10 things you need to know today: July 31, 2020

Herman Cain dies of COVID-19, Trump suggests delaying the November election, and more 

Herman Cain in New Orleans
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

1. Herman Cain dies a month after hospitalization for coronavirus

Former Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain died Thursday of COVID-19. Cain was diagnosed two weeks after attending President Trump's rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was photographed in the stands without a mask, surrounded by others who weren't wearing face coverings, either. The July 2 statement announcing that he had been hospitalized said that there was "no way of knowing for sure how or where Mr. Cain contracted the coronavirus." The Trump campaign disclosed before the event that six members of an advance team that helped prepare the event had tested positive. Cain, a former business executive, served as board chairman of Kansas City's Federal Reserve Bank before entering politics. He is among the most prominent U.S. public figures to die from the novel coronavirus.


2. Trump floats 'delay' for election over unfounded mail-in voting fears

President Trump on Thursday floated the possibility of delaying November's presidential election, citing unfounded concerns about voting by mail. "With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA," Trump tweeted. "Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???" The post fueled fears among some Democrats that Trump might refuse to accept the election results if he loses. Trump's comments sparked a backlash from Democrats and Republicans alike. Critics said Trump didn't have the power to postpone the election and that there was no way it would be delayed. "We will not delay the election," said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) in a Fox News interview.

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CNN The Washington Post

3. Economy took a record plunge in the second quarter

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that U.S. gross domestic product fell by 32.9 percent in the second quarter, compared to the same period last year, and by 9.5 percent from the previous quarter. The decline was the steepest since the 1940s. The Great Depression's larger decline occurred over a longer period. The drop was slightly less than the 34.5 percent annualized retraction that economists had predicted for the first full quarter of the coronavirus crisis. The report "just highlights how deep and dark the hole is that the economy cratered into," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. Concerns about the economy intensified as partisan fighting in the Senate delayed efforts to extend extra federal unemployment benefits that expire on Friday.

CNBC Politico

4. Three former presidents eulogize late civil-rights icon John Lewis

Former President Barack Obama eulogized the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) as a "founding father" of a "fuller, fairer, better America" that will come when all of the goals of the civil rights movement are achieved. "America was built by John Lewises," Obama said of the longtime congressman and civil-rights-era leader. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also spoke at the Atlanta funeral for Lewis, who died this month, six months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. "We live in a better and nobler country today because of John Lewis," Bush said. Clinton added that Lewis "got into a lot of good trouble along the way, but let's not forget he also developed an absolutely uncanny ability to heal troubled waters."

The New York Times

5. Jobless claims increase for 2nd straight week

The number of Americans filing initial claims for jobless benefits rose last week, the second straight weekly increase, the federal government reported on Thursday. A seasonally adjusted 1.4 million people filed for initial jobless claims last week, an increase of 12,000 from the revised figure for the previous week, when unemployment claims rose for the first time in 16 weeks. Continued claims by those already unemployed came in at 17 million, an increase of 867,000 from the previous week. In addition to traditional unemployment claims, nearly 830,000 Americans filed for first-time pandemic unemployment assistance last week, a decrease of 106,000 compared to the previous week. "Right now, temporary layoffs are turning into permanent job losses and families across the country are facing a looming child-care crisis in the fall," said the Atlantic Council's Josh Lipsky.


6. Appeals court revives Michael Flynn case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed Thursday to reconsider the decision to dismiss the criminal case against Michael Flynn, President Trump's former national security adviser. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russia's ambassador shortly before Trump's inauguration. He later tried to undo his plea deal, and Attorney General William Barr decided to drop the prosecution. But the trial judge, Emmet Sullivan, ordered a review by a retired federal judge who argued that Barr's intervention was improper and Flynn should be sentenced. A split three-judge appeals panel ruled in June that Sullivan should dismiss the case, but the full appeals court vacated that ruling, reviving the politically charged case.

The Washington Post The New York Times

7. NBA resumes season with 'Black Lives Matter' printed on court

The National Basketball Association resumed play on Thursday, without fans, with "Black Lives Matter" printed on the floor of the court at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex outside Orlando. Many players also showed support for widespread protests against racial injustice by wearing jerseys with messages such as "I Can't Breathe," "Justice," "Peace," "Equality," "Anti-Racist," and "I Am a Man" printed on the back of their jerseys. Some players chose messages such as "Say Her Name," calling attention to unarmed Black people whose deaths at the hands of police have sparked recent protests. In other developments related to the protests, news outlets reported that the Department of Homeland Security compiled "intelligence reports" on journalists covering protests, and a new prosecutor declined to file charges against the Ferguson police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown.

The Washington Post

8. Cohen reaches deal with government clearing him to publish memoir

Michael Cohen has reached a deal allowing him to write a tell-all book about his time as President Trump's personal lawyer and fixer, according to documents filed in court Thursday. The agreement also permits Cohen to speak to the media while serving a three-year prison term under home confinement. The deal came a week after a federal judge ruled that the government improperly sent him back to prison after his release on medical furlough to retaliate against him for his plan to publish the book, which Cohen has said includes "graphic and unflattering" accounts of Trump's behavior. Cohen last year pleaded guilty to charges that include lying to Congress and making secret payments to women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump, which the president denies.

NBC News

9. Isaias strengthens into hurricane as it heads toward Florida

Former Tropical Storm Isaias strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane on Thursday after causing flooding and landslides in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico as it passed by as a tropical storm. At least 35 people had to be rescued from floodwaters on the islands. Hurricane Isaias passed over the southeastern Bahamas early Friday with top sustained winds of 80 miles per hour. It is expected to approach South Florida on Saturday. Much of the Bahamas is under hurricane warning, including Grand Bahama Island and the Abacos, which were devastated last year by Hurricane Dorian. Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced late Thursday that he was relaxing a coronavirus lockdown due to the approaching storm, but imposing a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew starting Friday. "These are especially difficult days," he said.

The Associated Press The Miami Herald

10. NASA launches Perseverance rover to Mars

NASA on Thursday launched its Perseverance rover to Mars on an Atlas V rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Perseverance, which briefly had a communications glitch but recovered, will collect soil samples from Mars for return to Earth around 2031, as well as "search for signs of ancient microbial life," according to NASA. "This is the first time in history where we're going to go to Mars with an explicit mission to find life on another world — ancient life on Mars," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said. This is the third launch to Mars to take place this summer, with the first two being from China and the United Arab Emirates. Perseverance is expected to land in the Jezero Crater on Mars in February 2021.

CNN The Associated Press

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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.