Oct 11, 2019

Trump confidant lobbying to free U.S. citizen Paul Whelan from Russia

Paul Whelan stands inside a defendants' cage during a hearing at a court in Moscow. Photo: Kirill Kudryavutsev/AFP/Getty Images

Axios has obtained a lobbying disclosure form showing President Trump's former Pennsylvania campaign director, David Urban, will be working to free Paul Whelan, an American who has been detained in Russia since December 2018. A source with direct knowledge said Urban will be working pro-bono for Whelan's family.

Why this matters: Russian authorities have accused Whelan of espionage — a charge he denies. Whelan could be sentenced to between 10 and 20 years in a Russian jail, according to the New York Times.

  • Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, has described himself as the victim of "an absurd political kidnapping." Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton seemed to echo that sentiment when he tweeted in June that "Russia has provided no evidence of any wrongdoing."
  • Whelan's family is deeply concerned about his health. They are trying to press the Trump administration to prioritize his case in the midst of a diplomatic vacuum following the departure of U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman on Oct. 3.

Between the lines: In Urban, the Whelan family now has one of the best-connected advocates in Trumpworld. Urban is a confidant of President Trump's and has longstanding friendships with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Urban, Pompeo and Esper graduated from the same West Point class in 1986 and Trump frequently calls on him for advice.

  • "We're grateful Mr. Urban has volunteered to throw his considerable influence and strategic thinking behind the effort to free Paul," said David Whelan, the brother of Paul Whelan. "His support means a great deal to us and we hope it will spur U.S. officials to further prioritize Paul's release."
  • "Paul is isolated and ill, deprived of any norms of due process and basic human rights. He's done nothing wrong and he should come home now," Whelan added.

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World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Brazil registered on Monday for the first time more deaths from the novel coronavirus in a single day than the United States, Reuters notes. Brazil reported 807 deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, compared to 620 in the U.S. for the same period.

By the numbers: Almost 5.5 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.2 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 14.6 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,900 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 5,490,954 — Total deaths: 345,962 — Total recoveries — 2,228,915Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 1,662,250 — Total deaths: 98,218 — Total recoveries: 379,157 — Total tested: 14,604,942Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 34 mins ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: Authorities issue warning as Americans venture out for Memorial Day weekend

Ocean City in New Jersey on May 25. Photo: Donald Kravitz/Getty Images

Authorities urged Americans to maintain social distancing and wear masks to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus amid reports of packed beaches and bars during the Memorial Day weekend.

Details: Law enforcement stepped up beach patrols, and there were crowded scenes in several places, notably at Lake of the Ozarks bars in Missouri and at Daytona Beach and on the Gulf Coast in Florida, per AP. Police dispersed crowds in some places, ABC notes. But many Americans did take precautions against COVID-19 as they ventured outside for the long weekend, some three months after the pandemic began in the U.S.