👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
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😷 Dept. of We Have It Totally Under Control.
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~7,441,000; deaths: ~419,000; recoveries: ~3,507,000. (Johns Hopkins University)
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~2,014,000; deaths: ~114,000; recoveries: ~534,000
Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. could reach 200,000 by early fall. “Sometime in September, we’re going to cross 200,000, and we still won’t be done,” Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute said. “This pandemic is going to be with us until next spring or summer when we have a vaccine. This is not faded.” Jha explained that if the current number of coronavirus deaths per day in the U.S. — between 800 and 1,000 — stays the same, roughly 25,000 to 30,000 people will continue to die every month. (NBC News / Today)
Trump’s coronavirus task force told governors they are worried about a spike in infections due to the protests taking place across the country. Deborah Birx, Trump’s coronavirus response coordinator, said the yelling by protesters could potentially negate the health benefits of wearing a mask. Pence added that protest-related infection spikes were “an issue our team is following and there is a concern.” (Daily Beast)
Population-wide face mask use could prevent further COVID-19 outbreaks, according to a British study. The research suggests that lockdowns alone will not stop the resurgence of the coronavirus, but homemade masks can dramatically reduce transmission rates if enough people wear them in public. (Reuters)
Pence tweeted, then deleted, a photo of Trump’s reelection campaign staff not wearing face masks or social distancing. (CNN)
1/ More than 1.5 million Americans filed new unemployment claims last week, adding to the tens of millions of people who have applied for the benefits since the pandemic began. More than 44 million people have applied for unemployment benefits during the pandemic — about 29% of the workforce. Additionally, at least 700,000 gig and formerly self-employed workers filed new claims for benefits through the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. (CNBC / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Bloomberg)
- Treasury Secretary Mnuchin: “We can’t shut down the economy again.” He added: “I think we’ve learned that if you shut down the economy, you’re going to create more damage.” (CNBC)
2/ The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff apologized for participating in Trump’s photo op at St. John’s Church, saying it “was a mistake that I have learned from.” Gen. Mark Milley walked with Trump across Lafayette Square for a photo after the authorities used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear the area of peaceful protesters. “I should not have been there,” Milley said. “My presence in that moment, and in that environment, created the perception of the military involved in domestic politics.” (CNN / Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / Axios)
- The Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment was issued bayonets in scabbards and live ammunition in case active-duty troops were deployed in the U.S. capital last week. As many as 800 members of the Army’s “Old Guard” were on alert. The “Old Guard” is based at Fort Myer, just out of Washington. (Bloomberg)
3/ Trump threatened to intervene and “take back” Seattle, tweeting that the protesters who have taken over several city blocks were “domestic terrorists” while blaming the city’s “radical left” Democratic leadership for the situation. After more than a week of demonstrations, city leaders closed the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct and allowed demonstrations to continue without police presence. Since then, protesters proclaimed the area the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone,” where the police are forbidden, food is free, and people discuss priorities, and listen to speeches and poetry readings. Documentaries are also screened at night. “This space is now property of the Seattle people,” reads a banner hung from the entrance of the now-empty police station. There have been no incidents of violence or looting. Trump, however, tweeted for Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to “take back your city NOW,” adding that “if you don’t do it, I will.” He continued: “This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stooped [sic] IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!” Inslee responded, saying he “will not allow… threats of military violence against Washingtonians coming from the White House.” Durkan added: “Make us all safe. Go back to your bunker.” (New York Times / Seattle Times / CNN / KOMO News / Washington Post / Politico / The Hill / The Guardian)
4/ Trump will hold a campaign rally on Juneteenth, a holiday marking the emancipation of slaves, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of the 1921 massacre of hundreds of African Americans. The campaign is not expected to implement any social distancing measures or compel attendees to wear masks because Trump has deemed it unnecessary and has made it clear he doesn’t want it to look like he’s speaking in front of a crowd that looks empty. Meanwhile, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed that Juneteenth is a “meaningful day” to Trump. (New York Times / The Guardian / CNN / NBC News)
5/ Trump administration will not disclose the amounts or recipients of $511 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus loans, backtracking on an earlier commitment to release individual loan data. “As it relates to the names and amounts of specific PPP loans, we believe that that’s proprietary information, and in many cases for sole proprietors and small businesses, it is confidential information,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. (Washington Post)
6/ The Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to authorize subpoenas targeting former Obama administration officials involved in the counterintelligence investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Lindsey Graham now has authority to subpoena documents and more than 50 individuals related to the Russia investigation, including former FBI director James Comey, former CIA director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. (Axios / Politico / Washington Post / Reuters)
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