Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 13, 2020

Harold Maass
Biden introduces Kamala Harris as his running mate.


Biden, Harris make their 1st joint campaign appearance

Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Wednesday made his first public appearance with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) since picking her as his running mate. Biden embraced the significance of his selection of the first Black woman to appear on a major-party presidential ticket, and said that Harris, who has served as a prosecutor and California's attorney general, has the deep experience needed to defeat President Trump and help lead the nation through the coronavirus pandemic, an economic crisis, and a racial reckoning. "Kamala knows how to govern," Biden said in his hometown, Wilmington, Delaware. "She's ready to do this job on day one." Harris framed the election as "a moment of real consequence for America," saying that the country is "crying out for leadership." [The Associated Press, The New York Times]


U.S. reports nearly 1,500 COVID-19 deaths, most since mid-May

The United States on Wednesday reported nearly 1,500 new coronavirus deaths, the highest single-day death toll since mid-May, according to The Washington Post. The seven-day average has exceeded 1,000 for 17 straight days. Georgia reported 105 deaths, its second straight triple-digit day, and North Carolina tied its highest daily death toll of 45. Texas reported 324 additional COVID-19 deaths. For the first time in months, however, the daily increase in U.S. coronavirus cases decreased, to 52,875 over the last seven days compared to 65,285 on July 28. U.S. officials noted "signs of progress" in the Southern states where cases spiked this summer. But testing shortages in key states and problems with COVID-19 data called into question whether the infections are declining or were missed, epidemiologists say. [The Washington Post, CNBC]


Pompeo warns Russia of 'enormous price' if bounty report true

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that he had warned his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that Moscow would pay "an enormous price" if it offered militants bounties to kill American and other Western soldiers in Afghanistan. The New York Times reported in June that Russian military intelligence had offered such bounties to Taliban-linked fighters. President Trump said he had not been told about the matter before the news report, and that he doubted it was accurate. Several U.S. and European sources confirmed the report of the payments. Pompeo declined in a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty interview to say whether he believed the intelligence credible, but he had warned Lavrov of swift consequences if it's true. "I know our military has talked to their senior leaders as well … we won't tolerate," Pompeo said. [Reuters]


Mnuchin, Pelosi trade blame for stalled COVID-19 relief talks

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin unsuccessfully reached out to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday to restart stalled negotiations on a new coronavirus relief package. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) accused the Trump administration of "refusing to budge" even though Democrats agreed to shave $1 trillion from the $3 trillion House-approved package, essentially meeting in the middle of the gap between the House plan and the $1 trillion Senate Republican proposal. Mnuchin disputed that account, saying Pelosi "made clear that she was unwilling to meet to continue negotiations unless we agreed in advance to her proposal, costing at least $2 trillion." He said the White House is ready to move forward with funding for schools, food, hospitals, and other priorities. [The Washington Post, Reuters]


Biden campaign donations surge after Harris named as running mate

Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign raised $26 million in the 24 hours after the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee named Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as his running mate. The surge included contributions from 150,000 first-time donors in a sign that Harris, the first woman of color on a major party presidential ticket, can build enthusiasm for the campaign. The money really came flooding in during the first hour after he broke the news — those were the best 60 minutes of fundraising his campaign has had so far, Politico reported. Biden shared the fundraising totals during a virtual event on Wednesday evening, saying, "It's really palpable, the excitement." Prior to joining the ticket, Harris brought in more than $5 million for the Biden campaign by headlining online fundraisers. [Politico]


U.S. commander 'concerned' over ISIS regrouping in Syria

Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, shared a stark warning on Wednesday about a resurgence of the Islamic State in western Syria. McKenzie participated in a virtual United States Institute of Peace forum, and said that in parts of western Syria, "conditions are as bad or worse" than they were prior to the terror group's rise in 2014, and "we should all be concerned about that." The region is controlled by the Syrian government, and insurgents there have a degree of freedom to move around. There is barely a U.S. presence in western Syria, McKenzie said, and the United States does not believe the regime will do anything to try to push back against the militants. [The Associated Press]


Watchdog: U.S. ambassador to Britain made inappropriate remarks

The State Department inspector general's office released a report on Wednesday requesting further review of evidence that during his tenure U.S. Ambassador to Britain Woody Johnson had made insensitive and inappropriate comments about race, religion, and sex. "Offensive or derogatory comments, based on an individual's race, color, sex, or religion can create an offensive working environment and could potentially rise to a violation of EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) laws," the inspector general's office said in the report. The State Department's Bureau of European and Eurasian affairs disagreed with the recommendation for further review, saying that a formal assessment was not required. Instead, it said all staff, including the chief of mission, should receive training to "heighten awareness on these important issues," the report said. [Reuters]


Air Force helicopter hit with gunshot in Virginia, makes emergency landing

A U.S. Air Force helicopter had to make an emergency landing after someone fired a shot at the aircraft, injuring one of its two pilots, an Air Force official said Wednesday. The incident occurred Monday near Manassas, Virginia. The helicopter was flying at an altitude of 1,000 feet on a training mission. It landed safely at Manassas Regional Airport, west of Washington, D.C. The FBI and the Air Force are conducting a joint investigation. The UH-1N Huey helicopter's pilots can be heard on air traffic control radio reporting "a medical emergency" and, after initially scrapping plans to land at the Manassas airport, said they were heading "direct to Manassas." [CNN]


Hong Kong media tycoon, released on bail, urges patience in democracy fight

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, the highest-profile person arrested so far under China's new national security law, said on Thursday, a day after his release on bail, that democracy advocates should brace for a "long-term fight" in the Chinese-ruled former British colony. Police raided the headquarters of Lai's Apple Daily tabloid on Monday. Officers arrested Lai, a supporter of the financial hub's democracy movement, on suspicion of collusion with foreign forces. Beijing sees Lai as a "traitor." Lai on Thursday thanked supporters during a #LiveChatWithJimmy video appearance on Twitter. "The oxygen is getting thin, and we are all choking," he said, "but when we're choking we're still taking care of each other and keep resisting and keep fighting for our rule of law and freedom." [Reuters]


Sumner Redstone dies at 97

Billionaire media mogul Sumner Redstone died Tuesday, his family's holding company, National Amusements, announced in a statement Wednesday. He was 97. Redstone built a media empire from National Amusements, a chain of drive-in theaters. Over several decades, he accrued holdings that included CBS, Paramount Pictures, Simon & Schuster, Blockbuster, and Viacom. At their peak, The New York Times reports, the businesses he controlled were worth more than $80 billion. The Wall Street Journal described Redstone as a "mercurial" figure who was known for feuding both with his top executives and his family members, earning him the nickname "Grumpy" from his own grandchildren. Barry Reardon, who oversaw distribution for the rival Warner Brothers studio, said in 1994 that being the "relentless" Redstone's competitor "is a fate worse than death." [The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times]