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AP News in Brief at 11:09 p.m. EDT

June 20, 2020 - 8:12 PM

Trump comeback rally features empty seats, staff infections

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — President Donald Trump launched his comeback rally Saturday by defining the upcoming election as a stark choice between national heritage and left-wing radicalism. But his intended show of political force amid a pandemic featured thousands of empty seats and new coronavirus cases on his own campaign staff.

Trump ignored health warnings to hold his first rally in 110 days — one of the largest indoor gatherings in the world during a coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 120,000 Americans and put 40 million out of work. The rally was meant to restart his reelection effort less than five months before the president faces voters again.

“The choice in 2020 is very simple,” Trump said. “Do you want to bow before the left-wing mob, or do you want to stand up tall and proud as Americans?”

Trump unleashed months of pent-up grievances about the coronavirus, which he dubbed the “Kung flu,” a racist term for COVID-19, which originated in China. He also tried to defend his handling of the pandemic, even as cases continue to surge in many states, including Oklahoma.

He complained that robust coronavirus testing was making his record look bad — and suggested the testing effort should slow down.

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Top Manhattan prosecutor leaves job after standoff with Barr

WASHINGTON (AP) — An extraordinary standoff between the Justice Department and Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman ended Saturday when the prosecutor agreed to leave his job with an assurance that his investigations into allies of President Donald Trump would not be disturbed.

The announcement capped two days of conflicting statements, allegations of political interference in prosecutions, and defiance from Berman. On Saturday, Attorney General William Barr said Berman’s refusal to resign under pressure prompted Trump to fire him. Trump tried to distance himself from the dispute, telling reporters the decision “was all up to the attorney general.”

This episode deepened tensions between the Justice Department and congressional Democrats, who have accused Barr of politicizing the agency and acting more like Trump’s personal lawyer than the country’s chief law enforcement officer. It also raised questions about ongoing investigations in the Southern District of New York, most notably a probe into Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney.

Barr set off the whirlwind chain of events on Friday night with a surprise announcement that Berman was resigning, without explanation. But Berman insisted he had not resigned, was not stepping down and his investigations would continue.

On Saturday morning, he showed up to work, telling reporters, “I’m just here to do my job."

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6 staffers setting up for Trump rally positive for COVID-19

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's campaign says six staff members helping set up for his Saturday night rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have tested positive for coronavirus.

The campaign's communications director, Tim Murtaugh, said in a statement that “quarantine procedures” were immediately initiated and no staff member who tested positive would attend the event. He said no one who had immediate contact with those staffers would attend, either.

Murtaugh said campaign staff members are tested for COVID-19 as part of the campaign's safety protocols.

Campaign officials say everyone who is attending the rally will be given temperature checks before they pass through security. They will also be given masks to wear, if they want, and hand sanitizer at the 19,000-seat BOK Center.

The rally was expected to be the largest indoor gathering in the world during the pandemic.

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Judge: Bolton can publish book despite efforts to block it

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former national security adviser John Bolton can move forward in publishing his tell-all book, a federal judge ruled Saturday, despite efforts by the Trump administration to block the release because of concerns that classified information could be exposed.

The decision from U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth is a victory for Bolton in a court case that involved core First Amendment and national security issues, even as the White House pledged to keep pursuing the onetime top aide. And the judge also made clear his concerns that Bolton had taken it upon himself to publish his memoir without formal clearance from a White House that says it was still reviewing it for classified information.

“Defendant Bolton has gambled with the national security of the United States. He has exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability," Lamberth wrote. “But these facts do not control the motion before the Court. The government has failed to establish that an injunction will prevent irreparable harm.”

The White House signalled the legal fight would continue, saying it would try to prevent Bolton from profiting off the book.

President Donald Trump tweeted that Bolton “broke the law by releasing Classified Information (in massive amounts). He must pay a very big price for this, as others have before him. This should never to happen again!!!”

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Statues toppled throughout US in protests against racism

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Protesters tore down more statues across the United States, expanding the razing in a San Francisco park to the writer of America’s national anthem and the general who won the country’s Civil War that ended widespread slavery.

In Seattle, pre-dawn violence erupted Saturday in a protest zone largely abandoned by police, where one person was fatally shot and another critically injured.

On the East Coast, more statues honouring Confederates who tried to break away from the United States more than 150 years ago were toppled.

But several were removed at the order of North Carolina's Democratic governor, who said he was trying to avoid violent clashes or injuries from toppling the heavy monuments erected by white supremacists that he said do not belong in places like the state capitol grounds that are for all people.

The statues are falling amid continuing anti-racism demonstrations following the May 25 police killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, the African American man who died after a white police officers pressed his knee on his neck and whose death galvanized protesters around the globe to rally against police brutality and racism.

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The Latest: Trump tries to tie statue destruction to Dems

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Trump tries to tie destruction of statues to Democrats, including Biden.

— Trump stages comeback rally in less-than-fun arena amid pandemic.

— Memorial to Black Wall Street in Tulsa covered by tarp near Trump rally.

— Trump campaign abruptly cancels outdoor campaign rally.

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The Latest: Coronavirus resurgence continues in South Korea

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea continues to struggle to contain a resurgence in the coronavirus that has seen some of the country’s hard-won pandemic gains erased since social distancing rules were eased in mid-April.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 48 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the national caseload to 12,421 infections, with 280 deaths.

The agency says 24 of the new cases are in the Seoul region, which has been the centre of the country’s outbreak since late May. Ten of the new cases, however, are from the central city of Daejeon, indicating the virus is beginning to spread more broadly.

Some experts say the country should reimpose stronger social distancing guidelines, but officials are reluctant to do so in fear of hurting an already fragile economy.

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Cobain 'MTV Unplugged' guitar sells for sky-high $6 million

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Grunge became gold Saturday as the guitar Kurt Cobain played on Nirvana's 1993 “MTV Unplugged” performance months before his death sold for an eye-popping $6 million at auction.

The 1959 Martin D-18E that Cobain played in the band's rare acoustic performance and subsequent live album was sold to Australian Peter Freedman, owner of Røde Microphones, at the Music Icons event run by Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills, California.

The bids opened at $1 million for the sale that ended up breaking several world records.

Cobain used it to play tunes including “About a Girl” and “All Apologies” at the Nov. 18, 1993, show in New York that came less than five months before the singer and songwriter died at age 27.

A day earlier at the same auction event, a custom guitar played by Prince at the height of his stardom in the 1980s and 1990s sold for $563,500, a small sum compared with the Cobain guitar but well over the $100,000 to $200,000 it was expected to fetch.

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Owner of Eskimo Pie to change its 'derogatory' name

NEW YORK (AP) — The owner of Eskimo Pie is changing its name and marketing of the nearly century-old chocolate-covered ice cream bar, the latest brand to reckon with racially charged logos and marketing.

“We are committed to being a part of the solution on racial equality, and recognize the term is derogatory," said Elizabell Marquez, head of marketing for its parent Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, the U.S. subsidiary for Froneri, in a statement. “This move is part of a larger review to ensure our company and brands reflect our people values.”

The treat was patented by Christian Kent Nelson of Ohio and his business partner Russell C. Stover in 1922, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

Eskimo Pie joins a growing list of brands that are rethinking their marketing in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in recent weeks triggered by the death of George Floyd. Quaker Oats announced Wednesday that it will retire the Aunt Jemima brand, saying the company recognizes the character’s origins are “based on a racial stereotype."

Other companies are reviewing their name or logo. Geechie Boy Mill, a family-owned operation in South Carolina that makes locally-grown and milled white grits, said Wednesday it is “listening and reviewing our overall branding,” though no decisions have been made. Geechie is a dialect spoken mainly by the descendants of African American slaves who settled on the Ogeechee River in Georgia, according to Merriam-Webster.com.

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Shooting in Seattle protest zone leaves 1 dead, 1 injured

SEATTLE (AP) — A pre-dawn shooting in a park in Seattle's protest zone killed a 19-year-old man and critically injured another person, authorities said Saturday.

The shooting happened about 2:30 a.m. in the area near the city's downtown that is known as CHOP, which stands for “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest," police said.

Officers responding to the shooting initially said they had trouble getting to the scene because they were "were met by a violent crowd that prevented officers safe access to the victims,” police said on their blog. Video released later in the day by the Seattle Police appears to show officers arriving at the protest zone saying they want to get to the victim and entering as people yell at them that the victim is already gone.

Two males with gunshot wounds arrived in private vehicles at Harborview Medical Center about 3 a.m., hospital spokesperson Susan Gregg said. The 19-year-old man died, and the other person was in critical condition in the intensive care unit.

The suspect or suspects fled. Investigators had no description of the shooter or shooters as of Saturday afternoon, police said.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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