Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 27, 2020

Tim O'Donnell
Donald Trump and Amy Coney Barrett.
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

1.

Trump officially nominates Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court

As expected, President Trump on Saturday officially nominated Amy Coney Barrett, a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, for the Supreme Court following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last week. Speaking at the White House, Trump described Barrett, who traveled to Washington, D.C., from her home in South Bend, Indiana, for the nomination, as "one of our nation's most gifted and brilliant legal minds" and a "woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution." During her own remarks, Barrett, who is well-respected in conservative circles, said she shares the judicial philosophy of her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Judges, she said, "must apply the law as written" while "setting aside any policy views they might hold." Barrett must now be confirmed by the Senate in what is expected to be a contentious process. [The New York Times, Politico]

2.

Senate committee's Supreme Court confirmation hearing scheduled for Oct. 12

The Senate Judiciary Committee will reportedly begin its confirmation hearing for President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, on Oct. 12, Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) revealed during an appearance on Fox News on Saturday, hours after the nomination. Graham suggested the hearing will last for three to four days, with the first day reserved for introductions, opening statements, and a statement from Barrett. The next two days will be dedicated to questioning, and then the markup process would start on Oct. 15. Committee rules mean the nomination will likely get held for a week, setting up a vote on Oct. 22. Graham then hopes to move Barrett's confirmation to a full Senate vote by Oct. 26, a week before the presidential election. Historically, the expedited timeline has precedent, but it would be rapid compared to the number of days between nomination and confirmation for more recent nominees. [NBC News, The Hill]

3.

Midwest breaks records as coronavirus cases surge

Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota, and Wisconsin all reported record one-day increases in coronavirus cases Saturday, as COVID-19 infections continued to surge in the Midwest and rose nationally for the second straight week. Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming had also reported 24-hour records this week. Per Reuters, the influx of new cases can at least be partially attributed to an increase in testing, but hospitalizations, which are not tied to testing levels, have risen, as well. Wisconsin and South Dakota have set hospitalization records for six and five days in a row, respectively. Elsewhere in the U.S., New York state, the home of the worst coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. since the pandemic began, reported more than 1,000 cases in a day Saturday for the first time since June 5. The state's infections are trending upward, but the positivity rate has mostly remained steady. [Reuters, NBC New York]

4.

Portland demonstrations end mostly without reports of violence despite fears

Law enforcement declared an unlawful assembly in Portland, Oregon, late Saturday as hundreds of people protesting against police brutality gathered downtown. Police made several arrests, but overall Saturday was much calmer than state and local officials had feared while bracing for thousands of members of the far-right Proud Boys to head to the city for a rally in support of President Trump and law enforcement. The actual attendance was reportedly far lower than anticipated, and there were few reports of violence, although police were investigating an assault after one person documenting the gathering was pushed to the ground and kicked in the face. Demonstrations occurred across the U.S. in response to a Kentucky grand jury's decision not to charge Louisville police officers for killing Breonna Taylor. [The Associated Press, USA Today]

5.

Armenia, Azerbaijan clash over contested region

Fighting has broken out between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the Armenian government has declared martial law and total military mobilization. The neighboring nations have been mired in a decades-long standoff over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region. A ceasefire was brokered in 1994, but there have been flare-ups since; Sunday's escalation appears to be the worst since 2016. Both sides have reported civilian deaths and blame the other for instigating the fighting. The Armenian Defense Ministry said Azerbaijan launched an attack on civilian settlements Sunday morning, and in response Armenia shot down two helicopters and three drones and destroyed three tanks. Azerbaijan only acknowledged that one helicopter had been lost, and a defense ministry spokesperson said several villages in Nagorno-Karabakh "which were under enemy occupation for many years have been liberated." [BBC, Al Jazeera]

6.

CDC ends federal coronavirus survey in Minnesota after allegations of racism, intimidation

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ended a federal coronavirus survey this week after public health workers, who went door-to-door across 180 neighborhoods to gain a better understanding of how the virus was spreading and offer free virus and antibody testing, experienced verbal abuse, intimidation, and racism, the Minnesota Department of Health confirmed. The survey teams were reportedly greeted by some Minnesota residents with racial and ethnic slurs and were occasionally reportedly followed or videotaped. Dan Huff, an assistant health commissioner for the state, said one team was surrounded by three men — one of whom was armed — who refused to accept their identification as public health workers. The mayor of the town where the alleged incident occurred, Eitzen, Minnesota, denied any weapon was present and said that the situation was handled "courteously." [NBC News, Time]

7.

Xi says China's 'strategy' in Xinjiang will continue

During a two-day Communist Party conference that ended Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said his approach to governing the Xinjiang region will continue, Chinese state media reported. Xi reportedly said "practice has proven" Beijing's "strategy" in Xinjiang is "completely correct," and he also ordered the party to consider it a political mission. On the ground in Xinjiang, China has built mass detention camps for Uighurs and other largely Muslim minorities, forcing them to assimilate. The human rights abuses have sparked an international backlash, but it appears Beijing is prepared to double down amid the criticism. In the published remarks, Xi did not explicitly mention the indoctrination camps, which Chinese authorities refer to as vocational training centers, The New York Times reports. [The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times]

8.

South Korea calls for joint investigation with North Korea over shooting of official

South Korea on Sunday called on North Korea to launch a joint investigation into the killing of a South Korean official tasked with monitoring fishing boats near the disputed western sea border, who was shot by North Korean troops on Tuesday after he was found adrift in North Korean waters. The man has not been identified publicly, but South Korea suspects he was attempting to defect to North Korea, while Pyongyang described him as an "illegal intruder" who failed to explain his presence. North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un apologized for the killing in a letter, and state news media said it "should not have happened," but North Korea has also warned that Seoul's naval operations in the areas threatened to raise tensions between the neighboring rivals. [NBC News, The New York Times]

9.

Projections show Swiss voters rejecting proposal to end free movement with EU

In a referendum Sunday, Swiss voters have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to end an agreement with the European Union that allows for the free movement of people from EU nations into Switzerland, television projections suggest. Switzerland's public broadcaster SRF is projecting that 63 percent of the voters turned out against the motion, which was introduced by the populist Swiss People's Party, while 37 percent supported it. The SVP, Deutsche Welle notes, built its platform on condemning EU influence within Switzerland, which is not a member state, but is part of the Schengen Area. Their supporters believe the agreement has led to overpopulation and higher costs of living, while the victorious detractors believe the proposal would have plunged the economy into recession and prevented Swiss citizens from living and working freely across Europe. [BBC, Deutsche Welle]

10.

James leads Lakers back to NBA Finals

The Los Angeles Lakers are headed to their 32nd NBA Finals, the most of any franchise in the NBA, after defeating the Denver Nuggets, 117-107, in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals in the Orlando bubble Saturday night. It's the club's first trip to the Finals since they won the title in 2010. LeBron James led the way for Los Angeles, dropping 38 points, 16 of which came in the fourth quarter to seal the game, and compiling his 27th career postseason triple-double. The 35-year-old James will be making the 10th finals appearance of his illustrious career, and his ninth in 10 years. The Lakers will await the winner of the Eastern Conference finals between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics. Miami holds a 3-2 advantage as the sides prepare to tip off Sunday night for Game 6 at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. [ESPN]