👋 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 ~3,651,000; Total deaths: ~256,000; Total recoveries: ~1,188,000. (Johns Hopkins University)
🇺🇸 U.S.: Total confirmed cases ~1,201,000; Total deaths: ~71,000; Total recoveries: ~190,000
💰 Markets: Dow 📈; S&P 500 📈; Nasdaq 📈
1/ Dr. Anthony Fauci, contradicting both Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said the best scientific evidence shows that the coronavirus did not originate in a Chinese laboratory. “If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now,” Fauci said, the scientific evidence “is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated.” Fauci added that he doesn’t subscribe to the theory that someone found the virus in the wild, brought it into a lab, and then allowed it to escape and spread to the rest of the world, saying “Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.” (National Geographic)
- Scientists identified a new strain of the coronavirus that appears to be more contagious than the versions that spread in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new strain appeared in February in Europe, migrated to the East Coast of the U.S., and has been the dominant strain across the world since mid-March. The new strain may also make people vulnerable to a second infection after a first bout with the disease. (Los Angeles Times)
2/ Trump blocked Dr. Anthony Fauci from testifying before the House because, he claims, it’s “a setup” with a “bunch of Trump haters.” Trump, however, confirmed that he will allow Dr. Fauci to testify before the Republican-controlled Senate sometime next week. The White House told the House that members of the coronavirus task force won’t be allowed to testify, claiming it would divert resources from the pandemic response. (Politico / The Hill / Axios / NPR / CNBC / Washington Post / CNN)
- Trump’s nominee for the newly created “special inspector general for pandemic response” vowed to resist pressure from Trump or administration officials seeking to undermine his independence. Brian Miller is also a member of his White House counsel’s office. His position was created by the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief law signed on March 27. (Politico / Politico)
3/ Mike Pence said the White House is in “preliminary discussions” to wind down the coronavirus task force, because “of the tremendous progress we’ve made as a country.” The task force could wrap up by early June. A senior White House official said the task force would meet less regularly as the administration focuses on reopening the economy and that the shift is intended to signal that the country is moving into a new phase of the pandemic. Health experts, however, have warned that reopening too soon could lead to more death and economic damage. It’s not clear whether another group would replace the task force. The official added that the change was not intended as a “declaration of victory.” (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Axios / NBC News / Washington Post / Reuters)
- Jared Kushner’s coronavirus team relied on inexperienced volunteers from consulting and private equity firms with little expertise in the jobs they were assigned. The volunteer group, composed of about two dozen employees from Boston Consulting Group, Insight, McKinsey and other firms, was tasked with securing protective equipment. Some government officials expressed alarm at the presence of the volunteers, saying that their role in the response is unclear and that they needed guidance on basic questions. (Washington Post / New York Times / CNN)
4/ Trump promised to resume the White House coronavirus briefings, saying “everybody” enjoyed them — including himself. Trump, who ended the daily briefings last week, said “we’ll probably do maybe one a week, sometimes two depending on the news” as he pivots to reopening the economy. Trump added that he enjoys sparring with reporters, but “I was told that some people didn’t like the combative attitude so much.” Trump then congratulated himself, saying: “We set every record with those press conferences. Six million people all the time. You know we had tremendous numbers, literally […] I heard, is this true? It was the highest-rated hour in cable television history. That’s what I heard. I don’t know if that’s true.” (New York Post)
👑 Trump: “The one thing that the pandemic has taught us is that I was right.” In a New York Post interview, Trump said he thinks Americans are “starting to feel good now.” (Vox)
👑 The President Is Unraveling. The country is witnessing the steady, uninterrupted intellectual and psychological decomposition of Trump. (The Atlantic)
5/ Trump said “it’s possible there will be some” deaths as states roll back restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus, acknowledging that it was the choice the country faces to reopen and jumpstart the economy. Trump encouraged Americans to view themselves as “warriors,” saying it’s not realistic to keep up strict social distancing guidelines in the long term. On Monday, Dr. Fauci said that the decision to reopen states amounted to balancing “how many deaths and how much suffering are you willing to accept to get back to what you want to be, some form of normality, sooner rather than later.” When asked what he would say to Americans who have lost a loved one to the coronavirus, Trump replied: “I love you.” (ABC News)
6/ Trump complained that “bailouts” for states are unfair to Republicans because, he said, the states that would benefit most from funding are run by Democrats. Trump suggested that California, Illinois, and New York are in “tremendous debt” because they “have been mismanaged over a long period of time.” All three are currently run by Democratic governors. Trump, however, said “Florida is doing phenomenal, Texas is doing phenomenal, the Midwest is, you know, fantastic — very little debt.” Trump continued, “It’s not fair to the Republicans because all the states that need help — they’re run by Democrats in every case.” (NBC News)
7/ Trump lashed out at a group of Republicans seeking to defeat him in November, tweeting that “They’re all LOSERS.” Trump’s outburst came in response to a new video released by the Lincoln Project, a super PAC launched by disaffected Republicans including George Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. The “Mourning in America” video bashes Trump’s coronavirus response efforts, saying he made the U.S. “weaker and sicker and poorer.” Trump later said Kellyanne Conway “must have done a big number on” George, whom he called a “stone-cold loser” with a “Moonface.” (Politico / Axios / Bloomberg / Washington Post)
- CNN’s parent company sent a cease-and-desist letter accusing the Trump campaign of misusing the network’s news coverage in a way that is “false, misleading and deceptive.” WarnerMedia claims a new ad from the Trump re-election campaign titled, “American Comeback,” takes a segment about the threat of the coronavirus on CNN out of context. The letter claims the Trump campaign ad “purposely and deceptively edits the clip” to imply that Wolf Blitzer and Dr. Sanjay Gupta were praising Trump’s January travel ban for saving millions of American lives, “when in fact Mr. Blitzer and Dr. Gupta were discussing recently implemented social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders issued by state and local governments.” The letter “hereby demands” that the campaign stop airing the ad, which “has been distorted in such a way as to mislead the public.” (CNN / Bloomberg)
8/ The federal scientist involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine filed a whistleblower complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. Dr. Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, alleges that he was removed from his position for pushing back on “efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections” and that he tried to “prioritize science and safety over political expediency.” In the complaint, Bright charged the Department of Health and Human Services with “an abuse of authority or gross mismanagement,” saying the agency’s chaotic response was the result of “pressure from HHS leadership to ignore scientific merit and expert recommendations and instead to award lucrative contracts based on political connections and cronyism.” Bright was removed from his post on April 20 after having served as BARDA director for nearly four years. He was reassigned to a narrower role at the National Institutes of Health. (NBC News / NPR / CNN / Washington Post / Axios / CBS News)
- 📌 Day 1189: The director of the federal agency responsible for developing a coronavirus vaccine was removed after pressing for rigorous vetting of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus, which Trump has repeatedly embraced. Dr. Rick Bright cited “clashes with political leadership” as a reason for his abrupt dismissal as the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, as well as his resistance to “efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections.” Dr. Bright said that science, not “politics and cronyism” must lead the way, adding that he believed he was removed from his post because he insisted that “the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic” be put toward “safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit.” He was assigned a narrower job at the National Institutes of Health. (New York Times /New York Times / CNN / STAT News / CNBC / Axios)
9/ The House Judiciary Committee wants to continue investigating Trump for potentially impeachable offenses related to Robert Mueller’s investigation. The committee is still trying to obtain grand jury secrets from the Mueller probe, but the Justice Department has blocked the disclosure of the materials because it plans to take the case to the Supreme Court. In a letter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the House wrote that “its investigation into President Trump’s misconduct is ongoing” and that material from the grand jury will help it decide whether Trump “committed additional impeachable offenses in obstructing Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller’s investigation and whether to recommend new articles of impeachment.” The letter adds: “The current pandemic notwithstanding, the Committee’s investigation is not ‘dormant.’” The committee is particularly interested in the differences between what the witnesses from the Trump campaign told Mueller’s investigators and what Trump said to Mueller in his written answers, as well as what convicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said about Trump during his secret testimony. (CNN)
poll/ 75% of Americans rated Dr. Fauci’s response to the coronavirus outbreak “excellent,” while 44% said the same of Trump. (Washington Post)
poll/ 32% of Americans believe the reported coronavirus death toll numbers. 44% believe the number of Americans dying from COVID-19 are higher, while 23% say the number is lower. Among Democrats, 63% say the number of reported deaths are higher while 24% of Republicans say the same. (Axios)
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