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The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump-the-briefer struggles with COVID-19 facts

 

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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, 140,534. Tuesday, 140,909. Wednesday, 142,068. Thursday, 143,190.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE and his team of politically trained spokespeople have struggled to communicate effectively about the coronavirus crisis, according to public opinion surveys, members of the president’s party and even some White House advisers. West Wing infighting and Trump’s missed cues about the public’s escalating fears have contributed to an erosion of trust (Reuters). 

On Wednesday evening, the president told reporters he resumed televised coronavirus briefings unaccompanied by his infectious disease and public health advisers at the podium because “they’re briefing me. … They’re giving me all of everything they know as of this point in time and I’m giving the information to you, and I think it’s probably a very concise way of doing it.”

The messages have been so muddled that the resulting impression people get is that the government is saying, “Put your life in our hands, and we’re going to play roulette with it,” former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who served under former President George W. Bush, told Bloomberg Radio on Wednesday when asked about Washington’s handling of the crisis. The best experts in public health and science should take the lead to present data and coronavirus guidance, “good, bad or indifferent,” Chertoff added. 

The Washington Post: With little clarity on the coronavirus, Americans crowdsource how to live in the pandemic.

The contagion — worsening in many states, including Florida, Texas, Arizona and California — poses significant challenges as the nation heads into a new school year and the complications tied to the influenza season anticipated this fall (Reuters). 

The president offered a range of assertions during his Wednesday briefing that ran afoul of available data:

-He said Black Lives Matter demonstrators helped spread the virus, an idea that public health experts initially feared but discarded early this month (The Associated Press). 

-Trump said the rise of coronavirus infections in Texas is linked to Mexico’s struggles with COVID-19 across the border, an unsubstantiated claim the White House began to investigate in June, even as cross-border travel fell markedly because of the pandemic (The Associated Press). The president suggested the U.S. wall at the southern border has the “positive impact” of keeping unhealthy and undocumented Mexicans out of the United States. “It worked out very well for what we’re doing and the pandemic,” he asserted.

-Trump likened therapeutics now used in hospitals to ease the severity and duration of COVID-19 infections, including remdesivir and steroids, to a cure for the coronavirus. “That would be great if we could go into the hospital and just cure people,” he said. “And we’re at a position we’re actually able to, to a certain extent, with what we have right now.” Infectious disease experts and virologists have said repeatedly that curing COVID-19 will require one or more vaccines.

-The president also suggested the U.S. economy, which is in recession with more than 11 percent unemployment, is in recovery. Trump enthused that the employment numbers “the last two months have been incredible,” an apparent reference to a contrast between bad and worse unemployment statistics. The Labor Department’s report today on jobless claims is expected to show about 1.3 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, exceeding 1 million for the 18th straight week since March.

The Washington Post: Amid rising coronavirus deaths, Trump paints a rosy picture of America’s present and future. 

> Vaccine news: The government’s nearly $2 billion investment in drug manufacturer Pfizer for the development of an effective coronavirus vaccine, announced on Wednesday, raised eyebrows among some lawmakers and drug pricing advocates. The public-private deal is the latest in the administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” program, which has funneled billions of taxpayer dollars into private companies. Pfizer initially rejected federal funding and did not commit to price the vaccine at cost, leading to concerns that pricing for a potentially life-saving drug may wind up as whatever the marketplace will bear (The Hill). 

The deal with Pfizer and a smaller German biotechnology company calls for up to 600 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine. If the vaccine proves to be safe and effective in clinical trials, the companies say, they could manufacture the first 100 million doses by December (The New York Times).

> Florida numbers keep getting worse: The Sunshine State added 9,785 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the total since March 1 to nearly 380,000. Florida recorded more than 100 new coronavirus deaths for the seventh time in two weeks, pushing its death toll from the pandemic to nearly 5,500. The state health department reported 138 more deaths, bringing Florida’s weekly average to 118 a day, equal with Texas for the worst current seven-day average in the nation. A month ago, Florida was averaging 33 deaths a day. The percentage of positive tests has remained at about 18 percent the last two weeks, quadruple 4 percent in June (The Associated Press).

The Hill: Trump administration to give an additional $5 billion to nursing homes to combat coronavirus infections and isolation. 

The New York Times: U.S. hospitalizations for the coronavirus near the April peak.

> Masks: Republican governors of Ohio and Indiana and the Democratic governor of Minnesota on Wednesday issued statewide mask orders, while city officials in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore also issued tougher mask orders to try to slow transmission of the coronavirus.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said residents must now wear a mask when leaving the house. Exceptions include children under 3 and individuals who are performing vigorous exercise or eating or drinking. ... In Baltimore, a mayoral order suspending indoor dining at bars and restaurants makes that city the first jurisdiction in Maryland to restrict activities that were permitted under its reopening plan. The city’s health commissioner is also mandating that residents wear face masks when they are outdoors and when social distancing of six feet is not possible. Both cities are responding to surges in coronavirus cases (The Washington Post). 

WJZ CBS Baltimore: The National Football League announced on Wednesday that it will require that masks be worn by fans at future games.  

> School news: The Kansas State Board of Education in a tie vote rejected Gov. Laura Kelly's (D) delay of the new school year until after Labor Day. School districts are free to reopen as they wish (U.S. News & World Report). … Expect to see regular coronavirus testing among students and faculty at colleges and universities this fall (The Washington Post). … Tuition breaks for students and their parents based on remote instruction, off-campus living and drastically limited access to campus facilities are not the norm during the pandemic, but Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., is offering discounts to undergraduates (The Washington Post).

> Air travel: United Airlines executives predicted Wednesday that air travel will increase as coronavirus cases subside, but they said the company’s revenue will stall at 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels without a vaccine (The Associated Press). … Air travel is not projected to recover until 2023, Goldman Sachs said in June, noting that the recovery could take longer for American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines because of their larger reliance on international and corporate travel. Early this month, Goldman Sachs reported that United Airlines “backtracked on August flight additions it had announced ... due to declining demand to destinations with rising cases of COVID-19 and to destinations with recently implemented two-week quarantine requirements.” 

 



 

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LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS: Administration officials and GOP lawmakers are expected to start rolling out at least part of its coronavirus relief package proposal after three days of round-the-clock negotiations.  

According to The Hill’s Jordain Carney, the package will not be one bill, but instead be broken up into a number of bills. Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMcConnell wants deal this week on fiscal 2021 spending figures Graham becomes center of Georgia storm Republicans start turning the page on Trump era MORE (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, said that lawmakers hope to release them all today.

On Wednesday evening, negotiators announced deals on multiple fronts. The new proposal will include $16 billion in new funding for COVID-19 testing, with an additional $9 billion from the CARES Act passed in March to be designated for testing. The White House initially dismissed the need for new testing funding, having argued that there was still unspent money from the CARES Act (The Hill). 

The two sides also agreed to allocate $105 billion for schools, part of which will be tied to the schools holding in-person classes. $70 billion will go to K-12 schools, $30 billion for colleges and universities, and $5 billion for governors to give to either. Half of the $70 billion for K-12 schools will be tied to those that reopen for in-person education, with the other half being available for all schools. The funds for colleges will not be tied to in-person schooling (The Hill). 

The Hill: Tea Party rises up against McConnell's $1 trillion relief plan.

One issue, however, remains elusive for GOP negotiators: Unemployment insurance. Earlier on Wednesday, a number of Senate Republicans raised the possibility of passing a short-term extension of enhanced unemployment benefits, with the $600 per week federal increase of benefits set to expire at the end of the month. 

However, the Trump administration and senior Republicans poured cold water on the idea hours later, saying that a short-term deal does little good and that the end-of-the-month deadline puts pressure on them to strike a deal on the issue.  

"We're really trying to look at trying to make sure that we have a comprehensive bill that deals with the issues. Any short-term extensions would defy the history of Congress, which would indicate that it would just be met with another short-term extension," White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump administration revives talk of action on birthright citizenship MORE told reporters on Wednesday. 

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump keeps tight grip on GOP amid divisions MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, argued that the deadline “gives us a reason” to strike a deal on the issue.  

“I don’t think anybody’s going to want to punt to a short-term solution,” Thune added (The Hill). 

Adding to the issues, Senate Republicans are struggling over whether to include another round of stimulus checks or a payroll-tax cut in this bill. In particular, lawmakers are warning that they cannot fit both into the proposal if they want to keep the cost of the legislation near the $1 trillion baseline Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn 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 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience MORE laid out at the outset of talks this week.

“I think both the direct payments and the ... elimination of payroll taxes would be a pretty big part of the package, either one would be. Both of them would be, my guess is, challenging to do and do much else under [a] trillion dollars,” Blunt said (The Hill).

The Washington Post: Senate GOP struggles to finalize $1 trillion coronavirus bill.

Reuters: What Democrats and Republicans want in the next COVID-19 relief package. 

The Washington Post: The federal moratorium on rental housing evictions during the pandemic expires on Friday. 

 

 

> Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations: The Congressional Progressive Caucus is giving Dem leaders heartburn by demanding the DHS appropriations bill be pulled before hitting the House floor next week. The measure has been a challenge for the Democratic majority since it took control after 2018 because of the politically sensitive mix of policy issues, including immigration enforcement, the wall and border protection (The Hill). 

> Capitol clash, Day 2: Rep. Ted YohoTheodore (Ted) Scott YohoHere are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year Ocasio-Cortez after Yoho confrontation: 'I won't be so nice next time' Overnight Defense: US, India to share satellite data | Allegations of racism at Virginia Military Institute | Navy IDs 2 killed in Alabama plane crash MORE (R-Fla.) apologized to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezTrump tweets Thanksgiving criticism of NFL QBs for kneeling Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday after The Hill reported a day earlier some disparaging remarks he made to the progressive lawmaker after votes on Monday night, including a reference to his colleague as a “f---ing bitch.” 

“I rise today to apologize for the abrupt manner of the conversation I had with my colleague from New York. It is true that we disagree on policies and visions for America, but that does not mean we should be disrespectful,” Yoho said in a floor speech.  

“Having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I'm very cognizant of my language," he continued. "The offensive name-calling words attributed to me by the press were never spoken to my colleagues, and if they were construed that way, I apologize for the misunderstanding” (The Hill).

However, Ocasio-Cortez, who represents parts of Queens and the Bronx, did not accept the apology, arguing the Florida congressman is “refusing responsibility” for the reported comments.  

"I will not teach my nieces and young people watching that this is an apology, and what they should learn to accept," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted (The Hill).

The Hill: The House on Wednesday approved a bill to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol. Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' New RSC chairman sees 'Trumpism' as future MORE (La.) supported the measure, while Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Trump: Liz Cheney's election remarks sparked by push to bring US troops home Biden's lead over Trump surpasses 6M votes as more ballots are tallied MORE of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican in the conference, voted against it and Texas Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHouse Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members Democrats lead in diversity in new Congress despite GOP gains Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities MORE, the only Black Republican in the House (he’s retiring), supported the bill. The vote was 305-113. 

The bust of former Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who wrote the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision that said people of African descent are not U.S. citizens, will be removed and replaced on the first floor of the Capitol with one depicting Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court justice (The Washington Post).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Independents and undecided voters are fueling former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation US records 2,300 COVID-19 deaths as pandemic rises with holidays MORE’s lead over the president, according to multiple new polls released on Wednesday.

On the state front, Biden is neck and neck with Trump in Texas, holding a slight 1-point lead (45 to 44 percent), according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. The new survey shows a 2-point uptick for Biden from a similar poll in early June.  

While Republicans and Democrats fall along partisan lines, independent voters are breaking heavily for the former vice president, with 51 percent supporting Biden compared to only 32 percent for Trump. 

Adding to the problems for Trump, as The Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman points out, he leads among college educated white voters by only 7 points, 49 percent to 42 percent. Four years ago, he carried them 61 to 33 percent. The changes have tossed the state and its 38 electoral votes squarely into battleground status. 

"With crises swirling through American society and a country deeply divided, there's no other way to slice it. It's a toss-up in Texas," said Tim Malloy, a polling analyst for Quinnipiac (The Hill).

On the national level, a new Reuters-Ipsos poll shows that Biden leads Trump by 8 points among registered voters. Among independents, though, 61 percent say they would support Biden’s candidacy compared to 39 percent for the president.  

The Hill: Sixty-five percent of Texas voters say coronavirus “out of control.”

The Washington Post: Trump’s assault on election integrity forces question: What would happen if he refused to accept a loss?

Reid Wilson, The Hill: Presidential ad wars bring 2020 battleground into focus.

The Hill: Former President Obama, Biden discuss country's future, coronavirus outbreak in socially distanced sit down. 

**** 

ADMINISTRATION: On Wednesday night, federal agents tear gassed a crowd in Portland, Ore., that included Mayor Ted Wheeler (D), who opposes the presence of law enforcement personnel sent by Washington to quell protests in Oregon. Wheeler received a harsh response to his presence from some protesters, who jeered the mayor, accused by some Portland residents of not reining in local police deploying tear gas before federal agents arrived (The Associated Press). … Trump and Attorney General William BarrBill BarrClyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Five federal inmates scheduled for execution before Inauguration Day Redeeming justice: the next attorney general MORE announced Wednesday that federal agents will be deployed to Chicago and Albuquerque, N.M., to help combat rising crime, ratcheting up the administration’s intervention in local enforcement as Trump runs for reelection as a pro-police, law-and-order leader. 

The Hill: Trump says he’s sending law enforcement personnel to Chicago. “We’re sending them help,” the president said.

The president has linked urban violence with protests over racial injustice, although criminal justice experts say the spike defies easy explanation, pointing to the combined impacts of a deadly pandemic, historic unemployment, stay-at-home orders, a national reckoning over race and police brutality, and even the sweltering weather. And compared with other years, crime statistics are lower. Local authorities say the surges in federal agents have exacerbated tensions on the streets, including in Portland, Ore. (The Associated Press). Oregon is seeking a temporary restraining order to try to block federal law enforcement from operating in the state (OregonLive).

 

 

China espionage: The administration ordered China to close its Houston consulate by Friday, accusing diplomats of economic espionage and attempts to steal scientific research. The move is an abrupt escalation of tensions between the world’s two largest economies. China said the United States was acting illegally and vowed to retaliate. Trump is running for reelection on a hard-line platform of cracking down on China, including on trade, national security and what Trump calls “the China virus” (The New York Times). 

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

How to pick a running mate, by William A. Galston, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/39iY2nP  

Baseball’s return: Why we care, by Daniel Krauthammer, opinion contributor, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/30AskOM

 

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As many storefronts remain closed, Boost with Facebook's Summer of Support program is helping millions of people and small business owners gain skills and find resources they need to grow and transition online.

 

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WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 9 a.m. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.) holds her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' Sunday shows preview: Biden transition, COVID-19 spike in spotlight MORE (R-Calif.) will hold his own at 11:30 a.m.

The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. and resumes consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act.

The president has no public events on his schedule. 

The Labor Department will report on weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. Analysts say they are anticipating 1.3 million filings for unemployment benefits in the week ending July 16, which would be the 18th week in which new claims for benefits exceed 1 million.

INVITATION TODAY: The Hill Virtually Live event at 1 p.m. “Diabetes and the COVID Threat,” focuses on effective diabetes care during the COVID-19 crisis, with Reps. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteBipartisan lawmakers call for expedited diabetes research The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Dems push McConnell on COVID-19 relief; Grassley contracts COVID-19 Overnight Health Care: Schumer, Pelosi want Heroes Act as 'starting point' in new COVID-19 relief talks | Labs warn of possible delays in test results amid surge in demand | Federal government partners with pharmacies for coronavirus vaccine distribution MORE (D-Colo.) and Tom ReedTom ReedDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Bipartisan lawmakers call for expedited diabetes research The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Dems push McConnell on COVID-19 relief; Grassley contracts COVID-19 MORE (R-N.Y.), the co-chairs of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, plus a panel of health experts. Moderator: The Hill's Editor at Large Steve Clemons. Registration HERE.

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

ELSEWHERE

International: The United Kingdom said Wednesday that 3 million Hong Kongers will be eligible for British citizenship by the end of January through a special pathway. The British Home Office announced that those holding British National Overseas passports and their immediate family will be able to move to Great Britain in the wake China’s imposition of a new security law over the former British colony (The Associated Press).

➔ The Hill’s “Reflections” series: Reporter Rafael Bernal interviews former presidential candidate Julián Castro of Texas, who served as the mayor of San Antonio and as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the Obama administration. Castro spent a year in a bid for the White House before exiting the race and endorsing Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Disney laying off 32,000 workers as coronavirus batters theme parks Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year MORE (D-Mass.).

 

 

➔ Business: “How Ben & Jerry’s perfected the delicate recipe for corporate activism.” When the company posted a statement on June 2 to its website and social media accounts under the title “We Must Dismantle White Supremacy: Silence Is NOT An Option,” hundreds of thousands of people rapidly circulated it. It was lauded as the most detailed and powerful message from any corporation seeking to condemn the high-profile death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer (Bloomberg Businessweek, subscription).

THE CLOSER

And finally … ⚾ It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by baseball’s pandemic-adjusted opening day, we’re eager for some smart guesses about America’s favorite pastime during the quarantine. 

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.

 

Which MLB team will be opening a new ballpark on Friday?

  1. Atlanta Braves
  2. Texas Rangers
  3. Oakland Athletics
  4. Toronto Blue Jays

 

Which MLB All-Star recently detailed his harrowing experience with COVID-19, which included a fever of 104.5 degrees? 

  1. Freddie Freeman
  2. Nolan Arenado
  3. Mookie Betts 
  4. Aaron Judge  

 

Which new rule will go into effect for the 2020 season? 

  1. Designated hitter abolished in both leagues 
  2. Robot umpires
  3. Relief pitchers must face four batters
  4. 10th inning starts with a runner on second base

 

Which Washington Nationals player decided to opt out of the 2020 season?

  1. Sean Doolittle
  2. Aníbal Sánchez
  3. Ryan Zimmerman
  4. Daniel Hudson