Politics Headlines

OlegAlbinsky/iStockBy ANNE FLAHERTY, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration has picked Jacksonville, Florida -- the site of the planned GOP convention -- as one of three cities in the country where it will set up free "surge testing" sites to try to catch people who are infected with the virus but aren’t showing symptoms.

The idea behind the experimental push is to create pop-up sites to test some 5,000 people a day for five to 12 days in one area -- a kind of turbo-charged testing effort that would expose how widespread the virus is in that community.

The decision to pick Jacksonville would help health officials determine if a mid-sized community -- deemed moderately high risk but not necessarily ground zero of an outbreak -- can keep the virus at bay by flooding its residents with testing. But the location pick also could help President Donald Trump determine how widespread the virus already is before advancing plans for the convention.

Trump’s speech to accept the Republican nomination, slated for August, comes as virus case numbers in Florida across the state have doubled in recent weeks, and health officials have warned against large gatherings.

Trump said Tuesday it wasn't a done deal.

"When we signed a few weeks ago, it looked good," he said in an interview with "Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren," according to a transcript. "And now all of a sudden it's spiking up a little bit and that's going to go down. It really depends on the timing. Look, we're very flexible. We can do a lot of things, but we're very flexible."

Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary of Health who coordinates testing efforts, announced the decision in a phone call with reporters on Tuesday, but insisted that the political importance of the site never occurred to him.

Jacksonville was picked along with two other cities -- Edinburg, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana -- because they fit certain criteria, he said.

"I'm going to show you about my political knowledge: I had no idea that the Republican convention was even in Jacksonville, until I called the state health officer and we started talking about that and he called me. So that shows you where my mind is," Giroir said.

"But if you look at all the criteria, Jacksonville really meets those," he added.

"It makes no difference to me and I'm sure to Dr. (Deborah) Birx what's going on in any town" politically, Giroir said. "It just met the public health criteria."

Giroir said Jacksonville and the other communities were not picked because they had the highest percentage of people who were sick. Instead, he said, they were medium-sized communities that had seen evidence of community spread and had the existing infrastructure to test the concept of testing thousands of people in a short timespan.

"We want to make sure that we can get this right and do it with the appropriate turnaround, and that it makes a difference in those places," he said.

Giroir said testing at these surge sites might still take three to five days before a person gets a result.

The move comes as testing capacity has been strained with cases surging in Texas, Florida and Arizona. Giroir said the wait times have generally been kept to a few days. Montana and Washington, DC. have the longest turnaround for testing results -- between four and five days, he said. Another 24 states report results in three to four days, and the rest of the states are between two and three days, he said.

The new federal testing sites include First Coast High School in Jacksonville, as well as the Regency Mall and Frank A Peterson Academy.

Florida and Texas were particularly aggressive in reopening efforts this spring, compared with other states. The result has been a crush of new cases that has already strained local hospitals and has prompted local officials in those states to roll back reopenings.

Birx, the White House coordinator for coronavirus, blamed some the southern region for reopening too quickly. In an interview Tuesday with SiriusXM’s "Wharton Business Daily," she said they should have stuck closer to the criteria outlined by the White House this spring that allowed certain businesses to reopen only if community spread was flat or declining.

"When they opened, instead of gating closely through all of the recommended gates, a lot of individuals and a lot of businesses instead of driving 25 in a 25 mile an hour zone, stepped on the gas and started going 65," she said. "And it's really evident now in the spread of cases across most age groups."

Giroir has said repeatedly that the states can't tackle the crisis through testing only. He and other health officials say the most critical tool in fighting the virus is social distancing and wearing masks.

ABC News' Benjamin Gittleson contributed to this report.


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iStock/suman bhaumik(NEW YORK) -- BY: ABC News

The top U.S. general in the Middle East said Tuesday he was aware of the intelligence of a Russian bounty program targeting U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but while he said he found it “worrisome,” he said he did not believe it was tied to actual U.S. military deaths on the battlefield.

“I found it very worrisome, I just didn't find that there was a causative link there," Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, said in an interview with a small number of reporters.

‘The intel (intelligence) case wasn't proved to me -- it wasn't proved enough that I'd take it to a court of law -- and you know that's often true in battlefield intelligence,” said McKenzie.

“You see a lot of indicators, many of them are troubling many of them you act on. But, but in this case there just there wasn't enough there I sent the intelligence guys back to continue to dig on it, and I believe they're continuing to dig right now, but I just didn't see enough there to tell me that the circuit was closed in that regard.”

He added that force protection levels in Afghanistan are always high “whether the Russians are paying the Taliban or not." McKenzie said the insurgent group has always focused its attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, though that has ceased under the current U.S. peace agreement with the Taliban.

“Over the past several years, the Taliban have done their level best to carry out operations against us, so nothing is practically changed on the ground in terms of force protection, because we have a very high force protection standard now, and that force protection standard's going to continue into the future,” said McKenzie.

The Trump administration has found itself under fire following the recent disclosure by U.S. officials that U.S. intelligence had found evidence of a Russian intelligence program that paid Taliban fighters to target American forces in Afghanistan has been controversial. A military official told ABC News that information about the program was informed by a raid on a Taliban location in January found a large amount of American cash.

President Donald Trump and other administration officials have said he was not personally, verbally briefed on the intelligence because the U.S. intelligence community had not fully "verified" the information. The Associated Press and the New York Times have have that the information was included in the written version of the President's Daily Intelligence Brief in late February.

Democratic members of Congress have countered that he should have been briefed regardless of whether the intelligence was fully analyzed given that it involved the safety of American troops.

McKenzie indicated that “reports of this nature have been out there for a while, but it was very very low levels of authenticity about them. And so you just continue to plow through them and sort of as you go forward.”

The general said Russian motivations in Afghanistan are influenced by the defeat of Russian forces in that country and always take an "opportunity to throw sand in our gears when they can and make life uncomfortable for us."

"We should always remember the Russians are not our friends, they are not our friends and they are not our friends in Afghanistan and they do not wish us well," said McKenzie. "And we just need to remember that at all times, when we evaluate that intelligence."

The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan now stands at 8,600 the number agreed to under the peace deal with the Taliban. The administration is considering further reductions in the U.S. troop presence in that country.

For now, McKenzie said he will have the opportunity to present his advice on the matter, but that the ultimate decision to drop the number of troops even lower will be decided by policymakers.

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ABC News(WILMINGTON, Delaware) -- BY: MOLLY NAGLE and JOHN VERHOVEK

With the November election fewer than four months away and the number of coronavirus cases again surging in the United States, former vice president Joe Biden is preparing for a range of realities when it comes to dealing with the virus if he is elected president, according to an official.

"I would say the vice president and the team are working through multiple scenarios. One of those scenarios would involve the existence of a vaccine, in which case, one of the biggest tasks would be the broad-based manufacture and equitable distribution of that vaccine which is an enormous logistical challenge," the official said on a call Tuesday morning.

When asked if Biden’s Public Health advisery Board had advised the former vice president on the likelihood of a vaccine being widely available for distribution by the time he would potentially take office, the official cautioned there is no guarantee that will be the case.

"They've advised the vice president that you know there have been encouraging signs around some of the candidate vaccines but that nothing is a sure thing and that we can't count on that," the official said.

"So we have to make provision for there being a vaccine and do the heavy lifting of what it's going to take once it's identified to get it to everyone, and we also have to make provision for there not being a vaccine and to have to live in a world where we're still trying to get the pandemic under control," the official added.

The comment came in tandem with the release of Biden’s new plan to bolster the U.S. supply chain of critical goods needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, which his campaign says will "marshal all of the tools of the federal government" to procure the necessary supplies to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, distribute a potential vaccine for the virus and shift the production of relevant materials back to U.S. soil.

The plan reiterates many of the principles and priorities Biden has outlined in speeches and previous policies, including the more aggressive use of the Defense Production Act to manufacture Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for front-line workers.

If elected, Biden would implement a 100-day review immediately after being sworn into office "to identify critical national security risks across America’s international supply chains and will ask Congress to enact a mandatory quadrennial Critical Supply Chain Review to institute this process permanently," according to a fact sheet on the plan distributed by the campaign on Tuesday.

Biden’s plan would also use the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to make sure vaccine production is adequate and work to undo Trump administration tax incentives to encourage on-shore pharmaceutical production.

"The goal here is to have a combination of sufficient domestic production, plus sufficient stockpile, plus sufficient surge capacity. And how you allocate across those three will differ depending on the critical good. And that is fundamentally going to be determined by the outcome of that 100 day review," the official told reporters.

The plan includes specific language on working with allies across the globe as well, to better prepare supply chains and production of required equipment, reducing the reliance on countries like Russia and China.

"Just like the United States itself, no U.S. ally should be dependent on critical supplies from countries like China and Russia. That means developing new approaches on supply chain security — both individually and collectively — and updating trade rules to ensure we have strong understandings with our allies on how to best ensure supply chain security for all of us," Biden’s new plan states.

The new policy comes as the United States continues to contend with rising case numbers in over 35 states. Since the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in China in December, the United States has become the country worst-affected by the virus, with more than 2.9 million diagnosed cases and at least 130,430 deaths, according to the most recent count.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.Biden preparing for 'multiple scenarios' on COVID-19 vaccine: Official

(WILMINGTON, Delaware) -- BY: MOLLY NAGLE and JOHN VERHOVEK

With the November election fewer than four months away and the number of coronavirus cases again surging in the United States, former vice president Joe Biden is preparing for a range of realities when it comes to dealing with the virus if he is elected president, according to an official.

"I would say the vice president and the team are working through multiple scenarios. One of those scenarios would involve the existence of a vaccine, in which case, one of the biggest tasks would be the broad-based manufacture and equitable distribution of that vaccine which is an enormous logistical challenge," the official said on a call Tuesday morning.

When asked if Biden’s Public Health advisery Board had advised the former vice president on the likelihood of a vaccine being widely available for distribution by the time he would potentially take office, the official cautioned there is no guarantee that will be the case.

"They've advised the vice president that you know there have been encouraging signs around some of the candidate vaccines but that nothing is a sure thing and that we can't count on that," the official said.

"So we have to make provision for there being a vaccine and do the heavy lifting of what it's going to take once it's identified to get it to everyone, and we also have to make provision for there not being a vaccine and to have to live in a world where we're still trying to get the pandemic under control," the official added.

The comment came in tandem with the release of Biden’s new plan to bolster the U.S. supply chain of critical goods needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, which his campaign says will "marshal all of the tools of the federal government" to procure the necessary supplies to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, distribute a potential vaccine for the virus and shift the production of relevant materials back to U.S. soil.

The plan reiterates many of the principles and priorities Biden has outlined in speeches and previous policies, including the more aggressive use of the Defense Production Act to manufacture Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for front-line workers.

If elected, Biden would implement a 100-day review immediately after being sworn into office "to identify critical national security risks across America’s international supply chains and will ask Congress to enact a mandatory quadrennial Critical Supply Chain Review to institute this process permanently," according to a fact sheet on the plan distributed by the campaign on Tuesday.

Biden’s plan would also use the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to make sure vaccine production is adequate and work to undo Trump administration tax incentives to encourage on-shore pharmaceutical production.

"The goal here is to have a combination of sufficient domestic production, plus sufficient stockpile, plus sufficient surge capacity. And how you allocate across those three will differ depending on the critical good. And that is fundamentally going to be determined by the outcome of that 100 day review," the official told reporters.

The plan includes specific language on working with allies across the globe as well, to better prepare supply chains and production of required equipment, reducing the reliance on countries like Russia and China.

"Just like the United States itself, no U.S. ally should be dependent on critical supplies from countries like China and Russia. That means developing new approaches on supply chain security — both individually and collectively — and updating trade rules to ensure we have strong understandings with our allies on how to best ensure supply chain security for all of us," Biden’s new plan states.

The new policy comes as the United States continues to contend with rising case numbers in over 35 states. Since the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in China in December, the United States has become the country worst-affected by the virus, with more than 2.9 million diagnosed cases and at least 130,430 deaths, according to the most recent count.

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ABC News(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- BY: JOSHUA HOYOS and CRISTINA CORUJO

Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vazquez is responding to allegations that she fired a government minister after the official had called for an independent investigation into how aid was distributed in the wake of January's earthquakes.

A report from the newspaper El Nuevo Dia said that hours before being fired by Vazquez, the now former Justice Secretary Dennise Longo had recommended the appointment of an independent special prosecutor to look into the governor and close associates.

According to the paper, on Friday Longo made a recommendation to the island's Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor's Panel to look into alleged irregularities in how aid earmarked to January's earthquake relief efforts were distributed.

According to the Puerto Rico's Center for Investigative Journalism, that recommendation was what caused the governor to ask for the justice minister's resignation.

ABC News has not independently confirmed the reporting by the two news agencies.

Sen. Juan Dalmau filed a resolution in Puerto Rico's Senate to have Vazquez investigated.

On Tuesday morning, Vazquez had a press conference where she said she didn't know about any investigation against her. She defended her actions by saying that Longo had "intervened inadequately in a federal investigation involving the Health Department."

"I don't tolerate injustices nor vicious attacks to integrity," Vazquez said.

Vazquez says the federal investigation is related to the use of Medicaid fund during 2014-2019. During that period, Longo's mother worked at the Health Department.

Despite Vazquez's allegations Longo denies that she intervened in the investigation.

"The governor is making allegations that I was involve on investigations that I didn't participate," Longo said in an interview with the local radio show WKAQ 580.

Prior to appearing before the Puerto Rican people, the governor fought back in a statement Monday night saying she was not aware of the recommendation and she would let her resume speak for itself.

"I want to make it completely clear again that, as governor, I have given total independence to said agency [Department of Justice] and I was never notified of any investigation against me, therefore, the determination to withdraw the trust to the former secretary has no relation to the allegations," she said.

Nevertheless, the calls for Vazquez to resign have already started.

The island was rocked by a series of earthquakes including a magnitude 6.4 tremor on January 7. A week later, a 43,000 square foot warehouse in the southern city of Ponce was discovered filled with filled with supplies, including thousands of cases of water, believed to have been from when Hurricane Maria struck the island in 2017.

Vazquez quickly fired the island's director of emergency management and called for an investigation. Food, water, diapers, baby formula, cots and tarps were all stored at the warehouse.

That incident sparked protests outside the Governor's Mansion in San Juan calling for Vazquez's resignation.

Vazquez previously served as the justice secretary when Gov. Ricardo Rossello, was ousted from his position last year following a scandal surrounding a leaked Telegram chat group that sparked island-wide protests.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- BY: ALLISON PECORIN

Sen. Tammy Duckworth issued a late-night Twitter clapback at right-leaning TV personality Tucker Carlson Monday evening after he questioned her love of America.

The war veteran, who lost both of her legs while serving in Iraq and now uses a wheelchair and prosthetic legs, challenged Carlson to "walk a mile in her legs."

Late Monday evening, Carlson featured Duckworth, a senator from Illinois, on his evening show on Fox, criticizing her and other Democratic leaders and arguing that they "despise this country."

Carlson called Duckworth a "deeply silly unimpressive person" in his newscast before featuring a clip of Duckworth on CNN Sunday calling for a "national dialogue" on removing statues of George Washington and other founding figures who were slave owners. Later in the clip, and not shown during Carlson’s segment, Duckworth adds that she thinks "we should listen to everybody" on the subject.

Following the clip, Carlson argued that Duckworth and other politicians on the left side of the aisle "actually hate America."

Duckworth lost both of her legs in Iraq when a Blackhawk helicopter she was co-piloting was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. She is a purple heart recipient.

In response to Carlson’s criticism, Duckworth tweeted: "Does @TuckerCarlson want to walk a mile in my legs and then tell me whether or not I love America?"

Duckworth has garnered attention in recent weeks as a possible vice presidential pick for Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden.

She is the lone vice presidential contender with military experience.

Carlson said during his show that he generally tries to resist claims that challenge patriotism.

"It's long been considered out of bounds to question a person’s patriotism -- it’s a very strong charge and we try not to make it," Carlson said, before telling his audience that the only logical conclusion to draw is that "these people actually hate America."

Following the TV spot, some users took to Twitter to criticize Carlson for his comments, calling for an apology and, in some cases, a resignation.

"This is shameful. Former Lt. Col. Duckworth lost both of her legs in the service of her country, earning a Purple Heart, before she became a US Senator,” tweeted University of Alabama law professor and MSNBC contributor Joyce White Vance. "He owes her a public apology."

But a fellow Illinois lawmaker defended Carlson, who last night stated "you're not supposed to criticize Tammy Duckworth in any way because she once served in the military."

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who is also a military veteran, said Duckworth should expect scrutiny as she rises in the ranks of possible vice presidential contenders.

Does @TuckerCarlson want to walk a mile in my legs and then tell me whether or not I love America?

— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) July 7, 2020


"Your service is commendable but does not immunize you from criticism especially as you inject yourself into the VP lists," Kinzinger tweeted Tuesday.

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Official White House Photo by Andrea HanksBy LUCIEN BRUGGEMAN, NADINE SHUBAILAT and JOHN SANTUCCI, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A much-anticipated memoir penned by President Donald Trump's niece offers a personal and damning account of the rise of the man who now occupies the Oval Office, according to a copy of the forthcoming book obtained by ABC News.

Over the course of 210 pages, Mary Trump, the daughter of the president's deceased elder brother, Fred Trump Jr., inserts several private and embarrassing anecdotes into the broadly known narrative of President Trump's life, details of which are sure to embolden his critics and enrage his allies.

Mary Trump's account is unabashedly tied to the current political climate. With less than four months until the 2020 election, the president's niece warned, "If he is afforded a second term, it would be the end of American democracy."

The book, titled, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, has emerged as the latest behind-the-scenes glimpse into the controversial leader. After weeks of legal jockeying, publisher Simon & Schuster announced this week that it would release the book on July 14 -- two weeks earlier than planned -- due to "high demand and extraordinary interest."

Based in part on personal memories and conversations with family members, according to an author's note, Mary Trump, a trained psychologist, wrote that she "also relied on legal documents, bank statements, tax returns, private journals, family documents, correspondence, emails, texts, photographs, and other records."

"No one knows how Donald came to be who he is better than his own family. Unfortunately, almost all of them remain silent out of loyalty or fear. I'm not hindered by either of these," Mary Trump wrote in her prologue. "I hope this book will end the practice of referring to Donald's 'strategies' or 'agendas,' as if he operates according to any organizing principles. He doesn't."

In Mary Trump's telling, the president's worldview was shaped at a young age by his father, Fred Trump Sr. -- her grandfather -- whom she called "a high-functioning sociopath" and served "to encourage Donald's reckless hyperbole and unearned confidence that hid Donald's pathological weaknesses and insecurities."

Near the end of his father's life, Mary Trump claimed that the vast family estate became a battleground for Trump and his siblings. She accused him of coming up "with a plan to betray his father and steal vast sums of money from his siblings."

"He secretly approached two of my grandfather's longest-serving employees [a lawyer and accountant], and enlisted them to draft a codicil to my grandfather's will that would put Donald in complete control of Fred's estate, including the empire and all its holdings, after he died," she wrote.

Mary Trump wrote that her aunts and uncle were suspicious, and that her grandfather refused to sign off on the change when Trump approached him -- adding her grandmother said, "it simply didn't pass the smell test."

The real financial battles did not occur until after Fred Trump Sr. died in 1999. According to Mary Trump, her grandfather had revised his will to essentially disinherit her and her brother -- "instead of splitting what would have been my [late] father's 20 percent share of his estate between me and my brother, he had divided it evenly among his four other [living] children," leaving her and her brother a relatively small inheritance equivalent to those given the other grandchildren. When they sought legal action, Mary Trump wrote, the family in turn got spiteful, taking away medical insurance that they had had for their entire lives through their grandfather's company.

"It was merely a way to cause us more pain and make us more desperate," she wrote. The family eventually settled, according to Mary Trump, who claimed the value of their settlement should have been much larger as her settlement was based on an undervalued estimate of the total estate.

Mary Trump also notes in the book that she was a source of information provided to the New York Times regarding her uncle's tax returns, which showed Trump's businesses were in the red throughout the 1980s and 1990s, at times hemorrhaging tens of millions of dollars, according to the Times report, which was based on IRS tax transcripts from 1985 to 1994.

Mary Trump also wrote that she briefly worked for the president's company, The Trump Organization, in the mid-1990s and was shortly hired by him to specifically assist him with writing his third memoir, The Art of the Comeback, although she was soon replaced. She also claimed that while she was wearing a bathing suit during a visit to Mar-a-Lago, Trump commented "Holy s---, Mary. You're stacked!" Which led Marla Maples, then Trump's second wife, to slap him lightly on the arm, according to Mary Trump's account in the book.

During the summer of 2015, when he announced his bid for the presidency, Mary Trump wrote that she "didn't take it seriously." The family overwhelmingly felt it was a business-minded stunt, according to the book.

"'He's a clown,' my aunt Maryanne said during one of our regular lunches at the time," Mary Trump wrote. "'This will never happen.' I agreed. We talked about how his reputation as a faded reality star and failed businessman would doom his run. 'Does anybody even believe the bulls--- that he's a self-made man? What has he even accomplished on his own?' I asked. 'Well,' Maryanne said, as dry as the Sahara, 'he has had 5 bankruptcies.'"

On the campaign trail, when Trump made overtures to the evangelical community, his sister scoffed, Mary Trump wrote.

"Maryanne, a devout Catholic since her conversion 5 decades earlier, was incensed," according to the book. "'What the f--- is wrong with them?' she said. 'The only time Donald went to church was when the cameras were there. It's mind boggling. He has no principles. None!'"

As president, Mary Trump concluded, the culmination of his experiences in family and professional life has led to his "aberrant behavior" in office.

"Donald is completely unprepared to solve his own problems or adequately cover his tracks," she wrote. "Donald's checkered personal history and his unique personality flaws make him extremely vulnerable to manipulation by smarter, more powerful men."

Lawyers for the president's younger brother, Robert Trump and Judge Maryanne Trump Barry did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment. The White House also did not respond to an ABC News request.

For his part, President Trump has previously said his niece is "not allowed to write a book," telling Axios last month that she signed a "very powerful" nondisclosure agreement that "covers everything" as it relates to her settlement with the family estate.

Robert Trump filed suit against Mary Trump and Simon & Schuster two weeks ago seeking to block the book's publication on the grounds that it would violate a nondisclosure agreement Mary Trump signed when she settled her lawsuit over her grandfather's will. A New York appellate judge held that Simon & Schuster could not be barred from releasing the book. A hearing on the restraining order against Mary Trump is scheduled to take place on Friday.

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yorkfoto/iStockBy MEG CUNNINGHAM, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Yet another round of primaries are coming to a close Tuesday in New Jersey and Delaware, which both delayed their voting due to the coronavirus pandemic.

New Jersey opted to mail postage-paid absentee ballots to every one of the state's 3.6 million registered Democrats and Republicans, while unaffiliated voters can request an absentee ballot on their own. New Jerseyans are casting ballots for the presidential race, U.S. House races and other local races further down the ballot.

Ballot drop boxes are available for voters casting a ballot in the primary races, many of which have closely contested Congressional battles afoot, with limited in-person voting around the state.

In Delaware, solely the presidential primary, which has all but been decided, is on the ballot. Voters in Delaware were not mailed ballots like those in New Jersey, but absentee ballot provisions were expanded to allow voters who did not want to vote in-person to request an absentee ballot through the mail.

New Jersey primaries largely dictated by ex-Democrat, Rep. Jeff Van Drew


Jeff Van Drew, R-N.J., may be largely absent from the national narrative, but he is still the star of the show in South Jersey, where a five-person Democratic race has narrowed to two front-runners bidding to challenge the one-term congressman.

Brigid Callahan Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State University, states her opposition to Van Drew loud and clear on her campaign's website: "Jeff Van Drew betrayed our trust. Join Brigid Callahan Harrison to turn South Jersey blue, again."

Callahan Harrison is running against Amy Kennedy, a former public school teacher and mental health advocate. Kennedy, who is married to former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy, is tapping into her familial connections as the campaign comes to a heated close.

Not unlike many other primaries, both of the candidates seem to be more focused on drawing comparisons between their opponents and Van Drew versus contrasts on each other.

Kennedy's campaign, according to her website, argues that Harrison is "cut from the same cloth as Jeff Van Drew" and "cannot be trusted."

Callahan Harrison is making similar claims about trust when it comes to Kennedy, accusing Kennedy's husband Patrick of reportedly funding a newly created outside group to support Kennedy’s bid.

Kennedy launched her bid after Van Drew made his party switch, setting in motion the battle for party support between the two Democrats. She nabbed an endorsement from Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and the Atlantic County Democrats, the largest Democratic coalition in the state.

Meanwhile Callahan Harrison's early entry into the race gave her the opportunity to scoop some key support from political figures around South Jersey including Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., businessman George Norcross and from county parties in six of the eight counties in her district.

Health care dominates for Democrats in the 3rd Congressional District

Next door in the state's 3rd Congressional District, Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, one of 30 Democrats in districts President Donald Trump won in 2016, might be unopposed in his primary next week, but faces one of the toughest reelections just a few months from now.

The freshman Democrat flipped his district, which stretches from the suburbs of Philadelphia to the Jersey Shore, from red to blue in 2018 by the narrowest of margins -- less than two points -- largely on the issue of health care. Now, as he sits on the front lines of the House's oversight of the response to the coronavirus pandemic as a member of the bipartisan committee on the coronavirus, he told ABC News that the coronavirus has "reinforced" what brought him into the political sphere in the first place.

"Every town hall that I've done -- 22 town halls that I've done -- I consistently hear about health care," he said. "This only exacerbates the concerns that led me to run for office."

Kim said he is seeing evidence of a suburban revolt against Republicans, in part, driven by the president's response to the virus.

"I know that a number of people that I've talked to who were Republicans and supported Trump, a number of them kind of relayed to me, after the president's comments about ingesting Lysol, that's just kind of the final straw for them," he said. "I am consistently seeing that type of shift - this recognition - that this president has failed in his responsibilities in securing us during this crisis and this pandemic."

Two Republicans are vying to take on Kim in November: businessman David Richter and former Burlington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs.

Richter had originally filed in the 2nd district to run against then-Democrat Van Drew, but hopped districts after Van Drew's party switch. A Trump ally, Richter launched his bid for Congress at the president's Jan. 28 rally in Wildwood, New Jersey, and has touted endorsements from the National Rifle Association, among others.

Gibbs, who lost her reelection bid to the Burlington County Board of Freeholders in 2018, has endorsements from the county's Republican Committee, state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr and the GOP-aligned Main Street Partnership PAC, which advocates for centrist policy proposals and bipartisan legislation.

A number of progressive challengers are running against Democrats in other districts across the state: in the 5th Congressional District, Arati Kreibich, who is backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, is challenging Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who flipped the seat in 2016. In the 6th Congressional District, two progressives are vying to unseat House Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.

In the 7th, state Senate Minority Leader, Tom Kean Jr., who endorsed Callahan Harrison, is hoping for a primary win to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski.

Ballots are due back into the hands of New Jersey elections officials by 7 p.m. local time on Tuesday. Drop boxes will be available, as well as limited in-person voting at polling centers.

In Delaware, at least six polling places will be operational in each county. Absentee ballots must be submitted by 8 p.m. Tuesday to count.

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ABC NewsBy STEPHANIE EBBS, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The current state of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. is "really not good," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert, said Monday amid an alarming rise in new cases and hospitalizations.

His comments were in stark contrast with those of President Donald Trump, who has sought to play down the danger in states where governors and mayors are struggling to control outbreaks after reopening -- outbreaks the president has called "embers."

Fauci said the current state of the pandemic in the U.S. is worsening in part because, unlike Europe, states and cities in the U.S. moved to reopen before the country sufficiently lowered the number of cases.

Several states in the south and west have seen surges in the number of people testing positive in recent weeks.

The positivity rate in California has reached 6.8%, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday, and Arizona has reached 100,000 cases with concerns rising about a lack of available ICU beds in the state.

Ten states hit a record high number of new COVID-19 cases over the weekend and nine hit record numbers of current hospitalizations, according to state data compiled by The New York Times and The COVID Tracking Project.

"The current state is really not good, in the sense that, as you know, we had been in a situation we were averaging about 20,000 new cases, a day. And then a series of circumstances associated with various states and cities trying to open up in the sense of getting back to some form of normality has led to a situation where we now have record breaking cases. Two days ago it was at 57,500. So within a period of a week and a half. We've almost doubled the number of cases," Fauci said in a livestream with National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins.

"We are still knee deep in the first wave of this. And I would say this would not be considered a wave. It was a surge, or resurgence of infections superimposed upon a baseline, Francis, that really never got down to where we wanted to go. If you look at the graphs from Europe. Europe, the European Union as an entity, it went up, and then came down to baseline. Now they're having little blips, as you might expect, as they try to reopen, we went up, never came down to baseline, and now we're surging back up," Fauci said.

"So, it's a serious situation that we have to address immediately," he warned.

https://t.co/MjUNsLdMXN

— NIH (@NIH) July 6, 2020

Fauci said regardless of where you are Americans should continue to wear masks inside and outside, social distance, and avoid crowds. On the younger average age of new cases, Fauci said more of the new cases are in younger people, in part because they are sick of being at home and are returning to social activities, restaurants and bars, but that they are not immune.

"Young people should not feel that they're invulnerable to serious consequences," he said, adding that even if young people get infected with no symptoms that doesn't mean it isn't a problem.

"By getting infected they are propagating the outbreak, because inadvertently or innocently, they could infect someone, who'd infect someone, and then all of a sudden someone's grandmother or grandfather, or aunt who's getting chemotherapy for breast cancer gets infected. So although you think you're isolated in a vacuum you're not, you're part of the propagation of the pandemic so it's your responsibility to yourself, as well as to society, to avoid infection. That's the message, I know it's difficult to get out to young people, but they really need to understand that," Fauci said.

On the tension around the current outbreaks, Fauci said Americans should not look at public health efforts and reopening the economy as at odds with each other but there should be a balance of all the parameters to use protecting public health as a way to reopen.

"I hope they appreciate it, that rather than looking at the public health effort, versus economic opening, as if they were opposing forces," he said. "They're not. We should use the public health effort as a vehicle and a pathway to get to safe reopening, it's not an obstacle. It's a pathway to do that. So we've got to make sure that we don't create this binary type thing it's us against them, it's not. We're all in it together."

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- BY: MEREDITH DELISO

President Donald Trump lashed out at NASCAR's only full-time Black driver on Twitter Monday morning, demanding he apologize for an investigation into an apparent noose found in the driver's garage.

In the same tweet, the president also blasted NASCAR for banning Confederate flags from all raceways.

A Richard Petty Motorsports crew person saw and reported an apparent noose on June 21 in a Talladega Superspeedway garage that was assigned to driver Bubba Wallace and his team.

Wallace has been vocal about his support for the Black Lives Matter movement and pushed NASCAR to remove Confederate flags from all sanctioned events, a decision the company announced shortly before the crew member found the rope.

NASCAR alerted the FBI and the agency conducted an investigation. Investigators determined it was a pull rope fashioned like a noose and had been there since October before Wallace was assigned to the garage.

Wallace said he stood by the FBI's conclusion and NASCAR's statement of support, but Trump on Monday tweeted that the driver should apologize to everyone involved and called the incident "a hoax." He added that the noose investigation and the decision to remove Confederate flags from raceways "caused the lowest ratings EVER," without any citation.

Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2020


On Saturday, NBC earned a 1.1 rating and 1.692 million viewers, including streaming, for NASCAR’s Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis, making it the most-watched Xfinity race from the location in three years, according to NBC Sports and Nielsen ratings.

Wallace responded to Trump on Twitter later in the afternoon with a message to "To the next generation and little ones following my foot steps."

"Always deal with the hate being thrown at you with LOVE! Love over hate every day. Love should come naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate. Even when it's HATE from the POTUS...Love wins," he said in the tweeted image.

To the next generation and little ones following my foot steps..#LoveWins pic.twitter.com/tVaV3pkdLe

— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) July 6, 2020


Over the last few weeks, other NASCAR drivers and NASCAR President Steve Phelps have shown Wallace their support. Before the start of the race following the apparent noose's discovery, various drivers helped push Wallace's car to the starting line in a symbolic gesture.

On Monday, NASCAR driver Tyler Reddick fired back at the president with a tweet saying drivers didn't need an apology.

"We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support," he tweeted, along with a gif that showed footage from a play where a character portrayed by Denzel Washington closes the door on a white character.

When asked about the tweet during an appearance on Fox News later in the morning, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the president. She brought up examples of questionable hate crime reports such as the case of Jussie Smollett, who has been accused of staging a racist and homophobic attack on himself.

"The president is making a broader point that judging before the facts are out is not acceptable," McEnany contended.

During the White House news conference later in the afternoon, McEnany ignored reporters' questions about Trumps tweet and falsly claimed that Wallace didn't accept the FBI's findings.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, however, defended NASCAR's decision to remove the Confederate flag from events. During an interview with Fox News radio Monday, the Republican senator said the flag was "not a good way to grow business."

Graham added that Wallace had nothing to apologize for.

"When there was a chance that it was a threat against Bubba Wallace they all rallied to Bubba's side," the senator said, referring to other drivers. "So I would be looking to celebrate that kind of attitude more than being worried about it being a hoax."

pic.twitter.com/5noPid5zqO

— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 24, 2020


NASCAR's Phelps has said the company would continue to investigate the incident, and Wallace tweeted on June 24 that he was grateful the community and investigators took the situation seriously.

"Make no mistake, though some will try, this should not detract from the show of unity we had on Monday and the progress we've made as a sport to be a more welcoming environment for all," he tweeted.

ABC News' Jordyn Phelps contributed to this report.

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Official White House Photo by Tia DufourBy JORDYN PHELPS and BEN GITTLESON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- As the country’s battle against the coronavirus continued through the Fourth of July weekend, President Donald Trump continued to make false claims in downplaying the threat posed by the virus as he instead sought to cast a movement to remove statues immortalizing controversial figures in history as the most pressing threat to the nation.

But while the president looked to pin the danger to the country on an “angry mob” looking to “tear down our statues” and “erase our history,” the country remains locked in a struggle against the coronavirus that has already claimed some 130,000 American lives and climbing, with the country setting new records of daily reported cases.

The president continued to cast the rise in cases as a product of more testing and falsely claimed that “99 percent of which are totally harmless.”

It’s a claim that top infectious disease expert Dr. Ashish Jha said on ABC News’ Good Morning America is “clearly not true” and that the reason for the increase in cases is attributable to “more infections not because we’re doing more testing.”

“Ninety-nine percent of cases are not harmless. Ten percent of people end up getting hospitalized. If you are hospitalized, it's certainly not harmless. A chunk of those people end up spending quite a bit of time in the ICU and a proportion end up dying so it's not harmless for any of those folks,” Shah, the Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said.

Trump's attempts to play down the threat of COVID-19 comes as his administration comes under fire for his handling of the coronavirus, as many states which he urged to reopen now see surging caseloads that threaten to overwhelm hospitals in some cases.

Nearly half of all 50 states have seen a rise in infections in recent weeks, with some -- including Arizona, California and Florida -- reporting daily records.

More than 49,000 new cases of COVID-19 were identified in the United States on Sunday -- just under the country's record high of more than 54,000 new cases identified Thursday, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, another claim by Trump on when a COVID-19 vaccine could become available -- contrasted sharply with the timeline laid out for months by top government and outside public health experts.

During a Fourth of July address in Washington on Saturday, Trump said "we'll likely have a therapeutic and/or vaccine solution long before the end of the year."

The commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Stephen Hahn, on Sunday refused to back up Trump's assertion -- which contradicted public health officials' predictions a vaccine could be available at the end of the year or early next year, at the earliest.

"I can't predict when a vaccine will be available," Hahn said on ABC's This Week, adding, "Yes, we are seeing unprecedented speed for the development of a vaccine. But … our solemn promise to the American people is that we will make a decision based upon the data and science on a vaccine, with respect to the safety and effectiveness of that vaccine."

He also pointedly did not defend Trump's false claim about 99% of cases being "totally harmless."

"What I'd say is, you know, any case, we don't want to have in this country," Hahn said in the interview with ABC's This Week co-anchor Martha Raddatz. "Any death, any case is tragic, and we want to do everything we can to prevent that."

While Hahn wouldn’t confirm the president’s dubious claim, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows continued to defend the president’s remark without offering evidence to support the figure.

“When you start to look at the stats and the numbers we have, the amount of testing, the vast majority of people are safe from this,” Meadows said Monday morning on Fox and Friends, claiming that “the risks are extremely low” for people without co-morbidities: “The president is right with that and the facts and statistics back us up there.”

Trump's false and defiant comments came as he defied recommendations from federal and local health officials to not hold two massive gatherings at Mount Rushmore and in Washington to celebrate Independence Day.

As thousands of Americans packed together closely in South Dakota and outside the White House -- few wearing masks -- the president's re-election campaign again flouted health officials' calls to avoid large gatherings by announcing it would hold a rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, this weekend.

Unlike a campaign rally the president held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last month, this one is scheduled to take place outdoors, which health officials say generally carries less risk than large events held inside, and the campaign says supporters are “strongly encouraged" to wear masks.

Even so, as with the Tulsa rally, attendees are required to agree to a disclaimer noting that they "voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19."

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YinYang/iStockBy DEVIN DWYER, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday that states can require their presidential electors to support the candidate chosen by a majority of voters and punish electors who go rogue.

The decision, just five months before the 2020 presidential election, reduces the chance of Electoral College chaos in the event of a close outcome and possibility that some members may cast ballots contrary to vote totals in their states.

"The Constitution's text and the nation's history both support allowing a state to enforce an elector's pledge to support his party's nominee -- and the state voters' choice -- for president," writes Justice Elena Kagan in the opinion.

The decision was a loss for several so-called "faithless electors," from Washington and Colorado, who were penalized by their states in 2016 after voting for a Republican presidential candidate against state laws requiring them to back the popular vote winner -- the Democrat, Hillary Clinton.

They were among seven delegates nationwide who cast ballots at the Electoral College for candidates they were not pledged to support.

Thirty-two states have laws requiring presidential electors to cast ballots for the popular-vote winner; fifteen of those impose sanctions on electors who violate their pledge.

"The states have devised mechanisms to ensure that the electors they appoint vote for the presidential candidate their citizens have preferred. With two partial exceptions, every State appoints a slate of electors selected by the political party whose candidate has won the State’s popular vote. Most States also compel electors to pledge in advance to support the nominee of that party," Kagan writes. "This Court upheld such a pledge requirement decades ago, rejecting the argument that the Constitution 'demands absolute freedom for the elector to vote his own choice."

The plaintiff electors, appealing sanctions imposed in 2016, argued that states have the power to appoint electors but cannot control how they vote, giving them broad discretion as representatives even if they take a pledge to vote a certain way.

The states argued that, implicit with the constitutional power to appoint electors, is the power to remove them for any reason -- especially in cases where they risk corrupting the democratic process.

There have been 180 faithless votes for either president or vice president out of 23,000 cast in the nation's 244 year history, Kagan noted. Rogue electors have never impacted the outcome of an election, but in a very close race could be critical.

“At a time when faith in government institutions is already dangerously low, it is a relief that the Supreme Court has affirmed that states can impose penalties on electors who cast ballots in the Electoral College that violate state law and contradict the votes of the people they represent," said Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, a nonpartisan nonprofit voter advocacy group.

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ABC NewsBy MATT SEYLER and MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger sat down with ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz Tuesday to talk racial tensions, deterring China and Russia, and keeping the Corps away from politics.

Here is their discussion from the interview, which aired Sunday:

Banning the Confederate flag, examining possible racial disparities

As debate over Army installations named after Confederates rages, the Marine Corps, which has no such bases, has led the services in banning displays of the Confederate battle flag.

"It became pretty clear that some symbols were being hijacked by organizations and used a very bad, negative way," Berger said. "The Confederate battle flag was part of that."

The order to remove depictions of the flag on Marine bases, made by Berger in February, took effect in early June. Berger said he anticipated resistance from some Marines who see it as part of their heritage, but that such divisive symbols can undermine unit cohesion.

"We're not erasing history by any means. It's a symbol. But the bigger symbol is the things that draw the team together so that we can operate with that kind of implicit trust. We have a flag -- it's the American flag. We have the Marine Corps colors. We have things that unify us -- we'll be able to operate as a team," Berger said. "Anything that gets in the way of that is a problem."

When asked about data that show African American Marines are more likely to receive a guilty finding for court martials and non-judicial punishments, Berger was careful not to take correlation as causation, and vowed to review the matter.

"Those things to us are facts. They're not debatable -- it's data. So now we have to trace back what does it actually mean? I am more patient in jumping to a conclusion now than probably I was 15, 20 years ago," Berger said.

Not your father's Marine Corps?

In a February Twitter thread, Berger listed social issues such as paid maternity leave and encouraging women to enter combat roles as his "most important matters for immediate execution."

"Too many leaders ... the more senior you get the more you talk, the less you listen," Berger told Raddatz. "I am trying to be more disciplined and listen more."

Berger said many of his priorities came from listening to his Marines.

He related a story of speaking with troops in Rhode Island in which one Marine suggested making the maternity leave policy more flexible for those married to other service members. Instead of giving the mother and father each a set amount of time, she proposed giving the couple one lump sum of days for them to split up depending on their particular circumstances.

"I never would have thought about it, you could stay up all night and not think of those kind of ideas," Berger said. "But to them it's real."

But Berger was careful not to frame the proposed changes as handouts.

"She's not complaining, she's got a solution," he said.

Berger's tweet thread also mentioned expanding the parental leave policy to include adoptive parents and same-sex couples. Raddatz asked him how his thinking has evolved since the times before gays were allowed to openly serve.

"I think, based on the people who were my mentors, my coaches, they kept circling me back to what's the standard? Can you do the job? Would you trust them in a firefight? Everything else doesn't really matter," Berger said.

Berger's sense of fairness cuts both ways; while he supports opening up combat roles previously closed to women, he insists standards will not be lowered to let them in.

"You are not going to have any kind of advantage based on your gender or your ethnicity or anything else. You gotta be able to carry the load. That's why I trust you, right? Because if we're going to go through that doorway right there, you and me, and I get shot at, I know you're gonna drag me out, because I trust you can carry the load, you can do the job. So standards are the standards," he said.

A new vision: Leaner, meaner, ready to face China and Russia

While Berger voiced his social concerns on Twitter, he proposed a dramatic revision of the Marine Corps' fighting posture and took on grave possibilities like deterring China and Russia in his Commandant's Planning Guidance report.

"I will continue to advocate for the continued forward deployment of our forces globally to compete against the malign activities of China, Russia, Iran, and their proxies -- with a prioritized focus on China's One Belt One Road initiative and Chinese malign activities in the East and South China Seas," his planning guidance read.

Berger's plan is an integration of both future and past, of returning the Marine Corps to its forward-deployed, expeditionary roots with the Navy, as well as adopting more modern platforms like drones.

The more lithe force Berger envisions means eliminating heavy assets like tanks over the next decade, and a "very close pairing" with the Navy.

"Then you can move around. You can be in one place, and then six hours later be in a very different place. You have the mobility, you're not required to use a country to base out of at all. You can move America's force where you need it," Berger said.

Berger said that war with China would be "terrible for both countries," adding that his focus with it and Russia is on deterrence.

"You have to convince them that taking the next step would ... not be worth it, so don't go there," he said.

The separation of Corps and state


America's top military official apologized for taking part in President Donald Trump's photo op in front of St. John's Church in June.

"I should not have been there," said Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a commencement address to National Defense University. "My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics."

Berger defended Milley to Martha Raddatz.

"If you know the chairman like you and I do, you knew right away that was not where he intended to be," Berger said. "So although some people would see the photograph and don't know him and draw a quick conclusion, those of us who have served with him ... knew that was not where he intended to be."

Berger went on to say that staying out of politics is "part of the reason why America trusts its military."

"We understand the chain of command, but we cannot become a political tool either," Berger said. "We are determined to stay on the outside, and Chairman Milly is leading that charge, as he should as chairman."

Training through COVID-19

Unlike the Army, which briefly shut down its boot camps, Berger kept his service at work building recruits into Marines, while cutting numbers and adding precautions.

"Our approach was: We need to keep going. We need to keep recruiting. We need to keep recruit training, we need to keep training officer candidates," Berger said.

Families of fallen Marines 'entitled' to answers on alleged Russian plot

The White House on Tuesday continued to provide briefings to select members of Congress on the intelligence about reported Russian bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, which a military official told ABC News showed Russian intelligence officers had offered to pay Taliban militants to kill American troops over the last year. Lawmakers have called on the administration to share more information and possibly take action.

Berger, who commanded troops in Afghanistan, said he doesn't believe he ever saw anything about Russian meddling in intelligence reports, but added that "it takes a lot to surprise me now."

Staff Sgt. Christopher K.A. Slutman, Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines and Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks were killed when a car bomb exploded near their vehicle as their convoy headed back to the base, making them three of the 17 Americans killed during combat in Afghanistan in 2019.

Some parents of the fallen Marines have demanded answers as to whether the possible plot was known of by the U.S. before their sons' demise, and if it played any role.

"And I think they're entitled to it," Berger said. "You don't want to lead them in any direction. You just have to look at the facts like always, investigate thoroughly."

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ABC NewsBy ADAM KELSEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Despite President Donald Trump's claims that a COVID-19 "solution" would likely be available "long before the end of the year," a member of the White House coronavirus task force, who leads the agency in charge of approving a vaccine, refused Sunday to offer a timeline for its final development.

"I can't predict when a vaccine will be available," Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said on ABC's This Week Sunday, adding, "Yes, we are seeing unprecedented speed for the development of a vaccine. But … our solemn promise to the American people is that we will make a decision based upon the data and science on a vaccine, with respect to the safety and effectiveness of that vaccine."

During a Fourth of July address in Washington on Saturday, Trump struck a more optimistic tone, both on the speed of virus treatment research and development, and on the impact COVID-19 is having upon individuals who test positive.

"We are unleashing our nation's scientific brilliance and we'll likely have a therapeutic and/or vaccine solution long before the end of the year," Trump said, after earlier touting the nation's testing efforts and claiming, without evidence, that "99%" of coronavirus cases "are totally harmless."

Hahn was challenged about the latter assertion by This Week co-anchor Martha Raddatz, but refused to join the president in his characterization.

"We have more than 129,000 dead and more than 2.8 million cases, how many cases would you say are harmless?" Raddatz asked.

"What I'd say is, you know, any case, we don't want to have in this country," the commissioner said. "Any death, any case is tragic, and we want to do everything we can to prevent that."

Hahn, a trained radiation and medical oncologist who became FDA commissioner in December 2019, said Thursday that he was "cautiously optimistic" about current efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine, pointing to either "year's end or early next year" as potential completion dates.

Some hesitation among Americans to get a coronavirus shot makes it unclear how much a vaccine would do to halt the pandemic's continued spread. In June, an ABC News poll found that 27% of adults said they would either "definitely" or "probably" not get a vaccine -- a number which Raddatz asked Hahn about on Sunday.

"It is a sizable number and it is concerning and, of course, the issue of vaccines in this country has been around for a number of years," he said, while explaining that the FDA was focused on the "safety" and "efficacy" of a vaccine. "I want to assure the American people that and provide confidence that we're on the job."

COVID-19 cases in the United States continued to surge during the past week, with large states including Arizona, Florida and Texas struggling to contain recent outbreaks.

Local leaders from each of those states also appeared on This Week Sunday, and detailed some of the struggles their communities are facing as cases grow and hospitals become overwhelmed.

"What we're seeing is that wishful thinking is neither good economic policy nor good public health policy," said Judge Lina Hidalgo, who serves as the chief executive of Harris County, Texas -- the most populous county in the state, which includes the city of Houston.

Hidalgo lamented that she was stripped of her ability to issue a stay-at-home order by the state government earlier in the year and criticized the delay by Gov. Greg Abbott in instituting face mask requirements.

"As long as we're doing as little as possible, and hoping for the best, we're always going to be chasing this thing," Hidalgo said. "We're always going to be behind."

Mayors Kate Gallego and Francis Suarez of Phoenix and Miami shared similar sentiments, and drew links between reopening efforts and the increase in cases in their regions.

"There's no doubt that ... when we reopened, people started socializing, as if the virus didn't exist," Suarez said.

"We opened way too early in Arizona," Gallego said. "We were one of the last states to go to stay-at-home and one of the first to reemerge ... I am trying to push people that you need to stay home, and that events with more than 10 people are dangerous."

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Official White House Photo by D. Myles CullenBy JACK DATE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Secret Service agents in Arizona on Monday tested positive for COVID-19 or showed signs of illness while preparing for a trip involving Vice President Mike Pence, leading to the government postponing the trip originally planned for Tuesday to Wednesday, a government official familiar with the matter tells ABC News.

The delay was needed for the Secret Service to bring in a new team of healthy agents in to Phoenix to complete the trip, according to the official.

"The health and safety of our workforce, their families, and that of our protectees remains the agency's highest priority," Secret Service Communications Director Catherine Milhoan said in a statement.

The Washington Post
first reported late Thursday that "eight to 10 agents and other officers from sister agencies" had fallen ill preparing for the Arizona trip.

On the trip, the vice president acknowledged "the dramatic rise of coronavirus cases in Arizona" while at the same time praising Gov. Doug Ducey's handling of the virus.

"Up until roughly three weeks ago, Arizona had literally set the pace in slowing the spread, in flattening the curve, and we're grateful to you, to your team," Pence told the governor. Later, he said: "The rising cases in Arizona is why I'm here."

This is the second time in nearly two weeks that agents have tested positive for COVID-19 while preparing for a presidential or vice presidential trip.

At least two agents tested positive for COVID-19 before an indoor campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, late last month.

Dozens of agents and other Secret Service personnel began to self-quarantine for 14 days after that trip due to potential exposure to those infected agents. At that time, the USSS said it would not affect operations.

"The U.S. Secret Service remains prepared and staffed to fulfill all of the various duties as required," Milhoan said in a statement on June 24. "Any implication that the agency is in some way unprepared or incapable of executing our mission would be inaccurate."

"To protect the privacy of our employees' health information and for operational security, the Secret Service is not releasing how many of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19, nor how many of its employees were, or currently are, quarantined," the statement continued.

The Secret Service employs approximately 3,200 special agents, 1,300 uniformed division officers and 2,000 support personnel.

Pence visited Florida on Thursday, the latest stop in a schedule taking him to various regions particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

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drnadig/iStockBy CHEYENNE HASLETT and ALLISON PECORIN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- While America’s financial leaders may be split about whether the U.S. is on its way to economic recovery, both Democrats and Republicans largely agree that additional measures -- including another stimulus package -- is inevitable.

It will all have to wait, however, until after Congress returns from its Fourth of July recess, a two-week vacation that leaves legislation at a standstill.

As the legislators depart, here’s where things stand:

Bipartisan action in the nick of time on PPP

One play by the Democrats moved off the Senate floor this week: an extension to the Paycheck Protection Program, which expired at the end of June under current law.

PPP, which still had $134 billion to give even as the deadline neared, has undoubtedly been plagued with flaws. But rather than let the deadline for small businesses to apply for the program pass while Congress is on vacation, the extension means businesses can continue to apply through August.

In the meantime, Republicans and Democrats have batted around ideas to fix the program, which has doled out more than $513 billion in forgivable loans since it was launched in April.

Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Marco Rubio, R-Fla., argued that many small businesses that needed PPP have already gotten it -- and used it up.

"What we really need to pass very soon is targeted help for those who need a second round of aid," he said.

Other Republicans, like Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., have supported Rubio’s idea of less money but more targeted aid.

"It’d be driven more by losses, be needs-based and targeted as opposed to kind of just pushing money out," Thune said.

As for the Democrats, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, chair of the House Small Business Committee, demanded more data on who had gotten the first round of PPP loans before she would agree to anyone getting a second loan.

"We know that 4 million businesses accessed the program. But what about the millions of minority- and women-owned businesses that were not able to access the program?" Velázquez said during a House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday.

"No one should get a second loan unless we know most businesses that are struggling get a chance to get a loan," said Velázquez, a Democrat from New York.

Actual changes to the program will likely be tied to the next stimulus package.

Unemployment Benefits

The future is still unclear on the $600 per week of unemployment benefits.

The last CARES Act gave an extra $600 a week to everyone in the country who applied for unemployment insurance, on top of the regular unemployment amount they would receive from the state. But it expires on July 31, less than two weeks after Congress returns.

And more than one in 10 Americans, or 11.1%, are still unemployed, according to the latest joblessness report.

On Wednesday, Democrats introduced an option to keep the program going past July 31.

The legislation, introduced by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Finance Ranking Member Ron Wyden, would create a "trigger" mechanism, tying the rate of unemployment benefits to the unemployment rate. As long as unemployment remains above 11%, $600 bonuses would remain in place. As the unemployment in each state drops, the bonus would reduce by $100 dollars for each percentage point.

But the latest joblessness report also showed nearly five million new jobs were added to the U.S. economy since May, when the unemployment rate was 13.3%, a measure of growth that Republicans took to mean they shouldn’t interfere.

"I just think it underscores how quickly the economy is rebounding, and we shouldn't do anything to derail that," said Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

But some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have warned that tumult is still expected. The job numbers released Thursday were compiled before the recent surge in COVID-19 cases caused some states to delay their reopening plans.

"You've got to be living in a country club fantasy land to believe that this economic crisis is anywhere close to ending," Wyden said.

Wyden has floated this "trigger proposal" for several weeks, but it has gained relatively little traction with Republicans. On the Senate floor Wednesday, he called on Republicans to offer constituents who are facing the July sunset of benefits some sense of security moving forward.

"We've got a moral obligation to not turn our back on those who are suffering," Wyden said. "And I'm telling you the Senate is going to go home and Senators are going to hear loud and clear that workers are concerned about whether after July 31 they're going to be able to pay rent, they're going to be able to buy groceries."

While Republicans have objected to an extension of the unemployment program, arguing that the $600 bonus serves as a disincentive for returning to work, some prominent Republicans have said they support some sort of additional unemployment support.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has proposed a bonus for individuals returning to work, while Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has said he supports some sort of measure that would prevent those receiving the unemployment bonus from "falling off a cliff" when it ends.

Direct Impact Payments


Back in April, the Internal Revenue Service executed a quick band-aid effort to combat economic standstill, delivering direct checks of up to $1,200 to nearly 160 million Americans.

Since then, Americans have said they’d like to see another round of direct impact payments, a call the White House seems to be receptive to.

It’s "on the table," Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, said on Fox Business, though the payment could also come in the form of tax rebates, he said.

"I think the tax rebates or the direct mail checks are on the table. This is all pre decisional, a lot of discussion going on. Probably we would want to target those to folks who lost their jobs and are most in need,” Kudlow said.

The president, too, has expressed support for another round of payments in an interview with Fox Business, but was unclear about how those payments would manifest.

But many Republicans are not in lockstep with Kudlow or the president. Democrats in the House, on the other hand, have called for not only another round of payments, but to increase the amount for families with children by $600 per child.

There are, however, outstanding issues from the first round of stimulus checks that would need to be addressed before another goes out.

According to a report on the CARES Act by the nonpartisan Government Office of Accountability (GAO) published on June 25, 1.1 million of the $1.4 billion in payments went to dead people.

As a solution, GAO recommended getting death data in the hands of both Treasury and the IRS to "help ensure the integrity of direct payments to individuals if Congress considers this type of assistance in the future."

Broad themes of the next stimulus package

On Tuesday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell outlined three main themes he says Republicans will focus on in their next proposal: kids, jobs and healthcare.

"To step back toward normalcy our country will need K-12 and college students to resume their schooling, we will need to re-energize hiring to get workers their jobs back, and we'll need continued progress in the health care fight to get ready for the fall and winter and speed the search for a vaccine," McConnell said.

McConnell and fellow Republicans have also adamantly supported a legal carve-out to protect businesses, schools and health care providers who are afraid they’ll face lawsuits if people get sick when they reopen.

Republicans are expected to put pen to paper in late July, after the recess.

But as the number of coronavirus cases surge, Democrats have lambasted Republicans for slow-walking future relief packages. In an effort to galvanize support for their cause, Democrats brought a number of coronavirus relief proposals to the Senate floor throughout the week, almost all of which failed.

Those included proposals that would have granted rental assistance, food assistance, a moratorium on evictions, aid for nursing homes, among others.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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