The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump doesn't wear mask as he winds down task force

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Wednesday. 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. Tuesday, 68,934. Wednesday, 71,078.



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 used a brief trip to Phoenix on Tuesday to send a frank message to the nation that he’s focused on getting states back in business while moving on from months of crisis command over a contagion he readily concedes will kill thousands more people as they ease out of protective isolation.

 

People want to go out, and they want to go on the town,” Trump said approvingly during a roundtable event and Honeywell plant visit he made with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R). 

 

Ducey (pictured below), who has ordered that Arizonans stay home until at least May 15, listened as Trump told reporters he plans to disband the White House coronavirus task force chaired by Vice President Pence “because you can’t keep our country closed forever” (CNBC). In its place, Trump said he’ll create an advisory group “in a different form” that combines expertise in reopening the country with “safety.” 

 

The president said he will continue to consult with the government’s top infectious disease experts, but he signaled his days of sharing his stage with immunologists and charts showing states with new outbreaks of COVID-19 may be over. As of this morning, at least 1.2 million people in the United States have been infected and the actual number is likely much higher. 

 

Ducey, a Trump ally, argued that Arizona is “not New York state,” a reference to the U.S. epicenter of the epidemic, but also a nod to the nation’s partisan divide. “We know so much more today than we did six or eight weeks ago,” he said.

 

Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise in the United States, if epicenter data collected in the New York metro area is subtracted from the evolving national picture, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. Pockets of America far from New York City, such as in Iowa, Kansas and New Mexico, are seeing ominous trends as new outbreaks emerge. The numbers tell a story of new infections, not just expanded testing, because people are resuming pre-COVID patterns of behavior.

 

ABC “World News Tonight”: Trump, during an interview on Tuesday, said “it’s possible there will be some” deaths from the coronavirus as states reopen for business. Nevertheless, the U.S. economy cannot remain closed, he said. “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.” 

 

As Jonathan Easley reports, the president and his allies are keenly aware of polls showing 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 leading in battleground states and nationally. The Trump campaign is trying to recast the president as a “comeback” incumbent who can revive the economy while at the same time drawing sharp contrasts with Biden.

 

Trump on Tuesday repeated his assertions, challenged by some economists, that the fourth quarter of this year and 2021 will boomerang to become economic bonanzas for many Americans because of trillions of dollars of federal stimulus and the impact of pent-up consumer demand. The president said nothing about expectations that employment data for April, to be released on Friday, will affirm the historic ravages of joblessness experienced by tens of millions of Americans since March. 

 

Reuters: The Treasury Department announced $4.8 billion in pandemic help for tribal governments during Trump’s trip to the Southwest. 

 

 

 

 

*** Headline News: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgSpeculation swirls about next Supreme Court vacancy Supreme Court divided over fight for Trump's financial records   Pandemic proves Justice Thomas does have something to say MORE is hospitalized with a benign gallstone infection and will remain in the hospital for non-surgical treatment for several days, a court spokesperson said in a statement released late Tuesday. Ginsburg, 87, who has survived cancer treatment four times, plans to participate by phone today in oral arguments as she did on Monday and Tuesday (The Associated Press). White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted, “Our prayers are with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We wish her a speedy recovery as we send our love and well wishes!” *** 



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LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi calls Trump's decision to withdraw US from WHO 'an act of extraordinary senselessness' House Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Khanna says President Trump threatening violence against US citizens; Trump terminating relationship with WHO MORE (D-Calif.) is continuing her push for the next aid package, but Republicans are pumping the breaks on another round of big spending after greenlighting nearly $3 trillion to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Pelosi is expected to motor ahead and introduce legislation in the coming days that would include at least $800 billion for state and local governments. She has signaled as much this week, telling reporters on Tuesday that the new package will be “just very directly related to saving lives, the livelihood and the life of our democracy” (The Associated Press).

 

However, 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.) put any plans on ice, telling reporters on Tuesday that the Senate GOP plans to take a “pause.”

 

"I think I can speak for our conference by saying we're not ruling that out, but we think we ought to take a pause here, do a good job of evaluating what we've already done," McConnell told reporters about the prospects of a new bill after a closed-door caucus lunch. “The Senate Republican majority and the president of the United States are not irrelevant to the process, so we're going to keep talking to each other and decide to act when and if it's appropriate to act again.” (The Hill).

 

As The Hill’s Niv Elis reports, Republicans and conservatives are sounding the alarm over the massive spending Congress has approved in the past two months, with many hesitant to back an additional bill that could rival the size and scope of the CARES Act when all is said and done.

 

Despite McConnell’s remarks and reservations among rank-and-file Senate Republicans, lawmakers remain under the gun to pass another massive round of coronavirus relief, according to Mike Lillis and Scott Wong. Among other things, the small-business loan program is drying up, state budgets are getting crunched and unemployment claims continue to rise. 

 

With Pelosi and House Democrats expected to unveil their bill this week, they are looking ahead to a potential vote on the bill next week, putting Senate Republicans in a precarious position as they take time to consider their options.

 

The Hill: Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSenate GOP chairman criticizes Trump withdrawal from WHO Trump: US 'terminating' relationship with WHO Soured on Fox, Trump may be seeking new propaganda outlet MORE (R-Tenn.), who is retiring in January, warned that the Senate could become a “virus spreading machine” without COVID-19 testing.

 

The Hill: Senate steps into “strange” new era.

 

The New York Times: Senators descend on quiet Capitol, sacrificing pomp for safety’s sake.

 

 

 

 

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeFlynn urged Russian diplomat to have 'reciprocal' response to Obama sanctions, new transcripts show READ: Newly declassified transcripts of Flynn calls with Russia ambassador Intel chief Ratcliffe declassifies transcripts of Flynn calls MORE (R-Texas) told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that he would be an independent voice and “speak truth to power” as he attempted to jettison his reputation as a partisan Trump loyalist during his confirmation hearing to become the nation’s next intelligence chief.

 

Throughout the hearing, Senate Democrats grilled the Texas Republican over his past, having made his name as a member of the president’s impeachment team and as a high-profile member of the House Intelligence Committee. Repeatedly, Ratcliffe tried to move past that work.

 

“I want to look forward, not back,” said Ratcliffe (Politico). 

 

The Hill: Ratcliffe vows to deliver unvarnished intelligence. 

 

At one point, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks Trump signs order targeting social media firms' legal protections On The Money: US tops 100,000 coronavirus deaths with no end in sight | How lawmaker ties helped shape Fed chairman's COVID-19 response | Tenants fear mass evictions MORE (D-Va.), the Senate Intelligence Committee’s ranking member, pressed Ratcliffe over the findings of the intelligence community and the panel that the Russians sought to interfere in the 2020 election on behalf of the president. While he would not say whether he agreed, he told Warner that the Russians did try to interfere in the election more broadly — pointing to the findings of the House Intelligence Committee — and are trying to do so again this year.

 

“I respect both committees, but I have not seen the underlying intelligence to tell me why there is a difference of opinion between the two committees,” Ratcliffe said. “The most important takeaway of the findings I think of both committees is that as Russia continues to sow discord that they have not been successful at changing votes or the outcome of the election, and we need to remain committed to making sure that does not happen in the future” (The Hill).

 

 

 



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CORONAVIRUS & SCIENCE: The world’s ultimate rescue from COVID-19 will come from a cure, not mitigation, isolation or massive testing, although all of these responses are necessary, according to public health experts. Of more than 100 COVID-19 vaccine candidates in development, 10 have reached the clinical testing stage, according to California-based think tank Milken Institute. There is ample confidence that a cure is possible, but there are no guarantees.

 

French pharmaceutical company Sanofi is partnering with GlaxoSmithKline for early-stage trials with hundreds of subjects to begin in September (Reuters). Pfizer and a German company are collaborating and embarked on human trials of a possible vaccine on Monday (The New York Times).

 

In Israel, the health minister said on Tuesday that researchers isolated a monoclonal antibody that could neutralize the new coronavirus in what is described as a “significant breakthrough” toward a treatment (Reuters).

 

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Defense: Trump extends deployment of National Guard troops to aid with coronavirus response | Pentagon considers reducing quarantine to 10 days | Lawmakers push for removal of Nazi headstones from VA cemeteries Don't move the COVID-19 goalpost Overnight Health Care: Sewage testing gives clues of coronavirus | White House says Trump would take hydroxychloroquine again | Trump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K virus deaths MORE, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told National Geographic in an interview that many trials occurring with speed appear promising. “You want a lot of shots on goal. We want four or five candidates that we put out there all within a reasonable time,” he said.

 

He pointed to a vaccine candidate made by Cambridge, Mass.-based Moderna Therapeutics, which brought what’s known as an mRNA vaccine to human trials in a record 42 days. The Moderna drug uses a bit of the virus’s own genetic material to help trigger protective immunity in humans.

 

Trump on Tuesday repeated his faith that “tremendous progress” is occurring in the hunt for a cure. “We’re looking to get a vaccine that works,” he said.

 

The president marvels at what scientists have learned in little more than four months since the emergence of a never-before-seen pathogen. That collaborative, emergency education has revealed incorrect assumptions and pronouncements at the same time that COVID-19 keeps surprising researchers around the world, writes Reid Wilson.

 

Understanding the biology of the new coronavirus is one thing. Unpacking what it does in humans in different settings and among various demographic groups is another. Scientists and researchers examine data sets, run calculations and make predictions to help politicians and clinicians try to outsmart COVID-19 with their responses, and to draw mountainous-looking pictures of what happens if they fail (The Hill).

 

The Washington Post: There are European and Chinese strains of COVID-19. Is one strain now more contagious? Some non-peer-reviewed research makes that case. However, the scientific community’s consensus has been that strains of the coronavirus are functionally the same, even if they look genetically different.

 

The New York Times: The New York City Health Department on Monday issued a bulletin asking doctors to report any cases of a COVID-19 related syndrome emerging over the past two weeks in children. The collection of symptoms, seen in patients ages 2 to 15 hospitalized in intensive care, differ from the disease’s respiratory effects in adults, caused by immune responses. In some young patients, the syndrome appears similar to a rare childhood illness called Kawasaki disease, which can lead to inflammation of the blood vessels, especially the coronary arteries.

 

On Tuesday, the ousted director of the federal office involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine, Rick Bright, accused the administration of playing politics in reaction to his early warnings in January about COVID-19 and his professional view that the drug hydroxychloroquine was unlikely to be a breakthrough therapy to speed recovery, as stated by Trump.

 

Bright, who was ousted by Health and Human Services bosses from his post as leader since 2016 of the influential Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and transferred to a smaller assignment at the National Institutes of Health, filed a whistleblower complaint and has been called to testify before Congress (CNN and NBC News). The administration denies political retribution, and Trump has publicly challenged Bright’s claim to whistleblower status.

 

 

 

 

****

 

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: A TV ad by the Lincoln Project, a group of so-called Never Trump Republicans, drew the ire of the president earlier this week, continuing a war of words between the two sides that has lasted since Trump’s 2016 insurgent bid for the GOP nomination.

 

Undoubtedly, the Never Trump movement was battered four years ago and has struggled since then. However, as Niall Stanage explores in his latest memo, there is the question of whether the cadre of ex-Republicans can be any more effective in this year's election campaign. While they have the capacity to make a lot of noise and attract media attention from many corners, their reach has not extended to influencing public opinion; the president continues to enjoy massive support from Republican voters as measured by polls.

 

“I don’t think the Conway effort is indicative of how Republicans feel about the president,” said GOP strategist Ron Bonjean, a former Capitol Hill aide who worked on Justice Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchSupreme Court denies California church's challenge to state restrictions Speculation swirls about next Supreme Court vacancy Supreme Court denies Trump officials' effort to block order on moving at-risk inmates MORE’s confirmation in 2017. “They don’t have a hostility to the president, and they believe COVID-19 took everyone by surprise.” 

 

> Biden allegations: Biden has the support another high-profile Democrat in the wake of allegations of sexual assault: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Memo: Trump ratchets up Twitter turmoil Hillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump tweet for 'glorifying violence' | Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged sanctions violations | Senators urge FTC to investigate TikTok child privacy issues Warren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in MORE (D-Mass.). 

 

Warren told reporters on Capitol Hill that Biden’s denial of accusations by Tara Reade, a former Senate aide of the then-Delaware senator, was “credible” and “convincing.”

 

“I believe that everyone has a right to tell her story, to be listened to, and treated with respect,” Warren told reporters on Monday. “I saw the reports of [what] Ms. Reade said, I saw the interview with Vice President Biden. I appreciate that the vice president took a lot of questions, tough questions — and that he answered them directly and respectfully. … The vice president’s answers were credible and convincing” (The Hill).

 

Warren joins other top female Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSenate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE (D-N.Y.) and Stacey Abrams, in backing Biden over the allegations.

 

The Washington Post: 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.) declines to back Warren as possible Biden running mate despite liberal pedigree.

 

> Primaries: A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the New York Democratic presidential primary must take place June 23, saying that it’s cancellation would be unlawful, siding with Sanders and Andrew YangAndrew YangAndrew Yang discusses his universal basic income pilot program Andrew Yang on the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis McConnell challenger on how Yang endorsement could help him MORE due to potential representation issues at the Democratic National Convention in August.

 

U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan ruled for the candidates after lawyers for Sanders and Yang argued Monday that they would be harmed in the process, saying that there is a requisite amount of time for the state to figure out how to hold the primary in a safe fashion due to COVID-19. Torres pointed to the actions of other states as most postponed primary contests, but none canceled them outright (The Associated Press).

 

The Hill: Former President Obama endorses the Democrat in a California special House election.

 

Politico: Sen. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerGOP women's group rolls out endorsements ahead of contested races Senators ask DeVos to adjust FAFSA form due to the coronavirus pandemic Bossie, Lewandowski warned Trump he was in trouble in 2020: report MORE (R-Ga.) embraces her wealth — and private jet — to jump-start campaign.



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!



OPINION

Don’t punish our states for the big spenders, by Sarah Curry of Nebraska and Joseph Coletti of North Carolina, opinion contributors, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2zfLShi

 

Will the economic recession cost President Trump the election? by Helmut Norpoth, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2YEYR70



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WHERE AND WHEN

The House will convene a pro forma session on Friday at 8 a.m. The House Appropriations subcommittee on labor at 10 a.m. today will hold an oversight hearing about the federal coronavirus relief efforts to date.  

 

The Senate at 10 a.m. will resume debate on the nomination of William Evanina to be director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee at 2:30 p.m. holds a hearing on the impact of the coronavirus on the aviation industry.

 

The president signs a proclamation in honor of National Nurses Day at 12:15 p.m., and had lunch with Vice President Pence at 12:45 p.m. Trump will meet with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) at 2 p.m. and received his intelligence briefing at 3:30 p.m.

 

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

 

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ELSEWHERE

International & coronavirus: Some uplifting headlines emerged from hard hit Italy and luckier Hong Kong. 

 

In Italy, the European epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic gingerly woke up on Monday from the continent’s first and longest lockdown (The Associated Press). SkyNews captured video of what that looked like for one set of joyous Italian grandparents, who greeted 5-year-old granddaughter Cecilia for the first time after two long months of precautionary separation:

 

 

 

 

Hong Kong’s Chinese-ruled government said on Tuesday it will relax restrictions on public gatherings and allow gyms, cinemas and beauty parlors to reopen later this week as its COVID-19 cases dwindle (Reuters). 

 

The United Kingdom is facing a gruesome death toll from the coronavirus, which has surpassed fatalities in all other European nations (Reuters).

 

Globally, the COVID-19 death toll is at least 257,793 this morning, out of at least 3.7 million people who have been infected, according to the latest data.

 

Business sectors: The decision on Tuesday by Capital One to keep most workers at home at least through September may signal a trend emerging in the financial sector about growing expectations that COVID-19 will continue to be a U.S. health threat for months (Bloomberg Law). … Grocery stores anticipate an increasingly fragile supply chain for beef and pork because of outbreaks of COVID-19 infection among workers in meat packing plants, despite an emergency manufacturing directive from Trump (The Hill). … Wendy’s is worried about having ample supplies of beef (Reuters).

 

➔ Commencement: Obama will headline a virtual event to celebrate the high school class of 2020 and deliver a prime-time commencement address centered around life amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He will speak on May 16 at the event hosted by the XQ Institute, The LeBron James Family Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation. Obama and 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 also deliver separate addresses on June 6 at a virtual event hosted by YouTube that will also feature Malala Yousafzai, Lady Gaga, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Kerry Washington, among others (The Associated Press). 



THE CLOSER

And finally … ⚾ Opening Day was yesterday … in South Korea! And all the quietly well-mannered fans showed up to watch (The Associated Press).