As the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 rapidly approached 150,000, President Trump declared Tuesday that much of the United States is ”COVID-free.” Speaking from the White House press room, Trump lamented polls showing his approval rating lagging far behind top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.
President Donald Trump: “So, it sort of is curious. A man works for us, with us, very closely, Dr. Fauci — and Dr. Birx, also highly thought of — and yet they’re highly thought of, but nobody likes me. It can only be my personality. That’s all.”
Trump walked out of Tuesday’s press briefing after a CNN reporter asked him about his retweeting of a video featuring Stella Immanuel, an evangelical Christian doctor who has urged people not to wear masks and embraced the drug hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 — despite studies showing it offers no benefit and can cause deadly side effects. Immanuel has previously suggested alien DNA was used in pharmaceuticals and that gynecological problems are caused by sexual visitations by demons.
Twitter temporarily suspended Donald Trump Jr. Tuesday after he shared a video featuring Stella Immanuel and other doctors making false claims about the coronavirus. Twitter said the tweet violated its policy on spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.
Argentina reported a record 120 new COVID-19 deaths Monday, bringing the country’s death toll to over 3,100. Argentine authorities are warning of possible shortages of intensive care unit beds in hospitals in and around Buenos Aires.
In Guatemala, the government has begun reopening the economy after months of strict coronavirus restrictions, despite a continuing surge in COVID-19 cases and nearly 1,800 deaths. Guatemala’s borders will remain closed, but many industries have resumed operations, public transportation will gradually start running, and shopping centers and restaurants were allowed to reopen this week.
Attorney General William Barr appeared before the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday, where he was grilled over his defense of President Trump’s policies, including the deployment of federal forces to confront Black Lives Matter protesters. In a contentious exchange, Washington Congressmember Pramila Jayapal noted the discrepancy between Barr’s militarized response to Black Lives Matter protesters and armed militia members who displayed white nationalist symbols at protests against public health measures.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal: “When white men with swastikas storm a government building with guns, there is no need for the president to, quote, 'activate' you, because they’re getting the president’s personal agenda done. But when Black people and people of color protest police brutality, systemic racism and the president’s very own lack of response to those critical issues, then you forcibly remove them with armed federal officers, pepper bombs, because they are considered terrorists by the president.”
On Tuesday, an Army National Guard officer who witnessed a crackdown by federal agents on a protest near the White House on June 1 told a House committee he witnessed peaceful protesters being suddenly tear-gassed without warning, calling the deployment an “excessive use of force.” The crackdown came after Attorney General Barr appeared in the park ahead of President Trump’s photo op holding a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Black Lives Matter protests continue across the United States. In Portland, Oregon, protesters arrested by federal agents on even the most minor charges are being ordered by federal judges to sign a pledge not to protest again as a condition of their release from jail. One attorney with the ACLU called the orders “sort of hilariously unconstitutional.”
On Tuesday, a White House official said the Trump administration is in talks with Oregon’s governor on a plan to draw down federal agents in Portland. Meanwhile, Seattle’s mayor said Tuesday that federal agents have pulled out of her city.
Here in New York, plainclothes police officers snatched a protester from the street Tuesday during a protest march and forced her into an unmarked minivan — as uniformed officers pepper-sprayed onlookers. The arrest drew comparisons to tactics used by federal officers in Portland. Eighteen-year-old Nikki Stone was released Wednesday morning after being charged with five counts of damaging police cameras around City Hall.
In Minneapolis, police have issued an arrest warrant for a suspect known as “Umbrella Man” who was filmed smashing the windows of an auto parts dealership on May 27, two days after the police killing of George Floyd. Investigators say the man is a white supremacist who sought to provoke violence against protesters. A Minneapolis arson investigator wrote in an affidavit, “This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city.”
In Richmond, Virginia, members of George Floyd’s family gathered Tuesday at the site of the former monument to Confederate leader Jefferson Davis — which was toppled by protesters in June — for the debut of a 3-D hologram honoring George Floyd. Organizers are planning to project Floyd’s image at five other stops along the route of the 1961 civil rights protests known as the Freedom Rides.
A newly formed coalition in Detroit is calling for an independent investigation into the fatal police shooting of an African American man named Hakim Littleton on July 10. Newly released footage appears to show Littleton was shot repeatedly while he was face down on the ground with an officer on top of him. One officer shot him in the head at point-blank range. The video appears to show Littleton had first fired at the officers but was soon tackled. The Coalition for Police Transparency and Accountability has accused Detroit’s police chief of mischaracterizing the shooting as an appropriate use of force by initially only releasing footage that backed up the agency’s version of what happened.
The Trump administration has announced it will reject all new applications for DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. In addition, the administration said it would limit new work permits for existing DACA recipients to just one year instead of two. Advocates say Trump’s latest attack on DACA defies June’s Supreme Court ruling against the administration’s attempts to kill the Obama-era program.
The United Nations is setting up temporary housing units for thousands of asylum seekers stuck in Mexico as they wait for their asylum claims to be heard in the U.S. Some of the housing units will be sent to the border cities of Reynosa and Matamoros, where asylum seekers were evacuated Monday as the region was hit by Hurricane Hanna. At least five people are missing and feared dead after several refugee encampments flooded.
In Boston, a group of undocumented families held a protest Tuesday outside the home of Massachusetts House Speaker Bob DeLeo after state lawmakers failed to include an amendment in a racial justice bill that would have granted undocumented people the right to get a driver’s license.
In Southern California, police working for the Union Pacific Railroad will no longer collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, in detaining people and transferring them to federal custody.
In Bolivia, thousands of protesters marched Tuesday in the city of El Alto demanding the right to elect a new president, after the government of right-wing interim leader Jeanine Áñez said it would postpone elections for the second time this year, citing the pandemic. Unions and Indigenous groups accuse Áñez of continuing the coup d’état that ousted former President Evo Morales last November.
Protester: “We will not allow this de facto government to embezzle our Plurinational State of Bolivia. In this council, we determined we will carry on with protests until the September 6 elections are ratified.”
Following the coup, Bolivia has experienced one of its deadliest and most repressive periods in decades as the government carries out summary executions and arbitrary detentions, according to a new report by Harvard’s International Human Rights Clinic and the University Network for Human Rights. James Cavallaro, the former president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said, “These abuses mirror the authoritarian behavior of the dictatorships of the 1970s in the Americas. This must stop.”
At least 212 land and environmental defenders were murdered last year. That’s the highest number since the group Global Witness began gathering data eight years ago. Around 40% of those killed were Indigenous people. Colombia was the deadliest country, with 64 land and environmental defenders killed. Also high on the list: the Philippines, Brazil, Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala.
Joe Biden said Tuesday he’ll name his vice-presidential running mate some time next week. On Tuesday, many speculated that Biden has chosen California Senator Kamala Harris, after Biden was photographed holding notes featuring Harris’s name followed by five talking points: “Do not hold grudges,” “Campaigned with me & Jill,” “Talented,” “Great help to campaign” and “Great respect for her.”
Two transgender women were killed in the U.S. this week. In New York, a 32-year-old trans woman was fatally stabbed in an apartment building in the Bronx over the weekend. Some on social media have identified her as Tiffany Harris, but her name has not been confirmed. The police are reportedly searching for a man captured on surveillance cameras in connection to the killing.
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a 24-year-old transgender woman, identified as Queasha D. Hardy, was shot to death Monday. She was a hairstylist. Their deaths are believed to be the 20th and 21st killings of transgender and gender nonconforming people in the U.S. this year.
A lawyer for WikiLeaks said Monday the United States is preparing to bring more charges against Julian Assange, who already faces up to 175 years in prison on espionage and hacking charges. Assange is currently facing an extradition trial in London. This is his lawyer, former Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón.
Baltasar Garzón: “Julian Assange has been the subject of political persecution in which all of the rules of due process have been broken, false evidence has been used, illegal evidence has been used, and the procedure in the United States has been totally contaminated as a result.”