May 28, 2020

The U.S. passed 100,000 recorded COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, by far the highest official death toll in the world. "It's a striking reminder of how dangerous this virus can be," said Kaiser Family Foundation health policy expert Josh Michaud. "The experience of other countries shows that death at that scale was preventable."

President Trump did not mark the sad milestone, tweeting instead the number of tests the U.S. has conducted with the exhortation: "Open safely!" His presumptive Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, gave a eulogy for the 100,000 dead and attempted words of comfort for their loved ones. And The Daily Show just compiled a super-reel of Trump, his media allies, and members of his administration praising the Trump administration's response, with patriotic music playing in the background. There is, perhaps appropriately, no punch line at the end. Peter Weber

2:20 a.m.

Actress Kelly Preston died on Sunday morning after battling breast cancer for two years. She was 57.

A family representative told People that she chose to "keep her fight private," and had been "undergoing medical treatment for some time, supported by her closest family and friends." Preston was a "bright, beautiful, and loving soul who cared deeply about others and who brought life to everything she touched."

Born in Honolulu, Preston studied acting at the University of Southern California. Her first major movie role was in 1985's Mischief, and she went on to star in Twins, Jerry Maguire, and For Love of the Game. She married John Travolta in 1991, and in 2018, she appeared alongside him in what would become her final film, Gotti.

In addition to Travolta, Preston is survived by their children, Ella and Benjamin. Their son, Jett, died at age 16 in 2009. Catherine Garcia

1:59 a.m.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has shared with several people his surefire way to catch suspected leakers: give them specific information and see if it later shows up in print.

Multiple officials told Axios that Meadows has been "unusually vocal" about his technique, yet his tactic has netted only one person for a minor leak. President Trump has been adamant about how important it is to him that leakers get caught, and he was clear in letting Meadows, his fourth chief of staff, know that one of his duties is hunting down the perpetrators.

Trump is especially enraged by the leak that during anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests in Washington, D.C., he was rushed into a bunker, Axios says. A person close to Meadows told Axios he is "focused on national security leaks and could care less about the palace intrigue stories."

His predecessor, Mick Mulvaney, was always trying to find leakers, a former White House official said. He requested that the White House IT department take a close look at phone records and see if any officials were calling reporters. Mulvaney already had a tense relationship with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Axios reports, and when he saw that Cipollone had called journalists, he raced to tell Trump about his suspicions. A former official said Trump — who had asked Cipollone to speak with the media — saw no reason to believe Cipollone was guilty of leaking, and dismissed the information.

Presidential historian Chris Whipple told Axios this is a level of paranoia "that we never even saw in the Nixon White House." To prevent leaks, staffers need to feel as though their "voices are heard" and they have "a stake in the process and there's some integrity," Whipple said. A good chief of staff "knows that the best way to prevent damaging leaks is to stop doing illegal, stupid stuff." Catherine Garcia

1:02 a.m.

The Washington Redskins will announce on Monday morning plans to change their 87-year-old team name, three people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post on Sunday night.

Corporate sponsors, including FedEx, Bank of America, Nike, and PepsiCo, have been calling on the team to change the name, which is considered a slur against Native Americans. Owner Daniel Snyder and Coach Ron Rivera have been working together to select a new name, and on July 4, Rivera said there were two names they both liked, and they planned to discuss the possible replacements with Native American and military organizations.

It's unlikely the new name will be revealed on Monday, the Post reports; two people familiar with the matter said the name Snyder and Rivera prefer is in the middle of a trademark battle. Rivera has said he wants to see the replacement name in place by the beginning of the NFL's upcoming season. Catherine Garcia

12:58 a.m.

The White House has sent reporters at several mainstream media organizations a lengthy list of comments Dr. Anthony Fauci made early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, in an apparent push to undermine the nation's top federal infectious disease expert after he publicly disagreed with President Trump's optimistic assessment of the growing outbreak in the U.S. An unidentified White House official told The Washington Post, CNN, and other news organizations over the weekend that "several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things."

The list includes comments Fauci made as early as January that, while reflecting the scientific thinking on the new coronavirus at the time, are now believed to be incorrect. In some cases, they truncated his comments to leave off warnings about the disease. The White House is essentially treating Fauci "as if he were a warning political rival," The New York Times reports, and the list of his comments is "laid out in the style of a campaign's opposition research document." The bullet points "resembled opposition research on a political opponent," CNN concurs. The list was also sent to NBC News.

Fauci and Trump have never seen eye-to-eye on the disease, and their early apparent rapport has publicly frayed; the Times says the split widened when Fauci dismissed the efficacy of Trump's favored treatment, hydroxychloroquine, while the Post adds in policy disagreements over face masks and reopening businesses and schools. "Trump is also galled by Fauci's approval ratings," the Post reports, noting a recent Times/Siena College poll showing 67 percent of voters trusting Fauci on the pandemic versus 26 percent who trusted Trump.

A senior administration official told CNN some White House officials don't trust Fauci because they don't think he has Trump's best interests in mind, pointing to statements were he publicly disagreed with Trump.

After CBS's Margaret Brennan noted last Sunday that Face the Nation had tried unsuccessfully to book Fauci for three months, White House communications officials — who, along with Michael Caputo, a Trump ally and Roger Stone friend who runs communications at the Department of Health and Human Services, have to approve all coronavirus-related TV appearances — agreed to book Fauci on PBS NewsHour, CNN, and NBC's Meet the Press, the Post reports. After Fauci disputed Trump's "false narrative" about falling mortality rates on Facebook Live, those appearances were all canceled. Peter Weber

12:17 a.m.

When Kolton Conrad found a U.S. Marine's dog tag in the Hocking River, the 12-year-old knew he had to track down its owner.

The Lancaster, Ohio, resident was kayaking with his dad and brother on July 4 when he made the discovery. He could make out the name "Rhonemus" on the tag, and at home, his mom, Ashley, helped him clean it. On Facebook, she asked her friends if they knew anyone with the last name Rhonemus, and within six hours, she was in contact with Kimberly Greenlee.

Greenlee's brother, Steven Rhonemus, was a Marine who died in 1974 following a motorcycle crash. She had no idea how Rhonemus' dog tag got into the river, but he was fond of the outdoors, and Greenlee thinks he likely lost it while out with friends. The Conrads met Greenlee at her brother's favorite park to give her his dog tag.

"It's just amazing to think about, this tag was lost for 46 years, and for this little boy to find it on Independence Day, of all days," she told the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette. "And for him to realize the meaning behind the tag, and to hold onto it, to help a stranger's family, it's amazing." Her brother died before his daughter, Danielle, was born, and Greenlee knew the dog tag needed to get to her, especially since not long after Rhonemus' death, a fire destroyed many of his belongings. "It was emotional when she got it," Greenlee said. "She said it felt like God was letting her know her dad was with her and watching over her." Catherine Garcia

July 12, 2020

Doctors at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, are hoping that by sharing one patient's story, it will discourage others from attending "COVID parties."

Dr. Jane Appleby, the hospital's chief medical officer, said that a COVID party is a gathering held by a person who has tested positive for the coronavirus and wants to see if the virus is real and spreads to guests. A 30-year-old patient was recently hospitalized after attending a COVID party, and just before dying, "they looked at their nurse and said, 'I think I made a mistake, I thought this was a hoax, but it's not,'" Appleby said.

Appleby sad the rising number of infections is "concerning," with up to 22 percent of tests now coming back positive in San Antonio, compared to about 5 percent of tests a few weeks ago, The Guardian reports. "I don't want to be an alarmist, and we're just trying to share some real world examples to help our community realize that this virus is very serious and can spread easily," she said.

The hospital has seen an increase in critically ill patients in their 20s and 30s, and Appleby is imploring Texans to "please wear a mask, stay at home when you can, avoid groups of people, and sanitize your hands." On Sunday, state health officials reported 8,196 new COVID-19 cases and 80 additional deaths. There are 10,410 Texans hospitalized with the virus. Catherine Garcia

July 12, 2020

A section of the southern border wall that was privately built in January, using funds raised by supporters of President Trump, is showing signs of erosion, and Trump is taking it personally.

"I disagreed with doing this very small (tiny) section of wall, in a tricky area, by a private group which raised money by ads," Trump tweeted on Sunday. "It was only done to make me look bad, and perhsps [sic] it now doesn't even work. Should have been built like rest of Wall, 500 plus miles."

Trump was responding to a ProPublica and Texas Tribune report on a three-mile section of the fence built by Fisher Industries in South Texas, about 35 feet away from the Rio Grande. The riverbank is starting to erode, ProPublica and the Texas Tribune say, and a judge on Wednesday ordered lawyers for Fisher Industries and opponents of the fence to inspect the area.

The group We Build the Wall was established during the government shutdown in 2018, when Trump was demanding Congress fund his border wall. The group raised more than $25 million to privately build fencing, but the South Texas project turned into a showcase for Fisher Industries, The Associated Press reports, and the organization only contributed $1.5 million. Steve Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist, is on We Build the Wall's board, and staunch Trump ally Kris Kobach, Kansas' former secretary of state, is its general counsel.

Experts cautioned that building the fence so close to the river would cause a break in the fence or flooding, AP says, but Fisher Industries still put it up. In May, the company won a $1.3 billion contract from the federal government to build 42 miles of wall in Arizona. CEO Tommy Fisher told AP on Sunday he has "complete respect" for Trump, and thinks he "just got some misinformation on this stuff." Fisher also said rain and the river's natural flow caused some erosion, and if it continues, the gaps will be filled with rocks. "The wall will stand for 150 years, you mark my words," he declared. Catherine Garcia

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