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Biden Says Trump ‘Surrendered’ to Coronavirus in Blistering Speech

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WILMINGTON, Del. — Joseph R. Biden Jr. unloaded a barrage of criticism on President Trump on Tuesday over his response to Covid-19, his refusal to wear a mask, his handling of intelligence on Russia targeting American troops and even his “cognitive capability” during a rare news conference in which Mr. Biden repeatedly drew distinctions with his November opponent.

Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, laid out an updated plan to address the pandemic as cases rise in many states. He accused Mr. Trump of having “surrendered” to the virus. And he underscored the importance of wearing a mask in public, something the president has refused to do, saying, “You have a moral obligation.”

From a lectern in a high school gym in Wilmington, flanked by two teleprompters and in front of an American flag, Mr. Biden denounced Mr. Trump in a 20-minute speech that focused on the coronavirus. Then he took questions from reporters for about half an hour. The blistering critique he made of Mr. Trump spanned the breadth of the presidency, touching on matters foreign and domestic, as well as the example and the tone Mr. Trump had set.

“The president talks about, you know, manhood and, you know, and being strong, and you don’t need the mask,” he said. “I think we have to start appealing to the better side of human nature by pointing out that that mask is not so much to protect me.”

“It’s to protect other people,” he added. “And it’s called patriotism. It’s called responsibility.” The president, Mr. Biden said, “puts everything in terms of him.”

Before the speech, the Biden campaign released an updated plan for fighting the coronavirus, given “the current circumstances we face as a result of President Trump’s persistent failures.”

The plan said that “minutes after he is declared the winner of the election,” Mr. Biden would call Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and ask him to work for Mr. Biden just as he has worked for past presidents.

“Dr. Fauci will have full access to the Oval Office and an uncensored platform to speak directly to the American people — whether delivering good news or bad,” the plan said.

The plan addresses issues like improving testing and tracing, supplying personal protective equipment, developing a vaccine and reopening the economy. In his speech, Mr. Biden encouraged the president “to adopt this plan in its entirety.”

Mr. Biden, the former vice president, has made only sporadic in-person appearances since the pandemic upended Americans’ daily routines, and his campaign is refraining from holding rallies with large crowds that are typically a staple of the campaign trail.

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden described the current situation as “the most unusual campaign, I think, in modern history.” He said that he would not hold rallies as the pandemic raged — a contrast with Mr. Trump.

“I’m going to follow the docs’ orders, not just for me, but for the country,” Mr. Biden said.

“The irony is I think we’re probably communicating directly in detail with more people than we would have otherwise,” he added, describing his many virtual appearances and citing his strong poll numbers. “But I’d much rather be doing it in person.”

Over the past few months, Mr. Biden has repeatedly criticized Mr. Trump over his response to the coronavirus, and this month, he laid out an eight-part plan for reopening the economy.

As of Tuesday, more than 126,000 people had died of the virus in the United States alone and more than 2.6 million people nationwide had been infected.

Mr. Trump has staunchly defended his handling of the pandemic and has, at various times, claimed that the virus will fade away and that the spike in cases was a result of increased testing. He and his administration have insisted on reopening the economy rapidly, even as concerns about viral spread have persisted.

And the surge in cases in recent weeks in states like Florida, Texas and California has forced the political leaders of those states to pause their re-openings and close down businesses like bars that had previously been allowed to restart operations.

“Statewide lockdowns that so many Americans lived under for months were intended to buy us time to get our act together,” Mr. Biden said in his speech. “Instead of using that time to prepare ourselves, Donald Trump squandered it.”

Mr. Biden, addressing the president, said that Americans had not made sacrifices “so you could ignore the science and turn responsible steps like wearing masks into a political statement.” Mr. Biden said last week that if he were president, he would use his authority to require people to wear masks in public.

“We absolutely need a clear message from the very top of our federal government that everyone needs to wear a mask in public,” he said Tuesday. “Period.”

Mr. Biden’s criticism of the president was hardly limited to the coronavirus.

He assailed the president over reports that Russia had secretly offered bounties for killing U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, saying that lawmakers should “demand the facts.”

He said Mr. Trump should have gathered officials to work out any discrepancies in the intelligence, readied the government to respond if needed, and called President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to warn him that “if any of this is true,” there would be a “big problem.”

Mr. Biden said of Mr. Trump: “The idea that somehow he didn’t know or isn’t being briefed, it is a dereliction of duty if that’s the case. And if he was briefed, and nothing was done about this, that’s a dereliction of duty.”

Mr. Biden reiterated he expected to name a running mate by early August. Asked if he had begun to prepare for debates against Mr. Trump, Mr. Biden said: “I can hardly wait.” And he offered a confident rejoinder to attacks from Mr. Trump and his allies over Mr. Biden’s mental capacity.

“I can hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I’m running against,” he said.

Mr. Biden was also asked about his view on removing statues and names of historical figures who have expressed racist ideas and sentiments.

He drew a distinction between figures such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson — both American presidents who had owned slaves — and those who had committed “treason” and were “trying to take down a union to keep slavery.”

He said Confederate monuments, for example, “don’t belong in public places.” But other monuments and statues, like the Jefferson Memorial, serve more as “remembrances,” he said, and should be protected.

Matt Stevens reported from Wilmington, and Thomas Kaplan from Connecticut.

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Opinion | What Trump Wants From Roger Stone

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So why did President Trump finally act? He was certainly prompted by Mr. Stone’s impending date with prison on Tuesday, but his own re-election prospects also likely played a part. When Mr. Stone was convicted in November, Mr. Trump was facing a close race with Joe Biden among likely voters in battleground states. Today, fewer than four months until Election Day, the polls point to a possible landslide defeat for Mr. Trump.

The stakes in 2020 are far higher for Mr. Trump than they were in 2016. Back then, few expected him to win, including Mr. Stone. (We were filming him on the morning of Election Day, when he told us that he had just registered ImpeachHillary.org.) And because of the global fame Mr. Trump had amassed as the Republican nominee, any result was a win for him.

This time if he is defeated, he will suffer global humiliation.

President Trump has reportedly lashed out at his re-election team for his floundering campaign. As he seeks to right the ship, Mr. Trump would surely want to turn to Mr. Stone, whose political acumen he has trusted for nearly 40 years and who has far more experience in presidential campaigns than anyone else in the president’s inner circle.

It wouldn’t be the first time Mr. Stone rescued a Trump campaign from disaster, beyond whatever Mr. Stone’s involvement was with WikiLeaks. When Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign careered after the “Access Hollywood” tape revealed his crude remarks about women, Mr. Stone sprang into action. During the second debate between Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton, Mr. Stone helped orchestrate an indelible moment: Sitting in the front row were several women who had accused President Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct. The scene rattled Ms. Clinton and muddied the scandal.

After all they’ve been through together, it’s fitting that Mr. Stone and Mr. Trump have arrived simultaneously at a moment of great need. Mr. Trump has now rescued Mr. Stone, but can Mr. Stone return the favor?

Mr. Stone has been through a damaging legal struggle, and it’s not clear whether his arsenal of dirty tricks can work anymore. While Mr. Stone once worked his dark arts from the shadows, his adversaries are now on to him. He is superb at creating inflammatory spectacle to gin up publicity, but what good is that talent during a pandemic? He is expert at manipulating people via social media, but he’s been banned from virtually every major platform, and Facebook just exposed and deleted his clandestine network of fake accounts. He is a master of riling up the base, but Mr. Trump’s core problem is reaching out to moderates.

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US Covid-19 cases are climbing but some state and local leaders are clashing over moves to curb the spread

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In Florida, Rep. Donna Shalala said the virus is still out of control and places like Miami are edging closer to shutting down for a second time.

“It’s out of control across the state because our governor won’t even tell everybody to wear masks. At least in Miami-Dade county, everyone must wear a mask when they’re outside,” she told CNN Saturday night.

“This is an American tragedy,” she added.

In the past weeks, the state broke multiple records of single-day highs in new cases and reported another 10,360 new infections Saturday. Around 40 hospitals across the state have no ICU beds available and more than 7,000 patients are hospitalized statewide with the virus, state data showed Saturday.
But Gov. Ron DeSantis has resisted implementing a state-wide mask mandate, saying last week the state has “stabilized where we’re at.” On Saturday, he suggested Florida would not be moving on to the next reopening phase for now, saying “we want to get this positivity rate down.”
In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp slammed the Atlanta mayor’s decision to move the city’s reopening back to phase 1, saying the action was “merely guidance — both non-binding and legally unenforceable.” Phase 1 includes an order for residents to stay home except for essential trips. The mayor, who has tested positive for Covid-19, defended her decision saying the state opened recklessly and residents were “suffering the consequences.”
Expert warns the US is approaching 'one of the most unstable times in the history of our country'
“As clearly stated in my executive orders, no local action can be more or less restrictive, and that rule applies statewide,” Kemp wrote on Twitter.

The debates are part of nationwide efforts by US leaders to control a now rapid spread of coronavirus without having to force residents into a second lockdown. More than half of US states have paused or rolled back their reopening plans in hopes of slowing down new cases. But both mandates and suggestions for face masks by officials still face heavy backlash by many Americans — even as experts warn they’re the most effective way to prevent further spread of the virus.

Now deep into the coronavirus crisis, the US is reporting more than 3.2 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. That’s more than the individual population of 21 states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico, according to US Census Bureau data. At least 134,814 Americans have died.

How states are trending

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, at least 33 states are recording an upward trend in new cases, compared to the previous week.

How coronavirus affects the entire body

Those states are: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Fourteen states are trekking steady: Alaska, Arizona, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington state and Wyoming.

Three states are reporting a decline: Delaware, Maine and New Jersey

Americans hit the road on 4th of July

Even as cases surge in many parts of the country, a new analysis of cell phone data across 10 coronavirus hotspots suggests even more people hit the road over the July 4 holiday than during the Memorial Day weekend.

Mobility is one of the drivers of transmission of the virus, experts have said, but it could be weeks before there is — if there is — an increase in cases linked to the July holiday.

New WHO report says airborne coronavirus transmission 'cannot be ruled out' in outbreaks in some indoor settings

The analysis comes from data shared with CNN by Cuebiq, one of the private companies the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses to track general movement in the US. It included data from Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Phoenix, Orlando, Tampa, Charleston, Miami and Atlanta areas.

Travelers tended to visit cities in their own state or region, but some traveled further. About 3.7% of visitors to the Miami area came from New York, and nearly 4% came from the Atlanta area. Of the people who visited Phoenix, 16.3% came from just three metro areas in Southern California — including Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego. Others came from areas around Chicago and Dallas.

The travels come despite guidance from health officials who urged Americans to skip traditional celebrations, adding residents who may be feeling well could also be carrying the virus.

The CDC now estimates 40% of people infected with coronavirus show no symptoms. The percent of asymptomatic cases in the country remains uncertain, the agency said.

The fiery debate around school openings

As the country grapples to get ahold of the crisis, the president announced last week he’s pressuring governors to reopen schools in a push to return the country to business as usual.

Pediatrician: The truth about reopening schools during Covid
Despite a surge in cases in the state and cries of protest from educators, Florida’s education department announced it will require schools to reopen in the fall. Other state leaders have stopped short of announcing any changes just yet, but some local decisions have pushed the beginning of fall semesters back. The CDC has released guidelines for parents and administrators, but the agency’s head, Dr. Robert Redfield, said the decision for the safest course ultimately lies with the districts.
But internal documents from the CDC warned fully reopening K-12 schools and universities would pose the “highest risk” for spread of the virus, according to a report by The New York Times.

The 69-page document obtained by the Times marked “For Internal Use Only” was among materials for federal public health response teams deployed to coronavirus hotspots to help local public health officials handle the outbreak, the newspaper reported.

CNN’s Rosa Flores, Jen Christensen, Randi Kaye, Melissa Alonso, Amanda Watts and Sara Weisfeldt contributed to this report.

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West Virginia mail carrier admits attempted election fraud

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ELKINS, W.Va. — A West Virginia postal carrier pleaded guilty Thursday to altering mail-in requests for absentee voter ballots.

Thomas Cooper entered the plea in federal court in Elkins to attempted election fraud and injury to the mail, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell said in a statement.

Cooper was charged in May after eight mail-in requests for absentee voter ballots had their party affiliations altered.

NEW REPORT ARGUES PERILS OF MAIL-IN VOTING GO BEYOND FRAUD

Cooper, 47, of Dry Fork, held a postal contract to pick up mail in the three towns in which the voters live and delivered the forms in April to the Pendleton County clerk, according to a federal affidavit.

An investigation by the secretary of state’s office found five of the ballot requests were changed from Democrat to Republican with a black ink pen, the affidavit said.

Bennie Cogar, an attorney general’s office investigator who conducted the probe on behalf of the secretary of state’s office, said in the affidavit that the Pendleton County clerk called some of the voters after receiving the requests because she knew they were not Republicans. The clerk then contacted the secretary of state’s office to report the alterations.

On the other three requests, the voters’ party was not changed. However, in addition to the “Republican” box originally checked in blue ink, the word “Republican” was later circled in black ink, the affidavit said.

Cooper admitted in an interview with Cogar and a postal inspector that he changed some of the requests he picked up from the Onega post office from Democrat to Republican.

According to the affidavit, when he was then asked about the other requests, Cooper said, “I’m not saying no,” but if the requests were picked up along his postal route, “I would take the blame.” Cooper was then asked if he was “just being silly” and he replied he did it “as a joke” and that he didn’t know those voters.

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Absentee ballots became a political flashpoint nationally in recent months, often along partisan lines. Some state governors have moved to make absentee ballots more available in this year’s elections because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. Other elected officials, including President Donald Trump, have raised concerns that expanding the practice would increase the likelihood of election fraud. Examples of mail-in ballot fraud have been minimal, and Trump himself has voted absentee in recent elections.

Absentee ballot applications were mailed to all registered voters in West Virginia in April in a bid to encourage mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic. West Virginia held its primary election on June 9.

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