Thursday's politics & policy stories

Trump: "we're not closing our country" for second coronavirus wave

President Trump speaks to the press at the White House on May 21. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump told reporters on Thursday that while a second wave of the novel coronavirus is "a very distinct possibility," the U.S. should not issue widespread lockdowns or stay-at-home orders to fight the next outbreak.

Why it matters: This strategy would be a reversal of the administration's previous support for stay-at-home orders, most notably by NIAID Director Anthony Fauci. Trump has frequently hedged on how long the country should remain closed.

University of California to phase out SAT and ACT in admissions

Photo: Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The University of California regents voted unanimously on Thursday to suspend SAT and ACT testing requirements for admission through 2024, and to move to full elimination or implementation of a replacement test by 2025.

Why it matters: ACT and SAT testing requirements have come under scrutiny in recent years, and Thursday's decision could broadly alter the college admissions process. Advocates argue that university admission based on standardized test scores unjustly favors affluent students who can afford to take the tests multiple times or seek tutoring.

Man who filmed Ahmaud Arbery's death charged with murder

A marker stands in front of the historic Glynn County courthouse May 6 in Brunswick, Georgia. Photo:
Sean Rayford/ Getty Images

The Georgia man who recorded Ahmaud Arbery's death, William Bryan Jr., was arrested Thursday on a felony murder charge and attempt to commit false imprisonment, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations.

Why it matters: Two men, Gregory and Travis McMichael, were arrested earlier this month for murder and aggravated assault in the February 23 death of Arbery. Video of the event, filmed on Bryan's cellphone, sparked a national outcry.

  • Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, was out for his daily jog when he was killed, according to his mother. The McMichaels pursued Arbery, after reporting to police that they suspected him of burglary.

Trump says he declined to wear a mask to avoid giving the "press the pleasure"

President Trump on Thursday said he removed his face mask during a tour of a Ford plant in Michigan because he "didn’t want to give the press the pleasure” of seeing him wearing the protective covering.

The state of play: Trump said he kept a mask on during a private portion of the tour, but took it off once in-view of the press. An open letter from Michigan’s attorney general warned that it was “the law of this state" to wear a mask.

Trump says CDC will issue guidance soon on reopening churches

President Trump tours the Ford Rawsonville Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan on May 21. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump said on Thursday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would issue guidance "today or tomorrow" to guide churches on reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: Early versions of detailed CDC guidelines for reopening the country included guidance for religious institutions to hold in-person services, which the White House requested to be taken out, according to AP.

McConnell to Trump: Next coronavirus bill must be under $1 trillion

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

During a meeting at the White House on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stressed to President Trump that the next coronavirus relief package cannot exceed $1 trillion, and should be narrowly focused on getting money in people's hands immediately, sources familiar with the meeting tell Axios.

The big picture: Senate Republicans' backlash against House Democrats' $3 trillion bill has been so severe that it has eased pressure on McConnell to act instantly on a "phase 4" bill, and McConnell is focused on ensuring that the next bill is much smaller.

Senate confirms John Ratcliffe as intelligence chief

Ratcliffe testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee in May. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The Senate confirmed Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) as the director of national intelligence in a 49-44 party-line vote on Thursday.

Why it matters: Ratcliffe, a vocal ally of President Trump, now heads an intelligence community that has faced consistent criticism from the president and is in the midst of political firestorms surrounding the prosecution of Michael Flynn and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The next big fights between cities and states

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Legal battles between cities and states are expected to intensify in the coming months with dust-ups over municipal broadband networks, paid sick leave and affordable housing policies at the forefront.

Why it matters: After some high-profile disputes with governors over pandemic-related restrictions, some mayors are emboldened in pushing back on state laws prohibiting city-level policies that, they say, will be important to recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.

Lori Loughlin and husband agree to plead guilty in college bribery scandal

Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, have both agreed to plead guilty for their roles in the college admissions bribery scandal, federal prosecutors announced on Thursday.

The state of play: Loughlin will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, agreeing to two months in prison and a $150,000 fine among other terms. Giannulli, who will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and a charge of honest services wire and mail fraud, faces five months in prison and a $250,000 fine. They both previously pleaded not guilty to the charges last year.

Go deeper... Timeline: The major developments in the college admissions scandal

May 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Clinton nets a record $2 million for Biden at virtual fundraiser

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen. Photo: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has raised $2 million for 2020 candidate Joe Biden's joint fundraising committee with the Democratic National Committee at a virtual event, Politico reported Wednesday night.

Why it matters: Per Politico, it's a record haul for a Biden surrogate at a single event with the former vice president not in attendance. President Trump's campaign has raised much more than Biden's. But the Democrat has made significant fundraising gains in the past two months, and the new DNC pact is another boost.

CDC chief: States' coronavirus data "regularly" incomplete or delayed

President Trump listens as Robert Redfield speaks to reporters at the White House on April 22. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Essential data to track the spread of the novel coronavirus in the U.S. is regularly delayed and incomplete when sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Director Robert Redfield told the Financial Times on Wednesday.

The big picture: Most states still aren't doing enough coronavirus testing, especially those that have suffered from larger outbreaks, Axios' Caitlin Owens and Naema Ahmed reported this week.

Texas appeals court temporarily blocks mail-in voting for all ruling

Vote-by-mail ballot processing. Photo: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

A federal appeals court on Wednesday temporarily halted a lower court judge's ruling to expand voting by mail in Texas to all 16 million state voters in the July elections.

Details: The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Texas' Republican attorney general on Wednesday to block a federal judge's ruling a day earlier that all registered voters in the state should have the option of mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic.