The US is neck-deep in a constitutional crisis

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I want to stress that this is a very highly unusual event. In fact, this is the only confirmed fatality in Maine waters from a shark attack,” – Patrick Keliher, commissioner of Maine Department of Marine Resources, on the Monday great white shark attack that killed 63-year-old Julie Dimperio Holowach, who was swimming 20 yards offshore.

LISTEN OF THE DAY

Should schools reopen? We sat down with Insider Audio’s Charlie Herman for a lively discussion about what it will take to make it happen, and what’s at stake if it doesn’t. Click here to listen to the full conversation.– HB & DP

WHAT’S HAPPENING

Big tech ceosANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images/Rich Fury/Getty Images/Stephen J. Cohen/WireImage/Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Big Tech hearing is underway: Follow along. The House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust is questioning the CEOs of Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook.

Joe Biden will announce his running mate next week. It’s one of the most consequential picks in recent history, since Biden’s age means he may not run for a second term if he wins in 2020, making the VP the de facto party leader going into 2024. Biden has said he will pick a woman.

“Umbrella man” is a white supremacist who was trying to incite violence. Minneapolis police say the man filmed calmly smashing the windows of an Auto Zone early in the George Floyd protests is a member of the Hell’s Angels and an Aryan gang. Other demonstrators suspected at the time he was a provocateur.

GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas tested positive for coronavirus. He has refused to wear a mask, and reportedly spoke to AG Bill Barr yesterday, maskless, at close range.

The Trump administration is talking to Oregon officials about removing some federal agents from Portland in exchange for more local police intervention against the protests.

VIEWS OF THE DAY

Bill Barr 3AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The US is in the midst of a constitutional crisis

The US is in the midst of a constitutional crisis. It doesn’t feel like it. Congress is still in session; no judge has been hauled off to jail; the president’s enemies have not been put up against the wall and shot.

This is a quieter kind of constitutional crisis.

First, and perhaps most alarmingly, the Trump administration is blatantly defying the Supreme Court ruling on DACA. SCOTUS ruled that the Trump administration improperly ended the program, and a federal judge this month ordered DACA returned to its pre-cancelation status. But acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf – the same brutal minion who’s assaulting Portland – is ignoring the order by refusing to accept new DACA applications and only renewing DACA holders for one year, even though they’re entitled to two-year renewals. Wolf is brazenly flouting a federal court order, and saying, essentially: You can’t do anything about it.

When one branch of government refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of another branch, that is a constitutional crisis.

Second, the Trump administration has exacerbated and magnified the Portland protests by dispatching federal paramilitaries to Portland against the wishes of local and state officials. These federal agents have occupied streets away from federal buildings.

When the federal government uses force to seize state streets and property, against the express wishes of a popularly-elected state government, that’s also a constitutional crisis.

Third, Attorney General Bill Barr strongly hinted to Congress yesterday that he would consider casting doubt on the 2020 election because of the use of mail-in ballots. Previously Barr and Trump have used the DOJ and pardon power to prevent Roger Stone and Michael Flynn from being punished, to harry the government officials who investigated Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and to undermine the Mueller investigation.

In short, Barr and Trump used the federal Department of Justice to clear those who worked to corrupt the 2016 election in Trump’s favour, and Barr has signalled that he might use the DOJ to shape the 2020 election too.

When the fairness and safety of the election is under threat because of the President and his AG, that too is a constitutional crisis. – DP

FBIManuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Keeping authoritarians happy is expensive, it turns out.

Senate Republicans are grumbling about something countries around the world have known for ages: It’s expensive to keep authoritarian leaders happy.

This week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell presented his caucuses proposal for the next coronavirus aid bill, and pretty much everyone hates it. The most contentious item is a White House ask – $US1.75 billion for a new FBI building that Trump wants. No one sees the point.

But it’s clear Senate Republicans included it because they were tired of dealing with the White House’s delays. For a while Trump was holding up negotiations because he wanted Senate Republicans to defund coronavirus testing.

That didn’t make it into the Senate Republican proposal, and it’s unlikely that the FBI building funding will make it into the final bill once House Speaker Nancy Pelosi starts negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Senate Republicans spent precious time writing an expensive proposal they hate so that Trump could pretend he was going back to his old Bob the billionaire Builder life for a few moments. He co-opted the process for his vanity project, and even Republicans – as invertebrate as they have been – seem ashamed of that.

This is the kind of stuff authoritarians do, and it’s expensive.– Linette Lopez

Donald trumpSaul Loeb/AFP via Getty ImagesUS President Donald Trump attends meeting in the Oval Office on June 24, 2020.

Serious Trump lasted exactly one week

One week ago today, following President Trump’s just-barely-OK briefing in which he praised masks and didn’t say anything truly grotesque, we asked: “How long will the new, serious Trump last? A week?

Nailed it!

The president, of course, is trying to feign sobriety – especially about the pandemic – in order to regain public approval.

He managed for just six days. His daily briefing on Tuesday veered into the usual Trump wetland of self-pity and conspiracism. He malingered on the question of why Anthony Fauci, who works for him, has a high approval rating, while “nobody likes me.”

Later, he again shilled for hydroxychloroquine, and defended sharing a video from a quackish doctor who claims preposterously that the drug is a cure for COVID She also claims that many gynecological ailments are caused by women having sex with demons. Trump abruptly ended the briefing soon after a reporter asked about the demon sex.

Will he try gravitas again? Or will the White House conclude, as it has so many times before, that Trump can only be Trumpish?– DP

Cuomo mountainLev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty ImagesCuomo unveils a green topographic sculpture model of COVID-19 hospitalisation curve from day 1 till day 111. This is the mountain that New Yorkers climbed before the hospitalisation curve plateaued after 42 days he said during briefing.

Cuomo’s “victory” lap is a slap in New York’s face

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo could be keeping his head down, humbly doing the public service for the state which – even though the curve has been flattened – is still ravaged by the coronavirus.

Instead, he’s sitting for backslapping late night TV interviews, flouting mask and quarantine rules, and screwing small businesses with a short-sighted and puritanical crackdown on “to-go cocktails.”

In my new column, I argue that Cuomo is no hero, he’s just cosplaying as a “man of action.”

Yes, New York was one of the first states hit hard by the virus at a time when governors had far less equipment, knowledge, and time to prepare than they have had in recent months. Under his governance, New York has successfully flattened the curve. And Cuomo pulled this off with virtually no help from the federal government.

But he also dithered in the pandemic’s early weeks and made a catastrophic decision to force nursing homes to take COVID patients.

Now that the public accounting is due, he’s blaming the media – which created the myth of his heroism in the first place – for the bad optics of thousands of dead elderly New Yorkers, and he’s refusing out of hand the prospect of an independent investigation of the state’s response.

He is, however, making it a point to assign a multi-agency crackdown on bars and restaurants selling to-go booze, even as those businesses are gasping for survival and the people still have little to do during a sweltering summer heat wave as we enter the fifth consecutive month of hell. – Anthony Fisher

IDEA OF THE DAY

China surveillance cameraJason Lee/ReutersMonitor cameras work in front of the giant portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, September 28, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Lee


China is the first surveillance superpower.

The Atlantic’s Ross Andersen details how China has built a monumental surveillance infrastructure with cameras everywhere, facial recognition, natural-language AI analysis of social media and cell communication, and much more. It’s tested it on the Uighurs, using it to suppress and control them. “China is what Orwell feared.”

Now it’s beginning to export to the rest of the world, giving governments and corporations elsewhere insidious tools for quashing dissent, chilling free speech, and ensuring political dominance. The Chinese technology is making life easier for the most thuggish authoritarian leaders out there.

If American values are going to survive, we can’t be Luddites and hide from the technology. We need to come up with a persuasive alternative in which surveillance technology and AI are somehow used to increase freedom, and build connections at a grassroots level. That’s a hard problem to solve! – DP

BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Mackenzie BezosTaylor Hill/Getty Images


Insider investigates the MLM Young Living, which sells essential oils. The business claims $US1.5 billion in revenue, but 89% of its sellers are on the bottom rung, where the average annual wage is $US4.

Jeff Bezos’s former wife MacKenzie has donated $US1.7 billion of her $US60-plus billion fortune since their divorce. Most of the money has gone to efforts to promote racial equity and economic mobility. She has also changed her name to MacKenzie Scott.

Google has started laying a fibre optic undersea cable from the US to the UK and Spain. The cable, named Grace Hopper after the pioneer computer scientist, is Google’s fourth cable overall and first to the UK.

LIFE

Fauci BaseballRob Carr/Staff/Getty Images

The baseball card of Anthony Fauci mid-pitch is ToppsNow’s bestseller ever. It’s sold more than 51,000 copies in just a few days.

Instagram is offering TikTok stars huge payments to join their new competitor Reels. Reels is being tested already in Europe and will go broadly live in August. It limits videos to 15 seconds.

THE BIG 3*

Dr ImmanuelTwitterIn this undated video Dr Stella Immanuel speaks with members of the group America’s Frontline Doctors

Not surprisingly, Belarus’s dictator got COVID. He had told his people you could avoid the disease by drinking vodka and going to the sauna.

Stella Immanuel, the doctor in the COVID misinformation video endorsed by Trump, belongs to a pro-Trump group of medics. America’s Frontline Doctors is also supported by Tea Party Patriots, which has opposed lockdowns.

Employment discrimination continues to be rampant in the US. A new study of Seattle restaurants found them turning away black job applicants while asking identically qualified white ones to start work immediately.

*The most popular stories on Insider today.

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