👋 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: ~30,317,000; deaths: ~949,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~6,711,000; deaths: ~199,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
🗳 How To Vote In The 2020 Election In Every State. Everything you need to know about mail-in and early in-person voting in every state in the age of COVID-19, including the first day you can cast your ballot in the 2020 election. (FiveThirtyEight / Washington Post / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)
1/ The Department of Health and Human Services rewrote the CDC guidance about who should be tested for the coronavirus last month and then “dropped” it on the CDC website despite staff scientists’ objections to the document. The guidance, which said it was not necessary to test people without symptoms of COVID-19 even if they had been exposed to the virus, was not written by CDC scientists and skipped the agency’s scientific review process. (New York Times)
2/ The CDC reversed its coronavirus testing guidance and now recommends that people get tested if they’ve been within six feet of a person “with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection” for at least 15 minutes. “You need a test,” reads the latest version of the document, noting that even if people do not have symptoms still need a test if they have been in close contact. The previous phrasing suggested asymptomatic people who have had close contact with an infected individual “do not necessarily need a test.” (Politico / CNN / NBC News / CNBC / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / Washington Post / New York Times)
3/ Trump – contradicting his administration’s own health officials – claimed there will be enough doses of coronavirus vaccine for every American by April. Earlier this week, however, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield testified that a COVID-19 vaccine won’t be widely available until late summer 2021. Trump, nevertheless, claimed that “Hundreds of millions of doses will be available every month and we expect to have enough vaccines for every American by April and again I’ll say even at that later stage, the delivery will go as fast as it comes.” Trump’s comments came two days after he said the U.S. would start distributing a coronavirus vaccine as early as October, and that Redfield had “made a mistake” and shared “incorrect information.” (Politico / CNBC / USA Today)
👑 Portrait of a president. “A series of new revelations about the federal government’s coronavirus response could reinforce concerns about whether the Trump administration’s political motives were a higher priority than the health of Americans.” (CNN)
Dr. Anthony Fauci said he would “take the heat” for any potential problems associated with the rollout of a coronavirus vaccine. When asked whether he could “assure all of us that if the corners have been cut, if there is something sideways or wrong with the process, that you will tell us and take the heat” for that, Fauci replied, “The answer […] is yes.” Earlier this week, Fauci said he was confident there would be a “safe and effective vaccine” available by the end of 2020, despite Trump’s claims that a vaccine would be widely available before the November election. (MSNBC / Business Insider)
Trump once said the coronavirus might be a “good thing” because it means he no longer has to shake hands with “disgusting people,” according to a former top adviser to Mike Pence. In a new video for the group Republicans Voters Against Trump, Olivia Troye, who served on the White House coronavirus task force, says Trump made the comment during one of the task force meetings she attended. “Maybe this COVID thing is a good thing,” Trump said. “I don’t like shaking hands with people. I don’t have to shake hands with these disgusting people.” When asked about Troye’s claims, Trump said he has never met her and has no idea who she is. “She was on the task force as some kind of a lower-level person,” he told reporters. “I have no idea who she is.” (The Independent / Business Insider)
4/ United States lawyers at Julian Assange’s extradition trial accepted the claim that the WikiLeaks founder was offered a presidential pardon in return for information that would resolve the “ongoing speculation about Russian involvement” in the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails. Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, said in a witness statement that she was present at a meeting at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2017 between Assange, then-Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, and Trump associate Charles Johnson. At the meeting, the pair allegedly told Assange that they could help grant him a presidential pardon in exchange for information that would “benefit President Trump politically.” Rohrabacher and Johnson said Trump knew about the meeting and approved offering Assange what they described as a “win-win” proposal. Lawyers representing the U.S. accepted the witness statement as accurate and confirmed they had no intention of cross-examining the claim. (Daily Beast / Reuters / The Guardian / NBC News)
- 📌 Day 1126: Trump offered to pardon Julian Assange if the WikiLeaks founder agreed to say Russia was not involved in hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee. Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, claimed at a court hearing in London that former Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher offered Assange the deal in 2017. Fitzgerald said he had a statement from another Assange lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, that shows “Mr. Rohrabacher going to see Mr. Assange and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr. Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham denied the allegation, saying Trump “barely knows Dana Rohrabacher” and has “never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject.” In Sept. 2017, Rohrabacher said that as part of the deal, Assange would have to hand over a computer drive or other data storage devices that would prove that Russia was not the source of the hacked emails. The White House confirmed that Rohrabacher had called John Kelly, then Trump’s chief of staff, to talk about a possible deal with Assange. Kelly reportedly declined to pass it along to Trump. (The Guardian / Daily Beast / Washington Post / Washington Post / The Verge / CNBC)
5/ The Trump administration announced $13 billion in aid to Puerto Rico to help with rebuilding in the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Maria. The funds come three years after the deadly storm and six weeks before the presidential election. Trump once reportedly considered “selling” or “divesting” Puerto Rico, and a former Homeland Security chief of staff said Trump asked officials whether the U.S. could trade Greenland for Puerto Rico. Trump also falsely accused Puerto Rico of using federal hurricane relief funds to pay off the island’s debt. (CNN / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)
6/ The Trump administration will ban WeChat and TikTok from U.S. app stores starting Sunday night. Americans will be blocked from downloading the Chinese-owned apps due to concerns that they pose a threat to national security. Current users will not see any significant changes and officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce say they will not bar additional technical transactions for TikTok until Nov. 12. The order bars Apple’s app store, Alphabet’s Google Play, and others from offering the apps on any platform “that can be reached from within the United States.” The ban on new U.S. downloads could still be rescinded by Trump before it takes effect. (Reuters / CNBC / New York Times / NBC News)
poll/ Biden leads Trump among likely voters in Arizona by nine percentage points, by 17 percentage points in Maine, and by one point in North Carolina. In all three states, Democratic Senate candidates were leading Republican incumbents by five percentage points or more. (New York Times)
poll/ 54% of voters plan to vote before Election Day. In 2016, about 42% of voters did so. 39% of voters say they will vote by mail – above the 21% who say they normally do. (Associated Press)
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