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US supreme court to rule on Trump tax returns while coronavirus cases soar – live updates

Court to rule if congressional committees are allowed to see Trump tax records
Continue reading on The Guardian

Donald Trump yesterday at his joint press conference with Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador

Donald Trump yesterday at his joint press conference with Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

I mentioned earlier (see 7.19am) a piece in the Washington Post looking at the Republican Senate candidates who are at pains to avoid name-checking Donald Trump in their campaign ads as it is perceived it will harm their chances when people vote.

That isn’t the case for everybody though. Bridget Bowman at Roll Call has a look at candidates in two Republican run-off contests who are desperate for the personal endorsement of the president, and who believe it will play well for them.

“For people who may either not know anything about either candidate, or may know a little bit about both and have maybe not made up their mind, I think it can push people in one direction,” Texas Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak said. “It’s the single most important endorsement you can have.”

Read it here: Roll Call – What’s Trump endorsement worth? Texas House and Alabama Senate runoffs will tell

Any goodwill that country band Lady Antebellum may have gained by changing their name to Lady A in order to drop slavery-era connotations will surely dissipate with the news that they are to sue black female artist Lady A over the use of their new name. Anita White had already been performing as Lady A for 20 years when the country trio made their move.

Back in June, White criticised the band, saying:

They’re using the name because of a Black Lives Matter incident that, for them, is just a moment in time. If it mattered, it would have mattered to them before. It shouldn’t have taken George Floyd to die for them to realize that their name had a slave reference to it.

My colleague Laura Snapes has more here: Lady Antebellum sue black singer Lady A over name change

Lawrence Hurley and Matt Scuffham at Reuters have put together a really useful refresher about what is going on in the court cases involving Donald Trump’s financial records that the supreme court is expected to decide on today.

Two of the three cases concern attempts by House committees to enforce subpoenas seeking Trump’s financial records from three businesses: Trump’s longtime accounting firm Mazars and two banks, Deutsche Bank and Capital One.

The court consolidated these two cases. During May oral arguments, some conservative justices raised questions about subpoenas being used to harass the president.

The House Oversight Committee in April 2019 issued a subpoena to Mazars seeking eight years of accounting and other financial information in response to the congressional testimony of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer. Cohen said Trump inflated and deflated certain assets on financial statements between 2011 and 2013 in part to reduce his real estate taxes. Cohen was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to charges including violating campaign finance law, bank fraud, tax evasion and lying to Congress.

The House Financial Services Committee has examined possible money laundering in US property deals involving Trump. The House Intelligence Committee has investigated whether Trump’s dealings left him vulnerable to the influence of foreign individuals or governments.

The two committees issued subpoenas in April 2019 requiring Deutsche Bank to hand over the banking records of Trump, his children and his businesses. Investigators hope the records will reveal whether there are any financial links between Trump and Russia’s government.

If Trump loses, the material would need to be handed over to Democratic lawmakers. However Trump’s lawyers advanced several arguments, including that Congress had no authority to issue the subpoenas, a broad assertion of presidential power. If the court were to embrace Trump’s broadest arguments, it would severely weaken the ability of Congress to conduct oversight of a president.

The other case concerns another subpoena issued to Mazars for similar information, including tax returns. This one was issued as part of a grand jury investigation into Trump being carried out by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat. In the May oral arguments in that case, the justices seemed less sympathetic toward Trump.

It is part of a criminal investigation into Trump and the Trump Organization, spurred by disclosures of hush payments made to two women who said they had past sexual relationships with him – Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Trump and his aides have denied the relationships.

Trump’s lawyers argue that his records cannot be handed over because of his authority as president under the Constitution, contending he is immune from any criminal proceeding while in office. In a lower court hearing, Trump’s lawyers argued that law enforcement officials would not have the power to investigate Trump even if he shot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue.

In all three cases, lower courts in Washington and New York ruled against Trump. Now it is up to the supreme court to decide.

Joe Biden is traveling to Dunmore, Pennsylvania today to tour a metal works facility. He will then deliver remarks on his proposed economic recovery plan.

Joseph Ax and Jarrett Renshaw at Reuters have run the rule over what Biden is expected to announce. They report that he will propose boosting manufacturing and innovation by spending $700 billion in his first four-year term to procure more American-made goods for the US government and invest in research and development.

He’ll be outlining the plan near his childhood hometown of Scranton. Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, will attend a business roundtable focused on reopening the economy in Malvern, a suburb of Philadelphia, before speaking to the Philadelphia police union later in the day.

The fact that both men are there today underscores Pennsylvania’s status as a key battleground state in November’s presidential election. Donald Trump carried the state in 2016 by a slim margin, the first Republican to do so since 1988.

Biden’s announcement is the first prong of his broader economic plan titled “Build Back Better” to revive the US economy after the devastating coronavirus pandemic. We should get more job numbers today which will give us an idea of how much the economy is bouncing back.

Biden’s plan includes proposals to build a clean energy economy; support caregivers, including those providing child and elder care; and advance racial equity. Senior campaign officials say he will offer more details about those areas in the coming weeks.

My colleague Kenya Evelyn in Washington has been looking for us at the spate of car-driven attacks on Black Lives Matter protesters in recent weeks, one of which led to the death of 24 year old Summer Taylor in Seattle.

Last month a report from the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Threats concluded that rightwing extremists were behind at least 50 vehicle-ramming incidents since the latest waves of protests began in late May. At least 18 were categorized as deliberate while another two dozen were considered unclear as to motivation, or were still under investigation. “The message they’re trying to send is, ‘You need to get out of the street and stop these protests,’” Ari Weil, a terrorism researcher and the report’s author, told NPR.

Read it here: Drivers target Black Lives Matter protesters in ‘horrifying’ spate of attacks

World Health Organization chief says global pandemic “still accelerating”

The US may be in the process of withdrawing from the World Health Organization (WHO), but there will still be intense interest in what it has to say about the development of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has been speaking today at the weekly member states information session, and painted a grim picture.

He said that the outbreak had exposed global and national inequalities, both in health systems and in wider societies, and that its impact had “unravelled gains” previously made in the fight against diseases. Tedros said:

It is often said that disease knows no borders. It does not care about our political differences, and it disregards the distinctions we draw between health and economy, lives and livelihoods. The #COVID19 pandemic has disrupted them all.

It has exploited the inequalities in our health systems and the schisms in our societies. It has exposed existing inequities, widening and deepening the cracks between us.

The virus has upended health systems in some of the world’s wealthiest nations, while some countries that have mounted a successful response have been of modest means.

But in most of the world the virus is not under control. It is getting worse. 11.8+M cases of Covid-19 have now been reported to WHO. More than 544,000 lives have been lost. The pandemic is still accelerating. The total number of cases has doubled in the last six weeks.

You can watch some of the session here:

World Health Organization (WHO)

Live with @DrTedros from the WHO weekly Member States information session on #COVID19 https://t.co/O51eRMif0O

July 9, 2020

His sentiments abut politics seem to echo the words of German leader Angela Merkel in the European Union Parliament yesterday, where she said “We are seeing at the moment that the pandemic can’t be fought with lies and disinformation, and neither can it be with hatred and agitation. Fact-denying populism is being shown its limits.”

Her words were widely interpreted as a swipe at Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro.

We’ve got live blog coverage focused on the global coronavirus outbreak which you can find here:

Yesterday the Cook Political Report published their latest analysis of where the electoral college votes might go in November, and described it as looking like a “blue tsunami” for Joe Biden and the Democratic party.

There seems to be an increasing worry among Republican strategists that Donald Trump’s unpopularity and the bungled federal government’s response to Covid-19 is going to impact further down the ballot and hamper all Republican candidates.

One possible solution to this? Start campaigning without mentioning the president. Seung Min Kim has been looking at this phenomenon for the Washington Post, the Republicans in tight Senate races avoiding Trump in their campaign ads

This deliberate approach underscores the difficult position Republicans find themselves in as they head into an election season that looks increasingly grim for the party. The senators don’t want to clash with Trump and rile up his stable of loyal supporters whose votes they will need to be reelected, but they also don’t want to hug him tightly him and turn off more moderate voters whose views of the president have turned negative. “The sweet spot is finding real ways to show your independence and to do it in ways that don’t antagonize the base,” said Republican strategist Matt Gorman, vice president at the Republican consulting firm Targeted Victory.

Read it here: Washington Post – Trump Who? Senate GOP candidates in tight races avoid any mention of the president in campaign ads

One of the odder stories to crop up overnight was the news that a wooden sculpture of first lady Melania Trump near her home town of Sevnica, Slovenia, has been removed after being set on fire during the US independence day weekend.

The life-size wooden sculpture of first lady Melania Trump was unveiled in Rozno in July 2019.

The life-size wooden sculpture of first lady Melania Trump was unveiled in Rozno in July 2019. Photograph: Borut Zivulovic/Reuters

The sculpture by Brad Downey, a Berlin-based American artist, had Melania Trump wearing a pale blue wraparound coat like the one she wore at her husband’s inauguration. The matter has been reported to the police.

Slovenia does have history for this. Five months ago a Donald Trump wooden statue was burned down.

While Republicans like Brian Kemp might be desperate to see sports coming back into action, it’s not entirely clear that that they will be comfortable with the protests against systemic racism that are going to accompany them.

The “MLS is back” tournament got underway yesterday, and it started with players giving an emotional show of support to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Players of Columbus Crew participate in a Black Lives Matter pre-game ceremony before match between Orlando City and Inter Miami as part of MLS is back Tournament

Players of Columbus Crew participate in a Black Lives Matter pre-game ceremony before match between Orlando City and Inter Miami as part of MLS is back Tournament Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

A player group called Black Players for Change made its first public demonstration since coming together last month. Formerly the Black Players Coalition of MLS, the group changed its name this week while joining forces with the NFL’s Players Coalition founded by Anquan Boldin and Malcolm Jenkins.

MLS teams participate in a Black Lives Matter pre-game ceremony before match between Orlando City and Inter Miami

MLS teams participate in a Black Lives Matter pre-game ceremony before match between Orlando City and Inter Miami Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Before the match, players stood, fists raised, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the time that has become a symbol of police brutality, as it was the length of time Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s neck when he was killed.

More than 170 Black players, some wearing “Silence is Violence” T-shirts and Black Lives Matter face masks, took part in the pregame protest. “Really this protest is about fighting for racial equality and human rights,” organizer Justin Morrow of Toronto FC said.

“We’re standing with all of our brothers and sisters across the world – definitely across the North American sports landscape, but we see what’s happening over in Europe as well, how soccer players are fighting against racism there. We’re standing with all of our brothers and sisters to fight this fight.”

“It was very powerful to put my fist up and to be there on the field with so many people that are trying to make a change in this country. And that’s what we need to do,” Inter Miami’s Juan Agudelo said.

Players of MLS teams participate in a Black Lives Matter pre-game protest

Players of MLS teams participate in a Black Lives Matter pre-game protest Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

“This moment for us as a Black player pool, is that we can stand up, we can make this statement that’s come completely from us. It was so important that it was player led, it couldn’t have worked the other way around,” Morrow said.

“This moment of solidarity with our brothers and sisters fighting this battle for racial equality and human rights is so important. And we want to make sure that the narrative was player led, player driven in coming strictly from us.”

Yesterday, Atlanta’s mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an executive order mandating masks in Georgia’s largest city, defying Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to strongly encourage but not require face coverings. It’s another flashpoint between the pair who have already clashed recently over policing issues.

“Other cities have taken the approach that they are going to defy the governor’s executive order. Savannah has done it, some other cities have done it, and Atlanta is going to do it today,” Bottoms told MSNBC. “Because the fact of the matter is that Covid-19 is wreaking havoc on our cities, specifically black and brown communities with higher death rates.”

Yesterday Georgia again recorded new high numbers of daily confirmed cases and people hospitalized with Covid-19. The number of people in hospitals rose to more than 2,200 on Wednesday, while confirmed infections leaped by more than 3,400, bringing the state total to 104,000.

David Ferguson has written for us today a piece highly critical of Georgia governor Brian Kemp’s approach.

At no point has science or any interest in the facts driven the governor’s policy decisions. Now, as the Republican party belatedly caves to the necessity of wearing face coverings in public, Kemp has joined the pro-mask chorus – but only because otherwise there might not be a college football season. Because that’s what counts in Georgia: not our neighbors, especially black Georgians, getting decimated in the early stages of the outbreak, not the health and welfare of the state’s healthcare workers and their families, but the God-given right of all Georgia’s people to assemble in outdoor stadiums and watch black bodies break themselves on a field for sport.

Read it here: David Ferguson – In Brian Kemp’s Georgia, college football matters more than our neighbors’ health

Here’s a little reminder of what we can expect at the US supreme court today. The cases being decided today hinge on whether Congress and the Manhattan district attorney can see President Donald Trump’s taxes and other financial records.

Trump has fought bitterly to keep them a secret. Mark Sherman at Associated Press reports that the case is viewed as a test of the balance of power between the White House and Congress, as well as Trump’s assertion that he can’t be investigated while he holds office.

Don’t get too excited though. It is unclear, even if Trump loses, how much of the material would become public, since some records would go to a confidential grand-jury investigation in New York and the rest, sought by committees of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, could contain highly sensitive information not just about Trump, but also about other members of his family and businesses.

Trump has so far lost at every step of the court process, but the records have not been turned over pending a final court ruling.

The subpoenas are not directed at Trump himself. Instead, House committees want records from Deutsche Bank, Capital One and the Mazars USA accounting firm. Mazars is also the recipient of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s subpoena.

The fight over the congressional subpoenas has significant implications regarding a president’s power to refuse a formal request from Congress. In a separate fight at the federal appeals court in Washington over a congressional demand for the testimony of former White House counsel Don McGahn, the administration is making broad arguments that the president’s close advisers are “absolutely immune” from having to appear.

Good morning, and welcome to our coverage of US politics. Here’s a quick summary of where we are, and what we might be able to expect today.

  • Donald Trump criticized Dr Anthony Fauci and said the US was in a ‘good place’ as Covid-19 cases topped three million. More than 130,000 Americans have now died from coronavirus. At least five states — Missouri, Texas, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia — set single-day records for new infections
  • Even as infections surge, the administration is pushing for schools to reopen, with Trump threatening on Twitter to pull federal funding if they don’t
  • Tulsa’s top health official said a surge in Covid-19 cases there was probably connected to Trump’s rally in the city. The president still plans to hold his next campaign rally in New Hampshire on Saturday
  • Newly released transcripts of the minutes leading up to George Floyd’s death reveal he told officers “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times, only to have his plea dismissed by Derek Chauvin, the white officer pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck, who said: “It takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to talk.”
  • Alexander Vindman has retired from the US military, accusing Trump of running a “campaign of bullying, intimidation and retaliation” against him, after Lt Col Vindman acted as a key witness in the president’s impeachment case
  • We should get a US supreme court ruling on whether congressional committees and a New York prosecutor are allowed to see Donald Trump’s personal financial records. Presidents aren’t required by law to release their tax returns but every president since 1974 has made their private finances public in some form. Until Trump
  • At the White House, Trump has a roundtable with Hispanic community leaders this afternoon, and will sign an executive order on the White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative

I’m Martin Belam – you can email me at martin.belam@theguardian.com – and I’ll be with you for the next couple of hours.

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