👋 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: ~19,194,000; deaths: ~717,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~4,919,000; deaths: ~161,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
1/ Negotiations over a new coronavirus relief package failed after the Trump administration rejected a Democratic offer to compromise on the $1 trillion Republican plan and their $3.4 trillion plan. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, however, called the offer a “non-starter.” Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said they would recommend that Trump move ahead with executive orders to suspend payroll taxes, extend eviction protections, boost unemployment benefits, and help student loan borrowers. Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that “Pelosi and Schumer only interested in Bailout Money for poorly run Democrat cities and states. Nothing to do with China Virus! Want one trillion dollars. No interest. We are going a different way!” (Bloomberg / Politico New York Times / The Hill / CNN / Washington Post)
The U.S. economy added 1.8 million jobs in July. The unemployment rate fell to 10.2% in July, down from a peak of 14.7% in April, but above the 3.5% rate in February before the coronavirus pandemic. (Politico / CNBC / Washington Post)
The number who were unemployed between 15 and 26 weeks rose by a seasonally adjusted 4.6 million to 6.5 million people in July. The reading is the highest on record since 1948 and nearly double the prior peak, set in 2009 at the end of the last recession. (Wall Street Journal)
As Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed for schools to reopen, Florida health directors were instructed to not tell school boards whether the risks of opening campuses were too great. State leaders told school boards they would need Health Department approval if they wanted to keep classrooms closed, but health directors were ordered to only provide suggestions on how to reopen safely. (Palm Beach Post)
Virus keeps spreading as schools begin to open, frightening parents, and alarming public health officials. “School openings in Alabama are a local decision, but public health officials offer guidance in part based on the risk in that county. As of Thursday, 44 of the state’s 67 counties are considered ‘high risk’ or ‘very high risk.’” (Washington Post)
A 15-year-old student at North Paulding High School in Georgia posted photos showing students crowded into a packed hallway on their first day of school with few wearing masks and little sign of social distancing. The sophomore who posted the photos was initially suspended over the act. Her suspension was later lifted and wiped from her record. (New York Times / CNN)
2/ Trump baselessly claimed that Joe Biden, a practicing Catholic, is “against God” and would somehow “hurt God” and the bible if he was elected president. In a rally-style speech on the tarmac of the Cleveland airport that was supposed to be a chance to promote economic recovery, Trump instead pivoted to personal attacks, claiming that Biden would “Take away your guns, destroy your second amendment, no religion, no anything. Hurt the bible, hurt God. He’s against God, he’s against guns.” Biden responded in a statement, saying that Trump’s “shameful” comments were “beneath the office he holds” and “beneath the dignity the American people so rightly expect and deserve from their leaders.” (Politico / CBS News / Washington Post / BBC / CNN / The Hill)
3/ Trump signed a pair of executive orders banning Americans and U.S. companies from doing business with the Chinese-owned TikTok and WeChat apps in 45 days, citing an effort to “address the national emergency with respect to the information and communication technology supply chain.” According to the vaguely worded order, TikTok’s “data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.” TikTok, however, has maintained that it stores all data belonging to U.S. customers in facilities outside of China that are not subject to Chinese law. Microsoft, meanwhile, is in talks to buy TikTok’s U.S. operations. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross will be responsible for defining what constitutes a transaction. (Bloomberg / The Verge / Politico / Axios / Wall Street Journal / CNN)
4/ The U.S. intelligence community’s top election security official said China sees Trump as “unpredictable” and “prefers” that he not win reelection, while Russia is working to “denigrate” Joe Biden. The statement from William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, comes amid criticism from Democratic lawmakers that the intelligence community has been withholding intelligence information from the public about the threat of foreign election interference in the upcoming election. Evanina also said Iran is seeking to “undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country.” (Washington Post / CNN / New York Times / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal / CNN)
Facebook fired an employee who collected evidence showing the company is giving right-wing pages preferential treatment when it comes to misinformation. Facebook also removed his post from the company’s internal communication platform and restricted internal access to the information he cited. (BuzzFeed News)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly warned Russia’s foreign minister against paying bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American service members. Pompeo’s warning is the first known rebuke from a senior American official over the bounties program and runs counter to Trump’s insistence that the matter is a “hoax.” (New York Times)
5/ A federal appeals court ruled that House Democrats can sue to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to comply with a congressional subpoena for testimony. A divided US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said McGahn, however, can continue to challenge the House’s subpoena on other grounds, meaning he won’t likely appear anytime soon. The Judiciary Committee first subpoenaed McGahn in April 2019 as it examined potential obstruction of justice by Trump during Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Trump directed McGahn not to appear and the committee filed a federal lawsuit to force McGahn to testify. (Washington Post / CNN / Associated Press / Reuters)
6/ Trump can’t postpone E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case against him by using an immunity defense, a New York judge ruled. Carroll sued Trump last November for defamation after he called her a liar and said he had never met her. She had accused him of rape. Carroll will now seek to depose Trump and get a DNA test from him to compare with a sample on a dress the author said she wore at the time of the alleged attack. The judged rejected Trump’s argument that a sitting president is immune to civil lawsuits in state court, citing a recent Supreme Court decision in a case to subpoena Trump’s tax records. (New York Post / Bloomberg / New York Times)
7/ Congressional Democrats called for an investigation of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy after he instituted cost-cutting measures that postal workers say have delayed mail delivery. DeJoy, a major Republican donor, implemented policies that prohibit postal workers from taking overtime or making extra trips to deliver mail on time. “Let me be clear that with regard to election mail, the Postal Service and I are fully committed to fulfilling our role in the electoral process,” DeJoy said. “Despite any assertions to the contrary, we are not slowing down election mail or any other mail.” Lawmakers from both parties, meanwhile, have urged DeJoy to switch course on policies. (Washington Post / Politico)
8/ In 2017, Trump’s advisers were hesitant to give him military options amid escalating tensions with both North Korea and Iran fearing he might accidentally take the U.S. to war. At the time, Trump dubbed Kim Jong Un “little rocket man” and the North Korean dictator responded by calling Trump a “dotard.” Senior administration members reportedly informed their counterparts in both countries that they did not know how Trump would respond, or if he would respond at all. (CNN)
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