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    The Trump administration’s new strategy for coronavirus testing puts much of the burden on states while promising to provide supplies such as swabs and material to transport specimens. The plan, which was delivered Sunday to members of Congress, drew harsh criticism Monday from Democrats. In a joint letter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. and Washington Sen. Patty Murray said the administration “still does not have a serious plan for increasing testing to stop the spread of the virus.” The report comes as the U.S. death toll from the pandemic is approaching 100,000. President Donald Trump, who has been eager to revive the economy by loosening coronavirus-related restrictions, vowed Monday, “Together we will vanquish the virus and America will rise from this crisis to new and even greater heights.” The 81-page document from the Department of Health and Human Services says, “State plans must establish a robust testing program that ensures adequacy of COVID-19 testing, including tests for contact tracing, and surveillance of asymptomatic persons to determine community spread.” It says the federal government will “ensure that States have the collection supplies that they need through December 2020.” To that end, the administration plans to acquire and distribute 100 million swabs and 100 million tubes of viral transport media. The HHS document, which The Washington Post first reported, recommends that all states “have an objective of testing a minimum of 2 percent of their population in May and June.” The Democratic lawmakers, who released the HHS report along with their joint letter, said it “confirms that President Trump’s national testing strategy is to deny the truth that there aren’t enough tests and supplies, reject responsibility and dump the burden onto the states.” “The Trump Administration still does not take any responsibility for ramping up our nation’s testing capacity, instead pushing the burden onto the states — forcing states to compete with each other to procure vital supplies to administer tests from the private market,” the lawmakers wrote. They also called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to act on the $3 trillion virus release package passed earlier this month by the House, saying it would “deliver a clear strategy and $75 billion for the testing and contact tracing necessary to stop the spread of this vicious virus.”
  • Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in more than two months on Monday as he marked Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a veterans park near his Delaware home. Since abruptly canceling a March 10 rally in Cleveland at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has waged much of his campaign from his home in Wilmington. When Biden emerged on Monday, he wore a face mask, in contrast to President Donald Trump, who has refused to cover his face in public as health officials suggest. Biden and his wife, Jill, laid a wreath of white flowers tied with a white bow, and bowed their heads in silence at the park. He saluted. “Never forget the sacrifices that these men and women made,' he said after. “Never, ever, forget.” “I feel great to be out here,' Biden told reporters, his words muffled through his black cloth mask. His visit to the park was unannounced and there was no crowd waiting for him. But Biden briefly greeted a county official and another man, both wearing face masks and standing a few feet away. Biden also yelled to another, larger group standing nearby, “Thank you for your service.” His campaign says Biden has gone to the park for Memorial Day often in the past, though services were canceled Monday in the pandemic. Though low-key, the appearance was a milestone in a presidential campaign that has largely been frozen by the coronavirus outbreak. While the feasibility of traditional events such as rallies and the presidential conventions are in doubt, Biden’s emergence suggests he won’t spend the nearly five months that remain until the election entirely at home. Trump, eager to project a country coming to life even as the pandemic's death toll approached 100,000, presided over back-to-back events at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia and Fort McHenry in Baltimore. After a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington, Trump mourned the fallen in remarks at the Baltimore historic site and praised the contribution of service members “on the front lines of our war against this terrible virus.” The coronavirus has upended virtually all aspects of American life and changed the terms of the election. Trump’s argument that he deserves another term in office because of the strong economy has evaporated as unemployment rises to levels not seen since the Great Depression. As a longtime senator and former vice president, Biden is trying to position himself as someone with the experience and empathy to lead the country out of a crisis. Trump counters that he is the leader who can preside over an economic rebound later this year or in 2021. Biden has adjusted to the coronavirus era by building a television studio in his home, which he’s used to make appearances on news programs, late-night shows and virtual campaign events. Some of those efforts have been marred by technical glitches and other awkward moments. Some Democratic strategists have openly worried that Biden is ceding too much ground to Trump by staying home. The president himself has knocked Biden for essentially campaigning from his basement. Biden’s advisers say they plan to return to normal campaign activities at some point, including travel to battleground states. But they’re in no hurry, preferring to defer to the advice of health experts and authorities’ stay-at-home and social distancing recommendations. At 77, Biden is among the nation’s senior population thought to be especially vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus — though so is Trump, who turns 74 next month. “We will never make any choices that put our staff or voters in harm’s way,” Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said recently, adding that the campaign would resume more traditional activities “when safety allows, and we will not do that a day sooner.” Trump has not resumed the large rallies that were the hallmark of his 2016 campaign and presidency but has begun traveling outside Washington in recent weeks. He visited a facility producing face masks in Arizona and a Ford plant in Michigan that has been converted to produce medical and protective equipment. Trump even played golf at his club in Virginia on the weekend, hoping that others will follow his lead and return to some semblance of normal life and gradually help revive an economy in free fall. It was the president’s first trip to one of his money-making properties since March 8, when he visited his private golf club in West Palm Beach. The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11, and Trump followed with the national emergency declaration two days later. Biden’s campaign wasted little time producing an online video offering blurry, faraway footage of Trump on the golf course, imposed over images evoking the virus ravaging the nation as the number of Americans dead from the pandemic approached 100,000. The video concluded by proclaiming: “The death toll is still rising. The president is playing golf.” Trump is traveling to Florida Wednesday to watch to U.S. astronauts blast into orbit. ___ Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”
  • The coronavirus hasn’t been kind to car owners. With more people than ever staying home to lessen the spread of COVID-19, their sedans, pickup trucks and SUVs are parked unattended on the streets, making them easy targets for opportunistic thieves. Despite silent streets and nearly nonexistent traffic, vehicle larcenies shot up 63% in New York and nearly 17% in Los Angeles from Jan. 1 through mid-May, compared with the same period last year. And many other law enforcement agencies around the U.S. are reporting an increase in stolen cars and vehicle burglaries, even as violent crime has dropped dramatically nationwide in the coronavirus pandemic. It's a low-risk crime with a potentially high reward, police say, especially when many drivers leave their doors unlocked or their keys inside. “You might as well put a sticker on the window that says ‘come take my stuff,’” said an exasperated Alex Villanueva, the Los Angeles County sheriff. In Austin, Texas, last month, a whopping 72% of the 322 stolen vehicles had their keys nearby. The total number of auto thefts in April spiked about 50%, and burglaries to vehicles were up 2% from April 2019. The virus has created a “perfect storm,” said Austin police Sgt. Chris Vetrano, a supervisor in the 11-detective auto theft unit that investigates stolen vehicle cases. The elements for that storm: Drivers are at home and not using or checking their cars regularly. School's out, so teenagers are trying their luck. Criminals are out of work and have more time on their hands or need fast money to support a drug habit. “You can get on the internet nowadays and learn how to break into vehicles just searching YouTube,” Vetrano said. (He should know: Someone broke into his locked Ford F-150 pickup truck, one of the most commonly stolen vehicles, about a year ago.) Salt Lake City police Detective Greg Wilking said a 22% spike in vehicle burglaries there could be from a few criminals working quickly on “car prowls.” “It’s really 10 seconds,' he said. “They’re not spending a lot of time in your car. It’s a smash-and-grab-and-go,” sometimes in broad daylight. Wilking worries the numbers will keep rising because “people get more desperate as time goes on.” In Baltimore, though, a push to reduce the city's historically high numbers of vehicle thefts and burglaries appears to have paid off. Thefts from autos plunged 24% and stolen vehicles dropped 19% from January to May compared with the same period last year. Col. Richard Worley, the chief of patrol, in part credits aggressive efforts to remind residents to lock their cars, take their keys home and park in well-lit areas. In this case, however, the pandemic has actually helped police: Residents are home, driving less and keeping an eye on the neighborhood, and officers now have time for proactive patrols because calls for service and violent crime have decreased. A thief was recently arrested with 13 stolen catalytic converters during a motor vehicle stop. Sometimes, however, it's just a matter of luck. Like for Lindsey Eldridge, the police department's community outreach coordinator, who left her keys in her car's cupholder. She realized her mistake just before falling asleep. As Worley said: “She could have been a statistic.” ___ This story has been corrected to show the quote was from Worley, not Eldridge.
  • Presidential politics move fast. What we’re watching heading into a new week on the 2020 campaign: Days to general election: 162 ___ THE NARRATIVE As some parts of the nation continue to ease stay-at-home orders meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the economy remains in free fall. And, with the U.S. death toll now climbing toward 100,000, a conundrum is emerging: Even if people are allowed to resume their daily routines, will they feel safe enough to do so? President Donald Trump says that the country is anxious to get back to work and that pent-up consumer demand can turn things around in a hurry. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden counters by urging caution and heeding medical and scientific experts, many of whom say it's much too early to return to normal. Which one is correct may ultimately not be clear until after November's election — but will nonetheless almost certainly be the determining factor in who wins it. ___ THE BIG QUESTIONS Does Biden have no choice but to choose an African American running mate? Black leaders have for weeks argued that the former vice president picking an African American as his vice president is the only way to reflect the Democratic Party's deep diversity and to repay a community that helped Biden overcome a disastrous start to dominate in the South and win the primary. But the issue may have come to a head on Friday when Biden endured a testy exchange with prominent black radio personality Charlamagne Tha God before declaring, “If you’ve got a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or for Trump, then you ain’t black.' He later said he shouldn't have been so “cavalier,' but not before sparking a social media firestorm and prompting the president's reelection campaign to decry it as the kind of race-baiting it often gets accused of. “It is clear now more than ever, following these racist and dehumanizing remarks, that Joe Biden believes black men and women are incapable of being independent or free thinking,' Black Voices for Trump said in a statement. Biden has refused to publicly discuss his running mate finalists, but they are thought to include several prominent white women, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. He figures to do well with African American voters in November no matter whom he picks, but a lack of enthusiasm in the black community hurt Hillary Clinton in the battleground state of Michigan and elsewhere in 2016. That's a calculation Biden may be unable to ignore, even as his campaign insists his choice will have more to do with personal relationships than skin color. How much more political will science get? Trump has long energized his conservative base by rejecting climate change and academic intellectualism but lately has begun suggesting the institution of science is out to undermine him. The president insisted on taking the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to guard against the coronavirus despite federal warnings against doing so. He also rejected as politically motivated a study showing that nearly 36,000 Americans' lives might have been saved if social distancing measures had been put in place one week sooner. Polling has already shown that issues like wearing face masks in public are becoming increasingly partisan. If science itself follows a similar path, that could hinder evolving efforts to slow the virus — potentially producing results deadly enough to go well beyond the political. How much more political will voting by mail get? Trump has intensified his opposition to expanding mail-in balloting amid the pandemic, even threatening federal funding to the battleground states of Michigan and Nevada before later suggesting that might not be necessary. Many Democratic-led states are nonetheless looking to ease rules on absentee voting, saying the coronavirus may make it a matter of life and death. With top Republicans rallying behind Trump's insistence that doing so is undemocratic and federal court cases on the issue already raging in places like Texas, how the nation votes may prove as pivotal to November's outcome as for whom it votes. Are political conventions possible in the age of the coronavirus? The Republican National Committee marked 100 days until the scheduled start of its convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, by proudly suggesting last weekend that nearly 50,000 attendees would soon be descending on that city. Its chair, Ronna McDaniel, was subsequently less committal about the gathering going off exactly as planned and beginning Aug. 24 amid the pandemic. But she vowed that it will happen at least partly in person, saying, “We will not be holding a virtual convention.” Democrats have already delayed their convention from July until August and have been more open to the idea of it unfolding virtually — taking steps to grant organizers the authority to design an event that won’t require delegates attending in person. A bigger question than if some in-person activities remain intact for one party or the other, though, is whether attendees will want to go — especially given the low political stakes since the presidential nominee on both sides isn't in doubt. ___ THE FINAL THOUGHT Trump's reelection chances likely hinge on convincing the country he built a sustained economic boom once and can do so again, leading an equally speedy and robust recovery after the coronavirus sparked an unprecedented bust. Biden has taken a different approach, promising to use the crisis to build a new economy that will embrace progressive proposals designed to lift all Americans — but without really saying how long that might take. Amid what may prove to be the nation's worst downturn, whether voters can look past the “when” to the “how” of a recovery is an open question. Still, it's one that can't be answered until a recovery actually begins to materialize. ___ 2020 Watch runs every Monday and provides a look at the week ahead in the 2020 election. ___ Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”
  • President Donald Trump honored America’s war dead Monday in back-to-back Memorial Day appearances colored by an epic struggle off the battlefield, against the coronavirus. Eager to demonstrate national revival from the pandemic, Trump doubled up on his public schedule, while threatening to pull the Republican National Convention out of Charlotte in August unless North Carolina's Democratic governor gives a quick green light to the party's plans to assemble en masse. The U.S. death toll from the pandemic approached 100,000; North Carolina two days earlier reported its largest daily increase yet in COVID-19 sickness. Trump first honored the nation’s fallen at Arlington National Cemetery. Presidents on Memorial Day typically lay a wreath and speak at the hallowed burial ground in Virginia. But the coronavirus crisis made this year different. Many attendees arrived wearing masks but removed them for the outdoor ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Trump, maskless as always in public, gave no remarks. He approached a wreath already in place, touched it and saluted. Trump then traveled to Baltimore's historic Fort McHenry, where he declared: “Together we will vanquish the virus and America will rise from this crisis to new and even greater heights. No obstacle, no challenge and no threat is a match for the sheer determination of the American people.” He praised the tens of thousands of service members and national guard personnel “on the front lines of our war against this terrible virus.” His Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, chose Memorial Day to make his first public appearance in the two months since the pandemic closed down the nation. Biden emerged unannounced from his Delaware home to lay a wreath at a nearby park, with no crowd gathered to greet him. It was a milestone in a presidential campaign that has largely been frozen. Biden's words were muffled through a black cloth face mask. “Never forget the sacrifices that these men and women made,” he said after. “Never, ever forget.” The U.S. leads the world with more than 1.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 98,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Trump tweeted his frustration with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, who has been moving his state into a cautious reopening that will keep indoor entertainment venues, like its NBA arena, closed for the time being. The state reported a daily high of 1,100 new cases Saturday, and has suffered about 750 deaths in the pandemic. The president said Republicans will be “reluctantly forced” to find a convention site in another state unless Cooper can guarantee that the GOP will be able to fill its convention spaces, including the arena in Charlotte. Cooper’s office said state officials are working with the GOP on convention decisions. Changing sites would be difficult for numerous reasons, including the contract between Republican officials and Charlotte leaders to hold the gathering there. Trump is intent on accelerating his own schedule as he urges the country to get to work. This month, Trump has toured factories in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Michigan that make pandemic supplies. He plans to be in Florida on Wednesday to watch two NASA astronauts rocket into space, and he played golf at his private club in Virginia on Saturday and Sunday. The Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine commemorates the site where Francis Scott Key wrote a poem after a huge American flag was hoisted to celebrate an important victory over the British during the War of 1812. That poem became “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The fort is closed to the public because of the pandemic. Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young objected to Trump’s visit in advance, saying it sends the wrong message about stay-at-home directives and the city could not afford the added cost of hosting him when it is losing $20 million a month because of the pandemic. He cited the disproportionate effect the virus has had on his city and called on Trump to “set a positive example” by not traveling during the holiday weekend. Trump was not dissuaded. “The brave men and women who have preserved our freedoms for generations did not stay home and the president will not either as he honors their sacrifice by visiting such a historic landmark in our nation’s history,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in an emailed statement Sunday. Trump last summer described a congressional district that includes Baltimore as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.” He visited Baltimore months later to address a meeting of congressional Republicans, and a giant inflatable rat adorned with Trump-style hair and a red necktie taunted him from a few blocks away. Trump did not visit any Baltimore neighborhoods. ___ Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in Arlington, Virginia, contributed to this report. ___ Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap.
  • Many laid-off workers who lost health insurance in the coronavirus shutdown soon face the first deadlines to qualify for fallback coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Taxpayer-subsidized health insurance is available for a modest cost — sometimes even free — across the country, but industry officials and independent researchers say few people seem to know how to find it. For those who lost their health insurance as layoffs mounted in late March, a 60-day “special enrollment” period for individual coverage under the ACA closes at the end of May in most states. Altheia Franklin, who lives near Houston, lost her medical plan after being laid off from a job at an upscale retirement community, as a counselor to seniors making the move. Stay-at-home orders and higher virus risks for older people have put such life transitions on hold in the pandemic. Franklin said she received plenty of government information about coronavirus safety and economic stimulus payments, but “the insurance piece just has not been mentioned.” She scrambled and finally found an ACA — or “Obamacare” — plan she could still afford on a reduced income. “We are in the middle of a pandemic, and God forbid if I get sick and I don't have it,' she said of her health insurance. The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that nearly 27 million workers and family members had lost job-based health coverage as of the start of this month, a number now likely higher with unemployment claims rising. In a counter-intuitive finding, Kaiser's study also estimated that nearly 8 in 10 of the newly uninsured would likely qualify for some sort of coverage under former President Barack Obama's health law, either a private plan like Franklin found, or Medicaid. “The ACA is there as a safety net for the first time in an economic downturn,” said Kaiser foundation expert Larry Levitt. But “many people losing their jobs have never had to think of relying on the ACA for coverage, so there is no reason they should be aware of their options.” There are several options, not easy to sort through. Some have application deadlines; others do not. And the Trump administration, which still plans to ask the Supreme Court later this summer to declare “Obamacare” unconstitutional, is doing little to promote the health law's coverage. Here's a quick look: SUBSIDIZED PRIVATE INSURANCE Like Altheia Franklin, people who lose workplace insurance generally have 60 days from when their coverage ended to apply for an ACA plan. They can go to the federal HealthCare.gov or their state's health insurance website. Most states that run their own health insurance marketplaces have provided an extended sign-up period for people who lost coverage in the pandemic. The federal marketplace, serving most of the country, has not. MEDICAID FOR ADULTS Nearly three-fourths of the states have expanded Medicaid to low-income adults under the Obama health law. In those states, low-income adults can qualify for free or very low cost coverage. There is no sign-up deadline. The Kaiser foundation estimates that nearly 13 million people who lost job-based insurance are eligible for Medicaid. But that option is not available in most Southern states, as well as some in the Midwest and Plains, because they have not expanded Medicaid. CHILDREN'S HEALTH INSURANCE Laid-off workers should be able to get their children covered even if the adults in the family cannot help. The federal-state Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid cover kids in families with incomes well above the poverty level. “Medicaid is open year round if you are a parent with kids who need coverage,” said Joan Alker, director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University. Children's coverage predates the ACA. COBRA People can continue their employer coverage under a federal law known as COBRA, but they have to pay 102% of the premium — too much for most who are out of work. If there's another coronavirus bill from Congress, it might include subsidies for COBRA coverage. Government statistics on people losing —and finding— health insurance coverage in the coronavirus contraction won't be available for months. The head of a California company that helps people find ACA coverage says most of the new sign-ups they're seeing are people who qualify for Medicaid, and there's been only a modest uptick for subsidized private plans. “We are all wondering where the heck is everybody,” said George Kalogeropoulos, CEO of Health Sherpa. “People first are trying to apply for unemployment, and many of them getting stuck there,” he added. “Health care is the secondary thing, and if they get stuck in unemployment, people may never do the health care thing.” Alker, the Georgetown University expert, said insurance protection has been neglected in the pandemic. “Having health insurance has never been more important,” she said. “We need a national commitment to make these newly uninsured people aware of their options.
  • Joe Biden worked out deals with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. He defended Vice President Mike Pence as a “decent guy” and eulogized Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain's “fairness, honesty, dignity, respect.” When he launched his presidential campaign, such overtures to Republicans were central to Biden's promise to “unify the country” and “restore the soul of the nation” after defeating President Donald Trump. Now that he's the presumptive Democratic nominee, Biden is sharpening his tone, still pitching consensus but touting a “bold agenda” aimed at mollifying progressives who remain skeptical he'll deliver enough on health care, student loan debts and the climate crisis. The idea is to avoid repeating the party’s 2016 defeat, when Hillary Clinton struggled to unite her moderate supporters and backers of Bernie Sanders. The dynamics are different in 2020, with Democrats united in their antipathy toward Trump. But Biden's juggling of the left wing along with mainstream Democrats and independents and Republicans disgruntled with Trump could end up as an unsuccessful attempt to be all things to all people. “It certainly seems like the approach that they’re taking right now is trying to have it both ways,” said Evan Weber, a co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, a climate action youth organization that is among the political groups working with the Biden campaign on policy proposals. For younger voters, Weber added, “Going too far in the direction of trying to appeal to a moderate narrative or a bipartisan era that most people in our generation have never experienced ... is not going to inspire a lot of confidence.” Republican pollster Whit Ayres countered that Biden’s “sweet spot” is the center-left. “You’ve got to run on who you are,” Ayres said. “If he becomes a politician of the left, it’s going to hurt his ability to consolidate the 54% of Americans who voted for someone other than Donald Trump in 2016.” Biden deflects the risks. Asked whether his recent moves mean he’ll govern as a “progressive,” Biden retorted on CNBC: “I’m going to be Joe Biden. Look at my record.” Recent interviews and campaign events reveal the nuances Biden hopes can attract support in both directions. “I think health care is a right, not a privilege,” he said on CNBC, espousing an article of faith for the left. But, he added, “I do not support Medicare for All ” single-payer insurance. Biden embraces some key principles of the Green New Deal sweeping climate plan as paths to “tens of millions of new jobs” but casts as impossible some progressives’ goal of zeroing out carbon pollution over a decade. He's reaffirmed that he wants Republicans’ 2017 tax cuts repealed for the wealthiest individuals and corporations. But he prefers a 28% corporate tax rate – still lower than what it was before the cuts – and he’s not embraced a “wealth tax' on the fortunes of the richest Americans. He opposes the Keystone XL pipeline while stopping short of backing an outright ban on fracking. The coronavirus pandemic has influenced Biden's thinking, as well. Once a senator who championed a balanced budget amendment, he’s aligned with congressional Democrats pushing trillions of dollars in aid for states, local governments, business and individuals. And, adopting the tenor of erstwhile rivals like Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Biden has intensified his calls to rebuild the economy to reflect progressive values, including stamping out income inequalities baked into the pre-pandemic system. Biden aides say he’s uniquely positioned for a wide “Biden coalition” because voters prioritize experience and temperament, along with policy. The campaign defines his coalition as young, African Americans and Latinos, as well as suburban, college-educated whites, women and those disaffected by Trump. “We do not have to make a choice between one group or another group in terms of how we are going to win this,” Biden’s campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said on a recent strategy call. Campaign co-chairman Cedric Richmond said Biden can stitch together otherwise irreconcilable parts of the electorate for one reason: Trump. “We have a president now with no discernible political philosophy other than what benefits him,” said Richmond, a Louisiana congressman. “Even people who are not as progressive (as Biden) and people who are more progressive at least like the consistency of knowing what a person believes in.” Anti-Trump conservatives offer similar sentiments. “We are living right now ... with the damage that can be done when a president is elected and thinks that he only has to answer to his base,” said Jennifer Horn of the Lincoln Project, which has produced online ads to help thwart Trump’s reelection. Even if Biden prevails in November, governing might prove tougher. Republicans who dislike Trump – the kind who cut deals with Sen. Biden or Vice President Biden – aren’t likely to back President Biden's proposed “public option” health insurance expansion when they’ve never embraced the Affordable Care Act. The same goes for tax hikes and mega-spending energy packages the fossil fuel industry opposes. And within Biden’s personal base, labor unions whose jobs are anchored in existing energy markets haven’t embraced the sweeping alternatives. During the primary, Biden told skeptics in his own party he’d work with Republicans “without compromising our values,” but work to “beat them” in the 2022 midterms if that failed. Meanwhile, Weber, the Sunrise activist, argued that despite Biden's embrace of some progressive priorities, “It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.' Tim Miller, a former spokesman for Republican Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign and a steadfast member of the GOP’s “Never Trump” faction, said more 2016 voters in decisive battleground states shunned both Trump and Clinton for center-right alternatives in Libertarian Gary Johnson or Independent Evan McMullen than Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Winning back just that cohort back could be enough to secure Biden to the presidency alone this cycle, he said. “I do think that there’s a concern that if he oversteps, overemphasizes a pivot to the left that could turn off certain voters who are gettable for him,” Miller said. “That’s going to be a continued tightrope through November.” ___ Barrow reported from Atlanta.
  • A Florida law requiring felons to pay legal fees as part of their sentences before regaining the vote is unconstitutional for those unable to pay, or unable to find out how much they owe, a federal judge ruled Sunday. The 125-page ruling was issued by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee. It involves a state law to implement a 2016 ballot measure approved by voters to automatically restore the right to vote for many felons who have completed their sentence. The Republican-led Legislature stipulated that fines and legal fees must be paid as part of the sentence, in addition to serving any prison time. Hinkle has acknowledged he is unlikely to have the last word in the case, expecting the administration of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to launch an appeal. The case could have deep ramifications in the crucial electoral battleground given that Florida has an estimated 774,000 disenfranchised felons who are barred because of financial obligations. Many of those felons are African Americans and presumably Democrats, though it's unclear how that group of Floridians overall would lean politically in an election and how many would vote. The judge called the Florida rules a “pay to vote” system that are unconstitutional when applied to felons “who are otherwise eligible to vote but are genuinely unable to pay the required amount.” A further complication is determining the exact amount in fines and other kinds of legal fees owed by felons seeking the vote — by some estimates it would take elections officials several years for those pending now. Hinkle said it's unconstitutional to bar any voter whose amount owed could not be “determined with diligence.' Hinkle ordered the state to require election officials to allow felons to request an advisory opinion on how much they owe — essentially placing the burden on elections officials to seek that information from court systems. If there's no response within three weeks, then the applicant should not be barred from registering to vote, the ruling said. Hinkle said the requirement to pay fines and restitution as ordered in a sentence is constitutional for those “who are able to pay” — if the amount can be determined. The case, Kelvin Jones vs Ron DeSantis, consolidates five lawsuits filed by advocates of disenfranchised felons, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Brennan Center and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “This is a tremendous victory for voting rights,” Julie Ebenstein, senior staff attorney with ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “The court recognized that conditioning a person’s right to vote on their ability to pay is unconstitutional. This ruling means hundreds of thousands of Floridians will be able to rejoin the electorate and participate in upcoming elections.” The 2018 ballot measure, known as Amendment 4, does not apply to convicted murderers and rapists, who are permanently barred from voting regardless of financial obligations.
  • President Donald Trump on Sunday further limited travel from the world's coronavirus hotspots by denying entry to foreigners coming from Brazil, which is second to the U.S. in the number of confirmed cases. Trump had already banned certain travelers from China, Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland and, to a lesser extent, Iran. He has not moved to ban travel from Russia, which has the world's third-highest caseload. Trump had said last week that he was considering limiting travel from Brazil. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany cast the step announced Sunday as another “decisive action to protect our country” by Trump, whose management of the crisis has come under sharp scrutiny. The U.S. leads the world with more than 1.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and a death toll that is expected to surpass 100,000 later this week, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Brazil, now Latin America's hardest-hit country, is second, with more than 347,000 cases and more than 22,000 deaths. Third on the list is Russia, with more than 344,000 reported cases and more than 3,500 deaths. The White House did not immediately respond to queries about whether a travel ban would be imposed on Russia. “Today's action will help ensure foreign nationals who have been in Brazil do not become a source of additional infections in our country,” McEnany said. Filipe Martins, who advises Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on international affairs, said the U.S. was treating Brazil as it had other populous countries and suggested the news media were overplaying Trump's ban. “By temporarily banning the entry of Brazilians to the U.S., the American government is following previously established quantitative parameters that naturally reach a country as populous as ours,' Martins tweeted. 'There isn’t anything specifically against Brazil. Ignore the hysteria from the press.” Bolsonaro has downplayed the coronavirus by repeatedly calling it a “little flu” and insisting that closing businesses and issuing stay-at-home recommendations will ultimately cause more hardship by wrecking the economy. Bolsonaro fired his first health minister for going against him and backing restrictions put in place by Brazil's governors. His second minister also resigned after openly breaking with Bolsonaro over widespread prescription of the antimalarial drug chloroquine for coronavirus treatment. Trump said in an interview broadcast in the U.S. on Sunday that he had completed a course of a related drug, hydroxychloroquine, as a line of defense against becoming infected. Bolsonaro's approach has mirrored that of Trump, who in the early days of the outbreak sought to downplay the severity and suggest the few cases that existed in the U.S. would “just disappear.” After agreeing to encourage Americans to practice social distancing, Trump began to say the “cure can't be worse than the problem itself.” He has been aggressively pushing governors to allow businesses to reopen and traveling more himself. Meanwhile, the number of cases in Brazil has continued to surge, pushing hospitals in multiple states to the brink of collapse and causing the Amazon city of Manaus to bury people in mass graves. The pace of deaths has been accelerating and, with a peak still approaching, the country has only an interim health minister. Brazil has more than 360,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to health ministry data released Sunday night, meaning it trails only the U.S. in the Johns Hopkins University tally. Experts consider it a vast undercount due to insufficient testing. The ministry reported more than 22,600 deaths. The White House said Sunday it plans to donate 1,000 ventilators to Brazil. The ban on travel from Brazil takes effect late Thursday. As with the other bans, it does not apply to legal permanent residents. A spouse, parent or child of a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident also would be allowed to enter the country. The restrictions also do not apply to trade between the U.S. and Brazil. Earlier Sunday, Robert O'Brien, the U.S. national security adviser, had said an announcement was likely. “We're concerned about the people of the Southern Hemisphere and certainly the people of Brazil. They’re having a rough go of it,” he said on CBS' “Face the Nation.” He said the travel ban would likely be temporary. “But because of the situation in Brazil, we’re going to take every step necessary to protect the American people.” O'Brien said. Data from Brazil’s civil aviation agency shows there has already been a sharp reduction in U.S.-bound flights from the South American country. There were more than 700 flights from Brazil to the U.S. in February of this year, with the number dropping to just 140 in April, two months later. There were more than 700 flights to the U.S. from Brazil in April 2019, the data shows. —- David Biller and Marcelo de Sousa in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report. —- Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap
  • Wendy De Los Santos passed the test to become a U.S. citizen just days before government offices shut down nationwide because of the coronavirus pandemic. In mid-March, officials said they would tell her in a few weeks when she could publicly recite the oath of allegiance, the final step before becoming an American citizen. More than two months later, she’s still waiting. “It is causing some anxiety. It would be nice to finish the process, even if it has to be done virtually,” said De Los Santos, a 38-year-old Boston-area medical assistant originally from the Dominican Republic. “I mean, my daughter is taking classes on Zoom. We’re here. What’s the problem?” While many parts of American life have pivoted online or are beginning to reemerge from weeks of lockdowns, the citizenship process has ground to a halt. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which handles citizenship, visa, refugee and asylum claims, postponed in-person services on Mar. 18, citing concerns about the virus spreading. It's extended the suspension at least through June 3. A limited number of small naturalization ceremonies have taken place, but advocates complain that most aspiring citizens haven’t been told when the final step will happen. Citizenship groups warn the delays threaten to disenfranchise thousands of potential voters in a critical election year. Registration deadlines for primaries are approaching in a number of states, and would-be voters must be citizens when they register or risk facing criminal charges or even deportation, they say. “This is yet another attempt to politicize access to voting,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The final ceremonial step should not be used as a pretext to deny otherwise citizenship-eligible individuals access to the ballot.” USCIS is holding more ceremonies as it becomes better at using new formats, deputy director for policy Joseph Edlow said. But he said federal law requires people to take their oath “publicly” and “in person' and that key parts of the ceremony can't be done virtually, such as collecting permanent resident cards and issuing citizenship certificates. “Naturalizing new United States citizens is a critical benefit we administer at USCIS and we’re working hard to resume that process,' Edlow said in a statement. “However, we will not ignore federal law, which has clear in-person requirements for naturalization, in the name of convenience or expediency.” But federal law also requires citizenship ceremonies be conducted “as frequently as necessary' to “minimize unreasonable delays,” said Chiara St. Pierre, an attorney with the International Institute of New England, which is helping De Los Santos and others waiting to take their oath. President Donald Trump could issue an executive order temporarily easing the in-person requirement or authorizing others to administer the oaths, such as postmasters and notaries public, St. Pierre said. Trump, however, has used his executive powers to push immigration restrictions during the pandemic, including suspending refugee arrivals, halting some visa processing, largely closing the nation’s borders and turning away asylum-seekers. “There are a lot of options for getting this done,” St. Pierre said of citizenship ceremonies. “These people have already been approved to become citizens. It’s almost a technicality.” Complicating matters, USCIS told Congress last week that it needs $1.2 billion in emergency funding and to charge higher fees just to stay afloat. The agency is almost entirely funded by service fees — including the roughly $725 it charges for processing a citizenship application — but that revenue has dried up during the crisis, officials said. The agency declined to say how many people have participated in ceremonies since the pandemic took hold in the U.S. but said at least 85 have been scheduled through June 4 in a dozen cities, including San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Philadelphia and Anchorage, Alaska. In Phoenix this week, about 30 people a day took part in small naturalization ceremonies in the USCIS office parking lot. Donning face masks and waving small American flags, the aspiring citizens recited the oath outside their cars. In York, Pennsylvania, officials last week began administering oaths to about six people at a time on the courthouse steps. USCIS declined to say how many people are waiting, but advocates say it's easily in the hundreds of thousands. The agency approved more than 200,000 people for naturalization from April 1 to June 30 of last year. And in Los Angeles alone, some 10,000 people were slated to be naturalized at the city’s convention center on a single March day before the virus scuttled monthly ceremonies through September. The Democratic-led U.S. House has proposed mandating that USCIS conduct naturalization ceremonies remotely as part of its latest, $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill, though leaders in the Republican-controlled Senate have declared the aid package “dead on arrival.' In the meantime, some advocates are trying to secure emergency oath ceremonies for the neediest families. “It’s triage, really,” said Jacob Benhabib, an attorney for the Boston-based Project Citizenship. “We don’t know how long it will take for USCIS to get through the backlog or in what order they’ll take people, if left to their own devices.” Poe Meh and Pay Reh, an elderly couple in Lowell, Massachusetts who arrived as refugees from Myanmar in 2011, were among those granted a special oath ceremony last week with Benhabib's help. He argued that the couple faced financial disaster if they weren’t naturalized immediately. The couple’s Supplemental Security Income benefits, which provide a few hundred dollars each month for rent and other living costs, expired late last year, and they couldn’t reapply until they became citizens, Benhabib said. They recited the oath last Friday outside the USCIS office in Lawrence, with only an agency representative and security guard present, according to son-in-law Mee Reh, who helped with translation. A day later, with naturalization papers in hand, the couple filed for SSI benefits, their son-in-law said. They're waiting to hear back. “This is a big happiness,” Mee Reh said. “We were worried there would be more difficult times ahead.” ___ Associated Press reporters Amy Taxin in Los Angeles and Ben Fox in Washington contributed to this story.

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  • The parents of Ahmaud Arbery have met with members of the Department of Justice as they investigate why it took so long to make an arrest in the murder case, their legal team said. Arbery, 25, was gunned down Feb. 23 as he went on a run near his home in Brunswick, Georgia. Travis James McMichael, 34, is charged with felony murder and aggravated assault in Arbery’s slaying. His father, Gregory Johns McMichael, 64, is charged as a party to felony murder and aggravated assault. The legal team for Arbery’s family said the meeting with U.S. attorney for Georgia’s Southern District and the family happened late last week, WSB-TV reported. >> Ahmaud Arbery: Gregory and Travis McMichael charged with murder In a statement, the attorneys for Arbery’s parents said, in part: “This would involve the consideration both civil and criminal charges against state officials and conspirators involved in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. We left that meeting feeling satisfied that the DOJ would do their part to fully investigate all players involved in this murder and would hold those responsible accountable.” In a statement, the Department of Justice announced it is looking at federal hate crime charges in the case. “The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia have been supporting and will continue fully to support and participate in the state investigation. We are assessing all of the evidence to determine whether federal hate crimes charges are appropriate. In addition, we are considering the request of the Attorney General of Georgia and have asked that he forward to federal authorities any information that he has about the handling of the investigation. We will continue to assess all information, and we will take any appropriate action that is warranted by the facts and the law.” Video of the shooting was leaked on social media earlier this month, prompting the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to take over the case. Last week, the GBI announced a third arrest in the case against William “Robbie” Bryan, the man who shot the cellphone video showing the shooting that killed Arbery. The GBI charged Bryan with murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. Critics say Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson mishandled the case from the beginning, before recusing herself. But Johnson said she was barely involved because suspect Greg McMichael used to be her chief prosecutor and that her office quickly pulled out of the investigation. But as she heads into a reelection campaign, Johnson now faces many questions and both federal and state investigations. In a recent interview with radio station WIFO-FM, Johnson blamed the Glynn County police for not calling in the GBI sooner and the media for the firestorm around her. “I don't fear the truth; I fear lies,” Johnson said. “We are under a cloud now because of the national media that's based on a lie.” Bryan, along with the McMichaels, remain in jail waiting for a court date to be set for a bond hearing.
  • Twenty hikers were rescued Monday after flash flooding near a swimming hole known as the Devil’s Bathtub in southwestern Virginia, authorities said. The U.S. Forestry Service closed the Devil’s Bathtub Trail for the rest of Monday after the hikers were accounted for shortly after 10 a.m., WJHL reported. According to Duffield Fire Chief Roger Carter, the hikers were rescued on trails around the Devil’s Bathtub after they were trapped by rising waters, ending an ordeal that began Sunday at 7:15 p.m, WCYB reported. “The real challenge is the stream crossings and when you have the water come up very quickly, that’s going to trap people in places where they can’t get out and they can’t get out because the terrain is so steep and in some places, sheer vertical cliffs and then other places, they may end up on an island trapped by water on all sides of them,” Billy Chrimes, Search and Rescue Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, told WJHL. Carter told reporters that one rescued hiker might have a twisted knee, while others have mild cases of hypothermia. Devil’s Bathtub is a naturally occurring swimming hole located in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. The trail leading to it is called Devil’s Fork and is a 7.2-mile round trip, CNN reported.
  • She does not have the moves of her famous father just yet, but 11-month-old Capri Bryant gave it a good try as she made her first uncertain steps. Vanessa Bryant continues to grieve the deaths of her husband and daughter -- NBA legend Kobe Bryant and 13-year-old Gianna Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January -- but there have been some recent happy moments for the family. Vanessa Bryant shared an Instagram video shot over the weekend of the couple’s youngest child, Capri, taking her first steps. “I’m so proud of you!” Vanessa Bryant said in the video. “I knew you were gonna do it!” “My baby!!!! So proud of my Koko Bean,” Vanessa Bryant wrote on Instagram on Monday. “Capri took her first steps from her auntie Sophie to mama today.' Kobe and Gianna Bryant were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, in late January, along with the pilot and six other people.
  • On a day when Americans honor veterans, a Florida man got a double treat -- a parade to honor his military service and his 90th birthday, which fell on Memorial Day this year. Vincent Delmore, who served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, was expecting a quiet birthday since most of his family lives in his native Connecticut, the Naples Daily News reported. Family and friends had different ideas, organizing a parade of patrol cars and friends through his neighborhood. Family members showed up, too. “It was a complete surprise,” Delmore told the Daily News in a telephone call. “I don’t know how many (patrol) cars there were with lights on.” Family members living in Tampa and Orlando made the drive to southwest Florida to visit. It was exciting for the 90-year-old man, who joked about his age to the Daily News. “Make sure not to put my picture in the obituary section,” he told the newspaper.
  • QUICK FACTS:  On a rainy Memorial Day, some families would have considered the movie theater for entertainment. But in Florida, movies theaters cannot fully reopen yet.  A Jacksonville movie theater, Sun-Ray Cinema in Five Points, is offering a new program to continue serving guests.  Watch the video below to learn about the program that allows for a controlled environment, social distancing and entertainment with family and friends.

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