May 02, 2020

Week 181

Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things
subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

This week, with his approval dropping and Republicans alarmed about losing the Senate in 2020, Trump shifted away from holding daily task force briefings. Instead, he and his regime sought to portray a great economic recovery coming soon, with the worst of the pandemic behind us. Trump told reporters, “I see the light at the end of the tunnel very strongly,” and Jared Kushner told “Fox & Friends” that the regime’s handling of the crisis was “a great success story.”

While Trump tried to shift the narrative, the death toll passed another milestone — deaths during the Vietnam War — and ended the week with more than 65,000 Americans dead. Trump sought to move the goal posts again for what he could call a “good job,” from 60,000 on April 10, to 70,000 early this week, then by the end of the week to hopefully less than 100,000. As Trump continued to agitate for states to reopen and to back protestors, a patchwork of reopenings played out, as Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that opening too soon would “get us right back in the same boat that we were a few weeks ago.”

This week Trump and his regime focused on shifting blame to China as part of Trump’s re-election strategy. Trump contradicted U.S. intelligence claiming, without evidence, that Covid-19 originated in a lab in Wuhan. Others in his regime and Republican lawmakers turned up the rhetoric and threats of retaliation.

  1. On Saturday, WAPO reported a new 57-page Republican strategy memo advises Senate candidates to blame China for the coronavirus, but avoid discussing Trump’s handling of the crisis.
  2. The memo adds, “don’t defend Trump, other than the China Travel Ban,” and to portray Joe Biden as “soft” on China, and Democrats as “more obsessed with being politically correct … than standing up to China.”
  3. On Saturday, the World Health Organization said there is “currently no evidence” that people who have recovered from Covid-19 are immune from catching it again. The United Nations issued a similar statement.
  4. On Saturday, WAPO reported coronavirus outbreaks at three major meat producers — Tyson Foods, JBS USA and Smithfield Foods — have forced at least 15 plants around the country to shutter after turning into hot spots.
  5. Industry experts said production was already down at least 25%. Coronavirus outbreaks at more than 30 plants run by the three companies have sickened at least 3,300 workers and caused 17 deaths.
  6. Workers say the companies’ policies contributed to the spread: employees were encouraged to come to work even when sick, were not given face masks or other PPE, and did not follow social distancing.
  7. On Saturday, WAPO sued the State Department after the agency denied the Post’s expedited FOIA request to see diplomatic cables warning of inadequate safety at a coronavirus research lab in Wuhan in 2018.
  8. The cables were sent to the State Department by diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing after U.S. scientists warned about the lab’s study of bat coronaviruses and the potential for human transmission.
  9. On Saturday, NYT reported after Trump first touted hydroxychloroquine at a daily press briefing on March 19, first-time prescriptions poured in at 46 times the average rate.
  10. Even as medical experts stepped up warnings about dangerous side effects, in the second week of April prescriptions were still more than six times the normal rate, as Trump continued to push the drug at briefings.
  11. In the past month, 40 states have issued some sort of directive related to the drug. Idaho issued a directive on the first day, saying prescriptions could only be written for conditions the drugs had been proved to treat.
  12. On Saturday, WAPO reported the White House tried to move CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins seat to the back of the briefing room to humiliate her. Seats are under jurisdiction of the White House Correspondents’ Association.
  13. On Saturday, Trump tweeted, “Was just informed that the Fake News from the Thursday White House Press Conference had me speaking & asking questions of Dr. Deborah Birx. Wrong.” He addressed her by “Deborah.”
  14. Trump added, “The Lamestream Media is corrupt & sick!” and then tweeted, “What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions.”
  15. Explaining why he was not doing a daily briefing, Trump said the media “refuses to report the truth or facts accurately,” even though “they get record ratings,” adding, “Not worth the time & effort!
  16. Trump also tweeted, “Remember, the Cure can’t be worse than the problem itself. Be careful, be safe, use common sense!” — seeming to shrug off people who believed him and took disinfectant or called hotlines to ask.
  17. Trump tweeted, “I never said the pandemic was a Hoax! Who would say such a thing? I said that the Do Nothing Democrats, together with their Mainstream Media partners, are the Hoax.” He did call it the new hoax.
  18. On Sunday, a WAPO analysis found that since March 16, Trump has held 35 daily briefings and spoke for 28 hours, 60% of the total briefing time, Pence for 5 1/2 hours, Birx for six hours, and Dr. Anthony Fauci for two hours.
  19. In the past three weeks, Trump spoke for 13 hours composed of: two hours on attacks, 45 minutes praising himself and his regime, and 4 1/2 minutes on expressing empathy for the more than 54,000 American dead.
  20. Trump promoted hydroxychloroquine for 9 minutes. Nearly one-quarter of prepared remarks or answers were false or misleading. Trump attacked reporters in 113 out of 346 questions he answered.
  21. On Sunday, NYT analyzed the 260,000 words Trump spoke at daily briefings since March 9. The most recurring words were 600 self-congratulations, often predicated on exaggerations and falsehoods.
  22. Trump credited others 360 times and blamed others 110 times. As the death toll passed 55,000 Americans, he expressed empathy or appealed to national unity 160 times.
  23. On Sunday, business icon Barry Diller told “Face the Nation” that there is “no chance” of an economic rebound over the summer, adding, “Unfortunately we have a witch doctor as a President.”
  24. On Sunday, GOP Sen. Tom Cotton told Fox Business that Chinese students should not be able to study science at U.S. universities, saying if they come here they should “study Shakespeare and the Federalist Papers.”
  25. On Sunday, Birx declined to criticize Trump. Asked on “State of the Union” if she was bothered by Trump’s remarks, she said, “It bothers me that this is still in the news cycle.”
  26. Birx added she had “made it clear” to Trump that injecting disinfectant “was not a treatment,” and said his suggestion should be viewed as a “kind of dialogue will happen” between scientists and politicians.
  27. On Sunday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told “This Week” that their states’ emergency hotlines saw an increase in calls after Trump’s disinfectant remarks.
  28. Whitmer said people listen to the “person with the most powerful position on the planet,” whether comments were “serious or not.” Hogan said Maryland’s emergency hotline received “hundreds of calls” looking for information.
  29. On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told “State of the Nation” on Trump’s disinfectant comment, “You know what they call that? They call that embalming. That’s the medical term.”
  30. On Sunday, Trump again took to Twitter to air his grievances, continuing a weekend flurry for two days while not holding daily press briefings. One commentator wondered if we should worry if Trump is of sound mind.
  31. Trump tweeted, “The people that know me and know the history of our Country say that I am the hardest working President in history,” referring to last Thursday’s NYT piece about his watching television most of the day.
  32. Trump added he has “probably gotten more done in the first 3 1/2 years than any President in history” — obviously not true, and has not “left the White House in many months.” He held campaign rallies in early March.
  33. Trump also blasted Fox News in a series of tweets, saying they don’t “get what’s happening! They are being fed Democrat talking points, and they play them,” adding, “No respect for the people running @FoxNews.”
  34. He added, “They put RINO Paul Ryan on their Board. They hire “debate questions to Crooked Hillary” @donnabrazile,” and “Chris Wallace is nastier to Republicans than even Deface the Nation or Sleepy Eyes.”
  35. In another series of tweets, Trump asked, “When will all of the ‘reporters’ who have received Noble Prizes for their work on Russia, Russia, Russia, only to have been proven totally wrong” give them back.
  36. Trump added they should give “their cherished ‘Nobles’” back “so that they can be given to the REAL REPORTERS AND JOURNALISTS,” and, “When will the Noble Committee Act?” The reporting was of course right.
  37. Trump misspelled Nobel Prize as “Noble,” and that prize is not given for journalism, that is a Pulitzer Prize, which was won by WAPO for their reporting on Russia. Overnight, Trump deleted these tweets.
  38. Trump explained, tweeting, “Does anybody get the meaning of what a so-called Noble (not Nobel) Prize is, especially as it pertains to Reporters and Journalists?” and blamed it on “sarcasm,” as he did with disinfectant.
  39. Trump also retweeted a baseless claim by a pro-Trump pundit which read, “Do you really think these lunatics wouldn’t inflate the mortality rates by underreporting the infection rates in an attempt to steal the election?”
  40. On Sunday, CNN reported White House officials are discussing plan to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, following criticism of his handling of the pandemic. The decision will be up to Trump.
  41. Later Sunday, Trump tweeted that reports that Azar is going to be fired “are Fake News,” and “The Lamestream Media” knows this but want to create “chaos & havoc,” adding, “Alex is doing an excellent job!”
  42. On Sunday, Axios reported the White House plans to shift its coronavirus messaging towards boosting the economy and highlighting “success stories” of businesses, and away from health statistics.
  43. Trump will focus on a more hopeful, forward-looking message, and highlight a safe reopening of the economy. Birx and Fauci will take a more back seat, and Trump will have fewer and shorter daily briefings.
  44. On Sunday, the CEO of Tyson Foods warned in full-page ads in NYT, WAPO, and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the “food supply chain is breaking,” and “millions of pounds of meat will disappear” from the food supply.
  45. He added, “farmers across the nation simply will not have anywhere to sell their livestock to be processed,” and, “There will be limited supply of our products available in grocery” unless we can reopen closed plants.
  46. On Sunday, the CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued guidelines for physical distancing and other measures at meat plants to keep workers safe. The guidelines were voluntary.
  47. On Sunday, a leader of ReOpen NC, who helped organize two protests in downtown Raleigh, said she on Facebook she had tested positive, and described herself as “an asymptomatic COVID19 positive patient.”
  48. On Monday, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the coronavirus was “currently” eliminated. She praised citizens for five weeks of lockdown, saying, “we have done it together.”
  49. On Monday, the Witchita Eagle reported after Trump floated the idea, a Kansas man drank cleaning products over the weekend. The state health officer reported a more than 40% increase in cleaning chemical cases.
  50. On Monday, Atlanta Journal Constitution reported two men were poisoned after drinking cleaning products over the weekend. Both had histories of psychiatric problems and were expected to recover.
  51. On Monday, technical glitches plagued the second tranche of the Paycheck Protection Program, with users reporting error messages and slow processing as the volume of applications overwhelmed the system.
  52. On Monday, CBS News reported flaws in the PPP meant nearly 90% of businesses owned by minorities and women did not get funding. Almost all the funding has flowed through large commercial banks to their existing clients.
  53. On Monday, ABC News reported Americans are receiving their stimulus checks along with a signed letter from Trump touting the coronavirus response. Experts say the letter is designed to help his re-election.
  54. CNN reported so far just 90 million of 150 million eligible Americans had received their stimulus checks. Others could be waiting for months to get their money.
  55. On Monday, WAPO reported research by the Yale School of Public Health, based on federal data showed the number of excess deaths, above normal, in the weeks up to April 4 far exceeded the Covid-19 reported deaths.
  56. The reported deaths were 8,128, while excess deaths were 15,400, meaning many more were attributable to the coronavirus. Interviews and 911 calls suggest also suggested a spike in people dying at home.
  57. New York City revised deaths adding 2,542 to 5,085 total, closer to Yale’s estimate of 6,300 excess deaths. Washington upped their estimate from 310 to 600. Other cities and states are still dramatically underreporting.
  58. On Monday, NYT reported according to CDC and NYC Department of Health data, NYC had 20,900 more deaths than expected since the pandemic started, while the city attributed 16,673 to the coronavirus.
  59. On Monday, Politico reported the Trump campaign lashed out at the National Republican Senatorial Committee over their ‘Don’t defend Trump’ memo, saying any GOP candidates who follow it should not expect help from Trump.
  60. In response, NRSC executive director Kevin McLaughlin said the wording was “inartful,” and said in a statement, “There is no daylight” between the NRSC and Trump,” adding they will work “hand in glove” with him.
  61. On Monday, Trump tweeted, “Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed…just asking?”
  62. Trump echoed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comments last week. Democrats tried to include $150 billion in last week’s relief bill for state and local governments, but it did not make it into the final bill.
  63. On Monday, global coronavirus cases topped 3 million. Italy unveiled a plan for life after lockdown. France reported a major drop in daily deaths. U.K. PM Boris Johnson returned to work and said the peak had passed.
  64. On Monday, as the U.S. neared 1,000,000 confirmed cases, nearly 20 states planned to partially reopen, despite none having met the federal guideline of 14 days of sustained decline in cases to reopen.
  65. On Monday, GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds announced 77 of Iowa’s 99 counties would reopen on May 1, saying employees who do not return to work will be considered “a voluntary quit” and not be eligible for unemployment.
  66. On Monday, Trump continued his attacks, tweeting, “There has never been, in the history of our Country, a more vicious or hostile Lamestream Media than there is right now.”
  67. Trump also tweeted, “FAKE NEWS, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”
  68. Trump also attacked Democrats, tweeting, “The Democrats, they don’t want to come back, they don’t want to come back,” adding, “if you look at Nancy Pelosi eating ice cream on late night television.”
  69. On Monday, after a weekend of Trump airing grievances on Twitter, the White House canceled a scheduled daily briefing, as political advisers have told Trump to phase them out.
  70. Advisers say with the new economic focus, and as the country moves beyond the worst of the health crisis, Trump will be focused on the expected economic resurgence, and take credit for jobs and wealth creation.
  71. At just after 1 p.m., White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted, “UPDATE: The White House has additional testing guidance” to begin to reopen the country, and Trump would hold an evening briefing.
  72. On Monday, CNN reported the White House coronavirus task force did not have a scheduled meeting, and was expecting to begin to slowly scale back the number of meetings.
  73. On Monday, the White House released two documents on testing, a testing “overview” and a testing “blueprint” in partnering with states, and claimed that most of the federal government’s testing groundwork is done.
  74. The documents left most responsibility for funding, designing, and executing a testing plan to states. Critics in states say they still lack coronavirus tests, testing supplies, and labs able to process test results.
  75. Even as states started to open, the lack of testing was likely to keep families, employers, and institutions from resuming business as usual. Health experts warned the need will remain into the fall and winter.
  76. On Monday, ABC News reported on his call with governors, Trump encouraged them to “seriously consider” reopening schools, citing, “young children have done very well in this disaster.”
  77. On Monday, a Sienna poll of New Yorkers found Cuomo’s approval on the pandemic stood at 84/15%, higher than Trump’s 34/65%, even higher among Republicans (74% versus 72%).
  78. On Monday, in a memo, Attorney General William Barr directed 93 federal prosecutors to “be on the lookout” for public health measures that may be infringing on protected religious, speech, and economic rights.
  79. On Wednesday, NYT reported Barr’s memo served as a signal to conservative leaders, donors, and organizations that the DOJ will be their ally in any court cases against state and local restrictions.
  80. DOJ officials have also spoken on conference calls with leaders of conservative groups who have flagged cases for review. So far, the DOJ has formally weighed in on one case by a Baptist church in Greenville, Mississippi.
  81. Both Trump and Barr have spoken with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council to reassure that the DOJ watch for unfairly penalizing religious groups. Perkins pushed for governors to partner with churches.
  82. Churches and advocacy groups have filed lawsuits in Kansas, New Mexico, Texas, Mississippi, and California. Republicans have also filed lawsuits against the governors of Michigan and Texas.
  83. On Monday, WAPO reported U.S. intelligence agencies repeatedly warned Trump about the coronavirus in more than a dozen classified President’s Daily Briefs in January and February.
  84. The PDBs warned that the virus was spreading around the globe and that China was suppressing information about the contagion and death toll, and raised alarms about the political and economic consequences.
  85. It is believed that Trump does not read his PDBs, but he does get an oral summary two or three times per week. One official said by mid- to late January the coronavirus was being mentioned more frequently.
  86. On Monday, Lorna Breen, chair of the emergency medicine department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, died by suicide after treating patients with coronavirus, and contracting the virus while doing so.
  87. Dr. Breen had no history of mental illness. Her father said she had described coronavirus patients flooding her hospital, and some dying before they could be removed from the ambulances.
  88. On Monday, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model used by the White House raised its projected death estimate to 74,073 by August 4, up from 67,000 a week ago, and 60,000 predicted two weeks ago.
  89. Later Monday, Trump held a meeting with retail business leaders to discuss how sectors could reopen. The leaders then joined him in the Rose Garden for a daily briefing, where one by one they spoke.
  90. After analysis by WAPO and NYT citing his lack of empathy, Trump started the briefing saying, “We also stand in solidarity with the thousands of Americans who are ill and waging a brave fight against the virus.”
  91. Trump raised his projection on deaths, saying, “we’ve lost a lot of people,” adding, “but if you look at what original projections were, 2.2 million, we are probably heading to 60,000 to 70,000,” from 50,000 to 60,000.
  92. Trump also claimed most of the federal government’s responsibility for testing is done, saying, “We’re deploying the full power and strength of the federal government to help states, cities, to help local government.”
  93. Trump oddly added, “There has been so much unnecessary death in this country. It could have been stopped and it could have been stopped short, but somebody a long time ago, it seems, decided not to do it that way.”
  94. After retweeting a claim the mortality rate was inflated, Trump reversed and said, “we’re reporting very accurately.” He also said he “never even thought of changing the date of the election,” and looked forward to it.
  95. Asked about a spike in people using disinfectants improperly, Trump said, “I can’t imagine why,” adding that he takes no responsibility.
  96. Asked how parents sent back to work would handle childcare with schools closed, Trump said, “I think the schools are going to be open soon. I think a lot of governors are already talking about schools being open.”
  97. Asked about China, Trump said the U.S. will seek hundreds of billions in damages from the Chinese government for the coronavirus, saying, “We haven’t determined the final amount yet. It’s very substantial.”
  98. On Monday, Daily Beast reported Fox News cut ties with Trump advisers and social-media personalities Diamond & Silk, saying the two were promoting conspiracy theories and disinformation about the coronavirus.
  99. On Monday, a lawyer for Fox News host Sean Hannity demanded a retraction and apology from the Times over a column in Week 180 profiling the death of Joe Joyce, and an opinion piece by Kara Swisher.
  100. Hannity’s lawyer Charles Harder called the stories “false and defamatory, and extremely damaging” in a 12- page letter and threatened to sue. The letter goes on to cover the serious ways Hannity had covered the pandemic.
  101. On Tuesday, the Times responded to Hannity’s demand for a retraction and apology, saying, “the columns are accurate,” and “In response to your request for an apology and retraction, our answer is ‘no.’”
  102. On Wednesday, the Daily Beast reported Trump encouraged Hannity to go after the NYT. The two chatted in one of their late night calls about making an example of the Times, and told him to explore legal action.
  103. On Tuesday, the number of coronavirus deaths exceeded the 58,220 Americans lost in the Vietnam War. More than 2,000 Americans were lost in a day. Roughly 30% of deaths are in New York state.
  104. On Tuesday, Emerson polling found Trump’s April approval fell to 41% approve, 50% disapprove — down from the March reading of 46% approve, 45% disapprove.
  105. On his handling of the coronavirus, Trump’s approval dropped by 10 points to 39% from 49% in March, while his disapproval rose 10 points from 41% to 51%. Of undecided voters, 61% disapproved.
  106. On Tuesday, the head of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases told Germans to stay home again, after the virus reproduction rate, or infection rate, dubbed ‘R’, rose to 1.0, up from 0.7% at reopening.
  107. On Tuesday, NBC News reported a pug in North Carolina became the first known dog in the U.S. to test positive. The mother, father, and son in the family tested positive, while the daughter and other dog and cat did not.
  108. On Tuesday, JetBlue became the first U.S. airline to require passengers to wear face coverings effective May 4. The airline had previously only required crew members to do so.
  109. On Tuesday, governors and lawmakers continued to press for federal government leadership and better testing to allow them to reopen. Public health officials also said testing levels fell far short.
  110. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted, “We are doing far more, and better, Testing than any other country in the world, and yet the media does nothing but complain.” This is a false claim that Trump has repeated.
  111. The U.S. has tested 17,855 per million. Examples of other countries’ testing: Russia tested at a rate of 21,511, Germany at 24,748, Italy at 30,547, Spain at 28,799, and the UAE at 106,904.
  112. Trump also encouraged states to reopen, tweeting, “Many States moving to SAFELY & QUICKLY reopen!” and tweeted, “Texas to open businesses in phases beginning Friday. Great job being done by @GregAbbott_TX.”
  113. On Tuesday, Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir, the top U.S. testing official, told TIME in an interview that there’s “no way on Earth” the U.S. can test 5 million people a day for the coronavirus.
  114. Hours later, Trump told reporters, on testing 5 million per day, that “we’re going to be there very soon.” The country is averaging 150,000 tests per day. Giroir said 8 million per month by May was a reasonable estimate.
  115. Trump again falsely claimed, “We are the best in the world on testing. We’ve tested much more than anybody else, times two — or every country combined. We’ve tested more than every country combined.”
  116. On Tuesday, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act, declaring meat processing plants “critical infrastructure,” citing recent closures “threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain.”
  117. Trump’s executive order noted that some of the plant closures “may be inconsistent with” safety guidance issued by the CDC and OSHA, noting “unnecessary” plant closures have a big impact on the meat supply chain.
  118. Trump also claimed invoking the Defense Production Act would “solve any liability problems” meatpacking companies might have, but legal ramifications were unclear. The order overrules state or local directives.
  119. The president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. tweeted, “Using executive power to force people back on the job without proper protections is wrong and dangerous,” echoing calls by the food workers’ union to put safety first.
  120. On Tuesday, visiting the blood and plasma donation center inside the Mayo Clinic, Vice President Mike Pence did not wear a face mask despite everyone else in the hospital being required to wear one since April 13.
  121. The Mayo Clinic, tweeted, then deleted that “Mayo Clinic had informed @VP of the masking policy prior to his arrival today.” Dr. Stephen Hahn, head of the FDA who visited with Pence, wore a mask.
  122. When asked about not wearing a mask when everyone else on the tour did, Pence told reporters as VP, “I’m tested for the coronavirus on a regular basis, and everyone who is around me is tested for the coronavirus.”
  123. Pence added, he wanted to be able to speak to researchers and health care personnel “and look them in the eye and say thank you.” It was unclear how a mask would stop him from looking them in the eye.
  124. On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters the House will not return next week as scheduled, under recommendation by the House physician citing the rising number of cases in metropolitan Washington.
  125. Pelosi told reporters, “We had no choice. If the Capitol physician recommends that we not come back, then we have to take that guidance.” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a press conference the city has not met the 14 days of decline to reopen.
  126. Pelosi also mocked Trump’s tweet, saying, “He makes a big fuss about my having ice cream in my freezer….I have ice cream in my freezer. I guess it’s better than having Lysol in somebody’s lungs as he’s suggesting.”
  127. On Tuesday, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would return to session next week, despite complaints from older senators about health risks, and focus on confirming judges rather than the pandemic.
  128. Later Tuesday, Trump laid out some conditions he wanted to place on aid. Echoing McConnell, Trump told reporters, “The problem with the states is we’re not looking to recover 25 years of bad management.”
  129. Trump added that it was possible to “talk about” money for states if it was “covid-related,” but he would want to see certain conditions met, “including sanctuary city adjustments” for federal aid.
  130. On Tuesday, a new Ipsos poll found more than 30% of Americans have witnessed someone blaming Asian people for the pandemic. Sixty percent of Asian Americans said they had witnessed this behavior.
  131. The poll found 44% said specific people or organizations were responsible, and of those two-thirds mentioned China. Advocacy groups say they have seen a pick up in physical assaults, refusal of service, and vandalism.
  132. On Wednesday, the U.S. first-quarter gross domestic product fell 4.8%, giving the first glance at the impact of the coronavirus. Economists had expected a decline of 3.5%. Consumer spending fell 7.6%.
  133. The first-quarter included only two weeks of the coronavirus shutdown. The reading was the first decline since the first-quarter of 2014 (-1.1%) and largest fall since 8.4% plunge in the fourth-quarter of 2008.
  134. On Wednesday, Jared Kushner told “Fox & Friends” that, “I think you’ll see by June that a lot of the country should be back to normal, and the hope is that by July the country’s really rocking again.”
  135. Jared called the regime’s response “a great success story” as the death toll neared 60,000, claiming, “We’re on the other side of the medical aspect of this,” and “We’ve achieved all the different milestones that are needed.”
  136. Jared falsely claimed, “I’m very confident that we have all the testing we need to start opening the country,” adding, “I always find that we see leading indicators and often the media sees the lagging indicators.”
  137. Jared also said Trump is looking at options to punish China, saying, “He has asked the team to look into very carefully what happened,” adding, “he will take whatever actions are necessary” to hold people accountable.
  138. On Wednesday, WSJ reported the federal government ordered 100,000 more body bags, preparing for the worst-case scenario. The order was place on April 21 by FEMA.
  139. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted, “The only reason the U.S. has reported one million cases of CoronaVirus is that our Testing is sooo much better.” This is misleading: we have more cases for failing to test early.
  140. On Wednesday, Fauci told CNN a second wave of coronavirus is “inevitable,” and if we do not start to put countermeasures into place now, “we could be in for a bad fall and a bad winter.”
  141. Fauci added if states lift restrictions too soon, the country could see a rebound that would “get us right back in the same boat that we were a few weeks ago,” and the country could see many more deaths than predicted.
  142. On Wednesday, NYT reported based on CDC data of typical deaths for the five weeks from March 8 through April 11 versus this year in seven states, the coronavirus death toll is roughly 9,000 higher than reported.
  143. The Times compared deaths over previous five years to provisional death counts. There is also an impact of an overloaded system where people are not seeking care, balanced by fewer car accidents and other factors.
  144. On Wednesday, Sioux City Journal reported the widow of a worker at Tyson’s plant who died of Covid-19 said the company did not act quickly enough. She and her daughter also tested positive and were hospitalized.
  145. On Wednesday, Tampa Bay Times reported Florida medical examiners have stopped releasing coronavirus death data, which at times has been 10% higher than the reported count by the Florida Department of Health.
  146. On Wednesday, TMZ reported the White House Gift Shop is selling Coronavirus Commemorative Coins with the names Trump and Pence, featuring the presidential podium on one side and the virus on the other.
  147. On Wednesday, NYT reported a memo by a former economist at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Trump-appointed director Kathleen Kraninger manipulated the agency’s payday lending research.
  148. In his last day of work last summer, Jonathan Lanning detailed manipulation of data to roll back payday regulations from the Obama era which would have sharply curtailed high-interest payday loans.
  149. On Wednesday, a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll on handling the crisis, 32% said Trump is doing a better job, 64% their governor. The poll found despite economic hardship, most Americans are not ready to reopen.
  150. Asked if students should return, 14% said it was a good idea, 85% a bad idea; for returning to work, 32% good, 65% bad; sporting events, 8% good, 91% bad; and restaurants, 19% good, 80% bad.
  151. On Wednesday, a school board in Alaska voted 5–2 to remove “controversial” books from school curriculum, all viewed as famous classics, saying they could potentially harm students.
  152. The books included: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou; “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller; “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien; “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The local bookstore sold out.
  153. On Wednesday, the U.S. passed 60,000 deaths, Trump’s prior upper limit. Trump told reporters at an industry roundtable if not for what “we did, you would have had a million people die, maybe more, maybe 2 million.”
  154. Trump added, “And if you think that we’d be at 65, or 70, or 60, or whatever the final level would be…we’ve done it right.” Trump cited promising early signs an experimental antiviral drug, remdesivir.
  155. Fauci said, “The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery.” The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is overseeing the study.
  156. Trump sought to portray the crisis as over, saying, “We think we really have crossed a big boundary and much better days are ahead,” and, “I often say I see the light at the end of the tunnel very strongly.”
  157. Trump said he would not extend social distancing guidelines set to expire April 30 on Thursday, saying, “They’ll be fading out, because now the governors are doing it.”
  158. Trump also contradicted his own statement on testing the day before and lied, saying, “Somebody came out with a study of 5 million people. Do I think we will? I think we will, but I never said it.”
  159. Trump added, “Somebody started throwing around 5 million. I didn’t say 5 million,” adding, “Well, we will be there. But I didn’t say it. I didn’t say it.” White House data showed the U.S. has tested 5.1 million in total so far.
  160. Trump did not comment directly on the GDP numbers, but said, “I think next year is going to be an incredible year for our economy,” adding, “I think the fourth quarter is going to be really, really good.”
  161. Rebutting the polling data showing Americans were wary of reopening, Trump said, “I think there’s a tremendous pent-up demand,” adding, “I think we want to go back to where it was. When I look at a baseball game.”
  162. Trump added he did not want social distancing, saying, “I don’t want to see four seats in between every person, so the stadium becomes 25 percent of its original size. No, I want to see the NFL with a packed house.”
  163. Asked why he thought the virus would disappear without a vaccine, Trump said, “It’s gonna go, it’s gonna leave, it’s gonna be gone,” adding, without evidence, “it’s gonna be eradicated.”
  164. Trump threatened sanctuary cities with withholding coronavirus funding, saying, “I don’t think you should have sanctuary cities if they get that kind of aid,” adding, “you’re talking about, billions of dollars.”
  165. Asked if he would prevent aid from going to sanctuary cities, Trump said, “We shouldn’t have to pay anything anyway, because all they do is make it very hard for law enforcement.” ‘Quid pro quo’ trended on Twitter.
  166. On Wednesday, CNN reported Trump erupted on a call last Friday night with his campaign manager Brad Parscale over his slide in polling and criticism he faced for his disinfectant comments.
  167. Days prior, Parscale and top aides briefed him on internal polling and RNC data showing him behind in key battleground states. RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel and others urged him to scale back daily briefings.
  168. Trump did not accept it was his briefings hurting him in polls, insisting it was restricted travel. The next day came the disinfectant comment. Aides are not sure if the scaled back briefings this week will stick.
  169. NYT reported on the call Trump blamed others for his slide in the polls. He insisted he would not lose to Biden, and the data was wrong. He also threatened to sue Parscale, who responded, “I love you, too.”
  170. Parscale flew up to meet with Trump on Tuesday, after not seeing him for a month, to show him new polling data that showed Trump had climbed. With states starting to reopen, Trump was starting to feel more confident.
  171. Trump is now more anxious about losing and believed, without evidence, that he could control the Democratic primary, and did not want to hit Biden too hard for fear of knocking him out altogether.
  172. Trump nixed ads Parscale showed him linking Biden to China, in part because they show Biden when he was younger. Trump told reporters Wednesday he is ready to hold campaign rallies in Arizona and Ohio soon.
  173. On Wednesday, Trump dismissed polls showing him trailing Biden, telling Reuters, “I don’t believe the polls. I believe the people of this country are smart. And I don’t think that they will put a man in who’s incompetent.”
  174. Trump also told Reuters the election is not a referendum on the pandemic, saying, “I think it’s going to be a referendum on all the things we’ve done and certainly this will be a part of it, but we’ve done a great job.”
  175. On Wednesday, newly unsealed documents turned over by the Justice Department show FBI officials debated whether and when to tell Michael Flynn he could face criminal charges for a January 24, 2017 interview.
  176. Officials contemplated in advance that Flynn would lie, with one unidentified official musing the purpose was to induce him to lie, before concluding they should “protect our institution by not playing games.”
  177. One note said, “What’s our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” believed to written by the FBI’s then-director of counterintelligence after a meeting with Andrew McCabe.
  178. The documents were turned over to Flynn’s attorney on April 24 and made public on Thursday, after Barr ordered a review in January of how Flynn’s case was handled by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.
  179. Shortly after, Donald Jr. tweeted, “Not only should general Flynn’s charges be dropped immediately but the treasonous actors who set him up should be in jail!!!!” Flynn’s brother Joseph tweeted, “THUGS!!!”
  180. Trump tweeted, “CNN doesn’t want to speak about their persecution” of Flynn and “why they got the story so wrong,” adding, “They, along with others, should pay a big price for what they have purposely done.”
  181. Just after midnight, Trump also attacked MSNBC host Brian Williams, tweeting, “Lyin’ Brian Williams of MSDNC, a Concast Scam Company, wouldn’t know the truth if it was nailed to his wooden forehead.”
  182. Trump also tweeted, “Totally made up story. He’s a true dummy who was thrown off Network News like a dog. Stay tuned!” The next day he retweeted his own tweets.
  183. Trump also tweeted, “I must admit that Lyin’ Brian Williams is, while dumber than hell, quite a bit smarter than Fake News @CNN “anchorman” Don Lemon, the “dumbest man on television.”” Lemon is a black man.
  184. Trump also tweeted after midnight, “Then you have Psycho Joe “What Ever Happened To Your Girlfriend?” Scarborough, another of the low I.Q. individuals!”
  185. On Thursday, the Labor Department reported 3.8 million filed for unemployment, higher than the 3.5 million forecast, bringing the total to 30.3 million, or 18.6% of the labor force, in the past six weeks.
  186. Some economists suggested the number could be closer to 34 million, as data showed as many as 12 million Americans eligible to file were unable to either because their state’s system was overwhelmed or they did not try.
  187. On Thursday, the White House defended Jared’s “great success story” comment even as the death toll surpassed 60,000, with press secretary McEnany saying, “I think Jared has been taken entirely out of context.”
  188. McEnany claimed Jared was referring to the mobilization of industry, saying “Not a single American died in this country for lack of a ventilator,” adding, “I would call that response a success.” It was unclear if this statement is true.
  189. On Thursday, Trump tweeted, “We can’t let the Fake News, and their partner, the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, get away with stealing the Election. They tried that in 2016. How did that work out?”
  190. On Thursday, Gallup polling found approval on Trump’s handling of Covid-19 fell 10 points from a month ago to 50% approve, 48% disapprove. By party, his approval fell Republicans (-3), Independents (-10) and Democrats (-16).
  191. In the poll, Trump’s approval rebounded back to 49% approve, 47% disapprove, matching his high, and moving back up the 6 points he lost two weeks ago.
  192. On Thursday, Trump continued a flurry of tweets and retweets about about Flynn’s case that started Wednesday night, and mirrored coverage of the case on Fox News and Fox Business Network.
  193. Trump also tweeted, “DIRTY COP JAMES COMEY GOT CAUGHT!” and tweeted, “What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!”
  194. Shortly after, he told reporters during a meeting with the New Jersey governor that Flynn had been “tormented” by “dirty cops” at the FBI, adding, “They were trying to force him to lie.”
  195. Trump added, “General Flynn is a fine man,” adding, “You don’t get to where he is by being bad.” Asked if he would pardon Flynn, Trump said he did not need to, citing, “he’s in the process of being exonerated.”
  196. On Thursday, the U.S. intelligence community said in a statement that it “concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified.”
  197. Later Thursday, Trump said he had seen evidence linking Covid-19 to a lab in Wuhan. Asked by reporters if he had seen proof, he said, “Yes, I have,” and when pressed replied, “I can’t tell you that. I am not allowed to tell you that.”
  198. Trump also said, “There’s a lot of theories,” adding, “but we have people looking at it very, very strongly. Scientific people, intelligence people and others.”
  199. On Thursday, NYT reported senior Trump regime officials are pushing intelligence to hunt for evidence to push the unsubstantiated theory that a government laboratory in Wuhan was the origin of the outbreak.
  200. The effort comes as Trump seeks to escalate a public campaign to blame China. Trump aides and GOP lawmakers have tried to blame China in order to deflect from the regime’s mismanagement of the U.S. response.
  201. Intelligence officials were concerned that pressure from the Trump regime will distort assessments, and could be used as a political weapon, and could harm the U.S. relationship with China for years to come.
  202. On Thursday, WAPO reported the Trump regime is looking for ways to punish or demand financial compensation from China for its handling of the pandemic to shift blame away from Trump.
  203. Senior officials from multiple agencies met on Thursday to start mapping out a strategy. Trump was said to be fuming and blaming China for withholding information, despite his own public statement of support.
  204. Privately, Trump and aides have discussed stripping China of its “sovereign immunity,” aiming to enable the U.S. government or victims to sue China for damages, a move unlikely to succeed but likely to lead to retaliation.
  205. On Thursday, WAPO reported the DOJ is scrutinizing the records of Vladimir “Zev” Zelenko, a New York doctor with connections to the White House, who has touted hydroxychloroquine on Fox News.
  206. Zelenko consults frequently with close allies of Trump, including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and other officials, and Rudy Giuliani. Conservative commentator Jerome Corsi lists Zelenko on his website as a “medical adviser.”
  207. The examination began after Corsi accidentally sent an email intended for Zelenko to federal prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky, who was formerly a member of Mueller’s team.
  208. Zelinsky now serves in the Maryland U.S. attorney’s office, and is tasked with investigating coronavirus-related crimes including peddling fake cures. Zelinsky requested all Corsi’s email communication with Zelenko.
  209. On Thursday, WAPO reported Trump Hotel DC charged the Secret Service $33,000 for lodging to guard Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for 137 consecutive nights in 2017 when Mnuchin lived in one of the luxury suites.
  210. On Thursday, hundreds of protestors in Michigan, many carrying guns and few wearing masks or social distancing, stormed the state Capitol as lawmakers convened to vote on extending the state of emergency.
  211. The protest, dubbed the “American Patriot Rally,” was organized by Michigan United for Liberty. Protestors yelled “Let us in!” and were blocked by Michigan State Police and House sergeants at arms.
  212. Republican lawmakers gave impassioned speeches on the House floor about reopening. Later Thursday, Gov. Whitmer issued executive orders extending the state’s stay-at-home order through May 15 and state of emergency through May 28.
  213. In a virtual town hall, Whitmer said, “We remain in a state of emergency. That is a fact,” noting, “over 600 people have died in the last 72 hours.” Nearly 3,800 had died in Michigan, with more than 41,00 cases.
  214. On Friday, Trump again interjected himself, tweeting, “The Governor of Michigan should give a little,” calling the protestors “very good people” and saying, “they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely!”
  215. On Friday, Whitmer said of the protests, “Swastikas and Confederate flags, nooses and automatic rifles” do not represent who we are. Similarly at a “Re-open Illinois” rally a woman held a sign that read, “Arbeit Macht Frei.”
  216. On Thursday, WSJ reported J. Crew is preparing to file for bankruptcy, the second major retailer to do so due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  217. On Thursday, Second Lady Karen Pence defended her husband on “Fox & Friends,” claiming, “It was actually after he left Mayo Clinic that he found out that they had a policy of asking everyone to wear a mask.”
  218. On Thursday, WAPO reported Pence’s staff threatened retaliation against Steve Herman, the reporter who tweeted that Pence’s office told journalists they would need masks for Pence’s visit to the Mayo Clinic.
  219. Herman, who works for Voice of America, tweeted after Karen Pence’s appearance, “All of us who traveled with him were notified by the office of @VP the day before the trip that wearing of masks was required.”
  220. Pence’s staff told Herman he violated the off-the-record terms of the planning memo. He was notified by the WHCA that he was banned from travel on Air Force Two, pending an apology from Herman or VOA.
  221. On Friday, a federal appeals court ruled it will not halt an order requiring the DOJ to turn over unredacted Mueller documents to Congress, but gave the Trump regime until May 11 to seek a stay from the Supreme Court.
  222. On Friday, White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow told CNBC that China will “be held accountable,” but denied reporting that regime was considering refusing to pay government debt held by China as retaliation.
  223. On Friday, in a podcast interview, Trump discussed sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden. Trump, who has been accused by dozens of women of assault and harassment said he was “sticking up” for Biden.
  224. Trump said, “I watch Tara and she seems very credible, the mother was so credible, the mother was great… So I don’t know, you know it’s his problem, but I like to get in front of it and I just deny it if it’s not true.”
  225. Trump added, of Brett Kavanaugh, “there has never been” a “case so vicious as that,” and said, “I look forward to the day someday they have to sue these women because every one of them was lying. They were lying.”
  226. On Friday, White House press secretary McEnany held the first daily press briefing since March 11, 2019. Asked by a reporter on telling the truth, she said, “I will never lie to you. You have my word on that.”
  227. Fifteen minutes in, she lied. Speaking of Flynn, she said, “we had a handwritten FBI note that says, quote, we need to get Flynn to lie, quote, and get him fired.” Neither phrase ‘get him to lie’ or ‘get him fired’ is true.
  228. The notes did say, “What’s our goal? Truth/admission or to • get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” The question is posed as a way to confront Flynn, not get him fired.
  229. McEnany also lied about the Mueller report, saying it amounted to “complete and total exoneration.” She repeated a false claim that “not a single American has died for lack of a ventilator” — we do not know if this is true.
  230. Asked about allegations against Joe Biden, she said allegations against Trump were “asked and answered in the form of the vote of the American people,” four years ago. Trump was accused of rape a few months ago.
  231. On Friday, speaking to reporters, Trump moved his goal post again on the number of deaths from the coronavirus, saying, “Hopefully we’re going to come in below that 100,000 lives lost, which is a horrible number nevertheless.”
  232. On Friday, CNN reported according to the CDC more than 4,900 workers in meat and poultry processing plants had tested positive for the coronavirus, and at least 20 had died.
  233. On Friday, the Sioux City Journal reported 669 workers at a Tyson Foods plant in Dakota City, Nebraska tested positive. Tyson started screening workers with the help of the Nebraska National Guard this week.
  234. The positives represent 15% of the plant’s workforce, and 40% of the cases in Dakota County and nearby Woodbury County, where most workers live. Testing showed the virus had spread to people beyond plant workers.
  235. On Friday, New York Magazine reported polling shows all 50 governors’ handling of the coronavirus is rated higher than Trump in his or her states.
  236. On Friday, a gathering of nearly 3,000 in Huntington Beach protested California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home orders and beach closures. Most protestors stood closer than six feet apart.
  237. On Friday, hundreds of protestors demanded the state reopen at a rally in Sacramento, defying California’s shelter-in-place order. A confrontation with law enforcement led to 32 protestors being arrested.
  238. On Friday, CNN reported 31 states have or will reopen in the coming days, in a patchwork with each state taking a different approach. None has met the two week guideline for decline in cases.
  239. On Friday, Fauci warned if states opened too soon the country could see a rebound of the virus that would “get us right back in the same boat that we were a few weeks ago,” and make the “inevitable” second wave worse.
  240. On Friday, the AJC reported one week after Georgia started re-opening, the state saw 1,200 new cases, bringing the total to 27,496, and 34 more deaths. Texas also saw a spike of 1,142 new cases, bringing the total up to 26,171.
  241. On Friday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said he was reconsidering the scheduled reopening of his state on Monday as 397 new cases were reported and 20 died, the state’s largest spike.
  242. On Friday, a spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee said the White House blocked Fauci from testifying as a witness at Wednesday’s Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee hearing on Covid-19 response.
  243. On Friday, Trump tweeted, “Don’t allow RIGGED ELECTIONS!” quoting a tweet of a study by a conservative legal group which significantly miscalculated data in a report on mail-in voting.
  244. On Friday, NYT reported on Friday evening Trump moved to replace Christi Grimm, the principal deputy inspector general at HHS, who angered Trump by releasing a report on critical medical shortages.
  245. Grimm’s report highlighted supply shortages and testing delays at hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. After business hours, Trump nominated a new inspector general for the department.
  246. Trump had assailed Grimm three weeks ago at his daily briefing when asked about her report. She is the latest in the growing list of Trump removing career officials or his own nominees deemed not loyal enough.
  247. On Saturday, Trump tweeted, “There is tremendous CoronaVirus testing capacity in Washington for the Senators returning to Capital Hill,” adding, “the House, which should return but isn’t because of Crazy Nancy P.”
  248. As the week came to a close, there were 3,386,519 worldwide cases and 240,654 dead from the coronavirus. The U.S. had 1,115,848 cases (32.9%), 65,298 deaths (27.1%), and a mortality rate of 5.9%.

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Copyright Amy Siskind, May 2, 2020

Vice President Mike Pence, center, and Dr. Michael Joiner visit with Dennis Nelson, right, who survived the coronavirus, during Pence’s visit to the Mayo Clinic Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Rochester, Minn., where he toured the facilities supporting COVID-19 research and treatment. Controversy arose when Pence chose not to wear a face mask at the visit, a hospital requirement.