with Mariana Alfaro

Anthony Tata did not have the votes necessary to get confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate as President Trump’s undersecretary of defense for policy, the third-highest civilian post at the Pentagon. On Thursday, Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee canceled his confirmation hearing 90 minutes before it was scheduled to begin. On Sunday night, the Pentagon announced that Tata has withdrawn and, instead, has been “designated as the official performing the duties of the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.” That circumvents Congress.

“Tata’s nomination was controversial following statements he made that included calling former president Barack Obama a ‘terrorist leader,’ suggesting that former CIA director John Brennan should prepare for execution or suck ‘on a pistol,’ and saying that Islam is the ‘most oppressive violent religion I know of,’” Dan Lamothe reports. “Tata retired as a brigadier general in 2009 under a cloud after the Army inspector general found that he had at least two extramarital affairs, despite adultery being a crime in the military.”

Contrary to the president’s claims, Article II does not give him the power to do whatever he wants. A hallmark of Trump’s tenure has been his disdain for the “advice and consent” function given to the Senate for appointments by Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution. Alexander Hamilton argued in Federalist 76 that requiring the Senate to confirm a president’s pick for important jobs was a critical “check” on the executive branch “to prevent the appointment of unfit characters.”

Trump has said he loves keeping people in “acting” positions, including in the Cabinet. It also circumvents congressional oversight. The president has installed loyalists and ideologues into critical positions when it was clear they could not get confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate for the job, such as former acting director of national intelligence Ric Grenell

The president’s use of what’s known as delegation authority has received less attention, but it is perhaps more of an affront to the constitutional principle of advice and consent. There is not a limit on how long Tata could hold his new job, for example. Trump has had a deputy director exercising the authority of director for the National Park Service, a senior official performing the duties of the director at Immigration and Customs Enforcement and so on. The administration has done this across the government. The higher-level position goes unfilled so that someone in a position that is not Senate-confirmed can call the shots.

A federal judge ruled in March that Trump’s appointment last year of Ken Cuccinelli to be head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was a violation of federal vacancy laws, and that Cuccinelli lacked the authority to issue policy directives tightening asylum rules. “In his ruling, Judge Moss referred to a long-running gag on The Office, the classic sitcom about bureaucratic absurdity, about the difference between ‘assistant regional manager’ and ‘assistant to the regional manager,’” NPR noted at the time.

Two weeks ago, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) filed a lawsuit challenging the authority of the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management, William Perry Pendley. Bullock, who is running for Senate, asks a judge for an junction to oust Pendley, who has essentially run the agency for more than a year, on the grounds that he cannot work as acting director now that he’s been formally nominated for the job.

Tata has served since this spring as a senior adviser to Defense Secretary Mark Esper in an unconfirmed capacity. The Pentagon said in its Sunday night statement that Tata “looks forward to continuing to help implement the President’s National Security agenda.” 

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, complained that vacant positions at the Defense Department are at a record high, which he described as a “threat" to national security. “If an appointee cannot gain the support of the Senate, as is clearly the case with Tata, then the president should not put that person into an identical temporary role,” said Smith. “This evasion of scrutiny makes our government less accountable and prioritizes loyalty over competence.”

Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, condemned the appointment of Tata as “an offensive, destabilizing move,” and called on his Republican colleagues to demand the White House remove Tata from his new post. “If President Trump’s goal is to hollow out, politicize, and undermine the Pentagon the way he has the State Department and Intelligence Community, then mission accomplished,” Reed said in a statement. “This method of appointment is an insult to our troops, professionals at the Pentagon, the Senate, and the American people. Clearly, President Trump wants people who will swear allegiance to him over the Constitution. … The American people must not grow numb to the dizzying dysfunction of this Administration and the Senate should not allow moves like this to go unchecked.”

Trump had pressed Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to give Tata a hearing. Inhofe said in a statement last week that he had told Trump by phone on Wednesday night that “it wouldn’t serve any useful purpose to have a hearing at this point” and that Trump had agreed. 

Inhofe said he supports the administration's latest move. “While I have always stressed the need to have Senate-confirmed leadership in top Pentagon positions, I believe it is within the President’s authority to appoint DoD officials when and as appropriate," he said in a statement on Monday afternoon. “These are clearly critical positions within the Department where a full bench is needed.”

The post that Tata had been nominated for opened up when Trump dismissed John Rood in February after he opposed the Trump administration withholding aid money to Ukraine, an issue that was at the center of Trump’s impeachment by the House. Rood was the top Pentagon official who certified that Ukraine had sufficiently met its anti-corruption targets in order to receive military aid as required by U.S. law. In an email to Esper a few hours after Trump’s July 25, 2019, call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Rood wrote that “placing a hold on security assistance at this time would jeopardize this unique window of opportunity and undermine our defense priorities with a key partner in the strategic competition with Russia.” The money was held anyway. 

Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project at the liberal-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research, said keeping someone like Tata in place when members of the president’s own party are opposed to him is scandalous. “To me, avoiding the Senate's explicit advice and consent provision to install cronies for whom he has received little if any senatorial advice, and absolutely no consent, is an impeachable offense,” Hauser said. “At the very least, appointees like Tata reflect Trump's antipathy toward good governance and provide context for America's worst-in-the-developed world response to covid-19.”

Coronavirus

A coronavirus vaccine won’t change the world right away.  

“Public health experts are discussing among themselves a new worry: that hopes for a vaccine may be soaring too high. The confident depiction by politicians and companies that a vaccine is imminent and inevitable may give people unrealistic beliefs about how soon the world can return to normal — and even spark resistance to simple strategies that can tamp down transmission and save lives in the short term,” Carolyn Johnson reports. “Two coronavirus vaccines entered the final stages of human testing last week, a scientific speed record that prompted top government health officials to utter words such as ‘historic’ and ‘astounding.' Pharmaceutical executives predicted to Congress in July that vaccines might be available as soon as October, or before the end of the year. … But best-case scenarios have failed to materialize throughout the pandemic, and experts — who believe wholeheartedly in the power of vaccines — foresee a long path ahead. ‘It seems, to me, unlikely that a vaccine is an off-switch or a reset button where we will go back to pre-pandemic times,’ said Yonatan Grad, an assistant professor of infectious diseases and immunology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Or, as Columbia University virologist Angela Rasmussen puts it, ‘It’s not like we’re going to land in Oz.' … 

“Deploying the vaccine to people in the United States and around the world will test and strain distribution networks, the supply chain, public trust and global cooperation. It will take months or, more likely, years to reach enough people to make the world safe. … For those who do get a vaccine as soon as shots become available, protection won’t be immediate — it takes weeks for the immune system to call up full platoons of disease-fighting antibodies. And many vaccine technologies will require a second shot weeks after the first to raise immune defenses. Immunity could be short-lived or partial, requiring repeated boosters that strain the vaccine supply or require people to keep social distancing and wearing masks even after they’ve received their shots. And if a vaccine works less well for some groups of people, if swaths of the population are reluctant to get a vaccine or if there isn’t enough to go around, some people will still get sick even after scientists declare victory on a vaccine — which could help foster a false impression it doesn’t work.” 

Scientists are worried about political influence over Operation Warp Speed.

“Under constant pressure from a White House anxious for good news and a public desperate for a silver bullet to end the crisis, the government’s researchers are fearful of political intervention in the coming months and are struggling to ensure that the government maintains the right balance between speed and rigorous regulation, according to interviews with administration officials, federal scientists and outside experts,” the Times reports. “The desire to find a way to return to normal life is powerful and transcends partisan politics and borders. On Sunday, Russia announced that it planned to start a nationwide inoculation campaign in October with a vaccine that had yet to complete clinical trials, the latest evidence of the global potential for cutting corners. Despite concerted efforts by the Trump administration and a bevy of pharmaceutical companies it is working with, the original October target has slipped, with the administration now pushing to have hundreds of millions of doses available by the end of the year or early 2021.  

“But experts inside and outside the government still say they fear the White House will push the Food and Drug Administration to overlook insufficient data and give at least limited emergency approval to a vaccine, perhaps for use by specific groups like front-line health care workers, before the vote on Nov. 3. ‘There are a lot of people on the inside of this process who are very nervous about whether the administration is going to reach their hand into the Warp Speed bucket, pull out one or two or three vaccines, and say, “We’ve tested it on a few thousand people, it looks safe, and now we are going to roll it out,” said Dr. Paul A. Offit of the University of Pennsylvania, who is a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee. ‘They are really worried about that. And they should be.’” 

  • Testing czar Brett Giroir said it’s “time to move on” from hydroxychloroquine. “Most physicians and prescribers are evidence-based, and they're not influenced by whatever is on Twitter or anything else. And the evidence just does not show hydroxychloroquine is effective right now,” the assistant health secretary said on NBC's “Meet the Press.” “We need to move on from that and talk about what is effective.” 
  • Debbie Birx said the pandemic has entered a “new phase." “What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread,” the White House coronavirus task force coordinator told CNN, noting that it's as rampant in rural areas as urban ones. A new ensemble forecast, published by the CDC, projects more than 173,000 American deaths by August 22.
  • Nancy Pelosi said she doesn’t have confidence in Birx. “I think the president has been spreading disinformation about the virus, and she is his appointee. So I don’t have confidence there, no,” the Democratic House speaker said on ABC’s “This Week.” Birx, on CNN, attributed Pelosi’s criticism to a Times article that described Birx as having embraced overly optimistic assessments on the virus. (Reuters)
  • Alaska, Hawaii, Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma are among the states experiencing the largest surges in new cases. At least 4,641,000 coronavirus cases and 151,000 fatalities have been confirmed in the United States. About 50,000 new cases and 478 deaths were reported on Sunday, a day of the week when numbers are often artificially low because some jurisdictions do not report data. (Antonia Farzan, Rick Noack and Lateshia Beachum
Negotiators said they're still far apart on a coronavirus relief bill. 

Pelosi, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows appeared on the Sunday shows a day after a rare weekend meeting at the Capitol yielded some signs of progress. “We still have a long ways to go,” Meadows said on CBS’s “Face the Nation." “I’m not optimistic that there will be a solution in the very near term.” The three are scheduled to meet again today. “Mnuchin defended the administration’s response to the pandemic, while pointing to Democrats’ demands for $1 trillion in new state and local aid as a non-starter,” Erica Werner and Eli Rosenberg report. "Democrats continue to resist a short-term approach, and rejected an administration proposal to extend the $600 benefit for an additional week to give more time to negotiate. … Republicans have proposed reducing the $600 weekly payment to $200, or adopting a formula that would amount to replacing about two-thirds of a worker’s wages before they were unemployed. … Pelosi suggested Democrats could be open to an approach that reduced the $600 over time as the unemployment rate declines, an idea that has been embraced by a number of congressional Democrats. …

For many low-wage workers, the benefits have amounted to a bump in pay from what they were making at previous jobs. Studies have estimated between 40 and 68 percent of people on unemployment insurance are making more with the extra $600 than they were previously at work. But some preliminary studies on the issue have not found the temporary bump is a disincentive for a noticeable number of workers. A recent study by three Yale economists found workers receiving the extra benefits returned to work at roughly the same rate as others, finding ‘no evidence that more generous benefits disincentivized work.’”

Trump is considering possible options for unilateral action if his negotiators cannot reach a deal with Congress. It’s not clear what steps the administration could take without Congress on issues such as unemployment benefits, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report.

A Federal Reserve Bank president is calling for the U.S. economy to be fully shut down for between four to six weeks. The economy, which in the second quarter suffered its biggest blow since the Great Depression, would be able to mount a robust recovery, but only if the virus were brought under control, Neel Kashkari, president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, told CBS,” Reuters reports. “‘If we don’t do that and we just have this raging virus spreading throughout the country with flare-ups and local lockdowns for the next year or two, which is entirely possible, we’re going to see many, many more business bankruptcies,’ Kashkari said. ‘That’s going to be a much slower recovery for all of us.’ He said Congress is positioned to spend big on coronavirus relief efforts because the nation’s budget gap can be financed without relying on foreign borrowing, given how much Americans are saving [by not going out]. ‘That actually means that we have a lot more resources as a country to support those who have been laid off,’ he said.” 

Millions of dollars from the Paycheck Protection Program went to China-backed businesses. “Because the economic relief legislation allowed American subsidiaries of foreign firms to receive the loans, a substantial chunk of the money went to America’s biggest economic rival,” the Times reports. “According to a review of publicly available loan data by the strategy consulting firm Horizon Advisory, $192 million to $419 million has gone to more than 125 companies that Chinese entities own or invest in. Many of the loans were quite sizable; at least 32 Chinese companies received loans worth more than $1 million, with those totaling as much as $180 million.”

Quote of the day

“I’m sorry, but it’s a fantasy,” Arizona superintendent Jeff Gregorich said of fully reopening schools. (Eli Saslow)

San Francisco flattened the coronavirus curve early, but now cases are surging.  

“More than four months after the region put some of the nation’s first shelter-in-place orders in effect, the Bay Area is experiencing a surge in cases and counties are rolling back reopening plans,” Heather Kelly and Rachel Lerman report. “The Bay Area, which consists of nine counties and nearly 8 million people, is a cautionary tale for government and health officials. Even though leaders here tried to do everything cautiously and by the book, cases still eventually spiked over a month and a half, to an average of 877 cases a day at the end of July from 217 a day in mid-June. Medical experts say a slow but steady rise in complacency is worsening the case count. Contact tracers have told public health researchers that people are getting sick after indoor gatherings. And the numbers show that Latino residents and essential workers are being hit the hardest.”

  • The largest school district in Georgia reported that about 260 employees tested positive for the virus or are in quarantine because of possible exposure as they began preparing for the new school year. Gwinnett County public school teachers began in-person planning meetings last Wednesday. The infected or quarantined employees were excused from work by the next day. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • Tom Barrett, a Republican state senator from Michigan who has been critical of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) handling of the pandemic, tested positive. In April, Barrett sponsored a bill to repeal one of the two state laws that allow Whitmer to declare emergencies. (Detroit News
  • The pastor of a D.C. Catholic church who urged people not to “cower in fear” of the virus has contracted it, prompting health officials to tell about 250 staff and parishioners to self-quarantine for two weeks, including those who took communion at Holy Comforter St. Cyprian Catholic Church between July 25 and July 27. (Rebecca Tan
  • The Houston Chronicle found that Texas health officials were not counting the results of rapid-response covid-19 tests in the state’s tally, suggesting that the state has tens of thousands more infections than previously disclosed.
  • Frail inmates could be sent home to prevent the spread of the virus. But the Bureau of Prisons has largely disregarded compassionate release. The bureau said 25 people have died in its custody this year while their requests for parole were under consideration, including 18 since the start of March. (Justin Wm. Moyer and Neena Satija)  
  • Families say nursing home residents face growing anxiety and despair, as they increasingly struggle with isolation. “Mom says she has been suicidal. She says, ‘I can’t imagine another one or two days, sitting here,’" said Heidi Wise, daughter of 88-year-old dementia patient. (NJ Advance)
  • South Dakota is bracing to host hundreds of thousands of bikers from Aug. 7-16 for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The event could be the biggest anywhere so far during the pandemic, even as the state suffers an uptick of infections. (AP
  • Canadians are tracking U.S. boaters who attempt to sneak across the border in order to send them back home. And they can do so from their living rooms, thanks to the mandatory tracking system that is easily accessible through the Internet and lets Canadians know when Americans are trying to paddle through. (NPR)

The elections

Joe Biden’s delay in choosing a running mate is intensifying the jockeying between his potential picks. 

“Biden has extended his vice-presidential search by as much as two weeks,Annie Linskey reports. “The increasing nastiness is fueled by a sense, even among Biden’s closest advisers, that Biden is entering the final phase of the search without a clear favorite. Rather than a traditional ‘shortlist’ of three candidates, people close to the process expect him to interview five or six finalists for the position. … In recent days a Politico report surfaced that former senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who is on Biden’s vice-presidential vetting panel, told donors that Sen. Kamala D. Harris ‘had no remorse’ for her attacks on Biden while on a debate stage. One donor implied to CNBC that Harris has too much ‘ambition.’ And former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, a longtime Biden friend, told CNN that Harris can ‘rub people the wrong way.’ 

“Some of the comments are being made by high-ranking Democrats pushing alternative candidates such as Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) and more recently Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), making some worry that women of color are being forced to kneecap one another. ‘It bugs me that people want to pit these two Black women against the other,’ said Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), a key Biden confidant, referring to the burgeoning Bass vs. Harris narrative. …

In recent days the negative attention has focused on Bass … The Daily Caller published a piece about a 2010 speech Bass gave at the ribbon cutting for a new Scientology facility that opened in Los Angeles, in which she seemed to praise the organization. The Atlantic published a lengthy article examining her past visits to Cuba and warm words for former leader Fidel Castro … 

Harris allies have been lobbying the Biden team in public and in private. Top racial justice lawyer Ben Crump, who represents the family of George Floyd, penned an op-ed for CNN supporting her candidacy. Behind the scenes, powerful allies like Glenda Baskin Glover, the head of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and president of Tennessee State University, wrote to Biden’s vetting team urging them to select Harris … And Harris attempted to use the attacks on her ‘ambition’ as a weapon. ‘There will be a resistance to your ambition,’ she said Friday during Black Girls Lead 2020, a virtual conference for young Black women. … ‘But don’t you let that burden you.’ She also received an assist from Biden campaign manager Jennifer O’Malley Dillon that came soon after Dodd’s comment. ‘Ambitious women make history, change the world, and win,’ O’Malley Dillon said in a social media post.”

Trump keeps promising a health-care overhaul that never arrives.  

“‘We’re signing a health-care plan within two weeks, a full and complete health-care plan,' Trump pledged in a July 19 interview with ‘Fox News Sunday’ anchor Chris Wallace. Now, with the two weeks expiring Sunday, there is no evidence that the administration has designed a replacement for the 2010 health-care law. Instead, there is a sense of familiarity,” Anne Gearan, Amy Goldstein and Seung Min Kim report. On Friday, Trump told reporters in Florida that he’ll be signing a new health-care plan “very soon.” When a reporter noted that he told Wallace that he would sign it by Sunday, he added “Might be Sunday. But it’s going to be very soon.” (Nothing happened on Sunday).  

“Trump’s decision to revive a health-care promise that he has failed to deliver on — this time with less than 100 days before Election Day — carries political risks. … Nonetheless, some of Trump’s allies said floating health-care ideas is a smart move by the president. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who regularly meets and golfs with the president, said the health-care plan that Trump has referred to would come in the form of an executive order that Graham called ‘fairly comprehensive.’ However broad, an executive order would fall short of a full legislative overhaul.” 

Microsoft said it’s in talks to buy TikTok after speaking to Trump, who earlier said he would ban the Chinese-owned app.  

“Microsoft said in a blog post that chief executive Satya Nadella and Trump had spoken and that the company is committed to addressing Trump’s concerns about the social media platform. Trump previously indicated he was not in favor of a deal and said that he planned to ban TikTok in the United States,” Rachel Lerman reports. “If it goes through, the acquisition could dramatically shift the Big Tech landscape, adding a legacy giant into the scramble for social media users’ attention.” 

Deutsche Bank opened a review into the longtime personal banker of Trump and Jared Kushner.

In June 2013, the banker, Rosemary Vrablic, and two of her Deutsche Bank colleagues purchased a Park Avenue apartment for about $1.5 million from a company called Bergel 715 Associates,” the Times reports. “Mr. Kushner, a senior adviser to the president, disclosed in an annual personal financial report late Friday that he and his wife, Ivanka Trump, had received $1 million to $5 million last year from Bergel 715. A person familiar with Mr. Kushner’s finances ... said he held an ownership stake in the entity at the time of the transaction with Ms. Vrablic. 

“When Ms. Vrablic and her colleagues bought the apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner were her clients at Deutsche Bank. They had received roughly $190 million in loans from the bank and would seek hundreds of millions of dollars more. Typically banks restrict employees from doing personal business with clients because of the potential for conflicts between the employees’ interests and those of the bank. Deutsche Bank said it had not been aware that Ms. Vrablic and her colleagues had done business with a company part-owned by Kushner until being contacted by the Times.” 

John Podesta played Biden in an election “war game” with a scenario similar to 2016 – and refused to concede.

The scenario featured "a big popular win for Mr. Biden, and a narrow electoral defeat, presumably reached after weeks of counting the votes in Pennsylvania. For their war game, they cast John Podesta, who was Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, in the role of Mr. Biden. They expected him, when the votes came in, to concede, just as Mrs. Clinton had,” the Times reports. “But Mr. Podesta, playing Mr. Biden, shocked the organizers by saying he felt his party wouldn’t let him concede. Alleging voter suppression, he persuaded the governors of Wisconsin and Michigan to send pro-Biden electors to the Electoral College. In that scenario, California, Oregon, and Washington then threatened to secede from the United States if Mr. Trump took office as planned. The House named Mr. Biden president; the Senate and White House stuck with Mr. Trump. At that point in the scenario, the nation stopped looking to the media for cues, and waited to see what the military would do.”

  • The White House chief of staff backed away from Trump’s suggestion about delaying the election and said the president does not plan to pursue the matter with Congress. “There was a question mark,” Meadows said of the tweet that set off a firestorm. (Joseph Marks)
  • The Republican National Committee disputed a claim that Trump’s nomination for a second term will be closed to media. “Two RNC officials insisted Sunday that they are still working through the logistics and press coverage options, a break with a statement reportedly made by a GOP convention spokesperson the previous day," Felicia Sonmez reports.
Primaries in Kansas and Tennessee are triggering GOP family feuds over who can deliver more for Trump. 

In Kansas, Kris Kobach, former secretary of state and one of his party’s most divisive figures, is facing off against two-term Republican Rep. Roger Marshall for their party’s nomination to a Senate seat. National Republicans are trying to stop Kobach, often using attacks that originated with liberal magazines or think tanks, David Weigel and Paul Kane report. “Kansas is one of two states with GOP Senate primaries this week that have a back-to-the-future outlook, with Tennessee voters similarly choosing between an establishment-backed candidate and an insurgent conservative trying to lay claim to the true ideological mantle. There, Bill Hagerty, most recently ambassador to Japan, has the full backing of Trump and appeared to be cruising to a victory in the primary, which would make him the prohibitive favorite to win the general election given Tennessee’s conservative lean. … But Manny Sethi, a trauma surgeon who runs a health-care nonprofit, has caught a late burst of momentum in the race that drew the attention of Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), both of whom endorsed Sethi. … Their moves also give a hint of how, if Trump loses in November, this constellation of conservatives hope to recreate the same sort of ideological challenges to Republicans that dominated primaries in 2010, 2012 and 2014.” 

  • A new super PAC for Rep. Joe Kennedy III in his primary challenge against Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) has reserved $1.6 million worth of airtime. The effort is organized by Mindy Myers, the former executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and members of the Kennedy family are among those making calls to raise money for the effort, including Kennedy’s twin brother, Matthew Kennedy, according to the Boston Globe.

Divided America

Portland protests this weekend were calmer after federal agents backed down.

The protests that have stretched on for 66 straight nights in downtown Portland may be reaching a turning point: The weekend brought none of the large-scale tear gas and firework-fueled clashes that marked the previous two months of unrest,” Adam Taylor and Eli Rosenberg report. “But it’s not clear what direction the protests in the city, which show no sign of stopping, will take next. ... The protest’s epicenter downtown near a federal courthouse was quiet Saturday for the third night in a row as state police opted for a hands-off approach ... Yet another flash point emerged in southeast Portland, as city police rushed protesters with riot shields and pepper spray before arresting two. ... Many protesters say it was an overreaction from a police force … ‘Some protesters make the argument that if we were all just peaceful, the police would stop messing with us,’ Kevin, a 22-year-old carpenter who had arrived at the downtown protest at 9 p.m. Friday and stayed until the early hours of Sunday. ‘But some nights we are peaceful, and they still mess with us!’”

  • In Georgia, a long-serving sheriff is seeking reelection against an African American opponent who is wondering if his neighbors will vote for a Black candidate. The race between Sheriff Harry Young and Duke Donaldson in Grady County – a Republican stronghold – has become a referendum not only on Young but on all he has come to represent in a county where the face of law enforcement has always been White and male. (Stephanie McCrummen)
  • A sharp rise in homicides is hitting large American cities this year. A Wall Street Journal analysis shows double-digit increases in 36 of the 50 biggest cities amid the pandemic. Other types of violent crime have fallen.
The Navy is investigating a demonstration of military working dogs attacking a handler in a Colin Kaepernick jersey.

Video of the event last year surfaced on social media over the weekend, with one version receiving 2.6 million views. The event was held by the National Navy SEAL Museum, a nonprofit organization that is not overseen by the Navy,” Alex Horton reports. “The incident is under investigation, but the Navy thinks the dog handlers seen in the video were museum employees and contractors, not active-duty sailors ... Kaepernick, 32, who was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, has been criticized by Trump and other conservatives for kneeling during the national anthem before NFL games to protest police brutality. The Navy described the handler attacked by the dogs as a ‘target' for a demonstration on the use of military working dogs to surprise and subdue enemy troops on the battlefield.”

Foreign journalists working for the federal Voice of America fear that they’ll be kicked out of the country. 

For decades, VOA’s foreign staff have routinely had their visas renewed by VOA’s parent organization, enabling them to fill jobs for which they have special experience and expertise,” Paul Farhi reports. “But the new chief executive of VOA’s parent agency, a Trump appointee named Michael Pack, has stopped renewing visas, leaving 76 VOA employees like [reporter Bricio] Segovia facing imminent removal — and undermining the agency’s ability to deliver news to non-English-speaking audiences around the world, staffers argue. Pack hasn’t said why. ‘We are here because we worked for it, by the merits, legally,’ says Segovia, an experienced journalist who speaks seven languages … [VOA reporters] include people from countries headed by authoritarian regimes who fear persecution once they are repatriated, among them journalists from Venezuela, China, Russia, Iran and other nations in which VOA’s broadcasts serve as one of the few sources of independent news and information.”

Social media speed read

El Paso commemorated the anniversary of the massacre that left 23 dead and 50 wounded at a Walmart:

And Spanish speakers noted that a Spanish-language attack ad from a pro-Trump super PAC airing in Florida has terrible grammar:

Videos of the day

NASA astronauts aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule splashed down on Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico, the first launch of American astronauts to orbit from U.S. soil since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011 and the first launch into orbit of humans on vehicles owned and operated by a private company:

John Oliver talked about how the history of race in America is inaccurately taught in many schools:

Trevor Noah rounded up the latest problems with sports restarting amid the coronavirus: