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US Monthly Headline News April 2020 Page 1

‘ACROSS THE BOARD’
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 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

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."

AFP USA Facebook Twitter Email Published on Monday 13 April 2020 At 10:10

Facebook posts shared thousands of times claim a photo shows Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden kissing a child, criticizing him for doing so. This is false; the man pictured is Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. While some people commented that the photo does not show Biden, a former US vice president, others did not. A video tweeted by Lopez Obrador’s official account on March 14 makes clear that he is pictured in the image.

By Angelo Fichera

Quick Take
A TV station’s report on a Michigan fine for those violating the state’s social distancing orders showed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a signing ceremony with an intimate crowd of people — prompting accusations of hypocrisy on social media. But the footage used was from January 2019.

Full Story
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced an emergency order on April 2 implementing a civil fine of up to $1,000 for those violating the state’s social distancing requirements related to COVID-19. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, however, did not sign that order at a crowded, shoulder-to-shoulder ceremony, as a viral screenshot of a TV news report suggests. The screenshot includes an image of Whitmer with an intimate group behind her and a chyron that reads: “State emergency order calls for fines up to $1,000 for ignoring social distancing.” But the footage used was actually from the start of Whitmer’s term, in January 2019, and dealt with an executive directive that had nothing to do with the novel coronavirus — as the station behind the report has since acknowledged. Across social media platforms, the report’s misleading juxtaposition of the footage and headline has fueled false claims of hypocrisy as posts of the screenshot have racked up tens of thousands of shares and likes.

McConnell allegedly said Trump is "so much alike" a politician who he loathes: Alabama's Roy Moore
By Tom Boggioni

McConnell said that Trump resembles a politician he loathes: Roy Moore, According to an extensively researched report on what makes Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell tick, New Yorker writer Jane Mayer reveals that the Senate leader has reportedly called Donald Trump "nuts" behind his back — and that he cynically only supports the president because he is left alone to pursue his own agenda while Trump goes through the motions of being presidential. Mayer writes, "Bill Kristol, a formerly stalwart conservative who has become a leading Trump critic, describes McConnell as 'a pretty conventional Republican who just decided to go along and get what he could out of Trump.' Under McConnell's leadership, the Senate, far from providing a check on the executive branch, has acted as an accelerant. 'Demagogues like Trump, if they can get elected, can't really govern unless they have people like McConnell,' Kristol said. McConnell has stayed largely silent about the President's lies and inflammatory public remarks, and has propped up the Administration with legislative and judicial victories."

The Senate Majority Leader’s refusal to rein in the President is looking riskier than ever.
By Jane Mayer

On Thursday, March 12th, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, could have insisted that he and his colleagues work through the weekend to hammer out an emergency aid package addressing the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, he recessed the Senate for a long weekend, and returned home to Louisville, Kentucky. McConnell, a seventy-eight-year-old Republican who is about to complete his sixth term as a senator, planned to attend a celebration for a protégé, Justin Walker, a federal judge who was once his Senate intern. McConnell has helped install nearly two hundred conservatives as judges; stocking the judiciary has been his legacy project. Soon after he left the Capitol, Democrats in the House of Representatives settled on a preliminary rescue package, working out the details with the Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin. The Senate was urgently needed for the next steps in the process. McConnell, though, was onstage in a Louisville auditorium, joking that his opponents “occasionally compare me to Darth Vader.” The gathering had the feel of a reunion. Don McGahn, Donald Trump’s former White House counsel, whom McConnell has referred to as his “buddy and co-collaborator” in confirming conservative judges, flew down for the occasion. So did Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whose Senate confirmation McConnell had fought fiercely to secure. Walker, the event’s honoree, had clerked for Kavanaugh, and became one of his lead defenders after Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault. McConnell is now championing Walker for an opening on the powerful D.C. Court of Appeals, even though Walker has received a “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association, in part because, at the age of thirty-eight, he has never tried a case.

The GOP knows its fate in November is grim if it can’t suppress the vote. But Democrats now have power in their hands to fight back.
By James Carville

Now that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has made the valiant decision to exit the presidential race, the last flicker of Republican hope to keep the White House and the Senate has been extinguished. Almost, that is. You hear it all the time, people throughout the country at their wits’ end complaining that there is absolutely nothing Washington can agree on. But there is one glaring exception. The one thing I am certain every politician, pundit and politico alike knows is the truth, even if it’s tucked in the furthest crawl space of their mind, is that if this presidential election is conducted with even somewhat fair conditions, it will result in a Democratic victory. I know very few people who disagree with this, because the data is clear. If this country is allowed to exercise its right to vote freely and fully, it is quite simply not going to vote to have the next four years look like the last four years. Despite having gone through President Donald Trump’s impeachment ringer, former Vice President (and presumptive Democratic nominee) Joe Biden has never been down to Trump in the polling averages the entire primary — and is frequently up by double digit margins, nationally. He is up in North Carolina, he is up in Arizona, he is up in Wisconsin, has never been down in Michigan or Pennsylvania, and is even up in what has become the political no man's land of Ohio. In 2016, Trump won voters who disliked both him and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by 17 points — right now, Biden is winning those voters by over 30. House Democrats are up with women — the critical bloc that propelled us to victory in 2018 — by 20 points. If this trend continues, not only will Biden be president, but also Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Kentucky's Mitch McConnell’s Senate majority will be all but a bad nightmare, as well.

QAnon is spreading harmful misinformation about COVID-19.
By Marc-André Argentino

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

First there was the pandemic, then came the "infodemic" — a term the head of the World Health Organization defines as the spread of false information about COVID-19. The most dangerous conspiracy theories about the coronavirus are now part of the QAnon phenomenon. For months now, actors in QAnon have downplayed the severity of the crisis, amplified medical disinformation and have been originators of hoaxes. The QAnon movement started in 2017 after someone using an anonymous account known only as Q posted wild conspiracy theories about U.S. President Donald Trump on the internet forum 4chan. QAnon conspiracy theorists believe a deep state cabal of global elites is responsible for all the evil in the world. They also believe those same elites are seeking to bring down Trump, whom they see as the world's only hope to defeat the deep state. QAnon has now brought the same conspiracy mentality to the coronavirus crisis. As a researcher of online movements like QAnon, I use a combination of data science and digital ethnography to research how extremist movements use technology to create propaganda, recruit members to ideological causes, inspire acts of violence or impact democratic institutions.

Bottom-up approach
A central component of QAnon is the crowdsourcing of narratives. This bottom-up approach provides a fluid and ever changing ideology. My analysis of Twitter shows from January to March, there was a 21 per cent increase (a total of 7,683,414 posts) in hashtags used by the QAnon community. This means the misinformation they spread has the capacity to reach a wider audience. For instance, QAnon community influencers on Twitter promoted Miracle Mineral Supplement as a way of preventing COVID-19. The toxic product was sold by the Texas-based Genesis II Church of Health and Healing for US$45. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had previously issued a warning about the dangerous and potentially life threatening side effects of the supplement. In January, QAnon was amplifying narratives on 8kun (the internet forum formally known as 8chan), Facebook and Telegram (an encrypted instant messaging plaform) about a false theory that Asians were more susceptible to the coronavirus and that white people were immune to COVID-19. Not only are there racist undertones associated with this disinformation, it minimizes the threat posed by the virus.

Downplayed threat
From February until the second week of March, QAnon followed the lead of Trump in downplaying the threat of the virus and calling it a hoax. They believed the virus was a deep state plot to damage the president's chance at re-election. The QAnon community said those warning about the pandemic threat were trying to detract from U.S. domestic politics, stop Trump rallies and remove all the economic gains they contended had occurred during the Trump presidency.

By Devan Cole, CNN

Washington (CNN) Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that calls to implement life-saving social distancing measures faced "a lot of pushback" early in the US coronavirus outbreak and that the country is now looking for ways to more effectively respond to the virus should it rebound in the fall. "I mean, obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives," Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" when asked if social distancing and stay-at-home measures could have prevented deaths had they been put in place in February, instead of mid-March. "Obviously, no one is going to deny that. But what goes into those decisions is complicated," added Fauci, who is a key member of the Trump administration's coronavirus task force. "But you're right, I mean, obviously, if we had right from the very beginning shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then." Asked why the President didn't recommend social distancing guidelines until mid-March -- about three weeks after the nation's top health experts recommended they be put in place -- Fauci said, "You know, Jake, as I have said many times, we look at it from a pure health standpoint. We make a recommendation. Often, the recommendation is taken. Sometimes it's not. But we -- it is what it is. We are where we are right now." The comments from Fauci come a day after a report from The New York Times detailed the Trump administration's missteps in the early days of the pandemic and how President Donald Trump ignored his advisers' warnings of the potentially deadly disease.

Ms. Reade, a former Senate aide, has accused Mr. Biden of assaulting her in 1993 and says she told others about it. A Biden spokeswoman said the allegation is false, and former Senate office staff members do not recall such an incident. Sydney Ember
By Lisa Lerer and Sydney Ember

WASHINGTON — A former Senate aide who last year accused Joseph R. Biden Jr. of inappropriate touching has made an allegation of sexual assault against the former vice president, the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee this fall. The former aide, Tara Reade, who briefly worked as a staff assistant in Mr. Biden’s Senate office, told The New York Times that in 1993, Mr. Biden pinned her to a wall in a Senate building, reached under her clothing and penetrated her with his fingers. A friend said that Ms. Reade told her the details of the allegation at the time. Another friend and a brother of Ms. Reade’s said she told them over the years about a traumatic sexual incident involving Mr. Biden. A spokeswoman for Mr. Biden said the allegation was false. In interviews, several people who worked in the Senate office with Ms. Reade said they did not recall any talk of such an incident or similar behavior by Mr. Biden toward her or any women. Two office interns who worked directly with Ms. Reade said they were unaware of the allegation or any treatment that troubled her. Last year, Ms. Reade and seven other women came forward to accuse Mr. Biden of kissing, hugging or touching them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable. Ms. Reade told The Times then that Mr. Biden had publicly stroked her neck, wrapped his fingers in her hair and touched her in ways that made her uncomfortable. Soon after Ms. Reade made the new allegation, in a podcast interview released on March 25, The Times began reporting on her account and seeking corroboration through interviews, documents and other sources. The Times interviewed Ms. Reade on multiple days over hours, as well as those she told about Mr. Biden’s behavior and other friends. The Times has also interviewed lawyers who spoke to Ms. Reade about her allegation; nearly two dozen people who worked with Mr. Biden during the early 1990s, including many who worked with Ms. Reade; and the other seven women who criticized Mr. Biden last year, to discuss their experiences with him. No other allegation about sexual assault surfaced in the course of reporting, nor did any former Biden staff members corroborate any details of Ms. Reade’s allegation. The Times found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden.

By Marina Pitofsky

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

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

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

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) - A handful of holdout U.S. churches plan to hold in-person services on Easter Sunday, saying their right to worship in person outweighs public health officials’ warnings against holding large gatherings during the coronavirus outbreak. Most U.S. churches are expected to be closed on Sunday, and a broad majority of observant Americans are expected to follow authorities’ recommendations to avoid crowds to limit the spread of the potentially lethal COVID-19 respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. “Satan and a virus will not stop us,” said the Reverend Tony Spell, 42, pastor of the evangelical Life Tabernacle Church near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He expects a crowd of more than 2,000 to gather in worship at his megachurch on Sunday. “God will shield us from all harm and sickness,” Spell said in an interview. “We are not afraid. We are called by God to stand against the Antichrist creeping into America’s borders. We will spread the Gospel.” The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed more than 14,700 lives across the United States and infected more than 431,700 people, with officials predicting the worst is yet to come. Major U.S. religious institutions, including Roman Catholic dioceses and major Protestant denominations, will hold religious services online as well as through local broadcast radio and television, with just a handful of ministers and priests preaching sermons and reading liturgies to rows of empty pews. Indeed, some major religious-liberty legal advocacy groups, whose mission is to challenge restrictions on freedom of religion, have not raised objections to the closures, saying churches have been treated the same as other major institutions and that safety comes first. In Idaho, Ammon Bundy, who has led multiple standoffs against authorities in acts of protest against the federal government, plans to gather hundreds of people for an Easter observance, in defiance of public health advice, according to multiple media reports. Another holdout church, the evangelical Cross Culture Center in Lodi, California, about 70 miles (110 km) southwest of San Francisco, plans another service even after its members found their church doors locked against them last weekend.

The Republican offensive came a day after Democrats said bipartisan talks were set to begin with the Trump administration.
By MARIANNE LEVINE

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy vowed Saturday morning to refuse Democratic demands in the GOP’s push for more aid to small businesses. “Republicans reject Democrats’ reckless threat to continue blocking job-saving funding unless we renegotiate unrelated programs which are not in similar peril,” McConnell (R-Ky.) and McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in a joint statement. Their comments, coming a day after Democratic leaders said the Trump administration would begin bipartisan talks over the interim relief bill, suggest an end to the deadlock remains far off. Senate Republicans on Thursday attempted to pass an additional $250 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, a small-business fund established in the $2 trillion rescue package that is projected to run out of money soon. Senate Democrats blocked the effort and sought approval for an alternative plan that would provide money for the small business fund as well as additional funds for local governments and hospitals. McConnell rejected that measure on the floor as well. The two Republican leaders reiterated Saturday that they will only support an increase in funding for the small business program and warned it has already used up about half of its funding in its first week. They said Democrats should wait for negotiations on a broader package in the coming weeks to address other issues.

By Greg Allen

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

By Robert Farley

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

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

By Matt Keeley

Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, announced Friday afternoon that he planned to sign an executive order that would lift the coronavirus lockdown in a "safe" way, allowing businesses to reopen. The announcement is likely sharpen debate in the United States over how long Americans should endure crippling economic restrictions to contain a pandemic that has claimed more than 10,000 lives. The medical community and many Democrats have argued for extended closures to reduce infection rates. The business community and many Republicans want to end the deepest recession since the Great Depression before it does lasting economic damage. Abbott said Texas, which would be the world's 11th largest economy it were an independent country, could find a balance between personal safety and economic security. Though Gov. Abbott didn't reveal details about the executive order, he said he's looking into ways to reopen Texas businesses. He promised that details about the executive order will be available next week, but it is expected to provide businesses with a list of guidelines on how to safely reopen. "We will focus on protecting lives while restoring livelihoods," Abbott said. "We can and we must do this. We can do both, expand and restore the livelihoods that Texans want to have by helping them return to work. One thing about Texans, they enjoy working and they want to get back into the workforce. We have to come up with strategies on how we can do this safely." "We will operate strategically," Abbott added. "If we do it too fast without appropriate strategies, it will lead to another potential closure." Newsweek reached out to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for comment.

By Marina Pitofsky

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

By Adam Rawnsley

Suspected Russian government trolls are trying to pin the COVID-19 pandemic on the Pentagon; hyping Rudy Giuliani’s conspiracy theories about collusion between Democrats and Ukraine; and trying to meddle in European elections, an investigation by The Daily Beast reveals. Working with researchers from the disinformation-tracking firm Graphika, The Daily Beast found at least 20 fake news articles pushed by over 40 suspected Kremlin-backed personas across dozens of social media networks like Facebook, Reddit, Medium, and smaller web forums. “This looks like a Russian disinformation operation we call ‘Secondary Infektion’ that's been running for years,” said Ben Nimmo, director of investigations at Graphika, who has been investigating the operation since Facebook exposed a first set of accounts in May 2019. “It uses blogging platforms as the soft underbelly of the internet, planting false stories based on forged documents or leaks that never happened. The fakes mostly appear designed to trigger tensions between European countries, or between Europe and the United States, but they were generally too clumsy to be believed.” Nimmo and other disinformation researchers first identified the Secondary Infektion campaign in 2019, which uses forgeries and fake articles to push Moscow-friendly propaganda through fictional personas. The troll personas and articles identified by The Daily Beast followed the same Secondary Infektion pattern identified by Graphika and others. Trolls would set up one-time-use accounts at a handful of outlets in specific places—from obscure forums like the DebatePolitics and DefendingTheTruth to larger platforms like Medium and Reddit—and post articles and forgeries in broken English just minutes after creating their accounts. The cluster of personas and articles identified by The Daily Beast date back through 2016. They add to a growing body of evidence that shows Russian information operations didn’t stop after Moscow’s interference in the last presidential campaign, but rather continued on, spreading to other countries. The trolls in this campaign forged letters and screenshots in an attempt to meddle in elections in Sweden and Latvia, touted Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine conspiracy theories, and tried to sow confusion about a former suspect in the leak of NSA hacking tools.   

Pinning COVID-19 on the Pentagon
As COVID-19 ravaged China and began to spread around the globe, the State Department issued cryptic warnings in February and March that Russia was trying to pin the virus on the U.S. both through its overt and covert propaganda organs. In one February briefing, Assistant Secretary of State Philip Reeker called out the propaganda campaign in vague terms and claimed that Moscow was "once again choosing to threaten public safety by distracting from the global health response" with a COVID-19 disinformation campaign. American diplomats offered no specifics, but just a few days before Reeker’s briefing, a fake story bearing the hallmarks of Secondary Infektion trolls surfaced in Russian-language blogging platforms. The story, posted to Russian-language blogs and Reddit by multiple fake personas, tries to pin the blame on the COVID-19 outbreak on the U.S. and Kazakhstan by casting the virus as the byproduct of a U.S. nonproliferation program in the country. The trolls pointed to social media posts by a group of hackers calling themselves “Anonymous Kazakhstan.”

Republican Ron DeSantis falsely claimed COVID-19 had not killed a single person under the age of 25 in the U.S.
By Lee Moran

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) faced backlash on Thursday after he falsely claimed that no one in the U.S. under the age of 25 had died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. “This particular pandemic is one where, I don’t think, nationwide there’s been one single fatality under 25, for whatever reason, it just doesn’t seem to threaten, you know, kids,” DeSantis told educators during a meeting about distance learning during the pandemic. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports on its website that one infant and four people aged 15 to 24 are confirmed to have died from the disease in the U.S. The deaths of infants in Illinois and Connecticut have also reportedly been linked to COVID-19. Check out the video

By Kevin Breuninger

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday complained about the federal government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. “How confident am I of federal responsibility and action? Not that confident,” Cuomo said as he left a daily press briefing in Albany on the virus. Cuomo’s criticism came after he announced that COVID-19 deaths in New York reached a daily record for the third straight day with 799 fatalities, and after he said that the $2 trillion federal relief bill does even less for his state than he thought. He compared the economic and humanitarian crisis in New York to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the city, which felled the twin towers of the World Trade Center and killed nearly 3,000 people. “9/11 was so devastating, so tragic, and then in many ways we lose so many New Yorkers to this silent killer,” Cuomo said, “that just ripples through society with the same randomness, the same evil that we saw on 9/11.” The Democratic governor has worked closely with President Donald Trump and other federal officials in an all-hands effort to contain the spread of the virus, which has hit New York much harder than any other state in the U.S. There are more than 151,000 confirmed cases across the state and 81,800 in New York City alone — almost as many as China, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Cuomo and Trump, who said he wants governors to be “appreciative” of his efforts, have largely stayed on good terms as they navigate the crisis. But earlier in the conference, Cuomo once again slammed the so-called Phase 3 coronavirus relief package that passed Congress with bipartisan support and was signed by Trump late last month.

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

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

By Oliver Darcy, CNN Business

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

By Yaron Steinbuch

Researchers in Finland have released a chilling simulation that shows how droplets from a single cough in a supermarket can hang in the air for “several minutes” and travel across two aisles — possibly infecting nearby shoppers with the coronavirus. Aalto University, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the University of Helsinki studied how aerosolized particles spewed from the respiratory tract when coughing, sneezing — or even talking – flow through the air. According to preliminary results, tiny particles carrying the coronavirus can linger in the air longer than was originally thought, driving home the importance of avoiding packed indoor spaces. The four research organizations each conducted the modeling independently, using the same starting conditions, for a person coughing in an aisle between shelves, according to Aalto University. “Someone infected by the coronavirus, can cough and walk away, but then leave behind extremely small aerosol particles carrying the coronavirus,” Aalto University Assistant Professor Ville Vuorinen said. “These particles could then end up in the respiratory tract of others in the vicinity,” he added.

A Daily Beast investigation reveals dozens of Russian accounts pushing disinformation on everything from Joe Biden to the origin of the novel coronavirus.
By Adam Rawnsley

Suspected Russian government trolls are trying to pin the COVID-19 pandemic on the Pentagon; hyping Rudy Giuliani’s conspiracy theories about collusion between Democrats and Ukraine; and trying to meddle in European elections, an investigation by The Daily Beast reveals. Working with researchers from the disinformation-tracking firm Graphika, The Daily Beast found at least 20 fake news articles pushed by over 40 suspected Kremlin-backed personas across dozens of social media networks like Facebook, Reddit, Medium, and smaller web forums. “This looks like a Russian disinformation operation we call ‘Secondary Infektion’ that's been running for years,” said Ben Nimmo, director of investigations at Graphika, who has been investigating the operation since Facebook exposed a first set of accounts in May 2019. “It uses blogging platforms as the soft underbelly of the internet, planting false stories based on forged documents or leaks that never happened. The fakes mostly appear designed to trigger tensions between European countries, or between Europe and the United States, but they were generally too clumsy to be believed.” Nimmo and other disinformation researchers first identified the Secondary Infektion campaign in 2019, which uses forgeries and fake articles to push Moscow-friendly propaganda through fictional personas. The troll personas and articles identified by The Daily Beast followed the same Secondary Infektion pattern identified by Graphika and others. Trolls would set up one-time-use accounts at a handful of outlets in specific places—from obscure forums like the DebatePolitics and DefendingTheTruth to larger platforms like Medium and Reddit—and post articles and forgeries in broken English just minutes after creating their accounts. The cluster of personas and articles identified by The Daily Beast date back through 2016. They add to a growing body of evidence that shows Russian information operations didn’t stop after Moscow’s interference in the last presidential campaign, but rather continued on, spreading to other countries. The trolls in this campaign forged letters and screenshots in an attempt to meddle in elections in Sweden and Latvia, touted Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine conspiracy theories, and tried to sow confusion about a former suspect in the leak of NSA hacking tools.

Pinning COVID-19 on the Pentagon
As COVID-19 ravaged China and began to spread around the globe, the State Department issued cryptic warnings in February and March that Russia was trying to pin the virus on the U.S. both through its overt and covert propaganda organs. In one February briefing, Assistant Secretary of State Philip Reeker called out the propaganda campaign in vague terms and claimed that Moscow was "once again choosing to threaten public safety by distracting from the global health response" with a COVID-19 disinformation campaign. American diplomats offered no specifics, but just a few days before Reeker’s briefing, a fake story bearing the hallmarks of Secondary Infektion trolls surfaced in Russian-language blogging platforms. The story, posted to Russian-language blogs and Reddit by multiple fake personas, tries to pin the blame on the COVID-19 outbreak on the U.S. and Kazakhstan by casting the virus as the byproduct of a U.S. nonproliferation program in the country. The trolls pointed to social media posts by a group of hackers calling themselves “Anonymous Kazakhstan.”

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

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

By Alexandra Petri

Will Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) keep confirming judges in this time of pandemic? “We will go back to judges,” he said in an interview. “My motto for the rest of the year is leave no vacancy behind.” The whole landscape was barren, and the fires burned everywhere. And in the smoldering remains of the Senate, Mitch McConnell sat on a throne of skulls making preparations to confirm his 8,999th judge. Mitch McConnell would leave no vacancy behind. The people were long gone. The streets were empty, and some old scraps of burned newspaper tossed on the hot, sulfurous wind. And Mitch McConnell was still confirming judges. The sky was a dark, angry red. The sun was not visible and had not been visible for a long time. There were no longer any rhinoceroses whatsoever. There were exactly three birds. The halls of Congress were empty except for John Quincy Adams’s ghost and one hoarse buzzard perched on a cracked torso in Statuary Hall. And Mitch McConnell was still confirming judges. “Just one more,” he muttered. His voice echoed in the rows of bones all around him. He had been assiduously confirming judges for a very long time, although night and day were now the same and were difficult to measure. Clocks had ceased to exist. “Just one more lifetime appointment.” Someone crawled toward him through the dust on hands and knees. “Why?” creaked forth from his chapped lips. “Mitch, why?” It might have been Chuck Grassley. No one could say. There was no one there to say. “Is there some curse you are trying to break? Is there some reason?” the voice asked. “We can walk and chew gum at the same time,” Mitch McConnell said, as though that were an answer. There had not been chewing gum for a long time. Surely there had been a reason long ago. Power, or the desire for power, or the desire to build a legacy. Or a judicial vacancy had gravely insulted his father. Or he had been told by a sea-witch that if he just confirmed a hundred judges to lifetime appointments, his brothers would all be restored to their human form. Or was it 200? He had forgotten. He had to keep confirming them. There would be no vacancies.

By Ryan Browne and Caroline Kelly, CNN

(CNN) The recently resigned acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly's Monday trip to Guam where he addressed the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt and slammed their former commander, cost the Defense Department an estimated $243,000, according to a Navy official. Modly's remarks led to his resignation a day later. Modly traveled to Guam aboard a C-37B VIP aircraft a modified Gulfstream jet. It costs $6,946.19 per hour to fly and the flight time for the Guam trip was about 35 hours for a total cost of $243,151.65. The cost of the trip was first reported by USA Today. Modly's resignation came just over a week after Capt. Brett Crozier, the then-commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, sent a memo warning of coronavirus spreading among the sailors on the aircraft carrier. The memo leaked, prompting Modly to remove Crozier from command and fly to Guam to address the ship in remarks that included calling Crozier "stupid." While not explicitly mentioning Modly or his resignation, the Navy's top admiral, Chief of Naval Operation Adm. Mike Gilday, sent a message to the Navy on Wednesday acknowledging that "the events of the past week have been difficult for our Navy and our nation." "The events of the past week have been difficult for our Navy and our nation. We will learn from them. But make no mistake, we are moving forward. The Navy has our orders and we are executing them," Gilday wrote. Two-hundred eighty-six sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for coronavirus and 93% of the ship's crew have been tested as of Wednesday, according to the Navy. Nearly a week after Modly fired Crozier for too widely disseminating a memo calling for the urgent evacuation of the ship's crew, the Navy has only evacuated 2,329 of the aircraft carrier's nearly 4,800 sailors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Greg Evans

The Republican speaker of the House for Wisconsin, Robin Vos, has been mocked on social media after he told the public that it was 'incredibly safe to go outside' while wearing full protective gear. Vos was speaking before the state's Democratic primary elections, which were still held on Tuesday, despite lockdown measures and concerns about voters becoming infected with coronavirus. Voters were reportedly angry at having to wait in line to vote, with images of some lines, clearly ignoring social distancing advice, while some states had already postponed their elections until a later date. However, Vos was adamant that it was safe for people to go outside and that they couldn't guarantee if things were going to be any safer a few months down the line.

By Gregory Krieg, Ryan Nobles and Annie Grayer, CNN

(CNN) Sen. Bernie Sanders ended his presidential campaign on Wednesday, clearing Joe Biden's path to the Democratic nomination and a showdown with President Donald Trump in November. Sanders first made the announcement in a call with his staff, his campaign said. "I wish I could give you better news, but I think you know the truth, and that is that we are now some 300 delegates behind Vice President Biden, and the path toward victory is virtually impossible," Sanders said in a livestream after the call. "So while we are winning the ideological battle and while we are winning the support of so many young people and working people throughout the country, I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful. And so today I am announcing the suspension of my campaign." Sanders' exit caps a stunning reversal of fortune following a strong performance in the first three states that voted in February. The nomination appeared his for the taking until, on the last day of February, Biden surged to a blowout victory in South Carolina that set off a consolidation of moderate voters around the former vice president. The contest ends now as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, which halted in-person campaigning for both Sanders and Biden and has led many states to delay their primary elections. Sanders said he did not make the decision lightly, describing it as a "very difficult and painful decision." "Over the past few weeks Jane and I, in consultation with top staff, and many of our prominent supporters, have made an honest assessment of the prospects for victory. If I believed we had a feasible path to the nomination, I would certainly continue the campaign. But it's just not there," he said. Sanders' departure from the race is a sharp blow to progressives, who rose up during and after the 2016 campaign and commanded the Democratic Party's Trump era debates over issues like health care, climate change and the effects of growing economic inequality.

BABY ALL GROWN UP
The feds arrested the self-proclaimed QAnon founder after he posted images of NFL players’ brain scans.
By Will Sommer

In the bizarre world of QAnon conspiracy theorists, 29-year-old Austin Steinbart was a rising star. A segment of the pro-Trump conspiracy theory group believed he was the mysterious “Q,” the anonymous internet figure whose clues have convinced a portion of the president’s base that Donald Trump is engaged in a shadowy war against pedophile-cannibals in the Democratic Party. Steinbart—dubbed “Baby Q” by his fans—claimed he could get away with anything because he was a super-spy for Trump. In online arguments, Steinbart insisted he should have been arrested “100 times over” for his actions. And the fact that he hadn’t been arrested for, say, threatening to kill the Queen of Denmark was proof that Trump had given him immunity from prosecution. “Seems like I should have been ARRESTED by now, eh?” Steinbart tweeted to one of his foes in late March, adding a sarcastic thinking-face emoji. A few days later, FBI agents arrested him. Steinbart now faces an extortion charge over his online antics, all apparently committed in an attempt to convince gullible online conspiracy theorists that he’s an all-powerful intelligence agent. As part of his attempts at self-promotion, Steinbart allegedly posted the confidential brain scans and medical files of former professional football players online—images he was able to obtain while allegedly getting a scan of his own. Steinbart’s arrest marks just the latest time a QAnon believer has been charged with a crime. Two others have been charged with murder, including one accused of murdering the head of the Gambino crime family. The conspiracy theory has also surfaced in two child kidnapping plots, and a 2018 terrorist incident near the Hoover Dam. Online, Steinbart had amassed nearly 20,000 Twitter followers and 23,000 YouTube subscribers, even as he infuriated more established QAnon hucksters with his brash attitude. In rambling YouTube videos, Steinbart claimed that he was “Q,” was somehow in communication with a time-traveling version of himself, and would soon be appointed to run Trump’s Space Force — a nonsensical narrative that nevertheless won him the devotion of a number of QAnon believers. But prosecutors and the FBI paint another picture of Steinbart in court documents, describing a young man with "unaddressed behavior or mental health issues" willing to commit crimes to build up his profile in the online conspiracy theory world.

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

Sen. Chuck Grassley is working on a bipartisan letter addressed to President Donald Trump demanding an explanation for the firing of Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, according to aides in both parties. The Senate Finance Committee chairman is still working to secure cosponsors for the letter, a Republican aide said. The letter will focus on Atkinson's Friday firing amid a broader purge by the president of inspectors general.

By Andrew Feinberg

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

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

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

by Dawn Kopecki, Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

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

By Kate Sullivan, CNN

Washington (CNN) Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican, wore a mask, gloves and other protective gear as he sought to assure voters it was "incredibly safe" to vote in person for Tuesday's election amid the coronavirus pandemic. "You are incredibly safe to go out," Vos told The Journal Times in a Facebook livestream. Vos said he was serving as an election inspector and that wearing the personal protective equipment, or PPE, was mandatory. Standing in front of cars lined up for curbside voting, Vos said people working at polling locations and those voting in person face "very minimal exposure." "Actually, there's less exposure here than you would get if you went to the grocery store, or you went to Walmart, or you did any of the many things we have to do to live in the state of Wisconsin," Vos said. Vos' message was strikingly disconnected from his PPE-heavy outfit, in which the speaker looked more like a surgeon than one of the state's most powerful politicians. Vos did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Vos and Republican State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald opposed all efforts to stop in-person voting from taking place Tuesday because of the pandemic. Every other state with an election scheduled for April postponed their contests or shifted it to voting-by-mail only because of fears that holding an election in the middle of a pandemic could put the health of poll workers and voters at risk. The state Supreme Court on Monday evening blocked Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' executive order, signed Monday, to delay the primary until June. The state Supreme Court's ruling was the culmination of days of efforts by Evers to delay the primary or shift it to voting-by-mail only. Vos told the Journal Times on Tuesday that it "made no sense to cancel the election and just push it off to a future date." He praised election officials and said, "I am super proud of the job that they did, and I am glad that we are able to have the election."

Some legal scholars said the decisions by the state and U.S. supreme courts could undermine confidence in the rule of law. Others said they were the product of judicial philosophy, not partisanship.
By Adam Liptak

WASHINGTON — In a pair of extraordinary rulings on Monday, the highest courts in Wisconsin and the nation split along ideological lines to reject Democratic efforts to defer voting in Tuesday’s elections in the state given the coronavirus pandemic. Election law experts said the stark divisions in the rulings did not bode well for faith in the rule of law and American democracy. “Election cases, more than any other kind, need courts to be seen by the public as nonpartisan referees of the competing candidates and political parties,” said Edward B. Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University. “It is therefore extremely regrettable that on the very same day, on separate issues involving the same Wisconsin election, both the state and federal supreme courts were unable to escape split votes that seem just as politically divided as the litigants appearing before them.” Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and the author of a recently published and prescient book, “Election Meltdown,” said the pandemic had made a bad situation much worse. “Monday’s performance by the courts augurs a nasty partisan divide in the judicial branch,” Professor Hasen said. “It threatens the legitimacy of both the election and the courts.” “Already before the coronavirus crisis, 2020 was shaping up to be a record-setting year for election litigation,” he said. “Covid-19 means there will be even more lawsuits than before over issues like absentee ballot protocols and the safety of in-person voting.” When the Supreme Court rules on emergency applications, it almost never gives reasons. But the court’s conservative majority on Monday spent four pages explaining why it had refused to extend absentee voting in Tuesday’s elections in Wisconsin.

By Tucker Higgins

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 on Monday to reverse an order extending the absentee ballot deadline for voting in the Wisconsin elections scheduled for Tuesday, stepping into a back-and-forth between Democrats and Republicans in the state over when voting would take place. Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, signed an executive order suspending in-person voting in the state earlier on Monday after trying and failing to convince the GOP-dominated state legislature to postpone elections until May. His order was blocked by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the evening. The Supreme Court, which was considering a case brought before Evers issued his executive order, was not considering whether voting would take place on Tuesday, but only whether to keep in place an order that extended the deadline for absentee ballots to be postmarked. In an unsigned order from which the court’s four liberal justices dissented, the court did away with the extension. The top court’s five Republican-appointees, none of whom attached their name to the court’s order, reasoned that extending the date by which voters could mail absentee ballots “fundamentally alters the nature of the election.”

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

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

By J. Edward Moreno

New York City auctioned off hundreds of city-owned ventilators at least five years ago under Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, according to an investigation by ProPublica. The city acquired the ventilators in 2006 under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, when a new strain of the flu was circulating in Asia, according to a report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene obtained by the news outlet. The city began acquiring ventilators and “stockpil[ing] a supply of face masks,” which were later auctioned off because the machines broke down and the health department "couldn't afford to maintain them," according to ProPublica. Years later, the city has become the epicenter of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), with 72,324 confirmed cases and at least 5,489 deaths throughout the five boroughs, the mayor reported Tuesday.  The 14-year-old report obtained by ProPublica shows the city was keenly aware of the consequences of a potential pandemic, almost predicting the exact scenario that played out this year, according to the investigative outlet. “Since the pandemic will be widespread in the United States, the supplies from the federal Strategic National Stockpile may not be available and local caches will need to be relied upon,” the 2006 report said. The news from ProPublica comes as states and cities scramble to gather ventilators and other medical supplies — often competing with each other for such equipment — as the pandemic grips the country.

By Evan Nierman, opinion contributor

In the world of PR, prepared remarks by top level executives during a crisis are typically calculated and calming, aimed at mollifying key audiences and dousing the flames of controversy. When Acting Navy Secretary Thomas B. Modly addressed the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt following the removal of their beloved captain, he instead threw a Molotov cocktail. Captain Brett E. Crozier was removed from his command after an impassioned email he sent pleading for help for his COVID-19-stricken crew was leaked to the press. A national media uproar followed. The ship’s crew members gathered to cheer Crozier as he departed. Videos of servicemen shoulder to shoulder on the deck of the ship, chanting his name, illustrate both the affinity his subordinates had for him and how a highly contagious virus can run rampant in the close quarters of a ship at sea. In an apparent effort to explain the decision — or perhaps to seize the narrative surrounding the saga on a broader stage — Secretary Modly addressed Crozier’s crew over the ship’s loudspeakers. Punctuated with profanity, his words provide a fascinating case study in speechmaking around sensitive topics. On its face, the speech certainly violated some communications best practices, while echoing key messages that have been reiterated by the administration. For starters, Modly asserts incorrectly and definitively that “no one expected this pandemic.” A range of astute observers and global health professionals have been warning us about this very topic for years. Bill Gates’s 2015 TEDx talk The Next Pandemic: We Are Not Ready should be required viewing for anyone who believes that America could not have seen this coming.

By Bryan Alexander - USA TODAY

Maryland police have found the body of Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, the granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy, who has been missing since her canoe disappeared in the choppy waters of the Chesapeake Bay on April 2. After a days-long search that involved aviation and underwater imaging sonar technology, police and members of the Charles County Dive and Rescue, recovered McKean's body in 25 feet of water about 2.5 miles south of her mother’s Shady Side, Md. residence, according to a release from Maryland Natural Resources Police. It is from this residence that authorities believe McKean, 40, had launched the canoe to retrieve a missing ball with her eight-year-old son, Gideon. Police believe, strong winds and heavy seas prevented the pair from paddling back to shore. After a rescue search, the overturned canoe that the duo were in was found Friday. The U.S. Coast Guard announced Friday evening that the 26-hour search that covered more than 3,600 square miles of air, sea and land would be suspended. The Maryland Natural Resources Police will resume search operations for Gideon McKean in what is deemed a recovery effort.

"My fear is that this is a moment in time that can be manipulated by the powers and the government in place"
By Sarah K Burris

"The View's" Meghan McCain joined with her other co-hosts in expressing fear and frustration around the White House's dealing of the coronavirus crisis. Speaking Monday morning, co-host Sunny Hostin explained that given President Donald Trump's peddling of the drug hydroxychloroquine as a kind of coronavirus miracle cure, he has no business being on television. She said that networks should stop carrying the press conference live and merely clip major moments from the experts. McCain disagreed saying that she was concerned about what Trump is doing and the poor leadership standing behind him, namechecking Jared Kushner in particular. "There's an argument being made by some people that the press conferences shouldn't be being covered," McCain explained. "My argument for keeping the press conferences is I think we're at a place where President Trump — he's always been a sort of totalitarian president in a way that we've never historically seen before. And my fear is that he's going to play on the American public's fears in a draconian way and possibly do something akin to the Patriot Act where he uses this moment in time to play off our fears for his own benefit."

(CNN) Wisconsin's Supreme Court blocked Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' order to postpone Tuesday's election, despite his arguments that in-person voting could endanger poll workers and voters. The court sided with Republicans who control the state legislature and opposed Evers' executive order Monday that sought to delay the election until June 9. The decision was 4-2, with the court's conservative majority backing the GOP's position. Shortly afterward, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the national and state Republican Party, blocking a lower court ruling that had given voters six extra days -- between Election Day and April 13 -- to turn in their absentee ballots. Instead, the US Supreme Court said in a 5-4 ruling -- opposed by the court's liberals -- that Wisconsin must only count ballots that are postmarked by Tuesday. Of nearly 1.3 million absentee ballots requested, about 550,000 had not yet been returned as of Monday morning. The two decisions marked the latest twists in legal battles that have thrown the primary into chaos as state and local elections officials have consolidated polling places and scrambled to find workers and supplies for those that will open. Earlier Monday, city and county officials across Wisconsin had followed Evers' executive order with their own orders closing polling places. The state Supreme Court's decision supersedes those orders -- but leaves questions about how local elections officials will orchestrate a primary in the middle of a pandemic. In Milwaukee, all but five of the city's polling places had been closed -- raising the possibility of large crowds and long lines at each one on Tuesday.

By Priscilla Alvarez, CNN

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

In lawsuit, Michael Sanchez has accused AMI of plot to ‘scapegoat’ him, and has cast doubt on claim that he was the ‘sole source’
By Stephanie Kirchgaessner

A top executive at the tabloid publisher behind the National Enquirer said in a private email that he was “saving for my tombstone” the untold story of how the tabloid uncovered a 2019 exclusive about Jeff Bezos’s extramarital relationship, according to a lawsuit against the publisher. The claim raises new questions about how American Media Inc (AMI) discovered the Amazon CEO’s relationship, and how it obtained knowledge of explicit sexual photographs that Bezos, one of the world’s richest men, has alleged were used against him by the publisher for “extortion and blackmail”. The claim by Bezos that he was being blackmailed by AMI is the subject of an FBI investigation. AMI has publicly insisted that it relied on only one source for its salacious scoop about the Bezos affair: Michael Sanchez, who is the brother of Lauren Sanchez, Bezos’s girlfriend. Michael Sanchez was reportedly paid $200,000 by the tabloid for intimate texts and other information about the secret affair, which ultimately led to Bezos’s multi-billion dollar divorce from wife MacKenzie Bezos. But in a new lawsuit filed in March against AMI, the Enquirer, and top AMI executives, Michael Sanchez has accused the company of an elaborate plot to “scapegoat” him, and has cast doubt on the claim that he was the “sole source” of all the information and materials the tabloid obtained before it published its stories about the extramarital relationship. Instead, Sanchez has claimed in court documents that the Enquirer publisher relied on multiple sources, including the use of “high-tech spyware” to secretly hack Bezos’s phone and extract “his most private and confidential information”. Sanchez’s allegations echo claims that have been levelled against AMI by Bezos’s own security team. In a Daily Beast op-ed last year, Gavin De Becker, Bezos’s top security consultant, said he believed that Michael Sanchez had played a relatively minor role in the Enquirer’s story, and compared him to a “low-level Watergate burglar”. “Reality is complicated, and can’t always be boiled down to a simple narrative like “the brother did it,” even when that brother is a person who certainly supplied some information to a supermarket tabloid,” De Becker wrote. It is still far from clear how the supermarket tabloid landed its scoop, and how it obtained information about some “below the belt” photographs Bezos sent to Lauren Sanchez while their relationship was still secret. The Guardian reported in January that Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post, had his mobile phone “hacked” in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message that had apparently been sent from the personal account of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. The matter is under investigation by experts at the United Nations. Saudi Arabia has denied it hacked Bezos. In his lawsuit, Michael Sanchez admits having played a role in the Enquirer story, and claims to have done so “strategically” to minimise fallout for his sister and control the “narrative” of the story. While he has not denied supplying the tabloid with some of the couple’s private texts , he has denied the allegation that he ever gave AMI sexually explicit photographs.

By William Feuer

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

By D'Angelo Gore

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

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

By Cristina Alesci and Shannon Liao, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business) Joe Tsai, the billionaire co-founder of Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba, and his wife Clara Wu Tsai, have donated 2.6 million masks, 170,000 goggles and 2000 ventilators to New York — the US epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. The supplies were split into two shipments. The first arrived on Thursday at Newark Liberty International Airport, while the second arrived on Saturday at John F. Kennedy International Airport. "We kept hearing cries for (personal protective equipment) from our community and wanted to help," Clara Tsai told CNN in an interview. The state will allocate the second shipment but "it's our intention to help the most underserved institutions." She cited Jacobi Medical Center and Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx, and Elmhurst Hospital in Queens as the institutions she and her husband thought might need the supplies the most. "I want to thank Joe Tsai, and Clara Tsai, and Jack Ma from Alibaba," said Cuomo, during a Saturday briefing. "This is a big deal and it's going to make a significant difference for us." Hospitals in New York and across the country have been scrambling to find enough ventilators, masks and other protective gear needed for healthcare workers to battle the virus, which has killed about 60,000 people worldwide. The Tsais have considerable ties to the New York community. Joe Tsai, a Canadian Taiwanese businessman and philanthropist, owns the Brooklyn Nets basketball team and Brooklyn's Barclays Center arena. His co-founder, Jack Ma, made a separate donation of masks and testing kits in March. Clara Tsai runs a charitable organization, the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation, which oversees causes including economic mobility in Brooklyn. The Tsais worked with the Greater New York Hospital Association to distribute the items in their first shipment. It contained 300,000 surgical masks that went toward 11 New York City-area nursing homes, 70,000 medical goggles donated to 11 New York City-area nursing homes and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, and 1000 ventilators that were donated to the Mount Sinai hospital system.

By Jason Hoffman, CNN

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

By Kelly Kazek | kkazek@al.com

The advice recorded from a survivor of the 1918 flu pandemic is chilling in its relevance more than a century later: “Go to your doctor, get your medicine, go home, be sure you’ve got plenty of food and stay there.” Annie Laurie Williams of Selma, who was 91 when the recording was made in 2007 and who died in 2014, was one of five survivors whose stories were recorded by the Alabama Department of Archives and History as a way to teach future generations the dangers of a pandemic. The 1918 influenza pandemic, also known as the Spanish flu, sickened an estimated third of the world’s population, yet it was largely forgotten. Edna Boone Register of Madrid, Ala., who was 100 at the time of her interview in 2007, said getting the flu at the time was a deadly prospect and the only people who could help were neighbors. “If you loaded a sick person whom you could no longer help and put them in a wagon and take them to Dothan to a hospital, chances are that patient would be dead when you got there … If it wasn’t, there’d be no room [in the hospital],” she said. “People were buried in the clothes they died in and wrapped in sheets.” Register told her interviewer, Ann Brantley – the hazard vulnerability analysis nurse coordinator of the Center for Emergency Preparedness at the time – that she would advise teaching future generations about the pandemic and its impact, saying we need “to be aware it could happen again. Children need to learn about what could happen.” Register was 10 years old during the pandemic and died at age 104 in 2011. Less than a year after the United States entered World War I, an unprecedented outbreak of influenza swept the world, killing more people than the war. An estimated 16 million people were killed in WWI, but officials estimate 20 to 50 million died from the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. It caused more deaths than any other illness in history, according to the National Archives. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the outbreak is still affecting us: All strains of the Influenza A virus that make us sick today are descended from the flu of the 1918 pandemic. In Alabama, authorities found it impossible to count the number of dead, as cases erupted too quickly for accurate record-keeping, according a health official speaking at a 2006 State Summit on the 1918 pandemic.

By Paul French, for CNN

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

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

By Jeff Zeleny, Senior Washington Correspondent

(CNN) Just eight US governors have decided against issuing statewide directives urging their residents to stay at home as the outbreak of the coronavirus escalates and spreads across the country, the last holdouts in the nation. The governors, all of whom are Republican, have offered a variety of explanations for why they have not followed the lead of their colleagues from coast-to-coast -- along with countries across the world -- by ordering people to restrict their movement in hopes of slowing the pandemic. In doing so, they've collectively ignored the stay-at-home pleas of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, who said in a CNN interview: "If you look at what's going on in this country, I just don't understand why we're not doing that." Absent a nationwide order, which President Donald Trump once again on Friday declined to give, a patchwork of rules has emerged in all corners of the country that offer conflicting guidance for how citizens should protect themselves and their families from coronavirus. "I leave it up to the governors. The governors know what they are doing," Trump said at his daily White House briefing. "States that we are talking about are not in jeopardy." But as the week wore on, with the death toll rising, confirmed cases mounting and an absence of national leadership, several once-reluctant governors ultimately heeded the call and issued statewide orders of their own. It wasn't until late Friday that Alabama took action, with Gov. Kay Ivey reversing course and imposing a statewide mandate beginning Saturday. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson followed suit, one day after saying his state didn't easily lend itself to "a blanket order." He signed just that, but said it wouldn't take effect until Monday. The remaining exceptions are eight red states, all of which Trump carried four years ago and is hoping to do so again in the fall. They stretch from the South to the Midwest and the West, spanning the alphabet from Arkansas to Wyoming.

By Franco Ordoñez

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

By Zachary Cohen and Ryan Browne, CNN

(CNN) Sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier cheered for Capt. Brett Crozier as he disembarked the ship for the last time, an overwhelming show of support for their leader who was relieved of his command after issuing a stark warning about a coronavirus outbreak onboard. New video obtained by CNN shows a large crowd gathered to give Crozier a warm and loud send off, clapping and chanting his name as he left the ship. It was a clear expression of appreciation for their former commander who was removed for what the acting Navy Secretary called "poor judgment." "Today at my direction the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Captain Brett Crozier, was relieved of command by carrier strike group commander Rear Admiral Stewart Baker," acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly announced on Thursday. The decision came days after Crozier wrote a memo warning Navy leadership that decisive action was needed to save the lives of the ship's crew. "We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors," it read, three US defense officials confirmed to CNN. News of Crozier's removal comes after a US defense official told CNN Friday morning that 137 sailors from the Roosevelt have tested positive for the virus, representing more than 10% of all cases across the US military.

Zoom, the videoconferencing app, has become a target for harassment and abuse coordinated in private off-platform chats.
By Taylor Lorenz and Davey Alba

In recent weeks, as schools, businesses, support groups and millions of individuals have adopted Zoom as a meeting platform in an increasingly remote world, reports of “Zoombombing” or “Zoom raiding” by uninvited participants have become frequent. While those incidents may have initially been regarded as pranks or trolling, they have since risen to the level of hate speech and harassment, and even commanded the attention of the F.B.I. The weaponization of Zoom — a videoconferencing app that has become a de facto social platform for the coronavirus era — is the latest development in the story of online abuse, the kind playing out on social networks and darker, unmoderated corners of the internet. An analysis by The New York Times found 153 Instagram accounts, dozens of Twitter accounts and private chats, and several active message boards on Reddit and 4Chan where thousands of people had gathered to organize Zoom harassment campaigns, sharing meeting passwords and plans for sowing chaos in public and private meetings. (Since this article’s publication, Reddit has shut down the message boards where Zoom raids were discussed.) Zoom raiders often employ shocking imagery, racial epithets and profanity to derail video conferences. Though a meeting organizer can remove a participant at any time, the perpetrators of these attacks can be hard to identify; there may be several in a single call, and they can appear to jump from one alias to another. On March 29, Zahed Amanullah was in the middle of a call he had organized with the Concordia Forum, a global network of Muslim leaders, about maintaining spirituality and wellness during the coronavirus crisis, when suddenly a cursor began to draw a racial slur across one of the slides. “What is that? How did that happen?” one of the meeting’s presenters said as it was appearing. “Did somebody just see what I saw?” The infiltrator then began to screen-share a pornographic video while repeating the racial epithet verbally. “We were all caught off guard,” said Mr. Amanullah, a resident senior fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue in London. “We had no clue where it was coming from.” Harassers have begun to leverage every feature of Zoom’s platform for abuse. They have used the app’s custom background feature to project a GIF of a person drinking to participants in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and its annotation feature to write racist messages in a meeting of the American Jewish Committee in Paris.

By Jeremy Herb, CNN

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

By STEPHEN GROVES Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS | South Dakota legislators decided Thursday to investigate allegations that Senate Majority Leader Kris Langer was drunk during a meeting earlier this week that involved legislation related to the coronavirus outbreak. Both Langer, a Dell Rapids Republican, and Senate Pro Tempore Brock Greenfield, a Clark Republican, will be under investigation for their conduct during a marathon session that stretched from Monday night into the early hours of Tuesday morning. Langer and Greenfield oversaw the Senate proceedings from a conference room in the Capitol as lawmakers convened through teleconference to decide on a series of emergency bills for the coronavirus outbreak. As the Senate prepared to adjourn Tuesday morning, Sen. Phil Jensen, a Rapid City Republican, said he had heard Langer was intoxicated and had interrupted meetings in the House and Senate. He then attempted to move to create a disciplinary committee. Jensen declined to tell The Associated Press who had told him about Langer's behavior, but said he noticed on a video broadcast of the meeting room that both Langer and Greenfield's speech was slurred. He did not make an accusation regarding Greenfield on Tuesday morning. Greenfield told his colleagues on the phone that he had not seen Langer drinking. The Senate decided that Jensen could not move to immediately establish the committee due to a technicality, but Senators suggested he could bring it up to the Executive Board, a committee of senior legislators from the House and Senate that decides on legislative proceedings.

By Caitlin O'Kane

Fake coronavirus testing sites were discovered in multiple locations across Louisville, Kentucky this week, city officials say. One of the scam sites was at Sojourn Church Midtown, where church leaders were contacted by an organization offering drive-thru COVID-19 testing. They agreed to host the site in their parking lot – unbeknownst to them, the testing was illegitimate. "After we performed an initial screening and researched the organization, and after the organization assured us that they were in communication with Louisville Metro government, we agreed to let them use our parking lot for the dates of Monday, March 30 through Wednesday, April 1," Jack Brannen, the church's director of communications said in a statement. Brannen said they wanted to make COVID-19 testing available to their neighbors and they promoted the testing location on the church's website. But when the staff of the so-called testing organization showed up, church leaders developed some concern. The main concern, Brannen said, was their compliance with city and state requirements. "Although it wasn't our event, we felt uncomfortable allowing them to continue to use our parking lot," he said. "Ultimately, we asked them not to return for testing on Wednesday. We have updated our online promotion to reflect the change of plans." Now, law enforcement in the city is investigating this and several other apparently fraudulent testing sites, the Courier-Journal reports. City officials said they didn't initially known about the sites, and all testing sties must work with the state. The scam sites are the work of two medical marketing companies, the Courier-Journal reports. One promises results in 24 hours and charges individuals who exhibited symptoms up to $250 per test.

GASLIGHTING
Democrats and the media are the real downplayers of the coronavirus, claim two of Fox’s biggest stars who spent weeks peddling dismissive talking points about the pandemic.
By Justin Baragona

After spending weeks downplaying the deadly virus that now has nearly the entire U.S. under some form of lockdown, several Fox News stars are now attempting to gaslight viewers by claiming they sounded the alarms over the coronavirus all along while it was actually the media and Democrats who dismissed it. The network’s most-viewed primetime host Sean Hannity has recently devoted much airtime to insisting he has “always taken the coronavirus seriously,” despite no less than a month ago suggesting the pandemic might be a “deep state” plot to hurt the economy or, at another point, claiming concerns over the novel virus was a “new hoax” designed to “bludgeon” Trump. Like many of his Fox colleagues, Hannity suddenly changed his tune late last month on the virus after President Donald Trump finally pivoted to treating it seriously. The Fox star and unofficial Trump adviser has since taken aim at Democrats and critics who have rightly called out his previous coverage, claiming that all along he was the one warning of the coming disaster while they were the ones turning a blind eye. But despite Hannity’s perceived confidence in his coronavirus coverage, video and audio recordings do exist. The Fox star spent weeks misleadingly comparing the deadly virus to the seasonal flu while claiming Democrats were “politicizing and actually weaponizing an infectious disease” to “bludgeon” Trump. (Those comments throughout February and March that Democrats were nearly identical to those infamously made by now-former Fox Business host Trish Regan, who, on March 9, with an on-air graphic blaring “Coronavirus Impeachment Scam,” insisted the outbreak was “another attempt to impeach” Trump and “demonize and destroy the president.” Weeks later, Regan was let go by Fox.) Comparing the novel virus to the seasonal flu, meanwhile, was a tactic Trump and his allies adopted for weeks on end to downplay the deadliness of COVID-19 and excuse the president’s slow response. But that misleading comparison was thrown in Hannity’s face last month during an interview with top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.

By Jeff Cox

Nonfarm payrolls dropped by 701,000 in March, according to Labor Department numbers released Friday that only begin to show the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus crisis. It was the first decline in payrolls since September 2010 and came close to the May 2009 financial crisis peak of 800,000. Some two-thirds of the drop came in the hospitality industry, particularly bars and restaurants forced to close during the economic shutdown. That headline number reflects the count from establishments the government surveyed for its report. The household survey, which asks individual residences about their employment situation, showed a plunge of nearly three million. The unemployment rate rose to 4.4% — from 3.5% — its highest level since August 2017 as employers just began to cut payrolls ahead of social distancing practices that shut down large swaths of the U.S. economy in order to stop the virus’s spread. An alternative measure that captures discouraged workers and those holding jobs part-time for economic reasons jumped from 7% to 8.7%, its highest since March 2017. Those higher unemployment rate numbers come amid a tumble in the labor force participation rate to 62.7%, a 0.7 percentage point fall and the lowest since August 2018 for a number that had been gradually rising. Despite the other bad numbers, wages continued to rise, increasing 3.1% year-over-year, slightly better than expected. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been looking for a payroll decline of 10,000 and for the unemployment rate to rise to 3.7%. “Today’s numbers are shockingly bad and an understatement of the damage already done to the U.S. economy,” Nick Bunker, economic research director at job search site Indeed, said in a statement. “If this is an indication of what was happening before the full force of the crisis hit, then it will be hard to come up with the words to describe the numbers in future months.”

It found information for nearly 2,400 meetings in a single day of scans
By Jay Peters

An automated tool developed by security researchers is able to find around 100 Zoom meeting IDs in an hour and information for nearly 2,400 Zoom meetings in a single day of scans, according to a new report from security expert Brian Krebs. Security professional Trent Lo and members of SecKC, a Kansas City-based security meetup group, made a program called zWarDial that can automatically guess Zoom meeting IDs, which are nine to 11 digits long, and glean information about those meetings, according to the report. In addition to being able to find around 100 meetings per hour, one instance of zWarDial can successfully determine a legitimate meeting ID 14 percent of the time, Lo told Krebs on Security. And as part of the nearly 2,400 upcoming or recurring Zoom meetings zWarDial found in a single day of scanning, the program extracted a meeting’s Zoom link, date and time, meeting organizer, and meeting topic, according to data Lo shared with Krebs on Security.

By Ewan Palmer

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

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

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

CNN

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tells CNN's Anderson Cooper that President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell "should not try to hide behind an excuse" in response to the suggestion from both the President and the Kentucky Republican that impeachment distracted the US government from the growing coronavirus crisis.

By Richard L. Revesz and Avi Zevin

On Tuesday the Trump administration significantly weakened the most important existing regulation limiting planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions: the “Clean Car Standards,” which were also set to save consumers billions of dollars by making new cars and trucks use less fuel. The newly watered-down regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation require that auto manufacturers make vehicles more efficient and less polluting by only about 1.5 percent per year through 2026—far less than the Obama-mandated 5 percent requirement, and even less than the improvements manufacturers say they will make without any regulation. According to a recent analysis, by 2040 this rollback is likely to add 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, cost Americans more than $244 billion dollars at the pump, and cause $190 billion in public health harms—including more than 18,000 premature deaths from respiratory disease, caused by additional soot and smog that will be emitted over the lifetime of more polluting vehicles. As with its other efforts to roll back consumer and environmental protections, the administration has relied on analysis so shoddy that it ought not to survive judicial scrutiny. In a brazen attempt to justify the move, the administration is relying on a three-step playbook that it has used before: first, diversion; then, admission; and finally, cooking the books. The Trump administration started the process of weakening the Clean Car Standards by attempting to distract the public from the true consequences of its actions. When the plan was first rolled out two years ago, the administration used a flashy but flawed diversion: safety. With new modeling, EPA and DOT suggested that the Clean Car Standards would increase car accidents. They even named the replacement rule the “SAFE rule,” though it set no safety standards (DOT has largely ignored its safety authority under the Trump administration). According to this analysis, an increase in car prices caused by the Clean Car Standards would lead to more cars on the road, and therefore more accidents. But the prediction that a price increase leads to more demand rather than less demand is inconsistent with the most basic precept of economics. The problem with distraction is that it won’t hold up in court. When judges evaluate regulations, they look at the evidence in the record, not at the press release. So distractions like phony safety claims are not a good legal strategy for actual deregulation. Forced to grapple with the legal vulnerability of their flawed proposal but ideologically committed to its rollback, the agencies made the next move: admission. EPA and DOT recognized that repealing the Clean Car Standards would impose more costs on society than benefits and moved forward anyway. After seeing a leaked draft of the rollback, Sen. Tom Carper revealed in January that the agencies virtually abandoned the safety distraction. Rather, the economic analysis accompanying the draft showed that the agencies intended to knowingly impose $41 billion in net harm to society (even after accounting for all of the claimed benefits of the move) over the lifetime of the vehicles subject to the standards.

“We’re talking about 10 million people filing for unemployment insurance in two weeks. Nobody is prepared for that,” said one finance expert.
By Martha C. White

Even as states are struggling to process a record number of jobless claims, experts warn that even greater challenges loom: A Department of Labor report found that, as recently as February, unemployment insurance trust funds in nearly half of all states were underfunded. The staggering 6.6 million jobless claims filed last week call into question even the most well-funded states’ ability to pay unemployment over a sustained period, said Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, making it likelier than not that more federal intervention will be needed. “We’re talking about 10 million people filing for unemployment insurance in two weeks. Nobody is prepared for that,” he said. “That’s unprecedented.” Alon Ozer, chief investment officer at Omnia Family Wealth, said, "The flood of unemployment claims is something no state was planning for. I believe many states will still require federal aid.” This anticipated intervention would come on top of the additional unemployment insurance support included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which expands the eligibility and access to payments. According to the Labor Department, states are supposed to build up their reserves during economic expansions “in anticipation of paying a higher amount of benefits during recessionary periods.” Ozer said low interest rates and the strong economy leading up to the crisis gave states time to refortify unemployment insurance trust funds depleted by the Great Recession, but the numbers suggest that some states didn’t do enough to ensure solvency even in a more run-of-the-mill downturn.

By Kaitlan Collins and Sarah Westwood, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump's campaign has sent a letter to Jeff Sessions demanding the former attorney general stop using Trump's name in his campaign materials for his US Senate bid. "We only assume your campaign is doing this to confuse President Trump's loyal supporters in Alabama into believing the President supports your candidacy in the upcoming primary run-off election. Nothing could be further from the truth," wrote Michael Glassner, chief operating officer of the Trump campaign, to Sessions in the letter obtained by CNN and first reported by The New York Times. Trump has long held a grudge against his former attorney general, whose recusal from the Russia investigation in early 2017 led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. Last month, Trump endorsed Tommy Tuberville, Sessions' rival in the GOP primary runoff for Alabama's US Senate seat. Tuberville and Sessions are both vying to take on Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in the fall, and Republicans view the race as one of their most promising pickup opportunities in the Senate. That runoff had been scheduled for Tuesday but was postponed until July due to the coronavirus outbreak. A person familiar with the matter said Trump didn't direct the campaign to send the aforementioned letter, but aides who are aware of his dislike for his former attorney general knew he wouldn't approve of Sessions touting his ties to Trump. The campaign has sent similar letters like this before, though Sessions was obviously a priority given the President's feelings. Gail Gitcho, a senior Sessions adviser, told CNN Thursday that Sessions "was all in on the Trump agenda before the campaign even started, and is one of the architects of it. No letter from any lawyer will change that." Noting that Sessions' campaign material was sent out before Trump endorsed Tuberville, Gitcho emphasized that "Alabamans don't like to be told what to do." "They have shown that repeatedly. Washington told them to vote for Luther Strange over Roy Moore, they disobeyed. Washington told them to vote for Roy Moore over Doug Jones, they disobeyed," she said. "They won't be told what to do."

By Dakin Andone, CNN

(CNN) As video conference app Zoom surges in popularity due to increased usage amid the coronavirus pandemic, federal officials are now warning of a new potential privacy and security concern called "Zoombombing." The term refers to a form of cyber harassment reported by some app users, who have reported that some of their calls have been hijacked by unidentified individuals and trolls who spew hateful language or share graphic images. "Zoombombing" has become so prevalent that this week the FBI issued a news release to warn people of the threat. The FBI received "multiple reports" of video conference calls being interrupted by "pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language," the agency said in its release. A spokesperson for Zoom told CNN in an email on Thursday that the company is aware of the FBI's recent press release and "appreciates all efforts to raise awareness around how to best prevent these kinds of attacks." "We are deeply upset to hear about the incidents involving this type of attack and we strongly condemn such behavior," the spokesperson said in an email statement. The company said it began "actively educating users on how they can protect their meetings and help prevent incidents of harassment" on March 20.
"We are listening to our community of users to help us evolve our approach," the spokesperson said.

By Manu Raju, Lauren Fox and Betsy Klein, CNN

Washington (CNN) Americans likely won't begin to see direct payments from the coronavirus stimulus bill until at least April 13 and it could take 20 weeks for all the checks to be mailed, Trump administration officials told lawmakers, according to a House Democratic memo obtained by CNN. The timeline means tens of millions of Americans will have to wait to get badly needed assistance, despite repeated earlier suggestions from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that the money would go out as soon as April 6. Mnuchin said at Thursday's White House coronavirus briefing that payments would go out within two weeks to people whose direct deposit details are on file with the government, echoing comments he made this past Sunday after passage of the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill that payments would not go out until mid-April. He added that a web portal would be established for people to supply their details and that checks would be sent to anyone else, but did not specify a timeline. "I am assuring the American public, they need the money now," he said. CNN reported in March that former IRS officials said the wait would likely be weeks or months for payments. Initially, the IRS will make about 60 million payments, likely in the week of April 13, for taxpayers who provided their direct deposit information through their 2018 or 2019 tax returns, the memo from the House Ways and Means Committee says.
Three weeks later, on the week of May 4, the IRS expects to start issuing paper checks to individuals whose bank information isn't already on file, a process that will take much longer.

On February 24, President Trump tweeted, ‘The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.’ It wasn’t.
By Michael A. Cohen Globe Columnist

“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead. We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks.” With these words, on Tuesday afternoon, President Trump sounded a new and welcomed tone on the coronavirus. But make no mistake, hard days lie ahead because of the president’s botched, selfish, and incompetent response to the coronavirus crisis. A change in tone can’t change that catastrophic reality. Trump’s calls for vigilance are a bit like declaring it’s time to close the barn doors after the horses have escaped — and the barn is on fire and it’s threatening to burn the entire farm down. Tens of thousands of Americans (and possibly more) are likely to die because of the president. Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, Trump’s public statements and actions have followed a similar trajectory: They have been dishonest, misleading, fantastical, and dangerous. It would blow over soon, he said early on. It would go away when the weather got warmer. “The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA,” he tweeted. It wasn’t.

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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2020

While thankfully there’s no more talk of re-opening the economy on Easter, the damage has been done. America has become the epicenter of a global pandemic. Consider that the United States and South Korea reported their first coronavirus cases on the same day — Jan. 20. More than two months later, South Korea has just under 10,000 confirmed cases and 169 deaths. By comparison, the United States has more than 216,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 5,000 people have died. Taking into account population differences (the US has 327 million people and South Korea has around 51 million people), the number of cases is more than three times greater than South Korea — and the death toll is nearly four times as great. These horrific numbers could have been avoided with genuine presidential leadership. After the initial case was diagnosed in January, South Korea immediately began aggressive testing and quarantines. Private companies were encouraged to develop diagnostic tests. Within a month drive-through screening centers had been set up and thousands were being tested daily. In the United States, Trump refused to focus on the issue. Two days after that initial positive case he declared "We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming from China. It’s going to be just fine.” When Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was first able to talk to Trump about the coronavirus on Jan. 18, Trump wanted to talk about a recently announced vaping ban. Into February, Trump was still stubbornly resisting bureaucratic efforts to deal with the emerging crisis. The weeks lost in ramping up testing were a lost — and unforgivable —opportunity to save lives. Trump’s obstinance is bad enough — but the delay was also undoubtedly influenced by Trump’s diktat that testing should not be a priority. The more testing that was done, the more positive results there would be and that was an outcome the president did not want. Keeping the numbers low in order to avoid spooking Wall Street and negatively affecting Trump’s reelection became the administration’s focus.

By Tara Subramaniam and Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said on Wednesday that new information on the spread of coronavirus influenced his decision to issue a stay-at-home order. In particular, Kemp pointed to what he said was the recent discovery that the virus can be spread by people who are not exhibiting symptoms. "What we've been telling people from directives from the CDC for weeks now that if you start feeling bad stay home, those individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad. But we didn't know that until the last 24 hours," said Kemp, a Republican.

Facts First: It's not true that people didn't know "until the last 24 hours" that individuals without symptoms could be infecting people with coronavirus. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said in mid-February that asymptomatic transmission of coronavirus was possible. Furthermore, studies from as early as January showed cases of coronavirus spreading amongst people with no symptoms. Kemp's press secretary said the governor was referring to an update that the CDC made to its guidance on March 30 that indicated there's a higher risk of people without symptoms passing on the virus. The updated guidance changed the period of exposure risk for individuals from "onset of symptoms" to "48 hours before symptom onset." As more has been learned about the virus, several experts told CNN last month that it's become clear that transmission by people who are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic is responsible for more transmission than previously thought. Though it wasn't the first time he acknowledged it, Redfield confirmed that suspicion in a March 30 interview with NPR affiliate WABE, in which he said "as many as 25%" of individuals who are infected with coronavirus may remain asymptomatic. "One of the [pieces of] information that we have pretty much confirmed now is that a significant number of individuals that are infected actually remain asymptomatic," Redfield said. In a February 13 interview with CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Redfield said asymptomatic transmission of coronavirus was possible and concerning, based on information from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. "There's been good communication with our colleagues to confirm asymptomatic infection, to confirm asymptomatic transmission, to be able to get a better handle on the clinical spectrum of illness in China," Redfield said. "What we don't know though is how much of the asymptomatic cases are driving transmission." As of January 30, the CDC noted in its guidance for managing patients with coronavirus that "Clinical presentation among reported cases of 2019-nCoV infection varies in severity from asymptomatic infection or mild illness to severe or fatal illness." The potential for asymptomatic transmission is something that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert, first raised two months ago.

By Ryan Browne, Zachary Cohen and Jamie Crawford, CNN

Washington (CNN) The commander of a US aircraft carrier that has been hit by a major outbreak of coronavirus has been relieved of command for a loss of judgement, acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly announced on Thursday. "Today at my direction the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Captain Brett Crozier, was relieved of command by carrier strike group commander Rear Admiral Stewart Baker," Modly said. Earlier this week Modly wrote a memo warning Navy leadership that decisive action was needed to save the lives of the ship's crew, a defense official tells CNN. "We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors," Capt. Brett Crozier wrote in the memo to the Navy's Pacific Fleet, three US defense officials confirmed to CNN. Modly said Crozier was relieved because he went outside the chain of command and sent his memo over an unsecured system adding to the chances it could be leaked. A US defense official told CNN earlier Thursday that 114 sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for the virus. "Decisive action is required. Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed US nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure," he wrote in the memo. "This is a necessary risk. It will enable the carrier and air wing to get back underway as quickly as possible while ensuring the health and safety of our Sailors. Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care." Modly said Wednesday that if it turned out the letter was leaked it "would violate the principles of good order and discipline if -- if -- if he were responsible for that. But, I don't know that. The fact that he wrote the letter of -- to his chain of command to express his concerns would absolutely not result in any type of retaliation. This is what we want our commanding officers to be able to do."

By Kate Bennett and Evan Perez, CNN

(CNN) Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top medical expert on the coronavirus pandemic and a member of President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force, is facing threats to his personal safety and now requires personal security from law enforcement at all times, including at his home, a source confirms to CNN. A law enforcement official told CNN that the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General, the agency's law enforcement arm, asked the US Marshals Service for assistance following threats to Fauci. The Marshals then deputized HHS officers to act as personal security for the doctor. The Washington Post first reported the threats to Fauci and the increased security. A source also confirmed to CNN last week the presence of several members of the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police Department stationed at all times around Fauci's home in the district. The source added the stepped up visible police presence was a response to growing threats to Fauci's safety, though the source of the threats was not identified.

After Sen. Mitch McConnell suggested the government's response to the initial coronavirus outbreak was in part distracted by the president's impeachment, rebuttal memes started flying.
By Dan Evon

U.S. President Donald Trump and the federal government have been widely criticized for what detractors described as their slow response to the COVID-19 coronavirus disease pandemic. As of this writing, the U.S. is still facing shortages of critical medical supplies such as masks and personal protective equipment (PPE). On March 31, 2020, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued that the government might have been too distracted by impeachment proceedings to focus on the impending pandemic. McConnell told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that the outbreak “came up while we were tied down on the impeachment trial. And I think it diverted the attention of the government, because everything every day was all about impeachment.” Shortly after McConnell made these remarks, a number of op-eds were published refuting this claim. Trump even responded, saying, “I don’t think I would have done any better had I not been impeached.” On social media, people started sharing a list that supposedly showed all the times Trump had golfed or held rallies after being warned about an impending pandemic, arguing that if Trump had time for leisure activities and political rallies during his impeachment, then he had time to deal with disaster response: The timeline in this tweet is generally correct. Trump was officially impeached on Dec. 19, 2019. It’s not clear exactly when Trump was first alerted about the possibility of a pandemic. The Washington Post reported that U.S. Intelligence officials were warning the president about the potential scale of the coronavirus outbreak as early as January. While we don’t know a specific date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its first alert for U.S. clinicians to be “on the look-out for patients with respiratory symptoms and a history of travel to Wuhan, China” on Jan. 8, 2020. About a month after that on Feb. 5, Trump’s impeachment trial ended when the Senate voted not to convict. Before, during, and after the impeachment trial — and after the CDC issued its first warnings — Trump held political rallies and attended several golf outings.

Medical experts have some theories why, including smoking and drinking
By Tanner Garrity

Early sex-disaggregated reports on coronavirus fatality, whether from China, Italy or South Korea, all tell the same story: men are more susceptible to COVID-19 than women. Data from China shows a death rate of 2.8% for men and 1.7% for women. In Italy, where hospitals were likened to trench warfare last week, the numbers were larger, but the gender discrepancy remained — a 10.6% fatality rate for men, 6% for women. In South Korea, men claim 62% of all cases, and are 89% more likely to die, based on early reporting. As Wired UK reported, medical professionals have struggled to figure out exactly why there is such a stark, consistent difference in immune response to COVID-19. It seems to transcend age, too. Of the 171 children and adolescents treated at Wuhan Children’s Hospital, 61% were male.

by Frank E. Lockwood

His seat was empty for an hour Thursday evening. It was vacant, as well, during two 45-minute stretches on Wednesday. In a text, a Cotton spokesman said the senator Thursday had "stepped out of the trial briefly to advise the administration on coronavirus developments." Wednesday's absences were for the same reason, the spokesman said in a subsequent text. The lawmaker from Dardanelle has branded the impeachment a "sham." The coronavirus, on the other hand, is "the biggest and the most important story in the world," he told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during its hearing Thursday morning. "This coronavirus is a catastrophe on the scale of Chernobyl for China. But actually, it's probably worse than Chernobyl, which was localized in its effect. The coronavirus could result in a global pandemic," he warned military officials and colleagues. Chernobyl was a 1986 nuclear plant disaster in Ukraine. Throughout the day, Cotton was tweeting about the virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, and has sickened thousands. "MESSAGE TO ALL AMERICANS IN CHINA: Get out -- now. Contact our embassy or consulates if you need help," a 3:14 p.m. tweet urged. "As a defensive measure, we must shut down commercial air travel between the United States and China," a 5:01 p.m. tweet advised. "As an offensive measure, we need a Manhattan Project level effort to work with our best research scientists and laboratories to develop a vaccine as quickly as possible." The warnings and updates -- more than a dozen of them -- continued into the evening. "As I've said for a week: 'Do NOT travel to China. If you're in China, GET OUT. Contact our embassy or consulates if you need help," a 9:26 p.m. tweet stated. Another tweet welcomed news that the World Health Organization had designated the outbreak a "global health emergency," calling it a week overdue. Thursday night, the U.S. State Department also sounded the alarm, urging Americans not to travel to China. In addition to the warnings, Cotton has also condemned China's handling of the crisis, accusing Beijing of dishonesty. "China admits to 6,000 cases of coronavirus. China is LYING!," he tweeted Wednesday. "The real number is likely many times greater, and probably growing fast." - Trump claims no one knew about the coronavirus even after Trump was repeatable told by our intelligence agencies and Sen. Tom Cotton back in January 2020. Trump’s lies and lack of action has killed Americans.

By Betsy Klein, Kevin Liptak and Maegan Vazquez, CNN

(CNN) Vice President Mike Pence sought to cast blame on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and China Wednesday when asked why the US was so late in understanding the enormity of the coronavirus pandemic. "I will be very candid with you and say that in mid-January the CDC was still assessing that the risk of the coronavirus to the American people was low. The very first case, which was someone who had been in China -- in late January around the 20th day of January," Pence told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Pence continued: "The reality is that we could've been better off if China had been more forthcoming." "The reality is that China's been more transparent with respect to the coronavirus than certainly they were for other infectious diseases over the last 15 years," he said. "But what appears evident now is long before the world learned in December, China was dealing with this, maybe as much as a month earlier than that." A White House coronavirus task force spokesman denied that Pence was casting blame on the CDC's response efforts. "The CDC has been a major contributor to the Task Force and the whole-of-government response to the coronavirus outbreak. Vice President Pence has never cast blame on the CDC or any agency involved in the response efforts, and that did not change today," coronavirus task force spokesperson Devin O'Malley said in a statement to CNN. US health officials from the CDC took active steps starting in January to prepare for the outbreak as information trickled out of China. Members of Trump's Cabinet also got involved and started briefing lawmakers. While public health officials and medical experts raised the alarm, Trump downplayed their concerns and injected controversial and unproven theories into the conversation. In the course of two months, President Donald Trump has dramatically shifted his tone and level of optimism about the spread of novel coronavirus and its impact on the economy. At the coronavirus briefing on February 26, for example, Trump said all of the following: "This is a flu. This is like a flu"; "Now, you treat this like a flu"; "It's a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for. And we'll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner." As recently as the second week of March, Trump was an advocate of facing the virus without taking drastic measures to address it. Just four days ago, on March 27, he said that you can call the coronavirus "a flu," or a virus or a germ.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said the decision corresponds with the “national pause” effectively recommended by the White House.
By Patricia Mazzei and Maggie Haberman

MIAMI — Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who for weeks has resisted more stringent statewide measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus,  on Wednesday signed an order directing  the state’s more than 21 million residents to largely stay at home. Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, relented after a morning telephone call with President Trump, who on Tuesday delivered the gravest projections yet from the White House suggesting that up to 240,000 Americans could die from the infection, even with serious restrictions in place. The governor said he started coming around to the necessity of a statewide order once the White House dropped its earlier, rosier suggestion that stringent social distancing measures could be lifted by mid-April, and extended national guidelines to combat the coronavirus until April 30. “When the president did the 30-day extension, to me, that was, ‘People aren’t just going to go back to work,’” Mr. DeSantis said at a news conference in Tallahassee, the state capital. “That’s a national pause button.”

By Ashley Collman

Medical workers on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak not only have to worry about catching the disease themselves — they also risk losing their jobs if they speak publicly about the challenges they're facing. Doctors and nurses are reportedly being threatened against speaking to the press or posting on social media about their concerns, according to multiple reports in recent days. Some have already lost their jobs. Ming Lin, an emergency-room physician at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Washington, told Bloomberg that he was fired last week for speaking to a newspaper about the lack of protective equipment and testing. Lauri Mazurkiewicz, a nurse in Chicago, told Bloomberg that she lost her job at Northwestern Memorial Hospital after sending an email to colleagues, urging them to wear more protective gear. A spokesman for Lin's former hospital told Bloomberg that the worker was "publicly critical" about the hospital's readiness. A Northwestern spokesperson declined to comment to the outlet because the nurse has filed a lawsuit. Workers at two healthcare systems in New York City — NYU Langone and Montefiore Health System — told Bloomberg that they had received memos in recent days reminding them of policies to run all media requests by their public relations department. Failing to do so would make them "subject to disciplinary action, including termination," said the memo sent to NYU workers. A spokesperson for Montefiore told Business Insider that its "media policy has been the same for many years" and "has not changed due to the current situation." A spokesperson for NYU Langone issued a similar statement, saying there has "always been a longstanding policy" on speaking to the media — "long before the coronavirus crisis."

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) On Tuesday, President Donald Trump seemed to get it. He stood in front of his coronavirus task force and, in somber terms, told the public that the next two weeks would see more illness and more death. He acknowledged that the death toll, if America keeps to its current social distancing guidelines, will likely fall somewhere between 100,000 and 240,000 dead Americans. "Our country is in the midst of a great national trial unlike any it has ever faced before," Trump said. Which, well, it's about time. The truth here is that everything Trump said on Tuesday about the spread and dangers -- and even the number of dead -- has been known publicly for weeks. The only leader who failed to acknowledge it was, well, the President. Consider that 23 days ago, Trump sent out this tweet to his 70+ million followers: "So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!" Even when he sent that tweet, scientists and infectious disease experts were telling anyone who would listen that this was NOT the flu -- its mortality rate was far higher, we had no herd immunity to it and there was no vaccine. Trump didn't want to believe that. So he decided it was wrong. And through his words and actions -- whether his tweets and public statements downplaying the threat or his administration's too-slow reaction to the lack of adequate testing -- Trump's decisions helped get us to this bad place. Now, to be clear: This is not to lay blame for the coronavirus at Trump's feet. This was -- and is -- a virus that had never before been transmitted to humans. There is no vaccine. Governments around the world are struggling with combating it and protecting their citizens even as I write. But there is NO question that Trump's downplaying of the virus in these critical last few weeks has played a role in the fact that we are now faced with the blunt reality of significantly more deaths of Americans from coronavirus than died in the Vietnam War (58,220).

By Caitlin O'Kane

A group of spring breakers who defied public officials' coronavirus warnings are now dealing with the consequences of not canceling non-essential travel and practicing social distancing. About 70 people in their 20s traveled in a large group from Austin, Texas, to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico in mid-March. Now, 28 of them have tested positive for COVID-19, the Austin Public Health Department says. The group flew to Mexico on a charter flight about a week and a half ago and some of the vacationers returned on separate commercial flights, the City of Austin said in a press release. "Austin Public Health and UT Health Austin and University Health Services have made contact with every spring breaker onboard the plane using flight manifests from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)," the press release reads. "The 28 confirmed cases are self-isolating at this time. Others are under quarantine while being monitored and tested." Four of the confirmed cases did not present any symptoms, officials said. According to the University of Texas, many of those on the trip were UT Austin students, with all 28 positive cases being students, CBS Austin reports. A federal travel advisory was not in place for Mexico when the students traveled there; however the city says all residents should follow the CDC's recommendations that all non-essential international travel should be avoided. "A leisure vacation of any kind is not considered essential," the press release reads. Nearly half of the positive COVID-19 cases in Austin-Travis County are in people between the ages of 20 and 40, the city says. The CDC recently reported that young adults ages 20 to 44 make up nearly a third of all cases nationwide, and some of those patients get very sick. Even those who don't get severely ill themselves pose a risk of spreading the disease to others who may be more vulnerable.

The move would have made it easier for people who have recently lost jobs to obtain health insurance.
By Margot Sanger-Katz

The Trump administration has decided against reopening the Affordable Care Act’s Healthcare.gov marketplaces to new customers, despite broad layoffs and growing fears that people will be uninsured for the coronavirus. The option to reopen markets, in what is known as a special enrollment period, would have made it easier for people who have recently lost jobs or who had already been uninsured to obtain health insurance. The administration has established such special enrollment periods in the past, typically in the wake of natural disasters. The administration had been considering the action for several weeks, and President Trump mentioned such conversations in a recent news briefing. But according to a White House official, those discussions are now over. The news of the decision was previously reported by Politico. Under current law, people who lose job-based insurance already qualify to enroll for health insurance on the marketplaces, but are required to provide proof that they lost their coverage. A special enrollment period would have made it easier for such people to enroll, because it would not require that paperwork. It also would have provided a new option for people who chose not to buy health insurance this year but want it now. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have established special enrollment periods to allow people to obtain new insurance coverage. The states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, and they control their marketplaces. But federal action would have been required to allow customers to re-enter the markets in the 38 states with markets run by Healthcare.gov. or that use the federal platform.

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) As tens of thousands of Americans have been sickened by coronavirus over the past 10 days, most of the voices raising questions about its actual severity or the need for stringent social distancing measures have faded considerably. Notice I said "most" of the voices. Because, well, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson is still at it. In an op-ed in USA Today over the weekend, Johnson makes the case that the costs of keeping the economy effectively shuttered as the country waits out the coronavirus is simply not worth it. Here's the core of his argument (bolding is mine): "Imagine the potential psychological and human toll if this shutdown continues indefinitely, unemployment reaches 20% or higher, as some now predict, and we sink into a deep recession or depression....
"...In addition to the current human toll, future generations will be required to pick up that tab. "Every premature death is a tragedy, but death is an unavoidable part of life. More than 2.8 million die each year — nearly 7,700 a day. The 2017-18 flu season was exceptionally bad, with 61,000 deaths attributed to it. Can you imagine the panic if those mortality statistics were attributed to a new virus and reported nonstop?" Er, OK. So, here's the problem: It is true that death comes for all of us. And that some people -- heck, many people -- die before they get to the average American life expectancy (78.6 years old, if you're wondering).
But there's a massive difference between premature death from things like cancer or an accident and premature death from coronavirus. The former aren't preventable. The latter (mostly) is.

By Greg Sargent

The Big Lie that President Trump’s campaign will employ to rescue his reelection chances amid his catastrophic mishandling of the biggest U.S. public health emergency in modern times is edging into view. Fittingly, it is being telegraphed by the author of the perfect catchphrase of the Trump era — “alternative facts.” White House spinner Kellyanne Conway has offered a new defense of Trump that telegraphs the coming strategy. It doesn’t rest simply on the idea that Trump’s handling of coronavirus has been a decisive success, but also on the crucial idea that this crisis could not have been anticipated. This new defense of Trump comes amid a truly seismic event: a massive capitulation to reality, in which Trump acknowledged that coronavirus deaths could be far higher than anyone can bear, leading him to extend strict social-distancing guidelines until at least the end of April. The extraordinary emerging accounts of this abrupt reversal all tell a similar story. Horrifying TV imagery (mounting corpses in Queens) and attention-grabbing statistics (advisers told him a best-case scenario involves 100,000 to 200,000 U.S. deaths) finally penetrated for Trump. This combined with hard-nosed politics to force Trump to abandon his reelection-driven desire to reopen the economy quickly. His political team is mindful of polls showing broad public support for keeping the economy on hold until the coronavirus is tackled, and it fears that a resurgent spike in deaths this fall could be worse for him than an immediate economic collapse. It is in this deeply fraught context that Conway put forth her defense of Trump, as reported by The Post:

   Trump “is presiding over the country’s response to an unanticipated, unprecedented pandemic of global proportions, and he is getting credit for his handling of the pandemic … In due time, he will preside over the great American comeback, which is more likely to be in the summer or fall, depending on the effectiveness of mitigation and relief efforts and the uncertain path of the virus itself.”

All the ingredients of the coming Big Lie campaign are there. The pandemic was not just an unprecedented challenge; it was one that no one could have anticipated. Trump has risen to the occasion in spite of the fact that everyone was caught off guard. And any hard times to come, far from having been created in no small part by Trump himself, will be the occasion for him to rally the country back to (resumed) glory. What all this suggests is that Trump’s political team appears to have decided that on the coronavirus, it cannot concede error of any kind on his part. This explains a great deal about this moment, but it also suggests the potential for extreme peril ahead.

Trump’s acceptance of reality is selective
On a conference call with governors on Monday, Trump was pressed by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock about his state’s dire need for more testing equipment. “I haven’t heard about testing in weeks,” Trump claimed, as a leaked audiotape of the call revealed. “I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.” This is a ludicrous lie: Governors have been frantically demanding new testing equipment for some time. Investigative reporting has documented an extraordinary string of failures on the Trump administration’s part leading to current shortages. Those in turn spawned a “lost month” that helped allow the coronavirus to rampage out of control, with untold horrors ahead. But what this shows, again, is that Trump’s acceptance of reality (when it comes to mounting deaths) only goes so far: He will continue to employ his magical reality-bending powers to mask his own previous failures to whatever degree he can. That project rests heavily on the idea, as Conway put it, that this crisis was “unanticipated.” But that’s verifiable nonsense. “It was only unexpected to people who chose not to pay attention — meaning Trump and a White House that has consistently downplayed and marginalized preparedness and readiness for exactly this scenario,” Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, told me. Trump vastly minimized the crisis in real time for weeks and weeks, at a time when his own health-care officials, as well as members of Congress and outside experts, were frantically doing the opposite, badly hampering the federal response.


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