February 24, 2021

Former President Donald Trump may never fully recommit to his business roots.

Before taking office, Trump's name was synonymous with his gaudily luxurious brand, and it was an asset. But Trump's "human brand" is no longer "part of who he is," Robert Passikoff of the firm Brand Keys tells The Washington Post — and investors say that has cost his business dearly.

Trump's properties used to target "wealthy, city-dwelling customers and big-time convention planners," the Post writes. But those audiences won't touch his businesses anymore thanks to his incredibly divisive time in office, and his new enthusiastic fan base isn't making up the difference. Several of Trump's hotels have shut down since he took office, and his debts are continuing to pile up as condos and hotel rooms sit empty.

Investors are now circling the former president, looking to buy his properties as well as his loans to cash in on if he ends up defaulting. Four of those investors tell the Post they're hoping to get a good deal on the buildings due to Trump's tarnished brand. Once purchased, "the first thing you do is you take the Trump name off them — which, by the way, could be a multiple-week effort, because it's on everything," one potential buyer told the Post. Only then will the building become a "competitive asset."

Those sales seem possible as sources say Trump remains focused on exacting revenge against his political enemies instead of his business. But so far, Trump hasn't indicated he's selling anything, and his son Eric Trump insists the family is still committed to the business. Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 14, 2021

The Senate on Wednesday voted 92-6 to open debate on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which addresses the rising number of hate crimes being perpetrated against Asian Americans.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), would instruct the Justice Department to expedite its review of hate crimes and coordinate with local law enforcement agencies to raise awareness of how to report a hate crime.

GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), and Roger Marshall (Kansas) voted against opening debate. Cotton and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) released a statement before the vote saying they "believe the Senate should have the benefit of hearing from the Department of Justice before blindly acting on this issue."

Democrats have indicated they are open to Republican amendments, and Hirono on Tuesday addressed the concern that by having "COVID" in the name, the bill is too narrow in focus. "The whole point is that there is a connection between COVID and the rise of these hate crimes," she said. "We wanted to make sure that everyone understood there's a cause and effect here, but I'm open to eliminating that so that we can get to the real issue, which is the rise in hate crimes against [Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders] and what we can do about it." Catherine Garcia

April 14, 2021

The United States is prepared to sanction dozens of Russian individuals and entities and expel as many as 10 Russian officials and diplomats in response to election interference and hacks, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News.

The sanctions, which could be announced as soon as Thursday, would target about 12 individuals, including government and intelligence officials, and 20 entities, with several linked to the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm that meddled in the 2016 election, or the SolarWinds hack, Bloomberg News reports.

Shortly after President Biden was inaugurated, he ordered a review of reports that Russia placed bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan; Russian interference in U.S. elections; the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny; and the SolarWinds hack, which is believed to have been orchestrated by Russia.

On Tuesday, Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone, and the White House said Biden "made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to Russia's actions, such as cyber intrusions and election interference." Russia has denied meddling in U.S. elections and the bounty report. Read more at Bloomberg News. Catherine Garcia

April 14, 2021

On Thursday, four Democratic lawmakers will stand on the steps of the Supreme Court to introduce legislation expanding the country's highest court from nine to 13 justices.

The bill is being proposed by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), and Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), The Washington Post reports. The Constitution does not state how many judges should sit on the Supreme Court, and it could be expanded by an act of Congress. There have been nine justices since 1869; now, there are six nominated by a Republican president and three by Democrats.

Those in favor of expanding the Supreme Court say having more justices would help prevent major decisions coming down to one "swing" justice, while also serving as a stronger check on the presidency. Last week, President Biden signed an executive order creating an independent commission to examine the structure of the Supreme Court. Catherine Garcia

April 14, 2021

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Wednesday said if "something really formal" happens with the Justice Department's investigation of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Republican leadership will "of course react and take action."

The Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz, 38, had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel out of state with him, allegations that Gaetz denies. Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican leader, told reporters that he hasn't talked to Gaetz about the investigation, but will likely meet with him later this week.

"It's serious things alleged," Scalise told reporters. "Obviously we want to get the facts." Gaetz is a member of the House Armed Services and Judiciary committees, and Scalise said GOP lawmakers who find themselves facing serious charges are removed from their committees.

Last week, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) became the first Republican member of Congress to call on Gaetz to resign, and on Sunday, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 House GOP leader, said the allegations against Gaetz are "sickening." Catherine Garcia

April 14, 2021

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel decided in an emergency meeting on Wednesday that members need more data before voting on how to proceed with Johnson & Johnson's one-dose COVID-19 vaccine.

On Tuesday, the CDC and Federal Drug Administration recommended a pause in using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after six women who received it developed rare brain blood clots. One of the women died. The panel is seeking more information on the clots, including the risk factors and frequency, and will reconvene in the next seven to 10 days.

Dr. Lynn Batha, an epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health and a member of the CDC advisory panel, said she supported extending the pause because "by having more robust information, I think we can be more confident about how we talk about the safety of this vaccine."

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is one of three authorized for use in the U.S., and because only one shot is needed and doses can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures, it is considered the best option for people who are vulnerable, like those who are incarcerated or homeless. Catherine Garcia

April 14, 2021

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin's attorneys continued their defense on Wednesday, arguing Chauvin's knee on the neck of George Floyd was not what ultimately killed him, reports The Washington Post.

Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died in May 2020 after Chauvin placed him under arrest, restraining him with his knee for more than nine minutes. Experts who testified for the prosecution previously said it was the pressure of Chauvin's knee that killed Floyd via a lack of oxygen, but David Fowler, a former Maryland chief medical examiner, testified Wednesday that none of Floyd's injuries were in areas that Chauvin's knee pressed on.

"The amount of force that was applied to Mr. Floyd was less than enough to bruise him," said Fowler, testifying that "all of Floyd's injuries were in areas that Chauvin's knee did not press on." Fowler concluded that Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia due to heart disease, with contributing factors, but criticized the fact that Floyd did not receive immediate medical attention to reverse his cardiac arrest.

Chauvin's lawyers have argued Floyd died as a result of drug use and underlying health issues. Chauvin is facing murder and manslaughter charges.

Read more at The Washington Post. The Week Staff

April 14, 2021

Mick Jagger and Dave Grohl are trying to rock us out of this pandemic.

The pair released "Eazy Sleazy," a song written and performed by Jagger, with Grohl lending his talents on drums, bass, and guitar. In just shy of four minutes, the song touches on topics like studying pandemic charts, fake applause at football games, TikTok, Zoom, Bill Gates, climate change, aliens, and hope for the future, among others. The chorus chirps the pandemic will soon "be a memory you're trying to remember to forget." But of course, that requires "shooting the vaccine, Bill Gates is in my bloodstream."

Grohl said the collaboration is "beyond a dream come true," and declared it the "song of the summer." Listen below. Taylor Watson

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