Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

A federal district judge in D.C. ruled on Sunday that Ken Cuccinelli’s placement as the acting top official at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

Why it matters: Policies that were put in place under Cuccinelli are now void, including a directive that gave asylum-seekers less time to consult with legal counsel before their initial "credible fear" interview with a USCIS officer.

Details: After the resignation of Senate-confirmed USCIS director Lee Cissna, deputy director Mark Koumans automatically assumed the role of acting director because he was designated as the "first assistant" under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

  • Nine days later, acting Homeland Secretary Kevin McAleenan appointed Cuccinelli to serve as principal deputy director of USCIS, a position that had not previously existed.
  • That same day, McAleenan revised the agency's order of succession to designate the newly created position as "first assistant," allowing Cuccinelli to "leapfrog" Koumans to become acting director, per the court opinion.

What they’re saying: “Today's ruling is a big win that confirms Ken Cuccinelli’s installation and service as acting director of USCIS was unlawful. This is both a victory for the rule of law and a significant blow to the Trump administration's xenophobic agenda,” Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy said in a statement.

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U.S., Canada and U.K. accuse Russia of trying to steal coronavirus vaccine research

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Hackers associated with Russian intelligence services are trying to steal information from researchers involved in coronavirus vaccine development, according to a joint advisory by U.K., U.S. and Canadian authorities published Thursday.

The big picture: This isn't the first time a foreign adversary has been accused of attempting to steal COVID-19-related research. U.S. officials in May announced an uptick in Chinese-government affiliated hackers targeting medical research and other facilities in the U.S. for data on a potential cure or effective treatments to combat the virus.

M&A activity falls despite early coronavirus fears

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In April, several prominent Democrats proposed a moratorium on large mergers and acquisitions. Their argument was that the pandemic would embolden the strong to pounce on the weak, thus reducing competition.

Fast forward: The moratorium never materialized. Nor did the M&A feeding frenzy.

More than 32 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits

Photo: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

More than 32 million Americans are receiving some form of unemployment benefits, according to data released by the Labor Department on Thursday.

Why it matters: Tens of millions of jobless Americans will soon have a smaller cash cushion — as coronavirus cases surge and certain parts of the country re-enter pandemic lockdowns — barring an extension of the more generous unemployment benefits that are set to expire at the end of the month.