Nation

In reversal, White House tells CDC to post church guidance

WASHINGTON — After refusing for weeks to release reopening guidance for churches, the Trump administration on Thursday abruptly changed course — with the president saying he had instructed health officials to put the advice out.

While visiting Michigan, President Trump said he had discussed the issue with leadership at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I said ‘You better put it out.’ And they’re doing it,” Trump said at a Ford Motor Co. plant repurposed to make ventilators in Ypsilanti Township. “And they’re going to be issuing something today or tomorrow on churches. We got to get our churches open.”

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The church guidance is coming out “hopefully soon,” CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said Thursday afternoon. A senior administration official said it was expected to be released Friday.

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More than a month ago, the CDC sent the Trump administration documents the agency had drafted with specific steps different types of organizations could follow as they gradually reopened. The advice was for seven types of organizations, including schools, restaurants, and religious facilities.

Those drafts included detailed information for churches wanting to restart in-person services, with suggestions including maintaining distance between parishioners and limiting the size of gatherings.

Associated Press

GOP officials quietly consider pared convention

The money to pay for the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., is mostly raised, and contracts with hotels and local vendors are signed. The delegates are set to easily anoint a party nominee who fought tooth and nail for the title four years ago.

But instead of preparing to celebrate President Trump, White House and Republican officials are now quietly looking at the likelihood of a pared-down convention, with the coronavirus appearing increasingly likely to still pose a serious threat in late summer.

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Publicly, officials have insisted they are moving full steam ahead with their plans for a traditional nominating convention in Charlotte, a major city in a swing state that Trump won in 2016. On Monday, the RNC sent its donors the official invitation to the convention, which stated that the event was proceeding apace and would be held Aug. 24-27.

But behind the scenes, Republicans are looking at possible contingency plans, including limiting the number of people who descend on Charlotte to only delegates and making alternate delegates stay home, according to interviews with a half-dozen Republicans close to the planning.

Trump, who was heavily involved in the staging of his last nominating convention, has even shown a new openness to participating in a scaled-down event.

New York Times

Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen released from prison

NEW YORK — President Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, was released from federal prison Thursday to serve the remainder of his sentence at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wearing a surgical mask and a baseball cap, Cohen arrived at his Manhattan apartment building at around 10:40 a.m. after his release from FCI Otisville in New York.

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He removed boxes of legal documents from the trunk of a car. A uniformed doorman at the luxury residence, not far from Trump Tower, carried them into the lobby on a luggage cart.

Cohen, who pleaded guilty to tax charges, campaign finance fraud, and lying to Congress, didn’t stop to speak with reporters on the sidewalk.

‘‘I am so glad to be home and back with my family,’’ Cohen wrote on Twitter a little more than an hour after arriving home. “There is so much I want to say and intend to say. But now is not the right time. Soon. Thank you to all my friends and supporters.”

Asked about Cohen’s release, Trump said he didn’t know about it and declined further comment.

Cohen, 53, began serving his sentence last May and had been scheduled to remain in prison until November 2021.

Associated Press

Mississippi church suing on virus restrictions burned

HOLLY SPRINGS, Miss. — A church in Mississippi was destroyed by a suspected arson fire, about a month after its pastor filed a lawsuit challenging the city of Holly Springs on gathering restrictions amid the coronavirus outbreak.

First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs, Miss., burned down Wednesday morning, news outlets reported. When investigators from the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office got to the scene, they found graffiti in the church parking lot that read: “Bet you stay home now you hypokrites.”

“We’ve kind of racked our brains and we have no idea,” Jerry Waldrop, the pastor of the church, said. “No enemies that we know of. We don’t know anyone that we even think could be capable of doing something like this.”

Waldrop filed a lawsuit against the city of Holly Springs last month, alleging police officers had disrupted a church Bible study and Easter service. Holly Springs City Attorney Shirley Byers said nearly 40 worshipers inside the church building were not practicing social distancing on April 10 when a violation citation was issued for the church.

Churchgoers practiced social distancing while indoors and only held indoor services when bad weather would not allow them to gather outside, the lawsuit said. Waldrop’s complaint also asked for a temporary restraining order to keep city officials from preventing church services.

Associated Press

Maskless lawmaker kicked out of Illinois session

On the first day of the Illinois General Assembly’s special pandemic session, in a makeshift chamber in the Bank of Springfield Center, the first order of business was to vote that everyone must wear a mask — a rule that passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support.

But there was one Republican holdout on Wednesday: state Representative Darren Bailey, who sat smiling at his desk on the floor of the arena and refused to put one on.

‘‘[If] you want to send me or anyone else outside the doors today, I understand. Go right ahead,’’ Bailey said when asked to comply, NPR Illinois reported. ‘‘But know this: If you do that, you’re silencing millions of voices of people who have had enough.’’

His colleagues on both sides of the aisle didn’t appear too worried. They kicked him out of the legislature by an 81-27 vote.

‘‘Doormen, please remove Representative Bailey,’’ said state Representative Jay Hoffman before a group of men in masks escorted the mask-less Bailey from the arena, the state’s temporary legislative home that allows for more social distancing.

Washington Post