National Nurses United says the number of nurses who’ve died of COVID-19 has soared over the last two weeks. On Thursday, members of the union placed 88 pairs of white shoes in Lafayette Park across from the White House — one pair for every U.S. nurse known to have died of the disease. The nurses stood six feet apart as they read the names of the dead, protesting what the union called “Trump’s abhorrent failure to protect nurses.” This week marks National Nurses Week.
Economists are describing the job crisis in the United States as the worst since the Great Depression. Three point two million people filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total to over 33 million since the pandemic began. Many other workers have suffered reduced pay or hours. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the unemployment rate hit 14.7% in April, the highest rate since the Great Depression. As millions of Americans struggle to pay for food, Republican lawmakers are refusing to back an expansion of the federal Food Stamp Program. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports the Small Business Administration has quietly slashed the size of emergency disaster loans it is issuing to just $150,000. The limit had been $2 million.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brought senators back from an extended, six-week recess this week but did not schedule any coronavirus-related measures. McConnell’s first order of business was a confirmation hearing for 37-year-old Justin Walker, President Trump’s nominee for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. If confirmed, Walker will replace 65-year-old Judge Thomas B. Griffith, who announced in March he’s planning to retire in September. The progressive advocacy group Demand Justice is asking federal courts to investigate whether Senator McConnell pressured Judge Griffith to retire to clear the way for Walker — who’s a protégé of McConnell. At Walker’s Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin said he’d rather be addressing the coronavirus pandemic.
Sen. Dick Durbin: “It is the gravest challenge and crisis that we have faced, many of us, in our lifetime. And so I thought, if the Senate Judiciary Committee is coming back for business, there’s certainly a lot of things we can bring up. …
The list is lengthy. And unfortunately, it isn’t the reason we’re returning this week. Instead, we’re considering the nomination of a 37-year-old family friend of Senator McConnell’s to the second-highest court in the land.”
In Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott has removed jail as a form of punishment for people who violate coronavirus restrictions. This comes after the Texas Supreme Court ordered the release of a salon owner in Dallas who was arrested for reopening her business, violating the state’s lockdown rules. In Nebraska, local health officials have been banned from reporting on COVID-19 data from meat processing plants. Republican Governor Pete Ricketts said Wednesday that the state will no longer release the numbers, arguing it’s a matter of worker privacy. Meat processing plants are home to some of the largest coronavirus hot spots in the country, with thousands of confirmed cases and at least 20 deaths tied to meat plants.
In Georgia, the two white men who were caught on camera shooting and killing Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old Black man, in February, were arrested and charged Thursday in connection with the murder. The arrests came two days after the video was shared with the public, sparking widespread outrage. Gregory McMichael and his son Travis were both charged with murder and aggravated assault, and booked in Glynn County, Georgia, where the killing took place more than two months ago. The video was filmed by a third white man, William Bryan, who is Travis’s neighbor. Bryan has reportedly also been charged but has not yet been arrested. Today would have been Ahmaud Arbery’s 26th birthday. After headlines, we’ll speak with civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who’s representing the family of Ahmaud Arbery.
The Justice Department has dropped charges against President Trump’s disgraced former national security adviser, Michael Flynn — even though Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr called the move an “easy decision.” He spoke with CBS reporter Catherine Herridge.
Catherine Herridge: “When history looks back on this decision, how do you think it will be written?”
Attorney General William Barr: “Well, history is written by the winner, so it largely depends on who’s writing the history.”
California Congressmember Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted, “Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his illicit Russian contacts. His lies do not now become truths. This dismissal does not exonerate him. But it does incriminate Bill Barr. In the worst politicization of the Justice Department in its history.”
The Supreme Court has overturned the convictions of two senior aides to former New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie over the infamous “Bridgegate” scandal. In 2016, Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni were convicted of conspiring to create a traffic jam to punish the mayor of Fort Lee for declining to endorse Christie’s gubernatorial reelection bid. Christie denied involvement in the plot. On Thursday, Supreme Court justices ruled unanimously that although Christie’s aides engaged in “deception, corruption” and “abuse of power,” they did not violate federal wire fraud statutes. Chris Christie is a close ally of President Trump. He made headlines this week when he urged Americans to return to their jobs despite the raging coronavirus pandemic, saying, “There are going to be deaths no matter what.” He was speaking to CNN’s Dana Bash.
Chris Christie: “We sent our young men during World War II over to Europe, out to the Pacific, knowing — knowing — that many of them would not come home alive. And we decided to make that sacrifice because what we were standing up for was the American way of life. In the very same way now, we have to stand up for the American way of life.”
The British government reports Black residents of England and Wales are more than four times as likely to die of COVID-19 than white residents, while people of South Asian descent are up to 80% more likely to die of the disease. The findings mirror racial disparities of COVID-19 deaths in the United States. The United Kingdom now has the largest number of confirmed coronavirus deaths in Europe at over 30,000.
European leaders, including Britain’s Boris Johnson, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel, are marking VE Day today with low-key ceremonies on this 75th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945. In Belarus, which suffered heavily under Nazi occupation, authorities are planning to hold a massive military parade in the capital Minsk despite a surge in coronavirus cases. Belarus’s longtime authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko has refused to impose any major restrictions on public gatherings, and medical experts believe a surge in COVID-19 deaths in Belarus is largely going unreported.
In the United States, Tara Reade has called on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to drop out of the race. Reade has accused Biden of sexually assaulting her 27 years ago while she worked as an aide in his Senate office. Biden has denied the allegations. Reade made the comment in an interview with Megyn Kelly.
Tara Reade: “I want to say, 'You and I were there, Joe Biden. Please step forward and be held accountable. You should not be running on character for the president of the United States.'”
Megyn Kelly: “You want him to withdraw?”
Tara Reade: “I wish he would. But he won’t. But I wish he would. That’s how I feel emotionally.”
Meanwhile, a newspaper in California has obtained a 1996 court filing that shows Reade told her ex-husband that she was sexually harassed while working at Senator Biden’s office. In the document, Reade’s ex-husband, Theodore Dronen, writes, “It was obvious that this event had a very traumatic effect on [Reade], and that she is still sensitive and effected [sic] by it today.” The document is the first written record to substantiate part of Reade’s claim.