1/ U.S. coronavirus cases are rising again. In 46 states and Washington DC, the seven-day average of new coronavirus cases is up 46.5% in the past month, while tests are up 28.9%. Nationwide, the seven-day average as of Tuesday was 51,027 – the highest since Aug. 16. More than 20 states have hit a new high in their seven-day average of case counts in the past week, and more than half of those states also set new records again on Tuesday. Overall deaths in the United States during the pandemic are more than 85% higher than in 18 other high-income countries, such as Germany, Israel, and Denmark after adjusting for population size. Deaths in the U.S. are 29% higher than in Sweden, which never ordered strict social distancing and never went in to a full lockdown. (Bloomberg / NPR / Washington Post)

2/ The White House supported a group of scientists arguing for a “herd immunity” strategy to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. While two senior administration officials cited an October 4 petition that thousands of doctors and scientists have signed, which argues against lockdowns and calls for a reopening of businesses and schools, the validity of the declaration is questionable due to a number of fake names among its “expert” signatories, including “Dr. Johnny Bananas” and “Dr. Person Fakename.” To achieve herd immunity, 60% to 70% of the U.S. population would have to become infected. Less than 10% of the U.S. population, however, has been exposed to COVID-19. (New York Times / Washington Post / Sky News / CNN / Daily Beast)

  • Barron Trump had coronavirus. Melania Trump said Barron tested positive, showed no symptoms, and has since tested negative. (The Guardian)

  • The White House coronavirus task force warned against small household gatherings as coronavirus cases rise across the country and colder months approach. Trump, meanwhile, continues to gather thousands of mostly maskless supporters at rallies. (CNN)

  • FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn rejected Trump administration pressure to rebrand the emergency authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine as a “pre-licensure” to avoid politicizing its scientific determinations. Health and Human Services Department officials had pitched the change to the FDA as a way to ensure a vaccine is free for all Americans, because Congress mandated that Medicare cover the cost of administering a licensed vaccine – the requirement did not include drugs authorized under emergency-use designation. (Politico)

  • [Behind the shock and awe] Trump’s COVID Task Force Is Now Openly Rebelling Against Him. From Fauci to Birx to Redfield, the president’s top health officials appear to be at their wits’ end. (Daily Beast)

3/ Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin acknowledged that a pre-election coronavirus relief package is unlikely. While Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have agreed on some areas, including a new round of $1,200 stimulus checks, they have remained apart on funding for state and local aid, child care, unemployment insurance, and testing and tracing programs, as well as a national plan for implementing tests. Trump, meanwhile, tweeted for negotiators to “go big or go home!!!” (Bloomberg / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNBC)

4/ A federal prosecutor appointed by Attorney General William Barr to review Obama administration officials’ “unmasking” of unnamed individuals in intelligence reports found no evidence of wrongdoing. U.S. Attorney John Bash was tasked with examining whether Obama officials, such as then-CIA Director John Brennan, then-FBI Director James Comey or then-Vice President Joe Biden, had inappropriately requested the identity of a person unnamed in intelligence reports, who later turned out to be Trump’s incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn. Bash found no substantive wrongdoing. Bash was appointed by Barr to head the “unmasking” probe in May as a spin-off of U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the origins of what became Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In December, Durham told the Justice Department’s inspector general that he found no evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies had planted spies in the Trump campaign. Barr, meanwhile, rejected the conclusion that the FBI’s probe into Russian interference was justified. Trump, meanwhile, refused to say if he would keep Barr as his attorney general in a potential second term, saying “I have no comment. Can’t comment on that. It’s too early. I’m not happy with all of the evidence I have, I can tell you that. I’m not happy.” (Washington Post / NBC News / The Guardian / CNN / Bloomberg / Axios / CNBC)

5/ Justice Department attorneys argued in court that Trump’s tweets that he had “fully authorized the total declassification” of all documents related to the Russia investigation should not be considered a real declassification order. DOJ attorneys told a judge that the White House Counsel’s Office told the DOJ to disregard Trump’s tweets, saying they weren’t accompanied by an actual declassification order, and to proceed as though the tweets hadn’t occurred. BuzzFeed News had cited Trump’s tweets in a motion to gain access to Robert Mueller’s unredacted report as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. (Axios / BuzzFeed News / Politico)

  • The Justice Department sued the author of a book about her relationship with Melania Trump, claiming Stephanie Winston Wolkoff violated a nondisclosure agreement. Winston Wolkoff managed Trump’s inauguration festivities and then served as an unpaid adviser to Melania during the first year of the Trump administration before parting ways. The lawsuit asks a judge to order Winston Wolkoff to surrender any profits from her book, “Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady,” to a government trust. (CNBC / NBC News / Reuters)

6/ Federal prosecutors spent more than three years investigating whether an Egyptian state-owned bank backed Trump’s injection of $10 million into his 2016 campaign. The investigation, which predated and outlasted Robert Mueller’s probe, examined whether it was an illegal foreign campaign contribution. Mueller litigated the case up to the Supreme Court in 2019. The justices declined to hear the case. When the special counsel’s office shut down in 2019, Mueller transferred the investigation to prosecutors in Washington. The investigation remained open until current acting U.S. Attorney for D.C. Michael Sherwin formally closed the case in July. (CNN)

7/ Judge Amy Coney Barrett faced more questions from senators during the third day of her confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court. In her testimony, Barrett declined to share her legal views on abortion rights, voting rights, the Affordable Care Act, and whether she thought it was wrong to separate migrant children from their parents to deter immigration to the U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris closed the proceedings by saying they “lack legitimacy” and calling the hearing rushed and designed to secure a conservative majority on the court despite nearly 12 million votes already cast. Thursday will feature three panels of witnesses. The committee is expected to vote on the nominee on Oct. 22. (Washington Post / New York Times / The Guardian / NBC News / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNBC)


Become a member.

Help keep WTF Just Happened Today going with a small contribution.
Learn more