CORONAVIRUS UPDATE… The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 1,872,660 and the death toll stands at 108,211, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University. The Centers for Disease Control predicted that the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 could reach between 118,000 and 143,000 by June 27. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said New York City is still on track to begin “phase one” reopening on Monday.
PROTESTS CONTINUE… Protests targeting racism and police brutality continued yesterday in cities throughout the nation. Ongoing skirmishes between protesters and law enforcement has resulted in more than 10,000 arrests. A number of security personnel are also under scrutiny for overly aggressive responses to protesters. Two Buffalo police officers were suspended for shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground and leaving him there with a bloody scalp. Bloody clashes also occurred in New York, Los Angeles and other cities. President Trump is being blamed for the administration’s militant response to the protests and continues to be condemned by former military leaders. Retired Army general and former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Martin Dempsey told NPR, “The idea that the president would take charge of the situation using the military was troubling to me.” Retired Marine General John Allen, who commanded the NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, told CNN’s Jake Tapper: “I’ve fought in overseas wars. I never believed the Constitution to be under threat until recently.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday sent a letter to President Trump expressing concern about “increased militarization” and calling for full identification of all law enforcement and military agencies involved. The American Civil Liberties Union and others have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, alleging officials violated the civil rights of protesters who were forcefully removed from Lafayette Park near the White House on Monday by police using chemical agents so that President Trump could walk to a nearby church to have a photo taken of him holding a Bible. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington and claims that Trump, Attorney General William Barr and other officials “unlawfully conspired to violate” the protesters’ rights when clearing the park.
GEORGE FLOYD MOURNED AT FUNERAL… The man whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police was mourned yesterday at a funeral service that attracted Hollywood celebrities, musicians and political leaders. The service at North Central University honoring 46-year-old George Floyd was just a few blocks away from a court where a judge set bail at $750,000 each for three of the four fired police officers charged with aiding and abetting murder in Floyd’s death on May 25. The fourth officer, Derek Chauvin, is facing murder charges.
AHMAUD ARBERY CASE HEADED TO TRIAL… An investigator testified in court yesterday that one of three white men charged in the Georgia killing of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery used a racial slur after shooting shooting him. At a hearing that determined that the case would go to trial, prosecutors claimed Arbery had been “chased, hunted and ultimately executed.” A Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents said defendants William Bryan, Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory McMichael, pursued Arbery in pickup trucks and tried to box him in as he was jogging in their neighborhood. Both McMichaels are charged with murder and aggravated assault. Bryan, a neighbor who recorded the cellphone video that prompted the arrests, was charged with murder and attempting to illegally detain and confine
HUNTER BIDEN CLEARED IN UKRAINE… Hunter Biden, the son of presidential candidate Joe Biden, has been cleared of wrongdoing related to his work in Ukraine. Ukrainian Attorney General Ruslan Ryaboshapka made the announcement following the audit of thousands of old case files. Republicans had accused the younger Biden of corruption in the case that became a key issue in the impeachment of President Trump
TENNESSEE, TEXAS VIE FOR MAIL-IN VOTING… A Tennessee court ruled last night that all eligible voters in the state may vote by mail for the entire year, including in the November presidential election. According to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office, absentee voting is available to voters who fall under specific categories, such as seniors, the sick and disabled who can’t access polling stations, out-of-country travelers, out-of-state students and those who will miss the vote due to jury duty, among others… In Tennessee, U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals extended its order blocking a lower court’s sweeping ruling that would have allowed all Texas voters to qualify to vote by mail during the pandemic. The ruling effectively eliminates the possibility that Texas voters will be able to legally request mail-in ballots solely because they fear a lack of immunity to the new coronavirus will put them at risk if they vote in person.
STATES SUE TO BLOCK DeVOS SEXUAL-ASSAULT POLICY… Attorneys general in more than a dozen states joined yesterday in filing a federal lawsuit to block Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ new policy guiding schools and colleges in the handling of sexual assault cases. The lawsuit alleges that DeVos’ policy undercuts existing mandates in Title IX, the 1972 law barring discrimination based on sex in education. The suit also notes that DeVos’ order to implement the rules by August 14 is impracticable during a pandemic. Joining in the lawsuit are attorneys general in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California, with backing from a total of 17 states and the District of Columbia.
STURGILL SIMPSON LIVESTREAM… Country singer Sturgill Simpson will perform a live stream concert tonight as a gesture of thanks to fans who donated to his recent fundraiser. The one-hour livestream will air at 8 p.m. ET from Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. It will stream on nugs.tv and Simpson’s Twitch account and YouTube channel. Simpson recently helped raise $250,000 for the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund, Equity Alliance Nashville Tornado Relief and the Special Forces Foundation.
GABRIELLE UNION SUES… Actress Gabrielle Union yesterday filed a complaint with the state of California against NBC and the producers of “America’s Got Talent.” The complaint filed with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing claims Union was harassed and discriminated against because of her race and that she experienced retaliation for reporting the incident. Union, who is black, says she was exposed to racist jokes and remarks from judges, along with criticism of her hair. The complaint also alleges that NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy called Union’s agents to issue unspecified threats, shared confidential information on the controversy with celebrities that the show was looking to hire and sought to undermine an investigation of Union’s issues.
MLB PLAYERS REJECT OWNERS’ RESTART PLAN… The Major League Baseball Players Union yesterday “resoundingly rejected” the owners’ plan to begin the season, according to a statement from the union. The two sides discussed the issue during a two-hour conference call that included the union’s executive board and player leaders. On Wednesday, one the owners rejected the players’ proposal to play 114 games with full prorated salaries. Talks now appear to be at a standstill.