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Amy Coney Barrett is Trump’s intended choice for Supreme Court vacancy, sources say



In conversations with some senior Republican allies on the Hill, the White House is indicating that Barrett, a federal appellate judge and Notre Dame law professor, is the intended nominee, multiple sources said.

All sources cautioned that until it is announced by the President, there is always the possibility that Trump makes a last-minute change but the expectation is Barrett is the choice. He is scheduled to make the announcement on Saturday afternoon.

A former law clerk to the late right-wing beacon Justice Antonin Scalia, Barrett would tilt the balance of power on the court further to the right, possibly ahead of a consequential case on health care to be argued the week after Election Day. If her Senate confirmation is successful before the November election, the appointment would mark Trump’s third Supreme Court pick in one presidential term, cementing a conservative stronghold in the court for a generation.

She has been the leading choice throughout the week, since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. She is the only potential nominee known to have met with the President in person, according to two of the sources. One source said Trump was familiar with Barrett already and he met with her since she was a top contender the last time there was a Supreme Court vacancy, when the President chose Justice Brett Kavanaugh instead.

Barrett was seen at her South Bend, Indiana, home on Friday. It was not clear if Barrett had been told she is the choice. Often that is done as late as possible to maintain secrecy around the announcement.

“The machinery is in motion,” one of the sources said. In previous nomination announcements, the White House had multiple rollouts planned in case the President made a last-minute decision to switch to another candidate. But one source said it would be surprising if there were a change since allies are already being told.

The White House declined to comment.

“She was the plan all along. She’s the most distinguished and qualified by traditional measures. She has the strongest support among the legal conservatives who have dedicated their lives to the court. She will contribute most to the court’s jurisprudence in the years and decades to come,” according to a former senior administration official familiar with the process.

The mother of seven children, Barrett, now 48, was confirmed in 2017 for her current judgeship on the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. Born in New Orleans in 1972 and a 1997 Notre Dame law graduate, Barrett worked in private practice and then became a law professor, settling at Notre Dame in 2002.

Advocates on the right have backed her possible nomination because of her writings on faith and the law. Religious conservatives were especially energized for Barrett when, during her 2017 confirmation, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California suggested to her that the “dogma lives loudly within you.” Barrett supporters believed the nominee was being disparaged for her Catholicism.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear in conversations with Trump and White House counsel Pat Cipollone that the Senate GOP conference would be comfortable with Barrett, two people with knowledge of the conversations told CNN earlier this week. Sen. Todd Young, who hails from Barrett’s home state of Indiana and leads the Senate Republican campaign arm, has also been an advocate, the people said.

The President indicated he has spoken to multiple candidates, but the White House has not been willing to say if other conversations were in person.

Barrett was at the White House on Monday and Tuesday of this week. She impressed the President and others during the initial meetings, two sources told CNN earlier this week.

This story has been updated with additional biographical details about Barrett.

Joan Biskupic and Maegan Vazquez contributed to this story.

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Supreme Court fight adds stunning new twist to a crisis election


President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans spent the weekend rolling out an aggressive power play to try to solidify an unassailable and generational majority on the nation’s top bench possibly even before an election that is only 43 days away.
Democrats are meanwhile mobilizing to maximize what they see as possible benefits of the nomination struggle for Joe Biden’s campaign and to prevent the President from using the sudden confirmation fight to turn the focus away from his disastrous mismanagement of the coronavirus emergency. The confrontation is heating up with some Americans already taking part in early and absentee voting, and only a week before the first critical presidential debate between the President and the former vice president in Ohio.
The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday injected an extraordinary new dimension into what was already shaping up as the most contentious election in decades. Her passing also unleashed an even more divisive than normal battle for a replacement since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pressing ahead to confirm a pick Trump may make within days despite refusing to move on then-President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, many months before the 2016 election. Back then, McConnell said voters should decide the destiny of the court in choosing a new President.

But McConnell turned his back on his own made-up rule with a Republican in the White House. This Republican hypocrisy led to an absurd spectacle on Sunday talk shows of lawmakers and officials trying to explain away their own disingenuousness. The GOP will not care, however, since this pick will likely enshrine a decades-long conservative majority with the capacity to shape vast areas of American life — from voting and gender rights to environmental regulation and big business matters. The court could also become a thorn in the side of future Democratic presidents.

Trump reveled in his opportunity to nominate his third Supreme Court Justice at a rally in North Carolina on Saturday night. “It will be a woman, a very talented, very brilliant woman,” Trump said. “I haven’t chosen yet, but we have numerous women on the list.”

Trump vows to appoint a woman to Supreme Court as vacancy re-energizes his political prospects
Among the President’s top choices, according to CNN reporting, are Amy Coney Barrett, whom Trump previously nominated to sit on the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals, and Barbara Lagoa, whom he appointed to the 11th US Circuit of Appeals in 2019. Lagoa is Hispanic and from Florida and could fit well with Trump’s reelection strategy, which depends on him winning the vital swing state.

Biden seized on McConnell’s gall in an effort to make the case that Republicans who won the presidency despite losing the popular vote are embarked on an extreme power grab and must be reined in.

“Don’t go there,” Biden said Sunday, directly appealing to GOP senators. “Uphold your constitutional duty, your conscience, let the people speak. Cool the flames that have been engulfing our country. We can’t keep rewriting history.”

Two Republicans, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. Susan Collins, who is locked in a tight reelection fight in Maine, have already said that they oppose taking up Trump’s nomination before the election, leaving McConnell almost no margin for error if he is to fulfill Trump’s wish for a vote before the election. He can only afford to lose one more Republican senator and still confirm the pick before November 3 with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.

The exact dynamics inside the Senate GOP will become more clear later this week as the chamber returns to work and members gather for their policy lunch.

Worsening pandemic complicates Trump’s reelection push

Biden plans to make the Supreme Court duel into a new platform for his assault on the President on health care, sources told CNN. The approach will allow him to also leverage criticism of Trump’s performance on the pandemic.
The Court is already scheduled to hear oral arguments in the administration’s latest attempt to kill off Obamacare the week after the election, and Democrats will argue that the new nominee could help finally seal the law’s fate and crush popular provisions like a ban on denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

The President pivoted forcefully to the new Supreme Court battle after a week when he became increasingly desperate to deflect from the pandemic, which included misleading and often false accounts, for example, of the speed with which Americans can expect to see a vaccine needed to end the disaster.

Biden to make health care push as Supreme Court vacancy fight looms
View Trump and Biden head-to-head polling
Trump’s claims that the country has been turning the corner on the virus are being comprehensively refuted by data, which shows a rising number of cases and daily coronavirus deaths averaging around 800. The number of Covid-19 deaths in the United States is about to top the staggering barrier of 200,000 after it emerged in Bob Woodward’s new book that the President understood the seriousness of the disease back in February but refused to level with the country. Some experts say this may have potentially caused tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Trump’s hopes of talking about anything but the pandemic look slim given the worsening situation. The number of new Covid-19 cases has increased by at least 10% in 31 states over the last week, according to data Sunday from Johns Hopkins University. The test positivity rate — the percentage of new test results that are positive — is rising in 25 states, according to the Covid Tracking Project, fulfilling the fears of experts who warned of a post-Labor Day spike.

Republicans deny claims of hypocrisy

While large crowds of mourners gathered at the Supreme Court to pay tribute to Ginsburg, the White House was embarking on an aggressive plan to put her replacement — and a 6-3 conservative majority — in place.

“Justice Ginsburg was confirmed within 43 days of her nomination,” Pence’s Chief of Staff Marc Short told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, though it actually took 50 days from the presidential announcement.

“Today, we sit here 44 days out from election, so it’s certainly possible,” he said, referring to the chances of getting a new justice on the bench by November 3.”But I think that the President’s obligation is to make the nomination. We will leave the timetable to Leader McConnell.”

Republican senators blew past accusations of hypocrisy when asked about the tactics of McConnell, who has made reshaping the federal judiciary the priority of his leadership of the Senate.

Here's why a Supreme Court battle could benefit the GOP
Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso laid out his expectations for a swift confirmation on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “The President is going to make a nomination. I believe it’s going to be this week. And Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, we will hold hearings. And there will be a vote on the floor of the United States Senate this year.”

If the Republicans cannot ram through a vote before the election, it could lead to a massive political conflagration should Democrats win the presidency and take back the Senate, then have to watch as a new justice is confirmed in a lame duck session by McConnell.

Such possibilities are making for some treacherous politics for both sides ahead of the election.

Trump, for example, is clearly hoping that a Supreme Court fight will supercharge his political base and send an overwhelming wave of conservatives into polling places. But there is also the chance that the Supreme Court battle could backfire on the President. It could boost liberal turnout among voters who fear, for example, that the new conservative majority will seek to limit or even outlaw the right to an abortion. A prolonged fight over this issue ahead of the election may further weaken Trump’s already compromised position among suburban women voters.

A new Reuters-Ipsos poll conducted on Saturday and Sunday found 62% of Americans agreed that the winner of the election should appoint Ginsburg’s replacement. But the poll also pointed to partisan divides and public uncertainty since 46% of those asked agreed that Trump should nominate a replacement before his term ends.
The audacity of the President and McConnell is also fueling Democratic intensity over what many in the party will view as two stolen Supreme Court seats. Former President Bill Clinton said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that for “Senator McConnell and President Trump, their first value is power. And they’re trying to jam the court with as many ideological judges as they can.”

“You can’t keep a democracy if there’s one set of rules for one group and another set for everybody else,” Clinton said.

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Trump fumbles during tough encounter with undecided voters in Philadelphia



Trump appeared at an ABC News town hall in Philadelphia, and peppered a socially distanced audience with the rhetoric and talking points that delight his loyal base. But if his goal was to satisfy relatively small groups of voters who polls show haven’t yet made up their mind, the President appeared to fall short and rarely addressed the substance of questions about his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, race relations and health care.

It was an unusual moment of exposure for a leader who demands constant public praise from his subordinates. On Tuesday night, audience members granted him the respect due to his office but none of the adulation he craves.

Trump was largely cordial and likely came across as strong to voters that love him. But his performance offered Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden multiple openings only two weeks before their first debate clash — one of the last potential turning points of the White House race. First-term presidents who have spent years expecting deference from everyone they meet often get a shock in the first debate showdown with a challenger keen to get in their grill. Tuesday’s event suggests the surprise may be especially acute for Trump when he faces Biden on September 29.

Answers that normally draw wild cheers at Trump’s packed campaign events fell flat when he was confronted by voters who appeared to want to cut through bluster and propaganda. And his responses did little to recognize the magnitude of the challenges facing the nation in a fearful year, suggesting that the President has yet to find the language or the appeals that might turn around an election he so far seems to be losing.

On a day when America recorded more than 1,200 new deaths from Covid-19, Trump effectively told the country to ignore his own words to Bob Woodward downplaying the threat early this year even though he knew how bad it was.

He said he did a “tremendous” job on the virus, insisted “it’s going to disappear” and that “a lot of people think masks are not good.” Asked who said masks aren’t good, Trump replied, “Waiters.” He bizarrely said “herd mentality” would make it go away, in an apparent reference to herd immunity that medical experts say could cost several million lives. The President has pounced on Biden’s verbal slips as evidence that he lacks the mental capacity to be President. But his own confusing answers after six months supposedly leading the national effort to fight the pandemic failed to inspire confidence that he fully understands the implications of the emergency even now.

He also illogically complained that Biden, who has no power, had not followed through on a national mask mandate and claimed falsely the US response to the crisis was the best in the world. And the President denied any blame for how the pandemic has turned out — placing the entire responsibility on China, where the virus first emerged, and several times complained he is not getting the credit he deserves.

At the end of the night, the President was asked by a voter named Ashley West to cite the most difficult part of his presidency and asked what he had learned from it — and in a way that seemed jarring given that the 200,000th American will soon die from the disease, the President reflected on his own personal sense of loss.

“I learned that life is very fragile. I knew people that were powerful people, strong people, good people, and they got knocked out by this, and died. Six people. It was five until about two weeks ago. Now, it’s six,” Trump said.

Trump defends himself

The President became most exercised when denying reports that he referred to US war dead as “losers” and “suckers,” calling them “fake.” He made halting attempts to show empathy to a new US citizen from the Dominican Republic who lost her mother to breast cancer complications a month ago and asked him a question about immigration. Trump responded by telling her that it was terrible that people died alone in hospital due to Covid-19 — and turned the answer into an infomercial for his pandemic leadership. Biden, who has buried a first wife and two children in a life marked by tragedy, is highlighting his own empathy as a balm for the country at a grief-wracked moment.

Trump shrugged off questioners who asked him if he agreed America needed to reexamine its painful history on race, again arguing that there were a few “bad apples” in the police force who “choked” in incidents in which unarmed Black Americans were killed.

The President also falsely claimed that Democrats wanted to remove protections for patients with pre-existing conditions introduced under Obamacare. His own administration is currently arguing a Supreme Court case trying to destroy the Affordable Care Act, while Democrats seek to preserve the law. While Trump says he would protect pre-existing conditions, he has offered no credible health plan.

The President’s appearance came in a crucial swing state at a moment when he is trailing Biden by nine points in the CNN Poll of Polls as the country faces concurrent crises: a pandemic, the consequent economic crash, a racial reckoning and historic fires in Western states.

Nine percent of voters in a CNN/SSRS poll this month said they might still change their mind about who they will vote for. Trump’s task in the election appears to be to add less fervent voters to his coalition after spending four years incessantly playing to his base. But while his strongest moments Tuesday came on ending foreign wars and on the economy, and he likely pleased supporters with his unequivocal pro-police statements, the President offered few new policies or approaches at the event that differed from positions in three years when his approval rating has rarely climbed above the low 40s.

Trump’s campaign insists untapped seams of pro-Trump voters who sat on the sidelines in 2016 are being ignored by pollsters and will embrace the President’s hardline culture war rhetoric to sweep him to a second term.

Trump again denies evidence of his own voice

The town hall event exactly seven weeks before Election Day was a reminder of the kind of chaos, falsehoods and divisiveness that is a selling point for the President’s most faithful voters but is the kind of behavior that may prompt an undecided voter to turn away.

The stream of lies and alternative realities that the President promoted recalled a statement attributed to former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats in Woodward’s book “Rage” that was published on Tuesday.

“To him a lie is not a lie. It’s just what he thinks. He doesn’t know the difference between the truth and a lie,” Coats is quoted as saying to former Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Such commentary was borne out when Trump responded to a question by a first time voter from Pittsburgh who asked why he was captured on tapes made by Woodward as downplaying the pandemic.

“Yeah, well, I didn’t downplay it. I, actually, in many ways, I up-played it, in terms of action,” he said.

In essence, the President is inviting voters to refuse to believe the evidence of their own ears on his early attitude to the worst domestic crisis since World War II that has now killed 195,000 Americans and pitched 30 million out of work.

He is implicitly arguing that not only does he not deserve any blame for a response that lags other industrialized nations — the US has 4% of the world’s population and more than 20% of the Covid-19 cases and deaths.

But such a view relies on an interpretation that distorts the traditional sense that the buck stops on the Oval Office desk and instead relies on voters to believe a flagrant act of salesmanship that defies the reality of their own lives.

After Trump told Fox News earlier Tuesday that he had read Woodward’s book on Monday night, and found it “boring,” Woodward said that the President was living in an “Orwellian world.”

“He was told, he knew, he told me about it,” the veteran reporter told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

“I don’t know, to be honest, whether he’s got it straight in his head what is real and what is unreal.”

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Trump twists history of Churchill and FDR to cover up pandemic denialism


Trump ridiculously invoked the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at a Thursday night rally, claiming that like them, he had tried hard to calm public panic in a dark hour. It was a historically illiterate gambit, since unlike Trump in the pandemic, both statesmen leveled with their people about grave national crises.

In one stunning moment, he said that if the Washington Post reporter, whose book “Rage” comes out Tuesday, was so concerned about what was said in their taped conversations, he should have gone to the “authorities” so they could prepare the country. Of course, under the Constitution, the President is the ultimate authority and whether Trump likes it, the buck stops with him for the pandemic and every other national crisis.

“I don’t want to jump up and down and start screaming death, death,” Trump said, after Vice President Mike Pence bizarrely suggested Trump’s negligence in fact typified a British propaganda campaign that was never widely used during the war and has become part of marketing kitsch in recent years: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

At his Michigan rally, Trump jumped on the metaphor, comparing himself to the wartime prime minister.

“We have to be calm. We don’t want to be crazed lunatics. … When Hitler was bombing London, Churchill, a great leader, would oftentimes go to a roof in London and speak. And he always spoke with calmness,” Trump said, mangling the history of Churchill’s late night trips to view the raids with his separate radio addresses to the British people.

Trump's historic dereliction of duty laid bare
The comparison doesn’t hold up since Churchill left his country in no doubt of the challenge ahead when he became prime minister in 1940, warning of an “ordeal of the most grievous kind” and adding, “We have before us many, many long months of struggle and suffering.” Trump never came close to a similar steeling of national resolve at the start of the pandemic. His choice to look away from the threat and hope it would just pass actually has more in common with another British Prime Minister of the era, Neville Chamberlain, who elected not to confront the rising Nazi menace in 1938 in appeasement policies that many historians believe squandered a chance to stop Adolf Hitler before he reached a point of maximum danger.
The President also ludicrously compared himself to Roosevelt, who told Americans in his inaugural address in 1933 that “the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” The quote was ripped out of context and is a poor match for Trump’s denialism over the coronavirus. Unlike the current President’s conduct in this crisis, Roosevelt didn’t ignore the banking meltdown that he faced in the middle of the Great Depression. He explained it in understandable but powerful language to Americans and summoned them to a great national effort. Trump, by contrast, said that the pandemic wouldn’t be a great problem and would just disappear, even though he knew full well how serious it was.

‘Beyond upsetting’

Trump’s meanderings were not just evidence of his slim grasp of history. They were the latest sign of how he has shirked his duty and minimized the current emergency. On Thursday, for instance, he urged New York City to go much faster after it announced that restaurants could soon begin serving food inside at 25% capacity after long and painful months slowly reducing the once out-of-control epidemic.

At his evening rally, he called on Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, to “open up” her state. He urged schools to reopen and called for Big Ten college football to come back, cherry picking science about the impact of the virus on kids and ignoring their potential to infect their elders who are more at risk of complications.

This was despite growing signs of the danger posed to teachers — three of whom recently died from Covid-19 complications. He disregarded 40,000 cases of Covid-19 already recorded in higher education with many institutions canceling football games and in-person classes. The administration has not furnished a national plan to help schools go back safely, other than US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on reopening. It has also threatened to defund schools that don’t get kids back in class.

Flying to Michigan to greet several thousand maskless supporters packed together exemplified his defiance of his own government’s guidelines for battling the pandemic. And Trump’s admission to Woodward that he knew the virus was transmitted through the air back in February is training fresh scrutiny on his decision to hold a string of rallies through February and early March.

The President’s latest positions mirror those he took at the beginning of the summer when he goaded supportive state governors to open up their economies and mocked mask wearing, thereby helping set off a disaster in the Sun Belt.

The impression then was the same as it is now: the President is desperate to restore at least an illusion of normality and to juice up the economy to boost his chances of reelection — ignoring the human cost of his actions.

“This is the single largest public health failure in the modern history of the United States, certainly, in the last hundred years,” said Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor University.

“And it happened because of the refusal by the White House to launch a national campaign and a national strategy against the virus. So it’s beyond upsetting,” Hotez told CNN’s “New Day.”

Trump’s explanation that he had not wanted to panic Americans by explaining the true threat from the virus also came under severe examination. “We could have had one-fifth the deaths we’ve have had, and part of this is a failure to communicate,” Tom Frieden, the former director of the CDC, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“We will pass 200,000 deaths in the beginning of October, by all estimates, and this is a number that is just almost inconceivable,” Frieden said.

“This is an enormous number of people dying and it’s tragic to recognize that if we just had a more organized, well-led response with clear communication, many of those deaths could have been avoided.”

Biden seizes chance to attack

The Woodward revelations, piled on top of previous evidence of Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic, are likely to have a devastating impact on the President’s legacy. What is less certain less than eight weeks from Election Day is how they will affect his immediate political fortunes.

There is little chance that after nearly four years of scandals, dramas and outrages, Trump’s bond with his loyal voter base will be hurt.

Proof of that can be read in the reaction from Republican lawmakers to the Woodward book and their unwillingness to criticize the President, apart from a few exceptions, like Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has broken with Trump before and said the material was “very, very, very concerning.”

Texas Sen. John Cornyn declined to comment since he had no “personal knowledge” of the President’s remarks — even though they are on tape and have been playing on television for two days.

Biden on Trump concealing coronavirus threat: 'It's almost criminal'

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, who’s facing a tough reelection, told CNN, “When you’re in a crisis situation, you have to inform people for their public health but you also don’t want to create hysteria.”

Democratic nominee Joe Biden launched a fresh attack on the President over his handling of the crisis that plays into the core argument of his campaign that Trump is temperamentally and intellectually unfit for office.
“He said there’s no need for social distancing, don’t bother wearing a mask. He actually went so far as to suggest it was a violation of American freedom to maintain you had to wear a mask,” Biden told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an exclusive interview.

“And look what’s happened. Again, 190,000 dead and climbing. And what’s he doing now? He still has not moved.”

The explosion over the Woodward books comes just two weeks after a Republican National Convention that made Trump’s campaign strategy clear — avoid discussion of the pandemic at all costs.

But as Trump’s struggles on Thursday showed, he’s finding it all but impossible to change the subject. For example, he could try to exploit Biden’s vulnerabilities on trade and China. The former vice president voted to admit Beijing into the World Trade Organization as a senator and also supported the North America Free Trade agreement. Those positions offer an opening to Trump in a political climate that has turned against free trade agreements.

But the grim and looming milestone of 200,000 US deaths from Covid-19 is likely to drown out the President’s message within days.

And with the first debate with Biden on September 29 fast approaching, time is dwindling for the President to get the campaign back onto ground he prefers.

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Two strangers, with the same first name, and a terrifying story about ketamine in policing


They nudged him awake and the conversation was calm for the first several minutes. Deputies told him they were just checking to see if he was all right. But the encounter ended with McKnight on life support after being injected with a high dose of a drug called ketamine.

“I was out cold for three days on life support,” he said. “My family didn’t know where I was.”

When McKnight finally woke up in an Aurora hospital, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing on the news. His eyes widened when he saw a story about another young Black man named Elijah. Elijah McClain was in a coma and near death after a police encounter that also involved a ketamine injection — the same drug McKnight had been given before everything went dark. The two incidents happened just 10 miles apart and within days of each other, but involved different law enforcement and EMT agencies.

“I’m thankful to be alive,” McKnight said. But he is convinced the use of ketamine in police calls is being abused when there is no medical need for it.

“They are being lazy. I guess they didn’t want to deal with a drunk asshole,” he said.

McKnight is not alone in questioning whether police are influencing paramedics to use the powerful tranquilizer that requires hospitalization for nonmedical reasons.

CNN has found ongoing investigations in multiple states regarding emergency responders’ use of the fast-acting drug to tranquilize people against their will. In some places, such as Colorado and Minneapolis, the use of the drug by paramedics rose sharply in recent years.

Outrage over its use has motivated a city council member in Aurora, Colorado, to propose a temporary ban on the administration of the drug by first responders. In Minneapolis, the police department decided to create a new policy for its officers in 2018.

Sidewalk to ICU

Body camera video shows Arapahoe County sheriff’s deputies approaching Elijah McKnight in 2019 to check on his welfare while he’s passed out on the sidewalk. The conversation is calm and cordial to start, even after McKnight admits unprompted that he has warrants out for his arrest.

Deputies and McKnight go back and forth with McKnight asking them to call his father and deputies taking down his dad’s number. But, eventually, the officers move to detain McKnight and he tries to run.

The video shows officers grabbing him and pulling him down in a struggle. He’s accused of kicking one of the officers in the face. McKnight denies that, but admits he was angry, scared and uncooperative.

The deputies warned him and then use a Taser on him. McKnight is lying face down in the dirt with his hands cuffed behind his back as the two deputies lean on his legs. He screams that his legs are in pain. So when paramedics arrive, he is relieved.

“When they first came on the scene, I was like, please help me,” McKnight told CNN. “Finally, I have witnesses, now the police can’t do something to me.”

Body cameras captured the encounter between McKnight and first responders.

The paramedics assess him. McKnight loudly asks to be lifted up.

Still on the ground, McKnight occasionally yells out but is able to give correct answers when asked what year it is and who is the president.

“You’re a little too hyped up right now, you gotta relax,” a medic from South Metro Fire Rescue says.

“I am being cooperative,” McKnight insists.

“You are. You are. And I appreciate it, man,” the paramedic says.

After about six minutes, paramedics determine McKnight does not need hospital treatment.

But then one of the deputies asks, “You can’t give him anything can you? Unless you go to the hospital, right?”

A paramedic responds, “We can give him ketamine. He’ll be sleeping like a baby, but he’ll have to go to the hospital.”

McKnight objects, yelling: “Don’t give me. Don’t inject anything into my veins.”

It is unclear whether a paramedic or deputy responds, saying, “Just give it to him. I mean he’s bucking the three of us. Just give it to him.”

And they do. After a 500-milligram shot, the paramedics’ post-incident report says McKnight is being “wildly combative.” On body camera video, they say he is still able to “lift” them.

The video shows McKnight cuffed and laying still, yelling out now and then. Paramedics call a physician and get permission to inject him with 250 more milligrams of ketamine — a total dose higher than the drug manufacturer and the state health department recommends for a man of his weight. And finally, McKnight passes out. On the paramedic logs, it says McKnight was suffering from “excited delirium,” a controversial medical diagnosis.

McKnight sees that as simply an excuse to knock him out because police didn’t want to deal with him. Once ketamine is given, the recipient has to be hospitalized.

“They said I didn’t need to be hospitalized. So they definitely wasn’t going to give me ketamine until the police asked for it,” McKnight said. “I definitely wasn’t experiencing excited delirium, I can tell you that.”

A powerful drug

Ketamine is often the strongest sedative in a paramedic’s kit in departments that allow its use. In Colorado, where McKnight lives, the crews need a waiver from the health department to use it. Doctors administer it for pain relief and it can even be a general anesthetic.

In Colorado in the spring of 2013, the state health department’s Emergency Medical Practice Advisory Council cleared the use of ketamine in the field to treat patients with “a presumptive diagnosis of excited delirium,” but EMS agencies need a waiver to use it.

Excited delirium is defined as a condition where a person is so violently agitated that they can essentially exercise themselves to death, two doctors told CNN.

Colorado health officials said of their 2013 ketamine waiver decision: “The intent was to protect both patients and providers from the harm that can come from patients experiencing extreme agitation.”

This month, the state health department announced plans to review its ketamine waiver program.

Between 2018 and 2019, there was a 72% increase in ketamine waivers for excited delirium Issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Some 902 waivers were made from 2018 to June 2020, even though the department guidance says the condition is rare and ketamine should “not be considered the standard of care for the management of excited delirium or agitation.”

That increase in usage is “alarming,” said Dr. Mary Dale Peterson, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. “It can be fatal, as we have seen in a couple of cases without proper monitoring and attention to detail.”

The American Society of Anesthesiologists said it was so concerned with its use that it put out a statement this year on the use of the drug by first responders.

“Ketamine, or any other drug, you know, should not be given for purely law enforcement purposes. We give drugs to treat medical problems,” Peterson said.

The syndrome of “excited delirium” is not recognized by major medical organizations such as the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association or the World Health Organization. It is, however, recognized by smaller organizations that deal with emergency medicine, such as the American College of Emergency Physicians.

An article in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services said the use of ketamine to deal with excited delirium in the field could “ensure the safety of” first responders and patients.
While another article in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine says ketamine may be safely and effectively used by trained paramedics following a specific protocol, more study is needed to identify the best medication for agitated patients before they get to the hospital.

Dr. Walter Dunn, a psychiatrist and UCLA associate clinical professor, says the controversy over “excited delirium” doesn’t mean the syndrome does not exist — but it is tricky to diagnose.

“Even clinicians would have a difficult time diagnosing an excited delirium,” he said. “When you employ ketamine you better be darn sure that this is excited delirium and not something else.”

That is because, aside from being a powerful sedative, when coupled with other medications or substances, the drug can have unintended consequences, Dr. Peterson says.

Excited delirium is what authorities from two different EMT agencies said McKnight and McClain, who had no alcohol in his system, were experiencing when they were injected. Both received doses larger than the state medical guidelines for their size.

The Colorado health department recently determined medics’ actions on McKnight were “independent of police requests” and “warranted.”

His encounter with police ended with him being loaded on to a gurney to be taken to a hospital, where he was hooked up to a ventilator to keep him alive.

Peterson, the anesthesiologist, said that was a known side effect of the tranquilizer. “Depending on what study you look at, 30% to 57% of patients will require intubation,” she said.

That’s also what happened to McClain. But he never woke up.

McClain’s fatal encounter

Four days after McKnight was taken to hospital, McClain, 23, was walking home from the store at 10:30 pm on August 24, 2019.

A resident called Aurora police, saying McClain seemed suspicious because he was moving his hands around and wearing a ski mask in the summer. McClain’s family says he had a blood condition that would make him feel cold.

Elijah McClain died days after his encounter with police.

As police approached, the violin player and masseur was listening to music through headphones. When an officer touched him, he appears startled.

“Please respect the boundaries that I am speaking,” McClain says on body camera video.

Everything happens so fast. There is a struggle when officers decide to arrest him. The slight, 140-pound McClain is cuffed and on his stomach. He says he can’t breathe. Two officers are on him. He is put in a chokehold at least once. He vomits. At one point, an officer says, “Whatever he’s on, he has incredible strength … yeah, crazy strength.”

It turns out he was not “on” any illegal drugs. According to the autopsy, none were found in his system.

Paramedics are on the scene by now; they administer 500 milligrams of ketamine, nearly twice the recommended dose.

“I’ve been in practice 30 years and never given a dose that high,” Dr. Peterson said. She is not involved in McClain’s case.

Mari Newman, an attorney for the McClain family, told CNN: “‘Incredible strength’ is the buzz word police use. It’s an excuse that the person they are dealing with has superhuman strength. They get paramedics to use ketamine to cut corners and quickly sedate people they don’t want to deal with.”

McClain ends up having a heart attack in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. He was intubated and put on a ventilator. He died three days after his encounter with police and paramedics.

New investigations have been opened into the circumstance surrounding McClain's death.
His family is suing the city of Aurora and several of the police officers and paramedics.

“He could not breathe. He was fighting for his life,” said his father, LaWayne Mosley. “I wish I was there to fight for him.”

The autopsy report said McClain died of “undetermined causes” but contributing factors were “intense physical exertion and a narrow coronary artery.” The coroner said an “unexpected reaction” to a therapeutic level of ketamine “cannot be excluded” as a factor in his death.

Aurora Fire Rescue determined last November that their paramedics’ actions were “consistent and aligned with our established protocol” and that McClain was showing signs of “excited delirium, a dangerous and often inexplicable condition.”

The district attorney’s office declined to press charges against the officers involved and they were later reinstated after being put on routine administrative leave.

Nearly a year after his death, the city, state and health department opened new investigations into his case.

Elijah McClain's case gained attention again this summer when protesters demanded action.

The FBI and the Justice Department have been reviewing the case since 2019.

A spokesperson for the National Fraternal Order of Police said the idea that police are using excited delirium as an excuse to use excessive force by injecting ketamine on any subject is out of line.

“I push back on that,” Sherri Rowan, the national director for wellness services for the National Fraternal Order of Police, told CNN. “As soon as they respond and recognize what it is, medical personnel are summoned. EMTs and paramedics are called because of the risk that is possible when someone is recognized to be having that sort of condition. Police departments are looking to do the best job that they can.”

A paramedic’s story

There is no national database that tracks ketamine use by EMS workers across the US. CNN found several ongoing investigations into the use of ketamine by first responders across the country.

One completed investigation was in Minneapolis. Ketamine is also used by first responders in nearby communities, such as Woodbury, where Joseph Baker used to be a paramedic.

“I have been pressured by police to administer ketamine,” Baker told CNN, in his first media interview. In August, he filed suit against the city of Woodbury, where he worked until 2019.

Joseph Baker says he was pressured to use ketamine by police when he was a paramedic in Minnesota.

Baker says he had to quit after suffering retaliation and being disciplined for exposing falsified EMS training attendance documents that allowed people to get or keep their certifications to be paramedics, and disciplinary action for refusing to bow to police pressure to use ketamine when he thought it was not medically necessary.

The fight over ketamine was one of the final straws, he said. In 2019, he says he was called to assist with someone having a mental health crisis. Before he even arrived, dispatch was telling him and his crew to “get the ketamine ready,” he said.

“I was met by multiple officers who asked, ‘Do you have your ketamine ready, do you have it drawn up?’ And I said, ‘No. I have it available, but I’d like to evaluate this patient,'” Baker told CNN.

That angered the police officers, he said. But, in the end, he said, talking to the patient worked and no drugs were required.

“The most powerful medication that we have on the ambulance is our ability to speak with patients. Ketamine takes that away.” Baker said. “I don’t believe it should be requested by police. I don’t tell them when to use their mace. They should not tell me to administer drugs.”

In a statement to CNN, the city of Woodbury said it “internally reviewed its Emergency Medical Services training records and protocols and determined the training and protocols were in compliance with all licensing requirements. Contrary to the allegations in the Complaint, no training records were falsified, and Mr. Baker’s complaints were properly addressed.”

It said with regard to the administration of any medications such as ketamine: “No employee of the City of Woodbury improperly administered any such medications.”

The city added, “Mr. Baker was never disciplined or subject to retaliation and we categorically deny the allegations in the complaint.”

Baker’s attorney, Kenneth Udoibok, disputes that and says not a month goes by at his small Minneapolis office without a call linked to administration of ketamine.

“People are not complaining that the paramedic injected them with ketamine. They are complaining that a police officer caused that to happen,” Udoibok told CNN.

Care or improper conduct?

A report by the Minneapolis Office of Police Conduct Review showed the appearance of ketamine in police reports increased from two cases in 2010 to 62 in 2017 — a 3,000% increase. Between 2016 and 2018, “analysts observed 8 cases where MPD [Minneapolis Police Department] officers participated in the decision to administer ketamine.”

That report also found in some cases, the person being detained was not only handcuffed, but strapped down on a stretcher in an ambulance before receiving ketamine.

Ryan Patrick, an attorney on the Minneapolis Office of Police Conduct Review, said during a public city council meeting that the full picture was complex.

“There is a wide range of involvement in those cases,” he said, “ranging from officers directly suggesting that ketamine in particular be administered to EMS professionals asking MPD officers if they believe they should be sedated.”

Attorney Udoibok calls ketamine use “the perfect crime against citizens.”

“If police are accused of abusing the use of ketamine, the police say it wasn’t their decision to administer it, that was the paramedics’ choice,” he said. “And paramedics are never going to admit they are liable, so they will say ketamine was necessary.”

After the report was made public, Minneapolis police instituted a new policy telling its officers the decision to administer sedatives “must be clearly made by EMS personnel, not MPD officers.”

Due to the McClain case, an Aurora City Council member is pushing for a temporary ban on the use of ketamine by first responders until the investigations in his case are complete.

McClain family attorney Newman said it should not have been used in the first place against Elijah.

“This is just another way to use excessive force against people, especially people of color.”

McKnight said he hopes they ban it all together.

“I woke up choking on a ventilator. This should not happen to anyone else ever again.”

CNN’s Josh Campbell contributed to this story.

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Trump inflames tensions and justifies violence — and there’s a reason why


That brought the extraordinary spectacle Monday of a president — who would by tradition call for calm at a time of civic unrest — justifying violence by his supporters and all but excusing a pro-Trump vigilante who allegedly killed two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin. At the same time, in the White House briefing room, he minimized police brutality against African Americans that sparked a summer of protest and agony in the Black community as examples of officers who sometimes “choke.”
Trump’s inflammatory behavior on Monday came on a day that could come to be seen as critical for the destiny of the White House after Democratic nominee Joe Biden launched a counterattack, warning no one was safe in “Trump’s America” — which he said was hobbled by disease and fear.
It also unfolded on the eve of Trump’s visit to Wisconsin, which local leaders pleaded with him to cancel to avoid exacerbating tensions. Instead, the President gave every indication that he plans to use the trip to troll his critics with his claims of a nation on the edge from a platform in a key swing state.

Dismissing the notion that his appearance at a raw moment might increase violence, the President said, “it could also increase enthusiasm and it could increase love and respect for our country.”

Trump’s provocative appearance represents a bet that a hardline “law and order” campaign can drown out the pandemic that he has badly mismanaged, that has killed more than 180,000 Americans and on Monday crossed the 6 million mark in known infections. No one doubts that protests and violence rattled US cities from Minnesota to Wisconsin and Washington, DC, to Chicago this summer — amid a national epiphany on race caused by the death of George Floyd.
The spectacle of a “strong” President vowing no tolerance for rioters may be an attractive one to many voters. But the situation is far more complicated than the idea that left-wingers and “terrorists” who support Biden are going on the rampage. There is evidence that far-right groups and other extremists are also involved. Most protests have been peaceful and violence has often been sparked by opportunists. And even cities like Portland, Oregon, are not perpetually in flames as Trump claims. But the President is presenting a simpler and misleading narrative.
Task force reports show dire reality despite Trump's positive messaging

“They want to destroy our country. They’re going to destroy our suburbs,” he said during an appearance in the White House briefing room mislabeled as a “news conference,” not even bothering to hide his goal to scare voters in affluent White areas around swing state cities into believing that Biden would bring political unrest that would shake America to its foundations.

Distracting from the pandemic

Trump’s day of fury reflects how he has now firmly settled on a campaign of demagoguery to save his presidency.

In a characteristic piece of projection, he accused Biden — who earlier condemned violence from all sources — of using Mafia talking points and Democrats of stirring disorder with “dangerous rhetoric.”

On Tuesday he portrayed protests at the White House after his convention speech on Thursday night — in which Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and his wife were harassed — as if they were among the most flagrant examples of disorder in modern US history.

“It was a terrible, terrible thing to witness,” Trump said. His alarmism was expressed in a rant that resembled a highlight reel of conservative media buzz words and conspiracy theories including “radicals,” “maniacs,” “Antifa,” “looters,” “arsonists” and “fascism.”

Fact check: Trump falsely describes Biden's comment on coronavirus shutdowns

In a classic authoritarian tactic, Trump also vastly over stated the extent of lawlessness and political violence, then promoted himself as the kind of strongman needed to restore order. And he tipped his hand over his new campaign tactic by opening his appearance with a boast about the stock market and a perfunctory mention of the pandemic that brought the country to its knees. Then it was on to his real topic: “left-wing political violence.”

In one sense, Trump’s gambit has already succeeded. He has moved the ground of the election away from the Covid-19 crisis and the multiple political corruption scandals that have clouded his term from day one. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, made an attempt to wrest the conversation back to Covid-19, using an interview on MSNBC to accuse the President of saying to Americans “choose me over your child” as some kids go back to school without the testing infrastructure and needed safety precautions.

Vigilante group activity on the rise, worrying law enforcement and watchdog groups

On Monday, Biden left his campaign-from-home bubble in Delaware to travel to Pittsburgh to parry Trump’s attacks amid increasing nervousness among Democrats that the President’s hardline approach could lift him back into a race in which he is trailing.

The Democratic nominee pointed out the flawed logic behind Trump’s approach, given that the unrest hitting cities in Minnesota, Oregon and Wisconsin is unfolding, after all, on the President’s watch.

“The violence you’re seeing in Donald Trump’s America. These are not images from some imagined ‘Joe Biden’s America’ in the future. These are images from Donald Trump’s America today,” Biden said.

In a sign that he intends to maintain his aggressive push back — and that he has no intention of being “swift boated” as happened to 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry — Biden’s team said that he hoped to travel to Kenosha soon.

How Kenosha frames the stakes in the election

Biden also used his speech to move beyond the issue of violence in cities in an attempt to frustrate the President’s effort to make law and order the key issue in the election. While accusing Trump of “rooting for chaos and violence,” Biden said Trump’s failings on the pandemic, on foreign policy and even on Social Security had made Americans much more vulnerable.

“Do you feel safer and more secure now?” Biden asked in a repeating refrain.

A Biden trip to Wisconsin would bookend Trump’s own visit to the Badger State. The White House has said that it has tried to make contact with the family of Jacob Blake, the Black man shot seven times in the back by police in an incident that triggered unrest last week. Blake is still in hospital and local police have offered few explanations for the incident. The fact Trump and the family have not connected appears to indicate there is no desire to meet the President. Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, have spoken at length with Blake’s family over the telephone.

The President plans to meet law enforcement officers in Kenosha and to survey damage from nights of unrest. He is claiming he ordered National Guard troops into the city to quell rioting and restore order. But in reality, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers had already activated the troops before Trump called for their intervention.

The political controversy over Kenosha is turning into a microcosm of the election in one of the most hotly contested districts in one of the most contested states.

Biden, who on Sunday condemned the killing of a Trump supporter in clashes in Portland, sought to capitalize on Trump’s news conference, in which he defended supporters for shooting paint balls at protesters in the city.

“Once again, I urge the President to join me in saying that while peaceful protest is a right — a necessity — violence is wrong, period. No matter who does it, no matter what political affiliation they have. Period,” Biden said in a statement.

“If Donald Trump can’t say that, then he is unfit to be President, and his preference for more violence — not less — is clear.”