5 things to know for June 16: Biden trip, election emails, coronavirus, Gaza, UFOs

New emails show how former President Donald Trump's White House assistant, chief of staff and other allies pressured the Justice Department to investigate claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election. CNN's Jessica Schneider reports.

Posted: Jun 16, 2021 6:30 PM
Updated: Jun 16, 2021 6:30 PM

The Senate has unanimously passed a resolution establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the US. It needs to pass the House and be signed by President Joe Biden to become law.

Here's what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

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1. Biden trip

President Joe Biden is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva today for a much-anticipated summit that caps off Biden's first trip abroad in office. The goal of the meeting is to, in the words of the White House, "restore predictability and stability to the U.S.-Russia relationship." Biden and Putin will discuss future arms control arrangements, the recent ransomware attacks that the US believes have been carried out by criminal groups in Russia, climate change, and the Kremlin-imposed restrictions on the US diplomatic presence in Russia. Biden and his administration are still fully formulating a strategy on how to approach the US' tense relationship with Russia, and over the last few weeks, Biden has sought advice from Russia experts, political advisers, national security aides and even fellow world leaders on how to engage with Putin and reshape relations.

2. Election emails

A previously secret batch of emails was released by the House Oversight Committee yesterday, and the messages shed new light on how former President Donald Trump pressured the Justice Department during his quest to overturn the 2020 election results. The White House and the DOJ aren't supposed to mesh when it comes to investigations and prosecutions, in order to keep politics out of the justice system. But these latest emails show Trump was unrelenting in crossing that invisible line, and that he and his lawyers saw the DOJ as a way to legitimize their false election claims. Also of note: Jeffrey Rosen, acting attorney general in the final days of Trump's presidency, was prepared to resign rather than buy into Trump's claims. Under the Biden Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland, more and more documents concerning Trump's controversies are being released to relevant committees.

3. Coronavirus

The CDC has determined the Delta variant is now a "variant of concern," a designation given to strains of the virus that scientists believe are more transmissible or can cause more severe disease. Currently, the variant, which was first discovered in India, accounts for about 10% of infections in the US, but some experts are worried it could become the dominant strain. (Currently, the dominant strain in the US is a different variant, first discovered in the UK.) It's just another reason vaccinations are important, doctors say. In fact, some pediatricians in the US say they've been vaccinating as many adults as children. It's fairly common and convenient practice, one pediatrician said, to offer vaccines to all family members who come into a pediatrician's office.

4. Gaza

The Israeli military struck targets in Gaza overnight, marking the first airstrikes there since a ceasefire went into effect nearly one month ago after a spate of historic violence. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement that the airstrikes were in response to incendiary balloons launched from Gaza earlier in the day. The IDF says the balloons were launched as a protest to a provocative far-right flag march in Jerusalem during which some extremists chanted "Death to Arabs" and "This is our home." While there hasn't been a retaliation for the airstrikes yet, the situation along the Israel-Gaza border remains extremely tense, and the possibility of an imminent and serious escalation still looms.

5. UFOs

Members of the House Intelligence Committee will receive a classified briefing this morning on UFOs -- or, rather, UAPS (Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon). UFOs have been a very controversial topic circling Washington, as military leaders have argued for years over whether to take the sightings seriously. Even as sightings of unexplainable objects rose into the hundreds, Pentagon officials have wrestled with how much time and resources to devote to investigating them. So far, it's been a hard road separating science fiction-level public fascination from real national security implications. In a few weeks, the US intelligence community is scheduled to deliver an unclassified report on the matter for Congress.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

'Beauty and the Beast' musical series in the works at Disney+

It will focus on our favorite egg eatin', expectoratin' villain, Gaston.

Girl Scouts say they have millions of boxes of unsold cookies due to the pandemic

No, you can't purchase them and hoard them like a squirrel. But you can help donate them to first responders and food banks.

A painting by David Bowie purchased for $5 at a Canadian landfill is now selling for thousands

One man's trash is another man's Space Oddity.

A new problem for Peloton owners: Hacks

You know we're living in the future when you have to worry about people hacking your fancy exercise bike.

This swarm of autonomous robots gets smarter the more it works

Interesting technology advancement, or "Westworld" promo?

TODAY'S NUMBER

$2.74 billion

That's how much Mackenzie Scott, philanthropist and former wife of Amazon's Jeff Bezos, is giving away in her most recent round of donations. These latest funds will go toward organizations that focus on the arts and combating racial discrimination. She's donated about $8.5 billion to charity in less than a year.

TODAY'S QUOTE

"There are systematic barriers in housing — and we have a role to play in addressing them."

Heather Higginbottom, president of the JPMorgan Chase Policy Center. The bank is calling for legislative reform to stop racial bias in home appraisal in the US.

TODAY'S WEATHER

Check your local forecast here>>>

AND FINALLY

He's hooked

I came across this video from last year about a young crochet prodigy in Minnesota, and it's just about the most charming thing ever. (Click here to view)

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