The Past 24 Hours Or So

Your Daily Dose of Trump and His Administration News

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates

  • The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) emergency lending program reopened Monday to a crush of applications as business owners hit by coronavirus restrictions scramble to secure aid before the new round of funding runs dry.

The SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) began accepting new applications this week for an additional $310 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses with new rules and money set aside for certain groups in order to broaden the initiative’s reach.

But the agency’s electronic filing system crashed within minutes of the program reopening.

  • Attorney General William Barr on Monday directed federal prosecutors to “be on the lookout” for public health measures put in place amid the coronavirus pandemic that might be running afoul of constitutional rights.

In a two-page memorandum to the 93 U.S. attorneys, Barr cautioned that some state and local directives could be infringing on protected religious, speech and economic rights.

  • A top Trump administration health official said Monday the U.S. will “easily” perform eight million tests next month, as the White House rolled out steps aimed at increasing testing capacity.

“According to the governors plans for next month, we will easily double that 4 million number,” Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, said during a press conference at the White House.

  • President Trump reportedly urged some state governors to consider reopening schools for the remainder of the school year during a conference call on Monday, despite the federal government’s recommendations urging otherwise.

On the conference call, Trump said some governors should “seriously consider” reopening schools and “maybe get going on it” while noting that “young children have done very well” during the coronavirus outbreak.

  • The Federal Reserve on Monday expanded the range of cities and counties eligible for relief from an emergency coronavirus lending program for local governments after criticism about the facility’s narrow reach.

The central bank said Monday it would open its Municipal Liquidity Facility (MLF) to cities with at least 250,000 residents and counties with at least 500,000. The program was previously limited to cities of 1 million residents or more and counties of at least 2 million, cutting off some of the municipalities hit hardest by COVID-19.

  • Thousands of Internal Revenue Service employees have reportedly volunteered to go back to work as the agency struggles amid the pandemic to overcome a backlog of tax filings and coronavirus stimulus payments.
  • A top government watchdog on Monday named a new official to the government panel that will oversee more than $2 trillion in coronavirus relief.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who is also chairman of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, appointed Robert Westbrooks as executive director of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee.

  • President Trump on Monday questioned why the federal government should provide financial relief to states facing budgetary strains due to the coronavirus pandemic, portraying it as a partisan issue in states and cities with Democratic leaders.

It’s a signal Trump may be turning away from supporting funding for cash-strapped states and cities in a new coronavirus relief bill, though the president has sent conflicting signals on the issue already.

“Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help?” Trump tweeted. “I am open to discussing anything, but just asking?”

  • President Trump on Monday ripped the media’s coverage of his administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, returning to a familiar theme as the White House canceled its coronavirus briefing — another signal is it changing its strategy on messaging. 

“There has never been, in the history of our Country, a more vicious or hostile Lamestream Media than there is right now, even in the midst of a National Emergency, the Invisible Enemy!” Trump tweeted Monday morning.

  • President Trump blamed Democrats on Monday for any delays Americans see in receiving additional unemployment funds provided under coronavirus relief legislation. 

Trump said Democrats “insisted” that states issue the checks, adding that he knew delays would occur. 

“Blame the Democrats for any ‘lateness’ in your Enhanced Unemployment Insurance,” Trump tweeted. 

“I wanted the money to be paid directly, they insisted it be paid by states for distribution,” he added. “I told them this would happen, especially with many states which have old computers.”

  • The Trump administration will impose limits on how much individual banks can lend under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) due to the program’s high demand among businesses seeking relief from effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Reuters reported Sunday that the Small Business Administration will limit individual banks and lenders to 10 percent of the program’s overall funding, or $60 billion, and direct financial institutions to slow the pace of applications for the program.

  • The Trump administration abruptly cut off funding for a project studying how coronaviruses spread from bats to people after reports linked the work to a lab in Wuhan, China, at the center of conspiracy theories about the Covid-19 pandemic’s origins.

The National Institutes of Health on Friday told EcoHealth Alliance, the study’s sponsor for the past five years, that all future funding was cut. The agency also demanded that the New York-based research nonprofit stop spending the $369,819 remaining from its 2020 grant.

  • Tens of millions of pounds of American-grown produce is rotting in fields as food banks across the country scramble to meet a massive surge in demand, a two-pronged disaster that has deprived farmers of billions of dollars in revenue while millions of newly jobless Americans struggle to feed their families.

While other federal agencies quickly adapted their programs to the coronavirus crisis, the Agriculture Department took more than a month to make its first significant move to buy up surplus fruits and vegetables — despite repeated entreaties.

  • The Food and Drug Administration is dealing with a flood of inaccurate coronavirus antibody tests after it allowed more than 120 manufacturers and labs to bring the tests to market without an agency review.

FDA leaders have said they tried to create more flexibility for makers of antibody tests to help inform discussions about when people can safely return to work and school, and to identify survivors whose antibody-rich blood could help treat the sick.

But many of the tests available now aren’t accurate enough for such purposes. Some are giving too many false positive results, which could mislead people into thinking they have already been infected.

  • President Donald Trump was up early Saturday morning taking credit for sending a few ventilators to Colorado and thanking all the people in the state who allegedly sent him “thank you” notes for his benevolence. He also tagged Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican up for a tough reelection race this year, who he has previously credited for helping with the ventilator acquisition.

But as the Denver Post has pointed out, thanks to Trump, the state actually got 400 fewer ventilators than it would have if the administration hadn’t meddled in its procurement process.

  • After a question about how displeased some of the governors are with him, Trump randomly accused the reporters in the audience of having hacked in and spied on his recent phone call with governors. There was no context for Trump’s accusation.
  • The White House released new guidelines Monday aimed at answering criticism that America’s coronavirus testing has been too slow, and President Donald Trump tried to pivot toward a focus on “reopening” the nation.

The administration unveiled a “blueprint” for states to scale up their testing in the coming week — a tacit admission, despite public statements to the contrary, that testing capacity and availability over the past two months have been lacking. On March 6 during a visit to the CDC in Atlanta Trump claimed “anybody that wants a test can get a test,” but the reality has proved to be vastly different.

The “blueprint” states that the federal government should act as the “supplier of last resort” for coronavirus tests as it works with states to ramp up a testing regime that health experts say is necessary before a national reopening.

  • President Donald Trump said during an address in the Rose Garden Monday that the number of tests performed across the country spiked after his administration gave a list of laboratory facilities to governors. But the COVID Tracking Project data did not show any “skyrocket” in testing.
  • U.S. intelligence agencies issued warnings about the novel coronavirus in more than a dozen classified briefings prepared for President Trump in January and February, months during which he continued to play down the threat, according to current and former U.S. officials.

The repeated warnings were conveyed in issues of the President’s Daily Brief, a sensitive report that is produced before dawn each day and designed to call the president’s attention to the most significant global developments and security threats.

Other Administration News

  • The Commerce Department announced Monday that it is tightening export controls on technology that could have military uses, citing countries like China and Russia.
  • President Trump has told advisers that he wants the U.S. to pull its troops from Afghanistan to avoid service members there being exposed to the coronavirus, NBC News reported Monday. 

The president asks about removing troops from the war-town nation almost daily, saying they are at risk to the pandemic, two current and one former U.S. official told the news network. The officials said his recent interest also arose out of his impatience with the slow-moving peace agreement with the Taliban. 

  • Almost 50 sailors on board the USS Kidd have tested positive for coronavirus, the Navy reported, after the first positive test was confirmed last week.
  • U.S. Africa Command acknowledged in a report released Monday that a 2019 military airstrike in Somalia killed two civilians and injured three others.

Major General William Gayler, director of operations for Africa Command, told The Associated Press that the strike targeted the al-Shabab extremist group, noting that two members of the al Qaeda-linked group were killed in the strike along with the civilians.

  • A group of ranchers sued the Trump administration Monday over a rollback to an Obama-era water rule they argue is still too strict.

At stake is the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, a rule President Trump repeatedly promised to deliver for farmers who complained the  previous policy left huge swatches of their land subject to federal oversight.

  • More than 70 Democratic lawmakers from both chambers have joined a suit challenging the Trump administration for rolling back Obama-era power plant regulations.

The Affordable Clean Energy rule finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency in August scraps former President Obama’s Clean Power Plant rule. Lawmakers in the House and Senate filed separate amicus briefs challenging the rule.

  • Earlier this month, the Senate Republican campaign arm circulated a memo with shocking advice to GOP candidates on responding to coronavirus: “Don’t defend Trump, other than the China Travel Ban — attack China.”

The Trump campaign was furious.

On Monday — just days after POLITICO first reported the existence of the memo — Trump political adviser Justin Clark told NRSC executive director Kevin McLaughlin that any Republican candidate who followed the memo’s advice shouldn’t expect the active support of the reelection campaign and risked losing the support of Republican voters.

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

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