with Mariana Alfaro
Today marks two months since President Trump reluctantly declared the novel coronavirus a national emergency. The contagion has massacred more than 81,000 people in the United States since that announcement on a Friday the 13th, which came just before the Ides of March.
Anthony Fauci, who has been the federal government’s top infectious-disease expert since 1984, testified before the Senate health committee on Tuesday that the death toll from the virus is “almost certainly” higher than this official number because testing was not widely available during the early stages of the outbreak and there were people, particularly in New York City, were dying at home before they could get to hospitals. “I don’t know exactly what percent higher,” Fauci said.
This comment is significant because Trump and his closest allies have begun to falsely claim that the official death toll is exaggerated as part of an effort to rationalize states relaxing restrictions without meeting federal guidelines that call for delaying reopening until they see sustained declines in new cases.
It was one of several reality checks that the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases offered during sworn testimony, which he provided via videoconference from his home because of his exposure in the White House Situation Room to Vice President Pence’s press secretary, who tested positive for the virus on Friday.
Fauci warned that reopening the country too soon will lead to “suffering and death that could be avoided,” as well as, ultimately, even worse economic carnage. He cautioned that it’s a “bridge too far” to expect that a vaccine or some other reliable antiviral treatment that works outside a hospital setting would be available when schools plan to reopen in the fall. And he contradicted Trump’s claim last week that the virus will disappear in the coming months.
“I feel about vaccines like I feel about tests: This is going to go away without a vaccine,” Trump said Friday, acknowledging that there could be some “flare-ups.”
“That is just not going to happen,” Fauci said when asked about this notion. “It’s a highly transmissible virus. It is likely there will be virus somewhere on this planet that will likely get back to us.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who contracted covid-19 in March, brusquely questioned Fauci in an exchange that captured the emerging polarization in the national conversation about how to best balance public health with economic health. The libertarian downplayed the risk of schools reopening by emphasizing that the disease caused by the coronavirus appears to be less dangerous to children.
“It’s not to say this isn’t deadly, but really, outside of New England, we’ve had a relatively benign course for this virus nationwide,” Paul said.
Paul, who has become a Trump golfing buddy since running against him for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, called for Fauci to “have a little bit of humility” and told him that he’s not “the end-all.”
“We can listen to your advice, but there are people on the other side saying there’s not going to be a surge and that we can safely open the economy, and the facts will bear this out,” said Paul.
Fauci protested that he’s never held himself out to be the be-all, end-all. “I don’t give advice about economic things,” he said. “I don’t give advice about anything other than public health.” Then he turned Paul’s riff about being “humble” against him, emphasizing how much even the top experts still do not understand about the way the virus spreads in the human body. “And we really better be very careful, particularly when it comes to children,” Fauci continued, “because the more and more we learn, we’re seeing things about what this virus can do that we didn’t see from the studies in China or in Europe.”
Fauci pointed to recent cases of children presenting with covid-19 who have “a very strange inflammatory syndrome” that is “very similar to Kawasaki syndrome.” Health authorities have been sounding the alarm in the United Kingdom and in New York. Children’s National Hospital in the District revealed this week that Kawasaki disease – which causes swollen hands and feet, a rash, red eyes, and fever – has appeared recently in two of its patients.
“I think we better be careful [that] we are not cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects,” Fauci told Paul. “I am very careful and hopefully humble in knowing that I don’t know everything about this disease, and that’s why I’m very reserved in making broad predictions.”
Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham trashed Fauci in prime time after his testimony. Tucker Carlson was the nastiest, though, appearing to refer to Fauci as “the chief buffoon” during an extended monologue. Fauci has been smeared by the fever swamps of the right for months now as an “agent” of the “deep state,” and he has a security detail because of a spike in threats against him. Trump recently retweeted a message with the hashtag #FireFauci but then denied the next day that he has any intention of ousting him.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a member of House GOP leadership, rose to Fauci’s defense this morning:
Dr. Fauci is one of the finest public servants we have ever had. He is not a partisan. His only interest is saving lives. We need his expertise and his judgment to defeat this virus. All Americans should be thanking him. Every day.— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) May 13, 2020
The latest on the coronavirus
Countries that eased lockdowns are reimposing them amid a resurgence of infections.
“Lebanon on Tuesday became the latest country to reimpose restrictions after experiencing a surge of infections, almost exactly two weeks after it appeared to have contained the spread of the virus and began easing up. Authorities ordered a four-day, near-complete lockdown to allow officials time to assess the rise in numbers,” Liz Sly and Loveday Morris report. “The reemergence of coronavirus cases in many parts of Asia is also prompting a return to closures in places that had claimed success in battling the disease or appeared to have eradicated it altogether, including South Korea, regarded as one of the continent’s top success stories. … In the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic first emerged, authorities on Tuesday ordered the testing of all 11 million inhabitants after a cluster of six new infections emerged, five weeks after the city had apparently rid itself of the disease. Germany, which is widely regarded as the model in Europe of a balanced coronavirus response, is warning that some areas may have to reinstate restrictions after localized outbreaks caused a rise in cases.”
Paris police banned drinking by the Seine after revelers defied social distancing measures on Monday, the first day France began to lift some of its restrictions. “Gatherings of 10 people or less are now permitted in France, but police in Paris had to break up small groups commingling by the river’s edge that had formed a crowd. During lockdowns, some countries, including Greenland, imposed alcohol restrictions in a bid to reduce domestic violence. … The Delhi government in India imposed a 70 percent tax on alcohol after throngs crowded liquor stores when they reopened last week after almost a month,” Ruby Mellen reports. “In mid-April, the World Health Organization recommended that countries limit alcohol sales, saying drinking can make the coronavirus worse. The pandemic has prompted bans on liquor sales in parts of South Africa, Greenland, Thailand and Mexico. But as those bans have been lifted along with other restrictions, worrisome crowding has ensued. In Bangkok earlier this month, crowds swarmed as people were able to buy alcohol for the first time in several weeks.”
- All of Saudi Arabia will go into 24-hour lockdown for the five-day holiday marking the end of Ramadan in 10 days. The move rolls back the easing of restrictions that were allowed during the fasting time of the Muslim holiday. That period has brought a dramatic increase in new infections around Riyadh, as well as across the Persian Gulf region. (Paul Schemm)
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Israel this morning wearing a face mask with the colors of the U.S. flag. Pompeo is the most senior U.S. official who has traveled abroad since March. (Carol Morello and John Wagner)
- The Mexican border town of Nogales is spraying all travelers crossing over from neighboring Nogales, Ariz., with a sanitation solution as a precaution against the virus. (Mellen)
Beijing is stalling international efforts to investigate the source of the virus.
“Initially, Chinese officials seemed to be homing in quickly on the origins of the pathogen, they said. China’s disease-control agency said in January it suspected the virus had come from a wild animal at the Huanan market and that identifying the beast was ‘only a matter of time.’ Since then, Chinese officials have increasingly questioned whether the virus originated in the country and rejected calls for an international investigation from U.S., Australian and European officials,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “China has only made public the genetic sequences of ‘environmental samples’ from the market’s sewers, stalls and a garbage truck—not material directly from any animals—Chinese and foreign researchers say. Some say they’ve been told by Chinese officials that animals taken from the market were destroyed. Several Huanan market vendors said they had not done tests to establish how many of them were infected. Although Chinese officials said they were tracing the suppliers of wild meat in the market, they have not published any information on those people or animals they handled. Meanwhile, China has frustrated efforts by foreign officials and researchers to join the hunt.”
An armed militia helped a Michigan barbershop unlawfully reopen. This defiance puts GOP politicians in a bind.
“Armed members of the Michigan Home Guard stood outside Karl Manke's barbershop, ready to blockade the door if police arrived. They were determined to help Manke, 77, reopen his shop Monday, in defiance of state orders, and dozens joined them, wearing Trump sweatshirts and Trump cowboy hats and waving Trump flags,” Moriah Balingit reports. “They gathered not because they desperately needed haircuts but to rail against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s approach to fighting the coronavirus outbreak in Michigan, one of the nation’s worst hot spots. They were channeling President Trump’s support of such protests, but some also were taking aim at the state’s Republicans, who they say have not done enough to ‘liberate’ the state from safety measures that have ground life to a halt. … [The protest has] forced Michigan’s Republican lawmakers to strike a delicate balance, managing a deadly virus while also being careful not to contradict Trump or alienate their conservative supporters.”
- Tesla’s Elon Musk received support from Trump in a phone call to reopen his factory in Fremont, Calif., even though he's defying local orders to do so. (Faiz Siddiqui and Josh Dawsey)
- Meanwhile, Twitter will allow some employees to work from home forever. CEO Jack Dorsey said it is unlikely that Twitter will reopen its offices before September. (BuzzFeed News)
- A Target security guard broke his arm in California during a confrontation with two men who refused to wear masks. (Antonia Farzan)
- Face masks have become a tool of partisan combat. Republican leaders are less likely to mandate them, and Republican voters are more likely to forgo, and even scorn, them. Ideological overtones of requiring masks have been growing stronger for weeks as some chaff at shouldering the burden of preventing others from becoming infected, decrying these orders as government overreach. (Isaac Stanley-Becker)
- The Anti-Defamation League reports that the U.S. Jewish community experienced the highest level of anti-Semitic incidents last year since tracking began in 1979. More than 2,100 acts of assault, vandalism and harassment were documented across the country.
The major general who leads the Hawaii National Guard warned of riots if the economy does not reopen.
“At some point, we need to accept risk,” Hawaii National Guard Major General Kenneth Hara, who serves as the state’s director of emergency management, told lawmakers, per Hawaii Public Radio. “We have to accept that people will get infected and we have to push it to the threshold of what our health-care system can handle. If we let the economy go the way it’s going, I feel there will be significant civil unrest and, worst case, civil disturbance and rioting.”
“Hawaii’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism, which has ground to a halt over the past few months,” Antonia Farzan reports. “The state has discouraged tourists by instituting a mandatory two-week quarantine for all new arrivals and has paid for more than a dozen violators to be sent back home. A number of rule-breakers spotted leaving their hotel rooms have also been arrested and face fines or prison time. Hawaii previously boasted one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, but nearly one of out every three Hawaii workers is now jobless … Officials have yet to offer a framework for when tourism can resume, and Hara said that internal disagreements were getting in the way of rolling out a plan for reopening the state’s economy. As of Tuesday, 635 coronavirus cases and 17 deaths had been reported in Hawaii.”
New Orleans, which once had the highest infection rate in the world and also depends on tourism revenue, will begin its “phase one” of reopening on Saturday. Most businesses will be allowed to reopen but will be restricted to 25 percent capacity. Restaurants, barber shops, beauty salons, zoos and museums can only accept customers through a reservation system designed to assist with contact tracing efforts. (Richard Webster)
But thousands are getting sick on the job in states that are reopening.
“Recent figures show a surge of infections in meatpacking and poultry-processing plants,” the AP reports. “There’s been a spike of new cases among construction workers in Austin, Texas, where that sector recently returned to work. ‘The people who are getting sick right now are generally people who are working,’ Dr. Mark Escott, a regional health official, told Austin’s city council. ‘That risk is going to increase the more people are working.’ Austin’s concerns will likely be mirrored in communities nationwide as the reopening of stores and factories creates new opportunities for the virus to spread. … Of the 15 U.S. counties with the highest per-capita infection rates between April 28 and May 5, all are homes to meatpacking and poultry-processing plants or state prisons."
- Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) said state health officials will no longer share figures showing how many workers have been infected with the virus at meat plants. He said last week that 1,005 workers at meatpacking plants in the state had tested positive. Union officials say the case counts are rising because several large meat plants around the country, including two in Nebraska, are still in the process of testing their workers. (Peter Whoriskey)
- Advice from the nation’s top disease-control experts on how to safely reopen businesses included more detailed guidelines and recommendations on how to help communities prepare for virus flare-ups than the plan released by the White House last month. The 63-page document was obtained by the AP.
- Georgia – whose Gov. Brian Kemp (R) overruled local restrictions in a race to reopen its economy that has hurt him in the polls – may not have enough hospital beds to treat the expected second wave of critically ill patients infected with the virus. (Center for Public Integrity)
- Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) will allow the state’s stay-at-home order to expire on Friday, despite criticism of his claim that new cases have fallen. (Samantha Pell)
- The Trump administration is unlikely to allow the tens of thousands of laid-off holders of H-1B and other work visas to extend their stays in the U.S. amid the pandemic. Many foreigners are here on skilled-worker visas that don’t allow for them to be furloughed and demand that they find another job within 60 days of being laid off. (NYT)
- As harvest season ramps up, millions of farmworkers who risk infection in fields and packinghouses lack basic workplace safety protections. Labor conditions on farms are much less regulated than in meat plants. (Politico)
- April saw the sharpest increase in grocery store prices in nearly 50 years, led by rising prices for meat and eggs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Laura Reiley)
Most Americans doubt that social gatherings will be safe for months.
“Americans are curbing their expectations about when it will be safe for gatherings of 10 or more people, with about 2 in 3 adults now saying it will not be until July or later before those events can happen, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll,” Dan Balz and Scott Clement report. “In the face of plans in many states to gradually ease those limitations, significant majorities of Americans continue to emphasize the need for social distancing and other safety measures. Fully half of all Americans say in the poll that they think it will not be safe for gatherings of 10 or larger until mid-summer, including nearly one-quarter who say it will not be safe until 2021 or later. Just about 1 in 5 say they believe such gatherings are safe now or will be by the end of this month. … Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats to say the limitations on restaurants, stores and other businesses are too restrictive, with 35 percent of self-identified Republicans and Republican-leaning independents saying this compared with 9 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.”
The contagion has already killed more than 100,000 U.S. small businesses.
“Economists project that more than 100,000 small businesses have shut permanently since the pandemic escalated in March, according to a study by researchers at the University of Illinois, Harvard Business School, Harvard University and the University of Chicago. Their latest data suggests at least 2 percent of small businesses are gone, according to a survey conducted May 9 to 11," Heather Long reports. “The carnage has been even higher in the restaurant industry, where 3 percent of restaurant operators have gone out of business, according to the National Restaurant Association. … Analysts warn this is only the beginning of the worst wave of small-business bankruptcies and closures since the Great Depression. It’s simply not possible for small businesses to survive with no income coming in for weeks followed by reopening at half capacity, many owners say. The result is likely to further shift the balance of power — and jobs — toward big businesses that have a better chance of surviving the uncertain year ahead by borrowing money or drawing on large cash reserves. Emergency actions by the Federal Reserve, backed by the Treasury, have made borrowing money almost free for large companies.”
- Nearly 27 million people are at risk of losing their health insurance after job losses because of the pandemic, according to a new estimate from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
House Democrats unveiled a $3 trillion rescue bill. Senate Republicans said it's dead on arrival.
“The 1,800-page legislation, which the House is expected to vote on Friday, would devote nearly $1 trillion to state, local, territorial and tribal governments and establish a $200 billion ‘Heroes Fund’ to extend hazard pay to essential workers. It would also send a second - and larger - round of direct payments to individual Americans, up to $6,000 per household,” Erica Werner reports. ”The Democrats’ legislation also includes provisions to ensure that all voters can vote by mail in the November election and all subsequent federal elections, an idea that Trump and many Republicans have rejected because they say it invites fraud. … Asked Tuesday if the Senate needs to pass a bill before Memorial Day, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, ‘Oh God no.’ Many Republicans argue that having spent around $3 trillion already in the laws passed thus far, they need to pause and see how those programs are working before doing anything further."
The legislation also would require passengers to wear masks on airplanes and public transit, and it would suspend the the provision from the 2017 tax cuts that limited tax breaks for upper-income households in high-tax states, something that hurts blue states much more than red states. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he is crafting a bill focused on limiting liability for businesses whose workers and customers get sick. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) drafted this proposal without input from the White House or Republicans. This is laying a marker for negotiations to come.
- Panthera Worldwide LLC, a little-known Virginia-based defense company that was awarded a $55 million federal contract by the Trump administration to provide 10 million N95 masks to the U.S. government failed to deliver and had its contract canceled Tuesday. The company had no history of providing such materials to the government. (Isaac Stanley-Becker)
- A ventilator model Russia sent to the U.S. – in a propaganda coup for the Kremlin – has been blamed for deadly fires in two Russian cities. American hospitals didn’t use the ventilators initially due to voltage issues. (Bloomberg News)
- Trump adviser Peter Navarro – who warned colleagues about the virus in memos earlier this year – declined an invitation to testify before the House subcommittee that will hear from whistleblower Rick Bright on Thursday. Bright's complaint mentions Navarro at length. (Robert Costa)
The nation’s largest four-year college system announced that its classes will be mostly remote this fall.
“The plans will mean a continuation of remote teaching at all 23 campuses in the Cal State system, affecting most of its 482,000 students. Exceptions could be made for laboratory-intensive courses and certain others,” Nick Anderson and Susan Svrluga report. “Cal State’s decision contrasts with a growing movement elsewhere in the country to reopen university campuses in the fall — or at least, announce the intention to do so. … In recent weeks, officials at many other major public universities have proclaimed their plans to welcome students back to campus in the fall, albeit with restrictions. Some schools have been circumspect, saying they plan to make a decision in the next several weeks. Few have openly declared that they will be running mostly online.” (Fun fact: My parents met as students at Cal State Northridge.)
- When schools reopen in Maryland, students could be wearing masks and getting temperature checks as they arrive. A new state plan proposes smaller classes, desks separated by six feet, and playgrounds with markings to keep students socially distant. (Donna St. George)
- Los Angeles County could keep its stay-at-home orders in place well into the summer, the county’s public health director said. (Los Angeles Times)
- A veterinary lab at Oklahoma State University – which typically tests for diseases such as rabies in dogs and respiratory ailments in Oklahoma’s cattle – has been running more human coronavirus tests than any other lab in the Sooner State. (Karin Brulliard)
The governors of Virginia and Maryland will allow the D.C. suburbs to keep stay-at-home orders in effect.
Maryland's Larry Hogan (R) “has told leaders of the Washington suburbs and other places hit hard by the novel coronavirus that they will be able to opt out of a gradual reopening he plans to announce Wednesday … The decision could keep the entire D.C. region under extended restrictions even as more-remote areas begin to restart their economies,” Rachel Chason, Erin Cox, Rebecca Tan and Laura Vozzella report. Virginia's Ralph “Northam (D) signed an executive order Tuesday extending the shutdown of Northern Virginia until at least May 28, two weeks after restrictions will probably be lifted for the rest of the state. Northam intends to move most of Virginia into ‘phase one’ of his reopening plan on Friday, but areas close to the nation’s capital will remain at ‘phase zero’ until the region’s number of new cases and other data related to the outbreak take a more positive turn. … Hogan plans to announce timing for Maryland’s first phase of reopening on Wednesday. But he reassured leaders of the state’s most populous jurisdictions on Tuesday that they will be able to maintain a stay-at-home order as they see fit.” Coronavirus-related deaths in Northern Virginia are nearly double the average elsewhere in the commonwealth, John Harden tabulates.
The rule of law
The Supreme Court’s oral arguments over Trump’s tax returns suggest a mixed outcome.
“Several justices suggested there might be more work for lower courts to do, which could delay any turnover of the documents being sought by congressional Democrats and Manhattan’s district attorney until after November’s election. In more than three hours of teleconferenced hearings, broadcast to all who wanted to listen in, the justices debated presidential authority and accountability from all angles, and now they will meet in private to try to reach consensus,” Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow report. “In general, the justices seemed more troubled by subpoenas issued by three House committees than with the ones coming from New York County District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. None indicated they agreed with the assertion from Trump’s private lawyer Jay Sekulow that the president enjoyed immunity from investigation while in office. There was no discussion of whether the court lacked authority to decide the merits of the dispute, even though the justices themselves had requested briefing on the subject. … A 9-to-0 ruling did not seem a possibility after Tuesday’s proceedings. But some, led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., seemed to be looking for middle ground that would avoid a deeply split decision in a highly charged political atmosphere.
“In the combined congressional case, for instance, Roberts said Trump’s lawyers recognized Congress has at least some right to issue subpoenas, and lawyers for Congress acknowledged there were limits. … Trump’s two choices for the court, Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, asked neutral-sounding questions of both sides. … Justice Elena Kagan displayed some agreement with both sides. On the one hand, she suggested the president’s lawyers were asking for too much. … But later she suggested one of the congressional subpoenas was perhaps too much … Fellow liberal Justice Stephen G. Breyer seemed to think the court’s past decisions settled the matter. But he expressed concern, as he had more than two decades ago in Clinton v. Jones, that courts needed to be mindful of the demands placed on the president. …
“Sekulow made the bold claim of the president’s immunity in that part of the argument. He warned of 2,300 district attorneys across the country with political agendas who would be emboldened to investigate Trump. But [Justice Ruth Bader] Ginsburg pressed Sekulow about whether the president was the one person exempt from the grand jury’s right to ‘every man’s evidence’ even when the information it’s seeking is not confidential or privileged. Courts have long recognized that ‘the president is not to be treated as an ordinary citizen,’ Sekulow said. ‘He is himself a branch of government. He is the only individual that is a branch of government in our federal system.’ That prompted a follow up from Kagan: ‘But it’s also true and, indeed, a fundamental precept of our constitutional order that a president isn’t above the law.’”
- Trump’s lawyers also claimed presidential immunity yesterday in fighting a defamation lawsuit filed by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos. The president’s team “reiterated their argument that a defamation lawsuit from a woman who alleges Trump groped and kissed her without consent should be halted because the president is immune from lawsuits filed in state courts while serving in office,” Shayna Jacobs and Rosalind Helderman report.
Paul Manafort was released from prison this morning.
The former Trump campaign chairman has been granted home confinement to serve his sentence in Alexandria, Va., his lawyer said. He’s been serving time in Pennsylvania’s minimum security Loretto prison for his conviction on fraud charges in 2018. He was set to be released in 2024. His attorneys argued that the GOP operative should be released to serve out at least a portion of that sentence with his wife in their condo. “Mr. Manafort is 71 years old and suffers from several preexisting health conditions, including high blood pressure, liver disease, and respiratory ailments,” the lawyers wrote. No covid-19 cases have yet been reported at the prison where Manafort was being held, Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu report.
A federal judge has put a hold on Bill Barr's move to throw out Michael Flynn's guilty plea.
“U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said in an order Tuesday that he expects individuals and organizations will seek to intervene in the politically charged case. Having others weigh in could preface more aggressive steps that the federal judge in Washington could take, including — as many outside observers have called for — holding a hearing to consider what to do,” Spencer Hsu and Carol Leonnig report. “Sullivan’s order came after the government took the highly irregular step Thursday of reversing its stance on upholding Flynn’s guilty plea. The action by Sullivan, a veteran 72-year-old jurist with a national reputation for advocating defendants’ rights to full government disclosure of evidence, appears to rule out immediate action on the Justice Department’s decision to reverse course and throw out Flynn’s December 2017 guilty plea. Sullivan said he will ‘at the appropriate time’ set a schedule for outside parties to argue against the Justice Department’s claims as the government seeks to drop the charges. …
“In an evidentiary hearing, Sullivan could call witnesses — such as Flynn, his investigators or even prosecutors — to obtain more facts about how the case was handled and why Flynn and agents took the steps they did. Sullivan has not hesitated to personally question Flynn in court before, as he did during a 2018 hearing, when he rejected a defense motion supported by the government for probation. Sullivan had said he was not satisfied by the former three-star Army general’s cooperation with special counsel’s probe. ‘Arguably, you sold your country out,’ Sullivan told Flynn. … Flynn prosecutor Brandon Van Grack, a [Bob] Mueller team member, quit the case in apparent protest before the Justice Department’s move to drop the charges, while Trump applauded the actions.”
Trump’s acting intelligence chief gave DOJ a list of Obama administration officials who “unmasked” Flynn.
“Unmasking is a routine practice used to identify a U.S. person who is anonymously referred to in an intelligence document — in this case the intercepted conversations of Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador, who was a target of U.S. surveillance. Current and former officials said unmasking can be a vital tool for identifying potential spies or terrorists,” Shane Harris and Matt Zapotosky report. “Richard Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence, made the decision to declassify the list of officials involved … Grenell provided the names to the Justice Department the day after it filed a motion to drop charges against Flynn … It was not clear if Grenell would release the names on his own.”
- The government accidentally revealed the name of the Saudi Embassy official who was suspected of directing crucial support to two of the al-Qaeda hijackers involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, one of the U.S. government’s most sensitive secrets. The disclosure inadvertently came in a declaration filed in federal court by a senior FBI official in response to a lawsuit brought by families of 9/11 victims that accuse the Saudi government of complicity in the attacks. (Yahoo News)
Trump is increasingly accusing his foes of felonies.
“The list of purported culprits Trump has charged include two television news hosts, a comedian, at least five former officials from the FBI and Justice Department, the state of California, a broadcast television station and at least five top national security officials from President Barack Obama’s administration,” Toluse Olorunnipa reports. “Trump tweeted multiple times about alleged criminal activity against him by [President Barack] Obama but struggled to elaborate beyond his frequent references to ‘Obamagate.’ … Pressed for specifics by a Post reporter, Trump demurred. ‘You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody,’ he said. ‘All you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours.’ … The president, who is reported to have developed a habit of watching copious amounts of cable news coverage at all hours of the day, lashed out against MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, insinuating that he should be prosecuted in the death of a congressional aide. … Trump’s conspiratorial claim that Scarborough killed an aide who died in 2001 has been debunked by The Post and other media outlets.”
Trump dropped his controversial plan to build a dock at his Palm Beach resort.
The case has raised questions about the legality of the change of Trump’s official residency from New York to Florida, Manuel Roig-Franzia reports. “The decision, which was disclosed in a letter sent to the Palm Beach mayor and town council on Monday, comes three days after The Post published a story that outlined assertions by local attorneys who argue that agreements Trump entered into with the town prevent him from living at the resort, and may have precluded him from legally registering to vote in Florida. (Trump has said he voted by mail in Florida’s Republican presidential primary this year.) Trump had come under scathing criticism from his Palm Beach neighbors and their attorneys who accused him and his legal team of attempting to jam through the dock request at the Mar-a-Lago resort while the nation’s attention is focused on the coronavirus pandemic and the town’s council is only able to hold meetings electronically.”
Quote of the day
“I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other,” Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner told Time magazine when asked if he can commit that the presidential election will go on as planned on Nov. 3. As a reminder, federal law specifies that Election Day take place the Tuesday after the first Monday in November and gives only states and Congress – not the president – the power to delay an election. Kushner later issued a clarification.
Republicans held on to a House seat in Wisconsin and lead in early returns in a California special election.
“In Wisconsin’s 7th District, GOP state Sen. Tom Tiffany [easily] defeated Democratic school board member Tricia Zunker. … Tiffany will fill the seat left vacant by Republican Sean P. Duffy, who abruptly left Congress in the fall, citing health complications with a child due in October. The child was born a month early and needed heart surgery,” Colby Itkowitz reports. “But the race for California’s 25th District may remain unresolved for several days, as Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith appeared to close the gap with Republican businessman and former Navy pilot Mike Garcia in ballot returns. The California seat, which represents swaths of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, opened up in October when former Democratic congresswoman Katie Hill resigned amid [a sex] scandal after wresting the seat from Republicans for the first time in 26 years. … The winners in the Wisconsin and California races will finish the job through the end of the year but will have to face their opponent again in November to earn a full two-year term in Washington."
- In Nebraska, Sen. Ben Sasse (R) beat back a primary challenge fueled by his previous criticism of Trump. Voters mainly steered clear of polling sites, shattering the state’s record for absentee voting with nearly 400,000 mail-in ballots. (AP)
- A new Marquette Law School poll finds Joe Biden leading Trump by three points in Wisconsin, fueled by a significant and surprising advantage among seniors.
The Democratic Party moved toward remote voting for its summer convention.
“With a vote of the rules and bylaws committee, which met by conference call, Democratic National Committee leaders agreed to give convention planners broad flexibility to change the structure and tradition of the nominating convention. The proposal passed unanimously, and it will be taken up in the coming weeks for ratification by a vote by mail of the full Democratic National Committee,” Michael Scherer reports. “Democratic convention planners have emphasized that no final decision has been made on the structure of the event, which is scheduled to begin Aug. 17 in Milwaukee. In a normal year, the event would draw as many as 50,000 people, including nearly 5,000 delegates and about 20,000 members of the media.”
AOC is riding with Biden.
Annie Linskey scoops that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is advising the Biden campaign on climate policy, joining a steering group that the former vice president created as part of a larger effort to woo the party’s left wing. This committee is one of six panels that Biden created to placate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) when he ended his campaign.
Social media speed read
Trump keeps saying that Obama did not leave him with a playbook. Obama’s Ebola czar, and Biden's former chief of staff, shared a screen grab of the “playbook” that they literally left for the Trump team:
I've had people tweet at me in the past 24 hours:— Ronald Klain (@RonaldKlain) May 12, 2020
Did the pandemic playbook really exist?
Was it really a clearly marked "playbook"?
Would it have helped?
Here's the cover, and the table of contents. You decide. pic.twitter.com/PMWr8YjIMu
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine’s face mask drew attention during the HELP hearing:
when you have a senate hearing at 10 and a stagecoach robbery at noon pic.twitter.com/wQ7vEoAIxB— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) May 12, 2020
So did Sen. Lamar Alexander’s dog Rufus:
Let sleeping dogs lie. Rufus’ napping and taking break from barking. pic.twitter.com/vknBErb50R— Kelly O'Donnell (@KellyO) May 12, 2020
Room Rater was impressed with Fauci’s setup:
Videos of the day
Stephen Colbert contrasted statements by Fauci and Trump:
Trevor Noah reviewed some of the latest scientific advancements: