10 things you need to know today: October 14, 2020

Senators grill Barrett on ObamaCare, abortion, and election disputes, the Supreme Court lets administration end census count, and more 

Amy Coney Barrett speaks
(Image credit: Caroline Brehman-Pool/Getty Images)

1. Senators question Barrett on ObamaCare, abortion, election disputes

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett said during the second day of her confirmation hearing that she would not "pre-commit" on how she would rule on such critical cases as the Affordable Care Act, abortion rights, or a dispute over the November election. Barrett, a conservative judge picked by President Trump to replace the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, did say that she was "not here on a mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act." Democrats have framed her confirmation, which would expand the court's conservative majority to 6-3, as a step toward killing the health-care reform law, also known as ObamaCare. Judge Barrett has criticized a past Supreme Court decision that stopped short of striking down a key element of ObamaCare, but she said she could not say "in the abstract" whether that would lead her to recuse herself in a pending health-care case.

The Washington Post

2. Supreme Court lets Trump administration end census count

The Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked, without explanation, a federal court ruling requiring the census count to continue through the end of October, allowing the Trump administration to halt the process two weeks early. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented. The White House said that to meet the Dec. 31 statutory deadline, the count needed to stop immediately. Civil rights groups have said ending the census early will mean minority groups will be undercounted and subsequently receive less political representation and federal funding than they would with a more accurate count. After the ruling, the Census Bureau announced the count would end Thursday. The activists also argue that the effort to cut short the count was meant to accommodate President Trump's July order to exclude undocumented immigrants from the count.

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Bloomberg The Associated Press

3. FBI: Michigan suspects also discussed targeting Virginia governor

Suspects arrested over an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) also discussed kidnapping Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), according to the FBI. FBI Special Agent Richard Trask said during a hearing on Tuesday regarding the charges against the alleged Whitmer conspirators that some of the men also discussed, during a meeting in Ohio, targeting Whitmer and Northam "based on the lockdown orders" they imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Trask said. Authorities arrested and charged six men who allegedly plotted to kidnap Whitmer and put her on "trial" prior to the November presidential election. Northam accused President Trump of fueling the right-wing extremists with his rhetoric, including a call to "liberate" Virginia as the state implemented COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

The Associated Press The Washington Post

4. Supreme Court rejects Democratic lawmakers' 'emoluments' case against Trump

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a lawsuit by congressional Democrats accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution's "emoluments" clause barring presidents from receiving payments from foreign governments. The high court refused to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling finding that the 215 Democratic lawmakers lacked legal standing to pursue the case, which centers on Trump's ownership of the Trump International Hotel in Washington. The Republican president faces two similar lawsuits filed by an advocacy group and Democratic attorneys general. Those likely will be dismissed as moot if Trump loses the November election, University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias said.


5. Report: 'Unmasking' inquiry ends without charges

U.S. Attorney John Bash, the federal prosecutor Attorney General William Barr appointed to review the "unmasking" of names in intelligence documents by Obama-era officials, has finished the work without criminal charges or a public report, The Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter. Unmasking is a common practice that helps clarify classified documents, but conservatives have argued that Obama administration officials used it to reveal the name of Trump adviser Michael Flynn in intelligence documents in late 2016 and early 2017. Bash, who left the Justice Department last week, is taking a job in the private sector. His team also focused on whether Obama-era officials provided information to reporters, the Post says, citing anonymous people familiar with the investigation. The newspaper was not able to review Bash's findings.

The Washington Post

6. Romney criticizes 'vile' rhetoric in Washington

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Tuesday that American politics has "moved away from spirited debate to a vile, vituperative, hate-filled morass that is unbecoming of any free nation — let alone the birthplace of modern democracy." Romney, the Republican Party's 2012 presidential nominee, placed the bulk of the blame on President Trump, who calls "the Democratic vice presidential candidate 'a monster' and the speaker of the House 'crazy,' and urges the Justice Department to 'put the prior president in jail.'" Romney also said Democrats "launch blistering attacks of their own — though their presidential nominee refuses to stoop as low as others." He called out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for tearing up Trump's State of the Union speech on national TV, and said that the media "on the left and right amplify all of it."

NBC News

7. AMC warns it will run out of cash by early 2021 due to theater closures

AMC Entertainment said in a regulatory filing Tuesday that it might run out of cash by the end of 2020 or early 2021. AMC, the largest U.S. movie theater chain, said it would need to come up with new loans or other financing, renegotiate leases with landlords, sell assets, and use other means to deal with the shortfall as the coronavirus pandemic devastates the industry. Regal Cinemas, the second largest U.S. movie theater chain, announced last week that it was temporarily closing all of its locations. AMC shares already were down 44 percent on the year as of Monday, and they fell further on Tuesday after the filing.

The Street

8. U.S., 7 other countries sign space accords

NASA announced Tuesday that the United States and seven other nations have signed the Artemis Accords, establishing rules governing behavior in outer space and on the surface of the moon. The rules address the extraction of lunar resources by private companies, and create safety zones to help avoid conflict in space. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said the accords will build on the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which bans the use of nuclear weapons in space, "so that we can keep peace and prosperity moving forward in space and avoid any kind of confusion or ambiguity that can result in conflict." The other countries that signed are the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, and Italy.

The Washington Post

9. Apple unveils its 1st 5G iPhones

Apple on Tuesday announced its first line of iPhones that will support new, high-speed 5G networks. Apple CEO Tim Cook said in the highly anticipated event that it was the "beginning of a new era" for the iPhone. The new smartphones include the 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini, which Apple described as the "smallest, thinnest, lightest 5G phone in the world." Apple touted the "impressive new capabilities" that will come with 5G networks, but news outlets pointed out that 5G networks still aren't available everywhere, and even where 5G is available, it doesn't always perform a lot better than 4G, so many users might initially be disappointed. The iPhone 12, Apple said, will be available for pre-order on Oct. 16, while the iPhone 12 mini will be available for pre-order on Nov. 6.

BuzzFeed CNBC

10. Eli Lilly coronavirus antibody trial halted over safety concern

Regulators have paused a government-sponsored clinical trial testing drug-maker Eli Lilly's coronavirus antibody treatment due to a "potential safety concern," The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing emails sent by government officials and confirmation from the company. A day earlier, Johnson & Johnson announced that it was temporarily halting its coronavirus vaccine trial because a participant fell ill. Last month, AstraZeneca also halted its vaccine trial after two volunteers got sick after receiving its vaccine. Eli Lilly is testing the benefits of its drug on hundreds of people hospitalized with COVID-19. The patients also are being treated with the experimental drug remdesivir. Eli Lilly did not say how many of the patients were sick.

The New York Times

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.