What Now?! – March 19, 2020

“Jared Kushner has created his own team of government allies and private industry representatives to work alongside the administration’s official coronavirus task force, adding another layer of confusion and conflicting signals within the White House’s disjointed response to the crisis,” the Washington Post reports.

“Kushner’s team is causing confusion among many officials involved in the response, who say they are unsure who is in charge given Kushner’s dual role as senior adviser and Trump family member. Some have privately dubbed his team a ‘shadow task force’ whose requests they interpret as orders they must balance with regular response efforts.”

Washington Post: “Senate passes bill to ensure paid leave benefits to many Americans as coronavirus upends labor market. The bill now goes to Trump for enactment.”

“The measure, already approved by the House, secured bipartisan support, but lawmakers are already writing new legislation to try and rescue the economy in a sign of how quickly the economy is deteriorating. The Senate passed the bill 90-8.”

The United States and Canada are preparing to issue a joint statement in the next 24-48 hours to suspend non-essential travel between the two countries, CNN reports.

Washington Post: “White House officials are working with congressional Republicans on an emergency stimulus package that could send two $1,000 checks to many Americans and also devote $300 billion towards helping small businesses avoid mass layoffs.”

“No final decisions have been made and talks with Republican leaders remain fluid, but the growing scale of the $1 trillion rescue plan is coming into sharper focus. The White House will still need backing from Democrats before any plan can be pushed into law, but many Democrats have said they would support sending cash payments to Americans who are struggling to pay bills because of the virus’s economic impact. Still, multiple levels of negotiations remain.”

“President Trump moved Wednesday to send military hospital ships to areas hard-hit by the coronavirus and to invoke a law allowing the federal government to order American industry to produce critically-needed medical equipment,” the New York Times reports.

“The actions follow the Trump administration’s slow initial response to the global crisis that left the United States facing shortages of tests, hospital beds and equipment.”

It turns out that Trump has not actually invoking the Defense Production Act, the law that allows the government to order industry to produce what it needs. He just issued an Executive Order laying out preparations to invoke it.

The White House’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said the administration may consider asking for an equity stake in corporations who want coronavirus aid from taxpayers, Bloomberg reports.

Kudlow also said the administration could “up the ante” beyond its $1.3 trillion stimulus proposal if the economic impact of the coronavirus is worse than anticipated.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) has become the first member of Congress to test positive for coronavirus, Fox News reports.

“The novel coronavirus is redefining Donald Trump’s presidency eight months before he stands for reelection as he wagers that the potentially largest rescue package in U.S. history could protect the American people from the economic carnage brought by the pandemic,” the Washington Post reports.

“Trump will be tested at the ballot box not only by his management of the public health crisis but also by his ability to navigate what the president says will likely be a recession — a challenge that is reviving the decade-long debate over the use of public money to prop up private businesses.”

“The administration on Wednesday outlined a $1 trillion plan, which includes $500 billion in cash payments to individual Americans and $300 billion toward helping small businesses, as well as $50 billion for airlines and $150 billion for other affected sectors.”

“Getting coronavirus is not a death sentence except for maybe no more than 3.4 percent of our population… probably far less. We don’t shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways.”

— Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“The New York Stock Exchange said Wednesday it will temporarily close its trading floor and move fully to electronic trading after traders tested positive for coronavirus infection,” CNBC reports.

“All-electronic trading will begin on March 23 at the open.”

In a Senate floor speech, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) described undocumented immigrants as not “legitimate” people while making the case that they should not be given access to federal child tax credits, the Daily Beastreports.

Said Paul: “If you want to apply for money from the government through the child tax credit program, then you have to be a legitimate person. It has nothing to do with not liking immigrants. It has to do with saying, taxpayer money shouldn’t go to non-people.”

The U.S. Census Bureau announced it was suspending its field operations to get people to respond to the 2020 census, which aims to count every person in America.

“The Detroit Three have agreed to UAW demands to shut down all U.S. plants as a precaution against coronavirus, said a person familiar with a Wednesday meeting between the UAW and the automakers,” the Detroit Free Press reports.

“When cases of the new coronavirus began emerging several weeks ago in California, Washington state and other pockets of the country, U.S. public-health officials worried this might be The Big One, emails and interviews show,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The testing program they rolled out to combat it, though, was a small one.”

“Limited testing has blinded Americans to the scale of the outbreak so far, impeding the nation’s ability to fight the virus through isolating the sick and their contacts, public-health officials say.”

Russian state media and pro-Kremlin outlets are waging a disinformation campaign about the coronavirus pandemic to sow “panic and fear” in the West, EU officials have warned in a report seen by CNN.

Attorney General William Barr vowed to the Associated Press that there would be swift and severe action if a foreign government is behind disinformation campaigns aimed at spreading fear in the U.S. amid the coronavirus pandemic or a denial of service attack on the networks of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Said Barr: “Our primary role right now is to investigate,” Barr said. “The FBI is very active, trying to determine who is responsible for these things.”

“The U.S. Justice Department moved Monday to drop its two-year-long prosecution of a Russian company charged with orchestrating a social media campaign to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” the Washington Post reports.

“The stunning reversal came weeks before the case — a spin off of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe — was to go to trial.”

Andrew Ross Sorkin: “With President Trump proposing to send $1,000 checks to every American and industries, like the airlines, lining up for bailouts, there is a better way to arrest the panic.”

“The government could offer every American business, large and small, and every self-employed — and gig — worker a no-interest ‘bridge loan’ guaranteed for the duration of the crisis to be paid back over a 5-year period. The only condition of the loan to businesses would be that companies continue to employ at least 90 percent of their work force at the same wage that they did before the crisis. And it would be retroactive, so any workers that have been laid off in the past two weeks because of the crisis would be reinstated.”

“The program would keep virtually everyone employed — and keep companies, from airlines to restaurants, in business without picking winners and losers.”

Gabriel Sherman: “Sources told me Trump is regretting that Kushner swooped into the coronavirus response last week. Kushner, according to sources, encouraged Trump to treat the emergency as a P.R. problem when Fauci and others were calling for aggressive action.”

Said one former White House official: “This was Jared saying the world needs me to solve another problem.”

“One source briefed on the internal conversations told me that Kushner advised Trump not to call a national emergency during his Oval Office address on March 11 because ‘it would tank the markets.’ The markets cratered anyway, and Trump announced the national emergency on Friday… Trump was also said to be angry that Kushner oversold Google’s coronavirus testing website when in fact the tech giant had a fledgling effort. Trump got slammed in the press for promoting the phantom Google product.”

Said a source: “Jared told Trump that Google was doing an entire website that would be up in 72 hours and had 1,100 people working on it 24/7. That’s just a lie.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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