The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former RNC chief Michael Steele says Trump isn't telling the truth on testing; Fed chair wants Congress to do more

The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former RNC chief Michael Steele says Trump isn't telling the truth on testing; Fed chair wants Congress to do more


> Senate GOP crafting rebuttal to Dem $3T package

> Leaders of National Governors Association urge Congress to help states 

> Cabin fever? Analysis shows more Americans on the move as states begin to reopen 

> Fed chairman concerned about prolonged recession, says more stimulus needed  

> DC extends stay-at-home order to June 8 

> Former RNC chair Michael Steele says Trump isn’t telling the truth on testing, calls for every American to have unfettered access to ballot box this November


With not much news out of the White House, Congress is back in the spotlight, expected to take more action to assuage the devastating impact of the pandemic on the U.S. economy. 


Bipartisan cooperation will be needed to pass another relief package, and we saw a little bit of that (in some form, at least) during Tuesday’s heavily anticipated Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing.





Former Maryland Lt. Gov. and ex-Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele says Trump's statement that anyone who wants a test can get a test is not true, lauds Dr. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care: Biden unveils COVID-19 relief plan | Post-holiday surge hits new deadly records | Senate report faults 'broken' system for insulin price hikes Should there be a 'Secretary of Thought'? Post-holiday COVID-19 surge hits new deadly records MORE for weighing in on health decisions and distinguishing between economic decisions, says polls indicate voters believe former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenAzar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments House Democrats introduce measures to oppose Trump's bomb sale to Saudis On The Money: Retail sales drop in latest sign of weakening economy | Fast-food workers strike for minimum wage | US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits MORE would be a better leader on COVID-19 than Trump and stresses the most important thing that the government must do is make sure every American has unfettered access to the ballot box in November — and that election will happen, he says.





Watch the full interview here.

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Welcome to The Hill’s Coronavirus Report. It’s Wednesday, May 13.

Editor’s Note. 


In my conversation with former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele on Wednesday, I asked him a combined final question, “Where are you on mail-in ballots? And are the Democratic and Republican national conventions going to happen?” Steele’s answer was stark and direct, saying there is no comparison between them. He noted that the conventions can happen virtually and there are lots of ways to get them done. 


He emphasized access to voting though is a sacred commitment the government must assure. He said, “The most important thing that the government must do is make sure every American has unfettered access to the ballot box in November.”

In Steele’s voice, even his posture on camera, I could sense the weight he put behind this government responsibility that he believes can’t be — and  shouldn’t be — manipulated. But making sure “everyone eligible” has easy access to the ballot box has clearly diminished in priority for many elected officials who have spent an inordinate amount of time purging voter rolls, creating scandalous stories of widespread voter fraud, and challenging and harassing some folks — often citizens of color — at voting stations. I hope that Steele is right and that the federal government finally understands its commitment to create unfettered access for most Americans, if not all, to the ballot box in this time of the coronavirus. He is correct that those that will be hurting are elderly voters who Steele said “love to vote” — and who are a key part of the GOP base. Very good point.  


One of the sad truths of this crisis is that whether one is on the left or the right, the virus becomes a platform on which to fight other fights that have nothing to do with the crisis at hand. And I fear that mail-in balloting, which sounds like a sensible right everyone should have, is in a fragile place. We’ll see.


Steve Clemons

Your Coronavirus Report team includes Steve Clemons, editor-at-large of The Hill, and researcher Andrew Wargofchik. Follow us on Twitter at @SCClemons and @a_wargofchik. CLICK HERE to subscribe to The Hill’s Coronavirus Report. To stay up-to-date on all things coronavirus, visit TheHill.com and SUBSCRIBE to our Overnight Healthcare newsletter for the latest developments from the daily White House coronavirus task force briefings.


Join us! The Vir-Tech-Tual World Ahead | Wednesday, May 20




Join us for our upcoming virtual event ‘The Vir-tech-tual World Ahead’, that focuses on our dramatic shift to a digital ecosystem at a time when digital literacy continues to be uneven, much as basic access to the internet. 


Steve Clemons, The Hill’s editor-at-large, will be speaking with: 


> FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly 

> Rep. Suzan DelBeneSuzan Kay DelBeneWashington state neighbors underscore internal Democratic tensions Lawmakers, officials stress need to expand broadband access The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Moderna vaccine nears US approval; Congress cites 'progress' toward relief bill MORE (D-Wash.) 

> Michael Hinojosa, superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District 

> Francella Ochillo, executive director, Next Century Cities

> *Additional speakers to be announced 

REGISTER HERE. And join the conversation using #TheHillVirtuallyLive.


There are 4,312,756 reported cases of COVID-19 throughout the world and 294,647 deaths have been recorded as a result of the virus. 


The U.S. is reporting 1,379,756 coronavirus cases and 83,150 deaths as of the time of this newsletter. Russia’s cases continue to rise and stand at 242,271 reported. The U.K. is reporting 230,984 cases. 228,030 in Spain. 222,104 in Italy. 180,737 in Brazil. 178,184 in France. 173, 824 in Germany. 143,114 in Turkey. 112,725 in Iran. 84,021 in China. 72,485 in Canada. 44,830 in Saudi Arabia. South Korea, which is seeing a resurgence of cases after easing some lockdown restrictions, is now reporting 10,962 cases. Egypt 10,431. Czechia 8,240. 3,341 in Hungary. 3,017 in Thailand. 


New York is reporting 340,661 cases. New Jersey 141,662. Illinois 83,021. Massachusetts 79,332. 71,082 in California. 61,859 in Pennsylvania. 48,021 in Michigan. 42,402 in Florida. 41,733 in Texas. 25,473 in Indiana. 20,157 in Colorado. 10,565 in Alabama. 10,293 in Missouri. 7,246 in Kansas. Kentucky 6,853. 6,584 in the District of Columbia. 


9,637,930 COVID-19 test results have been recorded and 230,287 have reported full recoveries from the virus in the U.S.


Senate GOP crafting wish list for next coronavirus package. Senate Republicans say that Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats point fingers on whether Capitol rioters had inside help Pelosi suggests criminal charges for any lawmaker who helped with Capitol riot Pelosi mum on when House will send impeachment article to Senate MORE’s (D-Calif.) new $3 trillion coronavirus relief package is dead on arrival in the upper chamber, but they are assembling ideas for a package that could pass this summer. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi mum on when House will send impeachment article to Senate Democratic senator: COVID-19 relief is priority over impeachment trial The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history MORE (R-Ky.) called for a “pause” last week on new coronavirus legislation, rank-and-file Senate Republicans acknowledge there is growing pressure to respond to the House Democrats. One Republican senator who requested anonymity to comment on internal discussions said the “pause” posture will be politically tenable for only so long. (The Hill


Democratic bill would require cash refunds for all canceled airline tickets during pandemic. Democratic senators introduced legislation Wednesday requiring airlines refund billions of dollars to customers who canceled flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The cash refunds from major airlines and third-party ticket sellers would be issued regardless of whether the airline canceled the flight or if the passenger backed out of their ticket. (The Hill


Shelved CDC guidance included more severe restrictions than White House plan: report. Shelved guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on reopening the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic included more severe restrictions than the White House’s proposal for reopening, The Associated Press reported Wednesday. 


Manafort released to home confinement due to coronavirus concerns. President TrumpDonald TrumpCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Azar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments Justice Dept. argues Trump should get immunity from rape accuser's lawsuit MORE’s former campaign chairman, Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortNo pardon for Trump Michael Cohen predicts people Trump pardoned may testify against him Roger Stone thanked Trump for pardon during exchange at West Palm Beach club MORE, was released from prison Wednesday to serve the rest of his sentence at home because of worries about the coronavirus pandemic, his lawyer told CBS News. (The Hill)


Rep. Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerGOP at crossroads after Capitol siege Wave of companies cut off donations — much of it to GOP California was key factor in House GOP's 2020 success MORE (R-Minn.) 

@RepTomEmmer Huge thanks to @realDonaldTrump and his Administration for ensuring the @DeptVetAffairs  offers expanded free and subsidized telehealth services to our veterans! They protected our freedoms, and we must protect them during this outbreak.


Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarDemocrats poised to impeach Trump again Pence opposes removing Trump under 25th Amendment: reports Pelosi vows to impeach Trump again — if Pence doesn't remove him first MORE (D-Minn.) 

@Ilhan This crisis has exposed the deep economic and social inequities that have long existed. Now is the time to rethink our societal structures and act boldly to create a more just society. 


Rep. Tom ReedTom ReedThe Hill's 12:30 Report: House moves toward second impeachment LIVE COVERAGE: House votes to impeach Trump after Capitol insurrection GOP lawmakers introduce resolution to censure Trump over Capitol riot MORE (R-N.Y.) 

@RepTomReed We were proud to stand with state officials yesterday to call on Albany to work with us on getting WNY up and running again. Moving forward, we have to acknowledge the distinct public health differences between counties and prioritize inter-regional collaboration.


Cabin fever? Analysis shows more Americans are on the move as states reopen. Easing restrictions on public life too soon could result in a surge of new cases that could quickly spiral out of control, public health officials said Tuesday, but a New York Times analysis of cellphone data found that tens of millions of Americans were already leaving their homes in growing numbers. With American states starting to reopen businesses, about 25 million more people ventured outside their homes on an average day last week than during the preceding six weeks. (Washington Post


DC extends stay-at-home order to June 8. Washington, D.C., is extending its stay-at-home order through June 8, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced on Wednesday. The mayor said the city has not yet met all the required benchmarks to reopen. "We're not there yet and not quite ready to begin that phased new opening," Bowser said at a news briefing. The city is looking for a 14-day decline in new cases, but so far has only seen a four-day decline. (The Hill

Governors warn COVID-19 relief is becoming “political football.” The bipartisan chairmen of the National Governors Association on Wednesday urged Congress to pass more economic relief efforts to help assuage the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, warning against allowing debate over the vital aid to become yet another partisan flashpoint. In a joint statement, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoGovernors say no additional vaccine doses coming, despite Trump admin promise Mississippi runs out of coronavirus vaccine as state expands eligibility Cuomo announces performance initiative to revive New York's arts economy MORE (D) said states need at least $500 billion in aid to make up for revenue lost during the crisis. (The Hill)


For some world leaders, popularity spikes along with coronavirus cases. Before the coronavirus struck their countries, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had one thing in common: Their brightest days in office appeared to be behind them. Both Merkel and Moon used testing and contact tracing to avoid full lockdowns. Merkel’s approval ratings have surged to 68 percent in May, up from 53 percent in February. Meanwhile, Moon’s government won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections last month, after a campaign that focused on the government’s pandemic response. (Washington Post


Coronavirus could hit defense spending and spark NATO tensions once again. Tensions between the U.S. and its NATO allies could flare up once again in the near future, as the coronavirus pandemic puts additional pressure on public spending, according to experts. (CNBC)


Hong Kong records new local infections, breaking a 23-day streak. Hong Kong reported two new locally transmitted infections Wednesday after more than three weeks of no such cases and as social distancing measures began to relax, and a third case recorded on the same day was imported from Pakistan, bringing the total infections in the city to 1,051. The cases showed the challenges of eradicating a community outbreak. (New York Times


London rail worker dies of coronavirus after being spat on. A railway worker in London died last month after being spat on by a man who claimed to have the coronavirus, the worker’s union announced Tuesday, raising questions about the safety of essential workers as the country looks to ease back on coronavirus restrictions. (Forbes)


Scientists race to find a cure or vaccine for the coronavirus. Here are the top drugs in development. There are no proven, knockout treatments against the virus and U.S. health officials say a vaccine could take at least a year to 18 months. There are more than 100 vaccines in development globally as of April 30, according to the World Health Organization, with at least eight vaccine candidates already in human trials. Read more here about the leading vaccine and drug candidates and where they stand in the development process. (CNBC)


French drug giant to give U.S. preference on vaccine. Americans will likely get Sanofi’s COVID-19 vaccine before the rest of the world if the French pharmaceutical giant can successfully deliver one. That’s because the U.S. was first in line to fund Sanofi’s vaccine research, Chief Executive Officer Paul Hudson said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “The U.S. government has the right to the largest pre-order because it’s invested in taking the risk,” Hudson said. (Bloomberg)


Unveiling “Warp Speed,” the White House’s America first push for a coronavirus vaccine. Conventional wisdom is that a vaccine for COVID-19 is at least one year away, but the organizers of a U.S. government push called Operation Warp Speed have little use for conventional wisdom. The project, vaguely described to date but likely to be formally announced by the White House in the coming days, will pick a diverse set of vaccine candidates and pour essentially limitless resources into unprecedented comparative studies in animals, fast-tracked human trials and manufacturing. Eschewing international cooperation — and any vaccine candidates from China — it hopes to have 300 million doses by January 2021 of a proven product, reserved for Americans. (Science)


PBS documentary special “Decoding COVID-19” airs Wednesday night. Set to air at 9 p.m. ET on PBS, the film reveals the biology of the tiny pathogen devastating lives from Wuhan, China, to New York City and follows the unprecedented global collaboration among scientists racing to develop a vaccine. The special also presents harrowing, humanizing chronicles from the front lines, following the health care providers, patients and families battling the disease. Watch the trailer here and stream the documentary online here.


Fed chairman concerned about a prolonged recession. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that policymakers may have to use additional weapons to pull the country out of an economic mire that has cost at least 20 million jobs and caused “a level of pain that is hard to capture in words.” While he did not specify what those measures are and where they would come from, Powell said the coronavirus has triggered a situation unlike previous recessions the U.S. has endured, and the response may have to be more from Congress than the Fed. (CNBC

Local officials allowing Tesla to restart California factory with conditions. Local officials in California announced Wednesday that they will allow Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskWhatsApp delays controversial privacy update Fringe social networks boosted after mob attack NASA's Europa Clipper has been liberated from the Space Launch System MORE to reopen his Tesla factory during the coronavirus pandemic if specific safety conditions are met. The Alameda County Public Health Department said in a statement that it has approved Tesla’s plan to possibly reopen the Fremont plant as soon as next week if public health indicators regarding the virus remain stable or improve. (The Hill)


Is the threat from ISIS really more significant because of COVID-19? ISIS is more likely to take advantage of the instability in failed states than to actually depend on the spread of COVID-19 to project its strength. The pandemic makes for a strong talking point for the group, but it probably is not anything more than that. More productive of an answer to ISIS’s blather is for the United States to rekindle the key partnerships that were fundamental to the success of evicting ISIS from its territory. (Jason Blazakis for The Hill)

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Spain’s oldest person (113 years old) survives coronavirus. And she tweets! María Branyas turned 113 on March 4, making her the oldest person in Spain and now she has become one of the oldest coronavirus survivors in the world. “In the solitude of my room, fearless and hopeful, I don’t quite understand what’s going on in the world. But I think nothing will be the same again. And don’t think about redoing, recovering, rebuilding. It will have to be done all over again and differently,” she tweeted. (The Hill)


> Steve interviews Rep. ROSA DELAURO (D-Conn.)

> Steve interviews BIO President and CEO JIM GREENWOOD 

> Steve interviews former Surgeon General VIVEK MURTHY 

> Steve interviews World Central Kitchen founder chef JOSE ANDRES 

> Steve interviews Rep. WILL HURD (R-Texas) 

> Steve interviews Sen. JOHN BARRASSO (R-Wyo.) 

> Steve interviews Rep. LEE ZELDIN (R-N.Y.) 

Watch all Coronavirus Report interviews here.





A world in lockdown: Insight from Uzbekistan. Jamshid Mirzabaev, a reader from Uzbekistan, sent in this picture of an empty square in the city Samarqand, a normally tourist-filled region of the Central Asian country. Uzbekistan is reporting 2,568 cases but President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has issued stay-at-home orders and closed all air, road and railway movement throughout the country. 

SEND US YOUR OWN PICS – from your own walks or adventures – during this time of physical distancing but social connection. And SEND US YOUR STORIES of how teleworking is going, what you have learned from homeschooling, new ways to exercise, and special moments or standout heroism you want to share. What’s working for you? What’s comic in these dark days? 


Send to YourStories@TheHill.com. Our thoughts are with you, our readers, and we hope and trust that no matter the weight of burdens on you now — and it’s not a good story for everyone we know — that we all stand together, resilient and confident, on the other side of this. There will be another side.


CLICK HERE to subscribe to The Hill’s Coronavirus Report. To stay up-to-date on all things coronavirus, visit TheHill.com and SUBSCRIBE to our Overnight Healthcare newsletter for the latest developments from the daily White House coronavirus task force briefings.