A Supreme Court announcement packed with Covid-19 red flags

The flags are so red they might as well be wailing like sirens.

As more people in and around the White House test positive for the virus that causes Covid-19, no event is being more scrutinized than the Rose Garden event last Saturday, where President Trump announced the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. That gathering, as videos and photos of it make clear, violated so many of the recommendations that everyone else has been told to adopt this year.

There’s Mike Lee, the Republican senator from Utah, hugging people. There’s former White House aide Kellyanne Conway having close conversations with others. There are more than 150 people, most maskless, sitting crowded in together and glad-handing. Some of them, like University of Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins, traveled there from other places and would return back to their communities.

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Five to six days later, those three, along with the president, first lady Melania Trump, and Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, were attendees all diagnosed with Covid-19 — a time frame that fits with how long it takes for the virus to build up enough in someone’s system to the point that it can cause symptoms and be detected by tests.

As public health sleuths investigate how and when the pathogen infiltrated the inner circle of U.S. leadership, the Barrett event offers a case study in what experts say has been the administration’s recklessness over the months in creating settings that could abet the spread of SARS-CoV-2, including other White House events and campaign rallies. It underscores the limitations of the White House’s strategy of largely relying on testing to create a sense of security around the president without embracing other safety measures. In a way, experts said, the fact that a president who has dismissed the seriousness of the pandemic and mocked certain precautions contracted the coronavirus felt like it was his administration’s laxness catching up to him.

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“Why are we having SCOTUS nominations in person?” said Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “These in-person, especially indoor events, but even outdoor events, should not be taking place, especially not from our leaders who are trying to set good examples for this, or who should be trying to set good examples.”

He added: “This is just befuddling and dumbfounding how they are not taking this seriously and being the leaders that they should be.”

The actual announcement of Barrett took place outside in the Rose Garden, but there were also gatherings inside the White House that day. It’s not clear who was inside with whom and for how long. And while experts say that staying outdoors or at least in well-ventilated areas is safer than packing into stuffy rooms, other precautions — like masks and distancing and limiting the size of gatherings — are emphasized as ways to reduce the risk of transmission.

“If you’re outdoors and you’re sitting next to people for an hour, and

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Biden says Senate should wait to replace Ginsburg, Trump lowers flags at White House

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden both offered condolences after the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday after a battle with cancer.

Biden, who called her “unflinching” and a “consistent and reliable” jurist who cared about every American’s civil rights, said in brief remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, on Friday night that her replacement should not come until after the election, despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., calling for a hearing and a vote.

“Her opinions and her dissent are going to continue to shape the basis for our law for a generation. And, you know, tonight and the coming days, we should focus on the loss of the justice, and her enduring legacy,” he said. “But there is no doubt, let me be clear, that the voters should pick a president, the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider. “

During Barack Obama’s presidency, there was a political controversy when he nominated federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland after the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative jurist, in 2016 and McConnell refused to allow a hearing citing an election year.

Later Friday night, Biden tweeted a statement on Ginsburg, describing her as an “American hero.”

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg stood for all of us. She was an American hero, a giant of legal doctrine, and a relentless voice in the pursuit of that highest American ideal: Equal Justice Under Law. May her memory be a blessing to all people who cherish our Constitution and its promise,” Biden said.

Ginsburg’s death is likely to set off a fierce political battle between Republicans and Democrats over filling her seat on the nine-person Supreme Court, which already has a conservative majority.

Trump, who held a campaign rally in Bemidji, Minnesota, told reporters after the event that he was stunned to hear about her passing.

“She led an amazing life. What else can you say? She was an amazing woman, whether you agreed or not, she was an amazing woman who led an amazing life,” Trump told reporters. “I’m actually saddened to hear that. I am saddened to hear that.”

Trump also tweeted out a more complete statement on her passing Friday night, calling her a “titan of the law.”

“A fighter to the end, Justice Ginsburg battled cancer, and other very long odds, throughout her remarkable life. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ginsburg family and their loved ones during this difficult time,” Trump said in the statement. “May her memory be a great and magnificent blessing to

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Dems claim POW/MIA flag’s move from atop White House to on-site memorial dishonors troops

President Trump is under fire this week from Democrats who claim he’s disrespected veterans by moving a POW/MIA flag from atop the White House to an on-site memorial.

At issue is the implementation of S.693 — the National POW/MIA Flag Act — which was signed into law in November and increases the frequency and locations the POW/MIA flag is flown on federal properties.

Bill sponsor Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other colleagues signed a letter framing the move as a sign of disrespect toward the military community.

“This decision to abruptly move the POW/MIA Flag from atop the White House to an area that is apparently not visible to the public may violate federal law and does not appropriately honor the service and sacrifices of American prisoners of war, missing servicemembers, and their families,” the letter read, Reuters reported Friday.

Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, a co-sponsor of the bill, also lambasted the decision.

“It’s part of a pattern of disrespect by President Trump toward those who honorably served our nation,” the Democrat said.

Their protest comes in the wake of an Atlantic article in which an anonymous source claimed Mr. Trump called fallen military personnel “losers” and “suckers.”

The president has denied the claims.

Multiple witnesses to the alleged conversation — including former national security adviser John Bolton — have publicly rejected the story.

“President Trump dedicated a POW/MIA memorial site earlier this year on the White House grounds to forever remember our heroic service members who were prisoners of war or missing in action,” White House spokesman Judd Deere told Reuters. “The president selected a site on the Southwest corner of the South Lawn for this prominent and sacred memorial, which is visible to all those who visit the White House, that features the POW/MIA flag.”

Mr. Trump also proclaimed Sept. 20 to be National POW/MIA Recognition Day last year.

“My Administration is dedicated to locating and identifying the more than 81,000 American service members unaccounted for — many of whom were former prisoners of war — to help alleviate the grieving and prolonged uncertainty of their families,” he wrote. “We vow to pursue the fullest possible accounting of these gallant patriots.”

“I call upon the people of the United States to join me in saluting all American POWs and those missing in action who valiantly served our country,” he continued. “I call upon Federal, State, and local government officials and private organizations to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

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