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Experts inside and outside the government identified the threat early on and sought to raise alarms even as President Trump was moving slowly. Read some of what they had to say among themselves at critical moments.
By Eric Lipton

WASHINGTON — As the coronavirus emerged and headed toward the United States, an extraordinary conversation was hatched among an elite group of infectious disease doctors and medical experts in the federal government and academic institutions around the nation. Red Dawn — a nod to the 1984 film with Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen — was the nickname for the email chain they built. Different threads in the chain were named Red Dawn Breaking, Red Dawn Rising, Red Dawn Breaking Bad and, as the situation grew more dire, Red Dawn Raging. It was hosted by the chief medical officer at the Department of Homeland Security, Dr. Duane C. Caneva, starting in January with a small core of medical experts and friends that gradually grew to dozens. The “Red Dawn String,” Dr. Caneva said, was intended “to provide thoughts, concerns, raise issues, share information across various colleagues responding to Covid-19,” including medical experts and doctors from the Health and Human Services Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Homeland Security Department, the Veterans Affairs Department, the Pentagon and other federal agencies tracking the historic health emergency. Here are key exchanges from the emails, with context and analysis, that show the experts’ rising sense of frustration and then anger as their advice seemingly failed to break through to the administration, raising the odds that more people would likely die.

A Veterans Affairs official worried in January that the W.H.O. and C.D.C. were slow to address the spread of the virus.
One of the most active participants in the group was Dr. Carter E. Mecher, a senior medical adviser at the Veterans Affairs Department who helped write a key Bush-era pandemic plan. That document focused in particular on what to do if the government was unable to contain a contagious disease and there was no available vaccine, like with the coronavirus. The next step is called mitigation, and it relies on unsophisticated steps such as closing schools, businesses, shutting down sporting events or large public gatherings, to try to slow the spread by keeping people away from one another. As of late January, Dr. Mecher was already discussing the likelihood that the United States would soon need to turn to mitigation efforts, including perhaps to “close the colleges and universities.”

A former Bush and Obama adviser compared the outbreak to major disasters in world history.
Dr. James Lawler, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Nebraska who served in the White House under President George W. Bush and as an adviser to President Barack Obama, was also a regular participant in the email chain. He stayed in regular communication with federal officials as the United States attempted to figure out how to respond to the virus. From the beginning he predicted this would be a major public health event.

By Marina Pitofsky

President Trump reportedly asked Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert and a key member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, whether U.S. officials could allow the coronavirus pandemic to “wash over” the country, The Washington Post reported. During a coronavirus task force meeting in the Situation Room last month, on the same day Trump ordered travel to be suspended from the United Kingdom and Ireland in an effort to stem the spread of the virus, Trump reportedly asked Fauci, “Why don’t we let this wash over the country?” Two anonymous sources familiar with the president’s comments confirmed the question to the newspaper. Trump was reportedly also seeking to understand why “herd immunity” to the coronavirus had been rejected. Herd immunity occurs when a large amount of the population becomes immune either through infection and recovery or inoculation. “Mr. President, many people would die,” Fauci reportedly responded to the president’s question. The Washington Post reported that Fauci initially did not understand what the president meant by “wash over” but was then reportedly alarmed. The Washington Post also reported that six doctors who serve within the Trump administration have started holding their own meetings to discuss public health and medical questions nearly every day, including Fauci, Deborah Birx, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield. The group was reportedly formed after some of the doctors became frustrated with what the paper referred to as “voodoo” — such as Trump's push for the use of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, as a possible treatment for coronavirus — in larger meetings for the coronavirus response.

An examination by The New York Times reveals that there were warnings from the intelligence community, national security aides and government health officials — even as the president played down the crisis.
By Michael D. Shear

WASHINGTON — Top White House advisers as well as experts deep in the cabinet departments and intelligence agencies all sounded alarms and urged aggressive action to counter the threat from the coronavirus, but President Trump remained slow to respond, a detailed examination of the government’s response found. Mr. Trump’s views were colored by long-running disputes inside the administration over how to deal with China and his own suspicion of the motivations of officials inside what he viewed as the “Deep State.” And recommendations from public health officials often competed with economic and political considerations in internal debates, slowing the path toward belated decisions. Interviews with dozens of current and former officials and a review of emails and other documents reveal the key turning points as the Trump administration struggled to get ahead of the virus, rather than just chase it, and the internal debates that presented Mr. Trump with stark choices along the way.

Intelligence agencies and the N.S.C. produced early warnings.
National Security Council officials received the warnings in early January about the potential dangers from a new virus in Wuhan, China. The State Department’s epidemiologist warned early that the virus could develop into a pandemic, while the National Center for Medical Intelligence, a small outpost of the Defense Intelligence Agency, reached the same conclusion. Weeks later, biodefense experts in the National Security Council office responsible for tracking pandemics looked at what was happening in Wuhan and started urging officials to think about what would be entailed in quarantining cities the size of Chicago and telling people to work at home. But some of the earliest warnings came from national security hawks eager to blame China, and they often ran into opposition from the president’s economic advisers, who were concerned about upsetting relations with China at a time when Mr. Trump was negotiating a trade deal with Beijing.

Trump was told of a memo saying 500,000 “American souls” could die.
Peter Navarro, the president’s top trade adviser, wrote a searing memo at the end of January arguing that a pandemic caused by the virus could cost the United States dearly, producing as many as half a million deaths and trillions of dollars in economic losses. The memo, in which Mr. Navarro argued in favor of limits on travel from China, says that in a worst-case scenario, 30 percent of the population in the United States would be infected with the virus, leading to the deaths “on the order of a half a million American souls.”

An examination reveals the president was warned about the potential for a pandemic but that internal divisions, lack of planning and his faith in his own instincts led to a halting response.
By Eric Lipton, David E. Sanger, Maggie Haberman, Michael D. Shear, Mark Mazzetti and Julian E. Barnes

“Nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion,” President Trump said last month. He has repeatedly said that no one could have seen the effects of the coronavirus coming.

WASHINGTON — “Any way you cut it, this is going to be bad,” a senior medical adviser at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. Carter Mecher, wrote on the night of Jan. 28, in an email to a group of public health experts scattered around the government and universities. “The projected size of the outbreak already seems hard to believe.” A week after the first coronavirus case had been identified in the United States, and six long weeks before President Trump finally took aggressive action to confront the danger the nation was facing — a pandemic that is now forecast to take tens of thousands of American lives — Dr. Mecher was urging the upper ranks of the nation’s public health bureaucracy to wake up and prepare for the possibility of far more drastic action. “You guys made fun of me screaming to close the schools,” he wrote to the group, which called itself “Red Dawn,” an inside joke based on the 1984 movie about a band of Americans trying to save the country after a foreign invasion. “Now I’m screaming, close the colleges and universities.” His was hardly a lone voice. Throughout January, as Mr. Trump repeatedly played down the seriousness of the virus and focused on other issues, an array of figures inside his government — from top White House advisers to experts deep in the cabinet departments and intelligence agencies — identified the threat, sounded alarms and made clear the need for aggressive action. The president, though, was slow to absorb the scale of the risk and to act accordingly, focusing instead on controlling the message, protecting gains in the economy and batting away warnings from senior officials. It was a problem, he said, that had come out of nowhere and could not have been foreseen. Even after Mr. Trump took his first concrete action at the end of January — limiting travel from China — public health often had to compete with economic and political considerations in internal debates, slowing the path toward belated decisions to seek more money from Congress, obtain necessary supplies, address shortfalls in testing and ultimately move to keep much of the nation at home. Unfolding as it did in the wake of his impeachment by the House and in the midst of his Senate trial, Mr. Trump’s response was colored by his suspicion of and disdain for what he viewed as the “Deep State” — the very people in his government whose expertise and long experience might have guided him more quickly toward steps that would slow the virus, and likely save lives. Decision-making was also complicated by a long-running dispute inside the administration over how to deal with China. The virus at first took a back seat to a desire not to upset Beijing during trade talks, but later the impulse to score points against Beijing left the world’s two leading powers further divided as they confronted one of the first truly global threats of the 21st century. The shortcomings of Mr. Trump’s performance have played out with remarkable transparency as part of his daily effort to dominate television screens and the national conversation. But dozens of interviews with current and former officials and a review of emails and other records revealed many previously unreported details and a fuller picture of the roots and extent of his halting response as the deadly virus spread:

By Maegan Vazquez, Jason Hoffman, Kristen Holmes and Jeremy Diamond, CNN

(CNN) A new report on the Trump administration's missteps in the early days of the coronavirus' spread into the US was published in the New York Times on Saturday, detailing new instances showing how President Donald Trump ignored the warnings of his advisers about the lethal infectious disease approaching America's doorstep. According to the report, Dr. Robert Kadlec, the top disaster response official at the Department of Health and Human Services, convened the White House coronavirus task force on February 21. During his meeting, the group conducted a mock-up exercise of the pandemic. It predicted 110 million infections, 7.7 million hospitalizations and 586,000 deaths. As a result, the group "concluded they would soon need to move toward aggressive social distancing, even at the risk of severe disruption to the nation's economy and the daily lives of millions of Americans." However, it would take more than three weeks for Trump to enact social distancing guidelines on March 16. Two days after that meeting Kadlec learned of human-to-human transmission from asymptomatic individuals, the Times report states. But instead of immediately implementing mitigation steps, the President's focus turned to messaging. Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, issued a warning that the virus would disrupt daily life. Trump canceled a meeting where mitigation efforts would be discussed. Instead, he appointed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the task force and funneled coronavirus messaging through him. There were also other administration officials who went on television saying the virus was contained. Over nearly three weeks from February 26 to March 16, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States grew from 15 to 4,226. Since then, more than half a million Americans have tested positive for the virus and authorities say hundreds of thousands more are likely infected. An administration official confirmed to CNN that the government's top public health experts agreed in the third week of February on the need to begin moving away from a containment strategy and toward a mitigation strategy that would involve aggressive social distancing measures. The agreement among the health officials came after they held a tabletop exercise to game out the potential for a full-blown pandemic. The public health officials had planned to urge the President to move toward a mitigation strategy after he returned from India, the administration official said, but that meeting was scrapped after Trump returned to Washington infuriated by a plunging stock market and Messonier's warning about "severe" disruptions to daily life. Messonier was merely voicing the consensus among the administration's public health experts, but she jumped the gun -- doing so without getting official buy-in. The official also confirmed that an email chain among the group, and highlighted by the Times, was a focus of some conversations inside the administration. A Feb. 23 email from a researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology sharing a report of potential asymptomatic spread of the disease caused alarm among several top officials, the official said. The Times also describes how Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar had been briefing the President on the issue. Azar "briefed him about the potential seriousness of the virus" during a January 18 phone call. A few days later, in what appeared to be his first comments about the virus to the press, Trump told a reporter at Davos, "We have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It's -- going to be just fine."

Reporter who exposed vote suppression in Georgia: Voting by mail is no cure; we're heading for "pretend election"
By Chauncey DeVega

Encouraged by the pain, suffering, misery and distraction caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Donald Trump is continuing his assault on American democracy and the rule of law. His most recent move: removing at least seven inspectors general who provide independent oversight within various departments of the United States government. Trump is a malignant narcissist with authoritarian tendencies and may well be a sociopath. Like a Mafia boss, he views personal loyalty as more important than loyalty to the Constitution and the rule of law. Aided by Attorney General William Barr, Trump appears poised to loot the coronavirus relief funds passed by Congress, harass and silence his political enemies, speed up the country's downward slide into failed democracy, and unleash more cruelty against those Americans he deems to be insufficiently loyal or otherwise "undesirable." On Twitter, Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, summarized recent developments: Shaub is perhaps being optimistic: Donald Trump and his allies, both foreign and domestic, are already gorging on democracy. Trump makes no effort to hide his contempt for American democracy. He is obvious and unapologetic. Last week, Trump admitted that "You'd never have a Republican elected in this country again" if Americans were universally permitted to vote by mail. Trump is just channeling a belief that has long been expressed both in private and in public by Republicans and other members of the right-wing movement. On this, Trump and the Republicans are correct: According to public opinion polls and other research, the American people overwhelmingly reject their policies and goals. Because democracy is antithetical to today's Republican Party, Donald Trump has repeatedly condemned voting by mail because he believes it will be disadvantageous to his chances of winning another presidential term in 2020. In the final analysis, Republicans want to make voting more difficult even if it means more Americans will fall ill and die from COVID-19.

By Lori Robertson

In early March, President Donald Trump said that restrictions he placed on travel to and from China “saved a lot of lives,” a claim that grew to “probably tens of thousands” and “hundreds of thousands” by early April. But we found no support for such figures. The few studies that have been done estimate the U.S.’ and other countries’ travel restrictions regarding China had modest impacts, slowing the initial spread outside of China but not containing the coronavirus pandemic. We didn’t find a study that looked at the U.S. restrictions alone, and we found only one non-peer-reviewed study, on Australia, that found an impact of such policies on deaths, though it has significant limitations. Past studies, too, have found international travel restrictions could delay the path of the spread of diseases but do little to contain them. Saad B. Omer, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, told us he hasn’t seen any evidence to support the president’s claims. Previous studies of viruses with a reproduction number of 1.9 or higher, meaning the average number of other people one person infects, have shown the restrictions have to be very strict to have an effect, he said. Travel restrictions “can have an impact if you shut down 90% of all travel,” Omer said. But, “even then, it delays it a little bit but it doesn’t stop it.” Omer co-authored a Feb. 3 article on why a travel ban wouldn’t stop the coronavirus. Alex Nowrasteh, director of immigration studies at the libertarian Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, looked at several of the same studies we examined and concluded that “by themselves, travel restrictions do little but delay the onset of a crisis mentality and shift the curve to the right rather than flattening it.” As we have found with prior claims from the president, Trump’s assertions have progressively grown:

By Greg Allen

With an election year pandemic, mail-in ballots may become an increasingly popular way to vote, especially in states like Florida that allow any voter to use them. While those ballots accounted for nearly 1 in 4 of all ballots cast in 2018, President Trump this week said he wasn't in favor of expanding the practice during present health crisis, even as he used one himself when he voted (presumably for himself) in Florida's presidential primary last month. During the White House coronavirus briefing Tuesday, Trump said, "I think that mail-in voting is a terrible thing" and followed up the next day with several tweets calling on Republicans to oppose statewide mail-voting, claiming without evidence that the practice hurt GOP candidates and was susceptible to widespread fraud. "At least in Florida, I think he's being a little misguided," said Mac Stipanovich, a longtime Republican strategist in Florida who recently left the GOP because of Trump. Mail-in ballots have also been a key tool in other Republican-friendly states such as Arizona and Utah. For more than 40 years, Stipanovich helped Republicans win campaigns and come to dominate Florida politics. "Absentee ballots," he said, "are typically Republicans' friends in Florida." In 2002, Florida began allowing anyone who requests a mail ballot to receive one, a changed Stipanovich said Republican strategists and campaign managers immediately embraced them. "People recognized that was a mine of gold that you could...control." He says campaign strategists could, "figure out who got the ballots, contact them [and] try to make sure they got their ballots in."

By Elizabeth Cohen and Dr. Minali Nigam, CNN

(CNN) There are several treatments being studied to prevent or treat coronavirus, but President Trump has been a cheerleader for one in particular: hydroxychloroquine, a drug currently used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Over the past month, he's made many optimistic statements about hydroxychloroquine. CNN has fact-checked the president multiple times -- such as here, here, and here -- and found that he's being unrealistically enthusiastic. Physicians, including Trump's own advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, have emphasized that in order to know if a drug is going to work -- and be safe -- it has to be studied in clinical trials. It might work, but it might not. It might be safe, but it also could hurt patients. Clinical trials are considered the gold standard in medicine. Boiled down to the essentials, clinical trials take a large group of people, give half of them the drug and half of them a placebo, and see how each group fares. The half that takes the placebo is called the control group. The reason to have a control group is that it allows the doctors to tell if it's the drug itself that is having an effect on the study subjects, and not something else. If the drug group and the placebo group have the same results, then it's likely the drug did not have an effect. CNN searched clinicaltrials.gov, the National Institutes of Health database of privately and publicly funded clinical studies around the world, and found there are at least 15 research centers in the United States studying hydroxychloroquine to prevent or treat coronavirus. Over the past few weeks, Trump has made several erroneous statements relating to hydroxychloroquine studies. Here are basic questions about these studies with answers from the president and then answers from doctors.

By Robert Farley

President Donald Trump continues to add false and exaggerated statements to his already lengthy list of bogus voter fraud claims. There is no evidence to back up Trump’s blanket claim that “mailed ballots are corrupt.” Voting experts say the president is exaggerating when he says mail ballots are “fraudulent in many cases.” While the instances of voter fraud via mail-in or absentee ballots are more common than in-person voting fraud, the number of known cases is relatively rare. Trump also falsely claimed that California reached a settlement with Judicial Watch in which the state “agree[d] that a million people should not have voted.” California and Los Angeles County agreed to remove inactive voters from their voter rolls per federal law. But there’s no evidence any of them voted, fraudulently or otherwise. And as he has in the past, Trump claimed there’s “a lot of fraudulent voting going on in this country.” Experts say voter fraud is rare. Trump’s latest round of voter fraud claims came as Wisconsin struggled with an election at a time when residents were wary of going to polls during the coronavirus pandemic. Some Wisconsin Democrats, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, urged to hold the election by mail and suspend in-person voting. Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers tried to move the state’s April 7, but after a Republican challenge, the state Supreme Court ruled the governor’s decision was unconstitutional and the election went off as scheduled on April 7 with long lines and fewer polling places. With uncertainty about the safety of voting in the presidential election November, some Democrats have called for mail-in voting to be considered as an alternative. Former Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, has suggested that a mail-in ballot should be sent to every voter in the country.

Mail-in and Absentee Ballots
At a coronavirus task force press briefing on April 7, the day of the Wisconsin election, Trump made clear that he opposes any expansion of mail-in voting, saying it is “dangerous” and rife with fraud. In fact, as the New York Times noted, Trump voted absentee by mail in Florida’s election in March and in the 2018 midterm elections. Vice President Mike Pence also voted via a mail-in absentee ballot for the primary and general elections in 2018. Trump was asked during the press briefing on April 7 how he reconciled his comments about mail-in ballots being “corrupt” with the fact that he voted by mail in Florida’s election the previous month. “Because I’m allowed to,” Trump responded. “Well, that’s called ‘out of state.’ You know, why I voted? Because I happen to be in the White House and I won’t be able to go to Florida to vote.” Trump suggested — without any evidence — that ballots mailed from outside the state are more secure.

Committees demand answers after officials in multiple states report the feds seized their supplies without warning
By Igor Derysh

Two House committees have called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to turn over documents related to reports that the agency is seizing orders of coronavirus medical supplies from states, as well as the involvement of President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in overseeing those efforts. The chairs of the House Homeland Security and Oversight committees called on FEMA to turn over documents responding to a "troubling report" from the Health and Human Services Department's inspector general detailing "severe shortages" of emergency equipment reported by hospitals around the country. "The report confirms that — in the richest nation in the world — hospitals are lacking masks, gowns and other basic materials," Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said in a letter to FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor. The committees also requested a response to media reports that that agency was "redirecting" medical supplies ordered by states and hospitals. Officials in at least a half-dozen states have reported that FEMA hijacked supplies sent to states without informing them. "After encouraging the states to take care of themselves, the Trump administration now appears to be positioning FEMA to engage in the redirection of private supply chains — but the agency's opaque and evolving processes are clearly not meeting the needs that communities have right now for [personal protective equipment] and medical supplies," the letter said. The committees requested documents to understand how FEMA is operating its "Airbridge" program, in which the administration pays to fly in supplies from China for private companies to sell to states and hospitals in the U.S., and to "understand the role of Jared Kushner in managing FEMA's operational efforts to obtain and distribute" supplies. Thompson and Maloney said their committees "do no understand the role" that Kushner is playing in FEMA's efforts. "It appears that Mr. Kushner is unclear about basic facts regarding the purpose of the Strategic National Stockpile," the letter said, noting that Kushner "erroneously" described it as "our stockpile" that is "not supposed to be the state stockpiles that they then use."

By Marina Pitofsky

A judge ruled this week that MGM must release unaired footage from “The Celebrity Apprentice” to entrepreneurs who claim they lost hundreds of thousands of dollars after President Trump and his children endorsed a multilevel marketing company on the reality show prior to the president’s election. U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield of the Southern District of New York on Thursday told MGM to find a way for the plaintiffs to access hundreds of hours of recordings from two episodes of the show, when principals of the marketing company ACN Opportunity LLC were guests on the set, according to multiple reports. Trump and three of his children, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump, were sued in 2018 over their promotion of the marketing company from 2005 to 2015, during which Trump allegedly suggested that people could invest in a video phone from the company with little to no risk, Bloomberg News first reported. The Trumps have been accused of not disclosing that they were paid to endorse the company. The plaintiffs, who are four unidentified individuals, claim that the Trumps urged people to become independent business owners for ACN Opportunity. The Trumps promoted the move on episodes of “Celebrity Apprentice,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. Plaintiffs claim that they lost hundreds of thousands of dollars by trusting the promotion. “It seems appropriate the tapes be made available,” Schofield said at the end of a teleconference heating. The judge called on the plaintiffs and MGM to negotiate a release of the tapes. Schofield Wednesday denied the Trumps’ attempt to move the case to arbitration and knocked them for seeking the move after gaining access to documents from the plaintiffs, Bloomberg News reported. “We look forward to continuing to gather the evidence to deliver justice for our brave clients, and thousands of others like them who were defrauded by the Trumps,” the plaintiffs’ attorney, Roberta Kaplan, said in a statement.

PUT HIM IN A BODY BAG, JOHNNY
John McEntee is the ultimate Trump loyalist. And now he’s been tasked with making the administration as committed to the president as he is.
By Asawin Suebsaeng, Erin Banco

Even in the midst of a global pandemic and economic collapse, President Donald Trump is charging ahead on his mission to purge his administration of watchdogs who are tasked with exposing waste, fraud, and abuse. And as he goes about this mission, he’s leaning on a 29-year-old loyalist once exiled from the Trump administration for a reported gambling problem, as well as a cadre of conservative firebrands who have fed his paranoia that government careerists are trying to destroy him. Early this month, Trump fired Michael Atkinson, inspector general of the intelligence community, who had been asked to handle the anonymous whistleblower complaint last year that triggered the president’s impeachment at the hands of House Democrats. On Monday, the president used his daily coronavirus press briefing at the White House to take swipes at Christi Grimm, a Department of Health and Human Services inspector general, after being asked about her report documenting the “severe shortages of testing supplies” in certain U.S. hospitals during the coronavirus crisis. On Tuesday, the news broke that Trump had replaced Glenn Fine, an acting Pentagon inspector general who had been assigned to oversee $2 trillion in coronavirus relief money. Those actions are just the beginning of Trump’s plans to remake much of the federal government by appointing Trump-supportive partisans, including to inspector-general posts, four administration sources say. And they reflect the degree to which the president’s obsession with purging and denigrating his perceived enemies within the government continues to animate him, even as the White House struggles to respond to the coronavirus outbreaks and the increasing number of deaths throughout the country.

By Andrew Feinberg

President Donald Trump on Thursday said a widespread COVID-19 testing program to assess whether workers can safely return to their workplaces is "never going to happen" in the United States. As he addressed reporters during the daily White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing, Trump touted the fact that 2 million Americans had been tested for the virus as a "milestone" in the U.S. fight against the global pandemic caused by SARS-Cov-2. The 2 million tests that have been administered so far represents a high water mark after weeks of problems in obtaining and administering tests caused by the Trump administration's rejection of a test developed by the World Health Organization. However, that number means only .61 percent of the 330 million U.S. population has been tested for COVID-19. That's a paltry number compared to many other countries which have implemented testing programs. Italy, for example, has administered tests to approximately 1.4 percent of its population, and South Korea, which flattened its infection curve with widespread testing, has reached .9 percent of its population. Most public health experts have stressed the need for the U.S. to significantly expand its testing program, both with currently available tests to determine whether a given person is infected with SARS-Cov-2, and with so-called "antibody tests" to determine whether a person has successfully fought off the virus and is therefore immune to it. - If you do not have mass testing how do you know who has it and who does not? If you do not have mass testing you will have a second wave of infection.

By Maegan Vazquez and Betsy Klein, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump said Thursday that there have been more than two million coronavirus tests conducted in the United States but conceded that mass testing is not going to happen. "I'm reporting today that we passed two million tests completed in the United States," Trump said during the White House coronavirus task force's news briefing, adding that the tests are "highly sophisticated and highly accurate." The Trump administration has faced widespread criticism for the lack of a testing system across the country to identify coronavirus patients and track the spread of the outbreak. While testing has ramped up in recent weeks, the lack of an aggressive testing regimen early in the outbreak led to accusations that the government missed a chance to reduce the speed and scale of the pandemic in the US. The US now leads the world in the number of reported cases. As many people with symptoms consistent with coronavirus struggle to get tested -- including health care workers such as nurses -- it's still not clear how the country will emerge from its current state. Many states are operating under stay-at-home orders and the federal government is recommending strict social distancing guidelines in order to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Trump conceded to CNN's Jim Acosta that there will not be mass coronavirus testing for all Americans when the country goes back to work. - If you do not have mass testing how do you know who has it and who does not? If you do not have mass testing you will have a second wave of infection.

Kayleigh McEnany has claimed in the past that the coronavirus wouldn’t come to the U.S. and that Trump “is the best authority” on the virus.
By Johanna Silver

Kayleigh McEnany, 31, who has been serving as President Trump’s 2020 campaign spokesperson, will be appointed as the new White House press secretary. She will be the president’s fourth press secretary since he took office in 2017, replacing Stephanie Grisham, who notably did not hold one press briefing during her time on the job. McEnany has spent months advocating for and defending Trump in interviews with various news outlets.She’s also made comments downplaying the severity of the coronavirus. In a February Fox Business show with Trish Regan, McEnany claimed, “We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here,” adding, “Isn’t it refreshing when contrasting [the Trump administration’s public health efforts] with the awful presidency of President Obama?” Regan’s show was pulled off the air at the end of March, following her claim that the coronavirus was an “impeachment scam.” In a March 11 Fox Business interview with Stuart Varney, McEnany was also asked if Trump’s campaign would still hold rallies despite advice from experts that large gatherings not be held. She responded by saying that Trump “is the best authority on this issue.” In a March 11 Fox Business interview with Stuart Varney, McEnany was also asked if Trump’s campaign would still hold rallies despite advice from experts that large gatherings not be held. She responded by saying that Trump “is the best authority on this issue.”

We knew Trump would try to attack Biden from the left — that started within minutes of Sanders dropping out
By Amanda Marcotte

I wish I could take more pleasure in the I-told-you-so. Throughout 2019, I wrote a series of articles warning that whoever the Democratic nominee turned out to be, Donald Trump would attack them from the left — with an eye towards creating division among potential Democratic voters and driving down voter turnout — and that former Vice President Joe Biden was uniquely vulnerable to this tactic. The response I got was largely a bunch of scoffing. How could a Republican like Trump attack Biden — or Sen. Bernie Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren or any potential Democratic nominee — from the left? He's to their right! No one will fall for that, people told me, confident in their belief that it was un-possible for Trump to be shameless enough to argue that one should throw the election to him in order to advance progressive goals, or that anyone on the left would be stupid enough to fall for that tactic. I got into a series of frustrating social media arguments with people, mostly older men, talking at me like I was a silly child for even imagining such a thing was possible. For good measure, the orange troll desecrating the Oval Office also tried to stoke hatred of Sanders among Biden voters, to maximize the internal strife on the left. But mostly his focus has been on pushing the narrative that Sanders supporters should vote for him — or vote third-party or stay at home, which is functionally the equivalent of voting for Trump — to spite the rest of the Democratic voters who wouldn't let Sanders have the nomination. Trump also started pushing conspiracy theories that he clearly hopes Sanders supporters will circulate, further depressing Democratic turnout in November.

By Oliver Darcy, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business)Vice President Mike Pence's office has declined to allow the nation's top health officials to appear on CNN in recent days and discuss the coronavirus pandemic killing thousands of Americans, in an attempt to pressure the network into carrying the White House's lengthy daily briefings in full. Pence's office, which is responsible for booking the officials on networks during the pandemic, said it will only allow experts such as Dr. Deborah Birx or Dr. Anthony Fauci to appear on CNN if the network televises the portion of the White House briefings that includes the vice president and other coronavirus task force members. CNN often only broadcasts President Donald Trump's question and answer session, which sometimes includes the health care officials, live on-air. After Trump leaves the podium, CNN frequently cuts out of the White House briefing to discuss and fact-check what the President had said. A CNN executive said that the network usually returns to such programming because of the extensive length of the full briefing that includes Pence, which can run in excess of two hours. CNN did, however, air the vice president's portion of the briefing Wednesday night. Regardless, Pence's office has declined to make the nation's top health care officials available to CNN for the last seven days. "When you guys cover the briefings with the health officials then you can expect them back on your air," a Pence spokesperson told CNN. Fauci, Birx, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn and Surgeon General Jerome Adams have all appeared on NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox during the last week, despite the fact that the broadcast networks have generally not covered the briefings that have included the vice president and health officials. But the Vice President's office has blocked all CNN appearances since last Thursday night.

By Rem Rieder and Eugene Kiely
At the White House coronavirus task force press briefing on April 7, President Donald Trump distorted the facts about the person he dismissed as the chief watchdog for spending under the new pandemic relief legislation and the Wisconsin election, which took place as scheduled despite the coronavirus outbreak: The president suggested he removed Glenn Fine as the Pentagon’s acting inspector general — preventing him from heading the pandemic relief spending oversight panel — because of Fine’s partisan background. But Fine is a career federal official who has worked under both parties. Trump falsely claimed that Wisconsin Democrats acted at the 11th hour to postpone the state’s April 7 election after he endorsed Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly on April 3. In fact, Trump endorsed Kelly on Jan. 14; the Democratic governor acted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pandemic Spending Watchdog
Asked to explain his decision to replace Fine, Trump started by saying he has been replacing inspectors general from “the Obama era” when the administration gets “reports of bias.” “Well, we have … IGs in from the Obama era,” said Trump, using the common Washington shorthand for inspector general. When he was told Fine wasn’t necessarily linked to President Barack Obama, Trump replied, “Maybe he was from Clinton.” In fact, Fine has worked in federal government during both Republican and Democratic administrations and does not have a reputation as a political figure, but rather as an aggressive, independent investigator. Fine became the Justice Department’s inspector general in 2000, under President Bill Clinton, and served in that role until 2011 during both terms of Republican President George W. Bush, finishing up under Obama, like Clinton a Democrat. After four years in private practice, he returned to the federal government under Obama.

By David Shortell and Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

(CNN) Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday called current restrictions to mitigate the spread of coronavirus "draconian," as the White House coronavirus task force's health experts have lauded such measures as helpful to lowering the rate of spread. In an interview on Fox News, Barr said that Americans should return to a more normal way of life after the Trump administration's recommended period of isolation that ends April 30 and that state and federal governments "have to consider alternative ways of protecting people" from the coronavirus pandemic. "I think when this period of time at the end of April expires, I think we have to allow people to adapt more than we have and not just tell people to go home and hide under the bed, but allow them to use other ways, social distancing and other means, to protect themselves," Barr said. He argued that "we need to be very careful that the draconian measures that are being adopted are fully justified." Barr's comments come as President Donald Trump has been eager to open the country up and get Americans back to work, but his health experts have cautioned against relaxing the guidelines too early. The White House has advised people to socially distance, avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people, and stay at home as much as possible to slow the spread of the virus. Most states have imposed enforceable "stay-at-home" orders, limiting residents to only essential activities, while Trump has said he doesn't believe a nationwide mandate is necessary. Barr said that he agreed with Trump's decision to issue strict social distancing guidelines given the uncertainty surrounding the virus last month but added that he was concerned about the breadth of the emergency powers being exercised. "I am concerned that we not get into the business of declaring everything an emergency and then using these kind of sweeping extraordinary steps," Barr said. - If you did not know before you know now Barr, Trump and the GOP don’t a shit about America lives, they only can about the money the rich are losing.

The publisher of a French study cited by Trump put out a statement announcing it did not meet "expected standards"
by Igor Derysh

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday quietly removed bizarre guidelines for using the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for the new coronavirus. The unproven treatment has been repeatedly hyped by President Donald Trump in spite of the warnings of Dr. Anthony Fauci. The CDC published "highly unusual" dosing guidance based on "unattributed anecdotes rather than peer-reviewed science" last month amid pressure on federal health officials from Trump, Reuters reported. The agency now appears to have quietly removed those guidelines from its website this week. Eli Lee of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington first flagged the changes Tuesday. The site no longer says that "some U.S. clinicians have reported anecdotally different hydroxychloroquine dosing" and both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are "reportedly well-tolerated in COVID-19 patients." It also no longer says that both drugs "are currently recommended for treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in several countries." Instead, the first line of the page now reads: "There are no drugs or other therapeutics approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent or treat COVID-19." The page adds that "hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are under investigation in clinical trials." Medical experts were alarmed when the site published the previous guidance. "Why would CDC be publishing anecdotes? That doesn't make sense. This is very unusual," Dr. Lynn Goldman, the dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, told Reuters. Trump has repeatedly touted the drug, which is also sometimes prescribed to patients with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, as a potential cure for the coronavirus even as doctors warned that the drug had "major side effects," including "severe cardiac arrhythmias that can even cause death." The president has dismissed those warnings, questioning: "What do you have to lose?" But the CDC has also warned that the drug "can cause serious health consequences, including death." The Department of Health and Human Services cautioned that clinical trials were needed to "provide scientific evidence that these treatments are effective." The American Medical Association further expressed concern that the rush to order, prescribe and dispense the medication could result in shortages for patients in need. Trump has repeatedly cited a small French study recently published in a medical journal. However, the publisher put out a statement last week announcing the study did not meet its "expected standards," according to Retraction Watch.

By Ian Millhiser

On Tuesday, President Trump hosted a call with business leaders to discuss efforts to provide financial relief to small businesses. During that call, he made an astounding claim: that his daughter Ivanka personally created 15 million jobs.

   Trump just told the completely egregious lie that Ivanka Trump "created over 15 million jobs." That would be more than twice the total number of jobs created in the country before coronavirus wrecked the economy. pic.twitter.com/zniSteAbv6
   — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 7, 2020

To put this claim in perspective, as of January — before the coronavirus pandemic caused the US economy to start hemorrhaging jobs — about 152 million people in the United States were employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So Trump is claiming that his daughter created about 10 percent of all the jobs in the United States. Ivanka has apparently been working overtime in recent months: During a White House event last November, Trump claimed that his daughter has “gotten jobs for” 14 million people. So, if one takes Trump’s statements at face value, she created a million jobs in just the past six months. As my colleague Aaron Rupar notes, Trump appears to be referring to Ivanka’s work on an advisory board that she co-chairs, but there’s no evidence that this board has created anywhere close to 15 million jobs.

The Pentagon warned the White House about a shortage of ventilators, face masks, and hospital beds in 2017—but the Trump administration did nothing.
By Ken Klippenstein

Despite President Trump’s repeated assertions that the Covid-19 epidemic was “unforeseen” and “came out of nowhere,” the Pentagon was not just well aware of the threat of a novel influenza but even anticipated the consequent scarcity of ventilators, face masks, and hospital beds, according to a 2017 Pentagon plan obtained by The Nation. “The most likely and significant threat is a novel respiratory disease, particularly a novel influenza disease,” the military plan states. Covid-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the novel (meaning new to humans) coronavirus. The document specifically refers to coronaviruses on several occasions, in one instance saying, “Coronavirus infections [are] common around the world.” The plan updates an earlier Department of Defense pandemic influenza response plan, noting that it “incorporates insights from several recent outbreaks including…2012 Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus.” Titled “USNORTHCOM Branch Plan 3560: Pandemic Influenza and Infectious Disease Response,” the draft plan is marked for official use only and dated January 6, 2017. The plan was provided to The Nation by a Pentagon official who requested anonymity to avoid professional reprisal. Denis Kaufman, who served as head of the Infectious Diseases and Countermeasures Division at the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2014 to 2017, stressed that US intelligence had been well aware of the dangers of coronaviruses for years. (He retired from his decades-long career in the military in December 2017.) “The intelligence community has warned about the threat from highly pathogenic influenza viruses for two decades, at least. They have warned about coronaviruses for at least five years,” Kaufman said in an interview. “There have been recent pronouncements that the coronavirus pandemic represents an intelligence failure…. It’s letting people who ignored intelligence warnings off the hook.” In addition to anticipating the coronavirus pandemic, the military plan predicted with uncanny accuracy many of the medical supply shortages that will now apparently soon cause untold deaths. The plan states, “Competition for, and scarcity of resources will include…non-pharmaceutical MCM [medical countermeasures] (e.g., ventilators, devices, personal protective equipment such as face masks and gloves), medical equipment, and logistical support. This will have a significant impact on the availability of the global workforce.”

BLOWHARDS-IN-CHIEF
The right-wing cable channel’s biggest stars have begun pushing Trump to ignore those egghead medical experts and view the viral pandemic as over and done with.
By Justin Baragona

Throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump’s decisions and stances have seemingly been influenced by the unofficial advisers he treasures most: Fox News primetime hosts. After downplaying for weeks the threat of the virus, just as many on Fox News did the same, the president began taking it seriously last month after Tucker Carlson personally confronted him before delivering an on-air monologue calling for action. Elsewhere, Fox stars have been the primary driving force behind Trump’s incessant promotion of an unproven anti-malarial drug as the miracle COVID-19 cure. And in recent days, it seems, the president has been receiving his newest coronavirus intel briefing from Fox News. This time, they say, the pandemic is over and it’s time to move on. Throughout Tuesday night’s primetime stretch, Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham were in lockstep in telegraphing to Trump a message that the pandemic’s threat has been overstated, death counts have been inflated, and the U.S. is already on the downside of the curve. Carlson, who received mainstream plaudits for his “admirable” early coronavirus coverage, kicked off his show by declaring that the crisis “may have passed,” noting that health-care systems across the country haven’t come close to collapsing—“except in a handful of places.” “Patients are not dying alone in the hallways of emergency rooms with physicians too overwhelmed to treat them,” he asserted. “That was the concern. It happens in other countries, it's not happening here. Thank God for that.” There have been numerous reports and testimonials from health-care workers expressing horror over the conditions of overcrowded hospitals and the stress it has placed on both medical staffers and patients. Much reporting has also been done on how many patients are dying alone and away from family members and friends from the disease. But despite nearly 13,000 U.S. deaths and at least 400,000 confirmed cases, with portions of the country having yet to suffer the worst effects of the outbreak, Carlson called for a quick reversal of social-distancing restrictions in order to jumpstart the economy, citing downward revisions of coronavirus models as the key reason. “Before we go ahead and alter our lives and our country forever, it is fair to ask about the numbers, their numbers, the ones we acted on the first time, that turned out to be completely wrong,” the Fox star fumed. “How did they screw that up so thoroughly? That is a fair question.” Adjustments of expected death tolls in some models—which, weeks ago, showed as many as 240,000 American deaths—have largely occurred due to the widespread adoption of social-distancing guidelines and the assumption that school and business closures will stay in place through the summer. Even factoring all that in, the models still project roughly 80,000 deaths. Nevertheless, over the past few days, Carlson has been pushing the president to ignore medical expertise and quickly move forward with economic activity. “Is there a single person who sincerely expects the coronavirus itself will hurt more people in the end than the damage we're causing in our response to it? Probably not,” he said on Monday night. “Mass unemployment is almost certain to cause far more harm, including physical harm, to the average family than this disease.”

“We must not allow President Trump to openly flout the oversight measures," a trio of Democrats say.
By KYLE CHENEY

A top House committee chairwoman is proposing legislation that would undo President Donald Trump's move to sideline the federal watchdog originally tapped to oversee the $2 trillion coronavirus relief law. House Oversight and Government Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, along with Reps. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), offered a bill Wednesday that would expand the roster of officials permitted to lead the oversight effort, ensuring that Trump's incursion on the panel would not prevent the original pick — Pentagon watchdog Glenn Fine — from keeping the position. Fine, who until Monday was the acting inspector general for the Defense Department, was selected by fellow federal watchdogs as the chairman of a new committee meant to oversee the implementation of the massive $2 trillion coronavirus law. He, along with two dozen other inspectors general, were expected to form a powerful committee of investigators meant to ensure proper safeguards were in place. But Trump abruptly replaced Fine on Tuesday with the EPA's inspector general, a move that effectively demoted Fine to his previous role as principal deputy inspector general for the Pentagon, making him ineligible to lead the coronavirus panel. But Maloney's proposal would allow any senior staff of principal deputy IGs to serve on the coronavirus oversight panel, known as the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. “We must not allow President Trump to openly flout the oversight measures that Congress put in place," Maloney, Lynch and Connolly said in a statement. "There are literally trillions of taxpayer dollars at stake, and Americans across the political spectrum want those funds to be spent without waste, fraud, abuse or profiteering."

While safe for most, the drug carries serious side effects for some, including sudden cardiac arrest.
By Heidi Przybyla

WASHINGTON — As the U.S. scales up purchase and use of the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus patients, a leading Mayo Clinic cardiologist is sounding a warning: Anyone promoting the drug also needs to flag its rare but serious — and potentially fatal — side effects. President Donald Trump has repeatedly touted the potential benefits of hydroxychloroquine, which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat malaria, lupus and other autoimmune ailments but hasn't yet been proven effective and safe in treating the coronavirus. "What do you have to lose?" Trump asked Saturday at the White House when pressed by reporters about hydroxychloroquine's effectiveness. And while he's suggested that patients consult with their physicians about the treatment, he's also said the drug can "help them, but it's not going to hurt them." On Tuesday, when asked about the drug’s potential side effects, he downplayed them. “The side effects are the least of it,” said Trump. “You’re not gonna die from this pill,” he said. “I say ‘try it’” he said, noting “I’m not a doctor” and to get a physician’s approval. But the president's reassurance is raising concerns among experts about the dangers the drug poses to some. After observing the debate over hydroxychloroquine on TV news and in social media, Dr. Michael Ackerman, a genetic cardiologist who is director of the Mayo Clinic's Windland Smith Rice Genetic Heart Rhythm Clinic, took the unusual step in late March of issuing guidance for physicians. "What disturbed me the most was when I was seeing not political officials say these medications are safe but seeing on the news cardiologists and infectious disease specialists say" hydroxychloroquine "is completely safe without even mentioning this rare side effect," Ackerman said in an interview. "That's inexcusable," he added.

By Andrew Feinberg

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he never read or considered reading a memorandum in which his top trade adviser warned of the need to implement an "aggressive containment" strategy to prevent a massive loss of life and economic damage from the COVID-19 pandemic. The document in question was authored in January by the White House Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, Dr. Peter Navarro, and submitted to the president via National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien. In it, he warned of "an increasing probability of a full-blown COVID-19 pandemic that could infect as many as 100 million Americans, with a loss of life as many as 1-2 million souls." Navarro, a maverick Harvard-educated economist who has long advocated a tougher stance against Chinese trade practices, pressed for "an immediate travel ban on China" as part of an "aggressive containment" strategy to mitigate what a Council of Economic Advisers study predicted could be a $3.8 trillion loss in terms of economic act as a result of a pandemic. But when asked about the memorandum during a White House press briefing on Tuesday, Trump said he did not see it at the time. "I heard he wrote some memos talking about a pandemic," Trump said. "I didn't see them, I didn't look for them either."

President plans to vote by mail in Florida
By John T Bennett

Donald Trump accused some who cast ballots in US elections by mail of "cheating," even though he intends to do so in Florida as part of the Sunshine State's primary. The president made clear he opposes states moving to all-absentee ballot elections amid the coronavirus epidemic, telling reporters Tuesday night he fears that would lead to widespread voter fraud. He defended his request for an absentee ballot because "I'm here in the White House."

By Brett Samuels

President Trump on Tuesday dug in on his opposition to mail-in voting, dismissing the concept as "corrupt" despite having voted by mail himself in last month’s Florida primary. Trump suggested there was a difference between voting by mail while living out of state and voting by mail while living in the state where one is registered to vote. "Well, there’s a big difference between somebody that’s out of state and does a ballot and everything’s sealed, certified and everything else. You see what you have to do with the certifications," he said, claiming without evidence that there could otherwise be "thousands of people sitting in somebody’s living room signing ballots." "No, I think mail in voting is a terrible thing," he added "I think if you vote, you should go." The president voted by mail last month in Florida's GOP primary, presumably for himself. Trump changed his address last year from New York to Florida. Trump decried mail-in voting as scores of Wisconsin voters lined up at polling sites despite the coronavirus pandemic posing a public safety threat. He blamed the chaos on the state's Democratic governor, Tony Evers, who signed an executive order to postpone the election but had it overturned by the state Supreme Court.

The Iowa Republican is seeking bipartisan backing for his letter.
By BURGESS EVERETT and ANDREW DESIDERIO

Sen. Chuck Grassley is working on a bipartisan letter addressed to President Donald Trump demanding an explanation for the firing of Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, according to aides in both parties. The Senate Finance Committee chairman is still working to secure cosponsors for the letter, a Republican aide said. The letter will focus on Atkinson's Friday firing amid a broader purge by the president of inspectors general. The letter is supported by Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. Trump said recently that he fired Atkinson for doing a "terrible job" with a whistleblower report that kicked off the president's impeachment. Atkinson said he was likely fired for "having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and impartial inspector general." The letter was first reported by Bloomberg.

by Dawn Kopecki, Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

President Donald Trump blamed the World Health Organization for getting “every aspect” of the coronavirus pandemic wrong and threatened to withhold funding from the international organization. “They did give us some pretty bad play calling ... with regard to us, they’re taking a lot of heat because they didn’t want the borders closed, they called it wrong. They really called, I would say, every aspect of it wrong,” Trump said at a White House press conference Tuesday. The WHO, the United Nations’ health agency, started sounding the alarm on the outbreak of a new coronavirus in Wuhan, China in mid-January, designating the COVID-19 pandemic as a global health emergency on Jan. 30 when there were just 8,200 cases in 18 countries across the world. The coronavirus has since wreaked havoc across the globe, spreading to more than 1.4 million people and killing more than 81,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. WHO officials declared the outbreak a pandemic on March 11, when there were just 121,000 global cases. In the U.S. alone, there are now more than 380,000 cases, according to Hopkins. “Take a look, go through step by step. They said there’s no big deal, there’s no big problem. There’s no nothing, and then ultimately when I closed it down, they said I made a mistake in closing it down and it turned out to be right,” Trump said, referring to travel restrictions he put in place on people flying to the U.S. from China on Jan. 31 when he declared it was a public health emergency in the U.S. While WHO officials have praised the U.S. response to the coronavirus, they’ve also been critical of some of Trump’s policies and practices surrounding it. They’ve urged people against calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” as Trump has done, saying that it could unintentionally lead to racial profiling.


The president is failing, and Americans are paying for his failures.
By David Frum

“I don’t take responsibility at all,” said President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden on March 13. Those words will probably end up as the epitaph of his presidency, the single sentence that sums it all up. Trump now fancies himself a “wartime president.” How is his war going? By the end of March, the coronavirus had killed more Americans than the 9/11 attacks. By the first weekend in April, the virus had killed more Americans than any single battle of the Civil War. By Easter, it may have killed more Americans than the Korean War. On the present trajectory, it will kill, by late April, more Americans than Vietnam. Having earlier promised that casualties could be held near zero, Trump now claims he will have done a “very good job” if the toll is held below 200,000 dead. The United States is on trajectory to suffer more sickness, more dying, and more economic harm from this virus than any other comparably developed country. That the pandemic occurred is not Trump’s fault. The utter unpreparedness of the United States for a pandemic is Trump’s fault. The loss of stockpiled respirators to breakage because the federal government let maintenance contracts lapse in 2018 is Trump’s fault. The failure to store sufficient protective medical gear in the national arsenal is Trump’s fault. That states are bidding against other states for equipment, paying many multiples of the precrisis price for ventilators, is Trump’s fault. Air travelers summoned home and forced to stand for hours in dense airport crowds alongside infected people? That was Trump’s fault too. Ten weeks of insisting that the coronavirus is a harmless flu that would miraculously go away on its own? Trump’s fault again. The refusal of red-state governors to act promptly, the failure to close Florida and Gulf Coast beaches until late March? That fault is more widely shared, but again, responsibility rests with Trump: He could have stopped it, and he did not. The lying about the coronavirus by hosts on Fox News and conservative talk radio is Trump’s fault: They did it to protect him. The false hope of instant cures and nonexistent vaccines is Trump’s fault, because he told those lies to cover up his failure to act in time. The severity of the economic crisis is Trump’s fault; things would have been less bad if he had acted faster instead of sending out his chief economic adviser and his son Eric to assure Americans that the first stock-market dips were buying opportunities. The firing of a Navy captain for speaking truthfully about the virus’s threat to his crew? Trump’s fault. The fact that so many key government jobs were either empty or filled by mediocrities? Trump’s fault. The insertion of Trump’s arrogant and incompetent son-in-law as commander in chief of the national medical supply chain? Trump’s fault. For three years, Trump has blathered and bluffed and bullied his way through an office for which he is utterly inadequate. But sooner or later, every president must face a supreme test, a test that cannot be evaded by blather and bluff and bullying. That test has overwhelmed Trump. Trump failed. He is failing. He will continue to fail. And Americans are paying for his failures.

By John Haltiwanger

"I don't take responsibility at all." That was President Donald Trump on March 13, declining to take responsibility for a nationwide shortage in testing kits for the novel coronavirus that put the US way behind other nations in responding to the virus. Those six words encapsulate how Trump has largely approached the coronavirus pandemic: He has shirked any semblance of responsibility, lashed out at those who've sought to hold him accountable, attempted to rewrite the history of his bungled response, and scapegoated or blamed others for the myriad failures of his administration and the federal government. The president has often taken such an approach to crises. Though it was clear he pressured a foreign leader to dig up dirt on a political opponent in a July 25 phone call that contributed to his impeachment, for example, Trump has maintained the conversation was "perfect." In many cases, this strategy seems to have worked. Trump has managed to maintain the loyalty of his base and congressional Republicans, despite numerous crises and scandals of his own making and an unorthodox style of leadership. But coronavirus is different. Trump can't hide the devastating toll of a pandemic with disinformation, nor can he contend the economy is in excellent shape when over 10 million have recently filed for unemployment and over 700,000 jobs were lost in March. As Trump rejects calls to provide more ventilators and other aid to states, contending governors should've done more to prepare, the death toll across the country has continued to rise. In remarks that are already haunting Trump, the president in late February claimed the number of coronavirus cases in the US would be "close to zero" in a "couple of days." Fast-forward to April 7, and there were well over 380,000 reported cases of coronavirus in the US, and at least 11,000 people have died.

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration’s effort to resume federal executions got a boost on Tuesday from a U.S. appeals court, which tossed a district judge’s injunction that blocked four death penalty sentences from being carried out. The 2-1 ruling by a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit could pave the way to the Justice Department carrying out the first execution of federal death row inmates since 2003, although other issues remain to be litigated. The two judges in the majority, Greg Katsas and Neomi Rao, were both appointed to the bench by Republican President Donald Trump. The dissenting judge, David Tatel, was appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton. The court concluded that U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan was wrong to find in her November ruling that a law called the Federal Death Penalty Act requires the federal government to follow all execution protocols in the state where the execution is set to take place. The two judges in the majority differed on what aspects of state rules the federal government have to follow. The judges left unresolved separate claims brought under different federal laws, which the district judge will now address when the case returns to her.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump's contempt for science and disdain for experts who question his political narratives are driving his increasingly defensive and brittle management of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump was short-tempered and rude during much of his daily briefing on Monday as he refused to even listen to questions about shortcomings in the federal government effort. On Sunday, Trump muzzled the country's top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci before he could contradict his own gushing assessment of an unproven Covid-19 therapy. On Monday, the President also blasted a report by an experienced Health and Human Services Department watchdog official that found critical supply shortages at hospitals all over the country, claiming it was politically motivated. Tensions between science and politics that lie at the core of the battle to eradicate the pandemic while still saving the economy will become even more acute as pressure grows inside the administration to reopen normal life. Over the weekend, one of Trump's economic advisers -- Peter Navarro -- clashed with Fauci over the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, the drug the President insists could save Covid-19 patients, according to people familiar with the disagreement. Navarro told CNN's "New Day" on Monday that despite his lack of a medical education, he was competent to weigh in on the issue. But his feuds with reporters on other issues Monday underscored his wider reluctance to allow inconvenient evidence to mar his cultivated picture of hugely successful leadership amid the worst domestic crisis since World War II. "We are the federal government. We are not supposed to stand on street corners during testing," he said, when confronted with questions about deficiencies in coronavirus testing. On the day when the US death toll passed 10,000 there was something surreal in watching the President's outbursts, a familiar tactic that often pleases his political base and serves to portray himself as a victim of what he claims is a biased media.

Business Insider
by Sarah Al-Arshani

The Trump administration received at least two memos — one in January and another in February — from his top trade adviser, Peter Navarro, forecasting various possibilities for the human and economic costs of the coronavirus outbreak. The second memo, addressed directly to President Donald Trump on February 23, said as many as 2 million people could die. Some senior officials apparently thought Navarro was being an alarmist. President Donald Trump's top trade adviser, Peter Navarro, sent a memo to the National Security Council in January that predicted hundreds of thousands could die from the novel coronavirus with a loss of trillions of dollars for the economy, The New York Times reported on Monday. Navarro sent at least one other memo, in February, with both warning of a grave impact if the coronavirus outbreak were not contained in the US. Both memos were published Monday by Axios. In the first memo, sent January 29, Navarro wrote that as many as 543,000 Americans could die, costing the country $5.7 trillion. The memo described the possibility of both a "seasonal flu-like" outcome and a "pandemic flu" outcome but suggested the pandemic was likely given Americans' lack of immunity against the new virus. "The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on US soil," the January memo said. "This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans." One senior administration official who spoke with Axios described being wary of Navarro's intentions given his hawkish stance on China. The January memo advocated a travel ban on China, which the Trump administration later implemented. "The January travel memo struck me as an alarmist attempt to bring attention to Peter's anti-China agenda while presenting an artificially limited range of policy options," the unnamed official told Axios. Almost a month later, Navarro sent another memo, this time addressed to Trump directly, warning that as many as 2 million people in the US could die from the virus. Axios said both memos were circulated around the White House and multiple agencies by the NSC. In his first memo, Navarro cited an estimate by the White House Council of Economic Advisers that banning travel from China would cost $2.9 billion a month, or $34.6 billion if implemented for a year, which he recommended.

By Christina Wilkie, Amanda Macias

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump has removed the lead watchdog overseeing the $2 trillion coronavirus package, just days after the official, Glenn Fine, was appointed to the role. The move came as Trump pursued similar action in recent weeks against independent inspectors general across the federal government. Fine had been the acting Pentagon inspector general until Monday afternoon, when Trump abruptly removed him from his post. “Yesterday, the President nominated Mr. Jason Abend for the position of DoD Inspector General,” said Dwrena Allen, a spokesperson for the Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a statement to CNBC. “The same day, the President also designated Mr. Sean W. O’Donnell, who is the Environmental Protection Agency Inspector General (EPA IG), to serve as the Acting DoD IG in addition to his current duties at the EPA,” Allen said. “Mr. Fine is no longer on the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee,” Allen said, and he now “reverts to his position as the Principal Deputy Inspector General.” Fine had been chosen March 30 to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee by his fellow inspectors general, who were tasked by the new law to select a chairman for their committee. By removing Fine from his Pentagon job, Trump effectively eliminated Fine from the oversight committee, since only sitting inspectors general can serve on the committee. - Is Trump removing oversite so he and his friends can steal some of the money? If so Trump is a crook.

THERE IT IS
By Justin Baragona

President Donald Trump has a “small financial interest” in the maker of an anti-malarial drug that he has been touting as a “game changer” in treating coronavirus, according to The New York Times. Over the past two weeks, Trump and his Fox News allies have aggressively promoted hydroxychloroquine as a potential cure, despite top infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and others urging caution and noting that there was not enough evidence of the drug’s efficacy. - Trump is using the office of the president to promote products he has a financial interest in, Trump is a crook.

While Dr. Anthony Fauci has urged caution in using hydroxychloroquine, some doctors are prescribing it to patients who have the virus despite the fact it has never been tested for it.
By Peter Baker, Katie Rogers, David Enrich and Maggie Haberman

WASHINGTON — President Trump made a rare appearance in the Situation Room on Sunday as his pandemic task force was meeting, determined to talk about the anti-malaria medicine that he has aggressively promoted lately as a treatment for the coronavirus. Once again, according to a person briefed on the session, the experts warned against overselling a drug yet to be proved a safe remedy, particularly for heart patients. “Yes, the heart stuff,” Mr. Trump acknowledged. Then he headed out to the cameras to promote it anyway. “So what do I know?” he conceded to reporters at his daily briefing. “I’m not a doctor. But I have common sense.” Day after day, the salesman turned president has encouraged coronavirus patients to try hydroxychloroquine with all of the enthusiasm of a real estate developer. The passing reference he makes to the possible dangers is usually overwhelmed by the full-throated endorsement. “What do you have to lose?” he asked five times on Sunday. Bolstered by his trade adviser, a television doctor, Larry Ellison of Oracle and Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former New York mayor, Mr. Trump has seized on the drug as a miracle cure for the virus that has killed thousands and paralyzed American life. Along the way, he has prompted an international debate about a drug that many doctors in New York and elsewhere have been trying in desperation even without conclusive scientific studies. - Trump is using the office of the president to promote products he has a financial interest in, Trump is a crook.

"He’s really being a liaison to different donors, to different corporate allies of this administration"
By Travis Gettys

Reporter Robert Costa revealed that Jared Kushner has been coordinating the distribution of medical supplies with Republican donors. The Washington Post national political reporter said President Donald Trump's son-in-law has sparked confusion in those efforts by placing himself in the chain of command, and both Kushner and trade adviser Peter Navarro were contradicting advice from White House medical experts. "When you ask about the inner circle, it is clear to me," Costa told MSNBC's "Morning Joe," "based on my reporting, that Peter Navarro, more than anyone now, whether it's on urging the president to take a position that's different than Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, or when it comes to the Defense Production Act, nudging corporations, sometimes pushing corporations to do what the White House wants, that Navarro is at the center." "Jared Kushner is there and he's really being a liaison to different donors, to different corporate allies of this administration, which has created confusion about the chain of command, about whether corporations should work through Jared, whether they should work through Vice President [Mike] Pence and the task force," he added. Navarro and other Trump advisers, including Rudy Giuliani, have been overriding medical experts on the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine against the coronavirus, and Costa said the president's confidence in that unproven drug was not matched by science.

By Priscilla Alvarez, CNN

Washington (CNN) The nation's hospitals are dealing with "severe" and "widespread" shortages of needed medical supplies, hampering the ability to test and respond to the coronavirus pandemic adequately and protect medical staff, according to a new report from a government inspector general. The findings by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services describe a dire situation for front-line doctors and medical staff as cases mount in hospitals. The assessment, the first internal government look at the response, was based on interviews from March 23-27 with administrators from more than 300 hospitals across 46 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. The report provides an accounting of the shortages faced by hospitals nationwide in trying to obtain equipment for staff and patients, including the avenues some hospitals turned to to acquire those items, like online retailers and paint stores. It also details the challenges hospitals faced in trying to keep up with testing demands and the inconsistent guidance that caused confusion. The report is not a review of the Health and Human Service Department's response to the coronavirus outbreak and acknowledges the pandemic is "fast-moving, as are the efforts to address it." "Since our interviews, some hospital challenges may have worsened and others may have improved," the report states. Still, multiple media reports have revealed the obstacles before hospitals in trying to protect their own staff, while also treating an onslaught of patients. Among those obstacles has been the lack of testing. According to the HHS IG report, the shortage of testing supplies, coupled with delays in results, led to patients staying in beds longer, staff using personal protective equipment that they may not have needed to use, and staff possibly exposing themselves to patients with the virus without knowing. Hospitals reported waiting seven days or longer for test results, the HHS IG found. One hospital said 24 hours would usually be considered an extensive wait time for virus testing. "An administrator at another hospital noted that the sooner the hospital knows whether patients are negative, the faster it can move them to a lower level of care that consumes fewer resources," the report reads. "As one administrator put it, 'sitting with 60 patients with presumed positives in our hospital isn't healthy for anybody.'"

By Tara Subramaniam, Holmes Lybrand, Christopher Hickey and Victoria Fleischer, CNN

Washington (CNN) It's been almost a month since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic. In that time, the virus has swept across the US, which has gone from having just a few outbreaks to now leading the world in infections. Throughout, the Trump administration has issued a series of promises, predictions and proclamations as it has tried to calm the American people and give the impression the virus is under control. But on topics ranging from testing, to treatments, to the critical supplies that health workers need, reality has continued to fall short of President Donald Trump's rhetoric. While this is a fluid situation, with facts changing every day, here's a look back at some of the promises and predictions the President has made and how they stack up against reality as of Sunday April 5.

The surgeon general says states need to be “Rosie the Riveter” as the country prepares for a crisis resembling World War II.
By NOLAN D. MCCASKILL and ALICE MIRANDA OLLSTEIN

The federal government’s top public health spokesman invoked World War II as the U.S. heads into a new, deadlier phase of the coronavirus pandemic, warning in interviews on Sunday that this is a “Pearl Harbor moment.” Surgeon General Jerome Adams also told states that are still pleading for medical equipment and aid that they have to “be Rosie the Riveter” — a cultural icon whose “We Can Do It!” slogan became a symbol of the American war effort — and “do your part.” “The next week is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment. It’s going to be our 9/11 moment,” Adams told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It’s going to be the hardest moment for many Americans in their entire lives, and we really need to understand that if we want to flatten that curve and get through to the other side, everyone needs to do their part.” He made strikingly similar remarks on “Fox News Sunday.” Republican and Democratic governors alike pushed back, saying the Trump administration had failed to mount the kind of national coordinated response needed to address the crisis and that shortages of tests, ventilators and protective equipment for physicians persisted. “This is ludicrous,” said Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, a Democrat. “The surgeon general referred to Pearl Harbor. Can you imagine if Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, ‘We’ll be right behind you, Connecticut. Good luck building those battleships?’” Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, one of the areas of the South hit hardest by the virus, said the state’s medical resources wuld be overwhelmed in less than a week without an influx of federal aid.

By Sohail Al-Jamea, Patrick Gleason, Savanna Smith - Associated Press

After the first alarms sounded in early January that an outbreak of a novel coronavirus in China might ignite a global pandemic, the Trump administration squandered nearly two months that could have been used to bolster the federal stockpile of critically needed medical supplies and equipment. A review of federal purchasing contracts by The Associated Press shows federal agencies largely waited until mid-March to begin placing bulk orders of N95 respirator masks, mechanical ventilators and other equipment needed by front-line health care workers. By that time, hospitals in several states were treating thousands of infected patients without adequate equipment and were pleading for shipments from the Strategic National Stockpile. That federal cache of supplies was created more than 20 years ago to help bridge gaps in the medical and pharmaceutical supply chains during a national emergency. Now, three months into the crisis, that stockpile is nearly drained just as the numbers of patients needing critical care is surging. Some state and local officials report receiving broken ventilators and decade-old dry-rotted masks.

By William Feuer

A since-fired Navy captain’s plea for help with a coronavirus outbreak on his vessel “was terrible,” President Donald Trump said Saturday. The officer, Capt. Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, wrote a letter earlier this week to military leadership asking for help with a coronavirus outbreak on the warship. The letter, which was dated March 30, was sent via nonsecure unclassified email and also outside the chain of command. It leaked to the media.  “I thought it was terrible what he did, to write a letter. This isn’t a class on literature. This is a captain of a massive ship that’s nuclear-powered,” Trump said at a news briefing Saturday evening. “The letter was a five-page letter from a captain, and the letter was all over the place. That’s not appropriate. I don’t think that’s appropriate.” In the four-page letter, which was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Crozier described a worsening coronavirus outbreak aboard the warship, a temporary home to more than 4,000 crew members. More than 100 people on the ship were infected at the time. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors,” Crozier wrote in the letter. “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.” The outbreak occurred after a completed port call to Da Nang, Vietnam earlier in March. Fifteen days after leaving Vietnam, three sailors from the USS Roosevelt tested positive for the virus. The infections were the first reports of coronavirus on a military vessel at sea. - Captain Brett Crozier put his crew that is what any good commander would do. Trump will never put anyone first except himself that is not what a good leaderdoes.

President Donald Trump is suggesting that he fired the inspector general for the intelligence community in retaliation for impeachment, saying the official was wrong to provide an anonymous whistleblower complaint to Congress as the law requires
By MARY CLARE JALONICK, KEVIN FREKING and DEB RIECHMANN Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump suggested that he fired the inspector general for the intelligence community in retaliation for impeachment, saying the official was wrong to provide an anonymous whistleblower complaint to Congress as the law requires. Trump called Michael Atkinson a “disgrace” after informing Congress late Friday night that he intended to fire him. In letters to the House and Senate intelligence committees, Trump wrote that he had lost confidence in Atkinson but gave little detail. A day later, Trump was more blunt, telling reporters at the White House: “I thought he did a terrible job, absolutely terrible.” The president added: “He took a fake report and he took it to Congress with an emergency, OK? Not a big Trump fan, that I can tell you.” The whistleblower report was not fake, but a detailed complaint written by an anonymous intelligence official who described Trump's pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democrat Joe Biden and his son. Atkinson determined the complaint was urgent and credible and therefore was required by law to disclose it to Congress, but he was overruled for weeks by the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire.  After a firestorm sparked by media reports of the complaint, it was turned over and made public. A congressional inquiry led to Trump's impeachment by the House in December. The GOP-led Senate acquitted Trump in February. On Saturday, Trump questioned why Atkinson didn’t speak to him about the complaint, though Atkinson’s role is to provide independent oversight. “Never came in to see me, never requested to see me,” Trump said. He added: “That man is a disgrace to IGs.” Atkinson’s removal is part of a larger shakeup of the intelligence community under Trump, who has always viewed intelligence professionals with skepticism. His ouster came under immediate fire from Democrats and a handful of Republicans. Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who leads the Finance Committee, said that Congress has been “crystal clear” that written reasons must be given when inspectors general are removed for a lack of confidence. “More details are needed from the administration," Grassley said.  Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a GOP member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she didn't find Trump's reasoning in his Friday letter to be persuasive, and said Atkinson's removal “was not warranted.” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said an inspector general "must be allowed to conduct his or her work independent of internal or external pressure.” Trump's criticism Saturday came after Atkinson's peers had rushed to his defense. Michael Horowitz, the inspector general at the Justice Department, said Atkinson was known for his “integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight." He said that included Atkinson's actions in handling the Ukraine whistleblower complaint. Asked during his daily coronavirus briefing about firing Atkinson, Trump returned to his attacks on the Democratic-led impeachment investigation and trial and his defense that his phone call with Ukraine’s president was “perfect” but had been inaccurately described in the whistleblower’s account. In fact, the partial transcript later released by the president largely supported the whistleblower’s account.

By Tom O'Connor AND Naveed Jamali

President Donald Trump's plan for cracking down on drug traffickers near Venezuela in an apparent attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus was a mission developed months ago to pressure President Nicolás Maduro and had nothing to do with mitigating the disease, senior U.S. officials told Newsweek. Wednesday's announcement, they said, was instead a move to deflect criticism about the administration's mishandling of the outbreak at home. The president's plans to boost anti-drug trade measures date back at least to December, with discussions beginning among military personnel in January, according to a senior Pentagon official. On February 1, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Army General Mark Milley directed U.S. Southern Command to start designing the operation, and SOUTHCOM commander Navy Admiral Craig S. Faller began evaluating the course of action on February 6, as documents seen by Newsweek showed. "This wasn't supposed to be put in the public until May," the senior Pentagon official who was familiar with the operation told Newsweek. "POTUS is using the operation to attempt to redirect attention." At a daily briefing held Wednesday by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Trump, flanked by Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other officials, announced an ambitious, multinational counternarcotics operation involving warships and aircraft of the Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard to the Caribbean in order "to protect the American people from the deadly scourge of illegal narcotics," he said. "We must not let the drug cartels exploit the pandemic to threaten American lives," the president added. Esper echoed the commander-in-chief: "As nations around the world shift their focus inward to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, many criminal organizations are attempting to capitalize on the crisis." By Friday, the White House shifted its messaging. Rather than saying the mission was intended to stop traffickers from exploiting the pandemic, an official linked it to stopping the proliferation of the disease. "Transnational Criminal Organizations and traffickers are seeking to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing their illicit trade activity, which can contribute to the spread of the virus among diverse groups of people and across vast distances," a senior administration official told Newsweek. Multiple senior U.S. officials who spoke to Newsweek on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the effort expressed "shock" at this conflation. The senior Pentagon official told Newsweek that the Venezuelan counternarcotics operation "has nothing to do with the virus."

Jared Kushner has become a key gatekeeper for help tackling Covid-19 and that’s a big problem, critics say
by Tom McCarthy

The twist of fate that has cast Jared Kushner as a would-be savior in the greatest public health crisis to confront the United States in a century is a dramatic one. The moment of national peril has been compared to September 11. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said coronavirus was her country’s greatest challenge since the second world war. As the leader of the federal government effort to distribute emergency equipment to the states, Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, has mostly shied from the public stage, but he now is working in history’s spotlight. His vast responsibilities include weighing requests from governors for aid and coordinating with private companies to obtain medical equipment, work he carries out from a special post created for him inside the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where his team is called “the Slim Suit crowd” for their distinctive tailoring, the New York Times has reported. Kushner’s team was credited with coordinating a planeload of medical supplies that arrived in the US from China last week. But some of those familiar with Kushner’s record at the White House and in his prior professional life question why the government’s response to the coronavirus threat is being run by the president’s 39-year-old son-in-law. “It scares the hell out of me,” said David Pepper, the chair of the Ohio Democratic party, who offered bipartisan words of praise for the crisis response of his state’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine. “Kushner has terrible judgment, and I don’t remember a decision he’s been involved with that hasn’t just been bad – they’ve been horrible. And the idea that everything has to go through the very flawed judgment of Jared Kushner is downright scary, and I believe at this point is costing American lives.” Early this year, Kushner reportedly advised Donald Trump that the coronavirus was not that dangerous – more a threat to public confidence, and the markets, than to public health. Trump stuck with that message for six tragic weeks, between the confirmation of the first US case and a belated federal decision to speed the development of test kits. And it was Kushner who helped write a disastrous Trump Oval Office speech on 12 March announcing a European travel ban that sent markets into a tailspin and travelers crowding into airports. It was Kushner who solicited help from the father of the fashion model Karlie Kloss, his sister-in-law, to ask a Facebook group of doctors what should be done about the virus. Pepper expressed concern that when a governor calls the White House, she has to talk to Kushner, who then decides, apparently unilaterally, what the state really needs.

‘He runs a shadow taskforce’
In a rare appearance in the White House briefing room Thursday, Kushner said some governors did not have precise knowledge of their state’s inventory of ventilators and delivered a lecture on the art of management. “The way the federal government is trying to allocate is, they’re trying to make sure you have your data right,” Kushner said. “Don’t ask us for things when you don’t know what you have in your own state, just because you’re scared. “What a lot of the voters are seeing now is that when you elect somebody to be a mayor or governor or president, you’re trying to think about who will be a competent manager during the time of crisis,” he continued. “This is a time of crisis and you’re seeing certain people are better managers than others.”

By D'Angelo Gore

More than once, President Donald Trump has falsely claimed that the federal stockpile of emergency medicine and supplies he inherited from his predecessor was an “empty shelf.” While the government does not publicize all of the contents of the repository, at the time Trump took office, the Strategic National Stockpile, as it is formally known, reportedly contained vast amounts of materials that state and local health officials could use during an emergency, including vaccines, antiviral drugs, ventilators and protective gear for doctors and nurses. “The SNS was definitely not an empty shell,” Dr. Tara O’Toole, a former homeland security official during the Obama administration who is now executive vice president at the nonprofit strategic investment firm In-Q-Tel, told us in an email. At least three times in the past week, however, Trump has sought to blame former President Barack Obama’s administration for the current state of the stockpile, which has been unable to meet the demand for additional supplies expected to be needed to treat people with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, or to protect the doctors and nurses caring for those patients. During a White House coronavirus task force briefing on March 26, in which Trump mentioned the number of respirators, face shields and ventilators that had so far been distributed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the president said: “We took over an empty shelf. We took over a very depleted place, in a lot of ways.” When a reporter asked him about that claim during another briefing the following day, Trump again said he inherited “an empty shelf” that he had to refill. And he continued to use that inaccurate description on March 30, during an interview with the hosts of “Fox & Friends.” “We started off with an empty shelf,” he said, adding, “We didn’t have very much in terms of medical product … and we built something really good.”

Strategic National Stockpile
The Strategic National Stockpile was created in 1999, and, as of April 2, was described on a Department of Health and Human Services website as “the nation’s largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out.” (That description was later altered to say, “The Strategic National Stockpile’s role is to supplement state and local supplies during public health emergencies.” The change was made after Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, said on April 2: “The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.” Some interpreted Kushner’s remarks to mean the federal stockpile was not meant to be used by states, which would be false. But, in context, Kushner said the federal government is trying to “make informed data-driven decisions, both on ventilators, masks, any other supply we can get, to make sure it’s going to the people who need them.”) Most of the materials in the stockpile are stored in large warehouses around the country, and where those warehouses are located, and exactly what’s in them, is not publicly disclosed. But NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce was allowed to visit one facility in June 2016 — only months before Trump was inaugurated in January 2017. In her article about the warehouse she toured, she described the shelves as being the opposite of bare. “A big American flag hangs from the ceiling, and shelves packed with stuff stand so tall that looking up makes me dizzy,” Greenfieldboyce wrote.

By Jason Hoffman, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump on Saturday defended his firing of the inspector general who told Congress about the whistleblower complaint that led to his eventual impeachment, saying he thought Michael Atkinson "did a terrible job, absolutely terrible." Trump said that Atkinson, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, "took a fake report and gave it to Congress." Atkinson's firing is the latest case of the Trump administration removing officials who took part in the President's impeachment. Trump also removed Alexander Vindman, a then-National Security Council official who had testified in the House's proceedings, along with Vindman's twin brother, both of whom were reassigned out of the NSC, and fired then-US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Trump claimed that Atkinson took the whistleblower complaint to Congress without ever requesting to see the President. "Why was he allowed to be, you call it fraudulent or incorrect, transcript, so we offered this IG -- I don't know him, I don't think I ever met him. I don't think I -- he never even came in to see me. How can you do that without seeing the person?" Trump said. "Never came in to see me, never requested to see me. He took this terrible, inaccurate whistleblower report, right, and he brought it to Congress." The President went on to repeat his claim that he had a "perfect conversation" with the Ukrainian President. Trump said that he did not run his decision to fire Atkinson by Congress, claiming he had the absolute right to do it. "That's my decision. I have the absolute right," Trump said. Trump concluded by saying someone should sue Atkinson. - Trump is a petty spoiled brat Atkinson did his job it is not his fault that what Trump did was illegal. Trump got caught and now is blaming the person who did his job and informed congress. If Obama had pulled half the crap Donald J. Trump has pulled, Trump’s twitter page would be lite up about all the bad things Obama was doing.

The US has been accused of redirecting 200,000 Germany-bound masks for its own use, in a move condemned as "modern piracy".

The local government in Berlin said the shipment of US-made masks was "confiscated" in Bangkok. The FFP2 masks, which were ordered by Berlin's police force, did not reach their destination, it said. Andreas Geisel, Berlin's interior minister, said the masks were presumably diverted to the US. The US company that makes the masks, 3M, has been prohibited from exporting its medical products to other countries under a Korean-War-era law invoked by President Donald Trump. On Friday, Mr Trump said he was using the Defence Production Act to demand that US firms provide more medical supplies to meet domestic demand. "We need these items immediately for domestic use. We have to have them," Mr Trump said at the daily Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the White House. He said US authorities had taken custody of nearly 200,000 N95 respirators, 130,000 surgical masks and 600,000 gloves. He did not say where they were taken into US hands. Mr Geisel said the diversion of masks from Berlin amounted to an "act of modern piracy", urging the Trump administration to adhere to international trading rules. "This is not how you deal with transatlantic partners," the minister said. "Even in times of global crisis, there should be no wild-west methods."

A 'treasure hunt' for masks
Mr Geisel's comments echo the sentiments of other European officials, who have complained about the buying and diversion practices of the US. In France, for example, regional leaders say they are struggling to secure medical supplies as American buyers outbid them. The president of the Île-de-France region, Valérie Pécresse, compared the scramble for masks to a "treasure hunt".

There were 1,300 direct flights to 17 cities before President Trump’s travel restrictions. Since then, nearly 40,000 Americans and other authorized travelers have made the trip, some this past week and many with spotty screening.
By Steve Eder, Henry Fountain, Michael H. Keller, Muyi Xiao and Alexandra Stevenson

Since Chinese officials disclosed the outbreak of a mysterious pneumonialike illness to international health officials on New Year’s Eve, at least 430,000 people have arrived in the United States on direct flights from China, including nearly 40,000 in the two months after President Trump imposed restrictions on such travel, according to an analysis of data collected in both countries. The bulk of the passengers, who were of multiple nationalities, arrived in January, at airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Newark and Detroit. Thousands of them flew directly from Wuhan, the center of the coronavirus outbreak, as American public health officials were only beginning to assess the risks to the United States. Flights continued this past week, the data show, with passengers traveling from Beijing to Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, under rules that exempt Americans and some others from the clampdown that took effect on Feb. 2. In all, 279 flights from China have arrived in the United States since then, and screening procedures have been uneven, interviews show. Mr. Trump has repeatedly suggested that his travel measures impeded the virus’s spread in the United States. “I do think we were very early, but I also think that we were very smart, because we stopped China,” he said at a briefing on Tuesday, adding, “That was probably the biggest decision we made so far.” Last month, he said, “We’re the ones that kept China out of here.” But the analysis of the flight and other data by The New York Times shows the travel measures, however effective, may have come too late to have “kept China out,” particularly in light of recent statements from health officials that as many as 25 percent of people infected with the virus may never show symptoms. Many infectious-disease experts suspect that the virus had been spreading undetected for weeks after the first American case was confirmed, in Washington State, on Jan. 20, and that it had continued to be introduced. In fact, no one knows when the virus first arrived in the United States. During the first half of January, when Chinese officials were underplaying the severity of the outbreak, no travelers from China were screened for potential exposure to the virus. Health screening began in mid-January, but only for a number of travelers who had been in Wuhan and only at the airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. By that time, about 4,000 people had already entered the United States directly from Wuhan, according to VariFlight, an aviation data company based in China. The measures were expanded to all passengers from China two weeks later.

Some questioned whether an acrimonious letter from U.S. President Donald Trump to the senator from coronavirus-stricken New York was real.
By Bethania Palma

In early April 2020, social media users shared images in disbelief of what appeared to be a letter from Republican U.S. President Donald Trump to Democratic U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York. Here’s an example of a query, posted to Twitter, with the user’s name cropped out for privacy. The letter, dated April 2, 2020, is indeed real and was posted to WhiteHouse.gov. Signed by Trump, the letter is an expression of the acrimony between Trump and legislators from New York, a state that has been ravaged by the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus disease pandemic. Trump and the Democratic leadership of that state had been trading accusations, with political leaders of the Empire State accusing the Trump administration of failing to mount an adequate federal response and provide desperately needed medical equipment as the death toll rises. Trump’s letter to Schumer appeared to blame the shortage of supplies, like diagnostic tests, protective gear for medical workers, and ventilators, on impeachment proceedings against Trump. He was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives in December 2019 and acquitted by the Senate in early February 2020. The letter reads, in part: If you spent less time on your ridiculous impeachment hoax, which went haplessly on forever and ended up going nowhere (except increasing my poll numbers), and instead focused on helping the people of New York, then New York would not have been so completely unprepared for the “invisible enemy.” No wonder AOC [U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and others are thinking about running against you in the primary. If they did, they would likely win. Trump’s letter was in response to a letter that Schumer sent him the same day. Schumer’s letter urged Trump to use the full authority of the so-called Defense Protection Act to close the gap in equipment shortfalls as the virus swept across the country and to prevent states from being forced to bid against each other in order to acquire medical supplies and protective equipment. The letter also implored Trump to designate a senior military official to oversee production of supplies and accused the Trump administration of “tardiness and inadequacy” in its response. - Once again, Trump blames others for his mistakes, while refusing to do the his job as president of the United States.

By Paul French, for CNN

(CNN) When the novel coronavirus pandemic hit Asia, people across the region were quick to wear masks, with some places like Taiwan and the Philippines even making them mandatory in certain scenarios. But in the West, mask adoption has been far slower, with England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, for example, going so far as to claim mask-wearing is unnecessary. Yet it hasn't always been the case that mask-wearing is an Asian proclivity. It certainly wasn't during the influenza pandemic of 1918, which lasted from January 1918 to December 1920, and infected one-third of the world's population, or about 500 million people, leading to about 50 million deaths -- about half a million of which were in the United States. There are many parallels between the two pandemics. While origin theories about the 1918 virus still abound, it was assigned a country specific name: the Spanish Flu. Globalization facilitated its spread as soldiers fighting in World War I took the flu around the globe. Then as now, warehouses were repurposed into quarantine hospitals. And an ocean liner with infected patients became a talking point. But one notable difference is that it was the United States which led the world in mask wearing. In October 1918, as San Francisco received the pandemic's second wave, hospitals began reporting a rise in the number of infected patients. On October 24, 1918, the city's elected legislative body, the board of Supervisors of San Francisco, realizing that drastic action needed to be taken with over 4,000 cases recorded, unanimously passed the Influenza Mask Ordinance. The wearing of face masks in public became mandatory on US soil for the first time.

Adoption of masks
After San Francisco made masks mandatory in public, an awareness campaign began. The city's mayor, along with members of the Board of Health, endorsed a Red Cross publicity blitz which told the public: "Wear a Mask and Save Your Life! A Mask is 99% Proof Against Influenza." Songs were written about mask wearing, including one ditty that featured the lyrics: "Obey the laws, and wear the gauze. Protect your jaws from septic paws."

By Franco Ordoñez

Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, criticized governors Thursday, saying they don't have a handle on their own supplies of masks and ventilators needed to combat the coronavirus outbreak. In a rare appearance in the White House briefing room, Kushner urged governors and some senators to be more resourceful in their own states instead of looking first to the federal government for help. "What a lot of the voters are seeing now is that when you elect somebody to be a mayor or governor or president, you're trying to think about who will be a competent manager during the time of crisis," he said. "This is a time of crisis, and you're seeing certain people are better managers than others." Kushner, a real estate executive with no public health expertise, generally works behind scenes at the White House. So, critics have been curious about his role in the administration's efforts to confront the coronavirus pandemic. He has emerged with a central role working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to oversee the distribution of vital medical supplies to hospital and healthcare providers. On Thursday, he explained that President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence came to him looking for new ideas and "outside of the box" thinking. But his lack of experience has drawn scrutiny, especially when he referred to the national stockpile of medical supplies as "our stockpile." "The notion of the federal stockpile was it's supposed to be our stockpile," he said. "It's not supposed to be states' stockpiles that they then use."

By Jeremy Herb, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump on Friday removed Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson -- who had told Congress about the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump's impeachment -- from his post, the President told Congress in a letter obtained by CNN. Atkinson will be fired in 30 days, Trump told the House and Senate Intelligence committees. He did not name a successor.

‘Not Concerned at All’: A Timeline of Trump’s Coronavirus Dismissals
The president brushed off COVID-19 for months, and it’s going to cost Americans their lives
By Ryan Bort

President Trump wants Americans to believe he’s taking the coronavirus seriously. “This is a pandemic,” he told reporters on Tuesday, his tone more grave than when he had addressed the virus previously. “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic … I’ve always viewed it as very serious.” This is, of course, a lie. For weeks, the president brushed off the threat of COVID-19, which in turn led Fox News and Republican lawmakers to downplay its severity, which in turn emboldened countless Americans to disregard prescriptions from public health officials to slow the spread of the virus. In the end, the president’s decision to treat the outbreak like a typical piece of news-cycle fodder could cost an untold number of Americans their lives and cast millions more into economic ruin. It’s true that there’s only so much the administration could have done. The problem is that it didn’t even do that. In an effort to counter Trump’s attempts to rewrite history, we’ve put together a timeline of his repeated dismissals of the threat of the virus, all of which came as the domestic and international health community were calling for action.

January 22nd: Trump is asked about the coronavirus at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Days earlier the first case of the coronavirus was detected in the U.S., in a man who had returned to Seattle from a trip to China earlier in January. “No, not at all. We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control,” Trump told CNBC. “It’s going to be just fine.”

Trump asked in January about whether or not he’s worried about a pandemic: “No. Not at all. And we’re — we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s, uh, gonna be just fine.” pic.twitter.com/LTxpV4tdF0

— Robert Maguire (@RobertMaguire_) March 16, 2020

January 30th: Trump addresses the coronavirus during a speech on trade in Michigan. The same day, the World Health Organization classified COVID-19 as an international health emergency. “We think we have it very well under control,” Trump said. “We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five — and those people are all recuperating successfully. But we’re working very closely with China and other countries, and we think it’s going to have a very good ending for us.” “Hopefully it won’t be as bad as some people think it could be,” he added.

February 10th: Trump says the coronavirus will be gone by the end of the spring while speaking with reporters in the White House. “Now, the virus that we’re talking about having to do — you know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat, as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April. We’re in great shape, though. We have 12 cases, 11 cases, and many of them are in good shape now.” Days later, Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield estimates the “virus is probably with us beyond this season and beyond this year.”

February 14th: Despite Redfield saying the coronavirus will be in the U.S. beyond 2020, Trump continues to push the idea that it will be gone in a matter of weeks. “There’s a theory that, in April, when it gets warm, historically, that has been able to kill the virus,” he said while speaking to the National Border Patrol Council. “So we don’t know yet. We’re not sure yet. But that’s around the corner.”

February 23rd: Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn: “We have it very much under control in this country.” Full Story


Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) President Donald Trump is rapidly seeking to rewrite the history of the coronavirus pandemic and his administration's reaction to it, even as its scale continues to escalate rapidly in the United States as more and more tests for it are conducted. At his now-daily press briefing on Thursday, Trump went into overdrive as he attempts to deflect any and all blame for the current crisis gripping not just America but the world. Let's go through some of the specifics of what Trump said -- and why they don't comport with established facts.

1) "We were prepared. The only thing we were not prepared for was the media. The media doesn't acknowledge that." Trump here is trying to use his favorite playbook -- the media isn't treating me fairly -- to explain away any/all criticism that his administration was not properly prepared for the virus coming to America. But we know, because Vice President Mike Pence told us, that there were not enough coronavirus tests available to meet the need. Trump himself also spent much of the late winter/early spring downplaying the risk that coronavirus posed to the public -- including suggesting with no medical proof that the virus would lessen when temperatures warmed. "Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away," he said at a campaign rally in February. By early March, when infectious disease experts were recommending that drastic social distancing policies needed to be put in place to slow the spread of the virus, Trump was still referring to it as essentially a flu. "It's very mild," he told Sean Hannity in early March.

2) "It would have been much better if we had known about this a number of months earlier. It could have been contained to that one area in China where it started. And certainly the world is paying a big price for what they did." This is part of Trump's attempt to rebrand the coronavirus as the "China virus," putting the blame for it squarely on the Chinese -- and throwing it a bit of xenophobia while he's at it! Unfortunately, the facts simply don't back up Trump's claim that he (and America more generally) didn't know about the virus until recently. As The New York Times' David Leonhardt has so devastatingly demonstrated, Trump was being asked about coronavirus as far back as late January. Asked whether he was worried about the possibility of coronavirus becoming a pandemic, he replied: "No. Not at all. And we have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It's going to be just fine." Later that month, in a speech in Michigan, Trump said this: "We have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment -- five. And those people are all recuperating successfully."

By Daniel Dale, CNN

Washington (CNN)The website of the Strategic National Stockpile was edited on Friday to soften language about how the stockpile is supposed to be used by states -- a day after media outlets reported that the original version contradicted a claim by senior White House official Jared Kushner. Kushner, President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, said at Thursday's coronavirus briefing that states themselves have medical equipment stockpiled -- and argued that "the notion of the federal stockpile was it's supposed to be our stockpile; it's not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use." Journalists and others quickly pointed out that the federal stockpile's own website made clear Kushner was wrong. As of early Friday morning, the stockpile's home page had read: "Strategic National Stockpile is the nation's largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out. When state, local, tribal, and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency. Organized for scalable response to a variety of public health threats, this repository contains enough supplies to respond to multiple large-scale emergencies simultaneously." These sentences were gone as of Friday afternoon. In their place were new sentences that emphasized that the stockpile is meant as a temporary backup for states' own supplies. The revised page reads: "The Strategic National Stockpile's role is to supplement state and local supplies during public health emergencies. Many states have products stockpiled, as well. The supplies, medicines, and devices for life-saving care contained in the stockpile can be used as a short-term stopgap buffer when the immediate supply of adequate amounts of these materials may not be immediately available." The Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), which manages the stockpile, would not comment on the record. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a spokesperson said that the edit had been in the works before Kushner's remarks. "This is language we have been using in responding to inquiries for weeks now. ASPR first began working to update the website text a week ago to more clearly explain to state and local agencies and members of the public the role of the SNS," the spokesperson said. Jeremy Konyndyk, who served under former President Barack Obama as director of the US Agency for International Development's Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, told CNN before the edit that the original home page "could not be a more literal refutation of Jared's claim." He called the edit "absolutely Orwellian." Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado sent a letter to the inspector general of Health and Human Services on Thursday requesting an investigation into "mismanagement being reported" about the stockpile's supply of ventilators. Gardner told Politico that the letter was not a response to Kushner's comment, but he also questioned the comment. "I don't know what Kushner was talking about, what he meant," Gardner said to Politico, noting that "the stockpile is for the country," including states.

The pandemic is highlighting all of the president’s worst impulses.
By Daniel W. Drezner

In January, when Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar first tried to brief President Trump about the coronavirus threat, the president got distracted and wanted to talk about vaping instead. That same month, Trump told a CNBC reporter that he was not worried about a pandemic; by March, he was claiming, “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” After declaring a national emergency, Trump fumed about the images of empty airports and grounded planes on television. He has publicly compared his poll numbers with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s. He has responded to anodyne questions from reporters by saying they are “nasty” and demanding that journalists “be nice.” In other words, not even a crisis as massive as the novel coronavirus has stopped the president from behaving like a cranky toddler. Trump’s toddler traits have significantly hampered America’s response to the pandemic. They aren’t new, either. In the first three years of his term, I’ve collected 1,300 instances when a Trump staffer, subordinate or ally — in other words, someone with a rooting interest in the success of Trump’s presidency — nonetheless described him the way most of us might describe a petulant 2-year-old. Trump offers the greatest example of pervasive developmental delay in American political history. The elevation of a toddler to the Oval Office intersected with a trend that predates Trump and has made the problem worse: the increasing agglomeration of power in the hands of the president. In the half-century since Watergate, presidents from both sides of the aisle have beaten back formal and informal constraints. They have resisted congressional oversight, cowed judges into submission and disciplined bureaucrats into obeying their every whim. Increasing political polarization has facilitated presidential power grabs by enervating congressional oversight, increasing the political loyalty of Cabinet officers, and eroding the norms and unwritten rules of the presidency.

By Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck, CNN

Washington (CNN) Two top administration officials last year listed the threat of a pandemic as an issue that greatly worried them, undercutting President Donald Trump's repeated claims that the coronavirus pandemic was an unforeseen problem. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Tim Morrison, then a special assistant to the President and senior director for weapons of mass destruction and biodefense on the National Security Council, made the comments at the BioDefense Summit in April 2019. "Of course, the thing that people ask: 'What keeps you most up at night in the biodefense world?' Pandemic flu, of course. I think everyone in this room probably shares that concern," Azar said, before listing off efforts to mitigate the impact of flu outbreaks. The Trump administration is facing scrutiny over its preparations for the coronavirus pandemic and its slow response to provide states and cities assistance in testing kits and personal protective equipment. The 2019 summit, hosted by the assistant secretary for preparedness and response in the Department of Health and Human Services to "discuss and solicit input on implementing the National Biodefense Strategy," offers insights into early awareness of the potential for a pandemic threat. Transcripts of Azar's and Morrison's comments at the summit, which have not been previously reported on, are available on the HHS website. President Donald Trump has repeatedly said no one predicted a pandemic crisis like the one caused by coronavirus. "Nobody knew there'd be a pandemic or an epidemic of this proportion," Trump said March 19 in comments in the Rose Garden. "Nobody has ever seen anything like this before." The crisis is "an unforeseen problem" that "came out of nowhere," Trump said on March 6. "We're having to fix a problem that, four weeks ago, nobody ever thought would be a problem," he said on March 11. "It's something that nobody expected," he said again on March 14. "Nobody would have ever thought a thing like this could have happened," he added on March 26th. The White House defended the President's comments in a statement, saying he had shown a "great commitment" to global health security.

In just weeks, the president’s challenge has morphed from building on his predecessor’s economic record to rebuilding his own.
By BEN WHITE

The fundamental pillars of Donald Trump’s presidency — a hot economy, strong job growth and a rocking stock market — are all being smashed to splinters by the ravaging coronavirus, which has shuttered much of the nation and now officially ended a streak of 113 months of job gains dating back to the end of the Great Recession a decade ago. The latest numbers out Friday showed a loss of 701,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate rising to 4.4 percent from a 50-year low of 3.5 percent. But the figures, though higher than expected, were just a small taste of the nightmare ahead. Friday’s numbers covered just the first two weeks of March, before many of the lockdowns and layoffs began. The nation has seen 10 million new jobless claims over just the last two weeks, obliterating previous records and suggesting the unemployment rate is already above 10 percent, eclipsing the highest point of the Great Recession. It will almost certainly go significantly higher, with some economists warning it could top the 24.9 percent hit during the Great Depression. April’s jobs numbers, due in early May, could show a staggering and historic loss of up to 15 million jobs or perhaps more, many forecasters say. The coronavirus outbreak was obviously not Trump’s fault, though many criticize the speed of the administration’s response as the president publicly downplayed the threat for months. But that does not change the stark reality that all the job gains on Trump’s watch are now gone.

By Vicky McKeever

The world’s largest critical care unit opened in London on Friday, as the U.K. steps up its fight to tackle the spread of the coronavirus. U.K. health-care workers and the British military worked together to overhaul the London ExCel center, which normally hosts conferences and exhibitions, building the pop-up Nightingale hospital in just nine days. The hospital was built to help Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) cope with the surge in demand for emergency care due to the coronavirus, which has so far infected 34,192 and killed 2,926 people in the U.K., according to latest data from Johns Hopkins University. Global cases of the COVID-19 infection have now surpassed the 1 million mark. The temporary hospital, named after the pioneering nurse Florence Nightingale, currently holds 500 beds, though the NHS said the facility in east London has the capacity for between 4,000 and 5,000 beds. NHS hospitals across the U.K. have already freed up more than 33,000 beds, equivalent to 50 new hospitals. Meanwhile, the private hospital sector agreed to offer up to 8,000 beds, as well as staff and equipment, for use by the NHS. The hospital covers 900,000 square feet (83,613 square meters), the equivalent of around a dozen soccer pitches, as described in an NHS video on Twitter. The facility comprises of 78 wards, named after British medical professionals.

By Nicholas Wu - USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – White House senior advisor Jared Kushner made a rare appearance during Thursday's coronavirus task force briefing, an appearance that drew backlash when he referred to the national stockpile of medical supplies as "our stockpile" and not one belonging to states. Kushner, the president's son-in-law who doesn't often make public appearances, says he has been serving on the coronavirus task force at the direction of Vice President Mike Pence. When asked about data showing states' need for equipment, Kushner said, "The notion of the federal stockpile is that it's supposed to be our stockpile. It's not supposed to be states' stockpiles that they then use." He then referred to criticism from governors who say the government has not provided needed medical supplies. "When you have governors saying that the federal government hasn't given them what they need, I would encourage you to ask them, have you looked within your state to make sure you haven't been able to find the resources?" he continued. Critics pounced on Kushner's comments. "We are the UNITED STATES of America. The federal stockpile is reserved for all Americans living in our states, not just federal employees. Get it?" Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., replied. "Does anyone know any federal Americans? Where do they live? How many are there? Are they nice? Why do they need some much protective gear and ventilators," quipped Joe Lockhart, former press secretary for President Bill Clinton. Former White House ethics chief Walter Shaub pointed out that the website of the Strategic National Stockpile points to its potential use by state and local governments. "It is for the American people...as the federal government's OWN strategic national stockpile website assures us!" he wrote. Trump has been on the defensive about what some governors and mayors have called a slow delivery of supplies to combat the coronavirus pandemic. In a series of tweets Thursday, the president said, "Massive amounts of medical supplies, even hospitals and medical centers, are being delivered directly to states and hospitals by the Federal Government. Some have insatiable appetites & are never satisfied (politics?). Remember, we are a backup for them." State and local governments have voiced concerns about shortages of personal protective equipment for health care workers like masks and gowns.

By Ewan Palmer

Veterans have spoken out against the decision to relieve the captain of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt after he sent a letter to the Navy pleading for help after his ship was stricken with the coronavirus. Thomas Modly, the acting secretary of the Navy, accused Capt. Brett Crozier of having "poor judgment" for using a "non-secure, unclassified" email address to write an email to his immediate chain of command which also included "20 or 30" additional recipients. Crozier's letter, which was then leaked and published by the San Francisco Chronicle, asked officials for help in isolating more than 4,000 sailors onboard the aircraft carrier docked in Guam, after a COVID-19 outbreak was detected among its crew. A day after the letter was published, around 1,000 sailors were removed from the Theodore Roosevelt. A total of 114 crew have since tested positive for COVID-19. Crozier said the move was necessary as the warship's "inherent limitations of space" meant the virus was spreading rapidly despite the other crew members distancing themselves. "This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do," Crozier wrote. "We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors." Speaking at a press conference, Modly said Crozier was not relieved because the letter was leaked — although he "did not take care to ensure that it couldn't be leaked," noting it appeared in his hometown paper — but for causing unnecessary panic. Modly said Crozier's actions made it seem like the Navy was only acting in response to his letter being leaked, which he said was not the case. The decision has been met with dismay by veterans and politicians. "I understand the 'trust & confidence' argument. It's sacrosanct in the Navy," John Kirby, a retired rear admiral who served as the State Department's head spokesman from 2015 to 2017, wrote on Twitter. "But based on justification put forth by acting SECNAV for why he lost trust & confidence in the TR CO, hard to see it as anything other than an over-reaction & unwarranted at a vital time for the ship." Malcolm Nance, former Navy senior chief petty officer, accused officials of "abject stupidity" for relieving Crozier. "You had better drop your anchors on this one. This 'sailors first' admiral may be Secretary of the Navy next Jan. He should be because he cares more about my beloved Navy than you do."

With more than $800 million in federally backed properties, Kushner Companies could reduce its payments to zero under provisions of the recovery bill.
By MAGGIE SEVERNS

Jared Kushner’s family business could be a prime beneficiary of a provision in the federal recovery bill that allows owners of apartment buildings to freeze federal mortgage payments on low- and moderate-income properties. Kushner Companies, the real estate firm started in 1985 by Kushner’s father, Charles, controls thousands of low- and moderate-housing units across the country, some of which are funded through an $800 million federally backed loan the firm received in 2019. The option for owners to temporarily freeze mortgage payments on low- and moderate-income housing developments, in exchange for promising not to evict tenants who can’t pay their rent, was one of the economic provisions approved by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump last week. It is considered a way to keep lower-income apartment dwellers in their homes, but also shifted the burden of housing them from their landlords to the federal government and taxpayers. Because Kushner Companies, like many real estate companies, establishes buildings as a network of individual LLCs, it may be possible for it to obtain federal help for some buildings even if it has enough money to cover the mortgage payments, said Shekar Narasimhan, an expert in real estate financing and managing partner of the firm Beekman Advisors. “Could he take advantage of it? Yes, his company could,” Narasimhan said. “They’re supposed to have deep pockets, but most owners set each building up to an LLC. So in theory, he doesn't have an obligation to write a check.”

Inside the White House’s effort to create a projected death toll
By William Wan, Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker and Joel Achenbach

Leading disease forecasters, whose research the White House used to conclude 100,000 to 240,000 people will die nationwide from the coronavirus, were mystified when they saw the administration’s projection this week. The experts said they don’t challenge the numbers’ validity but that they don’t know how the White House arrived at them. White House officials have refused to explain how they generated the figure — a death toll bigger than the United States suffered in the Vietnam War or the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They have not provided the underlying data so others can assess its reliability or provided long-term strategies to lower that death count. Some of President Trump’s top advisers have expressed doubts about the estimate, according to three White House officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. There have been fierce debates inside the White House about its accuracy. At a task force meeting this week, according to two officials with direct knowledge of it, Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told others there are too many variables at play in the pandemic to make the models reliable: “I’ve looked at all the models. I’ve spent a lot of time on the models. They don’t tell you anything. You can’t really rely upon models.” Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the vice president’s office have similarly voiced doubts about the projections’ accuracy, the three officials said.

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