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In a pair of 7-2 rulings, the Supreme Court has rejected President Trump’s claim of absolute immunity under the law. The court ruled a Manhattan grand jury could have access to the president’s tax returns, but it remains unlikely any of Trump’s tax records will be seen before the election. In both cases, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch sided with the liberal justices. Roberts wrote, “In our system, the public has a right to every man’s evidence [and] since the founding of the Republic, every man has included the President of the United States.” In a separate decision, the court affirmed that Congress can subpoena records from a president, but ordered a lower court to reconsider the “significant separation of powers concerns” before such subpoenas are approved. Trump lashed out at the court’s rulings.
President Donald Trump: “So, from a certain point, I’m satisfied. From another point, I’m not satisfied, because, frankly, this is a political witch hunt, the likes of which nobody’s ever seen before. It’s a pure witch hunt. It’s a hoax.”
In a major victory for Indigenous sovereignty, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that about half of Oklahoma remains Native American land, recognizing a 19th century U.S. treaty with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation welcomed the ruling, issuing a statement saying, “The Supreme Court today kept the United States’ sacred promise to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of a protected reservation. Today’s decision will allow the Nation to honor our ancestors by maintaining our established sovereignty and territorial boundaries.” We will have more on the Supreme Court’s decisions later in the program.
On Thursday, the top U.S. infectious disease scientist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said states with major outbreaks should “seriously look at shutting down” again. New statistics show COVID cases in Florida have increased more than tenfold since the state reopened in early May. In Arizona, cases have soared by over 800% after reopening. Meanwhile, President Trump continues to downplay the severity of the crisis by saying the spike in confirmed cases is because “our TESTING is much bigger and better” than other countries. On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to indirectly criticize Trump’s handling of the pandemic. During a speech at the European Parliament, Merkel said, “The limits of populism and denial of basic truth are being laid bare.”
In other international news, India, South Africa and Mexico all reported setting new daily infection records on Thursday. India is approaching 800,000 confirmed cases, the world’s third-highest total behind the United States and Brazil. In Latin America, several top Bolivian officials have tested positive, including interim President Jeanine Áñez and Bolivia’s health minister. In Venezuela, the second most powerful figure in the country, socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello, has tested positive. Meanwhile, in Syria, a doctor in Idlib has contracted the virus, raising fears the pandemic could spread to refugee camps in northwest Syria.
In economic news, another 1.3 million people have filed for unemployment aid, bringing the total to 48 million over the past 16 weeks. This comes as Republican lawmakers are refusing to extend a program that has given unemployed workers an extra $600 in weekly jobless benefits. The program ends later this month, and housing advocates fear it could lead to a surge in evictions. The COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project has estimated 20 million renters are at risk of eviction by the end of September.
In a major campaign speech, Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden laid out a $700 billion economic recovery plan focused on increasing federal spending on U.S.-made products and technology. He dubbed the plan “Buy American.” The proposal has been compared to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign call to invest $1.5 trillion in federal spending on U.S.-made clean energy products. Biden spoke in Pennsylvania.
Joe Biden: “Donald Trump may believe that pitting Americans against Americans will benefit him. I don’t. We have a health crisis, an economic crisis, a racial justice crisis, a climate crisis. We need to come together to solve these crises, to solve them as Americans. This is our moment to imagine and to build a new American economy for our families and for our communities.”
Meanwhile, a task force made up of allies of Joe Biden and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has released policy recommendations that will be used to draft the Democratic Party’s new platform. The task force endorsed free pre-K, tuition-free public college for most families, student loan forgiveness, carbon-free power by 2035, the end of private prisons and the end of cash bail. The report didn’t endorse two key planks of Sanders’s campaign: Medicare for All and a Green New Deal.
In Missouri, police have broken up a protest encampment on the steps of St. Louis City Hall. Protesters had been camping out since Wednesday, demanding the resignation of the city’s mayor, who has faced criticism for publicly reading out loud the names and addresses of protesters who called for the police to be defunded during a recent live video briefing.
In Washington state, a veto-proof majority of the Seattle City Council has backed a proposal to slash the Seattle Police Department’s budget by 50%. Seattle’s mayor and police chief have opposed the move to defund the police.
Utah has declared a state of emergency following a night of protests in Salt Lake City. On Thursday, the Salt Lake County district attorney announced no officers would be charged in the killing of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, a 22-year-old man who was shot at more than 30 times as he fled police in May. On Thursday, protesters splashed red paint on the DA’s office and splattered red paint on the street outside. The man’s family now plans to sue the city.
The Intercept is reporting a controversial artificial intelligence startup with ties to Twitter has been helping police agencies digitally monitor the recent Black Lives Matter protests. The company, Dataminr, which has received funding from the CIA, reportedly surveilled dozens of protests by tracking social media posts and then converting the information into police intelligence packages.
Here in New York, the city has painted the words “Black Lives Matter” in large, bright yellow letters just outside Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. Mayor Bill de Blasio took part in the painting. Anthony Beckford of Black Lives Matter Brooklyn supported the city’s move.
Anthony Beckford: “When people look at this thing here, those who really are filled with hate, they become empowered by that. Now we’re countering them, letting them understand that we will be at the doorsteps of hate, and we will basically get rid of the ideology of white supremacy and racism.”
Newly released data from the Small Business Administration show at least eight hate groups — including anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT organizations — have received loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. One recipient was the Center for Immigration Studies. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the center a hate group, in part because it has circulated the writings of white nationalists and anti-Semitic writers on at least 2,000 occasions in recent years. The Center for Immigration Studies received up to a million dollars under the PPP program. This comes as many small Black and Latinx business owners say they were shut out of the loan program.
The chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, broke with President Trump Thursday and signaled support for changing the names of U.S. military bases named after Confederate generals. Milley told the House Armed Services Committee that there is no place in the armed forces for “symbols of racism.”
Gen. Mark Milley: “We’ve also got to take a hard look at the symbology, the symbols, things like Confederate flags and statues and bases and all that kind of stuff. The Confederate — the Confederacy — the American Civil War was fought, and it was an act of rebellion. It was an act of treason at the time against the Union, against the Stars and Stripes, against the U.S. Constitution. And those officers turned their back on their oath.”
At least 10 U.S. bases are named after Confederate generals, including Fort Benning, Fort Bragg and Fort Hood.
At the same hearing, General Milley said the Pentagon has not corroborated reports that Russia has paid bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan or that any U.S. servicemembers have died due to the alleged Russia program.
Gen. Mark Milley: “Now I want to get to specifically to the bounties — specifically to the bounties. That is a unique, discrete piece of information that is not corroborated.”
The mayor of Seoul, South Korea, has been found dead in an apparent suicide just days after a sexual harassment complaint was filed against him by a member of his staff. Mayor Park Won-soon was one of the most powerful politicians in South Korea and was considered a possible future presidential candidate.
In immigration news, Immigration and Customs Enforcement reportedly plans to launch a six-week so-called citizens academy class in Chicago, where the agency plans to teach attendees “defensive tactics” and “firearms familiarization” to arrest undocumented people. Immigrant rights advocates are sounding the alarm on the initiative, which ICE hopes to expand nationwide. Silky Shah, executive director of Detention Watch Network, said, ”ICE is recruiting an army of 'citizens' to fuel its propaganda machine and forge hatred in our communities. … [T]he outcome of this program will be more terror unleashed upon immigrant communities and people of color.”
In more immigration news, BuzzFeed reports the Trump administration has told a federal judge immigrant families should not be released from the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, prompting fears that immigrant children could potentially be separated from their parents once again. The court filing comes over a week after a federal judge ordered ICE to free children in their custody by mid-July due to concerns over rising coronavirus infections. That ruling stems from a March lawsuit demanding ICE release all families held at three detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania. Immigrant rights advocates fear the move by the Trump administration could force immigrant parents to choose between separating from their children or exposing them to COVID-19.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has ruled that suicide was the cause of death for a 24-year-old Black man found hanging from a tree in the city of Palmdale, California. Robert Fuller’s body was found on June 10. The FBI had launched a probe into Fuller’s death after his family questioned the initial ruling that he had killed himself.