Headlines: September 17, 2020
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President Donald Trump publicly scolded one of his top government health officials, contradicting him on the issue of a Covid-19 vaccine and the importance of wearing masks. CDC Director Robert Redfield in a Senate hearing on Wednesday had said that enough vaccines for the public would likely be available by the third quarter of 2021 and that until then masks were the most effective and important tool at keeping the virus at bay. This is how the New York Times described what happened Thursday: “In a remarkable display even for him, Mr. Trump publicly slapped down” Mr. Redfield during remarks to reporters. Trump also played down the death toll saying that 200,000 dead Americans wasn’t so bad. Trump also tried to claim that virus deaths were high in so-called blue states, not red states. The Washington Post pointed out that more recent virus infections and deaths are heavily tilted toward Red states. A reporter challenges Trump on why he doesn’t trust scientists.
Trump also claimed during his remarks to reporters on Wednesday that, “Our biggest threat to this election is governors from opposing parties controlling ballots, millions of ballots.” He added, “To me, that’s a much bigger threat than foreign countries because much of the stuff coming out about foreign countries turned out to be untrue.” But Trump’s own FBI Director Christopher Wray testified to Congress on Thursday about the seriousness of Russian-led efforts to undermine the election. He confirmed the various ways in which Russia has acted. Mr. Wray also confirmed during the hearing that white supremacists make up the largest share of racially motivated terrorists in the United States.
Thousands of pages of internal documents from the US Postal Service were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act this week and paint a disturbing picture of various ways in which the Trump administration has worked to undermine the agency’s effectiveness. The documents and correspondence were largely dated from March and April from this year and the Washington Post, which was able to access them, summarized that they “depict an agency in distress, as its deteriorating finances collided with a public-health emergency and a looming election that would be heavily reliant on absentee ballots.” Highlighting a potentially new conflict of interest, the documents also reveal that the Postal Service relied on the counsel of a Republican lawyer named Stefan Passantino who is now, “part of a new pro-Trump legal coalition preparing for the possibility of a contested election.” There was also information about an ambitious plan that the Postal Service was considering, to mail 5 face coverings per American to every household in the country to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. That plan never transpired. Meanwhile the National Postal Mail Handlers Union denounced Trump’s crippling of the USPS and endorsed Joe Biden for President.
Trump and his team is coming under fire for claiming that the President has a healthcare plan –something that he has been promising for years but has yet to reveal. In practice the White House has legally attacked the entirety of the Affordable Care Act while claiming to support aspects of it and offering rhetoric about a new plan. But a new plan has yet to materialize less than two months before the election. Here is White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany responding to a reporter’s question followed by Trump’s campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh in a CNN interview with Erin Burnett unable to reveal any details about the President’s new healthcare plan that he has touted for years.
Attorney General William Barr is pushing aggressively for protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement to be charged with sedition in a move denounced by civil libertarians. Among those that Barr is targeting for charges is Jenny Durkan, the Mayor of Seattle, for apparently allowing protesters to take over several city blocks for some months earlier this year. Durkan denounced the reports saying on Twitter, “The DOJ cannot become a political weapon operated at the behest of the President to target those who have spoken out against his actions. That is an act of tyranny, not of democracy.” Ironically Barr accused his own Justice Department staff of political interference which is apparently how he views prosecutions of President Trump’s associates and friends. In a speech to a conservative college Barr claimed, “Under the law, all prosecutorial power is invested in the attorney general.” Throwing his own staff under the bus Barr also said, “Letting the most junior members set the agenda might be a good philosophy for a Montessori preschool, but it is no way to run a federal agency.” During the same speech Barr claimed that coronavirus lockdowns were the, “greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history” since slavery.
Barr’s statements come at a time when a whistleblower revealed that federal law enforcement agents had begun to stockpile ammunition, non-lethal weapons such as a “heat ray” and high audio devices before violently clearing away Lafayette Square in Washington DC for President Trump’s now-notorious church-front photo-op. In sworn testimony that D.C. National Guard Maj. Adam D. DeMarco shared with the Washington Post, he apparently “told lawmakers that defense officials were searching for crowd control technology deemed too unpredictable to use in war zones and had authorized the transfer of about 7,000 rounds of ammunition to the D.C. Armory.”
Members of Congress and the Department of Homeland Security are investigating recently revealed claims by a whistleblower that numerous female immigrant detainees at a privately-run facility had been sterilized without their consent. The whistleblower’s claims have been corroborated by several women’s own testimonies about what was done to them. Immigrant-rights activists were able to successfully halt the deportation of one woman who had come forward about her experience.
And finally, the Labor Department’s latest figures show that the number of people filing for jobless benefits last week finally dropped but not by much. After adjusting for seasonal variations, 860,000 claims were filed last week – about four times the pre-pandemic number.