Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 23, 2020

Tim O'Donnell
United States Postal Service.
KYLE GRILLOT/AFP via Getty Images


House passes $25 billion USPS bill

The House on Saturday passed legislation that would provide $25 billion to the United States Postal Service, while also banning any operational changes to the agency like the removal of mail-sorting machines and collection boxes and reversing already-enacted measures. The 257-150 vote was mostly along party lines with Democrats, who fear the Trump administration is deliberately trying to slow mail delivery ahead of the November election amid a push for universal mail-in voting because of the coronavirus pandemic, supporting the bill. Republicans, on the other hand, accused their colleagues of manufacturing "baseless conspiracy theories," although some GOP members did cross the aisle. It's unlikely the bill will pass the Republican-controlled Senate, however, and Senate Majority Leader Mitchell McConnell wasted little time expressing opposition to the legislation, tweeting his disapproval just minutes after the vote. [The Washington Post, NBC News]


Global coronavirus deaths top 800,000

The global death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 800,000 on Saturday, data collected by Johns Hopkins University shows, while the number of confirmed cases across the world shot past 23 million. The United States has recorded the highest number of fatalities and infections of any country, while Brazil is second in both categories. India on Saturday became the third country to pass 3 million cases. Elsewhere, The Washington Post notes, Lebanon has experienced an alarming rise in new infections, compounding the country's financial, economic, and political crises. Since a devastating explosion rocked Beirut's port in early August, killing at least 180 people, the number of coronavirus cases has nearly doubled in Lebanon, forcing the government to order a partial lockdown. [Johns Hopkins University, The Washington Post]


Trump claims 'deep state' operatives are slowing FDA's coronavirus treatment development

President Trump on Friday tweeted that "the deep state, or whoever, over at the" Food and Drug Administration is "making it very difficult for drug companies" to enroll people in coronavirus vaccine and therapy trials. "Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after Nov. 3," he added, suggesting that the agency's operatives were attempting to halt a life-saving, pandemic-altering coronavirus treatment to keep him from winning re-election. There is no evidence to back up the claim and the FDA, drug companies, and researchers are, on the contrary, working at an unprecedented pace to deliver something that will curb the spread of the coronavirus. As Politico notes, the FDA is not in charge of who enrolls in drug company trials. [President Donald Trump, Politico]


California fires expected to grow as new storm system approaches

The second and third largest fires in California history — both of which are located in the San Francisco Bay area — are expected to grow in the coming days as a new thunderstorm will mover over the state, likely bringing with it dry lightning and strong winds, The Los Angeles Times reports. The National Weather Service has issued red-flag warnings across Northern and Central California, but the fires have already destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands of people to evacuate. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Saturday that the White House has approved the state's request for a presidential major disaster declaration to bolster the response to the blazes. Since July, about 1.2 million acres in California have burned, which the Times notes is an "astonishing" figure for so early in the fire season. [Los Angeles Times]


Trump blasted by older sister in secret recording

President Trump's sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, can be heard sharply criticizing her brother in a conversation secretly recorded by her niece, Mary Trump. The audio was obtained by The Washington Post. Barry said Trump "has no principles" and "only wants to appeal to his base," while specifically lamenting the Trump administration's actions at the U.S.-Mexico border. The recording also appears to confirm that Barry was the source of one of the most publicized moments from Mary Trump's recently published tell-all book about her uncle. Barry, who described her brother as a "brat" as a child, claimed the president, after beginning his college education at Fordham University, "got into University of Pennsylvania because he had somebody take the exams." [The Washington Post]


Dueling protesters clash, ignore police warnings in Portland

Demonstrators faced off in Portland, Oregon, on Saturday, with the two sides — one aligned with a "Back the Blue" rally and the other a Black Lives Matter counter-demonstration — reportedly largely ignoring police warnings. The competing protests reportedly drew hundreds of people to a plaza near a federal court house that has been the site of a series of demonstrations. A volley of fire from paintball guns reportedly prompted a nearby officer to threaten the crowd with arrests, and a member of the Proud Boys, a far-right hate group, reportedly pulled a pistol on the Black Lives Matter demonstrators (he did not fire), but the city police never attempted to move in on the protesters. Ultimately, Department of Homeland Security officers deemed the gatherings unlawful and moved through the plaza, forcing the crowd to disperse. [The Oregonian, The Associated Press]


Report: Kushner to visit Gulf states in hopes of normalizing Israeli relations

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner — along with White House envoy Avi Berkowitz, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, and the State Department's Special Envoy for Iran Brian Hook — is expected to travel to the Middle East in September, with stops planned in Israel and several Gulf states, Axios reports. The goal of the trip is to scope out the early days of the U.S.-brokered deal that normalized relations between Israel and the UAE. But Kushner will also reportedly attempt to encourage other countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Oman, to strike similar agreements with Israel. [Axios]


Tropical storms Marco, Laura expected to strengthen into hurricanes as they near Gulf of Mexico

Tropical Storm Marco was nearing hurricane strength Sunday morning as it continued toward the Gulf of Mexico. The storm is expected to make landfall on the Louisiana coast by Monday, and a hurricane watch has been issued for the New Orleans metro area. The Mississippi and Alabama coasts are also under tropical storm and hurricane watches. Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Laura, which on Sunday was located about 40 miles northeast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after knocking out utilities in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, is headed on a path similar to Marco's. The two storms could potentially converge, which would mark the first time two hurricanes have appeared in the Gulf of Mexico simultaneously since at least 1900. [Fox News, The Orlando Sentinel]


Tiktok to challenge Trump's executive order

TikTok, the popular video-sharing app, reportedly plans to sue the Trump administration as early as this week in response to President Trump's executive order that gave Americans 45 days to stop doing business with Tiktok's Chinese parent company, ByteDance. The order effectively sets a deadline for ByteDance, which the White House fears is harboring U.S. user data that it could hand over to Beijing, to sell the app to an American company. A TikTok spokesperson told CNBC the suit was launched to ensure "that our company and users are treated fairly." Microsoft and Oracle are both in talks with ByteDance about a potential sale, and the challenge to Trump's order reportedly will not affect those discussions. [The Guardian, CNBC]


PSG, Bayern Munich face off in Champions League final

French soccer club Paris Saint-German will take on German club Bayern Munich on Sunday in the Champions League final. The competition began over a year ago in June 2019 and, like most professional sports across the world, went on hiatus for a time during the coronavirus pandemic. No fans will be allowed in the 65,000-seat Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal, due to health and safety measures. Bayern, considered one of the world's most talented teams, is after its sixth European championship, while PSG, led by stars Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, chases its first ever Champions League crown. The match will take place at 3 p.m. ET on CBS Sports. [BBC, France 24]