May 23, 2020

Week 184

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

This week, Trump fully transitioned from leader to salesman, leaving the states to fend for themselves, while he promoted a “transition to greatness.” After a week when two White House employees tested positive for the coronavirus, Trump made the remarkable claim he has been taking hydroxychloroquine prophylactically — leading public health experts to sound the alarms to American citizens not to follow Trump’s lead. Days later, the largest study yet on the drug’s efficacy to date found no benefit, but severe cardiac risks for Covid-19 patients.

This week, Trump continued campaign stops at battleground states, visiting a Ford Motor plant in Michigan that had been reconfigured to manufacture ventilators. Despite requests from the company and demands by the state’s attorney general to abide by restrictions requiring a face mask, Trump refused, later saying, “I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.”

Trump also battled with Michigan’s secretary of state (notably Michigan’s governors, SoS, and AG are all women), and with Nevada, over those states offering voters the option to vote by mail given the pandemic. Without offering any evidence or proof, Trump made accusations of voter fraud and threatened both states with withholding federal funding — something he cannot do. Days later he commanded houses of worship to reopen immediately as “essential,” and similarly threatened governors not to get in the way — another power he does not have.

As the week came to an end, and the death toll neared 100,000 Americans in less than three months, Trump started Memorial Day weekend by golfing at one of his clubs.

  1. On Saturday, former president Barack Obama delivered two virtual commencement speeches to millions of high school and college graduates, giving his first public criticism of Trump, and the lack of U.S. leadership.
  2. Obama said, “More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing. A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”
  3. Obama added, “Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy — that’s how little kids think,” and, “Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grown-ups…still think that way — which is why things are so screwed up.”
  4. On Saturday, Trump tweeted an image of White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany dressed as Supergirl, and a video clip from the 1996 movie “Independence Day” with his head superimposed on Bill Pullman’s.
  5. Trump also tweeted “OBAMAGATE,” shortly after Obama delivered his virtual speech, and continued his feud with China, saying it is “paying a tiny fraction of $’s to The World Health Organization.”
  6. On Saturday, ProPublica reported two private jet companies, Jet Linx Aviation and Clay Lacy Aviation, both owned by donors to Trump, got $20 million and $27 million of PPP bailout money, respectively.
  7. On Saturday, Yahoo News reported experts are raising alarms about the lack of coronavirus screening at airports as domestic and international travel restarts. There are reports of crowded airports and airplanes.
  8. The CDC has issued suggested guidance on masks, but that is it. Trump said on April 28 that the regime was working to implement a procedure for temperature checks at airports, but no progress has been made.
  9. On Saturday, ABC News reported 13 sailors aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for the coronavirus a second time. All had tested positive prior, and gone through at least two weeks of isolation.
  10. On Saturday, Eric Trump told Fox News’s Jeanine Pirro that Democrats were using the pandemic to undermine his father’s campaign rallies, claiming it was a “cognizant strategy” through the election.
  11. Eric claimed, “they’ll milk it every single day between now and November 3,” adding, “after November 3, coronavirus will magically, all of a sudden, go away and disappear,” and “everybody will be able to reopen.”
  12. On Sunday, Trump sent a flurry of tweets before leaving Camp David. He egged on protestors in Albany, New York, tweeting, “Great Rally and fantastic job on @ffweekend this morning. It is all happening. #MAGA”
  13. As the death toll neared 90,000, Trump also tweeted, “Doing REALLY well, medically, on solving the CoronaVirus situation (Plague!). It will happen!” It was unclear what he meant.
  14. Trump continued attacking Obama, tweeting, “The Obama Administration is turning out to be one of the most corrupt and incompetent in U.S. history…he and Sleepy Joe are the reasons I am in the White House!!!”
  15. On Sunday, CNN reported that Trump made a fifth change to an inspector general office late Friday night, appointing Howard Elliot as the new acting IG of the Department of Transportation.
  16. Elliot replaces Mitch Behm, deputy IG. Elliot will now oversee ongoing investigations of Secretary Elaine Chao giving preferential treatment to projects in her husband Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state.
  17. On Tuesday, WAPO reported three leading House Democrats plan to open an investigation into the replacement. In a letter to Chao, they asked for communication between her team and the White House on the decision.
  18. The letter noted the “removal could be an effort to undermine the progress of this investigation, which is ongoing,” adding, “Any attempt by you or your office to interfere…is illegal and will be thoroughly examined.”
  19. On Sunday, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro blamed the CDC for testing, saying, “early on in this virus” the CDC “really let the country down with the testing,” adding, “they had a bad test. And that did set us back.”
  20. On Sunday, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar countered on “Face the Nation,” saying, “I don’t believe the CDC let this country down. I believe the CDC serves an important public health role.”
  21. On Sunday, CNN reported after embracing the role of “wartime President,” Trump has all but abandoned taking a leadership role of any kind in the pandemic, leaving a vacuum in controlling the pandemic.
  22. In the absence of White House leadership, states and local governments are left on their own. Trump has instead played the role of a salesman, promoting false claims on testing and promises on a vaccine.
  23. Trump curbed public appearances by top public health officials, ending daily briefings and criticizing Dr. Anthony Fauci. Public health officials warn the abdication would reverse progress made during the lockdown.
  24. On Sunday, WAPO reported in the latest phase of the pandemic, which Trump has labeled the “transition to greatness,” he is acting as a salesman and a marketer, not a decision maker.
  25. Governors are making decisions for their states, and business leaders for their employees’ safety and return to work, with little to no guidance from Trump or the federal government.
  26. Trump has also abdicated the U.S.’s role as a global leader. Presidential historians noted Trump has diminished the influence of the office, compared to past presidents who took outsized roles in time of crisis.
  27. With more than 88,000 dead, Trump has been a poor role model compared to his predecessors, refusing to wear a mask and sporadically social distancing, despite his regime’s recommendation to do so.
  28. Trump has also taken a supporting, if any role, in the four bipartisan bills passed to address the pandemic, leaving Treasury Department Secretary Steve Mnuchin in charge. Trump’s few suggestions have not been incorporated.
  29. Later Sunday, Trump continued his push to reopen, tweeting, “The number of Coronavirus cases is strongly trending downward throughout the United States, with few exceptions. Very good news, indeed!”
  30. Trump also accused news organizations of smearing him, quoting a tweet and adding, “They, and the Lamestream Media…have spent 3 1/2 years illegally smearing me. They got caught!”
  31. On Sunday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told “60 Minutes” the economy will not recover “until people feel confident that they are safe,” predicting unemployment will peak between 20 and 25 percent.
  32. Powell added, “The sooner we get the virus under control, the sooner businesses can reopen,” saying a vaccine is needed for people to feel confident. He also said he is concerned about a second wave.
  33. Dr. Rick Bright also spoke to “60 Minutes,” saying the Trump regime “was focused on containment. There was a belief that we could contain this virus and keep it out of the United States. Containment doesn’t work.”
  34. He countered Trump, saying, “I am not disgruntled. I am frustrated at a lack of leadership,” and our “lack of urgency to get a head start on developing lifesaving tools”…and “our inability to be heard as scientists.”
  35. Shortly after, in a series of tweets, Trump attacked: “@60Minutes & third place anchor, @NorahODonnell, are doing everything in their power to demean our Country, much to the benefit of the Radical Left Democrats.”
  36. Trump added, “Tonight they put on yet another Fake “Whistleblower”, a disgruntled employee who supports Dems, fabricates stories and spews lies,” saying the report was incorrect, but “they couldn’t care less.”
  37. Trump added of Bright, “I don’t know this guy, never met him, but don’t like what I see,” and added, “This whole Whistleblower racket needs to be looked at very closely, it is causing great injustice & harm.”
  38. On Sunday, a study by the University of Hong Kong found that the coronavirus’ transmission rate dropped by as much as 75% when surgical masks were used.
  39. On Sunday, NBC News reported fired State Department IG Steve Linick was probing whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo misused a political appointee to run errands for him and his wife.
  40. On Monday, Chair Eliot Engel said in a statement on Linick, “His office was investigating — at my request — Trump’s phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia.”
  41. Trump came under scrutiny for declaring a national emergency last year in order to side-step Congressional approval and sell weapons to the Saudis and the U.A.E. Pompeo refused to sit for an interview with the IG’s office.
  42. NYT reported Linick was in the final stages of his investigation into whether the regime had unlawfully declared an “emergency” to resume weapons sales to the Saudis and U.A.E. for their air war in Yemen.
  43. On Monday, Sen. Chuck Grassley, co-chair of the Whistleblower Protection Caucus, sent a letter to Trump demanding information on the firing, saying, “Removal of IGs without explanation could create a chilling effect.”
  44. On Monday, Pompeo claimed he did not know Linick was investigating him, saying he asked Trump to fire Linick because his work was “undermining” the department’s mission, without specifying how or why.
  45. Pompeo defended himself, saying, “I had an IG at the CIA…He did fantastic work.” In his first five years as IG, Linick’s office issued more than 600 reports in which they identified $1.7 billion in potential savings.
  46. Later, asked about the Linick firing, Trump said he took action at Pompeo’s request, saying of Linick, “I don’t know him. Never heard of him,” adding, “many of these people were Obama appointments. So I just got rid of him.”
  47. Trump added, “they asked me to terminate him. I have the absolute right as president to terminate,” passing the buck to Pompeo saying, “But you would have to ask Mike Pompeo. But they did ask me to do it, and I did it.”
  48. On Monday, Attorney General William Barr said at a news conference on another matter that he did not expect his hand-picked prosecutor John Durham to look into Obama or Joe Biden in his investigation.
  49. Barr blasted “increasing attempts to use the criminal justice system as a political weapon…to gin up allegations of criminality by one’s political opponents based on the flimsiest of legal theories.”
  50. Barr said, “We cannot allow this process to be hijacked by efforts to drum up criminal investigations of either candidate.” Trump has used the Michael Flynn case to go after Obama and Biden, but has yet to articulate the crime.
  51. On Monday, Politico reported Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham is preparing to ask his colleagues for broad authority to subpoena former Obama officials for documents and testimony.
  52. His proposal would allow him to subpoena those involved in the intelligence associated with the launch of the Russia investigation, including James Comey, John Brennan, and James Clapper.
  53. On Monday, a Morning Consult poll found 89% of Americans support 14-day quarantines, 88% support social distancing measures, and 78% support stay-at-home measures.
  54. On Monday, 49 states had relaxed stay-at-home orders, even as some states continue to see a continual rise in daily cases and deaths. More than 90,000 Americans had died.
  55. On Monday, Trump sent a flurry of tweets and retweets. In the morning, he pushed for reopening the country in early morning tweets, saying, “REOPEN OUR COUNTRY!” and “TRANSITION TO GREATNESS”
  56. Trump also tweeted, “Wow! The Front Page @washingtonpost Headline reads, “A BOOST IN TESTS, BUT LACK OF TAKERS.” We have done a great job on Ventilators, Testing, and everything else. Were left little by Obama.”
  57. Trump sniped at “60 Minutes” again, tweeting, “the so-called HHS Whistleblower was against HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE. Then why did he …sign an emergency use authorization?” calling Bright a “Never Trumper.”
  58. Bright said on “60 Minutes” that he “was given a directive. I didn’t have a choice.” The FDA did issue a warning about Covid-19 patients against using hydroxychloroquine outside of hospitals or clinical trials.
  59. Trump also attacked Sen. Mitt Romney, who spoke out against the firing of Linick, tweeting a video montage of contrasting news coverage of their respective presidential election nights, and adding, “LOSER!”
  60. On Monday, CBS News reported a person in Butte County, California, went to a crowded in-person church service on Mother’s Day and tested positive for the coronavirus the next day, possibly exposing 180 others.
  61. On Monday, Axios reported Trump rejected an invitation to speak at the World Health Organization virtual annual global health meeting, while Chinese President Xi Jinping accepted. The WHO hoped to have both.
  62. Xi spoke and pledged $2 billion in coronavirus aid to the worldwide response. Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron also addressed the gathering.
  63. Trump told reporters of the WHO snub, “I think they’ve done a very sad job in the last period of time,” adding, “They’re a puppet of China. They’re China-centric, to put it nicer.”
  64. Sec. Azar delivered remarks in Trump’s stead in a video, blasting the WHO and saying, “There was a failure by this organization to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives.”
  65. Later Monday, Trump threatened to permanently end U.S. funding to the WHO, tweeting a letter in which he claimed the WHO “ignored credible reports of the virus” and acted too slowly, bowing to pressure from China.
  66. Trump’s letter inaccurately cited “credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019….including reports from the Lancet medical journal.” Lancet said it first published a report on January 24.
  67. On Monday, in a remarkable statement, Trump told reporters he has been taking hydroxychloroquine and a zinc supplement daily “for about a week and a half now,” despite recent studies showing its harmful side effects.
  68. Trump said the White House physician did not recommend the drug to him, but he requested it, saying, “I started taking it, because I think it’s good,” adding, “I’ve heard a lot of good stories.”
  69. Trump dismissed the warning by the FDA about side effects, saying, “All I can tell you is, so far I seem to be OK.” Regulators also issued an alert for the drug, after reports of heart rhythm problems, including deaths.
  70. Trump added, “I’m not going to get hurt by it. It’s been around for 40 years. For malaria, for lupus, for other things. I take it. Front-line workers take it.” This is false — front line workers do not take the drug.
  71. Trump said he does not own stock in the company that makes the drug, and wants “the people of this nation to feel good,” and without evidence, “there’s a very good chance that this has an impact, especially early on.”
  72. Several prominent physicians, including Dr. Patrice Harris, president of the American Medical Association, worried the public would take their cue from Trump, and infer the drug was effective and safe.
  73. Shortly after, White House physician Dr. Sean Conley said in a letter after “numerous discussions” with Trump about the drug, “we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.”
  74. Shortly after, Fox Business host Neil Cavuto said on his show, “If you are in a risky population here, and you are taking this as a preventative treatment … it will kill you. I cannot stress enough. This will kill you.”
  75. Shortly after, Trump attacked Cavuto and Fox News in a series of tweets and retweets, calling him an “idiot,” “foolish,” “gullible” and “an asshole.” Trump added that Fox News “is no longer the same.”
  76. Trump also tweeted at Fox News, saying, “We miss the great Roger Ailes,” adding, “You have more anti-Trump people, by far, than ever before. Looking for a new outlet!”
  77. Later Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN of Trump taking the drug, “He’s our president, and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists.”
  78. Pelosi added, “especially in his age group and his, shall we say, weight group,” and calling him “morbidly obese,” citing his doctors had place the 73 year-old Trump slightly above the CDC guidelines of obese.
  79. On Monday, House Democrats told the Supreme Court they need Mueller’s grand jury materials to determine if there is evidence for new impeachable offenses involving Trump. The DOJ is asking the court to block the release.
  80. On Monday, a California federal judge rejected the Trump regime’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Democratic attorneys general challenging changes to the Endangered Species Act.
  81. On Monday, the DOJ moved to drop charges against Concord Management and Consulting, LLC, two entities indicted in the Mueller probe for conspiring the defraud the U.S. by financing Russian troll farm IRA.
  82. On Monday, Florida Today reported Rebekah Jones, the woman who designed Florida’s Covid-19 dashboard, said she was removed from her position because she was ordered to censor some data but refused.
  83. On Monday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the Georgia Department of Public Health published a misleading chart with dates out of order to falsely suggest that cases were declining.
  84. On Monday, Brazil recorded 254,220 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, the third-highest number of infections behind the U.S. and Russia. All three are lead by authoritarian strongmen.
  85. On Tuesday, White House press secretary McEnany told Fox News that she did not know the “exact rationale” for Trump taking hydroxychloroquine, saying it was a personal deliberation with his doctor.
  86. McEnany added, “any use of hydroxychloroquine has to be in consultation with your doctor” and requires a prescription. After, she told reporters the doctor’s letter released Monday was to show “the rationale behind it.”
  87. When reporters tried to ask Dr. Deborah Birx about Trump’s use of hydroxychloroquine, she walked by the cameras and instead commented on the weather.
  88. Later, asked by reporters what was the purpose of the physician letter, and whether people could believe Trump, McEnany said,“if it were any other President of the United States the media would take him at his word.”
  89. On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News he is not taking hydroxychloroquine because his doctor did not recommend it, but “would never begrudge any American taking the advice of their physician.”
  90. On Tuesday, polling by SurveyMonkey found 49 out of 50 governors have higher approval for their coronavirus response than Trump. Only Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, the lowest rated governor, ties Trump at 43%.
  91. On Tuesday, unveiling an agricultural aid package, Trump declared, “We’re going after Virginia, with your crazy governor…They want to take your Second Amendment away. You’ll have nobody guarding your potatoes.”
  92. On Tuesday, Georgia Gov. Kemp and the state’s Republican secretary of state canceled a Supreme Court election, allowing Kemp to appoint the successor to a Republican stepping down. The successor will serve for at least two years.
  93. On Tuesday, NBC News reported a decades’ old tradition of the sitting presidents hosting his immediate predecessor in the East Room for the unveiling of their official White House portrait will end with Trump.
  94. On Tuesday, Trump held a meeting of his cabinet for the first time in several months. No cabinets members wore masks, though they were seated several feet apart from one another.
  95. As in past cabinet meetings, it opened with each official taking a turn to praise Trump. Pence praised his “unprecedented action,” saying Trump has “no higher priority than the safety and security of the American people.”
  96. Secretary Azar reinforced Trump’s message of the dangers of lockdown, saying the “virus-induced recession” could cause “an extra 65,000 deaths from suicide, drug-overdose, alcohol-abuse over the years.”
  97. Trump defended his use of hydroxychloroquine, claiming without evidence that the Veterans Affairs study was “false” and the patients “were very old. Almost dead,” adding, “It was a Trump enemy statement.”
  98. When asked by a reporter if any other cabinet members were taking the drug, none spoke up. Trump said, “Many of them would take it if they thought it was necessary.”
  99. Trump signed an executive order that he described as “instructing federal agencies to use any and all authority to weigh, suspend and eliminate unnecessary regulations that impede economic recovery.”
  100. When asked how his regime planned to get the 36 million unemployed back to work, he snapped at the reporter, saying, “I think we’ve announced a plan. We’re opening up our country. Just a rude person, you are.”
  101. Later, Trump want to the weekly Republican Senators lunch. He did not wear a face mask. NBC News reported he went to discuss his campaign, and did not address the pandemic at the nearly hour-long lunch.
  102. Trump addressed reporters on Pelosi’s comments, saying she is “a sick woman. She’s got a lot of problems, a lot of mental problems.” When asked earlier he said, “I don’t respond to her. I think she’s a waste of time.”
  103. Later Tuesday, the FDA appeared to soften its stance on the drug, with Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn saying in a statement, “The decision to take any drug is ultimately a decision between a patient and their doctor.”
  104. On Tuesday, the CDC quietly released detailed 60-page guidelines for reopening and posted it on their website without any formal announcement. The agency has been largely silent during the pandemic.
  105. The guidance, which outlined a “three-phased approach” for reopening schools, mass transit, and nonessential businesses comes as almost all states are already underway with reopening.
  106. WAPO reported the reopening guidance for places of worship was put on hold after a battle between the CDC and the White House, which does not want to impose restrictions on religious institutions.
  107. The CDC report cited an Arkansas church which remained open for six days in early March. At least 34 of the 92 attendees at church events tested positive for the coronavirus and three died, all over 65 years-old.
  108. Trump and Pence kept close ties with religious leaders during the pandemic, scheduling private calls and asking for their support. A decision to hold back guidance was made to not alienate the faithful.
  109. On Tuesday, Crain’s reported when Trump tours a Ford Motor plant on Thursday in Michigan he will be doing so in violation of an executive order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer prohibiting “nonessential” plant tours.
  110. Whitmer’s office said it would not stop the visit; however, Ford said Trump will need to follow company policy that requires “everyone” wear a mask during his tour, something he has been unwilling to do on past tours.
  111. On Tuesday, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said all of the state’s 7.7 million registered voters will be mailed an absentee ballot application to vote in August and November by mail rather than in person.
  112. Benson said, “By mailing applications we have ensured that no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote,” and noted a high turnout in local elections on May 5.
  113. On Tuesday, a federal judge in Texas ruled voters in the state who are afraid of catching the coronavirus by voting in person can request absentee mail-in ballots, citing the “disability” provision in the election code.
  114. On Tuesday, the Trump regime ended National Guard deployment fighting Covid-19 on the 89th day of deployment — one day short of the 90-day threshold for qualifying for benefits like early retirement and education.
  115. On Tuesday, retailer Pier 1 announced it would close all its stores for good, after filing for bankruptcy reorganization in February, citing the impact of the coronavirus.
  116. On Tuesday, the Trump regime declassified an email outgoing NSA Susan Rice sent to herself on Inauguration Day, which has drawn intense scrutiny from Republicans citing the “unusual” nature of recording a conversation.
  117. The email cites James Comey’s concern about sharing classified information with the Trump team because of Flynn’s frequent conversations with the Russian ambassador, but says Obama advised to handle all “by the book.”
  118. On Tuesday, lawyers for Flynn asked the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for D.C. to order U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to grant the DOJ’s motion to dismiss his case, after Sullivan appointed former judge John Gleeson.
  119. Flynn’s attorney claimed Sullivan “has no authority to adopt the role of the prosecutor,” and his efforts to appoint the judge as a friend of court shows “a disturbing lack of appreciation of the court’s limited role.”
  120. On Tuesday, a study in South Korea found patients who tested positive for a second time were not contagious, lending credence to the possibility the relapse was a testing fluke rather than the re-emergence of Covid-19.
  121. On Tuesday, NBC News reported Pompeo and his wife secretly hosted elite, exclusive dinners, named “Madison Dinners,” that featured billionaire CEOs, Supreme Court justices, political heavyweights, and ambassadors.
  122. Pompeo and his wife held two dozen elaborate, unpublicized gatherings starting in 2018, paid for with taxpayer money, regularly held in the historic Diplomatic Reception Rooms until the pandemic stopped them.
  123. State Department officials said Pompeo was using federal resources to cultivate a donor and supporter base for his political ambitions, including possibly a senate seat in Kansas and presidential aspirations.
  124. The dinners were named for Madison, the fourth president and fifth secretary of state, who invited foreign diplomats to exchange ideas over dinner. Historians say Madison paid his own entertainment expenses.
  125. Of those invited, just 14% were diplomats or foreign officials. Roughly 23% were associated with media or entertainment (of which 39% were from Fox News), 29% from the corporate world, and 30% government.
  126. It was unclear if IG Linick had formally opened an investigation into the dinners, but officials said he made some type of inquiry to the protocol office last week. Pompeo’s office was then notified.
  127. On Wednesday, a Quinnipiac poll found 41% approve of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, 56% disapprove — down from 46% approve, 51% in April. Joe Biden led Trump 50-39.
  128. The poll found 67% said Trump should wear a face mask when he is out in public, 27% said he should not. Also, 75% said the country should reopen slowly, even if it hurts the economy, 21% said it should open quickly.
  129. On Wednesday, Trump quoted Roger Stone’s appearance on Fox Business, tweeting, “This President needs to be re-elected, Lou. One of the greatest Presidents in my lifetime. I would never give false testimony against him.”
  130. Trump added in his morning flurry of tweets, “Roger Stone has been treated very unfairly. How about that jury Forewoman, does anybody think that was fair. DISGRACEFUL! Stay tuned.”
  131. Trump continued, tweeting about Joe Scarborough, “And guys like Low Ratings Psycho Joe Scarborough are allowed to walk the streets? Open Cold Case!” Again, this is a false accusation Trump keeps repeating.
  132. Trump also lashed out at China, tweeting, “Some wacko in China just released a statement blaming everybody other than China for the Virus,” adding, “it was the “incompetence of China”, and nothing else.”
  133. Trump also escalated his campaign to discredit mail-in voting laws, tweeting, “State of Nevada “thinks” that they can send out illegal vote by mail ballots,” adding, “Voter Fraud scenario for the State and the U.S.”
  134. Trump tweeted, “Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election.” Trump then deleted this tweet, and changed it to “sends absentee ballot applications.”
  135. Trump added, “This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State” — this is a false claim — and “I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!”
  136. Responding to Trump, Michigan’s secretary of state tweeted, “I also have a name, it’s Jocelyn Benson,” adding her office was sending applications, “like my GOP colleagues in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia.”
  137. Trump also falsely called both states’ plans are “illegal,” and added to Nevada, “Sorry, but you must not cheat in elections.” Trump threatened both states with holding up their federal funding.
  138. Later Wednesday, while meeting with the governors of Arkansas and Kansas, Trump continued to make claims without evidenced of voter fraud, saying, “They send in thousands and thousands of fake ballots.”
  139. While retreating from his threat to hold up federal funding to the states, which he cannot do, Trump said without proof, “you get thousands of ballots and they put them in a bag …who knows where they come from.”
  140. Trump added, “I think just common sense would tell you that massive manipulation can take place,” and “I don’t know. It’s a lot of things can happen.” Notably, Trump and several family members voted by mail.
  141. Trump also said he would finish his preventative hydroxychloroquine regimen “in a day or two,” adding, “I think it’s two days. Two days,”
  142. Trump said of the governors, “when you say “per capita,” there’s many per capitas. It’s, like, per capita relative to what? But you can look at just about any category, and we’re really at the top….They’ve done a great job.”
  143. Shortly after, Merriam-Webster dictionary said there was a 2,300% spike in look-ups for per capita, noting of Trump saying per capitas, “We do not list a manner of pluralizing per capita, as the word is not a noun.”
  144. Later, press secretary McEnany repeatedly declined to answer what Trump believed was illegal, or what funding he was considering withholding, saying there is “a lot of fraud that is potentially at play” with mail-in voting.
  145. On Wednesday, a Morning Consult poll found 73% of Americans believe Trump should be temporarily suspended (36%) or permanently banned (37%) from Twitter for spreading disinformation on the coronavirus.
  146. On Wednesday, Pompeo abruptly ended a press conference after being asked about firing Linick. Referring to Sen. Bob Menendez, he said, “I don’t get my ethics guidance from a man who was criminally prosecuted.”
  147. Pompeo said he should have recommended Linick’s ouster “some time ago,” adding, “There are claims that this was for retaliation for some investigation,” calling them “patently false.” He then stormed out.
  148. On Wednesday, Pelosi told reporters of her “morbidly obese” comment, “I gave him a dose of his own medicine,” adding, “I was only quoting what doctors had said,” and “I was being factual in a very sympathetic way.”
  149. Asked about Trump’s recent actions, Pelosi said, “You’re asking me about the appropriateness of the actions of this President of the United States? So completely inappropriate in so many ways that it’s almost a given.”
  150. Pelosi added, “It’s almost like a child who comes in with mud on their pants…He comes in with doggy doo on his shoes, and everybody who works with him has [it] on their shoes, too, for a very long time to come.”
  151. On Wednesday, Michigan AG Dana Nessel said in an open-letter to Trump he had “a legal responsibility” to wear a mask while visiting Ford, as it was a Ford policy and state law, and calling it a “social and moral responsibility.”
  152. On Wednesday, NYT reported according to new estimates by Columbia University, if the U.S. began imposing social distancing measures one week earlier, 36,000 fewer people would have died from the coronavirus.
  153. The study examined deaths as of May 3, which totaled 65,307. If social distancing measures were imposed two weeks earlier, 83% of deaths, or 54,000 deaths, could have been avoided.
  154. Trump tweeted, “Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on,” on March 9, suggesting the flu was worse than the coronavirus, and there are 546 confirmed cases.” There were already tens of thousands infected.
  155. On Wednesday, AP reported Republican operatives are working to recruit “extremely pro-Trump” doctors to go on television and promote reopening the economy as quickly as possible, even if states do not meet guidelines.
  156. AP was provided a leaked copy of an hour-long conference call organized by CNP Action and attended by a senior staffer of the Trump’s reelection campaign on May 11 in which the plan was discussed.
  157. A resurgent economy is seen as critical to Trump’s reelection. One GOP activist said she had a list of 27 doctors prepared to defend Trump’s push. As of Tuesday, there were more than 1.5 million cases and 91,000 dead.
  158. On Wednesday, Guardian reported a survey of 23,000 nurses in 50 states and D.C. found 87% had been forced to reuse PPE, 84% had not been tested for Covid-19, and 72% work with exposed skin or clothing.
  159. On Wednesday, CNN reported documents reveal Barr started meeting with prosecutor John Durham at least six times immediately after the Mueller probe ended, highlighting Barr’s desire to rewrite the legacy of the probe.
  160. Mueller submitted his report to Barr on March 22, 2019, and shortly after Barr released his cherry-picked findings. Barr and his closest associates met with Durham March 25, the day Mueller wrote to Barr to complain.
  161. Unlike the Mueller probe, Durham’s work is more amorphous: the DOJ has refused to reveal how much money his team is spending, how many investigators he is using, and the specifics of what he is investigating.
  162. On Wednesday, WAPO reported Flynn’s name was never masked in the FBI document about his communication with the Russian ambassador, a key assertion in Trump’s undefined allegations of what he calls Obamagate.
  163. A senior official told the Post, “When the FBI circulated [the report], they included Flynn’s name from the beginning” because of its significance, adding, “There were therefore no requests for the unmasking.”
  164. An aide to Sen. Lindsey Graham, who had said he wanted to call witnesses before his committee on the unmasking, told the Post they still want the ODNI’s “written answer” to the committee’s question.
  165. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court granted an emergency appeal by Trump’s attorneys to block House Democrats from gaining access to grand jury materials from Mueller probe.
  166. The justices said they would consider a full appeal petition by the DOJ on behalf of Trump, which would likely delay the decision on whether to hear the case until late June.
  167. On Wednesday, Forbes reported on a dire state in Alabama’s capital, as ICUs in Montgomery are full and patients are being sent to cities 90 miles away. The city was reopened on May 11 despite a surge in new cases.
  168. On Wednesday, Guardian reported data compiled by non-partisan APM Research Lab found more than 20,000 African Americans — about one in 2,000 of the entire black population in the U.S. — have died.
  169. Across the U.S., African Americans died at a rate of 50.3 per 100,000 people, compared with 20.7 for whites, 22.9 for Latinos and 22.7 for Asian Americans. In Kansas, African Americans are dying at seven times the rate of whites.
  170. On Wednesday, the State Department said the U.S. would send 200 ventilators to Russia, after Russian President Vladimir Putin called Trump and asked for help. Russia is second in cases, with nearly 300,000.
  171. On Wednesday, Daily Beast reported that based on FEC filings, Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s husband, Jeff Sprecher, made his largest-ever federal political contribution of $1 million to a pro-Trump super PAC in late April.
  172. On Thursday, ABC News reported the Navajo Nation has the highest per capita Covid-19 cases in the country, and its peak is nearly a month away. Hospitals are at capacity and some are overwhelmed.
  173. The reservation suffers from systematic poverty and lack of critical infrastructure. Many families live in multigenerational settings. Motels are being used as respiratory shelters to handle the backlog for hospitals.
  174. On Thursday, NPR reported officials in New York City said more than 2 million residents face food insecurity in the pandemic, more than double the number before the outbreak.
  175. On Thursday, the Labor Department reported 2.4 million filed for jobless claims, in line with expectations, bringing the total to 38.6 million in the pandemic. Last week’s number was revised from 3.0 million to 2.7 million.
  176. On Thursday, “Fox & Friends” co-hosts and legal analyst Andrew Napolitano discussed a New York Post cover saying “IT NEEDS TO END. NOW.” All encouraged New Yorkers to defy stay-at-home orders.
  177. The co-hosts glorified store owners reopening, saying, “some businesses are going to essentially dare the state to arrest them, to shut them down.” The four spoke virtually as Fox News remained closed until at least June 15.
  178. On Thursday, MI Gov. Whitmer told “CBS This Morning” Trump’s remarks were a “distraction” and “ridiculous,” and “threatening to take money away from a state that is hurting” is “scary” and “unacceptable.”
  179. On Thursday, a Trump conspiracy theory of election “fraud” and theft in 2018 in the Democrat-rich Broward and Palm Beach counties fell apart, after Florida’s law enforcement said it found no widespread fraud.
  180. On Thursday, NYT reported that spy agencies have had trouble briefing Trump. He rarely absorbs information he disagrees with or runs counter to his worldview. Intelligence agencies have hired consultants for help.
  181. Trump has a short attention span, veers off on tangents, and rarely reads intelligence reports, relying instead on conservative media and his friends for information. He interrupts briefers with gossip he has heard.
  182. In recent weeks, Trump has looked to shift blame to intelligence agencies for not giving him adequate warnings, claiming in a tweet, “they did NOT bring up the CoronaVirus subject matter until late into January.”
  183. Trump seemed to be singling out and blaming Beth Sanner, who regularly briefs him, and claiming she did not brief him until January 23. Days later, Trump blocked some flights from China but took no other action.
  184. Trump also had warnings from higher-ranking officials, epidemiologists, scientists, biodefense officials, other national security aides and the media about the growing threat of the pandemic.
  185. On Thursday, in a letter to Pompeo, the House Democrats who lead the Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees demanded Trump reinstate Linick, calling the firing “politically motivated.”
  186. Lawmakers also asked Pompeo to provide details about his contact with the White House regarding the firing, as well as his rationale for selecting Linick’s replacement, by June 4.
  187. On Thursday, Michael Cohen was released from prison, and will serve his remaining prison sentence from home due to the pandemic. Reportedly, Trump was irked by reports of Cohen’s early release.
  188. On Thursday, Trump told reporters, “I tested very positively in another sense. I tested positively toward negative, right? So no, I tested perfectly this morning. Meaning I tested negative…Positively toward the negative.”
  189. On Thursday, Trump visited a Ford Motor plant in battleground Michigan, which had been converted to manufacturing ventilators, amid his public battles with that state’s governor and secretary of state.
  190. All of the Ford executives giving Trump a tour of the plant wore masks, while Trump stood alone without a mask. He told reporters he did wear a mask elsewhere on the tour, out of the public view.
  191. Trump told reporters, “I did not want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.” A statement by Ford said executive chairman Bill Ford had “encouraged” Trump to wear a mask, and Trump did for part of the tour.
  192. The United Auto Workers said in a statement “some in his entourage” did not wear masks, adding, “it is vitally important that our members continue to follow the protocols that have been put in place to safeguard them.”
  193. Trump also said he would not close the country in a second wave, saying, “people say that’s a very distinct possibility, it’s standard,” but that “We are going to put out the fires. We’re not going to close the country.”
  194. Trump claimed of the factory, “This is the biggest mobilization since World War II, and these people were in charge of it,” and bragged, “we’ve made a lot of hero governors. We’ve done a great job for the governors.”
  195. Trump celebrated his partially-finished wall, saying, “our southern border, it’s never been so secure. We’re up to almost 200 miles of wall and we have never had, that whole area, nobody comes through that area.”
  196. Trump said he wanted to do campaign rallies, saying, “we might do some outdoor big ones, and we may also just wait until the stadiums can open up. I think it’s going to be soon,” and, “The demand has been incredible.”
  197. Trump also held a roundtable with African American supporters in front of a sign reading “Transition to Greatness.” Campaign aides worry his attacks on Whitmer and the toll of the virus on African Americans in Detroit will cost him the state.
  198. Later, AG Nessel told CNN, Trump acted “like a petulant child who refuses to follow the rules,” adding he is no longer welcome in the state, and that she planned to have a conversation with Ford about bending the rules.
  199. Later, Trump tweeted, “The Wacky Do Nothing” AG of Michigan “is viciously threatening Ford,” adding, “Not their fault, & I did put on a mask. No wonder many auto companies left Michigan, until I came along!”
  200. Trump also tweeted, “Do nothing A.G. of the Great State of Michigan, Dana Nessel should not be taking her anger and stupidity out on Ford.” adding, “they might get upset with you and leave the state.”
  201. Nessel responded, “After struggling with our Gov & SOS, impressed you know my name,” adding, “Seems like you have a problem with all 3 women who run MI-as well as your ability to tell the truth.”
  202. On Thursday, a study at Carnegie Mellon University found that bots may account for between 45 and 60% of Twitter accounts discussing Covid-19, and pushing for a reopening.
  203. Contrast that to 10-20% involvement during foreign elections, natural disasters, and other politicized events. The study found disinformation is now more coordinated, with more firms hiring to capitalize.
  204. On Wednesday, NPR’s WLRN station in Miami reported scientists said there were wide discrepancies on testing between what the CDC’s national dashboard shows and what states are reporting.
  205. Scientists say the CDC is incorrectly lumping in viral and antibody Covid-19 tests when reporting the country’s testing totals, which experts said was like mixing apples and oranges.
  206. On Thursday, the CDC acknowledged mixing the two, despite marked differences between the tests. Antibody tests are for whether someone had been previously exposed to the virus.
  207. According to reports, several states including Pennsylvania, Georgia, Texas, and Florida, have also been combining the results of the two tests. The impact would likely be to artificially lower the percent positive.
  208. On Thursday, a study by the Brookings Institution found in the past week, 176 counties have started to see a substantial spread of the virus — 159 are smaller exurban or rural counties.
  209. While cases and deaths have stabilized, and are coming down in New York state, smaller cities like Tampa and St. Petersburg, and exurban areas Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Columbus, Ohio are seeing increases.
  210. On Thursday, Dr. Fauci made his first television appearance in over two weeks, and said we will probably see more of him. Fauci noted the task force was shifted to reopening, and not informing the public.
  211. On Thursday, NYT reported Pompeo quietly visited conservative donors and political figures during State Department trips. Visits and visitors were not put on the public schedule, and reporters were not informed.
  212. Examples include a stop in Florida in January on the way back from Latin America, a dinner with GOP donors in London in December, and huddling with Charles Koch last October on an official trip to Kansas.
  213. On Thursday, a Fox News poll found Trump trailing Biden 48-40, and also found his approval had fallen to 44% approve, 54% disapprove, down from 49% approve, 49% disapprove in early April.
  214. On Friday, Trump attacked the Fox News poll, tweeting that the network “should fire their Fake Pollster,” claiming he “Never had a good Fox Poll!”
  215. Trump also tweeted, “Why doesn’t @FoxNews put up the CNBC POLL or the (believe it or not!) @CNN Poll? Hope Roger A is looking down and watching what has happened to this once beautiful creation!”
  216. On Friday, a study on hydroxychloroquine of 96,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients on six continents published in medical journal the Lancet found no benefit in fighting the virus, but significant cardiac risks.
  217. The study, the largest so far, found those given hydroxychloroquine had a 34% increase in the risk of mortality and a 137% increase in the risk of a serious heart arrhythmia.
  218. The study also found for those who took the cocktail Trump endorsed of hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic, there was a 45% increase in the risk of death and a 411 % increase in the risk of serious heart arrhythmia.
  219. So far there have been at least 13 studies of the drug. There has been no evidence of improvements in Covid-19 patients, such as viral clearance or improved symptoms, from taking it.
  220. On Friday, NBC News reported six months after his odd partial physical in November 2019, for which a full explanation has not been given, Trump has yet to complete his annual exam.
  221. His prior exams were in February 2018 and 2019. The White House declined to say why Trump has not completed his 2020 exam. Presidential physicals have typically happened in the beginning of each year.
  222. Presidential historian Michael Beschloss said, “As a part of granting a president as much power as we do, he has the obligation to demonstrate that he is well or, if he is not, to let us know exactly what is amiss.”
  223. Trump’s current physician Dr. Sean Conley was handpicked by Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson as his successor. Some say Conley was unfairly promoted to the job without having undergone proper vetting.
  224. On Friday, Trump delivered a Memorial Day speech to veterans, falsely claiming, “We didn’t have ventilators. We didn’t have testing. We didn’t have anything. And now we have great testing, the best in the world.”
  225. Trump also used the event to attack Biden, who he claimed told him not to stop flights from China, and Pelosi, who he claimed was “dancing in the streets of Chinatown” to say its okay to come to the U.S.
  226. On Friday, at a hastily called midday announcement at the White House briefing room, Trump demanded states allow places of worship to reopen “right away,” and declared places of worship “essential” operations.
  227. Trump said places of worship should hold services this weekend regardless of state quarantine orders, even as the coronavirus had killed more that 96,000 Americans.
  228. Reading prepared text, Trump said, “The governors need to do the right thing” and allow places of worship to reopen, adding, “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors. In America, we need more prayer, not less.”
  229. Trump did not take questions. The White House could not explain what power Trump had to override governors. The move was meant to energize evangelicals and conservative religious voters as his support has been eroding.
  230. Birx also addressed reporters, saying Americans can start venturing out more for Memorial Day weekend, but with social distancing precautions, saying, “There are a lot of people that look healthy with Covid.”
  231. Birx said it was safe to engage in activities like tennis and golf, and said that the D.C. metro region, followed by Baltimore, Chicago, and Minneapolis have the highest rates of positive cases.
  232. Birx added, “You can go to the beaches if you stay six feet apart.” Birx said if you do not feel well, do not go to church, just moments after saying 40% of cases may be asymptomatic.
  233. On Friday, the CDC released their delayed nonbinding guidance for reopening places of worship, while advising them to act “in accordance with the guidance and directives of state and local authorities.”
  234. Later Friday, FBI Director Christopher Wray announced he ordered an internal review of the Flynn investigation to determine if any misconduct had occurred, bowing to pressure from Republicans.
  235. On Friday, Trump continued his attacks on Jeff Sessions, tweeting, “3 years ago, after Jeff Sessions recused himself, the Fraudulent Mueller Scam began. Alabama, do not trust Jeff Sessions,” and endorsing his opponent.
  236. Uncharacteristically, Sessions shot back, tweeting, “I know your anger, but recusal was required by law. I did my duty & you’re damn fortunate I did…Your personal feelings don’t dictate who Alabama picks as their senator.”
  237. On Friday, ProPublica reported Zach Fuentes, former deputy chief of staff to Trump, won a $3 million federal government contract to supply PPE to Navajo Nation hospitals in New Mexico and Arizona.
  238. The contract was awarded 11 days after Fuentes set up a shell company with limited competitive bidding, despite having no prior federal contracting experience.
  239. Indian Health Service told ProPublica of the 247,000 in masks delivered at a cost of roughly $800,000, many were unsuitable for use, and an addition 130,400, worth about $422,000, were not the type specified.
  240. Later Friday, Trump attacked Dean Baquet, tweeting he “has long been considered one of the dumbest men in the world of journalism,” and “he became Executive Editor of the Failing New York Times.”
  241. Trump added he “called it all wrong from the beginning, was forced to apologize (Fake News!) and “is now willing to write anything,” adding, “I laugh at them all,” and calling the NYT “a total mess.”
  242. On Friday, Hertz filed bankruptcy, due to the pandemic. Founded in 1918, Hertz survived the Great Depression, the virtual halt of U.S. auto production during WWII, and numerous oil price shocks.
  243. On Saturday, as the death toll was set to hit 100,000, Trump opened his Memorial Day weekend by visiting his Trump National Golf Club in Virginia, golfing for the first time in 75 days, since March 6.
  244. NBC News reported Trump played with three other people, and was seen driving a golf cart alone. At one point, he patted another golfer on the shoulder. Neither he or the players were seen wearing a mask.
  245. On Saturday, WAPO reported Trump’s Europe ban caused chaos at airports and after a surge of infected passengers returning to the U.S. in Week 175, with hundreds crowded in airports to await screening.
  246. Many, like Jack Siebert, an American college student spending a semester in Spain, were sick when they returned, but waved through by screeners after standing in packed corridors and told to go home and quarantine.
  247. Also after landing at major U.S. airports, exposed travelers caught connecting flights, part of an influx from Europe that went unchecked for weeks as it spread to the country’s cities and suburbs.
  248. When travel restrictions were implemented on March 13, there were 3,714 reported confirmed cases and just 176 deaths. Those numbers vastly underreported the problem due to lack of available testing.
  249. As the week came to a close, there were 5,260,624 worldwide cases and 339,627 dead from the coronavirus. The U.S. had 1,608,298 cases (30.6%), 96,283 deaths (28.4%), and a mortality rate of 6.0%.

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Copyright Amy Siskind, May 23, 2020

The motorcade for Trump arrives at Trump National Golf Club, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Sterling, Virginia as Memorial Day weekend begins. Nearly 100,000 Americans had died from the coronavirus in less than three months.