The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump urges reopening: 'Manhattan much different than Montana'

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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 54,877. Tuesday, 56,253.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichael Flynn transcripts reveal plenty except crime or collusion 50 people arrested in Minneapolis as hundreds more National Guard troops deployed Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' MORE on Monday sided with governors in a dozen states that reopening their economies and even schools makes sense at this stage of the coronavirus crisis, if done “safely.”


“Manhattan is much different than Montana,” he said during a Rose Garden briefing that had been on, off and then on his schedule again after the White House weighed the potential hazards of another question-and-answer session with self-inflicted fumbles. 


The White House, which unveiled phased guidance for states just 10 days ago, displayed a “blueprint” outline on Monday summarizing the federal role in restarting the economy. 


The administration said it is doing its part and described testing plans “in coordination” with states; federal monitoring of hot spots and at-risk populations; contact tracing steered by state and local officials with help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and federal jawboning to hasten new technological breakthroughs, including for quality antigen tests suitable for masses of people. 


Trump, joined by Vice President Pence and CEOs from testing laboratories, pharmacies, and companies that make COVID-19 test kits and medical swabs, reinforced the administration’s assertion that the United States has sufficient testing supplies, kits and processing capacity to encourage states to ease back into business, even with anticipated new outbreaks of disease and more fatalities ahead.


We are continuing to rapidly expand our capacity,” Trump said, reading from notes, “and confident that we have enough testing to begin reopening and the reopening process. We want to get our country open. And the testing is not going to be a problem at all. In fact, it’s going to be one of the great assets we have.”  


The Associated Press: Doubts about the sufficiency of testing remain among public health experts.


The president’s boosterism — “we’re doing very, very well” — is being met with polite resistance by some governors, mayors and business executives who are bucking the West Wing tide and extending stay-at-home orders into May while developing their own guidelines and assembling their own teams of advisers. Trump spoke by conference call with some governors on Monday and described them as uniformly enthusiastic during the discussion.


The Associated Press: In parts of rural America, the coronavirus seems far away and greetings still come with a handshake.


The ongoing state-based debates about how and when to safely open businesses, schools, parks and churches will echo through Washington next week as the House and Senate return to Washington to wrestle over what needs to be done to bolster states and cities as unemployment surges along with the nation’s coronavirus death toll. Later this week, fatalities from COVID-19 are expected to surpass the number of Americans killed during the Vietnam War (The Hill).


The nation’s capital, among many cities hit hard by the virus, has not yet peaked during its own battle with COVID-19, and with at least 185 deaths, residents and businesses are under an extended stay-at-home order until May 15, issued by Mayor Muriel Bowser (D).  


The Washington Post: Antibody testing suggests virus hit D.C. weeks earlier than estimated.


The Hill: Experts believe an effective COVID-19 vaccine could take longer than a year to 18 months to develop, approve and produce in mass quantities. The New York Times reports that Oxford University, however, has a potentially promising head start.


The Wall Street Journal: Meet a group of scientists, billionaire investors and thinkers who want to save the world from COVID-19 and secretly put promising ideas into the hands of top federal officials.


Congressional leaders announced on Monday that both chambers will return to work as May begins and are expected to kick off in earnest a fifth coronavirus-related bill that could include half a trillion dollars to help state and local governments and perhaps embrace close to $1 trillion for infrastructure projects that would create jobs — if preliminary conversations are any guide (The Hill). 


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe Overnight Health Care: Trump says US 'terminating' relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge 10 things to know today about coronavirus MORE (R-Ky.) said in a statement that the upper chamber will be back in session for the first time since lawmakers passed the $2.2 trillion package in late March and will “modify routines in ways that are smart and safe” (The Hill). McConnell was criticized last week on both sides of the aisle for suggesting that struggling state governments could file for bankruptcy rather than turn to Congress for financial assistance as their revenues dry up during the coronavirus emergency. The majority leader has moved away from that option.


The Kentucky Republican put down a new marker, calling for changes in the next relief bill to provide liability protection to health care workers, businesses and employees from lawsuits tied to inevitable new coronavirus outbreaks as the economy reopens. Last week, White House economic advisers continued to insist that businesses were not lobbying for liability relief, although that topic has been part of public conversations for weeks. McConnell said in an interview that he will “insist” on changes in law as part of negotiations with Democrats over the next emergency recovery measure.


“We probably will do another bill. What I’m saying is, it won’t just be about money,” McConnell told Politico. “The next pandemic coming will be the lawsuit pandemic in the wake of this one. So we need to prevent that now when we have the opportunity to do it.”


“I’m open to additional assistance. It’s not just going to be a check, though, you get my point?” McConnell said. “We’re not writing a check to send down to states to allow them to, in effect, finance mistakes they’ve made unrelated to the coronavirus.”


The Washington Post: House and Senate on collision course over coronavirus response as leaders map out conflicting agendas.


The Hill: Democrats debate how and when to get the House back in action.


The Associated Press: Partisan division might complicate next virus relief package.


The House will reconvene roughly a week and a half after passing the $484 billion interim COVID-19 package, which included more than $300 billion in loans for small business. On Monday, the refilled Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) came under increased scrutiny after its relaunched website experienced glitches, delaying small businesses from receiving funds as they continue to struggle from the fallout of the virus. 


Banks began reporting issues shortly after the funds became available at 10:30 a.m. Rob Nichols, president of the American Bankers Association, tweeted that bankers were left “deeply frustrated” by the technical failures, noting that they “will not be able help more struggling small businesses” until the issues are resolved (The Washington Post).


Adding to the problems was the revelation that the Los Angeles Lakers received nearly $5 million from the PPP before deciding to return the funds. The Lakers franchise is valued at roughly $4 billion, raising more concerns that funds intended for struggling small businesses were going to major companies and corporations that have access to capital (ESPN).


The Wall Street Journal: For some workers, combined state unemployment benefits and federal payouts exceed compensation they earned when employed. Bosses complain it creates a disincentive to return to work. 


Trump on Monday conceded the U.S. economy in the second quarter is undergoing a battering unlike anything seen since the Great Depression. Sidestepping projections of a drop of between 20 and 30 percent in gross domestic product in the second quarter, Trump pointed to a robust stock market Monday, which he said was evidence of investor enthusiasm to restart the economy. 


CNBC: Trump economic adviser Kevin Hassett says the U.S. could contract 30 percent in the second quarter. 


The president, returning to his optimism that the U.S. economy can bounce back with gusto, predicted that growth in the third quarter will be “phenomenal” and that fourth-quarter output (encompassing the Nov. 3 elections) will be “incredible.”





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STATE WATCH: Governors began reopening their economies while others are preparing to do the same. It’s a gamble. The astonishing tally of U.S. coronavirus cases this morning is 988,469 as COVID-19 continues to spread. From Montana to Tennessee, retailers and restaurants will be allowed to reopen in some capacity this week, while governors in Maryland, Michigan and Massachusetts are holding off. Public health experts believe haste in some states will lead to new outbreaks that could overwhelm hospitals and health care workers (The Hill).


The Associated Press: Texas, Ohio among states taking steps toward reopening.


Business Insider: Dow posts fourth straight day of gains as investors cheered economic reopening plans.


As Niall Stanage writes, the politics surrounding this debate do not break cleanly along any party lines. For example, Colorado Gov. Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisShots fired at George Floyd protest in Denver Gloves come off as Democrats fight for House seat in California Colorado restaurant owners who reopened to large crowds in defiance of state order sue governor MORE (D) is among the governors eager to reopen now, joining many GOP governors whose states have seen lower COVID-19 case numbers to date than states on the East Coast and West Coast. Public health experts say the coronavirus sets the pace, and in politics, that may be true too.


The Washington Post: Ohio, Texas and other states lay out plans to reopen as Trump announces coronavirus testing guidance that keeps the onus on the states.


> New York: Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoOvernight Health Care: Trump says US 'terminating' relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge 10 things to know today about coronavirus Cuomo: New York City on track to start reopening week of June 8 MORE (D) said he will extend stay-at-home orders beyond May 15 in parts of the state (The New York Post). 


> New Jersey: Gov. Phil Murphy (D) on Tuesday said he will announce a new restart commission to advise when and how to reopen his state. He said stay-at-home orders will remain in place for weeks, but hinted there’s hope for relaxed restrictions by Memorial Day (  


> Texas: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday said the state will begin reopening on Thursday (The Dallas Morning News). Houston, the energy capital, is reeling from a petroleum price crisis and has been a hot spot for COVID-19. The city’s budget is in shambles, and Houston could lose 300,000 jobs (The New York Times).





> Louisiana: Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) on Monday extended the state’s stay-at-home order through May 15 because of the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and infection statistics. The original order was expected to expire April 30 (Monroe News-Star).


INTERNATIONAL: According to the latest statistics, there are more than 3 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide, and the death toll reached 211,326 this morning.


> United Kingdom: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called upon Britons to remain patient and argued that it is too soon to loosen restrictions as it could cause a second spike of the coronavirus across the country. 


Johnson made the remarks outside 10 Downing St. on his first day back after recovering from the virus that left him in the intensive care unit for three days. He said that the U.K. was reaching “the end of the first phase of this conflict” but urged the country to remain vigilant. The current lockdown is in place until May 7.


“I refuse to throw away all the effort and the sacrifice of the British people and to risk a second major outbreak and huge loss of life and the overwhelming of the [health system],” said Johnson (The Associated Press).





> Italy: The Italian health ministry reported 1,739 new confirmed cases on Monday, the lowest single-day total of cases since March 10, as the nation’s economy begins to slowly reopen. As of this morning, the total number of confirmed cases is just shy of 200,000, and there have been 26,977 deaths (The Associated Press).


> Russia: As questions surround whether the national lockdown will be lifted at the end of the month, the number of confirmed cases in Russia surpassed 87,000, eclipsing the reported total out of China. 


Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinIn a new cold war with China, America may need to befriend Russia Here's why reporters are not asking the White House about 'Obamagate' Postponed Russian World War II victory parade now set for June MORE is under pressure to relax nationwide restrictions, which are due to expire on Thursday as the economy struggles due to the virus (Reuters). He will address his countrymen today (Reuters).


> North Korea: A top South Korea minister believes that North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnKim Jong Un seeks to continue bolstering North Korea's nuclear capabilities, state media says Overnight Defense: State Dept. watchdog was investigating emergency Saudi arms sales before ouster | Pompeo says he requested watchdog be fired for 'undermining' department | Pensacola naval base shooter had 'significant ties' to al Qaeda, Barr says Trump says investigation into Pompeo shows 'screwed up' priorities MORE’s mysterious absence is due in large part to his efforts to avoid contracting the coronavirus. 


While much of the speculation about Kim’s health has kept him sidelined from public view, including from a birthday celebration for Kim Il-Sung, the founder of North Korea and the current leader’s grandfather, South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul does not find the absence unusual. 


“It is true that he had never missed the anniversary for Kim Il Sung’s birthday since he took power, but many anniversary events including celebrations and a banquet had been cancelled because of coronavirus concerns,” the minister said on Tuesday (Reuters).

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How to pay for stimulus checks, by Joshua Rauh and Andrew Biggs, opinion contributors, The Hill. 


Trump’s words during the coronavirus crisis have been a monument to his mediocrity, by Michael Gerson, columnist, The Washington Post. 


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The House will convene a pro forma session at 9 a.m.


The Senate will hold a pro forma session on Thursday at 1 p.m.


The president will meet with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisThe battle of two Cubas Disney World plans to reopen in July Charlotte newspaper's editorial board urges governor to 'call Trump's bluff' on GOP convention MORE (R) in the Oval Office at 11 a.m. Trump receives his intelligence briefing at 12:30 p.m. At 3 p.m., the president will speak in the Rose Garden about the Paycheck Protection Program enacted in March to help small businesses stay afloat with loans while keeping their employees on the payroll during coronavirus lockdowns across the country.


Pence will travel to Rochester, Minn., to tour Mayo Clinic facilities that support COVID-19 research and treatment. He returns to Washington this evening.


The Coronavirus Report, helmed by The Hill’s Editor-at-Large Steve Clemons, has updates and exclusive video interviews with policymakers emailed each day. Sign up HERE!


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.


Politics: The president said Monday that he has no intention of changing the date of the November general election. “I never even thought of changing the date of the election,” Trump said, labeling the speculation as “made-up propaganda.” “I’m not thinking about it at all.” (Fox News) The Biden campaign believes the response to COVID-19 is a political winner for them in the long haul and that despite the decision to have former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump campaign launches Asian Pacific Americans coalition Biden: 'More than one African American woman' being considered for VP Liberal group asks Klobuchar to remove herself from VP consideration because of prosecutorial record MORE lay low, the president’s daily briefing is backfiring on his reelection chances (Reuters) Former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergIt's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Liberals embrace super PACs they once shunned .7 billion expected to be spent in 2020 campaign despite coronavirus: report MORE announced Monday that his campaign will cover the health care costs of his staffers through November that are unable to afford insurance, pointing to the “extraordinary circumstances” of the novel coronavirus. The news comes as Bloomberg’s operation faces two class-action lawsuits from former staffers alleging that it promised to pay them in full through November regardless of how long Bloomberg stayed in the race (The Hill).


MORE: New York decided to cancel its 2020 Democratic presidential primary contest on June 23 due to COVID-19, angering the supporters of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe battle of two Cubas Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Ro Khanna Democrats gear up to hit GOP senators on DACA MORE (I-Vt.). The New York Board of Elections announced state and congressional primaries will go ahead but that it did not want voters and poll workers to risk their health, as former Vice President Joe Biden has sewed up the race for the nomination (The Associated Press) … According to a new Baldwin University poll, Biden and Trump are neck and neck in Ohio (45 percent to 44 percent). Trump defeated Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump campaign launches Asian Pacific Americans coalition Van Jones: A 'white, liberal Hillary Clinton supporter' can pose a greater threat to black Americans than the KKK Taylor Swift slams Trump tweet: 'You have the nerve to feign moral superiority before threatening violence?' MORE in Ohio by more than 8 points (The Hill).


Entertainment: Netflix announced on Monday that a documentary centered on former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama celebrates seniors, tells them to 'breathe deep and dance your heart out' at virtual prom The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Mnuchin: More COVID-19 congressional action ahead Michelle Obama working with 31 mayors on increasing voter participation MORE will premiere on May 6. The film, “Becoming,” the same title as her best-selling book, chronicles her 34-city book tour during 2018-19. In a statement, the popular former first lady said the tour “drove home the idea that what we share in common is deep and real and can’t be messed with.” The memoir sold 11 million copies (The Associated Press).


2021 Olympics need a vaccine: The medical community in Japan is moving toward a consensus that the Tokyo Olympic games, postponed from this summer until 2021, will likely rely on a COVID-19 vaccine in order to take place. The evolving focus is on assured control of the coronavirus in Japan and globally before athletes can safely congregate for competition (The Associated Press). 


And finally … Be of good cheer, Scotland and Michigan! Smiling alpacas have visited senior facilities during the pandemic to perk up residents through the safety of ground-floor windows. They’re the right height, they’re curious and they look like fluffy toys. What’s not to enjoy?


Check out the video in Scotland HERE.


And Belleville, Mich., photos are courtesy of Detroit Free Press, with a video clip HERE.