Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 9, 2020

Harold Maass
Anti-abortion demonstrators in front of the Supreme Court
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

1.

Supreme Court: Trump birth control rule can stand

The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 Wednesday to uphold a Trump administration rule that will let employers opt out of providing no-cost birth control if they cite moral or religious objections. The Affordable Care Act mandated employers and insurers provide contraceptives as part of their coverage, but exempted houses of worship. The Trump administration broadened the exception to cover all employers with religious or moral objections. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the ruling to let the policy stand. Ginsburg noted that 70,000 to 126,000 women would lose free access to birth control because of the ruling. A previous Supreme Court decision in the 2014 Hobby Lobby case allowed family-owned companies to opt out of providing birth control for moral or religious reasons. [The Associated Press, The New York Times]

2.

Record spike lifts U.S. coronavirus cases over 3 million

The total number of U.S. coronavirus cases reached 3 million on Wednesday as officials confirmed a record 60,000-plus new cases over the previous 24 hours, and the national death toll rose above 132,000. States in the South and West continued to report spiking new infections. California and Texas both reported more than 10,000 new cases on Wednesday. U.S. deaths, which had been trending downward, rose by more than 900 for the second straight day, the highest level since early June. Hospitalizations also have increased in the states where infections have jumped, including Florida, where 56 intensive care units this week reached capacity, and Arizona, where ICUs are rapidly filling up, too. Infections have risen in 42 of the 50 states over the past two weeks, according to Reuters. [Reuters, BBC News]

3.

Pence: CDC will revise school guidelines Trump calls 'too tough'

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is revising its school-reopening guidance after President Trump tweeted that the public health agency's plan was too restrictive and expensive, Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday. "The president said today we just don't want the guidance to be too tough," Pence said. Pence added that the CDC would issue "a new set of tools" next week to provide "more clarity." Trump also threatened to withhold funding from schools that don't bring their students back into the classroom. Pence said the administration would push for incentives for in-person teaching in the next federal stimulus bill. The administration wants policies to provide "encouragement to get kids back to school," said Pence, who leads the White House Coronavirus Task Force. [USA Today]

4.

Vindman retiring, alleging 'retaliation' over impeachment testimony

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified about President Trump's Ukraine dealings during the impeachment inquiry, is retiring after 21 years in the U.S. Army. Vindman's lawyer, Amb. David Pressman, said Vindman decided to leave due to a "campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation" spearheaded by the president over his testimony last year, adding that Vindman believed the backlash would limit his career options in the military. Trump fired Vindman as the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert in February, and pushed out his twin brother, an NSC lawyer. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and other Pentagon leaders have said Vindman faced no politically motivated fallout from his testimony. [CNN]

5.

Trump's Tulsa rally 'likely contributed' to coronavirus surge

President Trump's late-June campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, "likely contributed" to a surge in new COVID-19 cases, Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said Wednesday. "In the past few days, we've seen almost 500 new cases, and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, so I guess we just connect the dots," Dart said. The city confirmed a record 261 new cases on Monday, and another 206 on Tuesday. Several Trump campaign staffers tested positive for COVID-19 before the event. A reporter who attended the rally and Trump campaign surrogate Herman Cain tested positive after it. Oklahoma is among several states in the South and West where coronavirus infections have spiked in the past week after they eased lockdowns and let some businesses reopen. [The Associated Press]

6.

Harvard, MIT sue over ICE policy sending foreign students home

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Wednesday filed a lawsuit challenging a Trump administration policy forcing foreign students to return to their home countries if their colleges are offering only online classes this fall. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the policy directive on Monday. Harvard, which has 5,000 international students, announced this week all fall classes will be online. "The order came down without notice — its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness," Harvard President Larry Bacow said. Visa requirements for students have never allowed them to enter the U.S. to take online-only courses, but Bacow said the policy put colleges under pressure to reopen their on-campus classrooms, "without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others." [CNN]

7.

Body camera transcripts shed more light on George Floyd's final moments

George Floyd reportedly warned Minneapolis police officers restraining him that he couldn't breathe and that they were killing him shortly before he died, according to newly released transcripts of Minneapolis police body camera footage during the last minutes of Floyd's life. The transcripts were filed in a state court where former officer Thomas Lane is seeking dismissal of charges that he aided and abetted Floyd's murder. The transcripts reveal that officer Derek Chauvin, who had his knee on Floyd's neck, told the unarmed Black man to stop talking if he couldn't breathe, because "it takes a heck of lot of oxygen to talk." At one point, Lane expressed concern that Floyd was having a medical emergency, but Chauvin said, "that's why we got the ambulance coming." [The New York Times]

8.

Biden-Sanders task forces make recommendations to win over progressives

Political task forces former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) created to rally support for Biden within the Democratic Party's progressive wing recommended on Wednesday that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee embrace major proposals to fight climate change and institutional racism. The groups also called for expanding health-care coverage but stopped short of urging Biden to get behind policies that could alienate swing voters, such as Medicare-for-all universal health coverage. The task forces recommended that Biden commit to pushing the U.S. toward becoming fully powered by renewable energy by 2035. In the primary, he backed a 2050 green-energy deadline. [The Associated Press]

9.

Brooks Brothers files for bankruptcy

Brooks Brothers has filed for bankruptcy protection and announced it would close 50 of its more than 500 stores due to the coronavirus crisis. The company, which was founded in 1818, also said it would halt manufacturing of its clothing in three U.S. factories in August. Brooks Brothers is looking for a buyer and has "secured a $75 million debtor-in-possession loan from WHP Global," The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. A spokesperson said that the company has been "evaluating various strategic options to position the company for future success" and that "during this strategic review, COVID-19 became immensely disruptive and took a toll on our business." Neiman Marcus, J.Crew, and J.C. Penney previously filed for bankruptcy protections during the pandemic. [The Wall Street Journal, CNBC]

10.

Trump says U.S. and Mexico have 'never been closer'

President Trump met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at the White House on Wednesday to celebrate the finalization of the new pact replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump also noted that the two countries were cooperating on immigration and fighting drug-trafficking as well. "The relationship between the United States and Mexico has never been closer than it is right now," Trump said. "We're taking this relationship to new heights." López Obrador showed up after an intense debate in his country over whether he should meet with Trump. He promised to represent Mexicans "with dignity," but critics said López Obrador's record of caving to Trump's demands on immigration crackdowns and trade would make the trip humiliating for Mexico. [Bloomberg, The New York Times]