April 8, 2020

Fears of the COVID-19 coronavirus are reportedly bringing about a ceasefire in Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting against the Houthi rebels in Yemen are set to announce a suspension of military operations across the country at midnight Wednesday, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters. The decision answers a United Nations call to halt combat.

There are likely many reasons why the U.N. is pushing for a ceasefire, but the argument that seemingly stuck is that a lack of fighting decreases the chances of a COVID-19 outbreak in Yemen, which so far has not reported any confirmed cases of the disease. Staving off an outbreak is crucial, especially considering Yemen is already steeped in the world's largest humanitarian crisis.

It's unclear if the Houthi opposition will follow in the coalition's footsteps, but a spokesman said the group sent the U.N. a plan to end the war, which began in 2014. Read more at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

6:50 p.m.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) will announce on Thursday plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Monument Avenue in Richmond, an administration official told The Washington Post.

The statue, erected in 1890, will be put into storage. There are several monuments to the Confederacy along the avenue, and all have been spray painted during this week's demonstrations against racism and police brutality. Only the Lee statue is under state control, but Virginia's General Assembly passed a bill earlier this year that gives localities the authority to choose what happens to Confederate monuments on their property, and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney on Wednesday said his administration will introduce an ordinance on July 1 to remove all such statues on Monument Avenue.

"Richmond is no longer the capital of the Confederacy," Stoney said in a statement. "It is filled with diversity and love for all — and we need to demonstrate that." Other Confederate statues have already been removed in Alexandria, Virginia, and Birmingham, Alabama. Catherine Garcia

5:37 p.m.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper had a topsy-turvy Wednesday.

Early in the day, he said he didn't didn't think nationwide protests against police brutality warranted invoking the Insurrection Act, which contrasted with President Trump's apparent willingness to deploy active-duty military to aid city police forces. The Pentagon was also prepared to send about 200 troops deployed to, and on standby in, the Washington, D.C., area back to their home bases Wednesday, with the remaining forces ready to head home in the next few days if things remained calm. But it seems like the secretary's comments and the department's decision to send even a portion of the troops home apparently angered the White House.

After a meeting at the White House, Esper reversed the decision, so the troops will stick around the capital. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said it remains "our intent at this point not to bring in active forces, we don't think we need them at this point," but he added that it's "prudent to have the reserve capability in the queue, on a short string."

It's unclear if Esper met directly with Trump before he reversed the decision, The Associated Press reports. Tim O'Donnell

5:35 p.m.

The White House just tried and failed to pin violence on its enemy of choice.

In its latest attempt to build a case against anti-fascist protesters, or antifa, the White House alleged they and "professional anarchists" were "staging bricks and weapons to instigate violence" in a Wednesday tweet. It paired that allegation with a video of what looked like a cage of bricks on the side of a street — an example that was proven days ago to be purely misinformation.

What the White House tweeted was actually video of a security measure outside the Chabad of Sherman Oaks in California. The cages are filled with bricks to prevent anti-Semitic car ramming attacks, but the bricks have since been removed "to alleviate people's concern that they may be vandalized and used by rioters," the Chabad house said in a Monday Facebook post. The White House quickly deleted its tweet.

A similar story happened Wednesday morning in New York City. NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea tweeted a video of an officer clearing up some plastic bins of rocks that were left on a street corner. Then New York City councilmember Mark Treyger chimed in: He represents the far-flung area of Brooklyn where the bricks were left, a solid 7 miles from the center of the ongoing protests, and reported "no evidence of organized looting" in the area. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:14 p.m.

Despite reports and footage suggesting otherwise, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday that police "peaceably" cleared protesters Monday from Lafayette Square before President Trump passed through the area so he could pose for photos in front of nearby St. John's Church.

In response to a question from CNN's Jim Acosta about whether the White House would take a do-over on the methods of crowd dispersement, McEnany said officers acted appropriately, noting that there were no fatalities or serious injuries. She also claimed officers had a right to defend themselves because they were under threat from demonstrators hurling bricks and frozen water bottles at them, alongside reports of caches of various potential weapons like baseball bats and glass bottles "hidden along the streets."

But video from Monday shows officers forcibly moving both protesters — most of whom reporters described as peaceful — and media out of the way, indicating that McEnany may have set a pretty low bar for what she considers peaceable. Tim O'Donnell

3:54 p.m.

President Trump's Bible photo op may go down in the history books — but probably not for the reason his press secretary thinks.

On Monday, police and secret service agents used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear protesters from the streets surrounding the White House, all so Trump walk across the street and take a photo at St. John's Episcopal Church. Religious leaders have decried Trump's "tone-deaf" stunt, but to White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, it was a "message of resilience" akin to Winston Churchill's World War II leadership.

"The president wanted to send a very powerful message that we will not be overcome by looting, by burning, by rioting," McEnany said in a Wednesday press conference. Trump's awkward Bible hold-up will be remembered as a historic "leadership moment," not unlike when "we saw" former U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill "inspecting the bombing damage" in World War II, former President George W. Bush "throwing out the ceremonial first pitch after 9/11," and former President Jimmy Carter "putting on a sweater to encourage energy savings," McEnany continued.

So far, to religious leaders and even Trump's own defense secretary, that's not how the moment has gone down. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:33 p.m.

Three former police officers are reportedly being hit with charges in connection with the death of George Floyd, and another ex-cop's charges have been upgraded.

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd said he couldn't breathe, last week was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. On Wednesday, the Star Tribune reported that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison will elevate the charges to second-degree murder.

Additionally, the three other officers who were are at the scene, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane, are being charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, according to the Star Tribune.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) heralded the news in a tweet, writing, "This is another important step for justice." CNN on Wednesday afternoon cited court records confirming the other officers have been charged.

This development comes after attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing the Floyd family, said he expected the other three officers seen in videos of Floyd's death to be arrested "before we have the memorial here in Minneapolis tomorrow," calling them "just as guilty for the death of George Floyd as Officer Chauvin." Crump released a statement to the Star Tribune on Wednesday saying "this is a significant step forward on the road to justice, and we are gratified that this important action was brought before George Floyd's body was laid to rest." Brendan Morrow

2:56 p.m.

Every U.S. has state has seen protests against police brutality. And in several of them, police have arrested protesters for breaking curfews, failing to disperse, and, in some cases, for violent behavior.

Leaders in those cities, as well as Attorney General William Barr, have often blamed non-peaceful actions on "outside agitators" with an apparent agenda of their own. But as cities start to share arrest data, the numbers don't add up.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, where protests kicked off after George Floyd was allegedly murdered in police custody, initially declared protesters "are coming from outside the city, from outside the region." People from other states were arrested in Friday night protests, but two local news channels reported between 84 and 86 percent of them were from the Minneapolis area. The same statistics have been reflected in Dallas, where 172 of 185 weekend arrests were of people from the area; Columbus, Ohio, where 84 of 89 people arrested over the weekend were from central Ohio; and many, many other cities.

Howard University law professor Justin Hansford described "outside agitator" as a "racial term" that means "protests are somehow less legitimate," in an interview with Vox. "Not only do you delegitimize the protest itself, but you also delegitimize the activists as not being skillful enough, or clever enough, to do this on their own," Hansford said.

Rapper and filmmaker Boots Riley meanwhile had his own assessment of the term. Kathryn Krawczyk

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