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Black Lives Matter Message Belongs in Schools

Real Clear Politics -

Washington state's educators face much uncertainty this fall. How will COVID-19 and the recession impact school budgets? Will we be face-to-face with our students or teaching remotely, or both? What if we or our students or family members test positive...

An Industry of Untruth

Real Clear Politics -

he current revolution is based on a series of lies, misrepresentations, and distortions, whose weight will soon sink it. Viral confusion Unfortunately few in authority have been more wrong, and yet more self-righteously wrong, than the esteemed Dr. Anthony Fauci. Given his long service as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious ...

Roger Stone asks appeals court to keep him from prison

Politico -

President Donald Trump’s longtime political adviser Roger Stone is mounting a last-ditch bid to get a federal appeals court to put off the 40-month prison sentence he is facing after being convicted of trying to thwart a congressional investigation into alleged ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia.

Attorneys for Stone asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday for an emergency stay of U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s ruling last week putting Stone, 67, under house arrest at his Fort Lauderdale home and directing him to report to a federal prison camp by July 14.

Stone’s lawyers say an undisclosed medical condition he suffers from leaves him at greater risk of death if he catches coronavirus, that his chances of being infected behind bars are high, and that the prison complex in Jesup, Ga., where he is supposed to serve his term is now reporting a half-dozen cases of the virus among inmates and three among staff.

While prosecutors did not oppose Stone’s request to Jackson to delay his scheduled prison reporting date from late June to early September, Stone’s latest legal filing indicates that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington has told his lawyers it will oppose his effort to get the appeals court to step in and force such a delay.

However, prosecutors apparently won’t object to a brief delay to allow the D.C. Circuit to consider the issue.

In a social media post on Monday evening, Stone said that he viewed the latest legal action as a longshot, but that he was determined to pursue every option in the court system even as he seeks a pardon from Trump.

“I recognize that the chances are overwhelming that the appeals court will remand the matter back to Judge Jackson,” Stone wrote on Instagram, “but it is vitally important that the American people see all of the false claims in her most recent ruling and I want the president to know that I have, in good faith ,exhausted all of my legal remedies and that an only an act of clemency by the Presideny [sic] will provide Justice in my case where I was charged on politically motivated ,fabricated charges and was denied a fair trial with an unbiased judge,an honest jury and uncorrupted and non political prosecutors.”

Trump has said Stone shouldn’t be concerned that he’ll be sent to prison, but the president has also predicted that his longtime confidant will be exonerated in the legal system. The president has strongly hinted that he’ll provide a pardon or commutation if necessary to stop Stone from being jailed.

Prior to Jackson’s ruling last week, Stone said he faced “certain” death in prison due to the virus. Online, he railed against the effort to jail him as a “death sentence” and “an attempt to kill me.”

In his social media posts, Stone said publicly that he has asthma and a history of respiratory issues. However, court filings detailing Stone’s medical history were put under seal, including a letter from a Miami Beach internist, Islon Woolf, who is described as Stone’s “treating physician.”

“The district court fails to acknowledge … that Dr. Woolf explains that the ‘lack of relevant data and guidance for patients suffering’ from Stone’s condition is ‘very concerning’ but that, based on the nature of the condition, it is reasonable to speculate that Stone is ‘at greater risk of infection and greater risk of complications from COVID-19,’” attorneys Seth Ginsberg and David Schoen wrote in the D.C. Circuit filing.

The lawyers said that by not detailing the health issue publicly, they were deferring to Jackson’s decision to treat it as confidential. She described Stone’s health condition as “medically controlled,” but his attorneys accuse her of “wholly ignoring” the doctor’s advice.

“The district court … makes no allowance for the fact that it may not be possible for Stone’s medical conditions, which require close monitoring and strict compliance with the directions of his physician, to remain controlled within a [Bureau of Prisons] facility,” Ginsberg and Schoen wrote.

The defense lawyers also disputed Jackson’s assessment that Stone already got the benefit of a federal prisons policy to allow defendants in nonviolent cases an additional 60 days to surrender as authorities try to keep prison head counts low to ward off coronavirus outbreaks by allowing some social distancing. His attorneys contend that an earlier delay from late April to the end of June was not triggered by that policy.

While the Georgia prison had not officially reported any Covid-19 cases among prisoners or staff as of the date of Jackson’s order, as of Monday evening the federal prisons’ webpage tracking the virus was reporting three inmates infected at Jesup, six positive tests among inmates and no infections among staff.

Stone and his lawyers have repeatedly noted that because testing of federal prisoners has been limited, outbreaks in those facilities are likely more widespread than the official tallies indicate.

Following a weeklong trial last November, a Washington jury found Stone guilty on all seven felony counts he faced: five of making false statements to Congress, one of obstruction of Congress, and one of witness tampering with both a House Intelligence Committee inquiry and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

In February, Attorney General William Barr stirred allegations of political interference in the case when he stepped in to override prosecutors’ recommendation for a seven- to nine-year sentence for Stone under federal sentencing guidelines. All four of the line prosecutors on the case withdrew when Barr stepped in, and one quit the government altogether.

Jackson largely agreed with prosecutors on their initial calculation of the guidelines, but she ultimately sentenced Stone to only about half as much time as the prosecution originally sought.

Stone has a pending appeal of his convictions and sentence, but Barr called the prosecution “righteous.”

Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.

Trump’s False Claim on Coronavirus Harm

FactCheck -

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that through May 30, 14% of confirmed coronavirus cases led to hospitalizations — including 2% in intensive care units. But President Donald Trump falsely claimed “99%” of cases “are totally harmless.”

The president, according to his press secretary, was referring to the case fatality rate, and he claimed the amount of testing the U.S. has conducted showed this. The testing actually shows a case fatality rate of 4.5%, but not everyone who has contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has been tested. Some estimates say the fatality rate among those infected is likely around 1%.

Asked whether cases that don’t result in death are “harmless,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said: “The president was noting the fact that the vast majority of Americans who contract coronavirus will come out on the other side of this.”

“Some estimates do place the mortality at about 1%,” Columbia University epidemiologist Stephen Morse told us in an email, noting that we don’t have a solid figure for the total number of people who have been infected. “However, 1% mortality is not the same as ‘99% … totally harmless’. I wish that were true. ‘Totally harmless’ suggests that the infection doesn’t do any harm.”

In addition to patients who get sick enough to need hospitalization, some who have recovered from COVID-19 report experiencing long-term effects, “including lung damage but also other symptoms, and we don’t know how common these sequelae (the term for aftereffects of disease) are,” Morse said.

Trump made his claim in July 4 remarks at the White House.

“Likewise, testing — there were no tests for a new virus, but now we have tested almost 40 million people,” he said. “By so doing, we show cases, 99% of which are totally harmless. Results that no other country can show, because no other country has testing that we have — not in terms of the numbers or in terms of the quality.”

The president exaggerated the number of tests a bit: 36.3 million had been conducted as of July 3, according to the CDC. The COVID Tracking Project had the total at 34.9 million as of July 4.

What those tests show is that 2.8 million people had tested positive for COVID-19 and 122,464 had died in the U.S., as of July 4. That puts the case-fatality rate — the percentage of confirmed cases that resulted in death — at more than 4%.

Trump is also wrong to say these are “results that no other country will show.” Several countries have lower case fatality rates than the U.S.

Among the 20 countries most affected by COVID-19 now, the U.S. has the sixth highest case fatality rate — which means 14 other countries have lower rates, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

And, as we’ve written before, the president is wrong to claim other countries don’t have the same “quality” of tests. Rangarajan Sampath, the chief scientific officer of the nonprofit Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, told us in late April there wasn’t any data to support Trump’s claims that the U.S. tests are better than those in other countries.

Morse said: “Most of our tests for the virus are of very good quality, but quality varies, too, and many tests in other countries use the same methodology and are just as good.” 

Mortality Rates and Disease Severity

“There’s a lot of debate about the infection fatality rate,” Dr. Ashish Jha, faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said in a July 6 press call. “I think the broad consensus in the community is that the infection fatality rate is somewhere between 0.6% and 1%,” but that varies based on whether a population is older or younger.

Jha pointed to a study published in the Lancet on July 6 that used antibody tests to estimate the prevalence of COVID-19 in Spain. The findings — that about 5% of the population could have been infected — suggest an infection fatality rate of 1.2%, as Jha explained in a Twitter thread.

Based on several studies in various countries, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, said on July 2 that the infection fatality rate is about 0.6% — at least for now, according to the New York Times.

Jha said he thinks the rate “should come down over time because we’re getting better at treating COVID.”

“And so somebody who spends three weeks in the ICU, has severe lung damage and would have died two months ago might now survive,” he said. “But let’s be very clear, that if you spent three weeks in the ICU, have severe, diffuse lung damage and you survive, it’s fabulous that you survived. That was not inconsequential.”

Even if the infection fatality rate is about 1%, that’s “still a lot of people,” Dr. Lee Riley, professor and chair of the Division of Infectious Disease and Vaccinology at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, told us. “I’m more concerned about the actual numbers of people who are dying rather than the percent.”

As of July 6, that figure was 130,208 deaths in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins’ figures.

“Whatever the proportion, we’ve had over 130,000 deaths in the US so far,” Morse, at Columbia University, said, “more than twice as many as died in the Vietnam War, and more than died in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan combined, but I don’t think war could be called ‘99% harmless’.”

McEnany said in the July 6 press briefing that Trump’s claim was a reference to “the fact that mortality in this country is very low.” And the case “fatality rate in this country, vis-a-vis other European countries, is much lower than, let’s say, France and Italy.“

The U.S., at 4.5%, does have a lower case fatality rate than France (14.6%) and Italy (14.4%), as well as other countries, but a higher rate than many countries, too.

But McEnany’s explanation doesn’t support what Trump said, in claiming 99% of coronavirus cases are “totally harmless.”

In addition to those who die, many are hospitalized. In June, the CDC published data on the 1.3 million reported cases in the U.S. from Jan. 22 to May 30, finding: “Overall, 184,673 (14%) patients were hospitalized, 29,837 (2%) were admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU), and 71,116 (5%) died.”

A study published in late February by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention similarly found that 14% of cases in mainland China were severe and 5% were critical. The latter category included “respiratory failure, septic shock, and/or multiple organ dysfunction or failure.”

The WHO also says that 13.8% of confirmed coronavirus patients have severe disease and 6.1% have critical cases.

Beyond the harm caused by being sick and hospitalized, there are the financial ramifications of that treatment, the impact on hospitals of the pandemic and the burden to the U.S. health system, Riley said.

And even those who have mild symptoms may transmit the infection to others. “They can still pass it on to others, who may get sick or even (tragically) die,” Morse said.

Lingering and Long-Term Effects

Not much is known about how frequently COVID-19 patients suffer long-term effects, but there are signs that the disease does not always completely resolve itself as rapidly as expected — and is unlikely to be described as “harmless” by many who are affected.

“We don’t have any long-term data because the virus has only been around for a little while,” said Harvard’s Jha. “But we certainly are seeing more and more cases of people with … lingering symptoms.”

According to the WHO, it takes about two weeks for a person to recover from a mild case of COVID-19, and three to six weeks to recover from a severe or critical one.

Anecdotally, however, some patients — even those with mild cases — report months of extreme fatigue or on-and-off again symptoms such as headaches, brain fog or shortness of breath that make daily life difficult.

These so-called “long-haulers,” as some call themselves, have shared their stories in online support groups and with journalists. One patient in the U.K. told The Atlantic that her case might be “mild relative to dying in a hospital, but this virus has ruined my life.”

Without more data, it’s difficult to know how common these complaints are or why they might be happening, but similar types of symptoms have been reported in the wake of other viral infections, including SARS.

One hypothesis is that the lingering symptoms are the result of the immune system still reacting to the virus, even if infectious virus is long gone from the body.

Experts also have concerns that some proportion of those who survive severe COVID-19 infections may be left with organ damage.

“The amount of lung damage that we’re seeing in a lot of CAT scans make me very worried about functional capacity and long-term lung function in a lot of these people who survive,” Jha said. “And so my best guess — and it is just a guess — is a sizable minority of people who end up getting infected, I don’t know, 10, 20% of people will end up having meaningful long-term clinical effects of this virus.”

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute launched an observational study in June to investigate the long-term health effects of having been hospitalized with COVID-19, with a special focus on the heart and lungs.

Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, was asked about Trump’s “totally harmless” claim on CNN’s “State of the Union” on July 5. Hahn wouldn’t say whether the president was wrong.

“I’m not going to get into who is right and who is wrong,” he said. “[W]hat I will say is that we have data in the White House task force. Those data show us that this is a serious problem. People need to take it seriously.”

The post Trump’s False Claim on Coronavirus Harm appeared first on FactCheck.org.

Among those who got PPP loans: Washington lobbying firms

Politico -

More than two dozen Washington lobbying, public affairs and consulting firms received loans from the federal government to help them weather the pandemic, according to data released on Monday by the Small Business Administration.

Firms that derive more than 50 percent of their revenue from lobbying or political work are barred from receiving the loans — which can be forgiven if companies meet certain benchmarks — under the agency’s rules. The American Association of Political Consultants unsuccessfully sued to overturn the prohibition earlier this year.

But several lobbying firms secured loans through the Paycheck Protection Program despite the rules, including Van Scoyoc Associates, the No. 10 lobbying firm in town last year by revenue, according to a POLITICO analysis of disclosure filings. The firm received a loan of between $1 million and $2 million last month, which helped it retain 63 jobs, according to the data.

Van Scoyoc lobbies for clients that include Amazon, Comcast, FedEx and Lockheed Martin, according to disclosure filings. The firm didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Waxman Strategies, the lobbying firm run by former Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and his son, Michael Waxman, also received a Paycheck Protection Program loan, which Michael Waxman said totaled less than $500,000.

Michael Waxman said the firm was able to apply for the loan because lobbying accounts for less than 50 percent of the firm’s revenue. “It’s only a small fraction of our work,” he wrote in an email to POLITICO.

“The last thing we want to do is lay off employees, now or at any time,” he added. “And we’re thankful the Paycheck Protection Program was designed to provide support for small businesses like ours to weather financially stressful conditions and a still uncertain economic future.”

The lobbying firm APCO Worldwide received a loan of between $5 million and $10 million, while the lobbying firm Banner Public Affairs got between $350,000 and $1 million, according to the data. Another lobbying firm, the Conafay Group, received between $150,000 and $350,000.

Other lobbying firms that received the loans are primarily law firms, such as Miller & Chevalier; Kasowitz Benson Torres; Wiley; Kelley Drye & Warren; and Van Ness Feldman.

Kasowitz Benson Torres has done legal work this cycle for America First Action, a super PAC backing President Donald Trump's reelection, as well as the Republican National Committee, according to campaign finance records.

Marc Kasowitz, a partner at the firm, also worked as a personal lawyer to President Donald Trump during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

A Kasowitz Benson Torres spokeswoman said that “together with substantial cost-saving measures and greatly reduced partner distributions,” the loan “enabled us to preserve the jobs of our hundreds of employees at full salary and benefits without interruption.”

The Paycheck Protection Program was created by Congress in March to help businesses with fewer than 500 employees make it through the pandemic — with some exceptions. Strip clubs, payday loan companies and businesses that get most of their revenues from gambling, lobbying or political work were all barred from receiving the loans under SBA rules.

The agency changed the rules for casinos and other gambling businesses in April under pressure from the casino industry and the Nevada congressional delegation, but lobbying firms weren’t so lucky. Trade groups such as the Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers are also prohibited from applying for the loans; more than 2,000 trade groups sent a letter to lawmakers last week urging them to change the rules.

But the rules don’t appear to have prevented a number of firms in the influence industry from receiving aid. Many of them are public affairs firms that aim to influence the federal government in ways that don’t require them to register as lobbyists.

The Clyde Group, for instance, states on its website that it can help “corporations and organizations achieve their policy, legislative, regulatory and legal goals by shaping strategies around decision-makers and relevant influencers.” The firm received between $350,000 and $1 million in April, helping to save 26 jobs, according to the data.

The DCI Group, which Bloomberg Businessweek reported in 2018 had conducted six Washington influence campaigns on behalf of hedge funds, received between $2 million and $5 million, helping to preserve the jobs of 96 employees, according to the data.

Neither firm responded to requests for comment.

At least one public affairs firm that received a loan has returned it.

Precision Strategies, a firm started by three veterans of President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, received a loan of between $1 million and $2 million in May, according to the data. Stephanie Cutter, one of the firm’s co-founders, said they had applied for loan as a precautionary measure but ultimately decided they didn’t need it as much as others might.

“We returned the loan in full last month because we decided there were other small businesses across the country that were more deserving of this money than we were,” she said.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms tests positive for Covid-19

Politico -

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, who is reportedly on Joe Biden’s vice presidential short list, said on Monday that she had tested positive for coronavirus.

“COVID-19 has literally hit home,” she wrote on Twitter. “I have had NO symptoms and have tested positive.”

In an MSNBC interview on Monday, Bottoms said that she got tested because her husband had been sleeping more than usual — sometimes a symptom of having the coronavirus — and that the positive result was a “shock.”

“It leaves me for a loss of words because I think it really speaks to how contagious this virus is and we’ve taken all the precautions you can possibly take,” Bottoms said. She added that she gets allergies, and feels fine other than having a mild cough and a headache.

Coronavirus cases are increasing in Georgia, with the state reporting new daily highs. As of Monday afternoon, the Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed 97,064 cases — an increase of 6,571 since Friday.

There are more than 2.9 million cases and 130,000 deaths in the U.S. overall, according to a Johns Hopkins University database.

With the pandemic and widespread protests against racism and police brutality, Bottoms has gained national prominence and appeared regularly on cable news panels. The mayor is often listed as a top contender for Biden’s vice presidential pick, alongside Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and former national security adviser Susan Rice.

When protests erupted after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Bottoms herself participated in peaceful demonstrations. And in April, she was thrust into the spotlight when she criticized Gov. Brian Kemp’s push to reopen the Georgia economy, saying that she could not endorse his decision as the mayor of the state’s densest city and that the move endangered residents.

“I may not have the legal authority to override the state,” she had written in The Atlantic. “I do have the right to use my voice to encourage people to exercise common sense, listen to the science, follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and stay home, if at all possible.”

Trump’s Misguided Tweet Seeking Wallace Apology for Noose ‘Hoax’

FactCheck -

President Donald Trump misdirected blame when he questioned why NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace had not “apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid … only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX.”

Wallace, NASCAR’s only full-time Black driver, was not the one who reported a garage door pull-down rope fashioned like a noose at the Talladega Superspeedway. Nor was he responsible for initiating an investigation into it as a potential hate crime against Wallace — something the FBI later dismissed.

Wallace learned about the noose and the subsequent investigation into it during a June 21 conversation with NASCAR’s president, who Wallace said tearfully told him that a “hate crime was committed.”

On July 6, Trump tweeted about that noose incident, as well as NASCAR’s decision to ban Confederate flags at its events, claiming — wrongly — that they have “caused lowest ratings EVER!”

Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2020

The noose incident came not long after Wallace’s campaign for NASCAR to ban Confederate flags at its events. In a June 8 interview on CNN, Wallace called on NASCAR to ban the flags, and two days later the racing organization announced that “display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.” Wallace faced threats for his position.

Less than two weeks later, on June 21, NASCAR announced the discovery of a noose hanging in Wallace’s garage at Talladega, calling it a “heinous act” and promising an “immediate investigation.”

According to a NASCAR timeline, a member of Wallace’s race team — not Wallace himself — reported to NASCAR officials on the afternoon of June 21 that he had found a noose in the garage assigned to Wallace. NASCAR security inspected all the garages and determined that the only garage pull ropes fashioned like a noose was the one in Wallace’s garage. Soon after, NASCAR’s senior leadership met and initiated an investigation.

At around 7:30 p.m. that evening, NASCAR president Steve Phelps notified Wallace about the noose, and later that evening, NASCAR released a statement:

NASCAR, June 21: Late this afternoon, NASCAR was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team. We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act. We have launched an immediate investigation, and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport. As we have stated unequivocally, there is no place for racism in NASCAR, and this act only strengthens our resolve to make the sport open and welcoming to all.

The following day, NASCAR drivers and others escorted Wallace’s car to the front of the line at the Talladega race track in a show of support for the driver. Wallace shared a video of it on Twitter with the words, “My family.”

The day after that, June 23, the FBI closed its investigation, issuing a statement that said “no federal crime was committed.”

“The FBI learned that garage number 4, where the noose was found, was assigned to Bubba Wallace last week,” the statement read. “The investigation also revealed evidence, including authentic video confirmed by NASCAR, that the noose found in garage number 4 was in that garage as early as October 2019. Although the noose is now known to have been in garage number 4 in 2019, nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week.”

In a separate statement issued on June 23, NASCAR said, “The FBI report concludes, and photographic evidence confirms, that the garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned there since as early as last fall. This was obviously well before the 43 team’s arrival and garage assignment.” Later, NASCAR released a photo of the noose, shown below.

On June 23, the day the FBI determined that no hate crime was targeted at Wallace,  the race car driver was interviewed on CNN about his role in the unfolding events the day the noose was discovered, including his conversations with NASCAR president Phelps.

“But the conversation that I had with Steve Phelps was — I would say and I’m speaking for him — I would probably say one of the hardest things, if not the hardest thing he’s ever had to tell somebody,” Wallace said. “Tears rolling down his face. Choked up on every word that he was trying to say that the evidence that he had brought to me that a ‘hate crime was committed,’ quote unquote.”

“But I never seen the noose,” Wallace said. “I never reported it.”

“And I’ll shoot it to you straight each and every time,” Wallace said. “Because that’s how I was brought up and that’s what I stand by. And in my statement on Sunday night, this will not break me. None of the allegations of being a hoax will break me or tear me down. Will it piss me off, absolutely, but that only fuels the competitive drive in me to shut everybody up.”

In response to Trump’s call for Wallace to apologize, Wallace posted a statement on Twitter that, in part, implored his young fans to “always deal with the hate being thrown at you with LOVE! Love over hate every day. Love should come naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate. Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS.” POTUS is the acronym for president of the United States.

In a press briefing on July 6, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany fielded several questions from reporters about the president’s tweet.

One reporter asked why it was Wallace’s responsibility to apologize for an investigation into a noose that he didn’t report, and never saw first-hand.

“Well, look, the FBI – as I noted — concluded that this was not a hate crime and he believes it’d go a long way if Bubba came out and acknowledged that, as well,” McEnany said.

Wallace has acknowledged that the noose “wasn’t directed to me.” But it was a noose, nonetheless, he said in his interview on CNN.

“It was a noose. It was a noose that was whether tied in 2019 or whatever. It was a noose,” he said. “So it wasn’t directed to me. But somebody tied a noose. That’s what I’m saying. It was — it is a noose.”

McEnany also said Trump was “not making a judgment one way or the other” about NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flag at events.

“The intent of the tweet was to stand up for the men and women of NASCAR, and the fans and those who have gone, and this rush of judgment of the media to call something a hate crime when in fact the FBI report concluded this was not an intentional racist act. And it very much mirrors other times when there had been a rush to judgment, let’s say with the Covington boys or with Jussie Smollett,” McEnany said.

Although McEnany said the tweet was intended, in part to “stand up for the men and women of NASCAR,” NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson — a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion — tweeted #IStandWithBubba. NASCAR driver Tyler Reddick tweeted, and then deleted, this: “We don’t need an apology. We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support.” Reddick then retweeted a post by Fox Sports NASCAR reporter Bob Pockrass, who said “there is nothing to apologize for.”

As for the president’s claim that the noose “hoax” and NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flag “has caused lowest ratings ever!,” NBC News reported that TV ratings for NASCAR events are up.

NBC News, July 6: Since NASCAR announced a ban on the Confederate flag last month, the sport has seen a boost in television ratings. Overnight ratings following the sport’s June race at Martinsville, Virginia, which immediately followed the banning announcement, were up 104 percent over a comparable 2019 race.

The Talladega race in Alabama later in June, where the noose incident Trump referred to happened, rated as the most-watched Monday contest in years. NASCAR has also benefited from being one of the few live events on TV, as most other sports remain idled in the U.S. due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Michael Mulvihill, an executive vice president at Fox Sports, tweeted, “NASCAR viewership on Fox networks is up +8% since returning from its pandemic hiatus on May 17.”

As for McEnany’s claim that the noose incident “mirrors other times when there had been a rush to judgment.” including with Jussie Smollet, she is referring to the actor who has been indicted for staging a hate crime. Wallace hasn’t been accused of staging anything and, as we said, he didn’t report a hate crime.

The post Trump’s Misguided Tweet Seeking Wallace Apology for Noose ‘Hoax’ appeared first on FactCheck.org.

Huntsman loses GOP primary in Utah

Politico -

Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has defeated former Gov. Jon Huntsman for the GOP nomination for governor, ending Huntsman's comeback bid in the Republican primary.

The Associated Press declared Cox the winner on Monday, nearly a week after last Tuesday's primary. Cox leads Huntsman in the vote count, 36 percent to 35 percent. Former state House Speaker Greg Hughes was third, with 21 percent.

Huntsman won two gubernatorial elections, in 2004 and 2008, before leaving office to serve as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to China. After an ill-fated 2012 presidential campaign, President Donald Trump tapped Huntsman to serve as his ambassador to Russia, a post Huntsman left last October.

But Huntsman returned to Utah to face a different political landscape than the last time he was on the ballot. Cox has served as lieutenant governor since 2013 and was endorsed by outgoing Gov. Gary Herbert.

Cox will face Democratic nominee Chris Peterson, an attorney and consumer advocate, in the general election. Republicans have won every gubernatorial election in Utah since 1984.

New data shows lawmakers secured millions in small business aid

Politico -

At least nine lawmakers and three congressional caucuses have ties to organizations that took millions of dollars in aid from a small business loans program that was designed to help companies avert layoffs during the pandemic, according to newly released data from the Small Business Administration.

In total, companies linked to lawmakers and congressional caucuses have received at least $11 million in aid from the federal program that Congress created to help small businesses. Overall, 650,000 businesses and nonprofits received assistance under the $670 billion program.

Members who have in some way benefited from the Paycheck Protection Program but were previously unknown include Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.), the founder of a construction company; Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), who owns several car dealerships; Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), the owner of multiple McDonald’s franchises; Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), who took over his family plumbing business; and Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), whose wife is a partner at her family law firm.

That comes in addition to the bipartisan group of lawmakers that POLITICO already reported as having connections to companies that took Paycheck Protection Program loans, including GOP Rep. Roger Williams of Texas, a wealthy businessman who owns auto dealerships, body shops and car washes, and Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, whose family owns multiple farms and equipment suppliers across the Midwest.

The data from the Trump administration was made public for the first time Monday amid demands for greater transparency. It shows, among other findings, that a company linked to Williams took between $1 to $2 million in Paycheck Protection Program money. Ahead of the expected data release, Hartzler disclosed last week that her family businesses received nearly $480,000 in loans.

Members aren’t the only ones on Capitol Hill benefiting from Paycheck Protection Program aid. The educational arms for the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus each took loans between $350,000 and $1 million, according to the Small Business Administration. Both of the nonprofits have members of Congress on their board of directors.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, a nonprofit that supports hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities and is associated with the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, also accepted a loan between $350,000 and $1 million.

It is not illegal for lawmakers to apply for or accept Paycheck Protection Program money, and every office that responded to a request for comment for this story emphasized that the members had no role in the application process and that the companies or nonprofits took the loans legally in an effort to keep people employed during the pandemic.

But the program’s connections to Congress, the majority of which were previously undisclosed, have raised new questions about the administration’s secrecy of the $670 billion program, as well as potential conflicts of interest as lawmakers prepare to craft the next coronavirus rescue package.

The Paycheck Protection Program has faced transparency complaints and intense scrutiny over charges it was helping the well-connected after reports revealed that large corporations, including Shake Shack and the L.A. Lakers, were among the first to be awarded loans, while smaller businesses were stuck in line. Shake Shack and the sports team later returned the loans.

The Treasury Department and Small Business Administration finally agreed to divulge some loan recipients, but only for borrowers who took loans over $150,000 — a small minority of the program’s total borrowers, as more than 80 percent of the Paycheck Protection Program loans were below that threshold.

In May, Democrats tried to pry free the list of recipients, but their push in the House to require disclosure of at least some companies was blocked on the floor by Republicans — including Kelly, Allen, Hern, Mullin, Williams and Hartzler, who all voted against the bill.

Among the Paycheck Protection Program loan recipients with connections to members of Congress were “Mike Kelly Automotive Group, Inc.”; “Mike Kelly Automotive, LP” and “Mike, Kelly Hyundai, Inc.,” which each received loans for $150,000-$350,000 from PNC Bank. Kelly spokesperson Andrew Eisenberger said the lawmaker was not involved in the day-to-day operations of his dealerships and was not part of the discussions with the lender.

"The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to sustain the income of workers who would otherwise have been without pay or employment at no fault of their own during the coronavirus pandemic, and organizations in which members of Congress have an ownership stake were not prohibited from receiving PPP loans to help their employees during this difficult time,” Eisenberger said.

R.W. Allen Construction received a loan in the range of $350,000 and $1 million. Allen founded the construction company, but relinquished his majority stake before he came to Congress and no longer holds any decision-making authority, according to his office. A website for the company lists his wife, Robin, as the chairman of the business.

“I can confirm our office has consulted with the U.S. House of Representatives Office of General Counsel and is confident the company, like businesses around the country impacted by COVID-19, is eligible to receive a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program after doing their due diligence and applying in good faith,” said Andrea Porwoll, communications director for Allen.

KTAK Corporation, owned by Hern, the Oklahoma Republican, received between $1 and 2 million. The company owns McDonald’s numerous franchises in the Tulsa area. The company owns numerous McDonald’s franchises in the Tulsa area.

In a statement, Hern’s chief of staff Cameron Foster said that Hern is not involved in the day to day operations of the business, and that the loan allowed it to keep all its employees at their current level of employment. “Kevin Hern has been open and transparent with members of the community about his family business’ need of a Paycheck Protection Program Loan during the COVID-19 crisis,” Foster said.

Four companies owned by Mullin — Mullin Plumbing Inc., Mullin Environmental, Mullin Plumbing West, and Mullin Services — took a total of somewhere between $800,000 and $2 million in Paycheck Protection Program money. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but his most recent financial disclosure form shows the businesses listed as assets; Mullin’s wife also took a salary from Mullin Plumbing Inc.

Munley Law, a Scranton, Pennsylvania law firm, received between $350,000 and $1 million in funds from the Paycheck Protection Program. The firm is closely tied to Cartwright. Cartwright worked there for 25 years before being elected and his wife Marion Munley is a partner there. It was founded by her father Robert, who died in December.

Cartwright still has pension assets being held in the firm’s profit sharing plan, a spokesperson for Munley Law told POLITICO last year.

The connection has been scrutinized by conservative groups in the past, who alleged that Cartwright would benefit from a bill he sponsored to raise the minimum liability insurance level for truckers. The firm specializes in trucking and auto litigation.

Both the firm and Cartwright’s office said that he did not assist Munley with obtaining the loan, and a spokesperson for Cartwright noted that he voted for a House bill promoting transparency for the Paycheck Protection Program loans.

Other lawmakers have family members who work for companies that, at some point, reaped benefits from the small business loans program. Rep. Susie Lee’s (D-Nev.) husband is the CEO of a regional casino developer, Full House Resorts, which took a $5.6 million Paycheck Protection Program loan. And Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell’s (D-Fla.) spouse is an executive at a restaurant chain, Fiesta Restaurant Group, which received $15 million in aid before returning the loan in full. Both lawmakers also voted for the transparency bill.

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which is associated with the CBC, said it received a Paycheck Protection Program loan to “support its continuity of operations” during the coronavirus crisis.

“Without this assistance, the CBCF would have faced a 30% reduction in the overall organizational budget impacting more than 25 employees,” the organization said in a statement. “In addition, the CBCF provides paid, need-based fellowship and internship opportunities to equip future leaders and increase diversity on Capitol Hill. These young professionals would not otherwise have the invaluable opportunity for inclusion in the pipeline of public service.”

Officials Didn’t Say Epstein Associate Has COVID-19

FactCheck -

Quick Take

Social media posts falsely assert that Ghislaine Maxwell — the recently arrested associate of Jeffrey Epstein — has tested positive for COVID-19 in jail. The story is the product of a website that says its work is satire.

Full Story 

Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested on July 2 and charged by federal prosecutors in Manhattan with aiding Epstein’s sexual abuse of minors.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced that Maxwell was charged with “enticing a minor to travel to engage in criminal sexual activity, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, conspiracy to commit both of those offenses, and perjury in connection with a sworn deposition.”

But officials have not said that Maxwell has tested positive for COVID-19 while in custody, despite a false claim on social media that began on a website that calls its work satire.

The story first appeared on July 3 on brownvalleyobserver.com, under the headline, “Ghislaine Maxwell has tested positive for COVID-19 in New Hampshire jail, DOJ reports.” The story was shared more than 17,000 times on Facebook, according to CrowdTangle analytics data.

The website’s disclaimer, however, describes it as an “entertainment website written to satirize news events, politics, and popular faces and ideas, and to provide commentary on social attitudes and trends.”

But the claim has spread without that disclaimer, including in the form of a viral screenshot showing the headline with a Twitter comment seemingly suggesting Maxwell was going to be killed.

A similar claim was also advanced in an image made to look like a screenshot of a news story from the BBC; the headline said Maxwell was “moved to intensive care as Coronavirus symptoms worsen.” The news organization did not report that story, and the date is listed as “11 July 2020” which is still days away.

Epstein, a financier and convicted pedophile, was found dead in his Manhattan prison cell in August 2019. At the time, he was facing federal charges of sex trafficking minors. His death was ruled a suicide.

Maxwell, the daughter of British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, was being held in a New Hampshire jail after her arrest, according to Reuters. On July 6, the Associated Press reported she had been transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.


Balsamo, Michael and Michael R. Sisak. “Maxwell moved to NY for Epstein-related sex abuse charges.” Associated Press. 6 Jul 2020.

Disclaimer.” BrownValleyObserver.com. Accessed 6 Jul 2020.

Ghislaine Maxwell Charged In Manhattan Federal Court For Conspiring With Jeffrey Epstein To Sexually Abuse Minors.” Press release, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. 2 Jul 2020.

Jeffrey Epstein Charged In Manhattan Federal Court With Sex Trafficking Of Minors.” Press release, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. 8 Jul 2019.

John, Tara and Bianca Britton. “Who is Ghislaine Maxwell? The woman at the center of the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.” CNN. 2 Jul 2020.

Wolfe, Jan. “Alleged Jeffrey Epstein accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell being held at ‘well-run’ jail, local lawyers say.” Reuters. 3 Jul 2020.

The post Officials Didn’t Say Epstein Associate Has COVID-19 appeared first on FactCheck.org.

Trump administration bars international college students if their school's classes are all online

Politico -

International students who attend college in the United States on visas will be barred from staying in the country if their school's classes are entirely online during the fall semester, the Trump administration said Monday.

The announcement comes as colleges nationwide are grappling with how to teach students during the coronavirus pandemic, with schools like Harvard announcing all-online learning for the entire school year.

Many colleges will be left in a tough spot by the policy: Reopen their schools to in-person learning despite rising numbers of coronavirus infections or face losing international students and their tuition. Some international students already had left the U.S. when the pandemic broke out and they and their colleges were hoping they could return in the fall, but most are thought to have remained here.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program for non-immigrant students on F-1 and M-1 visas for academic and vocational coursework.

The State Department will not issue visas to students in online-only programs and Customs and Border Protection will not allow these students to enter the country, according to the press release.

If their school shifts online, international students currently in the United States will have to leave the country or transfer to a school with some in-person learning. Failure to comply with these regulations could result in removal proceedings, ICE said.

Many colleges are announcing a hybrid learning semester featuring a mix of in-person learning for small seminars and online classes for larger lectures. The ICE statement says students at schools adopting a hybrid model will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. However, ICE said international students cannot take all courses online under a hybrid model.

The decision comes as a blow for international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities. During the 2018-19 academic year, there were more than 1 million international students and 57 percent of them were from China, India or South Korea, according to the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange.

Monday’s announcement represents a sharp reversal from the flexibility announced in March by the administration. Then, the Department of Homeland Security said international students were temporarily allowed to count online courses, given “the extraordinary nature of the COVID-19 emergency.”

Also Monday, Harvard announced that all classes will be online for the academic year. The university is still planning on bringing up to 40 percent of undergraduate students back to campus. Princeton also unveiled its reopening plans on Monday and said most of its academic instruction will be online.

Colleges and universities were asking for more clarity on how to keep their international students enrolled, but the new guidance will “sow confusion and uncertainty,” said Brad Farnsworth, vice president of the American Council on Education, a leading higher education group.

“We're looking at literally over a dozen different modes of operations for the fall,” Farnsworth said. “There's going to be a scramble for interpretation and colleges will be craving that certainty and they’ll be asking the U.S. government to help clarify to get additional details on interpretation.”

Bianca Quilantan contributed to this report.

Trump’s intel briefer breaks her silence

Politico -

A career CIA officer explained in rare public remarks on Monday what she’s learned about adapting intelligence briefings to the unique style of a particular “customer” — in her case, President Donald Trump.

Beth Sanner, a senior official at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence who also serves as Trump’s primary intelligence briefer, never mentioned the president by name during an event hosted by the non-profit Intelligence & National Security Alliance on Monday.

But the unusual core challenge of her job — delivering intelligence to Donald J. Trump — was unavoidable as she discussed her own briefing techniques in detail, explaining that while she strives to be competent and fearless, she also tries not to be off-putting and aims to tailor briefings to a customer’s particular style.

“Is this someone who reads? Someone who likes a story? Operates on visuals?” Sanner said. “You figure out before you go in what that person needs from you.”

Sanner’s comments offered a window into how she approaches briefings with the president, as questions swirl about why Trump—who is not known to read Presidential Daily Brief, a classified document outlining key national security threats—was apparently never “orally” briefed on intelligence showing that Russia was paying bounties to Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan as early as 2018.

The White House’s claim that it was Sanner who made the call not to brief Trump on the issue — articulated both by the president’s top foreign policy aide and his chief spokesperson last week — has thrust the agency veteran into an uncomfortably public position.

“The president's career CIA briefer decided not to brief him because it was unverified intelligence,” national security adviser Robert O’Brien said last week.

Sanner never made any reference to the controversy on Monday. But she showed no sign of being cowed by the controversy, either, outlining for an audience of more than 1,000 virtual attendees at the 'New IC: Empowering Women & Engaging Men' program her philosophy of the job of briefing powerful decisionmakers.

“Be calm in your confidence, do your homework, and have that first briefing be where you hit the things they need from you,” she said. “Watch your audience and pivot—when they’re done, you’re done. Ultimately, it’s about listening to be heard. You have to really hear people and then adjust yourself.”

Sanner’s style isn’t unique—presidential briefers have traditionally tailored briefings to a particular leader’s preferences. But her advice to “pivot” away from issues the customer doesn’t want to discuss could explain why Trump wasn’t told, at least orally, about the Russia bounty intelligence—Trump’s singular resistance to hearing anything negative about Russia has led even his most senior Cabinet officials to tiptoe around issues related to the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin, former officials have said.

John Bolton, who wrote a tell-all memoir after quitting the job of national security adviser last September, has described the president as virtually impervious to absorbing new information and prone to off-topic rants.

Trump’s unique characteristics have forced the intelligence community to adapt to his style, minimizing text and increasing the use of graphics, other officials have said.

And while the briefer has some discretion in what to highlight, those judgment calls typically depend, as Sanner’s comments suggested, on the crises of the moment and what most interests the president that day.

But other top officials — notably the national security adviser, director of national intelligence, and CIA director — ultimately hold more sway in what intelligence and issues get highlighted for the president, experts say.

Sanner did allude, however, to the trepidation inherent in briefing a customer as powerful as the president of the United States.

“I think that fear, for us, is the most debilitating thing we face in our lives,” she said. “And if every time I went in and talked to the president I was afraid, I’d never get anything done. You are there because you're good—so let that fear go.”

The Vaccine Race

Politico -

Rarely has the fate of the world depended on a global competition like the one for a coronavirus vaccine. POLITICO is tracking the latest developments.


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