July 10, 2019

President Trump once considered Jeffrey Epstein a "terrific person."

So terrific, it seems, that he was the only person Trump reportedly saw fit to invite to an A-list party he was holding at Mar-a-Lago. Well, Epstein and 28 other women, Florida businessman George Houraney tells The New York Times.

Back in 1992, Trump wanted to hold a "calendar girl" competition at Mar-a-Lago, and asked Houraney to organize it, Houraney tells the Times. So he "arranged to have some contestants fly in" before the event, with "28 girls" slated to come to the first VIP party, Houraney continued. But when Houraney asked Trump for his guest list, he reportedly said it was just him and Epstein.

Events like this weren't unusual until Epstein's friendship "turned from a status symbol into a liability," the Times reports. Trump was sure to make it public when he eventually barred Epstein from Mar-a-Lago amid allegations of sexual abuse against Epstein, though "some say" their friendship only ended thanks to a "failed business arrangement," the Times continues.

Houraney, meanwhile, says he warned Trump about Epstein long before he was accused of running a sex trafficking ring, adding that he "pretty much had to ban Jeff from my events." He also accused Trump of "inappropriate behavior toward his girlfriend and business partner, Jill Harth," the Times writes.

Epstein was arrested over the weekend for allegedly running a sex trafficking ring involving dozens of minors. He was accused of similar conduct in Florida more than a decade ago. The White House did not respond to the Times' request for comment. Read more at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

8:04 a.m.

The total number of U.S. coronavirus cases reached 3 million on Wednesday as officials confirmed a record 60,000-plus new cases over the previous 24 hours, and the national death toll rose above 132,000. States in the South and West continued to report spiking new infections. California and Texas both reported more than 10,000 new cases on Wednesday. U.S. deaths, which had been trending downward, rose by more than 900 for the second straight day, the highest level since early June, Reuters reports. Hospitalizations also have increased in the states where infections have jumped, including Florida, where 56 intensive care units this week reached capacity, and Arizona, where ICUs are rapidly filling up, too. Infections have risen in 42 of the 50 states over the past two weeks, according to Reuters. Harold Maass

8:04 a.m.

A "massive search operation" is underway for the mayor of Seoul, who has been reported missing, The Associated Press reports.

South Korean police on Thursday said they're searching for Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon after he was reported missing by his daughter, according to Reuters. She says Park left "a will-like" message before he left their home, and she called police after not being able to reach him on his phone, which officials say is turned off, the AP reports. A signal from Park's phone was reportedly last detected in Sungbuk.

A government official confirmed to the AP that Park, who was elected mayor of South Korea's capital in 2011, didn't come to work on Thursday and canceled his schedules. Police say the search operation for Park consists of 150 officers, as well as a drone and a police dog. Brendan Morrow

7:08 a.m.

The Supreme Court will reveal Thursday morning whether Congress, New York state prosecutors, and ultimately the American public will be able to see what's in the tax documents President Trump has worked so hard to keep secret. But on Wednesday night, the White House finally addressed another, lower-profile accounting of Trump's finances, his annual financial disclosure report, that was supposed to be handed in more than a week ago. The filing, required under federal ethics rules, is the only official document publicly detailing Trump's personal finances.

A White House official told The New York Times that Trump had requested an extension because the report was "complicated" and Trump has "been focused on addressing the coronavirus crisis and other matters." This is Trump's second coronavirus extension: The partial disclosure of his assets, debts, and family business performance was actually due in May, but all White House employees had been given a 45-day extension, until June 29, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Vice President Mike Pence filed his disclosure report by that deadline.

Trump's delay follows conversations between ethics officials and his representatives over a draft of the disclosure report, people briefed on the matter tell the Times. The Office of Government Ethics and Trump Organization declined requests for comment on the filing. Peter Weber

5:44 a.m.

It turns out "closing schools was a lot easier than reopening them" during the coronavirus pandemic, Myah Ward and Renuka Rayasam note at Politico. But Johns Hopkins University — which has made checking COVID-19 infection and death data easy with its coronavirus map — is trying to help, launching another site Thursday to help Americans track how different states plan to reopen schools this fall, plus guidelines from health and education agencies and organizations.

According to this new education tracker, run by the Johns Hopkins eSchool+ Initiative, 43 states and territories have released plans for reopening their schools. The site reviews each plan based on 12 criteria, including coronavirus protection measures, academics, and choices offered to students, teachers, and staff.

The goal of the tracker is to give parents, teachers, staff, school district leaders, and policymakers one place where they can access and compare reopening plans, Annette Anderson, deputy director of JHU's Center for Safe and Healthy Schools, tells Politico. "At the end of the day, it's about trying to make sure that when we reopen, that the reopening benefits all." Peter Weber

4:33 a.m.

The Ventura County Sheriff's Department said late Wednesday that actress Naya Rivera is missing and the subject of a search at Lake Piru, northwest of Los Angeles. Rivera, 33, rented a pontoon boat at the reservoir Wednesday afternoon and her 4-year-old son was found alone in the boat, asleep and wearing his life jacket. Rivera's wallet and ID were also in the boat. The son, who got back in the boat after a swim with his mother, "is in good health," said Capt. Eric Buschow of the sheriff's department. The search, suspended Wednesday night, will continue Thursday with divers and air units.

Rivera played Santana, a cheerleader, on 113 episodes of the TV musical comedy Glee, and dated Glee co-star Mark Salling, who killed himself in 2018 after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography. The son is from her marriage to actor Ryan Dorsey. Peter Weber

3:56 a.m.

Lisa Kudrow was Conan O'Brien's socially distant guest on Wednesday's Conan, and he asked her whether the eagerly anticipated Friends reunion was still going to happen after a coronavirus delay. "We have something on the books for us to do it, you know, at some point in August," Kudrow said. "And we'll see. I mean, we're all still waiting for guidelines for shooting things." O'Brien immediately came up with a plan to spoil the reunion, and Kudrow added some suggestions to make it an absolute abomination for fans.

"I'm good at thinking of ideas that ruin things," O'Brien said. "That would be a great prank, a great prank on America." Because that's what America needs right now: a great prank. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:30 a.m.

Texas reported a record 98 confirmed COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday and 9,979 new cases, just shy of Tuesday's record 10,028 cases. Austin is turning its convention center, more famous for hosting South by Southwest, into a field hospital. In Houston, hospitals took in 3,851 coronavirus patients on Tuesday, and a growing number of people are dying at home before the paramedics even arrive, ProPublica and NBC News reported Wednesday, citing Houston Fire Department data.

"The uptick in the number of people dying before they can even reach a hospital in Houston draws parallels to what happened in New York City in March and April," ProPublica and NBC News report. "These increases also echo those reported during outbreaks in Detroit and Boston, when the number of people dying at home jumped as coronavirus cases surged."

"In Houston, doctors who knew the situation in New York are saying that what's happening there looks like what happened in New York in early April," New York Times science reporter Donald MacNeil said on The Daily podcast over the weekend. "Not as many dying yet, but with people on oxygen and on ventilators they may find themselves in the situation where they have to park refrigerated trucks behind hospitals to hold the bodies, as they did in New York."

"It's certainly not as bad as it was in New York City," Dr. Hilary Fairbrother, a Houston emergency medicine doctor, told NBC News. "We are not at that point. That being said, everybody wants to prevent us getting to that point."

Houston has also benefited from New York's experience, Dr. Diana Fide, a Houston emergency room doctor and president of the Texas Medical Association, told Politico. "We did learn a lot going through things in March and April. We learned so much from problems in Washington State and New York." Even with more knowledge and stockpiled ventilators and protective equipment, she added, burnout is a real risk

"The fear is that nobody really knows what the trajectory is," reports New York Times correspondent Sheri Fink from Houston Methodist Hospital, the city's largest. "You can have models, but models only can do so much. It really, really depends on human behavior — whether they stay home more, whether they wear masks. And then there could just be mysteries that we don't even understand about how this virus passes. And those numbers for now, they just keep rising." Peter Weber

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