CORONAVIRUS UPDATE… The number of reported coronavirus cases in the U.S. reached 1,219,066 yesterday and the number of dead has risen to 73,297, according to figures released last night by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The governors of Oregon, California and Michigan have announced plans for phased re-openings as jobless claims have topped 33.5 million. Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced that next Friday she will begin loosening statewide restrictions on retail stores, youth programs, and daycares on. Rural counties that have lower rates of the virus can reopen beauty salons, gyms, bars, and restaurants with certain limitations. California Governor Gavin Newsom issued guidelines permitting manufacturers to reopen as early as today. His order also allows warehouse and logistics facilities to return to work, and for retail businesses to offer curbside service. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is allowing manufacturers in her state to restart on Monday but extended her stay-at-home order for two more weeks. Finally, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a potential coronavirus vaccine developed by Moderna Therapeutics for a second phase of clinical trials. Moderna, which is based in Massachusetts, was given $483 million in federal funding last month to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
DOJ DROPS CHARGES AGAINST FLYNN… The Justice Department announced yesterday that it is dropping the criminal case against President Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn. The stunning announcement was a stunning reversal for prosecutors following Flynn’s earlier guilty plea and admission to lying to the FBI in what he conceded was a non-coerced January 2017 interview. The filing under the watch of Attorney General William Barr prompted widespread outrage and prompted lead prosecutor Brandon Van Grack to withdraw from the prosecution without explanation. President Trump, who said on December 2, 2017, that he had to fire Flynn for lying to the FBI and Vice President Mike Pence, lauded yesterday’s decision and has recently claimed he would welcome him back into the administration. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler says he will schedule a hearing with Barr as quickly as possible.
RUSSIA-INTERFERENCE PROBE TRANSCRIPTS RELEASED… The House intelligence committee yesterday released 57 transcripts from its investigation Russia’s campaign to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The transcripts span more than 6,000 pages and include interviews conducted between 2017 and 2018 as part of the investigation to determine whether President Trump and his 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia to influence the results of the election. Upon the conclusion of the investigation in 2018, former special counsel Robert Mueller found that Russia did interfere in the election but was unable to conclude whether Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government or whether Trump obstructed the investigation. In releasing the transcripts, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said they show “ample evidence” of corrupt interactions between the Trump campaign and Russia.
SENATE FAILS TO OVERRIDE WAR POWERS MEASURE VETO… The Senate yesterday failed to override President Trump’s veto of a resolution that would have limited presidential war-making authority against Iran. The 49-44 was short of the two-thirds majority required to override the veto issued by Trump on Wednesday Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, along with Republican senators Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, had sponsored the measure, which carried bipartisan support in both chambers.
ARRESTS IN KILLING OF JOGGER… Two men have been arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault for the February fatal shooting of a 25-year-old African-American jogger in Brunswick, Georgia. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says 64-year-old Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, 34, were booked into the Glynn County Jail. Cellphone video capturing their killing of Ahmaud Arbery was posted on social media earlier this week and immediately prompted national outrage. Arbery would have turned 26 today.
FIRE SCORCHES FLORIDA PANHANDLE… Some 1,600 residents have been evacuated from their neighborhoods in the Florida Panhandle, where fire crews have been battling an erratic fire that has consumed 2,000 acres. A stretch of Interstate 10 remained closed in both directions near Pensacola because of smoke. 13 homes in Santa Rosa County were destroyed and multiple structures were lost in neighboring Walton County, authorities say.
APPEAL COURT SIDES WITH JERRY SEINFELD… An appeals court sided with Jerry Seinfeld yesterday in response to a copyright claim that Seinfeld stole the idea for his “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” series from a former collaborator. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled against writer Christian Charles in supporting a lower court’s decision. Charles said he pitched the concept for “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” to Seinfeld in November 2001 but Seinfeld rejected it. The online streaming program was distributed by Sony Pictures Television through Crackle before being sold to Netflix in 2017.
HISTORY CHANNEL CUTS… A&E Networks announced yesterday that it will not renew the History channel shows “Project Blue Book” and “Knightfall” for third seasons. “Project Blue Book was based on the real-life experiences of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a college professor called upon by the U.S. Air Force to investigate unexplained mysteries, including aliens from other planets. “Knightfall” was a drama about the Knights Templar, set in the 14th Century.
NCAA CONTINUES TO HAMMER KANSAS… The University of Kansas’ men’s basketball program committed “egregious” and “severe” rules violations that “significantly undermine and threaten the NCAA Collegiate Model,” the NCAA’s enforcement staff said yesterday in a reply to the university. Head coach Bill Self and assistant Kurtis Townsend “embraced, welcomed and encouraged” Adidas employees and consultants to influence high-profile recruits to sign with Kansas, according to the NCAA. The university is charged with five Level I rules violations, including lack of institutional control. Kansas is also charged with two Level II violations and one Level III violation related to the football program under former coach David Beaty.