July 15, 2019

Republicans are giving this presidential controversy a hard pass.

After President Trump tweeted a racist attack Sunday on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and three other Democratic congressmembers, a number GOP pundits used blogs and tweets to condemn him. Yet Republicans in office haven't said a word, and it's apparently because "history has said that this stuff goes away and that it’s not worth the potentially catastrophic political cost of weighing in against him," one Trump ally tells Axios.

More than 24 hours after Trump's tweets suggested these "'progressive' Democratic congresswomen" should "go back" to the countries "from which they came," only two Republicans in office had said anything on the matter. Trump's close ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) appeared on Fox & Friends on Monday morning, saying that the congressmembers Trump attacked "are a bunch of communists" who "hate America."

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) did tweet Sunday night that Trump "was wrong to say any American citizen ... has any 'home' besides the U.S." But he then said that "Reps who refuse to defend America should be sent home," and did not clarify what he meant by that.

But while Republicans in the U.S. are largely staying silent, even conservatives across the pond are not. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday condemned the tweets' "language" as "unacceptable," implying that the two conservatives campaigning for her spot should do the same, The Washington Post reports. Candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt so far haven't done so. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:43 a.m.

President Trump is now meeting with Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, significantly less than he used to, according to Fauci himself.

Fauci spoke in a new interview with Stat News published on Monday and was asked if Trump speaks with him often about the race for a COVID-19 vaccine. Fauci's response? A flat "no."

He went on to explain that about a month ago, he was meeting with Trump four times a week after meetings of the coronavirus task force. But "the task force meetings have not occurred as often lately," Fauci said, and "certainly my meetings with the president have been dramatically decreased."

Reports emerged last month that the White House was planning to scale back the coronavirus task force, only for Trump to say the task force would actually continue "indefinitely." At the same time, CNN recently reported the task force has "been sharply curtailed," seeing its "formal sessions reduced from three per week at the start of May to one per week now." An administration official told CNN this is because "you don't need a decision every day," adding, "we're monitoring things." The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 recently surpassed 100,000.

Fauci also spoke in the Stat News interview about the potential dangers of rushing to reopen too soon, saying that when he sees images of people who are "very, very close to each other, I do get concerned." And when it comes to the search for a vaccine, he reiterated his belief that having doses ready by the end of the year is "aspirational" but "certainly doable." Brendan Morrow

9:12 a.m.

The Secret Service's decision to rush President Trump down to a White House bunker Friday night as protesters amassed outside "underscored the rattled mood inside the White House, where the chants from protesters in Lafayette Park could be heard all weekend and Secret Service agents and law enforcement officers struggled to contain the crowds," The Associated Press reports.

While "Trump has been a focus of anger, particularly in the crowds in Washington, aides repeatedly have tried to explain to him that the protests were not only about him, but about broader, systemic issues related to race," The New York Times reports, citing several people familiar with the discussions. Judging by his Twitter feed, it's not clear Trump got it.

"Trump's record of racially insensitive and sometimes outright racist comments over the years has led many Democrats and even some Republicans to conclude that he does not fully comprehend the nation's history of racism and the corresponding tensions that live on today," The Washington Post reports.

"Hardly goes a week by when some white person, whether it's a white supremacist or a racist law enforcement officer, does not kill a black person needlessly," Al Cardenas, a GOP strategist and a former chairman of the American Conservatives Union, told the Post. "What the country needs and wants from the president, they're not going to get. This president, I don't believe, relates to the racism, relates to the pain. At least I haven't seen it." Peter Weber

8:38 a.m.

Eli Lilly and Company has announced the start of human testing in the "world's first study of a potential antibody treatment designed to fight COVID-19."

The company on Monday said the first patients have been dosed as it tests a potential antibody treatment for COVID-19 in what Stat News described as a "milestone." Eli Lilly touted this as the "first potential new medicine specifically designed to attack" the coronavirus. The study will focus on determining the drug's safety in patients hospitalized with COVID-19, and the company is expecting results by the end of June; it then aims to test among non-hospitalized patients.

"Ultimately, what we would hope is that this would be an effective treatment that would provide very strongly neutralizing antibodies to lower the virus and help patients recover," Mark Mulligan, who is working on the study, told Stat News.

The company also looks to determine whether the drug can be used for prevention, which The Wall Street Journal notes is an "approach that could serve as a bridge toward curbing the pandemic until a successful vaccine is developed." According to Stat News, the study "will only test the drug for obvious side effects," and it will be given to 32 patients.

If this potential treatment "becomes part of the near-term solution for COVID-19," president of Lilly Research Laboratories Daniel Skovronsky said in a statement, "we want to be ready to deliver it to patients as quickly as possible, with the goal of having several hundred thousand doses available by the end of the year." Skovronsky also told Stat News, "I hope there will be multiple successful [antibody drugs]. I expect there will be." Brendan Morrow

8:17 a.m.

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have developed an experimental COIVD-19 test that uses nanoparticles to detect if coronavirus is present in saliva or a nasal swab sample, revealing the results in about 10 minutes through a change in the color of the test liquid, they report in the journal ACS Nano.

"Based on our preliminary results, we believe this promising new test may detect RNA material from the virus as early as the first day of infection," lead researcher Dipanjan Pan said in a statement, noting that additional studies are need to confirm the results. "Many of the diagnostic tests currently on the market cannot detect the virus until several days after infection. For this reason, they have a significant rate of false negative results." If RNA material specific to the new coronavirus is present in the sample, the gold nanoparticles turn the purple test reagent blue.

If the test lives up to its promise in clinical trials, it could be a relatively inexpensive and user-friendly way to monitor nursing homes, college campuses, child care centers, and offices for COVID-19 infections. "The innovative approach provides results without the need for a sophisticated laboratory facility," study co-author Matthew Frieman said in a statement. Pan has created a company to develop the test commercially and is applying for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Peter Weber

7:06 a.m.

Christo, the Bulgarian-born artist famous for his ambitious, ephemeral public art installations, died Sunday at his longtime home in New York City of natural causes, his office said in a statement. He was 84. Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, worked together for 48 years until her death in 2009, mostly wrapping fabric around buildings, across landscapes, and over water.

"Christo lived his life to the fullest, not only dreaming up what seemed impossible but realizing it," the statement said. "Christo and Jeanne-Claude's artwork brought people together in shared experiences across the globe, and their work lives on in our hearts and memories."

Christo Vladimirov Javacheff was born in Gabrovo, Bulgaria, in 1934, on the same day as his future wife, Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon. He studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Sofia before moving to Prague, Vienna, Geneva, and finally Paris, where he met Jeanne-Claude in 1958. They were married in 1960, and their first major work involved covering oil barrels in fabric in Cologne's harbor.

Their other famous projects included surrounding 11 islands in Biscayne Bay, Miami, in pink "skirts" (1983); erecting 3,100 giant umbrellas in California and Japan (1991); "Wrapped Reichstag" (1995), where they covered Germany's parliament building in fabric; and "The Gates" in New York City's Central Park (2005). (You can view all their projects at their website.)

Christo and Jeanne-Claude paid for all of their installations by selling drawings, scale models, and other preparatory material for the projects, The Associated Press reports. "I like to be absolutely free, to be totally irrational with no justification for what I like to do," Christo said. "I will not give up one centimeter of my freedom for anything." Peter Weber

5:36 a.m.

John Oliver knows the biggest story from last week wasn't his main story on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "Due to the fact that we're producing remotely, we currently have to tape Saturday morning," he tweeted Sunday night. "That's never great, and this week, it's especially not-great." This week's main story, he said, touches on "how the president spent the first half of his week."

"For some reason, in the midst of 40 million Americans unemployed, 100,000 Americans dead, and racial tensions boiling over," Oliver said, President Trump declared war on Twitter because it fact-checked his "claim that voting by mail in this year's election will be 'substantially fraudulent,'" a claim Trump has tweeted about "a ridiculous number of times in the last two months, and he brings it up constantly." Trump's nonsensical vote-by-mail allegations are "actively harmful to the democratic process," he said, and this year, to public health as well.

If the COVID-19 pandemic "continues into the fall, as it almost certainly will," expanding vote-by-mail is a crucial mitigation tool to facilitate an essential right, Oliver said. "So tonight, let's take a look at why the option of voting by mail is so necessary, why concerns about it are often overblown, and why talking about it right now is actually really important."

"Fraud can happen in mail-in voting," but it's "incredibly rare," in part because despite what Fox News hosts will tell you, "it is a crime that's difficult, high-risk, and low-reward," Oliver explained. What conservatives really seem upset about is the expectation it will increase voting participation and their speculation "that any increased participation would benefit Democrats, despite the fact researchers have consistently found that it hasn't obviously helped one party or the other."

There is "actually one last thing that we may need to personally prepare ourselves for, and that is that in November, if there is, as seems likely, a surge in mail-in voting, it may take much, much longer for all the ballots to be counted," Oliver warned. "And in fact, we may not know who's won until a few days after Election Day. And if it doesn't look good for Donald Trump, look for him to use that to sow discord among his supporters." He urged people to vote by mail anyway and offered a set of four "I Voted" stickers as a reward. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:28 a.m.

President Trump has responded to the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old black man in Minneapolis, with a mixture of inflammatory tweets, silence, and verbal sympathy. In Florida on Saturday, for example, Trump called Floyd's death "a grave tragedy" that "never should have happened" and "has filled Americans all over the country with horror, anger, and grief."

Even as Trump's advisers privately complained that his tweets "were pouring fuel on an already incendiary situation," his "aides were disappointed that the remarks, delivered late Saturday afternoon as part of a speech otherwise celebrating the triumph of the space program, did not get wider attention," The New York Times reports. "In the speech, Mr. Trump repeated his calls for law and order, but in more measured terms and leavened by expressions of sympathy for Mr. Floyd's family, whom he had called to offer condolences."

The call did not go well, Floyd's brother, Philonise Floyd, told MSNBC on Saturday evening. "It was so fast, he didn't give me the opportunity to even speak," Floyd said. "It was hard. I was trying to talk to him, but he just kept, like, pushing me off, like: 'I don't want to hear what you're talking about.' And I just told him I want justice. I said that I couldn't believe that they committed a modern-day lynching in broad daylight. I can't stand for that. I can't. And it hurt me."

Floyd said the family had also spoken with former Vice President Joe Biden and he delivered the same message about wanting justice for his brother. Philonise Floyd told MSNBC he wants the death penalty for all four police officers involved in his brother's death. You can watch the interview at MSNBC. Peter Weber

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