with Mariana Alfaro
Columbia University epidemiologists estimate in a new study that enacting social distancing measures a week earlier, on March 8 instead of March 15, could have saved up to 36,000 lives in the United States. That’s about 40 percent of the current reported fatalities from the novel coronavirus. The study found that imposing the social distancing measures on March 1 that would ultimately go into effect two weeks later could have saved about 54,000 American lives.
At least 92,317 deaths from the virus have been reported in the United States since Feb. 29.
The White House responded to Columbia’s research with a statement that attacked the Chinese government and the World Health Organization for not being more transparent while praising President Trump for showing “bold leadership.”
The Columbia study is one of several fresh data points that illustrate the cascading fallout from the contagion and the continuing challenges for the response at home and abroad.
The United States is on track to reach 113,000 deaths by mid-June. Biostatistician Nicholas Reich from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and colleagues have developed an “ensemble” model that incorporates 20 other pandemic models. It shows a gradual decline in projected deaths, from about 9,000 this week to 4,000 in the second week of June. But Reich's team and other experts emphasize that it’s really hard to model the next few weeks as states reopen because they don’t know how much people will continue to socially distance, and there’s lag time between infection and showing symptoms and hospitalizations.
The number of confirmed cases worldwide surpassed 5 million overnight. More than 1.5 million of them are in the United States. The WHO said Wednesday that more than 100,000 new infections were reported over the previous 24 hours, which made for the highest single-day total since the outbreak began. “We still have a long way to go in this pandemic,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.
The Labor Department announced this morning that 2.4 million Americans sought jobless benefits last week, bringing the nine-week total to 38.6 million. The weekly report comes as Trump and congressional Republicans move to cut off enhanced unemployment benefits that will otherwise expire in July. “At issue is the enhanced unemployment aid that Congress approved in late March, which includes an extra $600 in weekly payments to out-of-work Americans. On Tuesday, President Trump articulated his reluctance to extend those benefits during a closed-door lunch with Senate Republicans, many of whom share his concern that the expanded federal payments deter people from returning to work,” Tony Romm and Jeff Stein report. “Top congressional Republicans signaled support for paring back these benefits during a meeting on Tuesday attended by Vice President Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) … Party leaders also agreed to delay another round of coronavirus aid for three to four weeks …
“McConnell then told House lawmakers on Wednesday that Republicans had to ‘clean up the Democrats’ crazy policy that is paying people more to remain unemployed than they would earn if they went back to work,’ according to a person familiar with the remarks, which were first reported by Politico. McConnell added of extending the unemployment increase: ‘This will not be in the next bill.’”
A research team that uses cellphone data to track social mobility and forecast the virus's trajectory is warning that Dallas, Houston, Southeast Florida’s Gold Coast, the entire state of Alabama and several other Southern places that have been rapidly reopening their economies are in danger of a second wave of infections over the next month. The model developed by PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, updated last night, suggests that most U.S. communities should be able to avoid a second spike in the near term if residents maintain social distancing even as restrictions are eased. “But the risk for resurgence is high in some parts of the country, especially in places where cases are already rising fast, including the counties of Crawford, Iowa; Colfax, Neb.; and Texas, Okla. and the city of Richmond," Joel Achenbach, Rachel Weiner, Karin Brulliard and Isaac Stanley-Becker report:
“A presentation prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency — and reviewed by The Post — suggests new waves could be steep enough in some places to overwhelm ventilator capacity. For instance, the data indicates that only 866 ventilators are in use in Georgia, which has pursued one of the most aggressive reopening plans. But the state’s supply of 2,853 ventilators could be outstripped as soon as the end of the month by the projected number required for covid-19 patients, according to the federal modeling. States from Arizona to Colorado to Tennessee could face similar shortages …
“Alabama will probably experience a steep increase in cases in nearly every county over the next month, according to the PolicyLab model. … Gov. Kay Ivey (R), who has allowed restaurants, bars, retail businesses, churches, gyms and salons to reopen, is expected to outline further steps this week. In a news conference Wednesday, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said the city is facing a shortage of intensive care beds and being forced to divert patients to Birmingham. ‘They’re at a capacity that is not sustainable,’ he said. ‘Our health-care system is maxed out.’”
Nearly 860,000 additional travelers flocked to parts of Maryland and Virginia over the weekend. Many from the Washington suburbs went to the parts of those states that began to reopen Friday, according to researchers tracking smartphone data at the University of Maryland. “The increase in travel, including from coronavirus hot spots, underscores concerns among public health experts that piecemeal lifting of restrictions increases the chances of the virus spreading," Katherine Shaver reports. "They say they’re particularly concerned about rural areas, where there have been fewer cases, as people travel from closed areas to those that have reopened. ‘It’s a really bad scenario,’ said Lei Zhang, lead researcher on the University of Maryland’s project.”
- A number of Long Island communities, afraid that out-of-town visitors will swarm their beaches for Memorial Day weekend, have instituted controversial locals-only policies that may not pass legal muster. (Antonia Farzan)
- D.C.’s Children’s National Hospital is treating 23 children for the inflammatory syndrome associated with the virus. (Fenit Nirappil and Ann Marimow)
Front-line health-care workers still don’t have all the critical equipment they need. Washington Post-Ipsos polling released yesterday showed that nearly two-thirds of front-line health-care workers have insufficient supplies of the face masks that filter out most airborne particles. The poll was in the field from April 27 to May 4. “More than 4 in 10 also saw shortages of less protective surgical masks and 36 percent said their supply of hand sanitizer was running low,” Lenny Bernstein and Alauna Safarpour report. “Roughly 8 in 10 reported wearing one mask for an entire shift, and more than 7 in 10 had to wear the same mask more than once. The dire shortage of personal protective equipment for health-care workers emerged in March as one of the earliest signals of the country’s lack of preparation for the coronavirus pandemic.” A 59 percent majority disapproved of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, while 41 percent approved.
The federal watchdog who was sidelined after she issued an early report documenting acute shortages of personal protective equipment at overwhelmed hospitals will testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday. “Christi A. Grimm, the principal deputy inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, documented ‘severe shortages’ of supplies in late March and described hospitals’ intense frustration with government authorities who were unequipped to address the scarcity,” Mike DeBonis reports. “After Grimm issued her report on April 3, President Trump criticized her … On May 1, Trump nominated a permanent HHS inspector general to replace Grimm — one of several moves he has made to oust inspectors general who served Barack Obama and previous presidents.”
The World Bank estimates that 3 billion people around the world do not have access to clean water and soap to wash their hands. The bank is working with countries and humanitarian groups to expand access to fixed and portable hand-washing facilities, soap or alcohol-based hand rubs and reliable water supplies to avert potential catastrophe in the developing world. “A simple tool to promote public health, handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent transmission of disease—not just the coronavirus … but also diarrhea, cholera, and typhoid,” according to a recent report from the bank. “Today, 47 percent of schools lack hand-washing facilities with water and soap, affecting 900 million school-age children. And in 16 percent of health care facilities, there are no hand-washing facilities in the areas where patients receive care or near the toilets.”
A national poll from the Pew Research Center finds that 16 percent of Americans say they rely more on Trump and the White House for information about covid-19 than any other source, including the local or national media. Of this group, 72 percent say journalists have been exaggerating the risks of the virus and 73 percent said that coverage has been too negative. “And six-in-ten also have heard a lot about the unproven claim that the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine could be useful in treating the virus, a higher portion than any other group,” according to Pew. “In addition, about half (51%) of those who rely most on Trump and the task force say the outbreak has been made a bigger deal than it really is. … In no other group do more than a third say the coronavirus outbreak has been blown out of proportion; those who rely mainly on public health organizations and officials for coronavirus news are more likely than other groups to say that the outbreak has been underplayed.”
A Carnegie Mellon University study found that nearly half of the accounts spreading messages on Twitter about the contagion are probably bots. “Researchers culled through more than 200 million tweets since January discussing the virus and found that about 45% were sent by accounts that behave more like computerized robots than humans,” NPR reports. “It is too early to say conclusively what individuals or groups are behind the bot accounts, but researchers said the tweets appeared aimed at sowing divisions in America. ‘We do know that it looks like it's a propaganda machine, and it definitely matches the Russian and Chinese playbooks, but it would take a tremendous amount of resources to substantiate that,’ said Kathleen Carley, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, who is conducting a study into bot-generated coronavirus activity on Twitter that has yet to be published.
“Researchers identified more than 100 false narratives about COVID-19 that are proliferating on Twitter by accounts controlled by bots. Among the misinformation disseminated by bot accounts: tweeted conspiracy theories about hospitals being filled with mannequins, or tweets connected the spread of the coronavirus to 5G wireless towers, a notion that is patently untrue. Such bogus ideas on the Internet have caused real-world harm. In England, dozens of wireless towers have been set on fire in acts officials believe have been fueled by false conspiracy theories linking the rollout of 5G technology to the coronavirus. 'We're seeing up to two times as much bot activity as we'd predicted based on previous natural disasters, crises and elections,’ Carley said. … Twitter says its automated systems have ‘challenged’ 1.5 million accounts that were targeting discussions about COVID-19 with malicious or manipulative behavior.”
The latest on the federal response
Trump’s promise of a “Warp Speed” cure is fueling the anti-vaccine movement.
“Some of the same online activists who have clamored to resume economic activity, echoing Trump’s call to ‘liberate’ their states from sweeping restrictions, are now aligning themselves with a cause on the political fringe — preemptively forswearing a vaccine,” Isaac Stanley-Becker reports. “To further their baseless claims about the dangers of vaccines and to portray the scientific process as reckless, they have seized on the brisk pace promised for the project, which the Trump administration has branded 'Operation Warp Speed.’ … Both movements represent the views of a small minority of Americans. But leading medical experts fear that the ability of their adherents to spread misinformation online could plant seeds of confusion and distrust in the broader public — and undermine future efforts to distribute a vaccine. …
“Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he has grown increasingly concerned that the name of the initiative has led to misconceptions about what is being put at risk by speeding up the effort — only financial investments, not safety or efficacy. ‘People don’t understand that, because when they hear ‘Operation Warp Speed,’ they think, ‘Oh, my God, they’re jumping over all these steps and they’re going to put us at risk,’' Fauci said in an interview Wednesday with The Washington Post. No steps would be eliminated, he vowed. Rather, multiple steps — from collecting data to preparing to scale up the number of potential doses — would be pursued at once, creating ‘risk for the investment’ but not for the patient or the ‘integrity of the study.’”
Reopening guidance for churches was not issued because of disagreements between the White House and CDC.
The draft guidance “was the subject of much internal debate at the White House last month,” Lena Sun, Josh Dawsey and Michelle Boorstein report. “Some aides did not want any guidance for religious institutions. Others thought recommendations were too restrictive. In the end, the decision to hold back reopening guidance for religious institutions came from some White House and coronavirus task force officials who did not want to alienate the faithful and believed that some of the proposals, such as limits on hymnals, the size of choirs or the passing of collection plates, were too restrictive, according to two administration officials.”
Six CDC officials told CNN their agency's efforts to mount a coordinated response to the novel coronavirus outbreak have been hamstrung by a White House whose decisions are driven by politics not science: "The result has worsened the effects of the crisis, sources inside the CDC say. … ‘We've been muzzled,’ said a current CDC official. ‘What's tough is that if we would have acted earlier on what we knew and recommended, we would have saved lives and money.’ … A CDC employee said an overarching concern is that the agency's scientific work is taking a back seat to politics. ‘The message we received in previous administrations was, you guys are the scientists,’ the employee said. ‘That's not the case this time. If the science that we are offering up contradicts a specific policy goal, then we are the problem.’”
The CDC has launched a study of the prevalence of virus antibodies in 25 metro areas. The government plans to test 325,000 people by the fall of 2021. By determining who has antibodies, epidemiologists can figure out who has been infected with the virus, even if someone never reported a positive test or even experienced symptoms. (Chelsea Janes)
Testing in the U.S. is “a mess,” infectious-disease experts warn. The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota lays out in a new report how testing is not accurate enough to use alone to make most decisions, including who should go back to work or to school. “The data is really kind of screwed up,” said Mike Osterholm, head of the institute. “It's not clear if antibody tests are useful for testing of health care workers to determine immune status,” CNN notes. “Osterholm noted that some states are combining data from diagnostic tests and antibody tests to make estimates about how many people have been infected. The FDA advises against using tests in this way and so does Osterholm.”
Trump has blamed his intelligence briefer for his slow early response. But he hardly pays attention.
“Trump has insisted that the intelligence agencies gave him inadequate warnings about the threat of the virus, describing it as ‘not a big deal.’ Intelligence officials have publicly backed him, acknowledging that Beth Sanner, the analyst who regularly briefs the president, underplayed the dangers when she first mentioned the virus to him on Jan. 23,” the Times reports. “But in blaming Ms. Sanner, a C.I.A. analyst with three decades of experience, Mr. Trump ignored a host of warnings he received around that time from higher-ranking officials, epidemiologists, scientists, biodefense officials, other national security aides and the news media about the virus’s growing threat. … [Trump] is particularly difficult to brief on critical national security matters, according to interviews with 10 current and former intelligence officials familiar with his intelligence briefings … He has a short attention span and rarely, if ever, reads intelligence reports... He is unashamed to interrupt intelligence officers …
“Trump rarely absorbs information that he disagrees with or that runs counter to his worldview, the officials said. Briefing him has been so great a challenge compared with his predecessors that the intelligence agencies have hired outside consultants to study how better to present information to him. Working to keep Mr. Trump’s interest exhausted and burned out his first briefer, Ted Gistaro, two former officials said. … [Joseph Maguire, the former acting director of national intelligence] has told briefers they need to know their audience and understand that Mr. Trump honed his style on reality television, said a former senior intelligence official. … [Sanner] relies on humor and sarcasm to get her point across and will subtly challenge the president.”
Government isolation centers helped lower infections in some countries, but they're anathema to the American way of life.
“Even as centralized, out-of-home quarantine and isolation appeared helpful in breaking the chain of transmission in other countries, the United States has remained largely resistant to isolating people in government-run centers away from their homes. And in places where voluntary isolation facilities are available, local officials are finding fewer people taking advantage of them than expected. It’s a reflection, experts said, of cost and conflicting priorities, of cultural norms and mistrust of government,” Chelsea Janes reports. “Americans’ suspicions about government intervention also mean large swaths of the population — especially immigrants and people of color who have been subject to government restrictions in the past — are wary of placing their lives in the hands of local officials.”
A town in Michigan is battling racial disparities in its coronavirus deaths.
Trump is scheduled to visit a Ford plant today near Ypsilanti, which is in Washtenaw County, where there have been 1,261 confirmed cases and 90 deaths. “Black residents make up 12 percent of the county population, but 34 percent of the confirmed cases. The state is dealing with cataclysms on multiple fronts. Wednesday, it passed a grim milestone, tallying more than 5,000 coronavirus deaths," Moriah Balingit reports. "Though protesters who oppose the state’s lockdown rules continue rallying in Lansing — on Wednesday cutting hair on the capitol lawn to protest the restrictions on barbershops — few here are eager to reopen until the virus is contained. Instead, leaders are beginning to look inward, examining the cruel realities and the fault lines that have led to the lopsided death toll. Ypsilanti Mayor Beth Bashert has been frank: ‘environmental, systemic and economic racism.’”
Trump threatened to block federal funds from going to Michigan and Nevada.
Both states have announced plans to increase voting by mail to reduce the public’s exposure to the coronavirus. "Without evidence, Trump called the two states’ plans ‘illegal,’ and he incorrectly claimed that Michigan’s ‘rogue’ secretary of state is planning to mail ballots to all voters. The state is planning to send applications for mail-in ballots to all voters — not ballots themselves,” Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey, Jeff Stein and John Wagner report. “Trump later corrected the error and suggested he would not need to withhold federal money, but he did not retreat from his claim that both states are taking steps that will encourage voter fraud. … The president’s aggressive and unfounded rhetoric drew immediate rebukes from Democrats and voting rights activists, who accused Trump of intentionally sowing mistrust in U.S. elections. And his claims that absentee voting will encourage cheating are at odds with the activity of state and national GOP leaders, who are mounting aggressive field operations, including mass mailings of ballot applications, to encourage their voters to cast ballots by mail. GOP officeholders in various states — including Nevada — are also backing expansions of absentee voting because of the pandemic."
The administration is considering extending the deployment of 40,000 National Guard members.
An extension would mean thousands of Guard members could qualify for federal retirement and education benefits, which they would be one day short of getting if their deployment ends in June. Some lawmakers criticized the decision to dismiss the Guard a day short of the 90 days required for federal benefits. “You think they just pulled 89 out of a hat?” said Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.), a National Guard captain who was deployed to help set up hospitals in Staten Island. “No. This isn’t a coincidence. We’re not idiots. This is spitting at our soldiers who have done the right thing.” (Politico)
Congress is reworking the Paycheck Protection Program so businesses have more flexibility.
“House and Senate lawmakers are preparing new legislation that would make it easier for the government to forgive emergency loans to small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic after a lobbying blitz by firms who argued they needed more assistance,” Erica Werner reports. “The bills would give companies more time to use funding under the Paycheck Protection Program, allowing them additional flexibility to rehire workers later this year rather than rush to bring people back by June. It’s unclear, though, whether a political compromise to rework the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program is near, even as many businesses argue they are on the verge of shuttering for good.”
- The Trump administration is reducing royalty payments for oil companies drilling on federal land while simultaneously imposing retroactive rent on wind and solar generators. (Will Englund and Dino Grandoni)
- More than a dozen senators said Delta and JetBlue could violate the intent of the Payroll Support Program if they go through with plans to cut employee hours. The airlines received more than $5 billion in bailouts in a bid to keep workers on the job through the end of September. (Lori Aratani)
- Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, a company hired by the Trump administration to collect and manage student loan payments, provided the wrong information on the credit reports of approximately 4.8 million student loan borrowers who got a break from their monthly payment under the coronavirus stimulus legislation. The “coding error” has hurt the credit scores for some borrowers. (Politico)
A few faces of the fallen:
Wilson Roosevelt Jerman, one of the White House’s longest-serving employees, died from the virus at 91. Jerman worked at the White House as a cleaner, doorman and butler from 1957 to 2012, serving 11 presidents – from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Barack Obama. (Fox D.C.)
- Patricia Weissenborn, a plucky 100-year-old Virginia woman who attributed her longevity to white zinfandel, passed away from the virus at a Virginia retirement home. (Laura Vozzella)
- Ralphy Campos, a prolific graffiti artist from Chicago known as “Redr,” died from the virus at 38. (Chicago Sun-Times)
Quote of the day
“I survived everything because I was determined to survive,” said 108-year-old Sylvia Goldsholl, who has endured the 1918 influenza, the Great Depression, two world wars and, now, the coronavirus. (Today)
Cascading foreign fallout
Trump is considering a Brazil travel ban.
“São Paulo, the largest city in the Western Hemisphere, is emerging as the coronavirus pandemic’s latest global hot spot. Confirmed cases in the city have soared 34 percent and at least 510 people have died in the past week as the public health infrastructure buckles and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro continues to shrug off the crisis,” Marina Lopes reports. “Across Brazil, more than 1,000 people died of the coronavirus on Tuesday alone. The country now ranks third worldwide with 255,000 confirmed cases, trailing only the United States and Russia. … Trump, who has maintained friendly ties with Bolsonaro, a fellow populist, said he was considering banning travel from the country. ‘Brazil is having some trouble, no question about it,’ Trump told reporters at the White House. ‘I don’t want people coming in here and infecting our people.’”
- Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf Arab countries are seeing a sharp spike in cases. This has prompted governments to reimpose some restrictions that had been lifted late last month ahead of Ramadan. (Sarah Dadouch)
- There are no daily public displays of gratitude for Russian doctors and nurses. Instead of applause, they face hostility. (AP)
Bolivia’s health minister was arrested in a corruption probe following a look at overpriced ventilators.
Marcelo Navajas was detained in connection with an investigation into a $4.2 million contract to buy ventilators valued at about a quarter of that price. (Katie Shepherd)
- A top Tokyo prosecutor resigned after a magazine revealed that he allegedly broke Japan’s strict coronavirus restrictions to illegally gamble with newspaper reporters twice this month. (Shepherd)
- The Tokyo Olympics will be canceled if they can’t be held in 2021, the International Olympic Committee's president said. (Simon Denyer)
As U.S.-China rhetoric grows hotter, new risks emerge – and Taiwan is drawn into the mix.
“In the span of several hours, the feud swung from Taipei to Beijing to the Internet, where an animated ‘credibility test’ on Chinese state TV's Twitter feed mocked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Trump then lashed out at China for a ‘worldwide killing’ from covid-19,” Gerry Shih, Eva Dou and Anne Gearan report. “In Taiwan — for decades one of the most sensitive issues between Washington and Beijing — the start of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's second term on Wednesday was overshadowed by the war of words. China issued angry warnings after senior U.S. officials, including Pompeo and deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, sent rare, high-level messages to congratulate Tsai."
Chinese Communist Party officials are also signaling that they plan to take full control of Hong Kong. “The National People’s Congress is always an important piece of political pageantry for China’s ruling Communist Party. But this year’s meeting, which begins Friday after a two-month delay due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, will be more pivotal than usual," Anna Fifield reports. “With the country emerging from the devastating pandemic that began in the city of Wuhan, leader Xi Jinping will seek to show that China is getting back on track and to present the party in the best possible international light — while highlighting the West’s coronavirus failures.”
Other news that should be on your radar
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said Michigan will pursue legal recourse over a failed dam.
“As 10,000 residents evacuated the city of Midland, a central Michigan community of about 40,000 people, the river reached a level more than a foot higher than the previous record,” Jacob Carah, Frances Stead Sellers, Andrew Freedman and Steven Mufson report. Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy “attributed the disaster to historic rainfall and deferred maintenance at the Edenville Dam, which is owned by Boyce Hydro Power LLC. … Residents of the inundated area, meanwhile, were trying to reach safety Wednesday even as they worried about the coronavirus … ‘I’ve got my mask, I got my gloves, I got my cat and finally got some socks,’ said Susan Smith, a retired dance instructor … Like other evacuees, she was trying to heed the governor’s advice to prevent the spread of the virus ‘to the best of your ability’ by wearing masks and following social distancing guidelines.”
A shooter at a recently reopened mall in Arizona wounded at least three.
“A suspect has been taken into custody after police say he opened fire Wednesday night at a shopping center in Glendale, Ariz.,” Meagan Flynn reports. “The shots rang out around 7:25 p.m. at the Westgate Entertainment District, a large complex of shops and restaurants in that had recently reopened. One victim is in critical condition while two others have non-life-threatening injuries, a spokeswoman for the Glendale Police Department said.”
The Supreme Court stopped House Democrats from seeing Bob Mueller's grand jury materials – for now.
“The court, without noted dissent, agreed to a request from the Justice Department to put on hold a lower court’s decision granting the House Judiciary Committee some previously undisclosed material from Mueller’s probe,” Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow report. “The action could mean that Congress will not receive the full Mueller report — without redactions of certain grand jury material — until after the November election, or perhaps not even during lawmakers’ current term, which ends Jan. 3.”
- Michael Flynn’s name was never masked in an FBI report on his communications with Russia’s ambassador, a former senior U.S. official told Ellen Nakashima.
- Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen was released early from prison today because of the virus. He’s expected to serve out the remainder of his three-year sentence at home. (WSJ)
Nine percent of Trump’s 2016 voters say they plan to vote for Joe Biden.
Analysis by John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira from the Center for American Progress found that the bloc of Trump-Biden voters is twice as large as the percentage of Hillary Clinton voters from 2016 who this year say they plan to vote for Trump. That would give Biden a net advantage that could help decide the 2020 election.
- Bernie Sanders’s campaign, seeking to make peace with Biden, asked his delegates to sign agreements “barring attacks on other candidates or party leaders, combative confrontations on social media or talking to reporters without approval,” Sean Sullivan scoops. Delegates who do any of those things are threatened with being removed as a delegate.
- America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC, spent $1.3 million on legal fees in April, an unusually high amount for a super PAC. The payments were disclosed in new FEC filings but the reports don’t disclose detailed reasons for each payment to law firms. (Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy)
- Appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s husband made his largest-ever federal political contribution last month. Jeff Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, gave $1 million to the pro-Trump super PAC as the Georgia Republican senator struggled to rebut allegations of insider trading. (Daily Beast)
- Oregon Republicans nominated Jo Rae Perkins for the Senate. She believes in QAnon, the baseless conspiracy theory that has taken root among some far-right Trump supporters. Perkins will face Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) in November. (Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis)
Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky is once again in the U.S. political fray over leaked Biden recordings.
Zelensky called on his law enforcement agencies to investigate leaked audio of private phone calls several years ago between the then-vice president and Ukraine’s then-president, Petro Poroshenko, saying the conversations might be “qualified as high treason.” “The recordings showed Biden, as he has previously said publicly, linked loan guarantees for Ukraine in 2015 to the ouster of Viktor Shokin, then the country’s prosecutor general,” David Stern and Isabelle Khurshudyan report. Ukrainian parliament member Andriy Derkach, who has past links to Russian intelligence, claimed the tapes point to Biden’s influence on Poroshenko. At no point in the clips does Biden mention his son Hunter or the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
- On a party-line vote, Senate Republicans on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved a subpoena for documents related to Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma. The request generated fierce opposition from Democrats, with some suggesting Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is serving as an unwitting pawn of a Russian disinformation campaign. (Mike DeBonis)
Social media speed read
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), one of Biden's potential VP picks, suggested the president might be drinking bleach:
.@realDonaldTrump, perhaps you’ve moved on to bleach and it’s even further impairing your judgment. It’s clear Nevada is doing the right thing and your threat to withhold federal support, especially during a pandemic, is outrageous. https://t.co/tLU1c7kQOY— CatherineCortezMasto (@CatherineForNV) May 20, 2020
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) clapped back at Trump's unfounded accusations of voter fraud:
Hi again. Still wrong. Every Michigan registered voter has a right to vote by mail. I have the authority & responsibility to make sure that they know how to exercise this right - just like my GOP colleagues are doing in GA, IA, NE and WV. Also, again, my name is Jocelyn Benson. https://t.co/deZJwbMlT0— Jocelyn Benson (@JocelynBenson) May 20, 2020
Trump congratulated his youngest daughter for graduating from law school – and referenced his own legal woes:
Congratulations to my daughter, Tiffany, on graduating from Georgetown Law. Great student, great school. Just what I need is a lawyer in the family. Proud of you Tiff!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2020
Videos of the day
Actress Julia Roberts interviewed Fauci about the pandemic as part of an effort to rebut misinformation floating around online:
Stephen Colbert took a look at the CDC's latest reopening guidelines:
Trevor Noah said Trump is throwing a tantrum over mail-in voting: