The Past 24 Hours or So

Read Time: 6 minutes

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates

  • An aide to Mike Pence has tested positive for coronavirus.

Pence was scheduled to travel to Iowa , but his departure was delayed by nearly an hour as staff dealt with news of the diagnosis. Reporters traveling with Pence said several staffers disembarked from Air Force Two just before takeoff.

  • President Trump confirmed that Katie Miller, Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, is the staffer who tested positive for coronavirus. She is married to Stephen Miller, one of President Trump’s top advisers.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a step back from his claim that there was “enormous evidence” that COVID-19 originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China.

Pompeo told radio host Chris Stigall that “we’ve seen evidence that it came from the lab” but “that may not be the case.”

“There’s evidence that it came from somewhere in the vicinity of the lab, but that could be wrong,” he added.

Pompeo’s comments were noticeably more cautious than the claims he made during his interview with ABC News anchor Martha Raddatz on Sunday.

  • A federal watchdog says it has found “reasonable grounds” to believe that the Trump administration retaliated against Rick Bright, a former top public health official and vaccine expert, who says he was fired after raising alarms about an unverified coronavirus treatment being pushed by President Trump.
  • The White House is pushing back on criticism of Jared Kushner’s role in responding to the coronavirus crisis after a sustained barrage of media fire on the president’s son-in-law.

Kushner has been hit for some upbeat comments he has made in interviews — which critics have derided as hopelessly optimistic — as well as alleged shortcomings in the work of the team of volunteers he has headed.

Now the administration is pressing the case in Kushner’s defense, after both The New York Times and The Washington Post reported extensively on the volunteer group.

President Trump joined the pushback. At a meeting with GOP lawmakers, Trump invited Kushner to outline his work on acquiring ventilators and tests.

After he had done so, Trump added, “You’ve done a great job. Some day people are going to appreciate it. They say, ‘Oh, he’s a relation.’ Well if he wasn’t a good relation, I’d get him out of here so fast.”

  • White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow signaled that formal negotiations on the next coronavirus stimulus package would be paused until early June.
  • The U.S. lost 20.5 million jobs in April amid the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic as the steepest recorded surge in American unemployment nearly wiped out a decade of job gains, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The unemployment rate spiked to 14.7 percent from 4.4 percent in March, according to the April jobs report

  • The National Institutes of Health is launching a major study into the coronavirus’ impacts on children in an effort to better understand how many children are infected and what impacts the virus has on their bodies.
  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper has sent a letter to the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee pushing back on criticism from 10 other senators of his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The letter largely echoes comments Esper made at a press briefing earlier this week, but sending it steps up the Pentagon’s efforts to push back on criticism of its coronavirus response.

  • An internal government watchdog will begin a review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and how the virus has affected the agency’s operations.

A memo from Deputy EPA Inspector General Charles Sheehan states that his office will look into how the coronavirus outbreak has affected the agency’s “programs and operations, regulatory and enforcement missions, and mandated activities.”

  • The U.S. budget deficit has soared to $1.48 trillion for the first seven months of the current fiscal year, according to a new estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.

The CBO’s projection for the first seven months of fiscal 2020 is larger than the biggest full-year deficit on record, which was $1.4 trillion in 2009.

  • Lawmakers are asking the Department of Health and Human Services to explain how it is handling remdesivir, a drug shown to be a potential treatment for COVID-19, after Axios reported that mass confusion within the administration hampered its distribution.
  • President Trump said he would help presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden gain access to rapid tests for the coronavirus if his campaign asked for it, allowing the former vice president to resume travel.
  • The decision to shelve detailed advice from the nation’s top disease control experts for reopening communities during the coronavirus pandemic came from the highest levels of the White House, according to internal government emails obtained by The Associated Press.

The files also show that after the AP reported Thursday that the guidance document had been buried, the Trump administration ordered key parts of it to be fast-tracked for approval.

The trove of emails show the nation’s top public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spending weeks working on guidance to help the country deal with a public health emergency, only to see their work quashed by political appointees with little explanation.

  • A former top federal scientist who was ousted from his role and filed a whistleblower complaint against the Trump administration pushed back against President Trump’s remarks that he’s disgruntled, saying he is “frustrated” with the government’s leadership.

“I am not disgruntled,” Rick Bright, the former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, said in a preview of an interview with CBS News. “I am frustrated at a lack of leadership. I am frustrated at a lack of urgency to get a head start on developing life-saving tools for Americans. I’m frustrated at our inability to be heard as scientists. Those things frustrate me.”

  • Ivanka Trump’s personal assistant has tested positive for coronavirus. Ivanka and Jared have both tested negative.
  • Newly unveiled internal documents reportedly reveal that 11 Secret Service agents have recently tested positive for COVID-19, while another 60 are quarantining and as many as 23 others have recovered from the virus. The news comes as two people close to President Trump have tested positive, raising questions of the virus spreading within the White House.

Other Administration News 

  • The Supreme Court granted a Trump administration request to temporarily shield redacted grand jury materials related to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe from the Democratic-led House.

The order, signed by Chief Justice John Roberts, halts the disclosure of secret grand jury transcripts and exhibits that Democratic lawmakers had initially requested as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Trump. 

The move pushes back a lower court’s disclosure order on the materials, which was set to take effect Monday, while the justices consider the administration’s request for a longer delay.

  • Deirdre Walsh. a top career official, is leaving the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Walsh, who spent more than 10 years at ODNI — most recently as chief operating officer — said in a statement provided through an ODNI spokesperson: “I have served in this challenging role for nearly three years and look forward to taking on my next opportunity.”

It is unclear who will replace Walsh, who was the office’s first COO.

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

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