The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump predicts quick vaccine; Pence: I should have worn mask

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Monday. It’s May. It’s spring. We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the daily co-creators, so find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and recommend the Morning Report to your friends. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 67,682.


Little darling

It's been a long cold lonely winter

Little darling

It seems like years since it's been here

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun

And I say, it's all right.

            — by George Harrison, “Here Comes the Sun,” The Beatles

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE on Sunday used a town hall moderated by Fox News and staged at the Lincoln Memorial to tout his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and to make broad predictions for relief and recovery within months — including a vaccine by the end of the year, new jobs to rescue tens of millions of Americans now unemployed and even school reopenings this fall.


Trump, who faces voters in six months, used the unusual interview setting in the iconic shadow of the 16th president to defend his administration’s command of economic and public health crises and to repeat his grievances that China, the news media and Democrats all shoulder different forms of blame. His campaign released a new television ad on Sunday using those themes.


The president also threw down a new marker in negotiations toward a much-talked-about legislative vehicle later this spring, telling the Fox hosts that he will not support another round of COVID-19 stimulus funding without a payroll tax cut included. Trump made the remark while discussing his support for federal investments in infrastructure projects as a job-creating ingredient in future legislation (The Hill). 


“I want to see a payroll tax cut on both sides, a very strong one, because that’s going to really put people to work. But infrastructure is so important,” Trump said while seated next to Vice President Pence and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinBiden's Treasury pick will have lengthy to-do list on taxes On The Money: Initial jobless claims rise for 2nd week | Dow dips below 30K | Mnuchin draws fire for COVID-19 relief move | Manhattan DA appeals dismissal of Manafort charges Mnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach MORE. “We will be doing infrastructure. And I told Steve just today, we’re not doing anything unless we get a payroll tax cut. That is so important to the success of our country.”


Trump did not wear a mask, nor did journalists Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, who told the audience they each tested negative for COVID-19 on Sunday after the White House administered rapid tests before setting up at the memorial.


“I should have worn a mask at the Mayo Clinic,” Pence added on Sunday, referring to his trip to Minnesota last week, during which he met with doctors and patients without any face covering (The Hill).


Repeating his condemnations of China, Trump told the audience that he believes a “mistake” in Wuhan led to the coronavirus pandemic, though he did not present any evidence, and he repeated his belief that Beijing worked to keep the world from knowing in January how contagious and lethal COVID-19 really was.


“My opinion is they made a mistake. They tried to cover it. They tried to put it out. It’s like a fire,” Trump said. “You know, it’s really like trying to put out a fire. They couldn’t put out the fire” (CNBC).


The Associated Press: The Department of Homeland Security produced a four-page intelligence report on May 1 saying that Chinese leaders “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic from the world in early January.


The Chinese government is responding aggressively to the global backlash it’s experiencing tied to the spread of the novel coronavirus (The New York Times). 


The Hill: Trump predicted the United States will have a coronavirus vaccine in 2020: "We are very confident that we're going to have a vaccine by the end of the year," he said. 


NBC News: Oxford University researcher Sir John Bell said on Sunday that his team hopes to get a “signal” by June about the potential effectiveness of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate as the global race for a cure continues. "I think we've got reason to believe that the efficacy, the efficacy of the vaccine in terms of generating strong antibody responses, is probably going to be OK. The real question is whether the safety profile's going to be fine. So that's actually the main focus of the clinical studies," he said.


The Associated Press: COVID-19 vaccine hunt heats up but no guarantee.


The Washington Post: Inside the extraordinary race to invent an effective vaccine.


Trump’s commentary on Sunday touched on his reelection bid, including his message to voters that Democratic candidates should be defeated in November.


“The Democrats, the radical left, would rather see people — I'm gonna be very nice. I'm not gonna say 'die.' I'm gonna say would rather see people not get well because they think I'm going to get credit if hydroxychloroquine works,” Trump said. 


The president complained to Fox about news coverage he receives, asserting that he is uniquely victimized in U.S. history. "I am greeted with a hostile press, the likes of which no president has ever seen," Trump said. "The closest would be that gentleman right up there. They always said Lincoln, nobody got treated worse than Lincoln. I believe I am treated worse” (The Hill)


The president also mentioned he does not expect to hold any of his trademark campaign rallies until the final months before Election Day. He hasn’t held a campaign rally since March 2 in North Carolina.


“Everyone wants the rallies. … I don’t think we can have a rally with an empty stadium,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to do the rallies in the last couple months.” 


The president’s previous Fox News town hall on March 6 in Scranton, Pa., was a ratings winner, attracting 4.2 million viewers, which made the program the most-watched town hall show in cable TV history (Mediaite). Trump is about to resume travel on Tuesday, leaving the White House for the first time in weeks to visit Phoenix and a Honeywell plant  (ABC News). 


The Hill: Sunday talk shows: Frustration mounts as protests hit state capitols.


More in Congress: The Senate will make its spring return to Capitol Hill today as lawmakers start work on the CARES 2 package to deal with more fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. As the outbreak continues, Republican lawmakers are on defense because of growing public anger over the divergent fates of winners and losers, leaving millions of Americans unemployed while the nation’s elites have emerged mostly unscathed. 


As Alexander Bolton writes, the Senate GOP took the lead in drafting the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which included $349 billion in funding for a small-business loan program   — increased to $669 billion in the interim $484 billion bill. However, the Paycheck Protection Program has been a target for criticism for delivering loans to well-off companies and organizations, including the Los Angeles Lakers, while shutting out Main Street businesses. 


Not helping the GOP, Boeing and tech giants received major boosts in the CARES Act, while two Republican senators have been accused of avoiding losses in the hundreds of thousands by dumping stocks and buying companies well suited to succeed during the pandemic after receiving a closed-door coronavirus briefing before many Americans were made aware of the looming threat.


As for life in the Capitol itself, it will be a whole new world for lawmakers as they return. As Scott Wong and Mike Lillis report, Brian Monahan, the Capitol physician, gave lawmakers a rundown of how life will change on Capitol Hill amid the pandemic, which he called the “new normal.” Headlining the changes will be teleworking staffers and desks spaced further apart in congressional offices, meetings with constituents and lobbyists over video conferencing, and food workers manning the usual communal salad bars and coffee machines in cafeterias.


While the House remains out of session, some committees are planning to reconvene for virtual hearings so they are able to finally do panel-level work. The House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Department of Health and Human Services and Labor Department plans to hold a hearing on Wednesday, while House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the chairman of the new select committee on the federal coronavirus response, told reporters that he hopes for the new panel to meet in Washington in the coming days.


The Hill’s Cristina Marcos notes that no official work has been held virtually, though some committees have held forums and other events, which have served as a test run of sorts.


The Washington Post: White House blocks National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony FauciAnthony FauciUS COVID-19 cases reach past 13 million Fauci: Pandemic likely won't improve by Christmas, New Year's Vaccine skepticism emerges as early test for Biden MORE from testifying before a House panel on Wednesday, but he is expected to appear before a Senate panel on May 12. 


The Associated Press: Senate set to re-open as virus risk divides Congress.


The Washington Post: Senate to return to Washington as Congress struggles to reconcile constitutional duties with risk of pandemic.





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STATE WATCH: Colorado, Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, West Virginia and Puerto Rico will ease more COVID-19 restrictions today, following similar moves in 17 states as of Friday (NPR). Check a map of the states that have started reopening as May begins (The New York Times).


Native American nations are among the hardest-hit COVID-19 hot spots in the country. Their health systems are far weaker than those in urban areas, exacerbating an already dire public health situation (The Hill).


New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoCardinal Dolan hails Supreme Court decision on churches, COVID-19 Cuomo blames new conservative majority for high court's COVID-19 decision Vaccine skepticism emerges as early test for Biden MORE (D) said on Sunday that his state is working in cooperation with six other East Coast states to source and buy necessary medical supplies to cut down on competition among states to find supply chains (WLNY-TV). He said on Saturday that deaths from COVID-19 had climbed after initially dropping in New York, although hospitalizations are down, and officials are trying to figure out where new infections are spreading. Antibody tests in New York City have turned up 20 percent positive results (The New York Times). … Central New York has examined the governor’s stated benchmarks to reopen for business and officials believe they will be ready by May 15 (Syracuse.com).


The governor, known for his blunt rhetoric, assailed New Yorkers as “selfish” if they congregated outdoors over the weekend without masks or social distancing and put others at risk of infection. Such scenes were replicated around the country, prompting White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx on Sunday to call the phenomenon “devastatingly worrisome” (The Washington Post).





California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomVaccine skepticism emerges as early test for Biden Mayor of Denver apologizes for holiday travel after advising residents to stay put California, Texas shatter single-day nationwide record for new coronavirus cases MORE (D) extended some stay-at-home orders, closing Orange County beaches on Thursday after defiance of social distancing instructions during nice weather. The action pitted local and state officials against one another. Meanwhile, a handful of local officials in California's more remote counties are pushing Newsom to allow them to begin reopening businesses. Modoc County in the northeastern corner of the state on Friday allowed bars, restaurants and churches to resume operations (The Hill). 


As a region, Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland are each basing decisions to reopen on similar benchmarks, but are not there yet. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the surge in covid-19 deaths in the city on Wednesday and Thursday “highlights for everybody that we are not done with this virus.” On Friday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said he’d announce this week whether he plans to extend a ban on nonessential busi­ness activity when the order expires May 8. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has suggested a phased reopening can begin early this month depending on whether the state experiences a marked plateauing of COVID-19 hospitalizations (The Washington Post).


Employers nationwide are facing tough choices about getting back to work as governors reopen their states (The Hill). … Retail companies are under pressure to provide protective gear to their employees while also persuading customers that it’s safe to shop (The Hill). … Macy’s, one of the biggest department store chains in the United States, is aiming to reopen all of its 775 stores, including Bloomingdale’s, Bluemercury and its major flagships in Manhattan, in the next six to eight weeks (The New York Times). … J.Crew files for bankruptcy (Reuters).


INTERNATIONAL: North and South Korea exchanged gunfire on Sunday, raising tensions between the two sides one day after North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnSouth Korea: Kim Jong Un has executed citizens, shut down capital to stop COVID-19 spread Will Biden choose a values-based or transactional foreign policy? Japan's role could redefine Asia-Pacific relations under Biden and Suga MORE made his first public appearance after weeks of speculation about his health. 


According to South Korea, multiple gunshots were fired from North Korea toward a rural guard post. South Korea responded with two shots of its own, and no casualties were reported. Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden faces challenges, opportunities in Middle East O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Israeli military instructed to prepare for Trump strike on Iran: report MORE said that the shots fired by North Korea were likely “accidental” (Reuters). 


South Korea also said on Sunday that Kim did not undergo major or minor surgery during his three-week absence that prompted reports about his health and future (Reuters).


In non-Kim news, South Korea announced on Monday that it will begin sending students back to school on May 13, with students and teachers mandated to wear masks at all times except for during lunch (Reuters).





> Japan: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Monday the extension of the national state of emergency until the end of the month. 


On Thursday, Abe indicated that he believed ending the lockdown on May 6 — when the lockdown was set to expire — would cause more stress on the nation’s health care system and was likely too soon. As of Sunday night, Japan has 14,571 confirmed cases and 474 deaths — the lowest totals of any Group of Seven country (Reuters). 


> United Kingdom: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an interview that the government had a contingency plan in case he passed away from COVID-19 last month and was on the verge of being put on a ventilator at one point while he was in the intensive care unit. 


“They had a strategy to deal with a ‘death of Stalin’-type scenario,” Johnson told The Sun. “It was a tough old moment, I won’t deny it.”


“The bad moment came when it was 50-50 whether they were going to have to put a tube down my windpipe,” Johnson said. “That was when it got a bit  ...  they were starting to think about how to handle it presentationally.”


Trump touched on what the British PM went through with the virus during his Sunday evening town hall, saying Johnson indicated to him that he thought he wasn’t going to make it.


“He thought it was over. It was vicious. And he made it,” Trump said. 


The Associated Press; Many lockdowns ease around the world, but Russia, India, the United Kingdom are still struggling.


Reuters: When will PM Johnson send Britain back to work?


Around the world, there are more than 3.5 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus infection and nearly a quarter of a million people have died from COVID-19 in just five months, according to the data this morning. 

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


Joe says it ain’t so, by Maureen Dowd, columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/2Ytjgvz 


The cruel COVID ‘new normal,’ by Scott Gottlieb, opinion contributor, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/35ssNV9 


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In response to COVID-19, people around the world are coming together to help one another in a show of solidarity and resilience. Facebook's Community Help is a place where you can offer or request help from your local community.

Request or offer help.


The House will convene a pro forma session on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.


The Senate will meet at 3 p.m. to begin consideration of the nomination of Robert Feitel to be inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.


The president has no public schedule early this morning.


The League of United Latin American Citizens and Univision at noon will host a virtual town hall with former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  New DOJ rule could allow executions by electrocution, firing squad MORE and lawmakers to discuss issues of workplace safety in the food industry amid the pandemic. Participating: House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHouse Democrats subpoena private prison operator in forced hysterectomy case Trump relents as GSA informs Biden transition to begin Hillicon Valley: Leadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns | Snapchat launches in-app video platform 'Spotlight' | Uber, Lyft awarded federal transportation contract MORE (D-Miss.), House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship Chairwoman Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenHillicon Valley: Four major tech issues facing the Biden administration | Pressure grows to reinstate White House cyber czar | Facebook, Google to extend political ad bans House report says lawmakers could securely cast remote votes amid pandemic Why prevailing wage reform matters for H-1B visas MORE (D-Calif.), Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroMeet the three Democrats who could lead foreign affairs in the House Hispanic Caucus endorses Castro for Foreign Affairs gavel Progressive Democrats call on Pompeo to condemn Israeli demolition of Beduin village MORE (D-Texas), and House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Chairman Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaDemocrats try to draft Cardenas to run campaign arm after disappointing night Hispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden builds big lead in battleground Florida MORE (D-Texas). Information and registration HERE


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 http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube


Politics & Campaigns: Tara Reade, a former Senate staffer who has alleged she was sexually assaulted by Biden, said over the weekend that the complaint she filed 27 years ago did not explicitly accuse the former VP of sexual harassment or assault (The Associated Press). Reade, who has said she does not support Trump, scratched a planned interview last week with Fox New Sunday (The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times). 


Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE on Sunday stood by the group's decision not to form an investigative panel to look into Reade’s allegation against Biden (The Hill). … Biden said over the weekend that his campaign is vetting more than a dozen women to be his running mate. The former vice president told MSNBC’s Al Sharpton that he is aware of the desire among some for him to nominate a black woman (The Hill). … The New York Times: Why Biden’s choice of running mate has momentous implications. … Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashIncoming GOP lawmaker shares video of hotel room workout, citing 'Democrat tyrannical control' Rundown of the House seats Democrats, GOP flipped on Election Day Romney congratulates Biden after victory MORE (I-Mich.) defended his decision to run as a third party candidate for president and denied that his goal is to be a “spoiler” to toss the election in the president’s direction (The Hill and The Washington Post). … The Trump campaign released a new ad on Sunday evening defending the president’s actions to combat the coronavirus while panning comments by Biden. The ad, titled “American Comeback,” is running on cable and broadcast outlets nationally this week and is a mid-seven figures buy, according to the campaign.


First Person: The coronavirus statistics can be numbing, but real-world voices and experiences help us see this period of crisis and uncertainty through others’ eyes:

  • Former President George W. Bush (2:47 video message): “We have faced times of testing before. … We are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise and fall together. And we are determined to rise.” 
  • Ray Suarez: “Sinking feeling: ‘I clung to the middle class as I aged. The pandemic pulled me under’” (The Washington Post).
  • Gloria Jackson: “On being 75, alone and thought of as expendable. ‘I apologize to God for feeling this way’” (The Washington Post).
  • Stephen King: “One thing that’s shocking is how fast things change. Was it only a month ago that people were in stores?” (The New York Times Magazine).
  • William Liakos: “I am a medical student in my third year of studies. ... My grandfather died of COVID-19. More empathy from everyone may have prevented such deaths in this pandemic” (The Washington Post).
  • Mazhar Chughtai, a Virginia restaurant operations manager, plus perspectives from nine other people whose lives in America have been upended by the pandemic: “Personally, it’s been very difficult. … My biggest fear is that the government is making a lot of promises. Are they going to be able to deliver?” (The Washington Post). 


News media: CBS “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl revealed on Sunday’s broadcast that she had contracted COVID-19, was hospitalized and recovered. She is 78.


➔ Supreme Court makes history: Today, live audio of justices’ oral arguments will begin for the first time at 10 a.m., as the court shifts to conducting business remotely by teleconference because of coronavirus restrictions (The Associated Press). C-SPAN will have audio coverage HERE and via the C-SPAN app.





And finally … Luck, persistence and the comfort of routine helped Colorado’s “Joe B.” win two $1 million Powerball jackpots on the same day, March 25, according to KUSA-TV. Two!


Joe B. has played the same number for 30 years and became a two-time winner after buying tickets at two different stores about a mile apart in Pueblo, Colo.


What are the odds? (The Associated Press).