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Trump news – live: President asks Supreme Court to quash Obamacare in ‘senseless crusade’ on healthcare as US sees record surge in coronavirus cases

Follow latest updates on Trump administration and US politics

Trump can't explain what he'd do with a second term

Donald Trump has asked the US Supreme Court to quash the Affordable Care Act, which was introduced by his predecessor Barack Obama to provide healthcare coverage to millions of Americans.

Government lawyers are arguing the legislation, dubbed Obamacare and seen as one of the Democrat ex-president’s signature achievements, became invalid when the Republican-led Congress axed parts of it in 2017.

Democrats have accused the administration of waging a “senseless crusade” of “unfathomable cruelty” on healthcare protections just as the US sees an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases across the US. The country on Thursday recorded its highest one-day rise in Covid-19 infections yet.

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Good morning and welcome to The Independent's US politics live blog.

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Trump asks Supreme Court to scrap Obamacare in middle of pandemic

Last last night, the Trump administration lodged filings asking the Supreme Court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act that has provided more than 20 million Americans with health insurance amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Government lawyers submitted the 82-page document arguing that the act - dubbed Obamacare - was unconstitutional after Congress, then under Republican control, eliminated tax penalties for not purchasing health insurance in 2017.

This comes after an estimated 27 million Americans lost their health insurance amid mass unemployment since March, whilst some 487,000 have signed up with HealthCare.gov, which acts as a back-up, since the pandemic started.

What's more, the administration's move to quash Obamacare comes as coronavirus is surging across the US. Yesterday's rise in Covid-19 infections was the biggest one-day increase yet.

Gino Spocchia has more:

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War on Obamacare branded 'unfathomable cruelty'

Donald Trump's decision to wage war on healthcare coverage during a public health crisis has gone down about as well as you'd expect with Democrats.

Trump's Democrat presidential rival Joe Biden said the administration's attempt to have the Supreme Court quash Obamacare was "cruel, it's heartless, it's callous".

In a speech in the must-win election battleground of Pennsylvania, Biden said the move would force families to "live their lives caught in a vise between Donald Trump's twin legacies: his failure to protect the American people from the coronavirus and his heartless crusade to take healthcare protections away".

Addressing November's election, he added: “If Donald Trump refuses to end his senseless crusade against health coverage, I look forward to ending it for him.”

Democratic House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Republican campaign to "rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the coronavirus crisis is an act of unfathomable cruelty".

She added: "If President Trump gets his way, 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions will lose the ACA's lifesaving protections and 23 million Americans will lose their health coverage entirely. There is no legal justification and no moral excuse for the Trump administration's disastrous efforts to take away Americans' health care."

And it is not just Democrats criticising the move. Joel White, a Republican strategist, told The New York Times he considered it “pretty dumb to be talking about how we need to repeal Obamacare in the middle of a pandemic".

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US sees record one-day rise in coronavirus cases

It does not take a very stable genius to understand why the timing of Trump's bid to axe Obamacare is causing such consternation. 

Coronavirus cases rose across by the US by at least 39,818 on Thursday, the largest one-day increase of the pandemic.

Government experts believe more than 20 million Americans could have contracted the disease in total, 10 times more than official counts, senior Trump administration officials said.

The governor of Texas, which has seen one of the biggest jumps in new cases, paused the state's reopening on Thursday after reporting 6,000 infections in a single day.

Texas has now set new records for hospital admissions for 13 days in a row. Republican governor Greg Abbott has suspended elective surgeries in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio to free up beds.

A surge in infections has also been seen in states which were spared the brunt of the initial outbreak or moved early to lift lockdown restrictions.

Also reporting record rises in cases this week were Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wyoming.

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House Democrats pass police reform bill

As Donald Trump was waging one war on Democrat legislation last night, his party was losing another in the House of Representatives.

The House passed a broad legislative package to reform policing that includes a nationwide ban on choke holds and no-knock warrants, along with provisions that would make it easier to prosecute and sue law enforcement entities for officer misconduct.

The bill, which passed on a party-line 236-181 vote, was brought by Democrats in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. But the legislation is expected to falter in the Republican-controlled Senate as divisions persist between the parties over how — and how much — to reform US law enforcement.

The bill contains a handful of provisions which Donald Trump has outright rejected, including fundamental changes to “qualified immunity” laws to make it easier to sue police and other government agencies for misconduct.

My colleague Griffin Connolly in Washington has the full story:

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Trump wants federal hiring to focus on skills over degrees

Donald Trump is preparing to direct the federal government to overhaul its hiring to priotisise a job applicant's skills over a university degree, administration and industry officials say.

The president will sign an executive order today outlining a new direction for the nation's largest employer during a meeting of the board that advises the administration on worker policy.

Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and adviser, is co-chair of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board with a brief of improving job training to meet employers' changing needs.

She said a change in federal government hiring would create a more inclusive and talented workforce and encouraged the private sector to follow the administration's lead.

"We are modernising federal hiring to find candidates with the relevant competencies and knowledge, rather than simply recruiting based on degree requirements," she told the Associated Press in a statement. "We encourage employers everywhere to take a look at their hiring practices and think critically about how initiatives like these can help diversify and strengthen their workforce."

The federal government has 2.1 million employees, excluding postal service staff.

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Defence secretary seeks to reassure Nato over US troop plans

The US defence secretary has sought to reassure allies at Nato that Washington will consult them on any future troop movements, after  Donald Trump surprised the military alliance by announcing the withdrawal of thousands of personnel from Germany.

Mark Esper paid a short in-person visit to Nato headquarters in Brussels this morning a week after several allied defence ministers expressed concern about the unpredictability of US troop plans in Europe and their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"I welcome that the US is consulting with allies, while making clear that the US commitment to European security remains strong," Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said in a joint video statement before holding talks with Mr Esper.

Last week, Trump said he was ordering a major reduction in troop strength in Germany from 34,500 personnel down to 25,000.

Germany was not forewarned of the announcement, which came after Trump branded its Nato ally "delinquent" on defence spending.

Esper reaffirmed that message in Brussels, saying that "I continue to urge all of our allies to meet their target goal of 2 per cent of GDP. We've moved a good distance here in the last few years but there's much, much more we need to do to ensure our collective security."

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Minneapolis council to vote on dismantling city's police force

Minneapolis City Council will today vote on a proposal to change its charter to allow elimination of the city's police department following George Floyd's death.

The vote is one step in a process that faces significant bureaucratic obstacles to make a ballot in November, when the city's voters would have the final say.

While a majority of the council favour the move, a spate of recent shootings in Minnesota's largest city appears to have heightened concerns about talk of dismantling the department.

The Minneapolis force has come under heavy pressure since Floyd, a black man, died on 25 May during an arrest in which an officer pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes. Activists had long accused the department of being unable to change a racist and brutal culture.

Draft language of the amendment which would dismantle the force proposes replacing it with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, "which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritising a holistic, public health-oriented approach."

The amendment goes on to say the director of the new agency would have "non-law-enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches." It also provides for a division of licensed peace officers, who would answer to the department's director.

"It is time to make structural change," council member Steve Fletcher told Associated Press. "It is time to start from scratch and reinvent what public safety looks like."

The proposed amendment is expected to be approved Friday. It  would then go to a policy committee and to the city's Charter Commission for formal review, though the commission's recommendation doesn't bind the council.

Barry Clegg, chairman of the Charter Commission, said the process feels rushed.

"As I understand it, they are saying, 'We are going to have this new department. We don't know what it's going to look like yet. We won't implement this for a year, we'll figure it out,"' he said. "For myself anyway, I would prefer that we figured it out first, and then voted on it."

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Americans increasingly fearful of coronavirus

Concern over the coronavirus pandemic is growing again in the US as cases surge across the country, according a new poll.

More than three-quarters of Americans (76 per cent) are concerned about being infected by Covid-19, up from 69 per cent in early June, found the ABC News/Ipsos survey. This is a reversal of a two-month trend of declining anxiety.

Almost four to one (56 per cent to 15 per cent) Americans believe the US is reopening the economy too quickly rather than too slowly.  Twenty-nine per cent believe the economy is being reopened at the right pace.

Alongside the increase in concern, there has been a rise in protective behaviour and reduction in willingness to be out in public.

Almost nine in ten (87 per cent) Americans said they had worn a face mask or covering when leaving the home in the past week, up from 61 per cent in mid-April.

The number of Americans willing to do many public activities has declined over the last two weeks after increasing through late May, with people particularly less willing to do things that would expose them to large groups or crowds.

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Japan scraps costly US missile system despite North Korea threat

 Japan's National Security Council has endorsed plans to cancel the deployment of two costly land-based US missile defence systems aimed at bolstering the country's capability against threats from North Korea, the country's defence minister said on Thursday.

Defence minister Taro Kono said the country will now revise its missile defence programme and scale up its entire defence posture.

The council made its decision on Wednesday, and now the government will need to enter negotiations with the US about what to do with payments and the purchase contract already made for the Aegis Ashore systems.

Mari Yamaguchi reports: 

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