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July 2, 2020

The FBI has explained why it took a year after the arrest of Jeffrey Epstein to take his associate Ghislaine Maxwell into custody.

Maxwell was arrested Thursday morning in conjunction with the Southern District of New York's investigation into Jeffrey Epstein, who died by suicide last year while awaiting trial on allegations of sex trafficking. She faces five charges, including transporting and enticing minors for illegal sexual acts, as well as committing perjury while testifying in the Epstein case.

The FBI had been "secretly keeping tabs" on Maxwell for the past year, most recently finding she had "slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire, continuing to live a life of privilege while her victims continue to live with the trauma inflicted upon them years ago," Bill Sweeney, the assistant director of the FBI’s New York Field Office, said in a Thursday press conference. A grand jury had recently voted to indict her, and the FBI "moved when we were ready," Sweeney said.

The indictment details how Maxwell had a "personal and professional relationship with Jeffrey Epstein and was among his closest associates." And from 1994 on, Maxwell allegedly "enticed and groomed multiple minor girls to engage in sex acts" with Epstein, the indictment reads, going on to detail how Maxwell built trust with these victims knowing they would be abused. Find the whole disturbing indictment here. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 2, 2020

New coronavirus cases are continuing to rise in Florida, which just set yet another daily record.

The Florida Department of Health on Thursday said it has confirmed 10,109 new COVID-19 cases, the Miami Herald reports. That breaks the state's previous record for most new cases in a day after 9,585 cases were reported on Saturday. In total, the state has confirmed nearly 170,000 coronavirus cases, and its new cases have grown by more than 100 percent since June 23, Axios reports. The state on Thursday additionally confirmed 67 new COVID-19 deaths; Florida's coronavirus death toll has reached 3,617.

To put these new numbers in perspective, writer Matt O'Brien notes that the Philippines, Japan, the European Union, and more areas with a population of 2.6 billion people combined are averaging about 6,700 new cases.

After Florida reported almost 9,000 new COVID-19 cases last week, it suspended on-site alcohol consumption at bars. But earlier this week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said the state is "not going back" on its reopening.

Florida is one of a number of states that has been seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases, and on Wednesday, the U.S. passed 50,000 new daily cases for the first time. Earlier this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that if things don't turn around, he "would not be surprised" if the U.S. starts reporting 100,000 new cases a day.

"Clearly, we are not in total control right now," he added. Brendan Morrow

July 2, 2020

The Supreme Court will take up a case concerning secret grand jury materials from the Mueller report, meaning Democrats will likely not obtain access to them before the 2020 presidential election.

The court on Thursday said it would hear the Trump administration's appeal of a lower court's order to turn over secret materials from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, which examined Russian interference in the 2016 election, to the House of Representatives, The Associated Press reports.

If the Supreme Court had turned down this appeal, Bloomberg notes, the Mueller materials "could have become public before the November election." But since the court will hear the case in its next term beginning in the fall, the Thursday decision, AP writes, "will keep the documents out of congressional hands at least until the case is resolved, which is not likely to happen before 2021." And since a ruling isn't expected to come until after there's a new Congress in January 2021, CNN writes the decision "could effectively kill the effort to get the documents."

An appeals court previously sided with Democrats and said the House Judiciary Committee should be able to access the secret materials because Mueller's probe "stopped short" of coming to a conclusion about President Trump's conduct, while the Department of Justice says the House hasn't indicated that it "urgently needs these materials for any ongoing impeachment investigation." After several high-profile recent losses for the administration at the Supreme Court recently, Politico's Andrew Desiderio notes this was a "big victory" for Trump. Brendan Morrow

July 2, 2020

Jeffrey Epstein's former associate Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested and will appear in federal court sometime Thursday, NBC News reports via law enforcement sources.

Maxwell was arrested in New Hampshire in connection to the Epstein investigation, which centered around the financier's alleged sex trafficking of children as young as 14. Maxwell is accused of helping Epstein recruit children for his alleged minor sex ring. An FBI spokesperson confirmed the arrest to The Associated Press.

Epstein was arrested a year ago on charges of trafficking and abusing dozens of children at his Manhattan townhouse, at a Florida mansion, and in other locations. He hanged himself while awaiting trial in the case. Epstein was had several high-profile friends who had frequently visited his properties; Some of them, including Prince Andrew, are being questioned regarding their ties to Epstein. Kathryn Krawczyk

June 29, 2020

A Louisiana abortion law has just been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

In a 5-4 decision on Monday, the court struck down a restrictive Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have "active admitting privileges" at a hospital within 30 miles, NBC News reports. The law was passed in 2014, and the court noted it was similar to a Texas law it previously struck down in 2016. The restrictions under Louisiana's law could have resulted in the state having just one abortion clinic, The New York Times notes.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberal majority, saying that although he joined the dissent for the case of the Texas law, "the Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons," per The Washington Post. "Therefore Louisiana's law cannot stand under our precedents." Brendan Morrow

June 26, 2020

American intelligence officials have informed President Trump that they believe Russia's military intelligence agency has secretly been offering bounties to Taliban or Taliban-linked militants for the killing of American troops in Afghanistan, according to an explosive Friday report in The New York Times. Trump was first briefed on the findings in late March, although he has not yet acted on the "menu of potential options" that were presented to him, and which included potentially issuing a domestic complaint to Russia or imposing sanctions.

The Times reports that Islamist militants (or groups associated with them) are believed to have actually collected such bounty money from Russia, although it's not clear which American deaths, or how many, are suspected.

Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU, is thought to be behind the alleged bounties. The GRU has previously been tied to the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain, as well as to "finding" Hillary Clinton's "missing" emails after Trump famously asked Russia to do so while on the campaign trail in July 2016.

"Any involvement with the Taliban that resulted in the deaths of American troops would … be a huge escalation of Russia's so-called hybrid war against the United States, a strategy of destabilizing adversaries through a combination of such tactics as cyberattacks, the spread of fake news, and covert and deniable military operations," writes The New York Times. It would also be "the first time the Russian spy unit was known to have orchestrated attacks on Western troops."

Additionally, while officials were described as being "confident" about their findings, it's less clear what Russia's intentions are. "Some officials have theorized that the Russians may be seeking revenge on NATO forces for a 2018 battle in Syria in which the American military killed several hundred pro-Syrian forces, including numerous Russian mercenaries, as they advanced on an American outpost," the Times writes. Read more about the U.S. intelligence findings here. Jeva Lange

June 5, 2020

Minneapolis' police department agreed Friday to new measures to combat excessive police force after negotiations with the state of Minnesota.

After former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the neck of and killed George Floyd, negotiators for the city agreed to ban police from using chokeholds. The city also agreed to mandate officers intervene verbally and physically if they see other officers using excessive force, risking punishment as severe as the officer using the force if they fail to intervene. That measure comes after two other officers also helped Chauvin restrain Floyd and one simply looked on. Chauvin is facing second-degree murder charges, while the other three ex-officers have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

Protests have taken over Minneapolis and much of the country after Floyd's death at the hands of police, prompting complaints and videos of police forcefully restraining protesters who were seemingly peaceful. Under the Friday agreement, officers will have to get permission from Minneapolis' police chief or a designated deputy chief to use crowd control weapons such as tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and batons. The changes come after the Minnesota Department of Human Rights launched an investigation into Floyd's death.

Police forces in New York and Miami have had "duty to intervene" rules on the books, but what's known as a "blue wall of silence" has still stopped other officers from stepping in to prevent or reporting wrongdoing, Vice News reports. Protesters and news sources have shared many videos showing NYPD officers attacking protesters and reporters over the past week. Kathryn Krawczyk

May 29, 2020

Ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been arrested in relation to the death of George Floyd, Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington announced Friday. Chauvin is the officer who was filmed kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly 10 minutes as Floyd protested "I can't breathe;" he was fired from the department earlier this week.

According to KARE 11, the local NBC affiliate, Chauvin's charging decision has not yet been made. Nevertheless, Harrington called Floyd's death a "murder," explaining "that's what it looked like to me … I'm just calling it what I see at that point." The nation has been rocked by protests since Floyd's death, with many of the protesters demanding justice and expressing anger that the officers involved had not yet faced legal repercussions.

Chauvin had at least 10 conduct complaints during his 19-year tenure before he was fired. In particular, he was involved in the shooting death of a man who had stabbed other people before attacking police, as well as some other undisclosed complaints. Additionally, he was placed on leave when he and other officers shot and wounded a Native American man in 2011. Jeva Lange

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