The Past 24 Hours or So

Read TIme: 8 Minutes

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates

  • Coronavirus testing in the United States is disorganized and needs coordination at the national level, infectious disease experts said in a new report. “It’s a mess out there,” Mike Osterholm, head of the university’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), which issued the report, told CNN. “Testing is very, very important, but we’re not doing the right testing.”

The number of tests that have been completed – numbers widely reported by states and by the White House – show only part of the picture, the report reads. “The data is really kind of screwed up,” Osterholm said. “It’s because the public health system is overwhelmed.”

The full report can be read here: https://bit.ly/3bSShNg

  • The U.S. agency providing humanitarian assistance abroad is slamming the United Nations for highlighting access to abortion as an essential health service part of the global response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

John Barsa, acting administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, sent a letter to U.N. Secretary General António Guterres accusing the global forum of “cynically” advancing sexual and reproductive health as an essential service.

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says there is a “strong likelihood” that another coronavirus relief bill will be needed, an apparent break from a top White House economic adviser and some Republicans who say it’s not needed.
  • Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in an interview with The Hill said Congress will have to act to make changes to the Paycheck Protection Program, such as extending the amount of time that small businesses have to use funds intended to help them survive the coronavirus pandemic — a request made by small businesses.
  • President Trump dismissed a Columbia University study that showed roughly 36,000 fewer people would have died from coronavirus in the U.S. if the country imposed restrictions just one week earlier.

“Columbia is an institution that’s very liberal,” Trump said. “I think it’s just a political hit job, you want to know the truth.”

  • According to new figures released Thursday by the Department of Labor, 2.4 million people filed initial claims for unemployment for the week ending May 16. That brings a nine-week total — dating back to when states began closing non-essential businesses amid the pandemic — to 38 million initial claims for unemployment.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield today denied reports that the White House rejected a set of guidelines his agency drafted for reopening the country, saying it received “constructive criticism” from the coronavirus task force that delayed the release of the document.
  • President Trump said the United States would not shut down in the case of a second coronavirus wave.

“People say that’s a very distinct possibility. It’s standard. And we’re going to put out the fires. We’re not going to close the country. We’re going to put out the fires,” Trump told reporters

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled that the Senate GOP’s decision to pause before starting work on another coronavirus relief bill could be nearing an end. 

“I think there’s a high likelihood that we’ll do another rescue package. … We’re not quite ready to intelligently lay down the next step, but it’s not too far off,” McConnell said

  • President Trump said Thursday he will lower flags on government buildings to half-staff to honor the almost 100,000 Americans who have died of coronavirus.

“I will be lowering the flags on all Federal Buildings and National Monuments to half-staff over the next three days in memory of the Americans we have lost to the CoronaVirus,” Trump tweeted.

He noted flags will remain at half-staff on Monday for Memorial Day.

  • After refusing for weeks to release reopening guidance for churches, the Trump administration on Thursday abruptly changed course — with the president saying he had instructed health officials to put the advice out.

Other Administration News 

  • The New York Times reports that for spy agencies, holding President Trump’s attention during briefings can be challenging. The president veers off on tangents and getting him back on topic is difficult. He has a short attention span and rarely, if ever, reads intelligence reports, relying instead on conservative media and his friends for information. He interrupts intelligence officers and riffs based on tips or gossip he hears from the former casino magnate Steve Wynn, the retired golfer Gary Player or Christopher Ruddy, the conservative media executive.

Mr. Trump rarely absorbs information that he disagrees with or that runs counter to his worldview, the officials said. Briefing him has been so great a challenge compared with his predecessors that the intelligence agencies have hired outside consultants to study how better to present information to him.

Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser disputed the characterization of Mr. Trump as inattentive. “The president is laser-focused on the issues at hand and asks probing questions throughout the briefings — it reminds me of appearing before a well-prepared appellate judge and defending the case,” 

Mr. Trump’s demeanor is hardly judicial, former officials said, but they acknowledged he occasionally asks good questions.

  • President Trump plans to withdraw from another major arms control agreement. The Open Skies Treaty allows the pact’s 35 signatories to fly unarmed observation flights over each other with the intention of providing transparency about military activities to avoid miscalculations that could lead to war.

The administration says it wants out of the treaty because Russia is violating the pact, and imagery can be obtained quickly at less cost from US or commercial satellites.

  • The former head of the CIA, Gen. Michael Hayden, responded to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, calling the move “insane.”

Hayden, who served as director of the CIA mostly under President George W. Bush between 2006 and 2009, replied on Twitter in reaction to the news of the withdrawal.

“This is insane,” he said. “I was the director of CIA.” 

  • On the same day the president railed against Michigan and Nevada regarding mail-in voting, the Trump campaign itself encouraged supporters to request absentee ballots, such as in an email sent to Pennsylvania voters Wednesday that urged them to “request your ballot and cast your vote from your own home.”
  • Mike Pompeo’s wife reportedly used diplomatic security officials to pack up her mother’s home in Louisiana and cart away boxes when her mother prepared to move to a retirement home in Kansas.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged State Department officials to look for a way to legally justify the Trump administration’s use of an emergency declaration to sell more than $8 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates without congressional approval, CNN reported.

“They seemed to have a game plan and it had to be justified,” an official who reported the incident to the now-dismissed State Department inspector general told CNN. 

“The attitude was very Trumpian,” the official said.

  • The Senate confirmed Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) to be President Trump’s next spy chief. 

Senators voted 49-44 on Ratcliffe’s nomination to the director of national intelligence, a position that has been filled in an acting capacity since former DNI Dan Coats stepped down in August 2019.

  • In a series of Tweets, the president criticized Fox News for not promoting him and other republican candidates. “Many will disagree, but @FoxNews  is doing nothing to help Republicans, and me, get re-elected on November 3rd. Sure, there are some truly GREAT people on Fox, but you also have some real “garbage” littered all over the network, people like Dummy Juan Williams, Schumerite Chris…

….Hahn, Richard Goodstein, Donna Brazile, Niel Cavuto, and many others. They repeat the worst of the Democrat speaking points, and lies. All of the good is totally nullified, and more. Net Result = BAD! CNN & MSDNC are all in for the Do Nothing Democrats! Fox WAS Great!”

  • The Trump administration failed to turn over hundreds of emails and other internal documents before going to trial over the now-blocked census citizenship question — and a federal judge says it has to pay for it.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of New York has ordered the administration to cover the attorney’s fees and other costs related to a legal dispute over the previously undisclosed documents.

  • The shooting at the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in Texas on Thursday is terrorism related, the FBI said. 

The shooter, who has not been identified, is dead, but a second person of interest may be at large in the community, according to the FBI. 

“We have determined that the incident this morning at the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi is terrorism related,” said Leah Greeves, FBI supervisor senior resident agent in Corpus Christi.

  • The Senate has confirmed Kenneth Braithwaite to be secretary of the Navy, after the service and former secretary came under sharp criticism for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier that infected more than 1,000 sailors.
  • The Defense Department has rescinded a policy that banned recruits from enlisting in the military if they have been hospitalized for coronavirus, the Pentagon’s head of manpower said.

The original policy, released earlier this month, began as a total ban on recruits who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past. That was then changed to potentially barring the enlistee if they had been hospitalized due to the illness.

  • A Trump election conspiracy theory fell apart when Florida’s law enforcement agency said it had found no widespread voter fraud in the 2018 races for Senate and governor.

President Donald Trump had complained repeatedly about election “fraud” and theft in heavily populated, Democrat-rich Broward and Palm Beach counties, which had slowly but erratically updated their vote totals after polls closed on Election Day.

  • President Donald Trump put forth a false “Choice” when he boasted about a program aimed at improving veterans’ health care by steering more patients to the private sector.

Heading toward the Memorial Day weekend, Trump bragged anew that he got the Veterans Choice program passed so veterans now can choose to go to private doctors immediately for care if they have to wait too long for appointments at government-run VA medical facilities.

But the Choice program was achieved by his predecessor. And it is currently restricted because of the coronavirus outbreak.

  • Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee voted to advance President Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media.

The meeting over Pack’s nomination was contentious as expected . He is under investigation by the D.C. attorney general’s office for misuse of funds from his nonprofit, the Public Media Lab.

The committee voted 12-10 along party lines to send Michael Pack’s nomination to the full Senate.

Sources:  ABC News, Axios, CBS News, CNN, Financial Times, Fox News,The Hill, NBC News, NPR, NY Times, Politico, Reuters, Salon, Slate, Vanity Fair, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post

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