We’re ending our live coverage for the day, thanks for following along. A summary of some key events:
- Vice-president Mike Pence touted the country’s “tremendous progress” against coronavirus, as the US set a single-day record for new infections.
- Pence declined to offer a federal recommendation on mask usage, instead referring Americans to their state and local officials.
- Florida and Texas are clamping down on bars as they grapple with the surge in cases. The governor of Texas announced it was shutting down bars, and Florida will no longer allow alcohol sales at bars in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.
- The US intelligence community has concluded Russia offered Afghan militants bounties to kill US troops, according to a new bombshell report from the New York Times.
- The Minneapolis city council has unanimously approved a proposal to change the city charter to allow the police department to be dismantled.
- San Francisco has paused its reopening following a surge in cases in California.
- Trump signed an executive order “protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues – and combatting recent Criminal Violence”.
- Most US residents will likely be blocked from traveling to the European Union when travel restarts, due to ongoing concerns about the coronavirus.
- The US attorney general, William Barr, has announced the formation of a task force on “violent anti-government extremists”, which he said includes “Antifa”.
- A federal judge has ordered US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) to release all immigrant children who have been detained inside Ice’s family jails for more than 20 days.
- For the first time in history, the House of Representatives has approved a bill that would make Washington DC the 51st US state.
California’s governor has granted clemency to 21 prisoners as Covid-19 outbreaks have continued to infect thousands behind bars in an escalating public health crisis.
Gavin Newsom, who has faced mounting pressure to release people en masse from state prisons, announced Friday that he is granting commutations to 21 people, a move that reduces their sentences and creates a potential path for their release. He also announced pardon grants for 13 people, a step that restores some rights for those who have already served sentences.
Advocates said the move was deeply inadequate given the scale of the Covid crisis, which has infected more than 4,000 people in state prisons, leading to 20 deaths. The state announced more than 1,000 new cases in the last two weeks, a surge that advocates and experts say was preventable and is a result of the state’s negligence.
The recent outbreaks in two prisons, San Quentin and Corcoran, occurred after officials transferred hundreds of people into those facilities. They came from a prison with the largest outbreak in the state and were not tested first.
A federal judge has ordered US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) to release all immigrant children who have been detained inside Ice’s family jails for more than 20 days, by 17 July, according to BuzzFeed reporter Adolfo Flores:
Eleven people recently tested positive in one of the facilities.
The US attorney general, William Barr, has announced the formation of a task force on “violent anti-government extremists”, which he said includes “Antifa”.
The memo announcing the task force, released late Friday by the US department of justice, does not include a lot of detail but does seem to align with Trump’s ongoing political agenda to target “Antifa”, a group that does not actually exist as a distinct entity. Antifa is an umbrella term that denotes a broad spectrum of groups and individuals of far-left or anarchist tendencies. The term means anti-fascist.
The task force will include the FBI and a number of US attorneys, Barr said. His memo also equated the far-right anti-government “boogaloo” movement to anti-fascists. “Boogaloo” ideology has been linked to the ambush killing of a sheriff’s deputy and a federal security officer in California. Trump’s continued claims blaming violent protests on “antifa” has not been substantiated.
An NPR investigation published in the wake of protests across the country found no evidence that any of the 51 individuals facing federal charges after the unrest had any connection to anti-fascist organizing.
Seventeen guards at Rikers, a notorious New York jail, are facing disciplinary actions relating to the death of Layleen Polanco, a trans woman who was kept in solitary confinement where she suffered a seizure.
A captain and three others were suspended without pay, said New York’s mayor Bill de Blasio, who has faced intense scrutiny in recent weeks over police brutality and violence in the city’s jail. The discipline facing the other 13 officers was not specified.
The news comes after the Board of Correction published a scathing report describing the failures that led to the death of the 27-year-old, who was jailed for a low-level misdemeanor allegation and remained behind bars because she couldn’t afford bail. The report stated that “confused” officers did not check on Polanco every 15 minutes, which violated police, Gothamist noted. Video surveillance showed they also waited an hour and a half to call for medical attention after she became unresponsive.
Her death has been a rallying cry for advocates who have long criticized the conditions and treatment of people in Rikers and other jails, especially black trans women.
Polanco’s family spoke at a recent rally for black trans women in New York that drew tens of thousands of people.
“Black trans lives matter,” Polanco’s sister, Melania Brown, told the crowd. “My sister’s life mattered. All of the loved ones we have lost, all of these beautiful girls that we have lost. Their lives matter. We have to protect them.”
Advocates and lawyers for her family questioned why it took so long for the city to take action against officers: “They think that suspending or even firing individual employees is not going to save the next Layleen from dying. What we need to do is treat trans women as women, stop abusing solitary confinement, and start treating people in jail as human beings,” one of the lawyers told Gothamist.
EU set to ban US travelers due to Covid-19, reports say
Most US residents will likely be blocked from traveling to the European Union when travel restarts, due to ongoing concerns about the coronavirus, according to multiple reports.
EU officials are in the process of settling on a final “safe list” of countries whose residents could travel to the block in July, but the US, Brazil and Russia are set to be excluded, Reuters reported. With coronavirus continuing to spread in the US at alarming rates, the possibility of allowing American tourists into the EU is not even part of the ongoing discussion, six diplomats familiar with the talks told the Washington Post.
The list of allowed countries includes China, but on the condition that China allows EU travelers to visit, the New York Times reported.
Various travel restrictions remain across the globe. Greece, for example, requires Covid tests for arrivals from a number of EU countries, including France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. Self isolation is also mandatory until results come in.
Trump signs executive order ‘protecting American monuments’
Trump says in a tweet he has just signed an executive order “protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues – and combatting recent Criminal Violence”.
The president also promised “long prison terms for these lawless acts”. His press secretary tweeted that people “who vandalize our monuments will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law”, adding, “This President is committed to ACTION over anarchy!”
It’s unclear what impact the order would have, considering that it’s already a federal crime to deface federal property. The news follows reports that he personally requested that a statue of a Confederate general be put back up after protesters in Washington tore the monument down.
A helpful reminder about existing law:
Movements to remove Confederate and racist statues have gained momentum in recent weeks as protests have sparked a national reckoning on systemic racism in America.
The Guardian’s voting rights reporter Sam Levine has this update on the mail-in voting fight in Texas:
The US supreme court declined a request from the Texas Democratic Party on Friday to help lift the state’s strict requirements on mail-in voting. The ruling means that the state’s restrictions on mail-in voting will remain in place for upcoming primaries there next month.
Texas has some of the most severe restrictions on voting by mail in the United States. A voter can only cast a mail-in ballot if they are 65 or older, disabled, out of their county during the early voting period and election day or confined in jail. Democrats in the state filed a lawsuit challenging those restrictions amid the Covid-19 pandemic earlier this year and in May, US district judge Fred Biery sided with them and ordered the state to all anyone to apply to vote by mail. Texas appealed the ruling and the US court of appeals blocked Biery’s order while it was considering the case.
Texas Democrats were asking the supreme court to lift the appeals court ruling blocking the lower court’s order to expand mail-in voting. They argued Texas’ policy made it easier to vote for voters 65 and older than other voters, a violation of the 26th Amendment, which guarantees the right to vote to anyone aged 18 or older.
While the supreme court declined that request on Friday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the case presented “novel” questions and she urged the lower court to resolve it ahead of the November election.
Trump celebrated in a Friday tweet:
San Francisco pauses reopening
Following a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in California, governor Gavin Newsom is urging one desert county to once again reinstitute a shelter-in-place order, and San Francisco has paused its reopening.
In the last day, California had 4,890 new positive cases and 79 deaths. Hospitalizations increased by 3.3% and intensive care unit cases went up by 4.4%.
While the state is testing now more than before – 77,000 in the last day alone – positivity rates remain the main focus. In the last day, the positivity rate was at 5.3%, while in the last seven days, the rate was at 5.7%. The threshold for reopening was that the rate should not cross more than 8%.
Imperial county, a small southern block of desert bordering Mexico and Arizona with a population of 181,000, has a positivity rate of 23%. In the past seven days, the county has reported 680 new cases, bringing the county’s total count to 5,838.
From the start, Newsom has emphasized that the “size and scope and scale of California requires a disciplined understanding that there are parts of the state that are very distinct and unique from other parts of the state”. With that understanding, he believes that local counties and health officers must make the correct decisions for their jurisdictions while following state guidelines.
“To the extent that they don’t, we will advise as we have in Imperial county that they do and we reserve the right in our authority as a state to pull back,” Newsom said. He applauded San Francisco’s decision to pause its reopening following 103 new cases on Thursday. The delayed Monday opening would have included hair salons, museums, outdoor bars, tattoo parlors and zoos.
Hi all – Sam Levin here, taking over our live coverage for the rest of the day.
The Minneapolis city council has unanimously approved a proposal to change the city charter to allow the police department to be dismantled. This comes as the calls to defund and abolish the police have gained momentum across the country.
Lawmakers in Minneapolis, where the killing of George Floyd sparked protests that have continued for weeks, have taken the most aggressive steps to rethink public safety and policing, and earlier this month publicly vowed to completely disband the troubled department.
The vote Friday is the first step in a complicated process to begin dismantling that would involve allowing voters to weigh in through a ballot measure in November.
Jeremiah Ellison, a councilmember, said the charter has been a barrier to the kinds of changes that citizens have demanded, the AP reported. Draft language of the amendment said the city would replace the police with a “Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach”.
The amendment says the new agency would also have “non-law-enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches”.
Today so far
That’s it from me this week. I’ll be handing over the blog to my west coast colleague, Sam Levin, for the next few hours.
Here’s where the day stands so far:
- Vice President Mike Pence touted the country’s “tremendous progress” against coronavirus, as the US set a single-day record for new infections. At the first White House coronavirus task force briefing in nearly two months, Pence echoed the president and downplayed concerns about the surge in new cases being reported in many US states.
- Pence declined to offer a federal recommendation on mask usage, instead referring Americans to their state and local officials. But a number of other prominent Republicans, including former vice president Dick Cheney and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, are calling on Americans to wear masks to limit the spread of the virus.
- Florida and Texas are clamping down on bars as they grapple with the surge in cases. The governor of Texas announced it was shutting down bars, and Florida will no longer allow alcohol sales at bars in order to limit the spread of coronavirus. Florida’s announcement came shortly after the state health department reported a record-high 8,942 new cases of the virus.
- The US intelligence community has concluded Russia offered Afghan militants bounties to kill US troops, according to a new bombshell report from the New York Times. Trump reportedly learned of the alarming intelligence in late March, but he has not yet authorized any action against Russia.
- Tthe House approved a bill that would make Washington, DC, the 51st US state. The 232-180 vote marked the first time in history that the House approved a DC statehood bill. However, McConnell has already said he will not take up the bill in the Senate, and Trump has threatened to veto it.
Sam will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
Commentators were quick to criticize Trump after the New York Times reported the president has authorized no action against Russia since learning the Kremlin offered Afghan militants bounties to kill US troops.
From Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer who ran as an independent candidate in the 2016 presidential election:
From Molly McKew, an expert in Russian disinformation campaigns: