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The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Argentum – Mask mandates, restrictions issued as COVID-19 spreads

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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, 135,205. Tuesday, 135,615. Wednesday, 136,466. Thursday 137,419.

States and major retailers on Wednesday imposed new restrictions and mandates for individuals to wear masks in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus as an internal spat continued to tumble into public view at the White House.


After resisting for months, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced a statewide order for individuals to don masks as the number of confirmed cases surged since early July in the state. Ivey, who received backing from a number of key officials to make the move, said the state is moving in the “wrong direction” after it announced 2,140 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, its highest ever one-day increase, and 47 new deaths, the highest one-day total since the outbreak started.


“You shouldn’t have to be ordered to do what is in your own best interest, and in the best interest of those you know and love,” Ivey said. “I still believe this is going to be a difficult order to enforce. And I always prefer a personal responsibility over a government mandate. Yet, I also know, with all of my heart, that the numbers and the data over the past few weeks are definitely trending in the wrong direction” (Montgomery Advertiser).


In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced on Wednesday a roll back of part of the state’s reopening, though nowhere near the move made by California earlier in the week, and issued new restrictions on bars, restaurants and nightclubs. He argued the moves will allow the state to go ahead with the plan to reopen schools next month. 


“We’re already at a tipping point,” Wolf said. On Wednesday, Pennsylvania reported nearly 1,000 new COVID-19 cases — a total that has not been seen in the state since May (Pennsylvania Capital-Star). 


Meanwhile, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) announced she will issue an executive order on Monday delaying the beginning of the K-12 school year in her state until after Labor Day in September because of the coronavirus (Fox4KC). 


On the business side, Walmart became the largest retailer to release new guidelines mandating shoppers wear face coverings in its stores, along with Sam’s Club locations . The new rule will go into effect on Monday (The Associated Press). Other big retailers, including Best Buy and Kroger, made similar announcements hours later (CNN).


The Hill: Major retailers impose mask mandates for customers nationwide.


Rolling Stone: Scientists thought (and Trump insisted) summer heat would slow COVID-19. It hasn’t. Why? 


> Oklahoma: Gov Kevin Stitt (R) announced on Wednesday that he tested positive for COVID-19 weeks after attending Trump’s June 20 rally in Tulsa without a mask. He said he believes the president’s event occurred too long ago to be his transmission point for the virus (The Hill).


> Mississippi: As of Tuesday, at least 30 lawmakers and 11 workers at the state Capitol tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the state’s health officer (The Hill)


> Washington metro area: The nation’s capital on Wednesday reported three more deaths from COVID-19 and a rise of 80 positive test results following a string of days without fatalities. Maryland reported 756 additional positive test results on Wednesday and Virginia reported 15 more deaths but no new hospitalizations (WTOP). 


KTLA: Rose Bowl parade canceled for first time since World War II.


Meanwhile, the feud between White House trade adviser Peter Navarro (pictured below) and Anthony Fauci took another turn on Wednesday as the White House distanced itself from an op-ed Navarro published on Tuesday night. Alyssa Farah, a White House spokeswoman, confirmed that Navarro published the opinion article without going through proper channels. 


Before departing for Georgia on Wednesday, President Trump offered up words of support for the embattled director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, telling reporters that he and Fauci have a “very good relationship” and that Navarro shouldn’t be making statements “representing himself.” 


“We’re all on the same team, including Dr. Fauci,” Trump said. “[Navarro] made a statement representing himself. He shouldn’t be doing that. I have a very good relationship with Anthony.” 


The Hill: Navarro-Fauci battle intensifies, to the detriment of Trump. 


NBC News: Mark Meadows wanted to cease fire on Fauci. Navarro had other plans.


The Hill: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says he has “total” confidence in Fauci. 


Public health groups are howling about a White House effort to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the federal recipient of state and local COVID-19 case data. The administration says a change to put the Health and Human Service Department in charge will streamline data reporting, but experts say the shift could harm the quality of U.S. information and is designed to assert control by higher-ups at a time when Trump has been downplaying the severity of the coronavirus crisis (The Hill). House committee oversight is all but certain.


ESPN: NASCAR All-Star race attracts 20,000 fans to Bristol Motor Speedway in largest event since pandemic started (race track seats 140,000).






TRUMP MAKES CAMPAIGN CHANGES, BIDEN UP IN POLLS: The president made a long-awaited campaign shakeup on Wednesday, demoting Brad Parscale as campaign manager and promoting Bill Stepien to the position as his poll numbers continue to fall less than four months before Election Day (The Hill). 


Unable to tweet because of Twitter’s problems with a cyber scam, Trump made the announcement on Facebook late Wednesday. The news came after weeks of speculation following a disastrous rally in Tulsa, Okla., last month that attracted only 6,200 supporters after the campaign boasted that 1 million had requested tickets for the event, which was the president’s first rally since the coronavirus outbreak halted in-person gatherings. Parscale’s lucrative compensation had also attracted media attention.


A campaign manager change-up is hardly unprecedented for Trump, who dumped Corey Lewandowski and Paul Manafort in 2016 before finally hiring Kellyanne Conway to the position on August 19 — less than three months before Election Day.


Unlike Lewandowski and Manafort, Parscale will remain on the team. According to the president, Parscale will serve as senior adviser in charge of digital and data operations. The news was first reported by The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman


The Hill: Trump shakes up campaign, demotes Parscale.


Politico: Trump’s Rose Garden strategy: White House MAGA rallies.  


Axios: Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, is essentially still running Trump’s 2020 campaign from the White House.


The Associated Press: Four more years? Trump struggles to outline second-term plan.





The move came on another brutal polling day for the campaign as two surveys showed the president trailing nationally by double digits.


According to a new Quinnipiac University survey, former Vice President Joe Biden holds a 15-point lead over Trump, 52 percent to 37 percent, representing a 7-point jump from it’s previous survey released last month. The poll also found the president’s approval rating has fallen by 6 points to 36 percent, while 60 percent disapprove (The Hill). 


The poll also shows that voters now trust Biden on the economy, 50 percent to 45 percent for Trump, with those numbers flipping in the course of a month. Biden also holds commanding leads among voters on handling a crisis, health care, the coronavirus response and racial inequality. 


“Yes, there’s still 16 weeks until Election Day, but this is a very unpleasant real time look at what the future could be for President Trump. There is no upside, no silver lining, no encouraging trend hidden somewhere in this survey for the president,” said Tim Malloy, Quinnipiac University’s polling analyst.


Elsewhere, Biden also holds an 11-point advantage according to a new NBC News-Wall Street Journal survey released Wednesday evening, leading with 51 percent to 40 percent for Trump. In a month, the former VP’s advantage grew by 4 points as he led with 49 percent to Trump’s 42 percent in the June survey. 


The Hill: Biden leads Trump by 13 points in Pennsylvania: poll.


The New York Times: Biden hints at his timeline for picking a running mate.


Bloomberg News: Biden describes his process in the next 10 days aimed at narrowing his list of leading candidates to be his running mate, including interviews with some contenders.


CHINA: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said that the world will make China pay a price for the coronavirus pandemic, saying the cost will likely be reflected in altered relations with the world’s second largest economy. 


“I think the world will absolutely make them pay a price,” Pompeo said in an interview with The Hill’s editor-in-chief Bob Cusack. “You can see it, every place I go, every foreign minister that I talk to, they recognize what China has done to the world,” Pompeo said. The secretary identified China as the Trump administration’s No. 1 national security priority should Trump be reelected.


The New York Times: U.S. weighs sweeping travel ban on Chinese Community Party members.


Pompeo said a decision will be made “shortly” on whether to ban the Chinese social media app TikTok in the U.S. The issue follows the State Department’s move to put visa restrictions on employees of telecommunications companies, including Huawei, if the company provides support to regimes engaged in human rights abuses.


White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters Wednesday evening that a number of administration officials are examining the national security concerns tied to Chinese apps. “I don’t think there’s any self imposed deadline for action, but i think we are looking at weeks, not months,” he said.


The administration argues that China’s 2017 law requiring communications companies to share data as part of security investigations poses a threat to users’ privacy.


“Whether it’s TikTok or any of the other Chinese communications platforms, apps, infrastructure, this administration is taking seriously the requirement to protect the American people from having their information end up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo said (The Hill).


The New York Times: TikTok enlists an army of lobbyists as suspicions over China ties grow.


In a related development, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will take up the No TikTok on Government Devices Act at a hearing next week, weighing whether TikTok’s Chinese ownership and considerations involving security mean federal employees should be banned from using the app on government-issued devices (Reuters). 







CONGRESS: McConnell, who next week plans to unveil a Republican version of a major COVID-19 relief measure, said his party is focused on schools as essential to the nation’s economy, whether school districts eventually decide on in-person instruction or a hybrid approach combined with online learning.


“There’s going to be a heavy emphasis in the bill I’m going to unfold next week on education. I know it will be costly,” the majority leader said on Wednesday. “We need to find a way to safely get back to work, and we feel, I feel, like the federal government will have to play a financial role in helping to make that possible” (NBC News).


The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommended in a report on Wednesday that districts prioritize reopening schools full-time, particularly for kindergarten through fifth grade and for students with special needs.


McConnell — who is drafting a proposal with a price tag reported to be close to $1 trillion as a counterweight to the House-passed version, which would cost $3 trillion  — said his bill includes liability protections for hospitals and health care workers, businesses, colleges, universities, and kindergarten through 12th grade. The White House has said Trump will not sign a measure without limited liability protection for companies fearful about being sued if employees or customers become infected with COVID-19.


Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is strategizing with Democrats over provisions his party wants to see in any Senate-passed measure, is thinking, among other priorities, about high-tax New York, New Jersey and other blue states. He’s urging the elimination of the tax law’s cap on IRS deductions for state and local taxes, known as SALT (The Hill).


Newsday reported on Tuesday that Schumer wants to retain a SALT provision from the gargantuan House measure known as the HEROES Act. In their version, House Democrats included a two-year elimination of the SALT deduction cap. “We need to cushion the blow of this virus,” Schumer said. “The SALT cap hurts people affected by the virus. It hurts so many of the metropolitan areas like New York and so we want to change it and we will.”


However, the cap on SALT deductions was part of the 2017 Trump tax reform law and Republican lawmakers are unlikely to embrace major changes.


> Cybersecurity: The Twitter accounts of former President Obama, Biden, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and others were compromised on Wednesday in what appeared to be a bitcoin scam. The crime may have cost users hundreds of thousands of dollars (The Hill). Twitter within an hour took the extraordinary step of preventing at least some verified accounts from publishing messages altogether (Reuters). … Such crime is part of the reason installing a national cybersecurity director at the White House is an idea gaining bipartisan steam on Capitol Hill two years after a similar federal position was eliminated. The urgency to revive such a position follows months of cyberattacks against everything from hospitals to research groups to federal agencies during the COVID-19 crisis. Lawmakers want to beef up federal cybersecurity as more Americans move their lives online (The Hill).


Mike Rogers, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee: “America needs a national cyber director to fortify our security” (The Hill, opinion contributor). 


The Hill: A House Republican on Wednesday introduced a bill that would provide tax credits for businesses to acquire personal protective equipment as a pandemic precaution. 


Roll Call: Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Kan.) not giving up committee posts amid felony charges on voter fraud.

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


The nation is in a downward spiral. Worse is still to come, by George F. Will, columnist, The Washington Post. 


House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) on Confederate statues: “Mob action is no answer,” by Steve Clemons, editor at large, The Hill.



The House meets for a pro forma session at noon and returns to legislative business on Monday. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will hold her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will hold a press conference call at noon. A House Financial Services subcommittee will hold a hearing at noon about mortgage relief programs available during the pandemic. C-SPAN2 is covering the event HERE


The Senate meets at 10:30 a.m. for a pro forma session.


The president will speak at 4 p.m. at the White House about reducing federal regulations.


Economic indicator: The U.S. Census Bureau will release its report on advance monthly sales for retail and food in June at 8:30 a.m.


The Hill’s Coronavirus Report 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


Reparations: Making some history late on July 14, the Asheville City Council in North Carolina unanimously apologized for the city’s role in slavery, discrimination and denial of basic liberties to Black residents and voted to provide a form of reparations to them and their descendants by making investments in areas where Black residents face disparities. “Hundreds of years of Black blood spilled that basically fills the cup we drink from today,” said Keith Young, one of two African American council members and the measure’s chief proponent. “It is simply not enough to remove statutes. Black people in this country are dealing with issues that are systemic in nature” (USA Today).





Courts: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was discharged from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on Wednesday after being admitted a day earlier with a possible infection. According to spokesperson for the Supreme Court, “She is at home and doing well” (Axios).


Wells Fargo: Lawyers say they’ve found cases in 11 states in which Wells Fargo, the nation’s fourth largest bank, has wrongly claimed that borrowers asked to pause mortgage payments during the COVID-19 pandemic (NBC News). The lawyers also assert that the bank put through secondary requests for forbearance on behalf of homeowners who had asked to participate in the program initially but who no longer wanted to. Erroneous forbearance filings in Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases can put borrowers’ homes at risk of foreclosure and represent a fraud against the bankruptcy court. Wells Fargo told NBC that because it had seen references to COVID-19 in the borrowers’ court filings, it provided forbearance. The bank this week reported a loss of $2.4 billion for the second quarter and slashed its dividend. Already under federal regulatory scrutiny and pressure from stockholders, it says it plans to cut $10 billion in expenses, shutter 65 branches across the United States and purge thousands of employees (Charlotte Observer). The company is laboring under a dozen regulatory consent orders tied to its 2016 fake accounts scandal, including one from the Federal Reserve that caps its asset growth (CNBC).


Environment: The White House on Wednesday finalized its rollback of the National Environmental Policy Act, one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws (The Hill).


International: In Moscow on Wednesday, about 500 protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against constitutional reforms introduced earlier this month that give President Vladimir Putin the option to remain in power in Russia for another 16 years. Protesters, many surrounded by police and wearing face masks branded with the word “no,” chanted calls for Putin to resign and held up banners against the reforms (Reuters). … In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro again tested positive for the coronavirus, suggesting the right-wing leader has yet to recover from his initial diagnosis announced a week ago, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing CNN in Brazil. … On Wednesday in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under fire for his handling of the worsening COVID-19 crisis, he announced a plan for government grants for all Israelis (Reuters).


And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by brands that took a beating in the last week, we’re eager for some smart guesses about boycotts and other name-bashing in the news.


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


Consumers organized a boycott of which company because its CEO praised the president?  


  1. My Pillow
  2. Murray Energy
  3. Goya Foods
  4. Carnival Corp.


Which corporation on the receiving end of a major boycott recently bowed to pressure to make some changes, although its chief executive said the company would determine when “the public interest value outweighs the risk of harm”?


  1. Facebook
  2. Ford Motor Co.
  3. Fox Corp.
  4. Fruit of the Loom


This week, which of these announced it will change its name as a result of public and corporate objections?


  1. Aunt Jemima
  2. Uncle Ben’s
  3. Eskimo Pie
  4. Washington Redskins


Which sports team has been castigated over its name but announced early this week that no change is in store and the name will “always” remain?


  1. Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Florida State Seminoles
  3. Cleveland Indians
  4. Atlanta Braves





Tags Anthony Fauci Benjamin Netanyahu Bob Cusack Brad Parscale Charles Schumer Corey Lewandowski Donald Trump Elon Musk Jared Kushner Joe Biden Kellyanne Conway Kevin McCarthy Maggie Haberman Mark Meadows Mike Pompeo Mike Rogers Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Paul Manafort Ruth Bader Ginsburg Steve Watkins Vladimir Putin
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