Pour one out for President Trump, whose peaceful weekend of golfing and ignoring record-setting coronavirus numbers was interrupted by the revelation that he also ignored Russia paying cash rewards for dead American soldiers.
On Saturday the White House denied that Trump or Vice President Mike Pence had ever been briefed on the matter. That’s either an outright lie (most likely), a dumb technicality (it was in Trump’s written Presidential Daily Brief but officials didn’t brief him orally, for example), or an admission of a different, huge problem: If the core of the Times story is true, the White House’s "best" excuse is that intelligence officials under the leadership of Trump-loyal hacks didn’t brief the president on a serious Russian intelligence threat because Trump had made clear he wouldn’t want to hear it. It’s not a great look.
Trump denied having been briefed in several tweets, and late Sunday claimed that the intelligence community told him he hadn’t been informed because it didn’t find the reports credible. Notably, everyone else from White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany to former-interim spy chief Richard Grennell has hewed to proclaiming Trump’s ignorance of the allegations, without denying their substance, which has been corroborated by multiple news outlets through domestic and foreign intelligence sources.
Undeterred by the conversation about his unacceptable deference to Russia, Trump seamlessly pivoted to flagrant racism.
On Sunday the president of the United States retweeted a video of one of his Florida supporters yelling “White power!” Trump deleted the retweet hours later, and a White House spokesman claimed that he had not heard the white-supremacist slogan, which is repeated multiple times just seconds into the video. Neither Trump nor anyone from the White House have condemned the hateful comments that he so unintentionally amplified. Anyway, that big speech on race and unity (ft. Stephen Miller) seems to be coming along well.
Joe Biden quickly condemned Trump’s racism, and summed up the Russian bounty scandal at a virtual town hall on Saturday: “Not only has he failed to sanction or impose any kind of consequences on Russia for this egregious violation of international law, Donald Trump has continued his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin.”
The Russian military intelligence unit offering bounties in Afghanistan, GRU, was also the unit implicated in election interference in 2016. Trump deferred to Putin over U.S. intelligence when that interference came to light, and Russia’s subsequent targeting of American troops has done nothing to change his stance.
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In another major decision, the Court ruled that the president can fire the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for any reason. The good news: The justices rejected the Trump administration’s argument that the bureau should be shut down altogether, and the ruling will allow Joe Biden, if he wins, to replace the current director with someone committed to protecting consumers. The bad news: The CFPB will now be less independent, and it’s not immediately clear if the decision is a first step towards freeing up an array of independent agencies for Trump to politicize.
Sacha Baron Cohen pranked a far-right militia, getting some rally attendees to sing along with him about injecting Barack Obama and Dr. Anthony Fauci with the “Wuhan flu.” This deflates, but does not altogether destroy, our last-ditch hope that the year 2020 is one elaborate Sacha Baron Cohen prank.
The Chinese government has forced birth control on Uighurs and other minorities in an effort to suppress the country’s Muslim population. An Associated Press investigation found that China regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces IUDs, sterilization, and abortion on hundreds of thousands. The government uses mass detention to enforce those population control measures, both as a threat and a punishment for those who don’t comply. Having too many children is one of the major reasons ethnic minorities are sent to detention camps. The result of those policies is a climate of terror around having children, and birth rates in predominantly Uighur regions plunged by more than 60 percent from 2015 to 2018. President Trump is complicit here: He endorsed China’s detention camps, as John Bolton’s book revealed, and his policies have created a global leadership vacuum that an increasingly genocidal regime is all too happy to fill.
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Mississippi lawmakers voted to change the state flag, the last one in the nation to feature the Confederate battle emblem.