May 2020 News

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Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative May 2020 news and views

Note: Excerpts are from the authors’ words except for subheads and occasional “Editor’s notes” such as this.

 

May 20

Top News Headlines

Pandemic Media News

Virus Victims, Responses

Pandemic Politics / Media

U.S. Courts, Crime

U.S. 2020 Elections

Personal Virus Solutions

World News

 

Top News Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Live U.S. Updates: C.D.C. Releases Guidance That the White House Had Rejected, Staff reports, May 20, 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released more detailed guidance for schools, businesses and transit systems hoping to reopen safely. Discrepancies remain in how states are deciding to open up, with some forging far ahead of others. Follow our live updates.

cdc logo CustomAs of today, all 50 states will have begun to reopen. Hundreds of migrant children have been deported during the pandemic.

The coronavirus has killed at least 91,900 people in the United States, according to a New York Times database, and sickened more than 1.5 million.

President Trump on Wednesday morning threatened to withhold federal funds to Michigan and Nevada if the states proceed in expanding vote by mail efforts, an escalation in his often fact-challenged assault against mail voting. Mr. Trump’s threat came as severe flooding struck central Michigan on Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents and raising fears of virus risks in shelters after two dams were breached and days of heavy rainfall.

christi grimm hhs djt

washington post logoWashington Post, HHS watchdog who exposed hospital shortages to testify before House panel, Mike DeBonis, May 20, 2020. The federal watchdog who issued an early report documenting acute shortages of coronavirus tests and personal protective equipment at overwhelmed hospitals will testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday, a congressional aide said.

Christi A. Grimm, shown above in a file photo with earlier statistics, the principal deputy inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, documented “severe shortages” of supplies in late March and described hospitals’ intense frustration with government authorities who were unequipped to address the scarcity.

After Grimm issued her report on April 3, President Trump criticized her for serving during the Obama administration and disputed the findings. On May 1, Trump nominated a permanent HHS inspector general to replace Grimm — one of several moves he has made to oust inspectors general who served Barack Obama and previous presidents.

Grimm’s appearance before the Oversight and Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), stands to be a high-profile moment of public scrutiny of the Trump administration by the Democratic-controlled House, which has struggled to secure Trump administration witnesses for oversight hearings.

The testimony and questioning — billed as a member briefing, not a hearing — is set to be conducted entirely by videoconference, with the proceedings live-streamed to the public.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cyclone Live Updates: Storm Makes Landfall as India and Bangladesh Take Shelter, Staff reports, May 20, 2020 (print ed.). Cyclone Amphan is hitting a starkly vulnerable and densely populated region that is still under coronavirus lockdown.

Cyclone Amphan slammed into India’s coast on Wednesday afternoon, knocking down huge trees, bringing ropes of rain and sending millions of poor villagers rushing into evacuation shelters.

The emergency response was complicated by the coronavirus. India and Bangladesh are still under lockdown, and many people living along India and Bangladesh’s swampy coast were fearful of packing into crowded shelters where the chances of infection could be much higher.

“First Covid-19, now cyclone,” said a headline on the Indian broadcaster NDTV on Wednesday evening.

The storm made landfall around 4 p.m. near the Indian town of Digha, on the eastern coast, with wind speeds between 100 and 115 miles per hour. Meteorologists were calling Amphan, which has been fueled by the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal, one of the most powerful cyclones in decades.

Daily Commercial News (Canada), World Trade Center 7 building did not collapse due to fire: Report, Ian Harvey, May 20, 2020. A group of engineers and architects is demanding the American National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) retract and correct a 2008 report that concluded one of three World Trade Center buildings collapsed because fire weakened the steel supporting it in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911T) has formally filed a Request for Correction with the NIST following a new and detailed four-year analysis by a team at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF).

It says the World Trade Center (WTC) building 7 collapse was a “near-simultaneous failure of every column in the building” and dismissed the NIST finding that heat from the fire caused beams to “walk off” their moorings.

Sept. 11, 2001 is the tragedy of when two hijacked planes hit the WTC 1 and WTC 2 towers sending debris tumbling onto WTC 7. The NIST claimed that embers ignited a fire which then caused the 47-storey building to collapse on itself at 5:20 p.m., hours after the initial incident that morning.

Architects & Engineers For 9/11 Truth, Advocacy: Canada’s Top Construction News Site Covers Ongoing Challenge to NIST Report, Staff report, May 20, ae for 9 11 truth logo2020. The top construction news site in Canada did something today that few mainstream news outlets have done in nearly two decades: It offered unbiased coverage of a major development in the ongoing effort to uncover the truth about what really happened at the World Trade Center on 9/11.

The nearly 1,000-word article in Daily Commercial News gives some much-deserved fair treatment to the report issued in March by Dr. Leroy Hulsey at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and to the request for correction submitted by AE911Truth to the National Institute of Standards and Technology regarding the agency’s 2008 report on World Trade Center Building 7.

We encourage you to read the article and share it widely!

Pandemic Media News

 ny times logoNew York Times, How the ‘Plandemic’ Movie and Its Falsehoods Spread Online, Sheera Frenkel, Ben Decker and Davey Alba May 20, 2020 (print ed.). A video wrongly claimed a shadowy cabal of elites was using the virus and a potential vaccine to gain power. This is how it tipped into the mainstream.

facebook logo“Plandemic” went online on May 4 when its maker, Mikki Willis, a little-known film producer, posted it to Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo and a separate website set up to share the video. For three days, it gathered steam in Facebook pages dedicated to conspiracy theories and the anti-vaccine movement, most of which linked to the video hosted on YouTube. Then it tipped into the mainstream and exploded.

Just over a week after “Plandemic” was released, it had been viewed more than eight million times on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and had generated countless other posts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Misinformation about covid-19 finds new avenues on unexpected sites, Elizabeth Dwoskin, May 20, 2020. Despite a tougher approach during the pandemic, misinformation continues to elude social media firms’ best efforts to police it.

Within days of social media companies taking down a viral video touting conspiracy theories about the novel coronavirus, a clip popped up on YouTube telling viewers about another way they could still access the banned footage: through a link to the video on the file-sharing service Google Drive.

Google Drive is not a social media platform, nor is it set up to tackle the problems that social media companies face: the weaponization of their services to amplify dangerous content. But the use of the Drive link, to the trailer for a documentary called “Plandemic,” reflects a wave of seemingly countless workarounds employed by people motivated to spread misinformation about the virus — efforts that continue to thwart social media google logo customcompanies’ attempts at preventing hoaxes and conspiracy theories from spreading in the midst of the greatest public health crisis in decades.

During the pandemic, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have adopted a more aggressive approach to policing misinformation than in the past. They have introduced new rules, such as removing posts that contradict guidance from public health agencies, deny that the virus exists or promote bogus scientific claims.

That has prompted those spreading covid-19 misinformation to try new methods, including using social media services that have not historically been platforms for news, such as the short video app TikTok, and productivity tools such as Google Drive and Google Docs. They’ve even used digital library Internet Archive. These services have more limited systems for policing content compared with the major social media platforms, which have spent years investing in moderation efforts in response to criticism.

ny times logofox news logo SmallNew York Times, At Fox News, Mixed Message on Malaria Drug: ‘Very Safe’ vs. ‘It Will Kill You,’ Michael M. Grynbaum, May 20, 2020 (print ed.). For two days running, Neil Cavuto has warned that a drug taken by President Trump, hydroxychloroquine, carries risks. Some of his colleagues disagree.

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, In some nations, government isolation centers helped reduce infections. The U.S. has resisted the strategy, Chelsea Janes, May 20, 2020. The facilities appeared helpful in breaking the chain of transmission, but experts have expressed concern about the legal and social consequences of requiring out-of-home isolation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Prototype Vaccines Protect Monkeys From Coronavirus, Carl Zimmer, May 20, 2020 (print ed.). Animal experiments could point the way to an effective human vaccine, scientists said.

A prototype vaccine has protected monkeys from the coronavirus, researchers reported on Wednesday, a finding that offers new hope for effective human vaccines.

Scientists are already testing coronavirus vaccines in people, but the initial trials are designed to determine safety, not how well a vaccine works. The research published Wednesday offers insight into what a vaccine must do to be effective and how to measure that.

“To me, this is convincing that a vaccine is possible,” said Dr. Nelson Michael, the director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

Scientists are engaged in a worldwide scramble to create a vaccine against the new coronavirus. Over a hundred research projects have been launched; early safety trials in humans have been started or completed in nine of them.

Next to come are larger trials to determine whether these candidate vaccines are not just safe, but effective. But those results won’t arrive for months.

In the meantime, Dr. Dan Barouch, a virologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and his colleagues have started a series of experiments on monkeys to get a broader look at how coronaviruses affect monkeys — and whether vaccines might fight the pathogens. Their report was published in Science.

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Raged at City Jails, Leaving 1,259 Guards Infected and 6 Dead, Jan Ransom, May 20, 2020. Correction officers in New York City live in fear of bringing the virus home to families. They say the city has not protected them.

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on New York City’s 9,680 correction officers and their supervisors, who, like the police and firefighters, are considered essential workers. So far, 1,259 have caught the virus and six have died, along with five other jail employees and two correctional health workers. The officers’ union contends that the death of one other guard is also the result of Covid-19.

The virus has sickened more correction officers in New York, the center of the pandemic in the United States, than in most other large American cities, including Chicago, Houston, Miami and Los Angeles combined, according to data collected by The New York Times.

A majority of the officers in New York City are black and Hispanic and come from neighborhoods with high rates of Covid-19. They have been even more deeply affected than inmates, who also have been hit hard. At least three inmates have died in custody, and two succumbed within hours of being released. Among about 3,900 inmates left in the city’s jails, 363 currently have tested positive for the coronavirus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Millions of people lost their jobs in hard-hit New England. Many fear their homes could be next, Tony Romm, May 20, 2020.  Widespread unemployment — and soon-expiring federal aid — could create a major financial crisis for homeowners and renters without more action from Washington, experts say.

As the coronavirus pandemic threatens to lapse late into the year, many families in New Hampshire and across the six-state New England region are coming to a similar, scary realization: It’s never been easy to afford a home or apartment here, and it’s about to become even more difficult.

ny times logoNew York Times, They Beat the Virus. Now They Feel Like Outcasts, Sarah Maslin Nir, May 20, 2020. Some survivors of the coronavirus describe being shunned by relatives and friends.

On the day Elizabeth Martucci and her 11-year-old son were deemed to have recovered from the coronavirus, they emerged from their home on the Jersey Shore with some sidewalk chalk to sketch a message in the driveway. “We are Covid survivors,” they wrote.

“I thought I’m going to tell everybody, ‘I had this, and I’m OK,’ just to show people it’s not a death sentence,” Ms. Martucci said.

Ms. Martucci soon learned that she had drastically underestimated the anxiety she and her son, Marcus, would encounter. Even now, a month into their recovery, some neighbors see them and run.

“It didn’t even occur to me — being shunned,” said Ms. Martucci, a real estate investor. “You’re looked at as a contagion, versus as a survivor.”

She said she had put the “Covid Survivor” T-shirts away.

Feeling stigmatized is not what many survivors said they expected after their tough bouts of illness. It carries a particular sting given the worldwide discussions about how reopening society will hinge in part on people with antibodies being able to return to work, and about how those who have recovered can donate convalescent plasma for experimental treatments of those who are still sick.

Pandemic Politics / Media

washington post logoWashington Post, Taxpayers face delays as IRS struggles with backlog, Lisa Rein, May 20, 2020 (print ed.). Out of 11,000 employees the agency has tried to reinstate, only 3,000 have returned to the office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Steps Up Attacks on Mail Vote, Making False Claims About Michigan, Reid J. Epstein, May 20, 2020. President Trump threatened to withhold federal funding for Michigan and Nevada if the states moved forward in expanding vote by mail.

“Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of primaries and the general election,” the president tweeted. “This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue secretary of state. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this voter fraud path!”

donald trump twitterThe Twitter post was the latest in a series of broadsides the president has aimed at the vote-by-mail process that has become the primary vehicle for voting in an electoral system transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Michigan’s secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, announced on Tuesday that she will send absentee ballot applications — and not actual ballots, as the president claimed — to the state’s voters, replicating an effort that elections officials across the country have made during the health crisis.

In a tweet posted on Wednesday, Ms. Benson, said that the state “sent applications, not ballots. Just like my G.O.P. colleagues in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia.” The president is scheduled to visit Michigan on Thursday.

Georgia’s Republican secretary of state and municipal officials in Milwaukee have also said they will send vote-by-mail applications to registered voters in hopes of easing stress on in-person voting locations.

us mail logoMr. Trump, along with many of his Republican allies, have during the coronavirus pandemic launched a series of false attacks to demonize mail voting as fraught with fraud and delivering an inherent advantage to Democratic candidates — despite there being scant evidence for either claim.

The president himself, along with the first lady, Melania Trump, voted by mail in Florida’s presidential primary in March.

Mr. Trump’s attacks on mail voting have come largely in states with little history of large numbers of people casting absentee ballots, like Wisconsin. But he has not addressed mail voting in states where it has long been popular, such as Florida and Arizona, and often used to great success by Republican campaigns. Nor has Mr. Trump denigrated mail voting in the five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — that conduct elections entirely by mail.

U.S. Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The key, often overlooked context of the investigation into Michael Flynn, Philip Bump, May 20, 2020. President Trump’s presentation of what happened with former national security adviser Michael Flynn is simple: Flynn was unfairly targeted in early 2017 as anti-Trump forces within the administration of Barack Obama — including Obama himself — sought to undercut the incoming president. The reality is far more complicated and far less suggestive than Trump’s “Obamagate” formulation would suggest.

We should start at the end. Earlier this month, the Justice Department filed a motion to drop charges Flynn faced for lying to investigators. That motion was deeply controversial, contingent upon an interpretation of events that casts Flynn in a surprisingly charitable light — and former Justice Department officials in a surprisingly negative one. The motion followed the release of documents focused on a January 2017 interview in which Flynn made the false statements (by his own admission).

FBI logoMore broadly, the investigation of Flynn, since shortly after his resignation from his position in the Trump administration, has been cast as an effort by the Obama administration to bend the rules and target a Trump ally. When Trump in March 2017 claimed that Trump Tower was wiretapped during the election campaign (a claim for which there is no evidence), his ally Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) revealed that there was some surveillance at play: Flynn’s interactions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were “unmasked” by Obama administration officials.

Now we should step back. It’s easy to consider the actions of the FBI and the Obama team in the context of what we know now, but it’s more useful to consider it in the context of what they knew then.

At the end of July 2016, the Justice Department was told about an interaction between a Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, and an Australian diplomat. Papadopoulos told the diplomat that he had learned that Russia had material incriminating Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 opponent. After material stolen from the Democratic National Committee began being released by WikiLeaks that month, the Australian government informed the United States about the Papadopoulos interaction. On July 31, the FBI launched an inquiry into Papadopoulos’s connections to Russia called “Crossfire Hurricane.”

Remember, the hacking of the DNC was publicly reported by The Post the month prior and quickly attributed to Russia. As far back as May 2016, then-Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. indicated that there were signs Russian hackers were targeting political campaigns. By the end of July, Clapper had publicly articulated suspicions that Russia might be trying to interfere in the election. By August, the CIA provided the White House with a report documenting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s specific instructions to do so.

Trump won the election and, on Nov. 17, announced that he would appoint Flynn as his national security adviser. That appointment came against Obama’s explicit recommendation. When the two met in the Oval Office on Nov. 10, Obama warned Trump against including Flynn in his administration. When that fact first emerged, it was attributed to Obama’s view of Flynn, which led to Flynn’s ouster from his position at the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014. We now know, of course, that Flynn was the subject of a counterintelligence investigation.

He may also have already been under investigation for his lobbying on behalf of Turkey. By the end of November, federal officials informed Flynn that his lobbying activity was being scrutinized.

It’s not clear when or how often Flynn spoke with Kislyak after being named as the incoming national security adviser. At least to us; federal intelligence agencies were clearly tracking Kislyak’s communications. In fact, that’s central to Flynn’s eventual fate.

richard burr djt palmer collage Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: We told you something wasn’t right with the Trump DOJ’s investigation into Richard Burr, Bill Palmer, May 20, 2020. Based on what’s already publicly known, it’s clear that Republican Senator Richard Burr (shown above) committed some form of insider trading when he dumped his personal stock portfolio based on what he learned about the coronavirus crisis in a classified briefing. The FBI/DOJ investigation into Richard Burr, which saw his cellphone seized earlier this month, is well warranted.

bill palmer report logo headerBut Richard Burr wasn’t the only GOP Senator who did this, and yet he appears to be the only one who’s being seriously targeted. This has all been a bit too convenient for Donald Trump, considering it’s already resulted in Burr losing his position as Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, just before the committee was set to release a report which would have helped confirm that Russia rigged the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. Now the whole thing is even more suspicious.

Now it turns out Bill Barr’s Department of Justice is making a point of handling the insider trading probe in-house, according to a new Politico expose. This is a big deal because the cases were supposed to have gone to the DOJ branch at the SDNY, which has jurisdiction because that’s where Wall Street is.

There is only one reason for Bill Barr to keep this insider trading investigation in-house: he wants to make sure the outcome fits his agenda, and the agenda of Donald Trump.

Bill Barr has incompetently bungled a number of things, from the McCabe case to the Roger Stone case to the Michael Flynn case. Barr isn’t nearly as skilled at these antics as people think he is. But it appears that, for now at least, Barr is successfully twisting the Burr case to suit his needs.

justin walker mouth open

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Judges or Federalist Society Judges? Try Both, Caroline Fredrickson and Eric J. Segall, May 20, 2020 (print ed.).The group says it doesn’t endorse nominees for public office. Say what?

When the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, called the chamber back into session two weeks ago, he did not do it to debate legislation regarding Covid-19 or other essential, time-sensitive business. Rather, as usual, he seemed mostly interested in having the Judiciary Committee consider confirming judges — this time most significantly Justin Walker, Mr. McConnell’s protégé, to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

This isn’t a surprise. The majority leader’s major priority for the last three years has been to confirm President Trump’s judicial nominees. Most of them have ties to the Federalist Society.

Despite having served for only six months as a federal district judge in Western Kentucky, a post for which the American Bar Association rated him unqualified because of his lack of trial or litigation experience, Judge Walker, 37, will no doubt be confirmed. (The A.B.A. now says he is qualified because of his legal scholarship and analytic ability.) He would be the youngest judge seated on the appeals court in Washington since 1983.

No doubt the urgency of his confirmation grows out of his full-throated defense of Brett Kavanaugh, for whom he served as a law clerk, at the Senate’s Kavanaugh hearings in 2018, and Judge Walker’s history in conservative legal circles, including the Federalist Society, which he joined his first year in law school.

The Federalist Society was in the news recently after the United States Judicial Conference issued a draft advisory opinion suggesting that federal judges should not be members of the society or of its liberal counterpart, the American Constitution Society, which one of us led for 10 years, and for which the other serves as a board member of its Georgia chapter.

This suggestion prompted a highly unusual letter from over 200 federal judges, nearly a quarter of the federal judiciary, condemning the idea.

Whether judges should be members of such organizations, including the American Bar Association, which rates judicial nominees, is a difficult question. But what this controversy has shown beyond doubt is that the Federalist Society has distorted how it actually operates.

The society describes itself as “a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order.” It adds that it does “not lobby for legislation, take policy positions, or sponsor or endorse nominees and candidates for public service.” (The American Constitution Society, by contrast, explains on its website its interest in seeing progressives on the bench.)

In their letter, the judges said that “it is simply not true that the Federalist Society takes legal or policy decisions.” Significantly, though, the judges were silent on whether the group supports nominees for public service. That omission makes sense, because the representation made by the Federalist Society on its website is misleading at best and demonstrably false at worst.

For years, the Federalist Society’s leadership has been at the center of conservative efforts to reshape the judiciary, led by the group’s co-chairman and former executive vice president, Leonard Leo, who after the 2016 election took a “leave of absence” from the group to assist the White House in its efforts to find and confirm federal judges.

As The Times reported in 2017, Mr. Leo “sits at the nexus of an immensely influential but largely unseen network of conservative organizations, donors and lawyers who all share a common goal: Fill the federal courts with scores of judges who are committed to the narrow interpretation of the Constitution that they believe the founders intended.”

Despite billing itself as a scholarly organization that promotes open debate, there is no doubt where the Federalist Society stands when it comes to federal judges.

Ms. Fredrickson is a former president of the American Constitution Society. Mr. Segall is a law professor at Georgia State University. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: ‘Jane Roe,’ from Roe v. Wade, made a stunning deathbed confession. Now what? Monica Hesse, May 20, 2020. What to make of Norma McCorvey?

This week, a new documentary drops a boulder into the already complicated legacy of the woman better known as “Jane Roe” — the plaintiff in the landmark 1973 case that legalized abortion in America. In the mid 1990s, McCorvey had made a public religious and political conversion. She was baptized on television in a backyard swimming pool; she wore overalls and came out beaming. She declared herself newly pro-life, and spent the last two decades of her life crusading against the ruling her own case had made possible.

But in “AKA Jane Roe,” premiering Friday on FX, McCorvey turns to the camera with an oxygen tube dangling from her nose and tells director Nick Sweeney, “This is my deathbed confession.”

She never really supported the antiabortion movement, she tells Sweeney, in a scene filmed in 2017. “I took their money and they put me out in front of the camera and told me what to say, and that’s what I’d say.”

“It was all an act?” the director asks.

“Yeah,” she says. “I was good at it, too.”

The revelation comes 60 minutes into the 80-minute documentary. By minute 70, McCorvey has died, succumbing to illness, leaving the people she knew on both sides of the most polarizing cultural debate in America slack-jawed and stunned.

McCorvey never had an abortion. A lot of people don’t realize that. By the time the Supreme Court handed down its decision, she’d been forced to carry out her pregnancy; the child had already been adopted.

It was her third time giving birth. One daughter had been primarily raised by McCorvey’s mother; McCorvey placed a second child for adoption. McCorvey strung together low-paying jobs in Texas and at various points struggled with substance abuse; she wasn’t prepared to become a parent.

Her desperate circumstances were what made her a suitable plaintiff. If she’d had money to travel to a locale where abortion was already legal, her attorneys wouldn’t have been able to argue that the current state-by-state solution placed an impossible burden on their client.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court for now stops House Democrats from seeing secret Mueller material, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, May 20, 2020. Justices put on hold for now a lower-court ruling that granted the House Judiciary Committee access to some grand jury material.

supreme court CustomThe court, without noted dissent, agreed with a request from the Department of Justice to put on hold a lower court decision granting the House Judiciary Committee some previously undisclosed material from Mueller’s investigation.

Solicitor General Noel Francisco told the Supreme Court it should withhold the sensitive information until it could review for itself significant separation of powers issues raised in the case. Despite the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Congress has no immediate need for the information, Francisco wrote in a brief to the court.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bible museum to forfeit another ancient artifact, Peggy McGlone, May 20, 2020. The rare tablet’s owner, Hobby Lobby, is suing Christie’s to recoup its $1.7 million purchase price.

U.S. 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump blames Democrats for his grounded campaign, even as bipartisan restrictions ban his signature rallies, Toluse Olorunnipa, May 20, 2020. The president has said he will soon be filling arenas for his political events.

President Donald Trump officialPresident Trump, approaching his longest stretch without a political rally since he announced his candidacy five years ago, has taken to blaming Democrats for grounding his campaign.

But even as several states begin relaxing their coronavirus restrictions, Trump has not scheduled any rallies in Republican-led states — and his campaign has not reached out to governors in swing states to inquire about holding large political events.

The claim of politically motivated closures was outlined most directly by Trump’s son, Eric, who accused Democrats of trying to strip the president of his greatest reelection weapon.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bernie Sanders, seeking peace with Joe Biden, asks his own delegates to turn down the volume, Sean Sullivan, May 20, 2020. Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose delegates staged a raucous rebellion against Hillary Clinton at the 2016 Democratic convention, is trying to engineer a different outcome this year — by turning down the volume on his social media-driven army of 2020 delegates.

The campaign of the senator from Vermont has told some supporters picked to represent him this year to sign agreements barring attacks on other candidates or party leaders, combative confrontations on social media or talking to reporters without approval.

The move, which carried a threat of being removed as a delegate, has the effect of blunting one of the most powerful if divisive tools of Sanders’s movement — its unrestrained online presence and tendency to stoke controversy through other media, which has at times spiraled into abuse of his opponents, perceived and real.

“Refrain from making negative statements about other candidates, party leaders, Campaigns, Campaign staffers, supporters, news organizations or journalists. This Campaign is about the issues and finding solutions to America’s problems,” said the social media policy sent to some delegates. “Our job is to differentiate the senator from his opponents on the issues — not through personal attacks.”

“Do your best to avoid online arguments or confrontations,” the policy said. “If engaging in an adversarial conversation, be respectful when addressing opposing viewpoints or commenting on the opposition.”

The agreements angered some Sanders delegates, and the campaign is now working with delegates to adjust its demands.

The rules, which were obtained by The Washington Post and confirmed by the Sanders campaign, were sent to some delegates last week. It was not known how broadly the rules were dispersed or who ordered them, but they included a social media policy, a nondisclosure agreement and a delegate code of conduct. The campaign declined to say what revisions it was planning.

“When delegates attend the Democratic convention, they will be representing Sen. Sanders, the ideas he ran on and the millions of working people who supported his campaign,” Sanders campaign spokesman Mike Casca said in a statement. “That is a serious responsibility and we’re asking them to follow a basic code of conduct while carrying out that duty.”

OpEdNews, The 100 Million Who Don’t Vote: Who Are They and Why? Marta Steele, May 20, 2020. A Brennan Center for Justice webinar answered this question today, with parts surprising, others predictable. The source document was a groundbreaking study released by the Knight Foundation, “The 100 Million Project: The Untold Story of American Non-Voters.” Twelve thousand non-voters were surveyed, all residents of swing states.

They turned out to be a diverse cross-section of Americans. If any generalizations were possible, the group tended to be “less educated, lower-income, and younger.”

Many of them have no trust in the system or the impact of their vote, said Myrna Perez, Director of the Voting Rights & Elections division of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center, and moderator of the event. Thirty-eight percent of them dislike the system and don’t trust in the accuracy of the vote count. Another large percentage believe that their vote will have no impact on their personal lives.

washington post logoWashington Post, Targeting Hunter Biden, Senate panel approves subpoena for lobbying firm over Democrats’ objections, Mike DeBonis, May 20, 2020. A Senate committee moved Wednesday to subpoena documents related to the son,right, of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden hunter bidenin an escalation of GOP congressional scrutiny of Biden’s time as vice president.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the subpoena on a party-line vote, more than two months after its chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), indicated that he planned to seek the documents concerning Hunter Biden’s work for the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

Johnson’s quest has generated fierce objection from Democrats, who argue that the inquiry is simply an election-year witch hunt meant to sling mud at President Trump’s likely November opponent. Some, including the committee’s top Democrat, have suggested that Johnson is serving as an unwitting pawn in a Russian disinformation campaign.

burisma logoJohnson’s subpoena targets documents and testimony in the custody of Blue Star Strategies, a lobbying firm that acted on behalf of Burisma and employed Andrii Telizhenko, a Ukrainian national linked to the energy company. Burisma employed Hunter Biden as a board member, paying him hundreds of thousands of dollars for a sinecure that he has acknowledged was the result, at least in part, of his father’s famous name.

At the time Hunter Biden served on Burisma’s board, his father was acting on behalf of the Obama administration to combat corruption in Ukraine. But no evidence has emerged to suggest that Joe Biden acted in that capacity to benefit his son.

In a letter to the panel Wednesday, Blue Star said there was no reason a subpoena would be necessary: “At no time have we ever stated or indicated in any way that we would not cooperate. Therefore, we are puzzled, despite our willingness to cooperate, why the Committee is proceeding to vote on a subpoena.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine’s Zelensky pulled back into U.S. political fray after leaked Biden audio, David L. Stern and Isabelle Khurshudyan, May 20, volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshot2020. The Ukrainian leader,right, called on law enforcement to investigate conversations between Biden and then-President Petro Poroshenko and said they might be perceived “as high treason.”

ukraine flagSpeaking at a news conference at Kyiv’s Mariinsky Park to mark the first anniversary of his presidency, Zelensky was again pulled into U.S. politics just eight months after a phone conversation between him and President Trump became the subject of an impeachment inquiry in Washington.

The recordings, which were first played at a news conference Tuesday in Kyiv, shed relatively little new light on Biden’s role in ousting Ukraine’s prosecutor general four years ago. But Zelensky’s comments Wednesday could have been aimed at appeasing Trump, discrediting a rival in Poroshenko and deflecting to investigators all in one swipe.

washington post logoWashington Post, Believer in QAnon conspiracy theory wins Republican Senate nomination in Oregon, Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis, May 20, 2020. Oregon Republicans on Tuesday elected a Senate nominee who believes in QAnon, the baseless conspiracy theory that has taken root among some far-right supporters of President Trump.

Jo Rae Perkins bested three other candidates to win the GOP nomination to face Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) in November.

In a video posted to her Twitter feed Tuesday night, Perkins declared that she supports the conspiracy theory, which revolves around “Q,” an anonymous Internet user claiming to be a government agent with top security clearance.

“Where we go one, we go all,” Perkins said in the video, reciting a QAnon slogan. “I stand with President Trump. I stand with Q and the team. Thank you Anons, and thank you patriots. And together, we can save our republic.”

djt beauty contests Custom

Crooks & Liars, Opinion: Kellyanne Suggests Biden Wants To Sexually Assault His Female VP Pick, John Amato, May 20, 2020. Kellyanne Conway insanely defends Trump, an admitted serial ‘p***y-grabber’ and does so this time by projecting Trump’s actions onto Joe Biden.

In her usual flippant and despicable fashion, Kellyanne Conway made this disgusting statement to toadie Ed Henry. Conway said, “You’ve seen the long shortlist of Joe Biden’s V.P. choices. They all happen to be female. He sounds like a co-ed at the end of a frat party: ‘I need a woman!’”

“So now he has binders of women he’s looking through,” she said as if he’s conducting a casting couch session for teenage beauty pageant contestants. Ring any bells for you, Kellyanne?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Ted Cruz is having a really bad night, Bill Palmer, May 20, 2020. You’re Ted Cruz. You’re still on Donald Trump’s team, even though he insulted your wife.

bill palmer report logo headerAfter Donald Trump inexplicably declassified a Susan Rice email that proves President Obama handled the Michael Flynn case properly, Ted Cruz tweeted this nonsense: “Wow. Ongoing spying from an outgoing POTUS on the incoming POTUS—directed by Obama himself—is unprecedented in the 243 years of our nation’s history.”

Everyone quickly piled on, telling Ted Cruz precisely where to shove it. Former FBI Assistant Director Frank Figliuzzi pointed out that Trump’s stunt had backfired on him. Patricia Arquette took a dig at Trump: “I prefer Presidents who care about National Security.” Adam Parkhomenko said this: “remember, Ted, it wasn’t President Obama who told the whole world your wife is ugly, you pathetic kiss ass.”

Inside DC

Business Insider, Trump is refusing to unveil Obama’s portrait at the White House, breaking a 40-year tradition, John Haltiwanger, May 19, 2020.  President Donald Trump will not hold a ceremony at the White House for the unveiling of former President Barack Obama’s portrait, NBC News reported.

This marks a break from a 40-year tradition honored by presidents from both parties. Trump and Obama have had an extraordinarily contentious relationship, which hit a new low in recent days as Trump made unfounded accusations that his predecessor committed an unspecified crime.

U.S. Safety Threats

ny times logoNew York Times, 2 Dams Fail in Michigan, Forcing Thousands to Evacuate, Daniel Victor and Christine Hauser, Updated May 20, 2020. The failure of the dams was expected to bring record-setting flooding, with the response complicated by the coronavirus.

Severe flooding struck central Michigan on Wednesday after two dams were breached by rain-swollen waters, forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents and prompting officials to warn of life-threatening danger.

The failures on Tuesday of the Edenville Dam and the Sanford Dam, about 140 miles northwest of Detroit, led the National Weather Service to issue a flash-flood warning for areas near the Tittabawassee River, with downstream effects expected from Midland to Saginaw.

Residents in nearby towns, including Edenville, Sanford and Midland, were evacuated. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said at a news conference on Tuesday that downtown Midland, with a population of more than 41,000, could be under nine feet of water by Wednesday morning.

About 10,000 people were evacuating from Midland, and about 1,000 more residents in townships outside of the city were ordered to leave their homes, Bridgette Gransden, a Midland County spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

World News

Daily Commercial News (Canada), World Trade Center 7 building did not collapse due to fire: Report, Ian Harvey, May 20, 2020. A group of engineers and architects is demanding the American National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) retract and correct a 2008 report that concluded one of three World Trade Center buildings collapsed because fire weakened the steel supporting it in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911T) has formally filed a Request for Correction with the NIST following a new and detailed four-year analysis by a team at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF).

It says the World Trade Center (WTC) building 7 collapse was a “near-simultaneous failure of every column in the building” and dismissed the NIST finding that heat from the fire caused beams to “walk off” their moorings.

Sept. 11, 2001 is the tragedy of when two hijacked planes hit the WTC 1 and WTC 2 towers sending debris tumbling onto WTC 7. The NIST claimed that embers ignited a fire which then caused the 47-storey building to collapse on itself at 5:20 p.m., hours after the initial incident that morning.

“We have filed a request for correction because the NIST report is wrong,” says Ted Walter, spokesperson for AE911T, which is a group of 3,000 engineers, scientists and architects, including more than a dozen Canadians ones, that paid US$316,000 for the study.

“From an engineering perspective it is imperative to understand how and why this building came down under design load conditions,” said Walter.

The study says NIST made some fundamental errors in how engineers estimated the rigidity of the outside building frame and that the heat generated by the fire did not trigger “thermal movements” at a critical base plate support.

Further, the group, which includes families of those killed, asserts that the investigation is flawed and that the conclusions as to what happened must be based on “science and engineering” and accept that controlled demolition is a plausible cause.

For expediency and because it was not hit by a plane, the study looked only at WTC 7 not the other two but AE911T has long claimed all three were subject to something beyond heat induced failure.

“The report notes that the outside frame was more flexible than the inside framing which is where the elevator shafts were,” says McMaster University professor emeritus of civil engineering, Robert Korol, a fellow of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineering who is also one of two peers who reviewed the UAF study.

“Under the conditions described, the displacement of the outside steel would have been only one inch, not the 6.25 NIST claimed and not enough to cause failure.”

Further, he says, the debris from WTC 1 which fell 943 feet to WTC 7 did not attain sufficient mass to cause structural damage to the steel in that building.

The bottom line, he says, is that the NIST report is flawed and of no value to future engineering or architectural learning.

The Alaska report adds new momentum to long standing claims by the AE911T that all three of the buildings should not have collapsed in the spectacular and deadly manner they did. Further, and Korol underlines this, there was nothing in the offices beyond basic desks, chairs, computers and paper that would be of such a combustible nature so as to feed a fire and raise the temperature to above 1,400 degrees Celsius and melt the steel structure.

“We don’t even know if the steel was fireproofed,” says Korol.

The group makes no assertion as to why it may have been a “controlled demolition” and says its only interest is in ensuring that there’s no need to rethink the structural steel design of highrises because the design was not at fault.

Dr. Leroy Hulsey trailer thumb headshot CustomUAF civil engineering professor Leroy Hulsey, left, principal investigator, his research assistants, Feng Xiao, now an associate professor at Nanjing University of Science and Technology and Zhili Quan, now a bridge engineer for the South Carolina Department of Transportation, found that the design standard of the building was not exceeded by the fire and that simultaneous and controlled demolition caused the structural steel to fail.

“Fires could not have caused weakening of displacement of structural members capable of initiating any of the hypothetical local failures alleged to have triggered the total collapse of the building,” the report states. “Nor could any local failures, even if they had occurred, have triggered a sequence of failures that would have resulted in the observed total collapse.”

The NIST report held that lateral support beams buckled because of thermal expansion from the fire and because they had “nowhere to go” and thus deformed and weakened the structural integrity. Other failures were triggered when joists and means “walked off” their connections, NIST found.

It was also the first NIST finding of a highrise collapse from thermal deformation caused by fire which the 125-page Alaska report disputes.

It presents arguments showing it was a simultaneous global failure not a localized failure causing a domino effect.

Hulsey et al argue that the collapse was straight down in a pancake fashion with about 2.25 to 2.5 seconds for free fall acceleration.

“In a typical building collapse (given a localized structural steel failure) WTC 7 would be expected to experience a combination of axial rotation and bending of members, resulting in a disjointed, asymmetrical collapse at less than free-fall acceleration,” the report states.

The study team undertook extensive computer and physical modelling, paying particular attention to the area around Column 79 which had been identified as the critical juncture of failure.

Their conclusion is that Columns 79, 80, and 81 did not fail at the lower floors of the building and were not subjected to heat above floor 30 because there were no fires there.

washington post logobrazil flag wavingWashington Post, Coronavirus seizes São Paulo as Trump ponders Brazil travel ban, Marina Lopes, May 20, 2020. Confirmed cases in the city have soared 34 percent and at least 510 people have died in the past week as the public health infrastructure buckles and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro continues to shrug off the crisis.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Is Playing the China Card. Who Believes Him? Susan E. Rice, May 20, 2020 (print ed.). He attacks Joe Biden to deflect blame for his terrible handling of Covid-19 and record of appeasing Beijing.

Desperate to obscure the reality of more than 90,000 American deaths and 36 million unemployed amid Mr. Trump’s utterly incompetent handling of the pandemic, Republicans have no better strategy than to play the China card. The Republicans are executing a 57-page campaign memo that recommends branding opponents “soft on China” and reveals their rationale for repeated refrains of the “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan lab.”

For Mr. Trump, attacking former Vice President Joe Biden on China serves three purposes: to dampen turnout among populist Democrats; to deflect blame for his deadly mishandling of the coronavirus for which he takes no “responsibility at all”; and most cynically, to try to turn his own blatant weakness on China into a political weapon. Mr. Trump’s penchant for projecting his personal failings onto others is one of his most familiar and dishonest ploys — whether the subject is corruption, nepotism, sexual assault or Russian interference in the 2016 election, as with so-called Obamagate.

china flag SmallOn China, Mr. Trump has much to fear from his own record.

To preserve his prized “Phase One” trade deal, which failed to change China’s unfair trading practices after a costly tariff war, Mr. Trump downplayed the risk of the coronavirus and heaped praise on President Xi Jinping. Fifteen times in January and February, Mr. Trump lauded Mr. Xi’s leadership on Covid-19. He fawned, “on behalf of the American people, I want to thank President Xi,” and insisted that “they are doing a very professional job,” despite strong evidence of China’s deceptive handling of the virus. Since early in his presidency, Mr. Trump has repeatedly kowtowed to Mr. Xi, gushing about his becoming “president for life” and proclaiming that his “respect and friendship with President Xi is unlimited.”

More dangerously, Mr. Trump’s policies have strengthened China at America’s expense. By antagonizing our Asian and European partners, he has lent impetus to China’s longstanding goal of rupturing our alliances, which constrain China’s global ambitions. By withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, Mr. Trump has left friends and foes alike to doubt American resolve, while ceding to China the mantle of steadfast global leader.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: How the Virus Pushed Germany to Shift Course, Steven Erlanger, May 20, 2020 (print ed.). Some may not like it back home, but in the twilight of her career, Angela Merkel joined with France to try to save the European Union.

In her time as chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel has seen the European Union put to the test by Brexit, a wave of migration, the Greek debt crisis and populism, and still she held to a largely steadfast course.

Then came the coronavirus.

german flagFaced with a tarnishing of her own legacy and a deep recession gutting her own country and its main trading partners, Ms. Merkel this week agreed to break with two longstanding taboos in German policy.

Along with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, Ms. Merkel proposed a 500 billion euro fund to help the European Union member states most ravaged by the virus.

The proposal, which is hardly a done deal, departs from two central elements of German orthodoxy, said Jean Pisani-Ferry, an economist and former French government adviser.

It would allow the transfer of funds from richer countries to those more in need. And it would do so with money borrowed collectively by the European Union as a whole.

It will not be popular in Germany, and it may help populist opponents on the political extremes. But Ms. Merkel, in the twilight of her long political career, has put the interests of the 27-nation union — which embeds Germany into Europe as much as NATO does — before her domestic concerns.

washington post logoWashington Post, Saudi Arabia, other gulf states reimpose strict measures after coronavirus cases spike during Ramadan, Sarah Dadouch, May 20, 2020. Saudi Arabia had recorded about 15,000 cases when Ramadan began. But in less than a month, the kingdom’s numbers quadrupled, with nearly 60,000 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, making it the Arab world’s new hotbed of infection.

ny times logoNew York Times, More Than 900 Children Have Been Expelled Under a Pandemic Border Policy, Caitlin Dickerson, May 20, 2020. Since the coronavirus broke out, the Trump administration has deported hundreds of migrant children alone, sometimes without notifying their families.

The last time Sandra Rodríguez saw her son Gerson, she bent down to look him in the eye. “Be good,” she said, instructing him to behave when he encountered Border Patrol agents on the other side of the river in the United States, and when he was reunited with his uncle in Houston.

The 10-year-old nodded, giving his mother one last squinty smile. Tears caught in his dimples, she recalled, as he climbed into a raft and pushed out across the Rio Grande toward Texas from Mexico, guided by a stranger who was also trying to reach the United States.

Ms. Rodríguez expected that Gerson would be held by the Border Patrol for a few days and then transferred to a government shelter for migrant children, from which her brother in Houston would eventually be able to claim him. But Gerson seemed to disappear on the other side of the river. For six frantic days, she heard nothing about her son — no word that he had been taken into custody, no contact with the uncle in Houston.

Finally, she received a panicked phone call from a cousin in Honduras who said that Gerson was with her. The little boy was crying and disoriented, his relatives said; he seemed confused about how he had ended up back in the dangerous place he had fled.

Hundreds of migrant children and teenagers have been swiftly deported by American authorities amid the coronavirus pandemic without the opportunity to speak to a social worker or plea for asylum from the violence in their home countries — a reversal of years of established practice for dealing with young foreigners who arrive in the United States.

The deportations represent an extraordinary shift in policy that has been unfolding in recent weeks on the southwestern border, under which safeguards that have for decades been granted to migrant children by both Democratic and Republican administrations appear to have been abandoned.

washington post logoWashington Post, The pandemic may forever change the world’s cities, Ishaan Tharoor, May 20, 2020. The imperatives of social distancing have plunged the world into a giant experiment in remote work, and some office workers may never want to return to the stresses, steep housing costs and public health risks associated with life in a dense, big city.

washington post logoindia flag mapWashington Post, Cyclone Amphan makes landfall in India and Bangladesh as millions are evacuated, Joanna Slater and Niha Masih, May 20, 2020 (video). The storm brought winds of up to 115 miles an hour and surging waters as high as 16 feet to low-lying areas of India and Bangladesh.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bellicose U.S.-China rhetoric looms over inauguration of Taiwan’s president, Gerry Shih, May 20, 2020. Taiwan has emerged as a focal point in the U.S.-China rivalry as Tsai Ing-wen begins her second term.

Personal Virus Solutions

washington post logoWashington Post, An RV retirement is still possible. Just expect to spend more time in your own driveway, Gregory Scruggs, May 20, 2020. For those who spent years planning to hit the open road in retirement, the coronavirus has forced a whole suite of decisions about housing and finances.

“We’re going after Virginia with your crazy governor. … They want to take your Second Amendment away. You know that right? You’ll have nobody guarding your potatoes.”

President Trump, to farmers assembled at the White House

washington post logoWashington Post, Humor: I am a simple potato guardian who needs my Second Amendment rights, Alexandra Petri, May 20, 2020. I am a potato guardian. This is the only life I have known. Here is my tale, one no doubt familiar to you, just as the concept of a person who guards potatoes in Virginia is familiar.

May 19

Top Pandemic Stories

Virus Victims, Remedies

Trump Scandals

Trumped Up Justice.

U.S. Courts, Crime

Inside DC

World News

 

Top Pandemic Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Reports: All 50 States Move to Ease Restrictions, but Rules Vary Widely, Staff Report, May 19, 2020. More changes take effect Wednesday, but vast discrepancies remain as states forge ahead after shutdowns.

W.H.O. member nations rejected President Trump’s demands for punitive action, but they agreed to study the organization’s response to the virus.
The C.D.C. released reopening guidance that largely mirrored a version the White House had rejected, minus a section on religious institutions.

Here’s what you need to know:

• All 50 states have reopened to some degree. The rules still vary widely.
• C.D.C. releases guidance that the White House had rejected.
• Colleges weigh fall classes, plus quarantine dorms and mask requirements.
• Hydroxychloroquine studies are suffering amid the uproar over Trump.
• Mnuchin warns Congress of a risk of ‘permanent damage’ to the economy.
• A judge says all Texas voters can cast mail-in ballots during the pandemic.
• Missouri carried out the nation’s first execution in months on Tuesday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Trump Says He Takes Drug Against Covid-19. There’s No Proof It Works, Staff Reports, May 19, 2020 (print ed.). Despite a lack of evidence that the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine can prevent Covid-19, President Trump said he had been taking it.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Favorable Result Seen in First Small Human Trial of Coronavirus Vaccine, Denise Grady, May 19, 2020 (print ed.). The manufacturer, Moderna, said it is on an accelerated timetable to begin a larger human trial soon.

The first coronavirus vaccine to be tested in people appears to be safe and able to stimulate an immune response against the infection, the manufacturer, Moderna, announced on Monday, offering a glint of hope to a world desperate for ways to stop the pandemic.

The preliminary findings, in the first eight people who each received two doses of the experimental vaccine, must now be repeated in far larger tests in hundreds and then thousands of people, to find out if the vaccine can work in the real world. Moderna’s technology, involving genetic material from the virus called mRNA, is relatively new and has yet to produce any approved vaccine.

The promising early news sent Moderna’s stock soaring by more than 25 percent on Monday afternoon and helped drive Wall Street to its best day in six weeks. Stocks were also lifted by statements from the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, that the central bank would continue to support the economy and markets.

Trading on Monday had all of the characteristics of a rally focused on prospects for a return to normal: The S&P 500 rose more than 3 percent; stock benchmarks in Europe were 4 percent to 6 percent higher; and oil prices also jumped. Among the best performers in the S&P 500 were travel-related companies, like United Airlines, Expedia Group and Marriott International.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mnuchin, Powell try to defend efforts to revive economy as senators press for answers, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein, May 19 2020.  Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) alleged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was putting workers’ lives at risk by pressing to quickly reopen economy.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday tried to defend the Trump administration’s economic response to the coronavirus pandemic, facing pointed questions from one Democratic senator who alleged workers’ lives were being put at risk.

During a Senate Banking Committee hearing, conducted by videoconference, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) pressed Mnuchin on the White House’s push to rapidly reopen parts of the economy even as health care advisers have urged more caution.

“How many workers should give their lives to increase our [gross domestic product] by half a percent?” Brown asked Mnuchin.

“No workers should give their lives to do that, Mr. Senator, and I think your characterization is unfair,” Mnuchin responded.

President Trump has said in the past that it is possible the push to reopen parts of the economy quickly could lead to more deaths, but his advisers have said numerous precautions are being taken to prevent problems.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell also testified at the hearing. He and Mnuchin were asked numerous questions about whether the government was acting quickly enough to try to arrest the economic downturn. Powell also told lawmakers that more spending could help prevent the recession from deepening.

  • Washington Post, Trump’s senior advisers predict swift economic recovery, despite warnings that major problems could persist, May 19 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump threatens to permanently cut WHO funding, leave body if changes aren’t made within 30 days, Teo Armus, May 19, 2020.  Trump said the WHO had floundered in its early responses to the coronavirus outbreak as he continued to attack the global health agency and its chief for being too soft on China.

world health organization logo CustomPresident Trump threatened Monday to permanently halt U.S. funding to the World Health Organization and “reconsider” the country’s membership in the U.N. body if it does not “commit to major substantive improvements” within the next 30 days.

In a letter to the WHO posted in a late-night tweet, Trump said the global health agency floundered in its early responses to the coronavirus outbreak. In particular, he continued to attack the organization and its director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, accusing them of being too soft on China, where the virus is believed to have originated.

Trump temporarily suspended U.S. payments in April for 60 days, an unpopular move that critics said was aimed at distracting from his own administration’s response to the pandemic. His ultimatum Monday, which came as WHO member countries conferred about the pandemic, donald trump twittermay provoke more backlash at the international level.

The president did not specify what changes were needed for him to restore U.S. donations, the WHO’s largest single source of funding. But he said discussions between the United States and the agency’s leaders were already underway.

“It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world,” Trump wrote.

Although Trump at first praised China’s efforts to combat the outbreak earlier this year, he has since shifted to slamming the WHO for allegedly promoting misinformation from Beijing. His letter reiterated many of his accusations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: China hits back at Trump’s 30-day WHO funding ultimatum,Staff reports, May 19, 2020. Former FDA commissioner says limited exposure is probably keeping Trump safe,

China FlagChinese officials hit back Tuesday at President Trump’s threat to permanently halt U.S. funding to the World Health Organization, calling his announcement an attempt to mislead the public and “shift blame” for his administration’s “incompetent response” to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to the WHO that he tweeted late Monday, Trump said he would “reconsider” U.S. membership if the U.N. body does not “commit to major substantive improvements” within the next 30 days. The president froze U.S. funding in April over a 60-day period, cutting off the agency’s largest single source of funds.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (2018 photo via D. Procofieff and Flickr) CustomTrump’s letter to the WHO reiterated claims that the global health body and its director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, floundered in their early responses to the coronavirus outbreak and were too soft on China, where the coronavirus is believed to have originated. But the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Trump’s announcement was a cheap shot to “smear China” and shirk financial obligations that had been jointly determined by WHO member states.

“The unilateral U.S. move to stop funding is a violation of its own international obligations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters Tuesday. “We are still in a critical juncture, and supporting the WHO is upholding multilateralism and supporting international anti-pandemic cooperation to save lives.”

Chinese state media soon revved into gear on official channels and on social media to portray the Chinese president as a world leader who cared for the global “community” and the WHO as an indispensable agency that coordinated the international response and offered technical guidance.

Meanwhile, Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb said President Trump is probably protected from the novel coronavirus because of the White House’s stringent measures to screen those who interact with him.

“My belief would be that he’s at very low risk of contracting covid,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Tuesday morning. “I would hope that even if there was a drug that could provide some prophylactic value, some preventative value, the president himself wouldn’t need to use it because he’d be in a bubble.”

Trump told reporters on Monday he is taking the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and zinc with the White House doctor’s knowledge, despite warnings of side effects and a lack of scientific evidence that the drug can ward off the coronavirus.

Gottlieb said some doctors in Europe were taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure, but he noted data has not supported the effectiveness of the drug against the virus.

Virus Victims, Remedies

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 89,000 people have died from coronavirus in the U.S., Joe Fox, Brittany Renee Mayes, Kevin Schaul and Leslie Shapiro, covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Data as of May 19 at 8:09 a.m. At least 1,502,000 cases have been reported.

The disease caused by the novel coronavirus has killed at least 89,000 people in the United States. The country’s earliest covid-19 fatality was thought to be a 58-year-old man near Seattle, whose death was announced Feb. 29. But on April 22, officials in California announced that tissue from two people who had died in early and mid-February in Santa Clara County had tested positive, signaling that the virus may have spread in the country weeks earlier than was previously thought.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opportunists are benefiting in a chaotic underground market for face masks, Desmond Butler, Juliet Eilperin and Tom Hamburger, May 19, 2020 (print ed.). In the absence of a White House strategy to supply the nation with adequate personal protective equipment, hospitals compete with states and the federal government in an international marketplace so full of chicanery that nearly every transaction is suspect.

Alexis Wong, a Hong Kong-based trader who’s been exporting medical masks since the early days of the covid-19 crisis, says the business brings out every species of crook. But she likes to joke that the market for the iconic N95 mask is in perfect balance.

“You have buyers with no money and sellers with no product,” she says.

The international market for desperately needed medical masks is riddled with fraud. Up and down the supply chain, from factories to hospitals, opportunists are benefiting from the chaotic market as prices have quintupled. Rampant price gouging and fraud has provoked dozens of lawsuits and hundreds of cease-and-desist orders, from major mask manufacturers as well as state attorneys general.

While profiteers and crooks make their fortunes, medical workers across the United States are rationing masks, recycling them and treating infected patients without them. The federal government has taken steps to address the shortages, but emergency management experts say the efforts were distressingly inadequate. The Trump administration ignored early warnings that it needed to shore up its stockpile of masks and other personal protective equipment and has fallen behind several other Western nations in the race to secure them, documents and interviews show.

washington post logoWashington Post, The need to go is a big barrier to going out. Why public bathrooms are a stumbling block for reopening, Marc Fisher, May 19, 2020 (print ed.). Concerns about catching the coronavirus in public restrooms are keeping some people home, and that could be a major issue for concert venues, sports arenas, movie theaters and schools.

Trump Scandals

washington post logoWashington Post, House tells Supreme Court that Mueller grand jury material is needed now, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow May 19, 2020 robert mueller full face file(print ed.). Justices should reject the Justice Department’s request for another delay, House lawyers told the court.

A House committee’s investigation of President Trump “did not cease with the conclusion of the impeachment trial,” congressional lawyers told the Supreme Court on Monday, and it would be stymied if the Justice Department continues to withhold grand jury material.

The new filing comes in response to the department’s request that the Supreme Court put aside court orders that Congress receive secret grand jury evidence from Robert S. Mueller III’s special-counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump administration asks Supreme Court to stop release of Mueller material

U.S. House logoThe U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in March upheld a lower-court finding that Congress can obtain grand jury materials in connection with impeachment proceedings — an exception to secrecy rules that typically prevent release of such evidence.

Last week, the Justice Department said the decisions created “serious separation-of-powers concerns” that demand the Supreme Court’s attention and asked that it put on hold release of the information until the court decides whether to get involved.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s rage at a Fox News anchor contains a key tell, Greg Sargent, May 19 2020. President Trump watches Fox News obsessively and constantly tweets examples of Fox News personalities extolling his glorious greatness. But every now and then, Trump explodes with rage at the network — when it departs from its mission to function as his personal 24/7 propaganda channel and lapses into momentary truth-telling.

Trump is again raging at Fox News, because anchor Neil Cavuto challenged Trump’s new declaration that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine. Cavuto noted that numerous studies have shown the drug’s benefits are unproven and that taking it with preexisting conditions can kill you.

That set off Trump. Only this time, there’s a key tell lurking underneath Trump’s fury: His own doctor has yet to say whether Trump is actually taking the drug.

It’s often said Trump has badly perverted a crucial aspect of a president’s duties. By downplaying the threat posed by the virus, he has prioritized his own political needs over the imperative of setting a presidential example that might lead Americans to better protect themselves.

But in this case, the perversion may be even deeper. Trump is trying to persuade Americans to believe hydroxychloroquine is safe, only he’s doing so without genuinely confirming that he himself is taking it.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s death spiral, Robert Harrington, May 19, 2020. So, we have an obese president who will be 74 years old next month, whose diet is a calamity of junk composed of greasy hamburgers, french fries and fried chicken, food bereft of anything like fresh vegetables, who abuses drugs and never exercises — giving medical advice. Specifically, he is once again advocating taking hydroxychloroquine.

bill palmer report logo headerHe takes it (or so he claims) and he’s not dead and he says he tests negative for coronavirus so it must be good stuff, right? Also, there are no uncaged wild lions roaming the streets of Washington DC so, by the same logic, routine hydroxychloroquine use also prevents uncaged wild lions.

Trump confirmed that he was taking hydroxychloroquine during a Monday night press briefing. Fox News host Neil Cavuto interrupted the briefing to stress that hydroxychloroquine can and will kill you if you take it. It is a documented fact that taking hydroxychloroquine has killed people with medical conditions. In response, Trump retweeted a tweet from Bill Mitchell who states categorically that “CAVUTO IS AN IDIOT. THIS DRUG DOES NOT KILL PEOPLE.” So there you have it, science by simple contradiction via tweet. Welcome to the deadly modern world.

The problem is — and it really does give me pain to write this — that because Trump is a tyrant he appeals to other tyrants, and men (and occasionally women) who are in Trump’s thrall and hold tyrannical sway over their families will now begin to systematically murder their families with hydroxychloroquine. The connection is inescapable. Look for deaths from hydroxychloroquine soon. In a world where “more is better” among the ignorant, look for overdoses of the stuff too. Because that’s how things work in the Information Age.

Trumped Up Justice.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s attempts to smear Obama could backfire spectacularly, Eugene Robinson, right, May 19, 2020 (print ed.). Provoking eugene robinson headshot Customthe man who could inspire millions of African Americans to vote in 2020 just isn’t smart.

President Trump’s increasingly frantic attempts to smear former president Barack Obama reek of panic. As disgusting as these efforts are, they are likely to backfire, perhaps in spectacular fashion.

Late last month, according to widely published reports, Trump’s campaign aides presented him with internal polling that showed him losing to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the key swing states. The aim was to get Trump to curtail his unhinged daily novel coronavirus briefings, and he grudgingly complied. But he also launched an all-out attack on Obama and his legacy — a gambit that should cause GOP candidates nationwide to lose sleep.

Polls show the Republican Party in danger of losing not only the presidency but also the Senate in November. A key element of the party’s strategy for remaining in power is using the made-up specter of “voter fraud” to depress Democratic turnout. You will recall that if Hillary Clinton had squeezed just a total of 80,000 more votes out of three Democratic strongholds — Milwaukee, Detroit and Philadelphia — she would now be campaigning for reelection and Trump would be just another Twitter troll.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: William Barr just punched a hole in Trump’s baseless ‘Obamagate’ trial balloon, Aaron Blake, May 19, 2020 (print ed.). Barr’s comments about “ginning” up investigations into political opponents could be read to be about President Trump and the Russia investigation as well as Trump’s baseless “Obamagate” push.

william barr new oLast week, President Trump baselessly accused former president Barack Obama and former vice president Joe Biden of engaging in corrupt activities.

On Monday, Trump’s own attorney general, William P. Barr, punched a hole in that conspiracy theory — whether he intended to or not.

During a news conference at the Justice Department, Barr said that he did not foresee any criminal investigations involving Obama or Biden, despite Trump’s push. And he went on to decry the kind of politics that leads to such thinly substantiated allegations.

“The legal tactic has been to gin up allegations of criminality by one’s political opponents based on the flimsiest of legal theories,” Barr said. He added that “as long as I’m attorney general, the criminal justice system will not by used for partisan political ends. And this is especially true for the upcoming elections in November.”

Barr went on: “We cannot allow this process to be hijacked by efforts to drum up criminal investigations of either candidate. And I’m committed that this election will be conducted without this kind of interference.”

The comments came in response to a question about Trump’s “Obamagate” allegations, but they could be read as also about Trump and the Russia investigation, which Barr has repeatedly derided in stark terms. Barr made a point to spotlight those allegations in his comments Monday.

  • Washington Post, Barr installs top DOJ aide, prosecutor of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago trespasser, over U.S. prosecutors in Washington, May 19, 2020 (print ed.).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: ‘Obamagate’ is here to stay, Hugh Hewitt, May 19, 2020 (print ed.). Al Sharpton asked me this on his Saturday cable news show: “What is ‘Obamagate?’ ”

“The intentional interference with the peaceful transition of power,” I responded.

I explained that the American tradition of peaceful transition of power is the “glory of the Republic.” The central charge of the many for which “Obamagate” is shorthand: Senior members of the administration of President Barack Obama made efforts to cripple President Trump’s ability to govern via unconstitutional methods throughout the transition and even into the first three years of his term.

Zerlina Maxwell, opposite me on Sharpton’s virtual set, characterized the term “Obamagate” as a racist talking point.

Those on the left who seek to diminish Obamagate should know that what they are doing is attempted censorship, an obvious effort to delegitimize the most legitimate of inquiries: Did Obama or any of his senior team — in the White House, the FBI or Justice Department or any of the intelligence agencies, with or without his knowledge — act to sabotage Trump’s assumption of power and effective administration of the executive branch?

This question haunts the left; they fear it and assert without any evidence that those who demand answers are birthers. Like Joe McCarthy branding liberals “communists,” the new McCarthyists on the left are trying use a label to defame opponents rather than study the record.

U.S. Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court says victims of al-Qaeda bombings entitled to billions in punitive damages, Robert Barnes, May 19, 2020 (print ed.). In case brought by Sudan, the justices unanimously said Congress authorized such penalties.

Victims of the 1998 bombings by al-Qaeda of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania are entitled to billions of dollars in punitive damages from Sudan, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The bombings killed 224 people and injured thousands, and courts determined long ago that Sudan enabled them by letting Osama bin Laden operate from the country and providing passports to al-Qaeda members.

A judge in Washington approved more than $10 billion in damages, of which $4.3 billion was for punitive damages.

The question before the court concerned a 2008 amendment to the federal Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which generally protects foreign governments from lawsuits but also details the exceptions to such protection. Acts of terrorism are one such exception.

But a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2017 said Congress had not been specific when authorizing retrospective lawsuits that punitive damages were allowed.

In a unanimous decision written by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, the Supreme Court disagreed. (Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh recused himself, presumably because he had been involved with the case while on the D.C. Circuit.)

While perhaps not explicit, “Congress was as clear as it could have been when it authorized plaintiffs to seek and win punitive damages for past conduct” by amending the law to allow suits for past acts of terrorism, Gorsuch wrote.

Damages for the attacks, in which 12 Americans died, were awarded by default, because Sudan did not defend itself in the initial proceedings. It retained lawyers to fight the punitive damages award, however.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s pick for top intelligence post clears divided Senate panel, Shane Harris, May 19 2020. Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.), a staunch Trump supporter who faced difficult questions about his credentials and whether he is capable of acting independently, is expected to be confirmed in a full Senate vote in coming weeks.

Texas congressman John Ratcliffe (R) took a step closer to becoming President Trump’s top intelligence adviser on Tuesday, after the Senate Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to move his nomination to the full Senate.

Committee members voted 8 to 7 in favor of Ratcliffe as the next director of national intelligence, following an extraordinary hearing earlier this month held under social distancing guidelines. Ratcliffe sat far back from masked senators who questioned him on his credentials and whether he was capable of acting independently of his political allegiance to the president.

Concerns that the Trump administration is attempting to use classified intelligence to political ends flared again last week, after the acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, gave Attorney General William P. Barr a list that he had declassified of former Obama administration officials, including former vice president Joe Biden, who may have received intelligence documents identifying former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The practice, known as unmasking, is commonplace in government.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s use of unproven drug prompts concerns, ridicule, Allyson Chiu, May 19 2020. “He’s our president, and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump moves to return medical supply chains to the U.S., David J. Lynch, May 19 2020. Trump administration said it has awarded a $354 million contract to a Virginia start-up that will manufacture a variety of generic drugs and their ingredients — including medicines used to treat covid-19 — at advanced manufacturing facilities in the United States.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Greenhouse gases saw a dramatic 17 percent plunge due to coronavirus lockdowns, Chris Mooney, Brady Dennis and John Muyskens, May 19 2020. The plunge is equivalent to more than a billion tons of carbon dioxide that never made its way into the atmosphere. But experts say emissions could quickly bounce back as social distancing ends and economies reopen.

May 18

Pandemic Top Headlines

bo virtual commencements 5 16 2020

Pandemic Victims, Solutions

Inside DC

2020 U.S. Elections /  Politics

#MeToo Cases 

 

Pandemic Top Headlines

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S.-China Feud Over Coronavirus Erupts at World Health Assembly, Andrew Jacobs, Michael D. Shear and Edward Wong, May 18, 2020. China’s president pledged $2 billion to fight the virus, a move the U.S. criticized as an effort to head off scrutiny of its handling of the pandemic.

world health organization logo CustomA meeting of the World Health Organization that was supposed to chart a path for the world to combat the coronavirus pandemic instead on Monday turned into a showcase for the escalating tensions between China and the United States over the virus.

President Xi Jinping of China announced at the start of the forum that Beijing would donate $2 billion toward fighting the coronavirus and dispatch doctors and medical supplies to Africa and other countries in the developing world.

The contribution, to be spent over two years, amounts to more than twice what the United States had been giving the global health agency before President Trump cut off American funding last month, and it could catapult China to the forefront of international efforts to contain a disease that has claimed at least 315,000 lives.

But it was also seen — particularly by American officials — as an attempt by China to forestall closer scrutiny of whether it hid information about the outbreak to the world.

Mr. Xi made his announcement by videoconference to the World Health Assembly, an annual decision-making meeting of the W.H.O. that is being conducted virtually this year because of safety considerations during the pandemic. Mr. Trump declined to address the two-day gathering, providing the Chinese president an opening to be one of the first world leaders to address the 194 member states.

“In China, after making painstaking efforts and sacrifice, we have turned the tide on the virus and protected lives,” Mr. Xi said. “We have done everything in our power to support and assist countries in need.”

In videotaped remarks to the assembly after Mr. Xi spoke, Alex M. Azar II, the U.S. secretary of health and human services, countered with sharp criticism of both the W.H.O. and China, saying their handling of the coronavirus outbreak led to unnecessary deaths.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Be very, very careful’: An undertaker’s view of London’s outbreak, William Booth, May 18, 2020. Kafil Ahmed runs an Islamic funeral service out of the back of a prominent mosque in southeast London. Even as someone accustomed to seeing death up close, he has witnessed things during the pandemic that he never could have imagined.

ny times logoNew York Times, Poor Countries Borrowed Billions From China. They Can’t Pay It Back, Maria Abi-Habib and Keith Bradsher, May 18, 2020. Nations want Beijing to forgive or renegotiate loans as their economies suffer. Doing so would be costly, but saying no could hurt China’s global image.

As the coronavirus spread around the globe, Pakistan’s foreign minister called his counterpart in Beijing last month with an urgent request: The country’s economy was nose-diving, and the government needed to restructure billions of dollars of Chinese loans.

Similar requests have come flooding in to Beijing from Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka and a number of African nations, asking to restructure, delay repayments or forgive tens of billions of dollars of loans coming due this year.

With each request, China’s drive to become the developing world’s biggest banker is backfiring. Over the last two decades it unleashed a global lending spree, showering countries with hundreds of billions of dollars, in an effort to expand its influence and become a political and economic superpower. Borrowers put up ports, mines and other crown jewels as collateral.

Now, as the world economy reels, countries are increasingly telling Beijing they can’t pay the money back.

ny times logoNew York Times, Thinking of Buying a Bike? Get Ready for a Very Long Wait, Christina Goldbaum, May 18, 2020. As life in major U.S. cities shrinks, hundreds of thousands of Americans are flocking to one of the most basic forms of mobility: the bicycle.

Some bicycle shops in Brooklyn are selling twice as many bikes as usual and drawing blocklong lines of customers. A chain of shops in Phoenix is selling three times the number of bikes it typically does. A retailer in Washington, D.C., sold all its entry-level bikes by the end of April and has fielded more preorders than ever in its 50-year history.

As the coronavirus pandemic shrinks life in major American cities — limiting pastimes and discouraging use of buses and subways — hundreds of thousands of Americans are flocking to one of the most basic forms of mobility: the bicycle.

In March, nationwide sales of bicycles, equipment and repair services nearly doubled compared with the same period last year, according to the N.P.D. Group, a market research company. Sales of commuter and fitness bikes in the same month increased 66 percent, leisure bikes jumped 121 percent, children’s bikes went up 59 percent and electric bikes rose 85 percent.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigator Fired by Trump Had Examined Weapons Sales to Saudis, May 18, 2020. Edward Wong and David E. Sanger, May 18, 2020. A Democratic House committee chairman said the inquiry might have been “another reason” that President Trump fired the State Department inspector general.

The State Department inspector general fired by President Trump on Friday was in the final stages of an investigation into whether the administration had unlawfully declared an “emergency” last year to allow the resumption of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their air war in Yemen.

Employees from the office of the inspector general, Steve A. Linick, presented preliminary findings to senior State Department officials in early March, before the coronavirus forced lockdowns across the United States. But it was not clear whether that investigation, or others that Mr. Linick had underway, led to his dismissal.

Mr. Trump, speaking about the latest in his series of firings of inspectors general around the government, said on Monday of Mr. Linick: “I don’t know him. Never heard of him. But they asked me to terminate him.” He apparently was referring to a recommendation he received from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“I have the absolute right as president to terminate,” Mr. Trump added. “I said, ‘Who appointed him?’ and they say, ‘President Obama.’ I said, ‘Look I’ll terminate him.’”

The investigation into how Mr. Pompeo moved to end a congressional hold on arms sales to the Saudis was prompted in part by demands from the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, who said on Monday that the subsequent investigation might have been “another reason” for the firing of Mr. Linick. The White House announced the firing Friday night under a provision that requires 30 days’ notice to Congress before removing an inspector general.

Democratic leaders in Congress and several Republican lawmakers said on Monday that Mr. Trump had not given sufficient justification for the firing and that they wanted answers during the 30-day review period.

Pandemic Top Stories

The Atlantic, Investigation: State and Federal Data on COVID-19 Testing Don’t Match Up, Robinson Meyer and Alexis C. Madrigal, June, 2020. The CDC has quietly atlantic logostarted releasing nationwide numbers. But they contradict what states themselves are reporting.

For the past 11 weeks, the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic has been the country’s only reliable source for national testing data. (The tracker compiles the number of tests reported by each U.S. state and territory daily.) While the CDC has provided only occasional and rudimentary tallies of total tests, data from the COVID Tracking Project have been used by Johns Hopkins University, governors and members of Congress, and the White House.

atlantic logo horizontalWith the new CDC site, the federal government is providing regular testing data again, and for the first time ever, it is doing so on a state-by-state level. But an initial analysis of the CDC’s state-level data finds major discrepancies between what many states are reporting and what the federal government is reporting about them. In Florida, for example, the disparity is enormous. The state government reported on Friday that about 700,000 coronavirus tests have been conducted statewide since the beginning of the outbreak.

This count should be authoritative: Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered hospitals and doctors to report their test results to the Florida Department of Health. Yet the CDC reported more than 919,000 tests in the state in that same period. That’s 31 percent more tests than Florida itself seems to think it has conducted. (Because the CDC says it does not update its data on the weekends, we have, throughout this article, compared its figures against the numbers reported by each state on Friday.) When we asked the CDC to explain the discrepancy in Florida, the agency declined to comment on the record.

“If this is what they’re getting, the CDC should pick up the phone and call the state of Florida and say, ‘What’s happening?’” Ashish Jha, the K.T. Li Professor of Global Health at Harvard, told us.

Given the complexity and the multisource nature of the data, some variations should certainly be anticipated. But the inconsistencies we found suggest that Florida is not an outlier. Using the state numbers that match the CDC’s output most closely, in 22 states, the CDC’s reported number of tests diverges from the number reported by the state government by more than 10 percent. In 13 states, it diverges by more than 25 percent. In some cases, the CDC’s tallies are much higher than what states are reporting; in others, much lower.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Obama Says U.S. Lacks Leadership on Virus in Virtual Commencement Speeches, Audra D. S. Burch and John Eligon, Updated May 18, 2020 (print ed.). The virus has “torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” former President Barack Obama said.

Without the springtime rituals of traditional graduation ceremonies, former President Barack Obama delivered two virtual commencement addresses on Saturday, urging millions of high school and college graduates to fearlessly carve a path and “to seize the initiative” at a time when he says the nation’s leaders have fumbled the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The speeches, aired hours apart, combined the inspirational advice given to graduates — build community, do what is right, be a leader — with pointed criticism of the handling of an outbreak that has killed more than 87,000 Americans and crippled much of the economy.

“More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” Mr. Obama said in his first address, directed at graduates of historically black colleges and universities. “A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”

Although Mr. Obama did not mention President Trump by name, some saw his comments as criticism of his successor.

In speeches that spoke to social inequities, Mr. Obama said the pandemic was a wake-up call for young adults, showing them the importance of good leadership and that “the old ways of doing things just don’t work.”

“Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy — that’s how little kids think,” he said during a prime time special for high school seniors. “Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grown-ups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still think that way — which is why things are so screwed up. I hope that instead, you decide to ground yourself in values that last, like honesty, hard work, responsibility, fairness, generosity, respect for others.”

Mr. Obama’s comments were one of his few public addresses to a national audience during the outbreak, and he said a leadership void had created a clear mandate for the graduates: “If the world’s going to get better, it’s going to be up to you,” he said.

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has berserk profane late night meltdown after Fox News lashes out at him, Bill Palmer, May 18, 2020.  After Donald Trump announced today that he’s taking hydroxychloroquine, despite its lack of effectiveness against the coronavirus and its deadly side effects, Fox News host Neil Cavuto put his foot down. Cavuto flat out said to Trump, “It will kill you.” He also urged Fox viewers not to take Trump’s advice regarding the drug.

bill palmer report logo headerLet’s just say that Donald Trump isn’t taking any of this very well. After someone tweeted “What an asshole” about Neil Cavuto, Trump retweeted it. Trump added, “Fox News is no longer the same. We miss the great Roger Ailes. You have more anti-Trump people, by far, than ever before. Looking for a new outlet!”

Donald Trump went on to call Cavuto “foolish & gullible” while hurling a bunch of other insults at him. Trump is completely losing it. This is a disturbing meltdown even for him.

2020 U.S. Elections / Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Race to Assemble Bold Governing Agenda for Pandemic Era, Alexander Burns, May 18, 2020 (print ed.). Joseph R. Biden Jr. has shed his primary-season theme of restoring political normalcy, replacing it with promises of sweeping economic change. He signaled that he is willing to reopen his platform, announcing task forces combining his supporters with left-wing allies of Senator Bernie Sanders.

More than 36 million Americans are suddenly unemployed. Congress has allocated $2.2 trillion in aid, with more likely to be on the way as a fight looms over government debt. Millions more people are losing their health insurance and struggling to take care of their children and aging relatives. And nearly 90,000 are dead in a continuing public health catastrophe.

This was not the scenario Joseph R. Biden Jr. anticipated confronting when he competed for the Democratic nomination on a conventional left-of-center platform.

Now, with Mr. Biden leading President Trump in the polls, the former vice president and other Democratic leaders are racing to djt maga hatassemble a new governing agenda that meets the extraordinary times — and they agree it must be far bolder than anything the party establishment has embraced before.

So far, neither Mr. Biden nor Mr. Trump has defined in itemized terms what an agenda for the first 100 days of a new presidency in the coronavirus era might look like. But on the Democratic side, far more than within the Republican Party, there is an increasingly clear sense of the nature and scale of the goals a new administration would pursue.

Mr. Biden’s campaign has been rapidly expanding its policy-drafting apparatus, with the former vice president promising on Democratic-Republican Campaign logosMonday to detail plans for “the right kind of economic recovery” within weeks. He has already effectively shed his primary-season theme of restoring political normalcy to the country, replacing it with promises of sweeping economic change.

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Is Ronan Farrow Too Good to Be True? Ben Smith, May 18, 2020 (print ed.). He has delivered revelatory reporting on some of the defining stories of our time. But a close examination reveals the weaknesses in what may be called an era of resistance journalism.

Ronan Farrow, in Los Angeles in February, may now be the most famous investigative reporter in America.Credit…Danny Moloshok/Reuters

It was a breathtaking story, written by The New Yorker’s marquee reporter and published with an attention-grabbing headline: “Missing Files Motivated the Leak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records.”

ronan farrowIn it, the reporter, Ronan Farrow, right, suggests something suspicious unfolding inside the Treasury Department: A civil servant had noticed that records about Mr. Cohen, the personal lawyer for President Trump, mysteriously vanished from a government database in the spring of 2018. Mr. Farrow quotes the anonymous public servant as saying he was so concerned about the records’ disappearance that he leaked other financial reports to the media to sound a public alarm about Mr. Cohen’s financial activities.

The story set off a frenzied reaction, with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes calling it “an amazing shocking story about a whistle-blower” and his colleague Rachel Maddow describing it as “a meteor strike.” Congressional Democrats demanded answers, and the Treasury Department promised to investigate.

Two years after publication, little of Mr. Farrow’s article holds up, according to prosecutors and court documents. The Treasury Department records on Michael Cohen never went “missing.” That was merely the story put forward by the civil servant, an Internal Revenue Service analyst named John Fry, who later pleaded guilty to illegally leaking confidential information.

The records were simply put on restricted access, a longstanding practice to prevent leaks, a possibility Mr. Farrow briefly allows for in his story, but minimizes. And Mr. Fry’s leaks had been encouraged and circulated by a man who was barely mentioned in Mr. Farrow’s article, the now-disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti, a passionate antagonist of Mr. Cohen.

Mr. Farrow may now be the most famous investigative reporter in America, a rare celebrity-journalist who followed the opposite path of most in the profession: He began as a boy-wonder talk show host and worked his way downward to the coal face of hard investigative reporting. The child of the actress Mia Farrow and the director Woody Allen, he has delivered stories of stunning and lasting impact, especially his revelations about powerful men who preyed on young women in the worlds of Hollywood, television and politics, which won him a Pulitzer Prize.

I’ve been watching Mr. Farrow’s astonishing rise over the past few years, marveling at his ability to shine a light on some of the defining stories of our time, especially the sexual misconduct of the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, which culminated with Mr. Weinstein’s conviction in February just before the pandemic took hold. But some aspects of his work made me wonder if Mr. Farrow didn’t, at times, fly a little too close to the sun.

ronan farrow catch and kill CustomBecause if you scratch at Mr. Farrow’s reporting in The New Yorker and in his 2019 best seller, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, you start to see some shakiness at its foundation. He delivers narratives that are irresistibly cinematic — with unmistakable heroes and villains — and often omits the complicating facts and inconvenient details that may make them less dramatic. At times, he does not always follow the typical journalistic imperatives of corroboration and rigorous disclosure, or he suggests conspiracies that are tantalizing but he cannot prove.

Mr. Farrow, 32, is not a fabulist. His reporting can be misleading but he does not make things up. His work, though, reveals the weakness of a kind of resistance journalism that has thrived in the age of Donald Trump: That if reporters swim ably along with the tides of social media and produce damaging reporting about public figures most disliked by the loudest voices, the old rules of fairness and open-mindedness can seem more like impediments than essential journalistic imperatives.

That can be a dangerous approach, particularly in a moment when the idea of truth and a shared set of facts is under assault.

The New Yorker has made Mr. Farrow a highly visible, generational star for its brand. And Mr. Farrow’s supporters there point out the undeniable impact of his reporting — which ousted abusers like New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, and helped rewrite the rules of sex and power in the workplace, sometimes with his colleague Jane Mayer. Ken Auletta, The New Yorker writer who helped Mr. Farrow take his work from NBC to the magazine, said that the important thing is that Mr. Farrow helped reveal Mr. Weinstein’s predatory behavior to the world and bring him down.

“Are all the Ts crossed and the Is dotted? No,” Mr. Auletta said of some of Mr. Farrow’s most sweeping claims of a conspiracy between Mr. Weinstein and NBC to suppress his work.

“You’re still left with the bottom line — he delivered the goods,” Mr. Auletta said.

David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, defended Mr. Farrow’s reporting, calling it “scrupulous, tireless, and, above all, fair.”

“Working alongside fact checkers, lawyers and other editorial staff members at The New Yorker, he achieved something remarkable, not least because he earned the trust of his sources, many of whom had to relive traumatic events when they talked to him,’’ Mr. Remnick said in a statement. “We stand by Ronan Farrow’s reporting. We’re proud to publish him.”

Mr. Farrow, in his own statement to The New York Times, said he brings “caution, rigor, and nuance” to each of his stories. “I’m proud of a body of reporting that has helped to expose wrongdoing and to bring important stories into public view.”

It’s impossible, however, to go back and answer the question of whether Mr. Farrow’s explosive early reporting would have carried such power if he’d been more rigorous and taken care to show what he knew and what he didn’t. Is the cost of a more dramatic story worth paying? Because this much is certain: There is a cost.

That becomes clear in an examination of Mr. Farrow’s debut article on Mr. Weinstein, back in October 2017, which provided the first clear, on-the-record claim that Mr. Weinstein had gone beyond the systematic sexual harassment and abuse revealed days earlier by The Times into something that New York prosecutors could charge as rape. The accuser was Lucia Evans, a college student whom Mr. Weinstein had approached at a private club, and then later lured to his office with a promise of acting opportunities. There, she told Mr. Farrow, he forced her to perform oral sex on him.

But a fundamental principle of the contemporary craft of reporting on sexual assault is corroboration: the painstaking task of tracking down friends and neighbors a traumatized victim may have confided in soon after the assault, to see if their accounts align with the victim’s story and to give it more — or less — weight. In much of the strongest #metoo reporting, from the stories about Mr. Weinstein in The New York Times to The Washington Post’s exposé of Charlie Rose and even some of Mr. Farrow’s other articles, clunky paragraphs interrupt the narrative to explain what an accuser told friends, and often, to explore any conflicting accounts. Americans are now watching this complicated form of reporting play out in the stories about Tara Reade, who has accused Joe Biden of assaulting her.

Mr. Farrow’s first big story on Mr. Weinstein offered readers little visibility into the question of whether Ms. Evans’s story could be corroborated. He could have indicated that he had, or hadn’t, been able to corroborate what Ms. Evans said, or reported what her friends from the time had told the magazine. He wrote instead: “Evans told friends some of what had happened, but felt largely unable to talk about it.”

It appears Mr. Farrow was making a narrative virtue of a reporting liability, and the results were ultimately damaging.

A crucial witness, the friend who was with Ms. Evans when both women met Mr. Weinstein at the club, later told prosecutors that when a fact checker for The New Yorker called her about Mr. Farrow’s story, she hadn’t confirmed Ms. Evans’s account of rape. Instead, according to a letter from prosecutors to defense lawyers, the witness told the magazine that “something inappropriate happened,” and refused to go into detail.

But the witness later told a New York Police Department detective something more problematic: That Ms. Evans had told her the sexual encounter with Mr. Weinstein was consensual. The detective told the witness that her response to the magazine’s fact checker “was more consistent” with Ms. Evans’s allegation against Mr. Weinstein and suggested she stick to The New Yorker version, prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorneys office later acknowledged. The detective denied the exchange, but when Mr. Weinstein’s lawyers unearthed the witness’s contradictory accounts, the judge dismissed the charge. Mr. Weinstein’s lawyers gloated, though, of course, their client was ultimately convicted on other counts.

#MeToo Cases

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: ‘Believe All Women’ Is a Right-Wing Trap, Susan Faludi, May 18, 2020. Joe Biden has been accused of sexual assault, and conservatives are having a field day, exultant that they’ve caught feminists in a new hypocrisy trap.

A woman, with no corroboration beyond contemporaneous accounts, charges a powerful man with a decades-old crime? Hmm, doesn’t that sound mighty close to Christine Blasey Ford’s complaint against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh? Yet this time, many liberals who’ve championed the #MeToo movement seem skeptical?

May 17

Trump Reprisals,Oversight

Pandemic Top Headlines

bo virtual commencements 5 16 2020

2020 U.S. Elections /  Politics

Virus Victims, Relief

World News

Media News

 

Trump Reprisals Continue

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washington post logoWashington Post, With firing of State Dept. inspector general, Trump ramps up retaliatory purge, Philip Rucker, Karen DeYoung, Lisa Rein and Hannah Knowles, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). The termination of Steve A. Linick again showed the president challenging norms of U.S. governance in his push to rid the federal bureaucracy of officials he considers insufficiently loyal to or protective of him and his administration.

President Trump accelerated his retaliatory purge of public servants by firing the State Department’s inspector general, who had played a minor role in the president’s impeachment proceedings and was said to have begun investigating alleged misconduct by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

steve linick 2013 CustomActing on Pompeo’s recommendation, Trump abruptly terminated Steve A. Linick, left, late Friday night, again challenging established norms of American governance in his push to rid the federal bureaucracy of officials he considers insufficiently loyal to or protective of him and his administration. Trump replaced Linick with Stephen J. Akard, a trusted ally of Vice President Pence and the diplomat who directs the Office of Foreign Missions. He also replaced the acting inspector general at the Department of Transportation on Friday night.

Inspectors general serve as internal government watchdogs conducting oversight of federal agencies — and although they technically are political appointees, their independence has long been protected. Trump’s move — his fourth such firing during the coronavirus pandemic — drew swift condemnations from Democrats and at least one Republican on Capitol Hill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) decried what she termed a “dangerous pattern of retaliation against the patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking Democrat, Robert Menendez (N.J.), jointly launched an investigation Saturday into Linick’s firing.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Trump Ousted State Dept. Watchdog at Pompeo’s Urging, Catie Edmondson and Michael D. Shear, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). Congressional Democrats opened an investigation into what they said “may be an act of illegal retaliation” by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The lawmakers said Steve Linick, the State Department’s inspector general, had opened an investigation into Secretary of State’s conduct.

mike pompeo portraitSecretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, urged President Trump to fire the official responsible for fighting waste and fraud in his department, a White House official said Saturday, a recommendation certain to come under scrutiny after congressional Democrats opened an investigation into what they said “may be an act of illegal retaliation.”

Mr. Trump told Speaker Nancy Pelosi late Friday night that he was ousting Steve A. Linick, who led the office of the inspector general at the State Department, and replacing him with an ambassador with close ties to Vice President Mike Pence.

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, immediately called the decision to remove Mr. Linick an “outrageous act” meant to protect Mr. Pompeo from accountability.

By Saturday, Mr. Engel and Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had opened an investigation into Mr. Linick’s removal, citing a pattern of “politically motivated firing of inspectors general.”

In letters to the White House, the State Department and Mr. Linick, the two Democrats wrote that they believed Mr. Linick had opened an investigation into wrongdoing by Mr. Pompeo and that Mr. Pompeo had responded by recommending that Mr. Linick be fired. The lawmakers did not provide any more details, but a Democratic aide said that Mr. Linick had been looking into whether Mr. Pompeo improperly used a political appointee at the State Department to perform personal tasks for him and his wife.

Since starting his current job in April 2018, Mr. Pompeo has come under growing public scrutiny for what critics say is his use of the State Department’s resources for personal endeavors. Mr. Menendez has called for Mr. Pompeo to explain how he can justify frequent trips to Kansas, his adopted home state, using State Department funds and aircraft. He has brought his wife, Susan Pompeo, on many trips abroad, telling others she is a “force multiplier” for him. And CNN reported last year that congressional officials were looking at potential misuse of diplomatic security personnel for personal errands. That did not result in the opening of a formal inquiry.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s slow-motion Friday night massacre of inspectors general, Aaron Blake, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). The unprecedented spate of removals and their timing have reinforced how President Trump is rather obviously seeking to undermine independent oversight of his administration.

The Friday news dump — also known as the Friday night news dump — is a political trick with plenty of precedent. Wait till the vast majority of the news business clocks out for on the week, and announce something you’d rather they not cover as much. People won’t be reading as much news at that point anyway, and perhaps it’ll be dismissed as old news by Monday morning.

Few are as blatant about using this tactic, though, as the Trump White House.

News broke late Friday night that Trump had removed the inspector general for the State Department, Steve Linick. It’s the third time in six weeks that such a move has been announced on a Friday night, with each inspector general having done something to pretty obviously alienate Trump. The unprecedented spate of removals has reinforced how Trump is rather obviously seeking to undermine independent oversight of his administration — and the timing of each of them only reinforces that.

djt tweet kayleigh supergirl Custom

The impeached Donald Trump retweeted on Saturday the above image of his new communications director.

Palmer Report, Opinion: There goes that argument, Bill Palmer, May 17, 2020. This past week’s Supreme Court arguments were made remotely via audio conference, so we’ll just have to assume that Donald Trump’s attorneys had a straight face when they argued that Trump is simply too busy in his role as President of the United States to bother answering a subpoena from Congress, or from a grand jury.

bill palmer report logo headerBut if Trump’s attorneys told him to play along with the ruse this week by acting like he was busy, then Trump didn’t get the memo, or he didn’t know how to read the memo. Trump spent Saturday tweeting a video of himself poorly superimposed into the movie Independence Day, and tweeting a disturbing image of his new White House Press Secretary in some kind of Supergirl cosplay costume.

Again, this is at a time when Donald Trump’s attorneys are trying to convince the Supreme Court that he’s too busy with the duties of the office to comply with a lawful subpoena. John Roberts will cast the deciding vote using the same methodology he always uses: whatever he thinks is going to make him a power broker, as opposed to what the Constitution says.

Roberts saved Obamacare because he wanted to create an environment where the left and right cater their cases to him, because he craves power. We’ll see what side he comes down on this time. But if Roberts is looking for an excuse to vote against Donald Trump, these idiotic tweets are in fact a solid legal argument that Trump isn’t too busy with his duties to answer the subpoena.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: There is a huge difference between Christine Blasey Ford and Tara Reade, Jennifer Rubin, right, May 17, 2020. When Tara jennifer rubin new headshotReade, a former staffer in the office of then-Sen. Joe Biden, stepped forward to make a claim that Biden had sexually violated her, an endless stream of commentary ensued: It’s hard to not believe her if you believed Christine Blasey Ford (who accused Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexual assault when both were teenagers). Democrats are in a pickle! Live by the “believe women” rule!

This effort at moral equivalency made the same error that all such comparisons do: It attempted to treat unequal things as equal. In the case of Ford, she had never changed her account of an assault at a party, which Kavanaugh denies. She testified under oath, credibly recounting the episode. There was also another alleged incident of sexual misconduct from Kavanaugh’s time at Yale, which a credible third party reported having witnessed (which Kavanaugh has also denied). Although we will never know for certain, Kavanaugh’s denial of heavy drinking and his implausible explanations about his calendar undercut his testimony.

In the case of Reade, the overwhelming weight of evidence suggests no sexual assault occurred. To conclude she is telling the truth, you would have to believe that, for the first and only time in his career, Biden decided to assault a woman in a fully visible spot in the Capitol. Reade, as previously reported, repeatedly modified her story. At one point she claimed the assault had been documented in a written complaint. After Biden denied the incident, she said come to think of it, the complaint wouldn’t have included the assault portion. There was plenty here to set off alarm bells. Sure enough, the more media entities investigated, the more flaky Reade’s story seemed.

PBS published a massive investigation on Friday, which included interviews with 74 former Biden staffers, 62 of them women. Rather than any hint of impropriety, “people who spoke to the NewsHour described largely positive and gratifying experiences working for Biden, painting a portrait of someone who was ahead of his time in empowering women in the workplace.” (Some did, however, acknowledge his nonsexual touchy-feely conduct, for which Biden has apologized.) In addition, the investigation spoke to a staffer who sat next to Reade and “told the NewsHour that Reade was fired for her poor performance on the job, which he witnessed — not as retaliation for her complaints about sexual harassment.”

Finally, the specifics of her allegation — that Biden accosted her in a hallway when she brought him his gym bag — turn out to be wholly improbable:

Reade’s attorney told the NewsHour that Reade recalls the assault happening “in a semiprivate area like an alcove” and that it was “somewhere between the Russell (building) and/or Capitol building.” He pointed out that survivors often have difficulty with specifics about trauma. … A recent walk through that area showed the subway tunnel contains no out-of-view areas, like an alcove. The remaining portion of the route includes multiple stairwells as well as corridors lined with offices. It is a main thoroughfare for senators and staffers.

Politico also investigated Reade’s charge, interviewing more than a dozen people. “A number of those in close contact with Reade over the past 12 years, a period in which she went by the names Tara Reade, Tara McCabe or Alexandra McCabe, laid out a familiar pattern: Reade ingratiated herself, explained she was down on her luck and needed help, and eventually took advantage of their goodwill to extract money, skip rent payments or walk out on other bills,” Politico found. “The people [interviewed] provided copies of past emails, screenshots of Facebook Messenger or text exchanges with Reade, copies of billing invoices or court records detailing their grievances or correspondence.

“Believe women” does not mean we must be blind to facts or engage in willful blindness. Sexual assault is a crime. In our system of justice and in the court of public opinion, facts still matter, and not all allegations are equally meritorious. Some are downright false. With regard to Reade, it’s long past time the media stopped indulging in the notion that if you believe Ford, you must believe Reade.

Pandemic Top Stories

The Atlantic, Investigation: State and Federal Data on COVID-19 Testing Don’t Match Up, Robinson Meyer and Alexis C. Madrigal, June, 2020. The CDC has quietly atlantic logostarted releasing nationwide numbers. But they contradict what states themselves are reporting.

For the past 11 weeks, the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic has been the country’s only reliable source for national testing data. (The tracker compiles the number of tests reported by each U.S. state and territory daily.) While the CDC has provided only occasional and rudimentary tallies of total tests, data from the COVID Tracking Project have been used by Johns Hopkins University, governors and members of Congress, and the White House.

atlantic logo horizontalWith the new CDC site, the federal government is providing regular testing data again, and for the first time ever, it is doing so on a state-by-state level. But an initial analysis of the CDC’s state-level data finds major discrepancies between what many states are reporting and what the federal government is reporting about them. In Florida, for example, the disparity is enormous. The state government reported on Friday that about 700,000 coronavirus tests have been conducted statewide since the beginning of the outbreak.

This count should be authoritative: Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered hospitals and doctors to report their test results to the Florida Department of Health. Yet the CDC reported more than 919,000 tests in the state in that same period. That’s 31 percent more tests than Florida itself seems to think it has conducted. (Because the CDC says it does not update its data on the weekends, we have, throughout this article, compared its figures against the numbers reported by each state on Friday.) When we asked the CDC to explain the discrepancy in Florida, the agency declined to comment on the record.

“If this is what they’re getting, the CDC should pick up the phone and call the state of Florida and say, ‘What’s happening?’” Ashish Jha, the K.T. Li Professor of Global Health at Harvard, told us.

Given the complexity and the multisource nature of the data, some variations should certainly be anticipated. But the inconsistencies we found suggest that Florida is not an outlier. Using the state numbers that match the CDC’s output most closely, in 22 states, the CDC’s reported number of tests diverges from the number reported by the state government by more than 10 percent. In 13 states, it diverges by more than 25 percent. In some cases, the CDC’s tallies are much higher than what states are reporting; in others, much lower.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Global Updates: 8,000 Quarantined in China Amid New Infections, Staff reports, May 17, 2020. Qatar is threatening people who don’t wear masks with prison time. A Nigerian fraud ring is suspected of siphoning millions of dollars in U.S. unemployment payments. Here’s the latest.

• Chinese officials have quarantined 8,000 people in the country’s northeast.
• How France was left defenseless in the face of a pandemic.
• Nigerian fraud ring is implicated in a vast attack on U.S. unemployment agencies.
• From a New Jersey hotel room, an Indian musician plays with artists from around the world.
• In Brazil, national confusion helped fuel the virus’s spread.
• Will Cirque du Soleil rise again?
• U.S. roundup: Barack Obama criticized the virus response in two virtual commencement speeches.

Officials concerned about a virus resurgence have quarantined 8,000 people and reintroduced lockdown measures in northeastern China, even as other parts of the country further relax restrictions.

Residents of Jilin, the second-largest city in Jilin Province, have been mostly barred from leaving the city, state news media reported, after a cluster of infections was reported there and in Shulan, another city under its administration. Shenyang, capital of the neighboring province of Liaoning, said on Saturday that anyone who had traveled there from the city of Jilin since April 22 would be quarantined in a hospital for three weeks.

Jilin has traced nearly 700 contacts of coronavirus patients for testing and quarantine, while officials in Liaoning Province have found more than 1,000 contacts and about 6,500 people at high risk for infection.

2020 U.S. Elections / Politics

washington post logoruth marcus twitter CustomWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s strategy: First, dismantle Mueller. Then peddle ‘Obamagate,’ Ruth Marcus, right, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump wants to wipe away the stain of Russian interference on his behalf in the 2016 election. There are two tracks in this effort: one that reached its culmination in the past week, the other percolating for years but weaponized recently by Trump himself.

Think of the first as “The Great Undoing,” the effort to unravel the work of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The second can be best described as “Lock Her Up 2,” a cynical plan to deploy rhetoric that is as overheated as it is unspecific — “OBAMAGATE!” — in the service of tarnishing the opposition.

The Great Undoing has been long in the making. The president has seethed since the moment his first attorney general recused himself from the Russia inquiry and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein appointed a special counsel to oversee the investigation.

The entire point of naming a special counsel is that it would undermine public confidence in the impartiality of the outcome if the ordinary leadership of the Justice Department ran the investigation. Therefore, bringing in an outside party would be in “the public interest,” as the regulation explains.

But, of course, Trump has no conception of the public interest, only of his own interest. He cannot fathom — and he earned himself an obstruction-of-justice investigation as a consequence — that the department is supposed to operate independently of the White House, or that the attorney general is not, in fact, intended to function as his own personal Roy Cohn.

Axios Sneak Peek, Trump leans toward keeping total cut to WHO funding, Jonathan Swan, May 17, 2020. President Trump is leaning toward preserving his total funding cut for the World Health Organization after being on the brink of announcing he’d restore partial funding to the global health agency, according to three sources familiar with the situation. A fourth source, a senior administration official, cautioned that the decision-making was fluid and was still subject to change.

Behind the scenes: Trump spent his weekend at Camp David with some of his closest Republican allies in the House of Representatives. A source familiar with the private discussions said that House members at Camp David pressed Trump “to not give a dime to WHO.”

2. Why Deborah Birx is the real power doctor. Don’t be fooled by the grandmotherly demeanor and whimsical scarf collection. Administration officials say they’ve been taken aback by Deborah Birx’s masterful political skills — including a preternatural ability to get what she wants while telling people what they want to hear.

She’s better than any of the other public health officials at talking to Trump. While MAGA-land has spent weeks trying to get Anthony Fauci fired, Birx has been far more adept at influencing the president and shaping the administration’s response to the global coronavirus pandemic.

djt mitch mcconnell Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump picks weird fight with Mitch McConnell as his presidency falls apart, Bill Palmer, May 17, 2020. Donald Trump, whose cognitive abilities are collapsing in real time, and his campaign advisers, who are all complete idiots, have decided that their best bet in 2020 is to promote a laughably phony scandal about President Obama. Trump’s problem with this “Obamagate” nonsense is two-fold.

First, this is an incredibly stupid idea. Donald Trump is historically unpopular, and by promoting an obviously fake scandal about the historically popular Obama, he’s merely going to cost himself votes. That’s why Mitch McConnell doesn’t seem to want anything to do with it. McConnell is corrupt and evil, but he’s not an idiot. He’s not willing to throw away the Senate in November just because Trump wants jealous revenge on Obama.

bill palmer report logo headerSo now Trump has decided that he needs to pick a fight with McConnell of all people. Trump tweeted this: “Mitch, I love you, but this is 100% true. Time is running out. Get tough and move quickly, or it will be too late. The Dems are vicious, but got caught. They MUST pay a big price for what they have done to our Country. Don’t let them get away with this!” Then he posted multiple retweets with a similar message.

Donald Trump seems to think that by picking a fight with Mitch McConnell in public like this, Trump’s base will begin placing so much pressure on McConnell and the GOP Senate, McConnell will have to cave and start doing things like asking President Obama to testify. One can only hope McConnell ends up caving, because Trump’s strategy here is unbelievably self defeating.

Trump also has to be careful here. Mitch McConnell has been propping Trump up all along, but only because McConnell has felt that it was what was best for himself and his own career. If McConnell ultimately decides that Trump is becoming too much of a liability, McConnell can selfishly push Trump out of office and take his chances in 2020 with a different republican presidential nominee. Trump is playing a dangerous game. But then again, desperate stupid people usually are playing it dangerously.

Virus Victims, Relief

washington post logoWashington Post, Crisis exposes how U.S. has hollowed out its government, Dan Balz, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). Its halting response represents chronic weaknesses and years of underinvestment, compounded by President Trump’s open hostility to the federal bureaucracy.

The government’s halting response to the coronavirus pandemic represents the culmination of chronic structural weaknesses, years of underinvestment and political rhetoric that has undermined the public trust — conditions compounded by President Trump’s open hostility to a federal bureaucracy that has been called upon to manage the crisis.

Federal government leaders, beginning with the president, appeared caught unaware by the swiftness with which the coronavirus was spreading through the country — though this was not the first time that an administration seemed ill-prepared for an unexpected shock. But even after the machinery of government clanked into motion, missteps, endemic obstacles and lack of clear communication have plagued the efforts to meet the needs of the nation.

washington post logoWashington Post, After comparing virus measures to Nazi rule, lawmaker says Hitler was not white supremacist, Hannah Knowles and Candace Buckner, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). An Alaska lawmaker emailed his statehouse colleagues to compare health screening stickers to badges that singled out Jews during the Holocaust.

The uproar began when an Alaska lawmaker emailed all 39 of his statehouse colleagues to compare health-screening stickers to the badges that singled out Jews during the Holocaust.

“If my sticker falls off, do I get a new one or do I get public shaming too?” Rep. Ben Carpenter (R) wrote Friday, sharing his dismay at a new requirement for legislators returning to the Alaska Capitol amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. “Are the stickers available as a yellow Star of David?”

The backlash was swift: “Ben, this is disgusting,” one Jewish representative wrote back in emails first posted by the Alaska Landmine. “I don’t think a tag that we’re cleared to enter the building is akin to being shipped to a concentration camp,” responded another. The leader of the state House’s Republican delegation said Carpenter should apologize.

But Carpenter dug in.

“Can you or I — can we even say it is totally out of the realm of possibility that covid-19 patients will be rounded up and taken somewhere?” he said later in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News, arguing that officials are overreacting to the virus with limits on people’s liberty. “People want to say Hitler was a white supremacist. No. He was fearful of the Jewish nation, and that drove him into some unfathomable atrocities.”

That provoked a new round of denunciations from fellow lawmakers, one of whom said he’s seen similar arguments making the rounds online. The comments echo comparisons made by some protesters opposed to stay-at-home orders who argue that strict public health measures are akin to slavery and genocidal dictatorships — governors have been likened to Nazis — in rhetoric that many view as inappropriate in a national debate about measures to curb the coronavirus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Major nursing home chain violated federal standards meant to stop spread of disease, records show, Debbie Cenziper, Sidnee King, Shawn Mulcahy and Joel Jacobs, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). As the coronavirus spread, inspectors found that staffers in some Life Care homes failed to wash hands, wear masks and isolate patients.

Nursing homes operated by Life Care Centers of America, one of the largest chains in the industry, violated federal standards meant to stop the spread of infections and communicable diseases even after outbreaks and deaths from covid-19 began to sweep its facilities from the Pacific Northwest to New England, inspection reports show.

Over the past six weeks, as the nationwide death toll among the elderly soared, government inspectors discovered breakdowns in infection control and prevention at nine Life Care nursing homes that underwent covid-19 inspections overseen by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That does not include deficiencies found at the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Wash., which suffered the country’s first reported outbreak of the novel coronavirus in February.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s strange comments on possibly ‘overrated’ tests, Aaron Blake, May 16, 2020. Throughout the coronavirus outbreak, the president has questioned the need for a vast amount of tests and suggested that the discovery of new cases are a liability for him rather than a necessary part of getting a handle on the problem.

  • Washington Post, Reality star charged with spending funds from federal small business program on jewelry, Rolls-Royce, Jonathan O’Connell, May 16, 2020.

World News

felicien kabuga wanted

washington post logoWashington Post, Félicien Kabuga, tycoon who helped launch Rwandan genocide, arrested in Paris, Max Bearak, May 17, 2020 (print ed.). He was one of the most-wanted fugitives sought by Rwanda’s post-genocide government.

After a quarter century on the run, Félicien Kabuga, indicted on charges of using his wealth and influence to stir Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, was arrested Saturday in Paris and will face trial before an international court.

The office of the prosecutor for an international tribunal in The Hague said in a statement that Kabuga, now 84, had been living under a false identity in Asnieres-sur-Seine north of Paris and had been hiding with the complicity of his children. He was arrested in a “sophisticated, coordinated operation with simultaneous searches across a number of locations” by French police.

“The arrest of Félicien Kabuga today is a reminder that those responsible for genocide can be brought to account, even 26 years after their crimes,” the statement said.

In 1994, Kabuga was one of Rwanda’s richest men and co-owned Radio Television Milles Collines, a radio station whose broadcasts incited hatred toward Rwanda’s Tutsi minority by the Hutu majority. More than 800,000 were killed in the span of just three months during the Rwandan genocide. Most were Tutsis. The slaughter was ended by a Ugandan-supported army of Tutsis led by Paul Kagame, who has been president of Rwanda since the genocide ended.

Media News

The Atlantic, Opinion: The Conspiracy Theorists Are Winning, Jeffrey Goldberg, June, 2020. America is losing its grip on Enlightenment values and reality atlantic logoitself. The Middle East is a cauldron of conspiracy, a place where the most bizarre theories often have real policy consequences. Saul Lieberman once said, “Nonsense is nonsense but the history of nonsense is scholarship.” I would add: The influence of nonsense, when unchecked by science, by direct observation, by a shared epistemological reality, can be profoundly damaging.

atlantic logo horizontalEight years later, in a windowless Austin, Texas, warehouse, the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was explaining to me why he, like Mustafa Mahmoud, disbelieved the investigated and proven truth of what happened on 9/11. Jones is a top-tier conspiracist, a professional one, too, and I visited him at his headquarters to find out for myself if he actually believed the idiocy he peddled—that the government controls the weather; that Bill Gates is secretly a genocidal eugenicist. The list of absurdities has no end. It always seemed outlandish to me that otherwise smart people (Mustafa Mahmoud was one of Egypt’s leading physicians) could sincerely believe in theories that stand in opposition to logic, Occam’s razor, and accreted fact. My assumption about people like Jones was that they were nihilistic grifters, exploiting innocent people seeking to satiate the deep human need for coherence.

Jones told me he was busy; I could have 30 minutes. Four hours later he was still talking—we were having dinner at a Mexican restaurant by then—and I was looking for an exit. He was nuts, and therefore exhausting. It was an afternoon filled with statements like this: “We’re living under tyranny. The bankers, the New World Order, they’re using the War Powers Act to grab our guns. This isn’t a republic. Come on, if you say the bankers are forcing fluoride on us, if you call 9/11 an inside job, they’ll destroy your life, that’s how evil they are.”

Trump does not defend our democracy from the ruinous consequences of conspiracy thinking. Instead, he embraces such thinking. A conspiracy theory—birtherism—was his pathway to power, and, in office, he warns of the threat of the “deep state” with the ferocity of a QAnon disciple. He has even begun to question the official coronavirus death toll, which he sees as evidence of a dark plot against him. How is he different from Alex Jones, from the conspiracy manufacturers of Russia and the Middle East?

He lives in the White House. That is one main difference.

  • The Atlantic, Birtherism of a Nation, Adam Serwer, June, 2020. The conspiracy theories surrounding Obama’s birthplace and religion were much more than mere lies. They were ideology.

May 16

Pandemic Top Headlines

Trump Reprisals Continue

 U.S. Pandemic Politics

Virus Victims, Relief

World News

Inside DC

U.S. Crime and Courts: Flynn Judge

U.S. 2020 Elections

 

Pandemic Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Scientists say Trump’s timeline on wide vaccine availability is unrealistic, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Laurie McGinley, Josh Dawsey and Christopher Rowland, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump promised hundreds of millions of doses by January, but outside scientists say it’s dangerous to set public expectations on a timetable given the unknowns.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2President Trump formally unveiled an initiative Friday afternoon aimed at making hundreds of millions of doses of a coronavirus vaccine broadly available by year’s end — a goal that many scientists say is unrealistic and could even backfire by shortchanging safety and undermining faith in vaccines more broadly.

The Rose Garden news conference added to a week of confusing and contradictory remarks about the prospects and timeline for a vaccine, which is seen as the key to returning to normal life. A day earlier, a former top U.S. vaccine official testified before Congress that he was doubtful about the 12-to-18-month time frame frequently touted as a goal. The head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases testified Tuesday that 12 to 18 months was possible but there was no guarantee a vaccine would work at all.

But Trump and other officials projected certainty Friday that an effective vaccine would be widely available by year’s end from among 14 promising candidates that had been winnowed from a field of more than 100. The chief scientist of the new initiative, pharmaceutical industry veteran Moncef Slaoui, even teased that he had seen early clinical data from an unspecified vaccine trial that gave him hope.

Outside scientists said it was dangerous to set public expectations that a vaccine could be available by any deadline, given the many scientific unknowns and the fact that the first candidates are just now being injected into humans. It was unclear which vaccine trial Slaoui was referring to, and the initial small safety trials underway are not designed to show whether a vaccine actually works.

“It’s unfair to the American public to have science by news release — or in this case, ‘I’ve taken a look behind the curtain, and I’ve seen something good, and you have to trust me.’ If there are data, let’s see them,” said Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “We have a fragile confidence in vaccines in this country. And we need to manage expectations.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Drug promoted by Trump as coronavirus ‘game changer’ increasingly linked to deaths, Toluse Olorunnipa, Ariana Eunjung Cha, and Laurie McGinley, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). As the president continues to pitch hydroxychloroquine, several medical experts have called for the FDA to revoke its emergency use authorization.

djt hands up mouth open CustomFor two months, President Trump repeatedly pitched hydroxychloroquine as a safe and effective treatment for coronavirus, asking would-be patients “What the hell do you have to lose?”

Growing evidence shows that, for many, the answer is their lives.

Clinical trials, academic research and scientific analysis indicate that the danger of the Trump-backed drug is a significantly increased risk of death for certain patients. Evidence showing the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in treating covid-19 has been scant. Those two developments pushed the Food and Drug Administration to warn against the use of hydroxychloroquine outside of a hospital setting last month, just weeks after it approved an emergency use authorization for the drug.

The latest on the pandemic and the Trump administration’s response

Alarmed by a growing cache of data linking the anti-malaria drug to serious cardiac problems, some drug safety experts are now calling for even more forceful action by the government to discourage its use. Several have called for the FDA to revoke its emergency use authorization, given hydroxychloroquine’s documented risks.

ny times logoNew York Times, Coronavirus Cases Slow in U.S., but the Big Picture Remains Tenuous, Julie Bosman, Amy Harmon and Mitch Smith, May 16, 2020. The number of new coronavirus cases confirmed in the United States has steadily declined in recent days. But that progress is uncertain. With more than two-thirds of states significantly relaxing restrictions, an uptick in cases is widely predicted.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s strange comments on possibly ‘overrated’ tests, Aaron Blake, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). Throughout the coronavirus outbreak, the president has questioned the need for a vast amount of tests and suggested that the discovery of new cases are a liability for him rather than a necessary part of getting a handle on the problem.

Early this week, Anthony S. Fauci and other leading members of President Trump’s coronavirus task force pressed the importance of a vastly expanded national testing regime.

“I’m not sure you can practically do … testing every day; that I don’t think would be feasible,” Fauci said in Senate testimony. “But something that is much more aggressive than has been done in the past, I believe, should be done.”

Two days later, President Trump offered a very different view of testing, repeatedly suggesting that it’s “overrated” and that doing too much testing can needlessly drive up the infection numbers.

“When you test, you have a case,” Trump said. “When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases.”

Left unsaid in Trump’s comments: If you don’t test, you also don’t know who might be spreading the disease — nor might you know how to effectively treat someone to avoid the worst outcomes.

But Trump’s comments Thursday were of a sort. Throughout the coronavirus outbreak — and as criticism of the amount of testing has proliferated — Trump has repeatedly questioned the need for a vast amount of tests and suggested that rising numbers are a liability for him rather than a necessary part of getting a handle on the problem.

Trump Reprisals Continue

state dept map logo Small

washington post logoWashington Post, State Dept. inspector general fired as Democrats decry ‘pattern of retaliation,’ Hannah Knowles, May 16, 2020. The firing of Steve mike pompeo portraitLinick is the latest in a string of weekend removals of oversight officials who clashed with the Trump administration. The House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman said Linick was fired after opening an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right.

State Department Inspector General Steve Linick was fired Friday in a late-night ouster that drew condemnations from Democrats, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warning of an acceleration in a “dangerous pattern of retaliation” against federal watchdogs.

Linick, below at left, a 2013 Obama appointee who has criticized department leadership for alleged retribution toward staffers, will be replaced by Stephen J. Akard, a State Department spokesperson confirmed Friday. It was the latest in a string of weekend removals of oversight officials who have clashed with the Trump administration.

steve linick 2013 CustomRep. Eliot L. Engel (D.-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, claimed the State Inspector General was fired after opening an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and said the timing suggested “an unlawful act of retaliation.” The State Department did not explain Linick’s removal or address criticism, and the White House did not immediately respond to an inquiry Friday night.

A Democratic congressional aide said that Linick was looking into Pompeo’s “misuse of a political appointee at the Department to perform personal tasks for himself and Mrs. Pompeo.”

President Trump said in a Friday letter to Pelosi that the inspector general no longer had his “fullest confidence” and would be removed in 30 days, the required period of advance notice to lawmakers.

The firing came weeks after Trump removed Christi Grimm as principal deputy inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, after Grimm’s office criticized the administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic — detailing “severe shortages” of testing kits, delays in glenn fine officialgetting coronavirus results and “widespread shortages” of masks and other equipment at U.S. hospitals. Trump had lashed out publicly at Grimm.

Last month the president ousted intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who handled the explosive whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment. He also pushed out Glenn Fine, right, the chairman of the federal panel Congress created to oversee his administration’s management of the government’s $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.

U.S. Pandemic Politics

djt nancy pelosi

ny times logoNew York Times, With Move to Remote Voting, House Alters What It Means for Congress to Meet, Nicholas Fandos, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). For 231 years, to cast a vote or fully participate in a hearing, lawmakers were required to be present. The House’s planned vote on Friday to allow lawmakers to work from afar will fundamentally change how Congress operates.

When the House of Representatives acts on Friday to allow remote voting and virtual hearings, the coronavirus pandemic will have officially succeeded in doing what Philadelphia’s yellow fever outbreak of 1793, the Spanish influenza of 1918, the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and generations of agitators for institutional change never could: Untethering Congress from its mandate to come together physically.

U.S. House logoThose earlier crises prompted novel contingency plans and prolonged recesses. But for 231 years, since the founding members of the body first laid out their rules in 1789, to cast a vote or fully participate in a hearing, lawmakers were required to be present, notwithstanding the state of the nation. To be a Congress, as the word suggests, people had to come together.

“No member shall vote on any questions,” the rules adopted by the first House say, “in any case where he was not present when the question was put.”

No longer. With Friday’s vote, as long as the public health emergency persists, lawmakers from Alaska to Florida need not leave the safety of their own homes to question witnesses at a hearing, sign subpoenas or vote on legislation.

The new rules immediately allow for any member to vote remotely by giving precise, binding instructions to a proxy who is able to be present on the House floor. They also provide, pending certification, for a process in which lawmakers would eventually be able to cast their votes technologically from home, either via a secure online portal or a video conferencing system.

washington post logoWashington Post, Growing friction between White House, CDC hobbles pandemic response, Lenny Bernstein, Josh Dawsey and Yasmeen Abutaleb, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). The meager guidelines for safely reopening the country released this week are the latest sign of the Trump administration’s efforts to sideline the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the increasing tension between the White House and the world-renowned public health agency.

cdc logo CustomWith Americans waiting for expert advice on how to resume a semblance of normal life during the pandemic, the CDC released just six short “decision trees” Thursday while the rest of its lengthy proposal remains under review at the White House, where it has been for weeks.

Instead of assuming its traditional lead role in a public health crisis, the 73-year-old agency has become just one of many voices providing often contradictory instructions to a confused and imperiled public.

“Punishing the agency by marginalizing and hobbling it is not the solution,” the venerable British medical journal the Lancet noted Friday in a stinging editorial that called the U.S. response “inconsistent and incoherent.”

“Only a steadfast reliance on basic public health principles, like test, trace, and isolate, will see the emergency brought to an end, and this requires an effective national public health agency.”

Donald Trump shown signing a MAGA hat in a visit to Iraq in December 2018

Donald Trump shown signing a MAGA hat in a visit to Iraq in December 2018

Strategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: Lack of Empathy Equates to a Lack of Leadership Skills, Wayne Madsen, right, May 16, 2020. U.S. Army Field Manual 6-22, titled “Leadership Development,” states that the ability wayne madsen screen shoto show empathy toward others is a key factor in exhibiting Army leadership qualities.

Donald Trump, who is ordering all 1000 graduating U.S. Army cadets at West Point back to campus on June 13 from sheltering at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, does not possess the leadership skills that have been drilled into each of the new Army Second Lieutenants who will be present for Trump’s commencement address. In fact, Trump’s overly-acquiescent Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, had to issue a waiver for the cadets to travel because he had previously banned military personnel from travel until June 30.

The Army Field Manual states that “The capacity for empathy is an important attribute for leaders to possess. Empathy can allow leaders to strategic culture logounderstand how their actions will make others feel and react. Empathy can help leaders to understand those that they deal with including other Soldiers, Army Civilians, local populace, and even enemy forces. Being able to see from another’s viewpoint enables a leader to understand those around them better.” During Trump’s scheduled commencement speech, which will be full of his usual right-wing vitriol, will be directed at a class of non-political newly-minted Army officers. None of what Trump says will comply with the Army’s leadership training.

On May 8, Trump visited Washington, DC’s World War II Memorial to honor the veterans of World War II on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day. Trump, traveling by motorcade from a White House rife with Covid-19 cases, including inside the presidential private quarters and his Secret Service protective detail, refused to wear a mask, thus putting at risk World War II veterans, including some between the ages of 96 and 100, to being infected with the highly-contagious virus. Esper, a coward of the first degree, hid behind the veterans while also refusing to wear a mask.

Trump’s designated “blond bimbo” and PR flack masquerading as a White House Press Secretary, former CNN blathering head Kayleigh McEnany, placed the onus for being exposed to the virus on the elderly veterans, stating, “They made the choice to come here.” McEnany, whose idea of personal sacrifice is not being able to dine at Washington’s chic restaurants during the pandemic, was absolutely galling in her airy dismissal of the virus threat posed by her draft-dodging boss to veterans of Monte Cassino, Omaha Beach, Anzio, and the Ardennes.

boris johnson tieBritish Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, like Trump and Bolsonaro, gave the impression that Covid-19 was a bad case of influenza and even bragged about shaking hands with people, including coronavirus patients, because of his role as a politician. That was before March 27, when Johnson entered self-isolation after he tested positive for the coronavirus.

Johnson was later admitted to the intensive care unit of a National Health Service (NHS) hospital. Johnson, who mocked the seriousness of Covid-19 and the NHS, became a bit more empathetic after he nearly died from the virus and was saved by NHS medical personnel. Johnson and his fiancée gave their newly-born son the middle name of Nicholas in honor of the two NHS doctors, Drs. Nicholas Hart and Nicholas Price, who helped save his life. Johnson’s token empathy for coronavirus sufferers is in marked contrast to that of Trump and the even more despicable Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has done everything possible to set the worst possible example in encouraging Brazilians to ignore public health restrictions.

washington post logoWashington Post, CDC offers few guidelines for reopening safely, Lenny Bernstein, William Wan, Josh Dawsey and Holly Bailey, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). The advice, which places the onus on state and local governments, was released on the same day that President Trump called testing “overrated” as a tool to track and control the virus.

djt hands up mouth open CustomWith hundreds of millions of people still seeking advice on resuming their lives safely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a scant six pages of recommendations Thursday to guide schools, businesses, day-care facilities and others into the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

cdc logo CustomThe six checklists — which also address restaurants, mass transit and camps — come days, and in some cases weeks, after many states have begun to lift restrictions on their own. The advice is less detailed than draft recommendations the agency sent to the White House for review last month.

The nation is still awaiting that detailed technical guidance, which the White House has held up and not shared publicly. The delay has left the responsibility for decision-making about reopening to states and localities. It has also left many health experts clamoring for greater transparency.

Virus Victims, Relief

ny times logoNew York Times, Hospitals Are Losing Millions of Dollars a Day: ‘It’s Uncontrollable,’ Sarah Kliff, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). Surgeries are canceled. Business models are shifting. Some of the hardest-hit hospitals may close, leaving patients with fewer options for care.

When the top-ranked Mayo Clinic stopped all nonemergency medical care in late March, it began to lose millions of dollars a day.

The clinic, a Minnesota-based hospital system accustomed to treating American presidents and foreign dignitaries, saw revenue plummet as it postponed lucrative surgeries to make way for coronavirus victims. The hospital network produced $1 billion in net operating revenue last year, but now expects to lose $900 million in 2020 even after furloughing workers, cutting doctors’ pay and halting new construction projects.

The future offers little relief, at least until the pandemic subsides and the economy recovers. The Mayo Clinic will have to rely more heavily on low-income patients enrolled in the Medicaid program, as others will be hesitant to travel across the country, or the world, for care. “It’s uncontrollable,” said Dennis Dahlen, the clinic’s chief financial officer.

washington post logoWashington Post, A majority of Americans going to work fear exposing their household to virus, poll finds, Tim Craig and Emily Guskin, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). Nearly 1 in 3 Americans have continued to leave the house for work at least once a week as states issued stay-at-home orders, the Washington Post-Ipsos poll also found.

A Washington Post-Ipsos poll of more than 8,000 adults in late April and early May found that nearly 6 in 10 Americans who are working outside their homes were concerned that they could be exposed to the virus at work and infect other members of their household. Those concerns were even higher for some: Roughly 7 in 10 black and Hispanic workers said they were worried about getting a household member sick if they are exposed at work.

ny times logoNew York Times, She Escaped Sex Work for College. Now the Virus Threatens Her New Life, Ginia Bellafante, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). Her dorm closed for the quarantine. In a month she ages out of foster care. What happens when there is no safety net?

Last fall, toward the end of her first semester in college, Destiny Moura turned in a paper for an English composition class in which she described her introduction, at the age of 14, to “the life.’’ The “life’’ referred to the exploitation of girls by pimps, traffickers, manipulators.

In Destiny’s case, these abuses brought to conclusion a childhood that never had any proper beginning. A great deal of instability preceded this point; so much sadness and shame followed. But by the end of last year, Destiny, at 20, had rebuilt herself, as a student at Borough of Manhattan Community College with a grade-point average of 3.4.

Fearing a surge in these bleak outcomes, late last month, a group of lawyers who advocate for children in poverty, wrote to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, asking him to issue an executive order suspending terminations from foster care for 180 days during the current crisis. Several other states, including California and Rhode Island, had already done something similar. So far, no action has been taken.

The coronavirus outbreak has derailed a beleaguered child-welfare system in varied ways, all of them disturbing. It has separated imperiled children from the teachers and administrators who are required to report suspicions of abuse; contracted the family-court system to virtual hearings held only in the most dire cases; halted the important visits between birth mothers and the children whose custody they are training to regain.

But there is a distinct tragedy in the narrative of reversal — of young people so close to the threshold of transformation suddenly watching the line pulled away to a future no one can foresee.

  • Washington Post, Reality star charged with spending funds from federal small business program on jewelry, Rolls-Royce, Jonathan O’Connell, May 16, 2020.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Sweden Stayed Open. A Deadly Month Shows the Risks, Lauren Leatherby and Allison McCann, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). While Sweden has avoided Europe’s worst outbreaks, seen in Britain, Italy and Spain, it has also experienced an extraordinary increase in deaths, mortality data shows.

sweden flagBy late March, nearly every country in Europe had closed schools and businesses, restricted travel and ordered citizens to stay home. But one country stood out for its decision to stay open: Sweden.

The country’s moderated response to the coronavirus outbreak has drawn praise from some American politicians, who see Sweden as a possible model for the United States as it begins to reopen. “We need to observe with an open mind what went on in Sweden, where the kids kept going to school,” Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Republican, said at a hearing on Tuesday.

european union logo rectangleBut while Sweden has avoided the devastating tolls of outbreaks in Italy, Spain and Britain, it also has seen an extraordinary increase in deaths, mortality data show.

In Stockholm, where the virus spread through migrant communities, more than twice the usual number of people died last month. That increase far surpasses the rise in deaths in American cities like Boston and Chicago, and approaches the increase seen in Paris.

Across Sweden, almost 30 percent more people died during the epidemic than is normal during this time of year, an increase similar to that of the United States and far higher than the small increases seen in its neighboring countries. While Sweden is the largest country in Scandinavia, all have strong public health care systems and low health inequality across the population.

“It’s not a very flattering comparison for Sweden, which has such a great public health system,” said Andrew Noymer, a demographer at the University of California at Irvine. “There’s no reason Sweden should be doing worse than Norway, Denmark and Finland.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Bombs Made in America Have Been Killing Civilians in Yemen, Michael LaForgia and Walt Bogdanich, May 16, 2020. With billions at stake, Raytheon found an ally in Peter Navarro, President Trump’s trade adviser, who helped elevate economic considerations in the administration’s approval of arms sales.

Weapons supplied by American companies, approved by American officials, allowed Saudi Arabia to pursue the reckless campaign. But in June 2017, an influential Republican senator decided to cut them off, by withholding approval for new sales. It was a moment that might have stopped the slaughter.

Not under President Trump.

With billions at stake, one of the president’s favored aides, the combative trade adviser Peter Navarro, made it his mission to reverse the senator. Mr. Navarro, after consulting with American arms makers, wrote a memo to Jared Kushner and other top White House officials calling for an intervention, possibly by Mr. Trump himself. He titled it “Trump Mideast arms sales deal in extreme jeopardy, job losses imminent.”

Within weeks, the Saudis were once again free to buy American weapons.

The intervention, which has not been previously reported, underscores a fundamental change in American foreign policy under Mr. Trump that often elevates economic considerations over other ones. Where foreign arms sales in the past were mostly offered and withheld to achieve diplomatic goals, the Trump administration pursues them mainly for the profits they generate and the jobs they create, with little regard for how the weapons are used.

NBC News, Ex-Green Beret captured in Venezuela believed U.S. backed overthrow plot: family, Rich Schapiro, May 16, 2020.  Luke Denman would have never knowingly participated in a rogue operation to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, his relatives say.

Frank Denman was at his home in Austin last January when he received a call from his son, Luke.

A former Green Beret, Luke had been searching for his calling after leaving the service. On the phone that day, he suggested to his father that he had found it.

“He said I had something come up in Florida,” Frank recalled. “He said it was a confidential kind of thing.”

The elder Denman still remembers exactly what Luke said next: “But I can tell you it’s the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Luke had been working as a commercial diver on offshore oil rigs in Louisiana. His father thought that he may have been talking about a salvage operation involving a historic ship.

But it was just a hunch. Frank didn’t pry, and Luke didn’t divulge any details. From Luke’s days in the Special Forces, that’s how their conversations often went.

It wouldn’t be until several months later, in early May, when Frank found out what his son had actually been talking about.

Luke Denman, 34, was one of two ex-Green Berets arrested in a foiled plot to oust Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro. He’s now locked up in a Venezuelan jail, his fate in the hands of a leader the U.S. government considers a dictator responsible for tens of millions of his people going hungry.

“I get it now,” Frank said, referring to his son’s cryptic words about his new, meaningful opportunity. “Everyone knows about the suffering of the Venezuelan people.”

“And the motto of the Green Berets,” he added, “is free the oppressed.”

Two weeks on, much remains unknown about the ill-fated operation. According to the Venezuelan government, eight “mercenary terrorists” were killed and several captured, including Denman and fellow Army veteran Airan Berry, during an attempt to seize Maduro and topple his government.

A third ex-Green Beret, Jordan Goudreau, claimed responsibility for the plot. A decorated former U.S. commando, Goudreau operated a Florida-based private security company called Silvercorp USA.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump expresses anger that his China trade deal is off to a rocky start, but he lacks obvious remedies, David J. Lynch, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump may be irritated with China’s failure to buy more American products as required under the trade deal he celebrated at a White House ceremony in January. But he doesn’t seem prepared to do much about it.

The president this week has been openly critical of China’s performance in the deal’s first months, even threatening to “cut off the whole relationship” after Chinese orders for American products in the first quarter came in lower than last year.

“I made a great trade deal. The ink wasn’t dry when the plague came over from China. The ink wasn’t dry,” the president told Fox Business on Thursday. “I’m very disappointed in China. I will tell you that right now.”

Trump, who earlier this week ruled out renegotiating the deal, said he still expects China to buy the $200 billion in goods and services it promised. The president had threatened to “terminate” the deal if China did not deliver. But for now, he seems inclined to confine his response to public grumbling while counting on an export surge later this year — even though some experts say it is now impossible for China to meet the deal’s targets.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Faced with a Trumpian barrage of attacks, Joe Biden chooses to look the other way, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey, May 16, 2020.The former vice president’s senior advisers dismiss the most explosive Trump volleys as distractions, though ones aimed at his competence and economic record stir more concern.

washington post logoWashington Post, House changes its rules to allow remote voting for the first time in its 231-year history, Mike DeBonis, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). Democratic leaders say the changes are temporary as the House tries to balance its constitutional responsibility with health risks related to the coronavirus.

The House on Friday approved the most radical change to its rules in generations, allowing its members to cast committee and floor votes from afar — the culmination of a months-long struggle to adapt the 231-year-old institution to the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. House logoDespite bipartisan frustrations with the virus’s effect on the legislative process, the changes, which include temporarily authorizing remote committee work and proxy voting on the House floor, were adopted along party lines. The vote was 217 to 189.

Democratic leaders pushed forward with the changes this week after failing to come to terms in two weeks of negotiations with Republicans, who firmly opposed several key measures in the proposal.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and top Democrats said the changes were temporary and tailored to the current crisis — which has made mass gatherings of lawmakers hazardous — but necessary to ensure that the House fulfills its constitutional obligations.

The House has sputtered for the past two months as other organs of the federal government — most notably the Supreme Court — and schools, localities and the private sector have embraced video technology to conduct business. The smaller, 100-member Senate returned May 4 and has relied on remote committee work for hearings, though senators still must be present for roll-call votes.

The proxy voting proposal allows any member attending a House vote to cast as many as 10 votes on behalf of colleagues who have authorized those votes by letter to the House clerk.

U.S. Crime and Courts: Flynn Judge

washington post logoWashington Post, Flynn judge one of federal bench’s most probing skeptics of Justice Dept. misconduct, legal observers say, Spencer S. Hsu, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). In pausing the Justice Department’s efforts to reverse the guilty plea of former Trump aide Michael Flynn, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan this week bolstered a reputation built over 36 years as one of the department’s most probing skeptics on the federal bench.

emmet sullivan 2012Sullivan, left, on Wednesday appointed former federal judge John Gleeson to oppose the department’s request to abandon its two-year-long prosecution and exonerate the former national security adviser. Sullivan also asked Gleeson to examine whether Flynn may have committed perjury by admitting, under oath in December 2017, to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts and later claiming innocence.

Sullivan’s extraordinary action recalled to many his excavation of one of the Justice Department’s worst scandals a decade ago — the botching of a campaign finance investigation into Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

Justice Department log circularSullivan’s work then won plaudits from former prosecutors and fierce critics of government tactics alike. After overturning Stevens’s 2009 conviction of lying on disclosure forms, the judge named a special prosecutor who found that at least two federal prosecutors withheld evidence that would have acquitted the nation’s then-longest-serving senator. A third prosecutor died by suicide before the report was completed.

“Judge Emmet Sullivan, to all those who seek, hallow, and do Justice. With the greatest respect and gratitude for your honorable service,” one former U.S. prosecutor and white-collar defense appeals specialist wrote to Sullivan in April 2014.

The writer was Sidney Powell, Flynn’s current defense attorney. She wrote the tribute when signing and sending Sullivan a copy of her book, “Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice,” the judge recalled in court when she joined Flynn’s case in June. The book alleged misconduct by prosecutors investigating the 2001 collapse of the Houston energy company Enron.

To lawyers who practice before him and judicial colleagues who work alongside him, Sullivan’s intolerance for official misconduct is a defining characteristic, backed by his plain talk and comfort in the spotlight.

“Judge Sullivan usually gives prosecutors a hard time, not because they’ve necessarily done anything wrong but because he holds the government to a very high standard,” Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor who has often appeared before Sullivan, said in 2018.

That instinct has played out to Flynn’s disadvantage at times, he said.

“And why?” Kirschner said. “The defendant was a high-ranking government official” who admitted to egregious conduct, he said.

Sullivan, 72, is no stranger to Washington controversies. The D.C.-born son of a police officer is a graduate of Howard University School of Law and the longest-serving active federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Washington needs a new U.S. attorney, Editorial Board, May 16, 2020 (print ed.). In a few short months, interim U.S. attorney Timothy J. Shea, whom Attorney General William P. Barr, right, installed, has presided over two extraordinary retreats from justice, in both william barr new ocases to help associates of President Trump, and in both cases over the objections of career prosecutors.

Such extraordinary malpractice calls out for an extraordinary response. Fortunately, one is at hand.

Mr. Shea’s moves, benefiting Trump ally Roger Stone and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, have elicited an outraged letter from 2,000 former Justice Department officials and the resignation of a career prosecutor.

But that is not enough. Mr. Shea’s stint leading the U.S. attorney’s office in the District is up in early June, and Mr. Trump has nominated no one to succeed him. In these circumstances, federal law empowers district court judges to select an interim replacement. In normal times, Washington’s federal judges would likely tap the interim U.S. attorney to stay longer or ask the attorney general for advice on whom to appoint. This time, they should make their own choice, installing someone who will do the job fairly and competently.

timothy shea headshot Custom 2Mr. Shea, left, has proved he is not that person. In the Stone case, he revoked a sentencing memorandum prosecutors had submitted, recommending that Mr. Stone receive lighter punishment for obstructing Congress and witness tampering, despite the fact that the prosecutors’ original recommendation was in line with sentencing guidelines.

In the Flynn case, Mr. Shea moved to have charges dropped, even though the former national security adviser had already pleaded guilty to lying to investigators — a plea deal that headed off potential charges on other matters. Justice Department experts and former officials said they had never seen the department make such a retreat, and certainly not on behalf of a presidential favorite.

Each of these decisions is a scandal, and together they put the Justice Department’s legitimacy in more peril than it has been in a generation.

Mr. Barr has insisted that he is righting wrongs and that critics are motivated by partisanship only — and never mind that the wrongs he discovers consistently benefit the president’s friends. Whether Mr. Shea personally supports these actions or is simply willing to follow orders is immaterial; for the judges to ask Mr. Shea to continue in office would be to endorse this perversion of the justice system.

U.S. 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Justin Amash says he won’t run for president, David Weigel, May 16, 2020. Amash, a former Republican turned independent, previously said he’d seek the Libertarian Party’s nomination.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Justin Amash cuts and runs, Bill Palmer, May 16, 2020. Earlier this month, far-right Congressman Justin Amash announced he justin amashwas forming an exploratory committee to decide whether to run as the Libertarian candidate for president. At the time, Palmer Report explained that this meant Amash, right, very much wanted to run, but that he could be talked out of it.

Since that time, a whole lot of you have indeed worked hard to talk Justin Amash out of it. He could barely so much as post a tweet without facing an endless string of comments urging him not to interfere in the most important election in our lifetime. Sure enough, Amash tweeted this today: “After bill palmer report logo headermuch reflection, I’ve concluded that circumstances don’t lend themselves to my success as a candidate for president this year, and therefore I will not be a candidate.”

That means he’s cutting and running – but in this instance he’s doing the right thing by cutting and running. The Libertarian Party will still run a spoiler candidate in the 2020 presidential election, in the hope of cashing in on he hoopla. The good news, though, is that it won’t be Amash – and if the Libertarian candidate is someone with a lower profile, that candidate will siphon off fewer votes.

There is always endless debate about which of the major candidates will be hurt the most by a third party spoiler candidate. The reality is that it’s unpredictable. One theory is that Amash would have taken votes from Trump because they’re both conservatives. The more likely scenario was that Amash would have taken the votes of anti-Trump conservatives who might otherwise have voted for Biden just to stop Trump.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Lincoln Project is back, and Donald Trump is going to absolutely hate this, Bill Palmer, May 16, 2020. The last time the bill palmer report logo headerLincoln Project posted a television ad, Donald Trump went on an obsessively unhinged tirade that lasted for days. Trump is afraid of the anti-Trump republican group, because it threatens to further cut into his weak support. Now the Lincoln Project is back, and Trump is going to absolutely hate this ad.

May 15

Pandemic Top Headlines

Pandemic Politics

Virus Victims, Relief

2020 U.S. Elections / Politics

Sexual Claims Against Biden

Sex Assault, Invester Scammer Probed

Inside DC

 

Pandemic Top Headlines

washington post logoWashington Post, Ousted official doubts U.S. ability to handle another virus wave, Aaron C. Davis, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner, May 15, 2020 (print ed.). A former top U.S. vaccine official and an executive of a medical mask maker in Texas each told Congress on Thursday they believe lives were lost because of missteps by the Trump administration in its early handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

rick brightRick Bright, right, who filed a whistleblower complaint after he was removed from a senior post at the Department of Health and Human Services last month, said his superiors dismissed urgent warnings in January and early February about an impending shortage of N95 respirator masks. Bright also said the administration delayed potential work on a U.S.-made vaccine by not acting fast enough or forcefully enough to press China for samples of the virus. And Bright said his removal showcased how, generally, politics overtook science as President Trump took center stage in responding to the U.S. crisis.

cdc logo CustomBright alleged he was reassigned to a lesser post and locked out of his email account as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority after pushing back against plans for the government to invest in unproven covid-19 treatments such as the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. The therapeutic that Trump touted largely has been abandoned by the government as trials since showed it can cause heart problems and other side effects in covid-19 patients.

Bright said there is still “no master plan” for assessing the need for and distribution of masks, testing swabs and other medical equipment. Bright also said the government was doing a disserve to Americans by playing down the possibility that it could take years to develop a vaccine that could be ready for mass distribution.

The United States faces the “darkest winter in modern history” if it does not develop a more coordinated national response, he said. “Our window of opportunity is closing.”

Roll Call, House narrowly passes $3 trillion coronavirus aid bill, Jennifer Shutt, May 15, 2020. Near party-line vote sends massive relief bill to the Senate, where GOP leaders say they won’t take it up without major changes.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi muscled a $3 trillion aid package through the House late Friday, overcoming defections from her party’s moderate wing who would have preferred to vote for a bipartisan measure.

The near party-line tally was 208-199, with 14 Democrats voting against sending the bill to the Senate. Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., was the lone Republican to support the measure, citing robust aid for states and localities like his suffering from revenue shortfalls and high numbers of COVID-19 cases.

U.S. House logoAmong the Democrats who announced in advance they’d vote against the package were Cindy Axne of Iowa, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Ben McAdams of Utah and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia. All are moderates in GOP-leaning districts.

“I think it’s something that should have had more broad bipartisan support,” said Cunningham. He argued that aid legislation “needs to be more narrowly focused on the people who are suffering as a result of the pandemic.”

Cunningham won his seat in 2018 in a major upset; he’s considered a top GOP target in November in a district that backed President Donald Trump in 2016 by nearly 11 points. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the contest a Toss-up.

washington post logoWashington Post, Nearly 3 million Americans filed jobless claims last week; eight-week total at 36.5 million, Tony Romm, May 15, 2020 (print ed.). Many of these workers lost their jobs because of closures and a huge drop in spending and travel during the pandemic. The White House and some us labor department logogovernors are struggling to reopen parts of the economy.

Roughly 3 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department reported on Thursday, as the coronavirus pandemic continued to unleash widespread economic havoc on an already depleted U.S. workforce.

The new applications for aid add to the total 36.5 million workers that have sought to receive weekly unemployment checks in the past eight weeks, according to the new federal data, erasing years of economic gains and threatening lasting devastation to the country that rivals even the Great Depression.

The flood of new claims threatens to add to the tension between President Trump and public-health officials over how quickly to try and restart parts of the economy, with Trump on Thursday alleging that some Democrats are trying to slow the process down in order to hurt him politically.

“The less successful we are in reopening, the better they are, maybe for an election,” the president said during an interview on Fox News. “They would rather see our country fail, and you know what that means, because part of failure is death, than have me get elected.”
Image without a caption

The dour new numbers arrive a week after the Labor Department officially registered the country’s April unemployment rate at an historic 14.7 percent. Job losses in that period were roughly double than those experienced during the financial crisis between 2007 and 2009, experts said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Prestigious medical journal slams Trump as U.S. death toll surpasses 85,000, Staff reports, May 15, 2020.  A noose, an ax and Trump-inspired insults: Anti-lockdown protesters ratchet up violent rhetoric.

djt quizzical uncredited palmer CustomAs the confirmed U.S. death toll surpassed 85,000, one of the world’s oldest and best-known medical journals slammed President Trump’s “inconsistent and incoherent national response” to the novel coronavirus pandemic and accused the cdc logo Customadministration of relegating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to a “nominal” role.

The Lancet’s unsigned editorial concluded that Trump should be replaced. “Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics,” said the journal, which was founded in Britain in 1823.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Retail Sales Plunged Last Month as America Shut Down, Staff reports, May 15, 2020. U.S. sales fell 16.4 percent in April for the biggest two-month decline on record. Stores are reopening, but some may not survive. A bitter fight is expected in Congress over a $3 trillion dollar relief package, including billions for states. The White House has threatened a veto. Here’s the latest.

• The latest retail sales report depicts the largest two-month decline on record.
• The House will vote today on a $3 trillion relief package, and the White House has threatened a veto.
• The new vaccine czar says finding one by January is a ‘credible,’ but difficult, goal.
• More of the country is open for business as governors ease restrictions.
• The stay-at-home order for N.Y.C. is extended, while some areas upstate are allowed to reopen.
• A test used by the White House may produce false negatives, according to the F.D.A.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Move to Remote Voting, House Alters What It Means for Congress to Meet, Nicholas Fandos, May 15, 2020. For 231 years, to cast a vote or fully participate in a hearing, lawmakers were required to be present. The House’s planned vote on Friday to allow lawmakers to work from afar will fundamentally change how Congress operates.

When the House of Representatives acts on Friday to allow remote voting and virtual hearings, the coronavirus pandemic will have officially succeeded in doing what Philadelphia’s yellow fever outbreak of 1793, the Spanish influenza of 1918, the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and generations of agitators for institutional change never could: Untethering Congress from its mandate to come together physically.

Those earlier crises prompted novel contingency plans and prolonged recesses. But for 231 years, since the founding members of the body first laid out their rules in 1789, to cast a vote or fully participate in a hearing, lawmakers were required to be present, notwithstanding the state of the nation. To be a Congress, as the word suggests, people had to come together.

“No member shall vote on any questions,” the rules adopted by the first House say, “in any case where he was not present when the question was put.”

No longer. With Friday’s vote, as long as the public health emergency persists, lawmakers from Alaska to Florida need not leave the safety of their own homes to question witnesses at a hearing, sign subpoenas or vote on legislation.

The new rules immediately allow for any member to vote remotely by giving precise, binding instructions to a proxy who is able to be present on the House floor. They also provide, pending certification, for a process in which lawmakers would eventually be able to cast their votes technologically from home, either via a secure online portal or a video conferencing system.

washington post logoWashington Post, CDC offers few guidelines for reopening safely, Lenny Bernstein, William Wan, Josh Dawsey and Holly Bailey, May 15, 2020. The advice, which places the onus on state and local governments, was released on the same day that President Trump called testing “overrated” as a tool to track and control the virus.

djt hands up mouth open CustomWith hundreds of millions of people still seeking advice on resuming their lives safely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a scant six pages of recommendations Thursday to guide schools, businesses, day-care facilities and others into the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

cdc logo CustomThe six checklists — which also address restaurants, mass transit and camps — come days, and in some cases weeks, after many states have begun to lift restrictions on their own. The advice is less detailed than draft recommendations the agency sent to the White House for review last month.

The nation is still awaiting that detailed technical guidance, which the White House has held up and not shared publicly. The delay has left the responsibility for decision-making about reopening to states and localities. It has also left many health experts clamoring for greater transparency.

ny times logoNew York Times, DeVos Funnels Coronavirus Relief Funds to Favored Private and Religious Schools, Erica L. Green, May 15, 2020. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, right, is using the $2 trillion coronavirus stabilization law to throw a lifeline to education sectors she has long championed, directing millions of federal dollars intended primarily for public schools and colleges to private and religious schools.

betsy devos oThe Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, signed in late March, included $30 billion for education institutions turned upside down by the pandemic shutdowns, about $14 billion for higher education, $13.5 billion to elementary and secondary schools, and the rest for state governments.

Ms. DeVos has used $180 million of those dollars to encourage states to create “microgrants” that parents of elementary and secondary school students can use to pay for educational services, including private school tuition. She has directed school districts to share millions of dollars designated for low-income students with wealthy private schools.

And she has nearly depleted the 2.5 percent of higher education funding, about $350 million, set aside for struggling colleges to bolster small colleges — many of them private, religious or on the margins of higher education — regardless of need. The Wright Graduate University for the Realization of Human Potential, a private college in Wisconsin that has a website debunking claims that it is a cult, received about $495,000.

 ny times logomaya gay twitter croppedNew York Times, Opinion: ‘I Wish I Could Do Something for You,’ My Doctor Said, Mara Gay, right, May 15, 2020. Young, healthy people like me are getting very, very sick from the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The day before I got sick, I ran three miles, walked 10 more, then raced up the stairs to my fifth-floor apartment as always, slinging laundry with me as I went.

The next day, April 17, I became one of the thousands of New Yorkers to fall ill with Covid-19. I haven’t felt the same since.

If you live in New York City, you know what this virus can do. In just under two months, an estimated 24,000 New Yorkers have died. That’s more than twice the number of people we lost to homicide over the past 20 years.

Now I worry for Americans elsewhere. When I see photographs of crowds packing into a newly reopened big-box store in Arkansas or scores of people jammed into a Colorado restaurant without masks, it’s clear too many Americans still don’t grasp the power of this disease.

The second day I was sick, I woke up to what felt like hot tar buried deep in my chest. I could not get a deep breath unless I was on all fours. I’m healthy. I’m a runner. I’m 33 years old.

In the emergency room an hour later, I sat on a hospital bed, alone and terrified, my finger hooked to a pulse-oxygen machine. To my right lay a man who could barely speak but coughed constantly. To my left was an older man who said that he had been sick for a month and had a pacemaker. He kept apologizing to the doctors for making so much trouble, and thanking them for taking such good care of him. I can’t stop thinking about him even now.

I want Americans to understand that this virus is making otherwise young, healthy people very, very sick. I want them to know, this is no flu.

Pandemic Politics

djt anthony fauci

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Pointedly Criticizes Fauci for His Testimony to Congress, Katie Rogers, May 15, 2020 (print ed.).  “He wants to play all sides of the equation,” the president said of the nation’s top infectious disease expert.

President Trump on Wednesday criticized congressional testimony delivered a day earlier by Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who had warned against reopening the country too quickly and stressed the unknown effects the coronavirus could have on children returning to school.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos“I was surprised by his answer,” Mr. Trump told reporters who had gathered in the Cabinet Room for the president’s meeting with the governors of Colorado and North Dakota. “To me it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools.”

The president’s desire to reopen schools and businesses in order to bring back the economy has often led to public clashes over the guidance provided by Dr. Fauci, who has warned that taking a cavalier attitude toward reopening the country could invite unnecessary suffering caused by a virus scientists are still struggling to understand. He reiterated that position on Tuesday in testimony before a Senate committee.

“He wants to play all sides of the equation,” Mr. Trump said on Wednesday, before bragging that the economy next year would be “phenomenal.”

Dr. Fauci also told the Senate panel that a vaccine for the coronavirus would almost certainly not be ready in time for the new school year, and warned of the dangers of the virus to children.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: Covid-19 Reality Has a Liberal Bias, Paul Krugman, right, May 15, 2020 (print ed.). Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t care about political spin.

On Tuesday, the U.S. government’s top experts warned that Covid-19 was by no means under control, and that premature easing of social distancing could have disastrous consequences. As far as I can tell, their view is shared by almost all epidemiologists.

But they were shouting into the wind. Clearly, the Trump administration and its allies have already decided that we’re going to reopen the economy, never mind what the experts say. And if the experts are right and this leads to a new surge in deaths, the response won’t be to reconsider the policy, it will be to deny the facts.

Indeed, virus trutherism — insisting that Covid-19 deaths are greatly exaggerated and may reflect a vast medical conspiracy — is already widespread on the right. We can expect to see much more of it in the months ahead.

At one level, this turn of events shouldn’t surprise us. The U.S. right long ago rejected evidence-based policy in favor of policy-based evidence — denying facts that might get in the way of a predetermined agenda. Fourteen years have passed since Stephen Colbert famously quipped that “reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

At another level, however, the right’s determination to ignore the epidemiologists is politically reckless in a way previous denials of reality weren’t.

As many people have pointed out, the emerging right-wing strategy for dealing with this pandemic — or, more accurately, not dealing with it — closely follows the Republican Party’s longstanding approach to climate change: It’s not happening, it’s a hoax perpetrated by liberal scientists, and besides, doing anything about it would destroy the economy.

Indeed, the antilockdown demonstrations of recent weeks appear to have been organized in part by the same people and groups that have spent decades denying climate change.

ny times logoNew York Times, In 3 States That Elected Trump, Bitter Divisions on Reopening, Kay Nolan, Julie Bosman and Campbell Robertson, Updated May 15, 2020. The response to the coronavirus in three key swing states is becoming a confused blend of health guidance, protest and partisan politics.

Virus Victims, Relief

ny times logoNew York Times, Hospitals Are Losing Millions of Dollars a Day: ‘It’s Uncontrollable,’ Sarah Kliff, May 15, 2020. Surgeries are canceled. Business models are shifting. Some of the hardest-hit hospitals may close, leaving patients with fewer options for care.

When the top-ranked Mayo Clinic stopped all nonemergency medical care in late March, it began to lose millions of dollars a day.

The clinic, a Minnesota-based hospital system accustomed to treating American presidents and foreign dignitaries, saw revenue plummet as it postponed lucrative surgeries to make way for coronavirus victims. The hospital network produced $1 billion in net operating revenue last year, but now expects to lose $900 million in 2020 even after furloughing workers, cutting doctors’ pay and halting new construction projects.

The future offers little relief, at least until the pandemic subsides and the economy recovers. The Mayo Clinic will have to rely more heavily on low-income patients enrolled in the Medicaid program, as others will be hesitant to travel across the country, or the world, for care. “It’s uncontrollable,” said Dennis Dahlen, the clinic’s chief financial officer.

washington post logoWashington Post, A majority of Americans going to work fear exposing their household to virus, poll finds, Tim Craig and Emily Guskin, May 15, 2020.  Nearly 1 in 3 Americans have continued to leave the house for work at least once a week as states issued stay-at-home orders, the Washington Post-Ipsos poll also found.

A Washington Post-Ipsos poll of more than 8,000 adults in late April and early May found that nearly 6 in 10 Americans who are working outside their homes were concerned that they could be exposed to the virus at work and infect other members of their household. Those concerns were even higher for some: Roughly 7 in 10 black and Hispanic workers said they were worried about getting a household member sick if they are exposed at work.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, House changes its rules to allow remote voting for the first time in its 231-year history, Mike DeBonis, May 15, 2020. Democratic leaders say the changes are temporary as the House tries to balance its constitutional responsibility with health risks related to the coronavirus.

The House on Friday approved the most radical change to its rules in generations, allowing its members to cast committee and floor votes from afar — the culmination of a months-long struggle to adapt the 231-year-old institution to the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. House logoDespite bipartisan frustrations with the virus’s effect on the legislative process, the changes, which include temporarily authorizing remote committee work and proxy voting on the House floor, were adopted along party lines. The vote was 217 to 189.

Democratic leaders pushed forward with the changes this week after failing to come to terms in two weeks of negotiations with Republicans, who firmly opposed several key measures in the proposal.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and top Democrats said the changes were temporary and tailored to the current crisis — which has made mass gatherings of lawmakers hazardous — but necessary to ensure that the House fulfills its constitutional obligations.

The House has sputtered for the past two months as other organs of the federal government — most notably the Supreme Court — and schools, localities and the private sector have embraced video technology to conduct business. The smaller, 100-member Senate returned May 4 and has relied on remote committee work for hearings, though senators still must be present for roll-call votes.

The proxy voting proposal allows any member attending a House vote to cast as many as 10 votes on behalf of colleagues who have authorized those votes by letter to the House clerk.

washington post logoruth marcus twitter CustomWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s strategy: First, dismantle Mueller. Then peddle ‘Obamagate,’ Ruth Marcus, right, May 15, 2020. President Trump wants to wipe away the stain of Russian interference on his behalf in the 2016 election. There are two tracks in this effort: one that reached its culmination in the past week, the other percolating for years but weaponized recently by Trump himself.

Think of the first as “The Great Undoing,” the effort to unravel the work of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The second can be best described as “Lock Her Up 2,” a cynical plan to deploy rhetoric that is as overheated as it is unspecific — “OBAMAGATE!” — in the service of tarnishing the opposition.

The Great Undoing has been long in the making. The president has seethed since the moment his first attorney general recused himself from the Russia inquiry and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein appointed a special counsel to oversee the investigation.

The entire point of naming a special counsel is that it would undermine public confidence in the impartiality of the outcome if the ordinary leadership of the Justice Department ran the investigation. Therefore, bringing in an outside party would be in “the public interest,” as the regulation explains.

But, of course, Trump has no conception of the public interest, only of his own interest. He cannot fathom — and he earned himself an obstruction-of-justice investigation as a consequence — that the department is supposed to operate independently of the White House, or that the attorney general is not, in fact, intended to function as his own personal Roy Cohn.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: The List: the favorite tool of fascists, Wayne Madsen, right, May 15, 2020. Lists have long been used by fascists and wayne madesen report logoproto-fascists to intimidate and do even worse to their political opponents. Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin had wayne madsen screen shothis infamous lists of “Communists” in the State Department and “pansies” elsewhere in government.

And now, Donald Trump has his list of what he calls “traitors,” those he is accusing of treason for unmasking the names of American intelligence targets suspected of colluding with foreign interests in the 2016 presidential election.

washington post logoWashington Post, North Dakota businesses dominated the PPP. Their secret weapon? A century-old bank founded by radical progressives, Andrew Van Dam, May 15, 2020. How North Dakota small businesses secured more Paycheck Protection Program dollars per employee than any other sba logo new Custom Customstate, with the help of the last bank of its kind.

Small businesses there secured more PPP funds, relative to the state’s workforce, than their competitors in any other state — more than $5,000 per private-sector worker as of May 8, according to a Washington Post analysis.

In the program’s troubled first round in particular, the state put business lenders in the rest of the country to shame. North Dakota small businesses appeared to have a significant advantage in administration and organization.

  • Washington Post, J.C. Penney files for bankruptcy, plans to close some stores, Abha Bhattarai​, May 15, 2020. The department store chain, grappling with $4 billion in debt, became the fourth major U.S. retailer to seek Chapter 11 protection this month.

 2020 U.S. Elections / Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We need to prepare for the possibility of Trump rejecting election results, Brian Klaas, May 15, 2020. I’ve studied genuinely rigged elections across the globe. The tactics, context and strategies vary enormously from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe. But one trait they have in common is this: The winner doesn’t claim they were rigged.

Not so with Trump. In 2016, when he narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton despite losing the popular vote by a historic margin, he claimed that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally. That is a lie. But it raised an obvious question: If Trump claimed that an election he won was rigged, what will he do with an election he loses?

joe biden 2020 button CustomAlready, he has insinuated that Democratic victories are the result of rigged elections. It’s part of a deliberate strategy to discredit the legitimacy of his political opponents, but it also endangers the peaceful transfer of power, which is a cornerstone of democratic government.

It’s worth reiterating that Trump’s claims are lies. The evidence is clear. Voter fraud is a minuscule problem in the United States. One comprehensive study found 31 cases of voter fraud out of more than 1 billion ballots cast from 2000 to 2014, a rate of 0.0000031 percent of all votes. And lest you think that study was somehow biased against Republican claims, George W. Bush’s Justice Department went looking for voter fraud and basically came up empty. Indeed, as Lorraine Minnite, a political science professor at Rutgers University has noted, in 2005, more people were charged with violating migratory-bird statutes than voter fraud. And that was while Bush’s administration was actively seeking fraud cases to prosecute.

What will happen if Trump loses and then takes to Twitter to say he actually won? It’s not hard to see how deadly that could become, particularly given that Fox News personalities are already absurdly throwing around the word “coup” to describe lawful investigations and oversight of the president’s conduct. When people in positions of authority and influence invoke the language of political violence and then lose power, violence often ensues. It would be a mistake to assume the United States is somehow immune from that possibility.

Republicans who care about the republic must act now: They need to call out the president when he spreads lies and stokes fears about voter fraud that are rooted only in conservative mythology. Otherwise, we can pretend to be shocked, but nobody should be surprised if Trump tries to discredit the 2020 election — no matter the consequences — if he loses.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats scrutinize State Dept. plan to overhaul Social Security, John Hudson, May 15, 2020. The “Eagle Plan” is among the options that have circulated in the Trump administration to address concerns about the ballooning national debt. It calls for giving Americans $10,000 upfront in exchange for curbing their federal retirement benefits, such as Social Security.

The Democratic chairmen of two House panels are scrutinizing a State Department plan to overhaul Social Security that they say unfairly takes away Americans’ entitlement benefits in exchange for a quick cash payment.

The policy proposal, known as the “Eagle Plan,” is one of the options that have circulated in the Trump administration to address concerns about the ballooning national debt due to massive federal spending to combat the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Reps. Joaquin Castro (Tex.), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on oversight and investigations, and John B. Larson (Conn.), the chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security, sent a letter to a State Department official on Thursday asking for the “complete and unredacted” version of the plan, a list of the individuals who contributed to it and any other related documents.

  • Washington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Biden and Trump wage an ad battle over China and the coronavirus, Glenn Kessler, May 15, 2020. Both candidates are attacking each other as soft on China. Here’s a guide to their claims.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Obama aides angry over Ronny Jackson’s embrace of Trump’s conspiracy theories, Colby Itkowitz, May 15, 2020. The former White House doctor adopted President Trump’s conspiracy that former president Barack Obama and his administration “weaponized the federal government” to hurt Trump.

Former Obama officials expressed anger and a sense of betrayal after onetime White House doctor Ronny L. Jackson echoed President Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories about their former boss, President Barack Obama.

ronnie jacksonThe retired Navy admiral, right, who served as the physician to the president under George W. Bush, Obama and Trump, released a lengthy statement Thursday doubling down on a tweet he’d sent the day before calling Obama, and people who worked for him, “a Deep State traitor” who “deserves to be brought to justice for their heinous actions.”

Jackson’s comments followed a tirade of tweets from Trump proclaiming “Obamagate,” over unsubstantiated claims that the Obama administration was working to take down Trump. Jackson accused his former boss of weaponizing “the highest levels of our government to spy on Trump.”

“I will never apologize for standing up to protect America’s national security interests and constitutional freedoms, even if that means triggering liberals and the ‘mainstream media,’ ” Jackson said in his statement.

Former Obama officials who worked with Jackson in the White House reacted with surprise and hurt that their former colleague was embracing Trump’s conspiracy theory, which he has called “the biggest political crime and scandal in the history of the USA” and “worse than Watergate” — though he’s been short on specifics, telling reporters who asked Monday, “You know what the crime is.”

“During my time in the White House Ronny L. Jackson was my colleague, my friend and my doctor. I thanked him in my book for his good care,” tweeted Alyssa Mastromonaco, Obama’s onetime deputy chief of staff. “His comments yesterday and today leave me confused, angry, and heartbroken. I don’t recognize this version of Ronny at all.”

Others struggled to square Jackson’s rhetoric with the person who they say was once friends with Obama and his team.

“Ronny L. Jackson palled around with us Deep State Traitors for 8 years and did nothing but smile and say kind things about Barack Obama, who made him an Admiral,” Jon Favreau, Obama’s onetime speechwriter, wrote on Twitter.

One of Favreau’s podcast co-hosts on “Pod Save America,” former Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor, also referenced Jackson’s friendship and accused him of adopting Trump’s conspiracy theories for political purposes.

“Ronny L. Jackson was friends with Obama and his entire staff,” Vietor tweeted. “I never heard him make a partisan statement. So it’s really been sad to watch him debase himself by lying for Trump … to win a Congressional primary. Truly shameful.”

Jackson left his White House post after 12 years in 2018, and shortly afterward, Trump nominated him to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. But Jackson withdrew amid growing allegations of professional misconduct.

Trump took a liking to Jackson after the doctor answered questions from reporters following the president’s first physical exam at the White House. Jackson gave a fawning report of Trump’s mental and physical health, telling reporters “that if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old.”

Jackson is running for Congress as a Republican in Texas. He ran in a crowded primary where no candidate received a majority of the vote, so he and th

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It is far too early for Democrats to panic over Biden, Karen Tumulty, May 15, 2020. Where’s Joe Biden?, Democrats keep asking. Why isn’t he doing anything?

joe biden 2020 button CustomThe party is in a state of high anxiety over the fact that its nominee-in-waiting appears trapped at home, like so many of the rest of us are during the covid-19 pandemic.

Donors and other allies fret over technical glitches in the former vice president’s online appearances, and point to the disadvantage that he has against President Trump when it comes to money, organization and digital resources.

The criticism is justified, and Biden’s campaign says it is moving to address its weaknesses. On Friday, strategists said Biden forces will have 600 organizers in place in battleground states within the next month — and are doubling their digital team. They talk boldly of how states such as Arizona, Texas and Georgia could be put into play this fall.

washington post logo

e other top vote-getter are competing in a runoff election May 26 to determine who runs in November. Trump has endorsed Jackson in the race.

Sexual Claims Against Biden

PBS, What 74 former Biden staffers think about Tara Reade’s allegations, Daniel Bush and Lisa Desjardins, May 15, 2020. Over his decades-long career in the Senate, former Vice President Joe Biden was known as a demanding but fair and family-oriented boss, devoted to his home life in Delaware and committed to gender equality in his office.

He was not on a list of “creepy” male senators that female staffers told each other to avoid in the elevators on Capitol Hill.

Yet Biden, now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, was also a toucher, seemingly oblivious to whether physical contact made some women uncomfortable. That behavior has persisted in recent years. Biden is now facing fresh scrutiny after a former aide in March charged that he sexually assaulted her when she worked in his Senate office in the early 1990s, an allegation Biden has categorically denied.

The PBS NewsHour spoke with 74 former Biden staffers, of whom 62 were women, in order to get a broader picture of his behavior toward women over the course of his career, how they see the new allegation, and whether there was evidence of a larger pattern.

None of the people interviewed said that they had experienced sexual harassment, assault or misconduct by Biden. All said they never heard any rumors or allegations of Biden engaging in sexual misconduct, until the recent assault allegation made by Tara Reade. Former staffers said they believed Reade should be heard, and acknowledged that their experiences do not disprove her accusation.

In all, the NewsHour tried to contact nearly 200 former staffers of Biden’s, based primarily on public records of his time in the Senate and White House and also from interviews with current campaign advisers. They include former interns and senior aides, from his 1972 Senate campaign through his time at the White House.

Some are still in politics, others left long ago to pursue other careers. They were asked about Reade’s allegation but also whether they, or anyone they know, were ever uncomfortable around Biden. Many said that her sexual assault allegation was at odds with their knowledge of Biden’s behavior toward women.

The interviews revealed previously unreported details about the Biden office when Reade worked there, such as an account that she lost her job because of her poor performance, not as retaliation for lodging complaints about sexual harassment, as Reade has said.

Other recollections from former staffers corroborated things she has described publicly, such as Biden’s use of the Senate gym and a supervisor admonishing her for dressing inappropriately.

Overall, the people who spoke to the NewsHour described largely positive and gratifying experiences working for Biden, painting a portrait of someone who was ahead of his time in empowering women in the workplace.

“The one thing about Joe Biden is, he is a man of the highest character and that’s why these accusations are so surreal and just can’t comport with the man I worked with,” said Marcia Lee Taylor, a senior policy advisor on the Judiciary Committee, where women held leading roles when Biden served as chairman.

But he had blindspots, which Biden himself has publicly acknowledged, when it came to how his interactions with women in public could make them uncomfortable.

Reade declined the NewsHour’s interview request but her attorney, Doug Wigdor, sent detailed answers to a number of questions by email. He wrote that Biden’s public touching is evidence that he could have mistreated his client in the way she claims.

“I don’t think anyone would describe these situations as normal,” Wigdor wrote. “They are troublesome, to say the least.”

Many former Biden staffers said they believe Reade’s allegation is false.

Addressing Tara Reade’s allegations

Since Reade went public with her assault accusation in March, former staffers of Biden’s world have been scanning their memories, considering the details of her story and their own experiences.

Reade, in interviews with multiple news outlets, has alleged that Biden attacked her in the Senate complex when she met him on an errand. But her accusations are also more sweeping. She has charged that the Biden office was a toxic place to work, that the senator touched her shoulders and neck multiple times, and that she was asked to serve drinks because he thought she was pretty. Reade has also claimed she was demoted and ultimately pushed to leave because she complained about workplace harassment.

The NewsHour spoke with more than 20 people who worked for Biden when Reade was also a staffer. Some remembered her, many did not.

Ben Savage, who said his desk was next to Reade’s in the Biden mailroom, disputed her charge that she was forced out of her job in retaliation for a sexual harassment complaint she claims to have filed.

Savage, who worked as the office’s systems administrator, overseeing computers and information processing, told the NewsHour that Reade was fired for her poor performance on the job, which he witnessed — not as retaliation for her complaints about sexual harassment.

But according to Savage, Reade had been mishandling a key part of her job and an essential office task — processing constituent mail, something they worked on together. Savage said he recalls reporting these issues to his boss, deputy chief of staff Dennis Toner. After that, Savage said he began diminishing Reade’s duties, taking over some of her tasks and rerouting parts of the process to exclude her.

“Of all the people who held that position, she’s the only one during my time there who couldn’t necessarily keep up or who found it frustrating,” said Savage, who worked in the office for three years, from 1993 to 1996.

Toner, who was Savage’s direct supervisor, told the NewsHour that he did not remember Reade. He said he did remember Savage as a good worker who stood out in the office.

“I can’t take issue with Ben saying that her job performance was not up to par. We would have had a discussion with Tara or whomever the employee would have been to see how we could make it work,” Toner said. “I do not recall Tara being in the office. I can’t comment on why she would have left or anything like that,” he added.

Wigdor, Reade’s attorney, said that she does not remember Savage specifically, but said his story is wrong and her performance had nothing to do with her termination.

“Ms. Reade recalls that there was a lot of nitpicking regarding her performance in the office,” he wrote. “She was also very nervous at that point and distracted so it is possible that from time to time there was a mistake made … but her performance had nothing to do with her termination.”

 tara reade screenshot via the hill Custom

Tara Reade (screenshot via The Hill newspaper).

Politico, ‘Manipulative, deceitful, user’: Tara Reade left a trail of aggrieved acquaintances, Natasha Korecki, May 15, 2020. A number of those who crossed paths with Biden’s accuser say they remember two things: She spoke favorably about her time working for Biden, and she left them feeling duped.

Harriet Wrye did a double take the first time she saw Tara Reade on television lodging sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden.

“Jim, that’s Tara,” the 79-year-old author and psychologist called out to her husband, “but she has a different name.”

Wrye and her husband knew Reade as Tara McCabe, the woman who had rented a yurt on their 12-acre California property and tended to the couple’s horses — and her own — for about 10 months beginning in 2017. They were well-acquainted with their former tenant, who frequently knocked on the door of their home seeking emotional support, asking for financial help or forgiveness for late rent payments, which they granted.

“I would sit down and talk to her and try to be encouraging and supportive,” said Wrye, who noted Reade “had heart and some good qualities.”

“This lack of money was hugely problematic for her, she was always on the ropes in that way.”

Reade had spoken highly of Biden, the former boss who employed her as a staff assistant from late 1992 to August 1993, and never mentioned assault or harassment, Wrye recalls. But what Wrye remembers most is that by the time Reade left their property and moved on, Wrye felt burned.

After her husband suffered a brain injury that forced the couple to sell the property, Wrye said, Reade turned on them.

“She became really difficult,” Wrye said. “She said, ‘You’re going to have to pay me to get me to leave.’”

“She was manipulative,” said Wrye, a self-described feminist and social activist. “She was always saying she was going to get it together, but she couldn’t. And ‘could you help her’?”

Wrye’s distressing experience with Reade wasn’t an isolated case. Over the past decade, Reade has left a trail of aggrieved acquaintances in California’s Central Coast region who say they remember two things about her — she spoke favorably about her time working for Biden, and she left them feeling duped.

As part of an investigation into Reade’s allegations against Biden — charges that are already shaping the contours of his campaign against a president who has been accused of sexual assault and misconduct by multiple women — POLITICO interviewed more than a dozen people, many of whom interacted with Reade through her involvement in the animal-rescue community.

A number of those in close contact with Reade over the past 12 years, a period in which she went by the names Tara Reade, Tara McCabe or Alexandra McCabe, laid out a familiar pattern: Reade ingratiated herself, explained she was down on her luck and needed help, and eventually took advantage of their goodwill to extract money, skip rent payments or walk out on other bills.

The people quoted in this article provided copies of past emails, screenshots of Facebook Messenger or text exchanges with Reade, copies of billing invoices or court records detailing their grievances or correspondence. POLITICO also reviewed dozens of public records, including court documents, divorce filings and Reade’s 2012 bankruptcy records.

The accounts paint a picture of Reade’s life in the years leading up to her allegations, in which she spoke often of her connection to Biden but also of troubles in her personal life and a need for money. Sexual abuse victims sometimes offer contradictory information about their alleged abusers, so her comments do not necessarily refute her claims against the former vice president. But they add weight to the evidence that she spoke positively about him in the years before she accused him of digitally penetrating her in the early ’90s.

tara reade youngerReached by phone, Reade (shown at left in a file photo from her younger days) declined to answer specific questions and referred the matter to her attorney, Douglas Wigdor.

Wigdor argued that Reade’s favorable comments about Biden are no different than how some of Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein’s accusers continued to have contact with him even after they said he abused them.

“Sort of like some of the late victims of Harvey Weinstein,” said Wigdor, who has represented several Weinstein accusers. “That is not uncommon.”

But many of those who knew her well in recent years said she frequently lied or sought to manipulate them, in many instances taking advantage of their desire to help a person they felt was down on her luck.

“You can use these words: manipulative, deceitful, user,” said Kelly Klett, an attorney who rented Reade a room in her home in 2018. “Looking back at it all now, that is exactly how I view her and how I feel about her.”

“She has a problem,” said Lynn Hummer, who owns a horse sanctuary where Reade volunteered for two years, beginning in 2014.

She described Reade as “very clever, manipulative. … I do think she’s a liar.”

Hummer provided an email from an exchange in which, within weeks of starting at the ranch, Reade asked whether she could bring her car on Hummer’s property to hide it from “the repo man.” Hummer declined.

In another instance, Reade came by the ranch desperately seeking $200 to pay the rent, Hummer said. On the way to Reade’s house, Hummer said she didn’t notice that Reade texted her and upped her request from $200 to $350.

Hummer also alleged Reade called a veterinarian to the ranch to service her personal horse, leaving Hummer to pay a $1,400 bill.

Hummer has publicly leveled that charge and others since Reade’s accusations against Biden have gone public. On social media last month, Reade denied them.

“A lawyer will be in contact with you for defaming me,” Reade said over Twitter. “You may not continue to spread false information regarding my life.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden says he does not remember Tara Reade, Annie Linskey, May 15, 2020. Joe Biden says on MSNBC that he does not recall the former senate aide, who worked for him in the early 1990s.

Former vice president Joe Biden said Thursday that he does not remember Tara Reade, who has accused him of sexually assaulting her when she was working in his Senate office in the early 1990s.

Asked by MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell if he remembers Reade, Biden said: “To be honest with you, I don’t.”

Biden made the remarks in an interview that aired Thursday evening on “The Last Word.” The presumptive Democratic nominee for president appeared alone in one segment of the program, and was then joined by Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial nominee.

Abrams is a potential vice-presidential pick for Biden, and he asked that she join him on the program. He complimented her work on voting rights, saying she “knows what she’s doing and she’s incredibly capable person.”

tara reade joe biden CustomBefore Abrams, Biden was asked about Reade and made his most extensive comments since he first addressed the accusation on “Morning Joe” earlier this month.

“Her story has changed considerable times,” Biden said at one point. “This claim has changed as it’s gone on.”

Last year, Reade was among several women who said that Biden had made her feel uncomfortable. She told The Washington Post that he touched her neck and shoulders but did not mention the alleged assault.

This year Reade added to the story, saying that he pushed her against a wall in a Senate hallway and put his hand up her skirt.

“Nothing like this ever happened,” Biden said Thursday. “She should be heard and the story should be vetted but ultimately the truth matters.”

Biden also addressed the distress that the accusation has caused on the left, in which some activists take her claims seriously but also want to defeat President Trump, who has been accused of sexual assault by at least 16 women.

Sex Claim, Investor Scam Promoter Pursued

Jacob Wohl, whose supposed investment acumen as a 17-year-old, was featured by Fox Business News (screenshot)

Jacob Wohl, whose supposed investment acumen as a 17-year-old, was featured by Fox Business News (screenshots). Separate from his investment activities, Wohl has become known as a promoter of scandal allegations against perceived opponents of Donald Trump and other Republicans. On May 7, Diana Andrade and Jacob Wohl (Andrade photo via Reason.com)2020, Reason Magazine published a column quoting Diana Andrade, shown below right in a photo with Wohl when she said they were dating, in a story headlined as follows: Reason, She Said Anthony Fauci Sexually Assaulted Her. Now She Says Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman Paid Her to Lie.

Salon, Arizona attorney general “actively pursuing” right-wing troll Jacob Wohl, Roger Sollenberger, May 15, 2020. Right-wing provocateur Jacob Wohl owes $43,000 in Arizona, and the state AG is prepared to come for him. The Arizona attorney general’s office is actively pursuing collection efforts against right-wing social media provocateur Jacob Wohl, who has not made any payments toward nearly $38,000 in fines from a 2016 investment fraud ruling against him, Salon has learned.

A spokesperson for the Arizona Corporation Commission notified Salon about Wohl’s delinquency in response to a Salon article last week.

“The Commission, through the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, is actively pursuing collection efforts against Mr. Wohl,” the spokesperson told Salon in an email.

“Mr. Wohl has not paid anything since the matter was sent to the Attorney General’s Office for collections,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. “Given his indictment last year, I would venture that any available funds are going to pay his criminal defense counsel.”

The Commission said it retains the right to take further action against Wohl “if he violates any part of the order or if he commits additional actions that violate the Arizona Securities Act or the Investment Management Act.”

According to the court order, the commission said, Wohl accrues interest on any unpaid amount.

“Between penalty and restitution, Mr. Wohl owes approximately $43,000,” the commission spokesperson said. “The Attorney General’s office has engaged California counsel to assist in collections efforts. Those lawyers are utilizing all statutorily allowed collection methods to obtain the funds owed to the state.”

The 22-year-old Wohl, who has achieved a modest measure of media infamy with a series of hapless attempts to fabricate smears of sexual impropriety against Democratic elected officials and other public figures — including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former special counsel Robert Mueller, and, most recently, Dr. Anthony Fauci — apparently cut his teeth on investment fraud beginning in his late teens.

In 2017 the Arizona Corporation Commission filed a cease-and-desist order against Wohl, at the time 20 years old, alleging that he and his business partner broke the law in 2015 and 2016 when they misled clients about how much of their money would be at risk and exaggerated the size of their company.

jacob wohl screen Shot 2018 11 02 CustomThe commission ordered Wohl, shown at left, to pay his victims $32,919 in restitution, plus $5,000 in penalties. Wohl asked for a continuance. “I’m wondering why we’re going through this exercise, and why you think your client is going to make payment on a later date if he’s not able to make payment today,” Commissioner Boyd Dunn said to Wohl’s counsel at a hearing.

“This is a relatively small amount,” the attorney replied. “I know you guys have seen hundreds of thousands of dollars for these types of cases.”

“It’s not a small amount to the investor. So don’t belittle it,” Dunn said. The commission accommodated Wohl with a four-week continuance, after which he was required to pay his fine in monthly installments of $1,371.61. Arizona Central reported in 2018 that Wohl had not paid any of it, and that balance remains unchanged today.

The scams earned Wohl a lifetime ban by the National Futures Association, and led directly to felony charges currently facing him in California. (Wohl has denied wrongdoing.)

In 2016 an Arizona man tipped off the Riverside County district attorney’s fffice that Wohl and his business partner, Matt Johnson, 30, had swindled him out of $75,000 he invested through Wohl Capital Investment Group. The man killed himself shortly afterward, according to Wohl’s arrest warrant.

The tip led the Riverside County DA to open an investigation into a separate matter, which led the office to indict Wohl, who lives in Corona, California, as well as Johnson, on two counts of selling unregistered securities. The Daily Beast first reported those charges last September.

In February, Wohl and Johnson pleaded not guilty, but their hearing, set for April 24, was postponed due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and has not been rescheduled.

The tip led the Riverside County DA to open an investigation into a separate matter, which led the office to indict Wohl, who lives in Corona, California, as well as Johnson, on two counts of selling unregistered securities. The Daily Beast first reported those charges last September.

In February, Wohl and Johnson pleaded not guilty, but their hearing, set for April 24, was postponed due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and has not been rescheduled.

More Media / Political News

The Atlantic, Investigation Into The Prophecies of Q, Adrienne LaFrance, June 2020. American conspiracy theories are entering a dangerous new phase. This article is part of “Shadowland,” a project about conspiracy thinking in America.

Conspiracy theories are a constant in American history, and it is tempting to dismiss them as inconsequential. But as the 21st century has progressed, such a dismissal has begun to require willful blindness. I was a city-hall reporter for a local investigative-news site called Honolulu Civil Beat in 2011 when Donald Trump was laying the groundwork for a presidential run by publicly questioning whether Barack Obama had been born in Hawaii, as all facts and documents showed. Trump maintained that Obama had really been born in Africa, and therefore wasn’t a natural-born American—making him ineligible for the highest office. I remember the debate in our Honolulu newsroom: Should we even cover this “birther” madness? As it turned out, the allegations, based entirely on lies, captivated enough people to give Trump a launching pad.

[With] Trump now president, a series of ideas began burbling in the QAnon community: that the coronavirus might not be real; that if it was, it had been created by the “deep state,” the star chamber of government officials and other elite figures who secretly run the world; that the hysteria surrounding the pandemic was part of a plot to hurt Trump’s reelection chances; and that media elites were cheering the death toll. Some of these ideas would make their way onto Fox News and into the president’s public utterances. As of late last year, according to The New York Times, Trump had retweeted accounts often focused on conspiracy theories, including those of QAnon, on at least 145 occasions.

The power of the internet was understood early on, but the full nature of that power — its ability to shatter any semblance of shared reality, undermining civil society and democratic governance in the process — was not. The internet also enabled unknown individuals to reach masses of people, at a scale Marshall McLuhan never dreamed of. The warping of shared reality leads a man with an AR-15 rifle to invade a pizza shop. It brings online forums into being where people colorfully imagine the assassination of a former secretary of state. It offers the promise of a Great Awakening, in which the elites will be routed and the truth will be revealed. It causes chat sites to come alive with commentary speculating that the coronavirus pandemic may be the moment QAnon has been waiting for. None of this could have been imagined as recently as the turn of the century.

QAnon is emblematic of modern America’s susceptibility to conspiracy theories, and its enthusiasm for them. But it is also already much more than a loose collection of conspiracy-minded chat-room inhabitants. It is a movement united in mass rejection of reason, objectivity, and other Enlightenment values. And we are likely closer to the beginning of its story than the end. The group harnesses paranoia to fervent hope and a deep sense of belonging. The way it breathes life into an ancient preoccupation with end-times is also radically new. To look at QAnon is to see not just a conspiracy theory but the birth of a new religion.

What might have languished as a lonely screed on a single image board instead incited fervor. Its profile was enhanced, according to Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins of NBC News, by several conspiracy theorists whose promotion of Q in turn helped build up their own online profiles. By now, nearly three years since Q’s original messages appeared, there have been thousands of what his followers call “Q drops” — messages posted to image boards by Q. He uses a password-protected “tripcode,” a series of letters and numbers visible to other image-board users to signal the continuity of his identity over time. (Q’s tripcode has changed on occasion, prompting flurries of speculation.) As Q has moved from one image board to the next — from 4chan to 8chan to 8kun, seeking a safe harbor — QAnon adherents have only become more devoted. If the internet is one big rabbit hole containing infinitely recursive rabbit holes, QAnon has somehow found its way down all of them, gulping up lesser conspiracy theories as it goes.

It’s impossible to know the number of QAnon adherents with any precision, but the ranks are growing. At least 35 current or former congressional candidates have embraced Q, according to an online tally by the progressive nonprofit Media Matters for America. Those candidates have either directly praised QAnon in public or approvingly referenced QAnon slogans. (One Republican candidate for Congress, Matthew Lusk of Florida, includes QAnon under the “issues” section of his campaign website, posing the question: “Who is Q?”)

QAnon has by now made its way onto every major social and commercial platform and any number of fringe sites. Tracy Diaz, a QAnon evangelist, known online by the name TracyBeanz, has 185,000 followers on Twitter and more than 100,000 YouTube subscribers. She helped lift QAnon from obscurity, facilitating its transition to mainstream social media. (A publicist described Diaz as “really private” and declined requests for an interview.) On TikTok, videos with the hashtag #QAnon have garnered millions of views. There are too many QAnon Facebook groups, plenty of them ghost towns, to do a proper count, but the most active ones publish thousands of items each day. (In 2018, Reddit banned QAnon groups from its platform for inciting violence.)

Adherents are ever looking out for signs from on high, plumbing for portents when guidance from Q himself is absent. The coronavirus, for instance — what does it signify? In several of the big Facebook groups, people erupted in a frenzy of speculation, circulating a theory that Trump’s decision to wear a yellow tie to a White House briefing about the virus was a sign that the outbreak wasn’t real. On March 9, Q himself issued a triptych of ominous posts that seemed definitive: The coronavirus is real, but welcome, and followers should not be afraid. The first post shared Trump’s tweet from the night before and repeated, “Nothing Can Stop What Is Coming.” The second said: “The Great Awakening is Worldwide.” The third was simple: “GOD WINS.”

A month later, on April 8, Q went on a posting spree, dropping nine posts over the span of six hours and touching on several of his favorite topics — God, Pizzagate, and the wickedness of the elites. “They will stop at nothing to regain power,” he wrote in one scathing post that alleged a coordinated propaganda effort by Democrats, Hollywood, and the media. Another accused Democrats of promoting “mass hysteria” about the coronavirus for political gain: “What is the primary benefit to keep public in mass-hysteria re: COVID‑19? Think voting. Are you awake yet? Q.” And he shared these verses from Ephesians: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”

Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has become an object of scorn among QAnon supporters who don’t like the bad news he delivers or the way he has contradicted Trump publicly. In one March press conference, Trump referred to the State Department as the “Deep State Department,” and Fauci could be seen over the president’s shoulder, suppressing a laugh and covering his djt anthony fauciface. By then, QAnon had already declared Fauci irredeemably compromised, because WikiLeaks had unearthed a pair of emails he sent praising Hillary Clinton in 2012 and 2013.

Sentiment about Fauci, right, among QAnon supporters on social-media platforms ranges from “Fauci is a Deep State puppet” to “FAUCI is a BLACKHAT!!!”—the term QAnon uses for people who support the evil cabal that Q warns about. One person, using the hashtags #DeepStateCabal and #Qanon, tweeted this: “Watch Fauci’s hand signals and body language at the press conferences. What is he communicating?” Another shared an image of Fauci standing in a lab with Barack Obama, with the caption “Obama and ‘Dr.’ Fauci in the lab creating coronovirus [sic]. #DeepstateDoctor.” The Justice Department recently approved heightened security measures for Fauci because of the mounting volume of threats against him.

In the final days before Congress passed a $2 trillion economic-relief package in late March, Democrats insisted on provisions that would make it easier for people to vote by mail, prompting Q himself to weigh in with dismay: “These people are sick! Nothing can stop what is coming. Nothing.”

The most prominent QAnon figures have a presence beyond the biggest social-media platforms and image boards. The Q universe encompasses numerous blogs, proprietary websites, and types of chat software, as well as alternative social-media platforms such as Gab, the site known for anti-Semitism and white nationalism, where many people banned from Twitter have congregated. Vloggers and bloggers promote their Patreon accounts, where people can pay them in monthly sums.

There’s also money to be made from ads on YouTube. Q evangelists have taken a “publish everywhere” approach that is half outreach, half redundancy. If one platform cracks down on QAnon, as Reddit did, they won’t have to start from scratch somewhere else. Already embroiled in the battle between good and evil, QAnon has involved itself in another battle — between the notion of an open web for the people and a gated internet controlled by a powerful few.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just picked the wrong battle, Bill Palmer, May 15, 2020. Yesterday President Obama read a book and got a million likes on a tweet – two things that Donald Trump can’t do.

For his part, Trump spent the day obsessively trying to hype his imaginary “Obamagate” scandal, while demanding that Obama be called to testify to Congress about said imaginary scandal. Even Trump’s lapdog Lindsey Graham quickly acknowledged that his committee wasn’t going to ask Obama to testify.

bill palmer report logo headerNot only has Donald Trump picked the wrong fight, he’s done it at the wrong time. The exceedingly unpopular Trump is pointing at one of the most popular people in the country and saying “either you’re with him or you’re with me.” Most Americans are going to choose Obama over Trump without a second thought. The fact that Trump is picking this weird battle during a deadly pandemic and an economic collapse, instead of doing his job, makes it even more of a no-win proposition for him.

At least when Trump made up fake scandals back in the 2016 election cycle, they were about his actual opponents, and they were about people he thought he could actually gain points by smearing. What we’re seeing now is a reminder that, in addition to everything that was psychologically wrong with Trump back then, he’s now also suffering from cognitive problems. He’s too far gone to understand that feuding with Obama like this is a bad idea.

Yet Donald Trump is as psychotic as ever, so he still sits around fuming all day about how he’ll never be as popular or respected as President Obama. The difference is that he’s now too senile to push back against his own impulse to do battle with Obama. That’s fine. Bring it on. It’ll only work in Obama’s – and Joe Biden’s – favor.

Variety, Law Firm Hackers Claim to Have Dirt on Donald Trump, Up Data Ransom to $42M, Todd Spangler, May 15, 2020. The cyber-extortionists who stole a trove of private data from entertainment law firm Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks now have a new target in their sights: President Donald Trump.

In a blog post Thursday on the dark web viewed by Variety, the hacker collective that is holding thousands of the law firm’s documents hostage — allegedly including private info on Lady Gaga, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Bruce Springsteen, Mary J. Blige, Ella Mai, Christina Aguilera, and Mariah Carey — said they were increasing their demands for payment to $42 million. That’s double their initial $21 million ask. The group is threatening to publicly release more data if they’re not paid within a week.

The law firm, through a rep, said it is not negotiating with the hackers. The FBI is actively conducting a criminal investigation into the data breach and ransomware demands.

On Thursday, the hackers behind the attack shared 2.4 gigabytes of documents relating to Lady Gaga, including contracts and nondisclosure agreements.

Trump will be the next subject of a data dump, the unidentified ransomware attackers claimed. “The next person we’ll be publishing is Donald Trump,” the blog post said. “There’s an election race going on, and we found a ton of dirty laundry on time.” The hackers added, “And to you voters, we can let you know that after such a publication, you certainly don’t want to see him as president. Well, let’s leave out the details. The deadline is one week.”

Trump Business Deals

djt tump int hotel

washington post logoWashington Post, Court revives lawsuit targeting President Trump’s business dealings at D.C. hotel, Ann E. Marimow and Jonathan O’Connell, May 15, 2020 (print ed.). A federal appeals court on Friday revived a lawsuit seeking to block President Trump’s hotel in downtown Washington from accepting payments from foreign and state governments.

In a divided decision, the court refused to dismiss the novel lawsuit that accuses the president of illegally profiting from foreign and state government patrons at his D.C. hotel. The case, brought by the top lawyers for Maryland and the District of Columbia, is one of a set of lawsuits alleging the president’s private business transactions violate the Constitution’s anti-corruption emoluments ban.

“We recognize that the President is no ordinary petitioner, and we accord him great deference as the head of the Executive branch,” Judge Diana Motz wrote for a majority of judges. But the court denied Trump’s request to dimiss the lawsuit, saying it would not “grant the extraordinary relief the President seeks.”

The ruling from the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit is at odds with a decision in March in a separate, similar case that barred individual members of Congress from suing the president over his private business.

The split rulings suggest the Supreme Court will have the final word in the cases involving the rarely tested emoluments provisions intended to prevent foreign and state officials from having undue influence on U.S. leaders, including the president.

At the 4th Circuit, a full complement of 15 judges in December took a second look at the lawsuit from Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine. An initial three-judge panel of the same court had tossed the lawsuit and said the attorneys general did not have legal grounds, or standing, to sue. But the full court agreed to rehear the case and to decide whether to take the extraordinary step to dismiss it midstream as the president’s lawyers requested.

Unlike past presidents, Trump has retained ownership of his private business and can benefit from it financially. His sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump run the company.

The emoluments case centers on the president’s hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Northwest Washington, where foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, have booked rooms and events since Trump entered the White House.

Trump’s Justice Department lawyers say the president is not violating the emoluments clauses because the language bars only payments in exchange for official action or as part of an employment relationship.

Individual members of Congress barred from suing President Trump over business dealings

A District Court judge in Maryland disagreed and interpreted the provisions to ban U.S. officials from accepting any profit, gain or advantage from foreign officials. The judge signed off on more than a dozen subpoenas for Trump’s closely held financial records to determine which foreign and state governments have paid the Trump Organization and how much.

May 14

Pandemic Top Headlines

Virus Victims, Relief

U.S. Crime, Courts, Congress

 

Pandemic Politics

Media / Political News

  • The Atlantic, Investigation Into The Prophecies of Q, Adrienne LaFrance, June 2020. American conspiracy theories are entering a dangerous new phase. This article is part of “Shadowland,” a project about conspiracy thinking in America.

 

Pandemic Top Headlines

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: With Dire Virus Warning, Whistle-Blower to Push Urgent Changes, Staff reports, May 14, 2020. Dr. Rick Bright, right, rick brightwho was ousted from a top science role in the administration, is testifying before the House. Watch it live.

The whistle-blower who was ousted as head of a federal agency involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine charged on Thursday that top Trump administration officials ignored his “dire predictions” about the pandemic, and warned Congress that the Covid-19 outbreak will “get worse and be prolonged” if the United States does not step up its response.

The official, Dr. Rick Bright, who was abruptly removed last month from his position as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, is testifying in person before a House subcommittee. But even before he began, President Trump called for his ouster, dismissing him as a “disgruntled employee.”

“I don’t know the so-called Whistleblower Rick Bright, never met him or even heard of him,” Mr. Trump wrote, “but to me he is a disgruntled employee, not liked or respected by people I spoke to and who, with his attitude, should no longer be working for our government!”

In his prepared testimony for the health subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Dr. Bright warned that “our window of opportunity is closing” and said that this year could bring “the darkest winter in modern history” if the administration does not act.

He called on the administration to develop a national testing strategy and create a plan for “equitable distribution of essential equipment and supplies” to eliminate what governors have described as a Wild West free-for-all competition between states.

“Our nation was not as prepared as we should have been, as we could have been,” Dr. Bright testified on Thursday morning.

Dr. Bright has said he was removed from BARDA and reassigned to a narrower job at the National Institutes of Health, after he objected to the wide distribution of a malaria drug that Mr. Trump has promoted as a treatment for Covid-19.

In his whistle-blower complaint, he accused his superiors at the Department of Health and Human Services of letting “politics” and “cronyism” dictate contracting decisions, and said he was pressured to steer millions of dollars in taxpayer money to the clients of a well-connected consultant. The complaint exposed deep tensions between Dr. Bright and his boss, Dr. Robert Kadlec, assistant secretary for health and preparedness.

robert kadlec hhsDr. Kadlec, Alex M. Azar II, the health secretary, and Peter Navarro, Mr. Trump’s trade adviser, who met with Dr. Bright to talk about the coronavirus response in early February, all refused to testify, Representative Anna Eshoo, Democrat of California, who is chairing the hearing, said as the session began.

H.H.S. officials have strongly disagreed with Dr. Bright’s characterizations. But the Office of Special Counsel, which is investigating the complaint, has found “reasonable grounds” that Dr. Bright was retaliated against, and has asked for his reinstatement for 45 days while its inquiry proceeds.

A spokeswoman for Dr. Bright’s lawyers said Mr. Azar has not told them whether he would comply with the reinstatement request.

jerome powellwashington post logoWashington Post, Powell warns of long, painful downturn if Congress does not provide more economic relief, Heather Long, May 13, 2020. The Fed chair said that 40 percent of American households earning less than $40,000 had lost jobs in March.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, right, gave a dire warning Wednesday that the U.S. economy could become stuck in a painful multi-year recession if Congress and the White House do not approve more aid to address the coronavirus pandemic’s economic fallout.

federal reserve system Custom“Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery,” Powell said in a videoconference with the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Powell said that the United States is in the midst of the “biggest shock our economy has felt in modern times” with job losses at levels not seen since the Depression era and the potential for mass waves of business closures and bankruptcies that could diminish growth for years to come.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wisconsin justices strike down stay-at-home extension, Colby Itkowitz, May 14, 2020 (print ed.). The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s conservative majority sided with Republican legislators and struck down on Wednesday the decision by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’s administration to extend a stay-at-home order intended to quell the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The 4-3 decision limits Evers’s ability to make statewide rules during emergencies such as a global pandemic, instead requiring him to work with the tony evers ostate legislature on how the state should handle the outbreak.

The justices wrote that the court was not challenging the governor’s power to declare emergencies, “but in the case of a pandemic, which lasts month after month, the Governor cannot rely on emergency powers indefinitely.”

Evers, right, condemned the court’s decision, saying in a statement that Wisconsin “was in a pretty good place” but now “Republican legislators have convinced four justices to throw our state into chaos.”

Virus Victims, Relief

washington post logoWashington Post, Experiment shows human speech generates droplets that linger in the air for more than 8 minutes, Joel Achenbach, May 14, 2020 (print ed.). Ordinary speech can emit small respiratory droplets that linger in the air for at least eight minutes and potentially much longer, according to a study published Wednesday that could help explain why infections of the coronavirus so often cluster in nursing homes, households, conferences, cruise ships and other confined spaces with limited air circulation.

The report, from researchers at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the University of Pennsylvania, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal. It is based on an experiment that used laser light to study the number of small respiratory droplets emitted through human speech.

The answer: a lot.

“Highly sensitive laser light scattering observations have revealed that loud speech can emit thousands of oral fluid droplets per second,” the report states.

U.S. Crime, Courts, Congress

washington post logoWashington Post, Court asks retired judge to oppose Justice Dept. effort to drop Flynn case and examine if ex-Trump adviser committed perjury, Michael Flynn Harvard 2014Spencer S. Hsu, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, May 14, 2020 (print ed.). Michael Flynn’s sentencing judge Wednesday asked a former federal judge to oppose the Justice Department’s request to dismiss the former Trump national security adviser’s guilty plea and examine whether Flynn should face a contempt hearing for perjury.

The judge asked whether Flynn, right, should face contempt for perjury after he pleaded guilty to a crime of which he now claims to be innocent.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan’s appointment of retired New York federal Judge John Gleeson, right, comes one day after Sullivan put on hold the Justice Department’s bid to drop charges against Flynn, saying he expects independent groups and legal experts to argue against the move.

“The Court exercises its inherent authority to appoint The Honorable John Gleeson (Ret.) as amicus curiae to present arguments in opposition to the government’s Motion to Dismiss,” Sullivan wrote in a two-page order.

john gleeson Custom“It is further ORDERED that amicus curiae shall address whether the Court should issue an Order to Show Cause why Mr. Flynn should not be held in criminal contempt for perjury.”

The unusual order plunges the Flynn case even deeper into uncharted legal waters, in which the Justice Department has taken a posture more common to defense lawyers, the judge has appointed another judge to see if other crimes occurred, and the president’s supporters demand the immediate dismissal of the entire case.

The department was already under fire from those inside its ranks and thousands of alumni who felt the institution was being politicized and bent to the will of Trump. Sullivan’s order threatens to unearth even more, potentially unflattering details of how the department’s political leaders came to decide they should walk away from a case involving an ally to the president.

john gotti mug shotsAs a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, Gleeson is best known for putting the late mob boss John Gotti, left, behind bars. As a federal judge from 1994 to 2016 appointed by Bill Clinton, Gleeson was not shy about criticizing the Justice Department, and one lawyer who practiced before him called him “a purist.” In a 2013 drug case, he sharply criticized the department’s policies in trying to extract heavy prison sentences as part of guilty pleas, which he called “unsound and brutally unfair” and “the sentencing equivalent of a two-by-four to the forehead.”

In a commentary article Monday, Gleeson observed the Justice Department has made conflicting statements to the court, which has “the authority, the tools and the obligation to assess the credibility of the department’s stated reasons for abruptly reversing course.”

“The law provides that the court — not the executive branch — decides whether an indictment may be dismissed. The responsible exercise of that authority is particularly important here, where a defendant’s plea of guilty has already been accepted. Government motions to dismiss at this stage are virtually unheard of,” Gleeson wrote.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment. Flynn’s defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former federal prosecutor Randall Eliason said while the order is not a definitive sign of what Sullivan will ultimately do with Flynn’s case, it is the clearest indication yet he is not willing to go along easily with the Justice Department’s request.

“I think it’s hard to say what he might ultimately do, but I think it’s clear that he’s not simply going to take the government’s motion at face value, and he wants to probe the reasons for this reversal after two years, and I think that’s completely understandable,” Eliason said. “Judges don’t like to be manipulated.”

Eliason said Sullivan’s contemplation of holding Flynn in contempt for perjury exposed what has long been a flaw in Flynn’s argument that his plea should be undone. The former national security adviser admitted in court under oath three times before two different judges that he lied to the FBI. His assertion now that he did not actually do that means he lied to the court.

“They can’t have it both ways,” Eliason said. “If they’re going to say now he didn’t lie to the FBI, then he lied to the judge. So you could be prosecuted for perjury for that. But presumably Barr’s DOJ is not going to prosecute him for perjury, so another option is the judge could hold him in contempt for lying to the judge.”

In 2009, Sullivan appointed a lawyer as a special prosecutor to investigate whether government lawyers who won a short-lived conviction in the case of former Senator Ted Stevens should be prosecuted for criminal conduct. At the time, the judge declared he had “never seen mishandling and misconduct” like it from the Justice Department.

Forbes, Opinion: Judge Sullivan Disregards Two Controlling Precedents By Appointing Amicus In Flynn Case, Mark Chenoweth, May 14, 2020. Judge Sullivan Disregards Two Controlling Precedents By Appointing Amicus In Flynn Case.

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan disregarded two controlling precedents from higher courts with his decision to appoint John Gleeson as amicus curiae in the U.S. v. Michael Flynn case this week. Judicial conduct similar to J. Sullivan’s in these prior, far less politically charged cases was roundly and unanimously condemned by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, D.C. Circuit Judge Sri Srinivasan, and their colleagues across the ideological spectrum. So, whether or not one agrees with the Department of Justice’s call to drop its charges against President Trump’s former National Security Advisor, Gen. Michael Flynn, there should be widespread agreement that J. Sullivan has veered way out of line.

One week ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 9-0 decision, authored by Justice Ginsburg, that took judges to task for similar amicus antics. Her opinion for the Court in U.S. v. Sineneng-Smith upbraided the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for violating a basic aspect of legal proceedings called the “party presentation principle.”

In a nutshell, this concept dictates that judges must decide the case as presented by the parties before them. They are not to go out questing for dragons to slay (or issues to tackle) that the parties have not brought before them. As J. Ginsburg put it: “[C]ourts are essentially passive instruments of government … They ‘do not, or should not, sally forth each day looking for wrongs to right. [They] wait for cases to come to [them], and when [cases arise, courts] normally decide only questions presented by the parties.”

Instead, in Sineneng-Smith, a Ninth Circuit panel comprised of JJ. Stephen Reinhardt, Wallace Tashima and Marsha Berzon took highly irregular steps in an appeal of a criminal immigration case. The defendant was found guilty at trial of bilking Filipino home health care workers out of more than $3.3 million by promising to file immigration paperwork for them (at nearly $6k a pop) that had no chance of succeeding because the relevant program under which they could become lawful U.S. residents had expired.

Undaunted by this conduct, and apparently in search of a rationale to overturn her conviction, the panel ordered up a new round of amicus briefs after party briefing and oral argument concluded. The panel sought briefs from a few court-selected pro-immigration sources, including the Federal Defender Organizations of the Ninth Circuit, the Immigrant Defense Project, and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. Further, the court directed these amici to brief three specific points, including “whether the statute of conviction is overbroad or likely overbroad under the First Amendment.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-F.B.I. Official Is Said to Undercut Justice Dept. Effort to Drop Flynn Case, Adam Goldman and Katie Benner, Updated May 14, 2020. A key former F.B.I. official cast doubt on the Justice Department’s case for dropping a criminal charge against President Trump’s former Michael Flynn Harvard 2014national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, right, during an interview with investigators last week, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Department officials reviewing the Flynn case interviewed Bill Priestap, the former head of F.B.I. counterintelligence, two days before making their extraordinary request to drop the case to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan. They did not tell Judge Sullivan about Mr. Priestap’s interview. A Justice Department official said that they were in the process of writing up a report on the interview and that it would soon be filed with the court.

FBI logoThe department’s motion referred to notes that Mr. Priestap wrote around the bureau’s 2017 questioning of Mr. Flynn, who later pleaded guilty to lying to investigators during that interview. His lawyers said Mr. Priestap’s notes — recently uncovered during a review of the case — suggested that the F.B.I. was trying to entrap Mr. Flynn, and Attorney General William P. Barr said investigators were trying to “lay a perjury trap.”

That interpretation was wrong, Mr. Priestap told the prosecutors reviewing the case. He said that F.B.I. officials were trying to do the right thing in questioning Mr. Flynn and that he knew of no effort to set him up. Media reports about his notes misconstrued them, he said, according to the people familiar with the investigation.

The department’s decision to exclude mention of Mr. Priestap’s interview in the motion could trouble Judge Sullivan, below left, who signaled late on Tuesday that he was skeptical of the department’s arguments.

emmet sullivan 2012Mr. Priestap and the Justice Department declined to comment. Mr. Priestap told investigators that he did not remember the circumstances surrounding the notes that he took, and that he was giving them his interpretation of the notes as he read them now, according to a person familiar with his interview.

The U.S. dropped its criminal case against President Trump’s first national security adviser. It was the latest reversal in a case full of them.

Former prosecutors and defense lawyers called the department’s position hypocritical and troubling.

“If it is accurate that the F.B.I. official provided context around those notes, which is materially different from what they suggest, this could be a game changer in terms of how the court views the motivations behind the request to dismiss the case,” said Edward Y. Kim, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan.

The department’s decision to drop the Flynn case was a stunning reversal, widely regarded as part of an effort by Mr. Barr to undermine the Russia investigation. The prosecutor who led the case, Brandon L. Van Grack, withdrew from it, and only the interim U.S. attorney in Washington, Timothy Shea, a longtime adviser to Mr. Barr, signed the motion.

Both Mr. Van Grack and Jocelyn Ballantine, another prosecutor on the case, were upset with Mr. Barr’s decision to drop the charge and his overall handling of the Flynn review, according to people familiar with their thinking.

Mr. Barr, who has long said that he had misgivings about the decision to prosecute Mr. Flynn, asked the top federal prosecutor in St. Louis, Jeff Jensen, earlier this year to scrub the case for any mistakes or improprieties.

Mr. Priestap’s notes were among the documents that Mr. Jensen found. The prosecutors already on the case, Mr. Jensen’s team and the F.B.I. disagreed about whether they were exculpatory and should be given to Mr. Flynn’s lawyer, Sidney Powell, right. Mr. Jensen prevailed and gave them to Ms. sidney powellPowell, who declared that they would exonerate her client, people familiar with the events said.

Mr. Priestap played a central role in the F.B.I. investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election and was involved in high-level discussions about whether to question Mr. Flynn, whose phone calls to the Russian ambassador at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak, had aroused investigators’ suspicions.

Mr. Jensen and Ms. Ballantine, herself a veteran prosecutor, interviewed Mr. Priestap along with another prosecutor, Sayler Fleming, and an F.B.I. agent from St. Louis who was there to memorialize the encounter.

Justice Department investigators spoke with Mr. Priestap while they were embroiled in a debate that began last month about whether to drop the Flynn case.

Mr. Jensen and officials in Mr. Shea’s office pushed to give Mr. Flynn’s lawyers copies of the notes and other documents they had recently found. Mr. dana boenteVan Grack and Dana Boente, left, the F.B.I. general counsel, argued against disclosing them.

Eventually the F.B.I. agreed to release the documents because they contained no classified or sensitive material, even though they believed they were not required to share them with the defense, according to an email from lawyers in Mr. Boente’s office on April 23.

By the beginning of May, Mr. Jensen recommended to Mr. Barr that the charge be dropped, and the team began to draft the motion to dismiss it.

Mr. Van Grack and Ms. Ballantine, the prosecutors on the case, acknowledged the facts but vociferously disagreed with Mr. Jensen’s legal argument that Mr. Flynn’s lies were immaterial to the larger investigation into Russian election interference, according to department lawyers familiar with their conversations.

Roll Call, Burr steps aside as Intelligence chairman as stock sale scandal grows, Chris Marquette, May 14, 2020. Sen. Richard M. Burr will step down as chairman of the Intelligence Committee pending a federal investigation into his stock trades that followed a confidential briefing on the coronavirus pandemic before the financial markets cratered.

richard burr o Small“Senator Burr contacted me this morning to inform me of his decision to step aside as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee during the pendency of the investigation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. “We agreed that this decision would be in the best interests of the committee and will be effective at the end of the day tomorrow.”

The announcement comes after the Los Angeles Times reported late Wednesday night the FBI served a warrant on Burr, right, at his Washington residence. The federal agents seized the North Carolina Republican’s cell phone to examine communications between him and his broker.

Burr sold between $628,000 and $1.72 million in his securities holdings on Feb. 13, after the panel began receiving daily coronavirus briefings, ProPublica first reported.

Additionally, NPR obtained a recording on Feb. 27 in which Burr offered a private assessment of the adverse economic impact from the coronavirus — a contrast to his more upbeat public comments.

william barr at doj

Palmer Report, Talk about missing the target, Bill Palmer, May 14, 2020. Anyone who has paid even a modicum of attention to the Michael Flynn criminal case is well aware that Emmet Sullivan is the last judge who could ever be convinced to simply let the case go. Unfortunately for Bill Barr, above, he’s either been paying way too little attention to the criminal cases he’s trying to rig, or he thinks way too much of his own abilities.

Judge Sullivan has previously openly accused Flynn of having sold out his country. Sullivan was outraged when he learned that the DOJ only wanted to give Flynn six months. Now that the DOJ wants to let Flynn walk, even though Flynn has pleaded guilty and confessed to his crimes under oath in detail, Sullivan is hitting the roof.

bill palmer report logo headerI saw this coming. Most of you reading this saw it coming. How did Bill Barr not see this coming? None of us could have predicted the specific remedies that the judge is invoking, from amicus briefs to the appointment of a retired judge to take over the case against Flynn. But we all know there was right around a zero percent chance that Sullivan was going to let Barr do this. Some other federal judge, such as TS Ellis, might have let this slide. Emmet Sullivan? Of course not.

The question is how Bill Barr ended up missing so badly here. Did he really not do his homework? Is he too big for his britches? Or did an increasingly delusional Donald Trump push Barr so hard on this, Barr had no choice but go through with it, knowing it would blow up like this? In any case, what a surreal swing and miss.

Palmer Report, Surreal new twist in Donald Trump’s unraveling Michael Flynn stunt, Bill Palmer, right, May 14, 2020. If Donald Trump and Bill Barr really thought bill palmerthey could convince Judge Emmett Sullivan to simply drop the criminal case against Michael Flynn, they severely misjudged their man. Not only is Sullivan keeping the case intact, he’s seeking amicus briefs from everyone who has a legal opinion on the matter, and he’s appointed a retired judge to essentially take over the prosecution.

Now there’s a new twist.

Michael Flynn’s former attorneys – the ones who helped steer him toward a guilty plea and cooperative plea deal before he ousted them and hired his current loon instead – have now decided that they want to weigh in on Flynn’s guilt. From the court filing (see here), it’s not clear which side they intend to come down on.

bill palmer report logo headerThey were Flynn’s defense lawyers, and they still have attorney-client privilege with him, so they can’t exactly reveal evidence of his guilt that isn’t already out there. But when you consider that these lawyers helped Flynn take the formal position that he was guilty, it’s hard to imagine they’re going to now argue that he was innocent.

In any case we’ll see what happens here. Because Trump and Barr have pulled a stunt that’s basically never happened before by trying to withdraw a criminal case after a guilty plea has been entered, Judge Sullivan gets to decide how he wants to make precedent about how this works. None of this appears to be going on Trump’s favor.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-detective charged in death of Ahmaud Arbery lost power to make arrests after skipping use-of-force training, Michael Brice-Saddler and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., May 14, 2020. Gregory McMichael’s law enforcement certification was suspended in February 2019, according to personnel records acquired by the Washington Post,

ahmaud arberyThe former police detective whose actions in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, right, in Georgia were defended as a citizen’s arrest was stripped of his law enforcement certification and power to arrest a year before the deadly encounter, according to personnel records acquired by The Washington Post.

Gregory McMichael’s certification was suspended in February 2019 after repeated failures to complete required training, according to documents from the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, including a warning in 2014 that McMichael had neglected to finish mandatory firearms and use-of-force courses.

McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, were arrested last week and charged with murder and aggravated assault in Arbery’s death, more than two months after the fatal shooting. Arbery’s family says the 25-year-old black man was out for a jog when he was chased by the McMichaels, who are white and were armed.

Pandemic Politics

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Opinion: Time to end the COVID-19 hysteria, Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., right, J.D., May 14, 2020. An ever-increasing number of United Cyril Wecht LabStates citizens are beginning to raise questions about how long the widely imposed quarantines and restrictive measures regarding COVID-19 will remain in place. How much longer can we continue to function as a civilized society with government-imposed, legally enforced restrictive measures that significantly and adversely impact upon our daily lives? How long are such measures sustainable?

As a physician specializing in forensic pathology, I am well aware of the importance of preventive health care measures and the tragedy of death. In every one of the 21,000 autopsies that I have performed over the past 63 years, I have always thought about that decedent’s life and what the significance of that death is likely to have been to family, friends and society.

However, at the same time, as a sensitive and caring human being, husband, father and grandparent, I am also very much aware of what it means to be alive, enjoying and appreciating being with family and friends. Accordingly, I am rather puzzled by the limited amount of coverage that I have noted in the four daily newspapers that I receive regarding what the deleterious effects are among the living as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and what I consider to be the degree of hysteria and panic that has developed in association with this viral phenomenon. Accordingly, I would like to suggest that people stand back and calmly and objectively reflect upon the price society is paying for this widespread ongoing sequestration.

Think about the world of academia where high school and college graduation ceremonies have been canceled, graduates are unable to obtain interviews for new jobs and high school graduates are not certain as to whether their college careers will commence for the 2020-21 school year. Think about all the athletic events, from elementary school through high school, college and the professional world, that have been canceled.

What about the marked limitation of medical services, e.g., elective surgery and regular medical checkups? How can even the most astute diagnostician be certain as to whether a particular pathological process should be operated upon or how some evolving systemic disease process may be developing?

What about the legal processes in our society, such as people seeking justice and legal relief in cases ranging from divorce and separation to first-degree homicide? How long can these cases be held in abeyance? What about cases that require jury trials — when will they be reconstituted?

For people who are deeply religious and find solace and comfort in their theological practices — whether at a church, synagogue or mosque — what about their daily prayers and opportunities to meet and seek comfort in the presence of their priest, minister, rabbi or imam?

Picture a family in which the father-husband is a physical abuser and psychological terror. How would you like to be the spouse or children in such a household day after day over a period of many months?

At this time, there are more than 33 million people in the United States who have applied for unemployment benefits, many of whom were individuals working for wages less than $15 per hour with no bank accounts or other sources of financial assistance. How are they supposed to continue functioning? How many times a week do they line up in their cars and wait several hours to receive a box of food for their families?

Reportedly, 1 out of every 5 children in the United States is not receiving enough food. During the mental and physical development of the next generation of American citizens, what does this mean to our future?

In the meantime, there is an increased number of suicides and a yet to be determined increased number of people suffering psychotic and severe neurological reactions due to prolonged quarantines, societal restrictions, loss of jobs and other markedly abnormal impingements upon their daily lives.

Picture yourself with a dying parent or grandparent whom you are not able to visit or touch and caress because they have tested positive for COVID-19, or because their doctor fears you may transmit that infection to them. I remember the terminal illnesses of my parents and mother-in-law and cannot imagine what it would have been like if I had not been able to visit with them and to hug and kiss them in their dying days.

I heartily agree with the need to protect our disabled and elderly populations and individuals who are more susceptible to the ravages of the coronavirus because of chronic respiratory, cardiovascular and other systemic disease processes. However, I strongly believe that this must be done in a more-focused fashion. Special efforts, time, money and health care services must be devoted to these groups. This can be accomplished without imposing the widespread restrictions that we are experiencing throughout much of the United States and certainly here in Pennsylvania.

The fact of the matter is that, as far as we know at this time, the mortality rate of individuals with COVID-19 infections may range as low as 0.1% and most probably does not exceed 1%.

I think of the widespread diseases I have dealt with as a medical student and pathologist through the years into the present time — polio, tuberculosis, HIV-AIDS, various influenza epidemics, SARS, MERS, Ebola, Zika. I have performed countless autopsies on individuals with all kinds of infectious disease processes that required me to be cautious and careful for myself and my assistants. However, these serious diseases have been dealt with in the past several decades without closing down society. According to the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 61,000 deaths attributed to influenza in the 2018-19 season. Somehow we dealt with that epidemic without closing down society.

Individuals in nursing homes and hospitals with serious disease processes, especially the elderly, in many instances are not receiving the care that is needed because of medical attention being diverted to the COVID-19 situation. In fact, we are learning that many deaths of such individuals are being attributed to COVID-19 without a diagnosis having been made in a scientific fashion.

Very regrettably, the COVID-19 situation has come to be heavily politicized by both the right and left wings of American politics. I firmly believe that if everything we are experiencing were to have taken place last year or next year, in the absence of presidential, U.S. Senate and congressional races, gubernatorial elections, etc., the level of fear and consternation would be much less than what we are experiencing in light of the upcoming elections in November.

So what is the essence of my beliefs and message? Deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in a thoroughly planned, meticulously orchestrated, highly focused fashion, concentrating on those groups of individuals who are more susceptible. At the same time, we must begin to lift up restrictions, end quarantines and commence normal activities across the board in all fields of endeavor.

We have an obligation to save lives, but we also have the responsibility and right to enjoy our lives and to not compromise the lives of non-COVID-infected individuals. More than 90% of people who develop COVID-19 infections have no symptomatology or awareness of their illness at all, or only suffer the equivalent of a two- to three-day cold.

The time to dispense with panic and hysteria has arrived. A return to a functioning civilized society is now overdue. The overall restrictive measures that have been imposed are simply unsustainable.

Cyril H. Wecht served for more than two decades as Allegheny County coroner and medical examiner.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live U.S. Updates: DHS to advise telecom firms on preventing 5G cell tower attacks linked to coronavirus conspiracy theories, Staff reports, May 14, 2020. After Wisconsin court ruling, crowds cram into bars, ignoring pandemic.

The Department of Homeland Security is preparing to advise the U.S. telecom industry on steps it can take to prevent attacks on 5G cell towers following a rash of incidents in Western Europe fueled by the false claim the technology spreads the pathogen causing covid-19.

The planned industry alert comes in the wake of dozens of arson attacks on 5G towers in Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium last month apparently spurred by the conspiracy theory.

“During the covid-19 pandemic, Western Europe has seen increasing attacks against equipment and workers, and these attacks are plots to damage 5G towers often linked to unsupported theories alleging a link between 5G and the virus,” said a U.S. official familiar with the alert, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the advisory has not been finalized.

On Wednesday night in the heart of downtown Platteville, Wis., just hours after the Wisconsin Supreme Court threw out the state’s stay-at-home order, Nick’s on Second Street was packed wall to wall, standing room only.

It was sometime after 10 p.m. when “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” by the Hollies came over the sound system and a bartender took out his camera. In a Twitter broadcast, he surveyed the room of maskless patrons crammed together, partying like it was 2019. A few were pounding on the bar to the beat. Some were clapping their hands in the air and some were fist-pumping, a scene so joyous they could have been celebrating the end of the worst pandemic in a century.

Instead, as Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) knew, they were just celebrating the apparent end of his power over them — at least for now.

“We’re the Wild West,” Evers told MSNBC’s Ali Velshi on Wednesday night, reacting to the state Supreme Court’s ruling and the scenes of people partying in bars all across Wisconsin. “There are no restrictions at all across the state of Wisconsin. … So at this point in time … there is nothing compelling people to do anything other than having chaos here.”

Trump to visit medical distribution company in Pennsylvania, where he is pressuring the governor to reopen more quickly

President Trump is scheduled to visit a medical distribution company Thursday afternoon in Pennsylvania, a key state in the coming election, where he has been pressuring the Democratic governor to move more quickly on reopening the economy.

Trump is expected to deliver remarks on replenishing the nation’s stockpile of equipment including masks, gloves and surgical gowns during his visit tom wolf o Customto Owens & Minor in Allentown, Pa.

The host company is a member of a White House task force on “supply chain stabilization,” and its president appeared with Trump and other business leaders recently at a coronavirus task force briefing in the Rose Garden.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D), right, is facing demands to reopen the state more quickly after announcing a “red, yellow and green” approach for counties.

washington post logoWashington Post, Aspen Institute think tank receives $8 million federal small-business loan, Jonathan O’Connell, May 14, 2020 (print ed.). Decision to accept funds despite $115 million endowment and billionaire board members divides group’s leadership

The Aspen Institute think tank accepted more than $8 million in federal small-businesses funds despite having a $115 million endowment and a board of trustees populated by billionaires.

As with other larger employers — including public companies, the Los Angeles Lakers and private prep schools — it does not appear that the Aspen Institute violated the rules of the program, managed by the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration. Aspen, a nonprofit organization forced to shutter its influential leadership conferences, employs about 430 people full time, below the program’s 500-employee threshold for most employers to qualify.

But many other large recipients have decided to return money from the Small Business Administration fund, called the Paycheck Protection Program, with executives acknowledging they have access to capital that many smaller, independent employers do not.

Editor’s Note: The Aspen Institute renounced the loan after adverse news coverage of it.

Media News

Media Matters, Opinion: A conspiracy theorist who scammed people with a fake Ebola virus cure is now selling silver as a coronavirus solution, Eric media matters logoHananoki, May 14, 2020. Rima E. Laibow is a quack doctor who scammed people in 2014 by peddling her brand of nano-silver as a cure for the Ebola virus. She’s now fraudulently selling that product as a solution to the coronavirus pandemic, claiming that it’s “your last line of defense” and for “anyone interested in not being a statistic in this pandemic.”

She also advised people who think they have been exposed to the coronavirus or are starting to have corresponding symptoms that they should increase the daily usage of her product so they can supposedly protect themselves.

Laibow is an Arizona-based doctor, commentator, and conspiracy theorist. She is the medical director of the Natural Solutions Foundation, which describes itself as “a private international NGO (Non Governmental Organization) focused on health and food freedom.” She also posts coronavirus conspiracy theories on a website called Open Source Truth.

Laibow sells “Dr. Rima Recommends™ Nano Silver” through an online store that is apparently run by the limited liability company Natural Solutions Health.

She has a history of fraudulently marketing her silver. In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission sent her a warning letter after she repeatedly claimed that her nano-silver could cure, treat, and prevent the Ebola virus. (Laibow has heavily disputed the cdc logo Customfederal government’s action.) A June 2015 business plan posted on her website stated that “during two recent periods, mid 2009 and late 2014, (the ‘Swine Flu’ panic of 2009 and the viral threat in 2014) we sold over a $100,000 volume of silver per month for several months each time, with continuing residual sales.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “there is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.” The FDA and FTC have been sending warning letters to companies that promote their products as being able to treat, cure, or prevent COVID-19.

May 13

Breaking: Trump-Barr Attacks On Justice System

Top Pandemic Headlines

More On U.S. Crime, Courts

U.S. 2020 Elections

Virus Victims, Relief

Trump Watch

Media Nedws

Top Pandemic Stories

djt anthony fauci

ny times logoNew York Times, At Senate Hearing, Experts Paint Bleak Picture, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, May 13, 2020 (print ed.). The downbeat assessment of Dr. Anthony S. Fauci (shown above at a White House briefing in a file photo) and Dr. Robert R. Redfield contradicted President Trump’s growing insistence that the nation has put the coronavirus behind it.

Two of the federal government’s top health officials painted a grim picture of the months ahead on Tuesday, warning a Senate panel that the coronavirus pandemic was far from contained, just a day after President Trump declared that “we have met the moment and we have prevailed.”

us senate logoThe officials — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, belowi right,the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — predicted dire consequences if the nation reopened its economy too soon, noting that the United States still lacked critical testing capacity and the ability to trace the contacts of those infected.

robert redfield“If we do not respond in an adequate way when the fall comes, given that it is without a doubt that there will be infections that will be in the community, then we run the risk of having a resurgence,” said Dr. Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who is at the forefront of efforts to find a coronavirus vaccine.

If states reopen their economies too soon, he warned, “there is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control,” which could result not only in “some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery.”

Dr. Fauci’s remarks, during a high-profile — and partly virtual — hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, along with those of Dr. Redfield, made clear that the nation had not yet prevailed.

They appeared to rattle the markets, driving the S&P 500 down as investors weighed the potential of a second wave of infections against Mr. Trump’s promises that the economy would bounce back once stay-at-home restrictions were lifted. Worrisome reports of spikes in infections in countries like China, South Korea and Germany, where lockdowns had been lifted, seemed to confirm the American officials’ fears.

In Washington, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Redfield, who have been barred by the White House from appearing before the Democratic-controlled House, drew a very different picture of the state of the pandemic than the president, who has cheered for a swift reopening, championed protesters demanding an end to the quarantine and predicted the beginning of a “transition to greatness.”

 nancy pelosi djt 2 older

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats unveil more than $3 trillion coronavirus bill with 2nd round of stimulus payments. Republicans already rejected it, Erica Werner, May 13, 2020 (print ed.). The massive new Democratic bill was assembled by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and her top lieutenants without input from Republicans or the Trump administration.

House Democrats unveiled a sprawling coronavirus rescue bill Tuesday that would direct more than $3 trillion to state and local governments, health systems, and a range of other initiatives, setting up a huge clash with Senate Republicans and the White House over how to deal with the sputtering economy.

djt i want you to die CustomThe bill would also send a second round of stimulus checks to millions of Americans and include more funding the Postal Service. Not every component of the bill would include more government spending. Some parts would aim to address the coronavirus pandemic in other ways, such as by requiring passengers to wear masks on airplanes and public transit.

Republicans rejected the legislation even before they saw it, describing it as a liberal wish list that would go nowhere in the Republican-led Senate. For example, the bill would suspend a tax provision for two years that limits tax breaks for upper-income households in high-tax states, something Democrats have tried to change since for several years.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he was at work on crafting liability protections for businesses instead. “This is not a time for aspirational legislation,” McConnell said.

The U.S. economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April, pushing the unemployment rate up to 14.7 percent. Many experts believe the rate will go even higher in the coming months as many Americans remain unsure about returning to work or spending money as the government continues to try and contain the pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Reports: Americans Are on the Move, Even as New Warnings Sound, Staff reports, May 13, 2020. With states reopening, about 25 million more people ventured out on an average day last week, a Times analysis found. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease specialist in the U.S., told Congress that reopening too quickly risked “an outbreak that you may not be able to control.” Jared Kushner didn’t rule out postponing the election, but a change in federal law is necessary to do that.

Millions more U.S. residents left their homes this week, according to a Times analysis. The stay-at-home order in L.A. could last into July. Dr. Anthony Fauci said reopening too soon risked a new runaway outbreak.

More than 1.3 million people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 82,300 have died, according to a New York Times database.

Pelosi’s decision, described by two Democratic aides familiar with the call Wednesday, comes as GOP lawmakers in both the House and Senate have increasingly called for Congress to return to Washington and begin plotting a return to business as usual — echoing calls from conservative activists and some Republican governors who have advocated loosening the stay-at-home guidelines supported by public health officials.

mitch mcconnellThe Republican lawmakers include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who said in several interviews Tuesday that he would not push another coronavirus-related emergency relief bill until Congress was back in session. And in a radio interview Wednesday, McConnell, right, signaled he was ready to reconvene the full Senate early next month despite the stay-at-home order now in effect in Washington through May 15.

ny times logoNew York Times, California’s Public University System Will Keep Classes Online, Shawn Hubler, May 13, 2020 (print ed.). The move by the nation’s largest four-year public university system comes as many other schools insist they will find a way to bring students back to campus despite the coronavirus.

In the most sweeping sign yet of the long-term impact of the coronavirus on American higher education, California State University, the nation’s largest four-year public university system, said on Tuesday that classes at its 23 campuses would be canceled for the fall semester, with instruction taking place almost exclusively online.

cal state logoThe system is the first large American university to tell students they will not be returning to campus in the fall. Most of the nation’s colleges and universities have gone out of their way to say they intend to reopen, but they are also making backup plans for online classes.

The pandemic has had a devastating impact on the finances of colleges and universities, a large number of which were already struggling before virus-related closures. Many are concerned about growing signs that a large number of students will choose to sit out the fall semester if classes remain virtual, or demand hefty cuts in tuition.

A $14 billion federal bailout passed by Congress this spring will not be enough to save some universities if enrollment drops significantly, experts said, and for many students, the in-person experience is a significant part of higher education’s draw.

ny times logoNew York Times, America’s Job Losses Might Be Slowing: Analysis by Times Daily Tracker, Ernie Tedeschi and Quoctrung Bui, May 13, 2020. A new analysis of polling data suggests that the rapid rise in unemployment may be flattening, though not for everyone.

us labor department logoIt appears that the pace of job loss is slowing, according to an analysis of daily surveys conducted by Civis Analytics. Women, workers earning more than $100,000 and part-time workers are continuing to experience growing joblessness or no improvement, but the rate of change is relatively brighter for men, full-time employees and people earning less than $50,000.

Other researchers tracking employment have also noted a slowdown in employment losses.Although our tracker is not intended to replace or precisely replicate official government surveys, it’s roughly consistent with the monthly jobs report data.

Trump-Barr Attacks On Justice System

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Hesitates to Accept Justice Dept. Move to Drop Flynn Charge, Sharon LaFraniere, May 13, 2020 (print ed.). A judge opened the door to legal challenges over the motion to end the case against Michael Flynn, right, President Trump’s former national security adviser. Law Michael Flynn Harvard 2014enforcement officials’ abrupt decision to end the case drew accusations from former colleagues that they had undermined the rule of law.

A federal judge overseeing the criminal case of President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn opened the door late Tuesday for legal experts and other outside parties to oppose the Justice Department’s motion to drop the case, suggesting he has at least some skepticism about the government’s argument that Mr. Flynn should never have been charged.

emmet sullivan 2012In a brief order, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, left, of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia said he would set a schedule for outside parties to present arguments about the government’s request to dismiss the case. He did not directly address the Justice Department’s motion to drop the charge, but legal experts said he appeared open to considering not only the department’s arguments but also those who have challenged its move as politically motivated.

The judge’s order is the latest twist in a high-profile criminal case that has provoked widespread criticism of Attorney General William P. Barr and has renewed questions about political influence over the Justice Department. In an extraordinary move last week, federal prosecutors asked Judge Sullivan to throw out their case against Mr. Flynn for lying to F.B.I. agents, two and a half years after he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of making false statements to federal authorities.

None of the line prosecutors who worked on the case signed the motion, and one withdrew from the case. Mr. Trump has repeatedly called for Mr. Flynn’s exoneration, saying he was the victim of biased and vindictive F.B.I. agents. Related stories below:

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge puts Justice Department’s move to drop charges against Michael Flynn on hold, Spencer S. Hsu and Carol D. Leonnig, May 13, 2020 (print ed.). The decision could require attorneys to produce evidence and revisit the case for and against President Trump’s former national security adviser. The action by Sullivan, a veteran 72-year-old jurist with a national reputation for advocating defendants’ rights to full government disclosure of evidence, appears to rule out immediate action on the Justice Department’s decision to reverse course and throw out Flynn’s December 2017 guilty plea.

paul manafort cnn

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Manafort released from prison, granted home confinement due to virus fears, Rachel Weiner, Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotosky, May 13, 2020. The former Trump campaign chairman, 71, had been serving time for his conviction on fraud charges and was set to be released in 2024.

Paul Manafort, shown above as President Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, was released Wednesday to serve his prison term under home confinement because of coronavirus fears, one of his lawyers confirmed.

paul manafort mugManafort had been imprisoned since June 2018 when he was indicted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on a charge of witness tampering while awaiting trial on bank and tax fraud charges, for which he was convicted that summer. He later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruct justice related to his undisclosed lobbying for a pro-Russian politician and political party in Ukraine.

Manafort, shown in a mug shot, serving a seven-year term, was released to his home in Alexandria, Va., from the minimum-security Lorretto Federal Correctional Institution in central Pennsylvania. His term was set to end November 2024. His release was first reported by ABC News.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judges challenge pandemic response in federal prisons, Neena Satija, May 13, 2020. As U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo considered releasing James Bess from a federal prison in North Carolina where the novel coronavirus was spreading, Vilardo couldn’t understand why prosecutors balked.

Bess was nearly 65, with diabetes and heart problems. He was more than halfway through a seven-year-sentence for dealing methamphetamine and had asked the warden only days earlier for a compassionate release that would send him home from the prison at Butner.

He was turned down.

“I don’t dispute Mr. Bess’s medical condition, I don’t dispute his vulnerabilities,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Higgins, according to a transcript of the April 21 hearing.

But, she argued, the court couldn’t step in to grant a release until at least 30 days after the request to a warden — even if the answer already had come back “no.”

The courtroom exchange is emblematic of the maze some federal prison inmates must navigate while seeking protection from the coronavirus.

Sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter to track the outbreak. All stories linked in the newsletter are free to access. For inmates like Bess, the 30-day wait has become a holdup around the country. Compassionate releases end prison sentences early for reasons such as sickness, old age or other reasons deemed “extraordinary and compelling.”

For some other inmates hoping for release to home confinement, shifting eligibility rules have blocked their path. Home confinement requires they finish their sentence but at home under close monitoring.

washington post logoWashington Post, As virus roils, Trump reverts to tactic of accusing foes of felonies, Toluse Olorunnipa, May 13, 2020 (print ed.). Since Sunday, the president has tweeted more often about alleged crimes by his political opponents than he has about the virus ravaging the country.

On a day when coronavirus deaths passed 80,000 and top government scientists warned of the perils of loosening public health restrictions too soon, President Trump used his massive public platform to suggest a talk-show host he has clashed with committed murder.

His baseless charge capped a 48-hour stretch in which he accused scores of perceived opponents of criminal acts ranging from illegal espionage to election rigging.

Since writing “HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY” at 8:10 a.m. on Sunday, Trump has used his Twitter account to make or elevate allegations of criminal conduct against no fewer than 20 individuals and organizations. Since Sunday, he has tweeted more often about alleged crimes by his perceived opponents than he has about the pandemic ravaging the country with mass death and unemployment.

The list of purported culprits Trump has charged include two television news hosts, a comedian, at least five former officials from the FBI and Justice Department, the state of California, a broadcast television station and at least five top national security officials from President Barack Obama’s administration.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump presses immunity argument in Summer Zervos defamation case, Shayna Jacobs and Rosalind S. Helderman, May 13, 2020 (print ed.). A new court brief filed this week is part of the president’s multi-front legal battle to limit the ability of private citizens, Congress and even law enforcement to investigate him while in office.

Lawyers for President Trump this week reiterated their argument that a defamation lawsuit from a woman who alleges Trump groped and kissed her without consent should be halted because the president is immune from lawsuits filed in state courts while serving in office.

A new 28-page court brief, filed Monday and released publicly by the New York State Court of Appeals on Tuesday, is Trump’s latest salvo in a multi-front legal battle to limit the ability of private citizens, Congress and even law enforcement to investigate him as a sitting president.

The release came on the same day that Trump’s lawyers argued to the U.S. Supreme Court that the president should be able to shield his tax returns and private business records from subpoenas issued by Democratic-led House congressional committees and the Manhattan district attorney. They argued the president should be immune from requests he believed were political attempts to harass.

summer zervos cnnThe filing in New York was also a pointed reminder that Trump continues to quietly battle two women in court who allege he sexually assaulted them, fighting their efforts to obtain testimony and documents that could shed light on their accusations. The women, Summer Zervos, left, and E. Jean Carroll, below right, are among more than a dozen women who have accused Trump of unwanted physical contact in the years before he was elected.

Trump’s efforts to fend off their legal claims come as his allies have sought to spotlight allegations that his Democratic e jean carroll cover new york magazinerival, former vice president Joe Biden, sexually assaulted a Senate aide in 1993, a claim he has denied.

Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, declined to comment on the Zervos and Carroll cases.

This week’s filing came in a defamation case brought by Zervos, a former contestant on the reality show “The Apprentice,” who alleges that Trump aggressively groped and kissed her in a Los Angeles hotel room in 2007, at what she thought would be a meeting to discuss a job opportunity at the Trump Organization.

She first made the allegations in October 2016 after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump could be heard bragging about grabbing women between their legs.

  • Washington Post, Armed militia helped a Michigan barbershop open, a coronavirus defiance that puts Republican lawmakers in a bind, May 13, 2020 (print ed.).

washington post logoWashington Post, In Florida, felons must pay court debts to vote. But with no system, many have found it impossible, Amy Gardner and Lori Rozsa, May 13, 2020. A federal judge is close to ruling whether a GOP-backed measure is constitutional.

The promise of an amendment to Florida’s state constitution seemed huge when it was overwhelmingly approved in November 2018: As many as 1.5 million felons previously barred from casting ballots in the state would soon be able to vote.

Two years later, those expectations have shriveled, with proponents estimating that fewer than 50,000 felons have registered.

Since March, the coronavirus pandemic has ground efforts to a near-halt, reducing the prospects for a burst of registration before the November election. Even before the shutdown, however, Republican-backed legislation circumscribing the reach of Amendment 4 had made it virtually impossible for most felons to participate, according to those who have tried to register and court testimony.

That law requires felons to pay all court-related fines, fees and restitution before registering to vote — and to swear, under penalty of perjury, that the debts are paid.

washington post logoWashington Post, Under fire, Trump drops his Mar-a-Lago dock plan, Manuel Roig-Franzia, May 13, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s squabble over a dock had raised questions about the legality of him changing his official residence to Florida.

President Trump has temporarily withdrawn a controversial dock proposal at his Palm Beach resort that had raised larger questions about the legality of the change of his official residency from New York to Florida.

The decision, which was disclosed in a letter sent to the Palm Beach mayor and town council on Monday, comes three days after The Washington Post published a story that outlined assertions by local attorneys who argue that agreements Trump entered into with the town prevent him from living at the resort, and may have precluded him from legally registering to vote in Florida. (Trump has said he voted by mail in Florida’s Republican presidential primary this year.)

Trump had come under scathing criticism from his Palm Beach neighbors and their attorneys who accused him and his legal team of attempting to jam through the dock request at the Mar-a-Lago resort while the nation’s attention is focused on the coronavirus pandemic and the town’s council is only able to hold meetings electronically. In the letter withdrawing the proposal, Trump’s Palm Beach attorney, Harvey Oyer III, cited “the extraordinary circumstances that we find ourselves in” as a reason for the decision. But he makes no specific mention of coronavirus. The proposal had been scheduled to be heard on Wednesday by the Palm Beach Town Council.

washington post logoWashington Post, Acting intelligence chief Grenell gave DOJ list of Obama officials who ‘unmasked’ Flynn, Shane Harris and Matt Zapotosky, May 13, 2020 (print ed.). A Justice Department official said there are no plans to release the names of people involved in the lingering controversy over the ex-national security adviser.

President Trump’s top intelligence adviser has given the Justice Department the names of Obama administration officials who “unmasked” Michael Flynn following his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States in 2016, according to U.S. officials.

That action, which has been a cornerstone of Trump’s long-standing allegations of criminality by his predecessor, identified Flynn, then the national security adviser-designate, as the person urging Russia not to respond to punitive sanctions that the Obama administration had imposed after the Kremlin’s interference in the presidential election.

Unmasking is a routine practice used to identify a U.S. person who is anonymously referred to in an intelligence document — in this case the intercepted conversations of Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador, who was a target of U.S. surveillance. Current and former officials said unmasking can be a vital tool for identifying potential spies or terrorists.

richard grenell CustomRichard Grenell, right, the acting director of national intelligence, made the decision to declassify the list of officials involved, an action first reported by ABC News. Grenell provided the names to the Justice Department the day after it filed a motion to drop charges against Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak. Flynn was also fired as national security adviser for lying to Vice President Pence about those communications, the White House said at the time.

Flynn’s communications with Kislyak were scrutinized as part of the FBI’s investigation of Russian election interference and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Last year, Attorney General William P. Barr appointed a career federal prosecutor, John H. Durham, to investigate the probe’s origins. Separately, the Justice Department inspector general found that the investigation was properly started and not influenced by political bias, but also found broad and “serious performance failures” requiring major changes.

A Justice Department official said the department had “been reviewing unmasking as part of our broader review of 2016 and 2017.” That would seem to refer to the investigation being conducted by Durham, and perhaps a related inquiry by U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen into high-profile cases in the D.C. U.S. attorney’s office. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter, declined to be more specific.

djt as chosen one

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Is Staking Out His Own Universe of ‘Alternative Facts,’ Thomas B. Edsall, May 13, 2020. In less than a year, from May 2019 to March 2020, the share of weekly church-attending white Protestants convinced that Donald Trump was anointed by God to be president grew from 29.6 percent to 49.5 percent.

This finding — based on direct responses to the question: “How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Donald Trump was anointed by God to become president of the United States” — comes from surveys conducted by Paul A. Djupe and Ryan Burge, political scientists at Dennison and Eastern Illinois Universities. Their study illuminates the depth of quasi-religious devotion to Trump among key segments of the population.

djt smiling fileCapitalizing on that devotion is integral to Trump’s re-election strategy and has led to the creation of an all-enveloping digital campaign website, Army for Trump, as well as the Trump-Pence Keep America Great campaign app.

The Trump campaign’s digital sites serve a dual purpose. His supporters are able to enter a self-contained, self-reinforcing arena where Trump reigns supreme, and the campaign gets detailed marketing information about those who go through the elaborate sign-up process — information subsequently used for voter mobilization, fund-raising and volunteer recruitment.

According to Stefan Smith, a Democratic tech strategist, you should think of the Trump campaign website as a casino. Writing in the Daily Beast, Smith argues that the Trump campaign’s website is designed on the Vegas principle, “purposefully built to keep gamblers inside and at the table.”

Trump’s digital infrastructure, Smith wrote, is performing a similar function — it’s trapping people inside an ecosystem of dangerous misinformation, conspiracy theories, and grievance politics. And it’s doing so while making the experience as fun and exciting as possible.

djt maga hatIt is clear that millions of voters willingly enter this arena.

The coronavirus lockdown has turned the internet into a central battleground of the 2020 presidential contest, even more indispensable than it would be under normal circumstances. Trump operatives, guided by his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, are trying to make the most of the situation.

Parscale, who is not given to understatement any more than his boss, tweeted on May 7:

For nearly three years we have been building a juggernaut campaign (Death Star). It is firing on all cylinders. Data, Digital, TV, Political, Surrogates, Coalitions, etc. In a few days we start pressing FIRE for the first time.

“The new Trump campaign app uses gamification to drive voter outreach and valuable data collection,” CNN reported on April 23. “Share the campaign app with a friend, win 100 points. Earn 5,000 points and you can redeem a campaign store discount. Earn 100,000 points, and you can get a picture with President Donald Trump.”

donald trump money palmer report Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Will the Supreme Court Put the President Above the Law? Editorial Board, May 13, 2020 (print ed.). In a bid to keep his tax and financial records secret, the president’s lawyers tell the justices that he is beyond the reach of Congress and prosecutors.

On Tuesday, lawyers for President Trump appeared before the Supreme Court (hearing arguments again by telephone conference) to assert the claim that the nation’s chief executive is unaccountable to Congress or law enforcement authorities — that he is, in short, above the law.

irs logoThe lawyers were trying to block three congressional committees and the Manhattan district attorney from getting access to years of Mr. Trump’s tax returns and other financial records, as well as those of his family members and companies.

The House committees said they subpoenaed those records to help them address concerns over Mr. Trump’s possible conflicts of interest and to consider legislation relating to government ethics, banking and foreign interference in elections. The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., issued his own subpoena as part of what appears to be an investigation into possible campaign-finance violations by Mr. Trump and his aides both before and after he became president.

It’s useful to remember that these cases might not have been necessary if Mr. Trump hadn’t broken one of his first promises to the American people four years ago.

supreme court CustomBack in 2016, candidate Trump said he would be happy to share his tax returns with the public, as every major candidate for president had done without hesitation for four decades. The only problem, Mr. Trump claimed, was that he was under audit — remember the audit? — and so he couldn’t share his returns at the moment. But soon, he promised.

Mr. Trump has been president for more than three years. He is campaigning for another term, and yet Americans are still in the dark when it comes to his vast web of corporate entities and how their finances and operations may influence his decisions as a candidate and president.

This isn’t an idle concern. Mr. Trump’s tax maneuvers have for decades skirted the edge of legality. In the end, the records may not show evidence of criminal misconduct. But a ruling by the Supreme Court that in essence gives presidents immunity from investigation and prosecution would be a grievous wound to the rule of law.

Mr. Trump lost both cases involving the House subpoenas in the lower federal courts, and no surprise: Congress has broad authority to issue subpoenas for all kinds of information. The president’s lawyers argued on Tuesday that the Democratic-led House is on a fishing expedition, acting like prosecutors and trolling for evidence that might hurt Mr. Trump politically.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Post among five news organizations suing Small Business Administration for access to loan data, Aaron Gregg, May 13, 2020 (print ed.). The Washington Post and four other news organizations are suing the U.S. Small Business Administration for access to government records showing who received more than $700 billion in taxpayer-backed small-business loans.

sba logo new Custom CustomA spokeswoman for The Post said the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Washington, is meant to ensure the public has access to information about how public funds are spent and to enforce federal freedom-of-information law. The Post is joined as a plaintiff in the lawsuit by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal parent company Dow Jones, Bloomberg LP and the investigative news organization ProPublica.

“The Small Business Administration has disbursed hundreds of billions of dollars through [the Paycheck Protection Program] and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program during the COVID-19 crisis, but it has refused to disclose who is receiving the funds and in what amounts,” Post Vice President for Communications Kris Coratti Kelly said in a statement. “Our lawsuit seeks to enforce federal law and enable the public to see how their tax dollars are being spent on these massive loan programs.”

U.S. 2020 Elections

ny times logojoe biden 2020 button CustomNew York Times, Joe Biden Has an Edge on Trump. So Why Are Democrats Worried? Katie Glueck, Lisa Lerer, Shane Goldmacher and Alexander Burns, May 13, 2020. The former vice president has unified the party. But some Democrats say he faces familiar challenges, including slow decision-making and flaws in his digital operation.

ny times logoNew York Times, McConnell, With Majority at Risk, Returns to an Old Target: Obama, Carl Hulse, May 13, 2020 (print ed.). Allies of the former president say any attempt to silence him will fail.

With his hold on the Senate in increasing jeopardy, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, sought to rally his forces this week by rekindling a rivalry with a familiar foe: Barack Obama.

In a highly partisan, no-holds barred online interview with Lara Trump, President Trump’s daughter-in-law and campaign adviser, Mr. McConnell declared on Monday that the former president “should have kept his mouth shut,” rather than have the temerity to excoriate the Trump administration’s pandemic response. He omitted the fact that Mr. Obama made the comments, in which he described Mr. Trump’s handling of the crisis as “an absolute chaotic disaster,” in a private call with alumni of his administration that was leaked.

“I think it is a little bit classless, frankly, to criticize an administration that comes after you,” Mr. McConnell said on a day when Mr. Trump repeatedly attacked Mr. Obama on Twitter, suggested in a Rose Garden news conference that the former president was a criminal, and called his predecessor’s tenure “the most corrupt administration in U.S. history!”

“You had your shot — you were there for eight years,” Mr. McConnell added derisively, referring to Mr. Obama, who for years has remained notably quiet about Mr. Trump’s performance, much to the chagrin of many Democrats who wish he would vocally denounce his successor.

Like Mr. Trump, Mr. McConnell aggressively sought to shift responsibility for the pandemic and the resulting national upheaval to both China and the Obama administration, which Mr. McConnell said had not left behind “any kind of game plan” for dealing with such an outbreak.

That assertion drew ridicule from veterans and allies of the Obama administration who quickly noted that the previous administration had drawn up a National Security Council document titled “Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents,” which included the potential for a novel coronavirus outbreak.

“We literally left them a 69-page Pandemic Playbook…. that they ignored,” Ron Klain, who coordinated the Obama administration’s Ebola response, said on Twitter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans hold House seat in Wisconsin, aim to reclaim California district in special election, Colby Itkowitz, May 13, 2020 (print ed.).  GOP state lawmaker Tom Tiffany easily won the congressional seat in rural Wisconsin that has been vacant since former congressman Sean P. Duffy resigned in the fall.

Republicans held a congressional seat in rural Wisconsin and aimed to seize a Democratic one in suburban California as voters cast ballots in special elections Tuesday amid a pandemic that has upended all aspects of life, including political campaigns.

In Wisconsin’s 7th District, GOP state Sen. Tom Tiffany defeated Democratic school board member Tricia Zunker. With 88 percent of the precincts reporting, Tiffany held a comfortable double-digit lead in the GOP-leaning district, 58 percent to 42 percent, according to Edison Media Research.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosTiffany will fill the seat left vacant by Republican Sean P. Duffy, who abruptly left Congress in the fall, citing health complications with a child due in October. The child was born a month early and needed heart surgery.

But the race for California’s 25th District may remain unresolved for several days, as Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith appeared to close the gap with Republican businessman and former Navy pilot Mike Garcia in ballot returns.

Roll Call, Republican Mike Garcia wins California seat as Democrat concedes in special election, Bridget Bowman, May 13, 2020. Navy veteran reverses Democratic flip of 25th District, but for how long? For the first time in more than two decades, Republicans have flipped a Democratic House seat in California.

Democrat Christy Smith conceded Wednesday afternoon that GOP Navy veteran Mike Garcia “is the likely victor” in the special election to replace former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill in California’s 25th District.

Garcia led Smith, a state assemblywoman, 56 percent to 44 percent, with 81 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning. But he stopped short of declaring victory Tuesday night, telling supporters and reporters on a conference call only that the campaign “made history.”

Ballots mailed Tuesday will still count if they are received by Friday. While Smith said it was important to count every vote, the special election for the remainder of Hill’s term was effectively over, she indicated, adding that she was looking toward November, when she and Garcia will face off again for a full two-year term.

“While it’s critical that we ensure every vote is counted and recorded, we believe that the current tally shows Mike Garcia is the likely victor,” Smith wrote in a post on Facebook. “As such, I’d like to congratulate him. That said, this is just one step in the process.”

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: The “Stupid Rasputin” makes his move, Wayne Madsen, May 13, 2020. Donald Trump’s son-in-law and special wayne madesen report logoassistant in charge of everything and his “Stupid Rasputin,” Jared Kushner, has made his move.

Kushner told Time magazine in answer to a question about holding the November election and considering the pandemic may be far from over, “I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other, but right now that’s the plan.”

U.S. Virus Victims, Relief

washington post logoWashington Post, April saw the sharpest increase in grocery store prices in nearly 50 years, Laura Reiley, May 13, 2020. Even as the consumer price index overall dips, Americans are seeing record hikes in the prices of meats, veggies and cereals.

U.S. consumers paid 4.3 percent more in April for meats, poultry, fish and eggs, 1.5 percent more for fruits and vegetables, and 2.9 percent more for cereals and bakery products, the Labor Department said.

Overall, consumers paid 2.6 percent more in April for groceries, the largest one-month jump since February 1974.

The jump in food prices came in a month when more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs, driving 1 in 5 households into food insecurity.

washington post logoWashington Post, Infection rates were climbing at Nebraska meatpacking plants. Then health officials stopped reporting the numbers, Peter Whoriskey, May 13, 2020 (print ed.). More than a thousand have been infected at meatpacking plants, but state officials won’t say which ones. Workers and families say they have a right to know.

For weeks, people in rural communities in Nebraska charted the rise of coronavirus cases at the state’s several meatpacking plants. First, there were handfuls, and then, many more.

As of the first week of May, public health officials reported 96 at the Tyson plant in Madison; 237 at the JBS plant in Grand Island; and 123 arising from the Smithfield plant in Crete.

There were other cases around the state, too, and the counts were climbing. At least three were reportedly dead.

pete ricketts CustomThen the numbers stopped.

In a change initiated last week, Gov. Pete Ricketts (R), right, announced at a news conference that state health officials would no longer share figures about how many workers have been infected at each plant. The big companies weren’t sharing numbers either, creating a silence that leaves workers, their families and the rest of the public blind to the severity of the crisis at each plant.

Politico, Top Trump critic set to testify before close ally sparks tensions on Capitol Hill, Dan Diamond, May 13, 2020. President Donald Trump’s ousted vaccine chief turned whistleblower will go public with his claims on Thursday in an unusually friendly setting — a hearing chaired by a close congressional ally whose district benefited from his decisions.

Rick Bright, who was abruptly removed as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority last month, will air his complaints about the Trump administration’s pandemic response in front of a House subcommittee overseen by Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democrat who represents a Northern California district home to a company that received more than $110 million in awards from BARDA while Bright led the office. Other companies with offices in Eshoo’s district benefited from more than $100 million in awards from BARDA in the decade prior to Bright’s leadership.

Eshoo, who helped craft the 2006 legislation to create BARDA and has since worked to bolster its authorities, also has been a longtime booster of Bright, including for his work to fund the development of vaccines, drugs and diagnostics through public sector-private industry partnerships.

“Dr. Bright, the partnership with BARDA has been a very important one, and I think that you’re taking it to new places,” Eshoo told him in a June 2018 congressional hearing, calling Bright one of her “heroes.”

Eshoo has rushed to hold Thursday’s hearing over Republicans’ objections since Bright publicly alleged on April 22 that the Trump administration forced him out of his job over his opposition to Trump’s demand for approval of an unproven malaria drug to fight Covid-19. The congresswoman told CNN on April 23 that she planned to convene the subcommittee, and hours after Bright formally filed his whistleblower complaint on May 5, Eshoo announced that the hearing would be this week. Democrats have seen Bright’s testimony as an opportunity to highlight the Trump administration’s missteps in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both Eshoo and a spokesperson for Bright characterized their relationship as professional and not a factor ahead of Thursday’s hearing.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s ‘ask China’ response to CBS’s Weijia Jiang shocked the room — and was part of a pattern, Sarah Ellison and
Elahe Izadi, May 13, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump has a long history of using the bully pulpit to take jabs at reporters. Yet the pandemic-era briefings have become especially fraught — and an unusually barbed exchange with one journalist on Monday raised questions about whether he reserves special contempt for some.

At a Rose Garden press briefing, CBS News correspondent Weijia Jiang asked the president why he so frequently claims that the United States is doing “far better than any other country” at testing for coronavirus. “Why does that matter?” she asked. “Why is this a global competition to you if every day Americans are still losing their lives?”

Trump started by deflecting — “they’re losing their lives everywhere in the world” — before pivoting suddenly: “They’re losing their lives everywhere in the world, and maybe that’s a question you should ask China. Don’t ask me, ask China that question, okay?”

Jiang, an American journalist of Chinese descent, seemed taken aback and asked, “Why are you saying that to me, specifically?” He replied that he would give the same answer to “anybody that asks a nasty question.” Seconds later, he abruptly ended the news conference and walked off.

In a moment when Asian Americans have reported being subjected to verbal and physical abuse amid coronavirus fears, and when the president himself has leaned into his anti-China rhetoric, Trump’s slap at Jiang drew widespread attention.

Media Matters, Opinion: Month to month, Fox News’ coronavirus coverage has dropped more than 20%, Rob Savillo and Lis Power, May 13, 2020. By the media matters logotime you read this, the official American death toll from COVID-19 may have surpassed 90,000. The actual number is almost certainly much higher.

However, our review of Fox News’ coverage showed that as the pandemic devastated America, the network steadily declined its coverage of the crisis. From March 12 through April 10, 95% of weekday segments on Fox were related to the coronavirus. Then, from April 13 through May 11, the proportion of coronavirus-related weekday segments on Fox dropped to just 74%. In the last week, coronavirus-related weekday segments accounted for only 56% of all output from the network. By contrast, in the same period both CNN and MSNBC maintained a high-level of coronavirus-related coverage.

fox news logo SmallFurther, many of Fox’s recent segments on the coronavirus pandemic have focused on efforts to reopen the economy, rather than coverage of further coronavirus prevention efforts.

While Fox’s original coverage of the crisis proved to be harmful, their neglect of the story amidst mass death in America is equally problematic. Here are recent advertisers on the network who have sponsored Fox’s disregard for public health.

Also: In one day alone, Fox & Friends devoted twice as much time to the “Obamagate” charade (more on that below) than it did on the coronavirus pandemic.

Media Matters, Fox News hosts are trying to get Fauci fired. In Senate testimony this week Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of media matters logoAllergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that states that ignore federal guidelines and prematurely reopen businesses and roll back social distancing measures risk causing new outbreaks of the coronavirus, and could trigger “avoidable suffering and death” from COVID-19. Fauci’s warning received considerable blowback from Fox News and right-wing media, who appear to be trying to remove him from his high-ranking position.

In response to Fauci’s testimony, which contradicted many of President Trump’s statements, the president’s supporters at Fox lashed out at him one way or another this week. In particular, Tucker Carlson said Fauci “may be even more off-base than your average epidemiologist” and called him “the chief buffoon.”

Notably, the prime-time hosts did not criticize Trump for listening to Fauci; instead they suggested that Fauci himself has abused his power.

Fox’s notable escalation of criticism towards Fauci is bad news for those of us who believe it’s beneficial for the president to consult with an expert with decades of experience dealing with pandemics.

As Media Matters Matt Gertz explained, “Trump not only watches Fox prime-time shows religiously, but he also personally consults with their hosts. Carlson played a role in former national security adviser John Bolton’s departure from the White House, and his personal meeting with Trump and a monologue he gave in March have been credited with the president taking the virus more seriously. Hannity reportedly speaks to the president nightly and has so much influence he’s been described by White House officials as the ‘shadow’ chief of staff. And Ingraham dropped by the White House twice last month to advise the president and other top officials on the coronavirus response. If the Fox Cabinet turns Fauci into a regular target, it puts his job in jeopardy.”

 May 12

Pandemic Top Headlines

U.S. Law & Courts

Michael Flynn Scandal

U.S. Pandemic Politics

World News

U.S. Virus Victims, Responses

Inside DC

Media News

 

Pandemic Top Headlines

antonio fauci hearing screengrab may 12 2020

washington post logoanthony fauci CustomWashington Post, Fauci warns Senate that reopening too quickly could lead to ‘needless suffering and death,’ John Wagner, Mike DeBonis, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Laurie McGinley, May 12, 2020. The Senate’s health chairman and witnesses plan to appear remotely in an unusual session that will include the first congressional testimony from Anthony S. Fauci, testifying remotely, a key member of the White House task force, since President Trump declared the coronavirus crisis a national emergency.

washington post logoWashington Post, Global Live Updates: U.S. death toll surpasses 80,000, Staff report, May 12, 2020. As the U.S. death toll surpassed 80,000, covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2President Trump declared on Monday that “we have met the moment and we have prevailed” by testing more people for coronavirus infections than any other nation.

But the White House event amounted to an acknowledgment that there is not yet enough U.S. testing capacity, even as more than 40 states are in some stage of easing pandemic restrictions. There are far higher levels of per-capita testing in other parts of the world.

Top federal health officials are testifying at a Senate hearing on whether the country is truly ready to reopen — with Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert, expected to warn that moving too quickly could lead to “needless suffering and death.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Six Takeaways from Fauci’s and health officials’ testimony, Aaron Blake​, May 12, 2020. In warning against a quick reopening, Anthony S. Fauci struck a very different tone than President Trump has in recent days.

White House coronavirus task force medical expert Anthony S. Fauci delivered his long-awaited coronavirus testimony Tuesday to a Senate health committee.

The appearance came after the White House blocked Fauci from testifying in the Democratic-controlled House but allowed him to testify in the GOP-controlled Senate. Fauci and the committee’s chairman, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), appeared via video after being exposed to people who had come down with the novel virus.

Also appearing at Tuesday’s hearing were Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn and President Trump’s coronavirus testing czar, Adm. Brett Giroir.

1. Fauci warns strongly against reopening quickly. Fauci’s relationship with Trump has been an uneasy one, with Fauci often contradicting Trump and Trump often contradicting Fauci. The medical expert has clearly desired a more aggressive approach to combating the virus and has lamented at various times that his advice hasn’t always been heeded.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fauci warns Senate that reopening U.S. too quickly could lead to avoidable ‘suffering and death,’ John Wagner, Mike DeBonis, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Laurie McGinley, May 12, 2020. “I think we are going in the right direction, but the right direction does not mean we have by any means total control of this outbreak,” he told lawmakers.

The nation’s top health officials warned on Tuesday the U.S. risks new outbreaks of coronavirus and possibly a broad resurgence if states and cities reopen too quickly. And they cautioned that neither a vaccine, nor surefire treatments would be available when schools are slated to reopen in the fall — a grim reminder that life would not soon return to normal even if Americans resume their routines.

Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert, predicted Americans would experience “suffering and death that could be avoided,” as well as additional economic damage, if states ignore federal guidelines, including delaying reopening of most businesses until they see dramatic declines in cases. He also said the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus is probably higher than the 80,000 reported to date.

Fauci’s comments came during a contentious Senate hearing as lawmakers of both parties pressed him and other federal health officials on whether the country is ready to reopen. The panel’s chairman and all four witnesses appeared remotely because they all recently came into contact with people with confirmed infections — a testament to how the virus has transformed life even within the corridors of power.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which held the hearing, is self-isolating at home after a staff member tested positive for the virus. Fauci; Stephen Hahn, head of the Food and Drug Administration; Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services, all testified remotely after coming into contact with a White House aide who tested positive last week.

djt anthony fauci

ny times logoNew York Times, Live: In Testimony, Fauci Says ‘Consequences Could Be Really Serious’ for Reopening Too Soon,’ Staff reports, May 12, 2020. The head of the C.D.C., Dr. Robert R. Redfield, also told senators that “we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci: “Most of us feel that the number of deaths are most likely higher” than the official count. Their message is starkly at odds with President Trump’s “things are looking up” argument that states are ready and the pandemic is under control.

Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned the Senate Health Committee on Tuesday morning that “we are not out of the woods yet,” a day after President Trump declared, “we have met the moment, and we have prevailed.”

Dr. Redfield is one of four top health officials testifying remotely by video, three of which in some form of self-isolation after exposure to a White House official who tested positive for the virus, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and Stephen M. Hahn, the Food and Drug Administration commissioner.

Even the panel’s chairman, Lamar Alexander, is quarantined at his Tennessee home after a member of his staff tested positive.

Dr. Fauci had said he would tell the panel that there could be “needless suffering and death” if the country opens prematurely, but steered clear of that language during the early part of the hearing, instead saying, “the consequences could be really serious.” Mr. Trump has pushed for states to reopen and at times has encouraged people to defy governors’ orders.

More than 80,000 people in the United States have died from the virus and Dr. Fauci cautioned that the number is likely higher.

Dr. Fauci’s spoke of the efforts to develop vaccines and therapies for Covid-19, and said the idea of having a treatment or vaccine available to facilitate the re-entry of college students into the fall term would be “a bit of a bridge too far.”

There was tension from the start. Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the top Democrat on the committee, condemned the Trump administration’s response to the virus, saying that President Trump “has been more focused on fighting against the truth than fighting the virus.”

She criticized “delays” and “missteps” on tests, “corruption and political interference” in the government’s attempts to acquire personal protective equipment, and the White House’s move to put off guidelines the C.D.C. drafted to help schools, restaurants, churches and other establishments safely reopen.

“Americans have sadly paid the price,” she said.

U.S. Law & Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court debate over Trump’s financial records points to mixed outcome, Robert Barnes, Ann E. Marimow, David A. Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell and Felicia Sonmez​, May 12, 2020. Several justices suggested there might be more work for lower courts to do, which could delay any turnover of the documents being sought by congressional Democrats and Manhattan’s district attorney until after November’s election.

The highly anticipated Supreme Court arguments over President Trump’s efforts to block disclosure of his income tax returns and private financial records suggested Tuesday the possibility of a mixed outcome.

Moreover, several justices suggested there might be more work for lower courts to do, which could delay any turnover of the documents being sought by congressional Democrats and Manhattan’s district attorney until after November’s election.

The court’s conservative majority seemed far more critical of lawmakers’ demands, questioning whether approving the subpoenas issued by three congressional committees would open the door for a Congress ruled by one political party to make potentially harassing requests of a president from a different party.

What Congress proposes as a limiting principle — that the request must be tied to potential legislation — is really “no protection at all, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. struck a similar chord.

“Your test is not really much of a test. It’s not really a limit,” Roberts told Douglas N. Letter, general counsel to the House of Representatives, who said the key was that the request was tied to potential legislation.

Letter had trouble coming up with an example of a legislative proposal beyond Congress’s reach, which one of Trump’s private lawyers pointed out.

“My friend from the other side struggled with every hypothetical that he was given about his ability to set some sort of limiting principle or some category of information or documents about the president that would not be obtainable under his theory,” Boston lawyer Patrick Strawbridge said. “And I think that’s very telling because there are no limits to their theories.”

Vox, Opinion: The US House’s Supreme Court defense of its Trump investigation was a disaster, Ian Millhiser, May 12, 2020. This should be a slam-dunk case, but the House’s lawyer seemed evasive and unprepared.

Trump v. Mazars and Trump v. Deutsche Bank should be very easy cases. Both involve congressional subpoenas seeking, among other things, many of President Trump’s financial documents. The subpoenas target banks and an accounting firm that possess many of Trump’s documents; Trump sued them to prevent them from complying with the subpoena.

The Supreme Court has said repeatedly, over the course of many decades, that courts owe tremendous deference to congressional investigators. The Court held in Quinn v. United States (1955) that congressional power to conduct investigations is “co-extensive with the power to legislate.” Legislative subpoenas are permissible, the Court later explained, whenever that subpoena is “intended to gather information about a subject on which legislation may be had.”

And yet, at Tuesday’s oral arguments on both cases, a majority of the Court seemed concerned that the House has too much power to investigate the president. The Supreme Court appears likely to create a special rule for Trump — or, at least, for sitting presidents — that it wouldn’t apply to any other person.

douglas letter cspan CustomPart of the story here is that Douglas Letter, the lawyer for the US House, delivered a disastrous performance at Tuesday’s oral argument. Not long after Letter (shown in a file photo) began his argument, Chief Justice John Roberts expressed disagreement with the Court’s longstanding rule giving Congress broad power to conduct investigations, and asked Letter if he could suggest any limits on congressional investigatory power. Letter had no good answer to that question, and he stumbled over various versions of it again and again as the argument wore on.

For someone who cares about presidential accountability, or about precedent, or about the basic rule that no one should be above the law, it was a torturous spectacle. It’s clear that a majority of the Supreme Court believes that decades of prior decisions were wrongly decided, at least when President Trump is involved. And Letter did nothing to allay their concerns.

The one silver lining for anyone troubled by the argument in Mazars and Deutsche Bank, is that the Court appeared more measured in a third case that was also argued on Tuesday, Trump v. Vance. Vance involves a New York grand jury’s investigation into possible criminal activity by the Trump Organization, and the justices appeared more sympathetic to the Manhattan district attorney’s arguments that this investigation should not be shut down than they were to Letter’s arguments in Mazars and Deutsche Bank.

But even if Trump does not prevail in Vance, it’s not clear that such a decision will matter very much in the short term. As several justices emphasized, documents obtained in a grand jury investigation are typically confidential unless they are introduced as evidence in a criminal proceeding. So, if Trump or the Trump Organization is engaged in criminal activity, it is unlikely that the public will see the evidence of that activity any time soon.

Existing law is very unfavorable to Trump

It’s tough to exaggerate just how thoroughly current Supreme Court precedents cut against Trump. The Court has repeatedly emphasized that Congress must have a broad power to conduct investigations, because it is not possible for Congress to make informed law-making decisions without such investigations.

As the Supreme Court explained in Eastland v. United States Servicemen’s Fund (1975), “the power to investigate and to do so through compulsory process … is inherent in the power to make laws.” Without such a power, “a legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information respecting the conditions which the legislation is intended to affect or change.”

Eastland is one of many Supreme Court decisions emphasizing that Congress may conduct nearly any investigation, so long as that investigation is “intended to gather information about a subject on which legislation may be had.”

Courts, moreover, are forbidden to dig into the legislature’s reasons for conducting a particular investigation. “So long as Congress acts in pursuance of its constitutional power,” the Court held in Barenblatt v. United States (1959), “the Judiciary lacks authority to intervene on the basis of the motives which spurred the exercise of that power.”

So that’s what the law says. And under that law, the House wins both Mazars and Deutsche Bank. The first case involves a House Oversight Committee investigation targeting the president’s accounting firm, Mazars USA. It seeks information on whether existing presidential financial disclosure laws are sufficiently robust, or whether they need to be stricter.

deutsche bank logoSimilarly, the Deutsche Bank case involves two parallel House investigations targeting banks that possess some of Trump’s financial records. Among other things, those investigations seek information on whether there are “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government, or related foreign actors, and individuals associated with Donald Trump’s campaign, transition, administration, or business interests, in furtherance of the Russian government’s interests.” These investigations could inform legislation seeking to reduce foreign money laundering and to reduce foreign interference in US elections.

The Court appears to believe that existing law should not apply to the president

Not long after Letter began his argument, Chief Justice Roberts revealed just how sympathetic he is to Trump’s position. Letter’s brief, Roberts noted, states that a congressional investigation must “concern a subject on which legislation can be had.” According to Roberts, this “test is really not much of a test” because it doesn’t impose significant limits on congressional investigations of the president.

Roberts isn’t wrong that the test laid out in Letter’s brief is very permissive of congressional investigations. But it’s not like Letter just made that test up. The idea that Congress may conduct any investigation that concerns “a subject on which legislation can be had” was endorsed by many prior Supreme Court decisions over the course of many decades.

Roberts’s disdain for this longstanding standard was echoed by several of his colleagues. Justice Neil Gorsuch dismissed it as “limitless.” Justice Brett Kavanaugh worried that it would permit congress to declare “open season” on presidents. And Letter was unable to offer a new limit on congressional investigations that would satisfy these justices.

Meanwhile, Justice Samuel Alito repeatedly accused the House of issuing these subpoenas to harass the president — a fact that is irrelevant under Barenblatt’s holding that “the Judiciary lacks authority to intervene on the basis of the motives which spurred the exercise of that power.”

Even Justice Stephen Breyer, a Clinton appointee, appeared to lose confidence in Letter’s arguments. Shortly before those torturous arguments came to an end, Breyer said that he’s concerned that the House is seeking “a lot of information and some of it is pretty vague,” and that the task of sorting through these requests and figuring out what information is being turned over could prove too much of a distraction.

It would be hard to sugarcoat this: It was a disaster for Letter and the House. Letter began his argument with a wealth of precedents that clearly support his client’s position, and he appeared completely unprepared for a Court that just does not believe that existing law should apply to President Trump.

With great power comes great immunity

A majority of the justices appeared very sympathetic to an argument, pushed by Trump’s Justice Department, that the president is special and should enjoy special immunity. “The President occupies a unique position in the constitutional scheme,” Trump’s solicitor general argued in his brief, and thus the president must enjoy “immunity from any process that would risk impairing the independence of his office or interfering with the performance of its functions.”

Such immunity is a precious thing indeed, as the Court has historically allowed Congress to conduct investigations that truly did appear to be motivated entirely by political animus.

Consider the facts of Eastland. The “Eastland” in that case was James Eastland, a Mississippi senator and a staunch segregationist whose disdain for civil rights was matched by his passionate support for the Vietnam War. In a 1972 Senate hearing, Eastland spoke of “the almost certain probability that a Communist victory” in Vietnam “would be followed by a bloodletting that would rival the worst bloodlettings that have taken place in Communist countries to date.”

As chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security, Eastland subpoenaed financial records from anti-war groups that organized opposition to the Vietnam War among servicemembers, and that published newspapers expressing an anti-war viewpoint. The almost certain purpose of these subpoenas was to reveal the group’s donors, and intimidate those donors from making future donations. As one witness testified, Eastland’s subpoenas resulted in “approximately a 50 percent curtailment in money” distributed to the targeted organization’s anti-war activities.

And yet, the Supreme Court upheld this subpoena in Eastland, and it warned future judges against going “beyond the narrow confines of determining that a committee’s inquiry may fairly be deemed within its province.” So long as a subpoena “may fairly be deemed” to support a legislative investigation, the courts may not second-guess that subpoena.

Perhaps Eastland was wrongly decided. Perhaps men like James Eastland should not have this power to harass political enemies into oblivion. But that was emphatically not the posture that the Supreme Court appeared to adopt in the Mazars and Deutsche Bank arguments.

Rather, the Court’s primary concern seemed to be that the most powerful man in the world — the president of the United States — must be given extraordinary immunity from an investigation that could potentially reveal corruption or worse.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court hears arguments in battle over Trump’s tax returns, Ann E. Marimow, Robert Barnes, David A. Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell and Felicia Sonmez​, May 12, 2020. The Supreme Court on Tuesday began considering whether President Trump can shield his income tax returns from disclosure and keep his private financial records from congressional committees and a New York prosecutor.

The court is hearing three landmark constitutional cases by conference call because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, making it possible for the public to listen to the justices’ questions in real time.

All three cases involve Trump’s effort to prevent his longtime accounting firm and two banks from handing over his tax and business records to Democratic-led House committees and the Manhattan district attorney. The timing of the hearings means the high court’s rulings will probably land in the summer in the midst of the 2020 presidential election campaign.

The president’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, and the financial institutions are not represented in the hearings. They have said they will abide by legal decisions and release the information if so ordered.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Founders checked and balanced the president’s finances, Jed Shugerman, May 12, 2020. (Jed Shugerman is a professor at Fordham Law School and a co-author of a historians’ amicus brief in the emoluments cases against President Trump.)

In a trio of cases being argued before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, President Trump claims he is immune from subpoenas by Congress and state prosecutors for his financial records. Constitutional history is not on his side. The Founders embraced checks and balances, and they constructed a legal system to limit presidential power, especially on issues relating to presidential finances.

In making their case for sweeping presidential immunity from oversight, Trump’s private lawyers and the Justice Department rely on theories of the powerful “unitary executive,” which they argue is established by the Constitution. But the text of the Constitution, the debates of the framers and the proceedings of the first Congress undermine their position.

The essence of Trump’s argument that his private financial records should be exempt from disclosure is that, given the unique status of the office, the Constitution gives the president implied and exclusive powers. Those powers supposedly shield the president from congressional oversight and criminal process by federal or state officials. Here’s the problem: None of these assertions has a clear basis in the text of the Constitution itself.

  • Washington Post, Tesla’s Elon Musk reopens factory, defying county and daring officials to arrest him, Faiz Siddiqui, ​May 12, 2020.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Analysis and Audio of the Supreme Court Hearing Trump Tax Case, Staff reports, May 12, 2020. Tuesday’s arguments are being heard by telephone because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the public can listen in.

Michael Flynn Scandal

djt william barr doj photo march 2019

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 1,900 former Justice Dept. employees again call for Barr to resign, Matt Zapotosky, May 12, 2020 (print ed.). In an open letter, the group wrote Attorney General William Barr, shown above at right with Donald Trump, had “once again assaulted the rule of law” in moving to drop the case against Michael Flynn.

More than 1,900 former Justice Department employees on Monday repeated a call for William P. Barr to step down as attorney general, asserting in an open letter he had “once again assaulted the rule of law” by moving to drop the case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn,shown below.

michael flynn arms foldedThe letter, organized by the nonprofit group Protect Democracy, was signed by Justice Department staffers serving in Republican and Democratic administrations dating back to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The vast majority were former career staffers — rather than political appointees — who worked as federal prosecutors or supervisors at U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country or the Justice Department in downtown Washington.

Protect Democracy, which counts Justice Department alumni among its members, has organized several similar letters critical of Barr’s decisions or other Trump administration actions.

Most recently, in February, the group collected more than 2,600 signatures on a letter calling for Barr to resign after he intervened to reduce career prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, a longtime friend of Trump. Jonathan Kravis, one of the prosecutors involved in Stone’s case who resigned after Barr’s action, wrote in a Washington Post column published Monday that in both matters, “the department undercut the work of career employees to protect an ally of the president, an abdication of the commitment to equal justice under the law.”

[Trump would have been charged with obstruction were he not president, hundreds of former federal prosecutors assert]

The new letter asserted that its signers “continue to believe that it would be best for the integrity of the Justice Department and for our democracy for Michael Flynn Harvard 2014Attorney General Barr to step aside.” The group also called on Congress to formally censure Barr and asked a federal judge in Washington to hold a hearing to scrutinize whether to dismiss the case against Flynn, right.

“Our democracy depends on a Department of Justice that acts as an independent arbiter of equal justice, not as an arm of the president’s political apparatus,” the group wrote.

Among the signers were several high-profile Republican appointees, including Donald Ayer, a deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush; Charles Fried, solicitor general under President Ronald Reagan; and Stuart Gerson, who led the Justice Department’s civil division under Bush and served as acting attorney general briefly in the Clinton administration. Justin Vail, a policy advocate with Protect Democracy, said the group was “inundated with calls from former Department of Justice attorneys who wanted to speak out” after the action in the Flynn case.

A spokeswoman for Barr declined to comment.

Yahoo News, In court filing, FBI accidentally reveals name of Saudi official suspected of directing support for 9/11 hijackers, Michael Isikoff, May 12, 2020.  The FBI inadvertently revealed one of the U.S. government’s most sensitive secrets about the Sept. 11 terror attacks: the identity of a mysterious Saudi Embassy official in Washington who agents suspected had directed crucial support to two of the al-Qaida hijackers.

The disclosure came in a new declaration filed in federal court by a senior FBI official in response to a lawsuit brought by families of 9/11 victims that accuses the Saudi government of complicity in the terrorist attacks.

The declaration was filed last month but unsealed late last week. According to a spokesman for the 9/11 victims’ families, it represents a major breakthrough in the long-running case, providing for the first time an apparent confirmation that FBI agents investigating the attacks believed they had uncovered a link between the hijackers and the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

It’s unclear just how strong the evidence is against the former Saudi Embassy official — it’s been a subject of sharp dispute within the FBI for years. But the disclosure, which a senior U.S. government official confirmed was made in error, seems likely to revive questions about potential Saudi links to the 9/11 plot.

It also shines a light on the extraordinary efforts by top Trump administration officials in recent months to prevent internal documents about the issue from ever becoming public.

“This shows there is a complete government cover-up of the Saudi involvement,” said Brett Eagleson, a spokesman for the 9/11 families whose father was killed in the attacks. “It demonstrates there was a hierarchy of command that’s coming from the Saudi Embassy to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs [in Los Angeles] to the hijackers.”

Still, Eagleson acknowledged he was flabbergasted by the bureau’s slip-up in identifying the Saudi Embassy official in a public filing. Although Justice Department lawyers had last September notified lawyers for the 9/11 families of the official’s identity, they had done so under a protective order that forbade the family members from publicly disclosing it.

Now, the bureau itself has named the Saudi official. “This is a giant screwup,” Eagleson said.

After being contacted by Yahoo News on Monday, Justice Department officials notified the court and withdrew the FBI’s declaration from the public docket. “The document was incorrectly filed in this case,” the docket now reads.

But FBI and Justice Department officials declined to comment on how the erroneous disclosure had been made. A Saudi government spokesman, meanwhile, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The Saudi government has consistently denied any connection to the 9/11 hijackers, telling the New York Times and ProPublica in January: “Saudi Arabia is and has always been a close and critical ally of the U.S. in the fight against terrorism.”

Ironically, the declaration identifying the Saudi official in question was intended to support recent filings by Attorney General William Barr and acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell barring the public release of the Saudi official’s name and all related documents, concluding they are “state secrets” that, if disclosed, could cause “significant harm to the national security.”

The declaration was filed by Jill Sanborn, the assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division. Her declaration fleshes out some of the assertions Barr and Grenell have used in their filings, arguing that publicly disclosing internal FBI files — including “interview reports, telephone and bank records, source reporting documents and foreign government information” — would reveal intelligence sources and methods of collection and would hamper the willingness of foreign governments to assist the FBI on sensitive cases.

U.S. Pandemic Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Push for Aid to States, but Republicans Are Split, Emily Cochrane, May 12, 2020. With governors and mayors pressing for federal assistance, some Republicans are balking at help that will go to Democratic strongholds.

When Senator Mitt Romney of Utah strode into a luncheon with fellow Republicans last week, he was carrying an oversize poster in his black-gloved hand that bore a blunt message: “Blue states aren’t the only ones who are screwed.”

Two days later, Senator Rick Scott of Florida made the opposite point, arriving at another party gathering with his own placard that showed how rosy his state’s financial picture was compared with those of three Democratic states: New York, Illinois and California. Why should Congress help struggling states and cities, he argued, when the bulk of the aid would go to Democratic strongholds that he said had a history of fiscal mismanagement?

The two Republican senators — both former governors — illustrate the contentious debate within their party that is shaping the next sweeping package of federal coronavirus relief. With many states and cities experiencing devastating fiscal crises amid the pandemic, Democrats in Congress have joined governors and mayors in pressing for a huge infusion of money for troubled states, cities and towns.

On Monday, the Democratic governors of five western states — California, Colorado, Oregon, Nevada and Washington State — said that all 50 states would need $1 trillion in “direct and flexible relief.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: We’re All Casualties of Trump’s War on Science, The administration kneecaps experts as the coronavirus rages, Michelle michelle goldberg thumbGoldberg, right, May 12, 2020 (print ed.). Rick Bright was removed from an agency overseeing efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine because, he says, he refused to endorse potentially dangerous treatments.

In 2004, “60 Minutes” aired a segment on what it called “virus hunters,” scientists searching for bugs that can leap from animals to humans and cause pandemics. “What worries me the most is that we are going to miss the next emerging disease,” said a scientist named Peter Daszak, describing his fear of a coronavirus “that moves from one part of the planet to another, wiping out people as it moves along.”

In the intervening years, Daszak became president of the EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit research organization focused on emerging pandemics. EcoHealth worked with China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology to study coronaviruses in bats that could infect humans, and, as Science magazine put it, “to develop tools that could help researchers create diagnostics, treatments and vaccines for human outbreaks.” Since 2014, the EcoHealth Alliance has received a grant from the National Institutes of Health, until its funding was abruptly cut two weeks ago.

The reason, as “60 Minutes” reported on Sunday evening, was a conspiracy theory spread by Representative Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican who in March wore a gas mask on the House floor to mock concern about the new coronavirus. On April 14, Gaetz appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show and claimed that the N.I.H. grant went to the Wuhan Institute, which Gaetz intimated might have been the source of the virus — the institute may have “birthed a monster,” in his words.

The first of Gaetz’s claims was flatly false, and the second unlikely; the C.I.A. has reportedly found no evidence of a link between the virus and the Wuhan lab. But at a White House briefing a few days later, a reporter from the right-wing website Newsmax told President Trump that under Barack Obama, the N.I.H. gave the Wuhan lab a $3.7 million grant. “Why would the U.S. give a grant like that to China?” she asked.

In fact, Trump’s administration had recently renewed EcoHealth’s grant, but Trump didn’t appear to know that. “The Obama administration gave them a grant of $3.7 million?” he asked. Then he said, “We will end that grant very quickly.”

And they did. But ending the grant dealt a blow to efforts to find treatments and a vaccine for the coronavirus. Remdesivir, the antiviral drug that’s shown some promise in Covid-19 patients, was earlier tested against bat viruses EcoHealth discovered. Now the nonprofit is facing layoffs.

This political hit on Daszak’s work is far from the only way that the Trump administration’s contempt for science has undermined America’s coronavirus response. Conservative antipathy to science is nothing new; Republicans have long denied and denigrated the scientific consensus on issues from evolution to stem cell research to climate change. This hostility has several causes, including populist distrust of experts, religious rejection of information that undermines biblical literalism and efforts by giant corporations to evade regulation.

But it’s grown worse under Trump, with his authoritarian impulse to quash any facts, from inauguration crowd sizes to hurricane paths, that might reflect poorly on him.

Until recently, it seemed as if Trump’s sabotage of efforts to combat climate change would be the most destructive legacy of his disregard for science. But the coronavirus has presented the country with an emergency that only sound science can solve. That means that the Trump administration’s disdain for expertise, its elevation of slavish loyalty over technical competence, has become a more immediate threat.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s abject hypocrisy tells us where he’s failed, Jennifer Rubin, right, May 12, 2020. President Trump has inadvertently jennifer rubin new headshotdemonstrated the degree to which certain measures are essential for the public’s protection against the coronavirus — and that he chooses to benefit from those protections without extending them to others. As we have passed another horrible milestone (80,000 U.S. deaths), we see just how little Trump cares about protecting others.

“It is scary to go to work,” White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said over the weekend, even when the White House has robust tracking, tracing and mask-wearing protocols in place that most Americans do not enjoy.

And, worse, Trump’s personal vanity and political efforts to project a return to business as usual mean he will not extend the same protection (wearing a mask) that he demands of co-workers. The Post reports: “Most White House officials will be asked to wear masks or face coverings in public spaces on complex grounds, a move to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading further inside the presidential compound . . . .The request does not apply to offices, however, and President Trump is still unlikely to wear a mask or face covering, aides say.” In other words: Trump gets protection from others but will not protect them in return for utterly selfish reasons. No single action better captures Trump’s narcissism.

Trump continues to exaggerate our success in expanding testing, claiming on Monday to have “prevailed.” This is categorically false, as Democrats and fact-checkers were quick to point out. “The United States has performed about 6 million tests in the past few months but has tested a significantly smaller percentage of the population than many other countries,” The Post reported.

When Trump previously raised the false claim of victory in testing, my colleague Glenn Kessler wrote:

washington post logomike dewine oWashington Post, Poll finds bipartisan support for many governors, but not those who embraced reopening, Scott Clement and Dan Balz, May 12, 2020. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) leads governors with the strongest bipartisan support. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) gets an overall negative rating for the way he has dealt with the crisis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump wanted a coronavirus victory event. It ended when he stalked off after clashing with two female reporters, Allyson Chiu and Katie Shepherd, May 12, 2020. As President Trump flashed a quick tight-lipped smile from the steps of the White House overlooking the Rose Garden on Monday, it looked like a victory lap of sorts was underway.

Two giant banners bearing the words “AMERICA LEADS THE WORLD IN TESTING” in all-caps were suspended from the White House columns. Testing machines and kits to detect the novel coronavirus had been carefully arranged on wooden tables flanking the president’s lectern, which was set against a backdrop of American flags.

But the orchestrated opportunity for the president to boast about his administration’s efforts to ramp up testing backfired. Instead of reassuring Americans and being a celebratory event, the roughly hour-long news conference ended with Trump shutting down reporters’ questions and abruptly leaving the Rose Garden following heated exchanges with two female journalists, including one who seemed to imply that he made a racially charged comment toward her.

Soon, the news conference was trending on social media — for all the wrong reasons.

This is hard to watch. Yet again we see that Trump takes huge issue with women who pose fair questions that he can’t answer. Especially when they’re women of color. His racism and misogyny couldn’t be clearer. pic.twitter.com/xZkw7LnuL3
— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) May 12, 2020
Monday’s contentious briefing followed weeks beset with challenges for Trump and his administration.

About three weeks ago, the president was ridiculed for suggesting that doctors should investigate injecting disinfectants into covid-19 patients’ lungs at an April 23 coronavirus task force briefing. The next briefing was abruptly canceled, then rescheduled, as the White House scrambled to recover from the controversy.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, After six new cases, Wuhan to test all 11 million residents, Anna Fifield​, May 12, 2020. The scope of the mission underscores official sensitivities about any new flare-up in Wuhan, where the virus emerged in a market late last year.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: America faces blowback against failed mercenary invasion of Venezuela, Wayne Madsen, May 12, 2020
America faces blowback against failed mercenary invasion of Venezuela. The mercenary team was led by a former U.S. Army Green Beret and native of Canada, Jordan Goudreau, and his mercenary company, Silvercorp USA of Melbourne, Florida.

Silvercorp and Goudreau had previously provided security for Trump campaign rallies and Goudreau has close links to Keith Schiller, the longtime security director and enforcer for the Trump Organization

ny times logoNew York Times, Latin America’s Outbreaks Now Rival Europe’s. But Its Options Are Worse, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Manuela Andreoni, Letícia Casado and Mitra Taj, May 12, 2020. A devastating wave has struck cities in Latin America, mostly unfolding far from global view, where a full tally of the dead can’t — or won’t — be given.

Deaths doubled in Lima, rivaling the worst month of the pandemic in Paris. They tripled in Manaus, a metropolis tucked deep in Brazil’s Amazon — a surge similar to what London and Madrid endured.

In Guayaquil, a port city in Ecuador, the sudden spike in fatalities in April was comparable to what New York City experienced during its worst month: more than five times the number of people died than in previous years.

As the coronavirus’s toll eased in New York and in European capitals, a devastating wave has struck cities in Latin America, one that rivals the worst outbreaks in the world, an analysis of mortality data by The New York Times has found.

Brazilian cities are resorting to mass graves to bury rows of stacked coffins. Hundreds of Ecuadoreans are still searching for the bodies of family members who went to hospitals and never returned.

 ny times logoNew York Times, A Mystery Explained: Moscow Has 1,700 Extra Deaths, Ivan Nechepurenko, May 12, 2020 (print ed.). Russia’s government has boasted of a low coronavirus mortality rate, but figures from an obscure city agency cast doubt on those claims.

Ever since the coronavirus took hold globally, researchers have been puzzled by Russia’s mortality rate of only about 13 deaths per million, far below the world average of 36 in a country with a ramshackle health system.

With the arrival of data for April, however, the mystery appears to be clearing up.

Data released by Moscow’s city government on Friday shows that the number of overall registered deaths in the Russian capital in April exceeded the five-year average for the same period by more than 1,700. That total is far higher than the official Covid-19 death count of 642 — an indication of significant underreporting by the authorities.

A similar picture has been observed in many other countries. In neighboring Belarus, for example — where the authoritarian leader Aleksandr G. Lukashenko has rejected calls for a lockdown as “frenzy and psychosis” — the reported death rate is about 10 per million. In Mexico, officials have recorded more than three times as many deaths in the capital as the government has acknowledged.

U.S. Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Employers Rush to Adopt Virus Screening. The Tools May Not Help Much, Natasha Singer, May 12, 2020 (print ed.). Symptom-checking apps and fever-screening cameras promise to keep sick workers at home and hinder the virus. But experts warn they can be inaccurate and violate privacy.

Bob Grewal recently began testing a new health-screening setup for workers at a Subway restaurant he owns in Los Angeles near the University of Southern California.

When he stepped inside the employee food prep area, a fever-detection and facial recognition camera service, PopID, quickly identified him by name and gauged his temperature. Then a small tablet screen underneath the camera posted a message that cleared him to enter.

“Thank you Bob, you have a healthy Temp. of 98.06,” the screen said. “PopID aims to create a safe environment and stop the spread of Covid-19.”

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration is still garnishing the wages of 54,000 student loan borrowers, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, May 12, 2020. The Education Department revealed in a court filing that tens of thousands of people who were supposed to benefit from a congressionally mandated moratorium on involuntary collection are still having their paychecks shorted to repay student loans.

Media News

“When will they open a Cold Case on the Psycho Joe Scarborough matter in Florida. Did he get away with murder? Some people think so. Why did he leave Congress so quietly and quickly? Isn’t it obvious? What’s happening now? A total nut job!”

President Trump, in a tweet, May 12

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s vicious claim that Joe Scarborough might have murdered an aide, Salvador Rizzo, May 12, 2020. The sun had not been up for an hour when the president of the United States, in his ninth tweet of the day, said MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough might be a murderer.

It’s an old claim, debunked by The Washington Post in 2017. Trump often smears those who challenge him. He has a long-running feud with the joe scarborough headshot“Morning Joe” husband-and-wife team of Scarborough, left, and Mika Brzezinski.

But it remains astounding to see the president make a thinly veiled murder accusation devoid of evidence. Many of the 18,000 false and misleading claims in our Trump database feature overheated rhetoric. Few of them rise to these vicious heights.

The Facts “Morning Joe” airs on MSNBC from 6 to 9 a.m. on weekdays. The hosts have been hammering the administration’s dysfunction in the face of the covid-19 pandemic, with Scarborough often taking Trump to task for “a blizzard of lies.”

This morning, the hosts also zeroed in on Trump’s contentious exchange with a CBS News reporter at a news conference Monday. Brzezinski and Scarborough both called Trump’s remarks “racist.” They ran a segment criticizing the Justice Department’s unusual move to drop the criminal case against Michael Flynn, a former Trump national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. They interviewed Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who said of Trump: “He can’t handle women, particularly strong women, and we know that Trump is xenophobic, and it comes out time and again.”

Meanwhile, somewhere inside the White House, Trump was firing off tweets accusing Scarborough of possibly having murdered an aide in 2001.

Trump first lobbed this conspiratorial charge at Scarborough in November 2017. The president is referring to the 2001 death of Lori Klausutis, a 28-year-old aide who worked for Scarborough when he was a Republican member of Congress representing Florida’s 1st Congressional District.

The circumstances of Klausutis’s death have spawned conspiracy theories, but authorities never suspected foul play. Her death is not an unsolved mystery or a cold case waiting for answers. Klausutis’s death on July 20, 2001, was ruled accidental and the police concluded there was no reason to further investigate. A police investigator told The Post in 2017 that authorities had left “no stone unturned.” PolitiFact has given Trump’s claim its worst rating, “Pants on Fire.”

msnbc logo CustomThe medical examiner, Michael Berkland, determined that an abnormal heart rhythm caused Klausutis to lose consciousness and fall, fatally striking her head. She was discovered in Scarborough’s office in Fort Walton Beach, lying on her back with her head near a desk, according to a police report.

The Fort Walton Beach police report from Aug. 6, 2001, noted that the medical examiner had determined that Klausutis died as a result of an acute subdural hematoma, or blood clot. The police report cited a letter from Berkland, stating that the injury was the result of trauma from a fall as she lost consciousness from “a probable cardiac arrhythmia secondary to valvular heart disease.” The day before she was found dead, Klausutis told a colleague she was not feeling well, according to the police report. She also told a mail carrier she was not feeling well.

Trump in his tweet asked why Scarborough had left Congress so “quickly and quietly,” implying a connection between Klausutis’s death and Scarborough’s resignation. In fact, the death occurred almost two months after Scarborough announced his resignation. Klausutis was looking for a new job when she died, and Scarborough was in Washington.

May 11

U.S.  Pandemic Top Headlines

Trump Re-Election Campaign

brad parscale djt Custom

U.S. Pandemic Politics

World News

U.S. Virus Victims, Responses

U.S. Crime & Courts

U.S. Virus Victims

U.S. Media News

Preventing U.S. Crisis Over 2020 Voting

More World News

 

U.S.  Pandemic Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, White House advisers predict unemployment rate could surpass 20%, Aaron Gregg, Felicia Sonmez, Lenny Bernstein and american flag upside down distressCarolyn Y. Johnson, May 11, 2020 (print ed.). Two of President Trump’s top economic advisers projected Sunday that unemployment will climb as the coronavirus pandemic continues its sweep across the United States, with one official predicting that the unemployment rate will jump to 20 percent by next month.

The statements from White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin came three days after the Labor Department reported its highest unemployment figures since the Great Depression, and as the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 79,000.

They also came as a Senate panel announced that four administration officials who had been set to testify in person on the pandemic this week will instead do so via videoconference because of their proximity to two White House staff members who recently tested positive. One of those staffers is an aide to Vice President Pence, but a spokesman said Sunday that Pence plans to be at the White House on Monday.

 djt virus news conference nyt photo Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Live U.S. Updates: White House Scrambles to Stem Its Own Outbreak, Staff reports, May 11, 2020. The infections stirred concerns steven mnuchin wabout how to keep workplaces safe as the economy reopens.

There are more than four million confirmed cases and about 280,000 deaths worldwide, including nearly 80,000 in the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that unemployment would get worse before it got better. A new study on children treated in intensive care units for the virus shows that the vast majority of the 48 cases had pre-existing medical conditions. Here’s the latest.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Pork Chops vs. People: Battling Coronavirus in an Iowa Meat Plant, Ana Swanson, David Yaffe-Bellany and Michael Corkery, May 11, 2020 (print ed.) After President Trump’s executive order, meat plants are reopening. Can they do so without endangering their low-wage workers and their communities?

On April 10, Tony Thompson, the sheriff for Black Hawk County in Iowa, visited the giant Tyson Foods pork plant in Waterloo. What he saw, he said, “shook me to the core.”

Workers, many of them immigrants, were crowded elbow to elbow as they broke down hog carcasses zipping by on a conveyor belt. The few who had face coverings wore a motley assortment of bandannas, painters’ masks or even sleep masks stretched around their mouths. Some had masks hanging around their necks.

Sheriff Thompson and other local officials, including from the county health department, lobbied Tyson to close the plant, worried about a coronavirus outbreak. But Tyson was “less than cooperative,” said the sheriff, who supervises the county’s coronavirus response, and Iowa’s governor declined to shut the facility.

“Waterloo Tyson is running,” the company said in a text message to employees on April 17. “Thank you team members! WE ARE PROUD OF YOU!”

Five days later, the plant was closed. Tyson said the reason was “worker absenteeism.” As of Thursday, the county health department had recorded 1,031 coronavirus infections among Tyson employees — more than a third of the work force. Some are on ventilators. Three have died, according to Tyson.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Global Updates: A faint hope emerges as people return to public places, Staff reports, May 11, 2020. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia declared an end to a nationwide “nonworking period,” but gave governors power to strengthen or relax lockdowns in their territories.

• Britain’s new guidelines leave more questions than answers.
• In seeking an inquiry, Australia leaps onto global stage and draws China’s ire.
• Consumers are not optimistic about home values or keeping their jobs.
• Natural gas exports slow as the pandemic reduces global demand.
• The airline business is terrible. It will probably get worse.

washington post logoWashington Post, As deaths mount, Trump tries to convince Americans it’s safe to inch back to normal, Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Yasmeen Abutaleb, May 11, 2020 (print ed.) The administration is effectively bowing to — and asking Americans to accept — a devastating proposition: that a steady, daily accumulation of lonely deaths is the grim cost of reopening the nation.

Confronted with horrendous jobs report, White House and congressional Democrats aren’t even talking.

Trump Re-Election Campaign

brad parscale djt Custom

Trump Campaign Manager Brad Parscale (shown above) is in the hot seat (along with his Ferrari). Jared Kushner is pushing for Nick Ayers, and against a Corey Lewandowski return. But whose fault are the disastrous swing state numbers?

Vanity Fair, Analysis: “Trump’s Feeling Is, ‘Why Are We Losing Everywhere?’” Gabriel Sherman, May 11, 2020. With Advisers Feuding and Numbers Plummeting, Trump Eyes Campaign Shake-up. With the coronavirus death toll surpassing 80,000 and the unemployment rate at Great Depression-era levels, there is a growing consensus among senior Republicans that Donald Trump’s reelection is slipping away.

Recent internal polls show Trump trailing Joe Biden in six swing states, a data point that augurs a landslide loss in November. “The swing state polls are horrific,” a prominent Republican briefed on the numbers told me. The White House’s COVID-19 outbreak is only the latest headline that reinforces the narrative that Trump can’t get control of the pandemic. “This is what should worry the campaign: Biden is in his basement and he’s beating Trump,” a former West Wing staffer told me. “If I were Biden, the lesson I would learn is: Shut the fuck up and let Trump go out there and destroy himself.”

Seeking to change the trajectory of the race, Trump is now discussing a shake-up to his campaign leadership, three sources close to the White House told me.

Two sources said Trump has told people he wants to install 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in a senior role. “Trump’s feeling is, ‘why are we losing everywhere?’ The president is sick of it,” another former West Wing official said. According to a source, Lewandowski has told Trump that the RNC doesn’t grasp how dire the polls are. “Corey thinks the GOP isn’t solid on fundamentals. He says the campaign and the party spend time sending out press releases bragging about how well they’re doing,” the former official said. (Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, said in an email, “literally none of this is true.”)

Trump’s interest in Lewandowski has sparked conflict with Jared Kushner, two sources said. “There’s a battle over personnel,” a former West Wing official said. Kushner is strongly opposed to Lewandowski joining the campaign, sources said. Kushner, right, led the effort to force out Lewandowski in 2016, and has since successfully kept Lewandowski on the outer edge of Trump’s orbit.

According to two sources, Kushner is trying to recruit Mike Pence’s former chief of staff Nick Ayers to take a senior campaign role. In 2018, Kushner recruited Ayers to replace John Kelly as Trump’s chief of staff. Ayers turned down the offer, and sources said he has no interest in joining the Trump campaign. One person close to Ayers told me he’s aligning himself with Nikki Haley, left, to lead her potential 2024 nikki haley ocampaign. “He views Haley as the right train to be on,” the source said.

Trump and campaign manager Brad Parscale’s relationship has been fraying for weeks, sources said. Trump was said to be annoyed last month about a largely positive profile of Parscale in the New York Times Magazine. Trump had already been irked by Parscale because of the talk that Parscale, a former website designer from San Antonio, had made millions of dollars through his companies from Trump’s campaigns and bought a Ferrari. “The money is the biggest issue for Trump,” a former West Wing official said.

A few days before the Times Magazine piece was published, Trump called Parscale and reportedly threatened to sue him for the campaign’s weak poll numbers. According to a source briefed on the widely reported call, Parscale told Trump to blame the campaign’s struggle on Kushner. “Brad said, ‘Blame the people Jared brought in,’” the source said. (Parscale did not respond to a request for comment.)

As Trump debates who should lead his campaign, he’s also struggling to settle on a 2020 strategy. On top of everything, there is also fear in Trumpworld that Senate Republicans might finally break from him if the polls get bad enough. “The numbers are fucking terrible,” another former West Wing official said. “There’s massive anxiety in the GOP that he’s gonna take them all down with him.”

 Pandemic Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP grows nervous about losing Senate amid worries over Trump’s handling of pandemic, Seung Min Kim and Mike DeBonis, rnc logoMay 11, 2020 (print ed.). Republicans are increasingly nervous they could lose control of the Senate this fall as a potent combination of a cratering economy, President Trump’s handling of the pandemic and rising enthusiasm among Democratic voters dims their electoral prospects.

In recent weeks, GOP senators have been forced into a difficult political dance as polling shifts in favor of Democrats: Tout their own us senate logoresponse to the coronavirus outbreak without overtly distancing themselves from a president whose management of the crisis is under intense scrutiny but who still holds significant sway with Republican voters.

“It is a bleak picture right now all across the map, to be honest with you,” said one Republican strategist closely involved in Senate races who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss concerns within the party. “This whole conversation is a referendum on Trump, and that is a bad place for Republicans to be. But it’s also not a forever place.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is Donald Trump’s dumbest idea yet, Bill Palmer, May 11, 2020. When the week began, Donald Trump was busy trying to distract voters from his pandemic failure by selling them on the notion that rogue forces within the FBI and DOJ conspired to frame his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Now here at the end of the week, Trump has taken this dumb plan and expanded it into the dumbest thing we’ve ever seen.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s still unclear why Trump thought that promoting a conspiracy about the FBI and DOJ would gain him a single additional vote; his own base can’t vote for him twice, and no one outside of his base was ever going to believe that (or care if) Flynn was somehow innocent of crimes that he’s already confessed to in detail. But if that was a tough sell, then then Trump has really really taken on something quixotic now.

Donald Trump has decided to not only push the notion that Michael Flynn was framed, but that the frame-up was part of an impossibly large conspiracy headed by none other than President Barack Obama. Just how married is Trump to this narrative? He posted more than a hundred tweets and retweets on Sunday alone, all aimed at pushing the notion of a vast Obama conspiracy theory, complete with hashtags.

Good luck with that. Donald Trump has historically low approval rating numbers, and now he’s decided that his best shot of improving those numbers is to frame this election as a battle between him and one of the most popular Presidents the United States has ever had. This isn’t just dumb, it’s senility-level dumb. Trump is telling Americans that a vote for Joe Biden is a vote for Obama – which means it’s Christmas Day for Joe Biden.

Other Commentary:

  • Washington Post, Editorial: Trump is withholding relief from U.S. children — just to spite their undocumented parents, Editorial board, May 10, 2020 (print ed.).

World News

brett eagleson gail eagleson donald trump melania trump brett eagleson photo

Brett Eagleson and his mother, Gail Eagleson, with Donald and Melania Trump (undated photo of Brett Eagleson)

Yahoo News, In court filing, FBI accidentally reveals name of Saudi official suspected of directing support for 9/11 hijackers, Michael Isikoff, May 12, 2020. The FBI inadvertently revealed one of the U.S. government’s most sensitive secrets about the Sept. 11 terror attacks: the identity of a mysterious Saudi Embassy official in Washington who agents suspected had directed crucial support to two of the al-Qaida hijackers.

9 11 fbi list 19 hijackersThe disclosure came in a new declaration filed in federal court by a senior FBI official in response to a lawsuit brought by families of 9/11 victims that accuses the Saudi government of complicity in the terrorist attacks.

The declaration was filed last month but unsealed late last week. According to a spokesman for the 9/11 victims’ families, it represents a major breakthrough in the long-running case, providing for the first time an apparent confirmation that FBI agents investigating the attacks believed they had uncovered a link between the hijackers and the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

It’s unclear just how strong the evidence is against the former Saudi Embassy official — it’s been a subject of sharp dispute within the FBI for years. But the disclosure, which a senior U.S. government official confirmed was made in error, seems likely to revive questions about potential Saudi links to the 9/11 plot.

FBI logoIt also shines a light on the extraordinary efforts by top Trump administration officials in recent months to prevent internal documents about the issue from ever becoming public.

“This shows there is a complete government cover-up of the Saudi involvement,” said Brett Eagleson, a spokesman for the 9/11 families whose father was killed in the attacks. “It demonstrates there was a hierarchy of command that’s coming from the Saudi Embassy to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs [in Los Angeles] to the hijackers.”

Still, Eagleson acknowledged he was flabbergasted by the bureau’s slip-up in identifying the Saudi Embassy official in a public filing. Although Justice Department lawyers had last September notified lawyers for the 9/11 families of the official’s identity, they had done so under a protective order that forbade the family members from publicly disclosing it.

Now, the bureau itself has named the Saudi official. “This is a giant screwup,” Eagleson said.
Brett Eagleson and his mother, Gail Eagleson, with Donald and Melania Trump. (Brett Eagleson)

After being contacted by Yahoo News on Monday, Justice Department officials notified the court and withdrew the FBI’s declaration from the public docket. “The document was incorrectly filed in this case,” the docket now reads.

But FBI and Justice Department officials declined to comment on how the erroneous disclosure had been made. A Saudi government spokesman, meanwhile, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The Saudi government has consistently denied any connection to the 9/11 hijackers, telling the New York Times and ProPublica in January: “Saudi Arabia is and has always been a close and critical ally of the U.S. in the fight against terrorism.”

Ironically, the declaration identifying the Saudi official in question was intended to support recent filings by Attorney General William Barr and acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell barring the public release of the Saudi official’s name and all related documents, concluding they are “state secrets” that, if disclosed, could cause “significant harm to the national security.”

The declaration was filed by Jill Sanborn, the assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division. Her declaration fleshes out some of the assertions Barr and Grenell have used in their filings, arguing that publicly disclosing internal FBI files — including “interview reports, telephone and bank records, source reporting documents and foreign government information” — would reveal intelligence sources and methods of collection and would hamper the willingness of foreign governments to assist the FBI on sensitive cases.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Mystery Explained: Moscow Has 1,700 Extra Deaths, Ivan Nechepurenko, May 11, 2020. Russia’s government has boasted of a low coronavirus mortality rate, but figures from an obscure city agency cast doubt on those claims.

Ever since the coronavirus took hold globally, researchers have been puzzled by Russia’s mortality rate of only about 13 deaths per million, far below the world average of 36 in a country with a ramshackle health system.

With the arrival of data for April, however, the mystery appears to be clearing up.

Data released by Moscow’s city government on Friday shows that the number of overall registered deaths in the Russian capital in April exceeded the five-year average for the same period by more than 1,700. That total is far higher than the official Covid-19 death count of 642 — an indication of significant underreporting by the authorities.

A similar picture has been observed in many other countries. In neighboring Belarus, for example — where the authoritarian leader Aleksandr G. Lukashenko has rejected calls for a lockdown as “frenzy and psychosis” — the reported death rate is about 10 per million. In Mexico, officials have recorded more than three times as many deaths in the capital as the government has acknowledged.

washington post logoWashington Post, Venezuela raid: How an ex-Green Beret and a defecting general planned to capture Maduro, Anthony Faiola, Shawn Boburg and Ana Vanessa Herrero, May 11, 2020 (print ed.). For the men in the Colombian safe house, the arrival of the muscular American felt like deliverance.

Defectors from Venezuela’s police and military, they had been rounded up from flophouses and streetside encampments for a secret mission to nicolas maduro customliberate their homeland from the socialist government of autocratic President Nicolás Maduro, right. They were holed up in a sweltering smuggler’s town near the Venezuelan frontier late last spring when Jordan Goudreau — a square-jawed former Green Beret who ran a strategic-services firm in Florida — stepped out of a car and approached.

“He had a translator,” said a man who later bowed out of the mission, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of persecution. “Jordan was talking about how he had connections with the U.S. high command.”

Five men who initially trained for the mission, or who came into contact with its operatives, said the 43-year-old veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had convinced the men that they were training for a U.S.-backed incursion into Venezuela. That belief, these people said, bolstered their sense of a serious operation that was worth risking their lives for.

From a Miami condo to the Venezuelan coast, how a plan to ‘capture’ Maduro went rogue

In a video of Goudreau’s encounter with the group, leaked to social media and confirmed by one of those present, one of the Venezuelans lavishes praise on their American hope.

“Mr. Jordan,” he says. “We want to give thanks to you for fighting for the freedom of a nation that is not yours. . . . Thanks to you, we will free Venezuela.”

What followed is a barely believable odyssey, a hall-of-mirrors operation that ended May 3 with Goudreau announcing a mission to overthrow Maduro that had already failed.

Maduro says his forces have killed eight men and captured 34 others, including Airan Berry and Luke Denman — fellow former Green Berets who served with Goudreau and are now being held in Venezuela on charges of terrorism, arms trafficking and conspiracy.

U.S. Crime & Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Bill Barr Twisted My Words in Dropping the Flynn Case. Here’s the Truth, Mary B. McCord (an acting assistant attorney general for national security at the Justice Department from 2016 to 2017), May 11, 2020 (print ed.). The F.B.I.’s interview of Mr. Flynn was constitutional, lawful and for a legitimate counterintelligence purpose.

william barr new oAt the direction of Attorney General Bill Barr, right,the Justice Department last week moved to dismiss a false-statements charge against Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser. The reason stated was that the continued prosecution “would not serve the interests of justice.”

timothy shea o CustomThe motion was signed by Timothy Shea, left, a longtime trusted adviser of Mr. Barr and, since January, the acting U.S. attorney in Washington. In attempting to support its argument, the motion cites more than 25 times the F.B.I.’s report of an interview with me in July 2017, two months after I left a decades-long career at the department (under administrations of both parties) that culminated in my role as the acting assistant attorney general for national security.

The Barr-Shea motion to dismiss refers to my descriptions of the F.B.I.’s justification for not wanting to notify the new administration about the potential Flynn compromise as “vacillating from the potential compromise of a ‘counterintelligence’ investigation to the protection of a purported ‘criminal’ investigation.” But that “vacillation” has no bearing on whether the F.B.I. was justified in engaging in a voluntary interview with Mr. Flynn. It has no bearing on whether Mr. Flynn’s lies to the F.B.I. were material to its investigation into any links or coordination between Mr. Trump’s FBI logopresidential campaign and Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.

And perhaps more significant, it has no bearing on whether Mr. Flynn’s lies to the F.B.I. were material to the clear counterintelligence threat posed by the susceptible position Mr. Flynn put himself in when he told Mr. Pence and others in the new administration that he had not discussed the sanctions with Mr. Kislyak. The materiality is obvious.

In short, the report of my interview does not anywhere suggest that the F.B.I.’s interview of Mr. Flynn was unconstitutional, unlawful or not “tethered” to any legitimate counterintelligence purpose.

 U.S. Virus Victims

ny times logoNew York Times, Why the Road to Reopening New York Will Be So Hard, J. David Goodman and Michael Rothfeld, May 11, 2020 (print ed.) The city is still far from meeting the public health metrics necessary to reopen, from available critical-care beds to new hospital admissions for the virus. Also, density, tourism and a dependence on mass transit, factors that helped make the city the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, complicate a return to normalcy.

U.S. Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Employers Rush to Adopt Virus Screening. The Tools May Not Help Much, Natasha Singer, May 11, 2020. Symptom-checking apps and fever-screening cameras promise to keep sick workers at home and hinder the virus. But experts warn they can be inaccurate and violate privacy.

Bob Grewal recently began testing a new health-screening setup for workers at a Subway restaurant he owns in Los Angeles near the University of Southern California.

When he stepped inside the employee food prep area, a fever-detection and facial recognition camera service, PopID, quickly identified him by name and gauged his temperature. Then a small tablet screen underneath the camera posted a message that cleared him to enter.

“Thank you Bob, you have a healthy Temp. of 98.06,” the screen said. “PopID aims to create a safe environment and stop the spread of Covid-19.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Rockefeller heirs to oil fortune find dumping fossil fuel stocks improved bottom line, Steven Mufson, May 10, 2020. In 2014, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund decided to sever fossil fuel investments — and since then it has outpaced its benchmark indices.

Five years ago, members of the Rockefeller family walked away from the fossil fuels that made them rich, alarmed that burning oil and gas was causing climate change. Now it also seems like a smart financial move. The $1.1 billion Rockefeller Brothers Fund — largely free of oil and gas — has outpaced financial benchmarks, defying predictions of money managers.

Stephen B. Heintz, president of the fund, said the financial performance should bolster those trying to stop investment in industries linked to climate change. “This has become not a symbolic gesture, as might have been viewed at the time we announced,” Heintz said. “It’s become a movement.”

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Conspiracists Elevate a New Champion, Davey Alba, May 11, 2020 (print ed.). A video promoting baseless and dubious claims by the discredited scientist Judy Mikovits has been viewed more than 8 million times in the past week.

In a video posted to YouTube on Monday, a woman animatedly described an unsubstantiated secret plot by global elites like Bill Gates and Dr. Anthony Fauci to use the coronavirus pandemic to profit and grab political power.

In the 26-minute video, the woman asserted how Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leading voice on the coronavirus, had buried her research about how vaccines can damage people’s immune systems. It is those weakened immune systems, she declared, that have made people susceptible to illnesses like Covid-19.

The video, a scene from a longer dubious documentary called “Plandemic,” was quickly seized upon by anti-vaccinators, the conspiracy group QAnon and activists from the Reopen America movement, generating more than eight million views. And it has turned the woman — Dr. Judy Mikovits, 62, a discredited scientist — into a new star of virus disinformation.

Her ascent was powered not only by the YouTube video but also by a book that she published in April, “Plague of Corruption,” which frames Dr. epoch timesMikovits as a truth-teller fighting deception in science. In recent weeks, she has become a darling of far-right publications like The Epoch Times and The Gateway Pundit. Mentions of her on social media and television have spiked to as high as 14,000 a day, according to the media insights company Zignal Labs.

The rise of Dr. Mikovits is the latest twist in the virus disinformation wars, which have swelled throughout the pandemic. Conspiracy theorists have used the uncertainty and fear around the disease to mint many villains. Those include Dr. Fauci after he appeared to slight President Trump and Mr. Gates, a co-founder of Microsoft, as someone who started the disease. They have also pushed the baseless idea that 5G wireless waves can help cause the disease.

On the flip side, they have created their own heroes, like Dr. Mikovits.

The conspiracy theorists “recast a pusher of discredited pseudoscience as a whistle-blowing counterpoint to real expertise,” said Renee DiResta, a disinformation researcher at the Stanford Internet Observatory.

Dr. Mikovits did not respond to requests for comment.

Judy Mikovits has a degree in biology from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from George Washington University. From 1992 to 2001, she worked at the National Cancer Institute as a postdoctoral fellow, a staff scientist and a lab director, then served as research director of the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease from 2006 to 2011. In 2011, after her research into chronic fatigue syndrome was discredited, she was fired from Whittemore.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump wants America to ‘normalize’ coronavirus deaths. It’s the media’s job not to play along, Margaret Sullivan, right, margaret sullivan 2015 photoMay 11, 2020 (print ed.). Here’s how journalists can puncture this administration’s loaded buzzwords, bogus comparisons and callousness about human life.

Media critic and New York University professor Jay Rosen sees a strategy of normalizing coronavirus as key to Trump’s attempt to save his political skin before November’s presidential election, as he described in a widely-read essay last week:

“The plan is to have no plan, to let daily deaths between one and three thousand become a normal thing, and then to create massive confusion about who is responsible,” he wrote.

The media’s role in Trump’s plan-without-a-plan? Well, he’s counting on us to regurgitate and magnify his message — and in doing so, make people begin to shrug off the daily horrors as inevitable. When journalists repeat the rhetoric about the necessity of widespread “reopening” or when they become inured to the continuing death count, they do his work for him.

Preventing U.S. Crisis Over 2020 Voting

OpEdNews, Commentary: What happens if Bush-Gore result happens again with Trump-Biden? Steven Rosenfeld, May 11, 2020. With six months to go until November’s 2020 election, dozens of America’s top legal minds convened to consider what would have been unthinkable before Donald Trump’s presidency. They gathered to brainstorm what could be done to prevent the country from descending into a “civil war-like scenario,” as one participant put it, if Trump and Joe Biden both claim that they won the presidency — and won’t back down.

Their May 4 teleconference parsed a series of nightmare scenarios in the aftermath of the November 3 election that would lead to competing Electoral College results being sent to Congress from battleground states — one issued by a Republican legislature backing Trump, and another issued by the Democratic governor backing Biden.

The scenarios continued onto January 6, 2021, where, in a joint congressional session to ratify the Electoral College votes presided over by Vice President Mike Pence, the House and Senate were sent to their chambers to debate for two hours. When they reconvened, the Senate backed the Trump electors while the House backed the Biden slate.

The question put before the scholars was what could stop the 2020 election from spiraling that far out of control or going even further downhill, as occurred in the 1876 presidential election when two candidates claimed to win, waged relentless partisan battles, and were both planning separate inaugurations — with Samuel Tilden backing down only 48 hours before Rutherford B. Hayes was sworn in as president.

“My big fear, as a country, is that we don’t know our history well enough to know that we came within 48 hours of inauguration day with two people claiming to be president, and the incumbent thinking about martial law — that was Ulysses Grant because he was worried that there were going to be two simultaneous inauguration sessions,” said Edward B. Foley, director of Moritz College of Law’s election law program at Ohio State University and a national authority on disputed presidential elections. He organized the brainstorming session with Steven F. Huefner, a Moritz senior fellow and former U.S. Senate counsel who also is an expert on vote-counting disputes.

“To replicate that kind of thing [a cascading crisis] on January 18, 2021, in an era with nuclear codes, seems to me an altogether more problematic scenario than even the dire circumstances of March 1, 1877,” Foley continued, referring to the date Congress convened in the Hayes-Tilden dispute. “So it may be a Don Quixote quixotic effort to try to wrestle these legal problems into the ground. But I feel some responsibility to say that we have actually been there as a country once before, and it was not pretty. There might be no avoiding [a calamity] if we go down that road again.”

Never before in recent history have the nation’s top constitutional and election scholars convened six months ahead of a presidential election to ward off what they fear could be a constitutional meltdown if an incumbent president and his most strident partisan allies seek to disrupt or disregard counting votes and the transfer of presidential power.

More World News

washington post logoWashington Post, France mandates masks to control the coronavirus. Burqas remain banned, James McAuley, May 11, 2020 (print ed.). France, the originator of the burqa ban, has done more than any other Western nation over the past decade to resist face coverings in public. But as the country begins to emerge from its coronavirus lockdown on Monday, face masks are mandatory.

People are required to wear masks in high schools and on public transportation — or risk being fined. Shopkeepers also have the right to ask customers to wear masks or to please leave. Artificial-intelligence-integrated video cameras will be monitoring overall compliance on the Paris Metro.

To emphasize the national imperative, President Emmanuel Macron appeared at a school last week wearing a navy mask embellished with the blue, French Flagwhite and red stripes of the French flag. Face coverings, the design seemed to suggest, are fused to the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity.

All this has been accepted with little commentary or controversy. A recent BFMTV poll found that 94 percent of people in France supported wearing masks. That France has reported more than 26,000 coronavirus deaths no doubt contributes to that acceptance.

But many Muslims, religious freedom advocates and scholars see a great deal of irony in a society that has made such a virtue of uncovered faces suddenly requiring faces to be covered.

Muslims see irony in a society that has resisted face coverings now requiring faces to be covered.

May 10

U.S.  Pandemic Top Headlines

 U.S. Courts, Crime

Pandemic Politics

More On 2020 Elections

U.S. Virus Victims

World News

Media News

 

U.S.  Pandemic Top Stories

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washington post logoWashington Post, Obama says end to Michael Flynn case threatens rule of law, calls covid-19 response a ‘disaster,’ Hannah Knowles and Meryl Kornfield, May 10, 2020 (print ed.). Former president Barack Obama (shown above during one of his weekly addresses in 2016) offered blistering criticisms of his successor that he has rarely aired in public.

Former president Barack Obama shared deep worries Friday about the Justice Department’s decision to drop its prosecution of ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, shown at right in separate file photos with Trump, telling old aides on a call that “our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk,” according to a recording obtained by Yahoo News and confirmed by an Obama spokesperson.

michael flynn djtObama also appeared to slam the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as an “absolute chaotic disaster,” offering the sort of blistering criticisms he has rarely aired in public. Obama said shortly before President Trump took office that he would only weigh in on his successor’s actions when he believes “our core values may be at stake.”

With his comments on Flynn, Obama joined a wave of criticism from Democrats and law enforcement officials, as legal analysts see a pattern by Attorney General William P. Barr, below left, to intervene in cases that involve the president’s allies. The Justice Department moved this week to drop its case against Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian ambassador amid Robert S. Mueller III’s special counsel inquiry. He is now seeking to withdraw william barr new othat plea.

“There is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free,” Obama said in the Friday night call to about 3,000 members of the Obama Alumni Association, according to his spokeswoman. “That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk. And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we’ve seen in other places.”

The news that the government would not pursue its case against Flynn “has been somewhat downplayed,” Obama said.

The move to abandon Flynn’s case was cheered by Trump supporters who have long derided the special counsel and believe the former Trump adviser was unfairly targeted — bolstered by a Justice Department finding that lower-level prosecutors and agents made key errors while investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Live Updates, Fauci, other top health officials will quarantine, Staff reports, May 10, 2020. Trump welcomes reopening of his golf course in Los Angeles County. Three of the country’s highest ranking health officials are self-quarantining after two White House aides tested positive for the novel coronavirus, raising questions about how the White House is responding to the challenge of maintaining a safe work environment for President Trump, Vice President Pence and their staff.

Anthony S. Fauci, above, the government’s top infectious diseases official, will work partially from home and take other precautions after a “low risk” exposure, a spokeswoman said.

Confronted with the worst jobs report since the Great Depression, the White House and congressional Democrats aren’t even talking to each other about what — if anything — to do about it.

Easing of social distancing guidelines — whether by government edict or individual decision — has led to new coronavirus flare-ups in the United States and abroad.

Trump on Sunday cheered the reopening of his oceanfront golf course in Los Angeles County, which had been closed for seven weeks as part of California’s coronavirus shutdown.

“So great to see our Country starting to open up again!” he wrote in an early morning tweet.

The golf course shut its doors in mid-March when the county ordered nonessential businesses to close in an effort to contain the outbreak.

It was one of at least four properties owned by the Trump Organization that had to shutter as the pandemic swept across the United States. Three hotels also laid off staff at the time, underscoring the pandemic’s sharp impact on the Trump Organization, which relies heavily on tourism, event bookings and restaurant income.

djt meltdown chyron cnn april 13 2020 Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Other countries are winning against the virus. We are quitting, Dana Milbank, right, May 10, 2020 (print ed.). Around the world, dana milbank Customcountries are winning the battle against the coronavirus and beginning a responsible return to work, school and leisure, confident that their governments have the deadly virus in check.

But the United States plays the loser. Unwilling to do the hard work needed to beat the pandemic, we are quitting: forcing people back to work without protections people in other countries enjoy. The most powerful country in the world is failing.

djt doesnt listenIn October, Johns Hopkins University rated the United States the country best prepared for an epidemic, as President Trump boasted in February. But this week, a Hopkins scientist told Congress we are “the worst affected country in the world.” How did the best become the worst?

Trump has abandoned attempts to control the pandemic, though there is no downturn in cases. His administration ignores its own reopening requirements and shelves guidelines written by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Instead Trump applauds reckless reopening in a way that, as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, admitted, “will lead to an Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)increase and spread. It’s almost ipso facto.”

This is state-sanctioned killing. It is a conscious decision to accept 2,000 preventable deaths every day, because our leaders believe the victims are the poor schlubs who work in meat-processing plants, not “regular folks,” as Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack memorably put it this week.

 U.S. Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Prosecuting political corruption cases like Bridgegate is nearly impossible, Leah Litman (assistant professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School and host of the podcast “Strict Scrutiny” about the Supreme Court), May 10, 2020 (print ed.). Lawmakers, fancy lawyers and courts make it very hard to put crooked officials in prison.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court overturned the criminal convictions from New Jersey’s Bridgegate scandal, which arose in 2013 when then-Gov. Chris Christie’s aides sought retribution against a political opponent. The Port Authority suddenly reduced the number of toll lanes reserved for commuters from Fort Lee, N.J., from three to one, supposedly to conduct a traffic study. But in reality, the court explained, officials wanted “to punish the mayor of Fort Lee for refusing to support the New Jersey Governor’s reelection bid.” Somehow, the justices of the Supreme Court held unanimously, in Kelly v. United States, that this violated no federal laws.

It was only the latest in a string of failed corruption cases.

robert menendez offThe Supreme Court in 2016 vacated former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell’s conviction for selling access. The Justice Department declined to retry Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), left,. for bribery after his initial 2017 case ended in a hung jury. It does not even appear to be investigating Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), right, for selling $18.7 million in stocks after she received briefings about the coronavirus’s spread but before any stay-at-home orders were in place.

kelly loeffler o CustomOver the past decade, public-corruption prosecutions and convictions of government officials have dropped by roughly a third. And even officials sent to prison are often liberated by a beneficent patron: President Trump has pardoned Vice President Dick Cheney’s former aide Scooter Libby, onetime New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik and Republican former California lawmaker Pat Nolan. He commuted the sentence of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.

There are several reasons corrupt officeholders can walk free: Legislatures have few incentives to criminalize their own conduct; the statutes they pass can be defanged by prosecutors who decline to charge their political allies; public officials can often afford fancy lawyers to fight their cases; and courts have narrowly interpreted — or simply invalidated — public-corruption statutes.

These trends have only accelerated over the past few years as Trump has normalized the problems those laws were written to fight (by, say, owning hotels where visiting foreign dignitaries stay, or sending the Secret Service to stay at his golf clubs for inflated prices). In 2019, the United States received its lowest score in eight years on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. It has, in short, become almost impossible to put a crooked politician in prison.

All three branches of government have worsened this problem. State legislatures are not exactly known for passing robust laws to regulate the way they interact with donors and lobbyists. After a University of Illinois at Chicago study found that the Northern District of Illinois had more public-corruption cases than any other part of the United States, the state legislature introduced several bills to combat public corruption, including one to strengthen the legislative inspector general and two to bolster conflict-of-interest rules. It passed none of them.

Congress has been reluctant to criminalize the activities of its state and local counterparts, where many members got their start. The bipartisan Public Corruption Prosecution Improvements Act has not gone anywhere in the past decade; more recent efforts have stalled in the Senate.

bill palmerPalmer Report, Opinion: Why Donald Trump’s top advisers are willing to risk everything to remain in the game, Bill Palmer, right, May 10, 2020. Last night Palmer Report wrote about how the political advisers running the White House are all still playing along with Donald Trump’s delusional insistence that masks and other basic safety protocols still aren’t necessary, even with multiple confirmed coronavirus cases in the building. It raises the question of why they’re willing to risk their lives just to play along.

One theory is that they’re just that loyal to him. But that theory seems to fall apart when you consider that none of Trump’s political advisers are giving the kind of advice or information that could help him in the election. This past week we learned that Trump’s own people have been apparently trying to hide his terrible internal poll numbers from him all along. That’s no way to win an election. So if they’re not actually trying to help Trump, who are they helping?

bill palmer report logo headerThe answer would seem to be themselves. If you’re a Donald Trump adviser, you know he’s likely to lose the 2020 election no matter what you try to get him to do or not do. If Trump wins, it’ll be because of a fluke, or because Democrats didn’t work hard enough to unite and turn out the vote, not because of anything Trump does.

So if you’re a Trump White House adviser, you figure you’ve got six months left to keep milking this corrupt regime for whatever you’ve been personally getting out of it.

In the meantime, why risk being the one to try to talk sense into Donald Trump, when doing so could cause the increasingly erratic Trump to prematurely get rid of you? What’s remarkable is that these advisers must be so committed to whatever cons they’re running, they’re willing to put their lives at risk just to remain in the game for another six months.

Pandemic Politics

Axios Sneak Peek, The next front in Trump’s Biden attacks, Jonathan Swan, May 10, 2020. After weeks of holding back, President Trump’s re-election campaign will unleash a series of tailored, swing-state attacks against Joe Biden, targeting him in Florida, Pennsylvania and the industrial Midwest, campaign officials tell Axios’ Alayna Treene.

Why it matters: The pandemic forced a pause, and a lighter touch, on Trump’s original attack plan against his presumed general election opponent, according to people familiar with internal conversations.

• Advisers warned against too much overt negative campaigning at a time when thousands of Americans are dying and voters want the president focused on running the country.

• “A lot of people have told the president to be careful, or risk seeming tone deaf to the needs of the country right now,” a Trump administration official told Alayna.

• But a few factors have informed the campaign’s attack plans: Some states are reopening, Biden’s poll numbers are strong, the economy is awful, and the U.S. has the world’s worst reported coronavirus death toll. So the campaign is looking to change the subject.

Details: According to Alayna’s sources, the campaign will launch state-specific attacks targeting Biden’s record on three areas: Cuba, fracking and trade.

• Extensive polling has shaped the strategy.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason President Obama just picked a fight with Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, May 10, 2020. President Barack Obama knew what he was doing when he stated during a private conference call that Donald Trump’s coronavirus response was a chaotic disaster (as reported above). Obama knew bo president oval Customthat a remark that explosive would leak. He was counting on it leaking. Obama was making a point of picking a fight with Trump on purpose, at this particular point in time, for a specific reason.

bill palmer report logo headerIf you want to know why, take a look at how Donald Trump has responded in the hours since President Obama’s remarks leaked. Thus far he’s posted a surreal tweet asserting that Obama and Joe Biden and the U.S. intelligence community all conspired to frame him in his Russia scandal, or something. Trump is nothing if not predictable in these situations, and Obama appears to have gotten the result he wanted.

donald trump twitterThe thing about Donald Trump is that it’s not that difficult to throw him off his game. He was hoping to spend the next week pushing the narrative that confessed felon Michael Flynn was somehow framed by the FBI. The average nonpartisan voter sitting at home doesn’t know what to make of a story like that. But now, because Obama has gotten inside Trump’s head by criticizing him, Trump is now spinning a bonkers conspiracy theory about how Obama framed Michael Flynn. This is the kind of absurd on its face lunacy that the average voter in the middle is going to automatically reject.

President Obama has already gotten Donald Trump to derail his own Flynn narrative. It wasn’t going to gain Trump any additional votes anyway, but now it’s quickly backfired into the kind of embarrassing drivel that could potentially cost Trump votes.

In addition, because the media keeps repeating Obama’s words about Trump having screwed up the coronavirus response, the average person sitting at home is now hearing over and over again about how Trump screwed up the coronavirus response. Even if the media doesn’t want to be seen as taking sides, the mere act of reporting on Obama’s words gets the message across.

Other Commentary:

  • Washington Post, Editorial: Trump is withholding relief from U.S. children — just to spite their undocumented parents, Editorial board, May 10, 2020 (print ed.).

More On 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why Joe Biden’s VP will be the person he trusts and admires the most, Rahm Emanuel (right, former mayor of Chicago, White rahm emanuel wHouse chief of staff and Democratic congressman from Illinois), May 10, 2020 (print ed.). For most of our history, vice presidents have been chosen to help bring “balance” to a ticket, uniting a party divided by ideology or geography ahead of the general election. As a result, most vice presidents have been little more than window dressing. Two men who went on to be president learned this firsthand: LBJ was iced out of JFK’s Camelot; Dwight Eisenhower, asked about Richard Nixon’s contribution near the end of his two terms in the White House, said, “Give me a week, and I’ll think of one.”

To this day, choosing a running mate remains an explicitly political decision. But, more than most people realize, it is, above all, a very personal choice. A ticket’s chemistry is among the most important (if underappreciated) factors in determining electoral success. More importantly, vice presidents now wield real power in the West Wing. For that reason, my bet is that however much his choice helps him politically, Joe joe biden 2020 button CustomBiden, a former vice president himself, will select the person he admires most, trusts most deeply and gets along with best.

The present job was forged in 1992, when Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton made the unlikely choice to run with someone from the state next door. Tennessee Sen. Al Gore turned out to be a political asset because he underscored Clinton’s moderate, Southern, “New Democrat” credentials. Voters could see that the two men, and their spouses, had genuinely come to like each other, though they had different interests and skill sets.

Few of us involved in the vetting process at the time understood how important that personal connection would be. Throughout the first meeting Clinton held on whom to pick, convened in Tallahassee, he clutched a copy of Gore’s book Earth in the Balance. Over the course of the following weeks, names came on and off Clinton’s list. Despite broad expectations that Clinton would “balance” the ticket somehow, Clinton’s respect for Gore’s intellect ensured that his name remained — the only constant in the group.

After the election, that bond became even more important. Clinton brought Gore into every important decision. During the government shutdown of 1995, House Speaker Newt Gingrich was pushing Clinton to accede to big cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, and the president’s pollster, Dick Morris, was urging Clinton to cave. Gore stood alone with Clinton in the Oval Office as they decided to reject Morris’s advice. That proved to be the right call: Voters blamed Republicans for shutting down the government in pursuit of their heartless agenda, and the standoff turned the political tide for much of the next six years.

Other Commentary:

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Federal leaders must get behind absentee voting — or explain why they’d prefer chaos, Editorial board, May 10, 2020 (print ed.). A Monmouth University poll released Wednesday found that only 16 percent of voters cast ballots by mail in recent elections, yet 51 percent say it is at least somewhat likely that they will do so in November. As the covid-19 pandemic continues, more people will conclude absentee voting is the safest option. And they will be right.

But much of the country is not ready for a surge of absentee voters. Federal leaders must help immediately — or explain why they instead prefer an unsafe and chaotic November election.

Ill-preparedness could produce electoral calamity. Sixteen states require absentee voters to have a valid excuse. All of these states should declare that coronavirus fears qualify as one. But that’s just a first step. Serving millions of new absentee voters will be a massive logistical challenge for most states.

U.S. Virus Victims

washington post logoWashington Post, In an immigrant community battling virus, ‘essential’ means ‘vulnerable,’ Jose A. Del Real, May 10, 2020 (print ed.). Chelsea, Mass., is a dense, 1.8-square mile community of immigrants who work in Boston and its well-to-do suburbs. More than 2,200 people in the city of 40,000 have tested positive for coronavirus, and 124 have died. Many more have lost the minimum-wage jobs that sustained them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: The storm we can’t see, We haven’t even begun to grasp how much damage the pandemic will do, Garrett M. Graff, May 10, 2020 (print ed.). The idea that life will soon return to normal is a fantasy, especially given new government estimates that show we might be facing 3,000 daily deaths by the end of the month — the equivalent of a 9/11-scale tragedy every single day. Yet even leaving the human and health-care toll aside, the scale of the economic problem ahead is larger and worse than our leaders and politics appear capable of handling — or even recognizing.

Just a taste of the hurdles to come: Friday’s jobs report showed that 3.3 million more people filed for unemployment (before this crisis, the weekly record was 695,000, in 1982); 33 million Americans have lost jobs, wiping out an entire decade of job gains. That’s larger than the combined workforce of 25 states. How can the government help get these people back to work? The president’s answer underscores how out of touch the federal response has been: He repeats the notion that it’s up to governors to organize coronavirus testing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The jobs won’t be back. Democrats must act accordingly, Helaine Olen, May 10, 2020 (print ed.). Friday’s Labor Department report reveals the highest unemployment rate in the United States since the Great Depression. Tens of millions of Americans lost their jobs as the national economy was forcibly shut down in an effort to combat the novel coronavirus — their financial lives going from promising to cataclysmic in a matter of weeks.

Yet, incredibly, many of the unemployed think it will all turn out fine. A poll conducted by The Washington Post with Ipsos and released on Thursday found more than 3 out of 4 laid-off workers believe they will return to their positions when the shutdowns end. We’re just assuming our jobs will come back, not that they went permanently poof.

No doubt some of this is because they are being told their layoffs are temporary furloughs — that they will be rehired as soon as permitted. No doubt this is because President Trump is portraying it that way. “Those jobs will be back and they’ll be back very soon,” he claimed on Fox News Friday morning.

Wrong! The layoffs, which began in low-wage sectors and public-facing industries hit hard by shutdowns, are spreading. Hollywood powerhouse WME is widely reported to be laying off about 20 percent of its workforce next week. Many of those so-called furloughs will turn into something much more permanent.

The experts sound petrified. JPMorgan Chase analyst Bob Michele said in a Thursday interview that it would take a decade for the economy to return to its previous position of strength. City National Bank Chairman Russell Goldsmith — hardly one of the usual left-wing suspects — told the Los Angeles Times this week that he wants to see large investments in infrastructure, education and combating climate change. “I am speaking out in this way because I think there really has to be a concerted effort by people to push Congress and make the case for why we can’t wait for recovery stimulus. With an election looming, this is the last train out of Dodge.”

We need much more than we’ve gotten so far. The first rounds of the federal stimulus and relief acts gave temporary boosts to unemployment and botched desperately needed help for small business owners, while making sure billionaires and big business received gobs of aid. At the same time, state unemployment systems can’t keep up with the demand, there are miles-long lines at food banks, and 1 in 5 children under the age of 12 is not receiving enough to eat.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Italy has long been Europe’s wild card. Coronavirus upped the risk, Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli, May 10, 2020. The virus struck at Italy’s preexisting economic frailties and played on a sense of abandonment.

italian flag wavingThe coronavirus has altered almost every hard-hit country in deep and lasting ways. But the changes are particularly perilous in Italy, where the virus struck at preexisting economic frailties and played on a sense of abandonment that had started during the euro zone and migration crises.

Even before it was hit by one of the world’s deadliest outbreaks, Italy was seen as the wild card of Western Europe — flirting on-and-off with populism, sometimes seeming to be only one mismanaged crisis away from becoming the continent’s next Brexit or Greek-style debt disaster. Now that crisis has arrived, and what hangs in the balance is not just Italy’s stability but that of Europe, as well.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rockefeller heirs to oil fortune find dumping fossil fuel stocks improved bottom line, Steven Mufson, May 10, 2020. In 2014, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund decided to sever fossil fuel investments — and since then it has outpaced its benchmark indices.

Five years ago, members of the Rockefeller family walked away from the fossil fuels that made them rich, alarmed that burning oil and gas was causing climate change. Now it also seems like a smart financial move. The $1.1 billion Rockefeller Brothers Fund — largely free of oil and gas — has outpaced financial benchmarks, defying predictions of money managers.

Stephen B. Heintz, president of the fund, said the financial performance should bolster those trying to stop investment in industries linked to climate change. “This has become not a symbolic gesture, as might have been viewed at the time we announced,” Heintz said. “It’s become a movement.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: A botched plot to free Venezuela merely entrenches the Maduro regime, Editorial board, May 10, 2020 (print ed.).  Venezuelan forces intercepted two groups of would-be insurgents who landed on the coast last weekend with the apparent aim of arresting President Nicolás Maduro and other top leaders. Eight of the rebels were killed, and 13 were captured — including two former U.S. Green Berets.

Whether intentionally or not, both the United States and Colombia took steps that hamstrung the rebels. In March, the administration unveiled the indictment on drug trafficking charges of an exiled Venezuelan general who concocted the scheme with Mr. Goudreau, and days later took the Venezuelan into custody. The Colombians seized a load of weapons before it could be delivered to the insurgents’ camp near the Venezuelan border.

In a bizarre twist, by late March, Washington knew about the plot, as did the Maduro regime and anyone else who follows Venezuela: The exiled general, Clíver Alcalá, posted a video disclosing the operation on social media before surrendering to U.S. custody, and on May 1 the Associated Press published a lengthy account of the effort to organize it. The assumption was that the scheme was defunct. Incredibly, the attack nevertheless was launched two days later, apparently by a fraction of the hundreds of fighters originally planned. Mr. Goudreau remained in Florida, where he has been issuing statements and giving interviews.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: #MeToo is at a crossroads in America. Around the world, it’s just beginning, 8 Activist contributors, May 10, 2020 (print ed.). We asked writers and illustrators from eight countries what MeToo means for them. Here are their answers.

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, How Many Have Died? For Some on the Right, It’s Politics, Not Science, Matthew Rosenberg and Jim Rutenberg, May 10, 2020 (print ed.). Elements of the right have sought to bolster President Trump’s political standing by turning scientific questions into political issues.

The claim was tailor-made for President Trump’s most steadfast backers: Federal guidelines are coaching doctors to mark Covid-19 as the cause of death even when it is not, inflating the pandemic’s death toll.

That the claim came from a doctor, Scott Jensen, who also happens to be a Republican state senator in Minnesota, made it all the more alluring to the president’s allies. Never mind the experts who said that, if anything, the death toll was being vastly undercounted.

“SHOCKING,” tweeted Chris Berg, a conservative television show host on KX4, a Fox affiliate in Fargo, N.D., after interviewing Dr. Jensen last month. Soon after, Laura Ingraham, the Fox News host, invited Dr. Jensen onto her show. His assertions were picked up by Infowars, the conspiracy-oriented website founded by Alex Jones. They were shared by followers of Qanon, who subscribe to a web of vague, baseless theories that a secret cabal in the government is trying to take down the president.

washington post logoWashington Post, NYC schools lift ban on Zoom — even as hackers hit other educational online events, Valerie Strauss, May 10, 2020. One Ohio school district is suspending its use of Zoom after a Board of Education meeting was hacked and child pornography was displayed.

A virtual graduation ceremony at Oklahoma State University held Saturday on the Zoom platform was hacked by saboteurs who displayed racist and anti-Semitic messages, the school said. Another instance of what is known as “Zoombombing” was reported in Ohio, where a Brecksville-Broadview Heights School District Board of Education meeting was interrupted by a hacker who displayed child pornography on the screen for several seconds, the district said.

Online security concerns have been growing since schools across the country closed to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus and students were told to work remotely. Schools and districts rushed to create remote lessons and partnered with different online platforms, sometimes without strict security filters. There have been numerous reports of intruders disrupting classes and school meetings, from elementary school to higher education.

May 9

U.S.  Pandemic Top Headlines

World News

U.S. Courts, Crime

U.S. Pandemic Politics, Responses

Inside Trump World

U.S. Virus Victims

U.S. 2020 Elections

Media News

 

U.S.  Pandemic Top Stories 

washington post logoWashington Post, Joblessness could shake U.S. economy, politics for years, David J. Lynch, May 9, 2020 (print ed.). Eye on lessons from the Great american flag upside down distressDepression and 2008 crisis. The unique character of this economic collapse may lead to an enduring decline in the demand for labor. As the pandemic rages, companies are developing ways to operate with fewer people.

The United States is facing a political and economic challenge like nothing it has seen in nearly 100 years.

Mass unemployment on a scale not seen since the Great Depression has erased the economic gains of the past decade and now threatens to linger for years, fueling social discord and shaking an already polarized political system.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Almost overnight, it seems, the U.S. economy, which just two months ago boasted abundant jobs and soaring stock values, has become a shambles. Not since the government began collecting official data in 1948 has a smaller share of the U.S. population been employed.

The unique character of this economic collapse, triggered by an ongoing public health crisis, may lead to an enduring decline in the demand for labor. While the pandemic rages, companies are developing new ways to operate with fewer people, replacing the lost workers with machines that are impervious to illness.

An early example is Carrier Global, a manufacturer of heating and air-conditioning systems, which has implemented social distancing rules on its assembly lines. Technicians who once worked shoulder-to-shoulder are now spread out along a conveyor belt. The resulting gaps may soon be filled with new machines.

washington post logoWashington Post, How economic pain is distributed in America, Tracy Jan, May 9, 2020. Job losses resulting from the shutdown fell unequally on Americans according to age, gender, educational attainment and race.

As the unemployment rate soared in April to its highest levels since the Great Depression, with 14.7 percent of workers without jobs, the coronavirus shutdown fell unequally on Americans according to age, gender, educational attainment as well as race.

us labor department logoWomen became unemployed at higher rates than men. Hispanics and blacks were hit harder than whites and Asians. Those without high school diplomas fared the worst. As did teenagers, of whom nearly a third are now out of work.

The numbers, released Friday by the Labor Department, are the first to capture an entire month of stalled business activity, offering the clearest illustration to date of how economic pain is distributed among Americans.

And yet, while the numbers demonstrate a “collective crisis,” they still “don’t fully capture employment despair,” said Darrick Hamilton, an economist and executive director for the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University.

“The race-related differences have not completely come to light given the abruptness and manner in which this employment crisis emerged,” Hamilton said.

Some economists expect to see the black and Hispanic unemployment rate continue to rise faster than that of whites, even as states begin to reopen their economies in the coming weeks. The black unemployment rate is typically double that of whites.

washington post logoWashington Post, More than a quarter of workers faced job loss or underemployment in April, Alyssa Fowers, May 9, 2020 (print ed.). The unemployment rate captured only part of America’s economic pain.

The U.S. economy is in trouble, and today’s staggering unemployment numbers only tell part of the story. More than 27 million people stopped working between March and April, but over a third of them are not included in the official unemployment rate of 14.7 percent.

Millions have been pushed into part-time hours, or want a job but aren’t currently looking for one. Taking these people into account, 26.4 percent of American workers are employed below their capacity.

The official unemployment rate only looks at the labor force: People who are currently working, who have been “temporarily” laid off but expect to be recalled to their jobs or who are actively seeking work. In ordinary times, this calculation makes sense. Retired people or stay-at-home parents shouldn’t count among America’s unemployed.

But these are not ordinary times. During the pandemic, many people have stopped looking for work. They may not feel safe working, or they are discouraged by the lack of jobs available during stay-at-home orders. 9.5 million Americans who worked in March exited the labor force in May, according to this month’s job report. That’s twice the number that went from employed to out of the labor force in January.

EndCoronavirus.org, Charts: Some are winning – some are not: Which countries do best in beating covid-19? Staff research, May 9, 2020.

  • Countries beating Covid-19
  • Countries that are nearly there
  • Countries that need to take action (including Brazil, Bangladesh, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Sweden, U.K., U.S., U.K.)

djt 2020 hat Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, As Job Losses Mount, Lawmakers Face a Make-or-Break Moment, Jim Tankersley, May 9, 2020. The United States just lost 20 million jobs. The wrong federal response could make those layoffs a permanent fixture of the U.S. economy and sentence thousands of companies to bankruptcy.

As the nation confronts unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression, Congress and the Trump administration face a pivotal choice: Continue spending trillions trying to shore up businesses and workers, or bet that state reopenings will jump-start the United States economy.

American FlagAt least 20 million Americans are unemployed and a large share of the nation’s small businesses are shut and facing possible insolvency. Policy errors in the coming weeks could turn the 18 million temporary layoffs recorded in April into permanent job losses that could plunge the United States into a deep and protracted recession unrivaled in recent history.

Yet the federal government is lurching away from the strategy that has thus far helped slow the spread of the coronavirus and sustain people and companies struggling during the self-inflicted economic shutdown.

Over the past two months, as consumers and workers retreated and state officials imposed limits on economic activity, President Trump and bipartisan coalitions in the House and Senate have approved $3 trillion in federal spending to help companies, workers and the unemployed. The Federal Reserve has taken extraordinary steps to keep the financial system functioning, buying up government-backed securities and embarking on plans to purchase corporate and municipal debt to keep credit flowing. Governors have embraced stay-at-home orders in an effort to slow the virus’s spread.

Economists and policy experts, including some in the administration, have likened those efforts to building a bridge through the pandemic recession — one that will carry as many people and companies to the other side of the crisis as possible.

But as the virus threatens to haunt the nation and its economy longer than some officials had anticipated, Mr. Trump and many Republicans in Congress have grown weary of federal spending to support workers and businesses and have begun urging states to get back to what was considered normal.

Even some allies of the president, though, acknowledge that may be an unrealistic gamble and more wishful thinking than an actual plan. With confirmed infections and deaths projected to continue rising, and limited capacity to test for the virus, many states are expected to keep businesses closed into the summer or longer. And even once things reopen, simply allowing people to walk into a barber shop or a movie theater does not mean they will do so during a pandemic until a vaccine or effective treatments are available.

Economists, including liberals and many conservatives, warn that prematurely ending efforts to aid businesses and workers without enacting a new strategy could force the economy into a summer of partial recoveries, rising infection rates and insufficient support for struggling businesses and those out of work.

In that case, the experts warn, today’s government-financed bridge through the crisis will have become, for vulnerable people and companies, a bridge to nowhere.

“We’re at the choose-your-own-adventure part of the book,” said Claudia Sahm, a former Federal Reserve economist who is now the director of macroeconomic policy at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a liberal think tank focused on inequality.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Trump plays down testing as U.S. falls far short of level scientists say is needed, Anne Gearan, Mike DeBonis and Brady Dennis, May 9, 2020. President Trump is increasingly dismissing the consensus of health experts, scientists and some of his Republican allies that widespread testing is key to the safe end of restrictions meant to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus, saying Friday that “testing isn’t necessary” and is an imperfect guide.

HHS logoThe president has played down the need for testing as he overrides public health recommendations that would prolong the closures of schools, businesses and much of daily life. Although he is now tested every day with a rapid-result machine, Trump has questioned the value of extensive testing as the gap between available capacity and the amount that would be required to meet public health benchmarks has become clearer.

Trump’s comments came as a second employee in the White House complex tested positive for the coronavirus, a development that prompted increased testing for staff and other precautions not generally available to most Americans.

“This is why the whole concept of tests aren’t necessarily great,” Trump said at the White House, as he confirmed a positive test result “out of the blue” for a top staffer, Vice President Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller.

During a Friday morning interview on Fox News, Trump ticked approvingly through the current testing figures but did not say what level he thinks is optimal or safe to use as a national benchmark for economic reopening.

Asked about the positive test result for one of his Navy valets, the president said that he himself remains negative but that the valet’s experience is instructive.

Sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter to track the outbreak. All stories linked in the newsletter are free to access.

“And this is why testing isn’t necessary. We have the best testing in the world, but testing’s not necessarily the answer because they were testing them,” Trump said of the staff members.

Data shows that the country has slowly ramped up testing. Since late April, the nation has tested about 250,000 people per day on average, according to the COVID Tracking Project. On Thursday, that number hit a high of 318,720 reported tests.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Live Updates: Pandemic Grows More Political; California will send mail-in ballots to all voters this fall, Staff reports, May 9, 2020. The virus has cost President Trump seniors’ support. Some doctors, seeing the effects of policy firsthand, are deciding to run for office.

The coronavirus and the Trump administration’s response to it have cost President Trump support from one of his most crucial constituencies: America’s seniors.

For years, Republicans and Mr. Trump have relied on older Americans, the United States’ largest voting bloc, to offset Democrats’ advantage with donald trump twitteryounger voters. But seniors are also the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, and the Trump campaign’s internal polls show his support among voters over age 65 softening to a concerning degree, people familiar with the numbers said.

A recent Morning Consult poll found that Mr. Trump’s approval rating on the handling of the coronavirus was lower with seniors than with any other group other than young voters. And Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, in recent polls held a 10-point advantage among voters who are 65 and older. A poll commissioned by the campaign showed a similar double-digit gap.

As that has taken shape, the president has all but moved on from a focus on controlling the pandemic and is pushing his agenda to restore the country to a place that will lift his campaign. That has included making clear that despite the pandemic, he wants a traditional political convention in Charlotte, N.C., in late August, with thousands of sign-waving Republican delegates from out of state filling an arena.

But in North Carolina, state officials are not so sure. Even the Republicans.

“I think it’s very clear it may not be possible to host a convention as planned,” said Edmund H. Driggs, a Republican member of the Charlotte City Council.

And the debate is taking place as elements of the pandemic — including its death toll in the United States — have become heated campaign flash points as some voters turn scientific questions into political issues.

“It’s, ‘I don’t like what this implies; therefore I’m going to deny the evidence, and I’m going to question the models, and I’m going to question the motivations of the people who do it,”’ said Naomi Oreskes, a science historian at Harvard.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California on Friday ordered ballots to be sent to the state’s 20.6 million voters for the November election, making California the first state to alter its voting plans for the general election in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It is trying to avoid the public health debacle wrought by the April 7 elections in Wisconsin, where voters and poll workers weighed the health risks of congregating en masse during a pandemic with their right to vote.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Cases near 4 million worldwide, Staff reports, May 9, 2020. Seoul shut down over 2,100 nightclubs, discos and bars on Saturday, after the country recorded dozens of new coronavirus cases linked to partygoers in the city last weekend, the Associated Press reported.

world health organization logo CustomThe South Korean capital’s mayor, Park Won-soon, issued the order after the national government called on entertainment venues to either close or increase vigilance against the virus, such as requiring temperature checks, mandating social distancing, and keeping logs of customers to be used for possible contact tracing.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported earlier on Saturday that the country had 18 new cases in the past 24 hours, all but one of which it had linked to 29-year-old man out in Seoul’s Itaewon district last Saturday. The man had visited three night clubs last weekend before testing positive days later, the AP reported.

Here are other significant developments:

  • The commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration began to self-quarantine for two weeks after being exposed to an individual who tested positive.
  • Jacaré Souza will no longer fight in Saturday’s UFC 249 middleweight matchup in Jacksonville, Fla., after testing positive.
  • Leaders of a Sioux tribe in South Dakota on Friday refused a request by the governor to remove checkpoints on state and U.S. highways.
  • Trump is increasingly dismissing the consensus of experts that widespread testing is necessary before the country can safely phase out restrictions.
  • The unemployment rate jumped to its highest level since the Great Depression.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the first diagnostic saliva test for the novel coronavirus that can be taken at home.

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Will Coronavirus Kill Astrology? The pandemic has affected all of us. Who saw it coming? Hayley Phelan, May 9, 2020. If ever there was one, Susan Miller would be a blue-chip astrologer. So, in January, when she appeared on CBS New York and predicted that 2020 would “be a great year, and it will be a prosperous year,” people listened.

People listened when she said Capricorn would be the year’s “celestial favorite,” and that Cancer was the most likely to wed; Libra was set to score in real-estate and Taurus could expect a calendar full of international travel.

And then, people got mad because — it probably doesn’t need pointing out — things didn’t exactly go according to the stars’ plan.

“I remember a month ago, thinking: has everybody fired their astrologer?” said Divya Babbar, who subscribed to Ms. Miller’s free app last year. As a Sagittarius, Ms. Babbar had been looking forward to the year of profit Ms. Miller had predicted for her.

YouTube and Instagram users took to Ms. Miller’s feeds to complain. “Susan, you’re a very good writer but you forgot about the Covid-19 virus and the loss of jobs,” one user sniped.

Another railed: “Why didn’t you predict this, Susan? Covid-19 was major enough to see it coming!”

Many astrologers and their followers believe that daily events are impacted by the movements and positions of celestial objects, the planets and the sun. Science says: No. Most psychologists agree that astrology’s appeal relies largely on “confirmation bias” — the human tendency to seek out, recall and favor information that confirms what we already believe.

Astrologers, the haters say, write their horoscopes in such a broad, general way that anyone could find something that applied to them, especially if they’re really looking for it. But then March 2020 arrived, and with it the dawning of a global pandemic, the magnitude and universality of which seemed to contradict not just astrology, but the very notion that each sign could have its own fate (after all, we all are facing a common threat at the moment and it doesn’t take a seer to know that most of us will be spending a lot more time at home).

michael flynn djt

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The judge should look skeptically at Barr’s latest effort to rescue another Trump crony, Editorial Board, May 9, 2020 (print william barr new oed.). Now, in a stunning blow to impartial justice, Attorney General William P. Barr, right, is proposing to clear Mr. Flynn, who served as national security adviser at the beginning of President Trump’s term.

Justice Department log circularIt is the latest and perhaps most disturbing action Mr. Barr has taken to overrule the professionals of the Justice Department in a manner pleasing to his boss.

U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen said he made the call, then consulted Mr. Barr, who agreed. Mr. Jensen should not have been in a position to make that call. He had that position because Mr. Barr tapped him to “assist” other Justice Department prosecutors on a case of particular interest to Mr. Trump. Yet those other prosecutors needed no help determining Mr. Flynn’s guilt.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr undercuts Mueller investigation as Trump cheers him on, Matt Zapotosky, May 9, 2020. If William P. Barr had been the first attorney general in the Trump administration, the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election would have met an early end, President Trump said Friday.

“He would have stopped it immediately,” Trump declared in an appearance on Fox News.

washington post logoWashington Post, A constant battle of you against the leadership of your country’: Justice Dept. rattled as Flynn fallout reaches FBI, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey, May 9, 2020. President Trump cast fresh doubt Friday on the future of his FBI director as federal law enforcement officials privately wrestled with fallout from the Justice Department’s move to throw out the guilty plea of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

FBI logoThe president’s comments in a phone interview with Fox News highlight the ongoing distrust between the White House and some law enforcement officials in the aftermath of a nearly two-year investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

“It’s disappointing,” Trump said when asked about Christopher A. Wray’s role in ongoing reviews of the FBI’s handling of the Russia Michael Wrayinvestigation. “Let’s see what happens with him. Look, the jury’s still out.”

Trump faulted the FBI director, right, as “skirting” the debate surrounding the Russia investigation, although the agency and the Justice Department have insisted that the FBI has cooperated fully with those reviewing the case. The president said more developments could come in the next two weeks but declined to elaborate.

Justice Department log circularWhile the president continued to criticize the FBI’s conduct, multiple federal law enforcement officials interviewed Friday expressed varying degrees of anger, resignation and alarm over the decision by Attorney General William P. Barr to abandon the prosecution of Flynn for lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States before Trump took office.

“The attorney general is supposed to be above reproach and apolitical in terms of how the department operates and how he or she as an individual operates, and he’s just completely lost that,” said one veteran Justice Department lawyer who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. “He’s Trump’s attorney. He’s not the country’s attorney.”

A day after the Flynn reversal, more than a half dozen Justice Department employees expressed similar displeasure with the move, saying that they did not agree with Barr’s legal rationale and that they worried about what it might portend for the agency. A smaller number of law enforcement officials contacted Friday said they were basically pleased with the outcome and were critical of decisions made by James B. Comey, who launched the Flynn investigation while he was FBI director.

“Wray is not going to be fired, because there is a sense of realism, because we are in a pandemic, and it’s in an election year,” predicted one official, who added that Trump has little love for Wray but is not preparing to fire him.

ny times logorichard painterNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Bid to Stand Above the Law, Claire O. Finkelstein and Richard W. Painter, right, May 9, 2020. Next week, the Supreme Court will hear lawyers argue the president’s claim that he has absolute immunity while in office.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear one of the most consequential cases ever considered on executive privilege. Trump v. Vance concerns a subpoena issued by the Manhattan district attorney to President Trump’s accountants demanding the release of tax returns and other financial documents to a grand jury.

supreme court buildingWhat is at stake is no less than the accountability of a president to the rule of law.

Mr. Trump claims that a president has “temporary absolute immunity,” meaning he cannot be criminally investigated while in office. Indeed, in oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, his lawyers said that if the president were to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, he could not be investigated or indicted until after he left office.

If the justices endorse this extreme view, they will make it impossible to hold this president, and all future presidents, answerable in courts for their actions.

Mr. Trump claims that a president has “temporary absolute immunity,” meaning he cannot be criminally investigated while in office. Indeed, in oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, his lawyers said that if the president were to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, he could not be investigated or indicted until after he left office.

If the justices endorse this extreme view, they will make it impossible to hold this president, and all future presidents, answerable in courts for their actions.

richard nixon portraitMr. Trump’s legal position contradicts clear Supreme Court precedent. In U.S. v. Nixon, a unanimous Supreme Court ordered President Richard Nixon (shown in an official portrait) to turn over Oval Office tapes subpoenaed by the Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox. In Clinton v. Jones, a unanimous court held that a sitting president can be forced to testify in response to a subpoena in civil litigation. Taken together, these cases make it clear that the president is not immune from investigation, whether criminal or civil, while he is in office.

Mr. Trump’s claims of absolute immunity are even weaker than the assertions by Presidents Nixon and Bill Clinton. The subpoena was issued by a state, rather than a federal prosecutor. The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows states a certain degree of autonomy in investigating and prosecuting crimes. Although grand jury proceedings are secret, Mr. Vance is probably also investigating whether the president’s company, the Trump Organization, falsely accounted for hush-money payments made in the run-up to the 2016 election to two women who claim they had affairs with Mr. Trump. To deny New York the right to exercise its “police powers” over serious financial crimes should give the court’s conservative justices pause.

mazars logo croppedIn addition, the subpoena was not issued to Mr. Trump, but to Mazars (logo at left), his accountants. Mr. Trump maintains that the immunity of a sitting president is so strong that it extends to his entire business empire and even to third-party businesses that possess his personal information. By this logic, President Clinton could have blocked a subpoena to Monica Lewinsky’s dry cleaner, had she had one, to prevent it from handing over the infamous blue dress before laundering to the independent counsel investigating him.

Mr. Trump’s legal team asserts that federal law pre-empts state law, arguing that his immunity descends directly from the president’s constitutional authority under Article II of the Constitution. We filed an amicus brief in the case opposing this sweeping assertion of presidential immunity, on the grounds that the language of Article II, the history of its drafting and its subsequent interpretation by federal courts contradict Mr. Trump’s interpretation.

FBI logoMoreover, his claim conflicts with the administration’s position in another recent Supreme Court case over states’ rights, Kansas v. Garcia. The administration’s solicitor general had sided with Kansas against an immigrant’s claim that federal immigration law prevented Kansas from prosecuting him for identity theft.

The same should apply in Trump v. Vance: The Constitution gives the Manhattan district attorney broad latitude to investigate possible financial misconduct of businesses headquartered in New York unless federal law expressly forbids it. No federal law does.

The authorities usually cited for the proposition that a sitting president cannot be indicted are two Justice Department memorandums. Rather than offering a legal analysis based on Article II, the memos are largely pragmatic, advising that it would be unwise to distract a president with legal processes when he needs to focus on the national interest. As such, these memorandums are merely advice to Justice Department prosecutors. They are not binding in any way on state prosecutors.

supreme court headshots 2019

washington post logoWashington Post, George Conway Opinion: No one in this country is above the law. The Supreme Court is about to teach that lesson, George T. george conway postConway III, right, May 9, 2020 (print ed.). Twenty-six years ago, I published my first op-ed. Entitled “‘No Man in This Country … Is Above the Law,’” it addressed news reports that President Bill Clinton planned to claim an immunity from having to respond to Paula Jones’s sexual harassment suit. “In a case involving his private conduct,” I wrote, “a President should be treated like any private citizen. The rule of law requires no more — and no less.”

The piece led to my ghostwriting briefs for Jones, including a Supreme Court brief two years later. The Supreme Court agreed unanimously that Jones could proceed, and, like the op-ed, quoted from the Founders’ debates about the status of the president: “Far from being above the laws, he is amenable to them in his private character as a citizen, and in his public character by impeachment.” Which meant that while a president could be impeached for official misconduct, he “is otherwise subject to the laws” — and therefore could be sued — “for his purely private acts.”

I couldn’t have imagined then that another president would challenge that proposition. Then again, I couldn’t have imagined President Donald Trump.
But here we are. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear telephonic arguments in three cases addressing whether Trump can keep his tax and financial information from being disclosed, whether from Congress or criminal prosecutors. In Trump v. Vance, which involves a New York state grand jury investigation, Trump’s lawyers argue that, even when it comes to purely private conduct, the presidency insulates him from the legal process.

Justice Department log circularThe case arises from a criminal investigation into the Trump Organization, and it seems there’s plenty worth examining: whether, as suggested by extensive reporting in this newspaper and other outlets, Trump’s businesses may have dodged taxes. And whether Trump’s hush-money payments, made through his lawyer Michael Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, violated state law. (Cohen pleaded guilty to federal crimes arising from those payments, which the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan said were made “at the direction of Individual-1” — Trump.)

The state grand jury subpoenaed the Trump Organization and Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars, seeking tax returns and financial rmazars logo croppedecords. Trump sued to block the subpoena to Mazars — on the ground that he’s president. The lower federal courts rejected his pleas, and now he’s in the Supreme Court. Where he will lose — or should.

To say Trump’s argument is frivolous demeans frivolity. Clinton v. Jones dictates the result: The subpoenaed documents have nothing to do with Trump’s presidential duties — zip. That alone does it.

But Trump’s case is even weaker than Clinton’s. At least Clinton was being sued personally. He ultimately had to give evidence himself, which he did (infamously) at a deposition. But because the suit had nothing to do with presidential duties, the Supreme Court said it could proceed.

Here, Trump hasn’t been charged with or sued for anything. He’s not being required to do anything. The subpoenas have been directed at his company and his accountants. They don’t require his time or attention.

Trump’s position stupefies. In essence: Authorities can’t investigate anything touching his personal affairs — including, ahem, payments to pornographic actresses — because he’s president. Think of the logic: Not only does the president enjoy a personal constitutional immunity — his businesses do, too.

It doesn’t matter that Trump challenges a criminal inquiry, while Jones involved a civil suit. Whether a sitting president can be indicted remains unsettled, but Trump hasn’t been charged. In fact, presidents have given evidence in criminal matters many times — including ones touching them personally.

Chief Justice John Marshall ordered President Thomas Jefferson to produce documents in Aaron Burr’s treason case. A unanimous Supreme Court ordered President Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes, and rejected a claim of presidential privilege — in a case in which Nixon was named an unindicted co-conspirator. Clinton provided grand jury and criminal trial testimony in the Whitewater and Lewinsky investigations — matters in which he was potentially a target.

Trump complains nonetheless that letting 50 states conduct investigations involving presidents would endanger the presidency, as well as federal supremacy. A short answer is one the court gave in Jones, where Clinton raised the specter of countless private plaintiffs bringing meritless suits: Courts can address vexatious litigation case by case, and if that doesn’t suffice, Congress can legislate a fix.

A more fundamental answer, though, may be found in an amicus curiae brief in the Vance case, a brief submitted by the Protect Democracy Project and joined by me and 36 other conservatives: “The Constitution is concerned with the supremacy of federal law, not the supremacy of federal officials.”

Likewise, the Constitution is concerned with protecting the presidency, not the person who happens to be the president. That’s because no one in this country is above the law. The Supreme Court is now called upon to teach that lesson once again — even if Trump will likely never learn it.

U.S. Pandemic Politics, Responses

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ny times logoNew York Times, Fight Over Virus’s Death Toll Opens Grim New Front in Election Battle, Matthew Rosenberg and Jim Rutenberg, May 9, 2020. Elements of the right have sought to bolster President Trump’s political standing by turning scientific questions into political issues.

The claim was tailor-made for President Trump’s most steadfast backers: Federal guidelines are coaching doctors to mark Covid-19 as the cause of death even when it is not, inflating the pandemic’s death toll.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThat the claim came from a doctor, Scott Jensen, who also happens to be a Republican state senator in Minnesota, made it all the more alluring to the president’s allies. Never mind the experts who said that, if anything, the death toll was being vastly undercounted.

“SHOCKING,” tweeted Chris Berg, a conservative television show host on KX4, a Fox affiliate in Fargo, N.D., after interviewing Dr. Jensen last month. Soon after, Laura Ingraham, the Fox News host, invited Dr. Jensen onto her show. His assertions were picked up by Infowars, the conspiracy-oriented website founded by Alex Jones. They were shared by followers of Qanon, who subscribe to a web of vague, baseless theories that a secret cabal in the government is trying to take down the president.

“What is the primary benefit to keep public in mass-hysteria re: Covid-19? Think voting. Are you awake yet?” a Qanon follower known as John the White wrote on Twitter, saying the pandemic was being used to manipulate the electorate.

The likes of John the White may view the world through the most conspiratorial of lenses, but they are hardly the only people weighing the political impact of the virus’s death toll. With implications for how quickly businesses and their employees return to something like normalcy, the fight to shape the official record is adding a grim new front to the presidential campaign.

Since the outset of the crisis, elements of the right have sought to bolster the president’s political standing and justify reopening the economy by questioning the death toll. Climate-change skeptics have employed techniques perfected in the fight over global warming to raise doubts about the deadliness of the virus. Others, including Mr. Trump’s media allies as well as some in the anti-vaccine movement, have repurposed fringe theories about “deep state” bureaucrats undermining the president to argue that the official numbers should not be trusted.

They have a found a receptive audience, and a booster of their ideas, in Mr. Trump himself. For the president, the death toll has become a pivotal political indicator, as important to his re-election prospects as his approval ratings and his standing against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in swing-state polls.

washington post logoWashington Post, Confronted with horrendous jobs report, White House and congressional Democrats aren’t even talking, Erica Werner, Jeff Stein and Heather Long, May 9, 2020. House Democrats are preparing another major relief bill, but no bipartisan negotiations are happening, making it unlikely more aid will be coming out of Washington soon. As a result, pressure is mounting on the Federal Reserve to act on its own.

Confronted with the worst jobs report since the Great Depression, the White House and congressional Democrats aren’t even talking to each other about what — if anything — to do about it.

President Trump says he’s “in no rush” to take action given that nearly $3 trillion already has been approved in response to the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus. House Democrats are taking the opposite tack, pressing forward to vote as soon as this coming week on a massive new relief bill that’s unlikely to win GOP support.

The disconnect shows how the bipartisan consensus that emerged in the early days of the pandemic, allowing Congress to produce four relief bills in rapid succession, has largely disappeared. In its place there is partisan finger-pointing and blame-shifting. Trump on Friday dismissed Democrats as “stone cold crazy” and said he couldn’t work with them. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Republicans who failed to act would be “taking the same misguided path as Herbert Hoover,” who failed to pull the nation out of the Great Depression.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump eyes federal retirement plan investments as he intensifies showdown with China over virus, Lisa Rein, Robert Costa and Eric Yoder, May 9, 2020 (print ed.). The White House moved to seize control of the board that administers the Thrift Savings Plan, with some aides eager to halt the flow of billions of dollars into an index fund that includes Chinese companies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Watchdog says ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe vaccine official’s ouster was retaliatory, his lawyers say, Yasmeen Abutaleb, May 9, 2020. Rick Bright filed a whistleblower complaint that alleged he was reassigned because he resisted pressure to make “potentially harmful drugs widely available.” The Office of Special Counsel said it would recommend Rick Bright be reinstated during its investigation, according to his lawyers.

The Office of Special Counsel has determined there are “reasonable grounds” to believe a former top vaccine official was removed from his post last month for retaliatory reasons and plans to recommend the Department of Health and Human Services reinstate him while it investigates, the official’s lawyers said Friday.

rick brightRick Bright, right, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, was removed April 20 after having served as BARDA director for nearly four years. He was reassigned to a narrower role at the National Institutes of Health that HHS touted as part of a “bold new plan” to improve testing to defeat covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Bright filed a whistleblower complaint this week that alleged he was reassigned because he resisted pressure from the department’s political leadership to make “potentially harmful drugs widely available,” including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. President Trump has repeatedly pushed both as possible coronavirus cures.

Inside Trump World

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ny times logoNew York Times, Two White House Cases Raise the Question: Is Anyone Really Safe? Peter Baker and Michael Crowley, May 9, 2020 (print ed.). If it is so hard to maintain a healthy environment at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, then how can businesses across the country protect their workers?

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump flouts protocols even as second staffer tests positive this week, David Nakamura, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey, May 9, 2020. The discovery of the virus within the White House complex has prompted scrutiny of the safety measures around the president, along with his own behavior.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)President Trump on Friday continued to eschew key public health guidelines from his own administration — meeting with Republican lawmakers and World War II veterans without a face mask — while expressing confidence that he is protected from the coronavirus despite a second White House staffer testing positive this week.

The president appeared puzzled that the aide, Katie Miller, the press secretary for Vice President Pence, had contracted the virus “out of the blue” after testing negative several times under a routine White House screening program put in place last month.

During the event with GOP members, Trump suggested “the whole concept of tests isn’t great,” but he declared that he was satisfied with the procedures that are in place to protect him and his top aides.

“I don’t worry about things. I do what I have to do,” said Trump, who this week resumed traveling with a visit to a manufacturing facility in Phoenix. “We’re dealing with an invisible situation. Nobody knows. All you can do is take precaution and do the best that you can.”

The discovery of the virus within the heavily fortified White House complex this week sent shock waves through the staff and prompted renewed scrutiny of the safety measures around a commander in chief who has flouted social distancing policies and other best practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the pandemic.

Several security officials with executive branch experience said in interviews Friday that the White House has taken a lax and risky approach that, in their view, reflected Trump’s consistent efforts to minimize the threat from the virus. The president has pushed to reopen parts of the country as more than 30 million people have filed for unemployment benefits, upending his plans to tout a strong economy as a core of his reelection message this fall.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Trump White House is starting to look like a coronavirus hotspot, Bill Palmer, May 9, 2020. One key member of Donald Trump’s staff, who interacts with Trump regularly, has tested positive for coronavirus. One key member of Mike Pence’s staff, who interacts with Pence regularly, has also tested positive for coronavirus. The Pence staffer is married to one of Trump’s closest advisers, raising questions about how widespread this whole mess might be.

bill palmer report logo headerHere’s the thing about a coronavirus outbreak: it might stop at one, but it doesn’t stop at two. If the two confirmed White House cases in a twenty-four hour span are related to each other and aren’t mere coincidence, then there are all but certainly additional cases in the White House. Keep in mind that people who have been infected can continue to test negative until they start developing symptoms. Within the next five days, we could see an alarming number of White House coronavirus cases.

Throw in the fact that Ivanka Trump’s personal assistant has tested positive (though she’s supposedly been working from home), and the eleven Secret Service agents who currently have coronavirus (though it hasn’t been revealed how many of them worked in the White House), and the whole thing keeps getting uglier.

This comes even as Donald Trump tried to argue this week that the worst of the coronavirus crisis is past us, and it’s somehow safe to throw caution to the wind and reopen the country. Oops.

U.S. Virus Victims

ny times logoNew York Times, One-Third of All U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Are Nursing Home Residents or Workers, Karen Yourish, K.K. Rebecca Lai, Danielle Ivory and Mitch Smith, May 9, 2020. In at least 13 states, more than half of coronavirus deaths are tied to long-term care facilities for older adults, according to a New York Times database.

At least 25,600 residents and workers have died from the coronavirus at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for older adults in the United States, according to a New York Times database. The virus so far has infected more than 143,000 at some 7,500 facilities.

Nursing home populations are at a high risk of being infected by — and dying from — the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is known to be particularly lethal to older adults with underlying health conditions, and can spread more easily through congregate facilities, where many people live in a confined environment and workers move from room to room.

While just about 10 percent of the country’s cases have occurred in long-term care facilities, deaths related to Covid-19 in these facilities account for a third of the country’s pandemic fatalities.

washington post logoWashington Post, In pandemic’s early days, U.S. turned down an offer to make N95 masks in America, Aaron C. Davis, May 9, 2020. On Jan. 22, weeks before the crisis sent the government scrambling for masks, Texas manufacturer Prestige Ameritech offered to restart four mothballed production lines. Federal officials did not take the company up on it.

It was Jan. 22, a day after the first case of covid-19 was detected in the United States, and orders were pouring into Michael Bowen’s company outside Fort Worth, some from as far away as Hong Kong.

Bowen’s medical supply company, Prestige Ameritech, could ramp up production to make an additional 1.7 million N95 masks a week. He viewed the shrinking domestic production of medical masks as a national security issue, though, and he wanted to give the federal government first dibs.

“We still have four like-new N95 manufacturing lines,” Bowen wrote that day in an email to top administrators in the Department of Health and Human Services. “Reactivating these machines would be very difficult and very expensive but could be achieved in a dire situation.”

But communications over several days with senior agency officials — including Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and emergency response — left Bowen with the clear impression that there was little immediate interest in his offer.

U.S. 2020 Elections

Palmer Report: James Carville just said something important about Donald Trump’s downfall, Ron Leshnower, May 9, 2020. In a recent opinion piece for NBCNews.com, Democratic strategist James Carville expressed optimism for the upcoming election. “November,” he added, “is Democrats’ first chance in generations to chop down the rotted timbers of the Republican Party and sink the whole ship.”

Carville is correct that we must think bigger than a Biden squeaker. While any result that would fairly and legally remove Donald Trump from the office he has desecrated would be welcome, a decisive Democratic victory is the true antidote to heal a divided nation gaslighted by the vagaries of a narcissistic monster.

bill palmer report logo headerThe last presidential election stands as a sobering reminder that anything can happen, despite polls and expert projections. Between now and Election Day, we cannot afford to let rosy assumptions or prognostications lull us into laziness and inaction, especially if we wish to see blue our television screens fill up with blue late into the night.

Unlike Carville, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is no Democratic strategist. However, he and his cohorts are telegraphing the GOP’s increasing level of desperation in recent statements and actions about filling judicial vacancies.

The beating heart and sound mind of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become nothing less than an essential fortification for maintaining America’s rule of law and getting through 2020 without unspeakable trouble. Thankfully for Ginsburg and the country, her hospitalization this week to treat a gall bladder infection was a success and she is already back home and on the job.

Given Ginsburg’s age and recent health scares, there has been some speculation that she might announce her retirement. Rather than decline to comment on a hypothetical situation, top GOP senators told Politico on Friday that McConnell’s Senate will absolutely fill any vacancy left by Ginsburg’s departure. This comes, of course, after McConnell in 2016 refused to allow a hearing for Judge Merrick Garland after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death 11 months before the end of President Obama’s second term.

While the thought of Ginsburg leaving the Supreme Court this year is scary, we must not be cowered by some power-hungry senators’ chest-thumping words. On the contrary, such a premature rush to expose their hypocrisy and commit to replacing Ginsburg should be viewed as an acknowledgement that the GOP fears their days in power may be numbered.

This is not the only sign that McConnell and his minions are growing visibly anxious about their chances of maintaining control next year. In March, the New York Times reported that McConnell has been prodding veteran GOP judges to retire so that Republicans can replace them as soon as possible. Between now and November 3, we must, as Carville suggests, not only aim to win but “sink the whole ship.” We need to prove, in resounding fashion, that current Republican anxieties are not all for naught.

May 8

U.S. Pandemic Victims, Jobs

 U.S. Crime, Courts

U.S. Virus Victims, Remedies

U.S. Pandemic Politics

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

World News

 

U.S. Pandemic Victims, Jobs

depression margaret bourke white time life getty images Custom

An indelible image from the Great Depression features a well-dressed family seated with their dog in a comfy car, smiling down from an oversize billboard on weary souls standing in line at a relief agency, as reported recently by the New York Times here. The economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic has suddenly hurled the country back to that dislocating moment captured in 1937 by the photographer Margaret Bourke-White (Time-Life Photo via Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, Jobless rate soars to 14.7%, worst level since Great Depression, Heather Long​, May 8, 2020. Over 20 million people lost their jobs in April, the Labor Department said Friday.

american flag upside down distressThe U.S. unemployment rate jumped to 14.7 percent in April, the highest level since the Great Depression, as most businesses shut down or severely curtailed operations to fight the deadly coronavirus.

Over 20 million people lost their jobs in April, the Labor Department said Friday, wiping out a decade of job gains in a single month. The staggering losses are roughly double what the nation experienced during the 2007-09 crisis, which used to be described as the harshest economic situation most people ever confronted. Now that has been quickly dwarfed by the fallout from the global pandemic.

President Trump and numerous state and local leaders decided to put the economy in a deep freeze in an effort to minimize exposure to the virus. This led businesses to suddenly shed millions of workers at a rapid rate never seen before. Analysts warn it could take many years to return to the 3.5 percent unemployment rate the nation experienced in February.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Bad Is Unemployment? ‘Literally Off the Charts,’ Nelson D. Schwartz, Ben Casselman and Ella Koeze, May 8, 2020. “I thought the Great Recession was once in a lifetime, but this is much worse,” an economist said.

The nation’s economic distress came into greater focus on Friday, offering a snapshot unseen since the Great Depression.

us labor department logoThe Labor Department said the economy shed more than 20.5 million jobs in April, sending the unemployment rate to 14.7 percent as the coronavirus pandemic took a devastating toll.

The monthly data underscores the speed and depth of the labor market’s collapse. In February, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, a half-century low.

And the damage has only grown since then: Millions more people have filed claims for unemployment benefits since the monthly data was collected in mid-April.

“It’s literally off the charts,” said Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America. “What would typically take months or quarters to play out in a recession happened in a matter of weeks this time.”

djt council to reopen america fox

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: ‘Those jobs will all be back,’ Trump vows after U.S. workforce takes historic hit, Staff reports, May 8, 2020. Amid pandemic, Gallup finds drop in Americans who say their lives are ‘thriving;’ One-quarter of Americans not likely to get vaccinated, poll finds

djt maga hatThe pandemic’s devastating economic toll came into sharp focus Friday, via grim data about the U.S. workforce: More than 20 million jobs disappeared from payrolls in April — wiping out a decade of gains in a single month as the unemployment rate jumped to 14.7 percent. “Those jobs will all be back, and they’ll be back very soon,” President Trump vowed on Fox News.

Meanwhile, one of Trump’s personal valets tested positive for the novel coronavirus, sparking fears of potential spread in the West Wing. Trump and Vice President Pence have since tested negative, the White House said.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Trump vows complete end of Obamacare, Devlin Barrett, May 8, 2020 (print ed.). The decision follows debate within the administration over whether to preserve parts of the law amid a pandemic.

President Trump said Wednesday he will continue trying to toss out all of the Affordable Care Act, even as some in his administration, including Attorney General William P. Barr, have privately argued parts of the law should be preserved amid a pandemic.

rnc logo“We want to terminate health care under Obamacare,” Trump told reporters Wednesday, the last day for his administration to change its position in a Supreme Court case challenging the law. “Obamacare, we run it really well. . . . But running it great, it’s still lousy health care.”

While the president has said he will preserve some of the Affordable Care Act’s most popular provisions, including guaranteed coverage for preexisting medical conditions, he has not offered a plan to do so, and his administration’s legal position seeks to end all parts of the law, including those provisions.

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ny times logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2New York Times, Administration Blocks C.D.C. Guidance Over Economic and Religious Concerns, Abby Goodnough and Maggie Haberman, May 8, 2020 (print ed.). The agency’s detailed guidelines for reopening were blocked from publication after Trump administration officials labeled them “overly prescriptive.”

As President Trump rushes to reopen the economy, a battle has erupted between the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the agency’s detailed guidelines to help schools, restaurants, churches and other establishments safely reopen.

A copy of the C.D.C. guidance obtained by The New York Times includes sections for child care programs, schools and day camps, churches and other “communities of faith,” employers with vulnerable workers, restaurants and bars, and mass transit administrators. The recommendations include using disposable dishes and utensils at restaurants, closing every other row of seats in buses and subways while restricting transit routes among areas experiencing different levels of coronavirus infection, and separating children at school and camps into groups that should not mix throughout the day.

But White House and other administration officials rejected the recommendations over concerns that they were overly prescriptive, infringed on religious rights and risked further damaging an economy that Mr. Trump was banking on to recover quickly. One senior official at the Department of Health and Human Services with deep ties to religious conservatives objected to any controls on church services.

“Governments have a duty to instruct the public on how to stay safe during this crisis and can absolutely do so without dictating to people how they should worship God,” said Roger Severino, the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, who once oversaw the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation.

cdc logo CustomA spokesman for the C.D.C. said the guidance was still under discussion with the White House and a revised version could be published soon.

Over the last week, C.D.C. has been working on additional recommendations and guidance for reopening communities, returning to public events, and I expect, even today, that we’re going to receive a presentation on that,” Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday on a radio show broadcast in Pittsburgh. He added that what C.D.C. would be doing, as it often did, “is publishing health care guidance at CDC.gov in the very near future.”

The C.D.C.’s director, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, and other leaders of the agency have had almost no public platform during the pandemic, with Dr. Deborah L. Birx, an infectious diseases expert coordinating the White House’s coronavirus response, and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, another member of the coronavirus task force who is the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, handling most of the public speaking on the federal public health response, usually at briefings dominated by Mr. Trump. After the C.D.C. recommended the public wear masks, Mr. Trump said he probably would not do so, even as he announced the guidelines.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: An Epidemic of Hardship and Hunger, Paul Krugman, right, May 8, 2020 (print ed.). Why won’t Republicans help Americans losing their jobs? Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on workers. The economy has plunged so quickly that official statistics can’t keep up, but the available data suggest that tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, with more job losses to come and full recovery probably years away.

But Republicans adamantly oppose extending enhanced unemployment benefits — such an extension, says Senator Lindsey Graham, will take place “over our dead bodies.” (Actually, over other people’s dead bodies.)

They apparently want to return to a situation in which most unemployed workers get no benefits at all, and even those collecting unemployment insurance get only a small fraction of their previous income.

Because most working-age Americans receive health insurance through their employers, job losses will cause a huge rise in the number of uninsured. The only mitigating factor is the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, which will allow many though by no means all of the newly uninsured to find alternative coverage.

But the Trump administration is still trying to have the Affordable Care Act ruled unconstitutional; “We want to terminate health care under Obamacare,” declared Donald Trump, even though the administration has never offered a serious alternative.

Bear in mind that ending Obamacare would end protection for Americans with pre-existing conditions — and that insurers would probably refuse to cover anyone who had Covid-19.

U.S. Crime, Courts

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washington post logoWashington Post, Flynn decision cheered by Trump and the right, as critics decry it as attack on rule of law, Rosalind S. Helderman, Robert Costa and Shane Harris, May 8, 2020 (print ed.). The extreme division mirrored three years of partisan combat over how the FBI handled Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Justice Department’s decision to drop its prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Thursday was greeted as a triumph by President Trump and his allies, who have argued for years that Flynn (shown above) was set up — but with dire alarm by Trump’s opponents, who saw the move as an attack on the rule of law.

The extreme division mirrored three years of partisan combat over how the FBI handled Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, an investigation that shadowed much of Trump’s time in office.

And the circumstances of the development — delivered by a loyalist attorney general after a key prosecutor withdrew from a case in which Flynn had previously acknowledged guilt on multiple occasions — appeared only to harden positions.

Justice Dept. moves to drop case against Michael Flynn, former Trump adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI

At a celebratory White House, aides cheered Attorney General William P. Barr, whose decision to appoint a new prosecutor to review the case paved the way for Thursday’s move.

richard blumenthal portraitCongressional Democrats said they were appalled.

“With no legitimate prosecutorial basis, they’ve simply thrown away a conviction,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), right, a member of the Judiciary Committee and a former U.S. attorney and state attorney general, said in an interview. “It’s sad and outrageous for the justice system to be used in this way, for naked political ends and a coverup — and they’re obviously exploiting the pandemic as a means to distract from this.”

Democrats, Blumenthal said, “should use every platform and bully pulpit we have to fight this.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Drops Flynn Case; Experts Have ‘Never Seen Anything Like It,’ Charlie Savage, May 8, 2020 (print ed.). Abandoning the case against Michael Flynn is the latest step in the Justice Department’s pattern of dismantling the work of the Russia investigators. It was the latest example of the attorney general’s chiseling away at the results of the Russia investigation.

The Justice Department’s decision to drop the criminal case against Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, even though he had twice pleaded guilty to lying to investigators, was extraordinary and had no obvious precedent, a range of criminal law specialists said on Thursday.

FBI logo“I’ve been practicing for more time than I care to admit and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Julie O’Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches criminal law at Georgetown University.

The move is the latest in a series that the department, under Attorney General William P. Barr, has taken to undermine and dismantle the work of the investigators and prosecutors who scrutinized Russia’s 2016 election interference operation and its links to people associated with the Trump campaign.

The case against Mr. Flynn for lying to the F.B.I. about his conversations with the Russian ambassador was brought by the office of the former special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. It had become a political cause for Mr. Trump and his supporters, and the president had signaled that he was considering a pardon once Mr. Flynn was sentenced. But Mr. Barr instead abruptly short-circuited the case.

timothy shea o CustomOn Thursday, Timothy Shea, the interim U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia, told the judge overseeing the case, Emmet G. Sullivan, that prosecutors were withdrawing the case. They were doing so, he said, because the department could not prove to a jury that Mr. Flynn’s admitted lies to the F.B.I. about his conversations with the ambassador were “material” ones.

The move essentially erases Mr. Flynn’s guilty pleas. Because he was never sentenced and the government is unwilling to pursue the matter further, the prosecution is virtually certain to end, although the judge must still decide whether to grant the department’s request to dismiss it “with prejudice,” meaning it could not be refiled in the future.

A range of former prosecutors struggled to point to any previous instance in which the Justice Department had abandoned its own case after obtaining a guilty plea. They portrayed the justification Mr. Shea pointed to — that it would be difficult to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the lies were material — as dubious.

“A pardon would have been a lot more honest,” said Samuel Buell, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches criminal law at Duke University.

The law regarding what counts as “material” is extremely forgiving to the government, Mr. Buell added. The idea is that law enforcement is permitted to pursue possible theories of criminality and to interview people without having firmly established that there was a crime first.

James G. McGovern, a defense lawyer at Hogan Lovells and a former federal prosecutor, said juries rarely bought a defendant’s argument that a lie did not involve a material fact.

“If you are arguing ‘materiality,’ you usually lose, because there is a tacit admission that what you said was untrue, so you lose the jury,” he said.

No career prosecutors signed the motion. Mr. Shea is a former close aide to Mr. Barr. In January, Mr. Barr installed him as the top prosecutor in the district that encompasses the nation’s capital after maneuvering out the Senate-confirmed former top prosecutor in that office, Jessie K. Liu.

Soon after, in an extraordinary move, four prosecutors in the office abruptly quit the case against Mr. Trump’s longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. They did so after senior Justice Department officials intervened to recommend a more lenient prison term than standard sentencing guidelines called for in the crimes Mr. Stone was convicted of committing — including witness intimidation and perjury — to conceal Trump campaign interactions with WikiLeaks.michael flynn arms folded

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Michael Flynn Lied. He’s Still Trump’s ‘Innocent Man,’ Editorial Board, May 8, 2020. Even President Trump has said his former national security adviser lied to the F.B.I.

It can be hard to recall, since so many members of President Trump’s inner circle have been indicted, convicted of federal crimes and even sent to prison, but the first felon to emerge from this administration was Michael Flynn.

Mr. Flynn, who served less than a month as the national security adviser before resigning in disgrace, pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to F.B.I. investigators about his communications with the Russian ambassador.

When asked about the plea at the time, Mr. Trump said, “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the F.B.I.”

That was true, of course. Mr. Flynn did lie, as he admitted to under oath in a court of law — twice. He told investigators, falsely, that he had not communicated with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States (shown at far right in a different meeting), about possible changes to American foreign policy toward Russia even before Mr. Trump took office.

Last year Mr. Flynn asked the federal judge to throw out his conviction because, he claimed, the prosecutors and F.B.I. agents on his case had engaged in misconduct. The judge rejected his request, finding that the agents had not entrapped Mr. Flynn. And a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general found that the bureau had sufficient evidence to investigate Mr. Flynn as part of its inquiry into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, even as the report was sharply critical of the F.B.I.’s broader handling of that investigation.

Yet on Thursday, the Justice Department, under Attorney General William Barr, suddenly dropped all criminal charges against Mr. Flynn.

In a court filing, Mr. Barr said that the interview in which Mr. Flynn admitted to lying to authorities was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis,” and so his statements were not “material” to an active investigation. Further, the department said it was unable to prove that Mr. Flynn had in fact made false statements.

To review: Mr. Barr is now saying he cannot prove charges to which Mr. Flynn has twice pleaded guilty in court — and for which there is ample evidence.

ny times logoneal katyal oNew York Times, Opinion: The Appalling Damage of Dropping the Michael Flynn Case, Neal K. Katyal,right, and Joshua A. Geltzer (Georgetown Law Center professors), May 8, 2020. It embeds into official U.S. policy a shockingly extremist view of law enforcement.

Criminal law specialists and members of the law enforcement community are tough to really shock. But the Justice Department’s announcement that it would drop criminal charges against Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, has provoked, in addition to outrage, a sense of utter demoralization among them. They’ve never seen such a thing before. After all, Mr. Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I.

But it’s important to understand why all Americans should be not just shocked but outraged. It’s not just because Mr. Flynn won’t go to jail or offer any service toward justice.

It’s because this move embeds into official U.S. policy an extremist view of law enforcement as the enemy of the American people. It’s a deception emmet sullivan 2012that Americans must see through — and that the federal judge overseeing Mr. Flynn’s case, Emmet Sullivan, left, can reject by examining the Justice Department’s rationale in open court and by allowing a future Justice Department to reconsider charges.

In 2017, when he pleaded guilty, Mr. Flynn apologized to the judge for lying to investigators, saying, “I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and through my faith in God, I am working to set things right.”

Sure, sometimes people plead guilty to crimes they never committed, but those people usually lack resources or exposure to the legal system. That is not the case with Mr. Flynn, a retired general and former national security adviser to the president.

So it seems crazy for the Justice Department to abandon criminal charges when the conviction based on them was all but signed, sealed and delivered. Justice is blind — except, it seems, when it comes to friends of President Trump like Mr. Flynn and Roger Stone.

But it requires zooming out to see the real outrage. The Justice Department’s shift reflects a deeply mistaken view of American law enforcement. In this view, federal investigators and prosecutors are a deep threat to the American people. That’s the narrative about the handling of the Flynn case that began on far-right websites, then migrated to Fox News and has now — appallingly — been embraced by President Trump and his attorney general, Bill Barr. They’re all peddling the idea that Mr. Flynn was “set up” by the F.B.I. and the Justice Department.

The capstone to this narrative was the Justice Department’s voluntary release last week of additional materials to Mr. Flynn’s lawyers. This was itself an unusual event: Judge Sullivan had already heard arguments from the prosecution and the defense about these issues and rejected Mr. Flynn’s claims. But suddenly, Mr. Barr’s Justice Department decided to hand over more. Even in those additional materials, there was, as they say, no there there: no smoking gun, no withheld exoneration.

That didn’t stop Mr. Flynn’s lawyers, pro-Trump media and Mr. Trump himself from expressing outrage at the documents’ contents — especially a few pages of F.B.I. notes written down before Mr. Flynn’s interview. Mr. Trump said his former adviser was “tormented” by “dirty, filthy cops at the top of the F.B.I.”

But what the documents actually spoke to was the care taken by F.B.I. investigators in making sure they adopted an approach that even a Trump White House couldn’t see as “playing games” when they interviewed Mr. Flynn. The documents certainly didn’t offer exoneration: They didn’t change the fact that he’d lied or that he’d later admitted he’d lied. Yet, it gave Mr. Trump and his allies something they could claim was … enough.

Enough to do what? Not just exonerate Mr. Flynn, but also — here’s the crucial part — condemn institutions: the F.B.I. and the Justice Department. And that’s just what they’ve done. Mr. Trump, Mr. Barr and those echoing them have used the Flynn case to make condemnation of federal law enforcement official U.S. government policy.

Never mind that the arguments made in the Justice Department’s court filing on Thursday don’t pass the laugh test. Never mind that even Mr. Barr’s Justice Department surely doesn’t intend to apply the same principles to every other case or possibly any other case. Never mind any of that: The point, really, isn’t just to spring Mr. Flynn. It’s to impugn federal law enforcement.

Here’s the tell. The Justice Department’s new position isn’t that Mr. Flynn didn’t lie — that couldn’t be its position, because he did lie, and he admitted in federal court that he lied. Instead, the new filing argues that it was wrong for the F.B.I. to interview him in the first place. Look carefully at who the villain becomes in that narrative: not Mr. Flynn for lying, but the F.B.I. for asking the questions to which he lied in response.

And there’s a second tell. If the goal was just to shield Mr. Flynn, Mr. Trump could simply have pardoned him. That would have been a regrettable abuse of the pardon power — but at least it would have left Mr. Trump owning the decision and would have spared the Justice Department of the patent, destructive corruption that its new filing represents. But that didn’t happen — because institutional destruction isn’t collateral damage for Mr. Trump. It’s the very goal.

Fortunately, in our system, a prosecutor’s say-so is not enough to drop a prosecution; it requires the approval of the court. And while judges rarely interfere with such decisions, this is that rare case.

Judge Sullivan, who still presides over Mr. Flynn’s case, has three important lines of inquiry available to him. First, he can examine why the highly regarded former prosecutor of Mr. Flynn withdrew from the case moments before the Justice Department’s astonishing filing. Last year, after the Supreme Court essentially held that the Trump administration had lied about the census and several Justice Department attorneys attempted to withdraw from the case, the presiding federal judge refused and began an inquiry into the attorneys’ withdrawal. A similar inquiry is appropriate here.

Second, the judge can examine the department’s reasoning and inquire into whether it is legally sound, including through on-the-record hearings. And finally, the judge can reject the Justice Department’s request to drop the charges “with prejudice.” Granting the request would mean that no future Justice Department could rethink the matter and revive the charges. There’s no reason for the judge to grant that. If he doesn’t see any wrongdoing by earlier investigators and prosecutors — and he hasn’t so far — then he can allow the charges to be dropped without prejudice. That way, it’s possible that a future Justice Department could take another look.

Presidents are not kings, and federal courts have a vital role to play in protecting our democracy. By carrying out these three lines of inquiry, the judge will be uncovering the truth and withholding his imprimatur from Mr. Trump’s and Mr. Barr’s appalling assault on American law enforcement.

Neal K. Katyal (@neal_katyal), a former acting solicitor general of the United States and the author of “Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump,” and Joshua A. Geltzer (@jgeltzer), a former deputy legal adviser and senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, are law professors at Georgetown.

Palmer Report, All hell breaks loose in Michael Flynn case – and this may not go the way Trump and Bill Barr are hoping, Bill Palmer, May 7, 2020. For the past year or so, Attorney General Bill Barr has largely been pretending to make the moves that Donald Trump wanted. For instance, Barr leaked to the media that he was criminally indicting Trump’s nemesis Andrew McCabe, but ultimately had to admit there wasn’t even a case. Now that Trump desperately needs a win – or at least whatever a “win” looks like in his collapsing mind – Barr’s hand has finally been forced.

bill palmer report logo headerBill Barr forced the Department of Justice to drop the criminal case against Michael Flynn today. This is despite the fact that Flynn has already pleaded guilty and was about to be sentenced to prison. This is a stunning instance of obstruction of justice on Barr’s part, and it puts him firmly on the hot seat. The lead prosecutor in the Flynn case, Brandon Van Grack, has now withdrawn from the case in apparent protest. It’s not yet clear what the judge in the case will do, but he’s previously shown that he has zero michael flynn wh podium Customtolerance for these kinds of things.

One thing is clear: if Bill Barr wasn’t already earmarked for prison before this, it’s now a guarantee that he’ll spend much or all of the rest of his life in prison once Trump is gone from office. It also seems likely that once Trump and Barr are gone, the DOJ will simply bring back the case against Flynn (shown at right in early 2017). But for now, Barr has bet his life on the hope that Trump either wins the election or pardons him on his way out the door.

travis mcmichael gregory mcmichael

washington post logoWashington Post, Father and son charged in the killing of black Georgia jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, after footage sparked outrage, Michael Brice-Saddler, Colby Itkowitz and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., May 7, 2020. The young black man was killed in February while jogging in a residential neighborhood in Brunswick, Ga. Video of his brief interaction with at least two men who confronted him, seconds before the gunshots, was released on social media this week.

A Georgia father and son were charged with murder and aggravated assault Thursday evening in the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery ahmaud arberyafter a newly released video appearing to show the moments before his death intensified pressure on authorities to make the arrests.

The charges against the men — Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34 — come more than two months after Arbery, right, was killed. Two local district attorneys recused themselves from the case before the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was brought in. The agency made the arrests the day after its investigation began.

The video shows two men approach a young black man jogging on the street. After a brief interaction, gunshots can be heard and the jogger stumbles to the ground. The footage ignited outrage across the political spectrum, with former vice president Joe Biden comparing it to a lynching and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) calling the shooting “absolutely horrific.”

According to a police report, Gregory McMichael, a retired police detective, saw Arbery jogging and believed he looked like a suspect in break-ins in the neighborhood. A local news report found only one burglary was reported to police between Jan. 1 and Feb. 23.

McMichael called his son and they armed themselves with a handgun and shotgun, respectively, according to the police report. They chased Arbery in a truck, according to the report, and McMichael told police that he shouted to Arbery, “Stop, stop, we want to talk to you,” before, according to their statements, they pulled up beside him in their truck.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Real Vote Suppression Threat, Linda Greenhouse, (shown at right on the cover of her memoir), May 8, 2020 (print ed.). The Supreme Court weighs whether linda greenhouse cover just a journalistElectoral College electors can vote their preference for president rather than the choice of their state.

Amid all the well-justified worry during this troubled election season about vote suppression, the most direct threat to having every vote count has been hiding in plain sight: “faithless electors” who might cast their Electoral College votes according to their own preferences rather than for the choice of their states’ voters.

Eight such votes were cast four years ago, including by electors in Colorado and Washington, despite the fact that those states and most others required would-be electors to pledge to vote according to the popular will. While those faithless electors didn’t threaten Donald Trump’s winning margin (in fact, most were Democrats who voted for someone other than Hillary Clinton), we shouldn’t forget that in 2000, George W. Bush became president with a single electoral vote to spare.

The prospect of presidential electors going rogue is an obvious problem, a loaded gun aimed at the orderly transfer of presidential power. And now it’s the Supreme Court’s problem.

Next Wednesday, the last day of the court’s two-week telephonic argument sitting, the justices are scheduled to hear two faithless elector cases. One is an appeal by three Democratic electors in the state of Washington who were fined $1,000 each for voting for Colin Powell instead of Hillary Clinton, who carried the state. The other is an appeal by the state of Colorado from a federal appeals court’s ruling that the state had no right to remove a Democratic elector who instead of voting for Hillary Clinton, the choice of a majority of Colorado voters, voted for John Kasich, a Republican who was not on the ballot.

ny times logoNew York Times, Government Orders Alone Didn’t Close the Economy. They Probably Can’t Reopen It, Emily Badger and Alicia Parlapiano, May 7, 2020. Data shows there was a drop in spending and working even before any official mandates to stay at home.

U.S. Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I Cry Night and Day’: How It Took One Woman 8 Weeks to Get Unemployment, May 8, 2020. Nadine Josephs has not worked since March 13. Trying to get benefits from New York became a full-time job.

ny times logoNew York Times, He Had Never Sold a Ventilator. New York Gave Him an $86 Million Deal, Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Thomas Kaplan, May 8, 2020. An engineer landed one of the state’s biggest coronavirus-related contracts after FEMA volunteers forwarded his name.

The offer to the Federal Emergency Management Agency sounded promising: A Silicon Valley engineer said that he could deliver thousands of ventilators from manufacturers across China to help hospitals treat coronavirus patients.

fema logo Custom 2The engineer was asked for more details. Within 12 hours, he responded with a 28-page digital catalog of medical supplies at his disposal, including protective masks and goggles.

But there were also a series of caveats: Interested buyers had to sign a contract within four hours of receiving a quote and pay the entirety of the order upfront. “Nonnegotiable,” the catalog said. And the engineer, Yaron Oren-Pines, had no apparent background in procuring medical equipment.

China FlagFederal officials passed on the vendor’s information to senior officials in New York and, within days, the state struck a deal to buy 1,450 ventilators from Mr. Oren-Pines for $86 million, one of the largest contracts for medical supplies since the outbreak.

The deal, however, began to unravel as quickly as it had come together.

In a matter of days, a bank had frozen funds that the state had wired to Mr. Oren-Pines because it found a transaction from his account suspicious. andrew cuomoState officials were then warned by Mr. Oren-Pines and his business partners of possible shipping complications and were told that the ventilators might have to be routed through Israel, where they said they had connections.

Before long, Mr. Oren-Pines and his partners began accusing the state of breach of contract. State officials later tried to send inspectors to confirm the stockpile in China; that effort was unsuccessful, and the contract was terminated.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office said that the contract was canceled because the state’s hospitalization rate fell far short of projections, and New York’s need for ventilators lessened, diminishing the urgency to proceed with a contract mired in complications.

But interviews with state and federal officials, as well as emails obtained by The New York Times, underscore how the challenges of a pandemic may have clouded a decision that placed millions of taxpayer dollars at risk.

ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. Bans Faulty Masks, 3 Weeks After Failed Tests, Jack Nicas and Sheila Kaplan, May 8, 2020 (print ed.). The Food and Drug Administration prohibited 65 manufacturers from selling masks for medical use.

For three weeks the Food and Drug Administration allowed the sale of several types of N95-style face masks for American health care workers despite evidence from other parts of the federal government that the masks were not effective for blocking the coronavirus.

Millions of these masks, produced in China, have been bought by or donated to American hospitals and distributed to others on the front line of the Covid-19 outbreak. Starting in mid-April, tests conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that some of the products did not meet medical standards for protection against the coronavirus.

But it wasn’t until Thursday that the F.D.A. barred more than 65 of the 80 authorized manufacturers in China from exporting N95-style face masks to the United States for medical use, citing poor quality.

Pandemic Politics / Media

washington post logoWashington Post, White House tightens its grip on virus information, Toluse Olorunnipa, May 8, 2020 (print ed.). The president has sought to block or downplay information about the severity of the pandemic as he urges a return to normalcy. Several Republican governors are following his lead.

President Trump in recent weeks has sought to block or downplay information about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic as he urges a return to normalcy and the rekindling of an economy that has been devastated by public health restrictions aimed at mitigating the outbreak.

djt hands up mouth open CustomHis administration has sidelined or replaced officials not seen as loyal, rebuffed congressional requests for testimony, dismissed jarring statistics and models, praised states for reopening without meeting White House guidelines and, briefly, pushed to disband a task force created to combat the virus and communicate about the public health crisis.

Several Republican governors are following Trump’s lead as an effort takes shape to control the narrative about a pandemic that has continued to rage throughout a quickly reopening country. With polls showing most consumers still afraid to venture out of their homes, the Trump administration has intensified its efforts to soothe some of those fears through a messaging campaign that relies on tightly controlling information about a virus that has proven stubbornly difficult to contain.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump labels Americans as ‘warriors’ in risky push to reopen, David Nakamura, May 8, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump praised American farmers as the “warriors” in his trade war with China that was harming their exports. He used the same term to describe the Republican lawmakers who spent political capital to defend him in the impeachment fight.

Now, as he pushes to reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has identified a new group of “warriors” to enlist in battle: the American public.

Trump unveiled the moniker this week — during a trip to a face-mask manufacturing facility in Phoenix on Tuesday and again in an Oval Office photo op with nurses Wednesday — suggesting it is no longer just medical workers on the front lines who must respond against the lethal illness.

“I’m actually calling now . . . the nation warriors,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We have to be warriors. We can’t keep our country closed down for years.”

The president’s use of the term has capped a weeks-long rhetorical effort to frame the crisis through battlefield language. Trump has called himself a “wartime president” and cast the virus as an “invisible enemy” that is “smart” and “tough.” In recent days, he has taken to comparing the national emergency to other moments in American history when the nation’s collective spirit and bravery helped overcome threats from a challenging foe, including World War II.

Yet in his efforts to rally public support, Trump — as he did with the farmers and GOP lawmakers — is again shifting the burden and potential repercussions of his decisions onto those whom he is enjoining in the fight, in this case most other Americans.

Press Run, Opinion: Access journalism is killing us, Eric Boehlert, May 8, 2020. News consumers deserves real answers.  Finally emerging from his pandemic-era Fox News bunker, Trump sat for an interview with ABC News this week. For weeks as the U.S. death toll skyrocketed and tens of millions of people lost their jobs, Trump had agreed only to answer pleasing, one-on-one questions from Fox News. He did his best to create an alternate universe, where the deadly cornonavirus would soon “wash away.”

Agreeing to be interviewed by ABC, Trump appeared to be taking a risk by exposing himself to tougher questions about his historically incompetent response to the public health crisis, and a mountain of evidence that he personally chose to do nothing to protect the country from a virus invasion. In the end, the soft-as-a-pillow interview on ABC proved to be no risk. And Trump probably knew that going in, because TV journalists, perhaps more concerned about access than answers, simply refuse to hold him accountable in-person.

Accustomed to blustering his way through TV Q&A’s and facing minimal pushback, Trump once again delivered an often-incoherent session with ABC, while lying relentlessly. Yet Trump was never closely questioned by “ABC World News Tonight” anchor David Muir, even when the issues of the day include more than 70,000 dead Americans and 30 million lost jobs. Incredibly, Muir failed to call Trump out on the pandemic-related lies he had been telling for weeks during his White House briefings. Meaning, Muir likely knew in advance what Trump’s falsehoods would be, yet the anchor did nothing.

Content with the TV “get” (i.e. landing a interview with Trump), Muir did his minimal best to hold the president accountable for what some experts see as the greatest single failure of leadership in the history of the United States presidents. Muir did what so many journalists before him have done over the last five years — he let Trump get away with it. And Muir did it at a time when America is so desperate for answers and accountability.

 Trump Donor Now Controls Postal Service

washington post logoWashington Post, Top Republican fundraiser and Trump ally named postmaster general, giving president new influence over Postal Service, Josh Dawsey, Lisa Rein and Jacob Bogage, May 7, 2020 (print ed.). Top Republican fundraiser and Trump ally named postmaster general, giving president new influence over Postal Service.

postal service old logoA top donor to President Trump and the Republican National Committee will be named the new head of the Postal Service, putting a top ally of the president in charge of an agency where Trump has long pressed for major changes in how it handles its business.

The Postal Service’s board of governors confirmed late Wednesday that Louis DeJoy, a North Carolina businessman who is currently in charge of fundraising for the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, will serve as the new postmaster general.

rnc logoThe action will install a stalwart Trump ally to lead the Postal Service, which he has railed against for years, and probably move him closer than ever before to forcing the service to renegotiate its terms with companies and its own union workforce. Trump’s Treasury Department and the Postal Service are in the midst of a negotiation over a $10 billion line of credit approved as part of coronavirus legislation in March.

amazon logo smallThe confirmation came after The Washington Post asked for comment on the decision.

Trump has indicated he wants the Postal Service to dramatically raise fees for delivering packages for customers such as Amazon in exchange for tapping the line of credit. Trump has long argued that Amazon doesn’t pay the Postal Service enough, a charge the agency has fiercely contested. (Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, owns The Post.)

Palmer Report, Opinion: For the last time, Donald Trump can’t magically rig the election by killing off the Post Office, Bill Palmer, May 8, 2020. When Donald Trump and the Republican Senate recently signaled their hesitation to include the Post Office in its overall bailout legislation, some folks out there came up with a conspiracy theory that Trump and the GOP were trying to kill off the Post Office so there would be no mail-in voting in November.

If you put any thought into this conspiracy theory at all, it immediately falls apart. Unlike most government entities, the Post Office generates substantial revenue, so it’s not something the government can get rid of simply by “defunding” it. Nor would the Post Office magically be gone from the face of the earth before the election. Even if that did happen, no one would stand for it. Democrats and Republicans both use the Post Office for various things, and would not tolerate its disappearance. For that matter, Republican and Democratic voters both like to mail in their votes.

bill palmer report logo headerThe trouble is, we’ve seen this “Trump is killing the Post Office so he can magically rig the election” nonsense repeated so many times, it ends up warping our view of everything that we see happening. What we’re really seeing play out right now is twofold.

First, UPS and FedEx have been paying the GOP to sabotage the Post Office for a decade, because they don’t like having to compete with Post Office Priority Mail on pricing. By squeezing the Post Office, with the pension scam and other tactics, the GOP has been forcing the Post Office to raise its Priority Mail prices in order to make up the revenue. This has been going on forever; it’s just that the media has barely covered it, so most people don’t know it’s going on.

postal service old logoSecond, Donald Trump has a personal vendetta against Amazon because its CEO Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post, which has exposed a number of Trump’s scandals. Sabotaging the Post Office doesn’t directly harm Bezos, as the Post Office only handles a fraction of Amazon’s shipping. But it’s fairly clear that the GOP and its donors have goaded Trump into going after the Post Office as a way of supposedly harming Bezos, because they want the Post Office to be squeezed for Priority Mail pricing reasons.

But if you weren’t aware of any of the lengthy backstory for why Trump and the GOP keep squeezing the Post Office, and your first taste of the story was when they tried to squeeze the Post Office at the start of the pandemic, then you might be inclined to mistakenly believe the this had something to do with mail-in voting.

The trouble is, this kind of conspiracy theory doesn’t help us. Yes, we need to fight for the Post Office. But we’ve needed to be fighting for the Post Office for the past decade, as the GOP has been trying to sabotage it on behalf of UPS and FedEx. If we’re only focusing on fighting an imaginary battle to stop Trump from killing the Post Office and magically rigging the election, we’ll never rectify the actual scandal – which has always centered entirely around Priority Mail pricing.

U.S. Virus Victims, Remedies

washington post logoWashington Post, Across the country, thousands of people with covid-19 are staying home as their conditions deteriorate, Michael E. Miller, May 8, 2020. Fear has many refusing to go to the hospital — fear of financial ruin from hospital bills, or fear of immigration agents, or fear of dying alone in an unfamiliar place.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration pushed use of remdesivir, but unequal rollout angers doctors, Christopher Rowland and Laurie McGinley, May 8, 2020 (print ed.). The rollout of the first and only treatment for covid-19 is being criticized by doctors.

The rollout of the first and only treatment for covid-19 is being criticized by doctors across the country as confusing, unfair and marred by incomplete medical information, just a week after its manufacturer, Gilead Sciences, and the Trump administration raised hopes by announcing that the drug shortened hospital stays of some patients.

Demand for remdesivir exploded after the Food and Drug Administration, citing the results, made an emergency use authorization for the experimental drug. The Trump administration has maintained control of distribution of the drug, which is in limited supply.

Government researchers changed metric to measure coronavirus drug remdesivir during clinical trial

Doctors in several hospitals, including some that have seen surges in people with covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, say they cannot get access to remdesivir for their patients — and that they don’t understand the process for obtaining the drug. In Boston, Massachusetts General Hospital said it is in line to receive the drug, but two other large teaching hospitals have been denied supplies without explanation, doctors said.

“The thing that is upsetting is the process at the federal level. There’s no transparency. We don’t know who made the decision, or how it has been done. The process is just a staggering injustice,” Benjamin P. Linas, an infectious-disease doctor at Boston Medical Center, which treats large numbers of African American and Hispanic patients on Medicaid, said in an interview.

Linas noted in a tweet this week that the hospital has the second highest coronavirus case count in Boston: “Today, the family of a dying patient asked me why we do not have [remdesivir]. What am I supposed to say?”

The White House, the president’s coronavirus task force, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) — which is coordinating distribution of the drug — and the Department of Health and Human Services, ASPR’s parent agency, did not respond to questions about the physicians’ complaints Thursday.

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Mexico Ignores Wave of Coronavirus Deaths in Capital, Azam Ahmed, Photographs by Daniel Berehulak, May 8, 2020. The Mexican government is not reporting hundreds, possibly thousands, of deaths from the coronavirus in Mexico City, dismissing anxious officials who have tallied more than three times as many fatalities in the capital than the government publicly acknowledges, according to officials and confidential data reviewed by The New York Times.

The tensions have come to a head in recent weeks, with Mexico City alerting the government to the deaths repeatedly, hoping it will come clean to the public about the true toll of the virus on the nation’s biggest city and, by extension, the country at large.

But that has not happened. Doctors in overwhelmed hospitals in Mexico City say the reality of the epidemic is being hidden from the country. In some hospitals, patients lie on the floor, splayed on mattresses. Elderly people are propped up on metal chairs because there are not enough beds, while patients are turned away to search for space in less-prepared hospitals. Many die while searching, several doctors said.

May 7

U.S. Pandemic Victims, Jobs

U.S. Mercenary Admits Overthrow Plot

U.S. Vulnerable Virus Victims

 U.S. Crime, Courts

postal service old logoTrump Donor Now Controls Postal Service

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

World News

#MeToo Claim Debunked

Virus U.S. Business Impacts

U.S. Pandemic Victims, Jobs

washington post logoWashington Post, Over 33 million Americans lost their job during the pandemic; 77% of laid-off Americans think they’ll return to their old jobs, poll american flag upside down distressfinds, Heather Long and Emily Guskin, May 7, 2020. Even as 3.2 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, optimism is high among workers that they can return to their pre-pandemic jobs, but economists warn that more than 40 percent of job losses could become permanent.

The vast majority of laid-off or furloughed workers — 77 percent — expect to be rehired by their previous employer once the stay-at-home orders in their area are lifted, according to a nationwide Washington Post-Ipsos poll.

Nearly 6 in 10 say it is “very likely” they will get their old job back, according to the poll, which was conducted April 27-May 4 among 928 workers who were laid off or furloughed since the outbreak began. But there’s concern that many of these workers are too optimistic about being rehired given how much uncertainty remains about health and business conditions in the year ahead.

ny times logoNew York Times, The U.S. Jobs Report Friday Will Be a Portrait of Devastation, Neil Irwin, May 7, 2020. For such numbers, there are no words. Just how bad are the April employment figures going to be?

We know they will be awful. After all, the number of people filing new claims for unemployment insurance was in the millions for the seventh straight week last week, the Labor Department announced Thursday. But it is the monthly jobs report — showing job creation or losses, and the unemployment rate — that investors and the news media generally scrutinize for evidence of how the economy is evolving.

When released Friday morning, the April numbers will show exactly how stunning the American economy’s plunge has been. It will be hard to find words to capture what those tables of figures will show.

The last time the economy was in free fall, I wrote this: “The economy is unraveling so fast as to defy analysis through the usual statistical models. Among the phrases found in normally sober reports from the nation’s top economic forecasters yesterday: ‘god-awful,’ ‘wholesale capitulation,’ ‘shockingly weak’ and ‘indescribably terrible.’”

That jobs report, from November 2008, indicated that employers had cut 533,000 jobs. Analysts expect the April 2020 job losses to be 41 times worse.

The pandemic has turned the California economy upside down. The Grand Central Market in Los Angeles during what would normally be a busy lunchtime.

If the consensus forecast by analysts — that employers will cut 22 million jobs from their payrolls — turns out to be correct, 10 years’ worth of job growth will have been wiped out in a single month.

The expansion after the last recession was late and slow in ways that were destructive to millions of people’s lives. But America had finally recovered.

And now, in a single month, a decade’s worth of progress — measured, in my case, by waking up early on 120 or so Friday mornings and analyzing tables that showed gradual, consistent hiring — has vanished.

The numbers may seem dry and impersonal, but beneath them are the individual and distinctive stories of millions of people.

That 3.5 percent unemployment rate in February, before the pandemic spread through the United States, was much more than a statistic. It showed how economic conditions were shifting the power dynamic between American labor and business.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: White House Rejected C.D.C. Reopening Guidelines, Asking for Revisions; Another 3.2 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, Staff reports, May 7, 2020. The White House has asked for changes to detailed guidelines from health experts to covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2help schools, restaurants, churches and other establishments safely reopen.

The Trump administration has rejected detailed guidelines from health experts to help schools, restaurants, churches and other establishments safely reopen, saying they are too prescriptive, according to several administration officials.

The White House has asked for revisions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose public health experts wrote the guidance, but some officials at the C.D.C. have privately expressed concern that the recommendations will never be posted publicly.

cdc logo CustomIn a senior staff meeting at the White House last week, Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, expressed concern that the guidelines were “overly prescriptive,” according to a person familiar with the discussion. Mr. Meadows’ concern, the official said, was that the guidelines were too uniform and regressive for places with minimal numbers of cases.

A copy of the guidance obtained by The New York Times includes sections dealing with child care programs, schools and day camps, communities of faith, employers with vulnerable workers, restaurants and bars, and mass transit administrators.

President Trump has been desperate to reopen the country quickly amid the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression. The detailed C.D.C. guidance was seen by members of the White House coronavirus task force and other aides as a document that could slow down that effort, according to several people with knowledge of the deliberations inside the West Wing. The dissension on the guidelines was first reported by The Associated Press,

djt quizzical uncredited palmer CustomThe guidance, which the C.D.C. first submitted to the White House in draft form two weeks ago, was meant to help states, local governments and businesses adopt measures that would help keep the virus from spreading once they reopened. But several federal agencies, including the Department of Labor and the Office of Civil Rights within the Department of Health and Human Services, protested, saying it would be harmful to businesses and the economy and too prescriptive for houses of worship in particular, a federal official said.

In some states, more than 25 percent of workers are unemployed. A new study found that nearly everyone who gets the coronavirus eventually makes antibodies to it.

The U.S. government report released Thursday brings the total tally over seven weeks to more than 33 million. The weekly numbers have declined since reaching a peak of 6.9 million claims in late March. But the data remains shocking: Officials in some states say more than a quarter of the work force is jobless.

Economists expect the monthly jobs report from the Labor Department, due Friday, to show that the unemployment rate in April was 15 percent or higher, a Depression-era level. The figure will almost certainly understate the damage.

ny times logoNew York Times, Government Orders Alone Didn’t Close the Economy. They Probably Can’t Reopen It, Emily Badger and Alicia Parlapiano, May 7, 2020. Data shows there was a drop in spending and working even before any official mandates to stay at home.

Trump Donor Now Controls Postal Service

louis dejoy Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Top Republican fundraiser and Trump ally named postmaster general, giving president new influence over Postal Service, Josh Dawsey, Lisa Rein and Jacob Bogage, May 7, 2020 (print ed.). postal service old logoA top donor to President Trump and the Republican National Committee will be named the new head of the Postal Service, putting a top ally of the president in charge of an agency where Trump has long pressed for major changes in how it handles its business.

The Postal Service’s board of governors confirmed late Wednesday that Louis DeJoy, above, a North Carolina businessman who is currently in charge of fundraising for the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, will serve as the new postmaster general.

rnc logoThe action will install a stalwart Trump ally to lead the Postal Service, which he has railed against for years, and probably move him closer than ever before to forcing the service to renegotiate its terms with companies and its own union workforce. Trump’s Treasury Department and the Postal Service are in the midst of a negotiation over a $10 billion line of credit approved as part of coronavirus legislation in March.

amazon logo smallThe confirmation came after The Washington Post asked for comment on the decision.

Trump has indicated he wants the Postal Service to dramatically raise fees for delivering packages for customers such as Amazon in exchange for tapping the line of credit. Trump has long argued that Amazon doesn’t pay the Postal Service enough, a charge the agency has fiercely contested. (Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, owns The Post.)

U.S. Vulnerable Virus Victims

ny times logoNew York Times, Push for Profits Left Nursing Homes Struggling to Provide Care, Matthew Goldstein, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Robert Gebeloff, May 7, 2020. Some with private equity owners, focused on making money, were particularly ill equipped and understaffed to handle Covid-19.

washington post logoWashington Post, Disproportionately black counties account for majority of U.S. coronavirus cases and deaths, study finds, Vanessa Williams, May 7, 2020. The study by an AIDS research foundation warns that reopening the nation’s economy too soon could put black Americans at greater risk of contracting the novel coronavirus and dying of covid-19.

Black people make up a disproportionate share of the population in 22 percent of U.S. counties, and those localities account for more than half of coronavirus cases and nearly 60 percent of deaths, a national study by an AIDS research group found.

The study also found that socioeconomic factors such as employment status and access to health care were better predictors of infection and death rates than underlying health conditions.

Gregorio Millett, vice president of Amfar, the Foundation for Aids Research, said the findings suggest that black people will be more vulnerable to the pandemic as states begin to reopen businesses and public spaces.

“It’s clear that there’s a disproportionate impact of covid-19 diagnoses and deaths among African Americans,” Millett said, adding that the authors of the study released it early in the hope of influencing policy decisions about reopening businesses. “All of my colleagues fear that with these policies to open up communities, that the brunt of the covid-19 epidemic is not going to be borne equally on all communities, that we will likely see greater covid-19 deaths as well as cases in African American communities.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Hispanics are almost twice as likely as whites to have lost their jobs amid pandemic, poll finds, Tracy Jan and Scott Clement, May 7, 2020. Black Americans also more likely to be laid off or furloughed since economic shutdowns. 

A Washington Post-Ipsos poll found that Hispanics and blacks are more likely than whites to lose their jobs during the economic shutdowns, deepening the divide in how different racial and ethnic groups are experiencing the crisis.

The poll finds that 20 percent of Hispanic adults and 16 percent of blacks report being laid off or furloughed since the outbreak began in the United States, compared with 11 percent of whites and 12 percent of workers of other races.

Blacks and Hispanics are also dying of covid-19 at higher rates than whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Harvard study tying coronavirus death rates to pollution is causing an uproar in Washington, Dino Grandoni, May 7, 2020. Agency regulators, oil lobbyists, members of Congress and presidential candidates are using the preliminary research to advance their own political priorities — well before it has a chance to be peer-reviewed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wisconsin chief justice sparks backlash by saying covid-19 outbreak is among meatpacking workers, not ‘the regular folks,’ Meagan Flynn, May 7, 2020. The offhand comment by Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack was about to take on a life of its own.

In the middle of oral arguments Tuesday about the legality of the state’s stay-at-home order, an attorney for Gov. Tony Evers (D) had just pointed to tony evers oBrown County, Wis., as an example of how fast the novel coronavirus can spread. The county, home to the JBS Packerland meatpacking plant, had its coronavirus cases surge more than tenfold, from about 60 cases to almost 800, in just two weeks, the lawyer said.

patience roggensackThat’s when Roggensack, right, interjected.

“These were due to the meatpacking, though,” she said. “That’s where Brown County got the flare. It wasn’t just the regular folks in Brown County.”

As one Wisconsin native questioned on Twitter: “What kind of folks are they then?”

Roggensack’s statement, appearing to draw a line between meatpacking workers and “regular folks,” caused an uproar among local workers’ advocates as well as some lawmakers. Some described the statement as “elitist,” appearing to exclude the meatpacking workers from the “regular” community. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he was “shocked” by her comments, while state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D) said it was “embarrassing” for the state that a high court justice would make such a “classist” remark.

Melanie Bartholf, the union’s political director, said in the video that she wanted to start by pointing out the obvious: “Regular folks work in meatpacking plants.” They’re in fact so regular, she said, that the state’s NFL football team, the Green Bay Packers, is named for them. By distinguishing the workers from the rest of Brown County, she said, Roggensack’s comments are “representative of a troubling elitist mentality that likes to pit workers against the community as a whole, when in fact, workers are the community.”

washington post logoWashington Post, As Iowa reopens, workers forced to choose between a paycheck and their health, Staff report, May 7, 2020. “I can’t believe this is a choice I have to make.” Terrie Neider loves to be around people. “I’m chatty,” she said. “Customer service is my thing. It’s what I’m good at.”

So when she was looking to supplement her monthly Social Security check, the 64-year-old took a part-time job at the Casey’s General Store here off the main strip in this rural southeastern Iowa town. She worked three shifts, about 24 hours a week, running the cash register and occasionally making pizza, earning just enough to make ends meet.

It was perfect — until early March when Neider became increasingly alarmed by news reports documenting the spread of the novel coronavirus. A former smoker with high blood pressure and an allergy to mold, she was diagnosed last summer with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which made her more vulnerable to colds and other respiratory ailments.

At the time, the virus and its disease, covid-19, had not yet been widely documented in Iowa, and Neider said her doctor was reluctant to write a note excusing her from work. When she asked if she could take an unpaid absence, her request was denied, but she was furloughed a few days later. Because she was laid off, she qualified for unemployment: $137 a week, after taxes.

kim reynolds 2018 CustomLast week, Iowa joined a growing number of states that have started to reopen amid the pandemic. Although there was never an official statewide stay-at-home order, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), right, lifted restrictions in 77 of the state’s 99 counties, allowing restaurants, gyms, churches and other businesses to open at limited capacity, even as covid-19 cases around the state continue to rise.

On Wednesday, Reynolds signed a public health order allowing the partial reopening of businesses beginning Friday in state’s 22 remaining counties, including retail stores and enclosed shopping malls, as long as they operate at 50 percent capacity. The order covers some of the largest population centers in the state, including Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.

U.S. Crime, Courts

djt robert mueller headshots

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration asks Supreme Court to stop release of Mueller material, Ann E. Marimow and Robert Barnes, May 7, 2020. The D.C. Circuit had said secret grand jury testimony should be given to Congress. The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block a ruling that requires the Justice Department to give Congress certain secret grand jury material from the investigation conducted by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in March cleared the way for Congress to access secret evidence from Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election in one of a set of separation-of-powers lawsuits between House Democrats and the Trump administration.

Justice Department must disclose secret Mueller grand jury evidence to Congress, appeals court finds

Solicitor General Noel Francisco told the Supreme Court on Thursday that if it does not put the order on hold, “the government will have to disclose those materials on May 11, 2020, which would irrevocably lift their secrecy and possibly frustrate the government’s ability to seek further review.”

michael flynn djt

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. moves to drop case against Michael Flynn, former Trump adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, May 7, 2020. The Justice Department moved Thursday to drop charges against former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts during the presidential transition.

The unraveling of Flynn’s guilty plea marked a stunning reversal by the Justice Department in the case of the former three-star Army general, who Justice Department log circularwas convicted in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

In court documents filed Thursday, the Justice Department said “after a considered review of all the facts and circumstances of this case, including newly discovered and disclosed information… the government has concluded that [Flynn’s interview by the FBI] was untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn” and that the interview on January 24, 2017 was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.”

Flynn was one of the first and highest-ranking Trump aides to cooperate and be convicted in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He pleaded guilty in December 2017 to making false statements about his Russian contacts during the Trump presidential transition.

However his case became one of the most bitterly contested after Mueller’s probe ended in March 2019. Flynn’s new defense lawyers began moving to void his conviction, alleging he was the victim of a partisan conspiracy by prosecutors, federal investigators and even his initial attorneys. His new defense team also alleged he was insufficiently represented by one of Washington’s most prominent law firms, Covington & Burling, when he entered his guilty plea.

william barr new oAttorney general William P. Barr, right, in January directed U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen of St. Louis to review the case’s handling by the federal prosecutor’s office in Washington, which took over Mueller cases last year, and Jensen made the final recommendation.

Palmer Report, All hell breaks loose in Michael Flynn case – and this may not go the way Trump and Bill Barr are hoping, Bill Palmer, May 7, 2020. For the past year or so, Attorney General Bill Barr has largely been pretending to make the moves that Donald Trump wanted. For instance, Barr leaked to the media that he was criminally indicting Trump’s nemesis Andrew McCabe, but ultimately had to admit there wasn’t even a case. Now that Trump desperately needs a win – or at least whatever a “win” looks like in his collapsing mind – Barr’s hand has finally been forced.

bill palmer report logo headerBill Barr forced the Department of Justice to drop the criminal case against Michael Flynn today. This is despite the fact that Flynn has already pleaded guilty and was about to be sentenced to prison. This is a stunning instance of obstruction of justice on Barr’s part, and it puts him firmly on the hot seat. The lead prosecutor in the Flynn case, Brandon Van Grack, has now withdrawn from the case in apparent protest. It’s not yet clear what the judge in the case will do, but he’s previously shown that he has zero tolerance for these kinds of things.

One thing is clear: if Bill Barr wasn’t already earmarked for prison before this, it’s now a guarantee that he’ll spend much or all of the rest of his life in prison once Trump is gone from office. It also seems likely that once Trump and Barr are gone, the DOJ will simply bring back the case against Flynn. But for now, Barr has bet his life on the hope that Trump either wins the election or pardons him on his way out the door.

bridget kelly bill baroni

washington post logoWashington Post, High court overturns ‘Bridgegate’ convictions that had ensnared Christie allies, Robert Barnes, May 7, 2020. Supreme Court justices said unanimously that the federal government went too far in prosecuting allies of former New Jersey governor Chris Christie for retaliating against political rivals.

A unanimous Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the convictions of two of former New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s political allies in the “Bridgegate” case, saying the federal government went too far in prosecuting them for retaliating against political rivals.

chris christie press 200The former allies, Bridget Kelly and William E. Baroni Jr., took part in a 2013 plot to back up traffic on the George Washington Bridge, the nation’s busiest, as retaliation against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, N.J. for not endorsing Republican Christie’s reelection bid.

The plan worked but revelation of it backfired. It was costly to Christie’s subsequent presidential campaign, and created lasting animosities.

President Trump tweeted that the decision was a “complete and total exoneration” of Christie, right, and his former associates on “the Obama DOJ Scam referred to as “Bridgegate.”

In fact, Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the court, was unsparing in her criticism of the scheme.

But she said the goal of Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, and Baroni, formerly deputy excutive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was not to secure money or property, which is what the federal statute requires.

washington post logoWashington Post, Father and son charged in the killing of black Georgia jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, after footage sparked outrage, Michael Brice-Saddler, Colby Itkowitz and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., May 7, 2020. The young black man was killed in February while jogging in a residential neighborhood in Brunswick, Ga. Video of his brief interaction with at least two men who confronted him, seconds before the gunshots, was released on social media this week.

A Georgia father and son were charged with murder and aggravated assault Thursday evening in the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery after a newly released video appearing to show the moments before his death intensified pressure on authorities to make the arrests.

The charges against the men — Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34 — come more than two months after Arbery was killed. Two local district attorneys recused themselves from the case before the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was brought in. The agency made the arrests the day after its investigation began.

The video shows two men approach a young black man jogging on the street. After a brief interaction, gunshots can be heard and the jogger stumbles to the ground. The footage ignited outrage across the political spectrum, with former vice president Joe Biden comparing it to a lynching and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) calling the shooting “absolutely horrific.”

According to a police report, Gregory McMichael, a retired police detective, saw Arbery jogging and believed he looked like a suspect in break-ins in the neighborhood. A local news report found only one burglary was reported to police between Jan. 1 and Feb. 23.

McMichael called his son and they armed themselves with a handgun and shotgun, respectively, according to the police report. They chased Arbery in a truck, according to the report, and McMichael told police that he shouted to Arbery, “Stop, stop, we want to talk to you,” before, according to their statements, they pulled up beside him in their truck.

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Val Demings is the coalition pick for vice president, David Byler, May 7, 2020. This is part of a series where I make the val demings o Custombest possible case for various vice-presidential contenders. Previous entries in the series can be found here.

Every presidential nominee must craft a coherent message while leading a coalition that is wide-ranging to the point of incoherence. Barack Obama’s “Hope and Change” message worked at high-dollar fundraisers, Midwestern union halls, African democratic donkey logoAmerican churches and big arena rallies. Bill Clinton’s “New Democrat” pitch resonated with voters in Appalachia, New England, the West Coast and the outer South. But this is a hard task, one that nominees like John F. Kerry haven’t been able to pull off.

Joe Biden isn’t a once-in-a-generation talent like Obama, though he’s not quite as bland as Kerry. So if he’s going to stick the landing on this very strange election season, he’ll need some help.

That’s why he should pick Florida Rep. Val Demings,right, as his running mate: She can reinforce Biden’s strengths while helping him better represent the party as a whole.

On a biographical level, Demings is a great fit for the Biden campaign. As the child of a maid and a janitor and as a first-generation college student, she’d bolster Biden’s appeal as a working-class Democrat. Her background as a police chief might also resonate with some of the blue-collar former Democrats who have drifted toward the GOP in recent years.

As an African American woman, she’d balance out the ticket demographically and would personally represent the party’s most loyal bloc of voters. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s from Florida, one of the key swing states.

joe biden 2020 button CustomBiden wants to argue that Trump is an aberration — that he’s uniquely corrupt, incompetent and unempathetic. Demings has more practice advancing the “corrupt” part of that argument than almost anyone: She was one of the managers of Trump’s impeachment in the House.

She’d also mesh well with Biden on major policy issues. According to data-driven measures, Demings is right in the middle of the House Democratic Caucus — like Biden, she sits between the progressive firebrands in the Squad and moderates like Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb. Demings could help lead major legislative pushes in a Biden administration without appearing to be compromising her core principles to serve on a ticket with him.

Demings could also help Biden find a way forward on issues of race and criminal justice, an area where his record has been somewhat contentious. Poll after poll shows that race relations deteriorated after the police shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, and the numbers have never really recovered.

At some point in his presidency, Biden will feel the pressure to do something on race, policing and criminal justice because of how important these issues are to core Democratic constituencies. And as an old white man who pushed the 1994 crime bill, he’s going to need help to sell whatever proposal he advances to both progressive and moderate voters. As a relatively moderate African American former police chief, Demings could steer him through these thorny areas and craft the sort of liberal-but-not-fully-progressive policy that Biden would actually want to push.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Stacey Abrams should be taken out of the veepstakes, Henry Olsen, May 7, 2020. Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams became a national progressive icon in 2018 after narrowly losing her gubernatorial bid in that historically conservative state. Her open campaign to become former vice president Joe Biden’s running mate, however, shows that faith in her is sorely misplaced.

stacey abrams 2018 Custom 2Abrams, right, has not been shy about seeking the job. Unlike other rumored contenders, she comes right out and says she’d make an excellent running mate. Nor is she shy about saying what she thinks she’d bring to the ticket: campaigning skills among minority communities, a history of public service and “25 years in independent study of foreign policy.” Surely, Biden must be honored that someone so distinguished and talented would find his campaign so attractive.

But look closer: Abrams has never held any federal office, nor has she ever been a mayor or governor. She was the Democratic state House minority leader, but that simply means she rallied the opposition party to oppose Republican initiatives. She simply has never had the experience at any substantial level of proposing serious initiatives that have a chance of becoming law or democratic donkey logoimplementing policies.

Biden’s own criteria for the vice presidency clearly rule out someone with Abrams’s personality and experience. He has repeatedly said that the person he chooses must be able to step into the presidency on Day One, a clear recognition that his advanced age means voters know the vice president could easily have to become president if Biden’s health deteriorates. Only the most blinkered ideologue can say Abrams meets that measure. Biden has also said he needs to be personally and philosophically “simpatico” with his No. 2. Abrams’s pugnacious persona is miles apart from Biden’s.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate committee advances nomination of FEC commissioner, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, May 7, 2020. The nomination of conservative Texas lawyer James E. “Trey” Trainor III had been in limbo amid questions over his social media postings and a standstill among Senate leaders on the logistics of appointing commissioners.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, husband Jerry Sprecher, president of the New York Stock Exchange, and Vice President Mike Pence

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, husband Jerry Sprecher, president of the New York Stock Exchange, and Vice President Mike Pence

Palmer Report, Opinion: GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler hits the panic button as she falls severely behind in reelection bid, Bill Palmer, May 7, 2020. When the Republican Governor of Georgia appointed Kelly Loeffler to fill a U.S. Senate seat as a political favor, it was never clear if she’d be able to survive the special election she’d end up facing. Even setting aside what will be a tough general election race against a Democrat in what could be another blue wave, she has a tough Republican primary challenge against Trump stooge Doug Collins.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen it was revealed that Kelly Loeffler, below right, was one of a handful of Republican Senators who dumped their stocks after a private congressional briefing about the extent of the coronavirus crisis, her poll numbers against Collins nosedived. Earlier this kelly loeffler o Customweek it was reported that internal polls showed Loeffler being a stunning 44 points behind Collins in the primary race. Now she’s hitting the panic button.

Loeffler is now recusing herself from a Senate subcommittee on “commodities, risk management and trade” in a last ditch effort to show voters in Georgia that, no really, she’s honest after all. Spoiler alert: this won’t work. Loeffler has five weeks to somehow turn this around and make up a 44 point deficit, or else Doug Collins will be the Republican nominee, and Loeffler’s Senate career will end just months after it began.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump went ballistic at me on Twitter. Here’s why he reacts with such rage, George T. Conway III, right, May 7, 2020. 
george conway postAmericans died from covid-19 at the rate of about one every 42 seconds during the past month. That ought to keep any president awake at night.

Not Donald Trump.

Just days ago, the president flipped out at a detailed New York Times article that described how he watches television at all hours, obsessed about how he’s covered in the news. As though to prove the story’s thesis, Trump rage-tweeted that it was a “phony story” and that the media would say “Anything to demean!”

And then, as though to prove the point again, at 12:46 a.m. on Tuesday, Trump went ballistic on Twitter — at me.

In a four-tweet screed, he attacked me and my colleagues at the Lincoln Project as “LOSERS,” “loser types,” “crazed” and “a disgrace to Honest Abe.” About me, he said, “I don’t know what Kellyanne did to her deranged loser of a husband, Moonface, but it must have been really bad.” Ten hours later, on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews, Trump was still enraged, ranting about us for nearly two minutes in front of the media.

What triggered his ire was a 60-second online ad we released Monday. Entitled “Mourning in America,” it’s an inversion of President Ronald Reagan’s famous 1984 reelection campaign ad, “Morning in America.” Reagan’s ad took credit for the resurgence of the American economy. Our ad puts the blame for the government’s failures in responding to covid-19 right where it belongs — on Trump. He dithered for 10 weeks, from January to mid-March, misleading the public about the severity of the crisis, pretending that the virus would never take hold here. History will record that each day of delay cost American lives.

Trump’s narcissism deadens any ability he might otherwise have had to carry out the duties of a president in the manner the Constitution requires. He’s so self-obsessed, he can only act for himself, not for the nation. It’s why he was impeached, and why he should have been removed from office.

And it’s why he reacts with such rage. He fears the truth. He fears being revealed for what he truly is. But the jig is up.

Washington Post, Smartphone data shows out-of-state visitors flocked to Georgia as businesses reopened, Katherine Shaver, May 7, 2020. Researchers say the data shows the potential perils of reopening states piecemeal.

World News

Roll Call, Senate unable to override Trump veto of Iran war powers, Chris Cioffi, May 7, 2020. The measure did not make it to Trump’s desk until Tuesday even though it passed the House in March. The Senate was unable to muster the two-thirds vote needed to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a bipartisan resolution rebuking his Iran policy.

us senate logoThe measure to terminate authority for engaging in hostilities against Iran or Iranian government officials championed by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., cleared the Senate in February and House in March. The measure did not make it to Trump’s desk until Tuesday, because the chambers did not send it over amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump’s veto occurred Wednesday and was accompanied by a statement from the president, who called it “insulting” and suggested the resolution was part of a Democratic strategy to divide the GOP in the November election run-up.

“The few Republicans who voted for it played right into their hands,” Trump said.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, joined Kaine in leading the resolution, which only required a simple majority under authorities outlined in the 1973 War Powers Act. It passed the Senate 55-45 on Feb. 13, with eight Republicans joining Democrats. Thursday’s veto override tally was 49-44.

Ahead of the vote, Kaine rebuked the president’s veto message on a call with reporters.

“He’s not worried about war. He’s worried about himself and his reelection, and so he can only look at this important constitutional matter — and there isn’t a more important one than war and peace — through the lens of Donald Trump and my own reelection,” Kaine said Thursday afternoon.

washington post logoWashington Post, Maduro presents video confession by captured American, Karen DeYoung, May 7, 2020 (print ed.). A captured American citizen, appearing in a video broadcast on Venezuelan television Wednesday, said he helped train and accompanied a small force that attempted to invade the country by sea this past weekend.

The video of Luke Denman, a former U.S. Special Forces soldier, was shown during a lengthy news conference held by Venezuelan President nicolas maduro customNicolás Maduro, right.

Denman appeared weary but spoke calmly in English in response to queries from an unseen questioner, and it was not possible to determine whether he was under direct duress.

Although few Venezuelans were likely to have seen Maduro’s presentation, which took place during an electricity outage, he attempted to ratchet up the tension with the United States by saying it was impossible to believe that President Trump had known nothing about the failed operation.

Senior Trump administration officials Wednesday repeated strong denials that they supported or were even aware of the plan. “There was no United States government direct involvement,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a news conference.

Administration policy includes efforts to turn Venezuelan security forces against Maduro, and Trump has repeatedly said that “all options are on the table” to force him to step aside.

But Pompeo and others likened the failed effort to a farce and said that U.S. government participation would have ensured success.

“If this were indeed a U.S.-led capture operation, as Maduro alleges, he would be undergoing arraignment in the Southern District of New York this week,” said one senior official, who dismissed Maduro’s allegations as “almost comical.”

The official described the self-proclaimed organizer of the operation, Florida security company head Jordan Goudreau, as a “con artist” who was not to be believed. Goudreau’s decision to proceed with the plan, after it was likely that Venezuelan security was aware of it, was “mind-boggling,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to expand on publicly released statements.

Related stories below:

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: The Trump gang that couldn’t shoot straight, Wayne Madsen (left, former Navy Intelligence Officer, NSA analyst and wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallauthor of 18 books), May 7, 2020. Chalk up another debacle to the Trump administration.

wayne madesen report logoAn attempt to collect on a Trump administration $15 million bounty on the head of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro turned into a failed attempt by a group of Venezuelan exiles and ex-U.S. Green Beret soldiers to kidnap Maduro and transport him to the United States to stand trial on flimsy U.S. charges of drug trafficking.

Daily Mail, US Special Forces hostage Luke Denman, 34, is paraded on Venezuelan TV, admits to plot to capture Maduro and holds up coup contract, as Pompeo denies US involvement and says if he’d been ‘directly’ involved it would have ‘gone differently,’ Frances Mulraney and Adry Torres, Updated May 7, 2020.

A former U.S. special force soldier arrested in Venezuela was paraded on Venezuelan TV Wednesday as he ‘admitted to a plot to capture President Nicolas Maduro’.

Luke Denman, 34, was arrested Monday alongside fellow American Airan Berry, 41, and six Venezuelan mercenaries as part of the foiled coup that he said was commanded by President Donald Trump through an ex-Green Beret named Jordan Goudreau, 43.

‘The only instructions I received from Jordan were that I should make sure to take control of the airport for safe passage transfer of Maduro and receiving airplanes,’ Denman said.

‘Take Maduro back to the United States’.

In the broadcast, Denman also holds up a document that he says is the contract with Goudreau’s company Silvercorp (with personnel shown in a photo below via Instagram) outlining his job for the mission. He states that it is signed by Goudreau, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, as well as his advisor Juan Rendón.

It came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ridiculed the idea of official government involvement Wednesday, saying: ‘There was no U.S. government direct involvement in this operation.

‘(If) we’d have been involved, it would have gone differently.’

Asked who may have bankrolled the operation, Pompeo said: ‘We’re not prepared to share any more information about what we know took place.’

silvercorp usa instagram Custom

CounterPunch, Opinion: US Wants Release of Two Special Forces Vets Who Led Failed Coup Attempt in Venezuela, Dave Lindorff, May 7, 2020. Imperial overreach was on full display this week as the US government demanded that a pair of US citizens — former Special Forces soldiers leading a 60-man invasion of Venezuela with the goal of fomenting a coup and/or capturing or killing that country’s elected president — be released from arrest and returned to the US.

Bad enough that the US almost certainly knew in advance about this invasion which involved multiple simultaneous border crossings and beach landings by mercenary forces, many of them reportedly sketchy former Venezuelan soldiers involved in the drug trade, who were on a payroll as soldiers-for-hire. But how about the gall to also claim that when the effort fails, the intended victim of the coup, Venezuela, has no legitimate right to punish the perpetrators, but must release them to their home country, the US — a country that has for years been trying to oust Venezuela’s elected government?

This story, to the extent that it gets any play here, is being presented in much of the US media as all about the safety of those two US mercenaries, although AP reporter Joshua Goodman has written an excellent investigative report suggesting that the coup attempt was a really half-assed operation doomed to failure from the start by hubris and incompetence on the part of its planners.

But let’s just for a moment turn the situation around: Imagine if you will how the US government would react, and how the American public would respond, if a group of heavily armed mercenaries funded by some foreign power — say Venezuela for the sake of argument — were caught trying to invade US shores to foment a coup and perhaps capture or kill the US president?

I’m certain that there would be immediate calls from Congress for an attack on the home country of those mercenaries — likely the launching of a bunch of Tomahawk missiles and a few airstrikes on military bases, etc. There would be demonstrations in the streets by Americans clamoring for more serious consequences.

#MeToo Claim Debunked

Diana Andrade and Jacob Wohl (Andrade photo via Reason.com)

Diana Andrade and Jacob Wohl (Andrade photo via Reason.com)

Reason, She Said Anthony Fauci Sexually Assaulted Her. Now She Says Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman Paid Her to Lie, Nancy Rommelmann, May 7, 2020. After failing to frame Robert Mueller, Elizabeth Warren, and others for sexual misconduct, the infamous Trumpster hoaxers tried to go after Fauci. But the woman they hired to play the victim had second thoughts.

I’d just finished Saturday morning’s second cup of coffee when an email popped through, subject line: “Exposing Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman.”

“Hi Nancy, I hope you are having a nice weekend. I feel very bad about lying to you and others about Dr. Fauci. I took it upon myself to call Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman and record them (see attached)… Many thanks and again, I feel very bad about all this. I apologize to you, the other reporters and Dr. Fauci.”

The writer of the email identified herself as Diana Andrade. I had never before emailed with Andrade, but had spoken with her 10 days earlier, when I knew her as “Diana Rodriguez.” At that time, Rodriguez alleged that when she was 20 years old, in 2014, she’d been sexually assaulted by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the most visible faces in the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the exploits of Wohl and Burkman, they are pro-Trump provocateurs who’ve found a niche drumming up fake sexual harassment allegations that end comically badly, including against former FBI Director Robert Mueller (who turned out to have been serving jury duty the day he was supposed to have committed the assault) and Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (the press conference for which took place on Burkman’s stoop, and whose supposed victim was a 24-year-old Marine).

Being on the receiving end of an allegation of sexual misconduct is now a rite of political passage — a perverse sign you’ve made it.

Fauci’s star rose in March as he appeared at COVID-19 briefings day after day, outshining President Donald Trump and occasionally knocking the president’s pronouncements out of the headlines. Here, then, was an opportunity for Wohl and Burkman to take down the newest of Trump’s perceived enemies, to maybe become favorites in Trump’s actual orbit. On the chance it would cause their own star to rise, they would move Fauci toward irrelevancy, if not infamy.

The rollout of their latest smear job was a fiasco, a series of “media alerts” announcing press conferences with no start times, never mind that neither the public relations contact nor the company she worked for appeared to exist, and a “statement” from Rodriguez so breathless it seemed intended to steam up the windows. (Not for nothing, Sally Quinn recently confessed she based a thinly veiled D.C. heartthrob in her 1991 bestseller “Happy Endings” on Fauci, so Wohl and Burkman aren’t the first to write this particular fan fiction.)

“He looked rich and powerful, and I love smart men with grey hair. He told me all about his fantastic career in medicine, so I went upstairs,” Rodriguez wrote of her fictional meeting with Fauci at the bar of the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C. After detailing some ineffective hotel bed wrestling and managing to flee with her honor intact, Rodriguez closed with the statement, “Now, when I see him on TV touted as some kind of hero, I want the nation to know the truth. This is my truth. This is my story.”

It was all in a league of its own weirdness, a collision of Harlequin romance and #MeToo. Nevertheless, several journalists called into a conference call to hear Rodriguez’s story. We were treated, instead, to Wohl and Burkman on the line, stating they’d on the fly been invited to represent Rodriguez, who haltingly told a story that varied significantly from the media alert and, when questioned for clarification, was talked over by Wohl.

“People come forward against figures that are considered media darlings with very credible allegations and are attacked by the media,” he told us. “And you see the same sort of victim-blaming here.”

With the exception of The Daily Dot, which covered the claim only to debunk it, no outlet touched the story. There was no there there, and while it might’ve been instructive to show readers how the rancid sausage is made, did we want to give these charlatans more sunshine, especially in light of Fauci leading the battle against a deadly pandemic?

And that would have been that — until Saturday’s email, which included Andrade telling me, “The reality is that I’ve known Jacob since 2018 and that he charmed me into taking money to do this (see attached picture of us together),” taken when they were romantically involved. Also, that Wohl and Burkman “had me do something like this…back in January….”

Virus U.S. Business Impacts

ny times logoNew York Times, Neiman Marcus was forced to close its 43 stores across the country because of the pandemic, Vanessa Friedman and Sapna Maheshwari, May 7, 2020. The high-end retailer is not liquidating, and expects to emerge from restructuring later this year.

Neiman Marcus Group on Thursday became the first major department store group to file for bankruptcy protection during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a stunning fall that follows the collapse of Barneys New York late last year and comes as shadows gather over chains like Lord & Taylor and J.C. Penney.

In a statement, the company said it received $675 million in financing from creditors to keep running the business, as well as $750 million it hopes will help it get out of bankruptcy by “early fall.” The creditors will become majority owners of the company, and Neiman Marcus expects to eliminate $4 billion in debt.

The company filed for Chapter 11 restructuring in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas. MyTheresa.com, the luxury retailer that Neiman Marcus Group bought in 2014 and later transferred to a separate entity, is not included in the filing.

May 6

Pandemic Victims, Jobs

DC Scandal Claims

Trump Spending Oversight

Pandemic Politics, Relief

 World News

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

Pandemic Victims, Jobs

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Forecasts Predict E.U.’s Worst Depression Ever, Staff reports, May 6, 2020. A deep recession and ballooning unemployment in Europe have darkened the global economic picture. The European Union’s economy is set to contract 7.4 percent this year. Jared Kushner’s volunteer brigade complicated the hunt for medical supplies. President Trump, reversing earlier comments, said that the coronavirus task force “will continue on indefinitely.”

european union logo rectangleThe European Union’s economy is set to shrink by 7.4 percent this year, investment is expected to collapse and unemployment rates, debts and deficits will balloon in the brutal aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

To put those figures in perspective, the European Union’s economy had been predicted to grow by 1.2 percent this year, and in its worst recession, in 2009 during the financial crisis, its economy shrank by 4.5 percent.

Predicting the breadth of a recession can be a moving target, acknowledged the commission, the bloc’s executive arm, and things could end up being much worse.

Separately, President Trump, touring a factory in Arizona hastily converted to make millions of masks but choosing not to wear a mask himself, made it clear on Tuesday night that he was determined to push to reopen the economy even while acknowledging that may mean more people die.

“Will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon,” Mr. Trump said.

It was the culmination of a day that seemed to lay bare the disjointed and chaotic national response to the crisis, even as the virus continued to spread out of control in hot spots across the country.

A federal scientist filed a formal whistle-blower complaint, claiming that administration officials pressured him to steer millions of dollars in contracts to the clients of a well-connected consultant. The whistle blower, Rick Bright, who was director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority until his removal in April, said he had been protesting “cronyism” and contract abuse since 2017.

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump stooge Kayleigh McEnany walks out of her own press conference after getting question she doesn’t like, Bill Palmer, May 6, 2020. Donald Trump didn’t bother to hold a press briefing today, even as he fails to make up his mind whether he has or hasn’t gotten rid of the coronavirus task force. Instead he sent White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany to the podium to lie for him. Let’s just say that it didn’t go well.

bill palmer report logo headerNot too long ago, Kayleigh McEnany said coronavirus wouldn’t come to the United States. Seventy thousand dead Americans later, she’s turned out to have been very wrong. She was asked about it today, and after she tried and failed to deflect the question, she bolted:

 Yamiche Alcindor

@Yamiche

Q from @jeffmason1: Do you want to take back saying that, “Pres Trump will not allow the coronavirus to come to this country”?

WH Press Sec doesn’t answer Q directly, reads a list of headlines about the coronavirus & asks if media wants to take those back & then leaves.

washington post logoWashington Post, Officials on alert after children fall ill with mysterious syndrome thought to be tied to covid-19, Ariana Eunjung Cha and Chelsea Janes, May 6, 2020. The number of affected children is relatively very small, and most have responded well to treatment, but the strange nature of the cases, mostly in previously healthy children, has caused concern. The cases appeared to have some characteristics of an illness known as Kawasaki disease.

washington post logoWashington Post, A N.Y. woman went $600,000 in debt to buy protective equipment for workers — and hospitals keep turning her down, Jada Yuan, May 6, 2020. Just as she had done after 9/11, Rhonda Roland Shearer is again distributing supplies in an effort she’d mobilized herself ­— having once again leveraged a substantial line of credit to do so.

CNBC, Lincoln Project has its biggest day of fundraising after president attacks ‘Never Trump’ group, Brian Schwartz, May 6 2020. The Lincoln Project, which is run by Republican operatives who oppose President Donald Trump, raised $1 million after the president ripped the group on Twitter this week – marking it the super PAC’s biggest day of fundraising yet.

republican elephant logoReed Galen, a member of the Lincoln Project’s advisory committee, told CNBC that the total came after the president’s Tuesday morning Twitter tirade in reaction to an ad titled “Mourning in America,” which unloads on Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. It recently aired on Fox News, which Trump often watches and praises. Galen said it was the Lincoln Project’s best single-day fundraising haul

“A group of RINO Republicans who failed badly 12 years ago, then again 8 years ago, and then got BADLY beaten by me, a political first timer, 4 years ago, have copied (no imagination) the concept of an ad from Ronald Reagan, ‘Morning in America,’” the president said just before 1:00 a.m. ET on Tuesday.

Trump fired off another tweet later in day, suggesting the Lincoln Project was a scam PAC. The organization is run by longtime Republican and independent political advisors, such as Steve Schmidt, John Weaver, Rick Wilson, Jennifer Horn and George Conway, husband of senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway.

The Lincoln Project’s big fundraising day in the wake of Trump’s tweets could be the financial boost it needs to keep pumping out more anti-Trump ads. It finished the first quarter raising $1.9 million and has just more than $1.2 million on hand. Their top donors include Walmart heir Christy Walton and Silicon Valley executive Ron Conway, records show.

Galen noted that the same ad that riled up Trump has continued to air on cable markets around Washington, D.C., and will be seen next week in key battleground states.

The group recently put out an ad in support of Joe Biden, the apparent Democratic nominee for president. That ad has aired in Wisconsin and Michigan.

washington post logoWashington Post, Researchers hypothesize that a highly contagious strain of virus is spreading, but other experts remain skeptical, Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach, May 6, 2020 (print ed.). Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory described a mutation “increasing in frequency at an alarming rate.”

A research paper from scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, not yet peer-reviewed, reports that one strain of the novel coronavirus has emerged in Europe and become dominant around the planet, leading the researchers to believe the virus has mutated to become more contagious.

The bold hypothesis, however, was immediately met with skepticism by many infectious-disease experts, and there is no scientific consensus that any of the innumerable mutations in the virus so far have changed the general contagiousness or lethality of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The Los Alamos scientists, led by computational biologist Bette Korber and working in conjunction with researchers at Duke University and the University of Sheffield in England, examined a global database of strains of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease. According to their analysis, one strain featuring a mutation dubbed Spike D614G quickly out-competed other strains after it appeared in Europe.

DC Scandal Claims

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Whistle-Blower Says Trump Administration Steered Contracts to Cronies, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, May 6, 2020 (print ed.). Rick Bright, the ousted chief of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency, said he was pressured to steer millions of dollars to the clients of a well-connected consultant.

A federal scientist who says he was ousted from his job amid a dispute over an unproven coronavirus treatment pushed by President Trump said Tuesday that top administration officials repeatedly pressured him to steer millions of dollars in contracts to the clients of a well-connected consultant.

rick brightRick Bright, who was director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority until his removal in April, said in a formal whistle-blower complaint that he had been protesting “cronyism” and contract abuse since 2017.

Questionable contracts have gone to “companies with political connections to the administration,” the complaint said, including a drug company tied to a friend of Jared Kushner’s, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. It said Dr. Bright was retaliated against by his superiors, who pushed him out because of “his efforts to prioritize science and safety over political expediency.”

The 89-page complaint, filed with the Office of Special Counsel, which protects federal whistle-blowers, also said Dr. Bright “encountered opposition” from department superiors — including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II — when he pushed as early as January for the necessary resources to develop drugs and vaccines to counter the emerging coronavirus pandemic.

us senate logoThe report provides a window into the inner workings of BARDA, a tiny agency created in 2006 as a response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It partners with industry in developing “medical countermeasures” that can be stockpiled by the federal government to combat biological or chemical attacks and pandemic threats.

BARDA has spent billions of dollars on contracts with dozens of different suppliers, including major pharmaceutical companies and smaller biotechnology firms.

Both allies and Dr. Bright say his nearly four-year tenure as the head of BARDA was marked by clashes with his superiors — especially Dr. Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary of health for preparedness and response — and tension with some industry executives. Dr. Bright conceded in the complaint that those clashes came to a head after he leaked information on the dispute over the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to a reporter from Reuters.

A lawyer for Dr. Bright, Debra Katz, said he felt a “moral obligation” to get the word out that the administration was pressing to stockpile an unproven and potentially dangerous coronavirus treatment, which was supplied by drugmakers in India and Pakistan and had not been certified by the Food and Drug Administration.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kushner virus effort said to be hampered by inexperienced volunteers, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Ashley Parker, May 6, 2020 (print ed.). One volunteer filed a complaint with the House Oversight Committee outlining chronic problems obtaining supplies for hospitals and other needs.

The coronavirus response being spearheaded by President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, left, has relied in part on volunteers from consulting and private equity firms with little expertise in the tasks to which they were assigned, exacerbating chronic Jared Kushnerproblems in obtaining supplies for hospitals and other needs, according to numerous government officials and a volunteer involved in the effort.

About two dozen employees from Boston Consulting Group, Insight, McKinsey and other firms have volunteered their time — some on paid vacation leave from their jobs and others without pay — to aid the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to administration officials and others familiar with the arrangement.

Although some of the volunteers have relevant backgrounds and experience, many others were poorly matched with the jobs they were assigned, including those given the task of securing personal protective equipment, or PPE, for hospitals nationwide, according to a complaint filed last month with the House Oversight Committee.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange

ny times logoNew York Times, Loeffler Got Lucrative Gift From Public Company en Route to the Senate, Nicholas Fandos and David Enrich, May 6, 2020.
The parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, which her husband runs, changed compensation terms to give Kelly Loeffler, a top executive, awards worth millions of dollars as she left for Congress.

When Kelly Loeffler accepted an appointment to be a United States senator from Georgia, she left behind a high-paying job as a senior executive at the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange. But on her way to Washington, her old employer gave her a lucrative parting gift.

Ms. Loeffler, who was appointed to the Senate in December and is now in a competitive race to hold her seat, appears to have received stock and other awards worth more than $9 million from the company, Intercontinental Exchange, according to a review of securities filings by The New York Times, Ms. Loeffler’s financial disclosure form and interviews with compensation and accounting experts. That was on top of her 2019 salary and bonus of about $3.5 million.

republican elephant logoThe additional compensation came in the form of shares, stock options and other instruments that Ms. Loeffler had previously been granted but was poised to forfeit by leaving the company. Intercontinental Exchange altered the terms of the awards, allowing her to keep them. The largest component — which the company had previously valued at about $7.8 million — was a stake in an Intercontinental Exchange subsidiary that Ms. Loeffler had been running.

“It looks, feels and has the sweet aroma of a pure windfall,” said Brian T. Foley, the managing director of Brian Foley & Company, an executive compensation consulting firm in White Plains, N.Y.

us senate logoThe generous dispensations are not illegal or against any congressional rule, but they are certain to feed questions about how the Senate’s newest and wealthiest member has handled her finances, an issue that has emerged as a potential risk in her campaign. They add an important asterisk to Ms. Loeffler’s frequent boasts that she sacrificed huge sums of money to serve her state. They are also notable in part because she is married to Intercontinental Exchange’s chief executive, Jeffrey C. Sprecher.

Ms. Loeffler’s allies defended the compensation package, saying there was nothing inappropriate in the arrangement.

“Kelly left millions in equity compensation behind to serve in public office to protect freedom, conservative values and economic opportunity for all Georgians,” said Stephen Lawson, a spokesman for Ms. Loeffler. “The obsession of the liberal media and career politicians with her success shows their bias against private sector opportunity in favor of big government.”

Josh King, a spokesman for Intercontinental Exchange, said the awards to Ms. Loeffler reflected what he said was her instrumental, long-term role at the company.

“We admire Kelly’s decision to serve her country in the U.S. Senate and did not want to discourage that willingness to serve,” Mr. King said in a statement.

It is not unusual for companies to dispense millions to departing executives. Exxon Mobil gave Rex W. Tillerson, its chief executive, compensation worth about $180 million when he left to become President Trump’s first secretary of state. Carlos M. Gutierrez received about $9 million from Kellogg when he left to become commerce secretary under President George W. Bush.

But for Ms. Loeffler, who was chosen by Georgia’s Republican governor to fill the seat vacated by Johnny Isakson after he retired because of health issues, the awards could carry more political peril. Both Representative Doug Collins, who is challenging her, and Democrats who are working to flip the seat blue have sought to weaponize Ms. Loeffler’s wealth to defeat her.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Inspector General Pick Vows Independence From the White House, Alan Rappeport, May 6, 2020 (print ed.). Brian D. Miller, the White House lawyer tapped to oversee the Treasury Department’s $500 billion bailout, said he would not be influenced by political pressure.

President Trump’s nominee to serve as the special inspector general for the Treasury Department’s $500 billion pandemic recovery fund vowed on Tuesday to be fair and impartial in his efforts to combat misuse of the bailout money, telling a Senate committee that he would resign if the White House pressured him to overlook wrongdoing.

During two hours of intense questioning at his confirmation hearing, Brian D. Miller, who currently serves as a White House lawyer, tried to defuse fears that he would not be independent enough for the prominent oversight role and to alleviate concerns among senators and watchdog groups that he put Mr. Trump’s interests ahead of those of American taxpayers.

us senate logo“I will be independent,” Mr. Miller said. “If the president removes me, he removes me. If I am unable to do my job, I will resign.”

Lawmakers created the inspector general role to oversee disbursement of the huge sums of money that the government is quickly rolling out the door to bail out corporations battered by the coronavirus crisis. Mr. Miller would be in charge of overseeing funds that are part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus package that Congress passed in March, including money that is being used to support the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending facilities, and loans and grants to airlines and other companies that are deemed critical to national security.

While there is broad agreement in Congress that oversight is needed, there is growing concern among some Democrats and watchdog groups that the inspector general could be constrained in what information is provided to Congress.

In a signing statement released hours after Mr. Trump signed the stimulus law in a televised ceremony in the Oval Office, the president suggested that he had the power to decide what information a newly created inspector general intended to monitor the funds could share with Congress.

Mr. Miller faced an array of questions about the statement, his role in the White House Counsel’s Office and Mr. Trump’s recent firings of inspectors general. In many cases Mr. Miller, who vowed to be transparent, offered evasive answers or said he could not discuss matters related to his work inside the White House.

“We cannot tolerate businesses and their workers suffering to protect the president, his family or their allies, because of corruption, misuse or favoritism,” said Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the top Democrat on the