Headlines: September 22, 2020
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Republican Senators lined up behind President Donald Trump in his bid to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with an ultraconservative younger justice with just 42 days left before the Presidential election. In spite of his strong critiques of Trump—which has earned him the ire of the President—Republican Senator Mitt Romney threw his lot behind his party and like most other GOP Senators, agreed to a confirmation vote. In remarks to reporters Romney said liberals ought to get used to a court that tilts right-ward. According to Associated Press, “No court nominee in U.S. history has been considered so close to a presidential election.” Yet GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, who famously 4 years ago argued against filing a Supreme Court seat in an election year, has promised to confirm a justice ahead of the November 3rd race. His rival Democrat Jaime Williams is neck-in-neck with him in the latest poll.
Trump says he will announce his Supreme Court pick on Saturday and on Monday met with a woman who is considered his top contender: Amy Coney Barrett. Coney Barrett is a federal appeals court judge who faced a ferocious battle in 2017 over her religious fundamentalist views. She is a member of a fringe rightwing church called People of Praise that reportedly inspired author Margaret Atwood to write her dystopian fiction novel The Handmaid’s Tale in which women are the sex slaves of men. Coney Barrett’s church according to media sources believes that men have authority over their wives. The church is also strictly anti-abortion which would likely mean that the constitutional right to an abortion could be overturned if Coney Barrett were to be a Supreme Court justice.
Meanwhile, the so-called pro-life movements in the U.S. have remained silent on the staggering loss of lives as 200,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus are marked. The number means that one in every five deaths globally linked to the virus are American. At a rally in Ohio on Monday evening Trump claimed that the virus, “affects virtually nobody. It’s an amazing thing.” But new research suggests that reopening schools contributed in large part to the resurgence of the virus. According to the Wall Street Journal, “in-person classes led to thousands of additional cases each day in the U.S.” Additionally, “an extra 3,200 cases a day occurred in the U.S. that likely wouldn’t have happened had schools kept classes online.” And, while there continues to be a shortage of masks and some medical equipment in the U.S., it was revealed that the Pentagon spent millions of tax dollars intended for mask purchases on jet engine parts and body armor instead. The money was part of Congressional appropriations made under the CARES Act.
During a Congressional hearing on Tuesday about financial aid for those economically impacted by the virus Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he thought the federal government had done all it could do. Mnuchin is worth some $400 million dollars and said he did not support spending hundreds of millions of dollars in lending programs that were available. Data shows millions of unemployed Americans floundering financially as their unemployment benefits ran out in the face of Republican opposition to extending them. As they spend less, the consumer-based economy suffers.
The Manhattan District Attorney said on Monday for the first time that President Trump could be investigated for tax fraud. According to the New York Times, “prosecutors listed news reports and public testimony that alleged misconduct by Mr. Trump and his businesses. The reports, prosecutors wrote, would justify a grand jury inquiry into a range of possible crimes, including tax and insurance fraud and falsification of business records.” Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is also about to be investigated over potential violations of ethics laws.
A senior member of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating the 2016 election has said in a new book that Mr. Mueller pulled his punches too much. Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann’s book is entitled “Where Law Ends,” and takes aim at Mueller and his deputy Aaron Zebley. In an excerpt from the book Weissmann writes, “Repeatedly during our 22 months in operation…we would reach some critical juncture in our investigation, only to have Aaron say that we could not take a particular action because it risked aggravating the president beyond some undefined breaking point.” Weissmann concluded, “we could have done more.”
The city of Louisville, Kentucky braced itself and declared a state of emergency for a grand jury announcement over the police killing of Breonna Taylor. Taylor was a black woman killed as she slept when police raided her apartment. Her death has been among many others that spurred the Black Lives Matter movement. As of this recording there is no decision on whether any of the officers involved will be charged. In Arizona there were no charges filed against four police officers in the beating death of a Latino man named Carlos Ingram Lopez. Lopez, according to the New York Times was repeatedly assaulted, “while naked, handcuffed and face down on the ground.” He “said he could not breathe and repeatedly begged for water and called out for his grandmother.” In Los Angeles, the family of a man named Eric Briceno are calling for charges against Sheriff’s deputies who tasered and beat him to death. Briceno was apparently having a mental health crisis at the time of his death. Blanca Briceno, Eric’s mother said, “We called them to come and help us, to get some help. And instead, they came and killed him, brutally killed him.”
With less than 2 months before the election President Trump has just announced $13 billion in aid to Puerto Rico – after years of withholding funds and lying about how much was spent on the island. When accused of using the aid as a political tool to win votes, Trump claimed it was the Democrats’ fault that he didn’t give Puerto Rico needed funds. He said cryptically, “We’ve been working on it for a long time.”
Finally, in a pre-recorded short speech to the United Nations on Tuesday Trump railed against China.