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National
Killing of key witness days after Amber Guyger murder trial draws deep suspicion
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Killing of key witness days after Amber Guyger murder trial draws deep suspicion

Joshua Brown, key witness in Amber Guyger trial, shot and killed

Killing of key witness days after Amber Guyger murder trial draws deep suspicion

There remained few answers but much speculation Monday morning following the weekend killing of Joshua Xavier Brown, a key witness in the murder trial of former Dallas police Officer Amber Guyger.

Brown, 28, was gunned down Friday night outside the Atera Apartments, about 5 miles from the South Side Flats, where he and 26-year-old Botham Jean lived Sept. 6, 2018, when Guyger, an off-duty officer still in uniform, killed Jean after she said she mistakenly went into his apartment instead of her own.

Guyger, 31, who testified she thought Jean was an intruder, was convicted of murder last week and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Botham Jean Foundation
Botham Jean, 26, is pictured in an undated photo from the Botham Jean Foundation, which was created after his September 2018 death at the hands of Amber Guyger, a neighbor and off-duty Dallas police officer. Guyger has been convicted of murder.
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Killing of key witness days after Amber Guyger murder trial draws deep suspicion

Photo Credit: Botham Jean Foundation
Botham Jean, 26, is pictured in an undated photo from the Botham Jean Foundation, which was created after his September 2018 death at the hands of Amber Guyger, a neighbor and off-duty Dallas police officer. Guyger has been convicted of murder.

>> Related story: Jury sentences former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger to 10 years in prison

Brown’s killing is the latest development in a sensational case that garnered national attention. Activists saw Jean’s killing as another in a long line of deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers.

Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney representing Jean’s family, said Saturday that Brown’s killing “underscores the reality of the black experience in America.”

“A former athlete turned entrepreneur, Brown lived in constant fear that he could be the next victim of gun violence, either state-sanctioned or otherwise,” Merritt said.

>> Read more trending news 

A visibly shaken Brown testified just 10 days before his death about the night Jean died. The Dallas Morning News reported that the timing of Brown’s slaying has raised questions about whether his death is connected to his testimony in Guyger’s trial.

Many people on social media speculated that one or more Dallas police officers may have killed Brown as retribution for his testimony.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund issued a statement demanding an investigation into the homicide -- independent of the Dallas Police Department.

“The murder of Botham Jean has raised troubling concerns from the beginning of the investigation, and now, the deeply alarming and highly suspicious murder of Joshua Brown increases the urgency of an immediate, independent investigation of every aspect of these two tragic killings,” the organization's statement read.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson urged people to remain calm Sunday in a statement on Twitter.

“I trust the Dallas Police Department will conduct a thorough investigation into the death of Joshua Brown,” Johnson tweeted. “Until we know more about this incident, I encourage everyone to refrain from speculation.

“If you have information about this case, please share it with our police investigators so they can ensure that justice is done. Dallas will never be a city that tolerates acts of violence such as this.”

Johnson shared a link to North Texas Crime Stoppers, through which tipsters can share information online. Anyone with information can also call 1-877-373-TIPS (8477).

Social activist Shaun King, who described Brown’s slaying as an execution, tweeted that Bill Perkins, an author and public speaker, is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or people who killed Brown.

“Every murder is sad,” Perkins wrote on his own Twitter account. “The particulars around this specific set of circumstances make it important that everyone learn why this happened irrespective of the outcome.

“Either way, a killer needs to be caught and I wish in every case these resources could be brought to bear for justice.”

Dallas police Chief U. Renee Hall said Sunday that investigators had not yet determined a motive or developed any suspects in Brown’s killing.

“We are committed to solving this case and will work diligently to apprehend the individuals responsible for Brown’s death,” Hall said.

According to police, officers responded around 10:37 p.m. Friday to the Atera Apartments, located on Cedar Springs Road. They were flagged down by several witnesses, who pointed them to where Brown lay dying of multiple gunshot wounds to the lower torso. He was taken to Parkland Hospital, where he died.

Witnesses reported seeing a silver, four-door sedan speeding out of the parking lot immediately after the shooting, authorities said.

Google
Pictured in an April 2019 Street View image are the Atera Apartments, where Joshua Brown, 28, was shot and killed Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. Brown was a key witness in the trial of ex-Dallas cop Amber Guyger, who killed Botham Jean last fall.
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Killing of key witness days after Amber Guyger murder trial draws deep suspicion

Photo Credit: Google
Pictured in an April 2019 Street View image are the Atera Apartments, where Joshua Brown, 28, was shot and killed Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. Brown was a key witness in the trial of ex-Dallas cop Amber Guyger, who killed Botham Jean last fall.

>> Related story: Botham Jean neighbor, key witness at Amber Guyger trial, fatally shot outside apartment

Word almost immediately emerged that Brown had been shot through the mouth -- which some speculated on social media was symbolic payback for his testimony.

Merritt was one of the people who stated Brown was shot in the mouth.

“Joshua Brown was shot in his mouth and chest,” Merritt tweeted Saturday. “He was exiting his car at his (apartment) when he was ambushed and shot at close range.

“His mother asked my office to help find out who murdered her son. She suspects foul play. He had no known enemies. He worked for a living. We need answers.”

Merritt later tweeted that there was uncertainty as to where on his body Brown was shot. 

Actor and self-described “king of the internet” George Takei also tweeted that Brown had been shot in the mouth, saying “speaking the truth to power is a heroic thing. Just ask Joshua Brown.”

“The truth can be life or death,” Takei wrote.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who heads the county commission, went on Twitter Sunday to dispel those rumors.

“Mr. Brown was not shot in the mouth or head, but was shot more than one time,” Jenkins tweeted Sunday.

Brown, wearing shorts and a “Dragon Ball Z” T-shirt, testified Sept. 24 about what he saw and heard the night Jean died.

According to video of the trial, which was streamed live by Court TV and other media outlets, Brown testified that he met Jean for the first time earlier on the day of Jean’s death when a representative of the complex’s leasing office knocked on both men’s doors.

Brown testified that the representative claimed there had been a noise complaint, but he believed the visit was really about the smell of marijuana coming from the men’s apartments. He said he and Jean had both been smoking that afternoon.

Watch Joshua Brown testify in the Amber Guyger trial below, courtesy of the Law & Crime Trial Network. 

Brown said he and Jean had a brief conversation, then went back into their apartments, which were across the hall from each other.

Brown testified that he was returning home from a sports bar later that night when, from the hallway, he heard Guyger go into Jean’s apartment. He described hearing what sounded like “two people meeting each other in surprise,” then two gunshots.

Brown testified he could not understand what Guyger and Jean said to one another because he heard “two voices mixing together at the same time, so I couldn’t make out what either one of them was saying.”

Brown said he did not hear Guyger give Jean any commands before the gunshots rang out.

>> Related story: Dallas jury rejects 'castle doctrine' defense, finds ex-cop Amber Guyger guilty of murder

Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP
Former Dallas cop Amber Guyger weeps on the stand during her murder trial in the September 2018 killing of her neighbor, Botham Jean. Guyger, 31, was convicted and sentenced Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, to 10 years in prison.
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Killing of key witness days after Amber Guyger murder trial draws deep suspicion

Photo Credit: Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP
Former Dallas cop Amber Guyger weeps on the stand during her murder trial in the September 2018 killing of her neighbor, Botham Jean. Guyger, 31, was convicted and sentenced Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, to 10 years in prison.

Prosecutors used Brown’s testimony to bolster their claims that Guyger lied when she testified that she shouted, “Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands!” at Jean before shooting him.

Brown said he ran back toward the parking garage in alarm and, after determining no one was near his apartment, went home to check on his dog.

After a few moments, he saw Guyger come out of Jean’s apartment, talking on her cellphone. He said she paced back and forth in the hallway.

“She was crying, explaining what happened, what she thought happened, saying she came into the wrong apartment,” Brown said. “That was about it.”

Video footage shot by another neighbor at South Side Flats appeared to show Guyger pacing and talking on her cellphone. It also showed first responders performing CPR on Jean as he was wheeled out of the apartment and toward a waiting ambulance.

Brown became emotional as he testified that he could often hear activity in Jean’s apartment from the hallway outside his own door. He wept on the stand as he described hearing Jean, a St. Lucia native and avid singer who worked as an accountant, singing Gospel music and Drake songs in his apartment every day.

“I heard him singing every morning,” Brown said.

Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP
Joshua Brown, a neighbor of murder victim Botham Jean, is overcome with emotion Sept. 24, 2019, as he testifies at the trial of ex-Dallas police officer Amber Guyger. Brown, 28, was shot and killed outside his apartment Friday, Oct. 4, 2019.
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Killing of key witness days after Amber Guyger murder trial draws deep suspicion

Photo Credit: Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP
Joshua Brown, a neighbor of murder victim Botham Jean, is overcome with emotion Sept. 24, 2019, as he testifies at the trial of ex-Dallas police officer Amber Guyger. Brown, 28, was shot and killed outside his apartment Friday, Oct. 4, 2019.

Brown bent his head, wiping tears with his T-shirt, before he was handed a box of tissues by the prosecutor, who told him to take his time and that there was no rush.

“Yeah, we need a moment,” Brown said.

Prosecutors at Guyger’s trial argued that there were multiple visual clues that should have warned the patrol officer she was on the fourth floor instead of the third floor, where her apartment was located directly below Jean’s. The apartment numbers were displayed in lighted signs and Jean had a bright red door mat, while Guyger had no mat.

Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP
Prosecutor Jason Hermus shows jurors Botham Jean's red doormat Sept. 30, 2019, during closing arguments in the murder trial of ex-Dallas police officer Amber Guyger. Guyger, 31, was convicted of killing Jean, her neighbor, on Sept. 6, 2018.
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Killing of key witness days after Amber Guyger murder trial draws deep suspicion

Photo Credit: Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP
Prosecutor Jason Hermus shows jurors Botham Jean's red doormat Sept. 30, 2019, during closing arguments in the murder trial of ex-Dallas police officer Amber Guyger. Guyger, 31, was convicted of killing Jean, her neighbor, on Sept. 6, 2018.

A large decorative planter outside a neighbor’s door on the third floor would also have been missing as Guyger walked past the same spot toward Jean’s fourth-floor apartment.

At least one officer who responded to Jean’s apartment after the shooting testified that he immediately smelled the odor of marijuana, which prosecutors argued should also have informed Guyger she was at the wrong apartment.

Brown testified that, like dozens of other residents interviewed by Guyger’s defense attorneys, he had also gone to the wrong floor more than once when he first moved into the South Side Flats. He said when he accidentally went to the third floor, the decorative vase is what warned him he was on the wrong floor.

Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP
Amber Guyger is pictured during her trial in the September 2018 killing of her upstairs neighbor, Botham Jean, who she shot after going to the wrong apartment by mistake. Guyger was convicted of murder Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019.
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Killing of key witness days after Amber Guyger murder trial draws deep suspicion

Photo Credit: Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP
Amber Guyger is pictured during her trial in the September 2018 killing of her upstairs neighbor, Botham Jean, who she shot after going to the wrong apartment by mistake. Guyger was convicted of murder Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019.

Jason Hermus, the lead Dallas County prosecutor in Guyger’s case, praised Brown following his death.

“He bravely came forward to testify when others wouldn’t,” Hermus told the News. “If we had more people like him, we would have a better world.”

Merritt told CNN that Brown was a reluctant witness because of all the attention that came with being part of a high-profile murder case. The attorney said there had been online comments calling Brown a “snitch” for cooperating with prosecutors.

“He did not want to testify in that trial. He made it clear he had no interest in testifying in open court in that trial,” Merritt told the network. “(Brown’s mother) knows that her son was really bothered by the fact that he was given a lot of exposure from the trial, a lot of unwanted attention.”

Merritt tweeted shortly after Brown's death that he’d spoken with the man's mother.

“She is devastated. We all are,” Merritt wrote. “Joshua Brown was key witness in the murder of Botham Jean that helped put Amber Guyger away. We need answers.”

Jenkins also tweeted that he shared “the community’s profound sense of shock and anger over this evil murder.”

“Our law enforcement agencies will find and arrest the person(s) who did this and our @DallasCountyTx criminal justice system will vigorously prosecute them,” Jenkins wrote.

Jenkins reiterated Sunday that authorities would “work to ensure a transparent and thorough investigation of the murder of Joshua Brown.” He asked the public to give investigators time to work on the case.

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the Legal Defense Fund, wrote that the circumstances of Brown’s death “cries out for answers” and calls for an independent investigation.

“We urge state or federal authorities to follow the trail of misconduct left by this case and fully investigate the circumstances surrounding Mr. Brown’s death,” Ifill wrote in a statement. “It is critical to public confidence in the administration of justice that witnesses who speak out against police violence are fully protected. The suspicious circumstances of Mr. Brown’s killing should cause great alarm and demand an immediate and piercing inquiry.

“We echo Allison Jean’s statement that the ‘corruption we saw during this process must stop,’ and support her request for a comprehensive federal investigation of the Dallas Police Department.”

Allison Jean, Botham Jean’s mother, said after Guyger’s conviction that either a lack of proper police training or poor use of training led to her son’s murder.

“The poor training, or the poor use of what should have been training, is what we see coming out of this case,” Jean said. “If this was applied in the way that it ought to have been taught, my son would have been alive today.”

She also called out corruption and alleged tampering with evidence that came out during the trial. Guyger's former partner, and lover, Senior Cpl. Martin Rivera, is accused of deleting texts, including sexually explicit ones, between him and Guyger following the shooting. 

Hall, the police chief, announced Wednesday that internal investigations had begun into officers’ actions immediately following Botham Jean’s death, including allegations of tampering with in-car video cameras, the failure to render aid as Jean lay dying on his living room floor and “multiple other things” that came out during the trial.

>> Related story: Amber Guyger trial prompts probe into Dallas PD, ethics complaint against judge

Brown, a native of Jacksonville, Florida, lived in Texas since 2008. He attended the University of South Florida, where he played football and majored in interdisciplinary social science, he testified at Guyger’s trial.

According to his bio on the USF football website, Brown has four sisters and three brothers.

A GoFundMe page set up by Shanteya Victor, who describes herself as Brown's ex-girlfriend and mother of his 11-month-old son, states that Brown also leaves behind two additional children. 

The university released a statement on Brown’s death, which was obtained by WFAA in Dallas.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Joshua Brown in Dallas, Texas,” the statement read. “Joshua was a much loved and valued member of our football program and athletic family, and his loss is felt by many whose lives he positively touched. Our hearts go out to Joshua’s family, friends and loved-ones during this very difficult time.”

Brown’s death also garnered the attention of politicians on the national level, including multiple Democratic presidential candidates. There did not appear to be an immediate response from President Donald Trump, who is running for reelection. 

“I’m heartsick for Joshua Brown’s family and friends,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote Sunday on Twitter. “He bravely stepped forward and testified to bring some justice for Botham Jean, and peace for his family. We need answers -- and Joshua Brown and his family need justice.”

Beto O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, expressed condolences to Brown’s loved ones.

“When Botham Jean was killed in his own home, his neighbor, Joshua Brown, spoke out and ensured his murderer was held accountable,” O’Rourke tweeted. “His death, like Botham’s, was a tragedy -- only possible because we have failed to end this epidemic of gun violence. Sending love to his family.”

Julian Castro, also of Texas, wrote that Brown “bravely stood up to injustice and helped put Amber Guyger behind bars.”

“We grieve with his family and friends, and demand a transparent investigation the people of Dallas can trust,” Castro said.

Castro’s sentiments were echoed by U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, who is also running for president.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also wrote that authorities must get to the bottom of Brown’s death.

“Just when we caught a glimpse of justice for Botham Jean, much of it feels stolen back with the murder of Joshua Brown, a key witness in the case,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “My heart breaks for his family and for everyone touched by this tragedy.”

Read More

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In a statement, Jack Yates officials said the alumni of the school “is deeply saddened and enraged over the senseless murder of our beloved Lion.” “We wish to express our support for the family and friends of Mr. Floyd. We along with millions of others across the world demand justice for this Injustice..” Social distancing will be enforced at the vigil, KTRK reported, and attendees will be required to wear masks and gloves. Mourners in NC gather for George Floyd memorial service Update 1:31 p.m. EDT June 6: The body of George Floyd was returned to his home state for a public viewing Saturday in Raeford. North Carolina, The Washington Post reported. Floyd’s body was inside a plush blue coffin at Free Will Baptist Church, the newspaper reported. Floyd, 46, was dressed in a tan suit and a brown tie and coffin was surrounded by floral arrangements, although his family had requested no flowers, the Post reported. As people posed for selfies in front of the church, an official told mourners to put away their phones before entering the church, the newspaper reported. “No phones out. No photos. No foul language,” he said. “This is a respectful service.” Buffalo officers who shoved elderly man charged with assault, released Update 11:31 a.m. EDT June 6: Prosecutors said two Buffalo, New York, police officers were charged with assault after video showed them shoving a 75-year-old protester, The Associated Press reported. Both men pleaded not guilty to a single count of second-degree assault via video conference and were released without bail, CNN reported. Earlier, police shut down roads in front of the City Court and gathered to support two fellow officers who were arraigned on charges that they shoved peace activist Martin Gugino on Thursday during a protest, the Buffalo News reported. Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood suspended the officers without pay after the incident and ordered an internal investigation, the News reported. National Guard has deployed 43,000 members nationwide Update 11:55 a.m. EDT June 6: The National Guard said in a tweet that it has deployed 43,000 members in 34 states and the District of Columbia in response to protests in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd on May 25. That number represents an 1,800 increase of Guardsmen now engaged nationwide. Thousands attend Black Lives Matter protests in UK Update 9:38 a.m. EDT June 6: Thousands of protesters gathered at London’s Parliament Square on Saturday as part of a Black Lives Matter demonstration, CNN reported. The protest was one of several across the United Kingdom. There also was a Black Lives Matter protest in Manchester, according to the BBC. which estimated the crowd around Piccadilly Gardens to be at least 15,000 people and growing. Protesters, police clash in Portland Update 8:52 a.m. EDT June 6: Police in Portland, Oregon clashed with protesters late Friday and early Saturday after declaring a large gathering at the Justice Center a “civil disturbance and an unlawful assembly,' KATU reported. The declaration came after police said people in the crowd began throwing objects at officers standing guard at the Justice Center, the television station reported. A Portland Police Bureau spokesperson said several officers were injured but did not reveal the extent of their injuries. The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office said it used gas and later tear gas to disperse the crowd, The Washington Post reported. Deputies said they arrested 20 adults and one juvenile, the newspaper reported. The crowd left the area by 4 a.m. local time. California gov: Chokehold has ‘no place’ in 21st-century policing Update 4:29 a.m. EDT June 6: A controversial chokehold has been removed from the state’s police training curriculum, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday. Known as a “carotid hold,” the maneuver can block blood flow to the brain. “We train techniques on strangleholds that put people’s lives at risk That has no place any longer in 21st century practices and policing,” Newsom said. Drew Brees’ reversal on kneeling fails to persuade Trump of NFL protest’s value Update 3:51 a.m. EDT June 6: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees took to Instagram Friday to try explaining one more time his new understanding of NFL protests to U.S. President Donald Trump. In the post, which Brees directed to Trump personally, he explained the American flag was never the target of the protest but rather systemic racism. Brees’ post came two days after he said he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag,” for which he later issued a formal apology, calling his own comments “insensitive” and noting they “missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country.' Trump was not impressed in the least by Brees’ Mea culpa. 'He should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag,' Trump tweeted. 'OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high...' In turn, Brees’ Instagram post argued “we can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities.' California soldier removed from National Guard duty after violent Snapchat remarks Update 3:12 a.m. EDT June 6: A soldier who posted a Snapchat image that referenced killing “rioters” has been relieved of duty by the California National Guard. The soldier, who was removed Friday, had written: “Bout to put some rioters faces on those RIP shirts.” Meanwhile, an Ohio National Guardsman has been removed from duty in Washington after expressing “white-supremacist ideology on the Internet,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said during a Friday news conference. Federal judge rules ‘threat to physical safety and free speech outweighs the threat to property’ Update 2:33 a.m. EDT June 6: A federal judge ruled late Friday that tear gas and rubber bullets are no longer options for the Denver Police Department confronting peaceful protesters. The threat to physical safety and free speech outweighs the threat to property,” U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson wrote. Jackson’s ruling came after four protesters filed suit against the city of Denver, prompting the immediate moratorium on the use of “chemical weapons or projectiles” against protesters. “If a store’s windows must be broken to prevent a protester’s facial bones from being broken or eye being permanently damaged, that is more than a fair trade. If a building must be graffiti-ed to prevent the suppression of free speech, that is a fair trade,” Jackson wrote. The judge’s ruling also stipulates rubber bullets can never be aimed at the head, pelvis or back or shot indiscriminately into a crowd, and officers must wear body cameras that are recording at all times, The Washington Post reported. NYPD suspends 2 officers, transfers supervisor amid multiple protest complaints Published 2 a.m. EDT June 6: Two NYPD officers and one supervisor are facing stiff consequences following three high-profile incidents during recent New York City protests, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea confirmed late Friday. “Like all New Yorkers, we are acutely aware of the unique times we are in,” Shea said during a Friday news conference, noting two officers have been suspended without pay pending internal investigations and one supervisor has been transferred as a result of recent skirmishes captured on video. “While the investigations have to play out, based on the severity of what we saw, it is appropriate and necessary to assure the public that there will be transparency during the disciplinary process,” Shea said. One officer was caught on video pushing a woman to the ground in Brooklyn on May 29, and a supervisor present during the altercation has been transferred. The second suspended officer can be seen in a separate video pulling down a protester’s face mask and pepper spraying him. All three cases have been referred to the department advocate for disciplinary action, Shea said.

Washington Insider

  • Instead of an unemployment rate topping 20 percent as had been held out as a possibility by economic experts and senior Trump Administration officials, the latest jobs report shows the U.S. economy bouncing back a little, as states loosened restrictions from the Coronavirus, with the jobless rate dropping to 13.3 percent. 'These improvements in the labor market reflected a limited resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed in March and April due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it,' the report stated.  At the White House, President Trump reveled in the job gains. 'It’s a stupendous number. It’s joyous, let’s call it like it is,' the President wrote on Twitter. 'The Market was right. It’s stunning!' Jobs data in May showed sharp job gains in construction, retail trade, leisure, education, and health care, as the unemployment rate retreated from a historic high of 14.7 percent in April. Republicans in Congress joined President Trump in hailing the new job figures. 'We’ve still got a ways to go but the Great American Comeback is underway!' said Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA). 'Not only are we going to bounce back, in many ways it may be even better than before,' said Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR). 'America is on a HUGE comeback in record time,' said Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS). 'The Great American Comeback is starting!' said House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy. The jobs report though also showed the level of upheaval within the job market, as over 6 million more Americans are working part-time right now, even though they would rather have a full-time job.