The presidential primary season might be winding down, but there are still clashes further down the ballot. The backdrop to most of them? Scorekeeping by President Trump.The elephant in the room »
As the novel coronavirus spreads across the country -- leading to record numbers of cases and increased deaths in several states -- President Donald Trump shared a message on Twitter Monday saying doctors and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are "lying." Then, after promoting a message critical of the nation’s foremost infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Trump later in the day said he liked Fauci “personally.” "The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19," read a tweet written by the game show host and conservative commentator Chuck Woolery that the president shared with his over 83 million followers on Twitter on Monday morning.
With a presidential election 16 weeks away, $400 million in elections help is trickling down, but billions more are needed, say experts.
Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Pat Roberts of Kansas are planning to skip the Republican National Convention next month as the host state of Florida deals with the biggest outbreak of coronavirus cases in the nation.Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Francis Rooney of Florida are sticking with their plans not to attend, even though the convention is now in their home state.Marco Rubio, Florida's senior senator, has not committed to attending. Neither has John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranking Senate Republican, or Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking House Republican.As new cases surge in Florida, including 15,300 reported on Sunday, more Republicans are taking a wait-and-see approach to the event, or deciding to skip it all together. The GOP, which moved the convention to Jacksonville from Charlotte, North Carolina, after balking at health precautions there, now finds itself locked into a state with a far bigger virus problem, and planning an event whose attendance is waning as the pandemic escalates."Everybody just assumes no one is going," said Rep. Darin LaHood of Illinois, an honorary state co-chairman for the Trump campaign.LaHood was one of eight House members -- from Illinois, New York, Arizona, Indiana and Michigan -- who told The New York Times they did not plan to attend, joining party veterans like Sens. Charles E. Grassley, Lamar Alexander and Susan Collins who have already said they will skip the event.President Donald Trump, in the meantime, may not get the restriction-free celebration he yearns for after all. The city of Jacksonville is requiring facial coverings in any public space where social distancing is not possible. And in a news release last week, the host committee said every attendee within the convention perimeter "will be tested and temperature checked each day," without providing further details.Still, even as growing numbers of elected leaders express wariness about attending, a strong contingent of Republican National Committee members -- many of whom have their political fortunes tied to Trump -- say they still plan to go. In interviews, more than a dozen of them said they were committed, even "proud," to celebrate the renomination of Trump.A Times survey of almost 70 Republican officials and Senate and House members showed a divide over the convention between the members of Congress taking a more cautious approach, and rank-and file-officials, like locally elected delegates and RNC members, who were more inclined to go.The result may be a crowd that is far Trumpier than in 2016, when the GOP establishment, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, squelched its misgivings and nominated Trump, an outsider with questionable commitment to party orthodoxy.This time, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader who has tied himself closely to the president, is likely to offer an enthusiastic endorsement, and other ardent supporters of Trump, like Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, are likely to get speaking slots."It's a risk you have to take," said Morton Blackwell, 80, an RNC member from Virginia who has attended every party convention since he was the youngest elected delegate backing Barry Goldwater in 1964. "You take risks every day. You drive down the street and a cement truck could crash into you. You can't not do what you have to do because of some possibility of a bad result."As recently as two weeks ago, Republican convention planners appeared bullish about attendance.At a briefing for Senate chiefs of staff in late June, officials warned that some lawmakers might have to stay in hotels outside Jacksonville given expected crowds. Party officials were considering docking cruise ships in the city's port to provide extra lodging capacity, as the city did during the 2005 Super Bowl, according to two people familiar with the briefing. The proposal drew some laughter from congressional staffers in attendance.Since then, Florida has become the epicenter of the pandemic, raising questions about whether Jacksonville could stage anything on the scale of what Trump is demanding for his renomination.Several of Trump's critics within his own party have already said they do not plan to attend; among them are Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, the party's 2012 presidential nominee, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Collins of Maine, who faces a difficult reelection race this fall.Roberts, 84, told reporters last week he would likely not be attending because he had "some things to do in Kansas" and, in any case, he "didn't know what was canceled and what was not and whatever." Roberts is retiring after this year.Neither Blunt, Diaz-Balart nor Rooney attended the 2016 convention either, but as Trump has tightened his grip on the party, he has become less forgiving to lawmakers he sees as disloyal or insufficiently supportive.Many other Republicans are expressing caution as the virus ravages the South. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who was a top-billed speaker at the convention four years ago in Cleveland, has called the convention this year "a challenging situation.""We will have to wait and see how things look in late August to determine whether we can safely convene that many people," he told reporters in his home state of Kentucky last week.Republican senators facing tough reelection battles declined to say whether they planned to go. Aides to five of the six most vulnerable Republicans on the ballot this fall -- Sens. Martha McSally of Arizona, Steve Daines of Montana, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Thom Tillis of North Carolina -- did not respond to repeated inquiries about their plans.Of 53 members of Congress surveyed by The Times who responded to inquiries about their plans, roughly half said they definitely planned to attend. Others either said they would not attend, or were closely watching the situation to see what safety precautions convention planners would put in place and where the caseload stood in north Florida in mid-August. The convention is currently scheduled to take place from Aug. 24-27.Of the 15 RNC members interviewed, all but one said they planned to go to Jacksonville, with most also aiming to attend the party's official business meetings in Charlotte, North Carolina.The RNC members expressed little concern about the virus's spread in Florida, with some comparing the risk of attending a rally to shopping at big-box stores.The Republican approach differs significantly from the one Democrats are taking for their convention; last month the party moved its event to a smaller venue and instructed delegates to stay home from Milwaukee, as the party transitions to a virtual gathering.The RNC members have little sympathy for members of Congress who pass on the convention. Party committee members have far more need to demonstrate loyalty to Trump -- both for the president's approval and for their own Trump-loving constituents -- than do members of Congress skipping Jacksonville."It is not only my duty, but also my honor go to Charlotte and Jacksonville to reelect President Trump," said Art Wittich, an RNC member from Montana. "As such, I am willing to assume any risk to do so."Wittich said members of Congress who skip Jacksonville are "probably avoiding the convention as a political statement rather than as a legitimate public health concern. So be it."Trump's chief defenders in Congress echoed that concern."Everyone in the media wants to act like it's some big deal that Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander aren't going to the convention," said Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. "The reality is the number of delegates craving the octogenarians and septuagenarians of the Senate are surely lower than the number who have purchased their third Star Wars costume."Last month Trump moved most of the convention's proceedings from Charlotte to Jacksonville, Florida's largest city, because Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina would not guarantee a late-August arena gathering free of social distancing and mask-wearing. Several of the RNC members interviewed are planning to first go to Charlotte, where the party's delegates will conduct much of their official business, including voting on the party platform, before relocating to Jacksonville for the big party desired by Trump.Other party leaders in the House and Senate have yet to commit one way or another, biding their time as they watch caseloads in Florida spike.Besides Thune, Rubio and Cheney, others who are on the fence include Senate Committee chairmen like Jim Risch of Idaho, Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin."Listen, I'm taking COVID seriously," said Johnson, 65, who is a vocal ally of Trump. The senator told WISN-TV in Milwaukee that he was looking at what precautions party officials would put in place, but he was not sure "whether I'd really have any use or not."The conditions that led Trump to move the convention out of North Carolina now apply equally to Florida. Jacksonville officials late last month said that city residents must wear face masks, though there has been no word yet on restricting how many people can fit inside the city's VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Republican officials are also considering hosting some of the gatherings outdoors at the city's football or minor-league baseball stadiums.Nearly all of the RNC members interviewed said they had little hesitancy about joining a gathering of Trump supporters to cheer on his nomination."If I can safely go to Walmart or a restaurant, I am confident we can safely gather to conduct the important business of the Republican Party renominating the president and vice president," said Henry Barbour, an RNC member from Mississippi. "We were prepared to work with folks in North Carolina to make it safe, and that is exactly what the RNC is doing in Jacksonville."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
Democrats could take a step toward wresting control of the U.S. Senate from Republicans on Tuesday when voters in Maine, Texas and Alabama cast ballots in nominating contests. Maine Democrats pick a challenger to Susan Collins, one of the Senate's most at-risk Republicans; Texas Democrats choose who will go up against Republican Senator John Cornyn in a Republican-leaning state analysts say has become more competitive, and Alabama Republicans pick a candidate to take on Doug Jones, widely considered the chamber's most vulnerable Democrat.
WASHINGTON -- As the nation's public schools plunged into crisis at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stuck to the message of decades of conservative education advocacy.She championed her trademark policies of local and parental control, freeing states of federal mandates, loosening rules and funding opportunities that she said would help schools "rethink education" outside their brick-and-mortar buildings.But now, as President Donald Trump pushes public schools to reopen this fall, DeVos is demanding they do as Washington says, a stance diametrically opposite to how she has led the department. Already a partisan lightning rod, she has become the face of the Trump administration's efforts to pry open the schoolhouse doors through force and threats. Her presence, as arguably the most recognizable and divisive member of the administration next to Trump himself, has inflamed a debate that is roiling communities in every corner of the country."We have so politicized the situation we don't know who we can trust, and it's become very clear that we can't trust her," said Keri Rodrigues, the president of the National Parents Union, a collection of 200 advocacy organizations across 50 states representing parents from communities of color. "It's as if the Trump administration gave her one sentence that she was supposed to stick to: Open the economy by any means necessary. Our lives are not valuable to them at all. We are a means to an end.""You want to talk about a moment for parent choice -- we're literally in this alone," she added.Even DeVos' ideological allies are mystified."Betsy DeVos six months ago would have thought this was ludicrous," said Michael J. Petrilli, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative research organization.In a statement, the department defended DeVos' push, saying that "if anyone is politicizing this issue it's the unions, who are Democrats' operatives, who are fearmongering and denying the science that says it's safe and better for kids' overall health to be back in school.""She's not providing a federal mandate on how schools should open; she's just asking local education leaders to fulfill their basic obligation, which is to educate America's students full time," the statement said. "We know what's best for kids -- and that's having their schools and all the services they provide fully operational in the fall."Last week, Trump ramped up pressure on schools to hold physical classes, in a forceful recognition that opening schools is critical to fully reopening the economy, which, in turn, is critical to his reelection. He appeared to accept no other option, writing on Twitter on Friday that virtual learning "has proven to be TERRIBLE compared to In School."By the end of the week, DeVos had gone from having virtually no role in the White House coronavirus task force to being its star. She took to the Sunday morning news circuit to reject hybrid models of in-person and online instruction that have been adopted by several school districts and to sidestep questions about Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, saying they were "meant to be flexible."DeVos has made the most vulnerable American children the center of her message, particularly after several school districts struggled to offer quality remote learning this spring."I think the go-to needs to be kids in school, in person, in the classroom," she said in an interview on CNN on Sunday. "Because we know for most kids, that's the best environment for them."She repeated the administration's line that if schools did not reopen, "they shouldn't get the funds," though program hosts noted that neither she nor the president had the authority to carry out the threat. However, the department can revoke federal funding if districts do not meet their states' minimum hours of instruction or fulfill the requirements of federal special education and civil rights laws.On Monday, the department said: "The basic premise of federal funding under law is to provide a full-time education to students. How can you take the money and not provide the service?"On Monday, California's two largest public school districts, the Los Angeles and San Diego unified school districts, said instruction would be remote-only in the fall as coronavirus case rates surged.DeVos' interviews drew widespread criticism.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said they reflected "malfeasance and dereliction of duty." Rep. Ayanna S. Pressley, D-Mass., tweeted to DeVos, saying she had "no plan.""Teachers, kids and parents are fearing for their lives," Pressley wrote. "You point to a private sector that has put profits over people and claimed the lives of thousands of essential workers. I wouldn't trust you to care for a house plant, let alone my child."DeVos' threat to withhold federal funding from school districts that do not reopen to in-person instruction angers even those who share her beliefs that public schools have failed the most vulnerable students.Sarah Carpenter, the executive director of Memphis Lift in Tennessee, a parent advocacy group that is critical of the city's public schools, said her community was struggling with death, joblessness, the lack of high-speed internet in homes and children with no electronic devices. She echoed concerns captured in surveys, like ones compiled in Washington, D.C., which showed that communities hit hardest by the virus were most unsure about sending their children into a classroom."You want us to take a chance and send our kids to a building that wasn't even sanitary before they left. It's not safe," Carpenter said.Education leaders and medical experts have identified reopening schools as a national priority, particularly for children of color whose communities have borne the brunt of the crisis. Students need to recover from the academic and emotional toll the pandemic has taken, and to regain access to assistance programs like school meals and social services.Before last week, DeVos seemed to think there were many ways schools could meet this challenge. In recent months, she had been criticized for using the coronavirus to push policy changes that would create more options for families during the pandemic, including vouchers for private schools, tutoring and virtual schools.In early April, she announced new distance-learning rules for higher education, saying that the national emergency "underscores the need for reform and for all educational institutions to have a robust capacity to teach remotely." Later that month, she announced a microgrant competition, in which states could compete for $180 million grants to set up statewide virtual learning, course-access programs and "new, field-initiated models for providing remote education not yet imagined.""If our ability to educate is limited to what takes place in any given physical building, we are never going to meet the unique needs of every student," DeVos said in April, when she announced the grants.Other observers noted that using the bully pulpit during a crisis was nonpartisan. But DeVos has been "handicapped by the president," said Frederick M. Hess, a resident scholar and the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. "There's been too much excuse-making and not enough emphasis on what's right for kids.""But the president has no credibility on this, and his polling on corona is upside down for a reason," he said. "When she's working against that backdrop, when she obviously has to echo the president, she's already dealing with massively unfair, unbelievably nasty, unjustified venom on the part of so many education interests."But the fear is that the issue has been hopelessly politicized.The administration's tough stance is "sending all of these states into a scramble, where every move they make is going to be scrutinized through a political lens," Rodrigues said. "So, even when they do come out with guidelines, it's going to be through the lens of 'you're listening to your Democratic governor' or 'you're listening to Donald Trump.' It's not fair, because the people who are going to be hurt by this are our children."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
American Airlines said Monday that it had reached out to Sen. Ted Cruz after a widely shared photograph showed him not wearing a mask on one of its flights.The photo, posted on Twitter on Sunday night by an employee of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, shows Cruz sans mask while holding a cup of coffee on a flight.Another photo shows Cruz, R-Texas, sitting outside the flight's gate, also without a mask. A photo shared on a different Twitter account Monday appears to show Cruz wearing a red, black and white mask on a flight.A representative from Cruz's office said that the senator wore a face covering when traveling and that he had temporarily removed his mask to eat or drink when he was photographed without one."Sen. Cruz has repeatedly said since the start of the pandemic we need to follow the science, listen to public health experts and take common sense steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reopen our economy," the spokeswoman said in an email. "That includes wearing face masks, washing hands and social distancing where possible."Hosseh Enad, who shared the photos of Cruz without a mask, works for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a political action committee that works to elect Democratic candidates into the U.S. House of Representatives.Enad later wrote that the photos were taken by a friend of a friend. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.It is unclear who took the photo of Cruz wearing a mask or when it was taken.A spokesperson for American Airlines confirmed that Cruz flew with one of its domestic regional partners Sunday and said that the company reviewed the incident."As we do in all instances like these, we reviewed the details of the matter," the spokesperson wrote in an email Monday afternoon. "And while our policy does not apply while eating or drinking, we have reached out to Sen. Cruz to affirm the importance of this policy as part of our commitment to protecting the health and safety of the traveling public."American Airlines announced in mid-June that it would require passengers to wear face coverings while on board its planes and that it would deny boarding to passengers who refused to comply. The policy allows face coverings to be removed while eating or drinking.Travelers have used social media to call out inconsistencies in airlines' face mask policies and to share examples of when rules are not enforced.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended wearing nonmedical face coverings to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
Just over a month until the Democratic National Committee will hold its nominating convention, some DNC members privately describe mounting questions about technology, logistics, and contingency plans that, they contend, aren’t being adequately addressed by top committee officials. “We are scrambling to get ready, and know, and have all these answers. And we don’t have them,” said Terry Tucker, a DNC member from Colorado who serves on the platform committee and is working as a progressive bridge between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) camps.“We’re waiting on procedural answers from the DNC. And we haven’t gotten them yet. I don’t know if that means that they’ve formulated them and they’re not releasing them or whether that means they’re still formulating them. I have no idea what the answers to those questions are,” she said. The DNC has worked for months to adjust plans as the unpredictable nature of coronavirus continues to upend the presidential campaign cycle. Originally slated for this week, Democrats announced a new date of Aug. 17 after consulting with public health experts. In late June, the committee formalized a decision, the early planning of which was first reported by The Daily Beast, to host a scaled-down version with smaller virtual satellite locations.On Friday, DNC Secretary Jason Rae sent a letter to each delegate who has been elected and certified, as well as state party chairs, the vice chair, and executive director, outlining steps the committee has taken to make virtual convention voting possible, which will take place from Aug. 3 to Aug. 15. The letter indicated that every delegate will be sent “individualized and serial identifiers” over email. Delegates will then be able to submit their ballots electronically to their state parties. The Democratic National Convention Committee’s tech team “will work with each state party to establish a secure system to receive the ballots from their state’s delegates,” the letter reads. “The state parties will be responsible for collecting all ballots from convention delegates as they would if we were conducting votes in person at the convention. At the conclusion of voting, each state delegation chair will submit a tally sheet to the secretary’s office that formally records the number of votes cast on each item of convention business.” Towards the bottom of the letter, Rae briefly mentions that “alternate methods of voting are available” if a delegate experiences technical issues, such as not having internet access, without elaborating further. Asked specifically if the DNC’s Friday letter was sufficient in addressing her concerns, Tucker said no without hesitation. “It didn’t give us concrete answers to any of our questions,” she said. “It was very general. I don’t need general information. I’ve got people asking me and I don’t know what to tell them.”Allison Stephens, a DNC member from Nevada who had first backed former HUD Secretary Julián Castro and then Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in the primary, said she was relieved about the DNC’s decision to host a largely virtual event, especially when attempting to create a stark contrast to President Trump’s convention plans.DNC to Host an Almost Entirely Virtual Convention Amid Surge in COVID-19 CasesBut Stephens also recalled mounting a strong case for a virtual caucus in Nevada in late February, just weeks after the digital meltdown that occurred during the Iowa caucuses, and being abruptly shut down by the DNC over stated security concerns at the time. “This is one of those situations where it’s forcing them to stop just making excuses and figure out how we’re going to be able to use technology to make these things more accessible for people,” Stephens said. “I’m glad they’ve been put in the position to figure it out.”Stephens said on Monday that she had read Rae’s memo, but had yet to hear specific details for the virtual voting process. “I have had minimal communication from the DNC about the logistical piece and how it would work. My understanding is that they’re still trying to figure that out from a technology kind of standpoint,” she said.Another DNC member audibly laughed when pressed if the document that went out on Friday was detailed enough. “You’ve seen the memo. It was not detailed,” the member said. “There’s a lot of questions and not a lot of questions right now.”The growing concerns from individual members help to further demonstrate the well-documented closed-door nature of DNC leadership keeping the party’s virtual convention planning close to the chest, even among its own high-ranking officials, until just before the news goes public. The most recent example of that opaqueness came from a top DNC leader on Thursday. Just one day before the DNC publicly announced that delegates to the party’s convention will vote remotely in August, the chair of the DNC’s Black Caucus sent a letter to fellow caucus members emphasizing the committee’s vagueness around virtual voting and the urgency of the matter.“We are presently working in the dark,” Virgie Rollins, the chair of the DNC Black Caucus, wrote in a memo obtained by The Daily Beast that was distributed to members on Thursday morning. “The convention is one month away so time is getting short.”Collins’ one-paragraph letter provided a brief status update to DNC Black Caucus members waiting to find out critical logistical details about the process for remotely nominating Biden in just over four weeks.“As you know we received the information that there will not be an in person DNC National Convention. I have been waiting like everyone else trying to get the most up to date information,” Rollins, who is from Michigan, wrote. “In preparation for the convention we will be working with the digital team to live stream, zoom, utilize satellite and all other forms of social media. When I get additional details on how we will be operating or what will be allowed I will let you know.” Rollins did not immediately respond to a request for comment as to whether the DNC’s memo answered any outstanding questions about the convention.Reached for comment, DNC deputy communications director Chris Meagher said: “The DNC is working to ensure that every delegate can play their critical role in this historic occasion without risk to personal or public health. As more details continue to be rolled out after careful consultation with public health officials, we will continue to brief DNC members and delegates and answer any questions they might have.“As part of that, we are beginning to onboard state parties, which includes training state party staff, and we will also hold briefings on the delegate voting process so they can ask any questions ahead of voting in August. After announcing our plans Friday, there were calls both Friday and Monday to go over the voting information and to answer any questions, and we will continue to do so leading up to the convention.”The DNC’s push to get delegates up to speed with technology training comes as Democrats and Biden himself continue to take extra precautions for COVID-19. Biden’s campaign has hosted five calls for its delegates, with additional webinars accessible to delegates to ask questions of both Biden’s and Sanders’ teams. The party’s social distancing moves have been in accordance with public health recommendations. Those efforts are in direct contrast to Trump and the Republican National Committee, which is plowing ahead with plans to host its convention in person in Florida, a national hotbed of COVID-19 cases, after its first host city, Charlotte, North Carolina, would not guarantee that such a large event could be held indoors.Some members recalled hosting successful virtual state conventions, including in several battlegrounds, during lockdown, with help from the DNC. Massachusetts, for example, was one of the first states to test run a virtual convention on April 4, which the party now considers a prototype for digital convention success. Gus Bickford, the chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, emphasized that the DNC has taken additional steps to address cybersecurity concerns. “The security that the DNC has developed, which I would agree they needed to, was significantly more powerful than what we did,” Bickford said. In June, Biden headlined the Nevada convention, calling it an “important battleground state” for his campaign. The same month in Wisconsin, where he will be in person in Milwaukee to formally accept the nomination, state party officials put on a generally smooth all-digital event.But replicating smaller state party functions at the national level is more burdensome, other members agreed, largely due to size and varying degrees of delegates’ familiarity with the party’s new and existing technology. Additional communication would be tremendously helpful in getting all states on the same page, they said. “I think they’re taking bits and pieces from different states,” the member said. “It’s a system that will work, but for it to work, people need to understand it.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
The U.S. presidential election pits a politician who supports environmental regulation and diplomacy to tackle climate change against another determined to dismantle such policies. President Donald Trump, a Republican, has focused on dismantling former President Barack Obama's climate agenda to free the energy and auto industries from the costs of regulations meant to protect health and the environment. Joe Biden, a Democrat who was a senator before becoming Obama's vice president, introduced one of the earliest bills on climate change in 1986 and envisions a diplomatic push to engage the world in reducing coal dependence.
MIAMI—At the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States and the world, physicians and nurses in Florida’s besieged health care system are struggling to keep up with a tidal wave of new cases.Despite what their Republican governor keeps saying, nothing about what they’re experiencing seems run-of-the-mill or likely to improve any time soon. If anything, experts and medical workers in the state say, the worst is yet to come.“The past two weeks [have] been crazier than at the beginning of the pandemic,” a nurse at Memorial Hospital West in Pembroke Pines outside Miami, who requested anonymity because she had not received authorization from her hospital to speak to the press, told The Daily Beast. “Everybody is exhausted. I have never seen it like that before.”One of the earliest states to loosen coronavirus restrictions, Florida has been shattering virus records daily for the past few weeks. The Florida Department of Health on Monday reported at least 12,624 new cases, taking total infections to 282,435.While the numbers marked a decrease from Sunday, where the Sunshine State recorded 15,300 new cases—more than all of Europe—they still indicate the infection rate is dire, as dozens of the state’s intensive care units are at capacity. On Saturday, the state’s positivity rate, or the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive, was at 11.25 percent—a 56 percent increase from just one month ago.But while the medical community has raised alarm bells that Florida’s hospitals are overwhelmed, understaffed, and short on supplies, some state officials are doing their best to downplay the problem. During a Friday press briefing, Gov. Ron DeSantis tried to assuage fears over the record-breaking infection and hospitalization rates by claiming busy hospitals are common in the Sunshine State. Disney World Reopens with Short Lines and Scared Staff, as Florida COVID-19 Cases Spike“We’ve got the census today. I think between 10 and 12 or 13,000—somewhere like that—beds are available,” DeSantis said, referring to the state belatedly releasing county-by-county hospitalization numbers. “There’ll be articles saying, ‘Oh, my gosh. They’re at 90 percent.’ Well, that’s how hospitals normally run.”Characterizing the surge of COVID-19 new cases as a “blip,” the Republican also noted that Florida has had “a lot of different blips.” “We’re now at a higher blip than where we were in May and the beginning of June,” he added.Frontline medical workers and experts in the state paint a much darker picture.On Friday, Memorial Hospital West hospital CEO Leah Carpenter told a local television station that her facility had experienced a massive increase in emergency room visits over the previous three days. “Our hospital capacity is at about 89 percent,” Carpenter told WSVN. “Our ICU capacity is beyond 100 percent.”By Monday, Carpenter was not available to do media interviews because she had to pitch in and help with the patient overload, according to Memorial Hospital West spokesman Stu Oppenheimer. “While Leah is the CEO at Memorial Hospital West, she is also a nurse and currently taking shifts in the hospital during the surge, so she is also unavailable to us for the time being,” Oppenheimer said. “Our frontline workers are all incredibly busy with the current COVID-19 surge.”The state Agency for Health Care Administration’s latest update on hospitalizations showed the number of available beds shrinking drastically: As of Friday, the day statewide hospitalization numbers went public, at least 52 Florida hospitals had no ICU capacity left at all.In Broward, the county with the second-highest number of positive cases and where Memorial Hospital West is located, over 81 percent of beds had been used as of Monday. The hospital only had 50 beds left available, while two other Broward hospitals had none. Intensive care unit beds were even more scarce. Memorial Hospital West had two adult ICU beds left out of 34 and two sister hospitals had no adult ICU beds available. Seven other Broward hospitals also had no adult ICU beds left. The entire state only had 1,151 available adult ICU beds, or 18.7 percent of the total 6,150 adult ICU beds in Florida, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration. Rebekah Jones, the former Florida health department geographer who created the state’s COVID-19 dashboard and who claims she was fired for refusing to manipulate data, told The Daily Beast she was not surprised to see the recent surges because of DeSantis’ “premature push to reopen the state in May.”“Hospital staff have the hardest job in the world right now, more so than any of us scientists," she said. “That most hospitals in Florida are at or near capacity frightens me. It should frighten everyone.”To combat the massive increase and lack of space in the emergency room, the Memorial West nurse told The Daily Beast, the hospital staff started to treat patients in the hallways. Or at least they did the last time she was in: The nurse has not been at work since testing positive for the virus and being sent home to quarantine. But she’s been getting regular updates about the chaos inside the hospital near Hollywood, Florida, from a group chat thread with colleagues. “I know it is still crazy because of what they are saying in the chat,” the nurse said, stating that colleagues have indicated the surge doesn’t show any signs of abating. “The hospital is paying for overtime shifts and they are hiring a lot of agency nurses and traveling nurses. I am scared about going back.”The nurse, who said at least four other nurses at that hospital were in quarantine after contracting COVID-19, added, “You discharge one patient and the next one comes right in. If more nurses have to go into quarantine, we will be understaffed.” (Oppenheimer did not immediately respond to follow-up questions for this story.)Florida is one of several U.S. states at a tipping point months after re-opening their economies. It also stands out for not issuing aggressive face-mask mandates at the state level, in contrast even to conservative bastions like Texas.Last week, the Harvard Global Health Institute recommended a number of states, including Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Louisiana, and South Carolina, institute a mandatory stay-at-home order to curtail severe outbreaks. And while those five states have been hit the hardest, Harvard suggested that 15 other states should weigh the possibility of a second shutdown. A New York Times study of the number of daily infections between June 28 and July 5 showed how dire the United States’ uptick was compared to the rest of the world. Arizona and Florida were the two most affected areas on the planet—followed by South Carolina, the country of Bahrain, and Louisiana. Cleveland Clinic Florida, a hospital in Weston, a city neighboring Pembroke Pines, is also feeling the massive impact of the COVID-19 surge. The number of people visiting the ER with virus symptoms has contributed to a dramatic increase in daily patient loads, according to a Cleveland Clinic nurse who also spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not have permission to speak to the media. “Counting [COVID and] non-COVID patients, we went from seeing 100 people to 200 people a day,” the nurse said. “That is how many come in to get checked.”According to the Agency for Health Care Administration, as of Monday, Cleveland Clinic had 25 available beds, of which nine were for adult ICU patients. The nurse said he worked on a 72-year-old patient over the weekend who had to be placed on a ventilator. “We had to do CPR on him,” the nurse said. “The 911 call came in as shortness of breath. But by the time he got to the hospital, he wasn’t breathing at all.”Like Memorial West, Cleveland Clinic is offering overtime shifts to ER nurses, who typically work three 12-hour shifts a week, the nurse said. “Some nurses are now working five days a week picking up two extra shifts,” he said. “We are constantly getting text messages asking if we want extra hours.” A Cleveland Clinic spokesperson acknowledged the hospital had experienced an increase in the number of patients coming to the ER with COVID-19 symptoms. “Most patients do not require admission and are discharged and asked to quarantine at home,” the spokesperson said. “We continue to monitor the fluctuation of COVID-19 cases on a day-to-day basis… We evaluate our staffing needs on a daily basis and have the ability to supplement staffing as needed, which has included the use of contracted nurses.” Likewise, a paramedic who works in Aventura Hospital about 20 minutes outside of Fort Lauderdale—who also requested anonymity for fear of professional retaliation—said his workplace had 70 confirmed COVID-19 patients admitted as of Friday, the day of his most recent shift. “That doesn’t include the confirmed cases that were discharged or the ones still waiting for positive results,” the paramedic said. “The ICU was definitely pretty packed when I was there.”Will Florida’s COVID Gamble Drag Down DeSantis and the GOP?In addition, the paramedic said, there were two days last week when Aventura wasn’t receiving new patients and instructed paramedics to send them to the next nearest hospital. A spokesperson for Aventura did not respond to a request for comment on Monday. According to the Agency for Health Care Administration, Aventura Hospital has 33 available beds left, of which seven are for adult ICU patients. Overall, Miami-Dade hospitals have reached 80 percent bed capacity. “I’ve been there for six years and there’s never been a diversion of patients,” the paramedic said. “That’s how crazy busy we are. That shows you how big of an impact COVID is having.” DeSantis’ office did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Monday. But during an evening press conference, the Republican stressed that despite increased positivity rates, Florida was not comparable to other hotspots, like New York. “That’s just generating cases that are not clinically consequential but important to know,” DeSantis said Monday, suggesting the increased testing numbers amounted to little more than a backlog of information. Still, earlier on Monday, one of the same officials who appeared with DeSantis warned South Florida was entering a catastrophic phase of the pandemic. Carlos Migoya, president and CEO of Jackson Health System in Miami-Dade, said the peak was still another two to three weeks away. “You have people who are aggressively saying they don't have to wear a mask and don’t have to do social distancing,” he explained. “Those are the kind of people spreading this disease. If we don’t get this under control and have too many more infections, we are going to have problems.”“Every health-care worker is working nonstop,” added Lilian Abbo, a University of Miami Health System infectious disease physician. “Our workforce is also falling sick and they are getting infected in the community.”Abbo said too many residents were simply ignoring safety measures—such as wearing masks, social distancing and staying at home—that are now more important than ever. “Miami is now the epicenter of the pandemic,” Abbo said. “What we were seeing in Wuhan months ago, we are there now.” Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
NEW YORK -- New York, once the center of the coronavirus pandemic, has so successfully stemmed the outbreak that its death and hospitalization rates have plummeted and it has among the lowest infection rates in the country.But the state and its neighbors are facing a disquieting new threat: Can they keep the virus suppressed when it is raging across the South and West?Officials and public health experts are especially concerned that infected travelers from any of the nearly 40 states where the outbreak is spiking could set off new clusters in New York. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday imposed more restrictions on travelers from states with high infection rates, but it is not all clear that they will be followed -- or are even enforceable.Tens of thousands of people enter New York daily through its airports, highways and train stations, and compliance largely depends on the whims of visitors and of residents returning home.Cuomo has warned it is almost inevitable that the virus will seep back into the state, much the way it came to New York through flights from Europe in February. He has also raised concerns that some New Yorkers might let their guard down and blamed local governments for not enforcing mask-wearing and social-distancing measures.But his focus lately has been on trying to keep the virus from re-entering New York: Travelers from 19 states where cases have increased must now quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in New York. And beginning Tuesday, travelers arriving at New York airports will be required to fill out a form with their personal information and planned whereabouts, or face a $2,000 fine.Epidemiologists said they were skeptical that the measures would work."I think it's going to be incredibly hard to keep the virus out of New York state," said Isaac Weisfuse, a former New York City deputy health commissioner. "I think that these types of travel restrictions may be somewhat helpful, but we should assume that they're not going to be airtight."But Weisfuse, an adjunct professor at Cornell University's master of public health program, and other epidemiologists said New York was better positioned to deal with a surge in cases this time around.They said that government officials had a better understanding of the virus and that doctors in New York had learned invaluable lessons from treating the disease. People in New York, where more than 400,000 people were infected and more than 30,000 died, are keenly aware of the risks and, for the most part, of the importance of wearing masks. The state has also dramatically ramped up its testing capacity, processing about 60,000 tests per day."I don't anticipate that in New York, we're going to have a second wave that is going to look like what we have in Texas and Florida," said Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at the Mailman School of a Public Health at Columbia University. "We can't become complacent, and I don't think we will. I am cautiously optimistic."Cuomo's quarantine order comes as the state continues to gradually reopen and stabilize its health metrics.In July, New York averaged about 10 virus-related deaths a day, a huge drop from the 799 deaths over a 24-hour period at the peak of the outbreak in April. About 790 people are hospitalized, down from nearly 19,000 people a few months ago when hospitals were nearly overrun.But New York officials are readying for a spike, however big or small, as states like Florida continue to report record number of cases -- more than 12,000 on Monday -- and others, like California, impose sweeping rollbacks of their reopening plans, forcing many businesses to close again.Officials in New York -- unlike in Connecticut and New Jersey, which also implemented a quarantine requirement -- have sought to proactively enforce the quarantine order. The state instituted fines of up to $10,000 and made it legal to order people to self-isolate, if necessary.But no fines or mandatory isolation orders have been issued in New York City since the order took effect June 25, according to a city spokeswoman. Instead, both state and city officials have urged travelers to take the order seriously and are hoping visitors will comply voluntarily, as with similar executive orders mandating masks and social distancing.Cuomo himself has acknowledged the difficulty of enforcing the mandate and the government's limited reach, likening enforcement to "trying to catch water in a screen.""New York's problem is we have the infection coming from other states back to New York," Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, said Monday, noting the state is not "a hermetically sealed bubble."Officials estimate about 12,000 people visit New York daily from the states on the quarantine list, which is updated regularly according to certain virus health metrics. The quarantine currently applies to travelers from a broad swath of mostly the West and South where cases have skyrocketed, including California, Florida and Texas. Additional states are poised to be added to the list soon.The quarantine order has applied to more than 900 flights that have landed in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut since the order went into effect, according to a New York Times analysis of flight data provided by MyRadar. About one-third came from Florida, and most flights landed in New York City and in Newark and Teterboro, New Jersey.Domestic flights are averaging about 68 passengers per flight, according to Airlines for America, an industry group, so more than 61,000 people could have been on those flights.Before Cuomo made the airport forms mandatory, arriving passengers were expected to voluntarily fill them out and leave them in drop boxes.The information from the forms is shared with local health departments, which are supposed to follow up with visitors over phone, text message or in person to ensure they are quarantining, officials said. More than 20,000 forms had been submitted as of last week, state officials said.Ensuring that people filled out the forms became a problem for officials early on. A recent outbreak of cases in Rensselaer County originated with three residents -- two of whom worked in nursing homes. They traveled to Georgia and did not report their arrival back in New York.Collecting the questionnaires also appeared to be a problem. On a recent evening last week, many travelers at LaGuardia Airport walked out of baggage claim with the form in hand, unsure of where to hand it in.Whether they planned to quarantine or not, most travelers arriving on a recent afternoon from designated states like North Carolina and Kansas seemed to be aware of the 14-day requirement.Dani Sheinbaum, 33, who lives in Connecticut and was returning from visiting her best friend in Dallas, went so far as to inform her gym she wouldn't be going back for a while because of the quarantine."It's a moral compass," said Sheinbaum, an account executive at a job recruitment company. "I don't want to fail my brethren."Quarantining also didn't seem like much of a burden for the many people still working from home, like Jeff Rudolph, a psychologist who was retuning from a five-day vacation in his second home in Longboat Key, Florida."For me, it's not a particular hardship," said Rudolph, 72, who lives in New Jersey. "I do my patient therapy sessions online. I think safety first."Still, some others said they had no intention of quarantining, whether because they were in town for business or because they didn't believe the coronavirus was a real threat. Or both.Daurys Payano, 24, who lives in Phoenix and came to New York City for a week to deal with a business matter related to his work as a truck driver, said he would not quarantine."I don't mean to sound ignorant," he said, expressing skepticism over the threat of the virus and the need for masks. "I'm not stopping my life for a virus. If I catch it, God forgive me."The quarantine doesn't apply to everyone: Essential workers traveling to New York, like health care workers and emergency medical workers, are not required to self-isolate. But those workers are supposed to get tested within the first 24 hours of entering the state, according to state guidelines.People visiting New York for a medical appointment that cannot be postponed are allowed to go to their appointment, but should otherwise quarantine. State police in the tristate region are not pulling over drivers with out-of-state license plates. And the quarantine doesn't apply to individuals driving through the state; they are allowed to pull over at rest stops, for example.In Connecticut, travelers can avoid the quarantine if they prove they tested negative for the virus up to 72 hours before their arrival to the state. There is no such exception in New York. Officials say a negative test is not reliable since COVID-19 symptoms can emerge as late as 14 days after exposure.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
JERUSALEM—Israel’s unchecked resurgence of COVID-19 was propelled by the abrupt May 17 decision to reopen all schools, medical and public-health officials have told The Daily Beast.The assessment of Israel’s trajectory has direct bearing on the heated debate underway in the United States between President Donald Trump, who is demanding a nationwide reopening of schools for what appear to be largely political reasons, and health authorities who caution it could put the wider population at risk. Importantly, on May 17 in Israel it appeared the virus not only was under control, but defeated. Israel reported only 10 new cases of COVID-19 in the entire country that day. In the U.S., the debate often is about reopening schools where the disease is not only not in decline, but surging.On Sunday, for instance, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, “There’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous.” But that is not the case in Israel, where the data from June, the last month for which there is a full set of statistics, appear all too clear.The road from anti-coronavirus paradigm to rampant infection in this country of 9 million people followed two months of almost total lockdown. May 17 also was the day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his former rival Benny Gantz swore in their “corona emergency government,” whose sole declared purpose is to fight the spread of the virus. Netanyahu’s decree that the nation’s entire school system would reopen was a political flourish to signal everything was under control.The announcement followed a more cautious experiment of several weeks in which only children in the first, second, and third grades were brought back to classrooms, and taught in small, non-intersecting groups called “capsules.”‘The Second Wave’ of COVID Hits Israel Like a TsunamiHagai Levine, an epidemiologist at the Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and chairman of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians, said: “There was no measurable increase in contagion” while the capsules for young children were being tried out.The association even offered the government an investigation into school-based infections of COVID-19, but was turned down. Then, Levine says, “contrary to our advice, the government decided to open the entire system all at once on May 17. What happened next was entirely predictable.”On June 3, two weeks after schools opened, more than 244 students and staff were found to test positive for COVID-19.According to the education ministry, 2,026 students, teachers, and staff have contracted COVID-19, and 28,147 are in quarantine due to possible contagion.Just in the first two weeks of July, 393 kindergartens and schools open for summer programs have been shuttered due to cases of COVID-19.On July 2, Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist at the Federation of American Scientists, tweeted a chart showing Israel’s rate of infection surging past Europe and fast approaching the disastrous rate in the U.S., noting that it was exactly one month since the reopening of Israeli schools.The level of school contagion became public last week during testimony provided to Israeli legislators by Udi Kliner, the health ministry’s deputy director of public-health services, whose boss had just quit in protest against the government’s mishandling of the crisis. Israel now surpasses 1,200 new cases of COVID-19 a day.On Tuesday, Israel reported 1,681 new cases of COVID-19 infection, its worst result since the outbreak began. The source of the infection explosion can be seen clearly in the numbers from June. As Kliner told the Knesset, 1,400 Israelis were diagnosed with the disease last month. Of those, 185 caught it at events such as weddings, 128 in hospitals, 113 in workplaces, 108 in restaurants, bars, or nightclubs, and 116 in synagogues, according to Kliner, while 657—which is to say 47 percent of the total—were infected by the coronavirus in schools.“Not a single school was prepared,” says Mohammad Khatib, who teaches public health at the Zefat Academic College and is the epidemiological expert on the health ministry’s newly formed advisory committee on the coronavirus in the Arab sector.“Adults, including teachers and other employees, brought it into schools, which are, in the end, closed spaces,” he said, underscoring the finding that middle-school children proved to be the most dangerous vectors.“The younger students were more obedient and easier to control in a classroom setting,” Khatib said, “and had more respect for their teachers. Among high schoolers, there was a greater ability to understand. But it is in the nature of middle-school kids to rebel, not to obey teachers, not to wear masks or keep apart.”The ministry of health did not respond to questions regarding the breakdown of schools and infections, and accurate, detailed numbers have become harder and harder to come by.Levine, the Hebrew University epidemiologist, said that in general, “There is no transparency regarding the statistics. The data is not being made available to epidemiologists, so it is impossible to gauge precisely, but we saw many confirmed cases of COVID-19 in middle schools— it is very possible that caused the outbreak.”The month of June, which began exactly two weeks after Israel’s school system was suddenly and shambolically reopened, “caused the second wave,” Khatib says. “Whatever else we say, the fact is that schools were not prepared to take students back under the necessary conditions to contain the epidemic.”“The reopening happened too fast. It was undertaken so quickly that it triggered a very sharp spike, and the return to more conservative measures came too little, much too late,” Khatib says, summing up Israel’s dilemma.Six weeks after forming an emergency government to handle the pandemic, and one week after promising that a “corona czar” would be appointed to take charge of the country’s haphazard response, Israel seems further than ever from its desired goal. Calls are mounting for a national commission of inquiry to be appointed to investigate the government’s “dereliction of duty,” in the words of former Defense Minister Naftali Bennett.On Sunday, Roni Numa, a retired army general who was the only known candidate for the czar job, withdrew his name after realizing he would not be given the authority needed to coordinate a national response.Netanyahu devoted Monday to attempting to fire Yifat Shasha-Biton, chairwoman of the Knesset’s corona committee and a member of his own Likud party, for the crime of defying his directives regarding the reopening of public pools and gyms.The prime minister, who is struggling to keep ultra-religious coalition parties in line in the face of their demand to allow synagogues to admit up to 50 congregants at a time, ordered Shasha-Biton to keep gyms and pools closed.But without evidence proving that pools and gyms cause an uptick in contagion, Shasha-Biton allowed her committee to vote for opening.The health ministry has not released its own epidemiological findings on gyms and pools, if they exist, and the ministry of education indicated it “intends to open schools as usual” on Sept. 1, even though the numbers from June would seem to provide conclusive data about the risks. In any case, no strategy is in place to prevent a second round of school epidemics.Galia Rahav, who chairs the department of infectious diseases at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, said in an interview that “what happened in schools is just too much gathering, day after day, and kids come home and infect mom and dad. The top numbers of new infections were in kids.”Due to the large number of infections among children, she noted, “the average age of an Israeli with COVID-19 has gone down to between 20 and 39,” while infections in citizens over 65 have held steady. In Jerusalem, the Israeli city with the highest rate of infection, most of the people with COVID-19 are under the age of 35.“It is certainly not impossible that the second wave started in schools,” Rahav said, carefully understating the case. “Discipline is at an awful level. We know Israelis have terrible discipline, but now, it’s the leadership that is completely inconstant, with one ‘leader’ saying one thing and another the contrary.” Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
Trevor Noah returned from a two-week July 4 break with a very big guest: Hillary Clinton.The Daily Show host began his remote interview by asking the former Secretary of State what she’s been up to during quarantine. “Because I know if I was in your position, I would spend most of my time tweeting, ‘I told you so’ and I would walk around the street just looking at people saying, ‘It could have been me, it could have been me.’” “Well, you know, before the lockdown I was doing all of that,” Clinton joked in response. “I mean there’s probably video.”But things turned more serious when Noah asked Clinton how she’s feeling about the 2020 race. “It seems like America is on an ominous path to a November date when there is going to be a lot of questions in and around the election,” the host said. “Donald Trump is vehemently against mail-in voting. What do you make of this and what do you think the path is to getting people the easiest access to casting their votes?” Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah Roast Trump for Wearing a Face Mask ‘4 Months Late’Here‘s Why Trump Commuted Stone’s Sentence Instead of Pardoning HimClinton argued that Republicans will try to “prevent as many people who think they won’t vote for them from voting,” specifically young people, African Americans and Hispanics. But beyond that, Noah wanted to know if Clinton thinks Trump will try to undermine the legitimacy of the entire election if he loses. “Well, I think it is a fair point to raise as to whether or not, if he loses, he’s going to go quietly or not,” she said. “And we have to be ready for that. But there have been so many academic studies and other analyses, which point out that it’s just an inaccurate, fraudulent claim.”Steering the conversation back to the “real danger” of voter suppression and foreign interference, Clinton said, “Look, I want a fair election. If people get to vote and they, for whatever reason, vote for Donald Trump, OK, we’ll accept it. Not happily.” “But I don't think that’s what will happen,” she continued, “because I think the more people who can actually get to the polls, whether by mail or in person, and get their votes counted, then we are going to have the kind of election we should have. And then it will be a win both in the popular vote and the Electoral College.” Later, Clinton blasted Trump for commuting his friend Roger Stone’s prison sentence. “It’s a continuation of the cover-up,” she said. “Because the one thing that Trump is fearful of, when it comes to his being president, is that finally we will see how illegitimate his victory actually was. And how he was involved in the seeking of foreign help and the utilization of it. And how Roger Stone was critical to that.” “But, you know, unless Trump is defeated at the polls in November,” she concluded, “we will never really know everything there is to know about this really deep, ongoing dismantling of institutions and undermining the rule of law and the original sin of the way that he actually won the election. So Roger Stone was in the middle of it all. And that’s why Trump had to cover it up.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
Roger Stone, the self-proclaimed dirty trickster whose sentence for lying to Congress was recently commuted by President Donald Trump, complained to Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Monday night that the “system” was “fixed.”Days before Stone was to report to prison for 40 months, the president finally did what he had long hinted at, and commuted his longtime adviser’s sentence, describing Stone as “a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump Presidency.”In Stone’s first television interview since he was spared jail, he immediately praised Hannity and fellow Fox News host Tucker Carlson, a longtime friend of Stone’s, for advocating for his clemency.“You have been a tremendous friend,” the conservative political operative bellowed. “You have done a great job of keeping people informed. But I have to really single out your Fox News colleague Tucker Carlson.”Noting that Carlson took up his cause early on, Stone lauded the Fox News star for not being afraid to “take on the judge” and encouraging him whenever he became “discouraged.”“He’s a man of incredible loyalty and he’s a great friend,” he added. “He may be the best friend a man can have, so my hat’s off to him.”Stone also thanked several other pro-Trump figures for having his back, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), saying he hopes to “live long enough to see [Gaetz] in the White House.”Stone spent much of the interview repeating the president’s favorite refrain about the Russia investigation, calling it a “hoax” while saying prosecutors wanted him to flip on Trump because they knew there was “no Russian collusion.”“I didn’t have to think about it very long,” he declared. “I said absolutely not. There was no circumstance under which I would bear false witness against the president.”“What I said has been consistent, that I would not lie against my friend of 40 years so they could use it for impeachment,” Stone added. “They wanted me to be the ham in their ham sandwich because they knew the Mueller report, particularly on Russia, was a dud.”Hannity, also a close confidant of the president’s, grumbled about the number of Trump associates who have been prosecuted and convicted. Hannity said he is “losing faith in the system,” and Stone said he agreed with the Fox star.“I’m afraid this is a fixed system,” Stone asserted, pointing to the fact that he’d lost his appeal for a delay in his prison sentence.Stone went on to heap additional praise on the president, saying it was a “courageous act” for Trump to give him clemency since many of his White House advisers were telling him not to do it in an election year.“He’s a man of great justice and fairness,” he exclaimed. “He’s a man of enormous courage. I knew he would take some shots for this, but I think most people, most fair-minded people, understand he saved my life and at least on paper he gave me a chance to fight for vindication.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
As Texas struggles to contain a raging coronavirus outbreak, voters on Tuesday were set to head out to polls for runoff elections that include choosing a Democratic nominee in a U.S. Senate race that offers the party another chance to break through in America's biggest red state. Texas has become one of the world's virus hot zones and is in far worse shape now than when the runoff was postponed in March. Last week was the deadliest of the pandemic for Texas, and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has warned that the infection numbers will likely get even worse.
As Donald Trump and his press secretary sought to downplay the White House’s own effort to scapegoat Dr. Anthony Fauci, top allies to the president spent Monday working on ways to discredit the nation’s leading infectious-diseases expert even more.Stephen Moore, a conservative economist who informally advises Trump on economic matters, said on Monday evening that he is working on a new policy memo that would “go after Fauci,” not just for the doctor’s proclamations on the still-raging coronavirus pandemic, but for his decades of work for the U.S. government prior to the current crisis.“We are working on a memo that shows how many times Dr. Fauci’s been wrong during not just [this pandemic], but during his entire career,” Moore told The Daily Beast, adding that he and his team at the Committee to Unleash Prosperity had been working on it for weeks. Moore, whose failures at political and economic prognostication are routine grist for his critics, added that he and his group intend to send their final product to the White House and Trump and to “publicize it,” once ready.Moore said that the current title of the memo is: “Dr. Wrong.”“It will document how often his predictions have been not just wrong, but in many cases, fabulously wrong…[and it’ll be] looking at his whole career of making predictions about disease, and trying to show a pattern,” he continued. “Fauci’s been ‘Dr. Doom’… and I don’t have a problem with him being ‘Dr. Doom,’ but I have a problem with him being wrong, wrong, wrong… He’s been a detriment to getting the economy reopened, with a lot of his false predictions.”The White House Made a List of All the Times Fauci ‘Has Been Wrong’ on the CoronavirusMoore’s effort comes just as the Trump White House had circulated a written list of Fauci’s past comments and predictions on the virus that Trump’s team deemed flawed. The list overstates Fauci’s actual record, as many of his early inferences and predictions were qualified with admissions that little was known about the virus. Fauci’s record also, arguably, compares favorably to many top White House officials and allies, including Moore himself, who called for re-opening the economy in early May and once jokingly suggested that one way through the outbreak was to wear spacesuits.Nevertheless, a White House spokesperson issued an official statement, as first reported by The Washington Post this past week, that “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things.” Peter Navarro, the president’s top trade adviser and a recurring Fauci antagonist, was also permitted to tell the Post, “Dr. Fauci has a good bedside manner with the public but he has been wrong about everything I have ever interacted with him on.” And on Sunday, Dan Scavino, one of Trump’s most trusted aides and his social-media director, posted to Facebook an anti-Fauci cartoon by Ben Garrison, with Scavino’s caption reading, “Sorry, Dr. Faucet! At least you know if I’m going to disagree with a colleague, such as yourself, it’s done publicly—and not cowardly, behind journalists with leaks. See you tomorrow!”On Monday, top White House officials tried to repair some of the damage. Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed to reporters that “Dr. Fauci and the president have always had a very good working relationship.” And Trump himself insisted: “I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci,” calling the coronavirus task force figure “a very nice person” who “I don’t always agree with.”The back and forth was just the latest illustration of the dual impulses playing out in Trump’s West Wing, as the virus continues to ravage the country and tank the economy. The president and his lieutenants are eager to find a scapegoat for the government’s failure to prevent a death toll that’s now north of 130,000. But they also realize that it’s a bad look for them to openly wage war on Fauci, who in polls has earned a significantly larger share of the public trust than President Trump.When asked about this week’s dust-up with Fauci and White House staff, Michael Caputo, the Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs who approves Fauci’s TV appearances, told The Daily Beast on Monday: “I blame the media and their unending search for a ‘Resistance’ hero, for turning half a century of a scientist’s hard work into a clickbait headline that helps reporters undermine the president’s coronavirus response.” The campaign to ding Fauci has been underway for months prior to White House communications shop sending a list of his past statements to the Post and other media outlets. Back in April, the president spent a chunk of Easter weekend quizzing confidants, “What do you think of Fauci?” and venting about how he’d made Fauci a “star” by allowing the doctor to be on TV so much. Since then, Trump’s frustrations have only festered and in some cases intensified. According to three people familiar with the president’s private remarks, Trump has encouraged several officials and prominent allies over the past two months to remind journalists and the public of all the ways in which Fauci has been “so wrong,” or allegedly flawed, in his predictions during the coronavirus crisis. One of these sources said that Trump had encouraged them and others to—specifically—tweet about ways Fauci had “messed up,” as this person characterized.The criticism has clearly worn on Fauci. In an interview with The Daily Beast in June, he repeatedly expressed caution and annoyance that most of his on-air television interviews resulted in “sound bites” and actively avoided questions because of it. When asked, for example, whether his earlier recommendation that Americans not buy masks contributed to early community spread, Fauci said: “That’s a soundbite. I'm not gonna answer that. Sorry.”And when pushed for details on what he and other senior administration officials could have done differently in responding to the U.S. outbreaks, Fauci admitted that the U.S. preparation “might have been a little bit more aggressive in the first week instead of waiting until it was clear that we were getting community spread,” but cautioned that no one knew at the time what that transmission looked like.“And it’s always easy to take it out of context,” he said. “I could see 1,000 sound bites flowing from this. Something like, ‘If only we knew’.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
PITTSBURGH -- A little more than three weeks ago, officials in Pittsburgh announced a milestone enviable for almost any major city in America: A day had gone by without a single new confirmed case of the coronavirus. It was good news for a city that had seen only a modest outbreak all along, even as the virus raged through places like Philadelphia and New York.That was then.Western Pennsylvania is suddenly experiencing an alarming surge of infections. Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, reported more than 100 new cases for the first time on June 30; two days later, the daily case count surpassed 200. Over two weeks in late June and early July, the county recorded more new cases than in the previous two months combined, and on some recent days has accounted for nearly half of all new known cases in Pennsylvania."Allegheny County is the big area of concern at this point," Gov. Tom Wolf said at a news conference last week. "There have been others more modest," he said, "but right now Allegheny County is the area."The spike in the Pittsburgh area offers a cautionary tale: Even after months of vigilance, an outbreak can flare up all of a sudden. While the nation's current flood of new cases is being driven primarily by the spread of the coronavirus in the South and the West, experts fear that other parts of the country -- including places like Cleveland, Milwaukee and Kansas City, Missouri, which are all seeing new growth -- could be close behind."You are seeing what could be the beginning of what we've been seeing in Texas and Arizona," said Dr. Bill Miller, a professor of epidemiology at the Ohio State University. He described upswings in urban counties in Ohio, a state that saw weeks of steady or declining cases but is now averaging more than 1,000 new confirmed cases a day, the worst so far of the pandemic."We can't let our guard down," he said.For months, Pittsburgh had been both diligent and lucky.The virus began spreading here later than in some early centers of the nation's crisis, like New York City or Detroit. That gave Pittsburgh time to prepare. At the same time, Pennsylvania, which began facing skyrocketing rates in the eastern half of the state, took a more aggressive approach to shutting down public life than states like Florida and Texas, which closed later and reopened earlier.Pittsburgh, which has an economy driven by the health care industry and is a sister city to Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus first emerged, took the threat seriously. Its 300,000 residents largely abided by the new way of life, ordering their pizzas from Mineo's to go, drinking their Yuenglings on the porch at home and wearing masks for grocery trips to Giant Eagle, even as the case numbers remained relatively low.From March 23, when the governor ordered everyone to stay at home, until June 5, when Allegheny County was allowed to lift the more stringent restrictions, the city had hunkered down. But it was not long after that limited reopening in June, as people flocked to bars for the first time in months, that the seeds of the current surge were planted."You have to realize: The virus isn't going to go anywhere until there is a vaccine," said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a Pittsburgh-based physician and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security. "You are going to see these flare-ups in any city because wherever there are people, there is this virus."Two weeks ago, Wolf, a Democrat, issued a statewide mask order in response to the mounting cases, a move that was swiftly followed by the governors of West Virginia, where the order applies to indoor public spaces; and of Ohio, where the order applies to hard-hit spots including Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton. On Thursday afternoon, the governor of Kentucky announced a statewide mask order as well.On Wednesday, health officials in Allegheny County banned indoor dining for two more weeks.The next few weeks could prove pivotal for Pittsburgh. There has been a modest if notable rise in hospitalizations, but so far very few COVID-19 patients at the major hospitals are in need of ventilators, hospital officials said. On several recent days, the median age of people testing positive for the virus has been 29, far lower than it was several months ago. Many of them have not had symptoms, officials said, and were prompted to get a test only after learning from a friend or a contact tracer that they had been around someone who tested positive."I wasn't necessarily scared," said Christian Glikes of Pittsburgh, who learned that he may have been exposed at an outdoor game of cards this month. He drove more than an hour to get a test at a CVS store in St. Clairsville, Ohio, the closest he could find on short notice."I'm healthy, I'm 24 years old," Glikes said while at home waiting for his results. "My only concern is giving it to people who aren't so healthy."Some rise in case numbers is inevitable when lockdown orders are lifted and cities enter less restrictive stages of the pandemic response -- what the Pennsylvania government has deemed "the green phase." When Allegheny County entered the green phase in early June, hair salons and gyms opened for the first time in months, though under strict rules, and bars and restaurants allowed some indoor dining. At the same time, large anti-racism protests were taking place across the city, and some Pittsburghers were taking vacations in places like Miami and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina."I knew we would have a bump," said Mayor Bill Peduto, a Democrat. "The question is whether or not it would exceed the numbers that we had seen earlier. It not only exceeded them; it doubled and I think tripled them. It wasn't supposed to do that."The main source of the current outbreak is largely undisputed. People who had been cooped up for months flocked to the city's bars and clubs, crowding shoulder-to-shoulder like old times on East Carson Street. Complaints poured into the health department about bars ignoring the pandemic rules. "It was almost like the entire city turned 21," said Adalja, who added that he took walks past crowded bars that he suspected would turn into hot spots.Kyle Majerick, a 29-year-old insurance salesman whose evenings before the virus were typically filled with intramural soccer games, happy hours and charity and networking events, was more than ready to have a few beers with friends when the bars reopened. He said he took care to avoid the most crowded spots."You go from having something to do every single night to, 'OK, where am I going to order takeout from and sit at my condo by myself,'" he said. Sitting at a half-empty outdoor bar patio and ordering from a list of options on his phone instead of a touchable table menu, he said, felt safe."It was a change of scenery, which was a breath of fresh air," Majerick, who has not had symptoms, said.Through contact tracing, county officials found that bars and restaurants were the most common denominator of new cases and once again shut down indoor dining. For business owners, the new rules have been dizzying and disheartening.Even after the city's reopening, Jamie Patten kept customers out of her quiet neighborhood wine bar, the Allegheny Wine Mixer, so she could ensure that it was safe. She set up a reservation system for the first time, bought outdoor furniture and installed plexiglass along the bar itself. On Jun 27, the bar opened and regulars returned. A day later, under countywide orders banning the on-site consumption of alcohol, it closed again."We did all this work, we did everything we were supposed to do, and we were seeing results," Patten said. "Now it's all just kind of swept away."Now officials say they are trying a more targeted approach as they search for a way forward, and are adjusting them weekly. Under the latest county order, for example, gyms and hair salons can stay open, at least for now, but indoor dining is barred.Rich Fitzgerald, the Allegheny County executive, said the county now was using what officials learn from contact tracing to more precisely identify venues that pose the most significant risks. And the county also was turning more attention to enforcement, Fitzgerald said."Get rid of the bad apples," he said.State and county officials expressed little appetite to return to a full lockdown, though they said nothing was off the table.Bethany Hallam, a member of the Allegheny County council, said that terminology the state uses may also need rethinking. Under the governor's plan, moving counties into the "green phase" never meant a return to normal, only to a less restrictive set of rules. But that is not how many people apparently heard it."To anybody from a 2-year-old to a 100-year-old, 'green' means go," Hallam said "We went to green, and everybody went wild."The world is not green," she said, "until we have a cure or a vaccine."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
LANSING, Mich. -- Beyond being the women leading Michigan's state government, Gretchen Whitmer, Dana Nessel and Jocelyn Benson have a lot in common.All three are Democratic lawyers and part of Generation X, with long lists of accomplishments. Whitmer was the first woman to lead the Democratic caucus in the state Senate. Nessel argued before the Supreme Court and helped pave the way for the legalization of same-sex marriage. And Benson, a Harvard Law School graduate, was the dean of the Wayne State University Law School in Detroit.By 2018, the three were swept into statewide office on a wave that flipped much of Michigan's leadership from red to blue and put three women -- Whitmer, the governor; Nessel, the attorney general; and Benson, the secretary of state -- in charge of running the state for the first time.Now these women share another distinction: They're all targets of President Donald Trump.Trailing in polls to Joe Biden in this key battleground state, the president has taken aggressive aim at Whitmer -- "that woman from Michigan," in his words -- and her counterparts, zeroing in on their mission to expand voting rights in a state where his 2016 winning margin of just 10,704 votes was the narrowest in the country.The three women have in turn responded forcefully to Trump, denouncing his coronavirus response, suing his administration and tangling with him over his maskless appearance at a Ford auto plant. Whitmer, who has been in the national spotlight as a potential running mate for Biden, was also a potent foil to Trump in February, jointly giving the Democratic response to his State of the Union address.Michigan Democrats believe that the state leaders are a not-so-secret weapon in the 2020 election. They see the president's frequent barbs -- he has called Nessel "the Wacky Do Nothing Attorney General" and Benson a "rogue Secretary of State" -- as helping fuel the anti-Trump bandwagon in the state, which before 2016 had not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988."We're enraged. We're exhausted," said Lori Goldman, a Bloomfield Township Realtor who started the group Fems for Dems with about a half-dozen suburban Michigan women after the 2016 election. "I'm a woman and I feel the sting of how these women leaders are being treated and called names."The group, which has grown to more than 8,000 members, worked to elect Whitmer, Benson and Nessel. It also helped flip two congressional seats, as well as five seats each in the state House and Senate, from Republican to Democrat in 2018."We are a bunch of dumpy, middle-aged housewives," Goldman said. "That's the one good thing about getting older: You don't need to have people like you anymore. When you get pissed off, you're ready to stand up and say something."The three elected leaders continue to push back against the Trump administration.Whitmer has kept up her criticism of the lack of a federal strategy to fight the coronavirus, which has infected more than 76,000 people and killed more than 6,300 in the state, and spoke out against the president's comments telling governors to "dominate" demonstrators protesting against police brutality and racial injustice.On Tuesday, Whitmer said it was "incumbent on every one of us to mask up, from the White House to the state House," adding, "the fact that we're behind the rest of the world is a disgrace."Nessel has joined or filed dozens of lawsuits to reverse policies enacted under Trump, including one filed Tuesday against the secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, over a rule she instituted reallocating some public school funding to private schools.Nessel called Trump "a petulant child" after he traveled to Ypsilanti in May and declined to wear a mask while touring a Ford Motor Co. plant."I swear, some days I wake up and think Montgomery Burns is president," she said, referring to the greedy boss in "The Simpsons."Trump accused her of scaring businesses away from Michigan with her language.One of the president's biggest concerns surrounding Michigan in November appears to be Benson's actions to ensure voting rights amid the pandemic. She has sent out absentee ballot applications to all 7.7 million voters in the state.Despite little evidence, Trump has repeatedly criticized absentee voting as an invitation for election fraud. He has particularly focused on Benson's mailing effort, initially threatening to withhold federal money for coronavirus relief before backing off.In an op-ed article published in Newsweek in late May, Benson wondered why the president had singled her out when at least six other states were also sending absentee ballot applications to all voters."The obvious answer is that Michigan is one of several states that will heavily influence the outcome of this year's presidential election," she wrote. "We cannot let misinformation -- whether it comes from the White House, the Kremlin or anywhere else -- sow seeds of doubt in our elections."Others have pointed to another reason for Trump's attacks: his history of demeaning prominent women."In some ways, it's not surprising that you've got this trifecta of women in leadership, all of whom are Democrats," said Debbie Walsh, director at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. "All of whom have been exercising leadership in making sure that the state remains healthy and have elections that function."She added, "He sees this all as hostile acts against him."The three state leaders are not the only women in Michigan whom the president has targeted. He has also repeatedly criticized Mary Barra, chief executive of General Motors, over her decision to close U.S. auto manufacturing plants and what he perceived as a slow transformation of some plants to make ventilators for virus treatment."Women are sharply viewing it as anti-female," said Richard Czuba, founder of the Glengariff Group, a nonpartisan polling firm in Lansing. "I can see him going after Whitmer if he's worried about her being on the ticket. But he has systemically attacked every prominent female politician in Michigan."The state and national Republican parties have adopted Trump's campaign against the three female leaders, bashing Whitmer's handling of the virus, suing her over her use of emergency powers and slamming her frequent appearances on cable news, which they have called an "audition" to become Biden's running mate.GOP leaders have also seized on a comment by Whitmer's husband, Marc Mallory -- a failed attempt at humor, according to the governor -- in which he reportedly tried to exploit his wife's position to get the family boat put in the water at their northern Michigan vacation home before Memorial Day. Republicans had blue-and-gray beer koozies printed up: "Whitmer Yacht Club … Lockdown for thee, Open waters for me."The Republican-controlled Michigan House of Representatives and Senate have threatened to cut funding from Nessel's office. A group affiliated with the Michigan Freedom Fund, a conservative advocacy group funded primarily by the DeVos family, has sued Benson over the absentee ballot and independent redistricting commission issues, both of which were overwhelmingly approved by Michigan voters in 2018.So far, the courts have rejected the lawsuits, although Republicans are appealing those decisions.And according to polls, Michiganders are siding with the women.Stuck at a 43% approval rating at the start of 2020, Whitmer had weathered a difficult 2019, unable to deliver on her signature campaign issue of "fixing the damn roads," and having lost several crucial budget battles with Republicans in the legislature.But then the first confirmed coronavirus cases hit the state March 10, and Whitmer's response to the pandemic, including a statewide lockdown announced March 23, turned the tide in voters' views of her. Four separate polls taken in April, May and June have shown rising approval ratings, despite several raucous protests against the stay-at-home order at the state Capitol. By June, she was at 60%, while Trump was stuck around 42% nationally."In a crisis, people rally around their leaders," said Czuba, the pollster. "What is unique is that the president is the only leader who hasn't been rallied around. In one fell swoop, the president helped her consolidate her support."The Twitter fights have helped at least one business in Michigan, too.When the virus hit the state, Ivette Lopez thought she would have to permanently close the Outdoor Beerdsman, her 5-year-old coffee and gift shop in northern Michigan.But then Trump's Twitter war with Whitmer began, and Lopez started churning out T-shirts with the slogan "That Woman From Michigan" in her Boyne City home. She has now sold more than 8,000 of them for $20 a pop, including one that Whitmer wore during an appearance on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Trevor Noah.""Without these shirts, I would have closed my business," Lopez said. "There's no way I could have made it through the winter."Now, Whitmer and Nessel are turning at least some of their attention to defeating Trump in November. Because of her role as the state's chief elections officer, Benson won't endorse or work for a candidate in the presidential race.Whitmer said on a recent campaign call, "We're all that woman from Michigan, and by the end of this, Donald Trump is going to know not to mess with these women from Michigan."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were among those sanctioned by China, days after the U.S. sanctioned China over alleged rights abuses.
Despite the stereotype that Donald Trump’s political base is “old,” the president has drawn negative ratings from seniors in Wisconsin throughout his term.
U.S. President Donald Trump is willing to consider additional aid to re-open schools, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Monday. "The president has said that he's open to suggestions about additional funding if it appears that would be necessary in certain states and localities, so he will look at that," Kudlow told reporters outside the White House. Trump has been pushing for schools to re-open for the beginning of the school year in the fall, even while the coronavirus surges in states across the country.
Returning from a one-week summer break, The View quickly devolved into yet another shoutfest between frequent sparring partners Meghan McCain and Joy Behar, prompting lead host Whoopi Goldberg to scold the pair and threaten them with a quick commercial break.The ABC talk show kicked off Monday’s broadcast by discussing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ disastrous Sunday talk-show appearances, something the panel appeared to be in agreement over.“So Meghan, we’re not seeming to get any real guidance from the education secretary. So what do you think a good idea for a plan could be?” Goldberg noted after highlighting DeVos’ inability to detail a comprehensive plan to safely reopen schools on Sunday.“Well, first and foremost on that point, Betsy DeVos needs major media training if she’s going to have a job like this in the administration during a pandemic,” McCain replied. “I don’t know if I have ever seen someone at that level be worse in interviews.”This caused Behar to laugh, prompting McCain to tell her liberal colleague that this is “quite serious” before going on to say she was “really disappointed” and there is still no plan to safely reopen schools this fall while calling on “both sides” to be voted out.“Yeah. What’s funny, Meghan, is that media training is the least of her problems. That’s what made me laugh,” Behar eventually responded.“It’s about communication,” McCain shot back, prompting Behar to add, “I know. She sucks!”Moments later, McCain took offense when Behar said the GOP doesn’t care about education, griping that it’s “very aggressive and incendiary” to “say Republicans don’t care about children.”Behar contended she was criticizing Republicans on “education,” causing McCain to say “whatever” before blasting Democrats for supporting teachers’ unions and presenting a “moving goal of priorities” on reopening schools. McCain, meanwhile, groused that it’s “exhausting” to come on the show and be “told that Republicans don’t care about anything.”As the two continued to bicker, Goldberg jumped in and threw the segment to a commercial break while waving to the camera.The following segment, which was ostensibly about the Trump administration’s attempt to publicly discredit top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, eventually turned into another partisan fight between the two.After Behar chastised McCain for conflating her criticism of Republicans as being about run-of-the-mill GOP voters, McCain shot back by claiming (once again) that she’s the “only Republican in mainstream media” and saying Behar’s remarks come across as “accusatory.”“I’m Republican. I vote for these people,” she grumbled, adding, “All I want is for us at this show to lead by example and not be part of the problem and come in being accusatory.”While Behar continued to attack Republican “idiots,” McCain yelled back that the veteran comedian was going to get President Donald Trump re-elected, leading Goldberg to say enough is enough.“Okay, I swear to God if you don’t stop, I’m going to take us to break again,” she shouted.“I didn’t bring this up,” McCain protested. “We were moving on to another topic! Joy brought it up!”Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar Shut Down Meghan McCain’s COVID OutburstRead more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
A U.S. judge on Monday asked the Justice Department to explain whether President Donald Trump's order commuting Roger Stone's prison term means the veteran Republican operative does not need to be supervised by probation officers as many convicted felons are after being freed. Congressional Democrats and other critics accused Trump of abuse of power and an assault on the rule of law after the Republican president on Friday gave executive clemency to Stone, his longtime friend and adviser. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who presided over Stone's trial, set a July 14 deadline to receive a copy of Trump's clemency order along with an explanation about whether it also commutes the period that Stone was meant to be supervised after leaving prison.
Michael B. Williams spent nearly two years helping to run a trade group focused on expanding sales of firearm silencers by American manufacturers.But try as he might, he could not achieve one of the industry's main goals: overturning a ban on sales to private foreign buyers enacted by the State Department to protect U.S. troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere.Then Williams joined the Trump administration.As a White House lawyer, he pushed to overturn the prohibition, raising the issue with influential administration officials and creating pressure within the State Department, according to current and former government officials.On Friday, the State Department lifted the ban, and a longtime industry goal was realized. The change paved the way for as much as $250 million a year in possible new overseas sales for companies that Williams had championed as general counsel of the American Suppressor Association.His role in pushing to lift the ban, which has not been previously reported, follows a well-established pattern in the Trump administration, with the president handing over policymaking to allies of special interest groups with a stake in those policies. And in this case, Williams' victory comes for a key constituency as President Donald Trump seeks reelection.Trump's Cabinet includes a former coal lobbyist as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, a former lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon Technologies as defense secretary, a lobbyist for the auto industry at the helm of the Energy Department and a former oil and gas lobbyist as interior secretary. Those industries have been sources of funds for Trump's campaign and committees supporting it.Williams' work, though lower-profile, has nevertheless been a boon to another crucial political constituency: the gun lobby, which plays a leading role in Republican get-out-the-vote efforts and views eliminating silencer restrictions as an emerging issue. It is a subject that has been embraced by the president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. -- an ally of Williams' former trade group -- as well as by other powerful gun industry groups."This is another win for the firearm and suppressor manufacturers by the Trump administration," said Lawrence G. Keane, general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, in a statement after the ban was lifted Friday.In an interview, Keane praised Williams, saying "he understands the product, obviously, having worked at the American Suppressor Association." That association said it was "thrilled" with the ban's end; the group also dismissed safety concerns, noting that the sales would be regulated by the State Department and that foreign-made silencers were already available for purchase in other countries.But some in military, diplomatic and arms control circles defended the ban and expressed alarm about its lifting, which was announced Friday afternoon in a little-noticed posting on the website of the State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls. Although the department's rules had long permitted selling silencers to foreign governments, they did not allow sales to private companies or individuals, whose use of the devices is more difficult to monitor.Lincoln P. Bloomfield Jr., who was assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs when the ban was enacted in 2002, said the policy was intended to prevent American equipment from making its way to hostile groups that might use it against U.S. service members, especially during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars."Terrorist groups were using garage door openers to blow up U.S. troops; you kind of think twice about what you are exporting," said Bloomfield, who added that such dangers still exist today. "Who are you selling these silencers to?" he said. "I sure hope that none of these are aimed at U.S. or allied forces."A State Department spokeswoman said the policy change was made to benefit American manufacturers. "U.S. companies should have the same opportunity to compete in the international marketplace as other manufacturers around the world," the spokeswoman said. She also said that silencers were more readily available in foreign countries now than when the ban was imposed.The White House did not respond to a request for comment. Williams declined to comment.An examination of Williams' rise from trade group advocate to West Wing lawyer reveals that White House tumult and turnover created opportunities for him.After joining Trump's campaign in 2016, Williams, at age 30, became an assistant deputy general counsel at the Office of Management and Budget, then led by Mick Mulvaney.In the spring of 2019, not long after Mulvaney was elevated to acting White House chief of staff, Williams joined him as counselor and a deputy assistant to the president. It was from that perch that Williams began to press the gun issues in earnest, according to the current and former officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly.Throughout his time in the White House, Williams maintained close ties to the suppressor association, which is funded by silencer manufacturers, distributors, retailers and customers. His brother, Knox Williams, started the organization and serves as its president and executive director, and the two have remained in regular contact. "We speak almost every day," Knox Williams said in an interview.Michael Williams, his brother said, did not run afoul of Trump administration ethics rules that forbid government officials from working on matters affecting their former employers within two years of leaving. But in 2019, he set to work on gun issues without those constraints.He was involved in a successful push to shift responsibility for foreign sales of semi-automatic weapons, including powerful .50-caliber sniper rifles, to the Commerce Department from the State Department -- an effort that had been underway since the Obama administration and that had been previously blocked by Democratic members of Congress over concerns that it would strip away oversight.Once that was accomplished, Williams turned to the silencer sales ban, even though in internal discussions Pentagon officials had warned against lifting it. The officials feared that U.S. troops who came under silenced gunfire might struggle to locate their attackers and return fire.Knox Williams rejected the suggestion that his group had an inside advantage. "We work the issues that we work just the same as any other organization does," he said, though he said he believed his brother had played a role in the industry scoring its latest win."It's a big victory for us, and a victory for our industry, and a victory for our consumers, and frankly a victory for the country," he said. "This is going to create hundreds of jobs, easily, if not more."Government watchdog groups, however, said the case raised concerns about special interests gaining remarkable access in the Trump White House."When Michael Williams exits through the revolving door to return to the gun industry, I'm sure he will be greeted with open arms," said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, a government ethics advocacy group that has filed records requests for Williams' communications with the gun lobby from the White House budget office.Records obtained by Evers' group show that in early 2018, about a year after his arrival at the White House, Williams was invited by the National Shooting Sports Foundation to three meetings that another invitee described as being about countering gun control measures after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.Keane, the shooting sports foundation's general counsel, said Williams did not attend the meetings and had been invited in error. Nevertheless, he said his group communicated with Williams about the State Department's silencer policy, and other Second Amendment-related issues. He said Williams took on what Keane called the "hook and bullet" portfolio -- fishing and hunting issues -- at the White House.A Georgia native and Eagle Scout, Williams worked as a law clerk for the National Rifle Association before graduating from George Washington University Law School in 2014. Soon after, he went to work at the American Suppressor Association, which his brother had co-founded three years earlier. Michael Williams managed the group's budget, but he also helped draft legislation and lobby lawmakers, his brother said. One of his main issues was the fight to open up sales of silencers to private foreign buyers.Intent on understanding the reasons for the sales ban, Michael Williams filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents from the State Department and then battled the agency over them for more than a year. His association also sought to attack the ban from Capitol Hill, helping to draft and push a bill introduced by Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, in 2016 that would have overturned the sales prohibition, according to Knox Williams. The bill never got out of committee.Neither Michael Williams nor his brother was required to register as a lobbyist at the federal level, his brother said, because they did not spend 20% or more of their time lobbying. "We made sure that we were not hitting those thresholds to require us individually to register," Knox Williams said.The Williams brothers also tried to influence silencer policies in various states, including in New Hampshire, where both registered as lobbyists in 2015.After Trump accepted the Republican nomination in the summer of 2016, their cause got a boost from a prominent figure, Donald Trump Jr.The candidate's son, an avid hunter, recorded a video in September 2016 with Joshua G. Waldron, a founding board member of the suppressor association, expressing support for making silencers easier to buy in the United States.Waldron, who founded a company called SilencerCo, tells Trump in the video "there is no better person than your father to protect our Second Amendment," and says he wants to "try to get the people that love firearms in our community and our industry" to back the Trump campaign.The same month, Michael Wiliams left the suppressor association to become director of Election Day operations for Trump's campaign in North Carolina. He worked as associate counsel on Trump's inaugural committee before joining the Office of Management and Budget in January 2017.He returned to the budget office last month. Knox Williams credited him with helping to lay the groundwork for Friday's announcement before his return. "This is a yearslong effort and buildup that just finally got across the finish line," he said.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
“I suspect that the days of widespread compliance with do-it-or-else mandates meant to curb COVID-19 are over.”
“To have mask optional is like saying, ‘Hey, Covid optional.’”
“At this point, with the mask wars well underway, any kind of national mask mandate would be a difficult thing to carry out.”
“Masks help slow the spread, but a well-funded and coordinated testing strategy is the foundation of a modern response.”
“Certain types of masks may also be putting young Black men in danger of harassment or profiling.