Oleg Albinsky/IStockBy KATHERINE FAULDERS, ABC News
(WASHINGTON ) -- President Donald Trump said that his administration would enhance unemployment benefits through the end of the year if congressional negotiations fail, during a press conference on Friday.
President Donald Trump signed multiple excecutive actions one day after coronavirus relief negotiations fell apart in Congress.
Trump on Saturday signed a memorandum that is supposed to provide $400 a week for additional unemployment insurance benefits -- down from the $600 benefit that expired July 31. An executive order would extend a moratorium on evictions in addition to memoranda that would provide deferments for student loan payments and create a payroll tax holiday for those making less than $100,000 annually.
"Through these four actions, my administration will provide immediate and vital relief to Americans struggling in this difficult time," the president said from the signing at a news conference in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Saturday afternoon.
It remains unclear what legal authority Trump has to enforce these actions.
He called the $400 unemployment benefit -- which Democrats had insisted remain at $600 -- "generous" and said he had intervened in the negotiations, in part, because Democrats had padded their bill with provisions that had nothing to do with coronavirus.
He said they were demanding "bailout money" for "states that have been badly managed by Democrats" and that the bill included "measures designed to increase voter fraud" and "stimulus checks for illegal aliens."
Talks on a path forward for a COVID-19 relief bill collapsed Friday, with both parties leaving negotiations citing no measured progress toward an agreement and no plans for a future meeting.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had been in daily discussion with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Earlier this week, Mnuchin and Meadows set a deadline for an agreement to be reached by Friday.
Pelosi and Schumer criticized the use of executive orders in a press conference on Friday and said they were committed to negotiations.
"When the economy starts losing ground, the only choice is for a strong package, and yet at times yesterday our Republican friends seemed willing to walk away from the negotiating table to do an unworkable, weak and narrow executive orders, which are not going to do the job for the American people," Schumer said.
Trump laid out his plan for the executive actions in a speech from Bedminster Friday night. He accused Democrats of holding coronavirus stimulus negotiations "hostage."
ABC News' Allison Pecorin and Trish Turner contributed to this report.
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Mark Makela/Getty ImagesBY: ABBY CRUZ, ABC NEWS
(WASHINGTON) -- Amid the fallout from comments by former vice president and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden about a lack of diversity of thought and heritage within the African American community, some worry that a pattern of blunders could impact support within the Black community.
Biden drew criticism on Thursday when he compared the diversity of African American and Latino communities at a pretaped virtual talk with the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
"What you all know, but most people don't know. Unlike the African American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is incredibly diverse community with incredibly different attitudes about different things," Biden said. "You go to Florida you find a very different attitude about immigration in certain places than you do when you're in Arizona. So it's a very different, a very diverse community."
Just hours after the taped remarks, during a live discussion with the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, Biden reiterated similar comments: "We can build a new administration that reflects the full diversity of our nation, the full diversity of Latino communities. And when I mean full diversity, unlike the African American community and many other communities, you're from everywhere. From Europe, from the tip of South America, all the way to our border and Mexico, and in the Caribbean."
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said it's important to acknowledge that Black Americans, including those with roots in the Caribbean, Africa, Latin America and the American South have cultures that should be celebrated.
"To diminish those cultures and the richness of those cultures is such a wildly ignorant thing to do and insulting on so many levels," said Williams, who is the son of immigrants from Grenada. "But I wish I was surprised."
After receiving backlash for his comments, Biden later took to Twitter to apologize for the comments.
"In no way did I mean to suggest the African American community is a monolith -- not by identity, not on issues, not at all," Biden wrote. "Throughout my career I've witnessed the diversity of thought, background, and sentiment within the African American community. It's this diversity that makes our workplaces, communities, and country a better place."
Biden took heat in May after comments he made during an interview with "The Breakfast Club" radio show, in which he joked that if African American voters support Trump over him in November, they "ain't Black."
Some argue that these comments could have an impact on turnout for voters who aren't enthusiastic about Biden's candidacy.
"It's an erasure of Black immigrants, it's a conflation of the Black experience, it's ignorant," said Nadia Brown, a professor of political science at Purdue University and author of "Sisters in the Statehouse: Black Women and Legislative Decision Making." "Biden is not doing himself any favors and the people that are captive Democratic voters, who have no other option but to vote for the Democrat or stay home, aren't enthusiastic about him."
Nneka Apachu, the founder of AfriPAC, a nonpartisan political group that aims to improve policies affecting African immigrants in the U.S., said the stakes are too high to care about Biden's gaffes, pointing to Trump's travel bans from some African countries and attempted repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
"I can't imagine another four years of this, I can hear a million gaffes," said Apachu. "But the suffering that I'm seeing right now with my people, it's not worth [jeopardizing a Biden win]."
There are 2.3 million eligible Black immigrant voters in the U.S., about 10% of immigrants eligible to vote, according to Pew Research. Black immigrants vote at roughly the same rates as U.S.-born Blacks. Black voters overall, both immigrants and U.S. born, overwhelmingly identify with the Democratic Party. Only 7% of Black voters report they are Republican or lean toward the Republican Party, in comparison to 87% who say they identify as or lean toward the Democratic Party, according to a 2016 Pew Research study.
Among those criticizing Biden's language was Trump, who has focused on courting African American voters with his "Black Voices for Trump" initiative. The president said in a tweet that Biden was "no longer worthy of the Black Vote," though Trump has often been criticized for racist comments, including recently referring to a Black Lives Matter mural outside Trump Tower as a "symbol of hate."
Williams, who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primary, but said he will vote for Biden in November, believes that Biden's comments illustrate an insensitivity to Black people.
"It is just who he is. He obviously is better than Donald Trump," said Williams. "But we didn't have to settle for that."
Still, he urges voters on the fence to turn out for Biden.
"Those folks shouldn't stay home. Those folks should come out," he said.
There are several Black members of Congress, all Democrats, who are immigrants or are the children of immigrants. Most didn't respond to ABC News' requests for comment on Biden's statements. Staff for Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., whose father was from Bermuda, declined to comment on Biden's statements.
Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., whose mother is from Trinidad and Tobago, endorsed Biden's presidential bid in February. He believes Biden's comments were misconstrued.
"Vice President Biden’s comments were taken out of context, he was in no way suggesting that all African Americans are the same -- not by our identities or the issues we care the most about," Horsford said a written statement to ABC News. "A big reason why I was an early supporter of his campaign is his extensive work on these issues while in office, in which he championed diversity of thought, celebrated different backgrounds, and has always maintained a sincere relationship with the Black community."
Biden campaign co-chair Rep. Cedric Richmond told ABC News that Biden apologized to ensure that people know he understands why people called his language "problematic."
"He's the first to admit that he doesn't always articulate exactly what he's meaning in the way that he means it," said Richmond. "And so what real leadership is is you acknowledge when something comes out wrong, you correct it and I think that he did that immediately."
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uschools/iStockBy ALLISON PECORIN and TRISH TURNER, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- Talks between the administration and Democratic leadership on a path forward for a COVID-19 relief bill collapsed Friday, with both parties leaving negotiations citing no measured progress toward an agreement and no plans for a future meeting.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows have been in daily discussion with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer over a possible relief package, but with no agreement in site, the parties appear to have now gone their separate ways.
"Perhaps you missed what I said," Pelosi said when asked what would come next for negotiations. "I said come back when you're ready to give a higher number."
President Trump's advisers left Capitol Hill Thursday telling reporters that they will now advise him to go at it alone by taking executive action over the coming weekend.
"The Chief of Staff and I will recommend to the president, based upon our lack of activity today, to move forward with some executive orders," Mnuchin said.
Meadows told reporters that the executive orders would come this weekend.
Trump will focus his executive orders on issues related to unemployment insurance, student loans and evictions, Mnuchin said.
It is not clear exactly what these orders will involve, but Mnuchin said that individuals receiving unemployment insurance will not receive a full $600 a week in unemployment benefits as was the case under the previous coronavirus relief package. On Friday, Mnuchin seemed to point to the Senate GOP bill that he helped negotiate which cuts the federal unemployment insurance benefit to $200 a week through roughly September and then those benefits would be set at 70% or a worker’s lost wages.
For two weeks now, the two parties have struggled to find common ground on their two proposals which came in at sizably different prices. The original Democratic proposal, which passed the House in May, was worth $3.4 trillion. The Republican proposal came in around $1 trillion.
Pelosi and Schumer said during a press conference Friday that they attempted to negotiate the price of the bill during talks on Thursday. They offered to lower their asking price to $2 trillion if Republicans would raise their price to meet them.
"That's a non-starter," Mnuchin said, when asked about the deal on Friday.
Democrats would have achieved a lower price for the bill by shortening the length of certain benefits, but not by cutting them from their proposals, a tactic that Meadows said was not palatable.
"Even with their trillion dollar Washington D.C., magical way of saying they are coming down a trillion they can't come up with any significant cuts to their bill," Meadows said.
Earlier this week, Mnuchin and Meadows set a deadline for an agreement to be reached by Friday. As hopes of an agreement waned, each side accused the other of being too rigid and unwilling to compromise.
Both administration officials expressed frustration about returning to Capitol Hill today only to be met with more of the same during talks.
"I'm extremely disappointed that we came up here today just to hear the same thing repeated over and over again which is the same thing we've heard repeated for the last two weeks," Meadows said.
Throughout negotiations, Republicans have advocated for a slimmed-down bill that targets specific areas, whereas Democrats have argued that a robust bill addressing a wide spread of health and economic issues was necessary.
"We're there representing the kitchen table needs of the American people," Pelosi said. "They are there representing the board conference room table and that is a different perspective. And that's why it takes long."
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Marilyn Nieves/iStockBy AARON KATERSKY, ABC News
(NEW YORK) -- President Donald Trump cannot delay or stop a defamation lawsuit by a former advice columnist who has accused him of rape, a judge in New York has ruled.
The judge, Verna Saunders, denied Trump's request to stay the defamation lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll.
Saunders cited the recent Supreme Court decision that allowed Manhattan DA Cy Vance to proceed with a subpoena for Trump's tax returns, a ruling that rejected the president's claim of absolute immunity from any aspect of criminal procedure while in office.
"This court construes the holding in Vance applicable to all state court proceedings in which a sitting President is involved, including those involving his or her unofficial/personal conduct," Saunders wrote.
The White House declined to comment on this latest update.
Carroll, who served as an advice columnist at Elle magazine for over 20 years, has accused Trump of raping her in the 1990s. He has denied ever meeting her.
She sued him for defamation, arguing he damaged her reputation and career – she lost her job at Elle – by denying her story and claiming she took money from political opponents to fabricate it.
"We are very gratified that Judge Saunders, recognizing the clear holding of the Supreme Court in Vance, has rejected President Trump's assertion of absolute immunity and has denied his motion to stay E. Jean Carroll's case," her attorney, Roberta Kaplan said.
"We are now eager to move forward with discovery so that we can prove that Donald Trump defamed E Jean Carroll when he lied about her in connection with her brave decision to tell the truth about the fact that Donald Trump had sexually assaulted her."
"See you in court," Carroll tweeted Friday, tagging the president.
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Oleksii Liskonih/iStockBy MIKE LEVINE and MARK OSBORNE, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. government intelligence report released on Friday says China is actively interfering in the 2020 election process against President Donald Trump's campaign.
"We assess that China prefers that President Trump -- whom Beijing sees as unpredictable -- does not win reelection," William Evanina, director of the United States National Counterintelligence and Security Center, wrote in a release. "China has been expanding its influence efforts ahead of November 2020 to shape the policy environment in the United States, pressure political figures it views as opposed to China’s interests, and deflect and counter criticism of China."
The report on foreign election interference also highlights disinformation campaigns by Russia and Iran.
While China allegedly works against Trump, the report says Russia is fighting against Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden.
"We assess that Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia "establishment,'" Evanina wrote. "This is consistent with Moscow’s public criticism of him when he was Vice President for his role in the Obama Administration’s policies on Ukraine and its support for the anti-Putin opposition inside Russia."
It was just over two weeks ago that Biden said he was putting the Kremlin "on notice" over its election interference.
"If elected president, I will treat foreign interference in our election as an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation's government," Biden wrote as part of a lengthy statement.
The release from Evanina does not say whether Iran is working for or against any candidate, but instead that it is working against "democratic institutions."
"We assess that Iran seeks to undermine U.S. democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections," Evanina wrote. "Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on on-line influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-U.S. content."
"One of the best tools our election officials and the American people have to help defend against election interference is transparency on the risks to elections," Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs said in a statement. "ODNI’s statement today demonstrates this commitment to providing transparency and continuing to raise awareness among the American public about the threats to our election systems. We’ve come a long way since 2016 and we appreciate the Intelligence Community efforts to continue to downgrade and share information as broadly as possible, and we encourage them to continue to do so."
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Ranking Member Mark Warner, D-Va., thanked Evanina in a joint statement for his latest statement on election threats, and encouraged "political leaders on all sides to refrain from weaponizing intelligence matters for political gain, as this only furthers the divisive aims of our adversaries."
"NCSC Director Evanina’s statement today builds on and provides additional context to his previous statement two weeks ago," Rubio and Warner wrote. "We thank him for providing this additional information to the American people, and we look forward to his continued engagement, along with other members of the Intelligence Community and the Administration, with the public over the next 87 days."
"Evanina’s statement highlights some of the serious and ongoing threats to our election from China, Russia, and Iran," the letter continued. "Everyone -- from the voting public, local officials, and members of Congress -- needs to be aware of these threats. And all of us should endeavor to prevent outside actors from being able to interfere in our elections, influence our politics, and undermine confidence in our democratic institutions."
ABC News' Ben Siegel contributed to this report.
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uschools/iStockBy ALEXANDER MALLIN, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- A federal appeals court ruled Friday that House Democrats can sue to enforce a congressional subpoena demanding testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn.
Friday's ruling did not address what kind of questions McGahn would be required to answer from the House Judiciary Committee and kicked back other legal issues in the case for a three-judge panel to resolve -- likely delaying any possible appearance by McGahn in front of the committee before the subpoena's expiration.
McGahn was a central figure in several key episodes singled out by former special counsel Robert Mueller that Democrats argued amounted to attempted obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump in the Russia investigation.
While McGahn left the White House in fall of 2018, Trump ordered him, in addition to other current and former officials, not to comply with Democrats' request for testimony in their investigations regarding Trump's conduct.
While Democrats eventually opted not to incorporate allegations from the Mueller investigation into their impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump that ended in his acquittal early this year, lawyers for the Judiciary Committee have continued pressing for enforcement of their subpoena against McGahn -- arguing his testimony still remained relevant to their oversight duties.
In its 7-2 ruling, the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said Congress would suffer "concrete" injury by being deprived of McGahn's testimony in the Judiciary Committee's investigation into allegations of misconduct by Trump.
"[Congress] cannot conduct effective oversight of the federal government without detailed information about the operations of its departments and agencies," D.C. Circuit Judge Judith Rogers said Friday in her majority opinion. "And it cannot undertake impeachment proceedings without knowing how the official in question has discharged his or her constitutional responsibilities."
In a statement reacting to the ruling, the Justice Department said it would continue to argue for dismissal of the case, as well as a connected case brought by House Democrats seeking permission to sue the Trump administration over its use of emergency funds to build the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“While we strongly disagree with the standing ruling in McGahn, the [full] court properly recognized that we have additional threshold grounds for dismissal of both cases," DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec said. "We intend to vigorously press those arguments before the panels hearing those cases."
In a dissenting opinion, Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith argued the ruling would "supplant negotiation with litigation, making it harder for Congress to secure the information it needs."
"The Committee likely won’t even get what it wants in this case. Because the majority declines to decide whether the Committee has a cause of action and whether it should prevail on the merits, the chances that the Committee hears McGahn’s testimony anytime soon are vanishingly slim," Griffith said.
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yorkfoto/iStockBy KENDALL KARSON, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- Bill Hagerty, a former diplomat who was endorsed by Donald Trump, won a contentious Senate primary in Tennessee on Thursday night, reinforcing the strength of a presidential endorsement in some of the nation's reddest territory.
Hagerty toppled Dr. Manny Sethi, an orthopedic trauma surgeon who garnered support from Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., to secure the Republican nomination in the race to replace the retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander. Hagerty led Sethi by double digits when The Associated Press called the race, with his victory not only boosting Trump's endorsement record but also delivering an answer about who voters in the state believe is the true conservative -- a key argument that played out throughout the final stretch of the contest.
"President Trump has had my back since before the beginning of all of this," Hagerty said during his victory speech. "Thank you for being the inspiration to me, President Trump. I look forward to helping you continue moving forward and to see another four years."
The race turned into a pitched battle over fealty to the president, with Hagerty centering his campaign on his relationship with Trump. The former private equity executive served as an ambassador to Japan under Trump, was a high-dollar fundraiser fo the president's 2016 campaign and volunteered as Trump's Tennessee Victory Chair. He also held a senior role during Trump's transition.
The president essentially launched Hagerty's campaign in a tweet in July 2019, and he campaigned for Hagerty via tele-town halls. Members of the Trump family also were featured prominently in Hagerty's ads, underscoring his connections to the first family and his allegiance to Trump.
Sethi pitched himself as a loyalist to Trumpism and conservative ideals that ground the party -- a similar theme seen throughout this year's primary cycle. In a final stretch of the race, which turned ugly, Sethi's insurgent bid gained some late momentum, boosted by grassroots energy, making the contest far more competitive than anticipated.
The race devolved into a duel over who could out-Trump the other, as both Cruz and Paul saw Sethi as the "true conservative."
As Sethi's challenge proved to be a concern, Hagerty sought to paint Sethi as "too liberal for Tennessee," suggesting in ads that he donated to Democrats instead of Trump. With Hagerty widely considered the front-runner with Trump's support, Sethi used Hagerty's ties to Sen. Mitt Romney, a frequent foe of the president, to cast the former national finance chair for Romney's 2008 presidential campaign as "Mitt Romney's guy" and undercut his key selling point.
Earlier this week, Sethi, a physician, called on Trump to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, and also defended the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 -- a drug Trump has frequently touted.
"I've had about enough of this guy Fauci. If I'm President Trump, I call Dr. Fauci into the Board room and tell him, 'You're fired,'" he said in a statement, as Fauci and Trump have been at odds over aspects of the administration's response to the coronavirus.
This race wasn't the first in which the president and Cruz clashed over an anointed selection in a Republican primary. In Texas' 23rd Congressional District, the Trump-endorsed Tony Gonzales, a former Navy cryptologist, appears to be the winner over Cruz-backed Raul Reyes, Jr., a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force.
Ultimately, Hagerty winning a tough primary in a state Trump carried by 26 points in 2016 signals that that president's endorsement is valuable and that he continues to have considerable sway over GOP voters.
Now, Hagerty is set to square off in the fall against Marquita Bradshaw, an activist from Memphis, who delivered a stunning upset in the Democratic primary on Thursday.
Bradshaw, a political newcomer, was one of two African Americans in the Democratic race, and she defeated James Mackler, a former Army helicopter pilot who had the backing of the national Democratic establishment since January. To underscore how surprising Bradshaw's win is, in her most recent filing with the FEC from April, she raised $8,420, compared to Mackler's $410,938 during the same period. He's raised $2.1 million for the cycle. She has not filed since then.
Mackler entered the night seen as the likely challenger in the fall for the safe red seat, but his loss breaks the DSCC's winning streak, with all of their other primary candidates succeeding in their races so far this cycle. Bradshaw earned 36% of the vote, compared to Mackler's 24%, a blow to national Democrats.
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Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesBy MARTHA RADDATZ and LUIS MARTINEZ, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- Brent Scowcroft, the former Air Force general who twice served a the national security adviser under Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, has died at the age of 95, according to a statement from the Scowcroft Group.
Scowcroft is best known from his tenure in the Bush administration and his handling of the Persian Gulf War and remained one of the nation's most prominent elder statesmen and well-known experts on international security matters.
"Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft passed away yesterday at the age of 95 of natural causes," said the statement.
"Brent Scowcroft was an American patriot and public servant of the highest order with an extraordinary military and government service career spanning over 60 years," the statement continued.
"His entire professional life was devoted to how best to protect America and advance its interests. He mentored two generations of American public servants who revered him for his brilliance, integrity, humility and fundamental decency," it said. "He served the United States with great honor and distinction and is considered one of the most influential experts in international affairs."
"Given his role as advisor to US Presidents Richard Nixon through Barack Obama, no individual has provided as many commanders-in-chief as much national security advice – irrespective of party lines," it said. Scowcroft is the only person to have served as national security adviser under two presidents.
Before serving as Bush's national security adviser, he served in the same role during President Gerald Ford's administration after filling the role of deputy national security adviser under both the Nixon and Ford administrations while he was still on active duty as an Air Force general officer. He retired in 1975 as a lieutenant general, capping a 29 year career in the Air Force that began with his graduation from West Point shortly after the service was established in 1947.
After his government service, Scowcroft established The Scowcroft Group, an international business consulting firm, and worked with various think tanks. He also served on a number of Blue-Ribbon commissions dealing with national security.
Most recently, in 2016, Scowcroft garnered attention for endorsing Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president, over President Donald Trump, then the Republican nominee.
"The presidency requires the judgment and the knowledge to make tough calls under pressure," Scowcroft said at the time. "I believe Hillary Clinton has the wisdom and experience to lead our country at this critical time.”
Known as a trusted confidante of the Bush family, Scowcroft did not hesitate to publicly criticize President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
"General Scowcroft was a wise, principled, brilliant strategist and a great public servant," said Sen. Jack Reed, D - R.I., in a statement. "He was a noble, thoughtful scholar and gentleman – truly an American statesman – who served with honor and distinction. His voice, wise counsel, friendship, and international leadership will be sorely missed."
"While he worked in Republican administrations, he always took a non-partisan approach to foreign policy and was perhaps the leading critic of the Bush-Cheney doctrine of pre-emption in the run up to the invasion of Iraq," said Reed. "He’s been an informal advisor to many presidents and universally respected for his keen insight and intellect."
“He was for me a heroic example of principled public service that exemplified duty, honor, country," said Reed. "His example inspires and sustains me.”
In 1991, Bush presented Scowcroft with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. In 1993 he was awarded an honorary knighthood -- a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) -- by Queen Elizabeth II.
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drnadig/iStockBy ALLISON PECORIN and TRISH TURNER, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- Conversations between administration officials and Democratic congressional leaders about coronavirus relief may soon fall apart, with both parties leaving the Capitol on Thursday evening claiming to be "very far apart" on key issues.
Now, as the clock ticks down on the self-imposed Friday deadline for an agreement, negotiations between the two parties appear to be on the brink of collapse.
"The American public wants action, so again, we're not going to just keep on coming back every day if we can't get to a deal," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said. "We've said by the end of the week we wanted to reach an agreement on the major issues."
But agreement does not appear within close reach. Thursday evening's negotiations ended with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling the administration's offer a "Sophie's choice."
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have argued that the "slimmed down" approach taken by Republicans does not do enough to address the widespread issues of the pandemic.
"When they said a skinny proposal, it was anorexic," Pelosi said.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that President Donald Trump called him three different times during the meeting. While the president continues to advocate for a congressional solution, he is now seriously considering what he can do, Meadows said.
"He is prepared to take executive action on his own," if an agreement is not reached Meadows said.
And Trump similarly teased that such an order could be coming down the pike.
"Probably tomorrow afternoon" or the next morning, Trump said Thursday, when asked about a possible executive order, though he did note that there was still time for a congressional agreement to come to fruition.
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said he backs executive action.
"If Congress isn't going to do its job, then I think the president needs to act," he said
But some members expressed unease at the legality of such a move. It's unclear if the president would be moving unspent money from other locations, and that always causes Congress -- which is supposed to control the purse strings -- a bit of heart burn.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters, "I don't know what his authority would be or even what he could do but, they're clearly looking at that."
Still, frustration fully set in on Capitol Hill Thursday as senators headed off on something of an August recess. The Senate did not formally adjourn, but members have been told they'll get a 24-hour notice to return to the Capitol for a vote on a deal if one can be reached.
"The Senate won't adjourn for August unless and until the Democrats demonstrate they will never let an agreement materialize," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
Republican senators on Thursday blamed Pelosi and Schumer for the ongoing stalemate.
"I have no problem staying if there's a reason to stay. But Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Schumer have to give us a reason to stay, and I'm convinced they don't want to do that. Why? I don't know," said Kennedy.
The approaching 2020 election has also led some Republicans to speculate about Democrats' motivation.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., warned, "As long as they calculate that they're better off politically doing nothing, it's going to be hard for us to move forward and that's the calculation they've made, it appears."
While the Senate squabbles, Americans who depend on the benefits created by the last relief bill face losing assistance. The $600 unemployment benefit and moratorium on evictions has already expired. And this week marks the end of the period to apply for the paycheck protection program, an initiative which Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, championed.
Collins lamented the time lost on negotiations on Thursday, but held out hope of a deal.
"I'm very concerned that it's taking so long, and it seems to me that there should have been a deal this week but obviously there wasn't. Um, I don't know," said Sen. Collins. "At this point it's hard to predict when, but I still think it's going to come together over the weekend, and we'll be back voting on it next week."
The two sides appear to still be light years apart though. Democrats have argued a robust bill is needed to address the litany of economic and health stressors caused by the pandemic.
"The Trump administration and Senate Republicans have badly mauled the body politic, the American economy and American health care and we believe the patient needs a major operation while Republicans want to apply just a Band-Aid," Schumer said.
One Democrat in perhaps the toughest reelection this fall, Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, laid into Republicans who refused to negotiate for several months while they determined the effectiveness of the previous tranche of federal emergency pandemic spending, saying, "They push you up against the wall and then say its your fault. ... Maybe we should change tradition. I mean that's an absurd way to run this country -- under threats."
Moreover, a number of Republicans said they're highly skeptical of any deal between Democratic leaders and the administration, some planning to vote against whatever comes out -- others saying they're just not sure a majority of the GOP conference would support such an agreement in the end, something that McConnell has forecasted.
"There will be a Republican split anywhere from liking maybe the content but not the price tag, and you'll see a broad array of different Republican votes," Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., told reporters. "I'm guessing it'll pass would be my prediction -- I think if the White House gets behind it. ... I'm gonna be looking at the content, but I'm guessing the top line will probably make it hard for me to vote for it."
For his part, McConnell sought to reassure the country that a deal would eventually make it across the finish line, saying in a CNBC interview, "I'm not going to speculate about the timing, but what I do want to reassure the American people is that there is a desire on the part of both the Democrats and the Republicans -- at least most of the Republicans, not every single one -- that want an outcome, because the economy does need an additional boost until we get the vaccine. Exactly when a deal comes together, I couldn't tell you, but I think it will at some point in the near future."
Asked earlier Thursday if Democrats might change their position and support a short-term extension of some expired programs, like the expanded federal pandemic unemployment benefits -- that $600 per week paycheck that ended last weekend -- Pelosi minced no words, saying, "We're not having a short term extension."
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Official White House Photo by Shealah CraigheadBy QUINN OWEN, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf continued to defend his agency's response to the recent Portland, Oregon, protests, when he appeared before a Senate panel on Thursday. He also blamed local officials for not cooperating, and said criticism from two former homeland security secretaries was unfounded.
Sen. Gary Peters, the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, read out a statement from former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff that indicated "there was no respect for, or coordination with, the wishes of local authorities."
Wolf responded that Chertoff was "dead wrong."
"I don't believe Secretary Chertoff, as well as others who have commented on DHS actions, really understand what is going on in Portland," Wolf said.
Chertoff told ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast last month that the Trump administration has taken a "belligerent, aggressive tone" with Oregon officials.
Tom Ridge, the country's first homeland security secretary, also criticized Wolf's move to intervene without consent from local authorities.
"Cooperation and assistance our federal officers receive in any other city around the country did not exist in Portland," Wolf told senators on Thursday.
At the height of controversy over the federal response last month, local officials took action to limit the federal footprint. The Portland City Council passed a resolution prohibiting local police officers from coordinating with or working alongside federal agents during the protests.
"Put simply, DHS and DOJ officers -- law enforcement officers, civil law enforcement officers -- were abandoned due to the dangerous policies by local officials," Wolf said.
Unfounded claims that far-left, often militant activists known as antifa are responsible for the unrest seen throughout the summer have underpinned both conspiracy theories and baseless allegations from top Trump administration officials.
Asked on Thursday whether recent protests were specifically coordinated between different cities, Wolf again drew a connection between protesters in Portland and anarchist movements without providing evidence of such coordination.
"We also see violent anarchists specifically trying to burn down a courthouse," he said. "We see antifa on social media promulgating and inspiring others to do more violence in Portland -- organizing. So there's certainly the antifa. We also see Boogaloo -- and ranking member (Peters) mentioned it -- that has been attributed there in Portland as well."
In a blow to the government's case against the aggressive protests, a federal court on Thursday ordered the extension of a restraining order on federal agents that prevents them from removing journalists and legal observers from protest areas without evidence of a crime.
"Today's decision affirms that the Trump administration's abuses continue to need to be reined in," said ACLU of Oregon interim Legal Director Kelly Simon.
Lawyers for the government argued the order would result in violent instigators to disguise themselves as journalists. The restrictions were originally focused on local police, was expanded last month and was extended by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon until Aug. 20.
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Marc Piasecki/GC ImagesBy BEATRICE PETERSON, TERRANCE SMITH, SOO RIN KIM, and JEFFREY COOK, ABC News
At least six operatives who have been prominently involved in the Republican political world have been linked to Kanye West's captivating 11th-hour independent 2020 presidential bid.
As the rivalry between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden intensifies with less than three months to go until the election, the involvement of the operatives in West's campaign, some of whom have ties to Trump's camp, raises questions about the motives of those helping to put his name on the ballot.
Shortly after announcing his presidential aspirations earlier this summer, West disavowed his support for Trump during an interview with Forbes, saying, "I'm taking the red hat off, with this interview." He also said he would run as a Republican "if Trump wasn't there. I will run as an independent if Trump is there."
He also acknowledged that his presidential bid could bleed out Biden's Black voters saying, "To say that the Black vote is Democratic is a form of racism and white supremacy."
West is vying to get on the ballot in several states after faltering in his attempts to do so in others and scrambling to find electors -- party-tied officials who represent states in the Electoral College -- to represent him should he win.
The revelations about the operatives come as questions have been raised about West's motives for the campaign and his behavior during his opening rally. His wife, Kim Kardashian West, has called for empathy saying her husband has undergone personal and artistic pressure on top of his bipolar disorder, and that "his words sometimes do not align with his intentions."
West's team withdrew his bid to get on the ballot in New Jersey after signatures came under scrutiny there. His team also missed the deadline in South Carolina and couldn't muster the 400 people campaign advisors said they felt that they needed to gather signatures to get West on the ballot in California.
It is unclear how the operatives are connected to West's official efforts, including who hired them. A source with knowledge of West's campaign told ABC News in a text message that West held a meeting last week to reset his campaign.
"Ye wanted more organization and to figure out why all the embarrassing headlines," the source said, using the entertainer's nickname.
The source said West would like to "have a miracle," "stop" Biden and give Black America a "positive choice" or "learn something for the 2024 run."
Operative with link to voter fraud
One of the operatives is a GOP-linked operative named Mark Jacoby, whose Florida and California-based firm Let the Voters Decide has been hired by West's campaign to collect signatures in select states, according to sources close to the West campaign.
Jacoby, who has been described in media reports as a "professional signature collector," has been active in supporting various pro-GOP causes in Florida, California, Arizona and Massachusetts unrelated to West.
While working as a professional signature collector for the California Republican Party in 2008, Jacoby was arrested on voter fraud charges for allegedly registering himself to vote at a childhood California address where he no longer lived so he would appear to meet the legal requirement that all signature gatherers be eligible to vote in California. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with the case and was sentenced to three years' probation and 30 days of service with the California Department of Transportation.
He at that time was also accused of tricking voters into registering as Republicans by saying they were signing a petition for other causes.
In a statement to The New York Times, earlier this month Jacoby said his company was nonpartisan and worked for all political parties. "We do not comment on any current clients, but like all Americans, anyone who is qualified to stand for election has the right to run," he added in the statement. Jacoby did not return ABC News' request for comment.
On Wednesday, when Trump was asked by a reporter if he had heard about Republicans working to get West on the ballot, he said, "I like Kanye very much. I have nothing to do with him getting on the ballot."
And Republican National Committee spokesperson Mike Reed told ABC News in a statement that it was "news to us, just like it is to you."
He added, "Our sole focus is re-electing the president and the thousands of great Republican candidates running across the country."
Colorado, Wisconsin and Arkansas
In Colorado, where West's campaign just filed, only a $1,000 fee and nine signatures are needed to get on the presidential ballot. ABC News called all nine of the people who signed in support of West, four of whom are current or former Republican operatives and two who were registered Democrats.
When called by ABC News, Shelley Kon, one of the nine electors who signed for West in Colorado, said she was told by her friend, Rachel George, a veteran Republican operative who served on several staffs and campaigns including a three-year stint as communications director for then-Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner not to talk to reporters and to refer them to the campaign. Kon said she was "embarrassed" when the calls from journalists began.
"I knew I shouldn't have," she told ABC News about signing the paperwork given to her by George. Kon, who is a registered Democrat said she considers herself undecided in this year's general election. In a statement to ABC News, she said "if someone actually wants to run for president, you know, why not give voters the choice in that democratic process?"
George did not respond to messages and phone calls from ABC News.
More Republican operatives who signed West's Colorado form were Seth Jacobson, former political director for Darryl Glenn's U.S. Senate campaign and staffer for Cory Gardner's 2014 U.S. Senate campaign, Adam Johnson, former Colorado GOP political director, Matthew Zielinski, a 2012 Republican candidate for District 5 of the Colorado House of Representatives, and Joseph Peters, an assistant attorney general in Colorado and former GOP campaign staffer, according to the State attorney general's office. None of them returned ABC News' calls. This makes four of the nine signatures in Colorado from people with substantial experience in Republican political strategy. Another is Jacobson's roommate, according to the filing.
Other GOP operatives linked to West's campaign include Lane Ruhland, a Madison, Wis.,-based attorney who has worked as legal counsel for the Republican Party of Wisconsin. Ruhland on Tuesday was reportedly seen dropping off signature filings to the state elections commission building to put West's name on the ballot, according to ABC Affiliate WISN 12 News.
Apart from her work for the Wisconsin Republican Party, Ruhland has also worked for the Republican National Committee as well as most recently, representing the Trump campaign, as she was listed among the attorneys in a lawsuit from April this year against a Wisconsin local television station regarding an anti-Trump ad from pro-Democratic super PAC Priorities USA.
Ruhland did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.
In Arkansas, Gregg Keller, a veteran GOP operative who previously worked with Mitt Romney and John McCain's presidential campaigns, was listed as the West campaign's contact on its signature filing submitted Tuesday. Keller had previously served as the executive director of Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition and executive director of the American Conservative Union, according to their website, the oldest "conservative grassroots organization" in the United States.
Rush to find electors
The rush to find people to serve as electors for West's bid has been problematic. Electors are typically selected months in advance of the general election and some states decide on electors during the state's primary election. In some states they are decided at the party conventions.
Chuck Wilton, who was voted as delegate for the Republican Party in Vermont, was listed as an elector for West in the same state. In 2017, the Trump administration appointed Wilton's wife, Wendy, to serve as the state executive director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency in Vermont, a role she still occupies. ABC News has reached out to the Republican Party in Vermont to ask whether the state's rules allow electors to be listed for multiple candidates, but they did not respond to a request for comment.
Another GOP-linked name that has been associated with West's presidential bid is Jane Drummond -- a member of the Republican National Lawyer Association, a Republican "network of fellow professionals by practice area who share expertise," according to their website -- who was listed as among West's possible electors in Missouri, according to the filing with the Secretary of State office in Missouri.
Keller, Wilton and Drummond did not return ABC News' requests for comment.
When asked if West is running a symbolic campaign, a source close to the campaign told ABC News, "Biden and Trump are both caught in scandals and Kanye just catches on with the public."
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uschools/iStockBy SHANNON K. CRAWFORD, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- Like their residents, state and local governments are finding themselves cash-strapped as they contend with the novel coronavirus pandemic. Whether to provide them with more assistance is a key point of contention as negotiators on Capitol Hill work to broker a deal on the next relief package.
Where they land could have a major impact on whether millions of people keep their jobs and stay in their homes.
States rely heavily on personal income and general sales taxes, and both are expected to decline drastically through the end of the next fiscal year. By that point, the total tax revenue shortfall for all 50 states will add up to an estimated $200 billion, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center.
House Democrats passed legislation in May calling for $915 billion in flexible aid for state and local governments that can be spent for a wide range of purposes, including to backfill revenue losses. But Republicans have balked at running up the bill.
"Democrats are primarily interested in a $1 trillion bailout of the poorly run states," President Donald Trump said at a press briefing on Wednesday. "We're not going to go along with that."
But communities across the country are still grappling with the virus. Signed into law in March, the CARES Act allocated $150 billion to state and local governments to address the health and economic toll of the pandemic; now, that money is running out.
Some recipients used part of that aid to implement rent relief programs aimed at staving off a wave of evictions, but quickly found that demand outpaced supply. For example, Los Angeles opened a one-week application window for its assistance program. The city had enough funding to offer one month of assistance to 50,000 people, but over 100,000 people applied the first day.
While the funding dries up, the need persists. A U.S. Census Bureau survey in early July found that a quarter of Americans either missed last month's rent or mortgage payment or have little to no confidence that they can pay next month's rent or mortgage on time. As many as 23 million renters will be at risk of eviction by the end of September, according an Aspen Institute projection.
State and local governments are also major employers, and, like many businesses, they've been forced to make layoffs -- at least 1.5 million so far, according to data from the Labor Department. And that number is expected to tick upward. According to the Brookings Institute, past recessions and surveys suggest this is just the first round deep budget and job cuts in the government will likely grow in the next few months.
Some major cities also missed out entirely on receiving direct aid from the CARES Act, which sets the population minimum at 500,000. Miami -- with a population of about 470,000 -- just missed the cut.
The city's Republican mayor, Francis Suarez, said federal dollars for the city would make a world of difference.
"It would allow us to feed people in our community. It would allow us to provide help to small businesses. It would allow us to help with rent and mortgage relief which is so desperately needed," Suarez said Thursday during an event at the Aspen Security Forum. "My message to legislators is we need action immediately."
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Mark Makela/Getty ImagesBy MOLLY NAGLE and JOHN VERHOVEK, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden joined the American Federation of Teachers’ virtual convention on Thursday and addressed the ongoing debate over reopening schools and COVID-19 vaccine development.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has come under fire for comparing diversity in African American and Latino communities during an interview released Thursday.
The former vice president was asked about his view toward normalizing relations with Cuba and pivoted into an explanation of his belief on the differences of opinion between the two communities.
"And by the way, what you all know but most people don't know, unlike the African American community with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly different attitudes about different things. You go to Florida you find a very different attitude about immigration in certain places than you do when you're in Arizona. So it's a very different, a very diverse community," Biden told a panel of journalists at the National Association of Black Journalists-National Association of Hispanic Journalists 2020 virtual convention.
President Trump quickly seized on the comments, telling reporters that the remarks were "incredible."
"I just watched a clip and Joe Biden this morning totally disparaged and insulted the Black community," Trump said. "I don't know what's going on with him, but it was a very insulting statement he made."
The Biden campaign said that the former vice president does not view the African American community as a monolithic one and stressed that Biden was referring to a diversity of outlooks on immigration policy within the Latino community.
"If you look at the full video and transcript, it's clear that Vice President Biden was referring to diversity of attitudes among Latinos from different Latin American countries. The video that is circulating is conveniently cut to make this about racial diversity but that's not the case," Symone Sanders, a senior adviser to Biden told ABC News.
Despite the campaign's comments, Biden again compared the diversity of Latino and African American communities geographically during remarks at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference.
"We can build a new administration that reflects the full diversity of our nation. The full diversity of Latino communities. And when I mean full diversity, unlike the African American community and many other communities, you're from everywhere. From Europe, from the tip of South America, all the way to our border and Mexico, and in the Caribbean. And different backgrounds, different ethnicities, but all Latinos, we're gonna get a chance to do that if we win in November," Biden said Thursday afternoon.
The presumptive Democratic nominee also faced blowback for comments he made in May during an appearance on "The Breakfast Club," which some argued reflect the same attitude Biden expressed in his appearance at the panel that aired Thursday morning.
"Well, I'll tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't Black," Biden told radio personality Charlamagne tha God, who hosts the program -- particularly popular among young Black Americans.
The former vice president later apologized for the comments, saying that he was too "cavalier" with his language and insisted that he does not take their support for granted.
Biden has long touted his support in the African American community, which helped propel him to a landslide victory in the South Carolina Democratic primary, jumpstarting his campaign and placing him on the path to becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee.
That support, however, has placed increased pressure on the former vice president to show his commitment to the African American community -- particularly in discussions around his long-awaited vice presidential pick, with Democrats urging Biden to choose a woman of color to join him on the ticket.
Despite the repeated calls, Biden has not committed to the idea, but has continually promised that his administration will "look like the country" in its makeup.
The controversy sparked by the latest comments also come as the Biden campaign announced specific advertising investments to woo African American voters, including a new national ad released Thursday specifically targeting Black voters.
"Just like our ancestors, who stood up to the violent racists of a generation ago, we will stand up to this president, and say no more," the narrator of the new ad, which will air on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), BET, TV1, CNN and MSNBC.
MORE: Joe Biden launches new national ad aimed at Black Americans
As part of their newly announced $280 million television and digital advertising reservations for the fall, the Biden campaign included a specific slate of investments targeting Black voters that they say is a "bold statement about the seriousness of our efforts to reach Black voters and earn their vote in this election."
Despite his reelection campaign's efforts to amplify the comments and claim that he's "done more for African Americans than any president with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln," President Trump has a long history of controversial comments regarding race.
During a January 2018 meeting regarding immigration, Trump reportedly grew frustrated at a proposed bipartisan immigration plan that would scale back the visa lottery program, but not eliminate it, asking those in the room why they would want people from "s---hole countries" like some in Africa coming to the United States, multiple sources either briefed on or familiar with the discussion told ABC News at the time.
The president also drew widespread criticism recently when he retweeted a video that showed one of his supporters in Florida yelling "White power!" Trump took down the retweet later that day, and the White House argued he was unaware of the offensive content it contained.
ABC News' Mary Bruce contributed to this report.
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History made as first African American general leads one of the military services
FooTToo/iStockBy TONYA SIMPSON and LUKE BARR, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- Citing the growing toll from a hidden side of the coronavirus pandemic, top Democratic lawmakers are looking to require state and federal prisons to open their books on the number of cases behind bars.
Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren, Patty Murray, and Cory Booker led a group introducing legislation Thursday that would require the array of agencies that administer the nation’s jails and prisons to collect and report publicly detailed information about the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities.
The proposal comes as the virus takes a severe toll on both prisoners and corrections officers, who are forced to share confined indoor spaces at a time when the highly contagious illness is gripping large swaths of the country.
“The Administration needs to get serious about stopping the spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities, and that includes ensuring that there is clear, comprehensive, and publicly-available information on COVID-19 in prisons and jails nationwide,” Senator Warren said in a statement.
Finding comprehensive numbers to document the heavy load of cases sweeping through the nation’s state and federal prisons requires going state by state to gather the information – there is no central database. The Federal Bureau of Prisons updates daily, the number of cases and deaths in federal facilities, but that information does not include demographic breakdowns. On the state level there are no reporting or standardization requirements. Some facilities publicly report some information, while others report none.
Based on available figures, the numbers are significant. Data compiled by The New York Times indicates that two institutions alone -- San Quentin State Prison in California and the Marion Correctional Institution in Ohio account for nearly 5,000 cases.
A recent analysis found infection coronavirus infection rates are five times higher in prisons than in the overall United States population. The report also found state and federal inmates are three times more likely to die from the virus.
If approved this new act would require agencies and facilities to report detailed information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention including the number of inmates and staff who tested positive for the virus, the type of tests performed, the number of negative tests, confirmed active cases, pending tests and average time to get test results.
The bill also calls for information on the term of imprisonment and time served for inmates infected with COVID-19 and mandates that all data collected include information on sex, age, race and ethnicity.
Joe Rojas is the southeast regional vice president of the union representing federal prison employees. He told ABC News the bill is much needed oversight.
“The Bureau is the largest agency within the DOJ and there's no oversight. The BOP director doesn't even get confirmed he just gets appointed,” Rojas explained.
The Bureau of Prisons recently extended its COVID-19 plan until Aug. 31, according to a memo obtained by ABC News.
BOP’s plan, which is an extension of Phase 8 of its COVID-29 Action Plan, states that in-person legal visits should be accommodated when possible, but says that they should be either 6 feet away or have a level of plexiglass in between the inmate and their attorney. BOP says GED testing is set to resume and court trips are the primary responsibility of the US Marshals.
Normal intakes are resuming, the memo says.
According to the Bureau of Prisons, 108 inmates have died of COVID-19 and over 10,000 inmates have tested positive. More than 1,200 corrections officers have been infected by COVID-19. At FCI Lompoc in California, which has been hit hard by the virus, 78% of inmates tested, came back positive for COVID-19.
At FCI Miami, in Florida, nearly half of the inmates tested positive.
Kareen Troitino, the FCI Miami corrections officer union president, told ABC News that the virus was spread by one employee to inmates at the facility and, within a day, Troitino said that cases at the facility went from one to four.
Democratic representative Ayanna Pressley is the lead House sponsor of the bill. Senators Ron Wyden and Chris Van Hollen and representatives Robin Kelly, Sylvia Garcia, Yvette Clarke and Robin Kelly are also sponsoring the act.
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