👋 Away Message: So we had a little scheduling snafu here at WTF HQ, where both myself and Joe (voice of the pod) double-booked ourselves with personal and professional obligations next week. Oopsie! Not a very great job using a calendar on my part, I guess. On the other hand, it appears the government isn't going to be open for business anyway... Unless something truly WTF-y happens, I'll see you all again on Tuesday, October 10th, because Monday is a holiday (Indigenous Peoples' Day).
In the mean time, try our little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding and for being here. I'm going to miss you.
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😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~31,440,000; deaths: ~968,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~6,886,000; deaths: ~201,000
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/ Trump lied and claimed that the coronavirus “affects virtually nobody” as the U.S. death toll crossed 200,000 – more than the combined number of Americans killed in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf War. The number of U.S. deaths is equivalent to a 9/11 attack every day for 67 days. The U.S. death toll is expected to double to 400,000 by the end of the year as schools and colleges reopen and cold weather sets in. In March, Trump said 200,000 deaths would mean that his administration had “done a very good job” of protecting Americans from the coronavirus. “A lot of people think that goes away in April, with the heat,” Trump said in February, and later this summer, Trump told Fox News: “It’s going to disappear, and I’ll be right eventually.” Meanwhile at a rally in Ohio today, Trump bragged that he’s done an “amazing” and “incredible” job, adding: “The only thing we’ve done a bad job in is public relations because we haven’t been able to convince people — which is basically the fake news — what a great job we’ve done.” The U.S. has the highest death toll of any country in the world, accounting for about 21% of the global death toll despite representing only 4% of the world’s population. Trump added: “By the way, open your schools!” (New York Times / CNN / Associated Press / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNBC / ABC News / Bloomberg / Los Angeles Times / Vox)
A public affairs official at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will “retire” after revelations that he was the anonymous author of blog posts disparaging Dr. Anthony Fauci, who heads that agency. William Crews had derided his own colleagues, saying that “government officials responsible for the pandemic response should be executed,” and called his boss a “mask nazi,” whom he described as the “attention-grubbing and media-whoring Anthony Fauci.” (Daily Beast / Washington Post / CNN / New York Times)
The CDC recommends that Halloween trick-or-treating, Thanksgiving parades, and Black Friday shopping should all be avoided. The new guidance for the upcoming holiday season also warns that if people gather in person they so outdoors, keeping groups small, practice mask wearing and social distancing, and considering local virus conditions, as well as where attendees are coming from. (Bloomberg)
2/ The Pentagon spent money meant for medical equipment on defense contracts for military equipment. The Cares Act gave the Pentagon $1 billion to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus,” but instead of paying for masks and other medical supplies, the Defense Department diverted funding toward military supplies, like jet engine parts, body armor, and dress uniforms. The money was mostly funneled to defense contractors, some of which had already received funding from the Paycheck Protection Program. (Washington Post)
3/ The FDA is expected to announce a new, tougher standard for issuing an emergency authorization for a coronavirus vaccine, making it unlikely that any vaccine will be authorized before Election Day. The FDA will require manufacturers seeking emergency authorization to track participants in late-stage clinical trials for two months following their second vaccine shot. Despite Heath and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar giving himself rule-making authority over health agencies, including the FDA, the department said the change won’t affect the FDA’s work on vaccines and COVID-19 treatments. A group of external medical experts that advises the CDC, meanwhile, will delay a vote on a COVID-19 vaccine roll-out plan until government officials authorize a specific vaccine or vaccines. The next scheduled committee meeting is in late October. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
- Trump is expected to announce a series of executive actions on health care. The orders could include a safeguard on insurance protections for pre-existing conditions should the Supreme Court undercuts the Affordable Care Act, a measure to prevent patients from receiving “surprise” medical bills, and an effort to address mental health. (Politico)
4/ The Manhattan district attorney suggested that it has grounds to investigate Trump and his businesses for tax fraud and falsifying business records. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is seeking eight years of Trump’s tax returns and related records. While Cyrus Vance’s office court filing doesn’t directly accuse Trump or any of his business of wrongdoing, it includes news reports that prosecutors say justify the grand jury inquiry. It’s the first time Vance’s office has suggested that tax fraud are among the possible areas of investigation. (New York Times / CNBC / Washington Post)
5/ The CIA assessed in late August that Putin and Russian officials “are aware of and probably directing Russia’s influence operations” aimed at interfering in the 2020 presidential election by denigrating Joe Biden. The first line of the CIA assessment, compiled August 31, reads: “We assess that President Vladimir Putin and the senior most Russian officials are aware of and probably directing Russia’s influence operations aimed at denigrating the former U.S. Vice President, supporting the U.S. president and fueling public discord ahead of the U.S. election in November.” The assessment was compiled with input from the National Security Agency and the FBI using public, unclassified, and classified intelligence sources. The CIA also analyzed the activities of Andreii Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker who provided information to Rudy Giuliani, including efforts to disseminate disparaging information about Biden in the U.S. through lobbyists, Congress, the media, and contacts with figures close to Trump. Giuliani said he “interviewed” Derkach three times. (Washington Post / NBC News / CNN)
6/ One of Robert Mueller’s top deputies accused the special counsel’s office of failing to fully determine what happened in the 2016 election, like subpoenaing Trump and scrutinizing his finances, out of fear that he would disband their office. In his new book Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation, Andrew Weissmann singles out Mueller’s deputy, Aaron Zebley, for being overly cautious and stopping investigators from taking a broad look at Trump’s finances. “Had we used all available tools to uncover the truth, undeterred by the onslaught of the president’s unique powers to undermine our efforts?” Weissmann writes, adding, “I know the hard answer to that simple question: We could have done more.” Weissmann ran the unit that prosecuted Paul Manafort for numerous financial crimes. (New York Times / Washington Post / The Atlantic)
7/ Mitt Romney, Chuck Grassley, and Cory Gardner all said they do not oppose a confirmation vote this year to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. With a 53-seat majority, Mitch McConnell has the votes he needs to move forward with a confirmation vote either before or just after the Nov. 3 election, despite Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins opposing an election-year confirmation. Trump said he’ll name his choice to replace Ginsburg on Saturday. (Politico / Des Moines Register / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / CNN)
- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer invoked the “two-hour rule” in order to prevent Republicans from rushing through a vote to confirm Trump’s pick to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The rule prohibits any Senate committee or subcommittee from meeting after the Senate has been in session for two hours or after 2 p.m. Schumer said he invoked the rule because “we can’t have business as usual when Republicans are destroying the institution as they have done.” Senate Democrats will not be invoking the rule Wednesday, because they don’t want do prevent the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee or the Intelligence Committee hearings from going forward. (CBS News)
- Republicans plan to ask the Supreme Court to review a Pennsylvania state court ruling that extended the due date for mail ballots – the first Supreme Court test since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (The Hill)
8/ The Office of the Special Counsel is investigating Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for potential Hatch Act violations after appearing on Fox News and criticizing Biden in September. The Department of Education then promoted the interview through official channels. At least 12 Trump senior officials have violated the Hatch Act, according to the OSC, most of which have resulted in a warning letter to the offender. (Politico / New York Times)
poll/ Nearly 90% of Americans say lawmakers need to pass a new coronavirus stimulus package to mitigate the fallout from the pandemic. 39% of voters say Democrats and Republicans are “equally responsible” for the failure to pass additional economic aid. (Financial Times)
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