From me and Lauren Aratani:
- Donald Trump admitted that he opposed additional funding for the United States Postal Service in order to undermine mail-in voting. During his daily press briefing, he said he would not veto a coronavirus relief bill that funded the USPS but falsely claimed that the department needed extra money in order to process a surge of fraudulent ballots.
- During a coronavirus update that resembled a campaign event, the president read a prepared speech attacking Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Trump accused his opponent of undermining scientific evidence — despite his own well-documented history of contradicting public health experts and contradicting scientific reality in his response to the coronavirus pandemic. Trump also revived racist birther conspiracy theories.
- Biden and Harris announced that they are calling for a nationwide mask mandate, asking every governor to require residents to wear masks in public to slow the spread of coronavirus. The pair will address the Democratic national convention next week from Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.
- The Senate adjourned today with no coronavirus stimulus package in sight and will be out of session until after 8 September. This means that millions of Americans will be left with low unemployment insurance for at least a few more weeks.
- Donald Trump announced a normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, with Israel agreeing to halt plans to annex parts of the West Bank. While Trump called it a “historic peace agreement”, Israel’s prime minister said on Thursday that the country will still annex parts of the West Bank but had agreed to a temporary halt.
- Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen released a teaser for his new book, Disloyal. It is slated to be released in September after attempts to stop publication from the Trump administration.
‘It sends a strong signal’: Black voters respond to Kamala Harris’ nomination
China Cochran met Kamala Harris at a campaign event in Detroit last year and was swept away by the California senator’s ambition, charisma and leadership.
So when the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden named Harris as his running mate on Tuesday – making her the first Black woman on a major US party’s presidential ticket – Cochran wasn’t just struck by the history.
It represented a full-circle moment for Black women, who the Democratic party often refer to as its backbone of support, yet who for generations have fought for their voices to be heard and political aspirations recognized.
“It tells Black girls that they can be president,” Cochran, who recently ran for state representative in Michigan, told the Associated Press. “I think it’s important for us to look at that and see other young women of color realize that they can go after their dreams and really make change in our world.”
Black women in particular helped rescue Biden’s campaign earlier this year by delivering a resounding victory in the South Carolina primary, powering him to the Democratic nomination.
As he prepares for the general election on 3 November, Biden is trying to recreate the multiracial and cross-generational coalition that twice sent Barack Obama to the White House. That will hinge on Black voters in battleground states like Michigan to turn out in force in November.
“We’ve seen from an electoral process what happens if we don’t vote, that can mean the difference between winning and losing a state,” said Karen Finney, a senior Democratic strategist and spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
“We’re in this moral inflection point of this country and Vice-President Biden is someone who’s talked about healing the soul of our country and certainly one of the ways to do that is to uplift the voices of Black women.”
Strategists said that Harris will help that effort.
“It sends a strong signal about not only the current state of our party but what the future of our party looks like,” Antjuan Seawright, a veteran political strategist in South Carolina, told the AP. “And what better way to reward a group of people who have been the political glue in this party than to put an African American woman on the ticket.”
Just hours after Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate, in her home state of California fierce speculation had already begun as to who might replace her in the Senate if she wins a spot in the White House.
“It seems early,” said Aimee Allison, who heads She the People, a national network seeking to elevate women of color to political leadership. “But behind the scenes, conversations are already happening. And I don’t think it’s too soon to think about what the community wants, and what the state wants in a leader.”
If the Biden-Harris team wins on 3 November, California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, will appoint someone to replace Harris in the Senate for the duration of her term, which ends in 2022. Asked on Wednesday if people have already started pitching themselves for the position, Newsom joked with a reporter: “You may be the only one who hasn’t – unless you just did.” Later, he added that his comment was only a “slight” exaggeration.
Read more about who some of the top contenders are:
Israel signs historic deal with UAE that will ‘suspend’ West Bank annexation
Israel and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to establish full diplomatic ties in a historic Washington-brokered deal under which Israel will “suspend” its plans to annex parts of the Palestinian territories.
However, cracks in the deal became quickly apparent after its announcement on Thursday, with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, saying there was “no change” to his annexation plans, while the UAE insisted that it “immediately stops annexation”.
After Jordan and Egypt, the UAE is only the third Arab country to announce formal diplomatic relations with Israel, and the announcement will reverberate across the Middle East, which has a turbulent history with the Jewish state.
Donald Trump, who is facing a tough presidential election on 3 November, played up the deal as a significant foreign policy win.
“Everybody said this would be impossible,” the US president told reporters at the White House. “After 49 years, Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalise their diplomatic relations. They will exchange embassies and ambassadors and begin cooperation across the board and on a broad range of areas including tourism, education, healthcare, trade and security.”
He said the tenor of the three-way phone call he had with Israeli and UAE leaders “was like love”. Similar agreements were being discussed with other countries in the region, he added, without giving details.
Israel has also cultivated ties with Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain. Asked about who might be next in line to establish diplomatic relations, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, said: “We have a couple who are upset that they weren’t first.
“I do think that this makes it more inevitable, but it’s going to take hard work and it’s going to take trust being built and dialogue being facilitated in order for people to cross that line as well,” Kushner told journalists. “So hopefully this makes it easier for others; many are watching to see how this goes.”
Surrounded by his top aides in the Oval Office, Trump described the pact as a “peace agreement”. However, the UAE’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan later tweeted that the country had agreed instead to “cooperation and setting a roadmap towards establishing a bilateral relationship”.
For the Palestinians, who have long relied on Arab backing in their struggle for independence, the development will be seen as a big setback in their attempts to increase international pressure on Israel until a full peace deal has been agreed.
The Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi accused the UAE of abandoning the Palestinians. “May you never experience the agony of having your country stolen; may you never feel the pain of living in captivity under occupation; may you never witness the demolition of your home or murder of your loved ones. May you never be sold out by your ‘friends’,” she wrote on Twitter.
Angela Davis, the political activist, prison abolitionist and professor, said that Kamala Harris’ nomination makes the Democratic presidential ticket “more palatable”.
“We can’t forget that she did not oppose the death penalty and we can’t forget some of the real problems that are associated with her career as a prosecutor,” Davis told Reuters. “But ... it’s a feminist approach to be able to work with those contradictions. And so, in that context, I can say that I’m very excited.”
Davis ran for president in 1980 and 1984, on the Communist Party ticket. Here’s a recent Guardian interview with her:
The president, who championed the racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the US, has revived birtherism at today’s press conference in an attack against Kamala Harris.
“I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements. I have no idea if that is right,” he said. “I would have assumed that the Democrats have checked it out.”
The promotion of this racist conspiracy theory through questions and waffling – which allows Trump to deny that he thinks a Black American wasn’t born in the US, while noting that some people think so, and maybe that’s worth looking into – is a tried-and-true tactic that he used in his baseless attacks against Obama, as well.
Harris was born in the US, and is a US citizen who is eligible to serve as president.
“Do you regret all the lying you’ve done to the American people?” a reporter asked Donald Trump. He did not respond, and called on another journalist.
Trump falsely claimed that foreign nations can easily “grab” and forge mail-in ballots. Experts say the assertion “defies common sense”.
Here’s UC Irvine political scientist Rick Hasen, explaining why:
So far, the coronavirus update has been a campaign event — with Trump delivering a prepared speech attacking Joe Biden. “We will defeat this virus but not by hiding in our basements,” Trump said. “Joe Biden needs to stop playing politics with the virus.”
Pressed on his comment that he refuses to support the US Postal Service because they will handle mail-in voting, Trump said he would not veto a bill featuring postal funding. He continued to lie about fraud in mail-in voting and falsely stated that absentee voting and mail-in voting are different. They are the same. He argued baselessly that Democrats want to keep schools —which also serve as polling places — closed so that Americans cannot vote. He argued baselessly that there was fraud in the New York primary that Democrat Carolyn Maloney won.
“Sleepy Joe rejects the scientific approach,” Trump said, in a peak case of projection.
As we have reported before — Trump has devalued and undermined science throughout the pandemic.
Here’s me, looking back at how Trump has contradicted science:
Here’s my colleague Oliver Milman, on how Trump’s habit of rejecting scientific fact has raised alarm among health experts:
Trump, who has lied, misled and misrepresented the reality of the coronavirus pandemic in the US, contradicting and ignoring his own public health experts, has begun by attacking Joe Biden: “At every turn, Biden has been wrong about the virus - ignoring the scientific evidence.”
He said Biden’s immigration policies would allow “the pandemic to infiltrate every US community”. The pandemic is already widespread.
Hi there, it’s Maanvi Singh, reporting from the West Coast.
We’re expecting Trump to deliver his press conference in a few minutes — and will keep you updated with news and fact checks.
Today so far
Here’s a quick summary of what’s been happening today:
- Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are continuing to make the rounds as a duo. The pair announced they are calling for a nationwide mask mandate and said every governor should implement a mask mandate in their states.
- The Senate adjourned today with no coronavirus stimulus package in sight and will be out of session until after 8 September. This means that millions of Americans will be left with low unemployment insurance for at least a few more weeks.
- Donald Trump announced a normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, with Israel agreeing to halt plans to annex parts of the West Bank. While Trump called it a “historic peace agreement”, Israel’s prime minister said on Thursday that the country will still annex parts of the West Bank but had agreed to a temporary halt.
- Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen released a teaser for his new book, Disloyal, which is slated to be released in September after attempts to stop publication from the Trump administration.
Vice-president Mike Pence is continuing to put out some jabs toward his new Democratic opponent, Kamala Harris, this time criticizing remarks she made about Americans’ eating habits and the environment.
Speaking at the “Farmers and Ranchers for Trump” launch event in Iowa, Pence told the crowd that Harris said during her primary campaign that she was concerned about the impact of Americans’ diet. “She would change the dietary guidelines of this country to reduce the amount of red meat that Americans can eat,” Pence said, the crowd booing in response.
“Well, I’ve got some red meat for you: we’re not going to let Joe Biden & Kamala Harris cut America’s meat!”
That supporters of the Green New Deal are out to ban hamburgers altogether has long been a talking point of conservatives. While Green New Deal advocates have indicated they want to work with farmers and ranchers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a complete ban on red meat has not been a part of the plan.
The teaser for Michael Cohen’s book is now out after the justice department issued a gag order, which has since been dropped, to stop the book’s publication.
The book, titled Disloyal: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J Trump, is slated to be released sometime in September, ahead of the presidential election in November.
The book’s foreword is now available online and details Cohen’s feelings of bewilderment at seeing Trump for who he really is after being “Trump’s first call every morning and his last call every night”.
“In some ways, I knew him better than even his family did because I bore witness to the real man, in strip clubs, shady business meetings, and in the unguarded moments when he revealed who he really was: a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, a con man,” Cohen, Trump’s former fixer, writes.
Cohen was serving a three-year prison on federal charges of tax evasion, making false statements, lying to Congress and facilitating illegal payments to silence women about their affairs with Trump. But Cohen was released in May after fears of Covid-19 spreading in federal prisons.
After tweeting that he was nearly finished with his book in July, Cohen was sent back to prison. The ACLU ended up joining a suit on his behalf to get him out, which was ultimately successful. A gag order from the justice department to halt the book’s publication was also dropped.
The Trump administration has made very obvious efforts to stop the publication of high-profile tell-alls, all which have been ultimately unsuccessful. Former national security adviser John Bolton book The Room Where It Happened was published was published in June and Mary L Trump’s, Trump’s niece, book Too Much and Never Enough was published in July.
Senate adjourns until 8 September without stimulus deal
The Senate has adjourned its session this afternoon without reaching an agreement with House Democrats on a new stimulus package. The Senate is slated to go back into regular session 8 September.
The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, told senators that they would be called back to Capitol Hill with a 24-hour notice if a deal is reached. McConnell said that he hopes that a bipartisan deal can be reached “in the coming weeks”.
Earlier today the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said that Democrats will come back to the negotiating table when Senate Republicans agree on a larger stimulus package. “We’re not inching away from their meager piecemeal proposal,” she said.
At the press conference, Pelosi had beside her a chart comparing the Democrats’ $3tn Heroes Act, which passed the House in June, to the $1tn Heals Act in the Senate. One line indicated that House Democrats want $100bn for rental assistance while Senate Republicans want nothing.
Without a new stimulus package, millions of Americans are left with much lower unemployment insurance since the federal government stopped giving an additional $600 a week at the end of July. The steep drop in income is expected to lead to widespread evictions.
Two new speakers slated to make appearances at next week’s Democratic National Convention were announced today. Billionaire and former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg and entrepreneur Andrew Yang both announced today that they will be speaking at the virtual convention.
Yang and Bloomberg will be joining a list of former candidates including senators Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. Pete Buttigieg is also slated to speak at the virtual convention.
After the Democratic National Committee, which runs the convention, announced the DNC’s speaker lineup, Yang tweeted that he was disappointed that he was not asked to speak. “I’ve got to be honest I kind of expected to speak,” he tweeted on Tuesday.
Ted Lieu, a US representative from California, tweeted in response his disappointment that there was little Asian American representation at the convention. “Asian Americans are the fastest increasing group in America, including in multiple swing states,” Lieu tweeted. “The gross underrepresentation of Asian American speakers in the four days of the DNC Convention is tone deaf and a slap in the face.”
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris call for a nationwide mask mandate
In other mask news, Joe Biden and senator Kamala Harris emerged from a briefing with a panel of public health experts announcing their call for a nationwide mask mandate.
“Every single American should be wearing a mask when they’re outside for the next three months, at a minimum. Every governor should mandate — every governor should mandate mandatory mask wearing,” Biden said.
Biden, referring to Americans who refuse to wear a mask and say that it infringes on their individual rights, said “it’s not about your rights” but rather a person’s responsibility as an American.
“Be a patriot. Protect your fellow citizens,” he implored. “Protect your fellow citizens. Step up. Do the right thing.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends that people wear masks in public to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Georgia governor Brian Kemp has announced that he is dropping his lawsuit against the city of Atlanta for implementing a mask mandate, according to the AP.
The lawsuit against Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the City Council was filed July 16, with Kemp claiming that it defied his executive order that said local governments cannot implement coronavirus measures that are stricter than the state’s regulations. While Kemp has strongly urged people to wear masks, he has not instituted a state-wide mandate.
Lawyers for the city argued that the city has the right to take action to protect the public. “In the absence of state leadership on this issue, local governments have stepped in to protect their citizens,” the city’s filing said.
Georgia has seen a spike of Covid-19 cases in the last month, seeing over 105,000 cases in the state in July alone.
Biden says Trump's USPS comments are "pure Trump"
Joe Biden told pool reporters in Wilmington, Delaware that Donald Trump’s comments about not giving more funding to the US Postal Service (USPS) to carry out mail-in voting was “pure Trump”.
“He doesn’t want an election,” he added.
On Fox Business today, Trump suggested that the $3.6 million Democrats say USPS need to carry out mail-in voting for the election in November is “something that will turn out to be fraudulent” and “election money, basically”.
He further outlined how not giving funding to “make the post office work” will mean not having universal mail-in voting, essentially confirming the motive Trump has to criticize and defund USPS.
In a statement, Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said that Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting is “an assault on our democracy and economy by a desperate man who’s terrified that the American people will force him to confront what he’s done everything in his power to escape for months”.
In a press conference earlier today, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior advisor, confirmed that he met with Kanye West in the wake of the rapper announcing his presidential run.
Kushner said that West is “a friend of mine” and that he has known him for 10 years. “He has some great ideas for what he’s like to see happen in the country and that’s why he has the candidacy that he’s been doing,” Kushner said. “There’s a lot of the issues that the president has championed that he admires.”
West has been a vocal support of Trump but announced he is running for president in July. His campaign has not gained momentum since he was too late to get on the ballot in most states. Instead, the campaign raised serious concerns about the state of West’s mental health in light of volatile statements West has made since announcing his run. West has been vocal about his experience with bipolar disorder.
It appears the normalization of relations agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is not as ironed out as the Trump administration is suggesting.
According to Axios, Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address Thursday night he is “committed to annexing parts of the West Bank” but temporarily suspended those plans to reach an agreement with the UAE. The plans to annex parts of the West Bank, which is Palestinian territory, has received global condemnation.
When announcing the agreement made between the US, UAE and Israel, Trump declared on Twitter that a “historic peace agreement” had been made. A tweet from UAE crown prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan led on the fact that Israel agreed to “stop further annexation of Palestinian territories” and to begin creating a “roadmap” for a bilateral relationship between the two countries.
US representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez struck back at Donald Trump after comments he made this morning on Fox Business about US representative being “not even a smart person”.
Trump told Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo that Joe Biden, if president, is likely going to fund the plans of Ocasio-Cortez. He then said, seemingly out of nowhere, said that “AOC was a poor student ... this is not even a smart person.” He continued on saying that she says “good lines of stuff” and that “she yaps”.
In response, Ocasio-Cortez challenged Trump to release his college transcript.
College has recently become a sore topic for Trump with the publishing of “Too Much and Never Enough”, the book of his niece, Mary L. Trump, about the Trump family. In the book, Mary Trump divulged that her uncle paid someone to take the SATs for him to get into the University of Pennsylvania. Throughout the book, Mary Trump repeatedly remarks that her uncle was a bad student in school but cared about the credentials of a reputable college.
Democratic presidential running mates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have hit the campaign trail again today, receiving a briefing on the coronavirus crisis from the Biden team’s public health advisers in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.
“It should be the public health professionals that are leading policy in our country to address this lethal pandemic,” Harris told reporters as a video briefing with the physicians began.
The pair accused Donald Trump of a catalogue of “failures of leadership” on the coronavirus crisis and the dire economic fallout during their first event together as running mates on Wednesday. Trump has sidelined public health experts in recent months, most publicly at the coronavirus White House press briefings he now usually delivers alone.
The pandemic has killed more than 166,000 people in the US - the highest death toll in the world, and left tens of millions unemployed.
The massive waves of unemployment from stay-at-home order put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 has threatened the country with a potentially devastating mental health crisis.
Over the last few months, the federal and state governments have provided some protections to Americans suffering the worst economic effects from Covid-19, bolstering unemployment insurance and implementing eviction moratoriums. But those protections have expired for many, leaving a path to what could rapidly turn into disaster for the well-being of millions of people. The Guardian’s Nina Lakhani reports:
Covid-19 has upended almost every aspect of normal life for many people, resulting in an increase in multiple suicide risk factors while also weakening some of the protective ones.
“The pandemic has already generated a combination of factors associated with increased risk, including economic recession, access to firearms, and a generalized sense of anxiety and depression. I would not be surprised if this leads to an increase in suicide deaths,” said Jonathan Singer, president of the American Association of Suicidology and associate professor of social work at Loyola University in Chicago.
Kamala Harris to deliver DNC speech in Wilmington, Delaware
Kamala Harris will deliver her much-anticipated speech for the Democratic National Convention next week at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, the Delaware News Journal reported. The convention is set to be held virtually, with speakers such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Obamas slated to make appearances online Monday through Thursday night. Biden will accept the nomination from Delaware on Thursday night.
Harris was announced to be a speaker at the convention earlier this week before it was revealed that she was Biden’s vice president pick.
The national conventions are usually the hallmark of the presidential election, marking the official end of the primaries and gearing the party toward the general election. The Democratic National Committee, which runs the convention, announced they would be holding a largely virtual convention due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Biden announced last week that he would not be going to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the convention was slated to be held. While the speeches and committee meetings will all be held virtually, the Democratic National Committee is still tethering the convention to Milkwaukee. The convention will gavel in and out from the city, and the role-call of states, where delegates from each states formally cast their votes for the nominee, will also be held in Milwaukee.
As Donald Trump is coming under fire for openly saying he refuses to support the US Postal Service since they will handle mail-in voting, a Trump campaign advisor retweeted a controversial op-ed questioning Kamala Harris’ eligibility to be vice president.
Jenna Ellis, a senior legal advisor on Trump’s campaign, retweeted an op-ed from Newsweek that argues Harris might not be eligible to be vice president since her parents were not born in the United States. Harris was born in Oakland, California, making her a citizen since birth.
Trump is, of course, remembered for feeding into the “birther” movement in 2008, furthering conspiracy theories that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, despite him being born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Such questions have never been raised so prominently for white presidential candidates, including the late John McCain, who was born in Panama.
In response to the op-ed and retweet from Ellis, Andrew Bates, a spokesperson for Joe Biden’s campaign, said that it is “unsurprising” that Trump and his campaign would “resort to wretched, demonstrably false lies in their pathetic desperation.”
Editors from Newsweek responded to the backlash to the op-ed, saying that the author was raising “a long-standing, somewhat arcane legal debate” about the wording of the 14th Amendment’s citizenship clause and has no connection to the birther movement.
The Supreme Court rejected Republicans’ attempts to prevent the easing of mail-in voting restrictions in Rhode Island.
The Republican National Committee tried to reinstate a rule in Rhode Island that would require a person to get two witnesses or a notary public to sign a mail-in ballot. Republicans argued that the pandemic did not make it harder for people to find two witnesses.
Notably, three of the court’s conservative judges, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, indicated their dissent to the court’s ruling.
Trump announces normalization of relations between Israel and UAE
Donald Trump just tweeted that the United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to a normalization of relations between the countries. The announcement says that Israel has agreed to halt efforts to annex territory in the West Bank.
The move signals an advancements in Israel’s attempts to build diplomatic relations in the Middle East and a shoring up in mutual opposition to Iran’s stronghold in the region.
While Trump described the agreement on Twitter as a “historic peace agreement”, UAE’s crown prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, known as MBZ, took a softer stance on Twitter saying that the UAE and Israel are “setting a roadmap towards establishing a bilateral relationship”.
In an interview with Fox Business this morning, Donald Trump used language toward women that is likely a hint of what is to come in the next few months as he wages a fight with Joe Biden’s new presidential candidate Kamala Harris.
In an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, Trump referred to Harris as “sort of a mad woman”, criticizing her questioning of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his heated confirmation hearing in September 2018. “She was the angriest of the group and they were all angry,” he said of the Democrats.
Earlier this morning, Trump tweeted that the media has given Harris a “free pass”, saying there was “nobody meaner or more condescending” to Biden during the primaries.
Trump’s tirade on Fox Business also including US representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, saying that she “is not even a smart person” and that she “goes out and yaps”. Trump also described House speaker Nancy Pelosi as “stone-cold crazy”.
Joe Biden’s campaign has responded to comments Donald Trump made this morning on Fox Business that giving more funding to the US Postal Service to carry out mail-in voting would lead to fraud:
South Dakota governor Kristi Noem is getting criticism for an announcement that she plans to build a $400,000 fence around the governor’s mansion in Pierre, the state’s capital. The governor’s team has not offered any specific threats behind the building of the fence, though they did say their security team recommended it.
In the last few months, Noem has positioned herself as a standout conservative voice during the Covid-19 pandemic, angling herself beside Donald Trump and giving him a warm welcome when he visited Mount Rushmore for the Fourth of July. Noem gifted Trump a four-foot replica of Mount Rushmore that included a bust of his head.
While Covid-19 cases in South Dakota have not seen the huge spikes that other states have seen, it has seen a relatively moderate number of cases given its small population size. Noem has opted for a more lax approach of handling the virus, encouraging schools to open in-person in the fall and discouraging the use of masks and social distancing.
AMC, the largest movie theater chain in the US, just announced that it will be offering 15-cent movie tickets when more than 100 of its theaters open August 20, according to the AP. The chain calls its reopening promotion “Movies in 2020 at 1920 Prices”.
The chain has been closed in the US since March when most states began to shut down businesses to stop the spread of Covid-19. AMC had originally announced in June that it would reopen its theaters July 15, but as cases continued to increase in the US, the chain continued to push back its reopening timeline.
AMC said it hopes to have two-thirds of its cinemas open by the time that Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” thriller is out September 3. Disney’s “New Mutants”, part of the X-Men series, is slated to be released August 28 after its original release date in March was postponed.
Several states have issued orders that explicit bar movie theaters from opening. AMC said that the safety precautions it’s taking at its reopening locations include requiring guests to wear masks, increased theater cleaning and reduced theater capacity to encourage social distancing.
Kamala Harris brings in $26m to Biden campaign in first 24-hours as VP candidate
This is Lauren Aratani taking over for Martin Belam. Joe Biden’s presidential campaign raised $26m in the 24-hour period after he announced that US Senator Kamala Harris will be his running mate.
The boost in donation is a much-needed sign of momentum behind Biden’s campaign brought on by Harris’ arrival. Trump’s fundraising in July topped Biden’s by $30m, bringing in a total of $165m compared to Biden’s $140m.
During a virtual grassroots fundraiser, Biden said that 150,000 donors were first-time contributors. “It’s really palpable, the excitement, because there’s so much at stake.”
The fundraiser immediately followed Biden and Harris’ first joint campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware Wednesday where the candidates said that Donald Trump has left the US “in tatters” because of his failed response to the Covid-19 pandemic. “We have a president who cares more about himself than the people who elected him,” Harris said.
Trump has already taken what many are saying are sexist remarks against Harris, calling her “extraordinarily nasty” when referring to her questioning of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during the justice’s confirmation hearing.
Trump says USPS and election infrastructure funding are main stumbling blocks in coronavirus relief talks
Funding for the United States Postal Service (USPS) and to shore up election infrastructure is the main stumbling block in talks between the White House and top congressional Democrats over a fresh round of coronavirus relief, Donald Trump has said this morning.
Reuters report that Trump said his negotiators have resisted Democrats’ calls for additional money to help US election officials prepare for November’s presidential.
“The items are the post office and the $3.5 billion for mail-in voting,” Trump told Fox Business Network, saying Democrats want to give the post office $25 billion. “If we don’t make the deal, that means they can’t have the money, that means they can’t have universal mail-in voting. It just can’t happen.”
In the interview, Trump said that funding for mail-in voting will be used “for something that will turn out to be fraudulent, that is election money basically” echoing his repeated claims – without evidence – that mail-in voting is likely to be rife with fraud.
The White House negotiating team of treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin and chief of staff Mark Meadows has not met with House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer in six days.
That’s it from Martin Belam in London today, I’m handing over to Lauren Aratani now, and I’ll be back bright and early tomorrow. Stay safe.
Police declared riot in Portland on 77th night of protest
Police declared a riot again last night in Portland, Oregon, as crowds protested over racial injustice for the 77th consecutive night. According to local online reports, by 10pm around 300 people had gathered.
Officers used tear gas to break up the crowd which had assembled near the Mark O. Hatfield US Courthouse, the neighbouring Multnomah County Justice Center, and a nearby police precinct station.
Portland police claimed in a statement that protesters hurled rocks, bottles and paint at officers during the demonstration that started Wednesday night and went into Thursday morning.
Some demonstrators were detained, one officer suffered a hand wound described as serious and several other officers suffered non-specified injuries, the statement said, without providing further details.
Sarah Palin has been on Good Morning America, with her thoughts on the pick of Kamala Harris as the VP nomination for a major party. She was the last woman to be in such a position.
She said that she believed that herself, and Geraldine Ferraro who was VP pick in 1984, had been able to “bust down some doors”.
I think we were able to show some voters, maybe you’re kind of Neanderthal-ish and not believing that women are capable of doing a whole lot at once. We were able to prove that [we could].
Palin has said that she has reached out to Harris, and questioned why, Palin said:
I had a great discussion with Geraldine Ferraro when I was chosen. I called her and we were able to kind of bond over this unique experience that she had had and that I was ready to have. I wish that more people, more women would have reached out to me at the time.
Sarah Palin also said that Harris is in a much better position than she was, what with it being 2020.
We see the big feminist list of women who’ve already come out to support her and kind of saying, you know, media, take your hands off her when it comes to some issues that maybe you’re gearing up to attack on. Nobody did that for me. Nobody did that for Geraldine.
Milwaukee’s former police chief, facing demotion, opts to retire instead
One of the stories that we’ve been following on the blog in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protest movement is that of Milwaukee’s former police chief Alfonso Morales.
Morales was demoted to captain in part for using tear gas against protesters demonstrating over George Floyd’s death.
The Associated Press are reporting today that Morales has decided to step down altogether and retire rather than return to being a captain, which had implications for his salary and pension.
“It would be foolish of me to stay and lose my pension or have that drop in pension,” Morales said. “The only choice was to leave.”
Morales also pushed back on commissioners’ statements the day he was demoted in which they claimed he had failed to work with them and lied to them and the public.
“The facts will come out. I did everything transparently, I was honest, and I really cared about the men and women of the Milwaukee Police Department, both sworn and civilian,” Morales said.
His attorney, Franklyn Gimbel, said he and Morales are exploring a range of legal action, including filing a claim for damages.
The city’s Fire and Police Commission voted unanimously last week to demote him, and criticized how Morales handled multiple incidents involving Black people, including the arrest of Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown in 2018, as well as his decision to tear gas Black Lives Matters demonstrators.
Bhaskar Sunkara has also written for us today about USPS, saying:
Postal employment is one of America’s most powerful engines of upward mobility. As early as 1861, the Post Office Department began hiring black employees and maintained that practice throughout the century of racial apartheid that followed the end of slavery. Today, a full quarter of USPS workers are black and the vast majority of them unionized. For these workers, and millions of others, stable public sector employment is the only viable route to union protections, job stability and a decent living.
A needless austerity program of any size would directly affect every community in the country. But the indirect effects would be just as profound. Collective bargaining influences pay and benefits across sectors, benefiting even non-union workers in private companies like FedEx. USPS unions, such as the American Postal Workers Union, have intervened more widely, too, in defense of social goods enjoyed by all working people and backing Bernie Sanders and his demands for new programs like Medicare for All.
However, rather than just trying to protect the USPS as it currently exists from Trump administration attacks, we should go further. Let’s expand the USPS’s mandate.
Postal service changes pose threat to voting, says former USPS deputy
My colleague Sam Levine has this report on the crisis that threatens to engulf the United States Postal Service (USPS) as it comes under pressure to deliver an expected record amount of mail-in ballots in November’s election.
A former top official at the has warned that recent changes at the agency, now led by a Trump ally, could “disenfranchise” voters as they are implemented just months ahead of an election in which a record number of Americans are expected to vote by mail.
Amid reports of significant mail delays, Ronald Stroman, who stepped down earlier this year as the second in command at USPS, said he was concerned about the speed and timing of changes that appeared to be implemented after Louis DeJoy, the new postmaster general, took office in June.
US unemployment claims dip below 1m for first time in 20 weeks
Initial claims for unemployment insurance were just under a million at 963,000. That’s a drop of 228,000 on the week before, and the first time weekly numbers have dipped below a million for twenty weeks, as the economy begins some recovery from the Covid-19 shutdown.
Overall there’s also a drop of over 600,000 on the total unemployment numbers, down to 15.4m
Here’s our full story: US unemployment claims dip below 1m for first time in 20 weeks
There will be coverage of market reaction as usual over on our business live blog.
More Twitter trouble for the Trumps, as the president’s son has been spotted ‘liking’ a tweet that included a sexist slur about Kamala Harris, CNN reports.
The now-deleted tweet Eric Trump liked was from an account belonging to a user named Lori Hendry, and it read: “Raise your hand if you think Harris was a whorendous pick. May have misspelled.”
This is one of the weirder things I’ve had to report on, but Herman Cain has been lambasting the pick of Kamala Harris as VP from beyond the grave – at least that’s how it appears from the late Republican’s twitter feed, anyway.
Cain died on 30 July after being hospitalised with Covid-19. The tweets are part of a plan from his family to continue his legacy. On Tuesday, Cain’s daughter Melanie Cain Gallo published a piece on the Cain website announcing that “We’ve decided here at Cain HQ that we will go on using this platform to share the information and ideas he believed in”
The post, however, didn’t make it clear that they were planning to use Cain’s Twitter account to resume tweeting, with no mention that her father was now deceased.
Criticism of the move yesterday seems to have left them undeterred, the account tweeted another attack on Biden this morning.
Vivian Ho in San Francisco has been getting the lowdown for us on what the pick of Kamala Harris for VP nominee has meant back in the Senator’s hometown of Oakland. And it’s not totally joy without reservation.
In a county with a long history of radical politics and where more than half of residents voted for the progressives Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic primary – and where Sanders supporters picketed outside Joe Biden’s Oakland election day stopover – some residents’ enthusiasm was tempered by Harris’ track record as a prosecutor and attorney general, as well as some of her votes in the senate.
“I think there was a bit of cognitive dissonance for me given the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the conversation around defunding the police,” said Terry Taplin, a candidate for Berkeley city council. Even so, he said: “It is really exciting to see a Black and South Asian woman from the East Bay get the pick.”
Pompeo signs joint 5G declaration in Slovenia
While on the subject of US foreign policy, secretary of state Mike Pompeo is touring eastern Europe at the moment, and is in Slovenia, where he has signed a joint declaration on “5G Clean Network Security”.
The Associated Press report that on the visit Pompeo said “Free nations must work together to confront authoritarian threats. It is absolutely critical that every nation makes a good sovereign decision about how the private information of its citizens is going to be handled.”
Pompeo has led a campaign across Europe and elsewhere against Huawei and other Chinese companies that the Trump administration accuses of turning over sensitive data and personal information to China’s security apparatus. Slovenia is on board, and the declaration commits “to protecting the privacy and individual liberties of the citizens of the United States and Slovenia.”
Last month the country rolled out a nationwide commercial 5G network with the Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson, which Pompeo and other US officials frequently mention as a “trusted” alternative to Huawei.
At an earlier stop in his tour, in the Czech Republic, Pompeo said “The Chinese Communist Party is already enmeshed in our economies, in our politics, in our societies in ways the Soviet Union never was.”
US says Iran briefly seized oil tanker near Strait of Hormuz
Amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the US, the US military has alleged that the Iranian navy boarded and briefly seized a Liberian-flagged oil tanker near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
The US military’s Central Command published a black-and-white video showing what they claimed to be special forces fast-roping down from a helicopter onto the MT Wila, whose last position appeared to be off the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates near the city of Khorfakkan.
The Iranian navy held the vessel for some five hours before releasing it Wednesday, a US military official told the Associated Press. The Wila made no distress calls before, during and after the seizure, the official said.
The Iranian helicopter involved appeared to be a Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King, which only Iran’s navy operates. Two other Iranian naval vessels took part in the seizure, Central Command said.
Back in election mode, Rachael Bade and Isaac Stanley-Becker have a piece in the Washington Post this morning about how senior Republicans embracing the extreme views of Marjorie Taylor Greene draws attention to the party’s tolerance of bigotry.
Yesterday the president congratulated Greene on her primary victory in a tweet, despite the fact that she is an avowed QAnon conspiracy-theory supporter with a history of posting social media videos that have been criticised as racist. Bade and Stanley-Becker write that:
The rise of Greene shines a spotlight on the GOP’s internal debate over how to handle fringe groups and candidates who support Trump and whom he often supports in return. Republicans privately acknowledge that there is no future for a party that antagonizes people of color and has members who make statements or take policy positions supported by white supremacists. But they also have done little to stand up to Trump, a president who embraces such rhetoric, and candidates who make those remarks.
More than a dozen QAnon-supporting candidates will be on ballots across the country in November, but Greene is the one most likely to get elected.
This was also useful on the Republican quandary with dealing with QAnon, from yesterday, not least for quoting Rep. Denver Riggleman saying “QAnon is the mental gonorrhea of conspiracy theories”.
Read it here: Politico – McCarthy faces QAnon squeeze
Axios have a little bit of a more optimistic take on the coronavirus numbers this morning. There’s naturally a lag between new cases being reported and then the ultimate outcome of the illness, and so the high number of deaths reported yesterday in the US reflects the illness case load from a couple of weeks back.
Sam Baker writes for Axios that the case numbers show that the coronavirus outbreak is “slowing down after a summer of explosive growth.”
New cases slowed over the past week in 21 states, including Arizona, Florida, Texas and the Southern states that experienced dramatic outbreaks in June and July.
There’s roughly a rolling 7-day average of 52,000 new cases per day, and that’s around 10% down on the week before, which is good news. But, he ruefully concludes:
Progress has to start somewhere, and these numbers are encouraging. But the US still has a very big coronavirus outbreak and a flawed, incomplete plan of attack to fight it.
Also on the election front, here’s a little bit more from my colleagues Julian Borger and Sam Levine about the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) assessing the forthcoming US elections as “the most challenging in recent decades”.
It is recommending that member states send 100 long-term and 400 short-term observers to monitor the poll.
A week-long needs assessment mission by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights beginning on 29 May found there was widespread concern that “election officials will face serious challenges prior to and on election day, due to new measures in response to Covid-19 pandemic, and expressed concerns over their ability to overcome them.”
In the view of officials and experts the assessment mission spoke to, the voting problems “may have an impact on the level of trust in election administration, which, in turn, could harm the integrity of election day proceedings, and ultimately cast doubt in the outcome of the elections”.
Facebook rolling out new election information features – will tag posts about voting with additional links
Away from coronavirus for a minute, and back to thinking about the election. Starting today on Facebook, if you share something about voting, you may find your post tagged with additional information.
Facebook began adding similar links to posts about in-person and mail-in balloting by federal politicians, including Donald Trump, back in July. It is similar to Facebook’s efforts – without a huge amount of success some would argue – to stop misinformation about Covid-19 spreading on the platform.
The effectiveness of such labels will depend on how well Facebook’s artificial intelligence system identifies the posts that really need them, said Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Civic Media. If every post containing the word “vote” or “voting” gets an informational link, he said, “people will start ignoring those links.”
According to Associated Press, Facebook expects the voter hub to reach at least 160 million people in the US. Emily Dalton Smith, who serves as head of social impact at the company said the primary focus is registering people to vote, but that the information people see will evolve throughout the election season.
“This is a unique election and a unique election season,” she said. “Certainly we have never gone through an election during a global pandemic.”
In a blog post announcing the changes, Facebook say they are also rolling out a tool to allow states to contact voters directly in the run-up to the election. Called “voting alerts” Facebook say this feature “will be increasingly critical as we get closer to the election, with potential late-breaking changes to the voting process that could impact voters. Only pages from a government authority, not the personal page of an individual election official, are eligible to participate in this feature.”
The president has just tweeted that he’ll be interviewed on Fox Business this morning at 7:30am. He’s also…well, just have a look for yourself. He’s tweeting about numbers – but it’s not the number of coronavirus deaths.
It’s been clear for some time that the coronavirus pandemic has been affecting some groups in society disproportionately – both in terms of the illness itself and the economic impact it has caused.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation this morning are reporting on research by the National Urban League, a civil rights organization, which finds that the slight progress towards equality that Black people in the US were making is being undone by Covid-19.
The report says that Black Americans’ levels of equality with white people had risen slightly since 2018, aided by improvements in health and social justice.
On a scorecard gauged with white people at 100%, Black Americans scored 74% on economics, health, education, social justice and civic engagement, up 1.6 percentage points from 2018, the League said in its “2020 State of Black America” report.
But the calculations were made before the outbreak of Covid-19, which is wiping out Black gains in wealth and jobs, while killing about twice as many Black people as white, said the National Urban League report,
“America is in crisis. Black America is in a doubly difficult crisis,” said Marc Morial, National Urban League president.
“You’ve got the health issues related to COVID and the disproportionality of deaths and disease, and you’ve got the economic fallout, disproportionality in terms of unemployment, the impact on businesses.
“The you’ve got the racial justice crisis, which was put into plain sight by the death of George Floyd,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.
Even before the coronavirus and the economic recession, the study’s findings “reflect longstanding racial and ethnic disparities across nearly every area of American life,” the report said.
Jeffrey Collins at Associated Press has been looking at the difficulties on the ground in deciding whether to reopen schools or not - described as an “impossible decision” by one school board member
He reports that the Rock Hill board of trustees in suburban South Carolina is like thousands of school boards nationwide, where members are tackling a simple question “do we return to school amid a pandemic?” with no right or even good answers, in the face of inconsistent testing and a near-constant increase in confirmed coronavirus cases.
Behind that question is pressure. Pressure from teachers and bus drivers and janitors, scared to return to work but in need of a paycheck. Pressure from parents and guardians, who need to return to their own jobs but fear for their children’s safety. Pressure from a president who declares on Twitter “OPEN THE SCHOOLS!!!” but whose administration provides little tangible guidance for doing so.
They’ve opted to reopen by splitting students into two groups that would each spend two days a week in classrooms, with virtual learning the other school days.
Helena Miller, one of the trustees, says she has spent countless nights, eyes wide open, her mind wrestling over the safety and education of the children she swore to protect.
And everyone has an opinion. The district has more than 17,000 students, and that means about 17,000 proposals on how to go back to school, one of the trustees told Collins, only half-joking.
South Carolina has some of the country’s worst virus numbers, and state leaders can’t agree on what to do about schools. Republican Gov. Henry McMaster contradicted his own education superintendent and said schools must allow a five-days-a-week option for working parents. School boards were left to untangle the mess - Rock Hill called an emergency meeting and ultimately kept to its staggered plan.
There was no shouting, no claims of fake science, no accusations that trustees didn’t care for kids. At a time when such arguments erupt everywhere from talks shows to Facebook, from the White House to the corner store, this board prides itself on civil discourse. School boards represent democracy at its local core.
“We want what’s best for our children,” said trustee Windy Cole, who’s had her own tears and sleepless nights. “I’ve been in all the meetings, I’ve listened to everything I can, and I trust our district is doing the best possible under these horrible circumstances. We have to just keep praying,”
We’ve been publishing a new series this week – Lost on the frontline – which is documenting the death toll of the coronavirus on healthcare professionals in the US.
The latest in the series, co-published with Kaiser Health News, is from Emmarie Huetteman, on how US hospitals pressure healthcare staff to work even if they have Covid symptoms.
Guidance from public health experts has evolved as they have learned more about the coronavirus, but one message has remained consistent: if you feel sick, stay home. Yet hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities have flouted that guidance, pressuring workers who contract Covid-19 to return sooner than public health standards suggest is safe. Some employers have failed to provide adequate paid leave, if any, so employees felt they had to return to work – even while possibly infectious.
Many hospitals with an onslaught of patients have found themselves short-staffed. That need dovetailed with an entrenched culture in medicine of “presenteeism”. Frontline healthcare workers, in particular, follow a brutal ethos of being tough enough to work even when ill, reasoning that other “people are sicker”, said Andra Blomkalns, the chair of Stanford University’s emergency medicine department.
Read it in full here: US hospitals pressure healthcare staff to work even if they have Covid symptoms
The New York Times has a chart-laden interactive report this morning claiming that the true coronavirus toll in the US has already surpassed 200,000. That’s some 34,000 higher than the official death toll stands at the moment. Denise Lu writes:
As the pandemic has moved south and west from New York City, so have the unusual patterns in deaths from all causes. That suggests that the official death counts may be substantially underestimating the overall effects of the virus.
The piece analyses “excess deaths” – that is how many more deaths have been recorded than you would usually expect at this time. The data shows that most states have been seeing more deaths than they would normally expect to see most weeks since March.
Read it in full here: New York Times – The true coronavirus toll in the US has already surpassed 200,000
US reports highest number of deaths from coronavirus in a single day since mid-May
While the administration continues to press for schools to reopen, and some states continue to pursue a loosening of restrictions to help stimulate the economy, the US reported its highest number of deaths from coronavirus in a single day since mid-May.
The seven-day average of newly reported deaths has remained above 1,000 for 17 consecutive days now.
45 deaths in North Carolina equalled the state’s worst day of the pandemic so far, while Georgia recorded over 100 deaths for the second day in a row.
There is a slight caveat with this figure by the way – three days have recorded a higher total number of deaths during that period since mid-May, but that was because they were days when states added a large number of backlogged deaths into the data.
Good morning, welcome to our live coverage of US politics and the coronavirus crisis for the day. Here’s a catch-up with where we are, and a bit of what we can expect to see later on today
- There were 53,758 new coronavirus cases recorded yesterday, a number that has risen for the second day in a row. And there were 1,468 deaths – the highest single day total since mid-May. For the last two weeks, the country has now averaged more than 1,000 deaths per day
- Joe Biden and Kamala Harris excoriated ‘failure’ Trump during their first joint appearance since he announced she would be his VP pick. They’ll be campaigning together again today
- Trump has already called Harris ‘nasty’ – is it because of her record of grilling powerful men?
- The OSCE office for democratic institutions recommends sending 500 monitors to observe the ‘most challenging’ US election in recent decades
- Facebook is set to roll out new tools which it claims will fight election disinformation
- Police declared a riot in Portland, on the 77th consecutive night of Black Lives Matter protests there
- Kayleigh McEnany gives a press briefing at 1pm. There’s nothing public in Trump’s diary, though that doesn’t rule out him doing another coronavirus briefing later on
I’m Martin Belam and I’ll be with you for the next couple of hours – you can get me at email@example.com