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Trump slams governors, demands they open houses of worship ‘right now’ – CNBC

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Trump slams governors, demands they open houses of worship ‘right now’ – CNBC_5ec85e74cd4af.jpeg

President Donald Trump on Friday demanded that governors reopen churches, synagogues and mosques “right now,” and threatened to “override” state leaders’ restrictions if they do not do so by the weekend.

The surprise announcement marked the president’s latest attempt to ramp up the political stakes surrounding the country’s coronavirus recovery efforts. He is facing a tough reelection fight against apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Trump said it was an “injustice” that some state leaders have allowed “liquor stores and abortion clinics” to stay open amid the Covid-19 pandemic while closing houses of worship.

“It’s not right,” Trump said. “I’m calling houses of worship essential.”

“If there’s any question, they’re going to have to call me, but they’re not going to be successful in that call,” Trump said of state leaders.

“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend,” Trump said.

“If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.” 

But it’s far from clear if Trump has the authority to do so.

States, not the federal government, have imposed harsh restrictions on residents and businesses to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The White House has only released guidelines for states and regional leaders to follow as they combat the disease.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, when asked what authority allows Trump to override a governor’s rules, did not provide a specific provision.

Instead, she said, “the president will strongly encourage every governor to allow their churches to reopen – and boy, it’s interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to seem to see these churches and houses of worship stay closed.”

A reporter in the room quickly objected to that characterization, saying that he is a churchgoer and would like to attend services again but questions remain about whether places of worship are being asked to reopen too quickly.

The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

With the U.S. economy straining under the social distancing rules, Trump has loudly called on the country to begin the reopening process. All 50 states have now begun some level of reopening even as cases reportedly continue to rise in some parts of the country.

More than 1.58 million cases and at least 95,052 deaths from the coronavirus have been confirmed in the U.S. so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The White House had recently fought with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make its forthcoming guidelines for reopening areas of worship more lenient, NBC News reported Thursday.

Trump has previously pushed for religious gatherings to restart: He said in March that he wanted to see “packed churches” on Easter, April 12. He later backed off the idea, saying “I just think it would be a beautiful timeline.”

At a veterans event earlier Friday, Trump said that he would soon issue a “very strong recommendation” on reopening churches. “We want our churches open, we want our places of faith, synagogues, we want them open,” the president said then.

“That’s going to start happening. I consider them essential, and that’s one of the things we are saying,” Trump said.

Numerous states – including New York, the epicenter of the crisis in the U.S. – have already relaxed some social distancing rules for religious gatherings. 

On Wednesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued updated guidance allowing church services of up to 10 people in areas where restrictions are still in place and ordering participants to wear masks. Cuomo encouraged churches to host drive-in services and ceremonies in parking lots.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has also cracked down on religious ceremonies with large gatherings. In late April, de Blasio said an unapproved funeral for an ultra-Orthodox rabbi that drew thousands of mourners in Brooklyn “was absolutely unacceptable” and warned the New York Police Department would take a “zero tolerance” policy on large gatherings.

— CNBC’s Dan Mangan contributed to this report.

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Coronavirus latest: US death toll tops 100000 – Financial Times

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A cross-border view on trade

Journalists in 50+ countries explore developments in global commerce from every perspective.
For Premium subscribers, we offer our dedicated ‘FT Free Trade’ newsletter every Tuesday and Thursday.

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White House doesn’t detail Trump’s rationale for removing watchdogs to top GOP senator – CNN

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White House doesn’t detail Trump’s rationale for removing watchdogs to top GOP senator – CNN_5ecef985d89fd.jpeg
The letter, which Grassley swiftly blasted as having “failed to address” the congressional requirement that there “ought to be a good reason” for such dismissals, comes in response to the Iowa senator’s request that Trump explain why he had ousted State Department Inspector General Steve Linick and Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson.

“President Trump expects that inspectors general, like all other executive officers, will fulfill their proper role as defined by Congress and ultimately as constrained by the Constitution,” the White House letter said. “When the President loses confidence in an inspector general, he will exercise his constitutional right and duty to remove that officer.”

READ: White House letter to Chuck Grassley says Trump acted within his authority in ouster of IGs

Grassley responded in a statement Tuesday night, saying in part, “I don’t dispute the president’s authority under the Constitution, but without sufficient explanation, it’s fair to question the president’s rationale for removing an inspector general. If the president has a good reason to remove an inspector general, just tell Congress what it is.”

“Otherwise, the American people will be left speculating whether political or self-interests are to blame. That’s not good for the presidency or government accountability.”

Grassley, the chamber’s most senior Republican, has been a longtime defender of whistleblowers and government oversight and has broken with Trump on the topic several times during his presidency.

The President had announced his intent to remove Linick earlier this month — a move that drew immediate condemnation from top Democrats, who accused Trump of engaging in a pattern of retaliation against public servants charged with oversight of his administration.
And Linick’s removal came after Trump’s April ouster of Atkinson, who had told Congress about the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment.

“Government Accountability isn’t only a Republican issue or a Democrat issue,” Grassley said Tuesday. “Inspectors general shouldn’t be politically motivated or politically targeted. And those of us in Congress have a duty to promote accountability, regardless of who is in office.”

“Oversight’s been important in past administrations and it will continue to be in the future. I hope the new-found appreciation for inspectors general by some of my colleagues and those in the media doesn’t sunset at the end of this administration,” he continued.

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Schumer, Democrats claim outside Trump advisor helps rig the judicial nomination process – CNBC

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Schumer, Democrats claim outside Trump advisor helps rig the judicial nomination process – CNBC_5ecef97b17a3a.jpeg

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and several of his fellow Democratic lawmakers are scrutinizing one of President Donald Trump’s outside advisors and his multimillion-dollar “dark money” network for its work on the president’s judicial nominations.

Schumer, D-N.Y., along with Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., published a report on Wednesday that said that Leonard Leo, a conservative activist, and his influential network have rigged the judicial nominating and approval process. 

The report said it is the first of what will be several attempts by congressional Democrats to highlight what they argue are examples of “corruption and conflicts of interests now spreading around the Trump judiciary.” The future efforts will include proposed legislation, although the report didn’t expand upon what those proposed laws will look like. 

Whitehouse told CNBC after publication that one of their goals with future legislation is to focus on revealing anonymous donors that fuel outside groups on both sides of the political spectrum.

“They all have to go, they all have to disclose,” he said. “This is not just for Republican leaning groups that have to disclose,” he explained. 

The move comes as the campaign to take control of the Senate heats up. The GOP has a 53-47 majority, but it is defending more seats than the Democratic Party in this fall’s elections. The Senate approves nominees to the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court. Four Republican-held Senate seats — in Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina and Maine — have been deemed toss-ups by political analysts at the Cook Political Report.

The report also comes after Schumer and Whitehouse, along with other senators, co-signed a letter blasting Leo and his aligned group. 

Since Trump became president in 2016, he has turned to Leo to help guide his selections for judicial appointments, including to the Supreme Court. Leo supported Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch during the buildup to their confirmations to the high court. Leo’s guidance has led to close to 200 Trump judicial nominations being confirmed by the Senate. 

The Democrats’ report said Leo and the nonprofit conservative Federalist Society are a key part of an all-out effort to swing the courts toward nominees that are often supported by Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Leo was the executive vice president of the group before he created a new group, CRC Advisors, which is dedicated to promoting Trump’s court appointees going into his reelection fight with Joe Biden.

Leo is still co-chairman of the Federalist Society, which focuses on conservative and libertarian legal theories. Democrats argue, however, that it has become a tool for Republicans and is directly aligned with Trump. 

“While the Federalist Society develops and promotes pro-corporate, pro-Republican donor legal theories, it has also become the linchpin of Republican efforts to select and confirm judges,” the report said. 

Leo responded to Schumer and the Democrats’ claims in a text message to CNBC late Tuesday, suggesting that they should be more focused on responding to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“You know what they say, if you don’t succeed at first, try and try again. Glad to see Senate Democrats are focused on Covid recovery, particularly those from New York,” he said. 

Citing news reports, including one from 2018 by CNBC, the Democrats’ study breaks down how the Federalist Society is funded by organizations linked to the Koch family and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It goes on to show a web of nonprofits and outside groups linked to Leo that have attempted to have an impact on the nomination process either through public relations campaigns or various forms of lobbying. These judicial groups are mainly funded by anonymous donors. 

The report also highlights the political operatives behind the large-scale judicial campaigns, such as the Judicial Crisis Network, and their ties to Leo. 

“JCN spent $7 million opposing President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. It then spent $10 million more to support the confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch (targeting ‘vulnerable Democrat Senators’), and pledged another $10 million in advertising campaigns to support Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination,” the report said. 

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