By Robert A. Vella
COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have risen back up to May levels as the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen. The University of Washington now forecasts that total fatalities will surpass 224,000 by Election Day (80,000 more than the current number of 144,000), and that the death figure could reach 650,000 by the end of the year under its worse-case scenario.
This frightening reality compelled President Trump to restart his daily press conferences yesterday in the vain hope of resurrecting his reelection chances. He spoke for about 30 minutes alone at the podium taking softball questions from reporters (who didn’t ask about Russian bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan or about Trump’s use of paramilitary forces against racial justice protesters in Portland). None of his task force members were present. Dr. Anthony Fauci wasn’t invited. Trump reluctantly admitted that the pandemic would get worse and that wearing face masks was important; however, he offered no national plan to combat coronavirus and he also tried to defend his administration’s failed response by uttering more false statements. Had the presser ended right there, congressional Republicans weighed-down by his continual bad behavior might have been relieved. But, it didn’t end there. Trump curiously answered a question about Ghislaine Maxwell (who allegedly recruited underage girls for Jeffrey Epstein) which raised a lot of suspicion about whether he intends to intervene in her criminal prosecution as a way to maintain her silence (like he recently did for Roger Stone, and like his Attorney General William Barr did for Michael Flynn).
Meanwhile, Republicans on Capitol Hill are fighting amongst themselves over a new financial aid bill to extend pandemic relief funds (e.g. unemployment benefits) due to expire at the end of the month, and also over increasing criticism of Trump within their ranks. A new scandal erupted when journalists discovered that Trump’s ambassador pressured a U.K. official to move the prestigious British Open tournament to his struggling golf course in Scotland. After being rebuked by the courts, Trump is pushing another partisan anti-immigration effort to undercount American residents in the 2020 U.S. Census.
The harrowing death toll comes as states across the country report record-breaking numbers of new cases. More governors are making masks a requirement as overwhelmed testing labs and hospitals are raising alarm. And officials are debating whether to send children back to school in person.
The only other time this month the country crossed the threshold of 1,000 reported deaths was July 7, with 1,195 reported fatalities. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, a quarter of all days this year have seen a US death toll exceeding 1,000.
Experts say the virus is now running rampant within American communities, and new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also show infections could be more than 10 times higher than the number of reported cases in some parts of the US. At least 27 states have hit the pause button on their reopening plans or set new restrictions to help curb the spread of the virus.
Rep. Chip Roy on Wednesday blasted President Donald Trump’s well-wishes for alleged Jeffrey Epstein co-conspirator Ghislaine Maxwell as ‘unacceptably obtuse.’
Trump was asked about Maxwell’s case at his Tuesday evening news conference and said “I wish her well, whatever it is.”
The comment quickly sparked outrage on social media and inside the Department of Justice. Roy (R-Texas), among the most conservative members of the GOP, slammed the president’s kid-gloves treatment of a woman charged with grooming young girls into a circle of sexual abuse.
“This is unacceptably obtuse for a woman accused of the most morally depraved of crimes, @realDonaldTrump,” Roy wrote on Twitter. “She needs to be severely punished… and justice must be served for the girls she abused. For ALL involved.”
LONDON — The American ambassador to Britain, Robert Wood Johnson IV, told multiple colleagues in February 2018 that President Trump had asked him to see if the British government could help steer the world-famous and lucrative British Open golf tournament to the Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland, according to three people with knowledge of the episode.
The ambassador’s deputy, Lewis A. Lukens, advised him not to do it, warning that it would be an unethical use of the presidency for private gain, these people said. But Mr. Johnson apparently felt pressured to try. A few weeks later, he raised the idea of Turnberry playing host to the Open with the secretary of state for Scotland, David Mundell.
In a brief interview last week, Mr. Mundell said it was “inappropriate” for him to discuss his dealings with Mr. Johnson and referred to a British government statement that said Mr. Johnson “made no request of Mr. Mundell regarding the British Open or any other sporting event.” The statement did not address whether the ambassador had broached the issue of Turnberry, which Mr. Trump bought in 2014, but none of the next four Opens are scheduled to be played there.
Still, the episode left Mr. Lukens and other diplomats deeply unsettled. Mr. Lukens, who served as the acting ambassador before Mr. Johnson arrived in November 2017, emailed officials at the State Department to tell them what had happened, colleagues said. A few months later, Mr. Johnson forced out Mr. Lukens, a career diplomat who had earlier served as ambassador to Senegal, shortly before his term was to end.
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution provides that “representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed.”
This text is unambiguous. With a narrow exception for some Native Americans, all persons within the United States must be counted in the decennial census. And all persons must be counted when representation is allocated to states in the House of Representatives.
Nevertheless, on Tuesday, President Trump released an extraordinary memorandum suggesting that he gets to decide who counts as a “person” — and that undocumented immigrants do not qualify.
The memo concerns who should be counted when representatives are allocated to states following the 2020 census. Trump claims that “for the purpose of the reapportionment of Representatives following the 2020 census, it is the policy of the United States to exclude from the apportionment base aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status.” Thus, if Trump’s view were to prevail — a view that is at odds with the explicit text of the Constitution — undocumented immigrants would not be counted.