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US Monthly Headline News April 2020 Page 2

By Vincent Barone

The head of a real-time surveillance app marketed to law enforcement agencies was once involved in white supremacist groups and participated in a synagogue shooting, a new report reveals. Years before Damien Patton became the CEO of Banjo, the startup darling as a teen was affiliated with the Dixie Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the tech blog OneZero first reported. As part of Patton’s previously hidden past, the tech entrepreneur and US Navy veteran was 17 years old and behind the wheel of a car as his passenger shot up the outside of the West End synagogue in a Nashville, Tennessee, suburb in 1990, according to the report. No one was injured during the incident. “We believe that the Blacks and the Jews are taking over America, and it’s our job to take America back for the White race,” Patton testified at a trial for others involved in the incident. “We were out there on the streets causing problems and making the headlines in the news where the older groups like the Klan wasn’t really ever heard of anymore,” he added in his testimony. “And we were going out and causing the problems now.” Patton said in a statement that he no longer holds those views and feels “extreme remorse for” his young adulthood. “[Thirty-two] years ago I was a lost, scared, and vulnerable child. I won’t go into detail, but the reasons I left home at such a young age are unfortunately not unique; I suffered abuse in every form,” Patton said. “I did terrible things and said despicable and hateful things, including to my own Jewish mother, that today I find indefensibly wrong, and feel extreme remorse for. I have spent most of my adult lifetime working to make amends for this shameful period in my life.” Patton’s dark history had largely been concealed thanks to misspellings of his first name in court filings related to the synagogue shooting — meaning his name would have not appeared in any document searches, OneZero reported. The revelations prompted Utah’s attorney general to suspend a $20.7 million contract Banjo had held with the state, allowing it to operate a massive surveillance system to aid police officers, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The contract gave the company access to state traffic and public safety cameras. In turn, Banjo provides law enforcement with alerts based on social media posts as they pour in from events like crime scenes, fires or other public incidents of interest to police. “Neither the attorney general nor anyone in the Attorney General’s Office were aware of these affiliations or actions,” said Richard Piatt, spokesman for Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. “They are indefensible. He has said so himself.”

The injunction request against an executive order was denied.
By Ivan Pereira

A Michigan judge sided with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Wednesday in a lawsuit filed against her shelter-in-place order and denied the plaintiffs an injunction. Court of Claims Judge Christopher M. Murray ruled Steve Martinko and other plaintiffs' claims that the order infringed on their constitutional rights were not strong due to the severity of the pandemic. A preliminary injunction of the governor's order, which has been in effect since March 24, "would not serve the public interest, despite the temporary harm to plaintiffs’ constitutional rights." "Although the Court is painfully aware of the difficulties of living under the restrictions of these executive orders, those difficulties are temporary, while to those who contract the virus and cannot recover (and to their family members and friends), it is all too permanent," he wrote in the court order. As of Thursday, Michigan has 40,399 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,670 related deaths, according to data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Q-UESTIONABLE BEHAVIOR

Jessica Prim was arrested on Wednesday with more than a dozen illegal knives.
The Daily Beast
By Will Sommer

An Illinois woman inspired by pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory videos traveled to New York City on Wednesday with more than a dozen illegal knives and threatened to kill former Vice President Joe Biden, according to police and her own social media posts. New York police officers arrested dancer Jessica Prim, 37, on Wednesday after she began to act strangely on a city pier. In a live video Prim posted on Facebook of her arrest. She ranted about saving children and claimed she had come to New York because of an internet conspiracy theory video about a “cabal” of pedophile Democrats. “Have you guys heard about the kids?” a tearful Prim said as she was arrested. “OK, I’m not lying.” Shortly before her arrest, Prim posted on Facebook that Hillary Clinton and Biden “need to be taken out.” “Hillary Clinton and her assistant, Joe Biden and Tony Podesta need to be taken out in the name of Babylon!” Prim wrote. “I can’t be set free without them gone. Wake me up!!!!!” At another point during her arrest, Prim said she believed Donald Trump was talking to her directly during his coronavirus press conferences. Prim is facing more than a dozen counts of criminal possession of a weapon over the knives, as well as a marijuana possession charge, according to the New York Daily News.

By Ted Barrett and Manu Raju, CNN

(CNN) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected calls not to return to session next week while the coronavirus epidemic is still on the rise across the country and in Washington in particular, saying the chamber has essential constitutionally-mandated duties to carry out, including the confirmation of President Donald Trump's judicial nominees. "I think we can conduct our business safely," McConnell told Fox News in an interview Thursday. "We've got a whole lot of other people showing up for work during the pandemic. It's time for the Senate to do that as well. We have many confirmations, for example. The Senate is in the personnel business. The House is not." Eighty-six-year-old Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California called on McConnell on Wednesday to reverse course saying Democratic leaders who run the House were smart to follow the guidance of the Attending Physician of Congress, Dr. Brian Monahan, who urged them not to bring lawmakers back next week. Asked if he had gotten different advice from Monahan about whether the Senate -- which has only 100 members compared to 435 in the House -- should return to work, McConnell would not directly answer other than to say, "we can modify our routines in ways that are smart and safe." On a private GOP conference call Thursday, McConnell didn't offer many details about the Senate's upcoming agenda or the procedures for carrying out business when the chamber returns next week, according to two people on the call. McConnell told GOP senators that more guidance will come from the Capitol physician's office over the next day or so. There was also discussion about the Senate Rules Committee issuing guidance about allowing Senate committees to conduct confirmation proceedings for nominees without having formal hearings, one of the sources said. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Thursday that he will "scrutinize" McConnell's safety guidelines for returning to session next week, which he said McConnell will release Friday. Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Schumer said McConnell never consulted him about returning next week and said he will review the GOP leader's safety plans "very carefully" to make sure all senators and "workers are protected in every way." His comment came in response to a question pointing to a highly diverse workforce in Washington, DC -- nearly 50% African American -- many of whom work at the US Capitol in service jobs. "We are going to scrutinize Leader McConnell's plan very carefully to see if it does provide the needed protections for the staff and the workers who are here," he said. Schumer also reiterated Democrats' call for prioritizing oversight hearings on the administration handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has left the country without widespread Covid-19 testing months into the crisis. For her part, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the House's current plan is to return the week after next to advance another coronavirus relief package. "We're not coming back next week," Pelosi said during her weekly press conference. "Our plan is to come back the following week." But she also said the House is "at the mercy of the virus" and the schedule will depend on guidance from the Capitol attending physician and the sergeant at arms. - People are losing their jobs and their lives and Mitch McConnell agenda is judicial nominees.

By Shimon Prokupecz and Mark Morales, CNN

New York (CNN) Four trucks containing as many as 60 bodies have been discovered outside a Brooklyn funeral home after someone reported fluids dripping from the trucks, a law enforcement official told CNN. The Andrew Cleckley Funeral Home home was overwhelmed and ran out of room for bodies, which were awaiting cremation, and used the trucks for storage, a second law enforcement source said Wednesday. At least one of the trucks was unrefrigerated, according to one law enforcement official. One source said the bodies were put on ice. The Department of Environmental Protection issued two summonses to the owner of the funeral home for a foul odor.

By William Feuer, Noah Higgins-Dunn, Jasmine Kim

New York City is suspending 24-hour subway service to disinfect subway cars and protect essential workers during the coronavirus crisis, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday. “They can disinfect all trains and buses every night,” Cuomo said at a news briefing. “It can best be done by stopping train service from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. every night during the pandemic so they can actually perform this service.” The Metropolitan Transit Authority, which runs the city’s public transit system, will still provide buses as and “dollar vans” at no cost to essential workers during those hours, said Cuomo. On Wednesday, Cuomo said he ordered the MTA to develop a cleaning plan after he read reports that the subway system had deteriorated, with a recent surge in crime and trains filled with homeless people. The subway system has been lauded for its 24 hour daily service. Service has been ordered to halt before, but rarely and usually for natural disasters.

The message to workers is “endanger your life or starve,” critics say
By Tony Romm

Iowa, Oklahoma and other states reopening soon amid the coronavirus outbreak are issuing early warnings to their worried workers: Return to your jobs or risk losing unemployment benefits. The threats have been loudest among Republican leaders in recent days, reflecting their anxious attempts to jump-start local economic recovery roughly two months after most businesses shut their doors. In Iowa, for example, state officials even have posted a public call for companies to get in touch if an “employee refuses to return to work.” For some states, the concern is that residents who are offered their old jobs back simply may not accept them, choosing instead to continue tapping historically generous unemployment aid. The $2 trillion congressional coronavirus relief package signed by President Trump in March greatly added to weekly benefit checks for out-of-work Americans, and some people may be earning more than they did previously. Business leaders say they desperately need workers to return to stores, restaurants and other operations to stay afloat financially. Labor activists, however, contend the reality is far more complicated: Some now-unemployed Americans weren’t making much money in the first place, so they may not want to risk their safety just to return to underpaid old gigs. In the process, some states’ public comments have frustrated federal lawmakers, labor activists and public health officials, who say forcing workers to return so quickly might be dangerous — and could undermine the country’s response to the deadly pandemic. “These states are offering people the choice to endanger your life or starve,” said Damon A. Silvers, the director of policy and special counsel for the AFL-CIO. Generally, states have the legal right to revoke benefits if unemployed Americans are offered jobs comparable to their past positions yet decline to take them. In response to the novel coronavirus, regulators also have put in place special exemptions to protect people out of work because they’re sick or caring for family members diagnosed with covid-19. - It is not pro-life to send a person out to a possible death, another lie from the right exposed.

Trump’s executive order requiring industrial meatpackers to keep operating is murder.
By Kate Aronoff

Invoking the Korean War–era Defense Production Act, Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday mandating that American meat production keep running at all costs—workers and grave threats to public health be damned. According to the United Food and Commercial Workers, 20 industry employees—many working shoulder to shoulder at a rapid clip, without proper protection, in what was already one of the country’s most dangerous jobs—have already died. In dramatic full-page ads in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Sunday, Tyson Foods warned that the country’s food supply chain was breaking. A Tyson facility in Waterloo, Iowa, had to be shut down last weekend after being linked to 200 cases of Covid-19. Many workers have been walking off their meatpacking jobs in protest at pitiful conditions. As of Monday, 44 percent of the Waterloo plant’s workforce had tested positive for coronavirus; 90 percent of cases in surrounding Black Hawk County can be traced back to the plant. At least 4,400 meatpacking workers across 80 plants in 26 states had tested positive as of Wednesday. These spreads could now be replicated around the country as shuttered meatpacking facilities limp back to life, including in some parts of the United States already proving to be coronavirus hot spots. Trump’s executive order could give the plants further license to ignore guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is voluntary anyway. These facilities were already a danger to public health. The increasingly consolidated industrial meat-raising and meatpacking operations run by Tyson, Smithfield, and the other companies now begging for federal assistance have long been veritable petri dishes for zoonotic pathogens. Their business models rely on what author Mike Davis has called “vast excremental hells, containing tens of thousands of animals with weakened immune systems suffocating in heat and manure while exchanging pathogens at blinding velocity with their fellow inmates.” As it infects workers with the coronavirus, industrial animal agriculture may well be brewing the next deadly, world-stopping pandemic. Meanwhile, the factories’ rampant air and water pollution, and the health conditions they provoke, make the inordinately poor, black, and brown communities surrounding them more vulnerable to Covid-19 and other diseases. That’s not even to mention factory farming’s gargantuan contributions to global warming, which itself increases the likelihood of future zoonotic epidemics.

By Katelyn Polantz, Evan Perez, Marshall Cohen and Sara Murray, CNN

(CNN) Investigators from former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation told a judge that Trump political adviser Roger Stone orchestrated hundreds of fake Facebook accounts and bloggers to run a political influence scheme on social media in 2016, according to court documents from the Mueller investigation unsealed on Tuesday. The disclosure came as the Justice Department on Tuesday made public dozens of search warrants from its investigation into Stone, after CNN and other news organizations sued for access to the files. Stone's assistant, interviewed voluntarily by former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators, said that, as part of his work for Stone, he bought "a couple hundred fake Facebook accounts" and that bloggers working for Stone sought to build what looked like real Facebook accounts to push information about the 2016 Russian hack of the Democrats, a search warrant unsealed on Tuesday stated. In 2016, Stone had wanted to push WikiLeaks content online that could help then-candidate Donald Trump, including content from stolen emails from accounts belonging to John Podesta, the then-campaign chairman of Trump's rival Hillary Clinton, the warrant alleged. The warrant that mentioned the fake accounts sought data from Facebook for three accounts, two of which were registered to the handle "rogerstone." At least one of the suspected Stone accounts was used from October 2016 to March 2017 to buy advertisements to push stories related to Russia and WikiLeaks, according to the warrant. Some social media messages from the accounts rebutted that the Russians were behind the online pseudonym Guccifer 2.0, which the US intelligence community has said was operated by Russian intelligence to disseminate hacked materials aimed at damaging Clinton's campaign. The ads allegedly purchased shared messages on Facebook such as: "Roger Stone talked about WikiLeaks, Donald Trump, ... " and "Stone Rebuts Charge of Russian Collusion" and "ROGER STONE - NO consensus that Guccifer 2.0 is a ... "

By Jordain Carney and Max Greenwood

Democrats are seizing on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) suggestion that states should be able to declare bankruptcy as the party looks to bring his Kentucky seat into play. The GOP leader has made his outsized influence in Washington a key pillar of his campaign, positioning himself as the driving force behind Congress’s coronavirus relief  bills and touting his efforts to score critical federal aid for his state. But Democrats believe McConnell’s remarks — that states facing budget shortfalls amid the pandemic should be able to “use the bankruptcy route” — blow a hole in his reelection argument. “I would anticipate seeing them in a lot of campaign ads,” said Ryan Aquilina, the executive director of the Ditch Mitch Fund, a Democratic-aligned outside group. It was “the single stupidest thing I have seen him say in quite some time. ... I think in a state like Kentucky it really is an attack on pensions, it’s an attack on the Medicaid program, on cops.” A national Democratic strategist argued that McConnell’s stance was “problematic” and that the “disparity in [GOP] priorities” gave the issue legs. “McConnell has made clear that he’s happy to hand out massive corporate bailouts ... and he now wants all these strings attached for state and local governments who fund essential services,” the strategist said. The flare-up comes as the GOP leader has positioned himself as a breadwinner for Kentucky, which received roughly $2.7 billion under last month’s bill. A 2019 USA Today study ranked Kentucky second highest in the amount of federal money received per resident.

The move drew an angry response from Democrats, who say the administration is "trampling" on Congress' power of the purse.
By CONNOR O’BRIEN and DAVID ROGERS

Defense Secretary Mark Esper is restoring more than half a billion dollars in funding for military construction projects in the U.S. that were put on hold to help fund President Donald Trump's border wall, and instead will take money from projects that are primarily overseas. The move, which is laid out in a memo dated Monday and obtained by POLITICO, drew an angry response from Democrats, who say the administration is "trampling" on Congress' power of the purse. Altogether, $545.5 million in previously withheld funds, all for projects in the U.S. with award dates in 2020, will be allowed to move forward. "To enable the execution of certain projects scheduled for award in calendar year 2020, I direct you to release funding associated with 22 currently deferred projects within the United States totaling $545.526 million," Esper wrote in the memo to acting Pentagon Comptroller Elaine McCusker. Esper removed 22 projects from the list of border-related deferrals, all of which have award dates in 2020. Of these, $160 million is for two projects at West Point, where Trump is slated to speak at commencement ceremonies. Another $62.6 million is for a middle school project at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is up for reelection in November. To fill the hole left by restoring the $545.5 million, Esper proposes in his memo to substitute a new set of about 19 projects totaling an equal amount. Most of these projects are overseas and were funded by Congress from fiscal 2020 Overseas Contingency Operations appropriations outside the military base budget. The projects are in countries such as Germany, Japan, Norway, Spain and Jordan. This is significant because lawmakers specify in the annual appropriations bills that OCO funds are to be spent for projects overseas, and here they will be used for a wall in the U.S. Moreover, the appropriations to fund the new list of deferred projects were approved by Congress after the president’s emergency border declaration.

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

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

By Caroline Kelly, CNN

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

By Rick Pearson - Chicago Tribune

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Senate Republican campaign arm distributed the 57-page strategy document to candidates.
By ALEX ISENSTADT

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has sent campaigns a detailed, 57-page memo authored by a top Republican strategist advising GOP candidates to address the coronavirus crisis by aggressively attacking China. The memo includes advice on everything from how to tie Democratic candidates to the Chinese government to how to deal with accusations of racism. It stresses three main lines of assault: That China caused the virus “by covering it up,” that Democrats are “soft on China,” and that Republicans will “push for sanctions on China for its role in spreading this pandemic.” “Coronavirus was a Chinese hit-and-run followed by a cover-up that cost thousands of lives,” the April 17 memo states. The document urges candidates to stay relentlessly on message against the country when responding to any questions about the virus. When asked whether the spread of the coronavirus is Trump’s fault, candidates are advised to respond by pivoting to China. “Don’t defend Trump, other than the China Travel Ban — attack China,” the memo states. Republicans have indicated they plan to make China a centerpiece of the 2020 campaign. Trump’s reelection campaign recently released a web video painting Joe Biden as cozy with the authoritarian country. The pro-Trump super PAC America First Action has launched several TV commercials tying Biden to China.

The president inflamed an already fierce debate over whether the federal government should bail out states battling the coronavirus.
By QUINT FORGEY and ANNA GRONEWOLD

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

By Greg Miller and Ellen Nakashima

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

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

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

By Michael Conte, CNN

Washington (CNN) The Pentagon has officially released three short videos showing "unidentified aerial phenomena" that had previously been released by a private company. The videos show what appear to be unidentified flying objects rapidly moving while recorded by infrared cameras. Two of the videos contain service members reacting in awe at how quickly the objects are moving. One voice speculates that it could be a drone. The Navy previously acknowledged the veracity of the videos in September of last year. They are officially releasing them now, "in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos," according to Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough. "After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems," said Gough in a statement, "and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena." The Navy now has formal guidelines for how its pilots can report when they believe they have seen possible UFO's. The Navy videos were first released between December 2017 and March 2018 by To The Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences, a company co-founded by former Blink-182 musician Tom DeLonge that says it studies information about unidentified aerial phenomena. In 2017, one of the pilots who saw one of the unidentified objects in 2004 told CNN that it moved in ways he couldn't explain. "As I got close to it ... it rapidly accelerated to the south, and disappeared in less than two seconds," said retired US Navy pilot David Fravor. "This was extremely abrupt, like a ping pong ball, bouncing off a wall. It would hit and go the other way."

Maybe the judicial Obamacare wars are fading?
By Ian Millhiser

On Monday, the Supreme Court voted 8-1 to reject a Republican effort to sabotage parts of the Affordable Care Act. The upshot of this decision is that health insurers will receive payments owed to them under Obamacare’s “risk corridor” program. Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s majority opinion in Maine Community Health Options v. United States, relies on “a principle as old as the Nation itself,” according to the opinion. That principle: “The Government should honor its obligations.” The vote in Maine Community was not close. Eight justices joined all or nearly all of Sotomayor’s opinion, leaving Justice Samuel Alito in a lonely dissent. That’s a bit of a surprising outcome given what was at stake in the case, which involved a $12 billion Republican scheme to sabotage Obamacare. And yet, after years of litigation seeking to destroy the Affordable Care Act, and after many more years of partisan rancor bitterly dividing the two major political parties on whether Obamacare should continue to exist, only Justice Alito was willing to endorse this particular effort to undercut President Obama’s primary legislative accomplishment. The other eight justices all agreed that the risk corridors program should be preserved.

Risk corridors, briefly explained
Insurance operates on a fairly basic model. People who fear some kind of unfortunate event agree to pay premiums to the insurer. If that event happens, the insurer pays at least some of the customer’s costs. This model necessarily involves risk for insurance companies. If they set premiums too high, they won’t be able to attract customers. But if they set premiums too low, an insurer can potentially be obligated to pay for costs that vastly exceed the amount of money they’ve brought in. For this reason, insurers are often reluctant to enter new markets because they might not know enough about that market to set the right premiums.

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

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

A family-run network of pro-gun groups is behind five of the largest Facebook groups dedicated to protesting shelter-in-place restrictions.
By Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins

Protests against state stay-at-home orders have attracted a wide range of fringe activists and ardent Trump supporters. They have also attracted a family of political activists whom some Republican lawmakers have called "scam artists." A family-run network of pro-gun groups is behind five of the largest Facebook groups dedicated to protesting the shelter-in-place restrictions, according to an NBC News analysis of Facebook groups and website registration information. The groups were set up by four brothers — Chris, Ben, Aaron and Matthew Dorr — and have amassed more than 200,000 members collectively, including in states where they don't reside, according to an NBC News analysis based on public records searches and Facebook group registrations. The Dorr brothers are known in conservative circles for running pro-gun and anti-abortion rights Facebook groups that bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars annually by antagonizing establishment conservative leaders and activists. Their usual method is to attack established conservative groups from the right, including the National Rifle Association, and then make money by selling memberships in their groups or selling mailing lists of those who sign up, according to some conservative politicians and activists who have labeled the efforts as scams. The Washington Post first reported on the Dorrs' role in the events. The pages are just part of the more than 100 state-specific Facebook groups that have been created in the last two weeks to protest the stay-at-home orders, according to an unpublished analysis by First Draft, an organization that researches disinformation. The pages have organized at least 49 different events. Most of the groups are similarly named, and they have attracted more than 900,000 members in total. The Dorrs' pages, however, follow a particularly uniform naming system, according to information openly available on Facebook. A Dorr brother created or is an administrator for the groups Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine, Wisconsinites Against Excessive Quarantine, New Yorkers Against Excessive Quarantine, Minnesotans Against Excessive Quarantine and Ohioans Against Excessive Quarantine.

FBI-connected researchers suggested biggest threat in controlling outbreak was from ‘those who categorically reject vaccination’
By Jason Wilson

America’s “anti-vaxxer movement” would pose a threat to national security in the event of a “pandemic with a novel organism”, an FBI-connected non-profit research group warned last year, just months before the global coronavirus pandemic began. In a research paper put out by the little-known in-house journal of InfraGard – a national security group affiliated with the FBI – experts warned the US anti-vaccine movement would also be connected with “social media misinformation and propaganda campaigns” orchestrated by the Russian government. Since the virus hit America, anti-vaccination activists and some sympathetic legislators around the country have led or participated in protests against stay-at-home orders designed to slow the spread of the deadly virus. More than 50,000 people have died in the US. On its website, InfraGard says it is an “FBI-affiliated nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening national security” with a mission to protect “United States critical infrastructure”. It says it consists of local chapters and that “an FBI special agent from each field office is assigned to serve as a private sector coordinator”. The paper, jointly written by a security consultant and a senior doctor in New York State’s largest hospital network, warned: “The biggest threat in controlling an outbreak comes from those who categorically reject vaccination.” The paper, entitled The Anti-Vaxxers Movement and National Security, was co-written by Dr Mark Jarrett, the chief quality officer, senior vice-president and associate chief medical officer at Northwell Health; and Christine Sublett, a health industry-focused cybersecurity consultant.

Published Sun, Apr 26 20202:32 PM EDTUpdated Moments Ago
By Hugh Son

Even as the U.S. small business relief program is set to reopen Monday with fresh funding, the full extent that public companies tapped the emergency facility is only now becoming clear. More than 220 public companies applied for at least $870 million from the government program that was billed as for small businesses without access to other sources of capital, according to Washington D.C.-based data analytics firm FactSquared. That includes $126.4 million for three public companies affiliated with Texas hotelier Monty Bennett. One of those firms, Ashford Hospitality Trust, applied for $76 million in 117 separate loans, the most by a single company, according to regulatory filings. The government’s Paycheck Protection Program sparked outrage after its initial $350 billion allotment quickly ran out and it was revealed that big public companies secured loans while hundreds of thousands of small businesses seeking relatively tiny amounts were left in limbo. Last week, the Small Business Administration attempted to close that loophole, saying that big public companies “with substantial market value and access to capital markets” aren’t eligible and that firms that already tapped the fund had two weeks to return the PPP money. Since then, companies including Ruth’s Hospitality Group and sandwich chain Potbelly have followed Shack Shack in returning their PPP funds. But the data from FactSquared, which uses a machine-learning bot to trawl regulatory filings to produce an overall picture of the PPP, shows the full extent that public companies have successfully navigated the government’s program.

Associated Press

Three publicly traded hotel companies tied to a Texas businessman said that they would not give back millions of dollars in loans from a government program aimed at helping small businesses. Facing pressure from the government, several big companies, including the Potbelly and Shake Shack restaurant chains, have said they will return loans they received under the Paycheck Protection Program. The three hotel companies, Ashford Inc., Ashford Hospitality Trust and Braemar Hotels & Resorts, which are tied to Texas hotel magnate Monty Bennett, have applied for $126 million in loans and received $69 million, according to a calculation from securities filings by The Associated Press. They will use the money to protect jobs, they said in a statement. Since mid-March, the companies and their hotel properties have furloughed or laid off 90% of their workforce. “Media concerns over our receipt of PPP funds are misplaced. The PPP program was specifically designed to help companies like ours as part of the national objective of shoring up businesses and getting people back to work,” the statement said.

But there are good reasons to believe it will end as soon as the next Democrat wins the presidency.
By RYAN LIZZA

Crises nearly always create political upheaval. In recent history the catastrophes of 9/11 and the Great Recession both defined American politics for the decade that came after each event. The crisis of Covid-19, which has already killed far more Americans than the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that were waged in response, seems likely to have a similar effect. And while the political impact of a deadly pandemic is by no means the most important question of the moment, the Trump administration’s embrace of a massive government intervention to cushion the economic impact of our national self-quarantine has intensified a debate on the right about Republicans and the role of government. Anyone who watched the 2009 stimulus debate has to be flabbergasted by the Republican response in 2020. Back then, President Barack Obama struggled to pass a $900 billion bill even as his top economists believed the country needed a package several times that size. The Obama stimulus received no Republican votes in the House and three Republican votes in the Senate, including Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter, who soon joined the Democratic Party. Congressional Republicans in 2020 have embraced $2 trillion — and counting — in stimulus with almost no resistance. Thomas Massie, the one House Republican who loudly questioned the initial package, was nuked by Trump in a tweet and the legislation passed with a voice vote in the Democratic-controlled chamber. In 2020, the economic libertarians who once defined conservatism have disappeared. Instead the most interesting debate is among Republican policymakers crafting large-scale programs to get government checks into the hands of economically disenfranchised people as quickly as possible. The two most notable politicians crafting stimulus policy for Trump to sign are Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Josh Hawley of Missouri. Before the coronavirus crisis, both senators had taken stabs at articulating a new kind of policy populism for the GOP that was self-consciously anti-libertarian, skeptical of big business, and more comfortable with big government. When the economy started crashing in March, Rubio, the chairman of the Small Business Committee, helped dream up the massive Paycheck Protection Program, which has the government shoveling hundreds of billions of dollars out the door every month. Hawley, who is only 40 years old and was elected in 2018, wanted — and wants — something even more expansive: a program that would pay businesses to keep their workers on the payrolls.

by Caitlin Yilek
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s apparent lack of enthusiasm to combat Russian interference in the 2016 election changed spy chief James Clapper’s opinion of the top Republican. According to David Rohde’s recently published book, In Deep: The FBI, the CIA and the Truth about America’s “Deep State," McConnell repeatedly told the Obama administration he did not have time to be briefed on Russian interference. In late summer 2016, President Barack Obama asked intelligence officials to brief the four top Democrats and Republicans in Congress on the election meddling before it became public. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi quickly received the briefings, the book said. “When Clapper called McConnell to set up the briefing, he did not respond. McConnell finally received the briefing in early September,” Rohde wrote. Clapper, the director of national intelligence from 2010 to January 2017, said he was surprised that some Republicans, particularly McConnell, did not take election interference more seriously. “All the previous dealings I had with McConnell, I thought he was a patriot, he cared about the country,” Clapper told Rohde. “But for whatever reason, we were on two different planets when it came to this Russia deal.” When Clapper and a handful of other intelligence officials briefed lawmakers again in January 2017 on Russian interference, McConnell was quiet. “He was very dour. He didn’t ask any questions,” Clapper said. “Ryan asked a couple questions. Richard Burr, he asked a couple questions and evinced that he was interested. Senator McConnell not so much.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, the Republican chairman of the National Governors Association, said he thought McConnell "probably would regret making that comment."
By Allan Smith

Governors on Sunday criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for saying last week that he would prefer states to be able to declare bankruptcy rather than provide hundreds of billions in relief as state and local government revenue dries up. McConnell's comments came as state and local governments pressed for funding in the latest coronavirus aid package — funding that ultimately was not included. However, President Donald Trump has indicated that emergency funding for state and local governments would be on the table for the next round of COVID-19 legislation. McConnell said any debate over state and local funding would not take place until the Senate is back in session, likely at the start of next month, and he said it's time to start considering the impact the emergency spending will have on the national debt. Speaking to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday, McConnell said he "would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route." "It saves some cities," he continued. "And there's no good reason for it not to be available. My guess is their first choice would be for the federal government to borrow money from future generations to send it down to them now so they don't have to do that. That's not something I'm going to be in favor of." On Sunday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, called McConnell's suggestion "outrageous" and "incredibly dangerous." She doesn't "think that the vast majority of governors in this country, Republican and Democratic, would agree with him." "He's wrong, and we need Congress to step up and help states," she said on ABC News' "This Week." "Because this pandemic — it's because of this global pandemic that we are all having to make tough decisions. We need the federal government to have our backs." Also on "This Week," Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who is chairman of the National Governors Association, said he thought McConnell "probably would regret making that comment the other day."

By J. Edward Moreno

A Louisiana pentecostal pastor who is refusing to abide by the state's stay-at-home order said “true Christians” see death as a “welcome friend.” “Like any zealot or like any pure religious person, death looks to them like a welcome friend. True Christians do not mind dying. They fear living in fear,” the Rev. Tony Spell, pastor of Life Tabernacle Church, told TMZ. Spell said attending church from home — as millions of Americans have — “doesn’t work.” “If it did work, why has America spent billions and billions building churches?” Spell asked. Spell was arrested on March 31 and charged with six misdemeanors for violating an executive order by Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) banning gatherings of more than 50 people. Central, La., Police Chief Roger Corcoran said Spell's decision was “reckless and irresponsible.” The pastor reportedly held services again on Sunday, with hundreds of parishioners turning out to his church near Baton Rouge. Florida megachurch pastor Rodney Howard-Browne was also arrested in March for hosting Sunday services at his church, The River at Tampa Bay, and was charged with misdemeanor counts of unlawful assembly and violating public health rules.

By Jake Tapper, Anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent

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

State officials and growers say Trump’s Agriculture Department has been woefully slow to respond to farm crisis caused by coronavirus.
By HELENA BOTTEMILLER EVICH

Tens of millions of pounds of American-grown produce is rotting in fields as food banks across the country scramble to meet a massive surge in demand, a two-pronged disaster that has deprived farmers of billions of dollars in revenue while millions of newly jobless Americans struggle to feed their families. While other federal agencies quickly adapted their programs to the coronavirus crisis, the Agriculture Department took more than a month to make its first significant move to buy up surplus fruits and vegetables — despite repeated entreaties. “It’s frustrating,” said Nikki Fried, commissioner of agriculture in Florida. Fried, who is a Democrat, and much of the Florida congressional delegation asked Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue nearly a month ago to use his broad authority and funding to get more Florida farmers plugged into federal food purchasing and distribution programs as the food service market collapsed. “Unfortunately, USDA didn’t move until [last week].” Tom Vilsack, who served as agriculture secretary during the Obama administration, put it this way: “It’s not a lack of food, it’s that the food is in one place and the demand is somewhere else and they haven’t been able to connect the dots. You’ve got to galvanize people.” It has been six weeks since President Donald Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first urged Americans to avoid restaurants as part of national social distancing guidelines to slow the spread of Covid-19 — a move that immediately severed demand for millions of pounds of food earmarked for professional kitchens across the country. Just 50 miles from Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida growers, much of whose produce was destined for restaurant chains, faced an immediate crisis: Find customers for surplus crops or plow the fields under to avoid attracting pests. Images of farmers destroying tomatoes, piling up squash, burying onions and dumping milk shocked many Americans who remain fearful of supply shortages. At the same time, people who recently lost their jobs lined up for miles outside some food banks, raising questions about why there has been no coordinated response at the federal level to get the surplus of perishable food to more people in need, even as commodity groups, state leaders and lawmakers repeatedly urged the Agriculture Department to step in. Demand at food banks has increased an average of 70 percent, according to Feeding America, which represents about 200 major food banks across the country. The group estimates that 40 percent of those being served are new to the system.

By Jason Lemon

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

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

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

The Senate majority leader is prioritizing the Republican Party rather than the American people during this crisis.
By David Frum

American states are abruptly facing their worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that more than 25 percent of state revenues have evaporated because of the pandemic. Demands on state health-care budgets, state unemployment systems, and state social-welfare benefits are surging. By the summer of 2022, the state budget gap could total half a trillion dollars. States need help. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not want to provide it. On The Hugh Hewitt Show on April 23, McConnell proposed another idea. Instead of more federal aid, states should cut their spending by declaring bankruptcy: I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route. It saves some cities. And there’s no good reason for it not to be available. My guess is their first choice would be for the federal government to borrow money from future generations to send it down to them now so they don’t have to do that. That’s not something I’m going to be in favor of.” McConnell expanded on the state-bankruptcy concept later that same day in a phone interview with Fox News’s Bill Hemmer: We’re not interested in solving their pension problems for them. We’re not interested in rescuing them from bad decisions they've made in the past, we’re not going to let them take advantage of this pandemic to solve a lot of problems that they created themselves [with] bad decisions in the past. McConnell’s words instantly attracted attention, criticism, even some derision. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo blasted the idea as “dumb,” “irresponsible,” and “petty”: How do you think this is going to work? And then to suggest we’re concerned about the economy, states should declare bankruptcy. That’s how you’re going to bring this national economy back? By states declaring bankruptcy? You want to see that market fall through the cellar? … I mean, if there’s ever a time for humanity and decency, now is the time. Cuomo’s fervent rebuttal grabbed the cameras. It did not settle the issue. State bankruptcy is not some passing fancy. Republicans have been advancing the idea for more than a decade. Back in 2011, Jeb Bush and Newt Gingrich published a jointly bylined op-ed advocating state bankruptcy as a solution for the state of California. The Tea Party Congress elected in 2010 explored the idea of state bankruptcy in House hearings and Senate debates. Newt Gingrich promoted it in his run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. - Mitch McConnell is not suggesting businesses go bankrupt, but does suggest states to go bankrupt, while he protects businesses and the rich.

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) Distinctive Kutz is a black barbershop in suburban Atlanta where men gather to argue about sports and tell lies about their skill with women. It's the kind of throwback shop where a candy-cane colored barber pole sits out front, posters of President Obama and Tupac adorn the walls and customers play checkers and dominoes. The coronavirus pandemic has shut down the business and its raucous conversations, but Mitch Magee, its co-owner, still has some things to say. Magee believes Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's decision to reopen some businesses across the state starting today is an "attack" on African Americans -- one of the groups hit hardest by the virus. And he says it's no coincidence that the businesses being reopened -- including barbershops, nail salons and churches -- are communal gathering places for black residents. "It seems like it's an attack on us. Those places are all in our community, where we live on top of one another," he said. "I have right to be paranoid because our people are dying more than whites." In another time Magee's fears might have stayed confined to his shop floor, along with his customers' hair. But he is part of a growing chorus of black leaders and business owners who say that reopening Georgia's economy places a dangerous burden on people of color. One prominent black pastor even said state officials were "diabolically" planning to exploit black people.

Pastor: This is 'leaving us to the slaughter'
Kemp's said he made the move because his shelter-in-place order was pummeling the state's economy. "Our small business owners are seeing sales plummet, and the company that they built with blood, sweat, and tears disappear right before them," he said Monday in announcing his reopening plan. Kemp said he made his decision after consulting with health officials and that businesses that reopen should adhere to safety procedures by sanitizing workspaces, keeping physical distance between employees and wearing masks when appropriate.

We’ve reached a level of dystopia that I’m not sure even Margaret Atwood could have imagined.
By Arwa Mahdawi

Rightwing protesters in handmaid’s costumes are taking gaslighting to a new level
The shapeless scarlet cloaks and oversized white bonnets have become a familiar sight at protests around the world. From pro-choice demonstrations in Belfast to women’s rights marches in Buenos Aires, the clothes worn by Margaret Atwood’s handmaids in her dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale have become a striking symbol of female defiance. Now it seems the handmaid’s uniform has taken on a newly dystopian dimension: the outfit has been appropriated by Trump-supporting protesters at the anti-quarantine rallies that have been spreading across America. These rallies, orchestrated by a network of far right and extremist groups, have also seen rightwingers hold up signs with pro-choice slogans like “my body, my choice”. Do these protesters not understand the irony here? Do they not understand how hypocritical it is to fight against a woman’s right to choose while simultaneously fighting for their own right to do whatever they like? Do they not understand how you can not possibly be “pro-life” if you’re flouting lockdown laws to participate in dense protests that could cause a surge in coronavirus cases? It’s always been clear than anti-abortion extremists aren’t actually pro-life, they’re just pro-controlling women. They have always been shamelessly hypocritical. However, their hypocrisy has become particularly brazen during the coronavirus crisis. On Monday, for example, Dan Patrick, the virulently “pro-life” lieutenant governor of Texas, called for the reopening of the country, saying there are “more important things than living”. This is the same guy, by the way, who went on Fox News last month and said “lots of grandparents” would rather die than see the US economy suffer. This is the same guy who suggested senior citizens ought to “take a chance on … survival” for the good of the Dow Jones. This is the same guy who seems to see no disconnect between sacrificing old people and sermonizing about the rights of foetuses. - The rabbit right has shown its true colors they are not pro-life they are just against a women right to choose. The rabbit right is putting people’s lives at risk. If they really cared about the right to life then that would not willing to put people’s lives at risk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Democrats say the GOP tried to "loot American taxpayers" to "reward ultra-rich beneficiaries" like "Trump's family"
By Igor Derysh

Republican lawmakers used the coronavirus relief bill to give millionaires a tax break they failed to include in the 2017 tax cut bill. The 2017 Republican tax cut imposed restrictions on how much owners of "pass-through" businesses, or companies in which the owner pays an individual income tax on profits rather than the corporate income tax, can deduct against non-business income, such as capital gains. The bill set a $250,000 cap on losses that can be deducted. But right-wing think tanks and some lawmakers complained about the cap, and Senate Republicans snuck a provision into the coronavirus relief bill last month to suspend the limits, The Washington Post reports. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), a nonpartisan congressional agency, estimates that more than 80% of the benefits of the tax change will benefit those who earn more than $1 million per year. The suspension is expected to cost about $90 billion this year alone and is part of a larger set of tax changes expected to add $170 billion to the national deficit over the next decade, according to the JCT.

By Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm

A trio of far-right, pro-gun provocateurs is behind some of the largest Facebook groups calling for anti-quarantine protests around the country, offering the latest illustration that some seemingly organic demonstrations are being engineered by a network of conservative activists. The Facebook groups target Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, and they appear to be the work of Ben Dorr, the political director of a group called “Minnesota Gun Rights,” and his siblings, Christopher and Aaron. By Sunday, the groups had roughly 200,000 members combined, and they continued to expand quickly, days after President Trump endorsed such protests by suggesting citizens should “liberate” their states. The Dorr brothers manage a slew of pro-gun groups across a wide range of states, from Iowa to Minnesota to New York, and seek primarily to discredit organizations like the National Rifle Association as being too compromising on gun safety. Minnesota Gun Rights, for instance, describes itself as the state’s “no-compromise gun rights organization.” The online activity instigated by the brothers helps cement the impression that opposition to the restrictions is more widespread than polling suggests. Nearly 70 percent of Republicans said they supported a national stay-at-home order, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. Ninety-five percent of Democrats backed such a measure in the survey. Still, the Facebook groups have become digital hubs for the same sort of misinformation spouted in recent days at state capitol buildings — from comparing the virus to the flu to questioning the intentions of scientists working on a vaccine. Public health experts say stay-at-home orders are necessary to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, which has already killed more than 40,000 in the United States. The Trump administration last week outlined three phases for states to reopen safely — guidelines contradicted by the president when he urged citizens to rise up against the rules that heed the recommendations of his own public health advisers.

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

This originally appeared on Robert Reich's blog.

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

By Amanda Macias

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy’s top officials recommended Friday that the captain relieved of duty after sounding the alarms of a growing coronavirus outbreak aboard an aircraft carrier should be reinstated. The decision to reinstate Navy Capt. Brett Crozier’s command of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt sits with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. The Pentagon boss, who was briefed on the recommendations following a U.S. Navy investigation, has yet to sign off on the reinstatement of the captain. He is expected to make a decision Friday. The latest revelation follows a messy string of events that resulted in the resignation of the acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly. Modly relieved Crozier after the captain’s letter pleading for help to mitigate the spread of the deadly virus aboard the aircraft carrier was leaked to the media. Modly then took a 35-hour trip, which cost taxpayers $243,000, to address the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. In the address, delivered via the ship’s loudspeaker, Modly doubled down on his decision to relieve Crozier and called the former vessel’s captain “naive” and “stupid.” Hours later Modly issued an apology to the Navy.

by Mike Brest

Investigative journalist John Solomon clarified an update he reported last week on U.S. Attorney John Durham's review of the Russia investigation. During an interview with Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs, Solomon said that over "this week — the last couple weeks ... some criminal investigative activity" indicated there "could be a handful of indictments and much more information." Dobbs's verified Twitter account promoted Solomon's reporting as him saying indictments could come last week. A Monday blog post on Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett's personal website said, "Russia Spygate Indictments Coming ‘This Week.’" That piece was later shared on Twitter by President Trump. Solomon, who recently founded a new outlet called JustTheNews.com, put out a statement Wednesday on Twitter to respond to the reaction he was was seeing, stressing he never said indictments are imminent. "Because I care about accuracy I want to make clear that what I intended to say, and actually said on air, was that my reporting for the week ending last Friday ('this week') had uncovered activities consistent with ... building criminal cases that could lead to a small number of indictments. I did not intend to, and didn’t actually, say indictments were coming this week. Only prosecutors know such timing and I have no indication indictments are coming this week," he tweeted. "My reporting indicates there is clear evidence that criminal cases are being built that could lead to future indictments or plea deals. Will keep on reporting what I know."

John Solomon reported indictments are imminent before he said he never reported that indictments are imminent.



By Daniel Villarreal

Senate Republicans' negotiations over a $1.6 trillion coronavirus stimulus package have reached an impasse partly due a Republican opposition to a Democratic proposal to provide additional funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a federal program that provides low-income individuals and families with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that works like a debit card for purchasing food in local stores. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which manages the program, said that requests for emergency food benefits went up by $2 billion last month as more than 22 million Americans found themselves unemployed due to the ongoing epidemic. Before the epidemic began, SNAP cost the federal government $4.5 billion to fund each month. The federal government funded last month's $2 billion increase to SNAP through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 18. The law also gave states the flexibility to expand SNAP benefits for recipients during the epidemic. However, the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act stimulus bill signed by Trump on March 27 lacked any SNAP benefit increases. - Republicans will help business but are not as willing to help the American people.

By Zack Budryk

The novel coronavirus is causing strokes in some younger adults who are otherwise asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, doctors who have treated the virus said Wednesday. Thomas Oxley, a neurosurgeon at New York’s Mount Sinai Health System, told CNN about five partially or wholly asymptomatic coronavirus patients under the age of 50 whom he and his colleagues treated. He said the patients seemed to have suffered increased clotting in large arteries, causing severe stroke. “Our report shows a seven-fold increase in incidence of sudden stroke in young patients during the past two weeks. Most of these patients have no past medical history and were at home with either mild symptoms (or in two cases, no symptoms) of Covid,” Oxley told CNN. Strokes in general and large-vessel strokes in particular are not common within the 30-40 age range. “For comparison, our service, over the previous 12 months, has treated on average 0.73 patients every 2 weeks under the age of 50 years with large vessel stroke,” Oxley and his team wrote in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, the outlet noted. He also said at least two of the patients delayed calling an ambulance, suggesting they did not make the connection to the virus and that they suspected hospitals would be too overwhelmed to treat them. Oxley said delays in such cases could prove fatal.

The president's financial dealings with the state-owned bank complicate his attacks on Biden.
By MARC CAPUTO, MERIDITH MCGRAW and ANITA KUMAR

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

Blocking federal aid is vile, but it’s also hypocritical.
By Paul Krugman

Covid-19 has killed tens of thousands of Americans, and will clearly kill many more. The lockdown needed to contain the coronavirus is causing an economic slump several times as deep as the Great Recession. Yet this necessary slump doesn’t have to be accompanied by severe financial hardship. We have the resources to ensure that every American has enough to eat, that people don’t lose health insurance, that they don’t lose their homes because they can’t pay rent or mortgage fees. There’s also no reason we should see punishing cuts in essential public services. Unfortunately, it’s looking increasingly likely that tens of millions of Americans will in fact suffer extreme hardship and that there will be devastating cuts in services. Why? The answer mainly boils down to two words: Mitch McConnell. On Wednesday, McConnell, the Senate majority leader, declared that he is opposed to any further federal aid to beleaguered state and local governments, and suggested that states declare bankruptcy instead. Lest anyone accuse McConnell of being even slightly nonpartisan, his office distributed two memos referring to proposals for state aid as “blue state bailouts.” A number of governors have already denounced McConnell’s position as stupid, which it is. But it’s also vile and hypocritical. When I say that we have the resources to avoid severe financial hardship, I’m referring to the federal government, which can borrow vast sums very cheaply. In fact, the interest rate on inflation-protected bonds, which measure real borrowing costs, is minus 0.43 percent: Investors are basically paying the feds to hold their money. So Washington can and should run big budget deficits in this time of need. State and local governments, however, can’t, because almost all of them are required by law to run balanced budgets. Yet these governments, which are on the front line of dealing with the pandemic, are facing a combination of collapsing revenue and soaring expenses. The obvious answer is federal aid. But McConnell wants states and cities to declare bankruptcy instead. This is, as I said, stupid on multiple levels. For one thing, states don’t even have the legal right to declare bankruptcy; even if they somehow managed all the same to default on their relatively small debts, it would do little to alleviate their financial distress — although it could cause a national financial crisis. Oh, and the idea that this is specifically a blue state problem is ludicrous. Fiscal crises are looming all across America, from Florida to Kansas to Texas — hit especially hard by crashing oil prices — to, yes, McConnell’s home state, Kentucky.

By Nicole Chavez, Faith Karimi and Eric Levenson, CNN

(CNN) The novel coronavirus silently spread in the United States earlier than previously thought, infecting tens of thousands of people in New York and other major cities, researchers say. A new model by the Network Science Institute at Northeastern University in Boston shows the first infections came from China in early or mid-January, and that the virus went undetected because many people were not presenting symptoms. "The disease spread under the radar," Alessandro Vespignani, director of the Network Science Institute, said on "CNN Newsroom" on Thursday. The model suggests that while Americans were still focused on China, about 28,000 people in major cities -- such as New York, San Francisco and Seattle -- were infected by March 1. The virus circulated in the community of Santa Clara County, California about three weeks before the first known US coronavirus-related death in Washington state, Dr. Sara Cody, the county's public health director, told Anderson Cooper on Thursday. Earlier this week, Santa Clara County officials announced that tissue samples confirmed two people who died in early February tested positive for coronavirus. That month, a number of physicians saw patients, without travel histories, who had flu-like symptoms. But "all indicators had suggested that it was a very low risk (for coronavirus)," Cody said. Now, however, Cody said it's obvious "the virus was circulating perhaps fairly widely in our county." Several states, including California and Indiana, have been retracing their coronavirus timelines after discovering that the highly infectious disease started killing people earlier than previously known.

CONNECTIONS

The real estate investment firm Ashford Inc. turned to big time fundraisers for the president to help it stave off financial ruin.
By Lachlan Markay

In late March, real estate investment firm Ashford Inc. was on the verge of financial ruin. But it had an ace in the hole: a pair of D.C. lobbying firms stacked with Trump fundraisers and White House alumni. A few weeks later, Ashford is now the top recipient nationwide of coronavirus relief aid from the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Act. The Dallas-based Ashford does extensive business in the hotel industry through a pair of real estate investment trusts. Its chairman, Monty Bennett, penned an open letter on March 22 detailing just how devastating the virus had been for his company. “My industry and our businesses are completely crushed,” he wrote “This pandemic’s economic impact on the hotel industry is worse than all of the previous calamities combined.” Bennett himself is a huge Trump donor. He’s given over $200,000 to the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, and a joint fundraising committee supporting both of them since last year, according to Federal Election Commission records. He chipped in even more in support of Trump’s 2016 campaign. In late March, real estate investment firm Ashford Inc. was on the verge of financial ruin. But it had an ace in the hole: a pair of D.C. lobbying firms stacked with Trump fundraisers and White House alumni. A few weeks later, Ashford is now the top recipient nationwide of coronavirus relief aid from the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Act. The Dallas-based Ashford does extensive business in the hotel industry through a pair of real estate investment trusts. Its chairman, Monty Bennett, penned an open letter on March 22 detailing just how devastating the virus had been for his company. “My industry and our businesses are completely crushed,” he wrote “This pandemic’s economic impact on the hotel industry is worse than all of the previous calamities combined.” Bennett himself is a huge Trump donor. He’s given over $200,000 to the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, and a joint fundraising committee supporting both of them since last year, according to Federal Election Commission records. He chipped in even more in support of Trump’s 2016 campaign. Miller’s lobbying registration form said it would be working on “issues as they relate to the hotel industry” on Ashford’s behalf. He didn’t respond to inquiries about whether he helped the company secure PPP aid.

One loan for each of its properties.
By Sam Brodey

When Congress drew up a $350 billion program to provide relief to small businesses struggling to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, most lawmakers probably did not imagine that companies like Hersha Hospitality would stand to benefit. The publicly-traded company based in Pennsylvania, according to its website, owns and operates 48 “high-quality upscale” and “luxury” hotel properties from California and Florida to New York City and Washington, D.C. As recently as 2018, it was flush enough to approve a $100 million plan to buy back its own stocks and pay its top executives over $10 million. But the coronavirus’ near-shutdown of the hospitality sector drove Hersha Hospitality to apply for help through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the fund set up by Congress in the CARES Act legislation that passed last month. And it used a bit of bait-and-switch for the regulators. Instead of applying for one loan, the company has applied for loans for all 48 of its hotel properties. According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission reviewed by The Daily Beast, subsidiaries of Hersha Hospitality—limited liability companies tied to each of their properties—announced they had filed for PPP loans on April 6, three days after the program opened for applications. It’s not known whether Hersha Hospitality received any government funds, but the fact that a publicly-traded company with far more access to credit and financial help was competing for the same loans as smaller mom-and-pop businesses illustrates the flaws of Washington’s hastily-assembled response to the virus’ economic effects.

By Eliott C. McLaughlin and Amara Walker, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms had to have a discussion with her 12-year-old son after the pair received a racist text regarding her efforts to keep the city closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, she said Thursday. In a Wednesday night tweet, the mayor said she received a text addressing her by the n-word and demanding, "just shut up and RE-OPEN ATLANTA!" Her son received the same text, she later told the city council. When Bottoms opened the text on her phone, she said, her daughter was looking over her shoulder as she read it. Bottoms included in her tweet, "I pray for you. 'Conscientious stupidity or sincere ignorance'" -- a nod to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assertion that nothing is more dangerous than these two human characteristics. Following Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's controversial decision to start reopening parts of the state economy, Bottoms pushed back, saying she would consider legal options to keep Atlanta largely shut down because the city is "not out of the woods yet." "I have searched my head and my heart on this and I am at a loss as to what the governor is basing this decision on," Bottoms said earlier this week. "You have to live to fight another day, and you have to be able to be amongst the living to be able to recover."

FED FUNDS FOR ME, NOT FOR THEE

“If the city isn’t getting any revenue, which right now it basically is not, how are they going to pay their first responders?” asked Rep. John Yarmuth.
By Sam Brodey

Mitch McConnell had a clear message on Wednesday to state and local governments anxiously waiting on Washington for more relief aid to cope with the coronavirus: Don’t look at me. “I mean, we all represent states. We all have governors regardless of party who would love to have free money,” McConnell told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “My guess is their first choice would be for the federal government to borrow money from future generations to send it down to them now so they don’t have to do that. That’s not something I’m going to be in favor of.”  McConnell (R-KY) may be the Senate Majority Leader, a powerful lawmaker tasked with shaping legislation with national concerns in mind. But, as he noted to Hewitt, McConnell does indeed represent a state—and his comments echoed loud and clear there. “It was kind of like a punch in the stomach to read,” Joni Jenkins, the Democratic minority leader in Kentucky’s state House of Representatives, told The Daily Beast. She explained that Kentucky, like nearly every state and local government in the country, is staring down an unprecedented fiscal squeeze. With normal business and commerce ground to a halt, sales tax revenue is drying up; skyrocketing unemployment rates mean that state income tax revenues will crater, too. The Kentucky legislature, which just recessed for the year last week, passed a one-year austerity budget in response to the coronavirus’ economic damage. The functions of government are getting hard-hit: the University of Kentucky, for example, announced this week it faces a $70 million budget shortfall and is furloughing employees. Jenkins said that the legislature will have to reconvene if state revenues dip by more than 5 percent, which is likely. “Many of us were hoping for federal help,” she said. “I don’t see how we get out of this downward spiral without some help from the federal government.”

By Kevin Breuninger, Jacob Pramuk

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tore into Sen. Mitch McConnell on Thursday over the Senate Republican leader’s support for letting states declare bankruptcy as they grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. “This is one of the really dumb ideas of all time,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said during a press conference in Albany. “You will see a collapse of this national economy” if states such as New York and California declare bankruptcy, Cuomo said. “So just don’t.” On Wednesday, McConnell, of Kentucky, told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he supports allowing states to declare bankruptcy rather than getting federal money to cover budget shortfalls as tax revenue dives. “I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route,” McConnell said. “It saves some cities, and there’s no good reason for it not to be available.” McConnell said of state leaders: “My guess is, their first choice would be for the federal government to borrow money from future generations to send it down to them now so they don’t have to do that. That’s not something I’m going to be in favor of.” Cuomo, whose state has been hit harder by Covid-19 than anywhere else in the U.S., strongly disagreed. “The entire nation is dependent on what the governors do to reopen,” Cuomo said at the press conference. “But then you’re not going to fund the state government? You think I’m going to do it alone? How do you think this is going to work?” “You want to see that market fall through the cellar? Let New York declare bankruptcy,” Cuomo added.

By Ted Barrett and Manu Raju, CNN

(CNN) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took a hard line Wednesday against more funding for state and local governments in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, saying that Republicans are not interested in "revenue replacement for state governments" or "solving their pension problems." McConnell's tough words came a day after the Senate approved a $484 billion bill to help small businesses and hospitals respond to the coronavirus outbreak. The measure did not include funds for state and local governments, despite Democrats arguing they are hard hit by the disease and the corresponding economic fallout. Instead, McConnell suggested in interviews Wednesday that Democrats are trying to get the federal government to essentially bail out state and local governments for bad decisions they made related to public pension obligations and other sources of expensive debt. "I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route," McConnell told Hugh Hewitt in a radio interview. "It saves some cities. And there's no good reason for it not to be available. My guess is their first choice would be for the federal government to borrow money from future generations to send it down to them now so they don't have to do that. That's not something I'm going to be in favor of." Republican Rep. Pete King of New York slammed McConnell's comments Wednesday night, tweeting that his "dismissive remark" is "shameful and indefensible." "To say that it is 'free money' to provide funds for cops, firefighters and healthcare workers makes McConnell the Marie Antoinette of the Senate," King wrote. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, also slammed McConnell's remarks Wednesday, calling it "one of the dumb statements of all time." "Mitch McConnell, they're talking about bringing back the economy and then he says states should declare bankruptcy. How does that help the national economy, states should declare bankruptcy?" he told CNN's Chris Cuomo on "Cuomo Prime Time." He added, "he then says this is a bailout to the blue states, which was a really offensive statement." On the politics, McConnell said he expects the "finger pointing" over the handling of the coronavirus outbreak to pick up as the election nears. - Mitch McConnell is ok with states going bankrupt while he protects the rich and businesses. Mitch McConnell is more than happy to give our tax dollars to rich and to businesses, but not to states that employ teachers, firefighters and police officers. Mitch McConnell and the GOP do not want to give money to the ones who teach our children; protect our homes, our business and our families.

Cuomo Prime Time

During an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo responds to a comment made by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on government funding to Democratic states. Source: CNN

By Allyson Chiu

When Carolyn Goodman began her week, the independent mayor of Las Vegas likely didn’t anticipate that in a matter of days she would become one of the most-talked about public officials in the national conversation surrounding the novel coronavirus pandemic. Only now she is, and in the eyes of critics, for all the wrong reasons. It all stemmed from a pair of remarkable TV appearances — first on Tuesday with MSNBC’s Katy Tur and then Wednesday with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, in which she doubled down on her head-scratching plan to reopen the city’s casinos and hotels with no apparent guidelines in place to ensure safety. On Wednesday, Nevada’s leaders united to send the three-term mayor a pointed message: Not so fast. “We are clearly not ready to open,” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) told Cooper Wednesday night, noting that the number of coronavirus-related deaths and infections in the state are still climbing. According to the most recent figures kept by the state, Nevada has more than 4,000 reported cases and 187 reported deaths. “We will rebuild our economy,” Sisolak said. “Las Vegas will continue to thrive, but I can’t do that if I lose more people. We need to protect their health and their well-being.” Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), whose district includes Las Vegas, echoed Sisolak’s comments, stressing in a separate CNN interview with host Don Lemon that lifting restrictions has to be done “the right way.” “You can’t open up too soon,” she said, because doing so could “cause death or health problems for individuals and then the economy will tank even worse and it will take us longer and be harder to come back.” Meanwhile, Nevada’s largest union issued a harsher critique, calling Goodman’s remarks “outrageous.” In a statement, the Culinary Workers Union said it has lost 11 members to the coronavirus. “Let the businesses open and competition will destroy that business if, in fact, they become evident that they have disease, they’re closed down,” Goodman, 81, told MSNBC’s Tur on Tuesday. “It’s that simple.” She swiftly went off the rails. He alternated between dramatic expressions of exasperation and bewilderment. Over the course of the interview, Goodman, who has been a vocal critic of Nevada’s lockdown order, argued that the responsibility is on businesses, not her, to find a way to open safely and appeared to suggest that she had offered her city to be a “control group” for the virus. “We offered to be a control group,” she said. “I did offer. It was turned down.” Sisolak and Titus, the Nevada representative, were also taken aback by Goodman’s apparent suggestion that Las Vegas could be a virus “control group.” “I will not allow the citizens of Nevada, our Nevadans, to be used as a control group, as a placebo, whatever she wants to call it,” Sisolak said. Later on “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon,” Titus urged Goodman to “listen to the scientists and the health-care specialists and stop talking about my constituents as though they’re guinea pigs in some grand experiment that she’s trying to conduct.”

The Senate majority leader is hitting the brakes.
By Jim Newell

The half-loaf agreement that Democratic and Republican negotiators reached on Tuesday to replenish the the government’s emptied-out small-business rescue offered nothing on one of Democrats’ top negotiating demands: additional grants for cash-strapped state, local, and tribal governments, which have seen expenditures soar and revenues plummet during the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans would not negotiate on the aid in this “interim” bill to reup the Payroll Protection Program, and with restaurants and bookstores collapsing by the day, Democrats agreed to defer it to the next relief bill. And that next one, Democratic leaders say, will be substantial, in line with the multitrillion-dollar CARES Act that passed in late March. “In the weeks ahead, Congress must prepare another major bill, similar in size and ambition to the CARES Act,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Tuesday. Among the items this bill would need to include, he said, was additional state, local, and tribal government assistance, rent assistance, hazard pay for front-line workers, Postal Service relief, a boost to food assistance programs, and resources for November election integrity (i.e., making sure people can vote). He promised that the administration and his negotiating partner, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, were seeking another big bill, too.  Around the same time, though, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—who had just secured more money for PPP, and a month ago had secured all the money that large corporations would ever need—suggested it might be time for Congress to declare victory and call it a day. “I think it’s also time to think about the amount of debt that we’re adding to our country and the future impact of that,” McConnell said at a press conference Tuesday. “And I think we’ve also seen, with this catastrophic damage to the economy, that until we can begin to open up the economy we can’t spend enough money to solve the problem.” While he said he understood that state and local governments were “suffering,” he felt that “we’ve gone so far on the national debt here that the next time we address this issue, the Senate should be back in session, fully up and running, with everybody involved in the discussion.” The Senate is scheduled to return May 4.  “I said yesterday we’re going to push the pause button here, because I think this whole business of additional assistance for state and local governments needs to be thoroughly evaluated,” McConnell told Hewitt. “You raised yourself the important issue of what states have done, many of them have done to themselves with their pension programs. There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations.” McConnell’s office excerpted this quote in a press release under the subtitle, “On Stopping Blue State Bailouts.” He added—at Hewitt’s prompting, sure—that he would favor changing bankruptcy laws to allow states to declare bankruptcy instead of using federal funds to rescue them. Cue the Democratic panic. In short: It doesn’t seem that Mitch McConnell is particularly interested in granting anywhere near the $500 billion in additional relief that the bipartisan chair and vice chairs of the National Governors Association has been requesting, and is suggesting that bloated blue states want to exploit the crisis to cover for poor fiscal management predating the crisis. More cynical yet are murmurs that Republicans are intentionally starving governors of resources as a lever to get them to end stay-at-home orders, and resume revenue-generating economic activity, sooner than public health guidelines would recommend.

By Stephanie Baker and Caleb Melby

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

By Kaitlan Collins, Jeremy Diamond and Betsy Klein, CNN

(CNN) The director of the office involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine says he was abruptly dismissed from his post in part because he resisted efforts to widen the availability of a coronavirus treatment pushed by President Donald Trump. Dr. Rick Bright had led BARDA, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, since 2016 until Tuesday, when was reassigned to a narrower position. He also announced he will file a whistleblower complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general. "I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit," Bright said in a lengthy statement issued Wednesday. "I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science -- not politics or cronyism -- has to lead the way." He cited "clashes with political leadership" as a reason for his sidelining, as well as his resistance to "efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections." Bright clashed directly with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Bob Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response, two people familiar with the situation told CNN. One source said the "political leadership" Bright referred to in his statement is Azar. Bright previously did not respond to repeated requests for comment on his departure by CNN. The Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment on Bright's statement. Bright said he "limited the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which clearly lack scientific merit." Trump repeatedly promoted that therapeutic treatment for coronavirus, touting its possible effects at White House briefings as recently as April 13. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Bright's move in a statement to CNN Tuesday and said he will now lead a new government project: a public-private partnership on vaccine development and treatment.

By Billy House and David Westin

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a “major package” of aid for state and local government will be in the next stimulus legislation considered by Congress, setting up a conflict with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who is urging a slowdown in doling out federal help. The $484 billion aid plan set for passage by the House on Thursday is an “interim” step to mitigate some of the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, Pelosi said Wednesday on Bloomberg Television. “Now we have to go further to help state and local” governments, she said, without putting a price tag on the aid. Although President Donald Trump said Tuesday he favored aid for states, McConnell has said any funds for states and municipalities should be reviewed carefully. “We’re going to push the pause button here, because I think this whole business of additional assistance for state and local governments needs to be thoroughly evaluated,” McConnell said Wednesday on Hugh Hewitt’s syndicated radio program. In the Bloomberg Television interview, Pelosi dismissed any concern about McConnell’s remarks, and she defended Democrats’ decision to back down from their initial call to include state and local funding in the interim bill awaiting a House vote Thursday. “Let me remind you, this is Mitch McConnell, who said on the floor of the Senate there is no way we will do anything but the $250 billion” to shore up a small business aid program, said Pelosi. “Now, we are up to $480” billion in this week’s bill. “This is an interim bill,” she said, adding that “the president himself has said, he as tweeted out, that was last night, that he is ready to do state and local” in the next legislation.

The Senate majority leader is resisting a top demand from Democrats.
By ANDREW DESIDERIO

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday insisted that flailing state and local governments should be able to “use the bankruptcy route” rather than receive aid from the federal government — signaling renewed opposition to a top Democratic demand for the next coronavirus relief package. In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, the Kentucky Republican also expressed concern about adding billions more to the national debt in addition to the nearly $3 trillion Congress has already sent out the door to combat the economic and public health challenges of the pandemic. “There’s no good reason for it not to be available,” McConnell said of individual localities declaring bankruptcy in order to stay afloat. “My guess is their first choice would be for the federal government to borrow money from future generations to send it down to them now so they don’t have to do that,” McConnell added. “That’s not something I’m going to be in favor of.” States do not have the ability to declare bankruptcy under current law, and modifying the bankruptcy code would likely be a heavy lift in Congress. The Senate on Tuesday passed a nearly $500 billion “interim” package that included additional funding for a popular small-business loan program, hospitals, and expanded coronavirus testing. During the negotiations, Democrats had demanded billions more for state and local governments, citing requests from Democratic and Republican governors alike. McConnell’s office referred to such funding as “blue state bailouts” in a news release earlier Wednesday, further underscoring that there remains broad GOP opposition to such cash infusions. And McConnell himself said it was no surprise that governors, regardless of political party, “would love to have free money.”

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

(CNN) Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman on Wednesday repeatedly called for the city's businesses to reopen while refusing to provide any social distancing guidelines on how to do so safely. "I am not a private owner. That's the competition in this country. The free enterprise and to be able to make sure that what you offer the public meets the needs of the public," Goodman, an independent, told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "Right now, we're in a crisis health-wise, and so for a restaurant to be open or a small boutique to be open, they better figure it out. That's their job. That's not the mayor's job." Goodman, an independent, does not have the power to order Las Vegas' casinos to reopen and the state's Gaming Control Board will ultimately sign off on a plan to have the iconic Sin City businesses open their doors again. Democratic Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said on Tuesday that casino owners are working together on coming up with a plan on how to protect their customers when they eventually do open. The state plans to follow the federal government's guidelines on reopening the economy from stay-at-home orders, a crucial part of which is declining reports of new cases for 14 consecutive days. Sisolak described the state as being in "phase zero" on Tuesday and he did not give a date on when to expect reopenings to begin. Goodman's comments come as more states plan phased reopenings of their economies following new guidance from President Donald Trump -- even as public health experts have repeatedly stressed the dangers of relaxing social distancing measures too early. There has been a disconnect between some Democratic mayors and Republican governors on how to safely reopen areas under stay-at-home orders to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Governors in Georgia and South Carolina announced plans earlier this week to allow businesses to reopen in their states, but have faced pushback from mayors who don't believe it's safe to open businesses like gyms, tattoo parlors, nail salons and other places deemed non-essential in initial orders.

ON TO THE NEXT TALKING POINT

After spending two full weeks of programming touting an anti-malarial drug as a coronavirus cure, Fox’s primetime stars have pulled back almost entirely—and so has the president.
By Justin Baragona

After weeks of incessantly hyping an unproven anti-malarial drug as a potential miracle cure for the coronavirus, Fox News has seemingly ditched its nearly round-the-clock promotion of hydroxychloroquine. Unsurprisingly, the change in tone coincided with President Donald Trump’s own retreat from touting the drug, and comes as multiple studies have shown no benefit to COVID-19 patients. Beginning in mid-to-late March and ramping up through the first two weeks of April, the president repeatedly lauded hydroxychloroquine—a drug developed decades ago to combat malaria and currently also used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis—as a “game-changer” that has brought people back from the dead. “What really do we have to lose?” Trump implored the public earlier this month, adding that the drug “doesn’t kill people.” Doctors and medical experts, however, consistently warned that the drug has some severe side effects, such as sudden cardiac arrest. As is often the case with the cable-news obsessed president, Trump only began promoting the malaria drug as a miracle cure after his favorite Fox opinion hosts openly touted it on-air and in private meetings with him. According to Media Matters for America, a liberal media watchdog, between March 23 and April 6, Fox hosts and guests lauded hydroxychloroquine almost 300 times. Throughout that time, both the president and Fox stars relied heavily on both anecdotal evidence and flawed studies—namely from a controversial French doctor whose methods have come under scrutiny—to push the drug as a coronavirus cure. The FDA eventually issued “emergency use authorization” in late March for doctors to prescribe the drug to COVID-19 patients in off-label use. But by mid-April, however, both Trump and his Fox News allies began to clam up on the drug. As first noted by Politico, the president barely spoke about the drug over the past week. Last Tuesday, during a meeting with coronavirus survivors, Trump did positively mention the drug with a Michigan state representative who credited hydroxychloroquine for saving her life. Prior to that, the president briefly mentioned the drug at last Monday’s briefing, announcing that the administration had obtained and deployed 28 million doses of the drug to hospitals nationwide. At the same briefing, however, he also spoke glowingly about the “promising results” from remdesivir, another drug that’s currently being tested as a potential COVID-19 treatment.

McConnell cited concern for the national debt, saying "until we can begin to open up the economy, we can’t spend enough money to solve the problem."
By Allan Smith and Julie Tsirkin

State and local governments facing dire financial straits because of the pandemic will have to wait until at least May before Congress considers further relief, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated. The House is set to vote Thursday on an interim round of coronavirus aid aimed at small businesses, and while Democrats sought to include roughly $150 billion in funding to shore up state and local budgets, the money didn't make it into the final bill because of objections from Republicans and the Trump administration. After the Senate passed the bill Tuesday by voice vote, McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, predicted that future relief efforts would not be afforded such expeditious proceedings, citing concerns about the national debt and adding that "until we can begin to open up the economy, we can’t spend enough money to solve the problem." He made clear that all lawmakers would have to be back in Washington before debating further rescue funds, including for state and local governments. "I think the next debate, which I assume will relate to state and local government relief, needs to be when the Senate is back in session with full participation," McConnell said in response to a question about when he would be open to supporting the next phase of the funding Democrats had wanted to include in the interim package. "And in the meantime, also take a look at how much debt we've racked up and not try to wave something through the Senate, of that consequence, without full participation." The Senate is not expected to return before May 4. Across the country, state and local governments are clamoring for the federal government to rescue them from what could quickly become a fiscal catastrophe, saying that they may need as much as three-quarters of a trillion dollars as the pandemic dries up many of their revenue sources. Democrats sought to include roughly $150 billion in funding to state and local governments in the aid package set for passage, though it was not ultimately included. Already, Congress approved $150 billion in funding for state and local governments as part of earlier coronavirus legislative aid — assistance governors and local leaders said would ultimately not be enough. A Congressional Research Service report last week on initial coronavirus aid said that "early evidence suggests that the COVID-19 economic shock will have a notable impact on state and local budgets," pointing to the "sizable share of economic output" that derives from state and local governments. Bipartisan leadership of the National Governors Association called for $500 billion in aid to state governments to account for budget shortfalls, while counties and mayors have called for an additional $250 billion in emergency relief. On Monday, Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., unveiled a legislative proposal for $500 billion in state and local funding.

By Justine Coleman

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) called for the reopening of his state and the country late Monday, saying there are "more important things than living.” Patrick said on Fox News’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that he was “vindicated” after being criticized for saying in March that he thought “lots of grandparents” across the country would risk their survival to keep the country afloat economically. “There are more important things than living, and that’s saving this country for my children and grandchildren and saving this country for all of us,” he said Monday. “I don’t want to die," he added. “Nobody wants to die, but man we gotta take some risks and get back in the game and get this country back up and running.” The Texas official stood by his March remarks and said the country “should not have been locked down.” “I’m thankful that we are now beginning to open up Texas and other states because it’s long overdue,” Patrick said. “We cannot endure this much longer,” he added. “Every month we stay closed, it’s going to take two to three months to rebuild.” Patrick also said that “every life is valuable,” but Texas should not be shut down because a small percentage of the population is dying. Texas’s 2019 population estimate reached almost 29 million people. The coronavirus has infected 19,458 Texans, leading to 495 fatalities, according to the state health department. - What is more important than living? So-called pro-life people are willing to let people die. Maybe they are not really pro-life, how can you be pro-life and yet be willing to let people die.

The Senate majority leader expressed concern about rising deficits in an interview and said he wanted the full Senate to return before acting again.
By BURGESS EVERETT

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is drawing a line: There will be no more attempts at long-distance legislating on the coronavirus. In a telephone interview Tuesday after passage of a $484 billion coronavirus relief bill, the Senate majority leader made clear that the full Senate must be in session before Congress begins its fifth installment of responding to the pandemic. And he signaled he is growing weary of quickly shoveling billions of dollars out the door even as the economy continues to crater. The latest measure cleared the Senate by voice vote, but it was the product of days of fraught negotiations and false starts — and its success will be difficult to replicate as senators' frustrations over the extended recess pile up. McConnell said the Senate will proceed “cautiously” to the next phase of coronavirus relief despite rapidly escalating demands for more aid from members of both parties. And he said that all 100 senators need to be around before Washington spends more money on an unprecedented economic rescue of workers and businesses caught in the virus’ fallout. “You’ve seen the talk from both sides about acting, but my goal from the beginning of this, given the extraordinary numbers that we’re racking up to the national debt, is that we need to be as cautious as we can be,” McConnell said. “We need to see how things are working, see what needs to be corrected, and I do think that the next time we pass a coronavirus rescue bill we need to have everyone here and everyone engaged.” After two weeks of bickering over McConnell’s initial proposal to send a quarter-billion dollars to revive the depleted Paycheck Protection Program, the Senate clinched a deal Tuesday providing more aid to small businesses and hospitals, and for disease testing. But it was neither easy nor pretty and the episode exposed the pitfalls of trying to legislate while the Senate is in recess. McConnell said his goal is still to bring the Senate back on May 4 despite uncertainty nationwide over the spread of a virus that has killed more than 40,000 Americans. But it’s clear that the ongoing recess is becoming untenable: Two Republican senators openly fumed on the Senate floor on Tuesday about passing bills without input from individual lawmakers of Congress. Had either objected, the bipartisan deal would have been derailed and senators would have been hauled back to D.C. “It’s time to do our job. It’s time to return to Washington and get to work,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). “We can’t legislate without our members here.”

Sophisticated new research links Hannity’s coronavirus misinformation to “a greater number of Covid-19 cases and deaths.”
By Zack Beauchamp

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, media critics have warned that the decision from leading Fox News hosts to downplay the outbreak could cost lives. A new study provides statistical evidence that, in the case of Sean Hannity, that’s exactly what happened. The paper — from economists Leonardo Bursztyn, Aakaash Rao, Christopher Roth, and David Yanagizawa-Drott — focused on Fox news programming in February and early March. At the time, Hannity’s show was downplaying or ignoring the virus, while fellow Fox host Tucker Carlson was warning viewers about the disease’s risks. Using both a poll of Fox News viewers over age 55 and publicly available data on television-watching patterns, they calculate that Fox viewers who watched Hannity rather than Carlson were less likely to adhere to social distancing rules, and that areas where more people watched Hannity relative to Carlson had higher local rates of infection and death. “Greater exposure to Hannity relative to Tucker Carlson Tonight leads to a greater number of COVID-19 cases and deaths,” they write. “A one-standard deviation increase in relative viewership of Hannity relative to Carlson is associated with approximately 30 percent more COVID-19 cases on March 14, and 21 percent more COVID-19 deaths on March 28.” This is a working paper; it hasn’t been peer reviewed or accepted for publication at a journal. However, it’s consistent with a wide body of research finding that media consumption in general, and Fox News viewership in particular, can have a pretty powerful effect on individual behavior. Some of this research has found, for example, that TV consumption can affect decisions as intimate as whether or not to have children. It makes sense that an older American’s favorite TV host telling them they don’t need to worry about the coronavirus would cause them to ignore stay-at-home orders and care less about thoroughly washing their hands.

By Steven T. Dennis and William Selway

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday he favors allowing states struggling with high public employee pension costs amid the burdens of the pandemic response to declare bankruptcy rather than giving them a federal bailout. “I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route,” he said Wednesday in a response to a question on the syndicated Hugh Hewitt radio show. “It’s saved some cities, and there’s no good reason for it not to be available.” The host cited California, Illinois and Connecticut as states that had given too much to public employee unions, and McConnell said he was reluctant to take on more debt for any rescue. “You raised yourself the important issue of what states have done, many of them have done to themselves with their pension programs,” he said. “There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations.” His statements set up a conflict with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said on Bloomberg Television Wednesday a “major package” of aid for state and local government will be in the next stimulus legislation considered by Congress. McConnell may also find himself in conflict with President Donald Trump. The president said Tuesday after meeting with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that states will need assistance. “And I think most Republicans agree too, and Democrats,” Trump said. “And that’s part of phase four.” McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, noted he blocked additional state and local aid in the latest relief package, which passed the Senate Tuesday and is set for a vote Thursday in the House.

African Americans account for 54% of state’s known Covid-19 deaths while Atlanta’s mayor unveils her own reopening council
By Kenya Evelyn

On Monday, Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, announced his decision to reopen the state for business. Non-essential businesses, including tattoo parlors, hair salons, movie theaters and bowling alleys, will be authorized to reopen from Friday, if they follow social distancing orders. In a state where African Americans make up more than 32% of the population but account for an estimated 54% of known coronavirus deaths, the decision pitted a white Republican governor against mostly black Democratic mayors and critics. “By trying to push a false opening of the economy, we risk putting more lives in danger,” Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who lost to Kemp in a controversial election in 2018, told MSNBC. Citing the close contact needed for grooming services, Abrams said: “There is nothing about [the measure] that makes sense.” Abrams also said the governor “did not consult with [the mayors] before making this decision”. The mayors of Savannah, Augusta and Atlanta confirmed they were not contacted before the governor’s announcement. Bo Dorough, who is white, is the mayor of Albany, a small city with a cluster of confirmed Covid-19 cases that has ravaged its mostly black community. Dorough said he only learned of the Kemp’s announcement after an aide caught the press conference on TV. “I’m flabbergasted that the governor would say we can’t take additional precautions to protect our citizens,” Dorough told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “This isn’t a mixed signal. It’s a U-turn.” Citing “more than 19,000 Georgians” who have tested positive for coronavirus, Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, who is black, said in a statement she “will continue to urge Atlanta to stay at home, stay safe and make decisions based on the best interests of their families”.

By Jason Hanna and Sarah Moon, CNN

(CNN) New autopsy results show coronavirus killed two Californians in early and mid-February -- up to three weeks before the previously known first US death from the virus. These deaths now stand as the country's first two attributed to the novel coronavirus, a development that may change the understanding of how early the virus was spreading in the country, health experts told CNN Wednesday. Two deaths in Northern California's Santa Clara County happened February 6 and February 17, the county said in a news release Tuesday. The previously understood first coronavirus death happened in Kirkland, Washington, on February 29. Dr. Sara Cody, the county's chief medical officer, told The New York Times that the two had no known travel histories to China or anywhere else that would have exposed them to the virus. They are presumed to have caught the virus through community spread, she told the Times. "That is a very significant finding," Dr. Ashish K. Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told CNN's "New Day" on Wednesday. "Somebody who died on February 6, they probably contracted that virus early to mid-January. It takes at least two to three weeks from the time you contract the virus and you die from it." If they did not contract coronavirus through travel abroad, that also is significant, Jha said. "Therefore, that means there was community spread happening in California as early as mid-January, if not earlier than that," Jha said. "We really need to now go back, look at a lot more cases from January -- even December -- and try to sort out when did we first really encounter this virus in the United States," Jha said.

CDC confirmed Tuesday that tissue samples were positive
The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner performed autopsies on two people who died in their homes February 6 and 17 and sent samples to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the county said Tuesday. The CDC confirmed Tuesday that the tissue samples tested positive for coronavirus, the county said. A third death in early March was also confirmed to be virus-related, the release said.

The ninth circuit court of appeals is being asked to overturn the EPA’s approval of a Monsanto herbicide that is allegedly a threat to farm crops across the US
By Carey Gillam

The US Environmental Protection Agency is due in federal court on Tuesday to answer allegations that it broke the law to support a Monsanto system that has triggered “widespread” crop damage over the last few summers and continues to threaten farms across the country. As farmers prepare to plant a new season of key American food crops, farmer and consumer groups are asking the ninth circuit court of appeals in San Francisco to review and overturn the EPA’s approval of a Monsanto herbicide made with a chemical called dicamba. The allegations are from the National Family Farm Coalition, which represents tens of thousands of farmers across the US, and three non-profit consumer and environmental groups. They have been granted an expedited review of their legal petition and hope for a ruling that would block use of the herbicide this summer. The court hearing, which is to be handled by phone due to the coronavirus closing of California courthouses, comes just a month after the office of inspector general for the EPA said it would open an investigation into the agency’s handling of dicamba herbicides. Farmers have reported dicamba damage in both organic and conventional crops, including non-GMO soybeans, wheat, grapes, melons, vegetables and tobacco. A Missouri peach farmer won a $265m verdict in February against Monsanto and German chemical giant BASF after accusing the companies of creating a “defective” crop system that damaged 30,000 peach trees. The Guardian reported last month that internal Monsanto documents obtained through the peach farmer litigation revealed that Monsanto predicted its dicamba crop system would lead to thousands of damage claims from US farmers but pushed ahead anyway, trying to downplay the risks to the EPA.

EPA approval
The crop system in question was developed by Monsanto with help from BASF to encourage farmers to buy dicamba herbicides and spray them over the top of new genetically engineered soybean and cotton crops developed by Monsanto to tolerate dicamba. The altered crops survive dicamba spray but weeds die, making it easier for farmers to eradicate weeds resistant to other herbicides such as Monsanto’s glyphosate. Before the introduction of Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant cotton in 2015 and soybeans in 2016, farmers were largely restricted from using dicamba during the growing season because the chemical can easily drift and vaporize, traveling long distances from where it is sprayed. But the release of the new dicamba-tolerant crops upended that restraint and the EPA subsequently approved “new use” dicamba products sold by Monsanto, BASF and Corteva Agriscience for treating fields planted with the genetically engineered cotton and soybeans.

PEOPLE ARE DYING

The “Last Week Tonight” host took aim at the right-wing media for pushing dangerous disinformation concerning COVID-19.
By Marlow Stern

John Oliver returned to his “blank void” on Sunday night for another quarantine edition of Last Week Tonight. And the main story of the evening concerned the miniature protests that have been popping up against stay-at-home orders over COVID-19. And these little misguided protests have been thanks to the dangerous disinformation being pushed by those in the right-wing media who’ve repeatedly downplayed the danger of the novel coronavirus, which has killed over 165,000 people worldwide, including more than 41,000 in the U.S. There’s Rush Limbaugh—or “A man with millions of listeners, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and almost certainly, a room in his basement that his housekeeper isn’t allowed to go into,” cracked Oliver. On March 11, Limbaugh said on his radio program, “All of this panic just is not warranted. When I tell you… that this virus is the common cold. When I said that, it was based on the number of cases. It’s also based on the kind of virus this is. Why do you think this is COVID-19? This is the 19th coronavirus!” “OK, no Rush. Just no,” said Oliver. “It’s called that because it was first identified in 2019, you giant potato.” He wasn’t finished: “No to your stupid quarantine beard. You look like if Santa was #MeToo’d, kicked out of the North Pole, and forced to move to a condo in Tampa with all linoleum floors.” Then there’s Fox News, with host Sean Hannity calling it a “hoax” and “hysteria,” and Laura Ingraham calling Democrats “panic pushers” for warning about the potential dangers of the disease. “When people started dying, and that argument became harder to sell, the network seemed to pivot from trying to downplay the warnings to downplaying the deaths,” Oliver explained, before throwing to Dr. Phil (yes, really), who said on Fox News, “The fact of the matter is…365,000 people [die] from swimming pools but we don’t shut the country down for that!”

By Nicky Roberston and Katelyn Polantz, CNN

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

By Daniel Politi

Protesters gathered in several states across the country Saturday to demand an end to stay-at-home orders that were put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The demonstrations took place in several states, including Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. Many of those who broke social-distancing rules carried signs that had phrases like, “This is tyranny, not quarantine” and “Shut down the shutdown.” One of the largest rallies took place in Austin, where some 300 people gathered with many carrying signs, flags, T-shirts, and caps that made their support for President Donald Trump explicit. Protesters chanted, “Let us work!” and “Fire Fauci” as many did not seem to believe there was any need to keep distance from each other while they shook hands and hugged at the protest that was heavily promoted by conspiracy-theory peddling website Infowars. Some attendants were disappointed by the scene that unfolded on the steps of the Capitol. “We thought it was going to be a lot bigger than this,” a protester told the Austin American Statesman. Several hundred people also gathered outside the Ohio Statehouse on Saturday to protest the state’s stay-at-home order with some chanting, “We are not sheep.” “I believe that we’re over reacting to this. Ohio numbers are not that large for us to have people lose their businesses. It’s just not warranted,” one protester said. “I would like to see Ohio open up now! None of this is warranted for our numbers.” - Trump, Fox News, GOP and the right wing are putting American lives at risk, they do not care about the American people just the dollars they are losing.

With Dorothy Wickenden

Mitch McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984, but he didn’t come to national prominence until the Obama Presidency, when, as the Senate Majority Leader, he emerged as one of the Administration’s most unyielding and effective legislative opponents. In the past three years, McConnell has put his political skills to work in support of Donald Trump’s agenda, despite the lasting damage that his maneuvering is doing to the Senate and to American democracy. Jane Mayer joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how and why McConnell, who faces reëlection this year, became one of Trump’s staunchest allies.

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

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

By Jeff Zeleny and Kaitlan Collins, CNN

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

By christina capatides

Speaking with Fox News' Sean Hannity on Thursday, TV doctor Mehmet Oz ignited a social media firestorm by saying that reopening America's schools presented an "appetizing opportunity" because it might only kill 2% to 3% of the population. "We need our mojo back," Oz said. "Let's start with things that are really critical to the nation, where we think we might be able to open without getting into a lot of trouble. I tell you schools are a very appetizing opportunity. I just saw a nice piece in The Lancet [medical journal] arguing that the opening of schools may only cost us 2-3% in terms of total mortality. And you know, any life is a life lost, but to get every child back into a school where they're safely being educated and being fed and making the most out of their lives with a theoretical risk on the backside, it might be a tradeoff some folks would consider." The population of the United States is just over 328 million, so to lose 2-3% of the population would mean anywhere between 6.56 million and 9.84 million deaths. The backlash on Twitter was swift and fierce, propelling the hashtag #FireDrOz into the platform's top trending phrases for hours.

By Michael Blake and Nathalie Molina Niño

Walking down an eerily quiet Bourbon Street or Woodward Avenue, through Hyde Park or, in our case, the streets of New York City, the familiar is now unrecognizable. That is, until we spot signs of life spilling out of Guzman's bodega or see that Beatstro has been repurposed to serve first responders. More than ever, these businesses are lifelines, especially in places hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, like the Bronx. Never has the link between human health and business health been more evident. Small family businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color are providing essential supplies, even as they face extinction. If we ever doubted the life-saving relationship between black- and brown-owned businesses and the people they serve, it's impossible to miss that reality now. Yet we and our businesses are under attack—and many are dying. Whether we're wearing surgical scrubs, a prison jumpsuit or a bus driver uniform, the data is screaming one thing: If you're black or brown, you're being left to die. City after city is reporting black and Latino people are consistently overrepresented among the dead. The COVID-19 pandemic is, like many tragedies, a magnifying glass over structural inequity that is generations' old. Today's leaders may not be responsible for legacy structures, like red lining or Jim Crow. But sadly, the CARES Act's failure to ensure funding is deployed into communities of color, where the impact and thus the need is greatest, puts our generation dangerously close to building new, equally deadly structures. When banks are allowed to limit their customers to existing lending clients, black business owners, who have been historically rejected at more than double the rate of white applicants on all types of loans, are the primary ones excluded. This systematic exclusion, if not corrected with bold policies, will result in a mass extinction of generations of businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color. What's worse? That failure is guaranteed to exacerbate the abysmal health outcomes we're seeing. We cannot ignore that business collapse threatens human survival.

Gaetz's relationship with a Pensacola real estate developer highlights how a friendship can become intertwined with congressional duties.
By JAKE SHERMAN and JOHN BRESNAHAN

Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz has spent nearly $200,000 in taxpayer funds renting an office from a longtime friend, adviser, campaign donor and legal client. Both men said in separate interviews Gaetz paid below market rent for the space — although Gaetz later shifted, saying the rent was “at or below market rate.” House rules explicitly state such arrangements are not allowed. The agreement between Gaetz and Collier Merrill, a Pensacola real estate developer and restaurateur, highlights how a decades-long relationship can become intertwined with a lawmaker’s congressional duties. On top of being Merrill’s tenant, Gaetz attended fundraisers at Merrill’s restaurants, sought his counsel on policy matters and tapped him as a validator for his work in Washington. Gaetz — who represents a conservative swath of the Florida Panhandle — has paid more than $184,000 to Merrill’s Empire Partners LLC to rent the entire sixth-floor in the Seville Tower, a historic building in downtown Pensacola, according to House disbursement records. Gaetz has rented from Merrill since he got to Congress in 2017. House rules state that all leases for district offices must be “at fair market value as the result of a bona fide, arms-length, marketplace transaction. The Lessor and Lessee certify that the parties are not relatives nor have had, or continue to have, a professional or legal relationship (except as a landlord and tenant).” Merrill said in an interview that Gaetz approached him saying he wanted to rent space in his building. Merrill then dispatched his leasing director to give Gaetz’s staff a “range to see what they can get” and the private negotiation yielded a price in the middle. The rental agreement was approved by the House’s Administrative Counsel. Gaetz, through a spokesman, said that he did not feel he needed to disclose his long relationship with Merrill to the House.

By Michael Warren, CNN

Washington (CNN) The test results came back on Easter Sunday. Tammy had been feeling "kind of crappy" when she went to her doctor in rural southeastern Oklahoma last week. A sign of possible pneumonia prompted her to get a coronavirus test later that day at the McCurtain County Health Department in Idabel. When it came back positive, Tammy, who spoke on the condition that CNN not use her last name to protect her privacy, had already quarantined herself. Isolated, she decided to write her governor, Kevin Stitt, the first-term Republican and one of just 8 governors in the US to resist issuing a statewide stay-at-home-order. Tammy had voted for Stitt but she didn't agree with his decision. Her message to him was simple: "Shut this mess down." Just as cases are starting to plateau in some big cities and along the coasts, the coronavirus is catching fire in rural states across the American heartland, where there has been a small but significant spike this week in cases. Playing out amid these outbreaks is a clash between a frontier culture that values individual freedom and personal responsibility, and the onerous but necessary restrictions to contain a novel biological threat. The bump in coronavirus cases is most pronounced in states without stay at home orders. Oklahoma saw a 53% increase in cases over the past week, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Over same time, cases jumped 60% in Arkansas, 74% in Nebraska, and 82% in Iowa. South Dakota saw a whopping 205% spike. The remaining states, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming each saw an increase in cases, but more in line with other places that have stay-at-home orders. And all of those numbers may very well undercount the total cases, given a persistent lack of testing across the US. This trend undermines the notion perpetuated by President Donald Trump and some of his Republican allies that the restrictive social-distancing measures aren't necessary in rural America -- and that these states even offer a model for reopening the country. "If you look at Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota -- that's a lot different than New York, it's a lot different than New Jersey," Trump said at Thursday's coronavirus task force briefing, adding that 29 states are "in that ballgame" of being ready to be reopened first. "We have large sections of the country right now that can start thinking about opening," Trump added.

A 'mythic story' of rural-urban divide
Laura Bellis, a progressive activist in Tulsa who has been a leading voice urging Oklahoma to adopt and enforce a stay-at-home policy, said she believes the resistance to such orders is grounded in a false view of an urban-rural divide. "There's a mythic story that they have really different needs, when we're much more inextricably linked than that," Bellis told CNN. The governors of the holdout states frequently invoke middle-American, conservative values when defending their decisions not to issue stay-at-home orders. South Dakota's Republican governor Kristi Noem has said her office has "trusted South Dakotans to exercise personal responsibility." And Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska defended his call for voluntary social distancing as opposed to a stay-at-home order.

By Daniel Dale, Tara Subramaniam and Liz Stark, CNN

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

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

"It just made us feel like they are valuing the lives of the doctors more than the nurses."
By Emmanuel Felton

Ten nurses at a California hospital have been placed on administrative leave after each refused to continue to work with coronavirus patients until they received face masks known as N95 respirators. Chelsea Halmy, one of the nurses who was suspended, told BuzzFeed News she spoke up about the lack of personal protective equipment on Saturday and isn't sure when she'll be allowed back to work at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica. N95 respirators are designed to filter out 95% of particles in the air and provide the best protection against the coronavirus for health care workers. At Providence Saint John’s, nurses say they have been given much more porous surgical masks while the N95s have been saved for doctors. "We spend significantly more time with these patients than doctors," Halmy said. "It just made us feel like they are valuing the lives of the doctors more than the nurses." Halmy, who started her nursing career in the fall, requested an N95 mask when she reported to her night shift on Saturday, but she was denied. She then told the charge nurse that she wouldn't be working with coronavirus patients without one. Soon, senior management appeared with a form for Halmy to sign. "Failure to accept a direct order is a violation of our Hospital policy and is considered insubordination," the notice read. "In addition, we would need to consider if it is reportable to your licensing body as patient abandonment or other professional misconduct." But Halmy wrote her side of the story on the notice. "I don't want to leave, I want to stay and take care of my patients," she wrote. "However, I do not feel safe and would like an N95 mask."

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) No one can spin like Kellyanne Conway. It's the secret to how she has lasted so long as senior counselor to President Donald Trump, someone who puts a premium on his advisers' ability to take lemons and turn them into lemonade. Or at least tell people they turned them into lemonade. But Conway's sangfroid for spin occasionally gets her into trouble. Wednesday morning was one of those times. In an appearance on "Fox & Friends," Conway was asked about Trump's decision Tuesday to revoke US funding for the World Health Organization. Here's what she said (bolding is mine): "The President took decisive and immediate action at the end of January to shut down flights to China. That was criticized by the WHO. It was criticized by other people as xenophobic and racist and travel bans don't work. Well, this one sure did. We have every right to know. And every right to know because what's happened here in this global pandemic. But there's another reason, some of the scientists and doctors say that there could be other strains later on. This could come back in the fall in a limited way. This is Covid-19, not Covid-1, folks. You would think that people charged with the World Health Organization facts and figures would be on top of that. This is just a pause right now. So there is an investigation, examination to what happened. But people should know the facts." The message Conway is trying to spin here is clear: The WHO had 18 previous chances to tell the world about Covid-19 -- and didn't do a good job of it. Man, they must really stink! Or, are they, maybe, hiding things from America?!?!!? Except ... the reason the novel coronavirus is called Covid-19 is because it emerged in, well, 2019. As the WHO noted in in its February 11 Situation Report: "Following WHO best practices for naming of new human infectious diseases, which were developed in consultation and collaboration with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), WHO has named the disease Covid-19, short for 'coronavirus disease 2019.'"

Mr. Savage, the conservative radio host, is still loyal to President Trump but says right-wing media got it all wrong by doubting the severity of the coronavirus early on.
By Jeremy W. Peters

There are a lot of people who are ruining the country right now, according to Michael Savage. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Liberal mayors in big cities like San Francisco. Undocumented immigrants. Homeless people. But for the past two months, listeners to Mr. Savage’s conservative radio show have heard him howl with unabated contempt about another menace: “The pimps” in the right-wing media “who tell you what you want to hear.” They are “intellectual dwarfs” and “science illiterates,” he says, who spent weeks downplaying the threat from the coronavirus epidemic and accusing President Trump’s opponents of exaggerating it to hurt him politically. On Mr. Savage’s broadcast, which has one of the largest audiences in talk radio with 7.5 million listeners each week, the virus has never been a hoax or a bad case of the sniffles. He has lectured his fans on the research in detail: How it is transmitted; which treatments are proving effective; and the difference between morbidity and mortality rates. With no small amount of self-satisfaction, Mr. Savage reminds people of his credentials — a Ph.D. and training in epidemiology — and of the fact that he was one of the few voices in conservative media who had warned them all along. Much of the time, Mr. Savage still sounds like any other right-wing shock jock — making fun of Nancy Pelosi and doubting the validity of the #MeToo movement. But on the subject of the coronavirus, Mr. Savage has become one of the loudest voices of dissent on the right. His views are a striking departure from the accepted version of events among Mr. Trump’s loyalists in the media, who have made a concerted effort to deny that they downplayed the epidemic. Mr. Savage has attacked the credibility of the conservative media, accused its biggest stars of being too rote and unthinking in their defense of the president, and demanded that they be held accountable for misleading millions of Americans. “We’re living in a terrible time in America where truth has died,” Mr. Savage, who was one of the first conservative media stars to urge Mr. Trump to run for president, told his audience. “This is crazy,” he added, pointing to the way the president’s defenders always accuse the left of spreading “fake news.” “How can we not let our side be called on the carpet when they lie to the people?” That was Feb. 24. At the time, coronavirus outbreaks were largely limited to a handful of countries like China, South Korea and Italy. Only a few dozen cases had been reported in the United States. The same day, Rush Limbaugh likened the coronavirus to the common cold on his radio program. But it spread aggressively in America just as Mr. Savage had warned it would — a prediction that earned him the ire of people who called him a hysteric and a sellout. His contempt for hosts like Mr. Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, whose top-rated radio shows draw more than 30 million listeners each week, is especially searing. He mocks them as “Dr. Hannity” and “Rush Limbaugh, M.D., Ph.D.,” belittles their lack of education compared with his, and berates people who took their claims seriously.

By Colby Itkowitz and Mike DeBonis

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

By EJ Montini, Arizona Republic

Opinion: The congressman would remove experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci from the decision-making process in a way that would get Americans killed. I’m guessing that Rep. Andy Biggs believes that he is in a very safe place, a place far away from the virus that causes COVID-19 and has killed nearly 22,000 Americans as of Monday afternoon. A virus for which we have no vaccine and for which there is no known deterrent other than safe social distancing. Biggs must believe that he is immune to this thing. Or he has had himself hermetically sealed and locked into a steel-enclosed safe at the bottom of a salt mine, from which he is still managing to issue press releases and tweets. Because otherwise there is no logical reason for Biggs to be suggesting, essentially, that you should be willing to die for the economy.

Which is first: The economy or lives?
Biggs wants to remove from the national decision-making process Dr. Anthony Fauci, our top infectious diseases expert and one of the few grown-ups in the room when President Donald Trump holds press conferences. Biggs also would remove Dr. Deborah Birx, another high-profile health expert. If we take doctors out of the room more people will die.

By Jonathan Chait

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

By Clare Foran, CNN

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

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

By Cristina Cabrera

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

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Washington (CNN) An Indiana congressman said Tuesday that letting more Americans die from the novel coronavirus is the "lesser of two evils" compared with the economy cratering due to social distancing measures. Speaking with radio station WIBC in Indiana, Republican Rep. Trey Hollingsworth asserted that, while he appreciated the science behind the virus' spread, "it is always the American government's position to say, in the choice between the loss of our way of life as Americans and the loss of life, of American lives, we have to always choose the latter." "The social scientists are telling us about the economic disaster that is going on. Our (Gross Domestic Product) is supposed to be down 20% alone this quarter," Hollingsworth said. "It is policymakers' decision to put on our big boy and big girl pants and say it is the lesser of these two evils. It is not zero evil, but it is the lesser of these two evils and we intend to move forward that direction. That is our responsibility and to abdicate that is to insult the Americans that voted us into office." Hollingsworth told CNN, in a statement provided by his office later Tuesday, that "It's hyperbolic to say that the only choices before us are the two corner solutions: no economy or widespread casualties."

THE NEW LIBER-TEA PARTY

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

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

Constitutional experts, government agencies and Republican governors all say otherwise.
By Linda Qiu

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

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

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

By Jeff Mason, Paulina Duran

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


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