The Past 24 Hours Or So

Your Daily Dose of Trump and His Administration News

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates

  • President Trump announced Friday evening that he is invoking the Defense Production Act to prevent the export of surgical masks and gloves outside of the country. The White House said the order is intended to prevent “war profiteers” from hoarding supplies to generate foreign demand and then exporting the goods, and that it will not interfere with the ability of manufacturers to export personal protection equipment “when doing so is consistent with United States policy.”
  • The Trump administration quietly changed an online description of the country’s Strategic National Stockpile following a press briefing with White House adviser Jared Kushner. 

Previously, the Strategic National Stockpile was described as “the nation’s largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out.” “When state, local, tribal, and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency.”

The new, one-paragraph description says the stockpile is meant as a “short-term stopgap.”

  • The Trump administration announced Friday that the federal government will reimburse hospitals treating uninsured patients for the novel coronavirus using funds allocated in the recent relief package passed by Congress.

“Today, I can so proudly announce that hospitals and health care providers treating uninsured coronavirus patients will be reimbursed by the federal government using funds from the economic relief packed Congress passed last month,” President Trump said at a White House briefing.

  • President Trump has tapped Brian Miller, who serves as a special assistant to the president and senior associate counsel in the White House Counsel’s office, to serve as the special inspector general for pandemic recovery. Miller will be responsible for overseeing the disbursement of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds as part of the coronavirus relief package.
  • President Trump’s administration will recommend Americans wear homemade masks or face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — but he repeatedly emphasized that the guidance is “voluntary.”

“It’s going to be really a voluntary thing,” Trump said during a White House briefing with reporters. “You can do it. You don’t have to do it. I’m choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it, and that’s OK,” he said.

  • Bank executives who were concerned about the $349 billion emergency small business program reached out to President Trump’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump as they tried to negotiate higher interest rates.

The calls came from multiple major bank executives, including from Bank of America Corp., who questioned the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides generous loans to small businesses with the caveat that they use at least 75 percent to pay their employees. As a result of those negotiations, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other administration officials requested to increase the interest rates on the forgivable, government-backed loans, and worked to encourage smaller banks to participate, as well.

  • President Trump defended his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner for suggesting the federal stockpile of medical resources was not for states, lashing out at CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang for asking about the comments and accusing her of having a “nasty tone.”
  • President Trump said he would consider boosting the funds available to small businesses impacted by the coronavirus if the money allocated under the recently-passed $2.2 trillion relief package runs out.

“I will immediately ask Congress for more money to support small businesses under the #PPPloan if the allocated money runs out. So far, way ahead of schedule. @BankofAmerica & community banks are rocking!” Trump tweeted Saturday.

  • President Trump announced Sunday that the federal government is sending several hundred additional ventilators to states hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak.
  • “We see light at the end of the tunnel. Things are happening,” Trump said during a White House coronavirus task force briefing,striking an optimistic tone about the country’s progress in its effort to combat the coronavirus even as some of his top health officials predicted the coming week would be akin to Pearl Harbor or the 9/11 attacks in terms of its impact.
  • Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s attorney, says he has been touting anti-malaria drugs as a possible coronavirus treatment in private conversations with the president.

Giuliani told The Washington Post on Sunday he has advocated for an anti-malarial drug cocktail to Trump in “three or four” one-on-one phone calls and also to doctors, coronavirus patients and hospital executives.

  • President Trump forcefully touted the use of hydroxychloroquine as a potential means to combat or even prevent the onset of symptoms from the coronavirus, wading further into a medical debate that has put him at odds with some of his top health experts. 

For a second consecutive day, he suggested even those without coronavirus symptoms might consider taking the drug despite limited evidence about its efficacy in treating the virus. “What do you have to lose?” he said. “I’m not looking at it one way or another. But we want to get out of this. If it does work, it would be a shame if we didn’t do it early.” “What do I know? I’m not a doctor,” he added. “But I have common sense.”

  • U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned Sunday that the week ahead would be “ the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives.” “This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized; it’s going to be happening all over the country,”
  • Nadia, a 4-year-old female Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo, has tested positive for the coronavirus, while several other animals are being monitored for similar symptoms.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, reportedly clashed recently with White House trade official Peter Navarro over the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and its use as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

During a meeting Saturday first reported by Axios, Navarro reportedly accused Fauci of opposing the administration’s temporary ban on travel from China after Fauci cautioned against the administration promoting the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus.

  • President Trump pushed health officials to make anti-malaria drugs available to treat the coronavirus although they were untested to treat COVID-19.

The president told top officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health to place focus on the drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as potential treatments.

After pressure from the president, the federal government issued guidance saying doctors had the option to prescribe these drugs, while citing unattributed anecdotes instead of the usual peer-reviewed science.

  • President Trump repeatedly lashed out at Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) on Sunday during a press conference, shortly after the governor criticized Trump over comments made about the coronavirus response.

Other Administration News

  • President Trump has fired Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community, saying he “no longer” has confidence in the key government watchdog. 

Atkinson, who had served as the intelligence community inspector general since May 2018, was the first to alert Congress last year of an “urgent” whistleblower complaint he obtained from an intelligence official regarding Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. His firing will take effect 30 days from Friday, the day Trump sent a notice informing Congress of Atkinson’s dismissal.

UPDATE: Michael Atkinson says he believes the president dismissed him because of his commitment to his duty as an impartial watchdog. 

“It is hard not to think that the President’s loss of confidence in me derives from my having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and impartial Inspector General, and from my commitment to continue to do so,” Atkinson said in a statement

  • President Donald Trump is nominating a 37-year-old judge and former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to a seat on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Justin Walker of Kentucky has been on the federal bench less than six months and is one of the youngest federal judges in the country, with deep ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who hailed Trump’s nomination of “a rising Kentucky star, born and raised in Louisville, to refresh the second-most-important federal court in the country.’‘

Walker drew a “Not Qualified” rating from the American Bar Association when Trump nominated him last year to be a federal judge in Kentucky.

  • Jared Kushner appears to be violating federal law by working extensively on President Trump’s re-election campaign from the White House, according to a complaint filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) with the Office of U.S. Special Counsel. 

While the Hatch Act prohibits most executive branch employees from engaging in political activity while on government property or on duty, a narrow exception does allow some political activity by senior political appointees paid by the White House. It does not, however, allow it by Kushner, who declined to accept a salary in his position as a Senior Advisor to President Trump. It may not be clear why Kushner made that choice, but it is clear that it has legal consequences, including allowing him to get around a conflict of interest law. But while a conflict of interest law does not apply to him, neither does the Hatch Act exception.

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