Today's D Brief: Gunman kills two during protest; Airstrikes in Somalia; US evicts Chinese researchers; CIA backs satellite-thruster firm; And a bit more.
A gunman killed two people in Wisconsin overnight as protests against the police shooting of Jacob Blake extended to a third evening in the city of Kenosha. This morning, local police are reportedly hunting “for a possible vigilante seen on cellphone video opening fire in the middle of the street with a rifle,” according to the Associated Press. The gunman appears to be responsible for shooting one person in the head and another in the chest, killing both.
What the cellphone video seems to show is “a white man with a semi-automatic rifle jogging down the middle of a street as a crowd and some police officers follow him,” AP reports. “The man with the gun stumbles and falls, and as he is approached by people in the crowd, he fires three or four shots from a seated position, hitting at least two people.” A third person was also shot; but police said this person is expected to survive, Reuters reports.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers declared a state of emergency before the overnight shooting, and he authorized 250 Wisconsin National Guard troops “to protect critical infrastructure and assist Kenosha authorities” as well as “another 100 law enforcement officers from surrounding areas,” the Wall Street Journal reports. By the evening, "Protesters assembled outside a newly erected metal barrier protecting the courthouse and threw water bottles, rocks and fireworks at the police," the New York Times reports. "The police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, repeatedly warning the crowd through a bullhorn that they were violating the city curfew of 8 p.m. and risking arrest.”
Protesters then moved out into the streets and over toward a gas station, which “became a tense gathering spot, with bystanders watching from parked cars and people milling around in the street, arguing and occasionally shoving each other.”
One lethal and complicating factor: gun-toting counterprotesters, or “armed citizens, some of whom said they were protecting property against looting,” the Journal writes.
“They’re a militia,” said Kenosha Sheriff David Beth of the armed group that’s been patrolling the streets the past couple nights. “They’re like a vigilante group,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; but he didn’t know yet if the shooter was from that particular armed group.
“I’ve had people saying, ‘Why don’t you deputize citizens?’” Beth said. “This is why you don’t deputize citizens with guns to protect Kenosha.”
FWIW: Notable counterprotest tactics from police in Kenosha included “Police shut[ting] down gas stations to prevent further incineration of the city,” erecting gates around the county courthouse, and “Large caravans of cars, many with obscured plates, [which] were reported to be blocking the streets,” according to the WSJ.
Meanwhile in Idaho on Monday, armed and unmasked protesters “shoved their way past state troopers to pack the gallery overlooking the state's House of Representatives,” NPR reported afterward. “The clash was a manifestation of the anger and frustration from a vocal minority of far-right Idahoans that has been compounding over the last several months as the state has navigated its reopening amid the pandemic.”
And that confrontation with state troopers eventually shattered a glass door before Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke “relented and allowed protesters to fill every seat.”
Why didn’t the police stop them? Because they had guns. "Idaho State Police personnel determined they could not have made arrests on the spot without elevating the potential for violence," the department said in a statement Tuesday.
For the record: “Idaho has one of the highest rates of new COVID-19 cases per capita, especially in Ada County, which includes the capital, Boise,” NPR notes. Read on, here.
From Defense One
Trump Announces Intent To Nominate Wolf As DHS Secretary // Katie Bo Williams: Eleven days ago, the GAO ruled that Wolf had been named acting secretary illegally.
CIA’s In-Q-Tel Among Backers of German Satellite-Thruster Startup // Marcus Weisgerber: Morpheus Space’s small and simple electric thrusters could upend the satellite industry.
Some Federal Agencies Worry About Proposal to Welcome White-Hat Hacking // Mariam Baksh, Nextgov: A draft CISA directive asks civilian agencies not to punish outsiders who probe their systems.
Where the Pandemic Is Cover for Authoritarianism // Timothy McLaughlin, The Atlantic: In Hong Kong and around the world, public-health concerns are being used to excuse extraordinary overreach.
Welcome to this Wednesday 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 100 years ago, America's 19th amendment to Constitution went into effect, which finally gave women the right to vote.
More than 178,000 Americans have died so far from the coronavirus, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. And a spike of new cases in rural Illinois is the latest region of concern for the country, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Big picture: "New coronavirus infections rose slightly in the U.S. for the second day but remained lower than in recent weeks," the Journal writes. That includes "about 38,200 new cases on Tuesday," which is "up a few hundred from Monday but still an improvement from last week, when cases topped 40,000 most days.”
The U.S. military lost its sixth service member to the virus on Aug. 20, Military Times reported Tuesday. All that's known so far is that he or she was a member of the California National Guard and had been assigned to the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade in Fresno.
Yesterday’s death toll nationwide was 1,212, up again after a week that averaged in the three figures, according to the New York Times tracker.
Day two of the 2020 GOP convention is now in the history books — along with at least four sharp breaks from custom and precedent:
- First Lady Melania Trump spoke, which is an extraordinary event that “bucked tradition,” as the WSJ writes. AP covered her speech, here;
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke as well, very possibly in violation of law (more on that below);
And in two segments filmed at the White House, Reuters reports "Trump signed a pardon for a Black ex-offender who started a re-entry program for inmates"; and later POTUS "presided over a naturalization ceremony in which several immigrants were granted citizenship, with an appreciative audience and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf." Catch video of that scene, here.
How Reuters framed the breaks from custom: “Trump pushed the very limits of presidential decorum, utilizing the trappings of his office to promote his re-election campaign.”
Pompeo appears to have violated federal law — as well as his own departmental policy — by speaking at the convention (via a video recorded during an official trip to Israel), as Politico predicted hours before his speech aired on Tuesday evening.
The law in question is the 1939 Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees (except POTUS and VPOTUS) from “Using their official titles or positions while engaged in political activity.”
And Pompeo’s own rule that he broke: “Senate-confirmed Presidential appointees may not even attend a political party convention or convention-related event,” the state secretary declared in a July memo (PDF).
Why the SecState’s team thinks this is all ok: “A State Department official said that none of the agency’s resources or staff has been used to facilitate his appearance,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
House lawmakers are now investigating, and they’ve given Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun a Sept. 1 deadline to answer a series of questions related to Pompeo’s Tuesday evening appearance. A bit more at Reuters, here.
Pompeo and other convention speakers said the last three years have made America safer, citing gains against ISIS, moves against China and Russia, and negotiations with North Korea. But it’s not a wholly convincing argument, as Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass argues in the most recent Foreign Affairs.
Reminder: There is no new formal GOP platform this year; only the drive to re-elect Trump at all costs. Read the GOP’s explanation for this state of affairs — a break from tradition going back to 1856 — here. More on all that from the BBC, here; and the New York Times, here.
Informally? “Owning the libs and pissing off the media. That’s what we believe in now. There’s really not much more to it,” said Brendan Buck, a senior congressional aide and Republican party veteran, to Politico last week. Read more from Reuters on Tuesday’s convention events, here.
The U.S. ordered China to remove all of its military researchers from the country, the Wall Street Journal reports in an update to the July 21 order that China vacate its Houston consulate within 72 hours.
Some of the tipoffs included “the way Chinese diplomats behaved after the White House decided in May to restrict future visas for such researchers.” Another involved Chinese diplomats who “misled the State Department about a visit to Indiana, in which they counseled an artificial-intelligence doctoral student that the U.S. government might contact him because of his military background, which he hadn’t disclosed on his visa application,” which is a federal crime.
There’s much more to this story, including one biomedical researcher who "told investigators he was under orders from a supervisor in China to study the exact layout of the [San Francisco] lab where he worked to replicate it at home," here.
One more thing: The U.S. is clamping down on the operations of 24 Chinese companies and restricting the visas for certain executives that the U.S. Commerce and State Departments allege are “helping the Chinese military construct and militarize the internationally condemned artificial islands in the South China Sea.” According to the State Department, “These individuals will now be inadmissible into the United States, and their immediate family members may be subject to these visa restrictions as well.”
Find the full list of the 24 new entities added to the Commerce Department’s blacklist, here.
Judge axes rule that made it harder for immigrants in uniform to seek U.S. citizenship. “A federal judge Tuesday struck down a Defense Department requirement that service members serve for six months or a year before being eligible for an expedited path to citizenship,” writes Military Times’ Karen Jowers. The cancellation of the 2017 policy means that, once again, immigrants can apply for citizenship after one day of service. More, here.
Lastly today: The U.S. military in Africa targeted an unnamed senior leader in al-Shabaab with an airstrike west of Mogadishu on Tuesday, U.S. Africa Command announced in a statement. "The command's initial assessment concluded this airstrike killed one (1) terrorist," and "no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this airstrike," according to AFRICOM.
A separate, apparently much larger U.S. airstrike on Monday killed six alleged terrorists and wounded three others in southern Somalia, AFRICOM said in a statement on Tuesday. “When this airstrike occurred, U.S. forces were in the vicinity in order to advise and assist Somali partner forces,” the command said, adding, “Al-Shabaab falsely claimed U.S. casualties. No U.S. forces were injured or killed during the attack.” As before, no civilians are believed to have been killed in that strike. Read on, here.