Friday's politics & policy stories

1 Marine dead, 8 missing after sea tank sinks

The U.S. Marine Corps seal. Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

One Marine is dead and another eight service members are missing after an amphibious assault vehicle sank during a training exercise on Thursday near a military-owned island off the coast of Southern California, I Marine Expeditionary Force announced on Friday.

The state of play: Another two Marines among those rescued were injured, and search-and-rescue efforts are underway with support from the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard. 15 Marines and one Navy sailor were in the vehicle, and all Marines were assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, according to AP.

Biden campaign vows virus focus

Joe Biden puts on a mask after a campaign event in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Joe Biden's campaign contends that President Trump's talk of delaying November's election is an effort to distract, and vows to be what a Biden aide called "laser-focused" on Trump's pandemic response.

Why it matters: After aides convinced the president that the issue was hurting him badly in the polls, Trump has tried for the past two weeks to show renewed focus on the coronavirus, including the restoration of his briefings.

Supreme Court denies request to halt construction on Trump border wall

President Trump and the border wall in June. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote on Friday rejected a request from environmental groups to prevent construction of portions of the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Why it matters: The ruling lets the administration continue building despite pending appeals to a case on whether the administration can use Defense Department funding for border wall construction.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg released from hospital

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaking in February 2020. Photo: Shannon Finney/Getty Images

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg left the hospital on Friday following a minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure, according to reports from ABC News and Reuters.

Why it matters: This was Ginsburg's second hospitalization within the past month. The 87-year-old was hospitalized earlier in July for a possible infection and announced that she is in the midst of treating a recurrence of liver cancer, but remains "fully able" to fulfill her duties on the court.

Boston Marathon bomber's death sentence overturned

A federal appeals court on Friday tossed the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the man convicted on 30 charges in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and injured more than 260, AP reports.

The state of play: U.S. Circuit Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson ruled the 2015 trial "did not meet the standard" of fairness, and ordered a "new trial strictly limited to what penalty Dzhokhar should get on the death-eligible counts," the Boston Globe writes.

Jul 31, 2020 - Podcasts

Ohio Secretary of State: Election results could take weeks

We obviously don’t know who will win this year’s presidential election, but we do know that the 2020 voting process will be more complicated than in any past election of our lifetimes in terms of safety, security, and logistics.

Axios Re:Cap digs in with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, who tells us he's confident in the process but that it could take weeks to know results from his state.

Jul 31, 2020 - Health

Fauci responds to Trump's testing tweet at House coronavirus hearing

Anthony Fauci on Friday told the House's select coronavirus committee that surging infections in the U.S. were caused by several factors, including states reopening without following social-distancing guidelines.

Why it matters: He was responding directly to a tweet from President Trump, who took to the platform during the hearing to repeat his claim that the U.S. has reported the most cases in the world due to increased testing.

White House, Democrats at coronavirus stimulus stalemate

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at separate press conferences. Photos: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images; Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — speaking simultaneously at podiums on opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue Friday morning — painted a bleak picture of their stalled coronavirus stimulus talks, making clear that they are still a long way from striking a deal.

The bottom line: Everyone who matters in these talks is sending out dismal signals. Many important benefits, including enhanced unemployment insurance for millions of Americans, expire today — and those in charge of bringing relief admit they're nowhere close to finding common ground.

House committee subpoenas Pompeo for records on Biden investigations

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Friday subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for records related to the State Department's involvement in attempts to link former Vice President Joe Biden to corruption in Ukraine.

Why it matters: Engel alleges that Pompeo has turned over similar documents to Senate Republicans but not House Democrats and claims that he "has turned the State Department into an arm of the Trump campaign" by using its resources to attempt to investigate Biden.

CDC director says he was not involved in decision to change coronavirus data reporting

CDC director Robert Redfield testified Friday that he was not involved in the Trump administration's decision to bypass his agency and instead have hospitals send coronavirus data to the Health and Human Services Department.

Why it matters: According to the COVID Tracking Project, data on coronavirus hospitalizations has been "unstable since July 15" — five days after the change.

The next stimulus takes center stage — just as it runs dry

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big Tech was buoyed by the exact thing that prevented the dreadful GDP report from being even worse in the second quarter: the pandemic stimulus measures.

Why it matters: The stimulus is in the spotlight as its key expanded unemployment benefits provision is set to lapse despite coronavirus cases surging across the country, reimposed lockdown measures and more businesses shuttering.

Jul 31, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Congress' approval plunges amid coronavirus stimulus impasse

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As lawmakers dither on a new rescue package, Gallup finds that America's approval of Congress has fallen back to its normal abysmal level — 18% — after hitting 20-year highs in April and May.

By the numbers: Congressional approval in July was down at least 10 points across the board since May.

Jul 31, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Postal Service delays cause ballot fears ahead of November

Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

The U.S. Postal Service is experiencing days-long backlogs of mail across the country after Trump fundraiser-turned-postmaster general Louis DeJoy "put in place new procedures described as cost-cutting efforts," the WashPost reports.

Why it matters: While postal workers are warning "that the policies could undermine their ability to deliver ballots on time, ... The backlog comes as the president ... has escalated his efforts to cast doubt about the integrity of the November vote, which is expected to yield record numbers of mail ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic."

Investigation results in no charges against officer who shot Michael Brown

Michael Brown's casket during his funeral in 2014. Photo: Robert Cohen-Pool/Getty Images

A St. Louis prosecutor determined on Thursday that police officer Darren Wilson would face no charges after the 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: Wilson was cleared by a grand jury and a federal investigation later in 2014, and Thursday's conclusion "likely marks the end of the legal saga in a case that started the global rise of the Black Lives Matter movement..." the Times writes.

Go deeper: Deaths without consequences