June 4, 2020

President Trump responded to Wednesday's blistering rebuke from former Defense Secretary James Mattis by attacking the reticent retired four-star Marine general in two factually challenged tweets.

Mattis, who retired from the military in 2013, sent a statement to The Atlantic on Wednesday lambasting Trump's leadership. He argued that Trump ordered U.S. military personnel to violate the Constitution for his "bizarre photo op" in front of a church, said he hasn't offered "mature leadership," and compared Trump's content attempts to "divide us" to the Nazi "divide and conquer" ethos. "We do not need to militarize our response to protests," Mattis wrote. "We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law."

Trump, recycling old attacks, called Mattis "the world's most overrated general," stated incorrectly that he fired him — Mattis resigned in protest of Trump's decision to pull U.S. forces out of Syria, abandoning Kurdish allies — and claimed falsely that he was the one who gave Mattis the hated nickname "Mad Dog."

Mattis and Trump never had a great working relationship, but after resigning with a dryly critical letter, he told The Atlantic there's "a period in which I owe my silence" to the president and his former colleagues, but "it's not eternal. It's not going to be forever." The period is evidently over, and there may be more to come.

Mattis isn't the only retired military leader criticizing Trump's military deployment in the capital and threat to send active-duty troops to other cities — former Joint Chiefs chairmen Adm. Mike Mullen and Martin Dempsey criticized Trump's military response to lawful protests on Tuesday, and a former top Pentagon official, James N. Miller, resigned from the Defense Science Board in protest. Peter Weber

5:42 p.m.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, The Kansas City Star reports.

Earlier in the day, Parson's office announced his wife, Teresa Parson, tested positive after developing mild symptoms, including a runny nose and cough, prompting the governor to seek testing as well. So far, Parsons said he feels well and has "no symptoms of any kind," but will quarantine. The Star notes the 65-year-old had heart surgery four years ago, so he is in a demographic that's at greater risk.

Parson is now the second governor to test positive after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), who contracted the coronavirus in July. (Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) received a false positive result in August.)

The test result comes in the middle of a campaign for Parson, who is seeking his first full gubernatorial term after his predecessor resigned in 2018. He was scheduled to debate his Democratic opponent, Nicole Galloway, on Friday, but it's been called off.

Per the Star, Missouri has reported nearly 117,000 coronavirus cases and about 1,950 deaths. The state had the fifth highest rate of cases per capita in the U.S. last week. Read more at The Kansas City Star. Tim O'Donnell

5:11 p.m.

CIA Director Gina Haspel is reportedly keeping a tight lock on Russian intelligence.

Nine current and former officials tell Politico that Haspel "has become extremely cautious about which, if any, Russia-related intelligence products make their way to President Donald Trump's desk." She has also reportedly been cracking down on the agency's "Russia House," which produces intelligence on the country — but exactly why she's doing so is up for debate.

Last year, Haspel started having the CIA's general counsel review "virtually every product that comes out of Russia House" before it heads to Trump — an "unprecedented" workflow, Politico reports. Haspel's "scrutiny" has led to some "recent dust-ups" with Russia House analysts, including the firing of the house's head this year, four current and former officials tell Politico. Another Russia House analyst reportedly quit after Haspel said he had lied about intelligence. "She calls analysts liars all the time,” said one former CIA official.

But another official said it's not a matter of Haspel trying to censor the agency from Trump, who is "extraordinarily sensitive around the subject of Russian meddling," Politico reports. It's more about "quality over quantity," the official said. "Scrutinizing intelligence product and process is exactly what is expected of Director Haspel," CIA Press Secretary Timothy Barrett told Politico, adding she "ensures intelligence is corroborated, double-checked, and then run through the wringer once more." Read more at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:47 p.m.

Leaked audio from internal Facebook meetings revealed by The Verge on Wednesday touches upon serious subjects like civil rights, the 2020 election, and whether the social media giant should present itself as politically neutral, but reporter Casey Newton said he sought to present a holistic view of the company through the recordings. And, subsequently, there were some more light-hearted elements, as well.

In one question and answer session, Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg seemed flummoxed by a question about how free office snacks were no longer available to employees now that most folks are working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic. Whoever submitted the question noted that the free food was "a major sell" to job applicants, and now "we've lost a huge financial part of our package." Zuckerberg, Newton writes, responded with "polite disbelief" by noting he hadn't see any data suggesting the snacks are "anywhere near the list of primary reasons that people come to work at this company."

Zuckerberg also has a self-deprecating side, Newton reports. At one point, he addressed a viral photo of him surfing wearing an inordinate amount of sunscreen. Zuckerberg joked that he's never "under the illusion that I look particularly cool at any point with what I'm doing" and that he was wearing "quite a bit more sunscreen" than he realized. But, ultimately, safety comes first. "I'm not going to apologize for wearing too much sunscreen," he said. "I think that sunscreen is good, and I stand behind that."

Dermatologists will be happy to hear that. Read more at The Verge. Tim O'Donnell

4:36 p.m.

Eric Trump's excuses weren't enough to keep him from addressing a fraud investigation into his family's real estate business.

Trump's lawyers said he was willing to meet with investigators regarding a probe into the Trump Organization, but that he was too busy to do so until after the election. New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron shot that request down on Wednesday, giving Trump a deadline of Oct. 7 to testify, The New York Times reports.

New York Attorney General Letitia James had subpoenaed Trump, a top executive at the Trump Organization, in an investigation into whether President Trump inflated his assets' values to get loans and tax benefits, CNBC notes. Eric Trump was set to meet with James' team in July, but he canceled, leading James to seek a court order to enforce her subpoena for his testimony and documents "withheld by the Trump administration."

Engoron's Wednesday order will give James access to those documents as well as force Trump to testify. James' team had argued that Trump "can't delay compliance for another two months," and Engoron agreed, saying Wednesday he found Trump's excuse "unpersuasive."

James' investigation stems from Michael Cohen's testimony before Congress last year. Cohen, President Trump's former fixer, testified that the president had "inflated" his assets to get loans and insurance coverage. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:45 p.m.

A grand jury decided not to charge the police officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor with any counts directly related to her death, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced Wednesday.

The decision to only charge one officer with endangering people in a neighboring apartment to Taylor's immediately sparked protests in Louisville. MSNBC host Joy Reid, meanwhile, appeared on the network to condemn the indictment. "There's nothing in this charge that accounts for [Taylor's] life or the value of it," Reid said, following up in a tweet to say the lack of charges implies "no one killed Breonna Taylor."

Activist April Reign had a similar take on the situation, tweeting that "the grand jury didn't just decide that Breonna didn't matter; they decided that she didn't exist."

CNN's Omar Jimenez meanwhile noted Cameron's comments make it seem likely the officers will never be charged over Taylor's death.

Taylor, a Black woman, was shot and killed when officers served a narcotics investigation warrant unrelated to her. Taylor's boyfriend Kenneth Walker fired at the officers, as he claimed he thought someone was breaking in. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:43 p.m.

California Gov. Newsom (D) on Wednesday signed an executive order that requires all cars sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2035.

Newsom described the move as the biggest step yet in California's fight against climate change, which he has emphasized as the driving force behind the state's destructive wildfires. The transportation sector, Newsom said, is responsible for more than half of carbon pollution in the Golden State. "Our cars shouldn't make wildfires worse — and create more days filled with smoky air," he said. "Cars shouldn't melt glaciers or raise sea levels, threatening our cherished beaches and coastline."

The order is focused on new car sales, so people who own or want to sell their gas-powered cars will still be able to do so after 2035.

It's a lofty goal, but it's unclear how it will play out in reality, seeing as electric vehicles made up less than 8 percent of new car sales in 2019. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

3:39 p.m.

Dr. Deborah Birx is reportedly "distressed" over the White House coronavirus task force's direction and is unsure whether she can stay in her job.

Birx, the White House coronavirus task force's response coordinator, has "told people around her that she is 'distressed' with the direction of the task force" and is "so unhappy with what she sees as her diminished role" on it that "she is not certain how much longer she can serve in her position," CNN reported on Wednesday. She has reportedly spent less time with the president in recent weeks.

This report comes after the White House added a new member to the task force, Dr. Scott Atlas, who has no background in infectious diseases and reportedly touted a controversial herd immunity strategy. Birx, according to CNN, views Atlas as an "unhealthy influence" on President Trump and believes that he is providing the president with "misleading information" about the efficacy of face masks in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Birx has also described "the situation inside the nation's response to the coronavirus as nightmarish," CNN writes.

A White House spokesperson told CNN that Trump "relies on the advice and counsel of all of his top health officials every day and any suggestion that their role is being diminished is just false." Birx herself didn't comment for the story, but one source cast doubt on the idea that she might leave the task force, saying, "She is a good soldier. I don't think she's going anywhere." Brendan Morrow

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