The Rundown for June 4, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE… The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 1,851,520 and the death toll has topped 107,175, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University. There were 19,699 new cases and 995 virus-related deaths reported yesterday. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has selected five companies as the most likely to produce a Covid-19 vaccine.

PROTESTS CONTINUE… Protests continued at cities across the nation yesterday as demonstrators targeted police killings of African-Americans and called for peace. More military leaders have stepped forward to criticize President Trump’s handling of domestic unrest and its threat to the Constitution. Defense Secretary Mark Esper yesterday said he opposes the use of the military against protesters in defiance of Trump’s threat to deploy federal troops to “dominate the streets.” Trump’s former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who resigned in 2018 over the commander-in-chief’s Syria policy, expressed support of protesters in a scathing interview published in The Atlantic. Mattis singled out Trump’s “bizarre photo op” Tuesday at St. John’s Episcopal Church after police cleared out the area by tear-gassing peaceful protesters as the president approached. The former Defense chief called it “an abuse of executive authority” and accused Trump of a “deliberate effort” to divide citizens rather than unite them.” Trump has been trying to pin violent episodes that have marred the protests on the non-existent “antifa” organization while the evidence of white-supremacy groups’ involvement continues to mount. Yesterday, three Nevada men with ties to a right-wing extremist group advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government were arrested on terrorism-related charges. Federal prosecutors say the three men conspired to spark violence during recent protests in Las Vegas. Also yesterday, prosecutors charged three more police officers in the death of George Floyd and filed a new, tougher charge against the officer at the center of the case. The most serious charge was filed against Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck. Chauvin is now facing a second-degree murder charge as well as charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. A full autopsy of Floyd was released yesterday and noted that he had previously tested positive for the coronavirus.

OBAMA HOSTS TOWNHALL… Former president Barack Obama yesterday made his first public remarks since protests broke out throughout the U.S. Addressing viewers on a live-streamed town hall, Obama said that the structural and societal challenges faced by people of color in the U.S. have been “thrown into high relief.” Nevertheless, the former president vowed that “as tragic as these past few weeks have been, as difficult and scary and uncertain as they’ve been, they’ve also been an incredible opportunity for people to be awakened to some of these underlying trends.” Obama did not mention President Trump during his roughly 15-minute-long presentation.

RAND PAUL BLOCKS ANTI-LYNCHING BILL… Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul yesterday blocked a bill that would have made lynching a federal hate crime. The bill drew bipartisan support and its sponsors put it up for a unanimous consent vote, but Paul’s opposition derailed it. Paul defended his position by claiming the bill would “conflate lesser crimes with lynching” and give those who inflict “minor bruising” a decade in prison.

ROBERT E. LEE STATUE TO BE REMOVED… Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is expected to announce plans today to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Richmond. The removal would end a years-long effort by civil rights activists to take away what they consider a symbol of hate and sedition. Under Northam’s plan, the statue would be moved off its massive pedestal and put into storage until a new location is decided upon.

… Screenwriter, playwright and author Bruce Jay Friedman died of undisclosed causes yesterday in New York. He was 90. Friedman’s screenwriting credits include the comedy films “Stir Crazy” and “Splash,” for which he shared an Oscar nomination. His acting credits included “You’ve Got Mail” and Woody Allen’s “Husbands and Wives.”

JOHN BOYEGA INSPIRES PROTESTERS WITH LONDON SPEECH… Lucasfilm hailed Disney actor John Boyega as a hero yesterday for a powerful speech he delivered at a Black Lives Matter protest in London. Boyega, who appeared last year in the Star Wars film “The Rise of Skywalker,” spoke about the death of George Floyd, racism and police violence. After expressing concern that his views could get him fired, he received commendations from Lucasfilm and is corporate partners.

… Major League Baseball owners yesterday rejected the players’ offer for a 114-game regular season with no additional salary cuts. The owners also informed the players’ union that they don’t intend to offer a counterproposal Last week, owners proposed an 82-game regular season that would open June 30. The fear of a second wave of the coronavirus hesitant to extend the season into November.

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