Today so far
Here’s where the day stands so far:
- The judge presiding over Roger Stone’s case has requested a copy of the executive order commuting his sentence. Judge Amy Berman Jackson is seeking clarification on whether Stone’s commutation only applies to his prison term or if it also applies to the two years of probation he was sentenced to.
- Trump retweeted a claim that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is “lying” about coronavirus. The tweet comes as the White House seeks to raise doubts about the credibility of Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert.
- A US district judge set a new delay in federal executions. US District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s injuction came hours before the first federal execution in 17 years was set to take place at a federal prison in Indiana.
The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow suggested Trump would consider offering additional government funding to schools that reopen this fall.
“I think the president would be willing to consider additional funding for state and local governments if the schools do reopen, so that’s perhaps an incentive,” Kudlow told Fox News this morning.
The comment marked quite a reversal from the White House, given that it comes a week after Trump threatened to withhold government funding from schools that didn’t reopen.
The president’s initial threat struck many school officials as counterintuitive, considering a number of school districts have said they can’t bring students back because they don’t have the money to safely reopen.
The Association of American Medical Colleges issued a statement in support of Dr Anthony Fauci, as the White House raises questions about the infectious disease expert’s credibility.
AAMC CEO David J. Skorton and AAMC chief scientific officer Ross McKinney said in the statement, “The AAMC is extremely concerned and alarmed by efforts to discredit Anthony Fauci, MD, our nation’s top infectious disease expert. Dr. Fauci has been an independent and outspoken voice for truth as the nation has struggled to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
“As we are seeing from the surge in COVID-19 cases in areas that have reopened, science and facts—not wishful thinking or politics—must guide America’s response to this pandemic.”
The statement concludes, “Taking quotes from Dr. Fauci out of context to discredit his scientific knowledge and judgment will do tremendous harm to our nation’s efforts to get the virus under control, restore our economy, and return us to a more normal way of life.
“America should be applauding Dr. Fauci for his service and following his advice, not undermining his credibility at this critical time.”
For exaple, the White House has recently highlighted one February quote from Fauci to cast doubt upon his expertise.
Fauci said at the time, “Right now at this moment there is no need to change anything that you’re doing on a day-by-day basis.” However, the White House has not noted that Fauci quickly followed the comment with, “Right now the risk is still low, but this could change.”
17 states sue to block foreign student visa restrictions
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have sued the Trump administration to block new restrictions on foreign student visas in connection to many universities moving operations online for the fall semester.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued new guidance last week saying foreign students earning their degrees entirely online cannot stay in the United States, prompting accusations from university officials that the administration is attempting to pressure schools to resume in-person instruction.
“The Trump administration didn’t even attempt to explain the basis for this senseless rule, which forces schools to choose between keeping their international students enrolled and protecting the health and safety of their campuses,” Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey said in a statement, per the New York Times.
California, as well as Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have already filed separate lawsuits seeking to block the rule.
at 12.03pm EDT
Judge in Stone case requests copy of commutation order
District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who presided over the case of Roger Stone, has requested a copy of the president’s executive order commuting Stone’s sentence.
Specifically, Jackson is seeking to determine whether Stone’s commutation applies only to his prison sentence or if it also applies to his supervised release.
Jackson has asked to receive a copy of Trump’s executive order by tomorrow in order to proceed with the case.
In February, Jackson sentenced Stone to 40 months in prison and two years of probation.
Trump has now made more than 20,000 false or misleading claims as president, according to the Washington Post’s Fact Checker tally.
The Post reports:
It took President Trump 827 days to top 10,000 false and misleading claims in The Fact Checker’s database, an average of 12 claims a day.
But on July 9, just 440 days later, the president crossed the 20,000 mark — an average of 23 claims a day over a 14-month period, which included the events leading up to Trump’s impeachment trial, the worldwide pandemic that crashed the economy and the eruption of protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody.
The coronavirus pandemic has spawned a whole new genre of Trump’s falsehoods. The category in just a few months has reached nearly 1,000 claims, more than his tax claims combined. Trump’s false or misleading claims about the impeachment investigation — and the events surrounding it — contributed almost 1,200 entries to the database.
The Post noted Trump averaged fewer than five false or misleading claims a day in his first 100 days as president, indicating his tendency to exaggerate or ignore the truth is accelerating as he approaches the November election amid a global pandemic.
Republican senator Thom Tillis offered an optimistic outlook on his party’s chances in the November elections, even as a number of polls show Trump trailing Joe Biden in Tillis’ home state of North Carolina.
“The stakes are very high this election, but you know why I know we’re going to win? Because people remember how good their lives were back in February,” Tillis said during the virtual North Carolina Republicah convention.
The Senate Republican added, “Can you imagine if we had had a Democrat president and a Democrat majority in the Senate and the House, what our economy would’ve looked like at the worst possible time? At least we had that economy to buttress us while we fight and ultimately win the Covid war.”
But North Carolina voters do not cuurently appear to agree, considering the RealClearPolitics polling average of the state shows Biden ahead by 3.3 points. In comparison, Trump carried North Carolina by 4 points in 2016.
Tillis also faces a difficult reelection in November. A recent poll showed Tillis trailing his Democratic opponent, Cal Cunningham, by 8 points.
US district judge orders delay in federal executions
US District Judge Tanya Chutkan has issued a new delay in federal executions, hours before the first federal execution in 17 years was set to take place at a prison in Indiana.
Chutkan wrote in her decision, “[B]ecause the public is not served by short-circuiting legitimate judicial process, and is greatly served by attempting to ensure that the most serious punishment is imposed in a manner consistent with our Constitution, the court finds that it is in the public interest to issue a preliminary injunction.”
The decision comes hours before Daniel Lewis Lee was scheduled to be killed by lethal injection at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. Two other executions were scheduled for later in the week.
The Trump administration is likely to ask a higher court to lift the injunction in order to proceed with the executions.
Chutkan’s decision is only the latest in a series of stumbling blocks the White House has encountered since attorney general William Barr announced last year that the administration would resume federal executions.
Federal executions have been rare since the federal death penalty was restored in 1988, with only three defendants being put to death in those 32 years.
The op-ed from Mick Mulvaney is also noteworthy because of how the former acting White House chief of staff previously dismissed reporting on coronavirus.
Mulvaney said in late Feburary, when he was still working at the White House, that reporters were only paying attention to the virus because “they think this is going to be what brings down the president.”
At the time, Mulvaney noted many reporters had been focused on the president’s impeachment trial in January, as the virus spread through China’s Wuhan region.
“The press was covering their hoax of the day because they thought it would bring down the president,” Mulvaney said. “The reason you’re seeing so much attention to [coronavirus] today is that they think this is going to be what brings down the president. That’s what this is all about.”
Trump’s former acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, has written a CNBC op-ed about the next coronavirus relief bill.
In the op-ed, Mulvaney argued any new aid had to be focused on addressing the public health concerns of the pandemic, which will in turn improve the economy.
“Put another way, the fact that people aren’t going on vacation probably has more to do with fear of getting sick than it does with their economic condition,” Mulvaney writes.
“Giving people a check, or some financial incentive to travel, won’t solve their problem. Make people feel safe to go back on an airplane or cruise ship, and they will of their own accord.
“Any stimulus should be directed at the root cause of our recession: dealing with Covid.”
Mulvaney goes on to specify some of the country’s current weaknesses in fighting the virus, including testing capacity. He noted his son and daughter both faced issues in trying to get tested and get results back quickly.
Mulvaney’s op-ed is notable considering it comes as his former boss has sought to downplay the current surge in new cases of coronavirus.
Trump has also recently pushed for schools to reopen this fall, even though his administration has sent mixed signals about how schools can safely reopen and many officials fear the spread of the virus in the classroom.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has announced she will hold a press briefing at 1 pm ET today.
The press secretary will almost certainly face a barrage of questions about the president’s decision to commute the sentence of his former associate, Roger Stone.
McEnany will also likely be pressed on the White House’s recent efforts to undercut the credibility of Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert.
This is Joan Greve in Washington, taking over for Martin Belam.
The White House is defending Trump’s highly controversial decision to commute the sentence of Roger Stone, the president’s former associate who had been convincted of obstruction of justice, lying to Congress and witness tampering.
Former special counsel Robert Mueller wrote an op-ed about the commutation over the weekend, defending his officie’s work in the case and saying Stone “remains a convicted felon, and rightly so”.
Asked about Mueller’s op-ed, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, “He had to come up with process crimes, which is exactly what was done in the case of Roger Stone.”
Trump’s decision to commute Stone’s sentences has attracted widespread criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.
Washington NFL team confirm name change
As expected, the Washington NFL franchise have formally announced that they will be retiring their racist nickname following a review.
More than a dozen Native American leaders and organisations wrote to the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, last week demanding an immediate end to Washington’s use of the name. The announcement says that they will be developing a new name and logo in due course.
at 9.10am EDT
He is the US scientist who became the figurehead of attempts to combat the country’s coronavirus epidemic, described in some quarters as “America’s doctor”.
Now Dr Anthony Fauci appears sidelined by Donald Trump’s White House after repeatedly contradicting the president’s view about the effectiveness of the government response.
Described as driven and a workaholic, Fauci had found himself in the uncomfortable position of gently correcting Trump’s false or misleading statements for months.
My colleague Peter Beaumont has put together this profile of Fauci and what is going on with his relationship with the White House: Fauci sidelined as Trump’s White House steps up briefing campaign
It isn’t just at home that US coronavirus cases have been rising. Reuters are reporting that a high number of incidences of Covid-19 occurring at US bases in Japan is causing consternation for the locals.
A top Japanese official said on Monday that of the 62 individuals Okinawa prefecture confirmed had tested positive from Tuesday to Sunday, 39 were at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, 22 at Camp Hansen and one at Camp Kinser. Later on, TV Asahi said 32 more cases were confirmed at Futenma.
“We will cooperate appropriately on this matter,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news briefing. “Japan and the United States are sharing information about the activity history of the infected military individuals.”
Okinawa hosts the bulk of US military forces in Japan, whose alliance with Washington is central to its security. But many Okinawans associate the bases with problems from crime to accidents – and now coronavirus.
At the weekend, Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki said it was “extremely regrettable” that a large number of infections had occurred in a short time, adding that Okinawans were “shocked” by the news.
“I can’t help but have strong doubts about the US. military’s measures to prevent infections,” he said, adding that there were reports of personnel leaving bases for beach parties and visits to night life districts around Independence Day on 4 July.
On its Facebook page for Pacific bases, the Marine Corps said it was prohibiting off-base activity for all installations across Okinawa, except essential needs such as medical appointments approved by a commanding officer.
“We are trying to limit as much contact (with local people) as we can, as we look to contact tracing of infected personnel,” a US military spokesman said.
Excluding the bases, Okinawa’s infections stand at 148, with seven deaths.
One of the battles around reopening during the coronavirus pandemic has been over whether schools can go back in fall. Donald Trump and his White House administration are strongly urging them to open. Others are very much not sure that it is practical or safe.
Siva Vaidhyanathan has written for us this morning on how the country is not adequately prepared for reopening, even if there are groups who desperately need it to be done.
This is a crisis of conflicting needs. Parents need their children in school so they can do their jobs or care for sick or elderly relatives. Children need a decent education, access to nurses, nutritious meals, safety, friendship and mentorship. And teachers deserve to be able to do their jobs to the best of their ability, know that they are making a difference, and trust they are not endangering themselves or their loved ones.
Former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has reacted to Donald Trump’s decision to retweet a claim that the CDC and doctors are lying about Covid-19. He put it quite simply: “Paranoia kills”
Trump earlier retweeted a message from from game show host Chuck Woolery claiming that among others, the CDC and “most” doctors were lying about the coronavirus in order to damage the economy and Trump’s election campaign.
It adds to a growing sense that faced with soaring coronavirus cases, and with increased rates of daily new cases in over 40 states, the president is retreating back to a view that the virus is a hoax intended to damage him, and that the medical advice being given is unsound.
Prof Peter Hotez, who had written earlier during the pandemic about the likelihood of politicians “turning on scientists as a deflection mechanism”, sees the attacks on Dr Anthony Fauci and the accusations of lying as being in line with Trump’s previous attitude towards China and the World Health Organization over the outbreak.
Yesterday an anonymous White House aide was briefing about concern that Fauci, one of the nation’s leading health experts, had made “mistakes”. Sources told Katherine Faulders and John Santucci at ABC News that “Fauci has at times been referred to among aides to president Donald Trump as ‘Dr. Gloom and Doom.’”