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A complete accounting of how much taxpayers have forked over to the Trump Organization since its CEO's election is as likely as a Trump pardon for Michael Cohen.
By Zach Everson

On Wednesday night, when President Donald Trump addressed supporters from behind a Trump Hotels lectern in a room at his Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., one of his company's most faithful customers accompanied him. The U.S. Secret Service. The government agency charged with protecting the president has paid his businesses at least $471,000 to fulfill its congressional mandate, according to documents The Washington Post recently obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. That's money from U.S. taxpayers flowing to the Trump Organization, with a venerable 155-year-old law enforcement organization being used like one of Michael Cohen's Delaware shell companies and serving as a conduit for presidential profit. And that $471,000 figure? It's only through April 2018. In an interview with Yahoo Finance in October, Trump Organization Executive Vice President Eric Trump claimed his company charged the government only enough to recoup its costs when hosting the president. (Eric Trump also denied the new Washington Post reporting.) But the rates the new documents detail — $650 per room at Mar-a-Lago! $17,000 to rent a cottage for a month at Trump Bedminster! payments to the D.C. hotel despite Trump's never having spent a night there as president! — seem a bit higher than what it costs to clean a room and freshen the linens. These formerly federal funds can and do reach the president's pocket, albeit through another conduit: Trump's 400-plus business interests are held in a revocable trust that is not blind and can "distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request," as ProPublica reported. (Maybe the president withdrew $1 from it to buy a Coke while you read that last sentence — we simply don't know.) That's money from U.S. taxpayers flowing to the Trump Organization, with a venerable 155-year-old law enforcement organization being used like one of Michael Cohen's Delaware shell companies.

An attempt to attack the Bidens backfired spectacularly on Twitter.
By Ed Mazza

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) latest attack on former Vice President Joe Biden didn’t go exactly as planned. McCarthy, who is part of President Donald Trump’s inner circle, seemed to accuse Biden of nepotism over son Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian energy company. Just one problem: Everything he said could apply equally to the Trump family:

Omfg, this dummy doesn’t realize he’s describing the President’s children pic.twitter.com/kvrlVgUO5e
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) March 8, 2020

Daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner currently serve as White House advisers ― positions neither would hold in any other administration. During her time serving her father, Ivanka Trump has been granted multiple trademarks by the government of China, even as the White House attempted to negotiate trade issues with Beijing.

A federal official says the White House overruled health officials who wanted to recommend that elderly and physically fragile Americans be advised not to fly on commercial airlines because of the new coronavirus
By MIKE STOBBE AP Medical Writer

NEW YORK -- The White House overruled health officials who wanted to recommend that elderly and physically fragile Americans be advised not to fly on commercial airlines because of the new coronavirus, a federal official told The Associated Press. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention submitted the plan this week as a way of trying to control the virus, but White House officials ordered the air travel recommendation be removed, said the official who had direct knowledge of the plan. Trump administration officials have since suggested certain people should consider not traveling, but they have stopped short of the stronger guidance sought by the CDC. The person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity did not have authorization to talk about the matter. The person did not have direct knowledge about why the decision to kill the language was made. In a tweet, the press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence, Katie Miller, said that “it was never a recommendation to the Task Force” and called the AP story “complete fiction." On Friday, the CDC quietly updated its website to tell older adults and people with severe medical conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease to "stay home as much as possible" and avoid crowds. It urges those people to “take actions to reduce your risk of exposure,” but it doesn't specifically address flying.

Facebook says it’s taking down ads that link to the form because of its policy against misleading census content.
By Shirin Ghaffary

Shortly ahead of the US National 2020 census, President Trump’s campaign is running ads on Facebook that some are saying are misleading users into thinking that a data-gathering and fundraising survey for the Trump presidential campaign is actually the official US national census. Facebook confirmed with Recode that it plans to take down the ads. According to Facebook’s ad library, Trump’s Facebook page is running a series of hundreds of ads asking users to respond to what it calls a “census.” But in fact, the ads point to a campaign survey for Trump, not the official 2020 US census. Critics say the ads could mislead users into thinking that they’re filling out the actual census when they’re not — potentially discouraging people from filling out the real US census that will be hitting mailboxes next week. The US census is critical in determining representation and funding for communities, including how $1.5 trillion in federal resources are spent. While the ads also refer to the form as a “survey” to help Trump craft a “winning strategy,” many are saying they conflate political campaign language with that of official census communications. Facebook has touted its policy against census misinformation, banning “misleading information about when and how to participate in the census and the consequences of participating,” including in ads. But the social media giant reportedly told Judd Legum’s Popular Information, which first pointed out the issue Thursday morning, that the ads do not violate Facebook’s policy because in Facebook’s view they are related to the Trump campaign and not the census. Upon further review, though, Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone told Recode later on Thursday that Facebook is taking down the ads in question and shared the following company statement: “There are policies in place to prevent confusion around the official U.S. Census and this is an example of those being enforced.”

Eric Trump claims that taxpayers were billed $50 per night, but the receipts show the real figure is closer to $400
By Igor Derysh

President Donald Trump's properties have charged taxpayers nearly eight times more than previously claimed for Secret Service stays, according to new documents obtained by the watchdog group Public Citizen. Eric Trump has claimed that Secret Service agents "stay at our properties for free — meaning, like, cost for housekeeping." He insisted last year that "we charge them, like, 50 bucks." But receipts obtained by Public Citizen and first reported by The Washington Post show that Trump's properties have charged the Secret Service $396 per night for 177 rentals at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort since he took office. The Post previously reported that some Trump properties charge taxpayers as much as $650 per room. The president's Bedminster, N.J. golf club also charged $17,000 per month for Secret Service agents to rent a cottage on the property. The Secret Service continued to pay for the cottage even after he left. The report found that taxpayers spent more than $471,000 on Trump properties, but the new receipts show that the Trump Organization charged Secret Service an additional $157,000 since 2017, bringing the total to more than $628,000. Eric Trump insisted to The Post that the company charges Secret Service agents "at cost," but the rates reveal that Mar-a-Lago charged Secret Service double what it charged officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Unlike other government officials, Secret Service agents who are on duty are exempt from federal limits on hotel spending for federal employees. Past presidents and vice presidents allowed the Secret Service to use space on their properties for free, according to The Post. Trump has spent 355 days, or nearly a full third of his presidency, at his own properties. After reviewing hundreds of Trump property stays, The Post was unable to find any instance in which the Trump Organization charged agents for $50, as Eric Trump claimed, or even below $100. The bills from Mar-a-Lago do claim that the $396 room rate is the property's "at-cost" rate, but hotel experts told The Post that the average housekeeping bill at a luxury hotel is typically between $40 and $50. Diego Bufquin, a professor at the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management, told The Post it was "not possible" that at-cost rates would balloon to nearly $400. "Let's say that you use the best shampoos, the best soaps, the best conditioners, the best coffee," he explained. "At the end of the day, you may have something approaching $100 if you have the top products in the world in your guest room . . . I've never seen variable costs per room sold at $400."

By Lauren Hirsch

Topping a week of conflicting statements from the administration about how many tests the U.S. is now able to administer for the coronavirus, President Donald Trump on Friday told reporters at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta that “anybody who wants a test gets a test.” U.S. health officials started the week by defending themselves to members of Congress for a shortage of tests across the country. That shortage, along with tight restrictions from the CDC on who could be tested, allowed infected people to go undetected and further spread it, say health experts. After being rebuked for the delays, Food and Drug Administration chief Stephen Hahn on Tuesday told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions that, with the aid of private sector partnerships, the government would be able to test roughly a million individuals by the end of the week. But by Thursday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters he expects public laboratories this week to test 400,000 people. Later that day, Vice President Mike Pence said “we don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward.” Pence is leading the government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.


US President Donald Trump has replaced his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, whose departure had long been rumoured. He said North Carolina lawmaker Mark Meadows would take over the job, a development tipped for weeks. Mr Trump said Mr Mulvaney would become US special envoy to Northern Ireland. Mr Mulvaney was perceived to have implicated the president in last year's impeachment inquiry in an off-the-cuff remark at the White House podium. When Mr Mulvaney gave a rare White House press conference in October, he shrugged off criticism over an alleged corrupt deal with Ukraine by saying: "We do that all the time." Mr Trump was reportedly outraged by the gaffe. Mr Mulvaney then walked back his comments in a written statement that said: "Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election." Last month, Mr Trump said reports that Mr Mulvaney would be fired were "false", insisting he had a "great relationship" with him.

The president went off on Inslee for saying that he wanted Trump to stick to the science when discussing the coronavirus outbreak.

President Donald Trump on Friday called Washington Gov. Jay Inslee “a snake” for criticizing his administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. Speaking in Atlanta at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Trump went off on Inslee for saying that he wanted Trump to stick to the science when discussing the outbreak. Trump has repeatedly tried to downplay the gravity of the outbreak and floated his own hunches on matters of science. “I told Mike not to be complimentary of that governor because that governor is a snake,” Trump said, referring to Vice President Mike Pence. “So Mike may be happy with him but I'm not, OK?”

“He didn’t say that,” Conway said just before Fox News played a clip of Trump saying just that.
By Matt Wilstein

“Oh, we’ll be cutting.” Those four words—spoken in response to a question about entitlements during a Fox News town hall on Thursday—are likely to haunt President Donald Trump for the rest of his re-election campaign. But don’t worry, Kellyanne Conway said Friday morning on Fox News, the president didn’t actually say what you heard him say. Fox News host Ed Henry brought those comments, referring to them as something Trump “seems to be trying to clean up this morning,” during the White House counselor’s latest appearance on the network. “Kellyanne, the president this morning promising he’ll protect Social Security and Medicare,” Henry said. “You were there at that town hall, he said the opposite. He said that he, in a second term, would cut Social Security and Medicare and he would cut entitlement programs. Why did he say that?” “He didn’t say that,” Conway replied with a straight face. “You’re misquoting him, respectfully.” She went on to explain that when she brought up the reaction to the comments with Trump directly, he told her, “No, I’m talking about cutting deficits.” Henry could have let it go at that, but instead he played the video clip of the moment, which clearly contradicts that explanation. At the town hall, Fox host Martha MacCallum told the president, “If you don’t cut something in entitlements, you’ll never really deal with the debt.” “Oh, we’ll be cutting,” Trump said in response. “But we’re also going to have growth like you’ve never had before.” “So Martha MacCallum said right there, but you’re going to have cut entitlements to cut the deficit and he said, ‘We’ll be cutting,’” Henry said after the clip finished. And yet, in the face of video evidence, Conway maintained her spin. “But that wasn’t what he was talking about, he wasn’t talking about cutting entitlements,” she insisted, pointing to a statement from Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham that similarly tried to clean up those comments. She then deftly pivoted to blaming President Barack Obama, and the show moved on to the coronavirus.

By Daniel Dale and Tara Subramaniam, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump made a rapid-fire series of false claims at a televised town hall event hosted by Fox News on Thursday in Scranton, Pennsylvania. We counted at least 14 false claims in our first dive into the transcript, plus four claims that were lacking some important context. The numbers might well rise as we delve deeper, but here's the preliminary list:

Hunter Biden's career
Trump claimed that, before Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden was appointed to the board of directors of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings, Hunter Biden "didn't have a job." Facts First: At the time Hunter Biden was appointed to the board of Burisma in 2014, he was a lawyer at the firm Boies Schiller Flexner, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's foreign service program, chairman of the board of World Food Program USA, and chief executive officer and chairman of Rosemont Seneca Advisors, an investment advisory firm. He also served on other boards. Before Joe Biden became vice president in 2009, Hunter Biden, a lawyer who graduated from Yale Law School, worked as a lobbyist. He became a partner at a law and lobbying firm in 2001. (He stopped lobbying late in the 2008 election.) Before that, he had worked for financial services company MBNA, rising to senior vice president and worked for the US Commerce Department. None of this is to say that Hunter Biden's name was not a factor in the Burisma appointment; Hunter Biden has acknowledged that he would "probably not" have been asked to be on the board if he were not a Biden. But Trump's repeat portrayal of him as a pitiful unemployed man is inaccurate.

By Philip Ewing and Claudia Grisales - NPR

Sen. Mitt Romney has cleared the path for his Republican colleagues to intensify their investigation next week into former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter. The Utah Republican said Friday that he'll go along with his fellow members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and authorize a subpoena as part of an investigation into what Republicans call potential conflicts of interest from Biden's tenure in office. Romney had wavered about joining the other Republicans on the panel, who control the majority but would have needed him to break a tie if all the Democrats present opposed a subpoena. On Friday, a spokeswoman said that Romney and Sen. Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin Republican who chairs the committee, reached an accord that made Romney comfortable with going along. "Senator Romney has expressed his concerns to Chairman Johnson, who has confirmed that any interview of the witness would occur in a closed setting without a hearing or public spectacle," said spokeswoman Liz Johnson. "He will therefore vote to let the chairman proceed to obtain the documents that have been offered." Johnson and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have been seeking interviews with witnesses and documents about Hunter Biden for several months. They've contacted the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and a political consultancy, Blue Star Strategies — among others — with requests for responses. Johnson and Grassley, who is not on the homeland security committee, have said they haven't gotten satisfactory responses to their formal requests, which is why Johnson's committee is expected to begin issuing subpoenas now that Romney is on board.

House lawyers say the alternatives to judicial review of congressional subpoenas would be a menu of unpalatable options.

House lawyers argued Friday that an appeals court ruling blocking lawmakers from suing to obtain information from the executive branch would leave Congress with little choice but to exercise extreme options — such as arresting “current and former high-level” officials to get answers to its subpoenas. “The House could direct its sergeant at arms to arrest current and former high-level executive branch officials for failing to respond to subpoenas, after which the legal issues dividing the branches would then be litigated through habeas actions,” House lawyers wrote in a filing seeking a rehearing of the matter by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. “But arrest and detention should not be a prerequisite to obtaining judicial resolution of the enforceability of a congressional subpoena.” The filing comes a week after an appeals court panel ruled 2-1 that the House may not ask judges to force the White House to make former counsel Don McGahn available for testimony. The panel determined that courts have no place intervening in disputes between Congress and the executive branch, a ruling that would remake the balance of power between the two branches of government if it stands. The judges in that ruling worried that allowing the House to turn to the courts to resolve a subpoena dispute with the White House would lead to a flood of litigation. Though two of the three judges doubted the White House’s argument that McGahn is “absolutely immune” from testifying to Congress, the opinion said the House lawsuit failed altogether because the courts don’t have a say. House lawyers said these arguments were bogus and left lawmakers with a menu of unpalatable options to obtain information the White House doesn’t want to provide. In addition to arresting people, the House could “use its appropriations power to shut down the government in response to executive stonewalling.” “The panel’s belief that Congress can use ‘political tools to bring the Executive Branch to heel’ is sorely misguided,” House Counsel Doug Letter wrote in the filing. “Use of the appropriations process to grind the Government to a halt over a subpoena dispute would be extraordinary and immensely damaging to the whole Nation. Appealing to the public in the next election does not aid this Committee in its urgent inquiries. Impeachment is not an appropriate means to obtain information — indeed, President Trump ordered all subpoenaed documents withheld from Congress during the House’s impeachment inquiry.” “Nor is referring the matter to DOJ for a contempt prosecution — a referral that DOJ has made clear it would not pursue ... a proper substitute for judicial enforcement of subpoenas,” Letter added.

by Joseph Zeballos-Roig

President Trump said at a Fox News town hall forum that he intended to cut entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. Trump was asked during the interview about the $23 trillion national debt, which has continued surging under his watch. He campaigned on 2016 on wiping it out but instead passed laws like the 2017 tax cuts, which piled more onto it. At the town hall, Fox News host Martha MacCallum told the president that if "you don't cut something in entitlements, you will never really deal with the debt," and Trump immediately responded. "Oh, we'll be cutting," he said to the Scranton, Pennsylvania, audience. "We're also going to have growth like you've never seen before." The comments appear to be a reversal from Trump's promise to leave the two largest federal government programs untouched in a second term. In a CNBC interview last month, Trump expressed a willingness to cut funding for both programs. "At the right time, we will take a look at that. You know, that's actually the easiest of all things, if you look," he told CNBC's Joe Kernen.

By Kashmira Gander

Experts fear a "broken" system for testing suspected cases of the deadly new coronavirus in the U.S., which has reached more than a dozen states, has set the country back in containing the disease and enabled it to silently spread. Following weeks of setbacks with screening for COVID-19, the head of the White House coronavirus task force, Vice President Mike Pence, told reporters in Minnesota on Thursday according to CNN, "We don't have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward." Earlier in the week, Pence told media at the White House screening restrictions had been lifted so "any American can be tested" for the illness, according to The New York Times, although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Politico that capacity on Tuesday stood at 15,000, and was expected to rise to 75,000 this week. Thursday's admission came after the head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Dr. Stephen Hahn told a White House press briefing on Monday that industry estimates indicated "by the end of this week, close to a million tests will be able to be performed," The New York Times reported. Hahn said there would be a "substantial increase in the number of tests this week, next week, and throughout the month" after the agency said it would allow private laboratories and companies to make their own tests to increase capacity. Asked whether the U.S. would hit its million test goal, Pence spokesperson Katie Miller told CNN on Thursday, "We're not missing it." But experts have told Newsweek snafus have lost the country precious time in controlling the spread of the disease. Earlier this week, the CDC controversially stopped reporting the number of individuals who have or are being tested for COVID-19, explaining on its website "now that states are testing and reporting their own results, CDC's numbers are not representative all of testing being done nationwide." While the health agency's website (accurate as of March 5 and due to be updated at noon today) reported a total of 99 cases across 13 states, a dashboard maintained by Johns Hopkins University pooling data from the CDC as we as local health departments put the figure at 233. The New York Times tracker said people with COVID-19 have been treated in 20 states, and 14 have died. Medical doctor and former Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress Dena Grayson, who played a role in the development of drugs to treat the deadly Ebola virus, told Newsweek: "the government has made some blunders in our pandemic preparedness by not quickly deploying functional coronavirus testing kits nor having sufficient testing capacity early on, when containment (via contact tracing and quarantines) would have been much more feasible."

“I don’t know what went wrong,” a former CDC chief told The Atlantic.
By Robinson MeyerAlexis C. Madrigal

It’s one of the most urgent questions in the United States right now: How many people have actually been tested for the coronavirus? This number would give a sense of how widespread the disease is, and how forceful a response to it the United States is mustering. But for days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has refused to publish such a count, despite public anxiety and criticism from Congress. On Monday, Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, estimated that “by the end of this week, close to a million tests will be able to be performed” in the United States. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence promised that “roughly 1.5 million tests” would be available this week. But the number of tests performed across the country has fallen far short of those projections, despite extraordinarily high demand, The Atlantic has found. “The CDC got this right with H1N1 and Zika, and produced huge quantities of test kits that went around the country,” Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC from 2009 to 2017, told us. “I don’t know what went wrong this time.” Through interviews with dozens of public-health officials and a survey of local data from across the country, The Atlantic could only verify that 1,895 people have been tested for the coronavirus in the United States, about 10 percent of whom have tested positive. And while the American capacity to test for the coronavirus has ramped up significantly over the past few days, local officials can still test only several thousand people a day, not the tens or hundreds of thousands indicated by the White House’s promises.

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) On Friday morning, amid questions of why President Donald Trump had canceled a planned trip to Atlanta to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House released this statement: "The President is no longer traveling to Atlanta today. The CDC has been proactive and prepared since the very beginning and the President does not want to interfere with the CDC's mission to protect the health and welfare of their people and the agency." OK! Makes some sense, since a presidential visit requires a massive amount of logistics and security that, theoretically, could take away from the important work the CDC is doing in identifying and containing the novel coronavirus. Except that, when asked later Friday morning why he had canceled the CDC trip, Trump said this: "We may go. They thought there was a problem at CDC, somebody that had the virus. They've tested the person very fully and it was a negative test," Trump said. "I may be going they're going to see if they can turn it around with Secret Service." Uh. So, which is it? Did the White House cancel because they didn't want to be a distraction to the CDC? Or because there were concerns that by going Trump could expose himself (and his staff) to the virus? Because that's a BIG difference. Adding even more confusion, the trip is now back on as of Friday midday, according to White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. "What the President said is true," she offered by way of explanation. Er, OK? That we are getting different messages from the White House's official channels and the President isn't, frankly, new. On an almost weekly basis, Trump says something in public that either directly contradicts or undermines a message his own White House has put out. Which, of course, raises the question of who to believe. While those dual -- and dueling -- messages are never a good thing, they are particularly problematic in a situation like dealing with the coronavirus. What the public needs are facts. One set of facts. From a trusted source.

By Glenn Kessler

“The Obama administration made a decision on testing that turned out to be very detrimental to what we’re doing. And we undid that decision a few days ago so that the testing can take place in a much more accurate and rapid fashion. That was a decision we disagreed with. I don’t think we would have made it, but for some reason it was made. But we’ve undone that decision.” “This was a very big move. It was something that we had to do and we did it very quickly. And now we have tremendous flexibility. Many, many more sites. Many, many more people. And you couldn’t have had that under the Obama rule, and we ended that rule very quickly.” — Trump, additional remarks at the same meeting. When things get tough in the Trump administration, the president has a default position — blame Barack Obama. The administration has been under fire for its failure to quickly expand testing for coronavirus across the United States; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had distributed flawed tests to state and local health departments. The lack of tests, compared with countries like South Korea that have tested tens of thousands of people, has meant the possible spread of the virus in the United States may be hidden. Trump suggested the problem instead was an “Obama rule” on testing that his administration had recently overturned. But this turns out to be completely wrong. Let’s explore.

The Facts
This is a fact check that turns out to be about a complex and technical issue that had attracted little attention outside trade press and a small community of experts. But the quick answer is there was no Obama rule, simply “guidance" that was never acted on because Congress stepped in and decided it would craft the necessary legislation, according to experts we consulted. The Trump administration, in fact, has been working with Congress on such legislation.

By Ted Barrett and Clare Foran, CNN

Washington (CNN) Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Thursday that he opposes censuring Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer amid a controversy over comments the New York Democrat made about Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. Graham, a close ally of President Donald Trump, explained that his position on the issue is, in part, because Schumer walked back his remarks, but also because it could lead to Democrats attacking Trump. "I don't want to start censuring everybody," the South Carolina Republican said, later adding, "If we start censuring him, they're going to want to censure Trump, and this stuff never ends." Schumer, speaking at a rally of abortion rights supporters Wednesday at the Supreme Court, appeared to threaten Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, Trump's two Supreme Court nominees who were confirmed after bruising nomination fights. "I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won't know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions," Schumer said. Schumer went on to say, "The bottom line is very simple: we will stand with the American people. We will stand with American women. We will tell President Trump and Senate Republicans, who have stacked the court with right-wing ideologues, that you're gonna be gone in November and you will never be able to do what you're trying to do now, ever, ever again. You hear that over there on the far-right? You're gone in November." The remarks led to a rare rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts. "Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous," Roberts said. A number of Republicans in Congress have criticized Schumer's remarks and Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri has introduced a resolution to censure Schumer.

By Erin Alberty and Bethany Rodgers

The Utah Coronavirus Task Force — headed by the lieutenant governor — said President Donald Trump “spread ... misinformation” when he suggested people could recover from COVID-19 while going to work. While warning that Trump had downplayed the dangers of exposure, state officials noted that the federal government doesn’t have enough tests for everyone who thinks they may have the virus. “DO NOT go to work if you have symptoms that match COVID-19. Stay home to avoid making others sick,” the Task Force tweeted Thursday. “Even if you have very mild symptoms, going to work sick could be dangerous to others. Let’s work together to stop the spread of misinformation like what’s in this video.” The state’s tweet included a recording of Trump saying: “We have thousands, or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work. Some of them go to work, but they get better.” Trump made the remarks during a phone interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, which aired Wednesday night. As critics decried the president’s comments, which contradict advice from the CDC, Trump responded in a tweet Thursday:

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

Washington (CNN) A federal judge Thursday criticized Attorney General William Barr for his handling of the Mueller report when it was released last spring, saying Barr's early description of the report didn't match the special counsel's actual conclusions. Judge Reggie Walton asked if Barr's actions were a "calculated attempt" to help President Donald Trump and opined the attorney general had a "lack of candor" with the public and Congress. "The Court cannot reconcile certain public representations made by Attorney General Barr with the findings in the Mueller Report," Walton wrote on Thursday. Barr's initial publicly announced interpretation of the findings from former special counsel Robert Mueller "cause the Court to seriously question whether Attorney General Barr made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller Report in favor of President Trump despite certain findings in the redacted version of the Mueller Report to the contrary." Barr has been under fire for months for his apparent political moves to protect the President and his allies from within the Justice Department. Walton said he will review the full Mueller report himself to make sure the Justice Department didn't over-redact it for public release. Walton said he was "troubled" by Barr's initial, quickly released letter clearing the President of wrongdoing and distancing his campaign from Russian interference in American politics. Walton also took issue with Barr's press conference about Mueller's findings and other public statements before the report was made public. "The speed by which Attorney General Barr released to the public the summary of Special Counsel Mueller's principal conclusions, coupled with the fact that Attorney General Barr failed to provide a thorough representation of the findings set forth in the Mueller Report, causes the Court to question whether Attorney General Barr's intent was to create a one-sided narrative about the Mueller Report -- a narrative that is clearly in some respects substantively at odds with the redacted version of the Mueller Report," Walton wrote.

Trump’s dangerous efforts to downplay the Covid-19 threat are out of step with experts from his own government.
By Aaron Rupar

On the same day that the World Health Organization (WHO) pegged the global death rate of the novel coronavirus at 3.4 percent — a figure higher than earlier estimates — President Donald Trump went on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show and insisted it’s actually not that bad. As cases spread across the United States (in part because of expanding testing) and states declare public health emergencies, Trump cited a “hunch” to make a case that the mortality rate is actually “a fraction of 1 percent.” He recklessly dismissed the WHO mortality rate as “really a false number,” used bogus numbers to compare the coronavirus to the much less deadly seasonal flu, and didn’t discourage people with Covid-19 (the disease caused by coronavirus) from going to work. It was a blizzard of dangerous, irresponsible misinformation, all delivered within a span of just over two minutes. Hannity responded not by challenging the president, but by quickly changing the topic. The episode illustrated the dangers of Trump leading a response to a public health emergency — and how out of step he is with public health experts within his own administration.

“Now, this is just my hunch”
Trump’s soliloquy about an illness he misleadingly described as “this corona flu” began after Hannity asked him to respond to the WHO’s 3.4 percent death rate figure (which the organization said could vary by region). He was also asked about the possibility that the Summer Olympics scheduled for this summer in Tokyo could be delayed.

By Lee Moran

Twitter users took President Donald Trump to task after he suggested in a rambling interview that it would be OK if people infected with the coronavirus ignored official advice to isolate and went to work instead. Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Wednesday night: A lot of people will have this and it’s very mild. They’ll get better very rapidly. They don’t even see a doctor. They don’t even call a doctor. You never hear about those people. So you can’t put them down in the category of the overall population in terms of this corona flu and/or virus. So you just can’t do that. So, if you know, we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work. Some of them go to work, but they get better. rump has been peddling falsehoods and downplaying the virus threat amid his administration’s haphazard response, even as COVID-19 illnesses spread in the U.S. Critics on social media appeared exasperated by Trump’s “go to work” suggestion, which contradicts Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that people with COVID-19 should “not go to work school or public areas” and “avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing or taxis.”

Not a doctor or a virologist or anything but DEFINITELY DO NOT GO TO WORK IF YOU HAVE CORONAVIRUS PLEASE AND THANK YOU. https://t.co/CpSxbvCHGs  — Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) March 5, 2020


NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has sold his stake in a company investing in Opportunity Zone projects offering tax breaks he had pushed for in Washington, sparking criticism that he was benefiting from his White House role. A filing at the Office of Government Ethics released Monday shows that Kushner received permission to defer capital gains taxes on the sale of his stake in Cadre, a digital platform for smaller investors in commercial properties. Kushner’s holding in the private Cadre was worth between $25 million and $50 million, according to a financial disclosure report he filed with federal ethics officials last year. A person familiar with the sale said Cadre asked Kushner last summer to consider selling because of worries that some potential new investors in the firm might raise conflict-of-interest issues. The person was not authorized to speak of Kushner’s personal finances and spoke only on a condition of anonymity. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, pushed for the Opportunity Zone tax breaks to be included in Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul. The breaks offer investors big cuts in capital gains taxes if they put money into businesses and buildings in 8,700 poor, struggling neighborhoods across the country that otherwise might not attract the money.

By Elizabeth Cohen and John Bonifield, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump sought to lay blame on the Obama administration for slowing down new diagnostic testing, but a Republican senator's office and a lab association said this is not correct. "The Obama administration made a decision on testing that turned out to be very detrimental to what we're doing," Trump said Wednesday during on a meeting addressing the coronavirus outbreak. "And we undid that decision a few days ago so that the testing can take place in a much more rapid and accurate fashion." An aide to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, said the Obama administration made no such rule change. The aide, Taylor Haulsee, said the Obama administration did propose that the Food and Drug Administration have more oversight over approving diagnostic tests, but that did not go through. "There has not yet been significant regulatory reform of diagnostics passed by Congress," Haulsee said.

Jill Wine-Banks, the only woman on the Watergate prosecution team, says Trump is clearly worse than Nixon
By Dean Obeidallah

Jill Wine-Banks has seen the Donald Trump story before — at least in a manner of speaking. It played out for her in 1973, when she became the first and only woman serving on the Watergate prosecution team. As she writes in her new book, "The Watergate Girl: My Fight for Truth and Justice Against a Criminal President," Donald Trump reminds her of Richard Nixon, "corrupt, amoral, vindictive, paranoid, ruthless and narcissistic." But will Trump's story end the way Nixon's did, with him leaving the White House in disgrace? When I spoke to Wine-Banks on "Salon Talks," the current MSNBC legal analyst shared her improbable story of breaking barrier after barrier. She was the first woman to serve as a staff lawyer in the Department of Justice's crime and labor racketeering section, then became part of the Watergate team and after that she made history when she was tapped by President Jimmy Carter to serve as the first female general counsel for the U.S. Army. But as Wine-Banks explained, she never set out to be a trailblazer. She simply had no choice because women in the legal field — as well as in larger society — had largely been limited to what men in power would allow them to achieve. She refused to accept that. Wine-Banks told me she believes Nixon should have been indicted for his crimes and criminally prosecuted in 1974. But Leon Jaworski, the special prosecutor in charge of the Watergate investigation, refused to allow his prosecutors to charge a sitting president.(Nixon was later pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford, which meant he could not be criminally charged after leaving office.) There's an interesting open question that Wine-Banks discusses: Had Nixon had gone to prison, would that have deterred Trump from his wrongdoing by making clear that even presidents are not above the law? Regardless of that hypothetical, Wine-Banks is adamant that Trump should be indicted for his criminal activity, from his hush money to Stormy Daniels in violation of federal campaign finance laws to his pressure campaign against Ukraine's president, urging him to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden. You get the sense that Wine-Banks would love to be part of the prosecution team that may one day prosecute Donald Trump. She told me she believes that "Trump is more dangerous" than Nixon because he does not respect the rule of law and because the Republican Party is defending every action Trump takes. This is an alarming warning coming from a person who saw Nixon's criminality up close. Watch my "Salon Talks" episode with Jill Wine-Banks here, or read a transcript of our conversation below, lightly edited for length and clarity.

“These are frail, medically compromised people,” said an attorney at the nonprofit Center for Medicare Advocacy, who opposes the change.
By Suzy Khimm and Laura Strickler

The Trump administration last year moved to roll back regulations aimed at preventing infections from spreading in nursing homes, a decision that is facing renewed criticism for endangering the elderly amid the coronavirus outbreak. With older, vulnerable residents living in close quarters, nursing homes face a heightened risk from the coronavirus — a majority of the nine deaths reported in the U.S. so far from the virus were residents of a long-term care center in Washington state. But over the last three years, the Trump administration has advanced — with the support of the nursing home industry — an effort to ease regulations on long-term care facilities and has taken significant steps to reduce fines for violations. Of particular concern in nursing homes is what experts call “infection control” to halt or prevent the spread of disease within health care facilities. Last July, the Trump administration proposed rolling back regulations requiring all nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to employ infection prevention specialists at least part time, citing “excessively burdensome requirements” on the industry. Under the proposal, which is still working its way through federal rule-making, nursing homes would be allowed to use consultants for infection prevention rather than hiring staff. “These are frail, medically compromised people, and they need to have someone focused on infection,” said Toby Edelman, a senior policy attorney at the nonprofit Center for Medicare Advocacy who opposes the proposed change.

Michael Ellis, a deputy to White House lawyer John Eisenberg, started in the role on Monday.

A White House lawyer and former counsel to the House Intelligence Committee under Devin Nunes has been named senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council, the latest instance of President Donald Trump elevating a trusted loyalist to control the intelligence community. Michael Ellis, a deputy to White House lawyer John Eisenberg, started in the role on Monday, according to a senior administration official and a former national security official. Ellis left the counsel’s office so won’t be dual-hatted with his new job. The office of the director for intelligence serves as the day to day connective tissue between the intelligence community and the White House. Sensitive information coming in from the intelligence agencies will go to that office, especially if it is in hard copy form. The office also coordinates covert action activities between the White House and the intelligence community, and it’s where the NSC server is housed that stores the most sensitive classified information. Ellis has been in the White House counsel’s office since 2017, and was reportedly one of the White House officials who showed Nunes intelligence reports that led to the congressman’s probe into surveillance of the Trump campaign team. Ellis also featured in the Ukraine scandal, according to testimony heard by the House Intelligence Committee during the impeachment investigation.

A contempt hearing for the firm linked to ‘Putin’s chef” produces prickly exchanges between the defense and the judge.

The Justice Department signaled Monday that it could back away from plans to put a Russian company on trial next month on a criminal charge that it bankrolled online and offline troll activity during the 2016 U.S. presidential race. During a court hearing in Washington, a prosecutor questioned whether the firm linked to an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — Concord Management and Consulting — was sufficiently involved in the American legal process to demand a trial on the criminal conspiracy charge obtained by special counsel Robert Mueller in 2018 as part of a broader indictment of Russian companies and individuals. Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Jed, who served on Mueller's staff and is still assigned to the case, said Concord's defiance of a court-approved subpoena raised doubts about its commitment to the U.S. trial. "We're starting to have some concern about whether Concord is really participating in this case," Jed told U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich. "We envision a possible situation where it would not be either possible or prudent to adhere to the current trial schedule." Screening of potential jurors for the trial has already begun. Potential jurors are scheduled to appear in court April 1 with the trial set to begin in earnest the following week. Friedrich seemed startled by Jed's suggestion of a postponement, although she indicated earlier in the half-hour-long hearing that she was frustrated with the company's limited response to a subpoena seeking various documents about its corporate structure, calendars of key personnel and internet use. The judge, an appointee of President Donald Trump, said she was highly suspect of Concord's failure to provide any documents in response to a request for the internet addresses the company used over a four-year period. Prosecutors say the firm's response was so lacking that the company should be held in contempt of court.

By Rebecca Beitsch

The Trump administration's plans for addressing vehicle emissions may not be as good for society as an Obama administration rule, according to a review released Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) independent science board. The analysis from the Science Advisory Board (SAB) found “significant weaknesses in the scientific analysis” of the 2018 Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles rule. The Trump administration has argued that reducing fuel economy requirements will allow automakers to produce more affordable cars. As customers replace older gas guzzlers with new cars, officials argued, overall emissions output will decline. Those new emissions targets would be rolled out alongside a measure that would freeze average fuel economy at 37 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2026 rather than the 54.5 mpg ordered by the Obama administration. But the Trump administration's analysis of the U.S. vehicle market and the costs and benefits of the rule was flawed because it overestimated the positive outcome of a rule significantly weaker than what it replaces, the SAB said in its report. “Together with other problems and inconsistencies, the issues are of sufficient magnitude that the estimated net benefits of the proposed revision may be substantially overstated,” the report said. “The standards in the 2012 [Obama-era] rule might provide a better outcome for society than the proposed revision.”

Opinion by Elie Honig

(CNN) Friday's Court of Appeals decision permitting former White House counsel Don McGahn to ignore a congressional subpoena is a constitutional earthquake. If the ruling -- by two judges, with a third dissenting -- stands, the McGahn decision will fundamentally shift the ground beneath our system of checks and balances. It will tilt the legal terrain against Congress in favor of not just the Trump administration (for now), but the presidency itself. The fact that McGahn -- according to special counsel Robert Mueller, a direct witness to acts that met the requirements to bring obstruction charges against President Donald Trump -- will not testify is actually the less important story here. (Trump has denied any wrongdoing.) As a refresher: in 2017, Trump asked McGahn to have Mueller fired, and then later asked McGahn to lie and deny that Trump had made the previous request of him. Any non-president would have been indicted for this conduct. Seems like a relevant point for Congress to investigate, but alas, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has let McGahn and the White House off the hook (again: for now, at least). The even bigger story here is that the McGahn ruling essentially guts Congress's ability to conduct oversight of the executive branch, now and in the future. After the Mueller report came out, the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed McGahn for his testimony. The White House, however, invoked a doctrine of "absolute immunity," claiming that it had the absolute right to instruct executive branch officials to simply ignore any congressional subpoena, anytime, for any reason. A federal district court judge promptly gave the White House's absolute immunity claim the legal smackdown it deserved. The judge ruled that McGahn must comply with the subpoena, and dismissed the White House's argument as "a fiction" that gets the concept of constitutional separation of powers "exactly backwards." The judge noted, "Presidents are not kings. " In overturning the district court judge, the Court of Appeals actually did not so much rule as cop out. The Court of Appeals did not even consider whether this notion of "absolute immunity" holds any legal legitimacy. Instead, the Court of Appeals whimpers that the case "asks us to settle a dispute that we have no authority to resolve," and huffs that the dispute is "unfit for judicial resolution." Translation: Congress and the White House, you can duke this out, and we'll just stay over here, out of harm's way.

By William Cummings USA TODAY

Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday defended comments from President Trump and his supporters accusing Democrats of politicizing the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, including Donald Trump Jr.'s assertion that his father's opponents hope the disease "kills millions" of Americans. "When you see voices on our side pushing back on outrageous and irresponsible rhetoric on the other side, I think that's important, and I think it's justified," Pence said when asked about the remarks from Trump Jr. and others on NBC News' "Meet the Press." Since the outbreak began, Trump has taken fire from liberal pundits, Democrats on Capitol Hill and his 2020 election opponents for comments that appeared to downplay the severity of the threat from the virus, including an assertion that it would simply die out once the weather warms. Critics also accused him of trying to defund programs and agencies designed to deal with exactly this kind of threat. COVID-19:Has the coronavirus outbreak entered a dire phase? 'Boom' of US cases 'should be expected' Globally, there are more than 86,000 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus and nearly 3,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. In the U.S., there are at least 76 confirmed cases, and the first U.S. death was reported over the weekend in Washington state. On Friday, Trump told a crowd of supporters at a campaign rally in South Carolina that the coronavirus was the Democrats' "new hoax" to use against him – the same term he used for the investigation into Russian election interference and his impeachment. The next day, Trump clarified that he was calling the Democrats' criticism – which he suggested ignored his administration's efforts – a hoax, not the actual virus. Several of Trump's surrogates took his attacks further. Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh said, "It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump." Limbaugh – who had previously espoused a debunked theory that the virus had been born in a Chinese biological weapons lab – said the virus was "nothing but the common cold" and that concerns about it were driven by "media hype."

By Geneva Sands and Priscilla Alvarez, CNN

(CNN) A federal judge on Sunday ruled that it was unlawful to appoint Ken Cuccinelli to lead the agency responsible for processing US immigration requests. The judge also invalidated a set of policies for the asylum seekers who are part of the case. Advocacy groups filed a federal lawsuit last year challenging the legitimacy of his role as acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, asking the court to set aside asylum policy changes issued shortly after he took office. Cuccinelli is currently serving as the acting Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees USCIS. The lawsuit argued that Cuccinelli, who took over at the agency on June 10, 2019, did not satisfy the legal requirements to serve as the director under Federal Vacancies Reform Act ("FVRA") and the Constitution. US District Court Judge Randolph D. Moss ruled that Cuccinelli was not lawfully appointed to serve as acting director and that, as a result, he lacked authority to issue two of the directives challenged in the lawsuit. However, Moss wrote that he is "unconvinced" the court should extend this relief to other "asylum seekers who were processed under the defective directives." "Those individuals are not parties to this case, nor is this case a class action," he wrote. CNN has reached out to USCIS for comment.

A Trump re-election could mean little or no progress for cannabis at the federal level.
By Sean Williams (TMFUltraLong)

Over the next decade, there are few industries expected to grow as quickly as marijuana. Even taking into account the near-term struggles associated with getting a nascent industry off the ground, Wall Street is looking for between $50 billion and $200 billion in worldwide annual sales by 2030. That'd be up from the $10.9 billion in legal sales logged in 2018. Among the opportunities available to pot stock investors, none is pronounced than the United States. The U.S. is likely to account for between 33% and 50% of global weed sales by 2030. To date, 33 states have legalized medical marijuana, with 11 of these states also giving the OK for adults to consume recreational cannabis. There's also a strong likelihood that these figures will increase following the November 2020 election. Yet as of now, marijuana remains an illicit substance at the federal level.

Marijuana's Schedule I classification is a bigger problem than you may realize
Even though surveys consistently show that a majority of adult respondents favor legalizing recreational and medical cannabis in the U.S., lawmakers haven't changed its Schedule I classification. This means it's a substance that's entirely illegal, considered prone to abuse, and not recognized as having any medical benefits. Since individual states have been allowed to regulate their own cannabis industries, this scheduling may not seem like a big deal. But make no mistake about it, the ongoing classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance is making life difficult for direct players operating from seed-to-sale, and the ancillary players that aren't even coming in contact with the plant. As an example, companies that sell a Schedule I substance are subject to Section 280E of the U.S. tax code. This section of the code was developed back in the early 1980s to disallow drug dealers from writing off their "business expenses" on their federal income-tax return. Inadvertently, it today keeps cannabis businesses in legalized states from taking any normal corporate income-tax deductions, save for cost of goods sold. This tends to result in very high effective tax rates for profitable pot companies relative to "normal" businesses.

By Daniel Politi

A patient infected with COVID-19 in Washington state has died, becoming the first person to die of the new virus in the United States. The King County patient is believed to have contracted the virus from “community spread” rather than travel, officials said. The man who died was in his 50s and had underlying health conditions, according to health officials in Washington state. There was a bit of confusion on that end because President Donald Trump had said in a news briefing Saturday that the person was a “medically high-risk patient in her late 50s.” Trump characterized har as “a wonderful woman.” Earlier, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee had referred to the patient as male. “It is a sad day in our state as we learn that a Washingtonian has died from COVID-19. Our hearts go out to his family and friends,” Inslee said. “We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus.” Inslee declared a state of emergency Saturday and directed agencies to use “all resources necessary” to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. Amid the increase in cases, the U.S. banned travel to Iran, extending the existing travel ban to any foreign nationals who had been in that country over the past 14 days. The State Department also increased travel warnings and is recommending Americans not travel to parts of Italy and South Korea. Vice President Mike Pence announced the new measures alongside Trump, who said his administration was considering additional travel restrictions, including possibly closing the U.S. border with Mexico. “We’re thinking about all borders,” Trump said.

Trump is already calling coronavirus a Democratic "hoax" — and attacks on his opponents are just starting
By Lucian K. Truscott IV

You may be forgiven if you are under the impression that the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus outbreak is just one more example of his incompetence, aggressive ignorance, contempt for science and outright abuse of government. But it's worse than that. For the White House, and especially for Donald Trump's re-election campaign, it's an opportunity to put into play the massive disinformation apparatus they have built for the 2020 presidential race.  Just look at what they've done so far. They unleashed their platoon of poodles in the right- wing media to pound the drum for the proposition that the Democrats have "weaponized" the coronavirus outbreak to "bring down Donald Trump," a line of outright horseshit pushed aggressively by Trumpazoid spokesbots Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity on their shows. Their "evidence"? Well, that terrible, nasty, mean Chuck Schumer has been critical of the Trump administration's initial request for only $2.5 billion to fight the virus, proposing instead that more than $8 billion will be needed. Trump himself doubled down against Democrats at his press conference on Thursday, unleashing a new attack on Nancy Pelosi. "I think Speaker Pelosi's incompetent. She's trying to create a panic. I think she's not thinking about the country," he added. "She should be saying we have to work together." As if that's not what Pelosi has been saying. But perhaps the most egregious thing they've done was to announce a rule that all statements coming from administration officials must be cleared through the office of Vice President Mike Pence. For the White House and the Trump campaign, saddled with an out-of-control narrative about a disaster they are singularly unequipped to handle, disinformation is no information at all. The Trump campaign's disinformation "Death Star," as one campaign operative described it to McKay Coppins of the Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/03/the-2020-disinformation-war/605530/ is located in an office building in Roslyn, Virginia, just across the Potomac from Washington. "Heavily funded, technologically sophisticated, and staffed with dozens of experienced operatives," the Trump campaign plans to spend more than $1 billion on "the most extensive disinformation campaign in U.S. history," according to Coppins' article. The Trump disinformation juggernaut is overseen by campaign manager Brad Parscale, who was digital director of the Trump 2016 campaign. The Trump campaign ran 5.9 million ads on Facebook in that campaign, according to Bloomberg News, while the Democrats ran only 66,000 Facebook ads. This year's campaign will make even more sophisticated use of the kind of micro-targeting they used in 2016. A political analyst on MSNBC recently pointed out that micro-targeting has become so effective that as few as 800 women in a mid-size city in Wisconsin could be sent a single anti-abortion ad on Facebook, thus eliminating the cost of broadcasting political content more widely.

By Brooke Seipel

Newly released emails from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reflect the internal concern over the agency's credibility after it released a statement backing up President Trump's forecast of Hurricane Dorian's projected path last fall. The emails, which were obtained by The Washington Post and other outlets as part of a Freedom of Information Act request, show complaints from members of the public to the agency's National Hurricane Center (NHC) Director Ken Graham, as well as complaints from internal staff. One email from a member of the public reads: “I was heartsick and dumbstruck to see the NOAA announcement today supporting the president’s ludicrous and psychotic defense of his Alabama forecast garbage. Mr. Graham, as a fellow scientist and professional, would you kindly reassure me that the politics of a lunatic will not be affecting the science done at NOAA and the NHC?” Trump on Sept. 1 tweeted that Alabama was a potential target of Hurricane Dorian, writing, “In addition to Florida - South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.” After Trump's remarks, a National Weather Service office in Alabama tweeted that the state would "NOT" be affected. Trump continued to stand behind his statement on Alabama, however, and on Sept. 4 displayed a map of Dorian’s projected path that appeared to show the path extended with black marker to include Alabama. Two days later, the NOAA issued an unsigned statement backing up Trump, saying the information provided to him and the public showed “that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.” That unsigned statement sparked, according to one NOAA employee's email, more than 600 emails from the public. The employee wrote that "most are asking, in some form, ‘How can we trust NOAA?’ or stating that ‘NOAA has lost its credibility.’" Other emails from staff also raised concerns about the appearance of credibility. One employee wrote: “Our integrity as a science agency is priceless ... when the next storm comes by (and it will), will we be believed?” The new batch of emails expands on previously released internal NOAA emails expressing concern over the Hurricane Dorian storm path projections. They also come as the Trump administration already faces questions surrounding how it will deal with the press amid the coronavirus outbreak.

By Rick Jervis and Rafael Carranza USA TODAY

AUSTIN — Confusion ricocheted across the border Friday as a federal appeals court blocked the Trump administration’s policy of returning asylum-seekers to Mexico to await court hearings, a practice immigrant advocates have denounced as inhumane and deadly. An earlier decision Friday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco dealt a blow to the Trump administration. The process — called the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, also known as "Remain in Mexico" — had been seen as a successful tool in President Donald Trump’s asylum crackdown. Throngs of migrants in the program flocked to international crossings across the border, including Matamoros, Ciudad Juárez, Nogales and Tijuana, buoyed by the chance of being let into the U.S. The crossing this morning remained under heavy guard. But the decision — and migrants' hopes — lasted only a few hours. About 7 p.m. Friday, the 9th Circuit judges granted an emergency stay on the injunction, as requested by the Trump administration, effectively reinstating MPP while further arguments are heard. The case appears to be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. "This evening, with support of DOJ attorneys and CBP’s declaration, the 9th Circuit granted a stay of its earlier order enjoining MPP," Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan tweeted Late Friday. "@CBP will immediately reinstate MPP!"

By Thomas Franck

President Donald Trump said Friday that Democrats are using the virulent coronavirus as a “hoax” to damage him and his administration. “The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,” he said from a campaign rally in North Charleston, South Carolina. “One of my people came up to me and said ‘Mr. President they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia. That didn’t work out too well.’ They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax that was on a perfect conversation,” he continued. “This is their new hoax,” he said, referring to the coronavirus. The disease, which originated in Wuhan, China, has now killed more than 2,800 people worldwide and infected more than 80,000. The latest reports from the World Health Organization show the pace of new cases in China slowing, but jumping in South Korea, Japan, Italy, and Iran. In the U.S., the Santa Clara Public Health Department announced a third case of coronavirus in the county Friday evening. The announcement brings the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in California to 10 and the total number of cases in the U.S. to 63, most of which were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship and evacuees from Wuhan.

By David Welna

The U.S. and the Taliban have struck a deal that paves the way for eventual peace in Afghanistan. U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad and the head of the militant Islamist group, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, signed the potentially historic agreement Saturday in Doha, Qatar, where the two sides spent months hashing out the agreement. Under the terms of the deal, the U.S. commits to withdrawing all of its military forces and supporting civilian personnel, as well as those of its allies, within 14 months. The drawdown process will begin with the U.S. reducing its troop levels to 8,600 in the first 135 days and pulling its forces from five bases. The rest of its forces, according to the agreement, will leave "within the remaining nine and a half months." The Afghan government also will release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners as a gesture of goodwill, in exchange for 1,000 Afghan security forces held by the Taliban. "We owe a debt of gratitude to America's sons and daughters who paid the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, and to the many thousands who served over the past nearly 19 years," Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement celebrating the deal, which comes on the heels of a seven-day "Reduction in Violence" agreement in Afghanistan.

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

Washington (CNN) A federal appeals court Friday dismissed the US House of Representatives' lawsuit seeking to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify, in a major win for the White House in its attempts to block officials from testifying to Congress. In a 2-1 decision, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled it wouldn't police the standoff between the House Judiciary Committee and the White House. "If federal courts were to swoop in to rescue Congress whenever its constitutional tools failed, it would not just supplement the political process; it would replace that process with one in which unelected judges become the perpetual 'overseer[s]' of our elected officials. That is not the role of judges in our democracy, and that is why Article III compels us to dismiss this case," Judge Thomas Griffith wrote in the opinion. The case has tested whether the White House could block its current and former officials from speaking to Congress. However, by ruling that it doesn't have the authority to handle this case, the court didn't make a decision on the validity of the White House's sweeping claim of "absolutely immunity" for its current and former officials.

By Hilary Russ

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Of dozens of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, only one patient is still in the hospital, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Friday. “In every case, people are being treated and by all accounts are doing well,” he said during a live-streamed news conference with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. In total, there have been 15 confirmed cases across the United States, with 46 other cases among people who returned to the country from overseas and were quarantined. That number is one fewer than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent update on Friday of 47 total cases returning from foreign countries.

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) Donald Trump Jr. is Donald Trump in extremis. If the President pushes boundaries, his oldest son crashes through them with glee. Witness this interview that Don Jr. did with "Fox & Friends" on Friday morning: Brian Kilmeade: And so now we're getting to sprint towards November for -- to -- to see if your dad can get four more years. Are you surprised the way they've been handling the coronavirus situation, meaning Democrats? Don Jr.: Not at all. I mean, we've seen -- like you said, we've seen this play out for four years. Anything that they can use to try to hurt Trump, they will. Anything he does in a positive sense, like you heard from the reporter that was just suspended from ABC, they will not give him credit for. The playbook is old at this point. But for them to try to take a pandemic and seemingly hope that it comes here, and kills millions of people so that they could end Donald Trump's streak of winning, is a new level of sickness. You know, I don't know if this is coronavirus or Trump derangement syndrome, but these people are infected badly. OK, so. The President's eldest son, who has made no secret of his interest in running for office and maybe even president in the future, is suggesting that Democrats are rooting for coronavirus to come to the United States and kill "millions of people" solely so that they might have a better chance of winning in November. What can you say about that line of logic? At its most basic level, this sort of stuff from Don Jr. is deeply irresponsible. What he is conflating is the Democratic criticism of the Trump administration for both a lack of preparedness and a lack of seriousness in terms of public statements about the threat posed by coronavirus with, somehow, Democrats rooting for Americans to die en masse. Trump Jr. has to know that's not what is going on here. No matter what you think of Democrats or Republicans, the idea that a political party would be actively rooting for people to get sick and die is beyond ludicrous. No rational person -- even if you disagree with every single policy Democrats push -- can think that.

The president also suggested Democratic lawmakers had been “wasting time” on other legislative priorities.

President Donald Trump accused congressional Democrats early Friday morning of unfairly blaming the coronavirus’ threat to Americans on his administration, tying the global health epidemic even closer to domestic politics. “So, the Coronavirus, which started in China and spread to various countries throughout the world, but very slowly in the U.S. because President Trump closed our border, and ended flights, VERY EARLY, is now being blamed, by the Do Nothing Democrats, to be the fault of ‘Trump,’” the president wrote on Twitter just after midnight. In another message roughly half an hour later, Trump suggested Democratic lawmakers had been “wasting time” on other legislative priorities and efforts to denigrate Republicans as the coronavirus outbreak proliferated. “The Do Nothing Democrats were busy wasting time on the Immigration Hoax, & anything else they could do to make the Republican Party look bad, while I was busy calling early BORDER & FLIGHT closings, putting us way ahead in our battle with Coronavirus. Dems called it VERY wrong!” Trump wrote. That post mirrored a similar tweet the president issued Thursday evening but later deleted, in which he charged that Democrats were “wasting their time on the Impeachment Hoax” as he sought to implement preventative measures to combat the coronavirus.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated a block on the administration’s policy of forcing migrants seeking asylum to wait in Mexico while the cases play out.
By Daniella Silva

A federal appeals court on Friday delivered two blows to the Trump administration's immigration policy, ruling against a program to force migrants seeking asylum to wait in Mexico and against a rule severely limiting the number of migrants who were eligible for asylum. In a long-awaited decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to reinstate a block on the policy forcing migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. to wait in Mexico while their cases play out. The court also ruled 3-0 to uphold a block on a rule seeking to bar asylum eligibility for migrants who cross the border between ports of entry. In the remain-in-Mexico case, the court said it concluded that the policy, known formally as the Migrant Protection protocols, or MPP, “was invalid in its entirety” due to inconsistencies with the law and should be "enjoined in its entirety." "The court has finally affirmed what we always knew to be the case, that the provision on which the government is relying does not apply to asylum-seekers. Full stop," Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney at the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project, told NBC News.

New Day

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta fact-checks his exchange with President Donald Trump during a coronavirus press conference when Trump claimed the flu had higher death rates than the coronavirus. Source: CNN

But the acting White House chief of staff also conceded to the seriousness of the virus.

Mick Mulvaney just broke his own rule. The acting White House chief of staff accused the media on Friday of stoking fear over coronavirus as a plot to take down President Donald Trump, warned of potential school shutdowns and appeared to chastise investors for monitoring news coverage of the outbreak. The freewheeling commentary at a conservative activist conference in Maryland contradicted instructions he had given a day earlier to bring order to the administration’s coronavirus messaging strategy by routing it through the office of Vice President Mike Pence. “That’s what this is all about. I got a note today from a reporter saying, what are you going to do today to calm the markets? Really what I might do today to calm the markets is tell people to turn their televisions off for 24 hours,” Mulvaney said at the Conservative Political Action Conference. But Mulvaney also conceded to the seriousness of the virus, and said that the U.S. would “probably” see school closures as the illness continues to spread across the globe. Mulvaney’s comments come amid a tumbling stock market and bipartisan backlash from lawmakers as the Trump administration works to show it’s in control of the spreading global threat. Trump launched the federal government’s response this week, appointing Vice President Mike Pence to command the U.S. coronavirus response team. That move was followed a day later by Pence’s decision to appoint a government health official, Ambassador Debbie Birx, as the administration’s coronavirus “coordinator.” But White House efforts thus far have apparently done little to assuage public concerns or calm a tumbling stock market, which opened Friday by falling significantly once again.


The acting White House chief of staff says US media is stoking a coronavirus panic because they hope it will take down President Donald Trump. "The reason they are paying so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to bring down the president," Mick Mulvaney said. Speaking to a group of conservatives on Friday, he added people should ignore the media in order to calm the markets. Global markets have continued to fall as the virus infects over 50 countries. There have been 82,000 reported cases of Covid-19 worldwide and 2,800 deaths since the disease emerged late last year. All but 3,664 cases and 57 of the deaths have been reported in China. The number of Americans infected with with virus stands at 60.

What is Mr Mulvaney's argument?
"We took extraordinary steps four or five weeks ago," Mr Mulvaney said, referring to the Trump administration order to close the border to foreign travelers coming from China, where the virus originated. The move was widely covered in the media at the time. "Why didn't we hear about it? What was going on four or five weeks ago? Impeachment. And that's all the press wanted to talk about," he told a gathering of conservatives outside Washington on Friday.

Jerry Nadler sent William Barr a list of matters the committee finds ‘deeply troubling’ including Roger Stone case
Associated Press

The House judiciary committee is launching a wide-ranging inquiry into the attorney general, William Barr, and the justice department, demanding briefings, documents and interviews with 15 officials as it tries to determine whether there has been improper political interference in federal law enforcement. The committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, on Friday sent Barr a letter listing a series of matters that the committee finds “deeply troubling”, including Barr’s involvement in the case of Donald Trump’s longtime confidant Roger Stone. Stone was convicted in November of lying to Congress and other charges. Barr overruled prosecutors who had recommended that Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison, leading the four top prosecutors on the case to step down from it. Nadler is also questioning Barr about his involvement in other cases related to friends and associates of Trump and about internal investigations into department employees who investigated Trump after the 2016 election. “Although you serve at the president’s pleasure, you are also charged with the impartial administration of our laws,” Nadler wrote to Barr. “In turn, the House judiciary committee is charged with holding you to that responsibility.” The committee is asking for briefings on the issues listed and interviews with 15 justice department officials involved in those matters, including the four prosecutors who resigned from the Stone case.

BY Tracy Roof

Trump administration officials are trying to cut enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP but still sometimes called “food stamps.” They say that too many people are getting this aid in a strong economy. The program helped about 35 million low-income people buy food in 2019. The average recipient gets US$128.60 a month, about $1.40 per person per meal. In December 2019, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced changes that require more SNAP recipients to work or lose their benefits. While speaking with reporters, he alluded to what he called the “original intent of food stamps” – moving “more able-bodied recipients off of SNAP benefits toward self-sufficiency.” The Trump administration is also seeking to take more executive actions that would cut back the eligibility of some elderly, disabled and working poor households. All told, these measures could affect up to 10 million people. And the government is taking additional steps bound to discourage legal immigrants from seeking SNAP and other food assistance. But while researching the history of food stamps and writing a book about the topic, I have found the government didn’t create this program to push people into jobs, as Perdue suggests, but to help those in need get enough to eat.

By Maegan Vazquez and Caroline Kelly, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump expressed optimism Thursday that the novel coronavirus would eventually be contained and eliminated in the United States, even as he acknowledged it could get worse first. "It's going to disappear. One day it's like a miracle, it will disappear," Trump told attendees at an African American History Month reception in the White House Cabinet Room. The World Health Organization says the virus has "pandemic potential" and medical experts have warned it will spread in the US. The President added that "from our shores, you know, it could get worse before it gets better. Could maybe go away. We'll see what happens. Nobody really knows." Trump's comments come as the administration battles both the virus and accusations of mismanagement among officials responding to the outbreak. Earlier on Thursday, CNN reported that Vice President Mike Pence's office would be in charge of all coronavirus messaging after several aides blamed negative coverage of the response on too many mixed messages from senior members of the administration. Later in the day, reports surfaced that a whistleblower at the Department of Health and Human Services is seeking federal protection after complaining that more than a dozen workers who had received the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, lacked proper training or protective gear for infection control. Trump spoke effusively of the administration's efforts during his remarks Thursday. "We have done an incredible job. We're going to continue," the President said, claiming that the media won't give the administration "credit" for a successful response to the virus. Speaking about the 15 individuals diagnosed with the coronavirus on US soil, Trump said that "the 15 will soon be down to three, four." Trump called his Wednesday appearance before the White House press corps to address the administration's response to the virus "really good" and "a calming press conference."

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