December 20, 2018

Rudy Giuliani always knows how to clarify a confusing situation.

President Trump's attorney told CNBC on Thursday that he has an even better idea than Trump's proposed border wall. Why not just beef up border security?

"I don't see the magic in a wall, as long as there's some form of improved barrier that picks up penetration," he said. A physical wall might not be the best strategy, he suggested, contrary to what Trump has been saying for years.

"I could build a wall for him with long-range cameras and security," continued Giuliani. "He needs something. I think he'd compromise if he got most of what he wanted." A compromise is exactly what lawmakers are looking for as an imminent government shutdown hinges on whether Trump will accept a federal spending bill that doesn't include $5 billion for a border wall.

Giuliani's offer to improve security with amped up technology and general funding was pretty far from on-message — Democrats have offered exactly that, suggesting around $1.6 billion could go toward increased border security, instead of a wall. Trump's attorney clarified that he hadn't conferred with the president and was speaking for himself. He did not comment on whether his security firm, Giuliani Security & Safety, would be willing to construct Trump's newly-conceived "steel slats." Read more at CNBC. Summer Meza

11:24 a.m.

Organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday politely reminded guests to wear a mask at the mid-pandemic event — a message that immediately drew backlash from the crowd.

Early on during the first day of the conservative conference in Orlando, Florida, on Friday, the American Conservative Union's Dan Schneider and Carly Conley took the stage to remind those in attendance to please follow the hotel's rules that masks be worn amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a reminder that Schneider described as a "bit of a downer."

"Please, everyone, when you're in the ballroom, when you're seated, you should still be wearing a mask," Conley said. "So if everybody can go ahead, work on that. I know, I know, it's not the must fun."

The request at first draw a few stray claps, only to be followed immediately by a boos and a member of the crowd yelling, "Freedom!"

This comes after Bloomberg's William Turton reported from the event on Thursday, "Just watched a #CPAC staff member ask an attendee multiple times to put his mask on," and "he turned toward her, coughed, and kept walking." Turton added, "I'd say about 60-70 percent of attendees are wearing masks, despite a rule requiring masks." American Conservative Union chair Matt Schlapp later told Turton he doesn't "know anything about that," also saying enforcing the mask rules is the hotel's job. Brendan Morrow

11:18 a.m.

The COVID-19 pandemic launched a wave of harassment and attacks on Asian Americans last year, but experts say it's escalating even further recently.

The New York Times reports "the number of hate crimes with Asian-American victims reported to the New York Police Department jumped to 28 in 2020, from just three the previous year, though activists and police officials say many additional incidents were not classified as hate crimes or went unreported." As Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation, described, the attacks have "stoked a lot of fear and paranoia. People are not leaving their homes." On Thursday night, an Asian man was stabbed and taken to the hospital in critical condition. The case is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

Meanwhile, Xi’an Famous Foods, a group of popular Chinese restaurants in New York, tells the Times restaurant locations close early now to help employees get home safely.

Across the country in Orange County, California, The Washington Post reports a neighborhood has had to rally together to protect an Asian American family from repeated harassment. "There's been escalating harassment and rhetoric" for Asian families in recent months, Priscilla Huang, co-founder of Asian Americans in Action, tells the Post.

Many point to former President Donald Trump's insistent use of "the Chinese virus" as one thing that has fueled racist attacks. While President Biden has decried the phrase and denounced any attacks, critics say his executive action to bar federal use of "inflammatory and xenophobic" language doesn't go far enough, arguing federal hate crime tracking needs to be expanded. In a new statement on Friday, the Department of Justice said "hate crimes cannot be tolerated," and said it had in recent months "trained hundreds of federal prosecutors and law enforcement officers to identify, investigate, and prosecute hate crimes." Watch CBS News' report on the spike in violence below. Summer Meza

9:52 a.m.

The White House says it "respects" the Senate parliamentarian's decision that a $15 per hour minimum wage increase can't be included in Democrats' COVID-19 relief package — but not everyone on the left feels quite the same way.

Some progressives are pushing to overrule Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, who on Thursday ruled the minimum wage increase can't be included in Democrats' coronavirus relief package under budget reconciliation. As Politico writes, some Republicans including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in 2017 called on the vice president to "ignore the merely 'advisory' opinions of the parliamentarian and decide for himself what policies were kosher under reconciliation," and some progressives are now pushing for that step.

"The White House and Senate leadership can and should still include the minimum wage increase in the bill," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Congressional Progressive Caucus chair, said. "We can't allow the advisory opinion of the unelected parliamentarian to stand in the way."

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) also told The Washington Post, "The progressive base understands that Vice President Harris can disregard the parliamentarian," adding, "This simply comes down to whether the VP will choose to include the $15 or not." Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), meanwhile, pushed for replacing the Senate parliamentarian, writing, "What's a Democratic majority if we can't pass our priority bills? This is unacceptable." But Politico writes that essentially "everyone to the right of the Squad" is opposed to that move.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain has said that "we're going to honor the rules of the Senate and work within that system to get this bill passed," and on Thursday, the White House said President Biden is "disappointed" in this outcome but "respects the parliamentarian's decision and the Senate's process." Overruling the parliamentarian would be a "long shot," the Post writes, noting that the White House is opposed and that "it's unlikely that all 50 Senate Democrats would stand united on this even if it got on board." Brendan Morrow

9:13 a.m.

The most chaotic awards show every year is about to get even stranger.

The Golden Globes on Sunday will become the latest awards show to go forward amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting from opposite sides of the country. Nominees are expected to participate remotely, although there will be an in-person component with presenters joining Fey and Poehler in New York and California, respectively.

Pundits are generally predicting that either Nomadland or The Trial of the Chicago 7 will win Best Motion Picture — Drama; the latter would become Netflix's first winner in this category ever. Meanwhile, Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy will likely come down to either Borat Subsequent Moviefilm or Hamilton.

Chadwick Boseman appears quite likely to posthumously win best drama actor for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, while best drama actress looks like a tough battle between Nomadland's Frances McDormand, Promising Young Woman's Carey Mulligan, and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom's Viola Davis. In musical or comedy actor, Borat's Sacha Baron Cohen is favored, and experts think his co-star Maria Bakalova will also win musical or comedy actress.

In the television categories, The Crown may be poised to win best drama series again, while comedy series should go to either 2020 Emmys favorite Schitt's Creek or Apple's Ted Lasso. Wins for Ozark's Jason Bateman, The Crown's Emma Corrin (or her co-star Olivia Colman), Ted Lasso's Jason Sudeikis, and Schitt's Creek's Catherine O'Hara could also be in the cards, though O'Hara has some serious competition from The Flight Attendant's Kaley Cuoco.

As usual, the Golden Globes' film winners could gain a key boost in Oscars momentum, especially any upset victors who could wow Academy voters with memorable speeches. But the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is notorious for its out-of-left-field picks, so expect the unexpected when the Golden Globes go live this Sunday on NBC. Brendan Morrow

9:03 a.m.

Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) may be in the cannabis business, but he suggested Thursday it's the merlot talking when he slips profane asides into the audiobook version of his memoir on his former life of power politics in Washington's "smoke-filled rooms."

What kind of expletives? Well, in one aside, two people tell Axios, Boehner said, "Oh, and Ted Cruz, go f--k yourself." A Boehner spokesman, David Schnittger, confirmed "there were some off-script moments during his recording of the audiobook," adding: "He pretty much just let it fly, as he did when he was working on the book itself. He's not really interested in being anything other than himself these days. That is kind of the spirit of the entire project."

It isn't clear what prompted the dig at Cruz, but Boehner famously called the Texas senator "Lucifer in the flesh" during the 2016 GOP presidential primary, adding: "I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life." His view is widely shared, especially after Cruz's micro-vacation to Cancun during the Texas frigid blackout crisis. In a Feb. 20-22 Yahoo/YouGov poll released Wednesday, only 24 percent of voters said they approve of Cruz's job performance, including a paltry 53 percent of Republicans — a drop of 24 percentage points from his January rating in a separate poll.

Boehner has been famously unfiltered in his retirement, but Cruz seems to invite colorful comments on his unpopularity. "If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) quipped in 2016. Former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) wrote in his autobiography: "I like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz. And I hate Ted Cruz."

Even President Biden seems to be snubbing Cruz when he visits Houston on Friday to survey recovery efforts from last week's winter haymaker. Biden will mostly travel in Texas with Gov. Greg Abbott (R), and when reporters asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki if Cruz and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) will tag along, she said dryly, "There are some limitations on space." Peter Weber

7:49 a.m.

For two weeks, COVID-19 cases and deaths have dropped steadily from the alarmingly high peak of America's third wave of the pandemic. Vaccination rates are rising, new vaccines and millions more doses of approved ones are coming online soon, and deaths have dropped dramatically in places where significant numbers of people have been inoculated, especially nursing homes. But "this is not a time to relax," President Biden said Thursday as he celebrated the country's 50 million's vaccination. "We must keep washing our hands, stay socially distanced, and for God's sake — for God's sake — wear a mask."

It turns out, a fourth wave of the pandemic already appears to be building.

Cases have leveled out worldwide, too. "The most likely explanation is the more contagious variants of the virus, like the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in Britain," David Leonhardt writes at The New York Times. Business Insider's Jim Edwards points out that the uptick in cases and deaths could be statistical noise, but notes that worrisome new variants have also popped up in California and New York.

"Taking into account the counterbalancing rises in both vaccinations and variants, along with the high likelihood that people will stop taking precautions, a fourth wave is highly likely this spring," Apoorva Mandavilli reports at the Times, citing a majority of 21 experts interviewed on the pandemic. "But they stressed that it is not an inevitable surge, if government officials and individuals maintain precautions for a few more weeks," and "COVID-19 deaths will most likely never rise quite as precipitously as in the past."

"The good news," Mandavilli writes, is that "despite the uncertainties, the experts predict that the last surge will subside in the United States sometime in the early summer. If the Biden administration can keep its promise to immunize every American adult by the end of the summer, the variants should be no match for the vaccines. ... For now, every one of us can help by continuing to be careful for just a few more months, until the curve permanently flattens." Peter Weber

5:28 a.m.

The Democrats' push, most prominently by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour hit a significant snag on Thursday. But Costco, the No. 2 U.S. bricks-and-mortar retailer, raised the ante anyway, announcing Thursday — at a Senate hearing chaired by Sanders — that it is raising its own minimum wage to $16 an hour, starting next week. Costco set its lowest hourly wage at $15 in 2019, a year after raising it to $14. The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour since 2009.

"I want to note: this isn't altruism," Costco CEO Craig Jelinek said at the Senate Budget Committee hearing. "At Costco, we know that paying employees good wages and providing affordable benefits makes sense for our business and constitutes a significant competitive advantage for us." About 90 percent of Costco's 180,000 U.S. workers are hourly employees, and 20 percent of them earn its minimum wage. The average hourly wage is $24, and Jelinek said the company has been paying a $2 hourly hazard bonus since March. That will end next month but be converted to wage increases company-wide, he added.

Costco's raise could pressure its large competitors to follow suit, CNN says. Target and Best Buy raised their minimum wage to $15 last year, while Walmart's minimum wage is $11, rising soon to $13 an hour for about a quarter of its workforce. Amazon's minimum wage has been $15 an hour since 2018. Peter Weber

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