August 12, 2019

FBI and Customs and Border Protection agents were spotted on Monday at accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein's house in the U.S. Virgin Islands, ABC News reports, and people with knowledge of the matter say they're looking for evidence of Epstein's inner circle.

Investigators were focusing on finding documents, videos, photographs, and computers at the home, which is on a private, 70-acre island. Epstein, 66, was found dead Saturday morning inside his Manhattan jail cell, of an apparent suicide. Last month, he was discovered semiconscious with bruises around his neck, and was placed on suicide watch, but people familiar with the matter told ABC News he was taken off about a week later at the urging of his defense lawyers.

Epstein was detained at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, and was supposed to be checked on by guards every 30 minutes. One of the people on duty at the time of Epstein's death was not a full-fledged correctional officer, prison and law enforcement officials told The New York Times, and neither one had checked on him for several hours before he was found. It is unclear what position the one employee usually worked. Union officials have long complained that there is a staffing shortage at the facility, due to a federal hiring freeze. Catherine Garcia

5:29 p.m.

President Trump continued to stir controversy about the Confederate battle Tuesday during an interview with CBS News' Catherine Herridge.

Herridge asked Trump if he still believes, as he said in 2015, that the flag should be removed from public spaces and placed in museums. The president didn't explicitly answer the question, but he said the only thing he really cares about his "freedom of speech," indicating that he thinks people should be allowed to leave it up.

When Herridge reminded him the flag is a "painful reminder" for many people because the Confederacy rebelled against the United States to preserve slavery, Trump said he knows people "that like the Confederate flag" who are not "thinking about slavery" before once again turning the conversation back to the First Amendment. Tim O'Donnell

5:23 p.m.

Florida is now leading much of the world in new coronavirus cases, and it's showing no signs of slowing down.

Florida reported 9,194 new coronavirus cases in the past day on Tuesday afternoon, bring its total case count to 291,629. A total of 132 new deaths were reported, bringing that count to 4,409, per the Miami Herald.

Miami-Dade County led the new case count at 2,090, leading one infectious disease expert to deem Miami the new "epicenter of the pandemic," CNN reports. "What we were seeing in Wuhan six months ago, five months ago — now we are there," said Lilian Abbo, of the Jackson Health System, during a Monday news conference held by the Miami-Dade County mayor.

The county has seen coronavirus hospitalizations grow by 68 percent and the number of ICU beds used go up by 69 percent in the past two weeks. The number of ventilators in use has also more than doubled during that time. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:33 p.m.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has announced a "return to the status quo" on international student visas.

Following several schools' decisions to go fully remote to stem COVID-19 spread, ICE announced foreign students could not access essential F and M visas they'd need to study in the U.S. But facing opposition from more than 50 colleges and universities, the Trump administration rescinded that rule change, a federal judge in Boston announced Tuesday.

ICE's initial decision came after Harvard University and other schools announced all their classes would be fully online in the fall, though most schools said they'd house students who could not learn effectively in their homes. That included students in countries wracked by civil unrest.

Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology specifically cited those students in suing ICE for its decision, and said it "would bar hundreds of thousands of international students at American universities from the United States." Dozens of universities joined the suit, which went to court Tuesday. That's where a judge announced ICE would "return to the status quo" and effectively drop its rule change. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:29 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, on Tuesday unveiled his $2 trillion energy and climate plan, and he got a big pat on the back from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who briefly ran for president himself this cycle in the hopes of bringing climate change to the center of American politics.

Inslee would seemingly make for a tough critic since he's made climate change such a big part of a platform, but he had nothing but praise for Biden's plan, telling the New York Times it's a "triple-A rated clean energy" and "visionary" policy. "This is not a status quo plan," Inslee told the Times. "It's comprehensive. This is not some sort of, 'Let me just throw a bone to those who care about climate change.'"

The governor expanded on his approval during an appearance on MSNBC, where he explained he was pleased the plan was focused heavily on job creation.

Biden's plan consists of investing $2 trillion in carbon-free power and grid infrastructure, mass transit, efficient buildings, and sustainable housing, among other things, while shooting for 100 percent carbon-free power generation by 2035. Read more about Biden's at Axios and The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

4:24 p.m.

Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell has been denied bail.

In a hearing on Tuesday, Judge Alison Nathan ordered Maxwell, who was arrested earlier this month for allegedly conspiring with Epstein to sexually abuse minors, to be jailed until her trial, which is now set to begin in July 2021, Axios reports. She pleaded not guilty.

Maxwell's attorneys had asked for her to await trial outside of jail, saying that "COVID-19-related restrictions on attorney communications with pre-trial detainees significantly impair a defendant's ability to prepare her defense." But prosecutors said she's an "extreme" flight risk, and on Tuesday, the judge agreed, saying Maxwell "poses a substantial actual risk of flight," The New York Times reports. The judge denied Maxwell's request "to be allowed to stay in a luxury New York City hotel — instead of federal lockup — until her trial," The New York Post writes

Accuser Annie Farmer at the hearing urged the judge to deny Maxwell bail, saying that she is a "sexual predator who groomed and abused me and countless other children and young women," CNBC reports. Prosecutor Alison Moe also read a statement from another woman who wasn't identified by name saying that "without Ghislaine, Jeffrey could not have done what he did." Brendan Morrow

3:44 p.m.

A pair of prominent writers announced they're leaving their prominent publications Tuesday. The resignations appear to be related to recent debates within the wider media landscape about the alleged stifling of public discourse.

Bari Weiss, a former op-ed staff editor and writer for The New York Times, resigned from the newspaper today, while prominent New York writer Andrew Sullivan announced this would be his last week at the magazine.

In a lengthy resignation letter addressed to Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger, Weiss said she made her decision because she became the "subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree" with her "centrist" views and that "intellectual curiosity" has become a "liability" at the Times.

Sullivan, meanwhile, tweeted his news, noting that he has "no beef" with his colleagues, but hinted he's leaving over ideological differences and will explain more fully in his final New York column slated for Friday. Tim O'Donnell

3:18 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden in a speech on Tuesday blasted President Trump's "failed response" to the coronavirus pandemic, saying the crisis has gotten so dire that "even" the president is wearing a mask now.

Biden spoke about the pandemic in a speech about his new $2 trillion climate plan, which calls for zero-carbon electricity by 2035. At the top of the address, the presumptive Democratic nominee discussed the surge in COVID-19 cases in states like Florida and about Trump recently being seen wearing a mask in public for the first time during the crisis.

"It's gotten bad enough that even Donald Trump finally decided to wear a mask in public," Biden said. "I'm glad he made the shift. Mr. President, it's not enough."

Biden went on to plea for "presidential leadership," arguing that Trump has been "pushing the false choice between protecting our health and protecting our economy" and calling on him to "listen to your public health experts" rather than "denigrating them." These comments from Biden come as the White House has recently sought to undermine Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and after Trump retweeted a claim that the CDC and doctors are "lying" about COVID-19.

In his speech, Biden also pledged that with his climate plan, he won't "just tinker around the edges" but will "make historic investments that will seize the opportunity and meet this moment in history." Brendan Morrow

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