The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - In reversal, Trump says he won't disband coronavirus task force

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Thursday. 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. Thursday, 73,431.

President TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 MORE said on Wednesday that the coronavirus task force will continue on “indefinitely” as the country struggles with the balancing act of reopening the economy and stemming the spread of the virus, with more dire economic numbers set to be released on Friday. 


The president made the announcement a day after he and Vice President Pence said the task force would soon be wound down, with the bulk of the COVID-19 response handled more routinely in agencies and departments. On Wednesday, Trump tempered his explanation, telling reporters the advisory group will continue with its attention trained on an economic rebound. He also said the task force will be “very focused” on development of a vaccine and therapeutics (The Hill).


“I thought we could wind it down sooner,” Trump said, adding, “I had no idea how popular the task force is” (The Associated Press).


While some states and cities have seen their COVID-19 infection rates and death tolls flatten, the spread of the virus is on the rise throughout rural regions and states that were not initially hit hard by the virus. Trump acknowledged that some people would be “affected badly” as the country moves to reopen. 


“We can't keep our country closed for the next five years, you know,” Trump told reporters. “You could say there might be a recurrence, and there might be. And, you know, most doctors or some doctors say that it will happen and it'll be a flame and we're going to put the flame out.”


Peter Baker, The New York Times: Trump’s new coronavirus message: Time to move on to the economic recovery.


All the official assurances of safety and precautions hinge on a big bet: that if they build it, consumers will come. But it will not be governors or mayors or politicians who reopen the economy. It will be the millions of Americans who decide to shop, travel and return to restaurants — or not. And most people tell pollsters they are not ready to risk their health or the health of loved ones by venturing out of their houses too soon (The Washington Post). Without consumer confidence, the economic downturn will be long and brutal. 


Washington officials are holding their breath in anticipation of Friday’s employment report from April, which will underscore the unprecedented pain for tens of millions of Americans who have lost employment since March in a U.S. economy in shambles (The New York Times).


State Watch: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland said his state’s coronavirus statistics are at last trending in the right direction and could result in the first phase of reopening for business as soon as next week (The Hill). … Florida began reopening beginning on Monday. Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Golden statue of Trump at CPAC ridiculed online MORE (R) said the Sunshine State has seen a gradual decline in confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, according to the Florida Department of Health (The Hill). 


States have been asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for scientifically based recommendations to help businesses, faith leaders, educators and state and local officials think through optimal practices as they reopen, and the CDC prepared a detailed, 17-page report titled “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework.” It was on track to be published last Friday. But there’s a hitch, The Associated Press reports: the detailed guide is now deep-sixed, viewed at the top of the Trump administration as too specific, a “slippery slope” now that individual governors are America’s public health crisis managers.


Reuters slideshow: See how other countries remind the public about social distancing and no-touch practices during everyday commercial practices.


The Hill: Health experts believe performing outdoor activities while practicing social distancing is relatively safe for the public in the new COVID-19 world. The research may help officials who are trying to figure out whether to open parks and beaches. Outdoor community pools may be a separate issue. Golf? Maryland is reopening its golf courses and issued guidance this week.





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CONGRESS: It may be dictum among conservatives that Uncle Sam should not reward poor decision making, but the current budgetary woes experienced by states may be an exception for some GOP senators willing to cross swords with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe bizarre back story of the filibuster The Bible's wisdom about addressing our political tribalism Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' MORE. The Kentucky Republican says he’s opposed to adding billions more dollars to a state stabilization fund as well as using federal funds to backstop general revenue shortfalls in states. He wants future aid from Washington to cover direct state costs tied to battling COVID-19. But pushback is coming from Republican Sens. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Biden's unity effort falters Capito asks White House to allow toxic chemicals rule to proceed MORE (W.Va.) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGraham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill Republicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars MORE (Alaska), who believe states should be granted flexibility to use federal help where it’s needed, reports Alexander Bolton


The New York Times: GOP balks at long-term expansion of food stamps as U.S. hunger, food shortages grow during economic crisis. Democrats seek to raise benefits by 15 percent for the duration of the emergency. The administration prefers to see food stamp statistics decline on Trump’s watch.


The Senate today will attempt to override Trump’s veto of Congress’s restrictions on his war powers with respect to Iran. Upshot: The override effort is expected to fall short of the two-thirds support needed in the Senate. Overrides of presidential vetoes are rare (The Hill).


Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday sparred with Justin Walker, Trump’s 37-year-old nominee to be a judge with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, considered a powerful perch for distinguished and experienced judges from across the political spectrum. During Walker’s confirmation hearing, Democrats faulted the nominee as inexperienced and a foe of the Affordable Care Act and Supreme Court verdicts upholding the law’s constitutionality, and they questioned his career IOUs to former boss Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMedia circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden The Jan. 6 case for ending the Senate filibuster Laurence Tribe: Justice Thomas is out of order on 2020 election MORE and ally McConnell. Little more than six months ago, Walker was confirmed by the Senate along party lines for a district judge post. At the time, the American Bar Association rated him as “not qualified” (The Hill). The bottom line: Walker is all but guaranteed to be confirmed.


Across the Capitol in the House, an Appropriations subcommittee met to begin overseeing the federal government’s management of recently enacted federal coronavirus relief programs. Lawmakers wanted to hear from Anthony FauciAnthony FauciNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Underfunding classics and humanities is dangerous MORE, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a respected member of the president’s White House task force and an immunologist. The White House blocked Fauci from appearing, arguing he will testify before a Senate panel next week.


House members in both parties on Wednesday complained that Trump was in error to prevent an administration expert official from appearing. The president, on the other hand, has assailed House oversight efforts as politically motivated during an election year. He said this week that the chamber is filled with “a bunch of Trump haters.”


I want the record to show I joined the chairman urging that Dr. Fauci be allowed to testify here,” Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeDemocratic women sound alarm on female unemployment House votes to kick Greene off committees over embrace of conspiracy theories LIVE COVERAGE: House debates removing Greene from committees MORE (Okla.), the top Republican on the House Appropriations labor and health subcommittee, said during the Wednesday hearing. “I think it would have been good testimony, useful to this committee and useful to this country. Frankly, I think going forward, this subcommittee, more than any other, is going to need administration input, expert input, as we make the important decisions in front of us” (The Hill).


The Hill: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMcCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 After vote against coronavirus relief package, Golden calls for more bipartisanship in Congress Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' MORE (D-Calif.) said Trump’s decision to hold back witnesses from appearing before the House is “beneath the dignity of the office that he holds.”





INTERNATIONAL CORONAVIRUS: According to scientists with University College London’s Genetics Institute, the new coronavirus emerged in China sometime between early October and December and spread quickly around the world. An intriguing genetic study of COVID-19 using samples drawn from more than 7,500 people infected with the pathogen found almost 200 recurrent genetic mutations pointing to its adaptations in human hosts as well as its rapid and wide-reaching spread. Those identified mutations offer helpful clues for researchers seeking to develop drugs and vaccines. In a second study also published on Wednesday, scientists at Britain’s University of Glasgow said their findings showed that previous work suggesting two different strains of COVID-19 was inaccurate. The Glasgow team believes only one type of the virus was circulating (Reuters). 


> Spain: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez won enough support from parliament to extend the national state of emergency two more weeks until May 23 as the country slowly loosens restrictions. Spain has been under a national lockdown since March 14. 


“Lifting the state of emergency would be a total, unpardonable mistake,” Sanchez said in a parliamentary speech (Reuters). 


A day after the announcement, The Spanish health ministry reported 213 deaths on Thursday, down from 244 a day earlier (Reuters).


> United Kingdom: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a national goal to perform at least 200,000 COVID-19 tests per day by the end of the month. Johnson’s spokesman called the figure an “operational target” as Great Britain struggles to contain the spread of the virus.


On Wednesday, the U.K. became the first European nation to eclipse 30,000 deaths; there were 202,335 confirmed cases of the virus and 30,150 deaths in Great Britain late Wednesday (BBC).


> Poland: The two major Polish political parties struck a deal on Wednesday to postpone Sunday’s presidential election due to the coronavirus outbreak. 


The ruling Law and Justice party and a small party in the conservative coalition said in a joint statement that they will postpone the election until a date that is to be determined, saying that the move is “a solution that will guarantee Poles the opportunity to participate in democratic elections” (The Associated Press).







POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: The veepstakes took another turn on Wednesday as Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsHouse Judiciary split on how to address domestic extremism Demings on possible Senate, Florida governor run: 'I'm keeping that door open' Lawmakers remember actress Cicely Tyson MORE (D-Fla.), 63, said that she would be pleased if former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors Biden celebrates vaccine approval but warns 'current improvement could reverse' MORE selected her as his running mate for the general election. 


“If asked, I would be honored to serve alongside Joe Biden and do everything in my power to get this country back on track, not just here in the nation, but around the world,” Demings, 63, who served as one of the House impeachment managers, told MSNBC. 


Biden’s campaign team began with a list of five to seven candidates and expanded the vetting list to around a dozen potential contenders, the former vice president has said. Many progressives want to see a young, female and minority running mate alongside Biden, 77.


Demings (pictured below), who was elected to Congress in 2016 after serving as Orlando, Fla.’s police chief, is the latest political figure to signal interest in being Biden’s No. 2. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenExclusive: How Obama went to bat for Warren Minimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster Democratic strategists start women-run media consulting firm MORE (D-Mass.) and Stacey Abrams have both said publicly that they want the position, while Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisDwayne 'The Rock' Johnson vs. Donald Trump: A serious comparison Exclusive: How Obama went to bat for Warren To unite America, Biden administration must brace for hate MORE (D-Calif.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharOpen-ended antitrust is an innovation killer FBI, DHS and Pentagon officials to testify on Capitol riot Five big takeaways on the Capitol security hearings MORE (D-Minn.) are also considered top contenders. Biden has committed to selecting a woman (The Hill).





> Polling: Biden has extended his lead over the president to a 9-point margin, but the presence of Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashRepublicans eye primaries in impeachment vote Michigan GOP lawmaker says he's 'strongly considering' impeachment Newly sworn in Republican House member after Capitol riot: 'I regret not bringing my gun to D.C.' MORE (I-Mich.) could present more of a challenge to the presumptive Democratic nominee than to Trump, according to a new Monmouth University poll released on Wednesday.


Biden leads with 50 percent support to Trump’s 41 percent — up from a 5-point lead in its April poll. However, Amash being on the ballot would take more support from Biden than the incumbent president, according to the survey’s findings. When Amash was included in the lineup of candidates, Biden’s support shrank to 47 percent, while Trump’s decreased to 40 percent (The Hill).


The New York Times: Knock, knock, who’s there? No political canvassers, for the first time maybe ever.


> Endorsements: Former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderLIVE COVERAGE: Senate set to consider Garland for AG Census to delay data delivery, jeopardizing redistricting crunch Biden's commission on the judiciary must put justice over politics MORE threw his weight behind Biden on Wednesday, saying he believes the former VP will be “forward-leaning” on issues such as criminal justice reform.


“I think you will see him deal with the whole problem of mass incarceration and continuing the work that we did during the Obama-Biden years to ask questions about the ways in which we have dealt with criminal justice issues in the nation, like, do we need to incarcerate as many people as we do? And are there alternatives to incarceration?” Holder (pictured below) told The Washington Post in an interview, where he announced his support for the former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman (The Hill).




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!


America has no plan for the worst-case scenario on COVID-19, by Noah Feldman, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/35AhR8e


A bipartisan plan to support state budgets, by William A. Galston, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/35DWz9R 


If you need help, or can offer it.


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 Friday at 8 a.m. Pelosi will hold her weekly press conference from the Capitol at 10:45 a.m. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyMcCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues MORE (R-Calif.) will hold his own press conference at 9:30 a.m.


The Senate will meet at 10 a.m. and resume consideration of Trump’s veto message on a joint resolution to direct the removal of U.S. armed forces from hostilities against Iran that have not been authorized by Congress. An afternoon vote is expected.


The president will meet with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in the Oval Office at 2 p.m. Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpJill Biden picks up where she left off The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden navigates pressures from Dems Former first lady launches 'Office of Melania Trump' MORE will deliver remarks at 4 p.m. in the Rose Garden to mark the White House National Day of Prayer.


The vice president will deliver personal protective equipment from FEMA to the Woodbine Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center at 11 a.m. He will also take part in the Abbott and National Day of Prayer events before leading a coronavirus task force meeting at 5 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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Supreme Court: Justices voiced concerns Wednesday about the sweep of Trump administration rules that would allow more employers who cite a religious or moral objection to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women, a provision of the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court heard via teleconference the first of two cases on Wednesday stemming from ObamaCare, under which most employers must cover birth control as a preventive service, at no charge to women in their insurance plans. Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgMcConnell backs Garland for attorney general A powerful tool to take on the Supreme Court — if Democrats use it right Fauci says he was nervous about catching COVID-19 in Trump White House MORE participated from Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, where she is being treated for an infection caused by a gallstone (The Associated Press and The Hill).


Education: Department Secretary Betsy DeVosBetsy DeVosMotorcade of Libyan interior minister attacked UN report says Erik Prince violated arms embargo against Libya: report Biden faces backlash from left on student loans MORE issued final rules on Wednesday spelling out how all schools are to address allegations of sexual misconduct, securing new protections for students and faculty accused of misconduct. The rules, modifying Title IX in a 1972 civil rights law, narrow the definition of sexual harassment and require schools to challenge evidence and cross-examine students through a live hearing (The Hill).


Sports: The German Bundesliga is expected to become the first major sports league to return amid the coronavirus pandemic. The German government and federal states gave the league the go-ahead to restart later this month, with May 15 and May 22 serving as potential kickoff dates under considerations by the German Football League. The Bundesliga has nine match days remaining and is hopeful to complete the season by June 30, albeit without fans in the stands. Germany has banned mass gatherings until the end of August (ESPN). 


➔  Black hole: With your own eyes, you might be able to see a “neighborhood” discovery by European astronomers: the closest black hole to Earth yet, so near that the two stars dancing with it can be seen. It’s 1,000 light-years away and each light-year is 5.9 trillion miles. But in terms of the cosmos and even the galaxy, it’s close, said European Southern Observatory astronomer Thomas Rivinius, who led a study published on Wednesday in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. The newly discovered black hole is small, about 25 miles in diameter. “Washington, D.C., would quite easily fit into the black hole, and once it went in it, would never come back,” astronomer Dietrich Baade, a study co-author, said cheerfully (The Associated Press).





And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by Wednesday’s anniversary of Babe Ruth’s first career home run, we’re eager for some smart guesses about the life and career of the Bambino.


Email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.


How many times did Ruth, known as the “Sultan of Swat,” reach the 40-home run mark in a season?

  1. 7
  2. 9
  3. 11
  4. 13

When Ruth contracted influenza during the 1918 pandemic, an attempted treatment for the virus, rather than the disease itself, almost cost him his life. What was the nearly lethal therapy?

  1. Hydroxychloroquine
  2. Silver nitrate
  3. Aspirin 
  4. Magic Balm

What city is home to the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum? 

  1. Boston 
  2. New York City
  3. White Plains
  4. Baltimore

What did the Boston Red Sox receive when they sold George Herman Ruth Jr. to the New York Yankees in 1919? 

  1. $1 million
  2. $100,000
  3. $400,000
  4. $125,000 and a season’s worth of bats

Ruth was a member of the inaugural 1936 class inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Which of these players was not part of that class? 

  1. Ty Cobb
  2. Lou Gehrig
  3. Walter Johnson
  4. Christy Mathewson