👋 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/ Senate Republican and Democratic negotiators, as well as senior Trump administration officials kicked off talks on a $1 trillion economic stabilization plan – the third stimulus package Congress has considered this month to confront the coronavirus – with the goal of having a deal by the end of the day. Mitch McConnell has promised to pass the new stimulus though the chamber by Monday despite multiple disagreements over the structure of the bill, which was released Thursday. The initial plan would have given many Americans $1,200 in a one-time payment, but those without federal tax liability – i.e. the poorest Americans – would get as little as $600. Trump has also promised that the initial payment would be substantially higher than $1,000. (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the state’s nearly 40 million residents to stay home. The order takes effect immediately and remains in place “until further notice.” (Politico)
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a “stay at home” order for the entire state starting Saturday at 5 p.m. through April 7. (Chicago Tribune)
The U.S. and Mexico agreed to temporarily close the border to nonessential travel. Trump said the move was intended to “reduce the incentive for a mass global migration that would badly deplete” health care resources. (The Hill / Politico / CNN)
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said Americans will likely have to continue practicing social distancing for “at least several weeks.” (NBC News)
Student loan borrowers can suspend their federal student loan payments without penalty for at least 60 days. Additionally, interest will be waived for 60 days, starting retroactively on March 13. (CNN)
The Department of Education will waive standardized tests for K-12 for states affected by the coronavirus. States must apply for the exemption. (NPR)
The Trump administration has held up $40 million in emergency aid Congress approved to help American Indians combat the coronavirus. The initial $8.3 billion coronavirus response package Trump signed into law March 6 allocated $40 million to help support American Indian care providers. (Politico)
Trump canceled plans to host the G7 summit at Camp David and will instead hold the gathering of world leaders as a teleconference. White House officials said holding the summit virtually will allow all countries involved to save money on travel and preparations, while also reducing the risk of further contamination. (CNN / Reuters)
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pushed Tax Day from April 15 to July 15. “All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties,” Mnuchin tweeted, adding that Americans with refunds should “file now to get your money.” (NBC News / CNN)
2/ Trump said he’s put the Defense Production Act into “high gear” two days after saying he’d only use it “in a worst case scenario.” The Korean War-era law allows for a government-mandated increase in supply production in response to the coronavirus pandemic. At a coronavirus task force briefing, Trump claimed “we are literally being besieged” by companies “that want to do the work and help our country,” suggesting that General Motors and Ford Motor Co., among others, had volunteered to produce supplies. (CNN / New York Times / CNBC / Reuters / ABC News)
- Trump’s directed state governors to acquire their own medical equipment, but then the federal government outbid them for protective gear for doctors and nurses, as well as respirators. (Bloomberg / Business Insider)
3/ Trump attacked a reporter on live TV who asked what his message would be to Americans who are frightened by the coronavirus pandemic. Trump responded by calling Peter Alexander, an NBC News correspondent, “a terrible reporter. That’s what I say. I think it’s a very nasty question and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people.” Moments earlier during the coronavirus task force’s daily briefing, Trump’s director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said any evidence about drug therapies being tested was “anecdotal” and not the product of a “clinical trial.” Trump nevertheless said he felt “good” about the treatments and that the federal government had already ordered “millions of units” of them. Later in the briefing, Mike Pence responded to Alexander’s question, saying, “do not be afraid, be vigilant” and went on to explain that the risk of serious illness for most Americans is low. (NBC News / CNN / The Guardian)
- Trump claimed his administration was fully prepared for the coronavirus, but said the “only thing we weren’t prepared for was the media.” Trump said the media “has not treated it fairly” and complained that NBC News “called me racist and other words” after he called for a ban on travel to the U.S. from China. He went on to accuse mainstream media outlets of “siding with China” and parroting the propaganda from the Chinese Communist Party. (Axios)
4/ At least four senators sold off millions of dollars’ worth of stocks just before the market dropped amid fears of the coronavirus pandemic. Sens. Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler sold off more than a million dollars each in stocks after attending private, senators-only briefings about the severity of the impending coronavirus crisis. Burr, who serves as the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had been receiving daily updates from the intelligence community on threats to the U.S., including the coronavirus, before dumped up to $1.56 million on Feb. 13 – days after he wrote an op-ed for Fox News arguing that the U.S. is “better prepared than ever before” when it comes to facing public health threats like COVID-19. Loeffler, who is married to the chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, and her husband sold up to $3.1 million in jointly owned stocks starting on Jan. 24 – the same day the Senate Health Committee, on which she sits, briefed senators briefing about the coronavirus. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, also a member of the intelligence committee, and her husband sold up to $6 million worth of stock in Jan. and Feb. And, Sen. James Inhofe sold as much as $400,000 in January. Burr said he has asked the Senate Ethics Committee to review his sale. (ProPublica / Daily Beast / NPR / NBC News / Axios / New York Times / Atlanta Journal-Constitution / The Guardian / Washington Post / The Hill / Reuters)
- 📌 Day 1155: The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned constituents three weeks ago to prepare for dire economic and societal effects from the coronavirus. “There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history,” Sen. Richard Burr said on Feb. 27, according to a secret recording of the remarks. “It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.” On that same day, Trump suggested that the virus is “going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle. It will disappear,” before adding, “it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens.” On Feb 13., Burr sold off between $582,029 and $1.56 million of his holdings despite reassuring the public at the time that the government had the coronavirus outbreak under control. A week later, the stock market began a sharp decline and has lost about 30% since. (NPR / Politico / ProPublica)
5/ The Trump administration asked states to hold off on releasing unemployment claims data before the regularly scheduled national report of weekly U.S. jobless claims. Economists at Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, predict that filings for unemployment will show 2.25 million Americans filed for their first week of benefits this week — eight times the number of people who filed last week and the highest level on record. (Wall Street Journal / CNN / Bloomberg / CNN)
- Wall Street had its worst week since 2008 with the Dow erasing the so-called “Trump bump” and closing below where it stood the day before Trump was inaugurated. Stocks have collapsed more than 30% in a month, wiping out trillions in value and ending an 11-year long bull market. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / CNBC)
6/ A federal judge froze a House lawsuit seeking to enforce a subpoena for six years of Trump’s federal tax records until an appeals court rules on whether Congress, in a separate case related to Trump’s former White House counsel Donald McGahn, can sue to compel executive branch officials to testify. The House sued the administration in July after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to comply with a subpoena for Trump’s business and tax records issued in May. (Washington Post)
poll/ 55% of Americans approve of Trump’s management of the coronavirus crisis, compared to 43% who disapprove. (ABC News)
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