The Past 24 Hours Or So

Your Daily Dose of Trump and His Administration News

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates

  • Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said in an interview late Saturday that she is expecting a dramatic decrease in coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations by the end of May.

“We believe that both the hospitalizations, the ICU need and, frankly, the number of people who have succumbed to this disease will be dramatically decreased by the end of May,” Birx said on Fox News Channel’s “Watters World.”

  • Birx said Sunday that news coverage of President Trump’s comments about light, heat and disinfectants as potential treatments for the coronavirus is overshadowing important information the public needs.

Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper if Trump’s comments from the Thursday White House briefing bothered her, Birx said, “I think it bothers me this is still in the news cycle.” 

“I think we’re missing the bigger pieces of what we need to be doing as an American people to continue to protect one another,” Birx said.

  • President Trump is reportedly planning to scale back coronavirus task force press briefings, appearing less frequently to discuss the virus, according to a new report from Axios.

Sources told the outlet that Trump might no longer appear at the press conferences daily, and said top advisers have advised reducing his speaking time among task force officials and scaling back the often hours-long briefings.

  • President Trump lashed out at the national news media over coverage of his work habits and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election in a series of tweets Sunday afternoon.

The president unleashed a pair of tweets apparently prompted by an article published Thursday in the New York Times detailing the president’s private life and work schedule amid the coronavirus pandemic. Trump said he was “a hard worker” and labeled the report by Katie Rogers and Annie Karni “a phony story” that was “written by a third rate reporter who knows nothing about me.”

  • A second set of tweets was widely mocked on Twitter over the president’s repeated misspelling of “Nobel” as well as the fact that there is no Nobel Prize for journalism. Two news organizations did receive Pulitzer Prizes – the highest award in journalism – in 2019 for Trump-related stories but neither of those stories focused on the Russia investigation.
  • Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Sunday that the ouster of federal vaccine chief Richard Bright will “set us back” in combating the coronavirus pandemic.

Bright was ousted as the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority last week.

  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Sunday that emergency hotlines in their states saw increases in calls after President Trump suggested disinfectants be investigated as a treatment for COVID-19.
  • Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said Sunday that the U.S. was likely at the “end of the beginning” of the coronavirus pandemic but said Vice President Pence’s prediction of reaching the end stages of the crisis by Memorial Day was overly optimistic.

“I would say we are maybe near the end of the beginning of the pandemic in this country … we have a plateau in new cases per day. Unfortunately, it’s a very high plateau,” Inglesby told Fox News’ Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “We are not out of the woods by any means but at least we’ve reached a stable number of new infections.”

  • Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Saturday that he is confident the U.S. will be able to double its coronavirus testing capacity over the next several weeks, something he stressed is needed to safely reopen portions of the economy. 

Fauci said in a webcast hosted by the National Academy of Sciences that the U.S. is currently averaging between 1.5 million and 2 million tests per week. 

“We probably should get up to twice that as we get into the next several weeks, and I think we will,” Fauci said.  “Testing is an important part of what we’re doing, but it is not the only part.”

  • White House senior adviser Kevin Hassett warned Sunday that the outlook for the U.S. economy hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic is a “really grave situation,” and said that unemployment rates could reach levels seen during the Great Depression.
  • The Washington Post sued the State Department after the federal agency allegedly denied timely processing of the paper’s request to see diplomatic correspondence regarding safety issues at a coronavirus research lab in the city of Wuhan, China. 

The complaint was filed with the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., and allegedly revolves around two cables that the Post says U.S. diplomats at the American Embassy in Beijing sent to the department after U.S. scientists had made multiple visits to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The institute reportedly conducted studies on strains of coronavirus that originated from bats, the same kind of strain that is believed to have caused the global pandemic.

  • Trump administration officials have discussed replacing Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar after his handling of the early days of the coronavirus pandemic has come under fire, six sources familiar with the situation told The Wall Street Journal.

The Journal’s sources said that while the administration has expressed apprehension about shaking up top HHS personnel during the pandemic, they did note that frustration with Azar has been building in recent weeks.

  • President Donald Trump on Sunday dismissed news reports that White House officials are weighing a plan to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, insisting that his health secretary is “doing an excellent job.”

“Reports that H.H.S. Secretary @AlexAzar is going to be ‘fired’ by me are Fake News,” Trump tweeted. “The Lamestream Media knows this, but they are desperate to create the perception of chaos & havoc in the minds of the public. They never even called to ask.”

  • For the first time since Easter weekend, President Trump did not hold a press briefing Saturday at the White House with the coronavirus task force, a move that could signal a change in the frequency of the president’s appearances in the weeks to come.
  • Trump took to Twitter about 45 minutes later, addressing the topic of his briefings. “What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately,” Trump tweeted.

He added, “They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!”

  • President Trump committed this week to sending ventilators to various countries around the world, including in Latin America, Asia and Africa, as nations seek to stem the health crisis from the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The Trump administration is facing a lawsuit filed Friday over a provision in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package that denies stimulus checks to more than 1 million U.S. citizens married to undocumented immigrants.

The plaintiff is a man using the pseudonym John Doe who claims the administration is discriminating against him “based solely on whom he chose to marry.”

  • The Supreme Court on Friday denied a request to block the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule during the coronavirus health crisis.

A group of state attorneys general had asked the court to issue an injunction against the rule, which links a migrant’s eligibility for legal status with the likelihood that he or she will rely on public assistance.

  • President Trump on Friday expressed opposition to banks’ unwillingness to fund certain fossil fuel projects, after two major banks announced this week that they wouldn’t directly support oil and gas drilling in the Arctic.
  • Senior White House adviser Stephen Miller reportedly told supporters in an off-the-record call Thursday that President Trump’s temporary order to suspend immigration is part of a larger strategy to reduce overall immigration.

According to audio of the call obtained by The Washington Post, Miller said that “the most important thing is to turn off the faucet of new immigrant labor” and that the temporary ban would limit “chains of follow-on migration.”

  • White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Friday defended President Trump for asking whether disinfectant could be used to treat the coronavirus and accused the media of taking the president’s remarks out of context.

“President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterday’s briefing,” McEnany said in a statement issued Friday morning.

“Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines,” she added.

  • President Trump on Friday said he was being sarcastic when he suggested multiple times a day earlier that scientists should consider exposing the body to light, heat and disinfectants as a potential treatment for the coronavirus.

“I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen,” Trump told reporters at an Oval Office

Other Administration News

  • A top South Korean adviser said North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un is “alive and well.” “Our government position is firm,” Moon Chung-in, the top foreign policy adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, told CNN on Sunday. “Kim Jong Un is alive and well. He has been staying in the Wonsan area since April 13. No suspicious movements have so far been detected.”
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hammered Iran over its recent launch of a military satellite, dismissing claims from Tehran that its space program is intended for peaceful purposes.
  • Top Pentagon officials have reached an impasse about whether or not to reinstate Capt. Brett Crozier, the former commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, after the nation’s top military officer called for a deeper probe into the events leading up to his removal, according to Politico.

The news comes following the Navy’s recommendation Friday to let Crozier return to his previous position. 

Crozier was removed from his post aboard the Roosevelt recently after a letter he wrote pleading for help amid a coronavirus outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier was leaked to the press.

  • President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a joint statement on Saturday commemorating the 75th anniversary of a World War II meeting of U.S. and Soviet troops at the Elbe river in 1945.

The decision to issue the statement was controversial among Trump administration officials at the Pentagon and State Department, many of whom have been skeptical of Moscow’s intentions and complained about Russia with regard to several issues.

  • President Trump’s commencement speech is slated to bring 1,000 cadets back to the West Point campus in suburban New York in June. 

According to The New York Times, officials at the military academy had not yet finalized plans for the graduation ceremony when Trump announced last Saturday he would be speaking there.

Trump’s announcement has led the school to summon 1,000 cadets back to campus amid shutdowns and domestic travel restrictions.

  • President Trump on Friday said he would “never let our Post Office fail,” just hours after threatening to block emergency assistance for the U.S. Postal Service if the agency did not raise its prices.

Trump called the Postal Service a “joke” during an exchange with reporters in the Oval Office on Friday and proposed that the agency should quadruple its current prices in order to make money.

  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday expanded the Second Chance Pell experiment, inviting nearly 70 schools to join the program that gives incarcerated individuals need-based federal Pell Grants so they can enroll in postsecondary programs offered by colleges and universities.
  • Six U.S. troops filed a class action lawsuit Friday alleging the Pentagon is blocking their ability to use an expedited process to become naturalized U.S. citizens.

The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of the troops, alleges a 2017 Pentagon policy has “unlawfully obstructed the ability of thousands of service members to obtain U.S. citizenship, placing them in a state of personal and professional limbo.”

Sources:  ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, The Hill, NBC News, NY Times, Politico, Reuters, Washington Post

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