👋 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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😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~11,712,000; deaths: ~541,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~2,981,000; deaths: ~132,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
1/ The Trump administration officially notified the United Nations that it will withdraw from the World Health Organization amid a global pandemic that has infected more than 11.6 million people and killed more than a half a million. In April, Trump announced that the U.S. would freeze funding to the organization pending a review, followed by Trump’s threat in May that the U.S. would be “terminating” its relationship with the WHO over its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. is required to give a year’s notice in writing and pay its debts to the agency in order to leave. In 2019, the U.S. contributed roughly 15% of the health agency’s budget. (Washington Post / NBC News / New York Times)
2/ Trump pressed schools to physically reopen in the fall despite a surge in COVID-19 cases in parts of the country. During a series of conference calls and roundtable discussions at the White House – billed as a “National Dialogue on Safely Reopening America’s Schools” – Trump argued that keeping children at home longer would be worse than the virus itself, and that the governors, mayors, and other local officials who control the schools “think it’s going to be good for them politically so they keep the schools closed.” Trump added: “We are very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools to get them open.” On Monday night, Trump has made his position clear, tweeting: “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, meanwhile, said she was “disappointed frankly in schools and districts that didn’t figure out how to serve students or that just gave up and didn’t try” to reopen in the fall. (New York Times / NPR / Politico / Bloomberg)
3/ Dr. Anthony Fauci called Trump’s recent focus on the coronavirus’s decreasing mortality rate in the U.S. a “false narrative” and that “by getting infected, you’re propagating this pandemic.” Trump, contradicting health experts, has called “99 percent” of coronavirus cases “totally harmless.” The nation’s top infectious disease expert said the lower mortality rate is the result of the country getting better at treating people and that the mean age of those getting infected has dropped by about 15 years. The White House, meanwhile, claimed that the U.S. is the “leader” in the fight against the coronavirus, despite the number of deaths in the U.S. passing 130,000 and cases nearing three million. (Washington Post / The Guardian)
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for COVID-19 after downplaying the virus for months. “There’s no problem,” Bolsonaro told reporters. “It’s natural. There’s no dread. It’s life.” (CNN / Washington Post / Bloomberg)
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms tested positive for the coronavirus after displaying no symptoms. (Axios)
The federal government awarded $2 billion to two drugmakers to develop and manufacture a potential vaccine against COVID-19. Novavax received $1.6 billion to expedite clinical studies of its experimental coronavirus vaccine and deliver 100 million doses for use in the U.S. by the beginning of next year. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals received a $450 million federal contract to manufacture thousands of doses of its experimental treatment. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / New York Times)
The White House wants Congress to pass another stimulus package before lawmakers leave for the August recess. Trump administration officials want to keep the cost at $1 trillion or less. (Bloomberg)
4/ Companies tied to Trump family members and associates were approved for up to $21 million in loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, which are meant to help small businesses survive the coronavirus pandemic, according to data released by the U.S. Treasury Department and Small Business Administration. Unlike the CARES Act, there is no provision in the PPP that excludes government officials and their family members from receiving bailout funds. The program was designed to allow small businesses — generally, those with fewer than 500 employees — to apply for loans of up to $10 million each. The loans can also be forgiven if they are used to cover payroll expenses, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. Companies tied to Jared Kushner were approved for up to $6 million. A Dallas megachurch where Mike Pence recently spoke — whose pastor has been a vocal Trump supporter and sits on Trump’s evangelical advisory board — was approved for a forgivable loan worth $2-5 million. The school where Barron Trump is a student was approved for $2-5 million. The attorney who represented Trump in the Mueller investigation, as well as dozens of tenants of Trump’s real estate company, also received money. 22 companies at 40 Wall Street, an office building Trump owns in Lower Manhattan, received a combined total of at least $16.6 million in loans. (ProPublica / Independent / Reuters / Washington Post / Daily Beast)
- Billionaires, well-connected D.C. firms, and several major chains received millions of dollars in loans from the PPP. The list includes PF Chang’s and Silver Diner, each of which have private-equity investors and received millions of dollars in loans. It also includes Kanye West’s Yeezy, which made $1.3 billion in 2019, and the Church of Scientology. (Daily Beast / NBC News / Hollywood Reporter / Washington Post)
The Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, FL will test attendees for COVID-19 on a daily basis. A spokesperson for the convention said in an email that “everyone attending the convention within the perimeter will be tested and temperature checked each day.” The spokesperson later reiterated that attendees will actually be tested for COVID-19 and not just given a basic health screening before they enter the 15,000-person VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in late August. (CNN)
The Trump administration is “looking at” banning TikTok and other Chinese apps. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that “the United States will get this one right,” adding that he didn’t want to “get out in front” of Trump, “but it’s something we’re looking at.” Pompeo said Americans should only download the app “if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.” TikTok is owned by a Beijing-based company, but led by an American CEO and has previously said that U.S. user data is stored in the United States. (CNN / CNBC / NBC News / Axios)
Roger Stone asked Trump grant him a pardon or commute his sentence before he starts a 40-month prison term on July 14. Stone filed an emergency appeal after U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson denied his motion to set a Sept. 3 surrender date. (Bloomberg / Politico)
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