Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 18, 2020

Harold Maass
USPS trucks
Scott Olson/Getty Images

1.

Judge blocks USPS changes that slowed mail

A federal judge in Washington state on Thursday temporarily blocked controversial operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service, siding with 14 states that accused President Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy of trying to slow down deliveries to thwart mail-in voting. Stanley Bastian, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, called the changes "a politically motivated attack" that could disenfranchise voters by slowing deliveries, and leave states unable to "effectively, timely, accurately determine election outcomes." Bastian noted that 72 percent of high-speed sorting machines decommissioned were in counties Hillary Clinton won in 2016. A lawyer for the USPS, Trump, DeJoy, and other defendants argued that the Postal Service can handle the election season rush even with the changes. [The Washington Post, CNN]

2.

Report: CDC testing guidance written by HHS

A controversial recommendation on coronavirus testing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last month was written by Health and Human Services Department officials, not CDC scientists, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing internal documents and people familiar with the matter. The guidance said it wasn't necessary to test people exposed to the coronavirus who showed no COVID-19 symptoms. The administration said the recommendation came from the CDC, but the Times' sources said Trump administration officials rewrote it and posted it without the normal scientific review. One federal official said the document "came from the top down, from the HHS and the [White House coronavirus] task force," and "does not reflect what many people at the CDC feel should be the policy." [The New York Times]

3.

Former model accuses Trump of sexually assaulting her in 1997

Amy Dorris, a former model, came forward in an interview with The Guardian to say that President Trump kissed and groped her without her consent in his VIP box at the U.S. Open in September 1997. Several people confirmed to the British newspaper that Dorris had told them about the alleged sexual assault just after it happened. Trump "just shoved his tongue down my throat and I was pushing him off," she said. "And then that's when his grip became tighter and his hands were very gropey and all over my butt, my breasts, my back, everything." Dorris said she considered coming forward in 2016, when numerous women accused Trump of similar assaults, but decided not to because she didn't want to hurt her family. Trump's lawyers strongly denied that the president had ever harassed, abused, or behaved improperly toward Dorris. [The Guardian, The New York Times]

4.

Sally's flooding continues as rivers rise

The remnants of former Hurricane Sally continued to drench the Southeast on Thursday, threatening flooding as far north as Virginia. Rescuers in high-water vehicles and personal watercrafts finally managed to reach some stranded Gulf Coast residents more than 24 hours after the storm made landfall in Alabama near the Florida state line. Authorities warned some areas in the two states could face a second round of flooding as rivers swollen by stormwater overflowed. As Sally weakened and pushed farther north, Hurricane Teddy threatened Bermuda and was expected to reach northern New England in the middle of next week. Around the same time, a disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico that could soon develop into a named storm, Wilfred, could threaten coastal Texas and the northern Gulf Coast. [The Washington Post, The Associated Press]

5.

Former Pence aide endorses Biden

Olivia Troye, the former top homeland security aide to Vice President Mike Pence, said Thursday that she is endorsing Joe Biden, President Trump's Democratic challenger, because she sees Trump as a weak leader who badly mismanaged the federal government's response to the coronavirus pandemic. Troye joined a rising number of Trump administration officials and other Republicans publicly endorsing Biden in the November presidential election. Troye helped run the White House coronavirus task force before stepping down last month. "If the president had taken this virus seriously ... he would've saved lives," she said in a video released by Republican Voters Against Trump. Pence said Troye never raised concerns with his staff, and sounded "like one more disgruntled employee that has decided to play politics during election year." [USA Today, The Washington Post]

6.

Weekly jobless claims fall, but slightly

The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell by 33,000 to a seasonally adjusted 860,000 last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Weekly jobless claims soared to the highest on record when the coronavirus hit, then fell for much of the spring and summer as businesses started reopening after coronavirus lockdowns. The numbers have been holding steady or inching down since August. AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at job search site Indeed, said the labor market's recovery has "stalled out" even though the economy has improved significantly. "While there is some rehiring going on, longer term labor market scarring is occurring as well," she said. [The Wall Street Journal]

7.

Oracle and ByteDance agree to Treasury terms for TikTok deal

Oracle and TikTok owner ByteDance have accepted terms proposed by the Treasury Department for Oracle's bid to take over TikTok's U.S. operations. Under the plan, Oracle would take a minority stake in a new TikTok, with headquarters in the U.S. and an independent, U.S. government-approved board. China's ByteDance selected Oracle as its partner, rejecting an acquisition bid by Microsoft in favor of a deal that kept majority ownership in ByteDance's hands. President Trump has threatened to shut down TikTok in the U.S., citing national security concerns. The White House and Treasury declined to comment on the latest development. A final deal will require approval by Trump and China, which has accused the Trump administration of "economic bullying." [Bloomberg]

8.

White House scrapped plan to send masks to every American

The White House reportedly abandoned a plan to send five masks to every American household in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, the United States Postal Service drafted a news release touting a "historic delivery of 650 million face coverings" it was planning to deliver in partnership with the White House coronavirus task force. The masks would first go to areas where COVID-19 was spreading rapidly and to essential workers. However, White House officials feared "households receiving masks might create concern or panic," an administration official said. Instead, it sent the masks to various companies and health-care facilities. Previously, President Trump had told Bob Woodward he tried to "play down" the threat of COVID-19, later saying he didn't want to cause panic. [The Washington Post]

9.

New York schools delay start of in-person classes for 2nd time

New York City schools have delayed the start of in-person classes for the second time days before they were scheduled to start. The postponement followed mounting complaints from teachers and administrators that many schools simply weren't ready to receive students. The decision sent principals scrambling to hold emergency meetings to update families as many parents frantically tried to arrange child care and work commitments. New York is the nation's largest school systems. It is offering its 1 million students the options of all-remote learning or a hybrid arrangement with some in-person instruction. Both plans were scheduled to begin Sept. 21. Now in-person instruction will be phased in, with pre-K starting next week, and schools serving Kindergarten through Grade 5 or through Grade 8 starting Sept. 29. Middle and high schools will start Oct. 1. [The Wall Street Journal]

10.

Louisville council censures mayor over Breonna Taylor case

The Louisville, Kentucky, city council passed a "no confidence" resolution against Mayor Greg Fischer over his handling of the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor, and protests that followed. The resolution said Fischer "failed to hold leadership of the Louisville Metro Police Department properly accountable." Fischer acknowledged the criticism and apologized. The resolution, which called for reforms, passed 22-4 after a resolution asking Fischer to resign failed. The resolution called for increasing affordable housing and conducting a review of the police department. Taylor was killed in March by officers serving a "no-knock" search warrant that proved fruitless and was related to Taylor's ex-boyfriend. The council has since banned the use of "no-knock" warrants. The city reached a $12 million settlement with Taylor's family on Tuesday. [NBC News]