👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
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1/ Trump had contact with two Republican congressmen before they self-quarantined themselves after learning they had been exposed to someone diagnosed with coronavirus at CPAC. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who attended a party with Trump at Mar-a-Lago this weekend, learned shortly after Air Force One was airborne that he had been in contact with a person at CPAC who has since been diagnosed with coronavirus. Gaetz then sat in a section of the plane by himself. Rep. Doug Collins, who had also been in contact with a person at CPAC with coronavirus, shook hands with Trump during a CDC tour on Friday. Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Paul Gosar also announced they would self-quarantine after coming into contact with a person with coronavirus at the CPAC. Gaetz and Gosar both mocked the coronavirus spending package passed last week by the House. Gosar said the money was unnecessary with so few people sick in the U.S. while Gaetz wore a gas mask to the vote. Days later, Gaetz announced that a constituent had died of COVID-19. (New York Times / CNBC / CNN / Axios / CNN / NBC News / The Hill / Washington Post / Washington Post / Gizmodo)
- COVID-19 has infected more than 550 people in the U.S., killing more than 20. More than 111,000 people have been infected worldwide, while more than 3,800 have died.
2/ The White House overruled health officials who wanted to warn Americans to avoid commercial airlines because of the coronavirus. The CDC originally submitted a plan that recommended that elderly and medically vulnerable Americans avoid flying as a way of trying to control the outbreak, but the White House ordered the air travel language removed from from the plan. The Trump administration, however, has since issued guidance that certain people should not be traveling and the CDC quietly updated its website to tell older adults to “stay home as much as possible” and avoid crowds. Administration officials pushed back, calling it “complete fiction” and saying “it was never a recommendation to the Task Force.” (Associated Press)
Trump, wearing a “Keep America Great” hat, said he told Mike Pence not to compliment Washington Gov. Jay Inslee because “he is a snake.” Inslee had criticized the administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, saying he wanted Trump to stick to the science when discussing the virus. (Seattle Times / Politico / ABC News / Vox)
Trump accused New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of attempting “political weaponization” of the coronavirus crisis after the Democratic governor declared a state of emergency. (Politico)
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson declined to “preview” the Trump administration’s plan for the docking of the Grand Princess cruise ship, which is carrying at least 21 passengers who contracted coronavirus. During an interview with George Stephanopoulos, the HUD secretary said Pence would implement a plan “within 72 hours.” Stephanopoulos responded: “The ship’s docking tomorrow.” (ABC News / The Hill)
Trump and Mike Pence attempted to reassure donors at Mar-a-Lago that they have everything under control. (CNBC)
Trump’s reelection campaign canceled its bus tour amid concerns about the coronavirus. A campaign spokeswoman initially cited “scheduling conflicts” for the postponement of the three-day bus tour through Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. (New York Times)
3/ The White House and national health agencies have reportedly grown distrustful of one another over the mixed messaging on coronavirus. While Trump has called his administration’s response a “perfectly coordinated and fine tuned plan,” the top infectious disease doctor at the National Institutes of Health and Surgeon General told the public to be prepared for more cases and deaths, warning the elderly and medically vulnerable to avoid large crowds and long trips or cruises. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also said the Trump administration considers the coronavirus “a very serious public health threat” and that “Nobody is trying to minimize this.” Six minutes later, Trump downplayed the severity of coronavirus, comparing it to the “common Flu,” tweeting: “Think about that!” Meanwhile, during a tour at the CDC, Trump mused that he had a “natural ability” to understand the coronavirus outbreak, saying “People are really surprised I understand this stuff. Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’” (CNN / NBC News / New York Times / Bloomberg / Politico / Washington Post)
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams: “We now are seeing community spread and we’re trying to help people understand how to mitigate the impact of disease spread,”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health: “There comes a time, when you have containment which […] you’re trying to find out who’s infected and put them in isolation. And if and when that happens — and I hope it’s if and not when — that you get so many people who are infected that the best thing you need to do is what we call mitigation in addition to containment.”
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration: “We’re past the point of containment. We have to implement broad mitigation strategies. The next two weeks are really going to change the complexion in this country. We’ll get through this, but it’s going to be a hard period. We’re looking at two months, probably, of difficulty.”
4/ U.S. stocks fell more than 7.5% in the worst day on Wall Street since the financial crisis on fears about the spread of the coronavirus and an oil price war. Stocks fell fast enough to trigger a circuit breaker for the first time in 23 years that halted trading for 15 minutes. The Dow fell 2,000 points, while the S&P 500, already down 12% from its February high, fell more than 7%. (Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNBC / NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post)
- Trump blamed Wall Street’s meltdown on the “Fake News Media” and the Democrats for trying to “inflame the CoronaVirus situation.” Trump also tried to cast the decline in oil prices in positive terms, tweeting: “Good for the consumer, gasoline prices coming down!” Trump added: “Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on.” (Washington Post / CNBC)
5/ Trump said he will ask Congress to provide financial relief for workers and businesses hurt by the coronavirus, including a possible payroll tax cut. Trump said he’d announce the “dramatic” details of the proposed relief on Tuesday after meeting with members of the House and Senate. “They will be major,” he said. (NBC News / NPR / USA Today)
6/ Trump replaced Mick Mulvaney with Rep. Mark Meadows as his next White House chief of staff. Trump announced the change on Twitter from Mar-a-Lago. Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff for the last 14 months, will become the U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland. Meadows will be Trump’s fourth White House chief of staff, following Mulvaney, John Kelly and Reince Priebus. (Associated Press / NPR / CNN / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / New York Times)
7/ The Taliban reportedly has “no intention” of honoring the U.S.-Taliban peace agreement, according to “persuasive intelligence” gathered by the U.S. Official briefed on the intelligence say the Taliban views the peace process as a way of securing the withdrawal of American “occupiers,” after which it will attack the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan. Trump also acknowledged that the Taliban could “possibly” overrun the Afghan government after U.S. leaves the region, saying “Countries have to take care of themselves […] You can only hold someone’s hand for so long.” American troops, meanwhile, have started leaving Afghanistan. (NBC News / Associated Press)
8/ An altered video of Joe Biden shared by the White House and retweeted by Trump has been flagged as “manipulated media” by Twitter. It’s the first test of the new policy implemented on March 5 to label tweets that include manipulated content, which includes everything from edited videos to full “deep fakes” of events that never actually happened. The altered video of Biden shows him stumbling through a speech, but cuts off after Biden accidentally says, “Excuse me. We can only reelect Donald Trump.” The video leaves out the rest of the quote: “We can only reelect Donald Trump if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here. It’s gotta be a positive campaign.” (Washington Post / New York Times)
poll/ 54% of Republicans said they had not altered their daily routines because of the coronavirus, compared to about 40% of Democrats. (Reuters)
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