10 things you need to know today: June 18, 2020

Ex-Atlanta police officer faces murder charge in Brooks killing, DOJ requests emergency order to block Bolton book, and more 

Bolton laughs behind Trump
(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

1. Atlanta officer who killed Rayshard Brooks charged with murder

Fulton County, Georgia, prosecutors on Wednesday charged fired Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe with felony murder and 10 other offenses for the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks, 27, in a Wendy's parking lot. Brooks, who was black, had fallen asleep in his car in the drive-through lane. Rolfe and another officer, Devin Brosnan, had him take a sobriety test, and Brooks struggled when they tried to arrest him. He grabbed Brosnan's nonlethal Taser and ran. Rolfe shot Brooks twice in the back. Prosecutors said Rolfe kicked Brooks after the shooting and Brosnan, who was charged with assault and other charges, stood on Brooks' shoulders. Neither provided medical attention required under Atlanta policy. An unspecified number of officers failed to show up for work after the charges were announced.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

2. DOJ seeks emergency order blocking Bolton book

The Justice Department on Wednesday asked a federal judge for an emergency order blocking publication of former National Security Adviser John Bolton's forthcoming book, The Room Where It Happened, arguing that it contains classified information. Bolton says in his memoir that President Trump "stunningly" pleaded with Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him win re-election. Bolton said Trump asked Xi for China to buy a lot of U.S. agricultural products to boost his approval rating in farming states. "I am hard pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn't driven by re-election calculations," Bolton reportedly writes. Bolton also reportedly writes that Trump expressed willingness to stop potentially damning investigations "to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked."

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The New York Times The Wall Street Journal

3. More Americans have died from COVID-19 than died in World War I

The number of Americans who have died of COVID-19 on Wednesday surpassed the number of U.S. service members killed in World War I. The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic now exceeds 117,700, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 116,708 Americans died during World War I, some from the 1918 flu pandemic. The coronavirus deaths have occurred over just four months, while the World War I toll was spread out over more than a year. And the coronavirus outbreak in the United States is far from over. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington released a new projection suggesting that the number of U.S. COVID-19 deaths could exceed 200,000 by October.

The Hill Johns Hopkins

4. Senate Republicans unveil their police reform bill

Senate Republicans on Wednesday announced a police reform bill in response to nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality. The legislation includes incentives for police departments to limit chokeholds by withholding federal grants from localities that don't comply with guidelines on the use of force. The legislation wouldn't eliminate chokeholds or no-knock warrants like the one used when officers killed Breonna Taylor. But Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who introduced the GOP bill, said it would amount to a de facto chokehold ban. It would require state and local governments to collect relevant data annually, and requires the Justice Department to develop guidelines for training officers to deescalate conflicts. Democrats said the GOP proposal fell short of the broad reform needed to address concerns raised in the protests.

The Washington Post

5. 2nd poll shows Biden widening lead over Trump

Former Vice President Joe Biden has expanded his national lead over President Trump, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Wednesday. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee led Trump by 13 percentage points among registered voters, 48 percent to 35 percent, in the new poll. It is his biggest margin this year in the poll. The news came after Trump demanded a retraction and threatened to sue last week over a CNN/SSRS poll that showed him trailing Biden by 14 percentage points. Both polls found that Trump's job approval had fallen. In the Reuters/Ipsos survey, 57 percent of respondents disapproved of Trump's performance in office; 38 approved. Trump's approval rating is now at its lowest point since November, when he was facing an impeachment inquiry in Congress.


6. Netflix CEO announces record individual contribution to historically black colleges

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and his wife, Patty Quillin, on Wednesday announced that they would donate $120 million to Spelman College, Morehouse College, and the United Negro College Fund in what they described as the "largest ever contribution by an individual in support of scholarships at historically black Colleges and universities." Hastings also said Netflix would commit $5 million to "nonprofits dedicated to creating direct opportunities for black creators, black youth, and black-owned businesses." Hastings and Quillin noted that historically black colleges and universities "are disadvantaged when it comes to giving" since white capital generally "flows to predominantly white institutions." Morehouse President David A. Thomas said "this is a watershed moment" that would "send a signal that historically black colleges should be valued."

The Wall Street Journal The New York Times

7. Fed chair vows ongoing support for job market

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told lawmakers in the House on Wednesday that the central bank will use every financial tool at its disposal to "get back as quickly as we can to a tight labor market." He said helping the job market recover from the damage from the coronavirus crisis is necessary to prevent economic inequality from getting worse. Powell repeated a point he made a day earlier to the Senate Banking Committee, saying the Fed would keep its benchmark short-term interest rate near zero to help make sure businesses and households can get loans. "This is the largest economic shock to hit our economy in living memory. It looks like it will be the deepest recession," he said, adding that "it will take some time" to get millions who lost their jobs back to work.

The Associated Press

8. Arizona, Texas ease opposition to local mask requirements

Governors in Arizona and Texas have eased their opposition to local rules requiring people to wear masks as coronavirus infections surge in their states. After the mayors of Phoenix and Tucson asked for permission to require masks, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) on Wednesday dialed back his opposition to the policy, saying he would let mayors set local rules on mandatory face coverings if they believe it is necessary. Arizona didn't record its first 20,000 coronavirus cases until June 1. It confirmed its next 20,000 in the following three weeks. In Texas, which saw record coronavirus increases this week, mayors in nine cities wrote Gov. Greg Abbott (R) requesting authority to impose strict mask policies. At least one Texas county has been cleared to do so.

The New York Times

9. Quaker Oats to replace Aunt Jemima brand

Quaker Oats announced Wednesday that it would give the Aunt Jemima brand of syrup and pancake mix a new name and image. The branding of the Aunt Jemima products, which date back 130 years, features a black woman named Aunt Jemima. She was originally dressed as a minstrel character, although in recent years the company dropped her "mammy" kerchief in response to growing criticism. "We recognize Aunt Jemima's origins are based on a racial stereotype," Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, said in a news release. Daina Ramey Berry, a professor of history at the University of Texas, said the decision would eliminate a racist depiction of black women that reflected a "plantation mentality."

NBC News

10. That '70s Show actor Danny Masterson charged with raping 3 women

Actor Danny Masterson has been charged with forcibly raping three women during incidents at his Hollywood Hills home in the early 2000s, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced Wednesday. If convicted of all three charges, he faces a possible maximum sentence of 45 years to life in prison. His arraignment is scheduled for September 18. The That '70s Show and The Ranch actor has been accused of raping a 23-year-old woman in 2001, a 28-year-old woman in early 2003, and a 23-year-old woman in late 2003. Masterson's lawyer, Tom Mesereau, said the charges were "false," and that the actor and his wife were in "complete shock" that charges were filed over the "nearly 20-year-old allegations."

Deadline The New York Times

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.