👋 Away Message: It's infrastructure week at WTF HQ! This will be the last edition of WTFJHT until May 31. WTF is taking a much needed break to retool ahead of what is shaping up to be a very consequential midterm cycle (we've also had a few unresolvable scheduling snafus/conflicts here, so I'm just going to take a mulligan on this one). In the mean time, we've built a little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding! I'm going to miss you. You'll hear from us again on Tuesday, May 31. Thanks for being here.
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😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~13,406,000; deaths: ~581,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~3,466,000; deaths: ~137,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
1/ Trump’s senior trade adviser criticized Dr. Anthony Fauci’s handling of the pandemic, accusing the nation’s top infectious disease expert of being “wrong about everything” related to the coronavirus. The White House tried to distance itself from Peter Navarro’s USA Today op-ed, saying Navarro wasn’t speaking on behalf of the administration and that he “didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes.” Trump also lightly rebuked Navarro’s remarks, saying “He made a statement representing himself. He shouldn’t be doing that.” Fauci, meanwhile, responded: “I can’t explain Peter Navarro. He’s in a world by himself.” The Trump administration has tried to raise questions about Fauci’s credibility in recent days, including sending reporters a list of instances in which they alleged Fauci had been wrong about aspects of the pandemic. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Politico / CNBC)
2/ Dr. Anthony Fauci called the White House’s attempts to discredit him “bizarre,” saying “it doesn’t do anything but reflect poorly on them.” The nation’s top infectious disease expert said undermining a top health official in the middle of a pandemic “ultimately hurts the president […] Rather than these games people are playing,” Fauci said, “let’s stop this nonsense […] We’ve got to figure out, How can we get our control over this now, and, looking forward, how can we make sure that next month, we don’t have another example of California, Texas, Florida, and Arizona?” (The Atlantic / Washington Post / NBC News / Axios / NPR)
3/ At a press conference to announce new measures against China, Trump quickly veered into a rambling, stream-of-consciousness set of remarks, drifting from one topic to another for 54 minutes. Trump briefly addressed the coronavirus – vaguely promising a vaccine and demanding that Beijing be held responsible for “unleashing [the coronavirus] upon the world” – as he wandered from China, to trade, to Joe Biden, to military spending, to his friendship with Mexico’s president, to crime in Chicago, to the death penalty, to energy taxes, to climate change, to historical statues, to European trade, and more. At one point Trump paused and said: “We could go on for days.” Nevertheless, he persisted, suggesting that Biden would get rid of windows and “abolish the suburbs” if elected. At the end of the speech, he took questions from reporters for six minutes. (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post)
- Trump – again – insisted that the U.S. would have fewer coronavirus cases if it reduced the amount of testing across the country. “Think of this, if we didn’t do testing, instead of testing over 40 million people, if we did half the testing we would have half the cases,” Trump said at his Rose Garden press conference. “If we did another, you cut that in half, we would have, yet again, half of that. But the headlines are always testing.” Hospitalizations across the country, however, continue to hit new record highs, indicating widespread community transmission. (CNBC)
4/ Trump’s lawyers told a federal judge that they intend to fight a New York grand jury subpoena for his tax returns. The effort comes less than a week after the Supreme Court struck down Trump’s argument that the subpoena was invalid because a sitting president could not be criminally investigated, clearing the way for the Manhattan district attorney to demand the records. In the filing, Trump’s lawyers cited a concurring opinion written by Brett Kavanaugh, and joined by Neil Gorsuch, that said Trump “may raise further arguments as appropriate,” including whether the subpoena is too broad or it would impede his ability to do his job. (New York Times / NBC News / CNN)
poll/ 66% of U.S. adults say Trump “should release his tax returns from earlier years,” and 68% said Americans have a right to see each presidential candidate’s financial records before the election. 26% said they believe Trump’s taxes contain incriminating evidence against him, and 10% said Trump is trying to hide significant financial losses. (Reuters)
poll/ 65% of voters reject Trump’s threat to cut federal funding for schools that don’t reopen while 22% said schools should have their federal money reduced if they don’t fully reopen. (Politico)
poll/ 36% of voters approve of the job Trump is doing as president while 60% disapprove – a 6 point drop in job approval compared to last month. (Quinnipiac)
The Trump administration weakened one of the signature environmental conservation laws in the U.S. in order to expedite the permit process for infrastructure projects. The changes will reduce the amount of time allowed to complete reviews of major infrastructure projects like freeways, power plants, and pipelines. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal)
Trump signed a secret authorization in 2018 to giving the CIA more freedom in both the kinds of operations it conducts and who it targets. The authorization also allows the CIA to more easily authorize its own cyber operations without getting approval from the White House. (Yahoo News)
The National Security Council sent a list of allegations about Lt. Col. Alex Vindman to the Pentagon after he testified before the House in impeachment proceedings against Trump. Vindman was on track to be promoted to colonel, but accusations outlined in the document, if substantiated, would have kept him from moving up in rank. (NBC News)
Ivanka Trump tweeted support for Goya Foods after its CEO’s said “we’re all truly blessed” to have Trump as a leader. The comments last week by Robert Unanue prompted calls to boycott the brand. “If it’s Goya, it has to be good,” Ivanka tweeted in both English and Spanish, along with a photo of her posing with can of black beans. The tweet, however, could be a violation of federal ethics laws, which prohibit executive branch employees of endorsing any products. (NBC News)
Trump said he would welcome Michael Flynn back into his administration after the Justice Department moved to drop the criminal charge against him. Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the nature of his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. (CBS News / Politico)
Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows appears to have violated the Hatch Act during two separate interviews with Fox News. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington complaint to the Official of the Special Counsel calls for an investigation into Meadows’s comments advocating for Trump’s reelection against Joe Biden, as well as an apparent endorsement of a Republican congressional candidate. (The Hill / CREW)
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