SRN - Political News

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House CEO dinner on Wednesday evening with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and his delegation had some notable absences among corporate invitees – one because of a positive coronavirus test.

American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday morning, after he experienced a fever and a cough, and was not attending the dinner, a spokeswoman for the trade group said.

The 52-guest dinner, in the White House’s East Room, was the most prominent state-level social event hosted by the Trump administration since coronavirus lockdowns began in March. It came as several states reported record new COVID-19 cases, the United States crosses 130,000 deaths, and New Jersey on Wednesday ordered face masks to be worn in public.

President Donald Trump has declined to wear a mask in public and his administration has shunned nationwide guidance on their use, leaving it up to states and local authorities despite increasing calls for mask use from within his own Republican Party.

Webcast White House events prior to the dinner disclosed little social distancing, with attendees seated close to one another and few wearing masks. The dinner was closed to the media.

The District of Columbia is currently requiring the wearing of masks in businesses and other public places and is prohibiting mass gatherings of more than 50 people.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable CEO group and other business groups called on the White House and the National Governors Association last week to issue clear, consistent guidance requiring the wearing of masks in public to slow the disease’s spread.

“Absent stronger measures to prevent transmission, communities across America risk another round of shutdowns, broad restrictions on non-essential activities, and irreparable economic harm,” the groups wrote in a letter


Detroit automaker CEOs Jim Hackett of Ford Motor Co <F.N>, Mary Barra of General Motors Co <GM.N> and Mike Manley of Fiat Chrysler <FCHA.MI> did not attend the dinner, with representatives for the companies saying they were not available.

All three companies stand to benefit from the launch of a new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal that replaces the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

Ford sent its North American operations chief, Kumar Galhotra, while GM sent its general counsel, Craig Glidden, according to a list of attendees provided by the White House. No Fiat Chrysler executive was listed.

Some company officials said that they only learned about the dinner invitations on Monday.

Many companies are in non-disclosure periods ahead of reporting second-quarter earnings, while Detroit automakers are in the midst of annual summer plant shutdowns, when some executives take vacations.

But a number of U.S. CEOs were in attendance, according to the White House list, including Jeff Martin of Sempra Energy <SRE.N>, Bob Swan of Intel Corp <INTC.O>, David Abney of United Parcel Service Inc <UPS.N>, Leon Topalian of Nucor Corp <NUE.N>, James Taiclet of Lockheed Martin Corp <LMT.N> and Steven Schwarzman of Blackstone Group <BX.N>.

Mexican CEOs in attendance included Grupo Empresarial Angeles CEO Olegario Vazquez, Grupo Financiero Banorte Chairman Carlos Hank Gonzalez, Grupo Televisa co-CEO Bernardo Gomez and Mexican billionaire tycoon Carlos Slim, whose America Movil controls Mexico’s largest telecommunication network.

The Farm Bureau’s Duvall is quarantined at his Georgia dairy farm, and “is feeling strong and in good spirits,” Farm Bureau spokeswoman Terri Moore said.

Duvall had traveled only once within the past two weeks in an official capacity within Georgia, and hosts of those events and others he had come in contact with were being notified, she said.

(Reporting by David Lawder, Alexandra Alper, Jeff Mason and Andrea Shalal in Washington, Dave Graham in Mexico City, Joseph B. White in Detroit and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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PHOENIX (AP) — A national organization is announcing a $10 million campaign to turn out Hispanic voters in several of this year’s battleground states.

Mi Familia Vota, based in Phoenix, said it will spend $7 million on get-out-the-vote measures and an additional $3 million on digital and television ads, starting in Arizona and Florida.

Arizona in particular is seen as a battleground because of shifting demographics in the traditionally Republican state. Hispanics are a growing proportion of the electorate.

The campaign comes amid rising concerns about Latino turnout in a year when that community has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus. Latinos account for higher rates of infection from COVID-19 when compared to their share of the population in a number of states, and many are struggling financially from lost jobs and lower wages.

“Basically what we’re saying is we’re not going to wait for political parties to do it themselves. They don’t invest in our communities,” said the group’s executive director and CEO, Hector Sanchez Barba.

According to the Pew Research Center, 13.3% of eligible voters in the U.S. this year are Latino, a record high. Pew projects that in Arizona, 24% of eligible voters this year are Latino, up 2 percentage points from 2016. In Florida, Latinos are projected to be 20% of eligible voters.

That doesn’t mean they will all register or cast ballots on Election Day. U.S. Census data shows that 47% of eligible Hispanic voters in Arizona cast a ballot in 2016, compared to nearly 63% of eligible white voters.

Mi Familia Vota aims to get 3.3 million more Latinos in its targeted states to vote.

Latino turnout in states such as Arizona could help decide the presidential election, said Matt A. Barreto, co-founder and managing partner of Latino Decisions, a polling and research firm based in Los Angeles.

“We already saw this in 2018, where record Latino vote in a midterm provided the margin of victory for (Democratic U.S. Sen. Kyrsten) Sinema,” he said.

Sanchez Barba says Mi Familia Vota will use text messages, phone calls, and digital and TV ads to reach potential voters in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.

The campaign comes as both Democrats and Republicans vie for the Hispanic vote. The Trump campaign, for example, also is targeting Hispanic voters through messaging about the economy, public safety and family values. Andres Malave, regional communications director of Hispanic outreach for the Republican National Committee, said the Trump campaign has had a permanent presence in Arizona since 2016.

“President Trump’s policies are delivering for our families by ensuring safe communities and rebuilding the strongest economy in the world. Meanwhile, Biden is relying on other groups to bail him out to cover for his decades of failed policies that have disproportionately hurt Latino families,” Malave said.

While Mi Familia Vota has not endorsed presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, its voter push will focus on turning out Latinos to vote against Trump, Sanchez Barba said.

He participated in a town hall with Biden in which the former vice president made a series of commitments to the Hispanic community, such as placing Latinos at the highest level of his administration.

“After the election, hopefully with a new president, we will immediately launch an accountability campaign,” Sanchez Barba said.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The ousted U.S. attorney who was leading investigations into President Donald Trump’s allies is set to appear before the House Judiciary Committee for a private interview as the panel deepens its probe of politicization at the Justice Department.

Geoffrey Berman, the former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, engaged in an extraordinary standoff last month when Attorney General William Barr sought to have him leave office. Berman refused to step down, relenting only after being assured his office’s probes of Trump’s circle would continue.

In setting Thursday’s interview, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., called Berman’s dismissal “part of a clear and dangerous pattern” of behavior by Barr. The panel’s Democratic majority is pursuing its investigation of the attorney general, who they say operates more like Trump’s personal lawyer than the nation’s top law enforcement official. Barr is set to testify before the committee later this month.

The Southern District, known for its high-profile prosecutions, is where Berman oversaw several ongoing investigations of Trump associates, including some who figured prominently in the House impeachment inquiry of the president.

Berman’s office is looking into the business dealings of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer and a former New York mayor. It has also prosecuted Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who went to prison for lying to Congress and campaign finance crimes.

SDNY has probed Trump’s inaugural fundraising and overseen the prosecution of two Florida businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were associates of Giuliani and tied to the Ukraine impeachment investigation. The men were charged in October with federal campaign finance violations.

The Judiciary panel’s interview will be held behind closed doors. It is likely to go on for hours. A transcript is expected to be released later.

Berman, a Republican lawyer and donor to Trump, was tapped by the administration in 2018 as the U.S. attorney for SDNY. He had worked from 1987 to 1990 for the independent counsel who investigated the administration of President Ronald Reagan in the Iran-Contra affair.

He previously served in the SDNY office as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1990 to 1994 before joining private practice, including time at the same firm as Giuliani. He reportedly met with Trump before being assigned as the top federal prosecutor job in Manhattan.

The effort to oust Berman sparked an unusual clash between the Justice Department and its storied prosecutors’ office in New York.

Late on a Friday, Barr announced in a statement that Berman was stepping down. Shortly after 11 p.m. Berman issued his own statement saying he had “no intention of resigning.”

Berman showed up for work Saturday morning. Barr, critical of the “public spectacle,” announced Berman’s firing.

Trump told reporters it was “all up to the attorney general.” At the time, Trump added: “I wasn’t involved.”

It’s not the first ouster of a U.S. attorney from the SDNY. Preet Bahara, a former federal prosecutor appointed by President Barack Obama, announced that he was fired in March 2017, shortly after Trump took office.

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