140K US dead of COVID; Protests swell after unmarked feds seize people; Confederate flag ban; A new approach to the Indo-Pacific; And a bit more.

More than 140,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker

“Arizona experienced a record of 147 deaths linked to the virus” on Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reports today. And “North Carolina, Louisiana and Kentucky reported record case counts of 2,400, 3,119 and 979 respectively” yesterday as well. 

Florida added more than 10,000 cases for the fifth day in a row on Sunday, which is the same day “nearly 50 of the state’s hospitals with intensive care units beds were [declared] no longer available.”

GOP leaders are headed to the White House today to gameplan another coronavirus aid package, the Associated Press reports

President Trump again promised the virus will disappear. In an interview with Fox News that aired Sunday, he told Chris Wallace, “I will be right eventually. You know I said, ‘It’s going to disappear.’ I’ll say it again. It’s going to disappear, and I’ll be right.” AP fact-checked that (Trump is on an island when it comes to that position) and other loaded claims from that interview, here.

Bigger picture, according to AP: “With 17 straight weeks of unemployment claims topping 1 million — usually about 200,000 — many households were facing a cash crunch and losing employer-backed health insurance coverage. Despite flickers of an economic upswing as states eased stay-at-home orders in May and June, the jobless rate remained at double digits, higher than it ever was in the last decade’s Great Recession.”

EU leaders have extended a planned two-day meeting to its fourth day now as they negotiate more than $2 trillion (€1.8 trillion) in relief funds. However, the Journal reports separately this morning, “ There was discord over a push to reduce budget funding for countries judged to be backsliding on democratic standards,” and “the Netherlands, a major net payer into EU coffers, has insisted that member states should be able to block payments if a country wasn’t delivering on its economic reforms agenda, a position that has met strong resistance from Italy.”

From Defense One

The US Is Out of Position in the Indo-Pacific Region // Nathan Freier, John Schaus, Al Lord, Alison Goldsmith, and Col. Elizabeth Martin: A truly joint approach is needed, and the Army has several particular roles to play.

Ban by Omission: US Military Leaves Confederate Flag Off Approved List // Ben Watson: Esper’s order seems designed to bar the flag from display without provoking the president.

More Than 39,000 Federal Employees Have Tested Positive for COVID-19 // Eric Katz, Government Executive: Nearly 1% of all federal personnel have contracted the novel coronavirus, with cases spiking in recent weeks at many agencies.

Congress Needs a Veto, Not a Notification, on Arms Sales // William D. Hartung and Elias Yousif: The Trump administration’s efforts to evade oversight show why more is needed.

U.S., U.K. Officials Call for Russia to Stop Hacking COVID-19 Researchers // Mariam Baksh, Nextgov: “It is completely unacceptable that the Russian Intelligence Services are targeting those working to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” a British official said.

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1969, American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon. And that’s why the U.S. calls today Space Exploration Day. The White House celebrates with this message from POTUS45. 

Protests against racial inequality are set for noon today across more than two dozen U.S. cities. It’s known as the “Strike for Black Lives,” and AP reports it will include “essential workers” like “nursing home employees, janitors and delivery men and women. Fast food, ride-share and airport workers are also expected to take part in planned events.”
What to expect: “At noon in each U.S. time zone on Monday, workers are expected to take a knee for about eight minutes — the amount of time prosecutors say a white police officer held his knee” on the neck of Minneapolis Black man George Floyd before Floyd was killed in that act by police on May 25.
And why: “Strikers are demanding sweeping action by corporations and government to confront systemic racism and economic inequality that limits mobility and career advancement for many Black and Hispanic workers, who make up a disproportionate number of those earning less than a living wage… That demand includes raising wages and allowing workers to unionize to negotiate better health care, sick leave and child care support.”

Protests in Portland are growing after anonymous federal agents seized people on the streets, the New York Times reports. “Gatherings over the weekend grew to upward of 1,000 people — the largest crowds in weeks.”
Ill-trained: The feds sent to Oregon’s largest city lacked training for riot control or mass demonstrations, according to an internal Department of Homeland Security memo prepared by the agency on Thursday for acting DHS Secretary Chad F. Wolf.
More to come? “The memo, seemingly anticipating future encounters with protesters in other cities as the department follows President Trump’s guidance to crack down on unrest, warns: “Moving forward, if this type of response is going to be the norm, specialized training and standardized equipment should be deployed to responding agencies.” Read, here.
AG Barr’s long-term vision: At Just Security, Ryan Goodman and Danielle Schulkin unearth a 2001 interview in which William Barr, then the head of DoJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, describes various strategems for deploying federal agents into cities with civil unrest. “We found these old cases that said the federal government could go in there” to stop things like “interference with the mail.” A bit more, here.

The U.S. military now has a list of approved flags troops can fly. (And the Confederate flag didn’t make the cut.) Defense Secretary Mark Esper released the list on Friday, and in a pretty clear effort to ban the flag without raising the ire of President Trump, who has expressed consistent support for symbols of the Confederacy.
“We must always remain focused on what unifies us: Our sworn oath to the Constitution and our shared duty to defend the nation,” Esper wrote in the policy memo (PDF), which he released Friday on Twitter and which the Associated Press’s Lita Baldor previewed on Thursday. “The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols.” More here.

“I don't care what the military says” about renaming Army bases because they have Confederate officer names, President Trump told Fox’s Chris Wallace in an interview taped Friday but which aired in full on Sunday.
What name did Trump suggest for Fort Bragg, N.C.? He certainly didn’t suggest any soldiers or service members’ names — of which there are plenty he could have tossed out, including this list from three retired Army officers that Defense One published on June 9. Here’s Trump’s answer to Chris Wallace about nixing the effort to rename Army bases: 

  • "I don’t care what the military says. I do – I’m supposed to make the decision. Fort Bragg is a big deal. We won two World Wars, nobody even knows General Bragg. We won two World Wars. Go to that community where Fort Bragg is, in a great state, I love that state, go to the community, say how do you like the idea of renaming Fort Bragg, and then what are we going to name it. We’re going to name it after the Reverend Al Sharpton? What are you going to name it, Chris, tell me what you’re going to name it? So there’s a whole thing here. We won two World Wars, two World Wars, beautiful World Wars that were vicious and horrible, and we won them out of Fort Bragg, we won out of all of these forts that now they want to throw those names away. And, no, I’m against that..." 

And here’s Trump on the Confederate flag, after Wallace asked if Trump finds it offensive: “When people – when people proudly have their Confederate flags, they’re not talking about racism. They love their flag, it represents the south, they like the south. People right now like the south. I’d say it’s freedom of, of, of many things, but it’s freedom of speech.” Read over the full transcript at Fox, here.

Someone attacked the home of a federal judge on Sunday, killing her son and wounding her husband at their home in New Jersey. But the judge herself was unharmed in the violence, which the FBI believes at this point involved only one person. “The perpetrator [is] believed to be a lone gunman posing as a FedEx delivery person,” and that person is still at-large, AP reports.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman is in the hospital for an inflamed gallbladder, triggering speculation over who will rule the Saudi Kingdom after the 84-year-old eventually passes away. “The de facto ruler and next in line to the throne is the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, widely referred to as MbS, who has launched reforms to transform the kingdom’s economy,” Reuters reports in its coverage today of the king’s trip to the hospital. "The 34-year-old has skipped over hundreds of older uncles and cousins—and had several of them arrested—to become next in line for the throne, upending consensus-based politics and generating quiet opposition," the Journal reports today from Riyadh.
For the record, “There has been no indication that King Salman contracted the [corona]virus,” the Journal notes. And by the way, “The 91-year-old ruler of neighboring Kuwait, another U.S. ally and major oil producer, also entered a hospital over the weekend for medical checks and an unspecified surgery, following a stroke last year.”

Iran’s foreign minister just visited Iraq for the first time since the U.S. military killed Qassem Soleimani in an airstrike near Baghdad’s international airport back in early January. Al-Jazeera has a few public remarks out of that visit, here.
Reminder: Iraq has a new Prime Minister — Mustafa al-Kadhimi, and he was named to the post in early May. And he was going to visit Saudi Arabia today; but that’s now been postponed, given the health of King Salman. 

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