Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 4, 2020

Harold Maass
Jim Mattis and Trump
Win McNamee/Getty Images

1.

Minnesota arrests 3 other officers involved in Floyd's death

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on Wednesday charged three former police officers in connection with George Floyd's death, and elevated the third-degree murder count against former officer Derek Chauvin to second-degree murder. Chauvin, who is white, was the one who held his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes while two of the other officers also held down Floyd, who was black. The three other officers charged — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane — are being charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. Attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing the Floyd family, previously said he expected the other three officers to be arrested, calling them "just as guilty for the death of George Floyd as Officer Chauvin." [Star Tribune]

2.

Mattis says Trump tries to divide Americans

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis said Wednesday in a statement published by The Atlantic that President Trump is deliberately trying to divide Americans. "Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try," the retired Marine general wrote. Mattis added that he opposed Trump's threat to use military force to quell unrest over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer. Trump hit back against Mattis on Twitter. "Probably the only thing Barack Obama and I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world's most overrated General," Trump tweeted. Mattis resigned in 2018 over Trump's withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria. [The Atlantic, The Washington Post]

3.

Esper opposes using military to stamp out protests

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday that he did not support using active-duty U.S. military forces to restore order in cities and states that can't quickly end rioting and looting that broke out on the fringes of protests against police brutality against African Americans. "The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire situations," Esper said. "We are not in one of those situations now." Esper added that he did not support invoking the Insurrection Act, which President Trump threatened to do to restore order. Esper said he believed the National Guard, which has been supplementing local police in some states, "is best suited for providing domestic support to civil authorities in these situations." [NBC News]

4.

Protesters applaud officers' arrests but say more progress needed

Protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody continued through Wednesday night. Some demonstrators across the country expressed approval of Minnesota authorities' decision to charge all four officers involved in the arrest of Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after one of the officers kneeled on his neck for several minutes as Floyd said he couldn't breathe. Many protesters said it was important to continue taking to the streets to demand systemic change to end police bias against African Americans. "I think it's going to be a really long fight, not just in Minnesota but in cities around the country," said Minneapolis educator Izzy Smith, who was demonstrating at the site of Floyd's arrest. "This is a marathon, not a sprint." [The New York Times, The Associated Press]

5.

Rosenstein disavows FISA warrants, defends Mueller appointment

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday to discuss his role in the beginning of the early federal investigation of Russian election meddling, and contacts with Russians by members of President Trump's 2016 campaign. Rosenstein said if he could go back, he would not sign the document that allowed surveillance on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Still, Rosenstein defended his decision to appoint Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russia's election meddling and contacts with Trump associates, saying there were questions that needed to be answered. "I still believe it was the right decision under the circumstances," Rosenstein said. [CNN, The New York Times]

6.

Obama says protests are an opportunity to fight systemic racism

Former President Barack Obama said in a virtual town hall on Wednesday that the protests over George Floyd's death in police custody represent "an incredible opportunity for people to be awakened to some of (the) underlying trends" of systemic racism. He also addressed young people of color, saying, "I want you to know that your lives matter. Your dreams matter." Obama previously published a blog post calling the protests largely "peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring," and has called on protesters to offer specific demands for police reform as he assumes an increasingly public role in a crisis that could become a focus in the November election. [ABC News, The Associated Press]

7.

White House says physical shows Trump 'remains healthy'

The White House released the results of President Trump's annual physical on Wednesday, noting that Trump had gained a pound since his last physical but lowered his cholesterol. At 244 pounds and 6-foot-3, Trump has a body mass slightly above the cutoff of 30, qualifying him as medically obese. The White House doctor said Trump "remains healthy." The annual health update noted that Trump took a two-week course of hydroxychloroquine after two West Wing staffers were diagnosed with COVID-19. Trump suffered no negative side effects from the drug. Trump has pushed hydroxychloroquine, an approved malaria drug, to treat the coronavirus despite an FDA warning against using it outside a clinical trial. The first major trial found it showed no value in preventing coronavirus infection, according to results released Wednesday. [The Washington Post, CNN]

8.

Report: Private companies cut 2.8 million jobs in May

U.S. companies cut another 2.8 million jobs in May, ADP reported Wednesday. The total was far below the 8.8 million lost positions economists expected, suggesting the historic employment crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic was easing as businesses started to reopen. "The good news is ... the COVID-19 recession is over, barring another second wave," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, which produces the private payrolls report with ADP. The bad news, he said, is that "the recovery will be a slog until there's a vaccine or therapy that's distributed and adopted widely." The Labor Department is expected to report Thursday that new jobless claims fell below two million last week for the first time since mid-March. [CNBC, Reuters]

9.

Trump administration blocks passenger flights by Chinese carriers

The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it would block commercial passenger flights by Chinese airlines starting later this month. The Department of Transportation said the policy was in response to Beijing's refusal to allow a resumption of flights to China by U.S. carriers that stropped flying to China due to U.S. coronavirus restrictions. China has limited foreign carriers to one flight per week. Delta and United airlines wanted to step up flights to China in early June, but the Trump administration said China's rules made that impossible. The U.S. ban, which affects seven Chinese carriers, is set to take effect June 16. The rule does not restrict cargo flights. China announced Thursday it would let foreign carriers add one flight per week. [The Washington Post, CNBC]

10.

Tropical Storm Cristobal makes landfall in Mexico

Tropical Storm Cristobal made landfall on Wednesday in Mexico's Campeche state, hitting the region with heavy rains and flooding expected to continue through Thursday. The storm formed Tuesday from the remnants of Pacific Tropical Storm Amanda, which left 22 people dead in Guatemala and El Salvador. At least 138 people were evacuated from Campeche by the Mexican army to escape floodwaters. Forecasters say Cristobal will likely become a tropical depression by Thursday, before moving back to the Gulf of Mexico on Friday. The storm is forecast to reach the central Louisiana coast on Sunday, bringing as much as 15 inches of rain, 65 mph winds, and storm surge up to 6 feet to parts of southeastern Louisiana. [The Associated Press, Nola.com]