John Bolton calls Trump incompetent as president plans Phoenix speech amid pandemic – live

John Bolton calls Trump incompetent as president plans Phoenix speech amid pandemic – live

20:03

Evening Summary

That’s all from me for today. Here’s a rundown of the day’s biggest news in US politics, coronavirus and protest.

  • Trump issued a proclamation suspending a number of employment-based visas through the end of the year. The suspension covers visas for highly skilled workers, seasonal non-agricultural workers, cultural exchanges, and executives of multinational companies, as well as their dependents. Business and tech leaders lambasted the measure.
  • Coronavirus cases continued to surge in areas of the South and West, prompting concern from health officials. Arizona, Florida, Louisiana and Texas are among the states seeing climbing infection and hospitalization rates.
  • The US death toll from Covid-19 surpassed 120,000.
  • Two more Trump campaign staffers tested positive for coronavirus. The two staffers attended the president’s Saturday rally in Tulsa, although the campaign said they wore masks during the event. The news comes two days after six other members of the campaign’s advance team tested positive before the rally.
  • The White House defended Trump’s use of a racist slur to describe coronavirus. Pressed on why he referred to the virus as “kung flu,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, “I think the media is trying to play games with the terminology of this virus.”
  • Trump dodged a question about whether he ordered coronavirus testing to be slowed, as he claimed during his Tulsa rally on Saturday. “If it did slow down, frankly, I think we’re way ahead of ourselves, if you want to know the truth. We’ve done too good a job,” the president said in an interview today. The comment appeared to be at odds with his advisers’ claims that he was joking about slowing testing.
  • Joe Biden committed to participating in the three already-planned debates against Trump. The president initially indicated he may not participate in any debates, but his campaign has recently been pushing for an extended debate schedule.
  • A US army private was charged with conspiring with a British neo-Nazi group to attack and kill members of his own unit. The private, Ethan Melzer, provided information on his unit’s location to members of the occultist and white supremacist group Order of the Nine Angles in the hopes of facilitating a “mass casualty” attack.

You can find our continuing coverage of the global coronavirus pandemic here:

19:40

In case you saw Donald Trump’s tweets baselessly asserting that foreign governments will use mail-in ballots to “rig” the November election, the Guardian’s voting rights reporter Sam Levine has a report on the actual facts:


Many election offices have systems in place to closely track mail-in ballots and have other methods of verifying the identity of a voter such as comparing the signature on the ballot to ones on file.

“There are many checks and balances in place to ensure that nobody could just print ‘millions’ of ballots and vote them,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, who works with election officials across the country.

“We have decades of experience enforcing these security measures, including during world war II, confirming the integrity of mail voting. That’s why election officials from both parties, including most Republicans, promote mail voting and vote by mail themselves.”

Read the full story here:

19:12

The US Chamber of Commerce is also opposing Trump’s limitations on visas.

CEO Thomas J Donohue issued the following statement:


Today’s proclamation is a severe and sweeping attempt to restrict legal immigration. Putting up a ‘not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other workers won’t help our country, it will hold us back. Restrictive changes to our nation’s immigration system will push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth, and reduce job creation.

We are fighting for more investment and more growth in America because that means more jobs, and today that fight takes on a new level of urgency. We have long advocated for a rational immigration system that meets the needs of our economy and reflects the values of our country. Today’s proclamation serves neither of those interests. The US Chamber will continue to strongly advocate for an immigration system that serves the interests of all Americans.”

19:05

Here’s an estimate from the Migration Policy Institute of the number of people likely to be affected by Trump’s new proclamation limiting visas:

MigrationPolicy Inst
(@MigrationPolicy)

With Trump proclamation out, which outlines exemptions for some J-1 visa categories, the administration will not permit entry for temporary workers & their dependents in these visa categories pic.twitter.com/RU172LT9El

June 22, 2020

H-1B visas, which permit employers to hire foreign workers with specialized knowledge, are especially popular in the tech industry. H-2B visas are for temporary non-agricultural workers, and are often used in the hospitality or landscaping industries.

The proclamation also affects non-immigrant visas. The J-1 visa program is designed to promote cultural exchange, and is often used by visiting professors or scholars. L-1 visas are used by multi-national corporations to transfer in executives or managers.

18:44

Tech companies criticize executive order limiting visas

Amazon, Google and Twitter have come out with a strong statement opposing the Trump administration’s latest move to limit immigration, which includes a suspension of H-1B visas, which are widely used by the tech industry.

Amazon appears to have been first out of the gate with a statement:



We oppose the Administration’s short-sighted action. Preventing high skilled professionals from entering the country and contributing to America’s economic recovery puts American’s global competitiveness at risk. The value of high-skilled visa programs is clear, and we are grateful for the many Amazon employees from around the world that have come to the US to innovate new products and services for our customers. Welcoming the best and the brightest global talent to the US is more important than ever, and we will continue to support efforts that will preserve their ability to strengthen our economy.”

Followed by Google chief executive Sundar Pichai:

Sundar Pichai
(@sundarpichai)

Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today. Disappointed by today’s proclamation – we’ll continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all.

June 22, 2020

And Twitter VP for public policy and philanthropy, Jessica Herrera-Flanigan:

Twitter Public Policy
(@Policy)

“Unilaterally and unnecessarily stifling America’s attractiveness to global, high-skilled talent is short-sighted and deeply damaging to the economic strength of the United States.” —@jesirae

June 22, 2020

18:23

The US State Department muted the line of a reporter asking a question about John Bolton’s book during a phone briefing on press freedom, Politico reports.

Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus was taking questions about the government’s designation of four new Chinese news outlets as “foreign missions” (ie state propaganda) when a reporter for Reuters asked whether US allies in Asia had been in contact about revelations in the former national security adviser’s book, according to the report.

“That’s not what this call is about,” Ortagus said. When the reporter attempted to continue his question, she added: ““AT&T, we can mute that line.”

CBS News state department reporter Christina Ruffini called out the hypocrisy on Twitter:

Christina Ruffini
(@EenaRuffini)

A/S David Stilwell: “Secretary of State Pompeo has made clear that mature, responsible countries understand that a free press is essential, which is while I’m talking to you all.”

ON THE SAME CALL, A REPORTERS LINE WAS MUTED WHEN HE TRIED TO ASK A Q RELATED TO THE BOLTON BOOK. https://t.co/EMADsM1f8k

June 22, 2020

17:51

DOJ says US Army soldier linked to British neo-Nazi group was planning ambush on own unit

A US Army soldier was plotting with an occultist neo-Nazi group to attack and kill members of his own unit, according to a newly unsealed indictment by the Justice department.

Ethan Melzer, a 22-year old army private from Louisville, Kentucky, has been charged with conspiring and attempting to murder US nationals, conspiring and attempting to murder military service members, providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists, and conspiring to murder and maim in a foreign country, the DOJ announced.

“As alleged, Ethan Melzer, a private in the US Army, was the enemy within,” said acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss in a statement. “Melzer allegedly attempted to orchestrate a murderous ambush on his own unit by unlawfully revealing its location, strength, and armaments to a neo-Nazi, anarchist, white supremacist group.

(Strauss succeeded Geoffrey Berman in the office over the weekend, after Berman was pushed out by the attorney general Bill Barr and Donald Trump.)

Melzer was a member of the Order of the Nine Angles (O9A), a group whose members have been involved with violence and murders, according to the DOJ. “Members and associates of O9A have espoused violent, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, and Satanic beliefs, and have expressed admiration for both Nazis, such as Adolf Hitler, and Islamic jihadists, such as Osama Bin Laden,” according to the DOJ.

O9A originated as a fringe group in the UK in the 1960s and has gained influence in recent years among violent neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups, according to a report by Hope not Hate. In March, Hope Not Hate called on the Home Office to ban the group.

Four UK teenagers with ties to O9A have been jailed for terror offenses in the past year, according to the BBC, and one was convicted of planning a terrorist attack.

17:13

Louisiana was expected to enter the next phase of coronavirus reopening on Friday, but the state’s governor, John Bel Edwards, announced today that he will instead extend current restrictions for another four weeks.

The decision was based on an uptick in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in parts of the state, governor said, noting that the state ranks seventh out of the 23 states that are seeing rising case numbers.

On Monday, Louisiana surpassed 3,000 deaths and 50,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

“There are a lot of people out there saying they are done with this virus,” Edward said, according to the AP. “Well, the virus isn’t done with us.”

The Guardian US’s southern bureau chief, Oliver Laughland, has been reporting extensively on the coronavirus’s toll across the south.

16:54

US Covid-19 death toll passes 120,000

This is Julia Carrie Wong in Oakland picking up the blog for the rest of the day.

The death toll of the coronavirus pandemic in the US has reached 120,225, according to the latest figures from John Hopkins University. This is the highest death toll in the world.

This latest grim milestone comes as health officials are raising alarms about “surging” cases in the southern and western US, according to the AP. Among the latest figures causing concern:

  • Confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Florida have passed 100,000
  • Covid-19 admissions at a chain of eight hospitals in Houston have tripled over the past month to 1400.
  • An alarming 20% of Covid-19 tests in Arizona are coming back positive.
  • The number of newly confirmed Covid-19 cases in the US has reached 26,000, up from 21,000 per day two weeks ago, according to an AP analysis.

Dr Marc Boom, the CEO of the Houston hospital chain, told the AP: “It is snowballing. We will most certainly see more people die as a result of this spike.”

Boom also pleaded with the public to wear face coverings and practice physical distancing.

16:31

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Julia Carrie Wong, will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Two more Trump campaign staffers tested positive for coronavirus. The two staffers attended the president’s Saturday rally in Tulsa, although the campaign said they wore masks during the event. The news comes two days after six other members of the campaign’s advance team tested positive before the rally.
  • Trump is expected to sign an order today suspending a number of employment-based visas through the end of the year. H-1B visas, among others, are expected to be suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, despite criticism from many US businessowners.
  • The White House defended Trump’s use of a racist slur to describe coronavirus. Pressed on why he referred to the virus as “kung flu,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, “I think the media is trying to play games with the terminology of this virus.”

White House defends Trump’s use of racist phrase to describe coronavirus – video
  • Trump dodged a question about whether he ordered coronavirus testing to be slowed, as he claimed during his Tulsa rally on Saturday. “If it did slow down, frankly, I think we’re way ahead of ourselves, if you want to know the truth. We’ve done too good a job,” the president said in an interview today. The comment appeared to be at odds with his advisers’ claims that he was joking about slowing testing.
  • Joe Biden has committeed to participating in the three already-planned debates against Trump. The president initially indicated he may not participate in any debates, but his campaign has recently been pushing for an extended debate schedule.

Julia will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated

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