwards and they say, ‘You know, I don’t know what has happened to Lindsey Graham.’” Harrison thinks he knows what happened. “Here’s a guy that many of us had tremendous respect for. Because when John McCain was alive, we thought in the end of the day he would do the right thing for either the state or the nation when the rubber met the road,” Harrison explained as he invoked the name of Graham’s best friend, the Arizona senator who died in 2018. “But what we have now seen is that this guy’s only interest is in Lindsey O. Graham. His only interest is being in the middle of things, to have power.” A new ad out today from LindseyMustGoPAC, a super PAC with an obvious objective, uses the three-term senator’s own words to dramatize what happened to Graham in an effort to destroy his credibility and sow doubts about his character.

By JEREMY B. WHITE

OAKLAND — Republican congressional candidate Darrell Issa and a conservative group are suing to block California’s move to an all-mail November election. They are legally challenging Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive that elections officials mail every registered voter a ballot for the November election, making California the first state to switch to vote by mail due to coronavirus concerns. Newsom called the move a necessary response to the pandemic since voters at crowded vote centers could be exposed if they cast in-person ballots. Newsom's move won praise from Democrats last week, including former senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. But Republicans have seized on the move as an attempt to interfere with the November election, and the Republican National Committee said it was weighing its legal options after Newsom's executive order. The conservative group Judicial Watch filed a challenge in Sacramento’s U.S. District Court to block Newsom’s executive order on behalf of plaintiffs that include Issa, a Republican former congressman vying this year to return to the House to represent a San Diego-area district. The complaint argues that Newsom’s order violates elections provisions of the Constitution and represents an “unlawful attempt to supersede and replace California election law” by creating “an entirely new system” that does not conform with an existing state law, the Voter’s Choice Act, which lays out requirements for counties that wish to mail ballots to all voters. It warns that election results could be invalidated, specifically citing the 50th District contest in which Issa is the Republican nominee. And the complaint charges that Newsom’s order has scrambled Issa’s campaign by compelling him to “reevaluate his electoral strategy” and increasing the cost of running a campaign. Issa “registered to run for office based under the electoral system established by the California Legislature,” the complaint says. “Now, he must develop a new strategy.”

By Lenny Bernstein

Researchers who examined the lungs of patients killed by covid-19 found evidence that it attacks the lining of blood vessels there, a critical difference from the lungs of people who died of the flu, according to a report published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Critical parts of the lungs of patients infected by the novel coronavirus also suffered many microscopic blood clots and appeared to respond to the attack by growing tiny new blood vessels, the researchers reported. The observations in a small number of autopsied lungs buttress reports from physicians treating covid-19 patients. Doctors have described widespread damage to blood vessels and the presence of blood clots that would not be expected in a respiratory disease. What’s different about covid-19 is the lungs don’t get stiff or injured or destroyed before there’s hypoxia,” the medical term for oxygen deprivation, said Steven J. Mentzer, a professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and part of the team that wrote the report. “For whatever reason, there is a vascular phase” in addition to damage more commonly associated with viral diseases such as the flu, he said. The research team compared seven lungs of patients who died of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, with lung tissue from seven patients who died of pneumonia caused by the flu. They also examined 10 lungs donated for transplant but not used. The lungs, acquired in Europe, were matched by age and gender.

The victim's son fled and was arrested, police said. Multiple witnesses who had been on Zoom reported the attack, they said.
By Dennis Romero

A man was fatally stabbed in front of virtual onlookers as he participated in a Zoom conference call Thursday afternoon, police on Long Island said. Authorities received 911 calls from other participants on the call shortly after noon, the Suffolk County Police Department said in a statement. Dwight Powers, 72, was in Amityville when he was fatally attacked. His son, 32-year-old Thomas Scully-Powers, has been arrested in the slaying.

The Senate majority leader took a hard line in a conference call with House Republicans.
By BURGESS EVERETT

Mitch McConnell promised House Republicans on Wednesday that the beefed up unemployment benefits enacted earlier this spring "will not be in the next bill." The Senate majority leader told the House GOP minority in an afternoon phone call that he is comfortable waiting to see how the nearly $3 trillion in coronavirus spending previously approved plays out before moving forward on the next relief legislation. And he told them the ultimate end-product won't look anything like House Democrats' $3 trillion package passed last week, according to a person briefed on the call. While McConnell conceded more aid may be necessary in the coming weeks, he also repeated his insistence that liability reform be included in the next round of legislation to minimize lawsuits. And he said the $600 weekly boost in unemployment benefits won't continue — a vow he hadn't previously made.

A Missouri initiative would undo voters’ preference for nonpartisan legislative districts — and perhaps shift representation itself.
By David Daley

When Karl Rove laid out the Republican plan to win back power by weaponizing redistricting in a March 2010 op-ed, Democrats failed to pay proper attention. The vision set forth — called Redmap, short for the Redistricting Majority Project — proved simple yet revolutionary: In most states, legislatures control the decennial redistricting that follows the census. So in November 2010, Republicans invested tens of millions of dollars in these ordinarily sleepy local races and swept elections. Through gerrymandering, they drew themselves huge advantages in Congress and state capitals, firewalls that have allowed Republicans in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan and elsewhere to survive wave elections in which Democratic state legislative candidates won hundreds of thousands more votes. It’s a census-year election again, and this time both sides understand the stakes. Democrats know down-ballot elections this fall are the last opportunity to close the redistricting gap before next decade’s maps are drawn. Republicans appear to have a different strategy for 2020 — subtler, more technical and instructed by successful legal challenges that overturned Republican-drawn maps in North Carolina and Pennsylvania as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. Last week, Republicans in Missouri presented a dress rehearsal of this plan. If left unchallenged, it could once again dye many states red for a decade or more. In 2018, nonpartisan movements in five states, including Missouri, won redistricting reform via ballot initiative. (Oregon, Oklahoma and Arkansas are attempting to follow suit.) So last week, Missouri lawmakers looked to dismantle the initiative — called Clean Missouri and supported by 62 percent of the state’s voters — that would have taken mapmaking authority away from politicians and handed it to a nonpartisan state demographer. If Republicans have their way, that demographer won’t draw a single line and control over maps will be returned to a commission of party insiders.

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) Oregon held its primary election on Tuesday, a mostly ho-hum affair, with Joe Biden cruising to a win over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential race and no incumbents facing any real tests either. You'll notice I said that it was a "mostly" boring election, not an entirely boring election. In fact, Oregon Republicans did something very, very odd -- and potentially disastrous -- in choosing their nominee to take on Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley in November. What they did is nominate Jo Rae Perkins, a financial adviser and self-professed QAnon conspiracy theorist. In a video posted to Twitter following her victory, Perkins said this:

"Where we go one, we go all. I stand with President Trump. I stand with Q and the team. Thank you Anons and thank you patriots -- and together we can save our republic."     #WWG1WGA #PerkinsForUSSenate #Oregon pic.twitter.com/cHIGnBmBYJ — Jo Rae Perkins (@PerkinsForUSSen) May 20, 2020

What, you ask, is QAnon? It's a broad-scale Internet-based conspiracy theory begun in early 2017 that is based on a belief that there is a high-level government official -- "Q" -- who sprinkles clues on internet message boards like 4chan and 8chan about a massive "deep state" conspiracy (or series of conspiracies) at work in the country. Or, as the Daily Beast's Will Sommer, who has written extensively about the Q movement, put it: "Every president before Trump was a 'criminal president' in league with all the nefarious groups of conspiracy theories past: the global banking elite, death squads operating on orders from Hillary Clinton, deep-state intelligence operatives, and Pizzagate-style pedophile rings. In an effort to break this cabal's grip, according to Q, the military convinced Trump to run for president.... ...QAnon fans are obsessed with finding proof that whoever is behind Q is actually connected to the Trump administration. During one Trump trip to Asia, Q posted some pictures of islands, which supporters seized on as proof that Q was on Air Force One." The phrase "Where we go one, we go all" -- or in Q shorthand WWG1WGA -- has become the group's slogan or mantra. (In the Twitter video, Perkins holds up a bumper sticker with "WWG1WGA" on it.) It's not entirely clear, candidly, what the mantra actually means.

By Teo Armus

On March 8, it was mostly business as usual in the United States. As the Lakers faced the Clippers in a much-anticipated Los Angeles basketball matchup, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) rallied before a packed crowd in Michigan. In Miami, thousands squeezed onto the beach for a massive dance party. With 500 coronavirus infections reported nationwide at the time, the outbreak seemed like a distant threat to many Americans. But by the following Sunday, the nation had entered a different universe: 2,000 confirmed cases, dozens of deaths, and shutdown orders in Illinois, Ohio and New York City, among other parts of the country. What if those sweeping measures imposed by March 15 — a federal warning against large gatherings, health screenings at airports, states of emergency declared by governors and mayors — had been announced a week earlier? New research from Columbia University epidemiologists offered one possible answer on Wednesday. If the same kind of social distancing had been in place seven days earlier, their study found, the United States could have prevented 36,000 deaths through early May — about 40 percent of fatalities reported to date. “If you don’t take steps to fight the growth rate aggressively, you get much worse consequences,” Jeffrey Shaman, an environmental health sciences professor who led the study, told The Washington Post. His team’s analysis used infectious-disease modeling to examine the spread of the virus from March 15, when many people nationwide began staying home, until May 3. The researchers examined transmissions within each county, movement between counties and deaths to chart how the virus spread — and killed — over seven weeks.

By Faith Karimi and Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) At least four states combined data from two different test results, potentially providing a misleading picture of when and where coronavirus spread as the nation eases restrictions. More than 1.5 million people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus and over 93,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. Virginia, Texas, Georgia, and Vermont have said they've been adding two numbers to their totals: viral test results and antibody test results. Viral tests are taken by nose swab or saliva sample, and look for direct evidence someone currently has Covid-19. By contrast, antibody tests use blood samples to look for biological signals that a person has been exposed to the virus in the past. Combining the two tests' results into one total could provide an inaccurate picture of where and when the virus spread. The combination also could also overstate a state's ability to test and track active infections -- a key consideration as states ease coronavirus restrictions. Experts have consistently emphasized that for states to reopen safely, adequate testing and tracing is needed. "You only know how many cases you have if you do a lot of testing," said Elizabeth Cohen, CNN's senior medical correspondent. "If you put the two tests together, you fool yourself into thinking you've done more testing than you have." Texas, Virginia and Vermont have said they've recognized the data issue and moved to fix it in the past few days. In Georgia, health officials said they've been adding antibody tests to their "total tests" number in line with methodology from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has not responded to CNN's request for comment on whether its guidance includes adding antibody tests to total test numbers. On its website, the database provides daily test results without a breakdown of whether they're viral or antibody.

US testing data 'kind of screwed up,' experts say
In a new report Wednesday, infectious disease experts described US coronavirus testing as disorganized and in need of coordination at the national level.
Testing is currently not accurate enough to be used to make most decisions on who should go back to work or to school, the team at the University of Minnesota said. "It's a mess out there," said Mike Osterholm, head of the university's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, which issued the report. "Testing is very, very important, but we're not doing the right testing."

Prosecutors say the "Full House" actress faked the athletic credentials of her daughters to get them into USC.
By David K. Li

Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband agreed to plead guilty to charges connected to their roles in a massive college admission scandal that rocked higher education, prosecutors said Thursday. In a deal struck with federal prosecutors in Boston, the "Full House" actress and husband Mossimo Giannulli agreed to serve time in prison for allegedly passing off their daughters as elite athletes and securing their admission to the University of Southern California, federal prosecutors in Boston said. Loughlin has agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, and Giannulli is now expected to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud, authorities said. If a federal judge signs off on the deals, Loughlin will spend two months in prison, pay a $150,000 fine, be subjected to two years of supervised release and perform 100 hours of community service, prosecutors said. In Giannulli’s plea agreement, he agreed to five months in prison, a $250,000 fine, two years of supervised release and 250 hours of community service. “Under the plea agreements filed today, these defendants will serve prison terms reflecting their respective roles in a conspiracy to corrupt the college admissions process and which are consistent with prior sentences in this case," U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a statement.

By Jordain Carney

Senate Republicans issued their first subpoena on Wednesday as part of wide-ranging investigations tied to the Obama administration. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted along party lines to issue a subpoena for Blue Star Strategies, a firm with ties to Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the chairman of the panel, has homed in on the U.S. firm as he probes Hunter Biden's work for Burisma Holdings, where Biden — the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee — was a member of the board until he stepped down in 2019. The subpoena asks for records from Jan. 1, 2013, to the present of Blue Star Strategies "related to work for or on behalf of Burisma Holdings or individuals associated with Burisma." Johnson is also requesting an interview with top Blue Star officials to discuss the subpoena. "This is not my choice to spend any amount of time on this vote. I would have issued the subpoenas quietly," Johnson said. - Republicans continue to protect Donald J. Trump and refuse to investigate Donald J. Trump who is a criminal who has violated our laws on more than one occasion.

By Marik von Rennenkampff, Opinion Contributor

Republicans and right-wing media are in a conspiracy theory-spewing meltdown. In the wake of selective, politically motivated “leaks” of sensitive documents, conservative pundits are launching an avalanche of baseless attacks against President Trump’s political opponents. But the reality is brutally obvious: Trump is weaponizing the American government to distract from his catastrophically incompetent pandemic response and the crushing economic fallout. While right-wing media continue to whip their audiences into hysteria over a nefarious Obama-led plot to undermine Trump, the documents — strategically released by Trump’s political lackeys atop the intelligence and law enforcement communities — do absolutely nothing to further such asinine conspiracy theories. In fact, they prove the opposite. The recently disclosed files show the Obama administration’s diligence and focus in the wake of Russia’s sweeping assault on American democracy. Moreover, contrary to unhinged right-wing conspiracy-mongering, the materials demonstrate Obama’s dedication to upholding the FBI’s independence from improper political influence. In short, Trump’s election-year ploy to distract the American public with selective leaks of sensitive information backfired. Spectacularly so. Well-documented exceptions aside, the files also show that the Comey-led FBI deftly steered a sensitive counterintelligence investigation amid nightmarish political circumstances. The FBI — rightly — opened counterintelligence investigations into several Trump campaign officials following a litany of Trump World contacts with shady Russian intelligence cutouts; these meetings coincided, naturally, with Moscow’s brazen campaign to swing the 2016 election in Trump’s favor.

By Chantal Da Silva

The Trump administration has reportedly signed its biggest border wall contract yet, awarding a North Dakota construction firm a nearly $1.3 billion deal to put up fencing in Arizona. Fisher Sand and Gravel, the construction firm awarded the contract, is expected to see 42 miles of black-painted fencing erected across the mountainous terrain of southern Arizona, according to The Washington Post. Given the deal's $1.28 billion price tag, that works out to a cost of more than $30 million per mile. Previously, Fisher Sand and Gravel had been passed over for other border wall construction projects. However, the North Dakota firm reportedly gained President Donald Trump's support in White House meetings after Tommy Fisher, the company's CEO, praised the president on cable news and made donations to Trump's GOP allies. The company's only other major border contract, a $400 million deal to build 31 miles of border wall across the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge southwest of Tucson, is currently under review by the Defense Department inspector general after Democratic Congress members expressed concerns over the White House's influence on the contracting process. On Wednesday, the DoD inspector general's office confirmed to Newsweek that the audit was still ongoing.

But the GOP has plenty more tricks up its sleeve.
By Ian Millhiser

Wisconsin’s April 7 election could have been a disaster for voting rights. Election officials received four or five times more absentee ballot requests than they normally do in a spring election. Milwaukee closed all but five of its 180 polling locations, in large part because it struggled to find poll workers during a pandemic. And, on top of all that, Republicans in the state legislature, on the state Supreme Court, and on the Supreme Court of the United States all thwarted efforts to make sure voters would not be disenfranchised by the unique challenges presented by an election held when most voters were stuck at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Yet a report by the Wisconsin Elections Commission suggests the election went much better than it could have. The overwhelming majority of voters who wanted to vote absentee were able to do so. And it is likely that only a small percentage of voters were disenfranchised by a US Supreme Court decision backing the Republican Party’s effort to make it harder to cast a ballot. The report, in other words, suggests that a sophisticated and multi-front effort by Republicans to prevent many Wisconsinites from casting a ballot achieved very limited results. That’s not a reason for voting rights advocates to relax. Turnout is likely to be much higher in the November general election than it was in Wisconsin’s spring election, so election officials could still be overwhelmed by ballot requests in November. Republicans also have a $20 million legal war chest that they can use to obtain court orders limiting the franchise.

By Katelyn Polantz and Marshall Cohen, CNN

(CNN) Almost immediately after special counsel Robert Mueller closed his investigation last year, Attorney General William Barr was huddling with the prosecutor he assigned to re-examine the Russia probe -- in a series of meetings that haven't been previously known and appear to highlight Barr's drive to rewrite the legacy of the Mueller investigation. Barr met at least six times with US Attorney John "Bull" Durham over a 10-week period in spring 2019, including once during the critical days after Mueller submitted his report to the Department of Justice and before it was released to the public, according to Justice Department records released to the transparency group American Oversight and shared with CNN this week. American Oversight sued the Justice Department in August for records of Durham-Barr communications and meetings. The records could begin to fill in gaps about the start of Durham's review. Barr has been clear about his skepticism of the Russia investigation since even before he became attorney general, yet how the Durham probe began, how closely Barr has directed Durham's work and the full sweep of Durham's investigation isn't known. While it's unclear how routinely Barr was meeting with other prosecutors in Durham's position at the end of the Mueller investigation, the newly discovered details of his meetings with Durham illuminate how the two men communicated at a crucial time. The newly released records show Barr moved quickly after becoming attorney general in February 2019 to get face time with Durham.

The president falsely cited the risk of voter fraud in tweeted threats to defund Nevada and Michigan, both 2020 swing states
By Sam Levine in New York

Donald Trump falsely accused two states of facilitating voter fraud and threatened to withhold critical election funding from them on Wednesday because of their efforts to make it easier to cast a ballot during the Covid-19 pandemic. Trump targeted Nevada and Michigan, a critical swing state he won by just over 10,000 votes in 2016. Trump incorrectly said Michigan was planning to send a mail-in ballot to every voter for elections in 2020. The state announced on Tuesday it was sending an absentee ballot application, not a ballot, to every registered voter. Georgia’s secretary of state, a Republican, announced a similar plan earlier this year, a plan reportedly developed in coordination with the Trump campaign. Republican secretaries of state in other places, including Iowa and West Virginia have also decided to send absentee ballot applications to all voters. In a second tweet on Wednesday, Trump also suggested he would block federal funding from Nevada after its Republican secretary of state decided to mail a ballot to voters for the state’s 9 June primary. Facing a Democratic-led lawsuit, Clark county, home of 70% of voters, agreed to send ballots to not just active voters, but inactive ones the state suspects have moved. Republicans argue that decision leaves ballots vulnerable to fraud. Several studies have shown voter fraud is extremely rare and Trump himself voted by mail in Florida earlier this year.

By Janelle Griffith, NBC News

A Florida man who thought the coronavirus was "a fake crisis" has changed his mind after he and his wife contracted COVID-19. Brian Hitchens, a rideshare driver who lives in Jupiter, downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus in Facebook posts in March and April. "I'm honoring what our government says to do during this epidemic but I do not fear this virus because I know that my God is bigger than this Virus will ever be," he wrote in a post on April 2. "Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords." In mid-April, Hitchens, 46, began documenting his and his wife's health on Facebook. "Been home sick for over a week. Both my wife and I home sick," he wrote in a post on April 18. "I've got no energy and all I want to do is sleep." A day later, Hitchens and his wife, Erin, were admitted to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, Hitchens said in a Facebook post. Hitchens could not immediately be reached for comment Monday. The voicemail box for a number listed for him is full. In a lengthy post on May 12, Hitchens said that he was once among those who thought the coronavirus "is a fake crisis" that was "blown out of proportion" and "wasn't that serious." That changed when he started to feel sick in April and stopped working, he wrote. Hitchens said he "had just enough energy" to drive himself and his wife to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center on April 19, where they both tested positive for the virus.

TRY AGAIN

A military contractors’ report circulating on Capitol Hill claims to have evidence that COVID-19 escaped from a Chinese lab. It’s filled with information that’s just plain wrong.
By Erin Banco, Adam Rawnsley, Lachlan Cartwright

A shocking report suggesting that the coronavirus was “release[d from] the Wuhan Institute of Virology” in China is now circulating in U.S. military and intelligence circles and on Capitol Hill. But there’s a critical flaw in the report, a Daily Beast analysis reveals: Some of its most seemingly persuasive evidence is false—provably false. Multiple congressional committees have obtained and are scrutinizing the 30-page report, produced by the Multi-Agency Collaboration Environment (MACE), a part of Sierra Nevada, a major Department of Defense contractor. The report claims to rely on social media postings, commercial satellite imagery, and cellphone location data to draw the conclusion that some sort of “hazardous event” occurred at the Wuhan virology lab in October 2019—an event that allowed COVID-19 to escape. It’s a theory that has gained currency on the political right and in the upper tiers of the Trump administration. But the report’s claim centers around missing location data for up to seven phones — and in many cases, less than that. It’s too small a sample size to prove much of anything, especially when the same devices showed similar absences in the spring of 2019. The MACE document claims a November 2019 conference was canceled because of some calamity; in fact, there are selfies from the event. What’s more, imagery collected by DigitalGlobe’s Maxar Technologies satellites and provided to The Daily Beast reveals a simpler, less exotic reason for why analysts believed “roadblocks” went into place around the lab after the supposed accident: road construction. The Maxar images also show typical workdays, with normal traffic patterns around the lab, after the supposedly cataclysmic event.

By: ActionNewsJax.com News Staff

GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. — Action News Jax continues to follow the Ahmaud Arbery case and will have the latest updates LIVE on CBS47 and FOX30 starting at 5. Click to watch. Action News Jax is learning new details regarding the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Glynn County man who was shot and killed in February while loved ones said he was jogging through a Satilla Shores neighborhood. Arbery’s family attorney S. Lee Merritt said there is video that shows Arbery being chased for over four minutes by William Roddie Bryan, Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael, before his death. Bryan reportedly recorded the leaked video showing the moments Arbery was shot and killed, which gained national attention. Merritt told Action News Jax that video is actually more than four minutes long. Only about 32 seconds of the video was uploaded online.

The attorney general said that an investigation into the Russia inquiry was focusing on others, not the former president.
By Katie Benner and Adam Goldman

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr dismissed President Trump’s attempts to rebrand the Russia investigation as a criminal plot engineered by former President Barack Obama, saying on Monday that he expected no charges against either Mr. Obama or former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as a result of an investigation into how their administration handled Russian election interference. “As long as I’m attorney general, the criminal justice system will not be used for partisan political ends,” Mr. Barr said during a news conference announcing that the gunman in last year’s shooting at Florida military base had links to Al Qaeda. Mr. Barr said that John H. Durham, the federal prosecutor investigating how law enforcement and intelligence officials confronted Russia’s operations to meddle in the 2016 election, was examining some aspects of the case as potential crimes but that he was focused on other people, not Mr. Obama or Mr. Biden. “I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man,” Mr. Barr said. “Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others.”

By Zachary Cohen, CNN

Washington (CNN) The State Department inspector general fired by President Donald Trump on Friday, Steve Linick, had nearly completed an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's decision to fast-track an $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, according to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Rep. Eliot Engel. "I have learned that there may be another reason for Mr. Linick's firing. His office was investigating — at my request — Trump's phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia. We don't have the full picture yet, but it's troubling that Secretary Pompeo wanted Mr. Linick pushed out before this work could be completed," Engel, a Democrat from New York, said in a statement to CNN Monday. Last May, the Trump administration declared an emergency to bypass Congress and expedite billions of dollars in arms sales to various countries -- including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- citing the need to deter what it called "the malign influence" of Iran throughout the Middle East. "These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability, and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran," Pompeo said in a statement at the time, which put the value of the sales at $8.1 billion. But the move drew bipartisan condemnation, with lawmakers decrying the precedent it sets, questioning the administration's claims of an emergency and raising the issue of Saudi Arabia's human rights record and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Now, Engel says Pompeo might have removed the federal watchdog who was looking into his handling of the arms sale. Linick's Saudi Arabia investigation was first reported by The Washington Post. The revelation will increase scrutiny of Trump's firing of Linick on Friday evening -- the latest in a series of dismissals of independent government watchdogs tasked with oversight of the President's administration. A senior State Department official previously confirmed to CNN that Pompeo recommended Linick be removed, but they did not know the reasons why.

IG was also investigating whether Pompeo made a staffer perform errands
On Saturday, CNN reported that Linick was also investigating whether Pompeo made a staffer perform a variety of personal errands, including walking his dog, picking up dry cleaning and making a dinner reservation for him and his wife. But at this time, House Democrats say they do not yet know which investigation was the biggest factor behind the decision to dismiss Linick. "I wouldn't assign percentages," a Democratic committee aide said.

By Ishena Robinson

New texts reveal that the Glynn County police recommended that the owner of the property at the center of the Ahmaud Arbery shooting contact Greg McMichael whenever he “got action on his camera.” Greg McMichael, 64, and his son 34-year-old Travis McMichael were charged with felony murder and aggravated assault recently after the release of video footage that shows the two men ambushing 25-year-old Arbery and fatally shooting him in February. On the day of Arbery’s murder, one of the McMichaels called 911 to say Arbery had been running by a property under construction that is owned by Larry English. The property had a motion-activated camera system that had picked up unknown people going onto the site, and English often called police and texted the videos to them according to a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

By Hollie Silverman, CNN

(CNN) Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while jogging in Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23, 2020. Cell phone video of the fatal interaction soon surfaced between Arbery and the two men who chased him, Gregory and Travis McMichael, raising more questions and prompting a call for justice from celebrities, law enforcement, community leaders and civilians. The men were arrested more than two months after the shooting death and charged with felony murder and aggravated assault. "The truth will reveal that this is not just another act of violent racism," Frank Hogue, an attorney for the men, said at a news conference. "Greg McMichael did not commit murder." "Travis has been vilified before his voice could even be heard. ... The truth in this case will exonerate Travis," a statement from Robert Rubin and Jason Sheffield, attorneys for the younger McMichael, reads. Gregory McMichael told police after the shooting that he and his son pursued Arbery because they thought he looked like a suspect in a series of recent break-ins, a police report said. A struggle ensued between Arbery and Travis McMichael, who was armed with a shotgun, according to the report and a video that appears to show the incident. Arbery was shot three times, including twice in the chest, according to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation autopsy report. No string of break-ins was reported in more than seven weeks before Arbery's death. And new surveillance video taken from a home under construction where Arbery entered on the day of his death is creating more questions, as it's clear he wasn't the only one who entered the property. Homeowner Larry English has confirmed through the release of surveillance videos that multiple people had trespassed at his home which was under construction. Arbery was the only one killed. CNN obtained 11 surveillance clips spanning from October 25, 2019 to February 23, 2020 from Attorney J. Elizabeth Graddy, representing English, on Saturday. Two of those videos were obtained by CNN prior to this week and six others were sent on Friday. Three new videos show a man and woman entering the property, children entering the property, and an unidentified male entering the property on separate occasions. Some of the videos provided were dated October 25, 2019, November 18, 2019 December 17, 2019, February 11, 2020 and February 23, 2020. The videos with dates were sent to CNN by Graddy with the dates as their titles. Eight clips were dated and three clips, two showing children entering the home and one clip showing a man and a woman entering, were not dated.

By Ishena Robinson

Police in Colorado are seeking the public’s help to identify a man who went grocery shopping while wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood this weekend, though a similar case in San Diego recently ended with the police throwing up their hands and going, “This is America.” Some white people have used their privilege to respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic by refusing to follow public health orders to wear masks and not go out to get bad haircuts. Others, like this man who went out to get some milk while wearing a wrinkled KKK hood, have responded by turning masks into emblems of their white supremacist desires: According to Summit Daily, employees of the grocery store called the police after they told the man to leave and he refused.

Congressional officials are trying to determine whether other investigations into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were underway.
By Josh Lederman and Andrea Mitchell

WASHINGTON — The State Department inspector general who was removed from his job Friday was looking into whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a staffer walk his dog, pick up his dry cleaning and make dinner reservations for Pompeo and his wife, among other personal errands, according to two congressional officials assigned to different committees. The officials said they are working to learn whether former Inspector General Steve Linick may have had other ongoing investigations into Pompeo. The officials say the staffer who was alleged to have been made to do personal tasks is a political appointee who was serving as a staff assistant. CNN reported last year that congressional Democrats were investigating a different complaint, this one from a whistleblower, alleging that Pompeo's diplomatic security agents were made to perform similar personal tasks. The House first obtained details of the inspector general investigation late last week after learning of Linick's sudden removal. Congressional oversight officials investigating the matter believe the firing was direct retaliation for his pursuing the investigation. A White House official told NBC News that Pompeo "recommended" Linick's ouster and that President Donald Trump agreed with the move.

By Hannah Hagemann

Congressional Democrats announced Saturday they're requesting all records and documents regarding President Trump's decision to fire State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, the fourth government watchdog Trump has fired or sought to remove in the last six weeks. "We unalterably oppose the politically-motivated firing of inspectors general and the President's gutting of these critical positions," New York Rep. Eliot Engel, chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and New Jersey Sen. Robert Menedez, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, wrote in a letter to the deputy secretary of state. The Trump administration announced Friday evening that Linick will be replaced by Ambassador Stephen Akard, who currently directs the department's Office of Foreign Missions. Linick's removal is effective in 30 days. A White House official told NPR on background Saturday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recommended the move, "and President Trump agreed." Engel said he'd learned that Linick had opened an investigation into Pompeo. A Democratic aide on Capitol Hill told NPR that the inspector general was investigating Pompeo's alleged misuse of a State Department political appointee who was performing personal tasks for the secretary and his wife.

‘SHIT-TALKING’

More than a dozen sources in Trump’s orbit said they could not say whether the Silicon Valley luminary was going to play any meaningful role in the election, like he did in 2016.
By Lachlan Cartwright, Asawin Suebsaeng, Lachlan Markay

During the last presidential campaign, Facebook board member and billionaire Peter Thiel was among Donald Trump’s most important backers, campaigning for the future president as a “proud,” openly gay supporter of the Republican nominee and even speaking at the Republican Party’s 2016 convention. Four years later, Thiel has taken on a dramatically reduced—if not altogether nonexistent—role in pushing for Trump 2020. Though Thiel declared a year and a half ago that he supports Trump’s re-election, he so far hasn't donated large sums to any of the major Trump campaign committees, and it is unclear to various Trump lieutenants if those contributions are forthcoming. Top officials in the president’s political orbit say that Thiel has been absent from 2020 discussions, with one proclaiming the famous investor had “ghosted” Team Trump lately. And several people familiar with the situation say he has privately criticized Trump in recent months and contemplated limiting his support to other GOP or conservative-nationalist politicians such as Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, to whom he donated the legal maximum of $5,400 in 2017. Thiel’s cold front has come as the data-mining firm that he co-founded has been raking it in from federal contracts with the Trump administration, including a recent deal to help build what the government hoped would be “the single source” for data to understand and mitigate the effects of the coronavirus. But, as it were, sources say the heart of Thiel’s disaffection with the president is Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. One person in Thiel’s circle tells The Daily Beast that Thiel has been “shit-talking” Trump over what he views as the president’s hamfisted and botched handling of the pandemic that has resulted in a stalled economy, massive job losses, and a U.S. death toll approaching 90,000. Another person familiar with Thiel’s recent griping said that Thiel was “clearly very frustrated” with the president’s uneven public appearances, particularly the daily White House press briefings Trump held that often ended in head-scratching pronouncements or politically disastrous boasts. In that regard, Thiel was hardly alone. Trump’s briefings got so bad that his own most senior advisers were urging him to cut down on them, arguing to him directly that these hours-long briefings were tanking his poll numbers and handing a gift to Team Biden. But for a once-declared MAGA diehard to feel this way underscores the degree of self-inflicted damage Trump may have done.

By Spencer Kimball

President Donald Trump fired the State Department’s inspector general on the recommendation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a White House official said Saturday. Trump fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick Friday night, notifying Congress of the decision in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Trump, who has targeted several government agency watchdogs in the past several weeks, told Congress he no longer had full confidence in Linick, but did not provide an explanation as to why. “Secretary Pompeo recommended the move, and President Trump agreed,” a White House official said. Democratic lawmakers said the inspector general was investigating potential misconduct by Pompeo. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., launched an investigation into Linick’s removal Saturday, claiming Pompeo wanted the inspector general removed because the secretary was under investigation. Menendez and Engel have called for the White House to turn over records related to Linick’s firing. “Such an action, transparently designed to protect Secretary Pompeo from personal accountability, would undermine the foundation of our democratic institutions and may be an illegal act of retaliation,” the lawmakers said in press release Saturday. “This concern is amplified by the fact that it came only hours after the House of Representatives passed the Heroes Act, which contains additional legal protections for inspectors general.” A Democratic aide told NBC News that Linick was scrutinizing Pompeo’s alleged misuse of a political appointee to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife, Susan. The firing of Linick was also met with skepticism by some Republican lawmakers. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Trump must provide details to Congress about why Linick was removed. “As I’ve said before, Congress requires written reasons justifying an IG’s removal,” said Grassley, who co-chairs the Whistleblower Protection Caucus  “A general lack of confidence simply is not sufficient detail to satisfy Congress.”

By Cory Stieg

In a press conference May 6, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that 66% of new hospitalizations in New York for Covid-19 were people who had been staying home. “This is a surprise: Overwhelmingly, the people were at home,” Cuomo said. “We thought maybe they were taking public transportation, and we’ve taken special precautions on public transportation, but actually no, because these people were literally at home.” The “shocking” data came from a survey of more than 100 New York hospitals and about 1,300 new patients, Cuomo said. It raises the question: “Of the people who are staying home, how rigorously are they staying at home?” Stephen Morse, professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, who focuses on risk assessment of infectious diseases, tells CNBC Make It. It’s possible that as we enter the ninth and tenth week of fairly extreme prevention measures, people are feeling fatigued or getting too relaxed, says Joseph Vinetz, professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine and physician scientist in infectious diseases. “Just because we’re tired doesn’t mean that the virus cares,” he says. “Viruses have no emotions; they just do their thing.” According to Cuomo, “much of this comes down to what you do to protect yourself.”  So from masks to groceries, here’s a reminder checklist of the measures epidemiologists and infectious disease experts say you should still absolutely be following, even if you live in a place that’s re-opening:

By Tal Axelrod

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the Senate would work to confirm a Supreme Court nominee this year if a vacancy arises, saying the circumstances are different from 2016, when Republicans blocked then-President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland. Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, noted that both the Senate and the White House are held by Republicans, versus in 2016, when the GOP-held Senate denied Garland a hearing. “Well, Merrick Garland was a different situation. You had the president of one party nominating, and you had the Senate in the hands of the other party. A situation where you've got them both would be different. I don't want to speculate, but I think appointing judges is a high priority for me in 2020,” Graham said in an interview on “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren” set to air Sunday. "If you look into the history of the country, there had not been an occasion where somebody was confirmed in a presidential election year after primary started when you had divided government," he added. Senate Republicans have made confirming President Trump’s judicial nominees a top priority, sending his picks to federal judgeships at a record clip, something Trump often touts during his campaign rallies. Judicial nominations have become a chief partisan issue in the Senate in recent years. Democrats went “nuclear” to scrap the 60-vote filibuster for most judicial picks and all executive nominations, with Republicans nixing the same rule for Supreme Court picks in 2017. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has largely steered the GOP’s efforts to confirm judges, has also said the Senate would consider nominations to the Supreme Court this year. "If you look into the history of the country, there had not been an occasion where somebody was confirmed in a presidential election year after primary started when you had divided government," he added. Senate Republicans have made confirming President Trump’s judicial nominees a top priority, sending his picks to federal judgeships at a record clip, something Trump often touts during his campaign rallies. Judicial nominations have become a chief partisan issue in the Senate in recent years. Democrats went “nuclear” to scrap the 60-vote filibuster for most judicial picks and all executive nominations, with Republicans nixing the same rule for Supreme Court picks in 2017. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has largely steered the GOP’s efforts to confirm judges, has also said the Senate would consider nominations to the Supreme Court this year.  

The president seems more interested in blaming his predecessor than tackling the coronavirus – so what’s driving Trump’s fixation?
by David Smith in Washington

President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump once sat together in the Oval Office. “I was immediately struck by Trump’s body language,” wrote journalist Jon Karl in his memoir Front Row at The Trump Show. “I was seeing a side of him I had never seen. He seemed, believe it or not, humbled.” It was November 2016 and, just for once, Trump was not in charge of the room, Karl recalls. Obama was still president, directing the action and setting the tone. His successor “seemed a little dazed” and “a little freaked out”. What the two men discussed in their meeting that day, only they know. But what became clear in the next three and a half years is that Obama remains something of an obsession for Trump; the subject of a political and personal inferiority complex. Observers point to a mix of anti-intellectualism, racism, vengeance and primitive envy over everything from Obama’s Nobel peace prize to the scale of his inauguration crowd and social media following. Ben Rhodes, a former Obama national security aide, tweeted this week: “Trump’s fact-free fixation on Obama dating back to birtherism is so absurd and stupid that it would be comic if it wasn’t so tragic.” “Birtherism” was a conspiracy theory that Trump started pushing in 2011 (“He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one but there is something on that birth certificate – maybe religion, maybe it says he’s a Muslim, I don’t know.”) . Nine years later, he has come full circle with “Obamagate”, which accuses his predecessor of working in league with the “deep state” to frame Trump for colluding with Russia to win the 2016 election. There is zero evidence for this claim. Indeed, a case could be made that the supposed “deep state” did more to help Trump than hurt him when the FBI reopened an investigation into his opponent, Hillary Clinton, just before election day. When questioned by reporters, Trump himself has struggled to articulate what “Obamagate” means. Ned Price, a former CIA analyst, dubbed it “a hashtag in search of a scandal”. But his allies in the Republican party and conservative media are stepping up to build a parallel universe where this is the big story and Obama is at the center of it. Sean Hannity, a host on Fox News, demanded: “What did Barack Obama know and when did he know it?” Over the past week, the channel’s primetime shows have devoted more coverage to the bogus crimes of “Barack Hussein Obama” than to the coronavirus pandemic – and Trump’s mishandling of it. Tara Setmayer, a former Republican communications director on Capitol Hill, said: “Donald Trump always need a foil. This riles up his base because they cling to anything that diverges responsibility for anything from Donald Trump over to someone else. And in this case Barack Obama is the boogeyman of the month.” Beyond political expediency, there is a more profound antipathy at work. From the Iran nuclear deal to the Trans Pacific Partnership, from environmental regulations to the Affordable Care Act, Trump has always seemed to be on a mission to erase his predecessor’s legacy. With few deep convictions of his own, Obama became a negative reference point for Trump. Between 22 November 2010 and 14 May 2020, he tweeted about Obama 2,933 times, according to the Trump Twitter Archive.

The North Carolina senator holds numerous investments in firms regulated by the committees on which he sits.
By MAGGIE SEVERNS

The insider trading investigation stemming from Sen. Richard Burr’s sale of stocks ahead of the coronavirus pandemic highlights the North Carolina Republican’s long record of investing in companies with business before his committees, according to a POLITICO review of eight years of his trades. While Burr sat on committees focused on health care, taxes and trade, he and his wife bought and sold hundreds of thousands of dollars of stock in an array of health care companies, banks and corporations with business overseas. At times, Burr owned stock in companies whose specific industries he advanced through legislation. Those trades are entirely legal, as long as he can prove that he didn’t act on private information. But the co-mingling of legislative responsibilities and personal financial dealings has long worried ethics specialists, who insist that such trading amounts to a serious conflict of interest, even if it doesn’t reach the level of insider trading. “Maybe the bottom line is, if you’re going to be in the Senate you can’t own any stock. Or at least own mutual funds. Who knows, people could say you’re gaming an index fund,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told POLITICO this week. In 2017, Burr traded stock in two companies that make medical devices, Zimmer Biomet and Philips, while introducing bills to repeal the medical device tax and working to repeal Obamacare. He invested in financial institutions including the Bank of New York Mellon and U.S. Bank, which are regulated by the Senate Finance Committee, on which he sits. As the finance committee debated the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Burr held stock in multinational conglomerate Kimberly-Clark, owner of Kleenex, which owns brands in Mexico. As tensions rose in 2019 with China, he picked up stock in 3M, another multinational whose purchases and sales with China were affected by President Donald Trump’s tariffs, which also fall under the finance committee's jurisdiction.

Trump says “if we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases.” Nope.
By Aaron Rupar

Nearly four months since the first coronavirus case in the US was reported, President Donald Trump continues to struggle to come to grips with how testing for the virus works and why it’s important. During remarks on Thursday at the Owens & Minor distribution center in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Trump tried to downplay the severity of the US’s coronavirus outbreak by arguing the country wouldn’t be leading the world in cases if it weren’t for the fact that so much testing is being done here — as if coronavirus cases simply wouldn’t exist if we didn’t test to find them. “Don’t forget, we have more cases than anybody in the world. But why? Because we do more testing,” Trump said. “When you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases. They [the media] don’t want to write that.” It stands to reason that conducting more tests correlates with finding more cases — but that’s a good thing. More testing helps public health experts and policymakers understand the full scope of the problem, isolate those who have tested positive, and then trace their contacts to help contain potential outbreaks. But for Trump, the downside is it undercuts his argument that it’s already safe for states to lift stay-at-home orders that are hurting the economy and therefore hurting his reelection hopes. - Trump makes rocks look smart.

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

(CNN) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell conceded Thursday night that he was wrong to claim that the Obama administration had not left behind a plan to deal with a pandemic in the US. "I was wrong. They did leave behind a plan, so I clearly made a mistake in that regard," McConnell said during an interview with Fox News' Bret Baier. The concession comes days after he falsely accused the Obama administration of failing to leave the Trump administration "any kind of game plan" for something like the coronavirus pandemic during a Trump campaign online chat with Lara Trump, the President's daughter-in-law. "They claim pandemics only happen once every hundred years but what if that's no longer true? We want to be early, ready for the next one, because clearly the Obama administration did not leave to this administration any kind of game plan for something like this," McConnell had said Monday. In reality, former President Barrack Obama's White House National Security Council left the Trump administration a detailed document on how to respond to a pandemic. The document, whose existence was publicly revealed by Politico in March, is called the Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents. The playbook contains step-by-step advice on questions to ask, decisions to make and which federal agencies are responsible for what. It includes sample documents that officials could use for inter-agency meetings. And it explicitly lists novel coronaviruses as one of the kinds of pathogens that could require a major response. Additionally, outgoing senior Obama officials also led an in-person pandemic response exercise for senior incoming Trump officials in January 2017 -- as required by a new law on improving presidential transitions that Obama signed in 2016.

By Devan Cole, CNN

Washington (CNN) The Environmental Protection Agency will not regulate perchlorate, a water contaminant that "has been linked to fetal and infant brain damage, The New York Times reported Thursday. The Times, citing conversations with people familiar with the matter, said the agency plans to acknowledge that the chemical, "can cause I.Q. damage," but will not issue a regulation for it. The decision appears to defy an earlier court order requiring the agency to produce guidance for the chemical by June, the Times reported. While the chemical can occur naturally, high concentrations of perchlorate have been found in more than two dozen states, usually near "military installations where it has been used as an additive in rocket fuel, making propellants more reliable," the Times said. A spokesperson for the EPA said in a statement to CNN that the agency "has not yet made a final decision" on the potential regulation and that it plans to send the White House its final action "shortly" for review. Agency employees told the Times that it plans to tell the White House in its forthcoming notice that it's "not in the public interest" to control the chemical. The Obama administration had announced plans to regulate the chemical in 2011, and the new decision would revoke an Obama-era finding that the chemical "presents serious health risks to between 5 million and 16 million people and should be regulated," the Times reported. In doing so, the administration will point to recent studies that claim "concentrations of the chemical in water must be at higher levels than previously thought in order to be considered unsafe." The decision comes as the administration continues to grapple with the deadly coronavirus pandemic and represents just the latest move by federal officials not to advance environmental regulations in the midst of the crisis. CNN reported earlier this month that the Trump administration, amid the pandemic, has also continued its quest to limit restrictions on the fossil fuel industry, which is the source of much of the pollution that a recent study said is linked to severe cases of coronavirus.

By Omar Jimenez and Paul LeBlanc, CNN

(CNN) The Wisconsin Supreme Court has overturned the state's stay-at-home order, ruling it "unlawful" and "unenforceable" in a high-profile win for the state's Republican-led Legislature. In a 4-3 decision Wednesday, the court ruled that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' administration overstepped its authority when the state Department of Health Services extended the order to May 26. The ruling comes after the Legislature's Republican leaders filed a lawsuit last month arguing the order would cost Wisconsin residents their jobs and hurt many companies, asserting that if it was left in place, "our State will be in shambles." The suit was filed specifically against state Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm and other health officials, who made the decision in mid-April to extend the state's "Safer at Home" emergency order. At the same time as the extension, the state loosened some restrictions on certain businesses, including golf courses, public libraries, and arts and crafts stores. But the justices wrote in their decision Wednesday that "an agency cannot confer on itself the power to dictate the lives of law-abiding individuals as comprehensively as the order does without reaching beyond the executive branch's authority." Evers, who had ordered Palm to issue the stay-at-home order in late March, told CNN's Don Lemon later Wednesday that the court's ruling "puts our state into chaos." "Now we have no plan and no protections for the people of Wisconsin," Evers said. "When you have more people in a small space -- I don't care if it's bars, restaurants or your home -- you're going to be able to spread the virus. And so now, today, thanks to the Republican legislators who convinced four Supreme Court justices to not look at the law but look at their political careers I guess -- it's a bad day for Wisconsin." "It's the wild west," he said.

CBS This Morning

CBS News has confirmed that a federal search warrant was issued to North Carolina Senator Richard Burr as part of a probe of financial moves before the coronavirus outbreak sent the markets plunging. A U.S. official says the FBI obtained Senator Burr’s cellphone in connection to stocks he sold. CBS News chief congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes reports.

By Jessica Flores - USA TODAY

The droplets from simply talking can be enough to spread the coronavirus, according to researchers. By using lasers, scientists found that one minute of talking loudly can produce more than 1,000 virus-containing droplets that could linger in the air for over eight minutes, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. As states continue to gradually reopen, scientists fear that reopening too soon could worsen the virus outbreak. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified in front of a Senate panel Tuesday and said the consequences for states reopening without following proper guidelines "could be really serious." The study says because droplets that exist in an asymptomatic person's mouth can carry respiratory pathogens, such as SARS-CoV-2, "there is a substantial probability that normal speaking causes airborne virus transmission in confined environments," the authors wrote. "This study builds on earlier research by the same team showing that speaking may factor into transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and adds support to the importance of wearing a mask, as recommended by the CDC, in potentially helping to slow the spread of the virus," a spokesperson the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases told USA TODAY.

By Christopher WilsonSenior Writer,Yahoo News

With more than 80,000 Americans dead from the coronavirus, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump are trying to deflect blame to former President Barack Obama. In a dialogue with Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, live-streamed by the Trump campaign on Monday evening, McConnell said that Obama’s team, which exited office over three years ago,“did not leave to this administration any kind of game plan for something like [the coronavirus pandemic].” Politico reported in March that the Obama National Security Council left its successors a document titled “Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents.” It warned of potential problems like shortages in personal protective equipment that have plagued the nation’s response. The Trump administration neglected to implement its recommendations. “We literally left them a 69-page Pandemic Playbook.... that they ignored,” tweeted Ron Klain, who oversaw the Ebola response under Obama and now advises presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. “And an office called the Pandemic Preparedness Office... that they abolished. And a global monitoring system called PREDICT .. that they cut by 75%.” “The maddening thing is Obama left them a WH office for pandemics, a literal playbook, a cabinet-level exercise, and a global infrastructure to deal with ‘something like this,’” tweeted former Obama adviser Ben Rhodes. - Mitch McConnell and the GOP think the American people are dumb of course, that excludes people who listen to Fox news or right wing media they will believe anything except the truth. Trump has been in office for three years and was giving a 69-page Pandemic Playbook that the Trump administration ignored. If Mitch McConnell wants to place the blame on someone, he needs to point to Donald J. Trump and the Trump administration.

Lawmakers are sending a new ballot proposal that would undo 2018 protections against manipulation of electoral maps
The fight to vote is supported by guardian.org
By Sam Levine

In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, Missouri Republicans are seeking to undo a recent effort to make electoral districts in the state legislature more fair. Lawmakers are trying to gut a referendum voters embraced in 2018 that sought to prevent excessive gerrymandering, a process of manipulating electoral maps that Republicans have used to gain advantages throughout the country this decade. The 2018 measure, approved by 62% of Missouri voters, put a non-partisan demographer in charge of drawing districts, limiting partisan influence on the process. It also makes partisan fairness one of the top criteria the mapmaker must follow. It would likely weaken Republican control of the legislature, according to an Associated Press analysis. Now, Republicans are on the verge of sending a new ballot proposal to voters that would undo those protections. Their plan would eliminate the non-partisan demographer and return redistricting power to committees nominated by the political parties and selected by the governor. It makes partisan fairness the least important criteria to follow when drawing maps, instead prioritizing keeping communities compact. The proposal also makes it harder to get a gerrymandered map struck down in court. “The substance of what they’re trying to do has already been outrageous, and it’s incredible that they’re trying to move this attempt to overturn the will of the voters, when voters literally can’t participate in the process,” said Sean Soendker Nicholson, the campaign manager for Clean Missouri, the group behind the gerrymandering reform measure. The measure has already passed the state senate, and is awaiting a vote in the full House. If approved by 15 May, voters across the state would then choose whether to support it later this year. It is likely the last chance Republicans, who control the state legislature, have to undo the referendum before the once-a-decade redistricting takes place in 2021. If Republicans succeed, advocates worry it could serve as a model for weakening gerrymandering reform elsewhere. Voters in Michigan, Colorado and Utah all used ballot measures to pass gerrymandering reform in 2018. “If this moves forward in Missouri, we are a testing ground for them to be able to implement these systems elsewhere,” said Peter Merideth, a Democrat who represents St Louis in the state house. There is also deep concern the Republican proposal will open the door to redistricting in a way that will disadvantage minorities and non-citizens.

The former president was also critical of the Justice Department directing prosecutors to drop their case against Michael Flynn, warning that the “rule of law is at risk.”
By Mike Memoli

After largely staying out of the fray since leaving the White House, former President Barack Obama pointedly criticized the Trump administration on a range of issues while also sounding the alarm about the spread of misinformation ahead of the presidential election as he rallied former members of his administration to join him in doing all they can to back his former vice president. In a call with thousands of alumni of his administration Friday night, the contents of which were first reported by Yahoo! News, Obama also was harshly critical of the Justice Department directing prosecutors to drop its case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, warning that the “rule of law is at risk.” This is how “democracies become autocracies,” he warned. And Obama slammed the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as an “absolute chaotic disaster.” “What we're fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided, and seeing others as an enemy — that that has become a stronger impulse in American life,” Obama said according to audio provided to Yahoo! News, the authenticity of which was confirmed by multiple sources who participated on the call. “It's part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anemic, and spotty, and it would have been bad, even with the best of governments,” he said.

By Kevin Liptak, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump hoped this would be the week he emerged into a nation recovering from pandemic. Instead the pandemic came to him. A day after breaking his White House self-isolation for a cross-country trip meant to signal the country's readiness to restart, Trump received word that one of his Oval Office valets tested positive for the virus. Two days later, Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary also tested positive, setting off another round of tests, delaying the vice president's trip to Iowa and causing more hand-wringing inside the White House about who might be infected. Ivanka Trump's personal assistant also tested positive for coronavirus, a source familiar told CNN on Friday night, although she has been teleworking for nearly two months and has not been around the President's daughter in several weeks. The arrival of coronavirus to the West Wing only served to illustrate the continued spread of the disease months into a pandemic that's taken more than 77,000 American lives and turned a once hot economy to ice. Even the nightly deep cleanings, regular testing and a lot of wishful thinking couldn't prevent the virus from arriving on Trump's doorstep. Meanwhile, Stephen Hahn, the head of the Food and Drug Administration, will self-quarantine for 14 days after coming in contact with an individual who tested positive for coronavirus, an FDA spokesman confirmed to CNN. And Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is following suit, self-quarantining for two weeks after he was exposed to a person at the White House who tested positive for Covid-19, a CDC spokesperson confirmed to CNN on Saturday. As Trump agitates for states to loosen their restrictions and allow Americans back into workplaces and businesses, the sight of his aides contracting the disease did little to boost confidence the nation is ready to return to normal, even as jobless claims skyrocket to never-seen-before levels and options for reviving the economy fall short.

By Kevin Johnson - USA TODAY

It started almost immediately, with the roll-out of the Russia investigation. Before the results of special counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election were made public a year ago, Attorney General William Barr declared that there was insufficient evidence to charge President Donald Trump with obstruction of justice. A month later, Barr announced the appointment of a federal prosecutor to review the origins of Mueller’s investigation, adding to a startling assertion that the FBI had spied on the Trump campaign. When prosecutors in February recommended a stiff prison sentence for former Trump adviser Roger Stone – the last person charged in Mueller’s inquiry – Barr intervened again, prompting the dramatic withdraw of four department lawyers from case in protest. Justice's latest decision to abandon the prosecution of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, analysts said, adds yet a new chapter to the steady dismantling of Mueller’s work that had long threatened Trump’s presidency, while exposing Barr, yet again, to fresh recriminations of fueling a continuing politicization of Justice as a powerful annex of the White House. “The Department of Justice under Attorney General Bill Barr will likely be remembered as the most political Department of Justice in history,” said Jimmy Gurule, who once worked under Barr during the attorney general’s first stint at the department during the George H.W. Bush administration. "It deeply saddens me to witness the severe damage inflicted ... to the independence and integrity of the Department of Justice.” David Weinstein, a longtime former federal prosecutor in Miami, said Justice's repeated interventions in the Mueller cases is "setting a pattern that I have never seen before." "Brick by brick, Barr is taking apart the house that Mueller built," Weinstein said. "And the only reasonable explanation for it is that the president wanted it to happen."

After the justice department dropped charges against Trump’s ex-national security adviser, Obama expressed fear the US is headed in a dangerous direction
By Martin Pengelly in New York - the guardian

Barack Obama has reportedly said the “rule of law is at risk” in the US, after the justice department said it would drop its case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn. In remarks likely to enrage Donald Trump, Obama also reportedly labeled the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak “an absolute chaotic disaster”. Flynn, a retired general, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador about sanctions over election interference, which were levied by Obama at the end of his presidency. Having been fired by Trump for lying to the vice-president, Mike Pence, Flynn co-operated with investigators before seeking to withdraw his plea. Trump publicly toyed with pardoning Flynn and his supporters mounted a fierce campaign in support of the general, who had not been sentenced, before the decision to drop the case was announced on Thursday.

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) On Thursday, President Donald Trump called the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election a "hoax." While on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. "I said, 'You know, it's a very appropriate time, because things are falling out now and coming in line showing what a hoax this whole investigation was, it was a total disgrace, and I wouldn't be surprised if you see a lot of things happen over the next number of weeks,"' Trump told reporters about his conversation with Putin. "This is just one piece of a very dishonest puzzle." You don't have to think hard to imagine the huge smile on Putin's face when he heard those words from Trump. Because what it means is that Trump continues to be unable to decouple the findings that Russia actively sought to interfere in the last presidential election from the idea that admitting that fact somehow robs him of credit for winning. The two things, of course, aren't mutually exclusive. Russia did meddle in the election to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton, and Trump won. The President's inability to grasp that nuance means that he continues to reject the findings of the intelligence community, Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation and the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee -- all of which concluded that, yes, Russia ran a broad and deep campaign to interfere in the 2016 election and, yes, it was aimed at helping Trump, who they believed was better for their interests than Clinton. (To be clear: None of those investigations produced definitive proof that a singe vote had been changed by Russia's effort.)

By Tucker Higgins

Chief Justice John Roberts on Friday paused a lower court order that would have required the Trump administration to turn over to Congress secretive materials produced in connection with former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The order is procedural and was not opposed by the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee, which is expected to ask the Supreme Court to ultimately require the Department of Justice to hand over the documents. Roberts’ action comes one day after the Trump administration asked the top court to temporarily halt a March ruling by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordering the Justice Department to hand over Mueller’s grand jury materials.

By Philip Ewing

Why is the government seeking to drop charges against Michael Flynn even though he pleaded guilty — in two admissions in court — to committing the crime at issue?

The short answers: The Justice Department is giving him a break. And Flynn has played his cards well.

The long answer: It's a long story.

The deal
Flynn admitted to lying to the FBI about conversations he had had with Russia's then-ambassador to the United States as he and the rest of President-elect Donald Trump's camp waited in the wings early in 2017. That case appeared clear. But the former Army lieutenant general also had been involved with other enterprises that might have resulted in more charges — including undisclosed foreign lobbying — and his deal with prosecutors swept that off the table. It also apparently avoided prospective charges for Flynn's son. Flynn and his attorneys considered the deal to be the least bad way out of the jam. "My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the special counsel's office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions," Flynn said in late 2017 at the time of his plea. All the same, few knew at the time of that submission how problematic Flynn's fateful interview with the FBI would be for nearly everyone else involved, including the specific FBI agents, the leadership of the bureau and the Justice Department. - Barr is doing Trump’s dirty work.

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

Washington (CNN) The Justice Department is dropping the criminal case against President Donald Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, whose lies about his contacts with Russia prompted Trump to fire him three years ago and special counsel Robert Mueller to flip him to cooperate in the Russia investigation. The request to drop the case, filed with a federal judge in DC District Court on Thursday, is a sudden end to a protracted legal battle that's lately been fertile ground for Trump to attack the early Russia investigation and former FBI leadership he dislikes. The court must still formally approve the request. Flynn twice, before two separate judges, affirmed his December 2017 agreement to plead guilty to charges that he lied to the FBI about his interactions with the then-Russian ambassador during the Trump presidential transition. But last year, he fired his original defense team and waged a campaign to try to get a judge to reverse his guilty plea. In its filing, the department condemned the FBI's work when it interviewed Flynn in the West Wing in the first weeks of the Trump presidency. The Justice Department called the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into Flynn for his contacts with Russia "a no longer justifiably predicated investigation," according to the filing. "After a considered review of all the facts and circumstances of this case, including newly discovered and disclosed information appended to the defendant's supplemental pleadings, the Government has concluded that the interview of Mr. Flynn was untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn -- a no longer justifiably predicated investigation that the FBI had, in the Bureau's own words, prepared to close because it had yielded an 'absence of any derogatory information.'" Thursday, the Justice Department also says it can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Flynn lied, nor that his lies were substantial. - Barr is Trump's new Roy Cohn

By Christina Wilkie

WASHINGTON — An aide to Vice President Mike Pence has tested positive for coronavirus, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Friday. On Thursday, news broke that President Donald Trump’s personal valet has also tested positive. A spokeswoman for Pence did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. Pence was scheduled to travel to Des Moines, Iowa, in the morning, but his departure from Andrews Air Force Base was delayed by nearly an hour as staff dealt with news of the diagnosis. Reporters traveling with Pence said several staffers disembarked from Air Force Two just before takeoff. Those staffers left the plane because they had been in contact with the staffer who tested positive, NBC News reported. In response to the positive test, the White House medical office has embarked on a program of contact tracing for the individual, an official told NBC. Some of these staffers have already been retested. As of Friday, more than 75,000 Americans have died of Covid-19, and more than 1.2 million have tested positive.

By Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck, CNN

(CNN) New White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was a harsh critic of then-candidate Donald Trump before she became a fierce advocate for him, including calling comments he made about Mexican immigrants in 2015 "racist." Before becoming a prominent pro-Trump commentator during his first campaign, McEnany said it was "unfortunate" and "inauthentic" to call him a Republican. McEnany made the comments in a series of panels on CNN and Fox Business. McEnany, at the time a Republican writer and Harvard Law student would go on to defend Trump as a CNN contributor during the 2016 presidential election year. After Trump was elected, she served as a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee and the Trump re-election campaign, before being named White House press secretary in early April. In 2015, McEnany was particularly critical of statements Trump made while announcing his campaign, in which he said Mexico was sending immigrants to the US who were "rapists" and bringing drugs and crime to the country. Trump added that "some, I assume, are good people." "To me, a racist statement is a racist statement. I don't like what Donald Trump said," she said in an exchange on CNN in late June 2015, in which she compared his remarks to comments about Jewish people made by the Rev. Al Sharpton in the 1990s. McEnany added that Trump's comments were "derogatory" and as "equally hateful" as Sharpton's. "Donald Trump has shown himself to be a showman, I don't think he is a serious candidate," she added. "I think it is a sideshow. It's not within the mainstream of the candidates." McEnany did not return multiple requests for comment. During a press briefing on Friday, McEnany attributed her past comments to "watching CNN" and "naively believing some of the headlines" during the first four weeks of the 2016 presidential election.
"I very quickly came around and supported the President," she said.

By David Folkenflik

The federal agency that regulates the U.S. television industry slapped the largest civil fine in its history on Sinclair Broadcast Group — a company with links to the Trump administration — as punishment for deceiving the government. Sinclair agreed to the $48 million fine and entered into a consent decree to close three separate ongoing investigations by the Federal Communications Commission. Sinclair, based in suburban Baltimore, owns and controls more than 190 stations across the country. That makes it one of the nation's largest players in local TV. It had sought to become even more dominant by taking over Tribune Media, the television properties of the former Tribune Co. In July 2018, the FCC blocked Sinclair's $3.9 billion bid to buy Tribune Media. The agency said the company sought to deceive regulators in selling off stations in markets where it would control multiple properties. The buyers were two companies to which Sinclair's founding family had deep and longstanding ties. Tribune Media sued Sinclair later that summer. Nexstar struck a deal to buy Tribune Media in December 2018 for $4.1 billion. "Sinclair's conduct during its attempt to merge with Tribune was completely unacceptable," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement released by the agency on Wednesday afternoon. "Today's penalty, along with the failure of the Sinclair/Tribune transaction, should serve as a cautionary tale to other licensees seeking Commission approval of a transaction in the future."

By Krishnadev Calamur, Nina Totenberg - NPR

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision Thursday, overturned the fraud conviction of a former top aide to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who was convicted in 2016 for her role in the so-called "Bridgegate" scandal. Prosecutors had feared that if the criminal convictions in the case are thrown out, it could strip them of an important tool to prosecute white-collar criminals. But Christie's former aide Bridget Anne Kelly's lawyers had argued that her actions were driven by a political motive, and while that may not be attractive, it is not fraud. They argued that if Kelly can go to jail for her actions, there is no limit to who could be prosecuted. The Supreme Court agreed. "Because the scheme here did not aim to obtain money or property, [William] Baroni and Kelly could not have violated the federal-program fraud or wire fraud laws," the court wrote in its unanimous opinion. Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the court, said: "The question presented is whether the defendants committed property fraud. The evidence the jury heard no doubt shows wrongdoing—deception, corruption, abuse of power. But the federal fraud statutes at issue do not criminalize all such conduct."

By J. Edward Moreno

A federal judge is calling for an investigation to find out whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pressured a Washington, D.C., federal judge to retire so the senator could nominate judge Justin Walker, a 38-year-old Kentucky federal judge who was confirmed for his current role in October. Demand Justice, a progressive judicial watchdog group, requested a postponement of Wednesday’s scheduled hearing on the nomination of Walker. “The hearing on Walker’s nomination should not go forward until we know the truth about what ethical lines Mitch McConnell crossed to get Walker this seat," Demand Justice said in a statement. “McConnell should come clean about whether and when he contacted Judge Thomas Griffith prior to his sudden retirement.” On Friday, Sri Srinivasan, the chief justice of the court to which Walker has been nominated, issued a public order asking U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to transfer to another circuit after Demand Justice’s allegation. The New York Times has reported that McConnell has allegedly pressured judges to retire in time for President Trump to fill their vacancies this term. A spokesperson for McConnell’s office told The Hill that the senator, “looks forward to watching Judge Walker’s confirmation hearing this week.”

Rick Bright, the ousted chief of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency, said he was pressured to steer millions of dollars to the clients of a well-connected consultant.
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg

WASHINGTON — A federal scientist who says he was ousted from his job amid a dispute over an unproven coronavirus treatment pushed by President Trump said Tuesday that top administration officials repeatedly pressured him to steer millions of dollars in contracts to the clients of a well-connected consultant. Rick Bright, who was director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority until his removal in April, said in a formal whistle-blower complaint that he had been protesting “cronyism” and contract abuse since 2017. Questionable contracts have gone to “companies with political connections to the administration,” the complaint said, including a drug company tied to a friend of Jared Kushner’s, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. It said Dr. Bright was retaliated against by his superiors, who pushed him out because of “his efforts to prioritize science and safety over political expediency.” The 89-page complaint, filed with the Office of Special Counsel, which protects federal whistle-blowers, also said Dr. Bright “encountered opposition” from department superiors — including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II — when he pushed as early as January for the necessary resources to develop drugs and vaccines to counter the emerging coronavirus pandemic. The report provides a window into the inner workings of BARDA, a tiny agency created in 2006 as a response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It partners with industry in developing “medical countermeasures” that can be stockpiled by the federal government to combat biological or chemical attacks and pandemic threats. BARDA has spent billions of dollars on contracts with dozens of different suppliers, including major pharmaceutical companies and smaller biotechnology firms. Both allies and Dr. Bright say his nearly four-year tenure as the head of BARDA was marked by clashes with his superiors — especially Dr. Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary of health for preparedness and response — and tension with some industry executives. Dr. Bright conceded in the complaint that those clashes came to a head after he leaked information on the dispute over the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to a reporter from Reuters. A lawyer for Dr. Bright, Debra Katz, said he felt a “moral obligation” to get the word out that the administration was pressing to stockpile an unproven and potentially dangerous coronavirus treatment, which was supplied by drugmakers in India and Pakistan and had not been certified by the Food and Drug Administration. The complaint says top Department of Health and Human Services officials, including Dr. Kadlec, who oversees the strategic national stockpile, overruled scientific experts while awarding contracts to firms represented by the consultant, John Clerici. Mr. Clerici, a founder of a Washington-based firm, Tiber Creek Partners, was instrumental, along with Dr. Kadlec, in writing the legislation that created BARDA.

By Kaitlan Collins, Jeremy Diamond and Kevin Liptak, CNN

(CNN) Dr. Rick Bright, the ousted director of the office involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine, formally filed an extensive whistleblower complaint Tuesday alleging his early warnings about the coronavirus were ignored and that his caution at a treatment favored by President Donald Trump led to his removal. "I was pressured to let politics and cronyism drive decisions over the opinions of the best scientists we have in government," Bright said on a call with reporters after filing his complaint. Bright said in the complaint he raised urgent concerns about shortages of critical supplies, including masks, to his superiors in the Trump administration but was met with skepticism and surprise. While Bright said some officials shared his concerns -- including top White House trade adviser Peter Navarro -- he describes an overall lack of action at the top of the administration even as the virus was spreading outside of China. Bright had led the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority since 2016 when he was reassigned last month to a narrower position at the National Institutes of Health. An attorney for Bright told reporters on Tuesday he was scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill next week. Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, the chairwoman of the House's Health Subcommittee, told CNN last month she planned to call in Bright to testify before her panel as she reviews the circumstances of his removal. In his whistleblower complaint, Bright says he raised concerns about US preparedness for coronavirus starting in January but was met with "indifference which then developed into hostility" by leaders at the Department of Health and Human Services. Later, he says he pushed back on HHS's leadership when they sought to make "potentially harmful drugs" available for treating Covid-19, including hydroxychloroquine, which had been repeatedly touted by Trump as a potential cure despite a lack of robust testing. "His efforts to prioritize science and safety over political expediency and to expose practices that posed a substantial risk to public health and safety, especially as it applied to chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, rankled those in the Administration who wished to continue to push this false narrative," the complaint reads. READ: Rick Bright's full whistleblower complaint

By Jason Silverstein

Tens of millions of federal dollars meant for impoverished people in Mississippi were instead spent on lobbyists, concerts, sports tickets, a pro wrestler's family and former NFL star Brett Favre, according to a state audit released Monday. The review of the Mississippi Department of Human Services found more than $94 million in spending that appeared questionable, unverified or outright wrong. "If there was a way to misspend money, it seems DHS leadership or their grantees thought of it and tried it," State Auditor Shad White said in a statement. He said the report "shows the most egregious misspending my staff have seen in their careers at the Office of the State Auditor." The 104-page audit found that the Mississippi Department of Human Services sent $98 million in federal welfare funds to two nonprofits over the span of three years. Most of the money came from the government's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The audit says those nonprofits spent nearly all of the money on expenses that had little or no benefit to struggling families in one of the nation's poorest states. Spending detailed in the report includes:

By Alec Snyder and Mirna Alsharif, CNN

(CNN) A security guard at a Family Dollar store in Flint, Michigan, was shot and killed after telling a customer to wear a state-mandated face mask, police said. Calvin Munerlyn, 43, died at a local hospital after he was shot in the head Friday, said Michigan State Police Lt. David Kaiser. The shooter and a second suspect remain at large, Kaiser told CNN on Monday. Witnesses at the store told police that Munerlyn got into a verbal altercation with a woman because she was not wearing a mask, said Genesee County prosecutor David Leyton. Surveillance video confirms the incident, Leyton said. Under an executive order from Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, all retail employees and customers have to wear a mask. Footage also shows that immediately after the altercation, the woman left in an SUV. But about 20 minutes later, the SUV returned. Two men entered the store and one of them yelled at Munerlyn about disrespecting his wife, Leyton said. The other man then shot the security guard.

It will have to provide data that might reveal evidence of corruption.
By Jon Fingas

The FCC might not have much choice but to hand over data logs for fake net neutrality comments. A federal judge has ordered (via Gizmodo) the regulator to turn over server records to New York Times reporters that would reveal the IP addresses behind bogus comments supporting the net neutrality repeal. The FCC had contended that divulging the IP addresses would represent an “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” but Judge Lorna Schofield said the agency didn’t really explain how anyone would be hurt by transferring the data. The judge argued that the benefits clearly outweighed the drawbacks, as fake comments threatened the very nature of the public input system. The “notice-and-comment process has failed” if there are more fraudulent comments than real ones,” Schofield said.

Gretchen Whitmer says heavily armed men and Confederate flags at state capitol ‘depicted some of the worst racism and awful parts of our history’
By Bryan Armen Graham in New York

Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan issued a rebuke of the armed protesters who gathered inside the state capitol last week in defiance of statewide lockdown orders, saying the demonstrators embodied some of the “worst racism” of the nation’s history. “Some of the outrageousness of what happened at our capitol depicted some of the worst racism and awful parts of our history in this country,” Whitmer said during a Sunday interview on CNN’s State of the Union. Last week Donald Trump had said of the protesters: “These are very good people.” Hundreds of protesters, many not wearing protective face masks and some armed legally with “long guns”, gathered inside the statehouse in Lansing on Thursday as lawmakers debated the Democratic governor’s request to extend her emergency powers to combat the coronavirus pandemic. The tightly packed crowd attempted to enter the floor of the legislative chamber and were held back by a line of state police and capitol staff, according to video footage posted by local journalists. Whitmer highlighted that the number of protesters was relatively small but that the imagery some of them used was a disturbing reminder of ugly elements of America’s past. “We know that people are not all happy about having to take the stay-home posture,” Whitmer said on Sunday, “and you know what, I’m not either. But we have to listen to the public health experts and displays like the one we saw in our state capitol are not representative of who we are in Michigan. “There were swastikas and Confederate flags and nooses and people with assault rifles. That’s a small group of people when you think that this is a state of almost 10 million people, the vast majority of whom are doing the right thing.” Displaying the Confederate flag, or other symbols of the slave-owning south during the American civil war, is usually seen as racist. While some claim they are celebrating southern identity, it is widely seen as a racist symbol deeply offensive to black Americans. There is also an ongoing campaign to remove Confederate war statues from public display or rename streets and buildings which commemorate Confederate generals or politicians.

By Eugene Kiely

In her first press briefing, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany repeated a false talking point about the Russia investigation. McEnany claimed the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election ended in “the complete and total exoneration of President Trump.” In fact, on the question of whether Trump obstructed justice, special counsel Robert Mueller’s report pointedly said that the investigation “does not exonerate him.” McEnany, who became White House press secretary early last month, held her first press briefing on May 1. Asked if she would promise not to lie to the media, McEnany said, “I will never lie to you, you have my word on that.” She did, however, repeat a falsehood that others in the administration, including the president, have told before about the Russia probe that consumed the first two years of his administration. On the day the Mueller report was issued on April 18, 2019, Trump tweeted: “NO COLLUSION – NO OBSTRUCTION.” It’s true that the investigation “did not establish that the [Trump] Campaign conspired and coordinated with the Russian government in its election-interference activities.” However, as we have written, the report said this about the issue of obstruction of justice: “Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations.” “The incidents were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the President sought to use his official power outside of usual channels,” the report said. “These actions ranged from efforts to remove the Special Counsel and to reverse the effect of the Attorney General’s recusal; to the attempted use of official power to limit the scope of the investigation; to direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony.” Ultimately, the report did not recommend the prosecution of Trump and stated that the special counsel did not have the authority to do so. It cited an opinion by the Office of Legal Counsel that said “the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions” in violation of “the constitutional separation of powers.”

By Faith Karimi, CNN

(CNN) Just when you thought 2020 could not get any worse. Now we have giant hornets with freakish eyes and a venomous sting to add to this year's list of worries. For the first time, Asian giant hornets have been spotted in the United States, specifically in Washington state, scientists say. Beekeepers have reported piles of dead bees with their heads ripped off, an alarming sight in a country with a rapidly declining bee population. At more than two inches long, they're the world's largest hornets with a sting that can kill humans if stung multiple times, according to experts at the Washington State University. Researches have nicknamed them "murder hornets." "They're like something out of a monster cartoon with this huge yellow-orange face," Susan Cobey, a bee breeder at the Washington State University's department of entomology, said recently.

How did they come to the US?
Scientists don't know how these giant hornets native to Asia ended up in Washington state. They're sometimes transported in international cargo -- in some cases deliberately, said Seth Truscott with WSU's college of agricultural, human and natural resource sciences. The giant hornet was first spotted in the state in December, and scientists believe it started becoming active again last month, when queens emerge from hibernation to build nests and form colonies. "Hornets are most destructive in the late summer and early fall, when they are on the hunt for sources of protein to raise next year's queens," Truscott said on the WSU's Insider. "They attack honey bee hives, killing adult bees and devouring bee larvae and pupae, while aggressively defending the occupied colony," he added. "Their stings are big and painful, with a potent neurotoxin. Multiple stings can kill humans, even if they are not allergic."

By Li Cohen

The U.S. women's national soccer team has been fighting for months to receive the same rate of pay as their male counterparts. On Friday, a judge dismissed the claim for equal pay, but said that other allegations of discrimination can proceed to trial. U.S. District Judge R Gary Klausner said he would not allow the equal pay allegations to go forward because the women's national team previously "rejected an offer to be paid under the same pay-to-play structure" as the men's national team. According to CBS Sports, the women's team sought $66 million under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. "The WNT was willing to forgo higher bonuses for benefits, such as greater base compensation and the guarantee of a higher number of contracted players," he wrote in the 32-page decision. "Accordingly, plaintiffs cannot now retroactively deem their CBA (collective bargaining agreement) worse than the MNT (men's national team) CBA by reference to what they would have made had they been paid under the MNT's pay-to-play terms structure when they themselves rejected such a structure."

By Kayla Epstein

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday Congress would extend the additional $600 unemployment benefit provided in the coronavirus relief package past July only "over our dead bodies." His remarks came the day that the US passed 60,000 deaths caused by the coronavirus, by far the largest reported death toll in the world. The senator made the remarks while appearing on an April 29 panel for AccelerateSC, the coronavirus task force created by Gov. Henry McMaster to examine ways to revitalize the state's economy. He was joined by his fellow Republican senator from South Carolina, Tim Scott. "I promise you over our dead bodies will this get reauthorized," Graham said of his and Scott's opposition to government spending on unemployment. "We've got to stop this. You cannot turn on the economy until you get this aberration of the law of fixed." The coronavirus relief package passed by Congress in late March provided emergency benefits to Americans who had lost their jobs because of the coronavirus outbreak. The law includes funds that grant people $600 per week on top of their regular unemployment benefits until July 25. Separately, the law also bolsters unemployment funds issued by individual states and makes more people eligible for the benefits. Under regular circumstances in South Carolina, unemployment insurance lasts up to 20 weeks, and the average weekly benefit amount is $236. The maximum benefit is $326. In South Carolina, people who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus through no fault of their own are eligible for all three types expanded unemployment benefits under the relief package.

By Jim Acosta, CNN

(CNN) House Appropriations Committee spokesman Evan Hollander told CNN on Friday that the White House is blocking Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, from testifying on Capitol Hill next week. "The Appropriations Committee sought Dr. Anthony Fauci as a witness at next week's Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee hearing on COVID-19 response. We have been informed by an administration official that the White House has blocked Dr. Fauci from testifying," Evander said in a statement.

By Ted Johnson

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Friday did something her predecessor never did: She held an official press briefing. “I will never lie to you. You have my word on this,” she said in response to a question from Associated Press correspondent Jill Colvin. She also told reporters that they do plan to continue the briefings and she will announce “timing forthcoming.” She said that she is “normally with the president in the Oval Office” in response to a query of how she will relay how President Donald Trump is thinking on certain issues. McEnany succeeded Stephanie Grisham as press secretary last month. Grisham never held an official briefing, and the last one was held was in March, 2019. As CNN noted, that was 417 days ago. As they asked questions, a number of reporters thanked McEnany for holding one. Let’s see how long that last.

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

Washington (CNN) Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin called on private schools with endowments to return the funds they received from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, after media reports of some elite schools applying for the loans meant to keep smaller businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. "It has come to our attention that some private schools with significant endowments have taken #PPP loans. They should return them," Mnuchin wrote on Twitter Friday. Some private schools like St. Andrew's Episcopal in Maryland, where Barron Trump is a student, plan to accept funds from the PPP, despite having an endowment of more than $8 million, according to a 2017 tax filing. The school told CNN in a statement Thursday that it applied for the funds to "ensure retention of our full faculty and staff, including hourly employees and coaches, during this very challenging and uncertain time." CNN has reached out to St. Andrew's for comment on Mnuchin's tweet. Some large and wealthy private organizations that received money have faced scrutiny over accepting the funds, since the stimulus program's first tranche of funds quickly ran dry and a lot of small businesses missed out on the first wave of funding. The coronavirus crisis has also put the spotlight on existing inequalities in America's classrooms. The New York Times reported another elite school in Washington, DC, Sidwell Friends, which counts among its alumni Chelsea Clinton and Malia and Sasha Obama, also plans to keep its loan. The Times reported that while Sidwell Friends has an endowment of more than $53 million, Sidwell's board of trustees said it plans to accept a $5.2 million loan. A spokeswoman for the National Association of Independent Schools told CNN's Brian Todd that some institutions' endowments don't "necessarily translate to liquidity." "Some of these endowments are restricted funds that can't just be accessed like you might access a savings account," Myra McGovern told CNN, adding, "The pandemic has really resulted in a lot of schools losing income as they've had to change their programs."


April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Every year, at this time, we talk about awareness, prevention, and the importance of women feeling they can step forward, say something, and be heard. That belief -- that women should be heard -- was the underpinning of a law I wrote over 25 years ago. To this day, I am most proud of the Violence Against Women Act. So, each April we are reminded not only of how far we have come in dealing with sexual assault in this country -- but how far we still have to go. When I wrote the bill, few wanted to talk about the issue. It was considered a private matter, a personal matter, a family matter. I didn't see it that way. To me, freedom from fear, harm, and violence for women was a legal right, a civil right, and a human right. And I knew we had to change not only the law, but the culture. So, we held hours of hearings and heard from the most incredibly brave women -- and we opened the eyes of the Senate and the nation -- and passed the law. In the years that followed, I fought to continually strengthen the law. So, when we took office and President Obama asked me what I wanted, I told him I wanted oversight of the critical appointments in the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice and I wanted a senior White House Advisor appointing directly to me on the issue. Both of those things happened. As Vice President, we started the "It's on Us" campaign on college campuses to send the message loud and clear that dating violence is violence -- and against the law. We had to get men involved. They had to be part of the solution. That's why I made a point of telling young men this was their problem too -- they couldn't turn a blind eye to what was happening around them -- they had a responsibility to speak out. Silence is complicity. In the 26 years since the law passed, the culture and perceptions have changed but we're not done yet. It's on us, and it's on me as someone who wants to lead this country. I recognize my responsibility to be a voice, an advocate, and a leader for the change in culture that has begun but is nowhere near finished. So I want to address allegations by a former staffer that I engaged in misconduct 27 years ago. They aren't true. This never happened.

By Eric Thomas

ANTIOCH, Calif. (KGO) -- The Antioch City Council will meet in special session Friday night to vote on whether to remove a town official over a controversial Facebook post related to the novel coronavirus. In the post, Kenneth Turnage, chair of the city's planning commission, suggested that COVID-19 be allowed to weed out the elderly, weak and sick to the benefit of society. "I guess I am now formerly the chairperson of the Antioch Planning Commission," Turnage told ABC7 news in a Facetime interview. But he's jumping the gun a bit. Turnage was notified Thursday that the city council will vote Friday night on removing him from the post. "I didn't really think so many people would be so offended by an opinion," he said. But, that opinion posted a week ago suggests that COVID-19 could be nature's way of weeding out the old, sick and weak and that could actually be beneficial to the economy, to the health care system, to society as a whole. The Facebook post has since been deleted. Eric Thomas: "You didn't think people would be calling for your head afterward?" Kenneth Turnage: "Not my head, no and I got my first death threat today, so I guess I made the big-time." "I saw it and I was very appalled and I thought this is somebody who represents Antioch," said Monica Wilson, a City Council member who is leading the charge to remove Turnage from his position.

The lawsuit claims that the Education Department hasn’t actually halted the practice and is continuing to garnish wages in violation of the CARES Act.
By MICHAEL STRATFORD

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is continuing to garnish the wages of federal student loan borrowers who fall behind on payments even though Congress suspended the practice in the economic rescue package, according to a new lawsuit. An upstate New York woman who works as a home health aide for less than $13 an hour claimed in the lawsuit, filed late Thursday, that the federal government seized more than $70 from her paycheck as recently as last week — nearly a full month after President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act into law. She is suing on behalf of about 285,000 borrowers whose wages are being garnished, according to the lawsuit. DeVos first announced in March that she would take administrative action to automatically stop the Education Department from seizing the wages —and tax refunds — of defaulted student loan borrowers for at least two months. Congress then included that policy in the CARES Act and extended it, prohibiting the Education Department from garnishing wages or tax refunds through Sept. 30. But the proposed class action lawsuit claims that the Education Department hasn’t actually halted the practice and is continuing to garnish wages in violation of the CARES Act. It cites a Washington Post story that said the department had not sent formal letters to tell employers to stop withholding money from borrowers' paychecks on behalf of the government. The department estimated some 285,000 people had their wages garnished between March 13 and March 26, according to The Post. Education Department spokesperson Angela Morabito declined to comment directly on the pending litigation but said the department "has taken immediate action to notify employers to stop garnishing wages." "The Department’s default loan servicer called employers by phone, sent emails when possible, and mailed letters to employers who could not be reached any other way," Morabito said in a statement. "Payments we receive via garnished wages will be immediately processed for refund, and the employer will be contacted again to ensure the guidance to stop garnishing wages is understood. The Department relies on employers to stop garnishing wages, but is taking every measure to contact employers and refund garnished wages to borrowers until Sept. 30, 2020." Department officials have previously said they plan to refund all wages seized by the government since March 13, when Trump declared a national emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic. But the agency has not provided any timeline for when all of those refunds will occur.

By Joe Concha

"Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace said Friday he was surprised to see people "rallying" behind ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, arguing the former Trump administration official should not have lied to the FBI. Wallace, who was speaking on Fox News, said Flynn erred in speaking to the FBI voluntarily shortly after President Trump was elected. "Did the FBI play hardball? Yeah. Guess what? The FBI plays hardball. And guess what? If you are talking to the FBI — and a lot of lawyers would say don’t talk to them unless you have to — don’t lie," he said. Wallace's comments came a day after Trump told reporters Thursday that Flynn has been “essentially exonerated” by new documents unsealed in the criminal case against the former aide. “He's in the process of being exonerated. If you look at those notes from yesterday, that was total exoneration,” Trump said. “These were dirty, filthy cops at the top of the FBI.” Wallace said he was also surprised that Trump suggested Flynn might return to the administration. "I was kind of surprised that the president said yesterday, 'Well, maybe I’ll bring him back to the White House.' It was the president, before any legal case was brought, who fired Flynn because Flynn had lied about his conversation with the Russian ambassador to the vice president, Mike Pence," Wallace said. "Mike Pence came on 'Fox News Sunday' just before the inauguration in January of 2016 and said there was no discussion of that. And it turns out he was basing that on what Flynn had told him and that Flynn had lied to him," Wallace added. "So I’m not quite sure I understand why people are all rallying to Flynn’s case."

By Tom Porter

US Vice President Mike Pence's office threatened to punish a reporter who exposed that it knew Pence was supposed to wear a face mask for his visit to the Mayo Clinic on Tuesday. Pence, who leads the White House's coronavirus task force, has been widely criticized for flouting official guidance and not wearing a mask during his visit to the renowned clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Karen Pence, the vice president's wife, has defended her husband, saying in a Fox News interview on Thursday that he was unaware of the clinic's rule requiring visitors to wear a mask or face covering. But in a tweet on Thursday, the Voice of America reporter Steve Herman said Pence's office knew all along about the face-mask rule. "All of us who traveled with him were notified by the office of @VP the day before the trip that wearing of masks was required by the @MayoClinic and to prepare accordingly," he wrote.


Trump says he's seen evidence virus started in Chinese lab, but U.S. intel disagrees. President Trump claimed Thursday he's seen evidence the new coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab and he threatened tariffs on Beijing over its role in the global pandemic. The president's assertion was undermined by his intelligence office and his top diplomat, who said, "We don't know precisely where it began." Scientists believe the virus jumped from animals to humans, emerging in China late last year, possibly from a market selling exotic animals for meat. But speculation has swirled about a top-secret lab, reinforced by internet rumors and right-wing radio hosts -- and increasingly taken up by Mr. Trump. Asked if he had seen anything giving him a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the source of the outbreak, the president replied, "Yes, I have." He refused to give details. However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated he hadn't seen definitive evidence. "We don't know precisely where it began," he said. "We don't know if it came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. We don't know if it emanated from the wet market or yet some other place. We don't know those answers." - Trump lies about his lies so you cannot believe anything he says.

A rare moment of bipartisanship of today’s hyper-partisan Washington — and what it means for Russia, President Trump and holding clean elections on November 3.
By Frank Vogl

Recently, Republicans and Democrats on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously approved a report totally supporting the findings by U.S. intelligence agencies that there was widespread Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Unfortunately, in stark contrast to past times when bipartisanship was a regular occurrence in the U.S. capital, arriving at such shared judgments has become a matter of great rarity in today’s hyper-partisan political environment.

Burr’s big moment
The unanimous approval was all the more meaningful as Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from North Carolina, is a staunch Trump supporter. The conclusions of this new report, published just a week ago on April 21, 2020, will be particularly distressing to Trump, as well as to Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell. The Senator from Kentucky has so far steadfastly refused to support special measures to counter Russian interference in this year’s election.

Senator Burr, speaking for the full committee noted:
"One of the ICA’s (Intelligence Community Assessment) most important conclusions was that Russia’s aggressive interference efforts should be considered ‘the new normal.’ That warning has been borne out by the events of the last three years, as Russia and its imitators increasingly use information warfare to sow societal chaos and discord. With the 2020 presidential election approaching, it’s more important than ever that we remain vigilant against the threat of interference from hostile foreign actors."

McConnell under increasing pressure
Given that stunningly clear statement by a leading Republican Senator and Trump trooper, McConnell will face mounting pressure within his own ranks in the Senate to allocate resources to protect the 2020 election. After all, one of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s prime conclusions is that the Russians are at it again, seeking to undermine the 2020 U.S. elections.

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