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Amy Coney Barrett Was Just Confirmed to the Supreme Court

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Judge Amy Coney Barrett will be the next associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Senate voted 52-48 to confirm Barrett to the nation’s highest court on Monday evening, just eight days ahead of the November 3 presidential election. Barrett, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and a conservative darling, will replace the late, liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court and seal a 6-3 conservative majority that will likely last for years.

The vote, as expected, split almost entirely along party lines, with every Democrat voting in opposition to Barrett’s confirmation. The only Republican senator to break ranks was Sen. Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who voted against Barrett.

Senate Democrats had spent the last month fighting in vain against replacing Ginsburg, who died in mid-September after several bouts of cancer, before the election. They’ve tried to paint the confirmation process as a rushed and hypocritical sham, pointing out that, in 2016, Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick Merrick Garland on the grounds that a new Supreme Court justice shouldn’t be confirmed in an election year. (The GOP has argued it’s fine this time, because the same party—the Republicans—control both the Senate and the White House.)

“Elections have consequences, and what this administration and this Republican senate has done is exercise the power that was given to us by the American people in a matter that is entirely within the rules of the Senate and the Constitution of the United States,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican senator of Kentucky, just minutes ahead of the vote.

Democrats have also tried to highlight just how much power Justice Barrett, 48, will have to rewrite American law—and, potentially, shape the course of an election in which nearly 60 million people have already voted. Not only are issues like abortion, LGBTQ rights, and gun control likely to come before the bench in the coming years, but the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in another lawsuit over the Affordable Care Act on November 10, just days after the election.

During her confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee two weeks ago, Democratic senators drew parallels to the legendarily conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who Barrett clerked for. When President Donald Trump introduced Barrett at a Rose Garden ceremony in late September, Barrett told the crowd of Scalia, “His judicial philosophy is mine.”

Barrett told the Democrats that she would make her own decisions on cases, rather than mirror Scalia’s. But she also largely avoided giving any clues about how she may rule on future cases or how she feels about some of the hottest political and legal issues in the United States right now.

In particular, Barrett evaded answering questions about the limits of presidential power: She declined to say if Trump can pardon himself, if a president can unilaterally move an election, or if presidents should commit to peaceful transfers of power. She has also declined to say whether she believes that systemic racism and climate change are real.

But Senate Republicans didn’t try to hide that Barrett, a devout Catholic, is personally opposed to abortion. Supporters of abortion rights fear that Barrett will help overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

When the Senate Judiciary Committee met last week to vote on whether to advance Barrett’s nomination, Democrats ended up boycotting the vote. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the committee chair, waived the committee’s rules and held a vote anyway, without any Democrats president, to advance Barrett’s nomination to the full Senate.

On Sunday, Democrats tried to filibuster Barrett’s nomination, to no avail.

“This Republican senate majority is breaking faith with you, doing the exact opposite of what it promised four years ago, because they wish to cement a majority on the Supreme Court that threatens your fundamental rights,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, told the American people in a speech before the vote. “And I want to be very clear with my Republican colleagues: You may win this vote and Amy Coney Barrett may become the next associate justice of the Supreme Court, but you will never never get your credibility back.”

The Trump administration plans to swear Barrett in right after the vote, in a White House ceremony Monday. The Rose Garden ceremony where Trump first introduced Barrett is now suspected to have contributed to a coronavirus outbreak among Senate Republicans and White House staffers; Trump even tested positive for the coronavirus after the ceremony.

Barrett marks Trump’s third appointment to the Supreme Court, following Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Trump has also now appointed more than 200 federal judges and tilted the American federal judiciary towards conservatism for a generation to come.

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Even More Sheriffs Say They Won’t Enforce Michigan’s Ban on Guns at the Polls

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Even more law enforcement officials in Michigan are refusing to enforce guidance by the state’s top election officials banning guns at the polls, which could increase voter intimidation in a key swing state.

Benzie County sheriff Ted Schendel, a Republican who previously ran for Congress, called the order issued by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson “illegal” because Benson “doesn’t have the authority,” he told the Traverse City Record-Eagle

Schendel even claimed that Benson’s guidance to local officials, which bans open carry within 100 feet of polling locations, was creating a problem that didn’t exist before: He said one person had already called him to say that they planned to bring a gun to the polls explicitly in defiance of the order.

“I wish she would have just left it alone because now it’s going to create problems for all of us,” Schendel said. “People are going to press the issue because they know it’s an illegal order.” In 2016, however, voters in more than two dozen states reported seeing guns at the polls, according to Guns Down America

At least three Michigan sheriffs wouldn’t commit to enforcing the order last week, including Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich, who told VICE News that “I wouldn’t say I would or would not enforce [the directive].” Borkovich’s mind has apparently changed; he told the Record-Eagle that while he doesn’t want to see people carrying weapons at the polls, “it is not illegal for them to do so.”

The state’s sheriffs’ association said in a statement that sheriffs should consult local prosecutors for guidance on whether or not to enforce the order, according to the Record-Eagle.

Traverse City Police Chief Jeffrey O’Brien, who is a member of the association, said the order was unconstitutional, although he wouldn’t specifically say whether or not he’d enforce it. 

“I don’t see where (Benson) can usurp the Constitution of the United States or the Michigan Constitution to make law,” O’Brien told the Eagle-Record. “It’s an absolute right under the Second Amendment.”

Gun groups also sued to stop the order from being enforced last week, alleging Benson isn’t “empowered to issue directives regarding the time, place or manner of elections” under Michigan’s constitution. Oral arguments are scheduled for Tuesday.

“We have a fundamental right to self-protection, and we don’t feel that simply going to the polls, you should have to give up that right to exercise another right,” Joey Roberts of Open Carry Michigan, one of the groups suing Benson over order, told VICE News last week.

Aside from Michigan, nine other states; Washington, D.C.; and Puerto Rico explicitly ban guns and other weapons at the polls. Benson’s guidance, which came after the FBI arrested 14 people in connection to an alleged kidnapping plot against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, has backing from state Attorney General Dana Nessel. 

“We don’t want people to harass voters when they are in the process of exercising what is a fundamental right, which is their right to vote,” Nessel said in an interview with Showtime earlier this month. “I feel like it’s my job to do everything I can to make sure there is a safe and secure vote, and I’m very hopeful that law enforcement will agree.”

President Donald Trump has encouraged supporters to engage in confrontations at voting sites, with the campaign gloating that it’s trained tens of thousands of “poll watchers” and urging during the first presidential debate to “go into the polls and watch very carefully.” 

In Pinellas County, Florida last week, two armed men dressed like security guards showed up at a polling place and said they were hired by the Trump campaign to monitor the polls. The Trump campaign denied hiring them.

“Voter intimidation, deterring voters from voting, impeding a voter’s ability to cast a ballot in this election is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in any way, shape, or form,” Pinellas County election supervisor Julie Marcus said at the time.

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Only One Republican Senator Is Expected to Vote Against Amy Coney Barrett Tonight

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, one of only two Republican senators who might have voted against Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, announced Saturday that, actually, she will vote for Barrett after all.

“I believe that the only way to put us back on the path of appropriate consideration of judicial nominees is to evaluate Judge Barrett as we would want to be judged: on the merits of her qualifications,” Murkowski said on the Senate floor. “And we do that when that final question comes before us. And when it does, I will be a yes.”

After a procedural vote Sunday, the Senate is set to hold a final confirmation vote on Barrett on Monday evening. Although every Democrat is expected to vote against Barrett, Republicans’ 53-47 majority in the Senate means there’s next to no chance that they will fail to confirm Barrett.

Barrett, who will cement a conservative 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court, is likely to be sworn in as soon as possible. That will let her participate in oral arguments in a lawsuit over the Affordable Care Act that will come before the Supreme Court in November.

Murkowski has spent weeks suggesting that she would not vote to confirm Barrett because she didn’t agree with the rushed process that led to her presumed confirmation. Barrett, chosen to replace the late, deeply liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is set to join the Supreme Court just days before the November 3 election—four years after the GOP blocked President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Judge Merrick Garland, by claiming that justices shouldn’t be confirmed in an election year.

During a nearly 16-minute speech Saturday, Murkowski reiterated that she doesn’t support that process.

“I do not believe that moving forward on a nominee, just over a week removed from a pitched presidential election, when partisan tensions are running about as high as they could—I don’t think this will help our country become a better version of itself,” she said. “But frankly, I’ve lost that procedural fight.”

Nearly 60 million people have already voted in this historic election.

The only Republican senator expected to vote against Barrett, who currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, is Sen. Susan Collins, who faces an uphill reelection battle in her home state of Maine—thanks, in part, to her vote in favor of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, which unleashed liberal rage.

Murkowski, meanwhile, was the only Republican senator to break with her party and oppose Kavanaugh.

“I recognize that confirming this nominee is not going to heal, it’s not going to salve the wounds that these institutions have endured,” Murkowski said Saturday. “But neither will threats that, should the balance of power in this chamber change, that everything is on the table, including the legislative filibuster and packing the court.”

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NYPD Cop Caught Saying ‘Trump 2020!’ on Squad Car’s Loudspeaker Suspended Without Pay

Screenshot 2020-10-26 at 10

A still taken from the viral video posted to Twitter by Brandon Hines.

The New York City Police Department suspended one of its officers after viral video footage appeared to show the cop using their patrol car’s loudspeaker to declare their support for President Donald Trump. 

Two videos of the incident—both of which were shared on Twitter on Saturday night—showed the officer sitting in a marked police SUV while two other cops stood outside in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood.

“Trump 2020,” the officer said over the patrol vehicle’s loudspeaker, according to a video posted by Twitter user Brandon Hines. “Put it on YouTube, put it on Facebook. Trump 2020.”

“Aight MFers… it’s on TWITTER TOO! BI-DEN!” Hines said in a tweet sharing the video Saturday, the first day of early voting in New York.

In an interview with the New York Daily News, Hines said the exchange began when a pedestrian gave the officer the middle finger. In another video posted to Twitter Saturday, a person can be heard calling the cop a “fucking pussy,” urging the officer to “say it again,” at which point the cop responded with, “Trump 2020.”

“Go fuck yourself, you fucking fascist,” the person said.

The New York City Police Department said in a tweet Sunday morning that “police officers must remain apolitical,” and added later the officer involved was on unpaid leave. 

The Police Benevolent Association—a union representing about 24,000 sworn New York City officers—gave its support to Trump this summer in its first presidential endorsement in decades. According to the New York City Police Department’s policy, however, that kind of political behavior has to stop once an officer puts on their uniform.

“To repeat, law enforcement MUST remain apolitical, reassuring the public that we will enforce the law fairly and without prejudice regardless of anyone’s political beliefs,” Dermot Shea, the city’s police commissioner, said in a tweet Sunday. 

Earlier, Shea had called the incident “one hundred percent unacceptable.”

The ability of officers to abandon their political opinions while on-duty has been an issue across the country this election season, and is particularly vexing for voters who fear they’ll face harassment or intimidation while trying to cast their ballots. Cops have been deployed to local polling sites across the country to prevent voter intimidation by outside groups and armed militias, but some officials worry a police presence will only stoke tensions further. 

Officials in Tucson, Arizona recently pulled off-duty officers from security detail at early voting sites, citing complaints, according to the Arizona Daily Star. That upset a county election official, who said poll workers and voters alike needed protection from harassment, and that officers were able to monitor sites to ensure nothing got out of hand. 

Trump, who is running on a “law and order” platform after police killings of Black people inspired unrest and protests nationwide this summer, has broadly gained the support of police unions. Just last week, a Miami police officer was accused of voter intimidation after he wore a “Trump 2020” face mask to an early voting site while in uniform. That officer is now facing possible discipline, although the local union said the cop was there to vote and was at the polling location for no more than 10 minutes, according to the Miami Herald.

The Police Benevolent Association in New York City, which did not immediately return a VICE News request for comment about Saturday’s incident, has said officers will protect the rights of all voters, no matter who they support.

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Trump Had a Full-Blown Meltdown Last Night on ’60 Minutes’

​President Trump on 60 Minutes.

President Trump on 60 Minutes.

Even by Donald Trump’s standards, the interview with “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday was a mess, with the president whining about the questions he was getting and lying about his political enemies, the pandemic, healthcare, and more.

Trump angrily walked off the set, and later released his full, unedited interview from “60 Minutes” earlier in the week. The interview which aired on Sunday, however, put Trump’s fury at being asked moderately tough questions in context, and showed Vice President Mike Pence’s response when he was asked why Trump bailed on a scheduled joint interview. 

Trump lied or made a misleading claim more than a dozen times over the course of the interview, according to CNN. The president took aim at former Vice President Joe Biden’s healthcare plan, for example, except he wasn’t actually describing Biden’s healthcare plan, which promotes increased subsidies for marketplace plans and a public option.

Trump claimed that Biden’s plan would eliminate private insurance and implied Biden supported the Medicare-for-All plan backed by Bernie Sanders in the primary. in reality, Biden is opposed to eliminating private health insurance and has rejected Medicare for All, which would render private plans obsolete by moving everyone onto government-run insurance.

Trump again insisted that he has a healthcare plan, despite spending four years fighting to gut the Affordable Care Act without proposing a replacement for it.

“It will be [ready],” Trump said of his long-promised health care plan. “It is developed, it is fully developed, it’s going to be announced when we see what happens with Obamacare.” He also falsely claimed that insurance companies would not resume charging more or denying insurance based on pre-existing conditions if the ACA is struck down—even though ending that practice is one of the central accomplishments of the ACA. 

Following the interview, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany handed Stahl a heavy book full of executive orders and Republican congressional proposals, saying it was Trump’s healthcare plan. Stahl said the book did not contain a Trump healthcare plan.

Trump also again attacked Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was recently the target of an alleged violent kidnapping plot by more than a dozen far-right extremists arrested by the FBI earlier this month. Whitmer has been a frequent foil for the Trump campaign, and he’s encouraged supporters who’ve chanted “Lock her up!” at his rallies. (Trump will campaign in Whitmer’s hometown of Lansing on Tuesday.)

“It was our Justice Department that’s helping her,” Trump said. “And, you know, people aren’t so—they’re not liking her so much, because she’s got everybody locked down.” Whitmer lifted her stay-at-home order on June 1, and maintains a strong 51% approval rating with Michiganders, according to a poll released earlier this month. 

And the president continued to insist that the United States had passed the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite spiking case and death numbers, and uncontrolled spread throughout the country.

“We have turned the corner,” Trump said. “We understand the disease. We understand the elderly, and we are taking care of them like nobody’s ever taken care of ’em. So we are taking care of our people.” The United States shattered its record for single-day cases with more than 85,000 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday, according to the New York Times

Eventually, Trump angrily confronted Stahl about what he viewed as preferential treatment for Biden, saying Stahl “inappropriately brought up” subjects Trump didn’t want to talk about. “Your first question was, ‘This is going to be tough questions.’ You don’t ask Joe Biden [tough questions].” 

The president left before the interview alongside Pence. When Stahl asked Pence what happened, the vice president demurred.

“Lesley, President Trump is a man who speaks his mind,” Pence said. “I think it’s one of the great strengths that he’s had as president of the United States.”

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ICE Detainees Were Pressured to Have Gynecological Surgery, Doctors Say

A report drafted by a team of independent doctors and experts found a “disturbing pattern” of questionable gynecological surgical procedures performed on female detainees at an ICE detention center in Georgia. 

The medical professionals say they reviewed more than 3,200 pages of records from 19 women who “allege medical maltreatment during detention” at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, which has emerged at the center of a political firestorm following complaints from women held at the facility. 

The report alleges a number of women were pressured to have “unnecessary surgery” without an adequate discussion about the risks, benefits, or alternatives.

“Our findings reveal a disturbing pattern that warrants further investigation: one in which many women either underwent abdominal surgery or were pressured to have a surgery that was not medically indicated and to which they did not consent,” the authors, including nine board-certified OB-GYNs affiliated with major academic medical centers and two nursing experts, wrote in the report. “None of the women appear to have received adequate informed consent.”

The report represents the most extensive examination of medical records among detainees at the facility to have emerged since a September whistleblower complaint alleged a pattern of “jarring medical neglect” and confusing medical care at Irwin. The report’s authors include doctors affiliated with Vanderbilt University, Northwestern University, and Baylor College of Medicine. The medical experts developed the report in coordination with lawyers representing detainees and a coalition of advocacy groups.

VICE News reviewed a copy of the report, which was drafted as a five-page executive summary, on Friday. The report was delivered to members of Congress on Thursday, but has not yet been publicly released. Its existence was first reported by the LA Times.

The document details accounts of women who were treated by a local gynecologist named Dr. Mahendra Amin, who has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. 

In a statement, an attorney for Amin noted that the report did not involve a complete review of all the relevant medical records, and called the doctors and nursing experts’ review “severely incomplete, at best.”

“Any serious medical professional would agree that one cannot possibly come to a conclusion regarding the appropriateness of a medical procedure without reviewing all of the relevant medical records, especially the records from the physician who performed the procedure and the hospital where the procedure was performed,” Amin’s attorney, Scott Grubman, wrote in the statement.

Amin is fully cooperating with official investigators and he “looks forward to the investigations clearing his good name and reputation,” Grubman said. 

The Irwin County Detention Center is run by the private prison company LaSalle Corrections and houses immigrants detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

A spokesperson for ICE declined to comment specifically on the report on Friday, citing an ongoing investigation by the Department of Homeland Security inspector general. LaSalle Corrections has denied wrongdoing in the past, and did not immediately respond to questions about the report from VICE News on Friday. 

‘A disturbing pattern’

The report says that reviewed records, which include sworn declarations and transcribed telephone interviews, suggested that Amin’s findings justifying surgery appear to be unsupported “by all other available sources of information.”

“There are indications that both Dr. Amin and the referring detention facility took advantage of the vulnerability of women in detention to pressure them to agree to overly aggressive, inappropriate, and unconsented medical care,” the document alleges. 

Women detained at Irwin, the document goes on, faced “pressure to have unnecessary surgery without a discussion of risks, benefits, or alternatives, including one woman who was told she needed removal of her uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.” 

The report found that several women indicated that they’d been referred for psychiatric treatment if they refused gynecological procedures.

One woman, who believed she was going to have a cyst drained at Amin’s office, was instead taken to the local Irwin County Hospital for surgery, according to the report. 

“When she attempted to refuse, she was told that she could die if she didn’t have surgery.”

“When she attempted to refuse, she was told that she could die if she didn’t have surgery and, at the same time, told that ICE might deny a request for surgery if she changed her mind later,” the report says. 

Women were sometimes referred to the gynecologist even if they didn’t have gynecological complaints, according to the report.

The report alleges that unnecessary transvaginal procedures were performed without consent, and imaging results were exaggerated to justify surgeries while less invasive treatments were not “adequately pursued.” 

In an interview with The Washington Post on Friday, however, one of the authors said it appears Amin might have saved a woman’s life in one instance, in a detail that isn’t mentioned in the report. 

Dr. Ted Anderson, director of gynecology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a member of the review team, told the Post that Amin had incorrectly diagnosed a woman with fibroids. But then Amin found that she had cancer and appropriately performed a hysterectomy, Anderson told the Post.

The report’s authors state they only uncovered one signed consent form, which they describe as “an English language consent for a woman whose primary language appears to be Spanish.” 

Yet they also acknowledge that they did not obtain all of the patients’ medical records.

“Records produced by the Irwin County Detention Center, Irwin County Hospital, and by Dr. Amin appear to be incomplete,” the report says. “In some cases, fewer than 20 pages of medical records were provided. No imaging studies were produced. In many cases, referral records, operative notes, pathology reports, hospital records, and imaging reports were either entirely missing or incomplete, and office notes were nearly illegible.”

Amin’s attorney argued that the lack of access to the complete patients’ records should be seen as a fatal flaw in the report’s findings. 

“Importantly, only four ICE detainees have ever requested medical records from Dr. Amin’s office, and only five ICE detainees have ever requested records from the hospital,” Grubman wrote. “In fact, upon review, it appears that, for the vast majority of patients included in the cited report, no records were requested from either Dr. Amin or Irwin County Hospital.”

Those requests overlap, he said, meaning fewer than nine detainees requested their records directly from the hospital or the doctor’s office.

“The report states that the medical records that were reviewed did not contain informed consent forms,” Grubman wrote. “However, these forms are contained in the medical records maintained by the doctor’s office and/or the hospital which, again, were not reviewed.”

Anderson told VICE News in an interview Friday evening that the team believes the records they reviewed were sufficient to form conclusions. And he said the group also recovered records from the Irwin County Detention Center, which had been forwarded to the facility from Amin’s office and from the hospital. 

“For each of the 19 women, there is some medical or psychiatric record,” said Anderson, who previously served as the president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the country’s premiere professional organization for OB-GYNs. 

“Is there enough data to say this is overly aggressive or unnecessary in most cases? Yes.”

“Are these records 100% complete? Absolutely not,” said Dr. Michelle Debbink, a board-certified OB-GYN based in Salt Lake City, who was not a part of the team behind the report but did review the records of six women who underwent gynecological care while at Irwin. “Is there enough data to say this is overly aggressive or unnecessary in most cases? Yes.”

VICE News has independently uncovered four consent forms signed by women who were detained in Irwin. Three were for surgical procedures, and one was for a birth control injection. Those women or their attorneys have told VICE News they received medical treatment that they either didn’t want or didn’t understand, despite signing the forms. 

Anderson argued that if the women did not understand their operations, they should not be considered to have agreed to them. 

“Consent is actually a conversation that you have, and not a piece of paper,” Anderson told VICE News. “There are documents we got from the detention center in which the patients report asking why they had surgery and say they don’t understand what happened. That clearly indicates there was not informed consent.”

Debbink agreed. 

“It’s unclear to me that there is a pattern of appropriate informed consent conversations with these patients before they are booked for surgery, and that should be the pattern,” Debbink said. She added, “It is clear to me, from the stories that these women tell independently of one another, that they had no idea what was happening. And I personally saw zero signed consent forms.”

In September, Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy director of the Department of Homeland Security, told the National Review that an initial DHS review found that early allegations included in the September whistleblower complaint were not backed up by documentation sent to Washington, D.C. by ICE. But he said an audit team would review the Irwin facility’s original records.

Scott Sutterfield, an executive with LaSalle Corrections, told VICE News on Thursday that  company policy prohibits comment during pending investigations.

“However, we can assure you the allegations are being investigated by an independent office and LaSalle Corrections is fully cooperating,” he wrote in an email. “We are very confident once the facts are made public our commitment to the highest quality care will be evident.”

He added: “We are confident the facts will demonstrate the very malicious intent of others to advance a purely political agenda.”

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The U.S. Is Having One of Its Worst Coronavirus Weeks Since the Pandemic Began

Rachel Moore honors her mother, Patsy Gilreath Moore, by writing her mother's name on a tombstone as Leroy Lee reaches out to comfort her at at Simonhoff Park in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020 (Al Diaz/Miami Herald via AP

Rachel Moore honors her mother, Patsy Gilreath Moore, by writing her mother’s name on a tombstone as Leroy Lee reaches out to comfort her at at Simonhoff Park in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020 (Al Diaz/Miami Herald via AP)

The U.S. is having one of its worst weeks since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but despite that, few states appear prepared to tighten restrictions to bring the spread of coronavirus under control.

By most metrics, Thursday was one of the worst days since the pandemic began. NBC News reported that there were 77,640 new cases, topping its previous record of more than 75,000 set in July, while the New York Times’ database said there were 75,049 new cases. Even this lower number would make Thursday the second-worst day of the pandemic. Over the past week, the country has averaged more than 62,000 new cases per day, a 32 percent increase over the past two weeks, according to the Times.

Dr. Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, said that “at least a half dozen states” set single-day highs for new cases on Thursday.

The Midwest and parts of the West are getting slammed by the third coronavirus surge, as are rural areas throughout the country. Cases in Montana, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas have skyrocketed over the past few weeks. South Dakota, for example, averaged more than 700 new cases per day over the past week, and new cases are up 51% over the last two weeks, according to the New York Times.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem refused to enact social distancing requirements at both a Fourth of July event featuring President Donald Trump and the ten-day Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in mid-August, which was attended by more than 462,000 people and has been linked to at least 330 cases, according to the Washington Post. Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, used her platform Thursday to say “we need to respect each other’s decisions” about whether or not to wear a mask.

Without fresh restrictions on gatherings and crowd sizes, the situation is expected to only deteriorate as we head into the colder months. The United States is projected to have more than 385,000 COVID-19 deaths by February 1, 2021, according to current projections from the University of Washington. More than 223,000 people have died so far, according to the New York Times.

Even with the new surge, some states are actively loosening restrictions. In Florida, which just hit its highest single-day total since mid-August, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a loosening of restrictions on visitations at assisted living facilities Thursday, even though AARP Florida recently found that the state’s rate of infected nursing home residents is nearly twice the national average.

“It’s a very scary situation,” Dionne Polite, the director of state operations for the organization’s Florida chapter, told the Orlando Sentinel.

DeSantis is also considering not releasing daily coronavirus numbers to the public anymore, a spokesperson told Tampa television station WFLA earlier this week.

In other states, governors are imploring residents to keep practicing social distancing in order to mitigate the virus. Ohio reported 2,425 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, its highest single-day total since the pandemic began and the eighth time in the past nine days the state has broken its own record. “Truly we need you, we need each and every one of you,” Gov. Mike DeWine said at a press conference Thursday. “We need you to be fully engaged in this battle.”

DeWine, however, said he wasn’t considering new coronavirus restrictions. “Government is not going to come knocking on your door and making sure that you’re not having a party,” DeWine said. “Ultimately, there’s personal responsibility here.”

At Thursday night’s second and final presidential debate, President Donald Trump again falsely claimed that the situation is getting better and continued to downplay the pandemic’s impact.

“It will go away and as I say, we’re rounding the turn, we’re rounding the corner, it’s going away,” Trump said. Again, the country had at least 75,000 new cases on Thursday.

Former Vice President Joe Biden hammered Trump for the administration’s bungled pandemic response, saying that “anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as President of the United States of America.”

“He says that we’re, you know, we’re learning to live with it,” Biden said. “People are learning to die with it.”

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A Boogaloo Boi Leader Just Got Arrested For Allegedly Firing AK-47-Style Rifle During George Floyd Protest

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A leader in the insurgent Boogaloo movement is facing charges for firing 13 rounds from an AK-47-style rifle into a Minneapolis police building during the riots that swept the city in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Police arrested Ivan Harrison Hunter, 26, of Boerne, Texas, on Thursday for allegedly opening fire on the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd precinct on May 28 after it had been stormed and set on fire by protesters. According to federal prosecutors, people were still in the building when Hunter started shooting at it. He claimed to be the leader of the South Texas Boogaloo Bois, part of a national network of anti-government extremists who fantasize about a violent uprising or civil war.

Hunter is facing a rioting charge, which carries fines, imprisonment up to five years, or both.

Feds were monitoring Hunter’s social media when he returned to Texas from Minneapolis. They also noted he was in communication with Michael Solomon, a Minneapolis resident and Boogaloo Boi who was recently hit with federal charges  for attempting to sell weapons to Hamas alongside fellow Boogaloo Boi Ryan Teeter of North Carolina.

On June 3, Hunter was allegedly leaving a protest over Floyd’s death in a pick-up truck in Austin when police pulled him over for driving infractions. Officers found six loaded magazines for an AK-47 affixed to a tactical vest Hunter was wearing, an AK-47 style rifle, three additional semi-automatic rifles in the backseat, plus two loaded pistols elsewhere in the vehicle.

During that interaction with police, Hunter volunteered that he was the leader of the Boogaloo Bois in South Texas but denied owning any of the weapons, according to prosecutors. The weapons were confiscated, along with the ammunition and weed that was also in the car, and Hunter plus two other men in the car were released from the scene.

A few days after that traffic stop, federal agents learned that Hunter had been in communication with Steven Carrillo, an Air Force staff sergeant who is facing charges for a deadly ambush attack on federal security officers during protests in Oakland on May 29. Carrillo was arrested a few days after that traffic stop—during that arrest, he shot and killed a sheriff’s deputy.

The Boogaloo movement is relatively new. The meme, which signifies a second civil war, transformed into a full-blown movement this year, with heavily armed adherents that began showing up to protests wearing Hawaiian shirts. Despite its short existence, the movement’s supporters have already been tied to a number of violent plots or acts.

In May, three men who’d met on Boogaloo Facebook pages, were arrested for allegedly plotting to throw explosives into a crowd of protesters and police in Las Vegas. Recently, a man with ties to the Boogaloo movement was killed during a shootout with the FBI in Detroit. And earlier this month, 13 men—many with ties to the Boogaloo movement and who promoted Boogaloo memes online—were arrested for allegedly plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

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GOP State Senate Candidate Is Very Sorry for KKK Halloween Costume in High School

Charles Beckham III

Image from Charles Beckham’s campaign page on Facebook

A conservative Republican running for Arkansas state Senate was kicked out of his Mississippi boarding school 20 years ago after terrorizing other students by dressing up as a Ku Klux Klan member.

On Halloween night in 2000, then-high school senior Charles Beckham III, along with two young accomplices, donned full, makeshift Klan regalia complete with patches and hoods, and strode into the girls’ dormitory of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, in what Beckham calls a prank done in bad judgment.

The incident terrified students who were trick-or-treating in the dormitory that night. Four women who were students there at the time recalled being traumatized in a series of interviews with the Arkansas Times.

“I just remember being petrified to the point of tears,” Victoria Brown, a Black woman who was a junior at the time, told the local paper.

Jennifer Leigh Ann Jackson, a white woman who was a student at the time, said Beckham had a reputation for being bigoted.

“This was not some isolated event, like maybe he had a bad moment,” she told the paper, recalling that he took pride in his “rebel” roots. Another student recalled that he proudly displayed a Confederate flag on his pickup truck at the time.

Beckham was suspended from the boarding school shortly after the incident, a decision that his family tried to fight in court. Eventually, the case was dismissed the following year.

Beckham, now 37, initially denied the allegations when they surfaced earlier this month, calling it a ploy by Democrats to ruin his candidacy for local office. He quickly changed his tune when the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published court records of the incident, issuing an apology for his racist actions two decades ago.

“I do sincerely apologize for any angst or grievances that I have caused anyone as a minor, as that is not the man that I am today,” Beckham told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “I continue to unequivocally denounce the KKK and any like-minded hate groups, and the rumors that I am or have ever been part of the KKK are absolutely ridiculous. I am a Christian, a husband to my loving wife of eight years, as well as a father of two and am proud of the life that we have built-in McNeil, Arkansas.”

Running to represent Arkansas’ mostly white 12th Senate district, Beckham has lived in McNeil since 2015 and runs his own propane distribution company. He is running as a pro-life, anti-taxes conservative against conservative Democrat and seven-year incumbent Bruce Maloch in the Arkansas state Senate.

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What It Was Like to ‘Invade’ DC for Trump’s Bible Moment

In an exclusive interview, National Guard Maj. Adam DeMarco blows the whistle on Trump’s photo op in front of St. John’s Church, shedding new light on the operation to clear protesters from Lafayette Square on June 1. DeMarco’s story and others appear in a VICE TV documentary, “The Photo Op.”

It was a Friday night when the text came in. Adam DeMarco, a major in the D.C. National Guard, was drinking beers with three old friends in his apartment overlooking the Potomac River. The Guard had been working on COVID response in the district for months, and it was the first time they’d hung out since the pandemic started. Now, in a sudden change of plans, his commanding officer was reassigning his unit to deal with civil unrest near the White House.

Protesters angry over the killing of George Floyd were filling the streets, demanding an end to racist policing. As the Guard members were thrust into the scrum, they struggled to adapt to the new operation, said DeMarco, describing it as a “shitshow.” Over the course of several nights, at least a half dozen Guard members were injured—one with a bad concussion. “I was livid,” DeMarco said. “I wanted to rip somebody’s head off.”

It was exactly this kind of rage and adrenaline, he said, that fed the mood he and other law enforcement officers felt as they were called in to support the U.S. Park Police on the day of Trump’s infamous photo op in front of the historic St. John’s Church. It felt, he said, like he was going into battle.

He wasn’t the only one in the mood for war. 

President Trump had spent at least part of his Friday night in the White House bunker, as protesters kept vigil outside. In the days that followed, the president, perhaps humiliated, was threatening the use of the Insurrection Act—a show of force against the American people that has been used only twice in the nation’s history. 

“What people don’t realize is how close the president of the United States came to enacting the Insurrection Act.”

“What people don’t realize is how close the president of the United States came to enacting the Insurrection Act,” said DeMarco. “That’s the scary part. The 82nd Airborne was on standby,” he said. “Some of my buddies were at Pope Airfield waiting to get on a C-17 [transport aircraft] to come to D.C.” 

The Secretary of Defense understood the implications of the Insurrection Act—and also that if he rushed thousands of Guards into the city, he could stave off such a move, said DeMarco. 

The optics were impactful: “The generic demonstrator who’s there, they don’t know the difference. They just know that the U.S. military is out here now and that we’re in charge. And that sends a very chilling message to your average American citizen,” DeMarco said.

It wasn’t just an uptick in bodies—weapons were being ordered into the city too.

At noon on June 1, an order was given to forward-deploy his unit’s M4 rifles, said DeMarco. The cache is typically stored in a secure arms room at Fort Belvoir, 15 miles from D.C. His unit was ordered to move those guns to the DC Armory, near the center of the city. And, via email, the Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region was inquiring about the availability of Long-Range Acoustic Devices and an Active Denial System; basically powerful sonic and heat-ray-emitting weapons designed to repel crowds. Neither, he said, were available.  

By the time he and the 250 other Guards showed up at the White House, —around 5:45 p.m., they were ready for anything. 

D.C. National Guard Maj. Adam DeMarco stands in 16th Street after helping clear Lafayette Park for Trump's St. John's photo op. (Photo courtesy of Adam DeMarco)

D.C. National Guard Maj. Adam DeMarco stands in 16th Street after helping clear Lafayette Park for Trump’s St. John’s photo op. (Photo courtesy of Adam DeMarco)

“I’m in full kit. I’ve got my SAPI [bulletproof] plates on. I’ve got a radio. I feel like back in Iraq—like that adrenaline I’m feeling is something that you only feel when you’re going on a patrol,” DeMarco said. “I’m walking right by the West Wing of the White House…and I’m going into Lafayette Square and I feel like I’m going into battle.”

“In the military, we are very ingrained by doctrine. So when you start using doctrinal terms for domestic unrest, we immediately start assessing things in terms of combat,” said DeMarco. “We start looking at people not as people but as enemy combatants.” This was being encouraged, DeMarco said, at the highest levels in the days following George Floyd’s killing, as protests spread throughout the country. 

The leaked conversation of Trump discussing plans with state governors on the morning of June 1 underscores that point, as it was sprinkled with terms like “dominate the streets” and “battle space,” used not just by the president but also by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and the Attorney General Bill Barr.

But the scene DeMarco walked into on Lafayette Square that evening well before a 7 p.m. citywide curfew, looked more like a picture-book peaceful protest, he said. 

Almost immediately, DeMarco was confused. So confused, he said, that he double-checked the orders by drawing a sketch of the operation and then running it by the Park Police. The 250 Guards had been tasked with holding a static line behind police officers, who planned to put up a fence around Lafayette Square. A job, given the peaceful nature of the crowd, that seemed incongruous with the battle he’d prepared for. 

D.C. National Guard Maj. Adam DeMarco drew a sketch of the operation. (Image courtesy of Adam DeMarco)

D.C. National Guard Maj. Adam DeMarco drew a sketch of the operation. (Image courtesy of Adam DeMarco)

At 6:32 p.m. in a sudden surge of extreme force, police officers started launching pepper balls and smoke canisters into the crowd, and the scene devolved into chaos.

VICE obtained the complete radio transmission of the operation recorded by the Arlington County Police Department, which was assisting the U.S. Park Police. Those recordings start to fill in the details on the law enforcement side. 

Then, at 6:32 p.m., the chilling order comes through: “Go, go, go, go!”  

The “grenadiers” are ordered to the front of the park at 5:32 p.m. Between 6:05 and 6:14 p.m., less than 20 minutes before they fired tear gas, law enforcement noted the presence of several children in the crowd. At 6:29 p.m., the line is ordered forward but told not to surge just yet. Then, at 6:32 p.m., the chilling order comes through: “Go, go, go, go!”  

What unfolded between 6:32 p.m. and 7:11 p.m., when Trump walked back to the White House after his now-infamous photo op holding a Bible in front of the church, is the subject of at least one lawsuit. In the days that followed, military leaders and others, including DeMarco, began to distance themselves from what went down in those 39 minutes. 

Others held firm. When Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan testified before Congress on June 28, one of his key points was that three warnings had been given to protesters to depart the square, and that, critically, they had been given by a Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD. 

But DeMarco says it didn’t happen. “Even if a freight train was going right through the middle of the protests, an LRAD would cut above that sound,” he said. Reaching up to 150 decibels—essentially jet engine-level volume—it’s not a device you can ignore, he explained.

“With all due respect to [Monahan], he’s lying,” said DeMarco. “The incident commander gave the order to disperse 50 yards from the protesters, about 30 yards from where I was standing, which was 20 yards from the demonstrators. To me, it was barely audible. And in no way could they have expected a crowd of about 2,000 rightfully angry and loud, peaceful protesters to be able to react to that.”

“[The announcements] were given three times, but they weren’t given by a military-grade sound system,” said DeMarco. “It was given by the incident commander, via a megaphone that was placed on a park bench near the statue of President [Andrew] Jackson.” 

U.S. Park Police, in a written response to VICE News, stand by Monahan’s testimony that an LRAD was used, starting with the first of three announcements at 6:23 p.m. 

The question of how exactly the tactical order to clear peaceful protesters evolved is still a mystery. During his testimony to Congress, DeMarco declined to speculate on who gave the order. But “as a civilian, with my own ability to exercise my First Amendment rights,” DeMarco said, “my conclusion is that the order to clear out Lafayette Square and the manner in which to do it was directed solely by Attorney General Bill Barr.” 

“The Attorney General came out and saw that Lafayette Square had not been cleared. He told the Park Police to clear it immediately. What he specifically said, we’ll never know. But I can tell you that the Park Police took that order, and in their own way, said by any means necessary,” DeMarco said.

Attorney General Barr’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment from VICE News. A U.S. Park Police spokesperson, via email, referred VICE back to Monahan’s June 28 testimony, repeating statements that neither Barr nor anyone from the White House had made the order.  

Fueled by the adrenaline, DeMarco said he was still in battle mode by sunset. It wasn’t until he posed for his own photo that he said he had a reality check. “I’m standing in the middle of 16th Street. The president has already departed. I’m in-between the Hay Adams Hotel and St. John’s Church. And I’m standing there, and I have my helmet off, and I’ve got my, you know, ballistic vest on. It was kind of like something we would do on a deployment, like after a successful mission,” he said.

“Then I looked around and saw the tear gas canisters and 16th Street. I saw the water bottles. I saw, you know, the trash, the graffiti, the boarded-up windows. And you still could hear the remnants of people yelling, because they were nearby, and then the helicopters flying over. And I realized that I was not in Kirkuk;  I was in Washington, D.C. And that’s when I snapped back to reality,” DeMarco said. “You know, what the fuck?” 

“I will forever remember standing in the middle of the street, in the capital of the free world, and feeling like we had just invaded.”