The Rundown for June 23, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 2,312,302 and the nation’s death toll stands at 120,402, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University. Over the past two weeks, at least 18 states have shown a rise in hospitalizations. Texas reached a record-high number of cases for an 11th consecutive day yesterday but Governor Greg Abbott says he does not anticipate a return to lockdown. Florida topped 100,000 cases yesterday, prompting Governor Rick Scott to vow a crackdown on businesses that don’t follow social-distancing guidelines.

PROTESTERS, POLICE CLASH NEAR WHITE HOUSE… Police sprayed a “chemical irritant” to break up a crowd that had tried to topple a bronze statue of former President Andrew Jackson near the White House yesterday. Hundreds of protesters had gathered at Lafayette Square statue and try to down the statue with ropes. There was a series of clashes between protesters and police after authorities tried to remove tents set up nearby. Later in the evening, the Secret Service made the highly unusual move of asking journalists to leave the White House grounds.

HOUSE PANEL TO SUBPOENA WILLIAM BARR… House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler announced last night that the panel is preparing to subpoena Attorney General William Barr for testimony on July 2. Committee members have been facing increasing pressure to question Barr following his abrupt firing of Geoffrey Berman as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York last weekend. Barr has yet to testify before the committee since his confirmation early last year. He initially defied a request to appear after Democrats said they intended to use committee counsel to question him.

TRUMP EXTENDS AND EXPANDS VISA POLICY… President Trump plans to sign an executive order that extends the 60-day pause on the granting of new green cards through the end of the year and expands the suspension of certain visa types. The White House described the order as a move to “free up more jobs for Americans.” An administration official said that the Trump administration is “hopeful that these are steps that will see broad bipartisan support,” but it already has been criticized by immigration advocates who consider it uses the cover of a pandemic to implement long-standing policy goals on restricting legal immigration into the country.

SOLDIER ARRESTED… The Justice Department has indicted a 22-year-old U.S. Army soldier from Louisville on charges that he gave classified information about U.S. troops stationed overseas to a European-based White Supremacist group. Ethan Melzer is accused of sending sensitive information including his unit’s location, movements and security to members of a London-based neo-Nazi and white supremacist group called Order of the Nine Angels. Melzer’s relationship with the group known for it their violent, anti-Semitic and Satanic beliefs, began last year. A document obtained by FBI investigators describes attacks and murders of U.S. personnel in April 2020.

… Hollywood director Joel Schumacher, who worked on a variety of films, died yesterday after a year-long battle with cancer. He was 80. Schumacher’s credits included “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “The Lost Boys,” “Dying Young” and the dark satire “Falling Down.” He was perhaps best known for directing “Batman Forever” and “Batman & Robin” in the 1990s.

MICHAEL KEATON IN TALKS TO RETURN AS BATMAN… Michael Keaton is reportedly in talks to return to the role of Batman. He would appear alongside Ezra Miller in the upcoming movie “The Flash.” Keaton first played Batman/Bruce Wayne in the 1989 blockbuster “Batman.” Keaton also played Batman in 1992’s “Batman Returns.”

… Major league baseball owners and players have agreed to proceed with a 2020 season under the terms of an agreement previously reached in late March. Owners voted unanimously yesterday to proceed with a 60-game 2020 season and give commissioner Rob Manfred the power to implement a schedule of his choosing. Players have been asked whether they will be able to report to training in their respective cities by July 1 and whether their union will agree on the operating manual of health and safety protocols. Their answers are due by the end of today.

FBI JOINS INVESTIGATION OF NOOSE AT TALLADEGA… FBI agents have joined the investigation into the discovery of a noose in NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace’s garage stall at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama over the weekend. Investigators hope to determine whether there are violations of federal hate-crime laws. Wallace, who is the only Black driver in NASCAR’s Cup Series, has been outspoken in support of Black Lives Matter and the ban on Confederate flags. Yesterday, all 40 Talladega drivers and their crews walked with with him helped push his car to the front of the field.

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