August 24, 2020

A former adviser to first lady Melania Trump has reportedly taped her making "disparaging" comments about President Trump and his adult children.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, Melania Trump's former friend and adviser, is set to release a tell-all book in September called Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with The First Lady, and on Monday, journalist Yashar Ali reported that Wolkoff "taped the first lady making disparaging remarks about the president and his adult children" that will be revealed in the book.

Though Ali's report doesn't include the remarks the first lady evidently made, they're said to include "harsh comments about Ivanka Trump," and in fact, Ali says that "most" of the disparaging comments "were reserved for Ivanka Trump." It's reportedly not clear whether the book itself will disclose that the remarks in question came from audio recordings.

Wolkoff's book will be the latest tell-all to emerge from someone in President Trump's orbit after one recently published by his niece, Mary Trump. Last week, The Washington Post revealed that Mary Trump recorded conversations with the president's sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, in which she says the president has "no principles" and that "you can't trust him."

Wolkoff's book, which is described by its publisher as a "candid and emotional memoir," will be released on Sept. 1. Brendan Morrow

3:19 p.m.

The United States recorded yet another lamentable milestone Tuesday, as data from Johns Hopkins University shows the country has surpassed 400,000 COVID-19 deaths.

The American death toll continues to lead the world in fatalities, nearly doubling Brazil's total, which at more than 210,000, is the second highest globally.

It took just one month for COVID-19 fatalities to jump from 300,000 to 400,000 as the coronavirus surged across the country during the winter months and holiday season. The pandemic remains widespread in every state, though there's been a faint glimmer of hope that infections have begun to trend downward in recent days. Regardless, experts believe there's still a long road ahead and — even with a massive, albeit slower-than-expected vaccination drive underway — the death toll could reach 500,000 by the end of February. Tim O'Donnell

2:00 p.m.

The Georgia Secretary of State's office on Tuesday certified the state's pair of Senate runoff votes, which means Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are set to be sworn into the upper chamber after defeating GOP incumbent Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) earlier this month.

Warnock and Ossoff will reportedly join fellow Democrat Alex Padilla, who is taking over Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' California seat, for a swearing-in ceremony Wednesday, not too long after Harris takes her own oath of office.

Once that's done, the Democratic Party will have the slimmest of majorities in the Senate, with Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote on matters that require it. Tim O'Donnell

1:57 p.m.

Two members of the National Guard have been removed from Inauguration Day security over ties to far-right militias, The Associated Press reports.

There was no plot found against Biden, but the two guard members were removed over their connections to the unnamed militias, a U.S. Army official and a senior U.S. intelligence official told AP. The move comes after militia groups and other President Trump supporters attacked the Capitol earlier this month, and as federal law enforcement takes unprecedented steps to secure the Wednesday inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

Thousands of National Guard members have been filing into the Capitol Hill area over the past week, shutting down the National Mall and surrounding streets amid fears of threats to the inauguration. Hundreds of guard members were spotting sleeping in the Capitol building last week.

In response to the reported removal, the National Guard Bureau told AP that "due to operational security, we do not discuss the process nor the outcome of the vetting process for military members supporting the inauguration." The Secret Service also would not comment. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:17 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is placing blame on President Trump for having "provoked" a mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol building.

McConnell spoke Tuesday after the House of Representatives last week impeached Trump for "incitement of insurrection" following a deadly attack on the Capitol by his supporters. Though it's unclear how McConnell will vote in Trump's upcoming second Senate impeachment trial, the Republican leader made clear he believes the president is to blame for provoking the mob — as are others.

"The mob was fed lies," McConnell said. "They were provoked by the president and other powerful people."

The Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building earlier this month while Congress was meeting to certify President-elect Joe Biden's election win. Trump, who has falsely claimed he won the election, spoke at a rally beforehand to encourage the supporters to walk down to the Capitol building and "show strength."

McConnell hasn't said how he'll vote in the Senate impeachment trial. But last week, Axios reported that "there's a better than 50-50 chance" he would vote to convict the president. McConnell says he has "not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate." Brendan Morrow

12:52 p.m.

The United States on Tuesday officially declared China's campaign against Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, as well as other ethnic and religious minorities in the western Xinjiang province, a genocide. The U.S. is the first country to adopt the term to describe the human rights abuses (which Beijing denies), though officials hope it will compel other governments to take a harder stance against China on the issue, The New York Times reports.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his department came to the conclusion after a "careful" review, stating that the crimes include: arbitrary mass internment of more than 1 million people, forced sterilization, torture of those detained, forced labor, and restrictions on religious freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement. "I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state," Pompeo said.

The decision will likely be the Trump administration's final action on China, the Times notes. It's not clear yet how the incoming Biden administration will respond to the declaration, but the Biden campaign did publicly refer to the situation in Xinjiang as a genocide last year. Read more at The New York Times and Axios. Tim O'Donnell

12:40 p.m.

A person's 2020 presidential vote is proving the biggest indicator of whether or not they want a coronavirus vaccine.

People who supported President-elect Joe Biden in November are overwhelmingly in favor of getting the COVID-19 vaccine, with 79 percent saying they want it and 4 percent saying they've already gotten it, an NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll out Tuesday shows. Meanwhile just 39 percent of voters who backed President Trump say they want the vaccine and a similar 4 percent have already gotten it.

Marist asked adults whether they'd get a COVID-19 vaccine if it was made available to them. Support for getting the vaccine was clearly divided along party lines, with 75 percent of Democrats saying they wanted the vaccine but just 43 percent of Republicans saying the same. Democratic men were the most likely of any demographic — race, region, income, education, age, or generation — to want the vaccine, at 85 percent. Meanwhile the smallest percentage of adults who said they wanted the vaccine were Trump voters.

Also among groups who had a low percentage of vaccine support were Gen Xers — just 49 percent of Americans age 40-55 want the vaccine, the poll found. Republican women and people who live in small towns were not very likely to want the vaccine, with just 41 and 51 percent saying they would like it, respectively. Trump has so far not publicly said if he has gotten the vaccine, but has underplayed the seriousness of the virus for the past year.

Marist surveyed 1,173 American adults from Jan. 11–13 via landline and mobile phone, with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:09 p.m.

New York City is on pace to run out of COVID-19 vaccine doses and be forced to cancel appointments within a matter of days, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) has warned.

The New York mayor in a briefing Tuesday said that the city "desperately" needs more supply as COVID-19 vaccinations move "faster and faster."

"At the rate we are going, we will begin to run out on Thursday — this Thursday, two days from now," de Blasio said. "And we will have literally nothing left to give as of Friday. ... If we don't get more vaccine quickly, a new supply of vaccine, we will have to cancel appointments and no longer give shots after Thursday for the remainder of the week at a lot of our sites."

De Blasio went on to say that "on the current schedule," New York City isn't set to be resupplied until next Tuesday, meaning "many of our sites" wouldn't be able to begin administering vaccines again until next Wednesday.

"This is crazy," de Blasio said. "This is not the way it should be. We have the ability to vaccinate a huge number of people. We need the vaccine to go with it."

De Blasio called on the federal government to do everything possible "to get us the maximum supply" of vaccines, and one day ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, he expressed hope that the incoming administration "is going to fix a lot of this." Brendan Morrow

See More Speed Reads