On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

cloudy-day
77°
Showers
H 82° L 74°
  • cloudy-day
    77°
    Current Conditions
    Showers. H 82° L 74°
  • rain-day
    81°
    Afternoon
    Showers. H 82° L 74°
  • rain-day
    80°
    Evening
    Showers. H 82° L 74°
Listen
Pause
Error

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

The Latest Political Headlines

    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 booked back-to-back Memorial Day appearances despite the coronavirus pandemic, at Arlington National Cemetery and at a historic fort in Baltimore. Trump recently called Baltimore a “rat and rodent infested mess,” and its mayor has suggested Trump stay home. Presidents typically honor fallen military members by laying a wreath and delivering a speech at the hallowed burial ground in Virginia. But the pandemic, which is expected to claim its 100,000th American this week, has led to changes this year. Trump will only lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He is expected to speak later at Baltimore's Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. It's where a poem, written after a huge American flag was hoisted to celebrate an important victory over the British during the War of 1812, became “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Trump has been steadily ramping up his schedule in an effort to portray the nation as returning to its pre-pandemic ways as it emerges from a devastating economic shutdown intended to slow the virus. The U.S. leads the world with more than 1.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 97,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. This month, Trump has toured factories in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Michigan that make pandemic supplies. He planned 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. Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young has criticized Trump's visit, saying the trip sends the wrong message about stay-at-home directives and that the city cannot afford the added cost of a presidential visit at a time when it is losing $20 million a month because of the pandemic. “That President Trump is deciding to pursue nonessential travel sends the wrong message to our residents,' Young, a Democrat, said in a statement last week. He referenced 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. The White House sounded unmoved. “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 will visit Baltimore just over a week after Maryland began to lift some of the restrictions it had put in place for the coronavirus, though they remain in effect in Baltimore. Baltimore and the Washington, D.C., area have the nation’s highest percentages of positive cases, according to Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force. 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 from a few blocks away. Trump did not visit any Baltimore neighborhoods. ___ 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 at the end of March, a 60-day “special enrollment” period for individual coverage under the ACA closes next week 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.
  • President Donald Trump has a new pitch to voters for this fall: Trust me. As the economy faces a once-in-a-century recession, with more than 38 million people out of work, Trump is increasingly talking up a future recovery that probably won't materialize until after the November election. He's asking voters to look past the pain being felt across the nation and give him another four-year term on the promise of an economic comeback in 2021. “It’s a transition to greatness,” Trump says over and over, predicting a burgeoning economy come the fall. “You’re going to see some great numbers in the fourth quarter, and you’re going to end up doing a great year next year.' His chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, echoes the wait-until-next-year sentiment, holding out hope for a “big bang 2021.” It's a delayed-reward tactic Trump was using long before the global pandemic gut-punched the country. He has turned to it with new urgency as the coronavirus has robbed him of the booming economy that was to be the core of his reelection message. Trump had already pledged to finally release a Republican health care plan after the polls closed — despite having served more than three years in office — along with a postelection tax cut and a “Phase 2” trade deal with China. Now, Trump is making the case to voters that if he helped bolster the economy once, he can do it again. “We built the greatest economy in the world,' Trump says frequently. 'I’ll do it a second time.” It's not just next year that will be a mystery to voters on Election Day. Trump and his team have been talking up the fourth quarter — October through December — but economic reports on that period won't be released until 2021. Preliminary figures for the third quarter will be released Oct. 29, days before the Nov. 3 election. And unemployment could still be in double-digit territory by Election Day, White House economist Kevin Hassett and Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston said in television interviews Sunday. “Unfortunately, I think it's likely to be double-digit unemployment through the end of this year,” Rosengren told CBS' “Face the Nation.” To bring back the low jobless levels seen at the end of last February, he said it would probably take a vaccine or “other medical innovations that make it much less risky to go out.' Still, Trump and his campaign are hoping they can convince the public that Trump, not Democrat Joe Biden, is the candidate who can turn things around, even as they push the recovery timeline into next year. “The president has a clear record of building the economy to unprecedented heights before it was artificially interrupted by the coronavirus, and they know he will build it a second time,” said Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh. Economists, however, warn that the “snap back” Trump's advisers have been talking up is unlikely, given the severity of the recession. It will take years for the economy to recover, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Polling data suggests Trump has some work to do to persuade Americans that all will be well next year. Americans are split on whether they think the economy will improve (41%) or worsen (40%) over the coming year, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Their opinions differ based on their politics. A majority of Republicans (62%) think the economy will get better in the coming year, while a majority of Democrats (56%) think it will get worse. The poll finds that only 49% of Americans now approve of how Trump is handling the economy, compared with 56% in March, though the numbers remain split largely on party lines. While a majority of Americans in households that lost a job do think it’s at least probable that the job will return, 70% now describe the state of the nation’s economy as poor, versus just 29% who say it’s good — down from 67% in January. Trump has been encouraging states to begin easing restrictions and reopening their economies. But that doesn't necessarily mean jobs will return. While most of those who say they got a haircut at least monthly before the outbreak or shopped regularly in person for nonessential items would definitely or probably do so in the next few weeks if they were allowed, Americans may be wary to return to life as normal. Only about half of those who did so at least monthly before the outbreak say they’d travel, go to bars and restaurants, use public transportation, or exercise at a gym or studio. Just 42% of those who went to concerts, movies, or theater or sporting events at least monthly say they’d do so in the next few weeks if they could. Still, the poll shows that 66% of Americans continue to say that their personal financial situation is good — a number that has remained steady since before the outbreak began. Americans are also more likely to expect their personal finances to improve than worsen in the next year, 37% to 17%. In the end, that's what is going to matter most, said Michael Steel, a Republican political strategist. “This election will turn on facts more than messages,' he said. 'The president is placing a bet by reopening the economy before public health officials believe it is safe. If the economy recovers sharply and infection rates remain steady or go down, then voters will reward his boldness, but if we continue to see massive unemployment and a spike in new infections and deaths, all the political wordsmithery the world will offer won’t help him.” ___ AP Director of Public Opinion Research Emily Swanson contributed to this report.
  • Former U.S. Rep. Allen West of Florida was injured in a motorcycle crash Saturday in Texas. The former congressman was in stable condition after having been airlifted to a hospital, according to a Saturday night post on West’s Facebook page. The Facebook post said West was on his motorcycle when a car cut him off, causing him to collide with another motorcyclist. West’s wife, Angela Graham-West, earlier wrote on Facebook that the crash occurred outside Waco. The Dallas Morning News reported that West attended a rally Saturday morning at the Texas Capitol that was focused on reopening the state amid the coronavirus pandemic. Former state Sen. Don Huffines told the newspaper West got in the accident on the way back from the rally. West, a Republican, moved from Florida to Texas after leaving Congress in 2013. He served one term and once called for then-President Barack Obama’s impeachment. West is running for chair of the Republican Party of Texas.
  • The founder of a Kansas City-area plumbing company who is running for an open U.S. Senate seat in Kansas acknowledged Saturday that he would love to have a highly coveted seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee but doesn't know how he'd go about getting it. The question to Bob Hamilton and four other Republicans during a debate was a natural one, given the importance of farm policy to Kansas and the fact that retiring GOP Sen. Pat Roberts has served as chairman of both the Senate and House agriculture committees. “I am an outsider, and you’ve just got to show me how to do that,” said Hamilton, who was participating in his first debate in Manhattan, home to the Kansas Farm Bureau’s headquarters and the state’s only agriculture college at Kansas State University. Republicans both in Kansas and Washington are watching to see whether the 60-year-old Hamilton's late-entry candidacy takes off in what had seemed increasingly like a two-person primary race between U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall of western Kansas and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, nationally known for advocating tough immigration policies. Hamilton opened by saying that Republicans watching the livestream of the audience-less event didn't know much about him, though he's been running television ads for weeks. He sometimes seemed to search for words and phrases and focused on broad themes as other candidates touched on policy specifics. “Finding the words and that kind of thing, you know, I’ll get better at that, and I don’t ever want to be a professional politician,” he said after the debate. “I want to be the guy who will help fix problems.” Hamilton was able to match Marshall's $2 million-plus in fundraising by the end of March with his own money. The possibility that he could self-fund a campaign — and a flood of ads telling his story as someone who with his wife raised 12 children while building a company from scratch — have caught many Republicans' attention. Many Republicans are nervous about Kobach winning the GOP nomination because he alienated moderate voters in the 2018 governor's race and lost to Democrat Laura Kelly after emerging from another crowded GOP field. With the GOP worried about keeping its U.S. Senate majority, the party doesn't need a money-pit race in Kansas when Republicans have won every U.S. Senate race there since 1932. Hamilton's story seems designed to appeal to President Donald Trump's base, just as Trump's business credentials and outsider status did in 2016. The Hamiltons started their plumbing company in 1983, from nothing, he says, with him making the calls and his wife answering the phone. He eventually had about 160 employees and sold the firm in 2017, though it still carries his name and appears in ads. There are plenty of skeptics. Kansas Republican Party Chairman Mike Kuckelman said said Hamilton has a “bright future” but that “I don’t think this race is the right race for him to be starting in.” Kuckelman has sought to narrow the field before the June 1 candidate filing deadline, including by urging state Senate President Susan Wagle and Dave Lindstrom, a Kansas City-area businessman and former Kansas City Chiefs professional football player, to drop out. Marshall touted his work on the House Agriculture Committee in four years in Congress and endorsements from the Kansas Farm Bureau and Kansas Livestock Association. Kobach noted that he has been an informal adviser to Trump and promised to push the president's immigration agenda. Wagle and touted a long list of initiatives from her nearly three decades in the Legislature that she said show she can deliver. Lindstrom also described himself as a businessman-outsider, but he has served on an elected community college board and the Kansas Turnpike Authority. He also was the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor in 2002. For his part, Hamilton said he wasn't intimidated during his first debate. Asked whether someone with no experience in politics could handle work in Washington — just as he perhaps wouldn't send someone with no training to fix a sink — he didn't hesitate. “I guess we can ask President Trump how he did it,” Hamilton said. “Politics and problems — it's not rocket science. We need business people that actually know how to fix problems to get up there and fix problems.” ____ Editors: This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of the Kansas GOP chairman’s last name in the second reference to him, to Kuckelman. ____ Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna

The Latest News Headlines

  • A Pennsylvania man is behind bars after police said he raped a 6-year-old girl, who then contracted a sexually transmitted disease. According to PennLive.com and NorthCentralPa.com, authorities charged Daniel Prieto, 38, of Williamsport, with child rape, statutory sexual assault and other child sex crimes last week after investigators said he 'engaged in at least three separate sexual acts' with the girl. Prieto, who was arrested Thursday, told police that he'd had sexual intercourse and oral sex with the victim, the news outlets reported. In an interview with investigators, the girl's mother, who had been in a sexual relationship with Prieto, said she and her daughter both tested positive for gonorrhea, PennLive.com reported. The woman said Prieto had been her only sexual partner for years, according to police. Prieto, who is being held in the Lycoming County Prison, was denied bail at a preliminary arraignment, the news outlets reported. Read more here or here.
  • More than 5.4 million people worldwide – including at least 1.6 million in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. While efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak continue, states have begun to shift their focus toward reopening their economies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Monday, May 25, continue below: Florida reports lowest number of daily deaths since late March Update 5:04 a.m. EDT May 25: Florida health officials on Sunday reported five new coronavirus-related deaths statewide since Saturday – the lowest day-to-day increase since March 29, records show. According to Orlando’s WFTV, officials also reported 740 additional cases of the virus statewide since Saturday. As of Sunday, the total number of cases in the state was at 50,867, with 2,237 deaths. Read more here. ‘Person of interest’ identified in bias crimes against Asians in Seattle Update 3 a.m. EDT May 25: Police in Seattle are investigating a growing number of crimes targeting Asians during the outbreak. Seattle officers said the attacks started late Saturday afternoon in the heart of Ballard and moved to Golden Gardens Park. They believe one man is responsible for all the incidents. A victim at Golden Gardens Park said the man spat in his face. The workers at Thai Thani Restaurant said the man threw things at them while demanding to know if they are Chinese. “I hear some noise, and I see some guy angry, yelling,' Umboom Moore told Seattle’s KIRO-TV. That was the first time she knew something unusual was happening Saturday night at the restaurant where she works. “Just like some crazy guy,” she said. “So I just started taking pictures.” Her co-worker, Natthiya Chumdee, said he was yelling at her. “Right over there, he smashed the window,” she said. When he asked if she is Chinese, she told him everyone there is Thai. He asked her to kneel and swear to it. “Well, I’m not going to do that,” she said. “He’s starting [to] lose control. And he comes here, and he says, ‘You know, I’m going to slam the door, this table to you.’” The night before, Tonya McCabe got the brunt of his anger. “He said, ‘Are you Chinese?’” she said. “And I said, ‘No, we’re not.’ And he still kept yelling at us. And I said, ‘If you’re not going to leave, I’m going to call 911.’ And then he said, ‘Better [expletive] call 911.’” Just last week, a man was captured on camera shoving an Asian couple as they walked by. They told Seattle police he spat on them, too. The man in these latest attacks is described as white, 5 feet, 10 inches tall, in his mid-20s to mid-30s and is of a muscular build. He was wearing a white shirt and shorts. It is the same suspect description in two attacks at Golden Gardens Park on Saturday night. “I stand back there, and ... yell to him, ‘Get out, leave!’” said McCabe. It has McCabe and the others working at this restaurant finding a different way to get around this city that is now their home. “I’m afraid to like walk on the street or take a bus,” said McCabe. They told KIRO that the man also approached other Asian-owned businesses in the area before apparently heading to Golden Gardens Park. Anyone who recognizes him is asked to call Seattle police. 17-year-old Georgia boy becomes youngest in state to die from COVID-19 Update 2:24 a.m. EDT May 25: The Georgia Department of Public Health said Sunday that a 17-year-old boy has died of the coronavirus, marking the youngest fatality and first pediatric death in the state. Nancy Nydam with the department confirmed the information to Atlanta’s WSB-TV on Sunday. The teen was from Fulton County and had an underlying condition, according to officials. His identity has not been released. More than 1,800 people have died of COVID-19 in Georgia since the outbreak began, with the median age of deaths at 73.6 years old, according to the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of COVID-19 in children have typically been less severe, though there has been growing concern and a new warning about a rare condition recently seen in dozens of children nationwide. A spokesperson for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta confirmed that a team of infectious disease and cardiology experts are evaluating several cases in metro Atlanta of children who exhibited Kawasaki-like symptoms and inflammation. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta physician specialists stressed that it appears to be a rare finding with a low rate in Georgia. New York health officials have already issued a warning about a rare inflammatory syndrome that has infected at least 64 children in that state. A spokesperson for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta said they have experts for treating the symptoms regardless of a potential link to COVID-19. Families should contact their doctor or visit an emergency room if their child develops signs of illness such as high fever, rash, red eyes, abdominal pain and swelling of the face, hands or feet. US coronavirus cases top 1.6M, deaths near 98K Published 12:43 a.m. EDT May 25: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States surged past 1.6 million early Monday across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to a Johns Hopkins University tally, there are at least 1,643,238 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 97,720 deaths. The hardest-hit states remain New York, with 361,515 cases and 29,141 deaths, and New Jersey, with 154,154 cases and 11,138 deaths. Massachusetts, with 92,675 cases, has the third-highest number of deaths with 6,372, while Illinois has the third-highest number of cases with 110,304. Only 16 states and territories have confirmed fewer than 5,000 cases each. Seven other states have now confirmed at least 42,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • California: 94,020 cases, resulting in 3,754 deaths • Pennsylvania: 71,563 cases, resulting in 5,136 deaths • Texas: 55,861 cases, resulting in 1,528 deaths • Michigan: 54,679 cases, resulting in 5,228 deaths • Florida: 50,867 cases, resulting in 2,237 deaths • Maryland: 46,313 cases, resulting in 2,277 deaths • Georgia: 42,902 cases, resulting in 1,827 deaths Meanwhile, Connecticut has confirmed at least 40,468 cases; Louisiana, Virginia, Ohio and Indiana each has confirmed at least 31,000 cases; Colorado, North Carolina, Minnesota and Tennessee each has confirmed more than 20,000 cases; Washington, Iowa, Arizona and Wisconsin each has confirmed at least 15,000 cases; Alabama and Rhode Island each has confirmed more than 14,000 cases; Mississippi, Missouri and Nebraska each has confirmed at least 12,000 cases; South Carolina has confirmed at least 10,000 cases; Kansas, Delaware, Kentucky, Utah and the District of Columbia each has confirmed at least 8,000 cases, followed by Nevada with more than 7,000; New Mexico and Oklahoma each has confirmed at least 6,000 cases, followed by Arkansas with more than 5,000; South Dakota and New Hampshire each has confirmed at least 4,000 cases; and Oregon and Puerto Rico each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown.
  • A South Carolina soldier has died in Afghanistan, WPDE reported. The U.S. Department of Defense announced Thursday that 25-year-old 1st Lt. Trevarius Ravon Bowman of Spartanburg died May 19 at Bagram Air Force Base. He died in a non-combat-related incident. A department news release said the incident is under investigation but didn’t provide details. Bowman was in Afghanistan supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. He was assigned to a unit attached to the 228th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade of the South Carolina National Guard. “It is with heavy hearts and deepest condolences that we announce the passing of 1st Lt. Trevarius Bowman. This is never an outcome we as soldiers, leaders and family members wish to experience,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Van McCarty, the adjutant general for South Carolina. “Please keep the service members in his unit in your thoughts and prayers, as well as his family as they work through this difficult time.”
  • The Republican National Committee and other conservative groups filed a lawsuit Sunday to stop California from mailing ballots to all voters ahead of the November general election. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced earlier this month that the state would mail all registered voters a ballot, while in-person voting would still remain an option, CNN reported. 'Democrats continue to use this pandemic as a ploy to implement their partisan election agenda, and Gov. Newsom's executive order is the latest direct assault on the integrity of our elections,' RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement, CNN reported. The lawsuit, filed by the RNC, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the California Republican Party challenges the expansion of absentee voting. '(It) violates eligible citizens' right to vote,' the lawsuit claims. '(And) invites fraud, coercion, theft, and otherwise illegitimate voting.' State officials stand by the move. “California will not force voters to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “We are meeting our obligation to provide an accessible, secure and safe election this November. Sending every registered voter a ballot by mail is smart policy and absolutely the right thing to do during this COVID-19 pandemic.” The lawsuit is one of nearly a dozen across the country challenging Democrat-led vote-by-mail expansion. The RNC has pored $20 million into the nationwide legal effort, CNN reported. Some states, including Republican-heavy Utah, already conduct their elections completely by mail. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud linked to voting-by-mail, CNN reported.
  • Thousands of convicted felons will be eligible to vote in Florida after a federal court ruled that a law that created wealth-based hurdles to voting is unconstitutional. The law, SB 7066, required people with past convictions to pay all outstanding legal fees, costs, fines and restitution before regaining their right to vote. The law undermined Floridians’ 2018 passage of Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to more than a million people who completed the terms of their sentence, including parole or probation. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle found that conditioning voting on payment of legal financial obligations a person is unable to pay violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment by discriminating on the basis of wealth. He said that requiring the payment of costs and fees violates the 24th Amendment, which prohibits poll taxes and violates the National Voter Registration Act. “This is a historic win for voting rights. Judge Hinkle told the state of Florida what the rest of America already knows. You can’t make wealth a prerequisite for voting. This ruling opens the way for hundreds of thousands of Floridians to exercise their fundamental right to vote this November, and our democracy will be stronger for their participation,' said Sean Morales-Doyle, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice.

The Latest News Videos