Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 19, 2020

Democrats officially nominate Biden for president, a Senate report says Manafort posed a "grave" security threat, and more 

1

Democrats formally nominate Joe Biden for president

Democrats officially nominated Joe Biden as their presidential candidate on Tuesday during the second night of their virtual convention. With the party's Milwaukee gathering scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic, Democratic delegates cast their votes remotely in a roll call vote from locations across all 50 states, the American territories, and the District of Columbia. The evening's speakers included former President Bill Clinton, who hammered President Trump over his response to the coronavirus pandemic. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Biden would strengthen the U.S. by rejecting "the flattery of dictators and despots." Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams called Trump "a president of cowardice," while saying "Joe Biden is a man of proven courage." Biden's wife Jill Biden said he would provide "leadership worthy of this nation."

2

Senate report: Manafort posed 'grave counterintelligence threat'

The Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released its fifth and final report on Russia's 2016 election interference, concluding that the Trump campaign had regular contact with Russians and welcomed their help. The Senate panel said former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort posed a "grave counterintelligence threat" due to his "willingness to share information" with associates of Russian agents. The investigation supported many of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's conclusions, including that Trump associates tried to get information hacked from Democrats and released by WikiLeaks in a bid to damage then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign. Trump has called the Russia investigations a hoax, but the Senate report rejects Trump's claim that the FBI had no reason to investigate his campaign's contacts with Russia.

3

Postmaster general suspends operational changes until after election

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said Tuesday that he was suspending changes to the U.S. Postal Service, including removal of collection boxes and mail sorting equipment, until after the November election. "To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded," DeJoy said in a statement. DeJoy has faced a backlash over the operational changes, which critics said could prevent mail-in ballots from being counted. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said DeJoy has already "lost the trust of the American people." At least 21 states plan to sue the Postal Service and DeJoy to block the changes. DeJoy has agreed to testify before the House next week.

4

S&P 500 returns to record level, erasing coronavirus losses

The S&P 500 rose by 0.2 percent on Tuesday to close at a record high of 3,389, completing its rebound from a March plunge fueled by the coronavirus crisis. The broad market index has risen by more than 54 percent since bottoming out on March 23. The market gains have been driven partly by surging major tech stocks, including Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google-parent Alphabet. Big Tech has been among the winners as Americans shifted more of their work, education, shopping, and entertainment online during coronavirus lockdowns. Shares of retailers continued to struggle despite better-than-expected earnings reports from Walmart and Home Depot. U.S. stock index futures edged higher early Wednesday following the S&P 500's record, which ended the shortest bear market in U.S. history.

5

GOP Rep. Ross Spano loses primary in Florida

Freshman Florida Rep. Ross Spano, who faced investigations into campaign finance violations related to his 2018 campaign, lost his Republican GOP primary on Tuesday to a conservative challenger, Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin. Spano was the eighth House incumbent to lose in primaries and district conventions this year, the most since the 1974 post-Watergate primaries and double the number ousted in 2018. Five of the ousted incumbents were Republicans, and three Democrats. Democrats had seen the GOP-leaning seat as a possible pickup opportunity if Spano won the primary. Franklin benefited from endorsements from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Polk County's well-known sheriff, Grady Judd, while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and other Republicans had backed Spano. Franklin will face former television journalist Alan Cohn in November's general election.

6

Mali's president resigns hours after arrest

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta resigned on Tuesday hours after mutinous soldiers arrested him and Prime Minister Boubou Cissé in the capital, Bamako. "I do not wish for blood to be shed anymore so I can maintain power," he said, ending his seven-years in power. The apparent coup attempt followed a weeks-long political crisis during which protesters took to the streets demanding Keïta's departure. His critics accused him of him of leading the West African nation to economic collapse amid a worsening security crisis driven by deepening ethnic and ideological tensions. The United States and much of the international community condemned the "unconstitutional change." Anti-government protesters celebrated in Bamako.

7

California governor declares emergency as wildfires spread

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) declared a statewide emergency on Tuesday to increase resources available to fight wildfires spreading across the state during an extreme heat wave. More than 30 wildfires are burning in the state. A dozen of them started over the last two days. Utility officials have warned of more rolling blackouts due to power shortages as people rely on air conditioners to deal with the heat. Newsom said the state had lined up assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deal with wildfires in Napa, Nevada, and Monterey counties. "We are deploying every resource available to keep communities safe as California battles fires across the state during these extreme conditions," said Newsom.

8

China evacuates 100,000 as flooding threatens 1,200-year-old heritage site

Chinese authorities evacuated more than 100,000 people due to flooding around the upper Yangtze river that threatened a 1,200-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site, the 233-foot Leshan Giant Buddha. Police and volunteers helped place sandbags around the site to protect it from rising waters, which rose over its toes for the first time since 1949. Sichuan province raised its emergency response to its highest level on Tuesday as it braced for more torrential rains. The Yangtze Water Resources Commission, which oversees the river, declared a red alert, saying late Tuesday that water at some monitoring stations could exceed "guaranteed" flood protection levels by 16 feet or more.

9

Trump delays China trade talks, repeats finger-pointing over virus

President Trump said Tuesday that he called off trade talks with China that were scheduled for last weekend. "I don't want to talk to China right now," Trump said in Arizona. The news came after Trump has stepped up complaints over China's handling of the outbreak of the coronavirus. The first outbreak was reported late last year, and Trump has repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the "China Virus," deflecting criticism for his handling of the crisis by blaming China. "What China did to the world was unthinkable," he said. The trade talks had been scheduled to review progress six months into the "phase one" trade deal between the world's two biggest economies after months of tit-for-tat tariffs launched by Trump in response to Beijing trade practices he called unfair.

10

Trump says he'll pardon Susan B. Anthony

President Trump on Tuesday pardoned women's suffragist Susan B. Anthony, who was arrested in 1872 for illegally voting. The pardon came on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Anthony died in 1906. She was found guilty by an all-male jury of illegally voting, and was fined $100. The pardon was reportedly an effort to appeal to female voters ahead of the 2020 election, and reportedly to garner attention amid the Democratic National Convention. Trump said Anthony should have been pardoned long ago, asking, "what took so long?"

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