Elián was returned to his father in Cuba after federal agents raided the family’s home in April 2000 and removed him at gunpoint. The backlash galvanized Cuban Americans in Miami’s Little Havana. It is not an exaggeration to say that this may have cost then-Vice President Al Gore the election.
Ultimately, the results in Florida were close and contested enough that the Supreme Court had to get involved. On a 5-to-4, party-line vote, with Ginsburg dissenting, the court halted the recount. George W. Bush won the Sunshine State by 537 votes. After her death from cancer on Friday night, only two of the nine justices involved in the Bush v. Gore decision remain: Stephen Breyer and Clarence Thomas.
History may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme. Back then, Florida had 15 million residents – and 25 electoral votes. Now it has a population of 22 million and 29 electoral votes, making Florida bigger battleground than ever. A CBS-YouGov poll released Sunday showed Joe Biden leading President Trump among likely voters in Florida by 2 points, 48 percent to 46 percent. Just like five other public polls released so far this month from there, that is within the margin of error.
That’s why, with 43 days until the election, Lagoa’s stock has been rising fast. In a state sure to stay close, the Republican president is looking for ways to eke out a win by maximizing turnout among the Cuban American community. Lagoa’s parents fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba in 1966. The 52-year-old grew up in Hialeah, graduated from Florida International University in 1989 and received a law degree from Columbia University in 1992. She was appointed by former governor Jeb Bush (R) to a state appellate court in 2006.
Trump ally Ron DeSantis considered making Lagoa his lieutenant governor when he ran in 2018. Instead, he picked another Cuban American woman to be his running mate, Jeanette Núñez. But he promoted her to the state Supreme Court soon after narrowly winning. Less than a year later, Trump nominated Lagoa to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Now DeSantis is among a group of prominent Florida Republicans urging Trump to elevate her to the U.S. Supreme Court – vouching for her conservative bona fides but also emphasizing to anyone at the White House who will listen that putting her up for the highest court in the land could help deliver Florida for the GOP in November.
Trump said Monday that he plans to announce his choice on Friday or Saturday, indicating that he will wait until after Ginsburg’s funeral. He said there is “plenty of time” for the Republican-controlled Senate to confirm his pick before the election, even if he waits a few days. The Supreme Court announced that Ginsburg will lie in repose there on Wednesday and Thursday. Trump’s schedule this week currently includes campaign events in Dayton and Swanton, Ohio, on Monday; Pittsburgh on Tuesday; a Bay of Pigs event in the District on Wednesday; Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday; and Middletown, Pa., on Saturday.
Trump said he is still considering five women, but several people involved in the deliberations say the two leading contenders are Lagoa and Amy Coney Barrett, another circuit court judge. “Lagoa has a lower profile [and] has never had a private meeting with Trump, but one adviser who knows her predicted her personality would click well with the president’s because the jurist is ‘feisty…,’” Phil Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim report. “The president has been asking about Lagoa and whether there is anything negative in her background after hearing a chorus of positive comments about her, according to one Trump adviser involved in those discussions.” That adviser said: “Twenty-four hours ago, Amy Coney Barrett was the favorite. I am not sure that’s true anymore.” A second Trump adviser said the president and his top aides are “trying to get up to speed on Lagoa very quickly because they like the idea of picking her.”
Trump is also considering Deputy White House Counsel Kate Todd, who has been working on judicial nominations for him. “She is thought to be a distant third,” the New York Times reports, adding that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has being pushing for Judge Allison Jones Rushing of the 4th Circuit in Richmond, but at 38, she is “viewed by many as too young.”
On “Fox & Friends” this morning, Trump said he’s okay with picking a young woman to replace Ginsburg, who died at 87. “You like to go young because they’re there for a long time,” he said. On Saturday night, Trump told reporters that Lagoa seems like an “extraordinary” person. “She’s Hispanic,” the president said, “and she’s highly respected.”
Veteran GOP strategist Curt Anderson predicts that Trump is likely to ultimately win Florida, whether or not he picks Lagoa. “She’s very impressive and would certainly help some,” said Anderson, who helped shepherd Sen. Rick Scott’s three statewide victories over the last decade. “There is a genuine lack of enthusiasm among Hispanic voters for Joe Biden. It’s a massive problem for him. This pick could make it worse.”
But Anderson noted that “Trump is currently maxing out the Cuban vote.” One of the reasons Scott pulled off an upset in the 2018 midterms over then-Sen. Bill Nelson (D) was that he had made inroads as governor with the Puerto Rican community around Orlando, especially after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory. The president is significantly underperforming Scott’s numbers among Puerto Ricans, who as U.S. citizens are eligible to vote. Two other senior GOP officials told me that Lagoa’s appeal to Cuban Americans would probably not translate to Puerto Ricans.
Trump, who carried Florida four years ago by 1.2 percentage points, has resisted giving federal aid to Puerto Rico for years, but he reversed himself this past Friday and announced a package of billions in federal aid for the island. This sharp reversal, quite transparently to help his standing with Puerto Rican voters, came after Biden visited Florida on Tuesday for the first time since winning the Democratic nomination. The Democratic nominee visited Kissimmee, a community where many residents of Puerto Rico fled after Maria devastated their island. Biden, who has faced criticism for his sluggish outreach to Latinos, also unveiled a plan to create a federal working group for Puerto Rico to help with recovery efforts and economic advancement.
If confirmed, Lagoa would be the second Latina justice, joining the Brooklyn-born liberal Sonia Sotomayor, whose parents were born in Puerto Rico. Some Republican operatives relish the potential optics. “Democrats always play the race card. Well, we can as well,” a Republican adviser to Trump told Politico’s Florida-based reporters. “What are they going to tell Hispanic voters in Florida about rejecting a Latina for the high court?” Another Republican who has discussed Lagoa with Trump’s campaign told them: “We hope Democrats attack a Latina as a racist. There’s a broad pool of Hispanic voters who will get turned off by that.”
Others on the right have expressed unease about Trump’s embrace of identity politics. Among those bristling is A.J. Delgado, a Harvard Law School-educated Cuban American who lives in Florida and worked for the Trump campaign in 2016:
During 14 years as a state and federal judge, Lagoa has rendered judgments in an estimated 12,000 cases and written more than 400 opinions. “Particularly contentious could be her record on voting rights and executive power,” Isaac Stanley-Becker and Aaron Davis report. “Lagoa concurred this month in a federal appeals court ruling that is expected to keep many of the 85,000 felons who have registered to vote in Florida from casting ballots. Lagoa’s role in the case has prompted backlash from Senate Democrats, who sent her a letter this summer alleging that her failure to recuse herself ‘appears to violate the Code of Conduct for United States Judges’ given her role last year in an advisory opinion handed down on the issue by the Florida Supreme Court.
“On Florida’s high court, and before that, on a state appeals court, she repeatedly sided with businesses, helping to turn back a higher minimum wage in Miami, limiting recourse for homeowners facing foreclosure, and reversing or rejecting cases of employees who sued Caterpillar and Uber. Lagoa also wrote a controversial decision finding that DeSantis had broad executive authority to suspend a county sheriff over his handling of the 2018 shooting in Parkland, Fla. And while the judge has not expounded at length on abortion and its legal limits — saying in written answers submitted to the Senate last year that she would ‘faithfully apply … precedents’ when it came to Roe v. Wade — one of her main advocates, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), said she is ‘very pro-life, reliably pro-life.’ …
“Lagoa’s husband, Paul C. Huck Jr., is the ‘godfather of the Federalist Society in Miami,’ said José Félix Díaz, a former state legislator and consultant with Ballard Partners, a powerful lobbying firm closely associated with Trump. Huck is an attorney with Jones Day, the firm that has represented Trump’s campaign. His father, Paul C. Huck, is a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.”
Barrett, 48, is still considered the front-runner right now by many conservative legal insiders. She has been a longtime favorite of social conservatives and clerked for the late justice Antonin Scalia. Barrett wrote an influential appellate decision last year that made it easier for students accused of sexual assault to challenge universities’ handling of their cases.
“Barrett led a three-woman panel of judges that said Purdue University may have discriminated against a male student accused of sexual assault when it suspended him for a year, a punishment that cost him his spot in the Navy ROTC program,” Beth Reinhard and Emma Brown report. “‘This case was a trendsetter,’ said Brett Sokolow, a consultant who advises schools and universities on compliance with Title IX, which bars sex discrimination … In many decisions before the Purdue case, Sokolow said, courts upheld accused students’ due process claims but rejected their Title IX arguments on the grounds that the students had failed a complicated series of legal tests first established in 1994. By contrast, the 7th Circuit did not bother with those legal tests.”
Veteran Democratic strategist Doug Sosnik, who was Bill Clinton’s White House political director during the 1996 reelection campaign, said liberals have clearly been energized by the vacancy. “But there is no question that Republicans will also benefit from the coming Supreme Court fight,” he said. “Trump needed a circuit-breaking event to change the dynamic of the race, which has clearly favored Biden so far. Up until now the election has largely been about the impact of the coronavirus on the health of the public and of the economy, and any day that’s the focus is a bad day for Trump. … In addition, polling indicates that Trump has not been able to make law and order a defining issue in the race. …
“While the pandemic will likely continue to be the central issue, Trump now has a new issue to try to drive the daily debate, but more important, give Trump an issue to engage undecided voters, who are disproportionately Republican,” he added. “These are conflicted Republicans who strongly dislike Trump personally but are supportive of many of his positions on the issues.”
An NBC-Wall Street Journal national poll published Sunday showed Biden ahead by eight points nationally, 51 percent to 43 percent. It was conducted before Ginsburg’s death, but more than 70 percent of respondents said the debates won’t matter much to them this year, including 44 percent who said they will not matter at all to their choice. That is a record high. Among Latino voters at large, nationally, Biden led Trump 62 percent to 26 percent, per the WSJ-NBC poll.
Republican lobbyist Bruce Mehlman shared a 57-slide PowerPoint deck with clients this morning on the state of the 2020 race that looks at how this helps and hurts each side:
For now, it seems like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will probably find a way to confirm whomever Trump nominates. “White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and [Meadows] are leading the search process, with Cipollone overseeing the legal review and vetting of candidates and Meadows focusing on the political calculations,” per Phil, Josh and Seung Min. “McConnell (R-Ky.), who has spoken with Trump twice about the opening, has told others that he would support Barrett and that Republican senators know the most about her and would be comfortable with her … McConnell and other allies have argued that Barrett would be able to secure the 51 votes needed for confirmation without problems. Influential conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo is supportive of both candidates.”
Two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, confirmed over the weekend that they think whoever is elected president in November should nominate Ginsburg’s replacement. But it would take four GOP senators breaking ranks to block consideration of a Trump nominee. While Trump advisers see Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) as a possible third defection, retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on Sunday defended the GOP moving ahead. “No one should be surprised that a Republican Senate majority would vote on a Republican President’s Supreme Court nomination, even during a presidential election year,” Alexander said in a statement.
Speaking in Philadelphia on Sunday, Biden urged Republicans to let the winner of the election fill the seat. “We need to de-escalate, not escalate,” he said. “So I appeal to those few Senate Republicans, the handful who really will decide what happens: Please follow your conscience. Don’t vote to confirm anyone nominated under the circumstances President Trump and Senator McConnell have created. Don’t go there.”
The former vice president reiterated his promise to nominate a Black woman if he gets the chance, but he said he will not release a list of possible picks like Trump did in 2016. “One area where the Biden team believes the vacancy could be helpful is among women under 40, who have been slow to rally behind to his candidacy,” Sean Sullivan, Matt Viser and Annie Linskey report. “The galvanizing issue for many of these voters is the possibility of losing abortion rights if Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case guaranteeing the right to an abortion, is overturned.”
Democratic donors gave more than $100 million in the two days after Ginsburg’s death. That’s according to ActBlue, the online fundraising platform for Democrats and allied organizations. Biden’s record-breaking fundraising also allowed him to enter September with a $141 million cash lead over Trump, having $466 million in the bank compared to the president’s $325 million, according to figures released by the campaigns on Sunday. “Between Sept. 7 and Sept. 16, Biden added $40.4 million in additional ad spending, according to data from the firm Advertising Analytics, with major buys in Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. In the same period, Trump added just $1.1 million in ad spending, with a large portion carved out for Florida, North Carolina and Arizona. He also cut back spending in several battleground states,” Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy report.
Trump, whose sister was a federal judge until she retired last year, recognizes that his imprint on the courts will be central to his legacy. When the president sat down in the Oval Office with Bob Woodward for the first of their 18 eventual interviews, he brought up judicial appointments four times and even had a list of judicial appointment orders displayed, like a prop, on the Resolute Desk. “In January, the president bragged that he had installed 187 judges to the federal bench — making 1 in 4 circuit court judges a Trump appointee — and two to the Supreme Court,” Ashley Parker notes. “Woodward responded with a joke: ‘Maybe they’ll put a statue of you outside the Supreme Court.’ The president took to the suggestion instantly. ‘Oh, what a good idea,’ Trump said. ‘I think I’ll have it erected tomorrow. What a great idea. I’ll think I’ll use it.’ But, Trump added, ‘I won’t say it came from me.’”
How the Supreme Court news is playing on the opinion page:
- Fred Hiatt: “Republicans’ and Democrats’ nightmares are not equivalent.”
- Ruth Marcus: “Barrett’s judicial record should alarm liberals.”
- Dana Milbank: “They couldn’t even wait until Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in her grave.”
- Hugh Hewitt: “Yes, expect fireworks. But we’ll get a Supreme Court confirmation.”
- Howard Fineman: “McConnell is the apex predator of U.S. politics.”
- The Editorial Board: “Under a lawless Trump, our system of checks and balances is being destroyed.”
The U.S. will imminently reach 200,000 fatalities from the virus.
“As the nation is set to pass another dark milestone in the virus’s long, deadly march — with no end in sight — the political battles over how to curb its spread have stolen much of the nation’s attention, making it more difficult to notice just how searing each death’s impact can be,” Marc Fisher, Annie Gowen, Lori Rozsa and Maria Sacchetti report. “Two hundred thousand deaths is akin to losing the entire population of Salt Lake City or Montgomery, Ala. — a devastation. It is also the number of covid-19 fatalities that Trump said at a March 29 news conference would mean that ‘we all together have done a very good job.’ Yet six months in, Americans are tuning away from news about the pandemic. Google searches for virus information have plummeted by nearly 90 percent since March. Americans tell pollsters they hold little hope that the danger will recede anytime soon.”
Cleon and Leon Boyd, identical twins who died six days apart in Vermont, were 64. Eleven people in their family subsequently caught the virus. The family, initially not mask-wearers, had been skeptical. “When it first came out, we laughed at it,” said Leon’s widow, Pam. “Like, ‘Oh yeah, right, this is just another political thing.’”
- Adeline Fagan, 28, was completing her second year of residency as an OB-GYN in Houston. She tested positive in early July and spent weeks fighting for her life in an ICU. (Houston Chronicle)
- Johnny Lee Peoples, 67, and Cathy “Darlene” Peoples, 65, had been married for 50 years before dying from the virus minutes apart while holding hands earlier this month. “The message our family would like to convey is that Covid is real. It’s not a hoax or a joke. Our parents took the proper precautions but tragically still contracted the virus,” their son told CNN.
The CDC finally acknowledged that the virus is spread through aerosols that hover in the air.
“For months, scientists and public health experts have warned of mounting evidence that the novel coronavirus is airborne, transmitted through tiny droplets called aerosols that linger in the air much longer than the larger globs that come from coughing or sneezing. Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees. The CDC recently changed its official guidance to note that aerosols are ‘thought to be the main way the virus spreads’ and to warn that badly ventilated indoor spaces are particularly dangerous,” Tim Elfrink reports. “The World Health Organization recognized the threat of aerosols in July, after hundreds of scientists urged the international body to address airborne spread. It’s not clear why the CDC finally followed. … While the CDC didn’t make any major changes in its guidance on how to prevent the spread of the virus, some scientists suggested it should drive a major rethink of public policy — particularly at a time when students in many areas are returning to indoor classrooms.”
The CDC investigated 1,600 cases of people who flew while at risk of spreading the coronavirus, identifying nearly 11,000 people who potentially were exposed to the virus on flights. “But though the agency says some of those travelers subsequently fell ill, in the face of incomplete contact tracing information and a virus that incubates over several days, it has not been able to confirm a case of transmission on a plane,” Ian Duncan reports. “That does not mean it hasn’t happened, and recent scientific studies have documented likely cases of transmission on flights abroad.”
Fauci said a vaccine will likely not be in widespread distribution “until well into 2021.”
“It is now widely accepted among experts that the United States is primed for a surge in cases at a uniquely perilous moment in our national history,” the Atlantic’s James Hamblin reports. “‘As we approach the fall and winter months, it is important that we get the baseline level of daily infections much lower than they are right now,’ Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told me by email. For the past few weeks, the country has been averaging about 40,000 new infections a day. Fauci said that ‘we must, over the next few weeks, get that baseline of infections down to 10,000 per day, or even much less if we want to maintain control of this outbreak.’ This may be the most salient warning he has issued at any point in the pandemic. Cutting an infection rate as high as ours by 75 percent in a matter of weeks would almost certainly require widespread lockdowns in which nearly everyone shelters in place, as happened in China in January. That will not happen in the United States. …
“The cold reality is that we should plan for a winter in which vaccination is not part of our lives. Three vaccine candidates are currently in Phase 3 clinical trials in the U.S., and the trials’ results may arrive as early as November. But even if they do—and even if they look perfect—it would not mean that a vaccine would be widely available. On Wednesday, [CDC Director Robert] Redfield said in a congressional hearing that a vaccine was unlikely to be widely available until summer of next year, if not later. Fauci may be even less optimistic. He told my colleague Peter Nicholas that if the clinical trials go well, it could mean a few million doses could be available by early 2021. By the time we got to 50 million to 100 million doses, he estimated, ‘you’re going to be well into 2021.’ If each person needs two doses, as many experts expect, that would be enough to vaccinate roughly 11 percent of the population. …
“Winter has already hit some places in the Southern Hemisphere hard. South Africa has seen a surge in COVID-19. Melbourne has been locked down due to a winter resurgence. The U.S. fell prey to our sense of exceptionalism in the early stages of this pandemic. … If we cling to that fiction [again], we are setting ourselves up to be unprepared once again. … There are basic measures we can take to mitigate and prepare. … If we can accept that masks will be a part of our lives indefinitely, we can focus on improving their effectiveness and making them less annoying to wear. … Everyone will be better prepared if we plan for schools to close and for cities and businesses to shut back down, even while we hope they won’t have to. … Even if you’ve had the virus, plan to spend the winter living as though you are constantly contagious. This primarily means paying attention to where you are and what’s coming out of your mouth.”
In what experts call a “power grab,” Health Secretary Alex Azar asserted more control over the FDA.
“[Azar] this week barred the nation’s health agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, from signing any new rules regarding the nation’s foods, medicines, medical devices and other products, including vaccines,” the Times reports. “Going forward, Mr. Azar wrote in a Sept. 15 memorandum … such power ‘is reserved to the Secretary.’ The bulletin was sent to heads of operating and staff divisions within H.H.S. It’s unclear if or how the memo would change the vetting and approval process for coronavirus vaccines. … Outside observers were alarmed by the new memo and worried that it could contribute to a public perception of political meddling in science-based regulatory decisions.”
Quote of the day
The Trump administration’s coronavirus response “was like a family office meets organized crime, melded with ‘Lord of the Flies.’ It was a government of chaos,” said Max Kennedy Jr., RFK’s grandson, recounting his experience on Jared Kushner’s coronavirus task force to the New Yorker.
The 2020 Census could look manipulated if the Trump administration cuts it short.
“Internal emails and memos, which were released this weekend as part of a federal lawsuit in California, show career officials trying to hold the integrity of the once-a-decade count together in the last weeks of July amid mounting pressure from the administration to abandon the extended timeline it had previously approved in response to the coronavirus pandemic,” NPR reports. “Shortening that schedule, a draft document dated July 23 warned, ‘will result in a census that has fatal data quality flaws that are unacceptable for a Constitutionally-mandated national activity.’ With counting now set to end on Sept. 30, the revelations come shortly before federal courts are expected to decide whether to order the administration to keep tallying the country’s residents through Oct. 31. The administration says it is under pressure to meet the current legal deadline of Dec. 31 for reporting to the president those state population totals that are used to reapportion congressional seats among the states. Justice Department attorneys say the scheduling problem is for Congress to fix, and so far, while some lawmakers have introduced bills, they have not yet passed any new laws.”
The opening of colleges has been marked by fragile stability.
“The chaos is not uniform. Variations in testing protocols, campus locations and student housing patterns from school to school can play a huge role in success or failure. So do school culture, state politics and luck. Pauses and delays of in-person teaching can shape the outcome. Geography is critical: The pandemic waxes in some regions as it wanes in others,” Nick Anderson, Susan Svrluga, Lauren Lumpkin, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Joe Heim report. “As of early September, 34 percent of 1,442 four-year colleges and universities tracked by researchers at Davidson College were teaching fully or primarily in person. Another 37 percent were teaching fully or primarily online. Most others took a combined approach known as ‘hybrid’ learning. … Richard Ekman, president of the Council of Independent Colleges, sees a pattern that reflects regional differences over the need for pandemic restrictions. Schools in the South and Midwest, he said, tend to be opening more fully in person than those in the Northeast and on the West Coast. ‘It pretty much mirrors what you’re seeing in the politics of the country,’ he said. There is consensus on one point: Coronavirus testing helps. Frequent testing helps even more.”
- New York City’s preschool children and students with special needs will head into classrooms today, as the country’s largest school district starts in-person instruction for some groups. The district offered its 1 million students the choice of fully remote learning or hybrid instruction. Both options start today. (WSJ)
- Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said she wanted to bring these small groups back to school buildings by month’s end, but with two weeks left to go, her administration has no plan and has not reached an agreement with teachers to return to classrooms. (Perry Stein)
- The Post followed Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings Jr. through a chaotic June, July and August. He had a long, awful summer. (Hannah Natanson)
- In Texas, more than 4,500 students, faculty and staff have tested positive since schools reopened for in-person learning. (Dallas Morning News)
- Florida State football coach Mike Norvell tested positive. Norvell is the first head coach among the top-tier college football teams who are playing to miss a game because of the virus. (Gene Wang)
- Student-run college newspapers have been breaking a lot of the news about covid-19 on campuses. (Elahe Izadi)
- Retired Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz is recovering after being diagnosed with the virus. Ortiz said he’s asymptomatic but his brother, who was also infected, spent a week in the hospital and lost 25 pounds. “This is no joke,” Ortiz said. “You don’t realize how crazy it is until it hits home.” (ESPN)
- The pandemic threatens to widen the racial homeownership gap. The virus’s impact on Black Americans’ health and employment could make it harder for them to buy a home or keep the one they have. (WSJ)
- The Taj Mahal reopened to tourists, even as India continued to report alarmingly high numbers of new infections, with nearly 87,000 cases reported in the past 24 hours alone. (Antonia Farzan)
- Sweden has escaped a second wave so far, despite keeping most of its society open during the peak of Europe’s crisis. Whether the lack of a second surge of infection is a result of the Swedish government’s strategy is still uncertain. (Los Angeles Times)
- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced plans to lift coronavirus-related restrictions for most of the country today, saying the country has controlled the mystery outbreak that appeared in August. (Farzan)
The new world order
The TikTok tussle shows the uneven economic “decoupling” that has accelerated between the U.S. and China.
“On Saturday, the president said he had approved a deal in which Oracle and Walmart would partner with TikTok in a new, U.S.-controlled company. Designed to address his objections to possible Chinese government harvesting of Americans’ data, the move came after the Commerce Department abruptly announced Friday it would ban TikTok and WeChat, a second Chinese mobile service, from U.S. app stores. A federal judge later issued a temporary injunction blocking the WeChat ban, meaning both platforms remain available in the United States,” David Lynch reports. “The extraordinary trans-Pacific tussle … is hardly an isolated occurrence for the fast-souring U.S.-China relationship. This month alone, the Chinese government unveiled new global data security standards designed to outflank a rival U.S. initiative. The American ambassador to China quit his post in Beijing, preferring to help Trump’s reelection bid. … A complete rupture between the U.S. and China, involving impenetrable barriers in technology development or a full-scale financial divorce, would face howls from the U.S. business community.”
The former Beijing bureau chief for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reveals in a first-person piece that he and his family were harassed and intimidated by the regime in 2018 until they were effectively forced to leave the country. “There is more to their actions against foreign journalists than tit-for-tat reprisals as the Chinese portray it,” ABC’s Matthew Carney writes, adding that the communists even threatened to arrest his 14-year-old daughter.
- The U.S. said its “snapback” sanctions against Iran are legal, but it is unclear how the administration will go about unilaterally enforcing them. Most countries say Washington stopped being a participant in the landmark 2015 deal with Iran when Trump withdrew from it two years ago and began reimposing U.S. sanctions. (Carol Morello)
- A deadly airstrike in Afghanistan killed at least 10 civilians and 30 Taliban fighters despite peace talks. The Afghan delegation said it will include a cease-fire in its agenda because all Afghans want to see violence reduced. But Taliban leaders have said they will agree to a cease-fire only after all other issues are resolved and a political settlement is reached. (Susannah George and Sharif Hassan)
- A woman suspected of sending an envelope that contained the poison ricin to the White House was arrested at the New York border with Canada. Her letter was intercepted before it reached the White House. (AP)
Secret U.S. government reports offer a peek into a world of suspicious financial activity that goes unaddressed.
“The FinCEN Files — thousands of ‘suspicious activity reports’ and other US government documents — offer an unprecedented view of global financial corruption, the banks enabling it, and the government agencies that watch as it flourishes,” BuzzFeed News reports, in a consortium with other outlets. “Laws that were meant to stop financial crime have instead allowed it to flourish. So long as a bank files a notice that it may be facilitating criminal activity, it all but immunizes itself and its executives from criminal prosecution. The suspicious activity alert effectively gives them a free pass to keep moving the money and collecting the fees. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, is the agency within the Treasury Department charged with combating money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes. It collects millions of these suspicious activity reports, known as SARs. It makes them available to US law enforcement agencies and other nations’ financial intelligence operations. … What it does not do is force the banks to shut the money laundering down.”
As newsrooms worldwide prepared to publish their stories on the documents, the agency announced an overhaul of the U.S.’s anti-money laundering rules. Here are some examples of what BuzzFeed said it found in its investigation: Standard Chartered moved money on behalf of Al Zarooni Exchange, a Dubai-based business that was later accused of laundering cash on behalf of the Taliban. HSBC’s Hong Kong branch allowed WCM777, a Ponzi scheme, to move more than $15 million even as the business was being barred from operating in three states. Authorities say the scam stole at least $80 million from investors. Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, American Express, and others collectively processed millions of dollars in transactions for the family of Viktor Khrapunov, the former mayor of Kazakhstan’s most populous city, even after Interpol issued a Red Notice for his arrest. Khrapunov was later convicted in absentia on charges that included bribe-taking and defrauding the city through the sale of public property.
The document trove also details how North Korea launders money through American banks. “The suspected laundering by North Korea-linked organizations amounted to more than $174.8 million over several years, with transactions cleared through U.S. banks, including JPMorgan Chase and the Bank of New York Mellon, according to the documents,” NBC News reports. “The records convey a cat-and-mouse game in which North Korea — often with the help of Chinese companies — found ways to slip under the radar, experts said.”
Other news that should be on your radar
A police shooting ignited unrest in Kenosha, Wis. Officers say the department’s race problems go deeper.
“In dozens of interviews, Kenosha residents, community activists, former officials, and six current and former Kenosha police officers described a police culture bereft of diversity, tolerant of excessive force and determined to cover up for its own. Of more than 200 officers on the force, only eight are Black, police officials acknowledged, and a Black person has never risen to the ranks of police chief, assistant chief or police inspector,” Robert Klemko reports. “Current and former officers described a systemic effort to discourage citizen complaints and protect officers from charges of racial profiling and excessive force. The department is populated with mostly good cops, they said, including Rusten Sheskey, the White officer who shot Blake. But they said police officials tolerate a subset of officers who lack the racial sensitivity and cultural knowledge to effectively police minority communities and allow their biases to play out in the street. ‘It’s made very clear, that the good people, who are White, live over here,’ said one officer who left the department within the last five years. ‘And the bad people, who are everyone else, live over here.’”
Jake Gardner, the White bar owner charged in the fatal shooting of a Black protester, died by suicide.
“Attorney Stu Dornan said that Gardner, 38, had died ‘at his own hand’ in Oregon on the same day he was scheduled to return to Omaha to turn himself in. Gardner faced four felony charges, including manslaughter, that were handed down by a special prosecutor last week,” Timothy Bella reports. “The indictment came months after a county attorney initially agreed with Gardner that he’d shot Scurlock, 22, in self-defense and declined to prosecute the bar owner. A grand jury thought otherwise, pointing to Gardner’s own words in text and Facebook messages as probable cause for an indictment. ‘The grand jury indictment was a shock to him,’ Dornan said.”
The Bobcat Fire has grown to 103,135 acres, making it one of Los Angeles’s largest blazes ever.
And it’s only 15 percent contained right now. “Fire officials were hoping that lower temperatures and calmer winds expected Monday and Tuesday might give them a chance to get the upper hand on the blaze,” the L.A. Times reports. “The blaze chewed through an immense swath of the Angeles National Forest. … Crews still hadn’t been able to go out and perform a damage assessment as of Sunday morning, as firefighters were continuing to defend homes from flames.”
Tropical Storm Beta took aim at Texas.
“A storm surge warning is in place from Port Aransas, Texas, to Cameron Parish, Louisiana, where 2 to 4 feet of storm surge is possible,” CNN reports. “Beta’s slow moving approach is expected to produce rain over a long period, causing flash, urban and river flooding, the National Hurricane Center said Sunday night. After the storm makes landfall along the Texas coast, it is forecast to head northeast across the Texas coastline into Louisiana. Voluntary evacuations have been issued for several parts of Galveston County.”
Social media speed read
A 37-year-old writer for GQ has been sharing what it’s like to have the coronavirus. She says people are still not taking this seriously enough. “I am sharing my story so you can see how quickly a mild case in a young, healthy person can get to a point where you’re fearing for your life — and the damage it leaves behind,” she wrote. “This is not a drill.”
The Trump campaign is selling this shirt for $30:
A writer for the Daily Wire, the pro-Trump site led by Ben Shapiro, said the quiet part out loud:
Former senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) called on his old colleagues not to be hypocrites:
RBG loved the opera. Iowa’s state auditor shared these funny letters she sent earlier this year:
And Wall Street’s Fearless Girl was given an iconic accessory:
Videos of the day
The National Cathedral tolled its funeral bell for 20 minutes on Sunday in memory of the 200,000 lives lost to the coronavirus. If it were to toll for a second for each person who has died from the virus, it would take almost 56 hours:
“Schitt’s Creek,” “Watchmen,” “Succession” dominated this year’s socially distant Emmy Awards:
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