👋 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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Daily Damage Report.
Global: Total confirmed cases ~1,412,000; Total deaths: ~81,100; Total recoveries: ~298,400. (Johns Hopkins University)
U.S.: Total confirmed cases ~386,000; Total deaths: ~12,000; Total recoveries: ~20,200.
Markets: Dow 📉; S&P 500 📉; Nasdaq 📉
An updated model tracking the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. now predicts that fewer people will die and fewer hospital beds will be needed. The model predicts that 81,766 people will die in the U.S. over the next four months, with just under 141,000 hospital beds being needed. That’s down about 12,000 deaths and 121,000 fewer hospital beds from last week. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it would be a “false statement” to claim the outbreak is under control, stressing that it could return in force by fall and emerge as a “seasonal, cyclic” threat. (CNN / Politico)
New York suffered its highest single-day death toll. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, said 731 more people died on Monday due to the coronavirus, which brings the total number of deaths in New York to 5,489 — nearly half of all deaths caused by the virus in the U.S. (NPR)
1/ Trump removed the Pentagon’s acting inspector general, who was tapped to lead the group responsible for preventing “waste, fraud, and abuse” of the $2 trillion coronavirus emergency stimulus package passed last month. A panel of inspectors general had named Glenn Fine to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. Trump, instead, replaced Fine with EPA’s watchdog, Sean O’Donnell, as the temporary Pentagon watchdog. Because Fine is no longer acting inspector general, he is ineligible to hold the spending watchdog role, since the new law permits only current inspectors general to fill the position. (Politico / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / CNN / Bloomberg)
2/ Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned a day after he ridiculed and then apologized to a captain he had ousted for raising concerns about a coronavirus outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Modly, speaking to the ship’s crew over a loudspeaker, called Capt. Brett Crozier “too naive or too stupid to be the commanding officer of a ship like this,” accusing him of a “betrayal of trust.” Capt. Crozier was relieved of command last week by Modly after writing a letter to senior Navy officials outlining the challenges of trying to contain a coronavirus outbreak aboard the ship and requested that sailors be allowed to quarantine on land. Defense Secretary Mark Esper accepted Modly’s resignation and selected Under Secretary of the Army James McPherson to replace Modly as acting Navy secretary. (Washington Post / NBC News / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Axios)
3/ Trump’s economic adviser warned the White House in January that there was “an increasing probability of a full-blown COVID-19 pandemic that could infect as many as 100 million Americans, with a loss of life of as many as 1-2 million souls.” In a pair of memos, Peter Navarro warned that the lack of a vaccine “would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil.” In a Jan. 29 memo, Navarro called for “an immediate travel ban on China.” In a second memo on Feb. 23, Navarro urged the Trump administration to immediately begin laying the groundwork for a $3 billion supplemental spending appropriation from Congress. “This is NOT a time for penny-pinching or horse trading on the Hill,” the memo reads. Trump waited several weeks after receiving Navarro’s memos before taking steps to mitigate the spread of the virus, and later claimed that “nobody could have predicted something like this.” (New York Times / Axios / Vox / The Guardian)
4/ Trump has a personal financial interest in the company that makes the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug Trump has been touting as a “game changer” in the fight against the coronavirus. Trump and his family trusts are all invested in a mutual fund that features Sanofi as its largest holding. Sanofi makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other associates of Trump are also invested in the pharmaceutical manufacturer. Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly ignored the advice of doctors and public health experts, who have warned him against promoting the drug due to the lack of evidence supporting its effectiveness. (Daily Beast / New York Times / The Guardian / Politico / Washington Post)
- Sen. David Purdue bought stock in a company that makes personal protective equipment on the same day he received a classified Senate briefing about the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. Purdue made a series of 112 transactions, 82 of which were made on March 3. Of those, 76 were purchases totaling up to $1.8 million and 34 were stock sales of up to $825,000. A spokesperson for Purdue said he “has always had an outside adviser managing his personal finances, and he is not involved in day-to-day decisions” about his portfolio. Purdue is one of several lawmakers — including his fellow senator from Georgia, Kelly Loeffler, and Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina — who is facing questions about their trading activity in the wake of the outbreak. (Atlanta Journal Constitution / Business Insider / The Hill)
5/ Lawmakers and the White House are considering another financial assistance package to try and contain the economic impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congressional leaders are looking into a series of spending increases that would “easily” cost more than $1 trillion. Lawmakers are concerned that the $2.2 trillion aid package passed last month is not enough to prevent lasting damage to the U.S. economy. Trump has also indicated that he would support some of the ideas floated by Democrats, including expanded help for small business owners and new bailout checks for households. Republicans have called for additional corporate aid and more funding to boost the overwhelmed health care system. Separately, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has spoken with congressional leaders about an additional $250 billion to replenish the $349 billion small business loan program. Mitch McConnell said the Senate could approve funding for the program during Thursday’s pro-forma session by voice vote or unanimous consent, which wouldn’t require all members of the chamber to return to Washington. Banks have processed $70 billion in taxpayer-backed loans for 250,000 small businesses since Friday. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNBC / Washington Post / ABC News)
6/ Trump replaced the White House press secretary with his re-election campaign spokeswoman. Stephanie Grisham will leave to become Melania Trump’s chief of staff and spokeswoman after eight months without ever having briefed the press. Kayleigh McEnany has been a vocal defender of Trump on cable television, often making controversial statements like saying in February that “we will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here.” (CNN / New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post / CNBC / Axios / Politico)
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