👋 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: ~9,331,000; deaths: ~480,000 (Johns Hopkins University)
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~2,370,000; deaths: ~122,000
1/ Coronavirus cases are accelerating across the U.S. and seven states — Arizona, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas — are reporting record-high COVID-19 hospitalizations. On Tuesday, more than 800 people died from the virus — the first time U.S. fatalities have increased since June 7 – and more than 35,000 new coronavirus cases were identified across the United States – the highest single-day total since late April and the third-highest total of any day of the pandemic. Case numbers are rising in more than 20 states. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut will now require visitors from virus hot spots to quarantine for 14 days. Top federal health officials warn that the surge could worsen without new restrictions. Trump’s administration, meanwhile, plans to end support for 13 coronavirus testing sites across the country at the end of the month, including seven in Texas. Four of the seven Texas sites are in Houston and Harris County, which public health experts say could become the area worst hit by COVID-19 in the country. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / New York Times / NBC News / The Hill)
California reported an additional 7,149 COVID-19 cases since Tuesday – a 69% increase in two days. (CNBC)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the state is facing a “massive outbreak” in the coronavirus pandemic. For the second straight day, Texas had more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases and more than 4,000 hospital patients with COVID-19. (Houston Chronicle)
Trump plans to ignore New Jersey’s order that requires all visitors from states with high numbers of coronavirus cases to quarantine for 14 days. Trump traveled to Arizona on Tuesday, which has seen a rise in the rate of its COVID-19 cases. Instead, Trump will travel to his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. (CNBC)
Stocks fell on fears that officials would have to reinstate lockdown measures. All three indexes suffered their steepest losses since June 11, with the Dow falling 2.7%, the S&P500 declining 2.6%, and the Nasdaq losing 2.2%. (CNBC / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)
The head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers will leave the administration at the end of the month. Tomas Philipson, the acting chairman of the CEA, took over in July 2019 after serving as a member of Trump’s three-person council for almost two years. (Politico)
2/ The Trump administration has considered scaling back the national emergency declared earlier this year to control the coronavirus pandemic. Healthcare leaders said they’re confused by the administration’s unwillingness to publicly commit to an extension of the emergency declarations, one of which is scheduled to expire next month. The declarations have loosened or waived rules and regulations on hospitals and other medical providers to help route needed money to states, allow hospitals to quickly hire more staff, and, in some cases, add beds without going through a lengthy permitting process. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that Trump is “not looking at lifting the national emergency declarations.” McEnany, however, also claimed that Trump was joking when he said he’d directed aides to slow coronavirus testing. Trump later said he wasn’t joking. [Editor’s note: Who knows even what’s real anymore with these guys.] (Los Angeles Times)
3/ Black Lives Matter protests across the country have not led to an increase in coronavirus cases, according to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research. The study looked at protests from more than 300 of the largest American cities and found no evidence that cases of COVID-19 increased in the weeks after the demonstrations. Researchers found that social distancing measures actually went up in the wake of the protests. (CNN)
4/ More than 13,000 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service workers could face extended furloughs starting on August 3 unless the agency receives additional funding from Congress. The fees from visa and citizenship applications and other services have dropped significantly since the coronavirus pandemic began, causing the funding for USCIS operations to fall accordingly. Three-fourths of the USCIS workforce would see their salaries and hours cut for up to 30 days or longer. The agency said it needs an additional $1.2 billion infusion over the rest of the fiscal year, plus a 10% surcharge on application fees, in order to stay afloat. (Washington Post)
5/ A federal appeals court ordered Judge Emmet Sullivan to dismiss the criminal case against Michael Flynn. The former Trump national security adviser pleaded guilty — twice — to lying to the FBI during Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 election, but the U.S. District Court of Appeals in D.C. ruled 2-1 that the DOJ’s decision to abandon the perjury case against Flynn settles the matter. The Justice Department first moved to dismiss the case in May as part of a broader effort by Attorney General William Barr to review and, in some cases, undo several of the rulings from Mueller’s Russia investigation. The panel of judges ruled that they didn’t have enough cause to overturn the Justice Department’s decision to drop the case. It is possible that the case could continue on if other appeals court judges take interest in the matter. If not, the D.C. ruling would exonerate Flynn after he asked to change his plea and claimed he was innocent. (CNN / New York Times / Associated Press / Bloomberg / Axios / ABC News / USA Today / CNBC)
6/ 65 faculty members from Attorney General William Barr’s law school wrote a letter saying Barr has “failed to fulfill his oath of office to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States.’” The bipartisan group of law professors and other faculty from George Washington University also wrote that Barr’s actions as AG have “undermined the rule of law, breached constitutional norms, and damaged the integrity and traditional independence of his office and of the Department of Justice.” The letter was posted amid the fallout over Barr’s firing of U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. (CNN)
- Barr has agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee for a “general oversight hearing” on July 28 after House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler threatened to issue a subpoena. Democrats have accused Barr of intervening in the cases of Trump associates Roger Stone and Michael Flynn for political purposes, including firing Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York who had been investigating Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. (Axios)
7/ Senate Democrats blocked Republicans from taking up a police reform bill, calling the legislation “irrevocably flawed” and “partisan.” Democrats want the bill to include bans on chokeholds and “no-knock” search warrants and to address qualified immunity, which shields police officers from lawsuits. (NBC News / Axios)
8/ Trump’s 200th lifetime federal judge was confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate. By comparison, Obama successfully appointed 334 federal judges during his two terms. (CNN / Washington Post / HuffPost)
poll/ 37% of Americans approved of the way Trump has responded to the coronavirus pandemic, while 58% said they disapproved. (Reuters)
poll/ 44% of voters approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 53% disapprove. (Quinnipiac)
poll/ 50% of Americans say they would vote for Biden over Trump if the election was held today, compared to 36% who say they’d vote for Trump. In 2016, Trump won 46% of the popular vote. (New York Times)
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