Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 11, 2020

Tim O'Donnell
Roger Stone.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

1.

Trump commutes Roger Stone's 40-month sentence

President Trump commuted the 40-month sentence of his friend and confidant Roger Stone, he announced Friday evening. "Mr. Stone would be put at serious risk in prison," the White House said in a statement, calling him a "victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years." Stone was convicted of witness tampering and making false statements to Congress, among other charges, in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe. Stone was set to begin his term on Tuesday, though his lawyers did request a 60-day delay. Trump called Stone "very unfairly treated" when talking to journalists earlier Friday. Stone told journalist Howard Fineman on Friday he didn't want a pardon because it implies guilt. [Politico, Bloomberg]

2.

New coronavirus cases hit 7th record in 11 days

Authorities across the United States reported another day of record new coronavirus infections Friday, marking the seventh new high in 11 days. A New York Times tally showed the number of new infections on Friday crossed 68,000, while NBC News reports the new cases surpassed 70,000 for the first time in a 24-hour period. Johns Hopkins University recorded nearly 64,000. The figures vary, but all three are higher than Thursday's previous record. At least six states — Georgia, Iowa, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, and Utah — set single-day highs, while others like California, Florida, and Texas continued to surge. Florida for the first time released county-by-county hospitalization data. Nearly 7,000 patients have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, a plurality of whom are in Miami-Dade County, which on Friday reported the positivity rate among people getting tested for the virus was 28 percent. [The New York Times, The Orlando Sentinel]

3.

Tucker Carlson's top writer resigns after investigation reveals he secretly posted racist, sexist comments online

Blake Neff, the top writer for Fox News host Tucker Carlson, has reportedly resigned after a CNN Business investigation this week revealed he has, for years, been using a pseudonym to post racist, sexist, and otherwise offensive content on AutoAdmit, a relatively unmoderated message board aimed at lawyers and law school students in which users frequently post bigoted content. Neff worked at Fox News for four years and previously said anything Carlson is "reading off the teleprompter, the first draft was written by me." Carlson, who himself has pushed back against allegations of racism, has referred to Neff by name when discussing his show's writing process and once called him a "wonderful writer." [CNN]

4.

Tropical Storm Fay cancels Trump's New Hampshire rally

President Trump's Saturday rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, will be postponed for one to two weeks due to storms slated to hit the area, his campaign announced Friday. Tropical Storm Fay is set to approach the New Jersey coast late Friday and bring severe rain, wind and potential flooding to the northeast. The storm isn't expected to hit New Hampshire, but would make it hard for Trump to fly there from Miami, where he is spending the day meeting with Venezuelan residents and migrants. The Portsmouth event was set to be the second of Trump's campaign rallies since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Trump's Tulsa rally in late June was later linked to an increase in coronavirus infections in the area. [CBS News]

5.

Hong Kong opposition holds primary elections despite government warnings

Hong Kong's opposition parties on Saturday set up polling booths across the city for primary elections in the hopes of selecting pro-democracy candidates who stand a chance of success in Legislative Council elections in September. The decision to move forward with the elections comes in the wake of a new national security law passed by China that severely limits Hong Kong's autonomy. It's unclear how many, if any, pro-democracy candidates will be allowed to run in the September elections, as government officials warned that those "organizing, planning, and participating" in the primary might breach the law, which targets people who commit what the government deems offenses of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces. Still, activists like Joshua Wong said they were determined to go through with the voting "to let Beijing know Hong Kongers never bow down to China." [Agence France Presse, Reuters]

6.

Remdesivir significantly reduces risk of COVID-19 death, Gilead claims

Data shows the drug remdesivir significantly reduced the risk of death in severely sick COVID-19 patients, biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences announced Friday. Remdesivir reduced the risk of death by 62 percent when compared to normal care, but Gilead noted this is an "important finding that requires confirmation in prospective clinical trials." Shares of Gilead rose close to three percent before the market opened upon the news. Gilead developed remdesivir as a potential treatment for Ebola and has been testing it on coronavirus patients for months. Late last month, Gilead said each dose of remdesivir will cost $520, totaling more than $3,000 over the course of a typical coronavirus treatment. The Trump administration has since bought up Gilead's remdesivir supply. [CNBC, The Week]

7.

Report: Facebook may ban political ads before election

Facebook is considering imposing a ban on political ads "in the days leading up to" November's presidential election, Bloomberg reported on Friday and The New York Times confirmed. As of now, the idea is "still only being discussed," especially because it "could hurt 'get out the vote' campaigns, or limit a candidate's ability to respond widely to breaking news or new information," Bloomberg writes. Facebook has long faced criticism for its decision not to fact-check political ads, and is now facing an ad boycott from companies urging it to crack down on hate speech and misinformation. Facebook previously announced it would let users opt out of seeing political ads altogether. [Bloomberg, The New York Times]

8.

Erdogan signs decree converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday ordered Istanbul's Hagia Sophia, the sixth-century Byzantine cathedral that was converted into a mosque under the Ottoman empire and has been a flashpoint of tension for centuries, to once again be reconverted into a mosque. His decree followed a court annulling the 1934 decision that made the former cathedral a museum. How Christian mosaics in the Hagia Sophia would be handled going forward and whether they could again be covered had been an open question. The decision quickly drew criticism including from Greece's culture minister, Lina Mendoni, who said the Hagia Sophia is a "monument to all mankind, regardless of religion" and called Erdogan's move an "open challenge to the entire civilized world." [The Associated Press, The New York Times]

9.

Ghislaine Maxwell's lawyers offer a $5 million bond so she can wait for trial out of jail

Ghislaine Maxwell, a close friend of Jeffrey Epstein accused of grooming young girls for his sex trafficking ring, requested through her lawyers Friday that she be allowed to wait out her day in court outside of jail. Maxwell's lawyers offered a $5 million bond secured by six co-signers, as well as property in the U.K. worth $3.5 million, to secure her release. Maxwell was arrested at her New Hampshire estate last week on charges of transporting and enticing minors. She initially appeared in court remotely, and was then transferred to a Brooklyn detention center. Her lawyers argue that because the coronavirus has led to limitations on who can visit inmates, Maxwell will struggle to prepare her defense. Prosecutors, on the other hand, believe Maxwell is an "extreme" flight risk. [NBC News, The Guardian]

10.

Eagles 'penalize' DeSean Jackson over anti-Semitic posts

The Philadelphia Eagles on Friday "penalized" DeSean Jackson after he made anti-Semitic posts on social media earlier this week. The Eagles didn't specify the disciplinary action in a team statement, though a source said the wide receiver was fined. The Eagles said the franchise does not "tolerate hate towards any individual or group" and has had "a number of constructive conversations" with Jackson, who apologized for his comments, as well as other players. While it doesn't sound like Jackson will be released or suspended, the Eagles said "he understands that in order to remain on the team, he must also commit to supporting his words with actions." Jackson reportedly intends to donate a significant amount to Jewish community efforts and on Friday met with Edward Mosberg, a 94-year-old Holocaust survivor. [ESPN, Bleacher Report]