with Mariana Alfaro
President Trump announced Thursday that his administration will soon release guidelines to help churches safely reopen, an apparent reversal after senior White House officials blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from doing so.
The decision comes as a growing number of faith leaders have announced plans to reopen in the absence of federal guidance and, in many cases, in direct violation of state orders aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“We’ve got to open our churches,” Trump told reporters traveling with him to a Ford plant in Michigan. “People want to go in.”
Social conservatives in Vice President Pence’s circle, as well as officials at the Office of Management and Budget and the Domestic Policy Council, objected to the propriety of government telling religious institutions what to do. Public health experts responded that they were not requirements – but best practices. After weeks of back-and-forth, the White House made the decision not to release any guidance for houses of worship as the CDC put out road maps earlier this week for safely reopening schools, child-care facilities, restaurants, colleges, summer camps and mass transit systems.
The absence of advice from the prestigious health agency has added to confusion, fueled a patchwork of approaches and laid the groundwork for clashes between religious leaders and local officials. Trump’s order to put out the guidance appears to be a belated effort to address this fallout.
A leaked draft of the CDC’s guidance last month included suggestions that faith leaders consider temporarily limiting community sharing of prayer books, hymnals and other worship materials; consider using a stationary collection box, the mail or electronic payment instead of shared collection trays or baskets; and avoid or consider suspending choir or musical ensembles during services.
The leaders of Minnesota’s two largest flocks, the Catholics and the Lutherans, announced Thursday that they will resume indoor worship services next week in defiance of Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s orders. The Catholic archdiocese and the Lutheran synod will allow their congregations to gather indoors, at one-third capacity, starting on Tuesday. They say it’s “extreme and prejudicial” that fewer people are allowed to gather for a church service than in a store at the mall. “Our community members are suffering from financial and social and emotional strain,” Archbishop Bernard Hebda told reporters on a conference call organized by Becket, a religious liberties law firm. “It’s our sacred duty to meet the spiritual needs of the suffering.”
“Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, said faith groups have filed roughly 30 legal challenges to state and local officials’ reopening plans, the vast majority of them by smaller evangelical churches,” Michelle Boorstein reports. “Asked why the denominations decided to announce plans to defy Walz’s executive order instead of pursue a legal appeal, Rassbach said the order treats churches ‘unequally’ and is thus illegal. ‘If it’s illegal, you don’t have a duty to follow it,’ he said.”
More than 1,200 pastors in California have signed onto a letter announcing they plan to resume in-person services on May 31 in defiance of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order. “Newsom has gradually allowed some businesses to reopen as the state’s number of virus-related hospitalizations has flattened. But churches are still banned, along with hair salons and sporting events. Newsom said Monday churches could reopen in weeks, not months,” per KPIX, the San Francisco CBS affiliate. “But many churches are tired of waiting.”
The Justice Department, following the recent directive from Attorney General Bill Barr, warned Newsom in an open letter on Tuesday that California must do more to accommodate in-person religious gatherings or face federal intervention.
Meanwhile, a Christian church, whose pastor was charged with violating Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's prohibition on large gatherings after holding a Palm Sunday service last month, lost a First Amendment-based bid in federal court on Thursday to stop the governor's order.
A Pentecostal church in Holly Springs, Miss., which has been challenging the city’s restrictions on religious gatherings in court, burned to the ground on Wednesday. Investigators believe it was arson, and they found graffiti on pavement in the church parking lot that said, “Bet you stay home now you hypokrits (sic),” according to WLBT, the Jackson NBC affiliate. Jerry Waldrop, who has pastored the church for 31 years, said in a 14-page lawsuit, filed last month, that police officers disrupted a midweek Bible study and his Easter service 10 days before that. He said they will rebuild.
While the CDC has not issued guidance, the agency has released several studies tracking how the virus has spread like wildfire through houses of worship. A report released earlier this week looked into an Arkansas outbreak, for example, which began when a pastor and his wife attended church events over six days in early March and spread the virus to dozens of congregants. The CDC report said an additional 26 infections and one death in the community were probably linked to contact with people infected at the church events. Another CDC report released last Tuesday described how one asymptomatic person infected as many as 52 others during a March choir practice in Washington state. A CDC report published last month on the spread of the contagion in Chicago documented how someone came down with the virus after sitting within a row of an infected person at church for a service.
The failure to release guidance for churches in a timely manner is one of several communications missteps by the administration. The CDC updated its website earlier this month to clarify that touching contaminated objects or surfaces does not appear to be a significant mode of transmission for coronavirus. The same goes for exposure to infected animals. But there was no formal announcement or explanation. A CDC spokeswoman said the revisions were the product of an internal review that involved “usability testing,” but she added that the site has consistently made clear that the biggest danger comes from person-to-person contact. “Right-wing social media exploited the website tweaks this week,” Ben Guarino and Joel Achenbach report. “Fox News commentator Sean Hannity promoted a ‘breaking’ report about the change.”
“A persistent problem in this pandemic has been the lack of clear messaging from governmental leadership, and this is another unfortunate example of that trend,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Columbia University School of Public Health.
The CDC has also not held a public news briefing since March 9, and Trump ended his nightly coronavirus task force briefings several weeks ago.
Tony Fauci, who runs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday night that he hopes the White House will allow the American people to begin hearing on a more regular basis again from him and Debbie Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force. Fauci told CNN that he has had conversations with the White House communications team about the need to allow experts to deliver routine updates. “They realize we need to get some of this information out,” Fauci said. “Hopefully you’ll be seeing more of us.”
Programming note: We’ll be off Monday for Memorial Day but back on Tuesday. Stay safe this weekend.
Dispatches from the front lines
More evidence shows the drug Trump says he’s taking is linked to increased risk of death in coronavirus patients.
“A study of 96,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients on six continents found that those who received an antimalarial drug promoted by President Trump as a ‘game changer’ in the fight against the virus had a significantly higher risk of death compared with those who did not,” Ariana Eunjung Cha and Laurie McGinley report. “People treated with hydroxychloroquine, or the closely related drug chloroquine, were also more likely to develop a type of irregular heart rhythm, or arrhythmia, that can lead to sudden cardiac death, it concluded. The study, published Friday in the medical journal the Lancet, is the largest analysis to date of the risks and benefits of treating covid-19 patients with antimalarial drugs. …
“The new study’s findings cannot necessarily be extrapolated to people with mild illness at home or those, like Trump, who are taking the antimalarials as a prophylactic. The president stunned many doctors earlier this week when he said he was taking a pill ‘every day’ — despite FDA warnings that the use of the drug should be limited to those in a hospital setting or in clinical trials. (He has since said he is close to finishing his course of treatment and would stop taking the medication in ‘a day or two.’)”
Blacks and Latinos are about three times as likely to know someone who has died of the virus.
According to an ABC News-Ipsos poll released this morning, 30 percent of black adults and 26 percent of Latino adults said they know someone who has died either from the virus or from related complications. For white adults, the figure is 10 percent.
- Franklin County, Ohio’s largest, apologized for issuing “offensive” face-mask guidance for people of color, urging them to steer clear of masks that could be associated with “gang symbolism” or made from fabrics that “elicit deeply held stereotypes.” (Meagan Flynn)
More evidence has emerged to explain why covid-19 is so much worse than the flu.
“Researchers who examined the lungs of patients killed by covid-19 found evidence that it attacks the lining of blood vessels there, a critical difference from the lungs of people who died of the flu,” Lenny Bernstein reports. “Critical parts of the lungs of patients infected by the novel coronavirus also suffered many microscopic blood clots and appeared to respond to the attack by growing tiny new blood vessels … The observations in a small number of autopsied lungs buttress reports from physicians treating covid-19 patients. Doctors have described widespread damage to blood vessels and the presence of blood clots that would not be expected in a respiratory disease.”
“What’s different about covid-19 is the lungs don’t get stiff or injured or destroyed before there’s hypoxia,” the medical term for oxygen deprivation, said Steven Mentzer, a professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and part of the team that detailed their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine. “For whatever reason, there is a vascular phase,” he said, in addition to damage more commonly associated with viral diseases such as the flu.
It's not just kids. Young adults are increasingly crippled by the Kawasaki-like disease linked to the virus.
“A 20-year-old is being treated for the condition in San Diego, a 25-year-old has been diagnosed at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center, and several patients in their early 20s are hospitalized with the syndrome at NYU Langone in New York City,” Ariana and Chelsea Janes report. “Jennifer Lighter, a pediatric infectious diseases doctor at NYU Langone, said younger children with the condition seem to have symptoms that look more like traditional Kawasaki, which is characterized by inflammation of the blood vessels. But teens and young adults have more of an ‘overwhelming’ response involving the heart and multiple organs. ‘The older ones have had a more severe course,’ Lighter said. …
“Many of the patients have antibodies to the coronavirus — suggesting they may have been infected weeks earlier and the condition may be a delayed immune response. While the overall number of covid-19 patients has dropped off sharply in New York City and other early hot spots, the number of children and young adults with the inflammatory condition continues to mount. … The cause of Kawasaki has long been a mystery, and the same is true of the inflammatory syndrome linked to covid-19. But doctors say they suspect some people are born with a genetic predisposition for an overactive immune response to the coronavirus that triggers a Kawasaki-like syndrome. The New York State Health Department is conducting genetic tests of patients’ DNA to figure out whether there is a common link among the children who have the condition.”
The CDC is conflating viral and antibody tests, which paints a misleading picture of the infection rate.
The CDC is “combining test results that diagnose current coronavirus infections with test results that measure whether someone has ever had the virus,” the Atlantic reports. “The upshot is that the government’s disease-fighting agency is overstating the country’s ability to test people who are sick with COVID-19. … This is not merely a technical error. States have set quantitative guidelines for reopening their economies based on these flawed data points. … The widespread use of the practice means that it remains difficult to know exactly how much the country’s ability to test people who are actively sick with COVID-19 has improved."
County-level excess death rates reveal a different picture of the virus’s death toll than testing.
A study of excess deaths across 366 counties by the Surgo Foundation found there were, on average, 51 more deaths per 100,00 people than the average for the same period from 2014 to 2018: “If this rate held against the entire US population of 328 million, this would amount to over 167,000 excess deaths this year to date.” The study’s data suggests the U.S. may be undercounting deaths in the South, in particular, because a number of Southern counties have low reported covid-19 death rates but high excess death rates. To wit:
- Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) further reopened her state, announcing that theaters, child-care facilities and summer camps can resume operations today, despite worrisome infection increases. (Steven Goff)
- Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) suggested that his team accidentally released inaccurate testing data. “Kemp held a news conference Thursday where he asked Georgians for patience, noting that state government isn't perfect and if there is a mistake they will own it,” per WSB-TV.
- A Wall Street Journal analysis of death certificates indicates that Michigan undercounted hundreds of coronavirus-connected fatalities during a period in March and April when deaths surged above normal levels. A continuing testing shortfall there is probably fueling a substantial, continuing undercount.
A British model says U.S. deaths could double in two months as lockdowns are relaxed.
Researchers from Imperial College London estimate in a new report that 24 states still have a reproduction number — which measures the average number of people each infected person goes on to infect — above the critical threshold of one. “The researchers found higher reproduction numbers were geographically clustered in the South and the Midwest, suggesting epidemics may be just starting in some states. Among those most likely to have an R number higher than one were Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Colorado and Ohio,” Adam Taylor reports. “This suggests that other interventions are necessary if mobility begins to increase in these states as stay-at-home orders are eased,” said Juliette Unwin, one of the report’s authors. She added that rapid testing, contact tracing and behavioral precautions will avert their worst-case scenario.
Maryland’s Anne Arundel County launched a contact-tracing army way before the state acted.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s office said Maryland has hired 650 contact tracers who will be “fully operational” by next week. But Anne Arundel, a largely suburban county of more than a half-million people on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, is already paying almost 100 school nurses and others to do the work, Ovetta Wiggins reports. “In two months, the team grew from six registered nurses to 86 nurses, health assistants, bilingual support staffers and behavioral health specialists. … Along with ferreting out who may have been exposed, contact tracers have found themselves consoling the grief-stricken and locating resources for families who need food, shelter, diapers, formula or medical assistance. … Some of their targets do not return calls. Some say they cannot afford to stay home from work or are reluctant to give information for contacts. And others have no idea when or where they may have contracted the virus, making it hard to determine who they might have infected."
- D.C. and Prince George’s County could ease their restrictions soon as unemployment claims in the region reached 1.3 million. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said the city could begin a phased reopening by May 29, while Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) said the county is on track for a modified reopening on June 1. Baltimore County officials said they plan on easing some restrictions today. (Rebecca Tan, Fenit Nirappil and Ovetta Wiggins)
- Bowser’s advisers said, however, that D.C. schools should not fully reopen without a vaccine. A report by the ReOpen DC Advisory Group recommends that students should return to campuses on modified schedules, switching between in-person and distance learning, depending on the day, until there’s a vaccine or cure. (Perry Stein)
- A judge affirmed the authority of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) to extend the state of emergency there, calling claims to the contrary “meritless” as GOP leaders in the legislature vow to appeal. (Detroit News)
The pandemic will change the way we shop.
Gone are the days “of trying on makeup or playing with toys in the aisles. The focus now is on making shopping faster, easier and safer to accommodate long-term shifts in consumer expectations and habits,” Abha Bhattarai reports. “Apple is checking shoppers’ temperatures at the door. Best Buy is asking customers to shop by appointment. Macy’s and Nordstrom are doing away with beauty consultations and alteration services, while the Gap is closing off bathrooms and fitting rooms. Cosmetics giant Sephora won’t allow shoppers to test products anymore. Others are quarantining returns for as long as 72 hours before putting merchandise back on shelves.”
- The University of California dropped the SAT and the ACT from its undergraduate admissions process. The university’s governing board plans to suspend testing requirements for the next two years and then omit test scores from the review of in-state applications in 2023 and 2024. The system will then study whether to adopt a new test by 2025. (Nick Anderson)
- Facebook will allow some of its employees to work from anywhere, but their paychecks may be lowered to reflect cheaper costs of living. (Rachel Lerman and Elizabeth Dwoskin)
- Psychologists say they would expect sports fans to experience legitimate feelings of withdrawal or even depression. The absence of sports events should feel trivial against the scale of everything else this virus has brought us, yet it lingers as a low-frequency ache. (Adam Kilgore)
Being a pig farmer was already hard. Then came the virus.
“The disruption to the meatpacking industry has left a roughly two-month backlog of pigs across Iowa and in surrounding states, hundreds of thousands of animals that were ready to be slaughtered weeks ago but increasingly have nowhere to go,” Holly Bailey reports. “With packed farms and animals growing too large to be processed by plants not yet running at full capacity as companies try to keep vulnerable workers safe, many hog farmers are being forced to do the unthinkable: kill their pigs and dispose of their bodies instead of having them processed for food."
More on the federal response
Trump did not wear a mask in public during his tour of a Michigan auto plant that requires them.
“Ford Motor Co. executives wore masks as they led the president on a tour, in accordance with company policy, but Trump said it was ‘not necessary here.’ He suggested the issue is symbolic, but not in the lead-by-example manner his critics say he should view it. Instead, Trump — who publicly prizes strength and symbols of masculinity including height, firm handshakes and deep voices — suggested he considers it unseemly or unpresidential to be seen in a mask. Trump said he had worn a mask in another area of the plant, ‘where they preferred it,’ but declined to wear one in view of the cameras,” Anne Gearan reports.
“‘I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,’ Trump said. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) later shared a photo of Trump wearing a mask at the plant. … Ford had initially requested that Trump wear a mask during his visit to the Rawsonville manufacturing plant in Ypsilanti Township, but then said earlier this week that it was up to the White House. … After Trump’s visit, [Michigan Attorney General Dana] Nessel (D) said [Trump] is no longer welcome in the state after defying Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order that requires a mask in an enclosed public space: ‘He is a petulant child who refuses to follow the rules. This is not a joke.’”
“By ultimately not wearing a mask in front of the cameras at Ford, Trump managed to subvert the carefully-arranged ‘optics’ of the visit,” writes Paul Farhi, “which for any other president would serve as a feel-good story about leadership, corporate nimbleness and the production of lifesaving medical gear. Instead, his mask-querade dominated news coverage.” (During his remarks at the plant, Trump also praised Henry Ford’s “good bloodlines.” In fact, Ford was a notorious anti-Semite.)
Baltimore Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young (D) urged Trump to stay home and cancel his Memorial Day visit to the city’s Fort McHenry. “That President Trump is deciding to pursue non-essential travel sends the wrong message to our residents, many of whom have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 virus,” Young said. (Baltimore Sun)
Trump wants a face-to-face G7 summit. Other world leaders are wary.
“Trump said Thursday he would ‘probably’ host the Group of Seven summit at the White House in June, two months after canceling the annual gathering of world leaders and a day after saying he might revive a plan to hold it at Camp David,” Karen DeYoung and Josh Dawsey report. “Member countries — which remain under varying levels of lockdown and whose leaders have not left home since the pandemic began — were not notified that Trump had resurrected plans for a face-to-face summit until after he said Wednesday on Twitter that he was considering it. … By all accounts, a visit to the United States — the country with the world’s highest number of virus cases and deaths — is an uncomfortable prospect for world leaders, especially because they have cautioned their own citizens to stay home. So far, their public responses have been noncommittal. French President Emmanuel Macron was the most positive, saying he was ‘willing to go to Camp David if the health conditions allow.'"
The Navy sent the still-infected USS Theodore Roosevelt back to sea.
“The Navy’s top officer, Adm. Mike Gilday, asked how he could be confident there will not be an additional outbreak aboard, asked for a different perspective. ‘I would ask you not to look at every covid case on every ship as a failure,’ Gilday responded,” Dan Lamothe reports. “Gilday acknowledged 14 sailors who previously tested negative for the virus developed flu-like symptoms after returning to the ship and have been placed in quarantine again. The Navy, he said, is still understanding the incubation period for the virus and is preparing for the possibility of dealing with the coronavirus beyond 2020. ‘We’re planning for the worst, really,’ Gilday said. ‘We have to be ready to continue to operate regardless of the levels of covid.’”
Betsy DeVos defended her decision to funnel federal stimulus funds to private schools serving wealthy students.
“Congress allocated roughly $13.5 billion to K-12 schools as part of the Cares Act ... Most of the funding was to be distributed to elementary and secondary schools based on a formula driven by how many poor children they serve,” Laura Meckler reports. “The formula has long allocated some funding for poor children attending private schools. But in guidance sent to the states, DeVos said states should use a calculation that takes into account the total number of students private schools serve, not just the number of poor students attending. The result is that millions of dollars that would otherwise assist high-poverty schools in the Title 1 program will instead be shared with private schools.”
Jared Kushner keeps flaunting the administration’s recovery packages. But in Kushnerville, rent is still due.
“The pandemic has now thrust Kushnerville, which consists of nine complexes in inner-suburban Baltimore County, some with as many as 1,000 units each, into unfamiliar territory. For years, tenants have learned to dread the aggressive tactics of their landlord: late-payment notices and court summons slapped on their doors, late fees and ‘court costs’ and attorney fees added to bills, and, in some cases, even threats of jail time,” ProPublica reports. The company behind the rentals was led until not long ago by Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, and his family still owns it. “That whole apparatus of intimidation has been disabled by the temporary ban on evictions. … Many tenants are managing to make their rent, for now, thanks partly to enhanced unemployment benefits and the cash payments in the CARES Act. … [But] everyone is waiting for the next phase, when the safety-net payments ebb, when the evictions resume and when the jobs do or do not come back."
Quote of the day
Trump said the United States would not shut down again if there is a resurgence in coronavirus infections. “We’re not going to close the country — we’re going to put out the fires," he said.
Pakistan’s coronavirus cases quadrupled during the holy month of Ramadan.
“The number of coronavirus cases in this country of 230 million [jumped] from 12,000 to over 48,000. And the rate of new infections is steadily rising: The number of cases increased 30 percent in just the past week. More than 1,000 people have died,” Susannah George reports. “Yet the country’s Supreme Court ruled Monday that the coronavirus ‘apparently is not a pandemic in Pakistan,’ and government officials, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, have suggested that the economic costs of prolonged restrictions outweigh the health costs of increased infection. The same influential religious leaders who called for the easing of restrictions for Ramadan are now demanding they be done away with completely for Eid, a holiday that marks the end of the holy month.”
A Pakistan International Airlines passenger plane with 107 people on board crashed near the Karachi airport this morning. It is unclear whether there were any survivors, authorities said. (Susannah George)
Millions of Nigerians are trying to survive a pandemic with little access to water.
“About a third of Nigeria’s population — 60 million people — must leave home to find [water], according to aid groups and government statistics. In this pandemic, venturing out to the nearest pump has meant risking exposure to the virus or a clash with police. Officers and soldiers enforcing lockdowns killed 18 Nigerians over a two-week period this spring,” Yagazie Emezi and Danielle Paquette report.
The virus has pushed China into abandoning its growth target.
“China’s ruling Communist Party declined to set an economic growth target for the first time in 26 years, a sign of the enormous toll the coronavirus outbreak is taking on the world’s second-largest economy,” Anna Fifield reports. “In delivering his ‘work report’ at the grandiose opening of the National People’s Congress in Beijing on Friday, Premier Li Keqiang instead shifted the party’s focus to the private sector and job creation. … Li set last year’s growth target at 6-6.5 percent and it came in at 6.1 percent … It was still the slowest rate of growth in three decades…. The International Monetary Fund estimates that the Chinese economy will grow by a mere 1.2 percent this year.”
Sweden is still a long way from achieving herd immunity even after rejecting lockdown measures.
“According to data released Wednesday by Sweden’s Public Health Authority, only 7.3 percent of people in Stockholm had developed the antibodies required to fight covid-19 by late April. That’s nowhere near the 60 percent that some experts anticipate being the threshold for herd immunity,” Antonia Farzan reports.
- Italy’s real coronavirus death toll could be over 60 percent higher than the official toll, the country’s social security institute said. (Rick Noack)
- Valencia became the first region of Spain to voluntarily slow the pace to lifting confinement restrictions, citing a slight uptick in its infection rate after it moved into the first phase of reopening. (Pamela Rolfe)
- More than 10,200 people – including people over 70, as well as 5- to 12-year-olds – will participate in the second phase of coronavirus vaccine trials at Oxford University. (BBC)
Britain’s Prince Charles wants furloughed workers to pick fruits and veggies. But farmers wonder if Brits are up to the task. “So many people answered the royal call that the ‘Pick for Britain’ website crashed on Wednesday — letting newspaper columnists crow that the myth of the lazy Brit is finally being retired,” William Booth and Karla Adam report. “But here’s the hitch: Picking soft berries and leafy greens requires considerable skill and backbreaking physical toil for low pay. Farmers are worried that of the thousands of Brits who have forwarded applications, many won’t show up or won’t last the season, especially after they get their hands dirty.” (This sounds like the premise for a novel or movie.)
Other news that should be on your radar
Trump's withdrawal from the Open Skies treaty can be viewed as a tactical tilt toward Russia.
“At a time of increasing rhetorical confrontation with China, the United States is expanding its engagement with Moscow on arms control, humanitarian assistance to Russia for covid-19 and other issues of mutual concern,” David Ignatius notes. “As always with the Trump administration, to be sure, there are conflicting voices internally. Some officials dislike arms control and would like to sever all agreements that limit U.S. options. But there’s a camp that has always favored more engagement with Moscow, led by President Trump himself, and I suspect they are driving policy. Administration officials don’t say it explicitly, but my guess is that the net effect of the administration’s actions this week is a tactical tilt toward Russia.”
"Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday the administration intends to withdraw from the Open Skies treaty, a 1992 agreement that allows the 34 signatories to overfly one another’s countries. The United States claims Russia has been violating the pact, and Pompeo said the United States might ‘reconsider our withdrawal’ if Russia observes the agreement. The administration’s broader strategy was outlined later Thursday by Marshall Billingslea, the State Department’s new special envoy for arms control. He said in a speech for the Hudson Institute that he plans to meet as soon as possible with Sergey Ryabkov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, to discuss a range of arms-control issues, including possible extension or expansion of the New START pact, which will lapse next year.”
The man who filmed Georgia jogger Ahmaud Arbery’s killing was arrested on murder charges.
“The Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, Jr., 50, who recorded the graphic cellphone video of Arbery’s death in February, which was leaked earlier this month. He is charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment,” Michael Brice-Saddler reports. “According to a police report, Greg McMichael told police that he and his son pursued Arbery after McMichael recognized him from ‘several recent break-ins in the neighborhood.’ He said that ‘Roddy’ unsuccessfully tried to block Arbery’s path, and at that point, he and his son ‘jumped into the bed of the truck’ and continued the chase.”
A shooting at a Navy base in Corpus Christi is being investigated as a terrorist incident. Officials say shots were fired shortly after 6 a.m. at the north gate of the station. One sailor, a security officer, was injured but is expected to survive. The gunman, who was not immediately identified, was dead at the scene and a second person may be tied to the violence. (Devlin Barrett)
The D.C. Circuit ordered the judge in Michael Flynn’s case to defend his decisions. Flynn’s attorneys and the Justice Department asked that the guilty plea of Trump's former national security adviser be dismissed immediately. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan has 10 days to answer. The order comes as legal scholars debate the case’s implications for judicial independence and separation of powers. (Spencer Hsu and Ann Marimow)
A Customs and Border Protection recruiter accidentally released the personal data of more than 1,300 current and former American University students. (Lauren Lumpkin)
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced Trump’s nominee to oversee the U.S. media agency. Michael Pack, a Steve Bannon acolyte, is poised to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media even as his own nonprofit organization is being scrutinized by the D.C. attorney general for possible tax violations. (Seung Min Kim)
Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy charges in connection to the “Varsity Blues” college admissions case. Loughlin’s plea argument would sentence her to two months in prison, a $150,000 fine and two years of supervised release with 100 hours of community service, while Giannulli would be sentenced to five months in prison, a $250,000 fine and two years of supervised release with 250 hours of service. (Susan Svrluga and Nick Anderson)
A son fatally stabbed his father while he was on a Zoom call. About 20 people were tuned in to the conference call when 72-year-old Dwight Powers unexpectedly slumped from his chair and disappeared off-screen. His 32-year-old son, Thomas Scully-Powers, suddenly appeared, witnesses said. Several people on the call dialed 911. Scully-Powers was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. (Katie Shepherd)
Social media speed read
A key member of Bob Mueller’s team is fundraising for Joe Biden, a bad look that gives fodder to critics of the former special counsel's work:
Andrew Weissmann, former lead prosecutor on Mueller’s special counsel team, is headlining a June 2nd virtual fundraiser for Biden. pic.twitter.com/3lq7ld5m0u— Ken Thomas (@KThomasDC) May 21, 2020
Trump apparently believes that Fox News should not be an independent news outlet but an arm of his political operation:
....Hahn, Richard Goodstein, Donna Brazile, Niel Cavuto, and many others. They repeat the worst of the Democrat speaking points, and lies. All of the good is totally nullified, and more. Net Result = BAD! CNN & MSDNC are all in for the Do Nothing Democrats! Fox WAS Great!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 21, 2020
Videos of the day
Seth Meyers analyzed Trump’s case against mail-in voting:
Stephen Colbert is confused by Trump’s promise to “put out the fires” of a second wave of infection:
Biden told Colbert that the vetting process for picking a running mate will be “very invasive":