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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

Last Updated Jul 20, 2020 at 12:14 am EDT

GOP leaders, Trump to discuss virus aid as crisis deepens

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top Republicans in Congress were expecting to meet Monday with President Donald Trump on the next COVID-19 aid package as the administration panned more virus testing money and interjected other priorities that could complicate quick passage.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was prepared to roll out the $1 trillion package in a matter of days. But divisions between the Senate GOP majority and the White House posed fresh challenges. Congress was returning to session this week as the coronavirus crisis many had hoped would have improved by now only worsened — and just as earlier federal emergency relief was expiring.

Trump insisted again Sunday that the virus would “disappear,” but the president’s view did not at all match projections from the leading health professionals straining to halt the U.S.’s alarming caseloads and death toll.

McConnell and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy were set to meet with Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “to fine-tune” the legislation, acting chief of staff Mark Meadows said on Fox News.

The package from McConnell had been quietly crafted behind closed doors for weeks and was expected to include $75 billion to help schools reopen, reduced unemployment benefits alongside a fresh round of direct $1,200 cash payments to Americans, and a sweeping five-year liability shield against coronavirus lawsuits.

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Trump not ready to commit to election results if he loses

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is refusing to publicly commit to accepting the results of the upcoming White House election, recalling a similar threat he made weeks before the 2016 vote, as he scoffs at polls showing him lagging behind Democrat Joe Biden. Trump says it’s too early to make such an ironclad guarantee.

“I have to see. Look … I have to see,” Trump told moderator Chris Wallace during a wide-ranging interview on ”Fox News Sunday.” “No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.” The Biden campaign responded: “The American people will decide this election. And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.”

Trump also hammered the Pentagon brass for favouring renaming bases that honour Confederate military leaders — a drive for change spurred by the national debate about race after George Floyd’s death. “I don’t care what the military says,” the commander in chief said.

The president described the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, as a “a little bit of an alarmist” about the coronavirus pandemic, and Trump stuck to what he had said back in February — that the virus is “going to disappear.” On Fox, he said, “I’ll be right eventually.” The United States tops the global death toll list with over 140,000 and confirmed infections, with 3.7 million.

It is remarkable that a sitting president would express less than complete confidence in the American democracy’s electoral process. But for Trump, it comes from his insurgent playbook of four years ago, when in the closing stages of his race against Hillary Clinton, he said he would not commit to honouring the election results if the Democrat won.

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Facing uncertain fall, schools make flexible reopening plans

MANCHESTER, Mo. (AP) — Administrators in the Parkway school district in suburban St. Louis spent the summer break crafting a flexible reopening plan, with options that include full-time classroom learning, full-time online instruction and a hybrid system.

It’s a good thing because the dangers of the coronavirus are so uncertain that district officials are reluctant to make predictions about the fall semester, which begins in only five weeks. Confirmed coronavirus infections in Missouri’s hardest-hit city waned in June, but they are now spiking, along with hospitalizations. Schools plan to resume classes Aug. 24.

“If you had asked me even two weeks ago, ‘Do you think we would be able to come back?’ I would have said, ‘Yeah,’” Assistant Superintendent Kevin Beckner said. “Today my answer is ‘I’m not sure,’ just because of how the situation has changed so quickly.”

Schools around the U.S. face the same dilemma. With the number of reported COVID-19 cases and deaths still rising, districts must grapple with whether to bring students back to classrooms, and how to keep pupils and teachers safe if they do.

Pressure is mounting in many areas to reopen classrooms. President Donald Trump has urged schools to bring children back to class in the fall and has threatened to cut off federal funding if they do not.

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump bending facts on virus, Biden, economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump clung to the false notion that the coronavirus will just “disappear,” made incorrect claims about a top government expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and again insisted that Americans are getting all the COVID-19 tests they need — all in a television interview Sunday where his answers fell short on the facts.

A look at the president’s alternate reality on the virus threat, as well as his falsehoods on Democratic rival Joe Biden, the economy and the military in a “Fox News Sunday” interview:

TRUMP vs, FAUCI

TRUMP: “Dr. Fauci at the beginning said, ‘This will pass. Don’t worry about it. This will pass.’ He was wrong.”

THE FACTS: Trump is overstating it. While Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, said in January and February that Americans need not panic about a virus threat at the time, he also said the situation was “evolving” and that public health officials were taking the threat seriously.

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Roger Stone calls Black radio host ‘Negro’ in interview

Roger Stone, a political operative whose 40-month prison sentence was commuted this month by President Donald Trump, his longtime friend, called a Los Angeles-based Black radio host a “Negro” on the air during a contentious interview.

The exchange occurred on Saturday’s Mo’Kelly Show, whose host — Morris O’Kelly — grilled Stone on his conviction for lying to Congress, tampering with witnesses and obstructing the House investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election.

O’Kelly on his program’s website said “Stone could have reached for any pejorative, but unfortunately went there,” adding that “Stone offered an unfiltered, unvarnished one-sentence expression of how he saw the journalist interviewing him.”

O’Kelly characterized “Negro” as the “low-calorie version of the N-Word.”

Stone’s attorney on Sunday said he was unaware of the broadcast and had no immediate comment.

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UAE’s Amal spacecraft rockets toward Mars in Arab world 1st

TOKYO (AP) — A United Arab Emirates spacecraft rocketed into blue skies from a Japanese launch centre Monday at the start of a seven-month journey to Mars on the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission.

The liftoff of the Mars orbiter named Amal, or Hope, starts a rush to fly to Earth’s neighbour that is scheduled to be followed in the next few days by China and the United States.

At the space centre in Dubai, people watching were transfixed by the liftoff, then cheered and clapped, with one woman with offering a celebratory cry common for weddings.

Amal blasted off from the Tanegashima Space Center aboard a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ H-IIA rocket on time at 6:58 a.m. (2158 GMT Sunday) after being delayed five days by bad weather.

Mitsubishi later said the probe successfully separated from the rocket and was now on its solo journey to Mars.

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House leaders ‘alarmed’ federal officers policing protests

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Top leaders in the U.S. House said Sunday they were “alarmed” by the Trump administration’s tactics against protesters in Portland, Oregon, and other cities, including Washington, D.C., and called on federal inspectors general investigate.

“This is a matter of utmost urgency,” wrote House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, D-Mississippi, and Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, D-New York, in a letter to the inspectors general of Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security.

The Democratic lawmakers are seeking an investigation “into the use of federal law enforcement agencies by the Attorney General and the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security to suppress First Amendment protected activities in Washington, D.C., Portland, and other communities across the United States.”

The mayor of Oregon’s largest city said Sunday the presence of federal agents is exacerbating tensions in Portland, which has seen nearly two months of nightly protests since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Speaking on CNN’s ‘State of the Union,’ Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler said federal officers “are not wanted here. We haven’t asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave.”

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Son of US District Judge Esther Salas killed, husband shot

NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — A gunman shot and killed the 20-year-old son of a federal judge in New Jersey and shot and injured her husband Sunday at the family home, the state’s chief district judge said.

The shootings occurred at the North Brunswick home of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, and killed her son, Daniel, Chief District Judge Freda Wolfson told The Associated Press. Her husband, defence lawyer Mark Anderl, was injured, Wolfson said.

The gunman posed as a delivery driver, according to a judiciary official who wasn’t authorized to comment and spoke anonymously to the AP. They said Salas was in the basement at the time and wasn’t injured and her husband is recovering from surgery.

The perpetrator, believed to be a lone gunman, was not in custody, the official said. The FBI tweeted Sunday night that it’s looking for one suspect in the shootings.

Salas, seated in Newark, was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed in 2011. Prior to that she served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in New Jersey, after working as an assistant public defender for several years.

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Jack Nicklaus says he tested positive for coronavirus

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Jack Nicklaus revealed Sunday during the CBS telecast of the Memorial that he and his wife tested positive for the coronavirus at the onset of the pandemic.

Nicklaus and his wife, Barbara, turned 80 a month apart at the start of the year.

He said his wife had no COVID-19 symptoms, while Nicklaus had a sore throat and a cough. Nicklaus said they were home in North Palm Beach, Florida, from March 13 “until we were done with it” on about April 20.

“It didn’t last very long, and we were very, very fortunate, very lucky,” Nicklaus said. “Barbara and I are both of the age, both of us 80 years old, that is an at-risk age. Our hearts go out to the people who did lose their lives and their families. We were just a couple of the lucky ones.”

The Memorial has no spectators, and Nicklaus sightings have been rare this week because of protocols in the PGA Tour’s return to golf amid the pandemic.

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Kanye West criticizes Harriet Tubman at his political rally

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Rapper Kanye West, in his first event since declaring himself a presidential candidate, ranted against historical figure Harriet Tubman on Sunday, saying the Underground Railroad conductor “never actually freed the slaves, she just had them work for other white people,” comments that drew shouts of opposition from some in the crowd.

West delivered a lengthy monologue, touching on topics from abortion and religion to international trade and licensing deals, before a crowd in North Charleston, South Carolina. Whether he is actually seeking the nation’s highest office remains a question.

Tubman is one of the most respected figures of 19th century America. An African American who escaped slavery, she helped enslaved Black men and women travel north to freedom and fought for the Union during the Civil War. She later became a supporter of women’s suffrage.

On abortion, West said that while he believes it should be legal, financial incentives to help struggling mothers could be a way to discourage the practice.

“Everybody that has a baby gets a million dollars,” he said as an example.

The Associated Press

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