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

The Past 24 Hours or So

Read Time: 5 minutes

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates

  • A report from the CDC says New York City’s death toll from the coronavirus may be thousands of fatalities worse than the official tally kept by the city and state.
  • President Trump backed Pennsylvania residents who oppose restrictions intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the state and accused Democratic governors of leaving such measures in place “for political purposes.”

Trump Tweeted: “The great people of Pennsylvania want their freedom now, and they are fully aware of what that entails. The Democrats are moving slowly, all over the USA, for political purposes. They would wait until November 3rd if it were up to them. Don’t play politics. Be safe, move quickly!”

NOTE: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has a 69% approval rating from Pennsylvania residents for his handling of the coronavirus in his state. 

  • The White House has directed all West Wing staff to wear masks at all times in the building, except when they are at their own desks.The shift in protocol comes days after two White House staffers tested positive for the coronavirus. One is a military member who serves as one of President Trump’s personal valets, and the other is Vice President Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller.
  • White House trade adviser Peter Navarro disparaged the media’s coverage of the staggering 14.7 percent unemployment rate in April caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That was a pity party yesterday on the Sunday shows,” Navarro complained on “Fox and Friends,” singling out CBS News “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan, ABC News “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos and “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace.

“This is not the Great Depression,” the White House official continued. “Anybody who thinks this is the Great Depression doesn’t understand either history or economics.”

Navarro claimed that President Donald Trump had built “the strongest and most beautiful economy” before the virus took hold.

  • Hydroxychloroquine, a decades-old malaria medicine touted by the president as a coronavirus treatment, showed no benefit for thousands of patients hospitalized in New York.

There was also no noticeable advantage for patients that took the drug paired with the antibiotic azithromycin, according to hotly anticipated research published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

President Donald Trump had repeatedly championed hydroxychloroquine from the press briefing stage, saying it had “tremendous promise” and was safe because “it’s been used for a long time.”

  • President Trump abruptly left his coronavirus news conference in the Rose Garden after tense exchanges with two female reporters, one of which, who was Asian American, asked him why the statistics surrounding the virus are a “global competition” to him.
  • President Trump boasted that the U.S. has “prevailed on testing” — despite public health experts’ warnings that millions more tests per week are needed to safely reopen the country.

The president claimed, “We have met the moment, and we have prevailed.”

NOTE: The U.S. has the most coronavirus cases and deaths in the world, and is still nowhere near performing enough testing to safely open our economy. The U.S. ranks 29th in per capita. 

Other Administration News 

  • The Justice Department announced that it is reviewing all of the evidence in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery and considering whether federal hate crime charges are warranted. Arbery, a 25-year-old unarmed black man, was fatally shot in February while jogging just outside the port city of Brunswick, Georgia. Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, were arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault last Thursday, after video of the incident sparked outrage over the handling of the case.
  • Stone prosecutor Jonathan Kravis blasted Attorney General Barr’s meddling in the Stone and Flynn cases: “In both cases, the department undercut the work of career employees to protect an ally of the president, an abdication of the commitment to equal justice under the law.”
  • Nearly 2000 Justice Department officials have signed onto a letter calling for Attorney General William Barr to resign over what they describe as his improper intervention in the criminal case of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The letter, signed mostly by former career officials in the department, accuses Barr of joining with Pres. Trump in “political interference in the Department’s law enforcement decisions.”

  • Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant for an American diplomat’s wife accused of killing a British teenager by driving dangerously.

Anne Sacoolas invoked diplomatic immunity after a crash in Northamptonshire in August that killed 19-year-old motorcyclist Harry Dunn near a British military base that houses U.S. troops.

Sacoolas was allowed to leave the United Kingdom following the incident, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in January rejected an extradition request from the British government. She is alleged to have been driving on the wrong side of the road at the time of the crash.

  • President Trump declined to name the crime he believes former President Obama committed, as he was pressed on a string of critical tweets he sent over the weekend accusing his predecessor of committing the biggest political crime in history. Trump has amplified his attacks on the Russia investigation in the days since the Justice Department moved to drop charges against his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody. All you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours,” Trump told Washington Post reporter Phil Rucker.

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

The Past 24 Hours or So

Read Time: 5 minutes

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates

  • After seeing an ad critical of his performance created by The Lincoln Project, Trump went on a Tweetstorm slightly before 1 AM. 

The President unleashed a series of Tweet: “A group of RINO Republicans who failed badly 12 years ago, then again 8 years ago, and then got BADLY beaten by me, a political first timer, 4 years ago, have copied (no imagination) the concept of an ad from Ronald Reagan, “Morning in America”, doing everything possible to….”

“….because they don’t know how to win, and their so-called Lincoln Project is a disgrace to Honest Abe. I don’t know what Kellyanne did to her deranged loser of a husband, Moonface, but it must have been really bad. John Weaver lost big for Kasich (to me). Crazed Rick Wilson….

“….lost for Evan “McMuffin” McMullin (to me). Steve Schmidt & Reed Galvin lost for John McCain, Romney’s campaign manager (?) lost big to “O”, & Jennifer Horn got thrown out of the New Hampshire Republican Party. They’re all LOSERS, but Abe Lincoln, Republican, is all smiles!”

  • President Trump on Tuesday said Anthony Fauci will be allowed to testify before the Senate next week, but that he would prevent the government’s top infectious diseases expert from appearing before the Democratically-controlled House because he believes it’s full of “Trump haters.”

When asked why he will not permit Fauci to appear before the House, Trump replied, “Because the House is a set up. The House is a bunch of Trump haters … they, frankly, want our situation to be unsuccessful, which means death.”

  • President Trump downplayed the significance of a key forecasting model used by the White House that now shows the U.S. death toll doubling as states ease restrictions from roughly 70,000 lives in early August to nearly 135,000 by that time.

Trump inaccurately claimed that the model doesn’t take into account mitigation measures. 

  • Vice President Pence says the White House task force on coronavirus will begin winding down and is set to be scaled back by Memorial Day, a surprising decision that comes as most states are preparing to loosen restrictions meant to slow the spread of the pandemic. Members are likely to return to their respective departments and manage the coronavirus response from there.
  • The Trump administration’s former vaccine chief repeatedly warned top officials about shortage of critical resources and supplies for fighting the coronavirus as early as January but the administration took no action, according to a whistleblower complaint from Rick Bright, the former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority who was ousted by Trump officials.

He also said he was pressured to “award lucrative contracts for… drugs even though they lacked scientific merit.”

  • Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, the chairman of the Senate’s small business committee, blocked an attempt by Democrats to pass a bill that would require the Trump administration to report new details on how small business aid is being dispersed amid the coronavirus pandemic as they seek to ensure funds go to small businesses.
  • “They will be, and so will other doctors, and so will other experts in the field,” the president said Tuesday when asked if Fauci and Birx, who both serve on the task force, would continue advising the White House on its COVID-19 efforts. “We are bringing our country back.”
  • Guidelines at the Honeywell plant in Arizona, which is mass producing N95 face masks crucial for health care providers during the pandemic, read: “Please wear your mask at all times.”

Trump and his officials didn’t wear a mask on their tour of the facility, even though when asked before the trip if he’d wear a mask, the president had responded: “If it’s a mask facility, I will. I don’t know if it’s a mask facility.”

  • President Trump on Tuesday said some people would be “affected badly” by the decision to begin reopening the country despite the coronavirus pandemic, but that it was important to get the economy moving.

Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon,” Trump said Tuesday. He later doubled down, saying in an ABC News interview: “It’s possible there will be some [deaths], because you won’t be locked into an apartment or a house or whatever it is.”

  • Trump told David Muir that Obama left him with broken tests.

NOTE: The COVID19 virus didn’t exist until 2019.

  • The Pentagon’s top uniformed official maintained that available evidence indicates the virus that has caused a global pandemic was natural and not man-made or released purposely from a Chinese lab.

“The weight of evidence — nothing’s conclusive — the weight of evidence is that it was natural and not man-made,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley said of the coronavirus.

  • A complaint filed by a whistleblower alleges that the team established by Jared Kushner which was responsible for PPE had little success in helping the government secure such equipment, in part because none of the team members had significant experience in health care, procurement or supply-chain operations. In addition, none of the volunteers had relationships with manufacturers or a clear understanding of customs requirements or Food and Drug Administration rules,  and two senior administration officials.

Supply-chain volunteers were instructed to fast-track protective equipment leads from “VIPs,” including conservative journalists friendly to the White House, according to the complaint and one senior administration official.

Other Administration News 

  • CBS White House correspondent Paula Reid on Tuesday embraced a dig from President Trump that she is not like iconic actress Donna Reed, who often portrayed a ’50s housewife in film and television, with Reid responding: “Fact Check: True.”

“It wasn’t Donna Reed, I can tell you that,” Trump said in an interview with the New York Post. “Paula Reid, she’s sitting there and I say, ‘How angry. I mean, what’s the purpose?’ They’re not even tough questions, but you see the attitude of these people, it’s like incredible,” he added.

Reid responded with a tweet to her more than 266,000 followers. 

“President Trump tells @nypost I am nothing like 50’s American archetypal mom Donna Reed. Fact-check: True,” she wrote, earning more than 17,000 likes.

  • President Trump rejected the idea of granting statehood to the District of Columbia, arguing in a new interview it would be too politically beneficial to Democrats.

“D.C. will never be a state,” Trump told The New York Post during an Oval Office interview. “You mean District of Columbia, a state? Why? So we can have two more Democratic — Democrat senators and five more congressmen? No thank you. That’ll never happen.”

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

The Past 24 Hours or So

Read time: 7 Minutes

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates

  • President Trump twice received intelligence briefings on the coronavirus in January, according to a White House official. The official tells NPR the briefings occurred on Jan. 23 and Jan. 28. “The president was told that the coronavirus was potentially going to ‘spread globally.”
  • U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said “enormous evidence” shows the novel coronavirus outbreak began in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, but didn’t provide any proof for his claims.

“I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan,” Pompeo said on ABC’s “This Week.” “These are not the first times that we’ve had a world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in a Chinese lab.”

Pompeo stopped short of saying the virus was man-made, noting that he agreed with a report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that ruled out genetic modification or it having been man-made.

  • Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said Sunday that for many weeks the White House wasn’t helpful in aiding states amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s the governors that have risen to the challenge. I talk to my fellow governors, Republicans and Democrats, we’ve shared ideas with one another on how to keep people safe,” Pritzker said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” 

“We’ve gotten some guidance from the CDC that’s been helpful, but much of what came out of the White House for many weeks was not helpful,” he added.

  • White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx said it was “devastatingly worrisome” that those protesting at state Capitols against stay-at-home orders did not wear masks or practice social distancing, warning that they could unknowingly transmit the novel coronavirus to at-risk relatives.

“It’s devastatingly worrisome to me personally because if they go home and they infect their grandmother or grandfather who has a comorbid condition and they have a serious or very unfortunate outcome they will feel guilty for the rest of their lives. So we need to protect each other at the same time as we’re voicing our discontent,” Birx said on “Fox News Sunday.”

  • Ashford Inc., a large hospitality conglomerate that received nearly $70 million from the Paycheck Protection Program included in the $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed in March, said Saturday that it would be returning the money.
  • President Trump’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said Sunday that there may be additional coronavirus stimulus legislation, but nothing has been decided yet. 

“There may well be additional legislation, there’s kind of a pause period right now,” Kudlow said on “CNN’s State of the Union.” 

Kudlow also said “let’s see” the effects of stimulus bills that have already been passed as some states gradually reopen economies. He suggested revisiting the possibility in “a couple of weeks.”

  • Over a dozen potential COVID-19 vaccines are currently under development that could be candidates for a Trump administration program to fast-track for widespread inoculation by January 2021, senior officials within the administration told NBC News.

The program, known as “Operation Warp Speed” whittled down 14 candidates from a pool of 93 potential vaccines several weeks ago.

  • President Trump said Sunday that his administration is confident the United States will have a vaccine for the novel coronavirus by the end of the year.

“We think we are going to have a vaccine by the end of this year,” Trump said during a virtual Fox News town hall Sunday evening.

  • President Trump has reportedly said he believes elite K-12 private schools should return federal funds distributed under an emergency small business loan program amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a White House official, Politico reported.

The comment from the White House official came after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted Friday advising private schools “with significant endowments” to return funds received under the Paycheck Protection Program

  • U.S. officials believe China covered up the extent of the coronavirus outbreak — and how contagious the disease is — to stock up on medical supplies needed to respond to it, intelligence documents show.

The analysis states that, while downplaying the severity of the coronavirus, China increased imports and decreased exports of medical supplies. It attempted to cover up doing so by “denying there were export restrictions and obfuscating and delaying provision of its trade data,” the analysis states.

The report also says China held off informing the World Health Organization that the coronavirus “was a contagion” for much of January so it could order medical supplies from abroad — and that its imports of face masks and surgical gowns and gloves increased sharply.

  • Vice President Mike Pence signaled Sunday that he regretted not wearing a face covering during a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota last week.

“I didn’t think it was necessary, but I should have worn a mask at the Mayo Clinic,” Pence said during a Fox News virtual town hall Sunday evening.

  • President Trump on Sunday said he won’t support another round of coronavirus stimulus legislation unless it includes a payroll tax cut, a measure that has muted support among lawmakers in Congress.
  • President Trump predicted the United States will lose between 75,000 to 100,000 people to the coronavirus, a marked increase from just a few weeks ago when he estimated 60,000 could die.

“We’re going to lose anywhere from 75-, 80- to 100,000 people,” Trump said. “That’s a horrible thing. We shouldn’t lose one person over this. This should’ve been stopped in China.”

  • President Donald Trump stated falsely on Sunday that Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden apologized for calling him xenophobic. “Biden has written a letter of apology.” … “He actually apologized (and said) I made the right move.”

NOTE: Trump has falsely claimed Biden has sent “a letter of apology” before. No such letter exists. 

  • On his emergency order to reopen meat plants after many closed because workers were sickened by COVID-19. “I think it’s all working out. … Those people are tending to get better quickly.”

NOTE: 4,900 workers at meat and poultry processing facilities have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, 20 of whom have died. There is no evidence that workforces at meat plants are rapidly returning to health.

Other Administration News 

  • President Trump shared that he is “glad” to see North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is “back” and “well” after Kim appeared in public for the first time in 20 days following international speculation over his health.

“I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!” Trump tweeted, sharing photos of Kim cutting tape to mark the completion of a fertilizer plant in Sunchon, North Korea, an area north of Pyongyang.

  • President Trump is not happy with FBI director Christopher Wray and would love to replace him, according to three sources who’ve discussed the matter with the president. But Trump has been deferring to Attorney General Bill Barr and is unlikely to remove Wray before the election, these sources said. 

Trump was especially angered by what he views as Wray’s reluctance to publicly criticize actions taken by Comey and by Wray’s relatively muted reaction to the FBI’s misconduct in seeking the surveillance of Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

Recent revelations in the case of Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, have heightened discontent with Wray in Trump’s inner circle. Figures close to Trump tell him that Wray cannot be trusted to root out what they view as “corruption” at the highest levels of the FBI.

  • The U.S. military in Afghanistan warned the Taliban against continuing violence and to “return to the political path,” saying further attacks would lead to “responses.”

“If the violence cannot be reduced then yes, there will be responses,” US Forces-Afghanistan spokesperson Colonel Sonny Leggettwrote in a letter to Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid that he posted a copy of to Twitter.

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

The Past 24 Hours or So

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates

  • The president’s re-election campaign has ordered red, Trump-branded face masks for supporters. Campaign officials have discussed giving away the masks at events or in return for donations.
  • The president encouraged Gretchen Whitmer to negotiate with armed terrorists who occupied the state capitol. Trump Tweeted: “The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”
  • Vice President Pence’s office has banned Steve Herman, a reporter with Voice of America, from taking future trips with the VP.  Herman Tweeted that the vice president’s office told journalists to wear a face mask during Pence’s trip to the Mayo Clinic this week The vice president did not wear a mask during his visit. 

Herman Tweeted “all of us who traveled with him were notified by the office of @VP the day before the trip that wearing of masks was required by the @MayoClinic and to prepare accordingly”

Pence’s office reportedly told Herman that his tweet violated the off-the-record terms of a memo used for planning the trip.

  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is being sued by student advocacy organizations for continuing to garnish wages of student borrowers amid the coronavirus pandemic despite provisions against the practice in Congress’s coronavirus relief package. 

Wage garnishment for student borrows allowed the Department of Education to withhold up to 15 percent of wages from those who owe student debt.

  • The Trump administration is fast-tracking authorization of the drug remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19.

The Food and Drug Administration announced the drug will receive an “emergency use authorization” after it showed promising results during a clinical trial.

Early results released this week showed the drug had modest success in reducing the time COVID-19 patients were in the hospital.

  • House Democrats seeking Anthony Fauci’s testimony next week on the coronavirus crisis have been rebuffed by the White House, which is blocking the nation’s top infectious disease expert from appearing before Congress.
  • The No. 2 official at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Anne Schuchat, says that the U.S. was too slow in banning travel from Europe and that the delay in closing the nation’s borders to travel from the continent helped accelerate the coronavirus’ spread.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci warned local leaders to avoid “leapfrogging” critical milestones in an effort to reopen their economies amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “Obviously you could get away with that, but you’re making a really significant risk,”

Fauci, who has repeatedly cautioned against prematurely easing restrictions, said he already noticed that some states and cities are not adhering to the steps laid out in the White House’s recently issued guidance on reopening — a plan that administration officials say will now replace the expired federal social distancing measures.

“If you follow the guidelines, there’s a continuity that’s safe, that’s prudent and that’s careful,” he said.

But if governors rush to reopen when they aren’t ready, Fauci cautioned that the move would likely only set back the progress their states have made.

  • President Trump on Saturday insisted that there is “tremendous” coronavirus testing capacity for senators returning to Washington, D.C., after Capitol physician Brian Monahan had said earlier in the week that his office did not have capacity to screen all 100 senators.

“There is tremendous CoronaVirus testing capacity in Washington for the Senators returning to Capital (sic) Hill on Monday. Likewise the House, which should return but isn’t because of Crazy Nancy P. The 5 minute Abbott Test will be used. Please inform Dr. Brian P. Monahan,” Trump tweeted, tagging his chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Other Administration News 

  • President Trump issued an executive order declaring a national emergency over threats to the U.S. power system, taking steps to defend the grid against cyberattacks and foreign interference. 

The executive order bans the use of equipment for the power grid that was manufactured by a company under the control of a foreign adversary, or the buying of any equipment that poses a national security threat.

  • “I will never lie to you. You have my word on that,” Kayleigh McEnany said early during her first press briefing as White House press secretary, in response from a question from the Associated Press’s Jill Colvin. The promise lasted for about all of 15 minutes.
  • The U.S. District Appeals Court has denied the Department of Justice’s motion to delay the ruling that it must hand over Mueller’s grand jury information to Congress.

The court gives DOJ until May 11 to seek a stay from the Supreme Court.

  • The White House announced President Trump’s new pick to serve as the Department of Health and Human Services’s inspector general after the president excoriated the official currently serving as the agency’s watchdog.

The White House announced in a press release the nomination of Jason Weida to fill the role at HHS. Weida is currently serving as an assistant U.S. attorney in Boston and previously worked in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy.

  • President Trump announced his nominee to serve as ambassador to Ukraine after the Senate’s impeachment trial thrust the relationship between Washington and Kyiv into the spotlight.

The White House said in a press release Friday that Trump is tapping Keith Dayton, the current director of the George C. Marshall Center in Garmisch, Germany, and the senior U.S. defense adviser to Ukraine.

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

The Past 24 Hours or So

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates

  • Karen Pence says her husband Mike didn’t know about the hospital regulation of wearing a mask during his tour. “It was actually after he left Mayo that he found out they had a policy of asking everyone to wear a mask.”

NOTE: Pence and his staff were told by the hospital it was mandatory.

  • Just two days after facing criticism for not wearing a face mask during a visit at the Mayo Clinic, which has a facility policy requiring face coverings, Vice President Pence chose to wear a face mask at a tour of a General Motors plant in Indiana, which has a policy that requires all workers to wear medical-grade protective masks during their shifts.
  • President Trump said that he has seen evidence linking the novel coronavirus to a lab in Wuhan, China, without providing further details.

“Yes, I have,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked directly whether he had seen evidence that gives him confidence the virus was tied to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

“And I think that the World Health Organization should be ashamed of themselves because they’re like the public relations agency for China,” Trump added.

  • The top U.S. spy agency in a rare public statement Thursday said it agreed with “the widespread scientific consensus” that the COVID-19 virus was “not man made or genetically modified,” but also said it was investigating whether it emerged from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

“The entire Intelligence Community has been consistently providing critical support to U.S. policymakers and those responding to the COVID-19 virus, which originated in China. The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man made or genetically modified,” the statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence reads.

  • Senior Trump administration officials have pushed American spy agencies to hunt for evidence to support an unsubstantiated theory that a government laboratory in Wuhan, China, was the origin of the coronavirus outbreak, according to current and former American officials. The effort comes as President Trump escalates a public campaign to blame China for the pandemic.

Most intelligence agencies remain skeptical that conclusive evidence of a link to a lab can be found, and scientists who have studied the genetics of the coronavirus say that the overwhelming probability is that it leapt from animal to human in a non-laboratory setting, as was the case with H.I.V., Ebola and SARS.

  • Senior U.S. officials are beginning to explore proposals for punishing or demanding financial compensation from China for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to four senior administration officials with knowledge of internal planning.

Trump and aides have discussed stripping China of its “sovereign immunity,” aiming to enable the U.S. government or victims to sue China for damages. Some administration officials have also discussed having the United States cancel part of its debt obligations to China.

  • Maryland governor, Larry Hogan, was concerned that the federal government would seize the tests the state procured from South Korea. He made sure the plane with tests landed at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport instead of Dulles, with a large presence of Maryland National Guard and Maryland State police because the tests were valuable and Massachusetts Gov. Baker said his plane load of masks was basically confiscated by the feds. He says the tests are being guarded by the National Guard at an undisclosed location
  • The U.S. Federal Reserve widened a key program to nurse the “Main Street” economy through the coronavirus pandemic, agreeing to lend to firms with up to 15,000 workers, taking on more risk in participation with banks, and hinting at some form of dedicated help for nonprofits.
  • The Trump administration has tightened restrictions on the use of ethanol in hand sanitizer, citing safety concerns and forcing some suppliers to halt sales at a time of soaring demand, according to sources and documents seen by Reuters.

The restrictions have dealt a blow to fuel ethanol producers. The industry has invested millions of dollars since last month to ramp up the output of corn-based alcohol sanitizer to offset slumping fuel demand.

  • The Food and Drug Administration’s lax rules on coronavirus blood tests has opened the  U.S. market to dubious vendors. 

Under the FDA’s new rules, a vendor must only notify the FDA it is selling a test, affirm the product is valid and label it as unapproved. On its website as of April 29, the FDA listed 164 tests that it had been informed would be offered on the market, more than half of them manufactured in China.

The agency has said it is working with the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to validate tests, including tests already on the market. It is unclear how many antibody test kits have been distributed for sale in the United States.

  • U.S. President Donald Trump will leave the White House on Friday for the first time in a month when he travels to the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

Trump will make the 70-mile trip to Camp David on Friday evening, according to a schedule released by the White House on Thursday night. The schedule did not indicate how long Trump would stay at Camp David.

  • U.S. President Donald Trump said he believes China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic is proof that Beijing “China will do anything they can to have me lose this race,” Trump said.
  • U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia defended his department’s handling of workplace safety during the coronavirus pandemic, saying “the cop is on the beat” in response to union criticism about a lack of directives to protect workers.

Workers have protested safety conditions at fast-food restaurants, hospitals and warehouses, while businesses have lobbied Congress for legal shields to protect them against lawsuits from employees and customers.

  • Fewer than 20 companies are considering applying for $17 billion worth of loans earmarked as relief funds for Pentagon suppliers hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The challenge is that this $17 billion dollars worth of loans comes with some fairly invasive, kind of, riders on it,” Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, said in a news conference at the Pentagon on Thursday.

The U.S. Treasury Department will ask for an equity stake in publicly traded national security contractors, including defense firms, that seek part of the $17 billion.

  • The Trump administration placed orders for more than 100,000 new body bags for coronavirus victims in April, according to documents and public records obtained by NBC News.

The largest order of body bags was placed via purchase order the day after Trump said that the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus might not exceed 50,000 or 60,000 people.

  • President Trump outlined a handful of new initiatives intended to aid and protect nursing homes as the coronavirus pandemic takes a heavy toll on older Americans.

Trump announced the creation of a commission focused on safety in nursing homes composed of industry experts, patient advocates and state and local officials. The group will meet in May and issue recommendations for steps to protect seniors.

The administration will allocate $81 million in congressional funding toward increased inspections of nursing homes to ensure they are complying with infectious disease protocols

  • President Trump defended his decision to support social distancing measures and states that have implemented stay-at-home orders, pointing to coronavirus deaths in Sweden, which has largely allowed businesses to remain open during the pandemic.

In a tweet Thursday morning, the president noted: “Despite reports to the contrary, Sweden is paying heavily for its decision not to lockdown. As of today, 2462 people have died there, a much higher number than the neighboring countries of Norway (207), Finland (206) or Denmark (443). The United States made the correct decision!” 

  • The Pentagon moved to increase the production of coronavirus testing swabs by announcing it will invest $75.5 million in the Defense Production Act.

The millions of dollars in funding to Puritan Medical Products will boost swab production by 20 million per month beginning in May, Department of Defense spokesman Lt. Mike Andrews said.

  • The IRS released guidance stating that expenses related to forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program won’t be tax-deductible.

Under the PPP, a small business loan program created as part of the third, $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, small businesses wouldn’t have to repay the low-interest loan they received as long as the loan went to essential expenses such as maintaining payroll.

Usually, wages are deductible expenses and forgiven debt counts as taxable income.

Other Administration News 

  • A U.S. appeals court on Thursday ruled against a Trump administration attempt to withhold millions of dollars from so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions that limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.

The decision, by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, upheld a pair of lower court rulings that blocked the administration from placing immigration-related conditions on law enforcement grants.

  • President Trump on Thursday said he believes former Vice President Joe Biden should respond to sexual assault allegations from a former Senate aide.

“I don’t know anything about it. I don’t know exactly. I think he should respond,” Trump told reporters at an East Room event on protecting seniors from the coronavirus.

“It could be false accusations. I know all about false accusations. I’ve been falsely charged numerous times,” added Trump, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women.

  • The Secret Service was charged $33,000 to guard Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin while he lived in a luxury suite at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., for 137 days, according to billing records obtained by The Washington Post. 

Mnuchin, an investment banker from New York, paid to live in the hotel in Washington himself for several months before he moved into a house. During his stay, the Secret Service rented a room next to Mnuchin for his protection.

  • Army leaders on Thursday defended their decision to bring nearly 1,000 West Point cadets back to campus for a commencement ceremony featuring a speech from President Trump, saying the graduates would have had to come back to campus anyway despite the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Antarctica and Greenland lost thousands of gigatons of ice in the last 16 years, according to results from a new NASA mission published Thursday.

Scientists reported that the two land masses have lost 5,000 gigatons of ice in that time period, which is enough to fill Lake Michigan. A gigaton is equal to a billion metric tons.

  • The vast majority of money claimed through a clean air tax credit over the past decade were done by companies that had not been properly complying with its requirement, according to an internal government watchdog.
  • NASA awarded contracts to three companies to design and develop the human landing systems to land the first woman and next man on the moon, the agency announced Thursday. 

The contracts were awarded to Blue Origin, a Washington state-based company owned by Jeff Bezos; Dynetics, an Alabama-based company; and SpaceX, a California-based company founded by Elon Musk. 

The total combined value for all awarded contracts is $967 million for a 10-month base period.

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

The Past 24 Hours Or So

Your Daily Dose of Trump & His Administration News

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates

  • More than a million people in the United States have tested positive for the coronavirus, a sobering milestone that experts say represents only the beginning of a months-long battle to end the pandemic. The United States has now registered about a third of all worldwide confirmed cases of COVID-19.
  • President Trump on Tuesday suggested “the worst days” of the coronavirus pandemic are over as he welcomed a group of small-business owners to the White House who have benefited from an emergency loan program he signed into law last month.

Trump used his speech to express optimism about the country’s path to economic recovery amid the pandemic, which has forced businesses to close and caused millions of layoffs across the country.

  • Anthony Fauci on Tuesday said he hoped anyone who needed a coronavirus test should be able to get one by the end of May or early June.

“Hopefully we should see that as we get toward the end of May, the beginning of June,” Fauci said when asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper, “When will everybody who needs to get a test be able to get one?”

  • Vice President Pence visited the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where he stuck out for his decision not to wear a face covering, flouting the medical facility’s policy in the process. Footage of Pence standing alongside clinic staff and a patient donating blood quickly made the rounds on social media as the vice president was the lone individual in the frame not sporting a mask.
  • Vice President Pence defended his decision not to wear a face covering during a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, despite the facility’s policy requiring all visitors to have one.

“Since I don’t have the coronavirus, I thought it’d be a good opportunity for me to be here, to be able to speak to these researchers, these incredible health care personnel, and look them in the eye and say thank you,” Pence explained.

  • In the month since President Trump signed a record $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, the IRS has been scrambling to implement key aspects of the measure at a time when most Americans are desperate for government aid.

The IRS has won praise from experts for its ability to start implementing the law quickly, but its work hasn’t been perfect. The agency has been a source of frustration for tens of millions of Americans who are still awaiting their direct payments from the CARES Act that was signed into law on March 27.

  • The second round of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) emergency coronavirus lending program is struggling to bounce back from a disastrous start.

A crush of applications locked out thousands of furious lenders and desperate business owners on Monday, requiring many applicants to give it another go on Tuesday after waiting weeks for the new pool of money.

  • The SBA program is on track to run out of funds by next week.

The Payment Protection Program, which offers businesses forgivable loans if they devote most of the cash to keeping workers on payroll, approved over $52 billion in funds by 1 p.m. on Tuesday, just over a day after it reopened with newly appropriated funds from Congress, according to the Small Business Administration. At that rate, the $310 billion lifeline would be exhausted within seven business days.

  • President Donald Trump touted the “amazing” numbers of emergency small business loans being issued — even as anxious lenders warned that the administration was leaving scores of their customers in limbo.

At an event in the East Room of the White House, Trump praised the success of the Paycheck Protection Program.

  • President Trump said his administration has been in touch with airlines about testing passengers coming to the U.S. from South America for the coronavirus.

“We’re talking to the governor, we’re talking with others also that have a lot of business coming in from South America, Latin America, and we’ll make a determination,” Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. “We’re also setting up a system where we do some testing and we’re working with the airlines on that. Testing on the plane.”

Asked if he meant temperature checks or coronavirus tests, Trump said it would be both.

  • President Trump signed an executive order using the Defense Production Act to order meat processing plants to stay open and designating them as critical infrastructure. 

The order will apply to all meat processing plants in the U.S. in an effort to prevent further disruptions to the food supply

  • President Trump suggested that federal assistance to states financially impacted by the coronavirus outbreak could be tied to whether so-called sanctuary cities make adjustments to their immigration policies.
  • The Food and Drug Administration asked hand sanitizer manufacturers to take extra steps to ensure their products aren’t consumed internally. 

“It is important that hand sanitizer be manufactured in a way that makes them unpalatable to people, especially young children, and that they are appropriately labeled to discourage accidental or intentional ingestion,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement Monday.

  • A federal court has blocked the Trump administration from giving stimulus funds to corporations owned by Alaska Natives, largely siding with tribes who argue the funds were intended for governments assisting with the pandemic.
  • Only 14.2 percent of the 12 million people who filed new unemployment claims in March had received their funds that month, according to an analysis by The Century Foundation.
  • White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said that officials are studying the need for more stimulus checks to blunt the economic damage of the coronavirus, suggesting they could be part of a future relief package.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending people follow the same social distancing guidelines with their pets as they would human family members after a small number of animals, including dogs and cats, were reportedly infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. 

CDC guidelines recommend people restrict their pets from interacting with other animals when outside their house and urge people to keep cats indoors when possible and to walk dogs on a leash while maintaining at least six feet from other people and animals.

Other Administration News

  • Federal appellate judges grilled the Trump administration in its dispute with the House over former White House counsel Don McGahn’s refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena for his testimony.

In perhaps the most high-profile court hearing since the coronavirus pandemic forced the judiciary to hold virtual proceedings, the Trump administration and the House delivered oral arguments before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in the McGahn case as well on a dispute over whether the administration can use Pentagon funds to build a border wall.

  • The Pentagon is taking money from 19 construction projects, including several in Europe meant to deter Russia, in order to pay for construction projects stateside that had been delayed because funding was reallocated to President Trump’s border wall.

In a memo dated Monday obtained by The Hill, Defense Secretary Mark Esper directed acting Pentagon Comptroller Elaine McCusker to take $545.5 million from projects largely outside the United States to pay for projects within the country.

  • Two environmental watchdog groups are threatening to sue the Department of the Interior for continuously filling top posts with temporary orders — a move that skirts Senate confirmation.

President Trump hasn’t nominated a permanent director for either the Bureau of Land Management or the National Park Service through his tenure.

  • President Trump and his advisers are offering a barrage of increasingly urgent ideas for propping up faltering oil producers — but people in the industry are skeptical that anything will come of it.

    The administration has so far jettisoned plans to buy oil for the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, nixed an idea to eliminate royalty payments for energy produced on federal lands and dropped a discussion of paying oil companies not to produce oil. The latest idea floated last week calls for the Treasury Department to create a fund to lend money to struggling oil producers — and take partial ownership stakes in the companies while requiring them to reduce their output.

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

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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