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US agencies 'repeatedly warned' president about COVID-19 in classified memos earlier this year, Washington Post reports.

US intelligence agencies repeatedly warned President Donald Trump about the threat of the novel coronavirus outbreak in more than a dozen classified briefings earlier this year, according to the Washington Post. In a report published on Monday, the US newspaper cited current and former US officials, who revealed that Trump had been alerted in January and February, even as he continued to downplay the threat of the contagion that was first reported in China in December. The repeated warnings were included in the president's daily brief, which for weeks tracked the worldwide spread of the virus, raising the alarm about its potential consequences, the Post said. One official told the US newspaper that by mid to late January, the coronavirus was being mentioned more frequently as one of the report's core articles or as an "executive update". The first case of coronavirus in the US was reported on January 21 and entry to travellers from China was blocked on February 2. As cases rose, travel from Europe was banned on March 11 and Trump declared a national emergency two days later. Trump has faced increased scrutiny over his response to the outbreak in the US, which is nearing a million confirmed coronavirus cases as of Tuesday. The US also has the world's highest coronavirus death toll with more than 56,000 fatalities.

By Caroline Kelly, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump received more than a dozen warnings about the coronavirus outbreak in daily briefings in January and February, but continued to downplay the virus' threat and severity, the Washington Post reported Monday. Citing current and former US officials, the paper reported that the warnings came in the President's Daily Brief, a summary of intelligence reports from the various agencies, which tracked the virus' proliferation, highlighted China's inaccurate characterization of the disease and its death toll and warned of potential widespread ramifications related to the pandemic. Officials told the Post that the President, who frequently forgoes the briefings and has become impatient with the summaries of the brief he now receives a couple of times per week, did not seem to absorb the warnings. They added that focused efforts tracking the virus were on par with prior instances of monitoring security threats, including active terrorism and international clashes. An official in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which manages the briefing, told the Post that "the detail of this is not true" and declined to explain or elaborate. CNN has reached out to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for comment. Without yet responding separately to CNN's request, acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell tweeted about the story, "This isn't true." White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley in a statement to CNN asserted that Trump had taken decisive action early on in the pandemic. "President Trump shut down flights from China and Europe and was called xenophobic, he talked about defeating Coronavirus in the State of Union and (House) Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi tore it to shreds, and he asked Congress for billions to protect hardworking Americans and small business, but the Democrats delayed the bill," Gidley said in the statement to CNN. US officials told the Post that the briefings included both overarching reports on elements of the worldwide state of the pandemic, as well as more concise accounts on the virus' status. The news builds on prior reporting that officials had prepared information and attempted to convey it to the President for months. Intelligence US spy agencies were tracking the rise of the novel coronavirus as early as November, weeks before that information was included in Trump's daily intelligence briefing, a former US military official told CNN.

By Rick Pearson - Chicago Tribune

As talk in Washington has swiftly moved to the next coronavirus relief package, President Donald Trump on Monday questioned whether federal taxpayers should provide money of “poorly run” states and cities run by Democrats, specifically citing Illinois. “Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help?” Trump asked on Twitter. “I am open to discussing anything, but just asking,” the president added. Trump’s question was a reversal from late last week when, after the federal Paycheck Protection Program received a new injection of funds, he indicated support for addressing state and local government revenue shortfalls due to the pandemic as part of the next round of relief. Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker said despite Trump’s tweet, he was confident the administration and Congress would include funding for states in the next federal relief package. “If we don’t get any further federal aid, it will be extremely difficult not just for the state of Illinois but for many states. Not just for the ones that have Democratic governors but for Republican states as well,” Pritzker said at his daily coronavirus briefing.

By Daniel Dale, Tara Subramaniam, Liz Stark and Em Steck, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump's Monday coronavirus news conference in the White House Rose Garden was shorter than usual and at least somewhat less acrimonious than many of the briefings he's held over the past month.
But Trump still made false and misleading claims, most of them repeats from past briefings. And Vice President Mike Pence accused a reporter of a misunderstanding about testing that Pence's own words had created weeks earlier.
Here are some fact checks from the briefing:

Pence's testing promises
Pence, Trump and others who spoke at the briefing touted the administration's plan to dramatically increase coronavirus testing in the coming weeks. (Trump said the number of tests conducted would soon be much more than double the current level.) A reporter then asked Pence what went wrong before -- after his early-March claims that four million tests would be available by the following week. Pence said last Friday, a month and a half after those March comments, that 5.1 million Americans had been tested. Pence responded Monday: "I appreciate the question, but it represents a misunderstanding on your part and frankly the -- a lot of people in the public's part -- about the difference between having a test versus the ability to actually process the test."Pence said "the old system" was not able to process the tests at the necessary volume. When a reporter pressed him, asking if he had just been talking in March "about tests being sent out, not actually being completed," Pence said that was correct.

Facts First: If there was a misunderstanding, Pence's own remarks helped create it. When Pence said on March 9 and on March 10 that 4 million tests would be distributed before the end of the week, in addition to 1 million already distributed, he did not explain that those millions of tests could not be processed anytime soon. Here's what Pence said on March 9: "Over a million tests have been distributed. Before the end of this week, another 4 million tests will be distributed. But as I said before, with the deployment of the commercial labs, we literally -- we literally are going to see a dramatic increase in the available -- availability of testing, and that's all a direct result of the President's leadership." Similarly, Pence said on March 10: "Over a million tests are out, thanks to the diligent work of (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and (the Department of Health and Human Services). More than 4 million will go out this week. You've worked with commercial labs to expand testing, and that will continue to increase by the day." There were, again, no caveats, and he again mentioned the labs.

China tariffs
At Monday's news conference, the President was asked about China's role in the pandemic. Trump repeated his regular false claim that the US "never took in 10 cents from China" before he took office.

Facts First: Not only are Americans bearing most of the cost of Trump's tariffs but the US has also had tariffs on China for more than two centuries, generating an average of $12 billion a year from 2007 to 2016. You can read a longer fact check on Trump's China tariffs here. Go deeper and take a listen to Daniel Dale breaking down some of these fact checks and more on The Daily DC Podcast

A strategy memo on coronavirus distributed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee infuriated Trump aides.

Earlier this month, the Senate Republican campaign arm circulated a memo with shocking advice to GOP candidates on responding to coronavirus: “Don’t defend Trump, other than the China Travel Ban — attack China.” The Trump campaign was furious. On Monday — just days after POLITICO first reported the existence of the memo — Trump political adviser Justin Clark told NRSC executive director Kevin McLaughlin that any Republican candidate who followed the memo’s advice shouldn’t expect the active support of the reelection campaign and risked losing the support of Republican voters. McLaughlin responded by saying he agreed with the Trump campaign’s position and, according to two people familiar with the conversation, clarified that the committee wasn’t advising candidates to not defend Trump over his response. The episode illustrates how the Trump political apparatus demands — and receives — fealty from fellow Republicans and moves aggressively to tamp down on any perceived dissent within the GOP. The president maintains an iron grip on his party, even as his poll numbers sag and he confronts fierce criticism from Democrats over his response to the coronavirus pandemic. During the conversation, McLaughlin called the line in the memo inartful in its wording and argued that the overall thrust of the document was about pushing candidates to go on offense over China — something that Trump has done frequently in recent days — and not to evade defending the president.

By Greg Miller and Ellen Nakashima

U.S. intelligence agencies issued warnings about the novel coronavirus in more than a dozen classified briefings prepared for President Trump in January and February, months during which he continued to play down the threat, according to current and former U.S. officials. The repeated warnings were conveyed in issues of the President’s Daily Brief, a sensitive report that is produced before dawn each day and designed to call the president’s attention to the most significant global developments and security threats. For weeks, the PDB — as the report is known — traced the virus’s spread around the globe, made clear that China was suppressing information about the contagion’s transmissibility and lethal toll, and raised the prospect of dire political and economic consequences. But the alarms appear to have failed to register with the president, who routinely skips reading the PDB and has at times shown little patience for even the oral summary he takes two or three times per week, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified material. The advisories being relayed by U.S. spy agencies were part of a broader collection of worrisome signals that came during a period now regarded by many public health officials and other experts as a squandered opportunity to contain the outbreak. As of Monday, more than 55,000 people in the United States had died of covid-19. The frequency with which the coronavirus was mentioned in the PDB has not been previously reported, and U.S. officials said it reflected a level of attention comparable to periods when analysts have been tracking active terrorism threats, overseas conflicts or other rapidly developing security issues.

By Shane Harris, Greg Miller, Josh Dawsey and Ellen Nakashima

U.S. intelligence agencies were issuing ominous, classified warnings in January and February about the global danger posed by the coronavirus while President Trump and lawmakers played down the threat and failed to take action that might have slowed the spread of the pathogen, according to U.S. officials familiar with spy agency reporting. The intelligence reports didn’t predict when the virus might land on U.S. shores or recommend particular steps that public health officials should take, issues outside the purview of the intelligence agencies. But they did track the spread of the virus in China, and later in other countries, and warned that Chinese officials appeared to be minimizing the severity of the outbreak. Taken together, the reports and warnings painted an early picture of a virus that showed the characteristics of a globe-encircling pandemic that could require governments to take swift actions to contain it. But despite that constant flow of reporting, Trump continued publicly and privately to play down the threat the virus posed to Americans. Lawmakers, too, did not grapple with the virus in earnest until this month, as officials scrambled to keep citizens in their homes and hospitals braced for a surge in patients suffering from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Intelligence agencies “have been warning on this since January,” said a U.S. official who had access to intelligence reporting that was disseminated to members of Congress and their staffs as well as to officials in the Trump administration, and who, along with others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive information. “Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were — they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it,” this official said. “The system was blinking red.”

The president inflamed an already fierce debate over whether the federal government should bail out states battling the coronavirus.

President Donald Trump on Monday signaled opposition to bailing out states whose economies have collapsed under the weight of the coronavirus — bolstering an argument from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that has been met with bipartisan animus among the nation’s governors. “Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help?” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I am open to discussing anything, but just asking?” Elaborating on Trump’s position in an interview on Fox News, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said, “I think that the president has said that he is not eager to go around bailing people out, but he’s willing to negotiate.” The president’s social media post inflamed an already fierce debate over further federal assistance to states expending vast financial resources to battle a highly infectious outbreak while exacerbating perilous budget gaps. Trump’s tweet also came as governors expressed new levels of outrage over McConnell’s suggestion last week that individual localities should pursue bankruptcy rather than request more aid from the U.S. government to shore up their rapidly depleting reserves. During his daily news conference Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo charged that scolding states and cities seeking federal help is antithetical to the ambition of a national rebuild that will require a wide distribution of funds across the country. “This is not the time to be talking about dollars and cents among members of the community that are trying to mutually support and help each other,” he said. But even if a sort of tally sheet “for who owes what to whom” were to be tracked, Cuomo continued, New York would be the most qualified recipient based on its flow of tax revenues to Washington. “If you want to do an analysis of who is a giver and who is a taker, we are the No. 1 giver. Nobody puts more money into the pot than the state of New York. We’re the No. 1 donor,” he said, adding that McConnell’s home state of Kentucky is one of the “taker states” that collects more federal dollars than it directs to the government through taxes. “I understand we’re one nation. You put in the pot what you need, I put in what I need. You take what you need, and that’s the way it’s always been,” Cuomo said. “But if you actually want to call for an accounting — which I think is repugnant at this time, and I don’t think it’s constructive and I don’t think it’s healthy — you’re making a mistake because you lose.” Cuomo’s criticism came after he announced over the weekend more than $10 billion in state spending cuts, including a reduction of $8.2 billion in aid to recipients such as schools, health care programs and municipalities. The governor, a Democrat, has forcefully denounced McConnell’s resistance to additional aid for days, calling the senator’s statements “really dumb” and sarcastically daring Congress to rewrite bankruptcy law to allow states to declare. States do not have the ability to declare bankruptcy under current law, and modifying the bankruptcy code would likely prove a daunting task for lawmakers. Cuomo also praised Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, for rebuking McConnell’s stance on state bankruptcies, remarking that “it is hard for a governor, especially Andy, who is a relatively new governor, to stand up to a senior official and speak truth to power.”

By Glenn Kessler

"The Postal Service is a joke because they’re handing out packages for Amazon and other Internet companies. And every time they bring a package, they lose money on it.”

— President Trump, in remarks to reporters, April 24

President Trump is threatening to veto financial aid for the beleaguered U.S. Postal Service unless it hikes the price it charges for delivering packages — which he said should be quadrupled. Note that he mentioned Amazon by the name. The Washington Post, of course, is owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon. The president is often displeased by reporting in The Post, which he occasionally labels the “Amazon Washington Post” even though The Post is not part of Amazon. Bezos has owned The Post since 2013 as a personal investment via Nash Holdings LLC. Be that as it may, it’s certainly worth fact-checking whether the Postal Service loses money delivering packages for e-commerce merchants, as Trump claims.

The Facts
The Postal Service is losing money overall, primarily because the rise of email has sharply cut flat-mail volume, and because Congress requires it to prepay pension and health benefits. One problem is the USPS must charge the same price for first-class mail delivery anywhere in the country, no matter how remote. But the USPS consistently says package delivery is a bright spot in its revenue picture, increasing every year. “As a percentage of operating revenue, Shipping and Packages generated approximately 32%, 30% and 28% for the years ended September 30, 2019, 2018 and 2017, respectively,” USPS said in a 2019 regulatory filing. “As a percentage of total volume, Shipping and Packages represented 4.3%, 4.2% and 3.8% for the years ended 2019, 2018 and 2017, respectively.” Of course, revenue is not profit. And we do not know the details of the contracts between USPS and Internet retailers. But USPS says it has been raising prices: “Prices for these Competitive services increased an average of 7.4%, 4.1% and 3.9% in January 2019, January 2018 and January 2017, respectively.” Amazon uses the Postal Service for the last mile or so of a package’s journey. But the Postal Service says there are signs Amazon may emerge as a competitor. Note the use of the phrase “competitive services” in USPS documents. Under a 2006 law, USPS has two product lines — services such as first-class mail in which it holds a monopoly and competitive products in which it competes with companies such as FedEx and UPS. Under that law, USPS is prohibited from losing money in the competitive services deliveries. Indeed, the USPS’s most recent public cost and revenue filing shows that in the competitive services sector, first-class package services covered 148 percent of operating costs, while ground parcel post covered 189 percent of operating costs associated with these deliveries. That would suggest profits are being made. So, the law says USPS cannot lose money on package services, and USPS says costs are being covered. How can Trump claim the agency is losing money?

The Pinocchio Test
Regular readers know the burden of proof rests with the speaker. The president says USPS loses money on every package it delivers for e-commerce merchants. But that appears to be an analysis derived from his gut — or his animus toward Amazon — than any sophisticated analysis of the numbers. USPS, by its own calculation, says revenue from package deliveries far exceeds costs. With Amazon perhaps seeking to bypass USPS, the agency must be careful not to price itself out of the market — and thus face a bigger financial squeeze. Moreover, under the law, USPS is prohibited from losing money in the package-delivery sector. In the end, Treasury cannot show us USPS is actually losing money on its contract with Amazon, as Trump claims. It can assert only that USPS does not know whether it makes a profit. Trump earns Four Pinocchios. We’re happy to revisit this fact check if any evidence supporting his position emerges.

Now the country that planned D-Day can't handle delivering medical supplies — and it's not just about Trump
By Heather Digby Parton

Since the day after Donald J. Trump as elected in 2016, I've been fretting about the effect of his obvious unfitness and incompetence for the "world order" as we have known it. I've made clear that I don't believe there's any reason why the U.S. should be the perpetual guarantor of security for half the world, nor is it forever obligated to provide some kind of Pax Americana. That was a consequence of America's unique position after World War II, having had the good fortune to escape the destruction of our homeland, which left us in the position of the last country standing. To our credit (and for our own profit) we did handle the aftermath of that war more competently than the world handled the aftermath of World War I. But it has been clear to me from the moment Donald Trump came down that elevator that if he won, the world order as we knew it, which was already unstable, was going to be turned upside down with no coherent plan to replace it. His one simple understanding of the world was that he, and the United States, have been treated unfairly. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. America and Donald Trump had it all. Throughout the Cold War and the red-baiting and the military adventurism and the overweening self-regard that we assumed was our right as the Leader of the Free World, we managed to do a lot of things wrong and the price for that has been high. This is true even though, as Salon's Andrew O'Hehir wrote in this searing account of America's precipitous decline as revealed by the coronavirus, the American people hardly noticed: We have an ingrained national tendency to behave as if the rest of the world simply doesn't exist — or, on a slightly more sophisticated level, as if it were just a colorful backdrop for our vastly more important national dramas. O'Hehir rightly observes that empires inevitably collapse, but America's almost childlike inability to admit it even is an empire, even as it crumbles, may be unique in human history. Still, for all its myopic arrogance, the one thing America clearly did right — and was justifiably proud of — was to create a technologically advanced society that was the envy of the world. For all our faults, Americans knew how to do things. We could get the job done. Now the country that sent men to the moon and brought them home again, all the way back in the 1960s, is a fumbling mess, unable to manage the simple logistics of getting supplies from one place to another or coordinating a national set of guidelines in a public health crisis. The vaunted CDC, long thought of as the greatest scientific disease research facility in the world, fumbled in making a test that had already been produced in other countries. Donald Trump is a completely incompetent leader — we know this. Literally any other president would have done a better job. He couldn't accept that the crisis was real and that his "plan" to spend the year holding fun rallies and smearing his Democratic rival was going to be interrupted by his duties as president. So he lived in denial until the situation was completely out of hand. Other leaders would have listened to experts and pulled together a team that knew how to organize a national response. And no other president would be so witless as to waste precious time and resources with magical thinking about quick miracle cures. But it's not just him, is it? The U.S. government seems to have lost its capacity to act, and the private sector is so invested in short-term profit-making that it's lost its innovative edge. The result is that the United States of America, formerly the world's leader in science and technology, now only leads the world in gruesome statistics and body counts.

By Nicholas Wu, John Fritze - USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Since the first coronavirus case was diagnosed in the United States more than three months ago, President Donald Trump has repeatedly made assertions about the illness and floated treatments that medical experts in his own administration have had to walk back. From predicting in February that the virus would "miraculously" disappear, to touting an untested anti-malaria drug at his daily press conferences, Trump has often ventured far afield of science to put a positive light on the pandemic. The latest example of that came Thursday, when Trump suggested that scientists look into whether ultraviolet light or disinfectants could play some role in treating patients with the disease. His remarks prompted a rebuke from doctors and urgent warnings from state health agencies warning against self-treatment. As the controversy mushroomed, the White House blamed the media for sensationalizing his remarks. The president later said he was being sarcastic. But the episode was only the latest in a pattern of questionable claims or off-the-cuff remarks the president has made about the virus in recent weeks.

Can light treat the coronavirus?
Noting a government study on the impact sunlight has on killing coronavirus on surfaces and in the air, Trump leaped to the idea of whether the method could be used for treating patients as well. He suggested that scientists should look into whether bringing "light inside the body" could have some effect. "Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous – whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light – and I think you said that that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it," Trump said to a health official Thursday. "And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that, too."

Trump touts power of disinfectants
Trump didn't stop at light, however. He also noted that the Department of Homeland Security was studying the effect disinfectants – on surfaces – could have on the coronavirus. The president again wondered aloud whether that impact could be translated somehow into fighting the virus in people. "And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute," Trump said. "And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that." Trump's remarks drew a sharp response from state health officials, doctors and even the parent company of the nation's best-known spray disinfectant, Lysol. Several of those entities reported receiving phone calls from Americans who had questions about disinfectants and warned Americans against ingesting them. Reckitt Benckiser Group, the parent company of Lysol, posted a statement early Friday asserting that "we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body." Members of Trump's administration also weighed in. "PLEASE always talk to your health provider first before administering any treatment/medication to yourself or a loved one," Surgeon General Jerome Adams said.

By William Cummings - USA TODAY

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Sunday he "can't really explain" President Donald Trump's public speculation last week about studying disinfectant in the search for a COVID-19 treatment, but he advised the president to make sure his news conferences on the coronavirus are "fact-based." Hogan, a Republican and chairman of the National Governors Association, said on ABC News' "This Week" that from the beginning of the outbreak, it's been important that officials communicate "very clearly on the facts because people listen to these press conferences." "They listen when the governor holds a press conference, and they certainly pay attention when the president of the United States is standing there giving a press conference about something as serious as this worldwide pandemic," Hogan said. "And I think when misinformation comes out or you just say something that pops in your head, it does send a wrong message." Thursday, Trump invited Bill Bryan, undersecretary of science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security, to brief White House reporters about a study that found the coronavirus did not survive long when exposed to sunlight or disinfectants. After the presentation, Trump pondered the possibility of introducing disinfectants or ultraviolet light into the human body to kill the virus. The idea prompted alarm from health experts and drew immediate social media mockery. Disinfectant manufacturers Clorox and Lysol issued statements reminding people it was unsafe to ingest their products. Hogan said that after Trump's remarks, Maryland saw "hundreds of calls come into our emergency hotline at our health department asking if it was right to ingest Clorox or alcohol cleaning products – whether that was going to help them fight the virus. So we had to put out that warning to make sure that people were not doing something like that, which would kill people actually to do it." Hogan advised Trump to "stick to a message and make sure that these press conferences are fact-based."

He can’t make his disinfectant remarks go away. So he’s trying to douse them with doubt.
By Peter Kafka

President Donald Trump has several huge fights on his hands: America is under attack from a brutal pandemic. Its economy is collapsing. And he is facing a difficult reelection campaign. In the absence of real plans to solve any of these, Trump is relying on a move that comes reflexively for him: Blasting out messages that are either pointless digressions or outright lies — not to persuade people, but to distract and confuse them. Take, for instance, a tweet he took the time to fire off Saturday afternoon that seemed petty even by his own Twitter standards: He wanted people to know exactly who he was talking to when he made his jaw-dropping remarks last week about injecting light and disinfectant to cure Covid-19.

   Was just informed that the Fake News from the Thursday White House Press Conference had me speaking & asking questions of Dr. Deborah Birx. Wrong, I was speaking to our Laboratory expert, not Deborah, about sunlight etc. & the CoronaVirus. The Lamestream Media is corrupt & sick!
   — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2020

Like other things Trump says, this one has elements of truth embedded in a slurry of falsehood. We can sort through that shortly. What’s more important than the message here is the tactic he’s using. Trump isn’t really interested in correcting the record, but he does want to create doubt. And that’s because a fog of generalized distrust is one of Trump’s primary political tools, as journalism critic Jay Rosen has pointed out. “The Republican Party and the Trump campaign and the MAGA coalition are going to have to produce confusion and doubt on a scale that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before,” Rosen told me in a recent conversation. “The key for the Trump campaign is to create confusion, not belief. And that’s what we’re going to see in the months ahead: the massive effort to create doubt and confusion about things that are overwhelmingly clear from the public record.” Trump’s message this weekend is a perfect encapsulation of the strategy. It doesn’t exonerate him in any way. But it is supposed to chip away at the authority of the media outlets that cover him. The accumulated weight of these niggles are meant to dissuade persuadable voters from believing ... anything.

Surrounding a little bit of truth with a lot of misleading other stuff helps create distrust
Trump does have the smallest of points with respect to his Saturday tweet: At various points in his April 23 press conference, he was indeed addressing Bill Bryan, an official from the Department of Homeland Security, who had given a presentation about how sunlight might affect the coronavirus. In the viral clip where Trump muses about bringing UV light inside the body or using an “injection” of disinfectant, Trump is talking to Bryan, who is sitting next to Birx, but mostly obscured by Trump’s podium.

   "The disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning. It gets in the lungs" -- Trump seems to suggests that injecting disinfectant inside people could be a treatment for the coronavirus pic.twitter.com/amis9Rphsm
   — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 23, 2020

And the viral clip of Birx reacting to Trump’s comments can make it appear as if he was talking to her:

By Jake Tapper, Anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent

Washington (CNN) To end Sunday's "State of the Union" on CNN, anchor Jake Tapper took a few moments to reflect on President Donald Trump's recent comments on treatment for the coronavirus. Below is a full transcript of Tapper's remarks: The President on Thursday did something so incredibly bizarre, some folks are having trouble wrapping their heads around it. After hearing from a Department of Homeland Security official about ways the biology of the novel coronavirus was being studied and the virus' susceptibility to sunlight and ultraviolet rays in the air and to disinfectants on nonporous solid surfaces, such as doorknobs, the President mused aloud about injecting ultraviolet rays and disinfectant into the human body. "And then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, you can -- which you can do, either through the skin or in some other way....Then I see the disinfectant knocks it out in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs," Trump said. Injection of disinfectant into the human body, it's the kind of musing that is so nonsensical children laugh about it. It's also the word of the President of the United States of America, a man so beloved and trusted in some circles. Government emergency tip lines had to issue warnings for constituents to not use disinfectants to treat the virus. Lysol had to issue a public warning to consumers that under no circumstances is internal admission of disinfectants appropriate. After the President's statement, his new press secretary who is apparently so eager to defend her boss she seems to not understand that we can all hear the words she says and read the words she issues. She claimed that the President had been taken out of context. He of course had not. His musings were there for all to see and hear. And then the President undermined his own press secretary by claiming he had been sarcastic and he was challenging reporters, which was just a bald-faced lie. In fact, while attempting to spin this, the President even said to a reporter that surely the reporter understood he was being sarcastic because the President had said it right to him. And the reporter told the President he had not been there at the time. "Some doctors felt they needed to clarify that, after you ..." the reporter said. "Well, of course, all they had to do was hear -- just you don't know the way it was asked. I was looking at you," Trump said. "No sir. I wasn't there yesterday," the reporter said.

By Devan Cole, CNN

Washington (CNN)Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Sunday that his state has received "hundreds of calls" from residents asking about the effectiveness of ingesting disinfectants to treat coronavirus after President Donald Trump dangerously suggested that it could be a possible treatment for the deadly virus. "We had hundreds of calls in our hotline here in Maryland about people asking about injecting or ingesting these disinfectants, which is, you know, hard to imagine that people thought that that was serious. But what people actually were thinking about this, was this something you could do to protect yourself?" Hogan, a Republican, said in an interview on CBS. Trump suggested during a White House coronavirus briefing on Thursday that ingesting disinfectants could possibly be used to treat people who have the virus, prompting cleaning product companies and state health officials to issue warnings about the dangers of doing so. The President also suggested sunlight might be a treatment. Hogan, who has sparred with Trump at times during the crisis, said Sunday it's "always critically important ... for a leader to put out the facts and to be as open and honest and transparent as possible." "And I think it's critical that the President of the United States, when people are really scared and in the middle of this worldwide pandemic, that in these press conferences that we really get the facts out there," he said. "And unfortunately, some of the messaging has not been great." The comments from Hogan come even as some Republicans and administration officials downplayed the President's suggestion, with Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican who is also a doctor, casting doubt earlier Sunday on whether people would actually inject themselves with disinfectants. "The President speaks in such a way, people are not going to inject themselves. And when I hear this kind of conversation around that, I think to myself, we should be talking about how do we use data to guide where we can reopen the economy, not about what the President said on Lysol because really no one is going to inject themselves with Lysol," Cassidy told CNN's John King on "Inside Politics." Later Sunday morning, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, sidestepped the opportunity to amplify warnings from health officials about the dangers of ingesting disinfectants.

By Jason Lemon

Maryland's Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, commented on Sunday of "a wrong message" being sent following President Donald Trump's controversial remarks about disinfectants and the coronavirus last week--pointing out that his state had received "hundred of calls" from residents wondering if it was safe to ingest cleaning products. During a Thursday press conference, Trump questioned whether it would be possible to inject disinfectants into the human body to combat the novel coronavirus. Health experts and companies making cleaning products--as well as many elected officials--quickly warned the public against attempting to inject or ingest disinfectants, as such actions could lead to serious illness and possible death. The president later claimed the remark was "sarcastic" and has since shared advice via Twitter from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that warned against using disinfectants in such a manner. But Hogan took issue with the remarks in an interview with ABC's This Week on Sunday. The Maryland Emergency Management Agency warned that “under no circumstance” should disinfectants be ingested.

Gov. Larry Hogan says they received “hundreds of calls” seeking guidance following Trump’s comments and it’s important to communicate “facts.” https://t.co/CuqjanBsBd pic.twitter.com/ud4WVz3Zr5
— ABC News (@ABC) April 26, 2020

"Well, look I think it's really important, this has been important to me since day one, about communicating very clearly on the facts," Hogan said. "Because people listen to these press conferences. They listen when the governor holds a press conference and they certainly pay attention when the president of the United States is standing there giving a press conference about something as serious as this worldwide pandemic."

The U.S. president's comments prompted doctors and the makers of household disinfectants to issue statements urging people not to ingest or inject cleaning products.
By Dan Evon

U.S. President Donald Trump suggested during a White House briefing that injecting disinfectants could treat COVID-19. On April 23, 2020, social media users encountered numerous comments that claimed U.S. President Donald Trump had suggested injecting disinfectants as a cure for COVID-19 during a White House press briefing. As many of these comments included jokes instead of a link to Trump’s alleged remarks, some people were left wondering what Trump actually said about disinfectants, injections, and COVID-19.  The comment in question came shortly after a presentation by William N. Bryan, the acting undersecretary for science and technology at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, about how heat and humidity could impact the spread of COVID-19 during the summer months. Bryan mentioned a recent, non-peer-reviewed study that showed how disinfectants and sunlight could kill the coronavirus on non-porous surfaces such as counters or door handles. Bryan’s presentation focused on how light and disinfectants affected the coronavirus on surfaces. But when Trump took the podium, he started talking about what would happen if light and disinfectants were “brought inside the body” to fight the virus. Here’s the official White House transcript of Trump’s remarks (emphasis added):

As his administration grapples with reopening the economy and responding to the coronavirus crisis, President Trump worries about his re-election and how the news media is portraying him.
By Katie Rogers and Annie Karni

WASHINGTON — President Trump arrives in the Oval Office these days as late as noon, when he is usually in a sour mood after his morning marathon of television. He has been up in the White House master bedroom as early as 5 a.m. watching Fox News, then CNN, with a dollop of MSNBC thrown in for rage viewing. He makes calls with the TV on in the background, his routine since he first arrived at the White House. But now there are differences. The president sees few allies no matter which channel he clicks. He is angry even with Fox, an old security blanket, for not portraying him as he would like to be seen. And he makes time to watch Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s briefings from New York, closely monitoring for a sporadic compliment or snipe. Confined to the White House, the president is isolated from the supporters, visitors, travel and golf that once entertained him, according to more than a dozen administration officials and close advisers who spoke about Mr. Trump’s strange new life. He is tested weekly, as is Vice President Mike Pence, for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The economy — Mr. Trump’s main case for re-election — has imploded. News coverage of his handling of the coronavirus has been overwhelmingly negative as Democrats have condemned him for a lack of empathy, honesty and competence in the face of a pandemic. Even Republicans have criticized Mr. Trump’s briefings as long-winded and his rough handling of critics as unproductive. His own internal polling shows him sliding in some swing states, a major reason he declared a temporary halt to the issuance of green cards to those outside the United States. The executive order — watered down with loopholes after an uproar from business groups — was aimed at pleasing his political base, people close to him said, and was the kind of move Mr. Trump makes when things feel out of control. Friends who have spoken to him said he seemed unsettled and worried about losing the election.

Mark Grenon wrote to Trump saying chlorine dioxide ‘can rid the body of Covid-19’ days before the president promoted disinfectant as treatment
By Ed Pilkington

The leader of the most prominent group in the US peddling potentially lethal industrial bleach as a “miracle cure” for coronavirus wrote to Donald Trump at the White House this week. In his letter, Mark Grenon told Trump that chlorine dioxide – a powerful bleach used in industrial processes such as textile manufacturing that can have fatal side-effects when drunk – is “a wonderful detox that can kill 99% of the pathogens in the body”. He added that it “can rid the body of Covid-19”. A few days after Grenon dispatched his letter, Trump went on national TV at his daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on Thursday and promoted the idea that disinfectant could be used as a treatment for the virus. To the astonishment of medical experts, the US president said that disinfectant “knocks it out in a minute. One minute!” He went on to say: “Is there a way we can do something, by an injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that.” Trump did not specify where the idea of using disinfectant as a possible remedy for Covid-19 came from, and the source for his notion remains obscure. But the Guardian has learned that peddlers of chlorine dioxide – industrial bleach – have been making direct approaches to the White House in recent days. Grenon styles himself as “archbishop” of Genesis II – a Florida-based outfit that claims to be a church but which in fact is the largest producer and distributor of chlorine dioxide bleach as a “miracle cure” in the US. He brands the chemical as MMS, “miracle mineral solution”, and claims fraudulently that it can cure 99% of all illnesses including cancer, malaria, HIV/Aids as well as autism. Since the start of the pandemic, Genesis II has been marketing MMS as a cure to coronavirus. It advises users, including children, to mix three to six drops of bleach in water and drink it. In his weekly televised radio show, posted online on Sunday, Grenon read out the letter he wrote to Trump. He said it began: “Dear Mr President, I am praying you read this letter and intervene.” Grenon said that 30 of his supporters have also written in the past few days to Trump at the White House urging him to take action to protect Genesis II in its bleach-peddling activities which they claim can cure coronavirus. On Friday, hours after Trump talked about disinfectant on live TV, Grenon went further in a post on his Facebook page. He claimed that MMS had actually been sent to the White House. He wrote: “Trump has got the MMS and all the info!!! Things are happening folks! Lord help others to see the Truth!”

The US president plans to ‘pare back’ his daily coronavirus briefings after falsely claiming his suggestion to inject cleaning products had been ‘sarcastic’
By David Smith and Kari Paul

For Donald Trump, it was the strangest and most news-making thing he could have done: instead of taking questions from journalists, dominating the nation’s airwaves yet again, the US president gave a short pre-written statement and then stalked off the stage. The abrupt end of Friday night’s daily press conference, which has become a ribald, unruly and often shocking ritual in America during the coronavirus pandemic, was probably the clearest sign yet of how badly Trump’s bizarre statements over disinfectant have shaken his administration. Instead of going on the offensive after the world reacted with shock and horror to his Thursday night suggestion that the coronavirus might be treated by injecting disinfectant into a human body, Trump claimed he was being “sarcastic” and then retreated from public view. The New York Times reported that some officials in the White House thought “it was one of the worst days in one of the worst weeks of his presidency.” But it was Trump’s silence on Friday night that spoke volumes. White House coronavirus taskforce briefings are often two-hour primetime marathons but on Friday Trump turned on his heel as reporters shouted questions in vain. Perhaps it was a fit of pique, or perhaps revenge on the reporters that he sees as persecutors. He may also have reached a tipping point with his own advisers warning that the televised briefings are hurting him far more than they help. Right on cue, minutes later, the Axios website reported that Trump plans to “pare back” his coronavirus press conferences, according to four of its sources. Next week, it said, “he may stop appearing daily and make shorter appearances when he does”. If he does that then Trump’s remarks over disinfectant will have been the straw that broke the camel’s back over the nightly ritual of the virus briefings. For weeks they have dominated the US headlines as the nation struggles to come to terms with a pandemic that has cost 50,000 American lives. They have provided a canvas for Trump’s rage, a platform from which he can attack his enemies and – only occasionally – a place where an American president can seek to reassure a scared and besieged public enduring stay-at-home orders to curb the virus. But Trump’s remarks over disinfectant changed all that. On Thursday, Trump had suggested that doctors study the idea of people receiving injections of disinfectant to combat the virus. He also extolled the potential and unproven benefits of ultraviolet light. Medical experts, politicians and even disinfectant makers denounced the suggestion and warned the public against consuming the product. Trump’s comments generated internet memes and headlines around the world. His old nemesis from 2016, Hillary Clinton, chimed in with a quick jab on Twitter. “Please don’t poison yourself because Donald Trump thinks it could be a good idea,” she said. His new nemesis for the 2020 election, former vice-president Joe Biden, also pitched in. “I can’t believe I have to say this, but please don’t drink bleach,” he said, mixing mockery with a public service announcement. From almost the moment the words left Trump’s mouth it was clear some sort of damage limitation was needed. But, as shock and amazement traversed the globe, it was slow in coming. When it did arrive, on Friday lunchtime, it was a clean-up attempt that clearly could have gone better. At a White House event Trump tried on Friday to justify his dangerous comments, falsely claiming that he was “asking a question sarcastically to reporters”.

By Reality Check team BBC News

President Donald Trump has questioned whether injecting people with disinfectants and exposing patients' bodies to UV light could help treat the coronavirus. The Reality Check team has been looking into both of these issues.

Claim 1
"I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs." Mr Trump suggested injecting patients with disinfectants might help treat coronavirus. Using a disinfectant can kill viruses on surfaces, but this is crucially only about infected objects and surfaces - not about what happens once the virus is inside your body. Not only does consuming or injecting disinfectant risk poisoning and death, it's not even likely to be effective. Doctors have appealed to people not to ingest or inject disinfectant, as there are concerns people will think this is a good idea and die. "Injecting bleach or disinfectant at the dose required to neutralise viruses in the circulating blood would likely result in significant, irreversible harm and probably a very unpleasant death," says Rob Chilcott, professor of toxicology at the University of Hertfordshire." He adds that it would also "not have much effect on viral particles within the cells". Reckitt Benckiser, a leading manufacturer of disinfectant products including Lysol and Dettol, has issued a statement in response to the president's comments. It said: "We must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route)." Mr Trump has subsequently defended his comment claiming "I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters."

Claim 2
"I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you're going to test that too... So, we'll see, but the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute - that's pretty powerful." Mr Trump has also floated the idea of exposing patients to "ultraviolet or just very powerful light". There is some evidence that, in general, viruses on surfaces die more quickly when exposed directly to sunlight. But we don't know how much or how long they have to be exposed for UV light to have an effect. And again, this is only about infected objects and surfaces - not about what happens once the virus is inside your body.

By Robert Farley and Eugene Kiely

At an April 23 press briefing, President Donald Trump mused about the possibility of using “very powerful light” and injecting disinfectant into the body to kill COVID-19 – a suggestion that, in the case of disinfectant, was roundly criticized by experts as dangerous. A day later, he said he was being “sarcastic.” There’s no clear indication in his remarks that Trump was joking, either in his initial comment or when he returned to the topic later in the briefing. But we’ll leave it for readers to judge.

The Briefing
At the briefing, William Bryan, who leads the science and technology directorate at the Department of Homeland Security, addressed the media about recent DHS research on how well the coronavirus survives on nonporous surfaces in heat, humidity and sunlight. Bryan said the “virus dies the quickest in the presence of direct sunlight” and also talked about the testing of disinfectants that quickly kill the virus on surfaces. Trump then spoke about the powers of sunlight and disinfectant, turning at times to address Bryan.

Trump, April 23: A question that probably some of you are thinking of if you’re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it. And then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you’re going to test that too. Sounds interesting, right? And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it’d be interesting to check that. So that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me. So, we’ll see, but the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute. That’s pretty powerful.

Here, Bryan responded to a reporter’s question about injecting a cleaner into the body, and Trump backtracked on his previous speculation about an “injection”:

ABC News chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl, April 23: The president mentioned the idea of a cleaner, bleach and isopropyl alcohol emerging. There’s no scenario where that could be injected into a person, is there?

Bryan: No, I’m here to talk about the finds that we had in the study. We don’t do that within that lab at our labs.

Trump: It wouldn’t be through injection. We’re talking about through almost a cleaning, sterilization of an area. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work. But it certainly has a big effect if it’s on a stationary object.

Later in the briefing, Trump suggested applying “light and heat to cure,” and Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, responded to Trump’s question by saying she hasn’t heard of heat or light “as a treatment.”

Social Security numbers a must for both spouses if they file joint tax returns

Washington: President Donald Trump was sued over a provision of the coronavirus relief package that could deny $1,200 (Dh4,407) stimulus checks to more than 1 million Americans married to immigrants without Social Security Numbers. The suit was filed Friday by an Illinois man using the pseudonym John Doe, who seeks to represent all others in his position. Doe claims a carve-out in the relief package discriminates against him "based solely on whom he chose to marry." The $2 billion Cares Act, approved by Congress last month, provides $1,200 payments to US taxpayers who earn as much as $75,000 - plus $500 for each child. But to be eligible, both spouses in families that file joint tax returns must have Social Security numbers - unless one of them is a member of the military. That leaves 1.2 million Americans ineligible, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in Chicago. The lawsuit cites the Migration Policy Institute which says on its website that's how many "unauthorized" immigrants in the US are married to Americans.

Experts across the board insist that household cleaners should not be used internally on humans.
By Cody Fenwick

Facing a barrage of fact-checks, criticism, and mockery, President Donald Trump and his defenders are trying to make excuses for his absurd and dangerous suggestion on Thursday that injecting people with disinfectants might help fight COVID-19. To be 100 percent clear: There's no reason to think this would work, and it is an even potentially fatal idea. Experts across the board insist that household cleaners should not be used internally on humans. Because this is an obvious fact, Trump and his supporters are desperate to find an excuse for his dangerous suggestion. And unfortunately for them, two of the excuses they've already offered are contradictory. To review, here's what Trump actually said:

   And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out, in a minute. One minute. Is there a way we can do something like that? By injection, inside, or almost a cleaning, 'cause you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. You're going to have to use medical doctors, right? But it sounds interesting to me.

These remarks came after a discussion of a recent study on sunlight and disinfectants' abilities to kill the virus on surfaces, outside of the body. Before discussing disinfectants, Trump also preposterously speculated that light could somehow be used externally or internally on the human body to treat COVID-19, which Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, dismissed. Watch the remarks below:

   After hearing presentation President Trump suggests irradiating people's bodies with UV light or injecting them with bleach or alcohol to deal with COVID19. pic.twitter.com/cohkLyyl9G — Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) April 23, 2020

If you watch the remarks, there's really no ambiguity about what Trump is saying. He's trying to extrapolate from studies about effective methods of cleaning the virus in the environment to treating humans who are infected. It's a frankly childish understanding of medicine, but he presented it as a fascinating possibility — and on national TV, no less, where some vulnerable and susceptible viewers may actually take his claims seriously. So how could one possibly defend these remarks? Breitbart, a far-right website that closely aligns itself with the president, took a widely mocked stab at offering an excuse in the form of "fact check":

   CLAIM: President Donald Trump suggested injecting people with disinfectant to cure coronavirus.

   VERDICT: False. Trump was speaking generally about new information about sunlight, heat, and disinfectant killing the virus.

This is not so. As the clip shows, Trump was talking about using this information as a possible basis for testing potential treatments of COVID-19.

By Daniel Dale

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump lied Friday when he said he was being "sarcastic" when he asked medical experts on Thursday to look into the possibility of injecting disinfectant as a treatment for the coronavirus. Doctors and the company that makes Lysol and Dettol warned that injecting or ingesting disinfectants is dangerous. But when Trump was asked about the comments during a bill signing on Friday, he said, "I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen." He then suggested he was talking about disinfectants that can safely be rubbed on people's hands. And then he returned to the sarcasm explanation, saying it was "a very sarcastic question to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside." A reporter noted that he had asked his medical experts to look into it. Trump responded: "No, no, no, no -- to look into whether or not sun and disinfectant on the hands, but whether or not sun can help us."

Facts First: Trump was not being "sarcastic" on Thursday when he raised the possibility of injecting disinfectant. There was simply no indication that he was being anything less than serious. He was also wrong Friday when he denied he had asked the medical experts to "check" the idea of disinfectant injections; he was looking at them at the time. And he did not mention hands during his Thursday remarks. Here's what Trump said Thursday while looking in the direction of coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and Department of Homeland Security science official Bill Bryan: "And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you're going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds -- it sounds interesting to me."

McConnell puts party above America, and Trump above party
By Robert Reich

This originally appeared on Robert Reich's blog.

He’s maybe the most dangerous politician of my lifetime. He’s helped transform the Republican Party into a cult, worshiping at the altar of authoritarianism. He’s damaged our country in ways that may take a generation to undo. The politician I’m talking about, of course, is Mitch McConnell. Two goals for November 3, 2020: The first and most obvious is to get the worst president in history out of the White House. That’s necessary but not sufficient. We also have to flip the Senate and remove the worst Senate Majority Leader in history. Like Trump, Mitch McConnell is no garden-variety bad public official. McConnell puts party above America, and Trump above party. Even if Trump is gone, if the Senate remains in Republican hands and McConnell is reelected, America loses because McConnell will still have a chokehold on our democracy. This is the man who refused for almost a year to allow the Senate to consider President Obama’s moderate Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland. And then, when Trump became president, this is the man who got rid of the age-old Senate rule requiring 60 Senators to agree on a Supreme Court nomination so he could ram through not one but two Supreme Court justices, including one with a likely history of sexual assault. This is the man who rushed through the Senate, without a single hearing, a $2 trillion tax cut for big corporations and wealthy Americans — a tax cut that raised the government debt by almost the same amount, generated no new investment, failed to raise wages, but gave the stock market a temporary sugar high because most corporations used the tax savings to buy back their own shares of stock. McConnell refuses to support what’s needed for comprehensive election security — although both the U.S. intelligence community and Special Prosecutor Mueller say Moscow is continuing to hack into our voting machines and to weaponize disinformation through social media. McConnell has earned the nickname “Moscow Mitch” because he’s doing exactly what Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump want him to do — leave America vulnerable to another Putin-supported victory for Trump. McConnell is also blocking bipartisan background-check legislation for gun sales, even after the mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, El Paso and Odessa, Texas. So even if Trump is out of the White House, if McConnell remains Senate Majority Leader he will not allow a Democratic president to govern. He won’t allow debate or votes on Medicare for All, universal pre-K, a wealth tax, student loan forgiveness, or the Green New Deal. He won’t allow confirmation votes on judges nominated by a Democratic president. The good news is McConnell is the least popular senator in the country with his own constituents. He’s repeatedly sacrificed Kentucky to Trump’s agenda — for example, agreeing to Trump’s so-called emergency funding for a border wall, which would take $63 million away from projects like a new middle school on the border between Kentucky and Tennessee. McConnell is even cut funding for black lung disease suffered by Kentucky coal miners. I know from my years as labor secretary that coal mining is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, and the number of cases of incurable black lung disease has been on the rise. But when a group of miners took a 10-hour bus ride to Washington this past summer to ask McConnell to restore the funding, McConnell met with them for one minute and then refused to help them. No wonder Democrats are lining up in Kentucky to run against Moscow Mitch in 2020.

No, the Postal Service isn't losing a fortune on Amazon. President Donald Trump took a swing at Amazon once more on April 2, blaming the digital retailer for the United States Postal Service’s financial woes. "Only fools, or worse, are saying that our money losing Post Office makes money with Amazon," Trump tweeted. "THEY LOSE A FORTUNE, and this will be changed. Also, our fully tax paying retailers are closing stores all over the country...not a level playing field!"

   Only fools, or worse, are saying that our money losing Post Office makes money with Amazon. THEY LOSE A FORTUNE, and this will be changed. Also, our fully tax paying retailers are closing stores all over the country...not a level playing field!    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2018

We addressed the closing of retailers across the country in another Amazon-USPS tweet-inspired story last week. (Trump had a point.) But for this fact-check, we wondered whether Amazon is causing the Postal Service to "lose a fortune." The post office is losing a fortune, but Trump is wrong to blame Amazon.

Parcels are growing the Postal Service
The Postal Service reported a net loss of $2.7 billion for 2017. It has lost $65.1 billion since 2007. Much of the red ink is attributed to a 2006 law mandating that USPS pre-fund future retirees’ health benefits. First-class mail, the USPS’ biggest source of revenue, also continued to shrink, seeing a $1.87 billion revenue loss in fiscal year 2017. Package delivery, however, was one of the few bright spots in its latest financial statement. In 2017, parcels brought in $19.5 billion, or 28 percent of USPS’ annual revenue. At $2.1 billion, packages contributed the largest revenue increase. Deals with private shippers like Amazon accounted for $7 billion of the $19.5 billion in revenue. While we know that Amazon is the biggest e-commerce player, we don’t know exactly how much of the $7 billion comes from Amazon, because the details of the postal service’s deals with private shippers are considered proprietary and not made public.


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Friday that he won't approve a $10 billion loan for the U.S. Postal Service unless the agency raises charges for Amazon and other big shippers to four to five times current rates. “The Postal Service is a joke because they’re handing out packages for Amazon and other internet companies and every time they bring a package, they lose money on it,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. The president was responding to a question about reports his administration plans to force major changes in postal operations as the price for approving a $10 billion loan that was included in the government’s $2 trillion economic rescue package. Under the rescue package legislation, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin must approve the loan before the Postal Service can receive the money. Officials at the Postal Service had no immediate reaction to Trump's comments. Trump said the changes the administration will insist on will make it a “whole new ballgame” at the Postal Service. He said the Postal Service did not want to make the changes because they did not want to offend Amazon and other companies. Looking at Mnuchin, who was with him in the Oval Office, the president said, “If they don’t raise the price of the service they give ... I’m not signing anything and I’m not authorizing you to do anything.” Mnuchin told reporters that he had Treasury officials working with the Postal Service on the terms of the loan if postal officials decide they need more money. “We are going to post certain criteria for (a) postal reform program as part of the loan,” Mnuchin said. He said the Postal Service board is already conducting a search for a new postmaster general to run the agency and undertaking reforms of operations. - Once again, Trump’s stupidity will cost American consumers more money. Just like tariffs, the cost will be passed to the American consumer. Why does Trump drive up cost to make American consumer pay more for goods they buy.

[The Week]
By Peter Weber ,The Week

In its $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, Congress authorized a $10 billion loan for the U.S. Postal Service, projecting a $13 billion shortfall this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its hit on mail, catalogs, and advertisements. But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejected a bipartisan push for a USPS bailout in the package, and before he approves the emergency USPS loan, he wants unprecedented leverage over how the independent agency is run, The Washington Post reports. Mnuchin has been pushing for significant changes at the USPS since President Trump named them as a priority in an Oval Office meeting more than a year ago, the Post reports. Trump has publicly criticized the Postal Service for years, usually pairing his grievances with USPS management and Amazon and its owner, Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Post. Mnuchin, like Trump, wants the USPS to charge higher rates for package delivery — Trump reportedly wanted to double Amazon's rate, specifically — and Treasury officials tell the Post that Mnuchin is also seeking authority to review senior hiring decisions, appoint the next postmaster general, and drive collective bargaining strategy to squeeze concessions out of the powerful postal unions. The USPS is also expected to play a larger role in the November election as people mail in their ballots. Loan discussions are still ongoing. The USPS's business decisions are typically made by the five-member board of governors, appointed by the president, and the independent Postal Regulatory Commission. The board of governors has previously rejected Mnuchin's restructuring recommendations, the Post repots. Trump has frequently singled out Amazon in his USPS tweets and comments, claiming incorrectly that the Postal Service loses money by delivering Amazon's packages. - Once again, Trump’s stupidity will cost American consumers more money. Just like tariffs, the cost will be passed to the American consumer. Why does Trump drive up cost to make American consumer pay more for goods they buy.

[The Week]

Everyone confined to home during the COVID-19 pandemic deals with the angst, inconvenience, and boredom differently. President Trump, though not like any other American in most regards, begins and ends his day in front of the TV, arriving in the Oval Office as late as noon and "usually in a sour mood after his morning marathon of television," Katie Rogers and Annie Karni report at The New York Times, piecing together the president's "strange new life" through interviews with more than a dozen administration officials and close advisers. By the time he arrives at work, Trump "has been up in the White House master bedroom as early as 5 a.m. watching Fox News, then CNN, with a dollop of MSNBC thrown in for rage viewing," the Times reports. "The president sees few allies no matter which channel he clicks. He is angry even with Fox, an old security blanket, for not portraying him as he would like to be seen." Trump calls advisers with the TV on, stews about internal polls showing him losing support in some swing states, sits through his intelligence briefing, and gets tested for COVID-19 once a week, the Times reports. "But the president’s primary focus, advisers said, is assessing how his performance on the virus is measured in the news media, and the extent to which history will blame him." White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told the Times that Trump's "highest priority is the health and safety of the American people," not his news coverage.

By Allyson Chiu, Katie Shepherd, Brittany Shammas and Colby Itkowitz

Amid a flurry of backlash and ridicule, President Trump walked back his suggestion that scientists test whether disinfectants, like bleach, could be injected inside the human body to fight the coronavirus, claiming Friday that he had said it sarcastically. The president offered his idea for a cure in the White House briefing room Thursday after a presentation that mentioned that disinfectants can kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces and in the air. “I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” Trump said during Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing. “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets inside the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.” - Trump is the only person in the world that would lie and claim he was being sarcastic during a pandemic that is killing people around the world.

A Homeland Security official, under questioning from reporters, later said federal laboratories are not considering such a treatment option.
By Dartunorro Clark

President Donald Trump suggested the possibility of an "injection" of disinfectant into a person infected with the coronavirus as a deterrent to the virus during his daily briefing Thursday. Trump made the remark after Bill Bryan, who leads the Department of Homeland Security's science and technology division, gave a presentation on research his team has conducted that shows that the virus doesn't live as long in warmer and more humid temperatures. Bryan said, "The virus dies quickest in sunlight," leaving Trump to wonder whether you could bring the light "inside the body." "So supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it's ultraviolet or just a very powerful light — and I think you said that hasn't been checked because of the testing," Trump said, speaking to Bryan during the briefing. "And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or some other way, and I think you said you're going to test that, too." He added: "I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning? As you see, it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that." He didn't specify the kind of disinfectant. Medical professionals, including Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist, global health policy expert and an NBC News and MSNBC contributor. were quick to challenge the president's "improper health messaging." “This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible and it’s dangerous," said Gupta. "It’s a common method that people utilize when they want to kill themselves." The maker of Lysol also issued a statement warning against any internal use of the cleaning product.

The president's financial dealings with the state-owned bank complicate his attacks on Biden.

Donald Trump is warning “China will own the United States” if Joe Biden is elected president. But Trump himself is tens of millions of dollars in debt to China: In 2012, his real estate partner refinanced one of Trump’s most prized New York buildings for almost $1 billion. The debt includes $211 million from the state-owned Bank of China — its first loan of this kind in the U.S. — which matures in the middle of what could be Trump’s second term, financial records show. Steps away from Trump Tower in Manhattan, the 43-story 1290 Avenue of the Americas skyscraper spans an entire city block. Trump owns a 30 percent stake in the property valued at more than $1 billion, making it one of the priciest addresses in his portfolio, according to his financial disclosures. Trump’s ownership of the building received a smattering of attention before and after his 2016 campaign. But the arrangement with the Bank of China — and its impending due date in 2022 — has gone largely unnoticed. The revelation complicates one of Trump’s emerging campaign attacks against Biden: that the former vice president would be a gift to the Communist country and America’s chief economic rival. Aside from the historic precedent of a developer-turned president paying back millions to a bank controlled a foreign government, the 2012 Bank of China deal also stands out because Trump and his campaign have repeatedly highlighted the same bank's role in a $1.5 billion deal announced in 2013 by partners of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. Critics of the Bidens have seized on the fact that the agreement materialized just days after Hunter Biden traveled to China with the then-vice president, who was there on official business. “Why did the Chinese government's bank want to do business with Hunter Biden while his dad was Vice President,” Trump’s campaign asked on Twitter earlier this month. The issue was also raised in a campaign ad the day before, one in a stream of criticisms about the China deal raised by campaign spokespeople and Trump since last year. The Trump campaign has steadily increased its focus on trying to portray Biden as weak on China amid rising voter disapproval of China, the source of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump surrogate Corey Lewandowski dubbed him “Beijing Biden” in an online campaign event Wednesday. And during a White House press briefing Saturday, Trump said China will “own” the U.S. if Biden wins. But Trump’s recent criticisms of China have been muddied by his own mixed messaging as well as by his numerous financial ties to the country. Those connections extend far beyond the Avenue of the America’s loan: Chinese state-owned companies are constructing two luxury Trump developments in United Arab Emirates and Indonesia. The president and his daughter Ivanka Trump, a White House adviser, have been awarded trademarks by China’s government. And his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has courted Chinese investors in at least one other real estate deal.

By Ted Johnson

President Donald Trump’s briefing on Thursday was devoted in part to a presentation from a Homeland Security official who presented data suggesting the coronavirus does not survive as long in high humidity and sunlight. The presentation came from William Bryan, an official with the Department of Homeland Security, who said that solar light had a “powerful” impact on killing the virus. But he also said that they were studying how disinfectants eradicate the virus within minutes. Later, Trump suggested that such findings could be applied to a study of killing the virus within the body. “Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous ultra violet or just very powerful light,” he said, looking toward Bryan and Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus task force. “And I think you said that hasn’t been checked but you are going to test it.” He added, “And then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you could do either through the skin or in some other way. I think you said that you are going to test that, too. And then I saw the disinfectant, where knocks it out in one minute, and is there a way we could do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning. As you see it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.” Bryan later said that using disinfectant to clean the lungs is not possible. “Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work,” Trump then said. After Trump advanced the possible effects of sunlight, he got testy after a reporter questioned whether it was spreading rumors of potential miracle cures. Phil Rucker of The Washington Post said to Trump, “Respectfully, sir, you’re the president, and people tuning into the briefings, they want to get information and guidance and want to know what to do. They’re not looking for rumor.” Trump responded, “Hey Phil. I’m the president, and you’re fake news. And know what I will say to you? I will say it to you very nicely because I know you well. I know the guy, I see what he writes. He is a total faker. He then said that it was merely an idea to test. “Are you ready? It is just a suggestion, from a brilliant lab by a very, very smart, perhaps brilliant man,” Trump said. “[Bryan] is talking about sun. He’s talking about heat, and you see the numbers. I’m just here to present talent. I am here to present ideas, because we want ideas to get rid of this thing. So if heat is good, if sunlight is good, that is a great thing as far as I am concerned.”

Opinion: Wait, Trump wants to ‘LIBERATE’ Michigan but not Georgia?
By Scott MartelleEditorial Writer

By now we should all be inured to the whiplash-inducing comments of President Trump, who, as my father used to say, could screw up an iron ball. Just last week he was tweeting his support to armed anti-government activists and conservative protesters seeking an end to stay-at-home orders in three states with Democratic governors: Michigan, Virginia and Minnesota. The president also, contradicting his top health advisors, says he wants an early resumption of normal business and social activity. Well, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican Trump backer, seemed to take the president seriously (silly man) and announced that Georgia would begin rolling back stay-at-home restrictions, just the kind of move demanded by the folks Trump encouraged to “LIBERATE” (the all-caps were his) other states. Trump’s response to Kemp’s move? “I want him to do what he thinks is right, but I disagree with him on what he is doing,” Trump said late Wednesday. “I think it’s too soon.” So, it’s fine to “liberate” Michigan, but too soon to “liberate” Georgia? The folks at the federal Centers for Disease Control — based in Atlanta — must be having some, um, interesting internal discussions over that. Of course, this is all politics, and part of Trump’s standard operating procedure to goad, troll and agitate to create as much chaos, uncertainty and smoke as he can. Amid the noise, he pushes forward his agenda, keeps flogging his supporters like a jockey at Santa Anita Park and tries to keep those who disagree with or oppose him on a defensive footing. That’s no way to lead a country, even one that isn’t in the midst of a dangerous pandemic.

By Caroline Kelly

(CNN) President Donald Trump said Thursday he disagrees with Dr. Anthony Fauci after the nation's top infectious disease expert said the US needs to "significantly ramp up" testing. "We absolutely need to significantly ramp up, not only the number of tests but the capacity to actually perform them," Fauci said during a Time 100 Talks interview on Thursday. That way, he continued, "you don't have a situation where you have a test, but it can't be done because there's not a swab, or not an extraction media or not the right vial -- all of those things got to be in place." "I am not overly confident right now at all, that we have what it takes to do that," Fauci added. During Thursday's coronavirus task force news briefing -- which Fauci was not at -- Trump addressed Fauci's remarks and said he thinks the country is doing "a great job." "I don't agree with him on that, no, I think we're doing a great job on testing," Trump said. Fauci's comments run counter to Trump's regular assurances that American coronavirus testing is on solid footing, including on Wednesday when he told reporters "we're doing more testing, I think, than probably any of the governors want." Trump and his political allies have touted the total number of coronavirus tests conducted in the US but the country still lags behind Italy in per capita tests performed. Fauci's comments also come as several governors look to partially reopen their states' economies by loosening some restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the virus -- despite concerns of subsequent increases in coronavirus cases and vacillating support from the administration. Public health experts widely agree that to control the epidemic in the absence of strict social distancing measures, states and localities will need to build the capacity for additional testing and contact tracing.

"I'm accurately quoted in the Washington Post"
By Alex Henderson

At his nightly White House press conference on Wednesday, April 22, President Donald Trump was hoping that the three health officials he had with him — Dr. Robert Redfield of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx — would join him in downplaying the possibility that a second coronavirus wave could occur in the fall. But things did not go as Trump had hoped, and none of the health officials entertained that possibility. The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 included a first wave that was deadly and a second wave during the fall that was much worse, and Redfield recently warned that history could repeat itself with the coronavirus pandemic — that a second wave in the fall could likely be even worse than all the death and suffering that is happening now. But Trump, during the Wednesday press conference, claimed that coronavirus might "go away" and not return with a vengeance in the fall — and that Redfield was misquoted in a Washington Post article published the day before on April 21. Redfield, however, refused to join Trump in his claim that the Post was reporting "fake news" and told reporters, "I'm accurately quoted in the Washington Post." And Redfield didn't back down from his warning that this fall and the 2020/2021 winter could be even deadlier than what it occurring now.

By David Jackson - USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said he disagrees with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's decision to move quickly to reopen parts of the state's economy, but said the final call belongs to the governor. "I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree, strongly, with his decision to open certain facilities,” Trump told reporters, saying the state's coronavirus case numbers don't meet the threshold needed to reopen under the White House's guidelines. At the same time, Trump added, Kemp "must do what he thinks is right." Kemp said he appreciated Trump's critique – and praised his "bold leadership and insight during these difficult times" – but would stick with a plan in which businesses re-open carefully with restrictions designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus. "Our next measured step is driven by data and guided by state public health officials," Kemp said in a series of tweets. "We will continue with this approach to protect the lives – and livelihoods – of all Georgians."

By Stephanie Baker and Caleb Melby

The Trump Organization is seeking U.K. and Irish bailout money to help cover wages for bartenders, bagpipers and other employees furloughed from its European golf properties because of the coronavirus lockdown. Overseas businesses owned by U.S. President Donald Trump can tap government funds meant to help retain workers. In the U.S., by contrast, they’re specifically written out of the enormous U.S. economic relief package. The result is a potentially stark gap between how workers in different countries may weather the crisis, even within the same global operation. In the U.K. and Ireland, where Trump owns three money-losing golf resorts, companies can tap enough government cash to pay most of their workers’ salaries. It’s unclear whether the Trump Organization is paying the balance of the salaries for furloughed workers. In the U.S., roughly 2,000 employees dismissed from Trump golf courses and hotels will have to line up with millions of others to apply for unemployment payments. There’s nothing improper about Trump companies seeking the U.K. and Irish funds, which are offered universally to help workers weather the crisis. Even so, social-media blowback has been swift against deep-pocketed owners who could arguably weather the crisis without seeking state handouts. These include Victoria Beckham, the former Spice Girl who reportedly furloughed as many as 30 employees at her money-losing luxury fashion label.

By Kristen Holmes, Kaitlan Collins and Eric Bradner, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both called Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday night and expressed support and praise for the Republican's move to reopen businesses in his state starting Friday, a source familiar with the call said. The call came as public health officials warned that Kemp is moving too quickly, some business owners said they would keep their doors closed and mayors said they feared Kemp's action would deepen the coronavirus crisis in their communities. Trump and Pence complimented Kemp on his performance as Georgia governor, the source said. Another person familiar with the call said it went well. Kemp, a staunch ally of Trump, on Monday announced Georgia would allow nail salons, massage therapists, bowling alleys and gyms to open Friday. In-person church services can resume. And restaurants and movie theaters can open Monday. His order also bars cities from imposing their own restrictions on businesses. It's the most aggressive move yet to reopen a state's economy as Trump optimistically pushes for a May 1 end to some statewide lockdowns. It also came as a surprise to mayors and some members of Kemp's own coronavirus task force. Kemp made the decision to reopen the state's businesses at least a day before announcing it but did not inform the White House beforehand, a source familiar with the matter said. Data collected by Johns Hopkins University shows that as of Wednesday, Georgia had seen 20,166 confirmed cases of coronavirus and had recorded 818 deaths resulting from the virus. "In the same way that we carefully closed businesses and urged operations to end to mitigate the virus' spread, today we're announcing plans to incrementally and safely reopen sectors of our economy," Kemp told reporters Monday. Kemp's decision has drawn criticism from public health experts who have repeatedly stressed the dangers of relaxing social distancing measures too early.

By Greg Myre

President Trump says the U.S. Navy should fire on Iranian boats if they continue to harass U.S. warships in the Gulf, a move that raises the prospect of open hostilities between the two rivals. The president's Wednesday morning tweet came shortly after Iran announced it had successfully launched a military satellite into orbit for the first time. With the U.S. and Iran both battling to control a coronavirus outbreak at home, the ongoing friction between the two countries had receded from the headlines. But Wednesday's developments point to an escalation of tensions that have been building in recent days. Last week, U.S. military ships were in the northern Persian Gulf for exercises. The U.S. warships were in international waters, though relatively close to Iran.

   I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.
   — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2020

Iran sent small boats, known as "fast boats," toward the American warships, with one coming as close as 10 yards, according to the Navy, which released a video. The Pentagon accused Iran of sending 11 fast boats to make "dangerous and harassing approaches" to six American warships. These kinds of standoffs in the Gulf have been taking place for many years. The U.S. and Iran usually observe unwritten rules and the confrontations rarely escalate into actual hostilities, with occasional exceptions. However, Trump's instruction for the Navy to shoot Iranian boats raises the ante.

By Alexandra Hutzler

After Attorney General William Barr criticized the president for making his job "impossible," Donald Trump asserted Friday that he has the "legal right" to interfere with criminal cases handled by the Department of Justice. But former DOJ officials warn that any interference by the president in criminal prosecutions, while not illegal, is a highly unusual move that would undermine the country's justice system.

The President has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case. A.G. Barr This doesn't mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!
   — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2020

"The president arguably, as head of the executive branch, has the constitutional authority and discretion to give direction to the Department of Justice or any other executive branch. But it is grossly improper and an abuse of that discretion for the president to seek to influence a criminal investigation," David Laufman, the DOJ's former counterintelligence chief, told Newsweek. He added that throughout the history of the Justice Department there have been "explicit understandings" in how the White House can communicate with the law enforcement agency—until now. "I can't think of any president in recent modern history that has repeatedly made public statements about pending criminal investigations, prosecutions or trials with the intent to influence them," Laufman said. Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman agreed, noting that there's nothing in the Constitution preventing Trump from telling the attorney general how to handle a certain case but that it's "just never done." "It's never done because it looks like the president is interfering in the system of justice, that he is putting his own personal beliefs on top of what we want as even-handed enforcement of our criminal law," Akerman told Newsweek. "This is something unique to Donald Trump."

By Alana Wise

Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department would support legal action against states that continue to impose strict social distancing rules even after coronavirus cases begin to subside in their respective states. In a Tuesday interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt, Barr called some current stay-at-home orders "burdens on civil liberties" and said that if they continued and lawsuits were brought, his department would side against the state. "The idea that you have to stay in your house is disturbingly close to house arrest. I'm not saying it wasn't justified. I'm not saying in some places it might still be justified. But it's very onerous, as is shutting down your livelihood," Barr said. President Trump has expressed an eagerness to reopen states' economies as soon as possible, pitching the possibility of some states easing coronavirus restrictions even before the federal guidelines on social distancing expire on May 1. Already, two states with Republican governors, Georgia and South Carolina, have said they will allow some businesses to reopen as soon as this week, despite not meeting the White House-recommended criteria to relax COVID-19 restrictions. Barr was asked what he would do with any governors who are "indifferent" to easing restrictions in their states. "We're looking carefully at a number of these rules that are being put into place," Barr said. "And if we think one goes too far, we initially try to jawbone the governors into rolling them back or adjusting them. And if they're not and people bring lawsuits, we file statement of interest and side with the plaintiffs."

By David Wallace-Wells

Whenever you start to think that the federal government under Donald Trump has hit a moral bottom, it finds a new way to shock and horrify. Over the last few weeks, it has started to appear as though, in addition to abandoning the states to their own devices in a time of national emergency, the federal government has effectively erected a blockade — like that which the Union used to choke off the supply chains of the Confederacy during the Civil War — to prevent delivery of critical medical equipment to states desperately in need. At the very least, federal authorities have made governors and hospital executives all around the country operate in fear that shipments of necessary supplies will be seized along the way. In a time of pandemic, having evacuated federal responsibility, the White House is functionally waging a war against state leadership and the initiative of local hospitals to secure what they need to provide sufficient treatment. Yesterday, a letter published by the New England Journal of Medicine highlighted the extraordinary measures that had to be taken to secure the delivery into Massachusetts of equipment that had been bought and paid for. The NEJM, which featured the letter in its COVID-19 Notes series, is far from a platform of partisan alarm or hysteria — it is among the most sober and high-minded professional journals in the country. It’s worth reading the correspondence, written by an executive running a small health system, at some length:

Our supply-chain group has worked around the clock to secure gowns, gloves, face masks, goggles, face shields, and N95 respirators. These employees have adapted to a new normal, exploring every lead, no matter how unusual. Deals, some bizarre and convoluted, and many involving large sums of money, have dissolved at the last minute when we were outbid or outmuscled, sometimes by the federal government. Then we got lucky, but getting the supplies was not easy. A lead came from an acquaintance of a friend of a team member. After several hours of vetting, we grew confident of the broker’s professional pedigree and the potential to secure a large shipment of three-ply face masks and N95 respirators. The latter were KN95 respirators, N95s that were made in China. We received samples to confirm that they could be successfully fit-tested. Despite having cleared this hurdle, we remained concerned that the samples might not be representative of the bulk of the products that we would be buying. Having acquired the requisite funds — more than five times the amount we would normally pay for a similar shipment, but still less than what was being requested by other brokers — we set the plan in motion. Three members of the supply-chain team and a fit tester were flown to a small airport near an industrial warehouse in the mid-Atlantic region. I arrived by car to make the final call on whether to execute the deal. Two semi-trailer trucks, cleverly marked as food-service vehicles, met us at the warehouse. When fully loaded, the trucks would take two distinct routes back to Massachusetts to minimize the chances that their contents would be detained or redirected.

By Nicky Roberston and Katelyn Polantz, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump Sunday would not say whether he will pardon several former associates who were convicted after being charged as part of the Mueller probe, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and long-time friend Roger Stone. When asked about pardons at the coronavirus task force briefing, Trump responded: "You will find out." Trump also harshly criticized FBI officials for how they conducted the investigation of whether Russia was trying to interfere in the 2016 election, which the bureau started before Special Counsel Robert Mueller took it over. The President called FBI officials involved in the Russia investigation "human scum" in the briefing because he believes the lives of several of his friends and colleagues were unnecessarily ruined because of the probe. The Justice Department's inspector general, in a broad review of the start of the FBI's Russia counterintelligence investigation, found the investigation was opened properly but that the FBI made serious errors in its observations of Trump political associates. The Mueller investigation, after two years of painstaking fact-finding, documented several contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russians, as the campaign was seeking to benefit from efforts to sow discord in the American election, as well as several attempts by the President to obstruct the investigation. Manafort was convicted for bank and tax fraud and admitted to foreign lobbying-related crimes. Trump said that Stone, who was convicted and sentenced for lying to Congress about his efforts during the 2016 campaign, was "treated unfairly." He also said that Manafort's "black book" documenting payments from Ukrainians was "a fraud."

"I don’t think it’s helpful to encourage demonstrations and encourage people to go against the president’s own policy," said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
By Allan Smith

Governors across the country on Sunday criticized President Donald Trump's expression of solidarity with those protesting various state-issued stay-at-home orders, saying his comments are "dangerous" and "don't make any sense." "I don't know any other way to characterize it, when we have an order from governors, both Republicans and Democrats, that basically are designed to protect people's health, literally their lives, to have a president of the United States basically encourage insubordination, to encourage illegal activity," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, told ABC's "This Week," adding, "To have an American president to encourage people to violate the law, I can't remember any time during my time in America where we have seen such a thing." Inslee said Trump's comments were "dangerous" because they "can inspire people to ignore things that actually can save their lives." Trump's promotion of the protesters was "hobbling our national efforts to protect people from this terrible virus." "And it is doubly frustrating to us governor because this is such a schizophrenia, because the president basically is asking people: Please ignore Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx. Please ignore my own guidelines that I set forth, because those guidelines made very clear, if you read them — and I don't know if the president did or not — but, if you read them, it made very clear that you cannot open up Michigan today or Virginia," Inslee said. "Under those guidelines, you need to see a decline in the infections and fatalities. And that simply has not happened yet."

By Lisette Voytko - Forbes Staff

The Washington Post reported Sunday that over a dozen Americans working at the World Health Organization provided “real-time” information about the emerging coronavirus to the White House, seeming to undercut President Trump’s accusations that the WHO failed to communicate the extent of the disease’s threat. U.S. physicians, researchers and public health experts⁠—many connected to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention⁠—were working at WHO’s Geneva headquarters as part of a years-long rotation, the Post reported, and they provided information about the coronavirus to the White House as it emerged late last year. CDC officials were consulting with their WHO counterparts since the outbreak began, with sensitive information being shared with U.S. officials (including Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar) in a CDC secure facility, the Post reported. The WHO often told CDC about its plans or announcements days in advance, the Post reported, citing an unnamed CDC official. Trump earlier blamed WHO for delays in response to the virus as well as a lack of transparency, but an April 11 New York Times report said warnings issued to the administration by different parts of the federal government in January and February were ignored. Three days after the Times report, Trump announced a hold on $500 million in funding from the U.S. to the WHO, a move that Democrats say is illegal.

Experts have said testing would need to be at least doubled from current levels in order to allow for even a partial reopening of America's economy.
By Allan Smith

Governors across the country on Sunday pushed back on the Trump administration's claims that states are conducting a "sufficient" level of coronavirus testing. Speaking with CNN's "State of the Union," Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, said it was "delusional" to suggest the states have enough tests to soon begin reopening their economies. "That's just delusional to be making statements like that," Northam said. "We have been fighting every day for PPE. And we have got some supplies now coming in. We have been fighting for testing. It's not a — it's not a straightforward test. We don't even have enough swabs, believe it or not. And we're ramping that up. But for the national level say that we have what we need, and really to have no guidance to the state levels, is just irresponsible, because we're not there yet." Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, told CNN that the "lack of testing" is "probably the number one problem in America, and has been from the beginning of this crisis." "And I have repeatedly made this argument to the leaders in Washington on behalf of the rest of the governors in America," Hogan said. "And I can tell you, I talk to governors on both sides of the aisle nearly every single day. The administration, I think, is trying to ramp up testing, and trying — they are doing some things with respect to private labs. But to try to push this off to say that the governors have plenty of testing, and they should just get to work on testing, somehow we aren't doing our job, is just absolutely false." He added that governors have been "fighting and clawing to get more tests" from both the federal government and private labs, and are continuing to do so. He echoed Northam in saying there are shortages of swabs needed to conduct the tests, among other necessities. "So, look, I think they have made some strides at the federal level," Hogan said. "I think states are all working hard on their own to find their own testing. Lab capacity has been increasing. But it's not accurate to say there's plenty of testing out there, and the governors should just get it done. That's just not being straightforward." Public health experts have said testing would need to be at least doubled, or even tripled from current levels in order to allow for even a partial reopening of America's economy. Without such a massive increase, officials will lack a clear picture of who is infected, who can safely return to work, how and where the virus is spreading, and whether stay-at-home orders can begin to be eased, those experts said.

By Scott McDonald

President Donald Trump held his daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on Saturday speaking partially of the virus itself, partly hammering away at "fake news" and one New York Times reporter, and a good chunk of time criticizing China and how it handled the outbreak of COVID-19. Asked whether there should be consequences to China if it was responsible for all of the virus spread, Trump said sure, unless it was a "mistake." "If they were knowingly responsible, then certainly," Trump said. "But if they made a mistake, a mistake is a mistake is a mistake." Trump did not indicate what those consequences would be, but said China "made many mistakes" along the way, and that China was against the United States closing off Chinese travelers in January once the virus began its spread. He said "this crisis could have been stopped in China." "They didn't like the idea of closing off our country. They said it was a bad thing to do, actually, and they've since taken that back," Trump told reporters and TV audience. "But it was a very lucky thing that we did it. Very lucky. We would have had numbers that were very significantly greater. [Dr. Anthony] Fauci said that. He said it would have been very significantly greater had we not that. "But it's still a very depressing subject, because there's a lot of death. If it were stopped very early on, at the source, before it started blowing into these proportions, you have 184 countries that would have been in a lot better shape." Coronavirus cases have topped 2.3 million worldwide, with nearly 160,000 deaths around the globe by April 18. The United States leads all countries in both cases (734,000) and deaths (38,000).

By Daniel Dale, Marshall Cohen, Tara Subramaniam, David Wright and Liz Stark, CNN

Washington (CNN) It's hard to know where to begin fact checking. President Donald Trump's latest coronavirus press conference on Saturday afternoon was littered with false claims about both the pandemic crisis and various unrelated matters Trump decided to talk about, from North Korea and Iran to Chinese tariffs. Trump continued to be dishonest on the critical subject of coronavirus testing, wrongly claiming he "inherited" faulty tests -- they were developed this year, during his presidency -- and painting an overly rosy picture of the US testing situation. He also repeated several of the false claims he likes to make at his campaign rallies. Here's a rundown of the claims and the facts.

Governors and testing
Trump continued to favorably compare the coronavirus testing situation in the US to the situation in other countries. He alleged that Democratic governors are deliberately not using testing capacity the federal government has created -- and suggested that the only governors "complaining" about testing challenges are Democrats. "Now they're giving you the other -- it's called 'testing, testing.' But they don't want to use all of the capacity that we've created. We have tremendous capacity ... they know that, the governors know that. The Democrat governors know that. They're the ones that are complaining," he said. Facts First: There is no evidence that any governor is deliberately not using available testing capacity. And it's not only Democratic governors who have spoken of problems and challenges with testing. Governors from both parties, and public health officials around the country, have warned that they are still unable to do the amount of testing needed to safely lift social and economic restrictions. Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and his health chief expressed frustration on Friday that testing at hospitals in the state was being impeded by a shortage of critical components. Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said on NBC on Thursday that he believes Maryland is going to get, "in the next several weeks," to the level of testing needed, but he also said: "This has been the No. 1 stumbling block in America, the lack of availability of testing, and you really can't get to any point where you can reopen the country until, not just in my state, but across the country, until we can do much, much larger-scale testing." Republican Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said Wednesday that it has been "a challenge" to get all of the supplies needed to conduct tests. Peter Iwen, director of the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory, told Omaha's KETV in a story published Wednesday that supplies they need to run tests were being sent instead to labs in other states: "We're trying to compete with those people, and we're just not getting the reagents sent to us." Democratic governors are expressing concerns similar to those of their Republican colleagues. Democratic Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly told CNN on Thursday: "We have had a very difficult time getting access to tests and all the stuff you need to complete those tests."

By Nicole Gaouette, Marshall Cohen and Michael Conte, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin appear to have had more sustained contact with each other in the past two weeks than at any time since 2016, as the Kremlin tries to use the coronavirus pandemic and close personal ties between the two leaders to normalize long-strained relations with Washington. The two leaders spoke on the phone at least four times over a two-week period, beginning March 30 and ending on Sunday, a record pace for publicly known phone calls between the leaders, according to a CNN tally. Official readouts of their conversations indicate the leaders discussed the coronavirus pandemic and a price war that destabilized the oil markets. The flurry of phone calls follow a Kremlin campaign urging US-Russia cooperation against the coronavirus that used news outlets Trump follows, said Andrew Weiss, a vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The calls have taken place as both Trump and Putin face domestic political challenges and offer the embattled leaders a way to claim wins. But analysts such as Weiss warn that Putin's outreach involves risks to the US.

'An end run'
"Reaching out to the United States ... is part of part of Putin's long-term plan to basically undermine the credibility of the United States as an important stalwart player in the global system, to undermine our alliances, and then to create as many lasting sources of tension between Donald Trump and his own national security team," Weiss told CNN. "The more that Russia succeeds in doing that, the less pressure Russia itself is likely to face from a unified western camp." Putin's appeal to Trump is meant to be an "end run around the US national security bureaucracy, the State Department, the Pentagon, the intelligence community," which are far more distrustful of Moscow than the President is, Weiss said. US-Russia relations have been complex since Trump became president. Though his relationship with Putin has been warm, Washington has slapped Moscow with tough sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine, interference in the 2016 election, other malicious cyber activities, human rights abuses, use of a chemical weapon, weapons proliferation, illicit trade with North Korea, and its support for Syria and Venezuela.

Washington's governor accuses Trump of encouraging 'dangerous acts' after he urged supporters to 'LIBERATE' some states.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee on Friday accused Donald Trump of "fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies" after the United States president urged supporters to "LIBERATE" three states led by Democratic governors. "The president's statements this morning encourage illegal and dangerous acts. He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19," Inslee said in a series of tweets on Friday afternoon. "His unhinged rantings and calls for people to 'liberate' states could also lead to violence. We've seen it before," Inslee added. "The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies - even while his own administration says the virus is real, it is deadly and we have a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted." Inslee's tweets came after Trump apparently encouraged the growing protests against the stay-at-home restrictions aimed at stopping the coronavirus.

The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies - even while his own administration says the virus is real, it is deadly and we have a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted. 2/7
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) April 17, 2020

"LIBERATE MINNESOTA!" "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" "LIBERATE VIRGINIA," Trump said in a tweet-storm in which he also lashed out at New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for criticising the federal response. Cuomo "should spend more time 'doing' and less time 'complaining,'" the president said. - Donald J. Trump is the worse president ever.

The president’s social media posts come amid growing frustration among some conservative groups over state mitigation measures.

President Donald Trump culminated a swerving, week-long power struggle against the nation’s governors with an apparent endorsement of protesters who have defied leaders of coronavirus-stricken states, public health experts and the most senior members of his own administration. In a series of tweets Friday afternoon, the president issued an online call to “LIBERATE” Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia — all states where aggrieved residents have gathered in public in recent days to demonstrate in opposition to stay-at-home orders declared by Democratic governors. “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” Trump wrote, followed soon after by a message that read, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” He also tweeted, “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!” At Friday's White House press briefing, Trump said certain states are going to "come online" "sooner rather than later." The president’s remarks and social media posts come as some conservative groups have grown increasingly frustrated with the local directives that have slammed the brakes on the U.S. economy, the strength of which had been a key selling point of Trump’s reelection effort. Trump’s tweets also represent the latest salvo in a rhetorical back-and-forth between governors seeking more robust assistance from his administration and a president loath to accept blame for a federal response that has been widely criticized as inadequate and slow-footed. Amid the urgent state efforts, thousands of protesters — many wearing Trump paraphernalia — have congregated in the capital cities of Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia, flouting stringent mitigation measures imposed by Democratic Govs. Tim Walz, Gretchen Whitmer and Ralph Northam. Northam was dismissive of Trump’s unexpected broadside at a news conference Friday, telling reporters that he and his staff are “fighting a biological war. I do not have time to involve myself in Twitter wars.”

By Jeff Zeleny and Kaitlan Collins, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump lashed out Friday at Democrats, trying to pass the buck for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and hoping to pass the blame for an economy ravaged on his watch. The strategy of division was on full display Friday, with Trump aiming ire at Democratic governors in key battleground states through a series of three rapid-fire Tweets: "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" "LIBERATE MINNESOTA!" And on Virginia, he threw in a reference to gun rights: "LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!" The President's terse messages echoed and encouraged protests being staged by conservative groups in all three of those blue battleground states and beyond. Trump made no mention of Republican governors, who in many cases are working alongside their Democratic counterparts, trying to fight the deadly coronavirus outbreak. It was the clearest indication yet the President is laying the groundwork for blaming the dire economic conditions on decisions of Democratic governors, rather than taking steps to improve his actions and acknowledge failures of the administration's handling of the crisis. While he began the week by incorrectly declaring that he had "total authority" as President, Trump is ending it by passing that responsibility to governors, which advisers inside and outside the White House said was a clear tactic to try to safeguard himself from any fallout that could come with trying to reopen the national economy. Although Trump boasted of handing authority to governors to make their own decisions, his calls for liberation sent the opposite message. "Until we solve the medical crisis, the economic one is going to go longer and it's going to be harder for us to come back," Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan told CNN. "A sustained, consistent, scientifically-based message from the federal government and the White House in particular would really save more lives." Whitmer is among the Democratic governors who have been in the President's crosshairs. The message to "liberate" followed angry protests outside the Michigan capitol this week, where thousands defied and demonstrated against Whitmer's strict statewide stay-at-home orders to combat the spread of coronavirus. "I just have to lead," Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, another Democrat, told reporters Friday when asked about the criticism from the President. "If they're not going to do it, we're going to do it." Blaming Democrats may be a longshot, but it's a strategy the President and some Republicans are increasingly turning to. His campaign is facing a far more uncertain and tumultuous landscape than envisioned only a month ago, with advisers acknowledging deep concern about Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida -- all of which he won in 2016. The pandemic has upended the race, eviscerating one of Trump's strongest calling cards: a robust economic record.

Democrats erupted after receiving vague answers from Vice President Mike Pence about efforts to ramp up coronavirus testing.

Senate Democrats exploded in frustration during a conference call with Vice President Mike Pence and Trump administration officials on Friday afternoon, with one normally laid-back senator asserting it was the most maddening phone call he’s ever been on, according to participants and people familiar with the call. The call between President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force and Senate Democrats on Friday left the Senate minority “livid,” according to one Democrat on the call, due to the lack of clear answers about national testing for the disease. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) called it a “dereliction of duty,” said a second person on the call. King added: “I have never been so mad about a phone call in my life.” King is generally among the most mild-mannered senators but was extraordinarily frustrated with the Trump administration’s testing woes. He said that the administration had left states adrift. Pence responded to King by saying there have been misunderstandings about the federal government’s work with states, according to a person familiar with a call, and Pence explained how the administration had been coordinating with states to ramp up testing. Pence was even keeled in the face of the frustration, that person said. But Democrats said afterward they felt he wasn't giving clear answers to their questions.


ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo embarked on a 20-minute stemwinder during his press briefing Friday, hitting back on a series of presidential tweets accusing him of overreacting to the coronavirus pandemic. Cuomo, who has for weeks said he doesn’t want to fight President Donald Trump, couldn't resist lobbing a few verbal grenades after Trump tweeted during Cuomo’s Friday appearance that the governor “should spend more time ‘doing’ and less time ‘complaining.’” Trump said that federal help to build hospital bed capacity and provide additional ventilators has proven unnecessary and that Cuomo has not been appreciative of his help. Cuomo, who has styled himself as a governor of “action,” responded that if Trump is watching his televised press event “maybe he should get up and go to work, right?" Cuomo said the federal help he requested has been based on White House projections for the state’s medical needs and suggested Trump hasn’t read any of the reports his administration has issued through the Centers for Disease Control and the White House coronavirus task force. “If you want to point fingers — we built more beds than we needed — our only mistake was believing your numbers, believing your projections,” Cuomo said, suggesting Trump use his reality TV catchphrase "You're fired" to can CDC and coronavirus task force officials for botching their own projections. "Whose projections were wrong? Head of the CDC, Peter Navarro and head of the White House coronavirus task force. Fire them all. That's what I say. Fire them," Cuomo said. "You know that show the president did?"

Unable to explain away a diversity problem, Conway pivots to a personal attack: "I don't know why you've changed"
By Roger Sollenberger

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway lashed out at CBS News correspondent Paula Reid after she was pressed to explain the evident lack of diversity on President Donald Trump's recently announced "Opening Our Country Council." "Paula, I actually don't know what's happened to you," Conway said in the tense exchange, which was captured by C-SPAN. Referencing the long list of names rattled off by Trump at a Tuesday briefing, Reid first asked Conway to explain how the council would function. "How will they work? How will they meet? How will they make recommendations to the president?" she first asked at a press gaggle before pivoting to the issue of diversity. "And is there any thought to diversifying that council beyond what is predominantly a group of very wealthy white men?" Reid continued. Conway responded that Trump had calls scheduled that very day with some of the individuals on the list, which she characterized as "probably less exhaustive than it is illustrative." She then defended the homogeny of the council's membership, claiming that Trump does not get to pick "who the heads of the sports commission leagues and CEOs of companies are." And when Reid pushed back — pointing out that the White House could, in fact, include a range of voices — Conway turned the argument into a personal one. "Paula, I actually don't know what's happened to you," she told the journalist. "Respectfully, I don't know why you've changed." The senior White House official then accused Reid of both "screaming at Anthony Fauci and the president of the United States" in the White House briefing room. This was an apparent reference to two exchanges during Monday's briefing. In he first, Reid asked Fauci — without screaming — when about remarks that sparked fears of his termination by Trump. In a rare display of emotion, Fauci expressed visible contempt for Reid's question. The doctor replied, "Everything I do is voluntarily." Later in the briefing, the president called Reid "disgraceful" when she pressed him on a series of inaccuracies in his attempt to defend the administration's response to the pandemic.

Unable to explain away a diversity problem, Conway pivots to a personal attack: "I don't know why you've changed"
By Roger Sollenberger

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway lashed out at CBS News correspondent Paula Reid after she was pressed to explain the evident lack of diversity on President Donald Trump's recently announced "Opening Our Country Council." "Paula, I actually don't know what's happened to you," Conway said in the tense exchange, which was captured by C-SPAN. Referencing the long list of names rattled off by Trump at a Tuesday briefing, Reid first asked Conway to explain how the council would function. "How will they work? How will they meet? How will they make recommendations to the president?" she first asked at a press gaggle before pivoting to the issue of diversity.  "And is there any thought to diversifying that council beyond what is predominantly a group of very wealthy white men?" Reid continued. Conway responded that Trump had calls scheduled that very day with some of the individuals on the list, which she characterized as "probably less exhaustive than it is illustrative." She then defended the homogeny of the council's membership, claiming that Trump does not get to pick "who the heads of the sports commission leagues and CEOs of companies are." And when Reid pushed back — pointing out that the White House could, in fact, include a range of voices — Conway turned the argument into a personal one. "Paula, I actually don't know what's happened to you," she told the journalist. "Respectfully, I don't know why you've changed." The senior White House official then accused Reid of both "screaming at Anthony Fauci and the president of the United States" in the White House briefing room. This was an apparent reference to two exchanges during Monday's briefing. In he first, Reid asked Fauci — without screaming — when about remarks that sparked fears of his termination by Trump. In a rare display of emotion, Fauci expressed visible contempt for Reid's question. The doctor replied, "Everything I do is voluntarily." Later in the briefing, the president called Reid "disgraceful" when she pressed him on a series of inaccuracies in his attempt to defend the administration's response to the pandemic.

By John Fritze, David Jackson - USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump called on supporters Friday to "liberate" states that have experienced protests over coronavirus lockdowns, a day after he unveiled guidelines aimed at reopening the nation's economy. Less than 24 hoursafter declining to name states he felt are prepared to begin easing social distancing guidelines to halt the spread of the virus, Trump named Virginia, Michigan and Minnesota as states that could benefit from what he described asliberation. "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" Trump posted in a series of all-caps tweets. Trump has lurched from slamming Democratic governors, to saying he has developed friendships with them and back to attacking them. In a series of combative tweets Friday, Trump defended his performance on the virus, renewed his criticism of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and attacked his predecessor, President Barack Obama.  All three states that Trump called to "liberate" are led by Democratic governors, and all three have experienced protests in recent days demanding a rollback of stay-at-home orders. Demonstrators drove thousands of vehicles to Michigan's state Capitol this week to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order, for instance. It was not clear exactly what Trump meant with the tweets. The only context he offered came with a third "liberate" tweet, directed at Virginia, in which he urged supporters to "save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!" The White House did not immediately respond to a request for further information about the president's intention. Critics said the president appeared to be encouraging protests in the states, all three of which are also important for the presidential election. - Trump and the GOP are willing to put American lives at risk so he can will reelection. Shame on Trump, sham on the GOP.

The administration envisions meeting that criteria each time a locality progresses through three phases.

President Donald Trump's new guidelines for reopening parts of the country recommend states and localities confirm a two-week downward trend in coronavirus symptoms and documented cases before starting to ease lockdowns while assuring hospitals have adequate capacity and robust testing in place. The administration envisions states or localities meeting those criteria each time they progress through three phases. It's not prescribing target dates for meeting each phase, and officials acknowledged restrictions could snap back if there's a resurgence in cases.

By Daniel Dale, Tara Subramaniam and Liz Stark, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump inaccurately declared at Thursday's White House coronavirus briefing that some states do not have "any problem" with the virus's outbreak, minimizing the situation even in the least-affected states. Trump also repeated his incorrect suggestion that he has the power to decide when governors lift their pandemic-related restrictions. And he argued that "people should have told us" about the virus, omitting the fact that he continued to downplay the virus for weeks after public warnings. We fact checked these items below.

States without any problems
As part of the administration's three-phase recommendation for re-opening the country, Trump said some states could be ready to enter phase one of the reopening process as soon as Friday because, when it comes to coronavirus, "you have states without any problem." He added that some states are "at a point where there is almost nothing" in terms of coronavirus cases, and that "you have states with few cases and those few cases have healed." Facts First: It's not true that some states currently don't have "any problem" related to coronavirus. At the time the President spoke, all 50 states each had more than 200 confirmed cases, and 41 states have more than 1,000 confirmed cases. There is no definitive state-by-state data on how many infected people have recovered. Wyoming, which has the fewest cases of any state, has reported 288 cases. While Trump was hesitant to name which specific states could be the first to reopen, none of them have close to zero cases, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. Further, testing issues have raised concerns that cases or deaths are being undercounted, so it's difficult to know the accuracy of the existing data. Trump has made similar false claims in past briefings. In early April, he said that certain states, specifically those without stay-at-home orders, were "not in jeopardy" or at risk from the coronavirus. The number of coronavirus cases in all those states, except Wyoming, have since more than doubled, though two of them -- Wyoming and North Dakota -- remain among the five states with the least amount of cases.

By Rem Rieder

President Donald Trump is making false and exaggerated claims about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Feb. 24 trip to San Francisco’s Chinatown. Pelosi urged people to shop and eat there at a time when tourism was suffering because of the novel coronavirus, which originated in China late last year. Trump falsely tweeted that “Crazy Nancy Pelosi” had deleted a video from Twitter of her visit to Chinatown. “She wanted everyone to pack into Chinatown long after I closed the BORDER TO CHINA,” Trump said. But there is no record such a video was ever posted on Twitter by Pelosi. At an April 13 coronavirus briefing, Trump falsely claimed that during her visit Pelosi said, “‘Let’s all have the big parade — Chinatown parade.'” Pelosi didn’t say that. In fact, that parade had taken place on Feb. 8, more than two weeks before Pelosi went to Chinatown. At a coronavirus briefing on April 15, Trump exaggerated when he said Pelosi “was trying to have, in San Francisco, parties in Chinatown, because she thought it would be great.” Pelosi didn’t mention parties during her visit, although she urged people to come to Chinatown to shop and eat. Trump also falsely said Pelosi visited Chinatown “to show that this thing doesn’t exist,” referring to the novel coronavirus. Pelosi never suggested that it didn’t exist. She stressed the need for “prevention, prevention, prevention” — urging people to be “concerned and vigilant,” but not “afraid.” The president has raised Pelosi’s visit several times in recent days to counter criticism that he was slow to react to the coronavirus. He repeatedly mentions that he issued travel restrictions on China, which he did on Jan. 31. Meanwhile, he points out, the House speaker was urging people to go to Chinatown. Trump is mischaracterizing and exaggerating what she said during her visit. And while Trump did issue the travel restrictions, as we have reported, he also downplayed the danger of the virus in a series of remarks and tweets from Jan. 22 to March 10. The California Democrat’s visit to Chinatown came three weeks before six Bay Area counties implemented shelter-in-place restrictions. On the same day as Pelosi’s visit, Trump tweeted, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!” Here’s Trump’s April 16 tweet accusing Pelosi of deleting a video from her Twitter account:

By Christina Wilkie

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to do what no American president before him has done: Unilaterally adjourn Congress so that he can appoint his nominees to senior positions and the federal bench without Senate approval. But according to legal scholars, the president only has the authority to adjourn Congress if — and only if — the House and the Senate disagree with one another over when to adjourn. Currently, there is no such disagreement. “The Senate’s practice of gaveling into so-called pro forma sessions where no one is even there has prevented me from using the constitutional authority that we’re given under the recess provisions,” Trump said during Wednesday’s coronavirus pandemic briefing. “The Senate should either fulfill its duty and vote on my nominees, or it should formally adjourn so that I can make recess appointments.” During congressional recess periods, both chambers hold extremely brief parliamentary sessions every few days, known as pro forma sessions, precisely so that the legislature is never officially adjourned, and no president can bypass the Senate’s confirmation process to make recess appointments. Trump said he needed the ability to make recess appointments in order to appoint key officials to aid in the response to the coronavirus pandemic. “We have a tremendous number of people that have to come into government and now more so than ever before because of the virus,” Trump said in the Rose Garden. “If the House will not agree to that adjournment, I will exercise my constitutional authority to adjourn both chambers of Congress,” the president said. “The current practice of leaving town while conducting phony pro-forma sessions is a dereliction of duty that the American people cannot afford during this crisis. It is a scam that they do.” No president before has ever forcibly adjourned Congress. And while the Constitution does give the president that power, it only applies in limited circumstances, all of which are nearly unimaginable.

By Maegan Vazquez and Phil Mattingly, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump threatened Wednesday to apply a never-used provision of the US Constitution to allow himself to adjourn the US Congress and push through many of his nominees who typically require Senate confirmation. The move came days after he claimed that he has total authority over the states before backing down. "As the entire US government works to combat the global pandemic, it is absolutely essential that key positions at relevant federal agencies are fully staffed, and we're not allowing that to take place through our Congress," Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden during his daily coronavirus briefing. "They're just not giving it to us. We have many positions that are unstaffed because we can't get approval." Trump said there were 129 nominees "stuck in the Senate because of partisan obstruction." Trump's argument seemed to be that many of these vacancies needed to be filled to assist with the coronavirus response, including the director of national intelligence, two members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, an assistant secretary of the Treasury Department and an undersecretary of agriculture. The President argued that since the Senate has left until May 4, he must use his constitutional authority to adjourn it. "The Constitution provides a mechanism for the President to fill positions in such circumstances. The recess appointment, it's called. The Senate's practice of gaveling into so-called pro-forma sessions, where no one is even there, has prevented me from using the constitutional authority we're given," he said, calling on the Senate to adjourn itself. The decision to stay away from Washington until May 4 was made, and announced, by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican and close Trump ally. A McConnell spokesman said Trump and McConnell spoke about the issue on Wednesday: "The Leader pledged to find ways to confirm nominees considered mission-critical to the Covid-19 pandemic, but under Senate rules that will take consent from Leader (Chuck) Schumer."
That last point is an important one. McConnell, who is careful with his words, appears to be saying any solution to the confirmation issue will require Democratic consent. The Constitution allows a president to fill temporary appointments during a recess, without congressional approval. But lawmakers in both parties have sought to thwart certain appointments over the last decade by never technically shutting down the Senate. When then-President Barack Obama attempted to make recess appointments during pro-forma sessions in 2014, the US Supreme Court ruled "that the Recess Appointment Clause does not give the President the constitutional authority to make the appointments here at issue." Justice Stephen Breyer said: "We hold that the Senate is in session, and not in recess, when the Senate says that it is in session." However, on Wednesday, Trump said he may use powers granted to the executive branch in order to get Congress to return to Washington to fill vacancies and vote on relief aid. "I have a very strong power. I'd rather not use that power but we have way over a hundred people that we very badly need in this administration that should have been approved a long time ago," he said.

By Clare Foran, CNN

Washington (CNN)House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday called the decision for President Donald Trump's name to appear on stimulus checks amid the coronavirus pandemic "shameful." The President's name will appear on checks sent to Americans to combat economic fallout from the spread of the disease in a last-minute Treasury Department order, a senior administration official confirmed to CNN on Tuesday. Pelosi condemned the move in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on "The Lead," saying that it is "shameful" and "people are really desperate to get a check." Americans "want their checks," Pelosi said, "they want their unemployment check, they want their direct payment check that you're talking about here, they want the Paycheck Protection Program checks to come forward and they're not seeing that," referring to a new small business relief program that has so far been marred by a rocky rollout. Two senior Treasury officials told The Washington Post, which first reported the decision for the President's name to appear on checks, that the move will probably set back the delivery date on the first set of paper checks -- potentially slowing a process that could already take up to 20 weeks. The Internal Revenue Service, however, insists that the move will not result in a delay. Trump's name will be on the memo line of the check, a Treasury spokesperson confirmed to CNN. The President's name will be on all paper checks sent to people who are receiving stimulus payments. Many others are receiving the payments through direct deposit, if they have their bank information on file with the Treasury Department. Some of those direct deposit payments have already begun being deposited in bank accounts.

Pelosi weighs in on stalemate in Congress over small business loan program
Congressional Democrats and Republicans are currently locked in a stalemate over how to move forward on additional interim coronavirus aid with Republicans insisting on a clean funding increase for the small business loan program. Democrats however argue that in addition to a funding increase there should be more money for states and hospitals as well as conditions on how that small business funding can be used. Pelosi said that Democrats "want to support the small businesses, all of them, and support the PPP and hope that we can work together to do that," using an acronym to refer to the small business relief program.

By Colby Itkowitz and Mike DeBonis

President Trump threatened Wednesday to try to force Congress to adjourn so he could fill his administration’s vacancies without Senate approval, the second time this week he has claimed unprecedented executive authority amid the coronavirus pandemic. The president cited a never-exercised constitutional power to shut down Congress if the House and Senate are in disagreement over adjourning, pushing both the executive and legislative branches into uncharted territory. On Monday, Trump had asserted that he had “total” authority over the decision to reopen the country, overruling governors intent on protecting public health and containing further spread of the coronavirus. He seemed to backtrack Tuesday, suggesting that he would work with the governors on such a step. At his daily coronavirus task force briefing Wednesday, Trump slammed the common practice by the House and Senate to hold pro forma sessions every two or three days but never formally adjourn, thwarting Trump’s ability to bypass the regular Senate confirmation process and install nominees by recess appointments. “The current practice of leaving town while conducting phony pro forma sessions is a dereliction of duty that the American people cannot afford during this crisis. It is a scam. What they do, it’s a scam and everybody knows it,” Trump told reporters at his daily briefing on the coronavirus. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spoke to Trump on Wednesday, but signaled that he wasn’t on board with the president’s plan. Any attempt to formally adjourn the Senate would require all 100 senators traveling back to Washington for such a vote — which McConnell and Senate leaders have deemed an unsafe move at this point. “The leader pledged to find ways to confirm nominees considered mission-critical to the covid-19 pandemic, but under Senate rules that will take consent from Leader Schumer,” said a McConnell spokesman, referring to Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). McConnell has prioritized confirming lifetime appointments to the federal judiciary, leaving nominees to sub-Cabinet posts, commissions and other posts to languish. With the Senate now adjourned indefinitely due to the coronavirus, all those nominations remain stalled. Trump claimed he needed to fill jobs in his administration to deal with the public health emergency, complaining that Senate Democrats blocked his nominations, even though most of the vacancies in the federal government are because Trump hasn’t selected anyone to fill them. Several of the ones he has nominated haven’t had a confirmation hearing yet in the Republican-led Senate, including Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.), the nominee for director of national intelligence. Trump mentioned Ratcliffe as an example of someone he wanted quickly confirmed.

By Cristina Cabrera

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a scathing letter to her Democratic colleagues on Tuesday night that ripped into President Donald Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak roiling the country. “The truth is,” Pelosi wrote, that among other things, Trump “took insufficient action and caused unnecessary death and disaster” after ignoring warnings of the looming pandemic, that he “dismantled the infrastructure handed to him which was meant to plan for and overcome a pandemic,” and that the economy is now a disaster thanks to his “incompetent reaction” to the coronavirus. “The truth is a weak person, a poor leader, takes no responsibility. A weak person blames others,” she wrote. “The truth is, from this moment on, Americans must ignore lies and start to listen to scientists and other respected professionals in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones.” White House spokesperson Judd Deere told TPM in an emailed statement that Pelosi “should stop lying and pay attention to the facts.”

By Jonathan Chait

When Congress enacted an emergency plan to send $1,200 checks to every American adult, Republicans joked that President Trump would want to sign his name on the checks. A few weeks later, after the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump was exploring this outlandish desire, a reporter asked, “Is that right? Do you want to sign those checks?” Trump denied it: “No. Me sign? No.” Last night, the Washington Post reported that Trump’s name will be displayed on every check. A measure passed by both parties to alleviate an economic emergency has been expropriated by his reelection campaign. Trump’s presidency has largely consisted of outrageously corrupt notions proceeding from fearful accusation to accepted reality. Within a few days, this one will also probably be forgotten. Trump has never respected any meaningful distinction between the federal government and the Trump Organization. He expects every federal employee, especially its law-enforcement agents, to advance his personal political agenda. He has functionally mixed its budget with his own by having the government pour money into his properties, and he has treated its official powers as if they are his own personal chits. The authority he has gained through the emergency response to the coronavirus has vastly expanded the potential for corruption, and every sign indicates that Trump is already engaging in systemic abuse. Some of the corruption is lingering just below the surface. Trump is speaking constantly with corporate leaders, who can position themselves at the front of the line for federal contracts or relief payments. He supports bailouts for industries with a shaky claim to the public purse, like cruise lines, and has staunchly opposed any rescue for the United States Postal Service, which handles essential government communication. Trump of course has been trying to force the post office to raise rates on Amazon, in retaliation for Jeff Bezos’s ownership of the Washington Post. The economic crisis has put the post office on life support, giving Trump the leverage he wants to make it punish a detested rival. Trump has treated the distribution of the federal government’s supply of emergency medical equipment like he is walking around the neighborhood with a money clip, pulling out bills and patting grateful recipients on the cheek. When New York governor Andrew Cuomo noted that he retains power to reopen public spaces, Trump exploded, “I got it all done for him, and everyone else, and now he seems to want Independence! That won’t happen!” Trump routinely threatens Democratic governors not to complain about his mismanagement if they want help from Washington, conflating the authority of the government with his own authority (“When they disrespect me, they are disrespecting our government”). He has used the precious supply of ventilators as in-kind contributions, allowing endangered Republican allies like Martha McSally and Cory Gardner to hold them up as proof of their clout.


There is a growing resistance on the right that threatens to add additional stress to a political system already nearing the breaking point.
By Will Sommer, Erin Banco, Sam Stein

A protest movement is taking hold targeting states that have extended social-distancing rules, closed schools, and restricted access to large religious gatherings. And it’s being fed by loyalists and political allies of President Donald Trump. At issue are seemingly contradictory directives from Trump—who said on Tuesday that his team was in the process of drafting new guidelines that would allow some states to bring critical industries back to work, possibly this month—and public health officials and many governors, who have urged people to stay home as the number of coronavirus-related deaths continue to rise. The tension has prompted Republican lawmakers and supporters of the president to publicly call for Americans to defy their local orders, claiming they infringe on constitutional rights. On Monday, Richard Grenell, acting director of the Office of National Intelligence and the U.S. ambassador to Germany, posted a photo of the Bill of Rights on Instagram with a title “Signed Permission Slip to Leave Your House.” Below the post, in the caption, Grenell wrote, “Love this!” A reporter tweeted the post after its publishing saying, “Seems the top US intelligence chief ADNI ⁦@RichardGrenell⁩ isn’t a fan of the stay at home orders.” Grenell responded, “‘Seems’ Grenell is a fan of the Constitution to me.” Already, protests against social-distancing guidelines, stay-at-home orders, and other public safety measures have been bubbling up in states across the country. In Idaho, anti-government activists encouraged gatherings around Easter. Conservative activists in Oklahoma are planning a “get back to work” rally at their state capitol on Wednesday. Roughly 75 protesters met outside the Ohio statehouse on Monday to protest restrictions, with several carrying the “Don’t Tread on Me” flags that became ubiquitous at Tea Party rallies. The open acts of defiance aren’t just being embraced by fringe activists mobilized through social media posts. Elected officials have called for pushing aside public safety experts in the name of remedying “societal fallout.” In Texas, the House Freedom Caucus has called on the governor to lift the state's stay-at-home order. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) scoffed at restrictions other states had placed on activities such as going to beaches and church—while leaving the suggestion that others should do the same. And a top aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said it was “time to not comply” with the commonwealth’s governor, Andy Beshear, over a plan to record and quarantine churchgoers during Easter Sunday. The public demonstrations of frustration and resistance have begun to draw parallels to the Tea Party protests that popped up during the early months of Barack Obama’s presidency. The circumstances are far different—a reactionary movement to bank bailouts and the first African-American president versus resentment towards strict public health guidelines. But the theme of individualism versus statism is a through line that GOP operatives believe could be similarly galvanizing on the right.

The president is not an authorized signer for IRS disbursements, so his name will appear on the memo line.
By Katelyn Burns

Between the multiple Trump Towers, Trump Plazas, Trump International Resorts, and the now-defunct Trump Steaks, it’s clear President Donald Trump has a penchant for putting his name on things. And that predilection has now been extended to include the coronavirus stimulus checks. The Treasury Department on Monday ordered that Trump’s name appear on the paper checks being rushed to millions of people by the IRS. Those checks could end up being delayed a few days in order to add the president’s name to them, according to senior IRS officials. In order to add Trump’s name — which will appear in typeface rather than as a signature given the checks are from the Treasury rather than from the president — the code in the IRS’s computers must be tweaked and subsequently tested. “Any last minute request like this will create a downstream snarl that will result in a delay,” Chad Hooper, a quality control manager who serves as national president of the IRS’s Professional Managers Association, told the Washington Post. A Treasury Department representative denied that the change would result in a delay, however. “Economic Impact Payment checks are scheduled to go out on time and exactly as planned—there is absolutely no delay whatsoever,” the representative said in a written statement to the Post. It’s clear that many Americans need their stimulus checks as soon as possible. Over the past three weeks, there have been 16.8 million new initial claims for unemployment as restaurants, retailers, and other nonessential businesses have been shuttered to limit the spread of the virus. The scale of this crisis has some lawmakers calling for more stimulus funds, as Vox’s Dylan Matthews explained:

By Christina Maxouris, CNN Business

(CNN Business) President Donald Trump's decision to withhold funding to the World Health Organization pending a review of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic is "as dangerous as it sounds," Bill Gates said Wednesday. "Their work is slowing the spread of Covid-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever," the Microsoft founder and philanthropist said in a tweet. The WHO declared coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern in late January and a week later, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged up to $100 million to help contain the outbreak. Those funds, the foundation said, would be used to help find a vaccine for the virus, limit its spread and improve detection and treatment. About $20 million was directed toward groups including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and WHO. It's not the first time the couple has directed funds toward public health causes. In 2009, they worked to combat a tuberculosis outbreak in China and a year later committed as much as $10 billion to vaccine research. Bill Gates, who since March cautioned about the effects of delayed social distancing measures, urged the United States to implement a country-wide shutdown, saying a state-by-state strategy wouldn't work as effectively. He predicted the number of coronavirus cases will peak in late April.

Trump's decision to halt WHO funding
Trump said Tuesday a review of the WHO will cover its "role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus," he said. "Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China's lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death," Trump said. In response to criticism by the president last week, the head of the WHO outlined a timeline of the organization's actions in response to the pandemic, saying in a statement, "please don't politicize the virus."

By Daniel Dale, Tara Subramaniam and Nathan McDermott, CNN

(CNN) Another coronavirus briefing. Another series of false claims. Speaking Tuesday in the Rose Garden of the White House, President Donald Trump denied making a comment he did make. He criticized the World Health Organization for the same thing he has done before. He wrongly suggested he was the only national leader to impose travel restrictions on China. He claimed he was "authorizing" governors to lift coronavirus restrictions even though this power always belonged to governors. He falsely claimed, again, that "nobody ever thought" there would be a crisis like this. And he repeated some of his favorite false claims about his tariffs on China. Here's a rundown of Trump's claims, and the facts around them.

Trump's praise for China's supposed transparency
After he criticized the World Health Organization for praising China's supposed transparency over the coronavirus, Trump was pressed about his own previous praise of China's supposed transparency. "I don't talk about China's transparency," Trump responded. "You know, if I'm so good to China, how come I was the only person, the only leader of a country, that closed our borders tightly against China?"

Facts First: Trump did praise China, and its president, Xi Jinping, for its supposed transparency. Moreover, Trump didn't completely shut down travel between China and the United States; nearly 40,000 people traveled from China to the United States after he announced travel restrictions, according to an April 4 New York Times analysis of data collected in both countries. And Trump was far from the only leader to impose travel restrictions from China. A Washington Post analysis found that 38 countries imposed significant travel restrictions on China "before or at the same time the U.S. restrictions were put in place." (The Post analysis did not count 12 other countries "that took some sort of action before the United States but with measures that were not as sweeping.")

Trump has a list of villains to blame for his criminal incompetence. But only his cult members are still listening
By Bob Cesca

Whenever you read about an obvious scam perpetrated by Donald Trump, it's important to remember one thing: He's lying to his own disciples more than anyone else. The rest of us — the "normals," for lack of a better term — aren't necessarily the dupes in his various acts of desperate treachery, even though, yeah, we're all the victims of the consequences. But the initial targets of his Batman-villain gambits are his own gullible fanboys, and they're devouring it the way Trump himself devours trans fats. For example: Trump is engaged in his latest cover-his-own-ass maneuver, while parked in the midst of an historic breakdown of the federal government's responsibilities during a cataclysmic pandemic. This time, the president's scheme involves blaming everyone except himself for his blind inaction and delusional, carefree attitude toward COVID-19 for months on end, another example of his shrieking impotence, so far removed from the normal behavior of strong, legitimate leaders. When it comes to this upside-down, horrendously illegitimate presidency, the buck stops with everyone who's not Trump. His strategy to defer blame is aimed at deceiving his own people, the only people who actually believe his screechy gibberish. None of what he's up to is meant for the consumption of anyone outside his brainwashed cult — a cult that continues to swallow his loopy "Jim Jones for Dummies" act.

Step One: Blame China
It's already well established that ever since he tried to coin his own phrase for the virus, the "Chinese virus," Trump's intention has been to find a visible culprit to blame in order to deflect criticism of his unforgivable ineptitude. Namely China.

Trump Falsely Claims ‘Ultimate Authority’ to Override States’ Virus Measures
Constitutional experts, government agencies and Republican governors all say otherwise.
By Linda Qiu

President Trump, in a combative news conference on Monday, falsely and repeatedly asserted that he had the unilateral power to compel states to lift stay-at-home orders and businesses to open. Here’s a fact check of that and other claims.

What Was Said
Reporter: “There’s a debate over what authority you have to order the country reopened. What authority do you have on this one?”
Mr. Trump: “Well, I have the ultimate authority.”

False. He does not have the authority to override stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders from governors, or “total” authority in general. “I don’t know of anything that would allow him to do this,” said Chris Edelson, a professor of government at American University. “We live in a constitutional system with checks and balances. Nobody has total authority.” “The President has no formal legal authority to categorically override local or state shelter-in-place orders or to reopen schools and small businesses,” Stephen I. Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, said on Twitter. “No statute delegates to him such power; no constitutional provision invests him with such authority.”

Trump's move to cut WHO funding prompts world condemnation
By Jeff Mason, Paulina Duran

WASHINGTON/SYDNEY (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to halt funding to the World Health Organization over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic prompted condemnation on Wednesday from world leaders who appealed for cooperation and unity. Trump, who has reacted angrily to accusations his administration’s response to the worst epidemic in a century was haphazard and too slow, had become increasingly hostile towards the U.N. agency before announcing the halt on Tuesday. The WHO, which is based in Geneva, had promoted China’s “disinformation” about the virus that likely led to a wider outbreak than otherwise would have occurred, Trump said. WHO had failed to investigate credible reports from sources in China’s Wuhan province, where the virus was first identified in December, that conflicted with Beijing’s accounts about the spread and “parroted and publicly endorsed” the idea that human to human transmission was not happening, Trump said. “The WHO failed in this basic duty and must be held accountable,” Trump told a White House news conference on Tuesday.

By Erin Banco, Lachlan Cartwright

In a series of conversations last September, senior Department of Justice officials worked with representatives of the Australian government to hammer out an arrangement to win the release of a pair of Australian bloggers imprisoned in Tehran.  At the same time those talks were taking place, Attorney General Bill Barr and his lieutenants were speaking to the Australians about another matter: getting their help as the Department of Justice looked into the origins of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Barr, like his boss, President Donald Trump, had long had a view of the Russia probe that bordered on hostile, and his review has been widely seen as an attempt to discredit the Mueller investigation, which led to the indictment of multiple Trumpworld associates. Just days before the culmination of talks in September—which coincided with an official Australian state visit—Trump himself pushed Prime Minister Scott Morrison to help Barr with this inquiry. Barr followed up about the Mueller re-investigation, two U.S. officials and a third individual familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast, even as American and Australian officials finalized their arrangement to try to free the pair jailed in Iran. According to four sources—including those two U.S. officials and one former U.S. official—the American government agreed to help facilitate the release of the Australian bloggers, in part by agreeing to pull back from pursuing the extradition of an Iranian scientist held in Australia. "This story suggests that the president is continuing to use the authority of his office to pressure foreign leaders into assisting him in covering up Russia’s assistance with his 2016 victory." — Prof. Claire Finkelstein

While Baier pointed out the rank hypocrisy, his Fox News colleague Brit Hume waved off Trump's comments as just another of the president’s exaggerations.
By Justin Baragona

Fox News anchor Bret Baier on Tuesday called out conservatives for exhibiting some hypocrisy over President Donald Trump asserting he had “total” authority over states’ decisions, pointing out that their “heads would’ve exploded” if the previous president made similar remarks. During an unhinged coronavirus briefing on Monday, the president insisted that he had absolute power when it comes to states’ social-distancing guidelines, claiming that he has authority over governors to decide when states should reopen amid the pandemic. Despite legal experts rebutting his assertion, the president doubled down on Tuesday and likened Democratic governors to mutineers. Appearing on Fox News’ The Daily Briefing on Tuesday, Baier was asked by host Dana Perino to react to the growing back-and-forth between Trump and governors, especially with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo firing back at president’s claims. “First of all, the Constitution is pretty clear,” Fox News’ chief political anchor replied. “Constitutional scholars will say that this is not the president flicking on the switch, it’s the governors and the local authorities that have that going forward.” “I think that there’s hypocrisy here in that, one, if President Obama had said those words that you heard from President Trump, that the authority is total with the presidency, conservatives’ heads would’ve exploded across the board,” he continued.

By Jim Acosta and Caroline Kelly, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump's name will appear on checks sent to millions of Americans to combat the economic effects of the coronavirus in a last-minute Treasury Department order, a senior administration official confirmed to CNN on Tuesday. The decision to add Trump's name will not result in a delay for Americans receiving those checks, the senior administration official said. The Washington Post was first to report on the news Tuesday. Two senior officials told the Post that the decision would probably set back the delivery date on the first set of paper checks -- potentially slowing a process that could already take up to 20 weeks. But the Treasury Department denied the claim, with a department spokesperson assuring the Post that the first batch of checks was still slated to go out next week. "Economic Impact Payment checks are scheduled to go out on time and exactly as planned -- there is absolutely no delay whatsoever," the Treasury spokesperson told the paper. CNN has reached out to the White House and the Treasury Department for comment. Citing senior agency officials, the Post reported that the words "President Donald J. Trump" would appear in the memo line on the left side of the checks -- marking the first time a president's written name is featured on an IRS check. The President's name will be on all paper checks sent to people who are receiving stimulus payments. Many others are receiving the payments through direct deposit, if they have their bank information on file with the Treasury Department. Some of those direct deposit payments have already begun being deposited in bank accounts. The news comes as the Treasury Department races to get coronavirus stimulus checks to tens of millions of taxpayers who haven't authorized direct deposits -- and could be waiting weeks for checks in the mail.

By Lisa Rein

The Treasury Department has ordered President Trump’s name be printed on stimulus checks the Internal Revenue Service is rushing to send to tens of millions of Americans, a process that could slow their delivery by a few days, senior IRS officials said. The unprecedented decision, finalized late Monday, means that when recipients open the $1,200 paper checks the IRS is scheduled to begin sending to 70 million Americans in coming days, “President Donald J. Trump” will appear on the left side of the payment. It will be the first time a president’s name appears on an IRS disbursement, whether a routine refund or one of the handful of checks the government has issued to taxpayers in recent decades either to stimulate a down economy or share the dividends of a strong one. Treasury officials disputed that the checks would be delayed. While some people receiving the checks — the centerpiece of the U.S. government’s economic relief package to stave of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic — may not care, or observe, whose name appears on them, the decision is another sign of Trump’s effort to cast his response to the pandemic in political terms. Trump had privately suggested to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who oversees the IRS, to allow the president to formally sign the checks, according to three administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. But the president is not an authorized signer for legal disbursements by the U.S. Treasury. It is standard practice for a civil servant to sign checks issued by the Treasury Department to ensure that government payments are nonpartisan.

By Betsy Klein and Jennifer Hansler, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he is halting funding to the World Health Organization while a review is conducted. Trump said the review would cover the WHO's "role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus." Trump's announcement comes in the middle of the worst global pandemic in decades and as he angrily defends his own handling of the outbreak in the United States. Amid swirling questions about whether he downplayed the crisis or ignored warnings from members of his administration about its potential severity, Trump has sought to assign blame elsewhere, including at the WHO and in the news media. The US funds $400 million to $500 million to the WHO each year, Trump said, noting that China "contributes roughly $40 million." "Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China's lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death," Trump said. His decision to withdraw funding from the WHO follows a pattern of skepticism of world organizations that began well before the coronavirus pandemic. Trump has questioned US funding to the United Nations, withdrawn from global climate agreements and lambasted the World Trade Organization -- claiming all were ripping off the United States. Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said earlier Tuesday that while the WHO and China "made mistakes," Trump is also looking to deflect blame from his own administration. "Right now, there is a very coordinated effort amongst the White House and their allies to try to find scapegoats for the fatal mistakes that the President made during the early stages of this virus," he said. Murphy added: "It is just wildly ironic that the President and his allies are now criticizing China or the WHO for being soft on China when it was in fact the President who was the chief apologist for China during the early stages of this crisis."

By Sara Murray and Scott Glover, CNN

(CNN) Donald Trump was in his element. Playing to a cheering crowd at a Detroit-area auto parts plant in January, the president railed against disgraceful Democrats, bad trade deals and the dishonest media as he touted his record of creating jobs "like you have never seen before." The brewing coronavirus crisis merited only a brief mention at the end of his speech. He wanted to assure his audience that his administration had it "very well under control." "We think it's going to have a very good ending," Trump said. Since then, an employee at the plant tested positive for coronavirus. Afterward, the plant ceased production, leaving its hourly workforce to collect unemployment. The company, Dana Inc., which has locations around the globe, has seen its stock price plummet by more than 40% amid fears of the virus' uncontrolled spread. As opposed to a good ending, there is currently no end in sight. Southeastern Michigan, where the plant is located, emerged as a coronavirus hot spot, at one point pushing the state's caseload to among the top in the nation. When Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, recently appealed to the federal government for help, Trump took offense at her criticism of the federal response and what he saw as her ingratitude. He lobbed insults, calling her "Gretchen 'Half' Whitmer" on Twitter and telling Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the coronavirus task force, "don't call the woman in Michigan." While government officials and public health experts have devoted years to efforts to enhance US preparedness for a pandemic, a key factor went overlooked: a president like Trump. His response to the Covid-19 crisis has been marred by many of the same traits that have characterized his presidency, including a penchant for false statements, deflection of blame, self-aggrandizement and bullying. The president's approach made it more difficult for those around him who scrambled to mount a cohesive response to the pandemic, according to public health experts and other officials. A whistleblower holding an envelope. There was no contingency plan for a commander in chief who would deem the threat from Covid-19 "under control" when it was anything but. There was no tabletop exercise that simulated a President telling Americans the virus would "miraculously" disappear. Nor did anyone anticipate that the millions of Americans who watch Fox News would see the mysterious, rapidly spreading novel coronavirus minimized and politicized for weeks. There was no playbook for dealing with a public health disaster of this magnitude in Trump's America.

by William Cummings USA TODAY

While discussing whether he or the nation's governors have the power to lift restrictions states put in place to fight the spread of the coronavirus, President Donald Trump declared at a news briefing Monday, "When somebody’s president of the United States, the authority is total." The president's unprecedented claim of total power met with immediate pushback from Democrats and Republicans, many of them arguing the U.S. Constitution explicitly refutes his claim to absolute authority. "The federal government does not have absolute power," said Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who went on to quote the text of the 10th Amendment in a tweet that went viral. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said changes to the social-distancing orders should be made by the governors. Federal guidelines "will be very influential. But the Constitution & common sense dictates these decisions be made at the state level," he tweeted. Jonathan Turley – a law professor at George Washington University who argued against Trump's impeachment before the House Judiciary Committee and a USA TODAY contributor – said the framers wrote the Constitution precisely to bar presidents from claiming the type of authority asserted by Trump. "Our constitutional system was forged during a period of grave unease over executive authority. After all, the nation had just broken away from the control of a tyrant," Turley said. And if there is "one overriding principle" in the Constitution, it is to avoid the concentration of power, and it does so "in myriad ways," he said. The 10th Amendment was one instrument written to help ensure that the federal government would not be able to impose the kind of absolute authority the framers feared.

What the 10th Amendment says
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." What it means  Turley said federalism, in which states are granted a large degree of autonomy, was one of the ways the framers sought to avoid authoritarianism. The other was to limit the possibility of "constitutional drift" – in which individual officials or branches of the federal government slowly expand their authority – by creating "clear structural limitations" on the powers of the federal government. He described the 10th Amendment as an "insurance policy" against such constitutional "mission creep." "It basically mandates that the default position" in conflicts between the states and the federal government "rests with the states," he said, "So, when federal push comes to states' shove, the states are supposed to prevail." "There is nothing particularly ambiguous about that." Kathleen Bergin, a law professor at Cornell University, agreed. "It's so plain and obvious it's not even debatable," Begin said. "Trump has no authority to ease social distancing, or to open schools or private businesses. These are matters for states to decide under their power to promote public health and welfare, a power guaranteed by the 10th Amendment to the Constitution."

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