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Wake Up To Politics - June 24, 2020

Wake Up To Politics: June 24, 2020
Wake Up To Politics - June 24, 2020

Good Wednesday morning. It’s June 24, 2020. 132 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Coronavirus cases surge across the South and West

The United States is experiencing a “disturbing surge” of coronavirus infections, the nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told lawmakers Tuesday.

Fauci’s testimony came on the same day that more than 34,700 new cases of the virus were reported in the U.S., more than at any point in the past two months. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has only seen larger one-day increases in new cases twice since the outbreak began: on April 9 and April 24. More than 800 coronavirus deaths were also reported, the first U.S. increase in fatalities since June 7.

While much of the original coronavirus caseload was concentrated in the Northeast, cases are now rapidly rising in the South and West. According to the Washington Post, those regions are home to the seven states that reported new records for coronavirus hospitalizations Tuesday: Arizona, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

Three of those states — Arizona (3,591 new cases), California (5,019), and Texas (5,489) — also logged single-day records for new cases Tuesday, as did Missouri and Nevada. Cases are rising in 27 states in all, according to the New York Times, as the number of total cases in the South continues on track to surpass the number in the Northeast, per the COVID Tracking Project.

Testifying alongside fellow members of the Whtie House Coronavirus Task Force, Fauci told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that the uptick in new cases was “very troublesome to me.”

“The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges we are seeing in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and other states,” he added.

Fauci also broke with President Trump by calling for “more testing, not less,” days after the president suggested that the nation should curtail testing so fewer new cases would be reported. (The White House said Trump’s comment was made in jest, but he told CBS News on Tuesday, “I don’t kid.”) Fauci, who was a constant presence at the White House in the early weeks of the pandemic, said he has not spoken to the president in at least two weeks.

Several states have taken new measures to address the rise in infections: Govs. Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Gavin Newsom (D-CA) have both instituted statewide orders requiring masks to be worn in public, while Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) introduced new restrictions on outdoor gatherings Tuesday. Meanwhile, the European Union is considering a prohibition on American travelers due to the worsening curve of the virus.

More than 9.2 million coronavirus cases and 477,000 deaths have been reported across the globe; there have been more than 2.3 million cases and 121,000 deaths in the United States. The coronavirus, CDC Director Robert Redfield testified Tuesday, is “the greatest public health crisis our nation and world have confronted in a century.”

The Rundown

Aaron Zelinsky, a former prosecutor in the criminal case against longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, will testify today that the Justice Department intervened in the case for political reasons. “What I heard — repeatedly — was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the president,” Zelinsky, a former member of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team, will tell the House Judiciary Committee in his opening statement.

Zelinsky will also allege that officials at “the highest levels” of the Justice Department directed prosecutors to “cut Stone a break.” Stone was convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering in November; the prosecutors recommended a prison sentence of seven to nine years, but Attorney General William Barr intervened and amended the recommendation to three to four years. Zelinsky and the three other prosecutors on the case withdrew from it after Barr’s move. (Stone was sentenced in February to three years, four months in prison.)

  • Read: Zelinsky’s full opening statement can be found here.

One powerful House committee chair is trailing after Tuesday’s primary elections, while another is in a surprisingly tight race. Middle school principal Jamaal Bowman leads House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY), 60.9% to 35.6%; attorney Suraj Patel is neck-and-neck with House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), 40% to 41.5%.

Full results will not be available in New York until later this month; the state will only begin counting absentee ballots next week. But the results from in-person voting are encouraging signs for Bowman and Patel, both progressive insurgents and political newcomers.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, 24-year-old real estate investor Madison Cawthorn bested businesswoman Lynda Bennett in a North Carolina GOP congressional runoff. Bennett had been backed by President Trump and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who previously held the seat. If elected in the strongly Republican district, Cawthorn will be the youngest member of Congress and the first to have been born in the 1990s.

  • More results: Former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath is leading progressive state Rep. Charles Booker in the Kentucky Senate Democratic primary, although full results won’t be available for at least another week.
  • Plus: New York is poised to send the first two gay Black lawmakers to Congress, as Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres lead a pair of Democratic primaries.

Senate Democrats are expected to block a Republican police reform proposal today. The GOP bill, which will require 60 votes to advance, would incentivize police departments to curtail tactics such as chokeholds and no-knock warrants, but would stop short of banning them outright like a competing Democratic plan.

Republicans have called for Democrats to vote to allow the bill to proceed to the Senate floor, so it could be amended further; Democrats have insisted that the negotiation process should take place before the measure can advance. Other outside voices, such as the NAACP and the attorney representing George Floyd’s family, have announced opposition to the GOP legislation.

The stalemate will make it difficult for Congress to pass any police reform package, as protesters across the country demanded after the police killing of Floyd late last month.

  • Related: The Lousiville police chief on Tuesday fired one of the three officers involved in the March killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman.


*All times Eastern

President Donald Trump will host President Andrzej Duda of Poland at the White House. They will participate in a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office at 2:20 p.m., an expanded bilateral meeting in the Cabinet Room at 2:45 p.m., and a joint press conference in the Rose Garden at 3:30 p.m.

  • Duda will be the first foreign leader to visit the White House since early February.

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and, at 11:30 a.m., hold two roll call votes: on confirmation of Cory T. Wilson to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit, and on advancing the JUSTICE Act, the Republican police reform proposal.

The House will meet at 2 p.m. in a brief pro forma session.

  • The House Judiciary Committee will hold a 12 p.m. hearing on “political interference and threats to prosecutorial independence” at the Justice Department, featuring testimony from prosecutors Aaron Zelinsky and John Elias.

The Supreme Court is not in session.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will attend a virtual fundraiser.

  • Biden’s fundraiser with former President Barack Obama on Tuesday raised more than $11 million, making it the Biden campaign’s biggest finance event yet.

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