Day 1146: "Everything is working out."
1/ Trump – again – downplayed the severity of the coronavirus epidemic, saying “everything is working out” and that “it will go away, just stay calm.” There have been more than 800 cases of coronavirus in the U.S., including 27 deaths. And, despite markets showing continued volatility following Wall Street’s worst day since the 2008 financial crisis, Trump suggested that “The consumer has never been in a better position than they are right now.” (Washington Post / New York Times)
- Trump invited a group of Wall Street executives to the White House to discuss the response to COVID-19 after stock market losses. The seven biggest banks in the U.S. were invited, and at least two of them plan to send their CEO to attend the meeting on Wednesday. (CNBC)
2/ Trump pitched Republican lawmakers on a 0% payroll tax rate that would last through the November election as the White House tries to put together an economic stimulus plan to counteract the impact from the coronavirus outbreak. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Trump called the meeting “great” and said there was “tremendous unity” despite the meeting ending without a plan for crafting an economic package. Republican and Democratic senators also expressed reluctance about a payroll tax cut to address the economic impact. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, is working on an economic stimulus package to ensure workers have access to free coronavirus tests and paid sick leave. Payroll taxes are paid by employers and employees to fund Social Security, Medicare, and other government programs. (CNBC / Bloomberg / Washington Post / Politico)
YESTERDAY: Trump promised “very substantial” economic measures to combat the fallout from the coronavirus, including aid for the airline and cruise industries, and expanding loans by the Small Business Administration.(Bloomberg / New York Times / Politico)
ALSO: The White House is considering federal assistance for oil and natural gas producers hit by plummeting oil prices amid the coronavirus outbreak and a price war that broke out between Saudi Arabia and Russia. (Washington Post)
3/ The Trump administration postponed an annual intelligence report – without explanation – that warns that the U.S. remains unprepared for a global pandemic. The office of the Director of National Intelligence was scheduled to deliver the Worldwide Threat Assessment to the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 12. The hearing, however, has not been rescheduled. Two officials who have read the classified report, said that the warnings are similar to those published in the 2019 report, which states: “The United States will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support.” (Time)
The CDC expanded its guidance for people over 60 or who have chronic illnesses to stock up on goods and plan for a lengthy stay at home. The CDC also recommended that travelers with underlying health conditions “avoid non-essential travel.” (CNBC)
📌 Day 1135: A worldwide threats assessment in 2018 and 2017 warned about the increasing risks of a global pandemic that could strain resources and damage the global economy. Intelligence analysts even mentioned a close cousin of the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus by name, saying it had “pandemic potential” if it were “to acquire efficient human-to-human responsibility.” The 2019 worldwide threat assessment reported “that the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support.” (NBC News)
4/ Trump’s incoming White House chief of staff quarantined himself after possibly coming in contact with a confirmed carrier of the coronavirus. Rep. Mark Meadows is the fifth Republican lawmaker to self-quarantine himself over fears coronavirus exposure. Sen. Ted Cruz and Reps. Paul Gosar, Doug Collins and Matt Gaetz have also quarantined themselves for 14 days out of caution. Meadows, Cruz, Collins, and Gaetz all interacted with Trump on the day they were exposed. Trump, meanwhile, hasn’t been tested for coronavirus, saying “I don’t think it’s a big deal […] I feel extremely good.” (Washington Post / Bloomberg / Politico / CNN /Axios)
5/ The Trump administration ordered immigration courts to remove all coronavirus posters from courtrooms and waiting areas. After the Miami Herald published news about an Executive Office for Immigration Review email that directed all judges and staff members to remove the posters, a Department of Justice spokesman said that the “the signs shouldn’t have been removed. It’s now being rectified.” The official, however, declined to discuss why the email directive was sent in the first place. (Miami Herald)
The CDC director contradicted Trump’s claim that his border wall will contain the coronavirus. Trump tweeted that his wall is “Going up fast […] We need the Wall more than ever!” Hour later, Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, said testified to lawmakers that he was unaware that physical barriers along America’s borders would help halt the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. (Politico)
Trump administration officials discussed shutting down travel from Italy and South Korea as the coronavirus outbreak worsened. Ultimately, officials decided that the virus was spreading too quickly to be contained and it would be hard to justify the diplomatic, logistical, and economic consequences. (Axios)
6/ A federal appeals court granted House Democrats permission to access grand jury material from Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The Justice Department must now give lawmakers access to all the report’s blacked-out words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and pages, as well as underlying interviews and memos cited in Mueller’s probe. The lawsuit was filed before the start of the impeachment inquiry, but House lawyers told the court that lawmakers are still trying to determine whether Trump lied in his written responses to questions from Mueller’s investigators. The ruling can be appealed to the full court or to the Supreme Court. (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Axios)
📌Day 1009: A federal judge directed the Justice Department to hand over Robert Mueller’s secret grand jury evidence to the House Judiciary Committee, which Attorney General William Barr has withheld from lawmakers. U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell rejected the Trump administration’s claim that the impeachment probe is illegitimate, saying the material could help the House Judiciary Committee substantiate “potentially impeachable conduct” by Trump. The materials must be disclosed by Wednesday. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Politico)
📌 Day 1012: The Trump administration appealed a judge’s ruling requiring the Justice Department to give the House Judiciary Committee grand jury material related to Robert Mueller’s report. Chief Judge Beryl Howell’s ruling granted the Judiciary Committee access to portions of Mueller’s report and underlying grand jury information that were redacted. (Politico / CNBC)
📌 Day 1033: The House is investigating whether Trump lied to Robert Mueller. Former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates testified in last week’s trial that Roger Stone spoke with Trump in a July 2016 phone call, and that Trump then told Gates that “more information would be coming.” Trump, however, told Mueller in written answers that he did not recall discussing WikiLeaks with Stone. The House Judiciary Committee is seeking grand jury testimony from the redacted version of Mueller’s report into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. House General Counsel Douglas Letter told a federal appeals court that investigators have an “immense” need for the material, because it will help House members answer the question, “Did the president lie? Was the president not truthful in his responses to the Mueller investigation?” (CNN / Washington Post / New York Times / Axios / Associated Press / Politico)
📌 Day 1061: The House told a federal appeals court that it still needs access to Robert Mueller’s confidential grand jury information for use in the impeachment proceedings. The House argued that the grand jury information allegedly contains “certain redacted materials [that] pertain to a Trump Campaign member’s dealings with Ukraine, and bear on whether the President committed impeachable offenses by soliciting Ukrainian interference in the 2020 Presidential election.” (CNN)
7/ Russia is – again – trying to stoke racial tensions as part of its effort to influence November’s presidential election. According to officials briefed on recent intelligence, Russian intelligence services have prodded white nationalists to spread and amplify hate messages while also trying to push black extremist groups toward violence in an effort to foster a sense of chaos in the United States. (New York Times)
- Trump’s acting director of national intelligence declined to meet with Congress for a briefing on foreign election threats. Richard Grenell said he was apprehensive about his preparedness to address questions about intelligence assessments that Russia is again interfering in U.S. politics. (Washington Post)
8/ Blackwater founder Erik Prince worked with Project Veritas to recruit former U.S. and British spies to infiltrate Democratic congressional campaigns. Project Veritas is a conservative group that uses hidden cameras and microphones for sting operations on news organizations, Democratic politicians, and liberal advocacy groups. Prince is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy Devos. (New York Times)
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