👋 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: ~14,822,000; deaths: ~612,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~3,859,000; deaths: ~142,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
1/ Trump told Americans that the coronavirus pandemic “will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better.” During his first White House coronavirus task force briefing in weeks, Trump directed Americans to “get a mask” because “they will have an effect and we need everything we can get.” Trump, who wasn’t wearing a mask himself, added: “We are asking everybody, when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask.” The U.S., meanwhile, recorded more than 1,000 deaths Tuesday – the first time the country has topped that mark in nearly 50 days when 1,052 fatalities were reported. (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post)
2/ The CDC estimates that the actual number of coronavirus infections in the U.S. is anywhere between 2 to 13 times higher than the reported cases. The higher estimate is based on a study of antibodies derived from blood samples drawn from 10 geographic regions. The findings suggest that large numbers of people who did not have symptoms or did not seek medical care may have kept the virus circulating in their communities. About 40% of infected people do not develop symptoms, but may still pass the virus on to others. (Bloomberg / Washington Post / New York Times)
- Trump sometimes receives multiple coronavirus tests in a day. “As I’ve made clear from this podium, the president is the most tested man in America,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters. “He’s tested more than anyone, multiple times a day, and we believe that he’s acting appropriately.” (Politico / CNN)
3/ The Justice Department accused a pair of Chinese hackers of targeting U.S. firms involved in coronavirus research, saying the Chinese government was acting like “an organized criminal syndicate.” The indictment says Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi, both Chinese nationals living in China, operated both for their own profit, as well as for the Chinese intelligence service. The 11-count indictment says the two hackers recently “researched vulnerabilities in the networks of biotech and other firms publicly known for work on COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and testing technology.” (NBC News / ABC News / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Washington Post)
- Trump-owned properties in the U.S, have imported more than eight tons of goods from China since September 2019. (CNN)
4/ Trump signed a memorandum seeking to ban undocumented immigrants from being counted in the census, reversing the longstanding policy of counting everyone regardless of citizenship or legal status. The directive would exclude millions of people when determining how many House seats each state should have when district lines are redrawn next year. The memo directs Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to collect data about immigrants for the purpose of withholding those numbers from the population totals. It’s not clear how undocumented immigrants would be identified since the census questionnaire was distributed in March and did not require respondents to indicate whether they or others in their household are citizens. The memo will almost certainly draw legal challenges. (NBC News / USA Today / NPR / Washington Post / Axios / CNN / Politico / New York Times)
5/ Trump plans to deploy federal law enforcement officers to Chicago and threatened to send agents to other “Democrat” cities to quell ongoing protests over racism and police brutality. The agents will assist other federal law enforcement and Chicago police officers, though no specific plan for what the agents will do — or what they will be prohibited from doing — has been made public. “We’re going to have more federal law enforcement, that I can tell you,” Trump said. “In Portland, they’ve done a fantastic job. They’ve been there three days and they really have done a fantastic job in a very short period of time, no problem.” Last week, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf declared that Portland was “under siege” by protesters, which he characterized as a “violent mob” of “anarchists.” The city, however, has been besieged by a series of law enforcement agencies, including his own federal police officers, and not “violent anarchists.” Over the weekend, unidentified officers from Customs and Border Protection in unmarked camouflage uniforms started arresting peaceful protesters and taking them away in unmarked vehicles. They have also fired tear gas and less-lethal munitions into crowds of demonstrators. The new federal force, drawn from a range of DHS teams including the Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Marshals Service, was created last month in an executive order signed by Trump, which tasked them with protecting historic monuments, memorials, statues, and federal facilities. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, meanwhile, tried to provide a legal justification for the administration’s decision to deploy federal law enforcement to Portland, citing a provision of federal law (40 U.S. Code 1315) that says the secretary of Homeland Security “shall protect the buildings, grounds and property that are owned, occupied, or secured by the federal government […] and the persons on the property.” The measure allows the secretary to deputize Homeland Security employees “in connection with the protection of” federal property. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot expressed concern about the possibility of Trump sending federal agents to Chicago after what happened in Portland, saying: “We don’t need federal agents without any insignia taking people off the streets and holding them, I think, unlawfully.” Wolf, meanwhile, dismissed the objection to federal intervention in Chicago, saying: “I don’t need invitations by the state, state mayors, or state governors to do our job. We’re going to do that, whether they like us there or not.” (Chicago Tribune / New York Times / CBS News / The Guardian / NBC News / CNN / Associated Press / Portland Mercury / BBC / Bulwark / CBS News)
The Trump administration has consulted with the former government lawyer who wrote the legal justification for waterboarding. (The Guardian)
Defense Secretary Mark Esper has raised concerns about federal agents patrolling the streets of U.S. cities in camouflage uniforms, saying federal law enforcement officers were being confused with troops because of their similar uniforms. (Politico)
The Senate rejected a bipartisan effort to scale back Pentagon transfers of surplus military gear to local police departments. In a 51-49 vote, the Senate rejected an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to ban the transfer of certain offensive equipment to law enforcement agencies, including tear gas, grenades and grenade launchers, bayonets, armor-piercing firearms and ammunition, weaponized drones, and tracked combat vehicles. (Politico / New York Times)
poll/ 31% of Americans say they believe that the number of Americans dying from COVID-19 is lower than the number reported, 37% believe the actual number of deaths is higher, and 31% believe the actual number is on par with the official count. 59% of Republicans say the death count is overinflated, compared to 9% of Democrats. (Axios)
poll/ 63% of Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement. 69% say Black people and other minorities are not treated as equal to white people in the criminal justice system, while 26% say they are treated equally. 55% say recent killings of unarmed Black people are “a sign of broader problems in the treatment of black people by police,” while 40% see them as isolated incidents. Meanwhile, 55% of Americans oppose moving funds from police departments to social services — and 43% say they oppose it “strongly.” (ABC News / Washington Post)
Trump threatened to veto defense policy legislation because it includes a provision that would direct the Pentagon to rename military bases currently named after Confederate leaders. Hours later, the House approved the bill anyway, which authorizes $740 billion for the Defense Department and Energy Department’s national security programs, includes a 3% pay raise for troops, funds for military house upgrades, and $1 billion for coronavirus response. The vote was 295-125, more than the two-thirds majority needed to override a potential veto. (Wall Street Journal / The Hill / Politico / Reuters)
Trump tweeted that “the game is over for me” if he sees a player kneel during the national anthem. His tweet came a day after San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler joined several players in kneeling before their victory against the Oakland Athletics on Monday night. (CBS News)
Senate Republican leaders vowed to fill any Supreme Court vacancy should one become available, even if the vacancy occurs after the November election. When asked if the Senate would fill a vacancy even during the lame-duck session after the presidential election, Sen. John Thune said, “We will. That would be part of this year. We would move on it.” Sen. Josh Hawley said the difference between 2016, when Republicans blocked Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, and now is that Obama couldn’t run again, but Trump is on the ballot trying to win a second term. (CNN)
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