May 24, 2020

After the coronavirus pandemic slowed the momentum of anti-government, pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, the protest movement picked up steam again Sunday after Beijing signaled it would directly impose national security laws on the city. Now, many of the young protesters believe the only two outcomes are either independence or the loss of autonomy promised in China's 1997 territorial exchange with the United Kingdom.

If the latter takes place, U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien expects an economic fallout. Hong Kong, he said, has emerged as Asia's financial center because financial service firms and other businesses flocked to the city thanks to its democracy, free enterprise, and rule of law. If Hong Kong loses those defining characteristics, in O'Brien's view, because of a Beijing takeover, he can't envision how those companies can remain.

He also predicts that many Hong Kong citizens would seek a way out. "I think you're also going to have a terrible brain drain," he said. "I think Hong Kong citizens, many of whom can travel under certain circumstances to the United Kingdom or seek refuge in other places, they're not going to stay in Hong Kong to be dominated by the People's Republic of China and the Communist Party." Tim O'Donnell

July 9, 2020

President Trump praised his cognitive capabilities on Thursday, telling Fox News host Sean Hannity that he did such an "unbelievable" job during a recent assessment that it left his physicians stunned.

Trump said he took a cognitive test "very recently" at Walter Reed Medical Center, because the "radical left was saying, 'Is he all there, is he all there,' and I proved I was all there because I aced it, I aced the test." The doctors, he continued, were "very surprised. They said, 'That's an unbelievable thing, rarely does anybody do what you just did.'"

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said earlier this month that he has "constantly" been taking cognitive tests, and Trump told Hannity he is certain that Biden misspoke. "He didn't mean that, because you don't have tests that often ... he meant COVID," Trump declared. The president regularly accuses Biden of experiencing mental decline, and said he must have been "confused by the question and the words and everything else."

Trump challenged Biden to take the same test he did, but doesn't think doctors will be left slack-jawed in amazement. "He couldn't pass one," Trump said. Catherine Garcia

July 9, 2020

A White House reporter who attended press briefings on Monday and Wednesday has tested positive for COVID-19.

The unnamed journalist "wore a mask the entire time they were on the White House complex," Jonathan Karl, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, told the New York Post in an email Thursday. "The individual is asymptomatic. We are contacting those who the individual recalled being in close contact."

Karl also said the reporter was only in the briefing room, "not elsewhere in our workspace." The White House is offering coronavirus tests to members of the press who were near the journalist. Catherine Garcia

July 9, 2020

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley on Thursday told the House Armed Services Committee that Russia and other U.S. adversaries have been supplying "training, money, weapons, propaganda ... and a lot of other things" to the Taliban for years, and the Trump administration was "perhaps" not doing "as much as we could or should" to stop this.

The military has delivered a ground response, he said, but "the issue is higher than that. The issue is at the strategic level. What should or could we be doing at the strategic level?" Options include making diplomatic protests and imposing sanctions, and Milley said "some of that is done. Are we doing as much as we could or should? Perhaps not. Not only to the Russians, but to others. But a lot of it is being done. Some of it's quiet. Some of it's not so quiet."

In late June, The New York Times reported, and other news outlets confirmed, there's significant U.S. intelligence indicating Russia paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. When asked, Milley said the military is "going to dig into this. We're going to get to the bottom of it, this bounty thing. If in fact there's bounties directed by the government of Russia or any of their institutions to kill American soldiers, that's a big deal. We don't have that level of fidelity yet." Catherine Garcia

July 9, 2020

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) says Fox News host Tucker Carlson is questioning her patriotism in order to distract Americans from President Trump's incompetence.

Carlson and Trump are "desperate for America's attention to be on anything other than Donald Trump's failure to lead our nation," she wrote in a searing New York Times op-ed published Thursday. Trump wants Americans to focus on her rather than "mourning the 130,000 Americans killed by a virus he claimed would disappear in February" or remembering he is a "failed commander-in-chief" who has "still apparently done nothing about reports of Russia putting bounties on the heads of American troops in Afghanistan."

An Army veteran, Duckworth lost both her legs while serving in Iraq. Last weekend, she writes, she "expressed an openness to a 'national dialogue' about our founders' complex legacies." In response, Carlson said on his Monday night show she is a "deeply silly and unimpressive person" and one of several top Democrats who "actually hate America."

Duckworth said that "even knowing how my tour in Iraq would turn out," she would "do it all over ago," because of the "importance of protecting our founding values, including every American's right to speak out." She will fight "to defend every American's freedom to have his or her own opinion about Washington's flawed history," Duckworth continued, and Carlson needs to learn "we can honor our founders while acknowledging their serious faults, including the undeniable fact that many of them enslaved Black Americans." He and Trump should also know, she added, "that attacks from self-serving, insecure men who can't tell the difference between true patriotism and hateful nationalism will never diminish my love for this country — or my willingness to sacrifice for it so they don't have to. These titanium legs don't buckle."

Read Duckworth's entire op-ed at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

July 9, 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden pitched his "Buy American" plan in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, on Thursday, and his campaign says the initiative would create at least five million jobs in manufacturing and innovation.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's plan narrows restrictions on what can be considered an American-made good and calls for investing $400 billion in manufacturing and $300 billion in research and development for several diverse industries, Politico reports. "America can't sit on the sidelines in the race of the future," Biden said. "The Chinese are spending multiple billions of dollars trying to own the technology of the future while we sit with our thumb in our ear."

Biden said President Trump has been all talk and no action, and "after three-and-a-half years of big promises, what do the American people have to show for all of the talk? He promised health care, a health care plan, but never even offered his own bill as he continues to try to wipe out ObamaCare in the middle of a pandemic." Trump has spent the coronavirus crisis "almost singularly focused on the stock market," Biden said, but if elected, he himself will be "laser-focused on working families." Catherine Garcia

July 9, 2020

The forced resignation turned firing of former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman wasn't the first time Attorney General William Barr tried to push Berman out of his job, he says.

Barr announced last month that Berman had resigned from his job, and, after Berman said he hadn't done so, Barr had Trump fire Berman at his direction. Berman gave written testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday telling his side of the story, and it reveals a deeper campaign to get Berman out of office, Politico reports.

Berman got an unexpected message from Barr on June 18, and had a 45-minute meeting with the attorney general the next day, Berman's testimony reads. "The attorney general began the meeting by saying that he wanted to make a change in the Southern District of New York," Berman wrote, and suggested Berman take a job in the Justice Department's Civil Division. Barr wanted to slot Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Jay Clayton into the role, Berman testified.

"I responded that I loved my job and my colleagues at the Southern District," and that "there were important investigations in the Office that I wanted to see through to completion," Berman continued. But Barr's prodding didn't stop, and eventually he said Berman would be fired if he didn't step down, Berman wrote. Berman then left the meeting and prepared to take legal action if he was ousted.

Berman, a Trump appointee, previously led the investigation into hush-money payments made to two women who alleged affairs with Trump, as well as probes into other Trump associates. He was also heading the investigation into financier and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 9, 2020

Former CDC Director Thomas Freidan and Education Secretary Arne Duncan of the Obama administration, along with former President George W. Bush's Education Secretary Margaret Spelling, teamed up for an article in The Atlantic weighing in on how to safely reopen schools. "We need to reopen schools this fall," the officials argue, and go on to list eight very specific steps to ensure doing so doesn't "backfire."

The officials start by acknowledging "severe illness from COVID-19 in children is rare." That's why it's more important to focus on "how well communities control the coronavirus throughout the community," and how schools fit into that puzzle. And to be sure, "in places where the virus is spreading explosively," reopening may not be possible for a while.

But where it is, schools should start by "shielding the most vulnerable" and keeping at-risk students and staff at home. For those who are at school, we should "reduce risk wherever possible" by cutting certain high-risk activities like team sports and choir. Barring nonessential visits will help "keep the virus out," the officials say, and wearing masks is essential. Class sizes will also need to shrink, perhaps into smaller "pods" and split schedules that "reduce mixing among students and staff" and "reduce occupancy" as a whole. "New health and safety protocols" will be key, and above all else, schools need to "prepare for cases" and be ready to close at any time.

But as Brown University Economics Professor Emily Oster noted to NPR on Thursday morning, all of those things will take supplies and money that many public schools simply don't have. Kathryn Krawczyk

See More Speed Reads