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Newsletter: ‘Absolute immunity’? Absolutely not

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In a key Supreme Court case, even the dissenting justices found that the president is not immune from investigation.

TOP STORIES

‘Absolute Immunity’? Absolutely Not

The Supreme Court has dealt a defeat to President Trump by rejecting his claims of presidential immunity and upholding subpoenas from New York prosecutors seeking his tax returns and financial records.

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In one of the most anticipated rulings on presidential privilege in years, the justices by a 7-2 vote ruled the nation’s chief executive is not above the law and must comply with legitimate demands from a grand jury in New York that is investigating Trump’s alleged hush money payments to two women who claimed to have had sex with him.

The court’s opinion by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. may be most significant in its rejection of Trump’s extravagant claims of “absolute immunity.”

But because the grand jury operates in secret, it is unlikely the public will see Trump’s financial records before the November election, if ever.

In a second ruling, the high court, also by a 7-2 vote, temporarily blocked subpoenas from three House committees on the grounds that Democratic lawmakers failed to show how a decade’s worth of Trump’s financial records were needed to formulate new legislation. The justices sent those cases back to lower courts, giving Trump a partial victory.

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When Will the Wave Crest?

The surge of the coronavirus in California over the last month started with an explosion of new cases, then moved into hospitals that rapidly filled with patients and is now beginning to bring an increase in COVID-19 deaths. The question now: How much longer will all of those continue to rise?

California this week hit another troubling milestone Wednesday, recording its highest single-day COVID-19 death toll so far in the pandemic, with 149 fatalities reported, according to The Times’ California coronavirus tracker. At least 122 more deaths were reported Thursday, which would be at least the third-highest daily death toll in the pandemic.

Experts say deaths are a lagging indicator of coronavirus spread and probably reflect exposures to the virus that occurred four or five weeks earlier. Yet there are also a few signs of hope on the horizon.

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More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— Should you send your child back to school? Parents are stressed and divided. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, leaders of the teachers union will call for campuses to remain closed and for distance learning to continue when the school year begins on Aug. 18.

— L.A. residents could again be ordered to stay home to stem the spread of the coronavirus should infections and hospitalizations continue to climb, Mayor Eric Garcetti warned.

— People from the Marshall Islands living in the U.S. are being hit hard by the coronavirus. In Washington’s Spokane County, Marshallese make up less than 1% of the population — but 22% of the COVID-19 cases.

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— COVID-19 and blood type: What’s the link?

— An unintended consequence of the crisis: better bosses, who talk less and listen more.

For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter.

Out of Order

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It’s no secret that the game industry has struggled to mature beyond its boyish and boorish stereotypes.

Allegations of a range of aggressions that include sexual, emotional and professional abuse began on a large scale last fall, when independent developers, a prominent composer and an executive in the virtual reality space were accused of sexual harassment or abuse. In 2020, no aspect of gaming has been spared from a reckoning that has rippled through American culture.

Taken together, the allegations paint a picture of a broken culture, where anyone who is not a white male weaned on games has to engage in an uphill, exhausting battle to not be seen as an outsider, game critic Todd Martens writes.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

No, the picture below isn’t of the fireworks that have kept you up for weeks. They’re light streaks from airplanes coming and going from Van Nuys Airport. Twenty-three years ago today, from a vantage point on Mulholland Drive, Times photographer Frank Wiese used a 30-minute time exposure with a 500-millimeter lens to capture the planes’ streaks, resembling illuminated vapor trails or lightning bolts. The image was published in the July 16, 1997, paper.

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July 10, 1997: The lights of incoming and outgoing planes at Van Nuys Airport leave streaks of light in the night sky.
(Frank Wiese / Los Angeles Times)

YOUR WEEKEND

— Smoked rib tips? South L.A.'s RibTown BBQ stands apart for Southern-style pit barbecue.

— Southern California has a summer whale-watching season. Here’s where to go.

Collards: The easiest greens to grow, cook and eat.

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— Ten sun-loving houseplants that can take the heat.

CALIFORNIA

— Actress Naya Rivera is presumed to have drowned as authorities continue to look for her body in Lake Piru after she went missing Wednesday afternoon.

— L.A. police have arrested five people in connection with the February slaying of Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke, who was gunned down in a rented Hollywood Hills home.

— L.A. County Sheriff’s investigators have concluded that Robert Fuller, a Black man whose body was found hanging from a tree in Palmdale last month, died by suicide.
An attorney representing Fuller’s family said he would respond to the sheriff’s and coroner’s findings today.

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— L.A. County prosecutors have filed six more counts of sexual assault and battery against disgraced USC gynecologist George Tyndall, who was arrested last year after he was accused of sexual misconduct by hundreds of former students. Tyndall has denied all wrongdoing.

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NATION-WORLD

— The Supreme Court ruled that a large chunk of eastern Oklahoma remains an American Indian reservation, a decision that state and federal officials have warned could throw Oklahoma into chaos.

— Ousted U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman, who was leading investigations into Trump’s allies, told the House Judiciary Committee that Atty. Gen. William Barr “repeatedly urged” him to resign during a hastily arranged meeting that sheds light on the extraordinary standoff surrounding his departure.

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— Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, was returned to federal prison, after photos of him dining in a restaurant were published. He had been serving the remainder of his sentence at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

— Lush gardens. A waterfall. An airport built to awe in Singapore is quieted by COVID-19.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— During the pandemic, indie films have found a a new lifeline: drive-ins and “virtual cinemas.”

— More than 2,000 people in the music industry — half of them women and half of them under the age of 40 — have been invited to become Grammys voters as the organization looks to diversify beyond its boys club image.

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— If “Hamilton” didn’t sate your appetite for musical theater, our weekend watchlist has plenty more options that might, from a Bernadette Peters concert to the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “Carousel,” plus non-musical theater and non-theater music bustin’ out all over.

— The pandemic shut down the West Coast premiere of “Antigone, Presented by the Girls of St. Catherine’s.” Here’s how it’s staging its comeback.

BUSINESS

— In jettisoning a rule that aimed to protect consumers from payday lenders, the Trump administration is ignoring the economic disadvantages of Black and Latino Americans and the reality that such businesses are often predicated on trapping people in perpetual debt, columnist David Lazarus writes.

JetBlue is leaving the Long Beach Airport, where it was once the dominant airline, to move its regional hub to LAX.

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— More than 1.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, as employers keep laying people off in the face of a resurgent coronavirus. But the total number of people who are getting those benefits dropped by 700,000 to 18 million, suggesting some companies are still rehiring.

SPORTS

Stan Johnson took over the Loyola Marymount men’s basketball program during the pandemic. He faced much larger odds for success in his life, columnist Helene Elliott writes.

— Can the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger repeat his scorching start last year this time around?

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

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OPINION

— What part of birth control does the Supreme Court not think is preventive healthcare?

— Horror clouds every page of Mary Trump’s book about her Uncle Donald.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— As cities consider how best to reopen schools, this series profiles the vulnerable students whom the pandemic has hit hardest, from the Mississippi mom who takes her kids to McDonald’s to do homework using its WiFi in the parking lot to the kids in Indian Country whose federally run schools haven’t yet gotten relief aid. (Hechinger Report)

— For months, San Quentin was offered free coronavirus tests and urgent advice. The prison declined. (Nature)

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— Inside the campaign to free Roger Stone. (Politico)

ONLY IN L.A.

Most of us have never been through a global pandemic before. But downtown’s Grand Central Market has. It opened in 1917, the year before an influenza pandemic killed 50 million people worldwide. So how is it handling reopening this time around? Lucas Kwan Peterson spoke with a number of the vendors, including the owner of the Donut Man, a longtime Glendora favorite that opened up its Grand Central Market outpost after a four-month delay.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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