The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Trump rips critics at testy press conference
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 22,109; Tuesday, 23,649.
President Trump on Monday took aim at a long list of perceived critics, using a coronavirus briefing at the White House to vigorously lash out at the news media and others for what he argued are misplaced critiques about how he and the administration initially handled the pathogen, which has killed more than 23,000 people in the United States and infected nearly 583,000.
Trump’s grievances, delivered for more than two hours in the White House on live television, included his own January timeline and a screening of a five-minute, campaign-style defense of the administration’s pandemic responses, featuring broadcast clips of Democratic governors and even a New York Times White House correspondent evenhandedly analyzing certain steps Trump and his advisers undertook in the early weeks of a public health emergency.
“I got brutalized by the press,” the president fumed.
The Hill: Trump fires back at critics during Monday’s White House briefing about the coronavirus.
The Washington Post: Paramount concern for Trump is Trump.
In part, he was reacting to detailed news coverage on Sunday by The New York Times and The Associated Press citing early warnings raised about the coronavirus by federal infectious disease specialists a month before Trump took action.
Anthony Fauci, director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, over the weekend said more lives might have been saved with earlier U.S. coronavirus mitigation. It was a comment that did not sit well with Trump and sparked speculation that Fauci, who is the government’s chief U.S. communicator about virus science and research, had worn out his welcome with a thin-skinned president.
Trump denied harboring anything but admiration for the 79-year-old immunologist, and Fauci stepped to the microphone to tell reporters that in three instances when he urged the president to embrace specific actions to try to contain and then mitigate the community spread of COVID-19, Trump agreed each time.
Niall Stanage: The Memo: Speculation grows about Fauci’s future.
The Hill: Fauci is at the center of a conservative storm.
“I am more focused on getting past this nightmare of an epidemic or a pandemic, anything you want to call it, we have to get past it,” the president said at one point during the unusual briefing, adding that a plan the administration will soon unveil to restart the economy at an undetermined date will happen under his constitutional say-so “whenever it’s safe.”
“The president of the United States calls the shots,” he said.
As Vice President Pence and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin looked on, Trump declared his power is absolute when it comes to U.S. commerce and state actions ordered by governors during the COVID-19 emergency.
“When someone is president of the United States, the authority is total,” he repeated. When asked to cite any such sweeping language in the Constitution, Trump switched gears, arguing that “all states want to open, and they want to open as soon as possible, but they want to be safe.”
He insisted he has “very good relationships” with the governors, conceding however that, “I’d rather have them make the decision.”
Trump’s ire had been foreshadowed earlier Monday in a tweet (The Hill).
Pressed again to explain the details, timing and benchmarks he will set to compel a federal lifting of stay-at-home orders in the states or end to public school closures, Trump demurred: “The fact that I don’t want to exert my power is a different thing.”
The Associated Press: New Trump panel, which may be unveiled today, will be tasked with devising a national path to reopen the U.S. economy.
During a series of public briefings on both coasts on Monday, Democratic governors of states damaged by COVID-19 announced the formation of regional coordinating councils that they said will make the type of decisions Trump described, with input from federal, international and state-based data and advisers.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), whose daily coronavirus updates attract significant public interest, choreographed a conference call on Monday with the news media, pulling in governors from New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island, and later in the day, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican. Their message: A new Northeast council of state-based officials will coordinate the next phase of how and when schools, businesses and families try to return to once familiar routines (The Hill).
“This virus does not care about state borders, and we shouldn’t either,” Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island (D), told reporters by phone.
The governors said their collaboration is not a rebuke of Trump or the federal government. “We primarily have the responsibility of opening the state up,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D). “We need to make sure we remain as safe as we can with this pandemic.”
Cuomo, who is the vice chairman of the National Governors Association, invited the White House to unveil its economic restart plan, agreeing with the assertion that the federal government has significant authority. “If you want to put forward a federal national emergency plan, do it,” he said, referring to Trump. “He could put forth a model to do that,” Cuomo continued. “I don’t believe they can have a plan that says how we open five days from now.”
The Hill: Cuomo says the worst may be over for New York as deaths exceed 10,000.
The Garden State is not out of the woods. New Jersey announced that COVID-19 is in “most” if not all nursing homes and long-term care facilities in New Jersey, according to Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and his public health advisers. New Jersey on Monday announced 64,584 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 2,443 deaths. Of the 94 new deaths reported on Monday, 29, or more than 30 percent, were residents of long-term care facilities (NJ.com).
On the West Coast, a similar coalition of states governed by Democrats — California, Washington and Oregon — announced collaboration on what they called “a shared approach for reopening our economies” (The Hill).
A new USA Today-Ipsos poll released Monday showed how much the public has come to trust U.S. governors during the last month as they face the dual emergencies of a pandemic and economic meltdown.
Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed express trust in their governors, an increase of 16 points since March, according to the poll. The view is bipartisan: 65 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents.
Governors are more trusted than Trump by 25 percentage points, “a difference that could be significant if there is a clash between statehouses and the White House about when parts of the nation can safely reopen” (USA Today).
Reuters: The administration is poised to invest $15.5 billion through the Department of Agriculture as part of a plan to bolster the nation’s food supply chain against impacts of the pandemic.
Reuters: Some U.S. airlines are close to accepting $25 billion for payroll assistance courtesy of American taxpayers, with announcements possible today.
The Associated Press: U.S. lockdowns violate constitutional, individual civil rights, some conservative U.S. voters and politicians argue.
Reuters: Wyoming reports first COVID-19 death, marking virus fatalities in 50 states.
The Washington Post: South Dakota has become a new hot spot for coronavirus spread while Gov. Kristi Noem (R) opted to let individuals in her state decide whether to shelter in place. On Monday, local leaders, public health experts and front-line medical workers begged the governor to order a stricter response.
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LEADING THE DAY
POLITICS: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced his support for former Vice President Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee on Monday.
Sanders made the endorsement during a virtual event on the coronavirus alongside the presumptive Democratic nominee on Monday, asking Democrats and his own loyal supporters to “come together” to defeat the president.
“We need you in the White House. I will do all that I can to see that that happens, Joe,” Sanders told Biden during the event. “Today, I am asking all Americans — I’m asking every Democrat, I’m asking every independent, I’m asking a lot of Republicans — to come together in this campaign to support your candidacy, which I endorse” (The Hill).
The Vermont Independent’s endorsement came less than a week after he announced the suspension of his own campaign in the wake of the Wisconsin primary, with the ongoing pandemic expediting that decision.
The move is also an effort to consolidate support on the left behind the former vice president swiftly — a far cry from what took place in 2016. Four years ago, Sanders did not endorse Hillary Clinton as the Democratic standard-bearer until roughly two weeks before the party’s convention in July.
However, some of Sanders’s top supporters indicated that they are unwilling to follow the former 2020 candidate and back Biden at this point. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) criticized the former vice president for not releasing a “real plan” on health care instead of “gestures” in the direction of the far left.
“What I’d like to see at a bare minimum is a health care plan that helps extend health care to young people,” Ocasio-Cortez told The Associated Press hours before Sanders appeared alongside Biden.
In a separate interview with The New York Times, Ocasio-Cortez noted that the Biden campaign has not reached out to her at this point.
“Is a Biden-AOC unity rally ever in the cards?” the Times asked.
“It could be. I have not talked to the vice president,” Ocasio-Cortez responded, adding that she doesn’t think she has ever spoken to Biden.
Briahna Joy Gray, the press secretary for Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign, also said Monday that she would not endorse the former VP, continuing a string of attacks against Biden (The Hill).
“I supported Bernie Sanders because he backed ideas like #MedicareForAll, cancelling ALL student debt, & a wealth tax. Biden supports none of those,” tweeted Gray, who supported Green Party nominee Jill Stein in the 2016 general election.
The endorsement means that only one of Biden’s previous 2020 opponents — Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — has not backed his campaign.
Politico: Bernie makes it official: It’s Biden or bust.
The Hill: Biden beats Sanders in Wisconsin primary.
The Associated Press: Voters reject Trump’s pick in chaotic Wisconsin court race.
CONGRESS: Mnuchin and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are expected to strike a deal on interim coronavirus relief legislation this week that would provide more funding for businesses, hospitals and state governments.
As Alexander Bolton reports, Democrats say that the secretary, who leads negotiations for Republicans, is open to a deal even though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has shown little appetite to agree to concessions with Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Speaking at the White House on Monday, Mnuchin said that the bill should focus exclusively on the small-business loan program and that the funding for issues Schumer, Pelosi and Democrats are interested in should be rolled into a separate package.
“This was a bipartisan program,” Mnuchin said at the briefing. “We should top up that program now. I know the Democrats want to talk about more money for hospitals and states. Right now we’re just sending the money out to the hospitals and states. They haven’t come close to using that money.”
However, GOP aides expect a deal by Thursday, when the Senate is slated to meet next, as the Small Business Administration is expected to announce in the coming days that funding for the Paycheck Protection Program needs to be replenished immediately. This will put pressure on McConnell to accede to the push by Schumer and Pelosi for funding for hospitals and state governments.
If a deal is reached, it could get through the Senate on Thursday and the House early next week. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Monday that the lower chamber will not return to Capitol Hill until the week of May 4 at the earliest due to the ongoing pandemic.
The Hill: Senate punts stalled coronavirus aid to Thursday.
> Insurers: Insurance companies and employers are lobbying Congress for financial help, warning that treatment and testing for the novel coronavirus may lead to massive premium increases next year.
Jessie Hellmann reports that companies are pushing lawmakers to provide funding for a program in future COVID-19 legislation that would give relief to insurers and other employers with the high cost of claims associated with the pandemic.
“Without a doubt, employers are facing significant unknowns with regards to the COVID-19 crisis, while at the same time they themselves are under financial stress,” said Ilyse Schuman, senior vice president for health policy at the American Benefits Council, which mostly represents large companies that “self-fund’ their health plans instead of buying private insurance for their employees.
“They’ll be left with no option but to pass costs along to employees in the form of higher premiums next year,” she added. “That’s really why we’re asking Congress to step in and protect employer-sponsored coverage.”
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CORONAVIRUS & INTERNATIONAL: French President Emmanuel Macron extended the national lockdown until May 11 and argued that the nation had more to do to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Macron said that every French citizen who experiences symptoms would be able to get a COVID-19 test by that date, adding that the fight against the virus is not yet complete.
“We must therefore continue our efforts and continue to apply the rules. The more they are respected, the more they will save lives. That’s why the strictest lockdown must still carry on. Until Monday 11 May. During that period it’s the only way to act effectively,” Macron said. “Over the next four weeks, the rules must be respected.”
> United Kingdom: Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Monday that he does not expect to make any announcements this week to extend the current lockdown despite reports that the government is set to do so (BBC).
According to The Times of London, Raab is expected to announce on Thursday that the lockdown will be extended until May 7. Prior to that potential announcement, Raab is also expected to discuss a potential extension with leaders of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
As of Monday night, there were 89,569 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.K. and 11,329 deaths.
According to Patrick Vallance, Britain’s chief scientific adviser, the U.K. is expected to see the number of deaths per day rise over the next week, but that the daily total should plateau over the following two to three weeks (Reuters).
The Associated Press: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s praise for health service could boost its cause.
Reuters: U.K. coronavirus death toll could be 15% higher than previously shown: new data.
> Israel: After multiple elections and having sped past another deadline, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz continued their high-stakes impasse as neither has been able to form a national emergency government as the country pushes to combat the virus.
After last month’s election that once again did not spawn a conclusive winner, Gantz’s 28-day push to put together a ruling coalition expired, as he was unable to snag enough allies to create a parliamentary majority. Gantz also did not cement a power-sharing deal with Netanyahu, as the two were unable to strike an accord on Monday night during a meeting.
The inability to reach a breakthrough could bring along a fourth election after those in April and September of last year, along with last month’s contest (Reuters).
> India: Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced plans to extend the national lockdown until May 3 at least, telling the nation of 1.3 billion the nation needs to make economic sacrifices to save lives. “That means until May 3, each and every one of us will have to remain in the lockdown,” Modi said in a televised address. “From an economic only point of view, it undoubtedly looks costly right now; but measured against the lives of Indian citizens, there is no comparison itself.” Since the lockdown was initially rolled out on March 24, the unemployment rate in India has nearly doubled to 14.5 percent (Reuters).
> North Korea: Pyongyang launched a number of missiles from the air and ground into the Sea of Japan on Tuesday, according to the South Korean military. Earlier Tuesday, North Korean troops in Munchon fired a number of cruise missiles, according to the South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, which would be the first launch of cruise missiles in nearly three years. The action took place hours before a second round of missiles were launched by Sukhoi-class fighter jets. The latest moves by North Korea came on the 108th birthday of Kim Il Sung, the authoritarian regime’s founder and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, and a day before the South Korean parliamentary elections (The Associated Press).
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Re-entry after the panic: Paying the health price of extreme isolation, by Scott W. Atlas, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3a4PFuS
How to prepare for the next pandemic, by Rahm Emanuel, opinion contributor, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/2xigwq1
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House will hold a pro forma session at 10 a.m.
The Senate will convene in a pro forma session on Thursday at 3 p.m.
The president will meet at 11:30 a.m. with people who have recovered from infection with the coronavirus. Trump at 3:30 p.m. meets with healthcare executives in the Cabinet Room.
Pence will join the president for his events and lead an afternoon meeting of the White House coronavirus task force before joining Trump during a scheduled 5 p.m. news briefing.
Mnuchin participates in a video conference meeting with the finance ministers from the Group of Seven nations, and central banks governors.
➔ U.S. Supreme Court: For the first time, justices will hear oral arguments via telephone and live audio in May (The Hill). C-SPAN says it will broadcast the audio.
➔ U.S. Census: Millions of Americans have been filling out their census questionnaires for several weeks. Trump administration officials want to delay deadlines for the 2020 population count until June 1 for field operations and Oct. 31 for the conclusion of the survey because of the coronavirus, according to House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). The U.S. Census Bureau confirmed Maloney’s information. The administration also seeks to delay the deadline for delivering state population counts used for apportionment — the process of carving up congressional districts — from the end of this year to the end of next April. The administration also wants to push back the deadline for giving states data for redistricting from next March to next July, the statement added (The Associated Press).
➔ USS Roosevelt: COVID-19 killed one U.S. sailor and 900 others from the aircraft carrier crew have tested positive (The Hill). Former Captain Brett Crozier sought assistance this month from Navy superiors as the deadly coronavirus swept through his crew while at sea. Crozier, in the absence of a Navy investigation, was relieved of duty for going outside the chain of command. The captain contracted the coronavirus and is receiving treatment in Guam. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who initially approved Crozier’s firing, which was recommended by former acting Navy chief Thomas Modly (who resigned under fire), has since said the captain could be reinstated following an investigation.
➔ In the Know: The White House Correspondents’ Association on Monday postponed its annual Washington dinner, affectionately known as the “nerd prom,” until Aug. 29 because of current coronavirus safeguards (The Hill). … ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos said he tested positive for COVID-19 after his wife, Ali Wentworth, contracted the virus (ABC News’s “Good Morning America” and The Associated Press).
➔ Economy: Pork processor Smithfield Foods announced it will shut a South Dakota plant after a coronavirus outbreak among workers. The disruption highlights growing worries over supply and production chains and the need for protections from COVID-19 for essential workers and food suppliers. Smithfield is the world’s biggest pork processor and the closed plant impacts 5 percent of U.S. pork production (The Hill).
And finally … The longer the COVID-19 shutdown continues, the more senior citizens are depending on and applauding the existence of video calling because many can’t visit relatives and friends in person.
While video conferencing has been widely used across the country in day-to-day work life, for some senior citizens the technology was unknown before the outbreak — and they’re treating it like a godsend, especially those at the RiverWalk and Hebrew Home facilities in Bronx, N.Y.
“I’m old fashioned, so the FaceTime is really quite unbelievable to me,” said Eleanor Weinhouse, 90, who lives at Hebrew Home.
In fact, some have said that they are communicating with their families even more thanks to FaceTime, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts, to name a few video chatting services (The Washington Post and The New York Times’ “The Daily” podcast).
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