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Dr. Deborah Birx Contradicts Trump, Privately Tells Govs To Increase COVID Testing

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Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, told the nation’s governors in a call Monday that it was vital that they ramp up testing to find asymptomatic individuals to prevent further community spread.

Her remarks stood in stark contrast to those by the president at his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma over the weekend—and the days since—in which he said he had asked his team to slow-walk testing initiatives so as not to inflate the country’s official case count. “Hopefully I have left you with the impression that increased testing is good,” Birx said on the call, a recording of which was obtained by The Daily Beast. “We would like to even see it even more. Identifying cases early including your asymptomatic [ones] will really help us protect the eldery and the additional people with comorbidities.”

In her weekly call with governors, Birx said her team had collected data that suggests an uptick in cases in people between the ages of 18 and 35, and that state officials should continue to test that population to better contain the virus and to ensure hospitalizations and deaths do not spike. For good measure, she asked governors to enhance testing of workers in nursing homes and of individuals in Hispanic communities, saying it would be helpful to enlist bilingual testers for the latter.

The call with governors comes just two days after President Trump told rally-goers that he asked his team to “slow the testing down” to keep the U.S. case count artificially lower. Trump’s advisors told reporters that he was merely joking. But on Tuesday morning, before departing for Arizona, Trump told reporters he was not. “I don’t kid,” he told CBS News’s Wija Jiang.

Birx’s remarks on Monday’s call underscore the extent to which the president and members of his own coronavirus task force are increasingly operating off of different playbooks. Appearing before a House committee on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the government, said he’d never been told to slow down testing and expected it to ramp up.  

The internal administration debate over the efficacy of testing comes at a time when cases of coronavirus are rising fast in several states and ticking up nationally. Both Birx and Pence acknowledged on the call that there was still plenty of reason for state officials to worry about the trajectory of the virus’s spread, particularly in the south and southwestern part of the county.

“We have about 110 counties … that are in that alert status,” Birx said.

The call featured remarks from several of the governors in the hardest hit states. Those governors stressed, as did Birx, that much of the rise in cases was due to younger individuals, often asymptomatic, testing positive for the disease. And in explaining those spikes, the governors offered an implicit admission that the relaxing of social distance policies that they’d undertaken had given way to complacency about health standards writ large.

“Obviously some of our folks aren’t following the rules and some of the businesses we are working on making sure these folks are following the phased approach,” said Gov. Ron Desantis (R-FL) whose state has had an appreciable spike in COVID-19 cases, especially among those aged 18 to 35.

“They aren’t necessarily sick but they are definitely transmitting it. There’s an unmistakable shift,” Desantis said.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) said there had been an uptick in the percentage of people testing positive who are under the age of 30 and that state officials had begun revoking alcohol licenses from some bars that were not following reopening guidelines.

“We do have bars opened up at 50 percent and we have found that some bars are not following those rules and are crowded just like they were before the pandemic occurred,” Abbott said. “If they do not follow [the protocols] they will lose their ability to remain open.”

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, whose state’s hospital system is under increasing stress, blamed the sharp increase in COVID cases, in part, on Mexicans with U.S. citizenship coming across the border for better medical care. But he also spotlighted residents of the states not practicing best public health practices, calling it “human nature.”  “They’ve wanted to get out and about,” said Ducey. “We are seeing even with social distancing policies in place, they are gathering. We are working with our business owners for accountability there.”

During the course of the hour-and-a-half call, none of the governors who spoke said they felt as if testing should be ramped down. But only one participant—Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak (D-NV)—challenged Pence to explain the president’s remarks.

“The president’s comment Saturday night as it related to his order to slow down the testing is certainly not helping,” Sisolak said. “We are doing everything we can in Nevada to increase our testing and increase the availability of our testing.”

Pence’s response to Sisolak was not far off from those put out by White House officials and advisors over the weekend who said Trump’s statements were not meant to be taken seriously.  “The president’s observation,” Pence said, “was a passing observation.”

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The brother of President Trump files new lawsuit to block niece’s book

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President Trump’s brother filed a new lawsuit to block the publication of their niece’s upcoming book about the president after a judge in another court blocked his efforts.

Robert Trump‘s newest suit, filed in the Dutchess County Supreme Court in New York, alleges that Mary Trump‘s tell-all book would violate a nondisclosure agreement.

The suit hinges around a 2001 agreement signed after a legal battle over Fred Trump Sr.’s will, with Robert Trump saying the agreement bars members of the family from writing about their relationships with each other.

The president has said recently that his niece is “not allowed” to publish the book.

The book, titled “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” is scheduled to hit the shelves on July 28.

The new suit comes the day after Queens County Surrogate Court Judge Peter Kelly ruled that Robert Trump’s first filing contained “several improprieties” and dismissed it on the grounds that it should have been filed in the New York Supreme Court.

“The court has promptly and correctly held that it lacks jurisdiction to grant the Trump family’s baseless request to suppress a book of utmost public importance and concern,” Mary Trump’s attorney, Theodore Boutrous, said in a statement. “Democracy thrives on the free exchange of ideas, and neither this court nor any other has authority to violate the Constitution by imposing a prior restraint on core political speech.”

Mary Trump is widely anticipated to reveal in the book that she is a primary source behind an investigative series in The New York Times regarding the Trump family’s finances that ultimately won the paper a Pulitzer Prize.

Simon & Schuster, the book’s publisher, has said the book is a “revelatory, authoritative portrait of Donald J. Trump and the toxic family that made him.”

President Donald Trump

“We look forward to publishing Mary L. Trump’s TOO MUCH AND NEVER ENOUGH, and are confident we will prevail should there be further efforts to stifle this publication,” the publisher said in a statement, which was the first to report on the new suit, after the first suit was dismissed.

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Man Allegedly Admits to Kidnapping, Sexually Assaulting Black Lives Matter Activist Before Killing

Aaron Glee, Jr., allegedly held Oluwatoyin Salau captive for several days, sexually assaulting her “numerous times” before killing her

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In newly released court documents, authorities in Florida allege Aaron Glee, Jr., confessed several times to kidnapping and murdering Black Lives Matter activist Oluwatoyin Salau and longtime volunteer Victoria Sims — two women who’d recently befriended each other during demonstrations over police brutality and systemic racism.

Glee’s arrest report, alleges that the 49-year-old spoke to police after waiving his right to remain silent. He is charged with two counts of murder and kidnapping and one count of sexual assault.

According to the report, Glee allegedly confessed to the crimes on multiple occasions and provided detail about them to police in both Tallahassee, where the crimes occurred on separate days, and Orlando, where he was eventually apprehended by officers.

Police say Glee claimed to have first met Salau — a student and protester, active in the Black Lives Matter movement — on June 6, hours after she said she was sexually assaulted by a different man. The two met at a bus stop in Tallahassee, and he claims she confided in him about the sexual assault, which she described in a series of Twitter posts.

Salau allegedly told Glee she had no place to stay, and he offered to take her back to his home, where she could bathe and sleep.

According to police, Glee called Sims, who he knew from volunteer work and who, he said, would occasionally give him rides and bring him meals. Sims picked them both up in her white Toyota sedan, and drove them to Glee’s home, where she dropped them off. The report indicates video footage from the bus station confirms Glee’s version of events.

Oluwatoyin Salau

Soon after they arrived at his home, Glee told investigators Salau took a shower. Afterwards, according to the report, he tried to have sex with her, but she refused and resisted, fighting him off.

“He stated that she physically resisted him, and that she bit him upon his right forearm during the struggle,” the report says.

Police allege that he then confessed to overpowering her and raping Salau before tying her up.

According to the report, Glee kept Salau imprisoned in his home for three to five days, untying her only for meals and to bathe. Police say he admitted to “sexually assaulting her numerous times during those three to five days.” Because he has a criminal record, Glee allegedly said he realized he’d likely end up in prison if he let Salau go free.

“Glee indicated that he determined that his only course of action was to end her life,” reads the report. He bound her with rope, in a manner he believed would obstruct her ability to breathe, and left her in a bedroom.  “Glee explained how over the course of several hours he would re-enter the bedroom multiple times to see if [Salau] was still alive,” the report says. “Ultimately, he entered into the bedroom and determined [she] was deceased.”

Victoria Sims

Glee allegedly confessed that after Salau died, he kidnapped Sims, binding her with rope as well. Investigators believe Glee ransacked her apartment before kidnapping her and fleeing in her car — which was found outside Glee’s home, stuck in the mud.

Salau was reported missing on June 6, while Sims vanished on June 11.  On June 13, Tallahassee police traced Sims’ cellphone to Glee’s home, where they found her beneath a bloody sheet in a bedroom. Salau’s body was found in the woods behind his home, covered with leaves.

Official causes of death have not been released in this case.

Authorities allege Glee fled to Orlando on a bus before Tallahassee officers arrived at his home.

The arrest report states Glee made his confession to officers at the time of his arrest as well as later on, after he was rushed to an Orlando hospital after complaining of breathing problems.

Police allege he “had made voluntary admissions to officers guarding him that he had murdered two women in Tallahassee,” reads the reports. “He would also place a telephone call to his mother and make these same admissions.”

Aaron Glee Jr. at Orange County Jail in Orlando on June 14. Orange County Corrections.

Police allege all of these admissions, including those he made to his mother, were recorded by the officers’ body cameras.

Glee, who remains in custody without bond, has yet to enter pleas to the charges, and his attorney could not be reached for comment.

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Two more Trump staffers test positive for coronavirus after Tulsa rally

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After another round of testing for campaign staff in Tulsa, two additional members of the advance team tested positive for the coronavirus. These staff members attended the rally but were wearing masks during the entire event. Upon the positive tests, the campaign immediately activated established quarantine and contact tracing protocols,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement.

The two positive tests, bring the total number of Trump advance team staffers in Tulsa who tested positive for coronavirus to eight. Hours before Trump’s Saturday rally, the campaign said that six staffers working on the rally tested positive for coronavirus.

Murtaugh said in a statement then that “per safety protocols, campaign staff are tested for COVID-19 before events. Six members of the advance team tested positive out of hundreds of tests performed, and quarantine procedures were immediately implemented.”

“No COVID-positive staffers or anyone in immediate contact will be at today’s rally or near attendees and elected officials,” he said. Attendees at Trump’s rally were not required to wear a mask.

Those attending the rally had to agree to not to sue the campaign if they contract coronavirus, acknowledging the “inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present.”

“By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; BOK Center; ASM Global; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury,” the disclaimer attendees agreed to read.

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