with Mariana Alfaro

Donald Trump called Pope Francis “disgraceful” for saying in February 2016 that “a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

“No leader,” the Republican presidential candidate said in South Carolina, “has the right to question another man’s religion or faith.”

On Thursday afternoon, campaigning in Ohio, President Trump did more than question the sincerity of Joe Biden’s faith. He claimed that his Democratic challenger would “hurt the Bible” and “hurt God” if elected. 

“No religion,” Trump said of Biden. “He’s against God!”

Biden, the first Catholic to serve as vice president, called Trump’s “shameful” attack “beneath the office he holds.”

This came a day after the Trump campaign manipulated a photo of Biden praying in church, along with two other doctored images, to suggest that the image was of him hiding out in his basement. Our Fact Checker team gives this attack ad Four Pinocchios.

A Trump campaign ad, “Delaware,” manipulated three photos of former vice president Joe Biden to make it look like he is “hiding” in his basement. (The Washington Post)

Earlier in the week, Biden’s campaign announced a “Believers for Biden” virtual event that would take place a few hours after Trump’s speech. Jill Biden spoke about her husband’s faith. The hourlong program, which opened and closed with prayers, highlighted endorsements from several pastors.

“Like the words of so many other insecure bullies, President Trump’s comments reveal more about him than they do about anyone else,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said in a 300-word statement. “My faith teaches me to love my neighbor as I would myself, while President Trump only seeks to divide us. My faith teaches me to care for the least among us, while President Trump seems to only be concerned about his gilded friends. My faith teaches me to welcome the stranger, while President Trump tears families apart. My faith teaches me to walk humbly, while President Trump teargassed peaceful protestors so he could walk over to a church for a photo op.”

While the president slammed the pontiff four years ago for casting doubt on the sincerity of his professed Christian views, Trump has repeatedly done the same to critics. In 2016, Trump claimed falsely that “there’s nothing out there” about Hillary Clinton’s religion, even though she is a practicing Methodist. 

He spent years casting doubt on the sincerity of President Barack Obama’s Christianity. (Obama has spoken of his spiritual awakening and becoming a practicing Christian as an adult.) The same month that he lashed out at Francis, Trump attacked the then-president for not attending the funeral of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. “I wonder if President Obama would have attended the funeral,” Trump tweeted, “if it were held in a Mosque?” 

During his multi-year “birther” phase, when Trump falsely claimed Obama was not born in the United States, he speculated on Fox News that the then-president was not releasing his birth certificate because “maybe it says he is a Muslim.”

Republicans have not been immune from Trump’s baseless aspersions. In March 2016, Trump questioned Mitt Romney’s faith while campaigning in Salt Lake City: “Are you sure he’s a Mormon? Are we sure?”

That January, Trump questioned the Southern Baptist affiliation of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), even though Cruz’s father is a pastor. “Just remember this,” he said, “in all fairness, to the best of my knowledge, not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba, okay?”

In October 2015, when Ben Carson was leading in the polls of GOP primary voters, Trump insinuated that there was something wrong with the faith of the man who is now his Housing and Urban Development secretary. “I'm Presbyterian. Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness,” Trump said. “I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about. I just don’t know…”

President Trump on Aug. 6 delivered a campaign attack against former vice president Joe Biden while visiting Cleveland. (The Washington Post)

Trump identifies as Presbyterian but does not belong to a church in Washington and does not regularly attend any services. He has allegedly authorized hush money payments to women, including a porn star, to keep them quiet about extramarital affairs. He also famously quoted from “Two Corinthians” while reading prepared remarks, one of several religion-rated faux pas, in addition to struggling to name his favorite book in the Bible.

In contrast, Biden talks often and easily about his faith. He grew up in an Irish Catholic family and attended Catholic schools. “Biden almost always has rosary beads in his pocket, and frequently holds them in his hand — including while he monitored the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011. He has written and spoken at length of how faith helped him grieve the loss of his first wife and daughter many years ago, and his son Beau more recently,” Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey report.

Catholics make up about a quarter of the electorate. In 2016, exit polling showed Trump carried this constituency over Clinton by four points, 50 percent to 46 percent. A Pew Research Center poll in July showed Biden leading Trump among Catholic voters, 52 percent to 47 percent. 

Biden’s Catholicism benefited Obama in Midwestern states like Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio in 2008 and 2012. In fact, this was one of the factors that contributed to Romney’s selection of then-congressman Paul Ryan, a Catholic, as his running mate eight Augusts ago.

“This attack will backfire on Trump in the Midwest,” said Biden strategist Greg Schultz, who managed the campaign during the primaries and worked for the Obama-Biden campaign in Ohio. “Even if some Midwesterners don't like Biden, they don't doubt his faith in God and won't respond well to people who attack it.”

More on the elections

Trump has relied on broadly worded nondisclosure agreements to prevent criticism. That strategy may be unraveling.

“The Trump campaign’s former Hispanic outreach director last week filed her latest effort in a class-action suit to void all such campaign contracts. She says they are so broad that they deny individuals their First Amendment right to say anything critical of the president — even as he routinely takes to Twitter to mock and deride his critics,” Michael Kranish reports. “In a motion for summary judgment in the case, the former campaign worker, Jessica Denson, said the campaign sought a $1.5 million claim against her for violating an NDA. She said that came after she filed a lawsuit alleging sex discrimination by campaign officials. (That separate case is ongoing.)” Even Ivana Trump, the first of the president’s three wives, is forbidden under an NDA from speaking negatively about him. “I don’t talk about my ex-husband,” she told Kranish.

E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of raping her in the 1990s, can proceed with her defamation suit.

Verna Saunders, a New York Supreme Court Justice, wrote Carrroll's lawsuit could move forward and doesn't have to wait for an appeals court decision in a similar suit brought by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos. Trump called them both liars. “Thursday’s ruling means that in the coming weeks and months, Carroll’s legal team can press forward with seeking Trump’s DNA, which they hope to compare to genetic material on the dress she said she wore during the incident, and with trying to interview Trump under oath,” Matt Zapotosky reports. “Saunders wrote that Trump’s argument was effectively rendered moot by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that rejected his claims of immunity from local law enforcement and congressional investigators.” Saunders scheduled a telephone conference in the case for Sept. 30.

Facebook fired an employee who collected evidence of right-wing pages getting preferential treatment. 

“Some of Facebook’s own employees gathered evidence they say shows Breitbart — along with other right-wing outlets and figures including Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, Trump supporters Diamond and Silk, and conservative video production nonprofit Prager University — has received special treatment that helped it avoid running afoul of company policy. They see it as part of a pattern of preferential treatment for right-wing publishers and pages,” BuzzFeed News reports. “On July 22, a Facebook employee posted a message to the company’s internal misinformation policy group noting that some misinformation strikes against Breitbart had been cleared by someone at Facebook seemingly acting on the publication's behalf … 

“The same employee said a partly false rating applied to an Instagram post from Kirk flagged for ‘priority’ escalation by Joel Kaplan, the company’s vice president of global public policy. Kaplan once served in George W. Bush’s administration and drew criticism for publicly supporting Brett Kavanaugh’s controversial nomination to the Supreme Court. … In one case, a senior Facebook engineer collected multiple instances of conservative figures receiving unique help from Facebook employees, including those on the policy team, to remove fact-checks on their content.”

Trump's pick won the Tennessee Senate GOP primary.

Bill Hagerty, Trump’s former ambassador to Japan, emerged as the GOP pick for retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R) seat. He defeated Nashville surgeon Manny Sethi, who had support from GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Rand Paul (Ky.). Democratic voters shunned their party's establishment favorite, choosing environmentalist Marquita Bradshaw over Army veteran James Mackler. Mackler’s defeat marks the first primary loss for a candidate endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee since 2010, Colby Itkowitz and Dave Weigel report. The race is not expected to be competitive this fall.

Biden walked back his gaffe that the Latino community is “incredibly diverse" compared to the Black community.

“By the way, what you all know but most people don’t know, unlike the African American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly different attitudes about different things,” Biden told an NPR reporter in an interview with Black and Hispanic journalists during a back-and-forth over Cuba policy. Trump tweeted the comments were “insulting." Biden later tried to clarify  on Twitter: “In no way did I mean to suggest the African American community is a monolith – not by identity, not on issues, not at all.” 

  • Biden backed out of appearing live at the Democratic National Convention after three people at the site in Milwaukee tested positive for the coronavirus. (Daily Beast)
  • Former treasury secretary Larry Summers has been advising Biden. To assuage angry liberals, Summers ruled out taking another government job. (Bloomberg News
Kanye West acknowledged his spoiler campaign is designed to siphon votes from Biden.

In text messages to Forbes reporter Randall Lane, West also refused to clarify who is behind his ballot access success and would not say whether his campaign is being coordinated by or with Trump-linked operatives. He did say he’s “designing a school within the next month” and planning to meet soon with Trump's Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a billionaire GOP donor whose brother is Blackwater founder Erik Prince, to discuss the curriculum. The rapper's wife, Kim Kardashian West, recently said her husband suffers from bipolar disorder and asked for people to respect his privacy. Meanwhile, Trump’s pollster John McLaughlin claimed to the Daily Beast that West’s campaign could actually hurt Trump.

  • The Trump campaign held a “Black Voices for Trump” event in Waco, Tex. The only Black people attending were the speaker and the Texas Tribune reporter assigned to cover the event. “‘How many of you are tired of being called a racist?’ asked the speaker, KCarl Smith … Almost everyone in the crowd raised their hands or nodded solemnly.”
More states are using ballot drop boxes for absentee voters. 

“The use of these boxes — which often look similar to a mailbox and are typically under video surveillance or guarded — has come under attack in states newly adopting them this year. Some skeptics worry the boxes may not be properly monitored to prevent tampering, or that voters will not know how to use or find them. In the battleground state of Pennsylvania, these drop boxes are now in the center of a Trump campaign lawsuit raising similar concerns,” Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports

  • Democratic congressional leaders say Trump's new postmaster general acknowledged that new policies restricting overtime work and extra mail processing trips that have caused backlogs. (Jacob Bogage)
  • A Washington-based nonprofit group called the Center for Voter Information mailed 2.25 million applications for absentee ballots to voters across Virginia, but the group acknowledged Thursday that a quarter of them contained a return envelope addressed to the wrong election office. "The computer error … prompted a flurry of phone calls and emails to local election offices from voters convinced that they were the targets of a mail-in ballot fraud scheme," Antonio Olivo reports.

The coronavirus

White House officials and Democratic leaders ended a three-hour negotiation on Aug. 6 without reaching a coronavirus relief deal. (The Washington Post)
The impasse continues on Capitol Hill.

“White House officials and Democratic leaders ended a three-hour negotiation Thursday evening without a coronavirus relief deal or even a clear path forward, with both sides remaining far apart on critical issues. ‘We’re still a considerable amount apart,’ said White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows after emerging from the meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. President Trump called into the meeting several times, but they were unable to resolve key issues, Erica Werner, Jeff Stein and Paul Kane report. "Mnuchin said after the meeting that if they decide Friday that further negotiations are futile, Trump would move ahead unilaterally with executive orders to address things like unemployment aid. Schumer countered that Democrats were ‘very disappointed’ in how the meeting went and that any White House executive orders could be challenged in court. 

“Pelosi said that Meadows pounded the table at one point, reminding her of the meeting where Trump did that in October 2019 — the last time she and Trump met in person. Meadows denied doing any such thing. The political standoff comes as more than 30 million Americans are set to miss their second enhanced jobless benefits check in the next few days and millions of others are no longer protected by an eviction moratorium that expired last month. … The evening meeting was the ninth for this same group of four officials in 11 days."

A group of endangered Senate Republicans whose names are on the ballot in November are freaking out about the lack of a deal, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), himself up for reelection, has acknowledged his conference is badly divided. About 20 GOP senators are reluctant to spend any more money at all. Congress already approved around $3 trillion this spring. McConnell, who is not part of the talks, left the Capitol long before Thursday night’s meeting broke up.

A fitting metaphor for Washington's brokenness: “The Senate Rules Committee has drafted a preliminary plan for a rapid testing system for that side of the U.S. Capitol — but on the other end of the building, the House Administration Committee has deemed the approach impractical for such a massive complex,” Paul Kane and Rachael Bade report. “Masks [are] mandatory on the House floor and only recommended for the Senate. … Congressional leaders can’t even agree on what type of thermometer to use to monitor lawmakers and aides for coronavirus symptoms. … On Thursday, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), bucking Pelosi, stepped out to formally endorse a widespread testing of everyone working on the campus.” 

  • “The U.S. economy added 1.8 million jobs during the month of July, sending the unemployment rate down for the third straight month — a drop that fell in line with economist predictions and pointed to the recovery that began before infections started ticking up,” Eli Rosenberg reports. “The unemployment rate fell to 10.2 percent. The job additions were sizable, but there are signs that the labor market recovery has cooled.”
  • Landlords are pushing back on Trump's threat to impose another federal moratorium on evictions: “The industry is already struggling to navigate the complex set of overlapping state and local eviction bans, they say. When the bans eventually end, millions of renters will owe months of back rent they can’t afford, delaying their eventual eviction while leaving landlords to swallow the shortfall,” Renae Merle reports. 
  • Trump signed an executive order requiring that certain “essential” drugs and medical supplies purchased by the federal government be made in the United States: The administration hopes the move will plug gaps in the medical supply chain that have been exposed by the pandemic, Christopher Rowland reports.
Released from jail at the height of the pandemic, a rape suspect allegedly killed his accuser.

“The incident in Karla Dominguez’s apartment last October was violent, and it was not consensual, she testified in Alexandria District Court in December. The man she accused was indicted on charges including rape, strangulation and abduction and jailed without bond in Alexandria,” Tom Jackman reports. “Ibrahim E. Bouaichi’s lawyers argued that the virus was a danger to both inmates and their attorneys, and that Bouaichi should be freed awaiting trial. On April 9 … Circuit Court Judge Nolan Dawkins released Bouaichi on $25,000 bond … On July 29, Alexandria police say, Bouaichi, 33, returned to Alexandria and shot and killed Dominguez outside her apartment in the city’s West End. … Then on Wednesday morning, federal marshals and Alexandria police spotted Bouaichi in Prince George’s County and pursued him, causing Bouaichi to crash, authorities said. When the police went to arrest Bouaichi, they found he had apparently shot himself. He was reported to be in grave condition Thursday.”

  • I wrote a Big Idea in April that warned about the dangers and risks of letting bad guys out of jail because of the coronavirus threat. This incident was foreseeable -- a prosecutor objected to Bouaichi's release -- and that makes it all the more tragic.
Mississippi is experiencing the country’s highest rate of positive tests. 

“The virus is no longer principally an urban problem: It is present throughout every state, and those infected often don’t know it, leading to what top public health officials call ‘inherent community spread,’” Sarah Fowler, Anne Gearan and Rachel Weiner report. “The situation in Mississippi is unfolding as well in other largely rural parts of the country, including in Alabama and California’s Central Valley, places where so much viral material is circulating that when people get infected, many are unsure when or how it happened — so the outbreaks cannot be easily traced and contained. … Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican who won office last year with support from Trump, has been slow and inconsistent in his approach to the coronavirus … He also said that all metrics show the state is ‘starting to turn a corner.’ Daily caseloads are declining, but deaths are rising, as is the percentage of tests coming back positive.” 

  • At least two Georgia teens were suspended who shared photos of their maskless classmates in their school’s crowded hallways. Paulding County Schools Superintendent Brian Otott told parents the images “didn’t look good," but he argued wearing a mask is a “personal choice.” (Lateshia Beachum
  • Johns Hopkins switched to a virtual fall semester, urging students not to return to Baltimore. (Susan Svrluga
  • Iowa rejected a request by the Iowa City school system to begin the semester virtually, forcing parents to send their children to classrooms for in-person learning. (Gazette)
  • California topped 10,000 coronavirus deaths. It now has more cases than any other state, but the death toll is still well below New York's. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) tested positive for the virus with a rapid test as he waited to see Trump in Cleveland, but then he and his wife tested negative later in the day with a more proven and reliable type of test in the afternoon. (Columbus Dispatch)
  • “The seven-day average of new daily cases in D.C., Maryland and Virginia more than doubled during July, starting the month below 1,000 and ending above 2,000. But daily caseloads have ticked downward in recent days as hot spots such as Virginia’s Hampton Roads region and the Baltimore area notched slight dips from recent peaks,” Dana Hedgpeth reports.
  • Major League Soccer plans to return starting next week and will welcome fans into stadiums in some markets, based on local health guidelines. (Steven Goff
  • The NFL players’ union said 56 of its athletes have tested positive since training camps opened. (Mark Maske)
  • Major League Baseball tightened its coronavirus rules, requiring masks in dugouts. (Cindy Boren)
  • The State Department lifted its blanket international travel advisory after almost five months of urging Americans against traveling overseas. The department will revert to issuing recommendations on a country-specific basis. But many other countries are still restricting American citizens from entry due to the scale of our outbreak. (Siobhan O’Grady)

The new world order

MBS has not behaved like an American ally.

"A former top Saudi intelligence officer and close U.S. intelligence ally has accused Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of targeting him for assassination and taking his children hostage because he has knowledge of damaging secrets about the prince’s rise to power,” Spencer Hsu and Shane Harris report. “In a federal lawsuit filed in Washington on Thursday, Saad ­Aljabri alleged ‘there is virtually no one Defendant bin Salman wants dead’ more than him because of his relationship with the American government as ‘a longtime trusted partner of senior U.S. intelligence officials.’ … In a detailed complaint running more than 100 pages, Aljabri alleges that the Saudi leader orchestrated a conspiracy to kill him in Canada that parallels one that resulted in the death and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Saudi columnist and Washington Post contributor. … 

"Aljabri asserts the prince and his allies pressured him to return to Saudi Arabia, with Mohammed sending agents to the United States to locate him and having malware implanted on his phone. When Aljabri was ultimately located [hiding out in Toronto], Mohammed sent a ‘hit squad’ to kill him, the lawsuit asserts. The team was stopped by Canadian customs officials, who, in a grisly echo of the Khashoggi case, were found carrying forensic tools that could have been used to dismember a corpse, Aljabri alleges.”

“The lawsuit contains a revelatory allegation about why Aljabri was fired in September 2015 after a decade as one of the CIA’s most valued contacts on counterterrorism. That complaint alleges that Aljabri had met that July with John Brennan, then head of the CIA, to warn him that MBS ‘was encouraging Russian intervention in Syria.’ Two months later, Russia sent troops and, according to the lawsuit, Aljabri was sacked in reprisal for talking to Brennan,” David Ignatius writes.

Elliott Abrams, convicted for his lies about Iran-Contra, was named Trump's special representative for Iran. 

“Abrams, who has been serving as the special representative for Venezuela, will continue in that position in addition to his new role,” CBS News reports. “He pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in 1991 as a part of the Iran-Contra affair and was later pardoned by then-President George H.W. Bush. Abrams, who was assistant secretary of state at the time, admitted he had unlawfully withheld information from congressional committees in 1986 when he testified about the secret Contra supply network and his role in soliciting a $10 million contribution for anti-Sandinista rebels in Nicaragua. Abrams also served in the George W. Bush administration and was an advocate of the Iraq War.” He will replace Brian Hook, who has been a central architect of the Trump's administration’s hardline stance against Tehran.

  • “Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who served at the right hand of power as national security adviser for presidents Gerald R. Ford and George H.W. Bush and played instrumental roles in shaping nuclear warfare strategy, dealing with the end of the Cold War and restoring relations with China after the Tiananmen Square massacre, died Aug. 7 at age 95,” Jerrold Schecter reports.
  • The Trump administration will also allow a little-known firm run by a former U.S. ambassador and a retired Delta Force Army officer to develop Syrian oil fields. The secretive, first-ever deal for an American firm is expected to produce billions of dollars for Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria. (CNN)
  • Victims of the Beirut blasts came from all over the world. At least four Bangladeshi migrant workers died, as well as two Filipinos, a German diplomat, and a French architect. There are reports of Syrians found among the dead, but no exact figure. Australia, Egypt and the U.S. each reported one citizen among the dead. (Miriam Berger)
Trump issued executive orders against China-based apps TikTok and WeChat. 

“The orders take effect in 45 days and prohibit any U.S. company or person from transacting with ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, or WeChat. While the nature of the banned transactions are not specific, it may mean the companies would not be able to appear on Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store in the United States. It also could make it illegal for U.S. companies to purchase advertising on TikTok,” Rachel Lerman reports. “But the order should not affect a deal if Microsoft or another U.S. firm manages to buy TikTok before the 45 days are up. … ‘This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage,’ the TikTok order reads. … WeChat parent company Tencent also owns a minority stake in the maker of popular video game Fortnite, but it seems the game is not included within the scope of the order." 

The Trump administration also targeted 11 Hong Kong officials, including its chief executive Carrie Lam, for restricting freedoms and undermining the territory's autonomy. “In another step that is certain to further increase tensions between Washington and Beijing, the Treasury Department said the sanctions were due to the ‘draconian’ national security legislation China has imposed on Hong Kong and laying the ground for censorship of voices critical of the Chinese agenda,” Carol Morello reports.

Trump re-imposed tariffs on Canadian aluminum, a blow to the USMCA framework. 

Trump “re-imposed a tariff of 10 percent on some aluminum products imported from Canada, accusing the country of reneging on a promise not to ‘flood’ the United States with its exports,” Jeanne Whalen and Amanda Coletta report. "Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland, called the move ‘unwarranted and unacceptable’ and said the country would soon announce ‘dollar-for-dollar countermeasures.’” 

Trump's own advisers have hesitated to give him military options over fears he might start a war. 

“Amid escalating tensions with both North Korea and Iran, Trump's advisers hesitated to give him military options fearing the President might accidentally take the US to war and deliberately informed their counterparts in both countries that they did not know what the President would do next,” CNN’s Jim Sciutto writes in a new book, “The Madman Theory: Trump Takes on the World.” “‘We used to only think of Kim Jong Un as unpredictable. Now we had Trump as unpredictable,’ [said] Joseph Yun, who served as President Trump's special representative for North Korea policy until 2018 … Yun recalled that during the worsening standoff with North Korea in 2017, the Pentagon hesitated to give the President a broad range of military options, concerned that he might indeed order a major military attack on the North."

A Ukrainian who made an appearance in Trump’s impeachment saga was accused of laundering billions.

“In a civil forfeiture complaint seeking to seize commercial properties in Kentucky and Texas, the Justice Department alleged that Ihor Kolomoisky and his business partner, Gennadiy Boholiubov, stole so much from PrivatBank that Ukraine’s national bank had to give the institution a $5.5 billion bailout ‘to stave off economic crisis for the whole country,’” Matt Zapotosky and Rosalind Helderman report. “Kolomoisky, one of Ukraine’s richest men, has ties to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and he played a role in the events that led to Trump’s impeachment last year. He made a fortune in the rough-and-tumble capitalism that swept Ukraine after the Soviet Union’s collapse, amassing assets including airlines and financial institutions … Kolomoisky and Boholiubov were the two major owners of PrivatBank before it was nationalized in response to the fraud, the Justice Department said, and the men basically used it as a personal account to build a business empire in the United States.”

Divided America

National Rifle Association leaders drained $64 million from the nonprofit, according to a civil suit filed in 2020 by New York Attorney General Letitia James. (N.Y. attorney general)
NRA executives are accused of draining $64 million from the nonprofit in just three years.

“The chief executive of the National Rifle Association and several top lieutenants engaged in a decades-long pattern of fraud to raid the coffers of the powerful gun rights group for personal gain, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the New York attorney general,” Carol Leonnig and Tom Hamburger report. “Letitia James called for the dissolution of the NRA and the removal of CEO Wayne LaPierre from the leadership post he has held for the past 39 years … The attorney general requested that the court bar the four men — LaPierre, general counsel John Frazer, former treasurer Woody Phillips and former chief of staff Joshua Powell — from ever serving in a leadership position for a New York charity in the future. NRA officials lashed back in response, accusing James in a countersuit of a premeditated plan to take down the organization. …

“In one new revelation, the attorney general said her investigation uncovered that LaPierre recently arranged a post-employment contract for himself with the NRA worth $17 million. He never sought board approval for the deal, the suit claims. The lawsuit also claims LaPierre failed to report large sums of personal income to the IRS. James’s office said it found that the NRA chief funneled personal expenses through an outside public relations firm, allowing him to avoid reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal income. … The filing claims he billed the NRA more than $500,000 for private charter flights he and his family took to visit the Bahamas eight times over three years. … In four years, LaPierre was reimbursed by the NRA for $1.2 million in expenses that were personal trips, golf fees and gifts, the suit contends. LaPierre also spent $3.6 million of NRA money for private travel consultants to arrange private jets and executive car service for his and his family’s use over just two years, the suit says. … One vendor gave LaPierre and his wife an all-expense-paid trip to Africa for a safari adventure; another frequently lent LaPierre and his family the use of his 107-foot yacht on his visits to the Caribbean. … 

Phillips, the former treasurer, is accused in the suit of arranging an NRA deal worth more than $1 million that benefited his girlfriend. The lawsuit also claims that shortly before he retired in 2018, Phillips obtained a contract for himself worth $1.8 million. The contract called for him to provide advice and consulting services for the new treasurer, but the new treasurer said he knew nothing of the contract and never received any services from Phillips, the suit contends. … Powell, LaPierre’s former chief of staff, had his salary increased from $250,000 to $800,000 in just three years as a reward for his loyalty to LaPierre, the suit states, and allegedly pocketed an additional $100,000 he was not entitled to as a housing allowance. In addition, the complaint alleges, Powell arranged for his wife and father to earn money through NRA contracts.

The Trump administration is rejecting visa applications unless every single field is filled in.

“Last fall, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services introduced perhaps its most arbitrary, absurd modification yet to the immigration system: It began rejecting applications unless every single field was filled in, even those that obviously did not pertain to the applicant,” columnist Catherine Rampell reports. “‘Middle name’ field left blank because the applicant does not have a middle name? Sorry, your application gets rejected. No apartment number because you live in a house? You’re rejected, too. No address given for your parents because they’re dead? No siblings named because you’re an only child? No work history dates because you’re an 8-year-old kid? All real cases, all rejected… This no-blanks policy was just the latest bureaucratic change made without consent from Congress nor the (legally required) formal rulemaking process. … After an initial flood of confusing rejection letters, immigration attorneys wised up. … So USCIS adapted — by requiring unsuspecting third parties to clear the same hurdle. … [USCIS] said the no-blanks policy would extend to at least one document that must be filled out by law enforcement officials — someone over whom immigrants and their lawyers had no control."

Meanwhile, a federal appeals court sided with the Trump administration’s efforts to impose a “public charge” rule. “The split ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit reverses a lower-court injunction that had blocked the ‘public charge’ rule from taking effect. The decision comes one day after a different appeals court ruled against the administration in a similar challenge brought by immigrant groups that argue the rule discourages legal immigrants from using any public benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps or housing assistance,” Ann Marimow reports

  • Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales was demoted over orders to fire tear gas and pepper spray at protesters demonstrating over George Floyd’s death, among other concerns. (NBC News)
  • Alabama state Rep. Will Dismukes (R) faced widespread calls for his resignation after speaking at a celebration honoring the KKK’s first grand wizard during the same weekend as the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) was memorialized in Selma. Dismukes is now being charged with first-degree property theft, with prosecutors saying he stole thousands of dollars from a flooring company where he worked before being elected. He denied wrongdoing. (Tim Elfrink)
  • After being asked to wear a mask, a Michigan official hurled a racist slur and an angry rant against the Black Lives Matter movement. Tom Eckerle, who sits on the Leelanau County Road Commission, defended his use of the n-word, saying he doesn’t regret using the slur. (Katie Shepherd)
  • The Oakland A’s bench coach Ryan Christenson apologized for holding his right arm up and straight in a pose resembling a Nazi salute during a televised win over the Texas Rangers. (Des Bieler)
  • Three Bon Appétit video stars are leaving the popular YouTube Test Kitchen series due to alleged racial discrimination. The three employees of color – Priya Krishna, Sohla El-Waylly and Rick Martinez – said they were offered new contracts following an implosion within the company leading to the ouster of editor Adam Rapoport over alleged racial discrimination in compensation. They say the new contracts, however, didn’t come close to what their White co-workers earn. (Sonia Rao)
  • A federal judge said a White Mississippi police officer’s stop of a Black driver was a miscarriage of justice, but dismissed the man’s civil suit because of qualified immunity. That basically shields the officer from personal civil liability for carrying out his duties. (Justin Jouvenal)

Quote of the day

“I can sit here and speak for all of us that love the game of basketball: We could care less,” said LeBron James, dismissing Trump's latest attacks on NBA players for kneeling during the national anthem. (Ben Golliver)

Social media speed read

As Trump ramps up his nativism, the previous Republican president is celebrating the contributions of immigrants. George W. Bush has painted portraits of 43 immigrants who have helped make America great:

Twitter introduced new labels for state-affiliated media outlets and politicians: 

CNN anchor Brianna Keilar hit back at Trump campaign adviser Mercedes Schlapp, who published a nasty and false op-ed about her soldier-husband. Schlapp mistakenly assumed a Twitter account from someone who has the same name as Keilar's husband was his:

Videos of the day

Seth Meyers is skeptical of Trump’s claim that the coronavirus will just “go away”:

Jimmy Fallon was confused by Trump’s pronunciation of “Thailand”: