What Now?! – March 21, 2020

Frank Rich: “The president who is leading this country into battle cares about no one but himself, continues to lie to Americans daily about the most basic imperatives of a public-health catastrophe, and presides over an administration staffed with incompetent, third-tier bootlickers and grifters. And I am not just talking about Mike Pence, Jared Kushner, and Wilbur Ross. There are now three college seniors serving in White House positions, thanks to a new purge of ostensibly disloyal staffers being conducted by Trump’s former body man, the 29-year-old John McEntee, recently installed as director of the Presidential Personnel Office.”

“Trump calls himself a ‘wartime president,’ but his only previous wartime experience was partying during Vietnam, when he was spared military service because of ‘bone spurs.’ Those bone spurs long ago migrated to his brain. If America rises to the occasion, it will be despite him, not because of him.”

“President Trump said that he would start using his powers under a Korean War-era law to try to increase the production of ventilators and masks, as hospitals around the country warn of shortages,” the Wall Street Journal  reports. Said Trump: “I invoked the Defense Production Act, and last night we put it into gear.”

He provided no details. He later refused to name any companies he claims were asked to produce the needed medical equipment. So that means he hasn’t invoked the DPA.

CNN: “For the past two days, Trump has said he is dispensing ‘game changer’ breakthroughs on treatments and a wartime-style effort to mass produce medical supplies that appear as rays of light amid America’s darkening battle against the coronavirus pandemic.”

“His eagerness for remedies no doubt reflects a sincere desire to deliver Americans from the nightmare of lockdowns, fear for loved ones and atmosphere of national trauma.”

“But it is also becoming clear that the President’s rhetoric is part of an emerging political strategy. He can’t hold the campaign rallies that are his political lifeblood any more — so he’s just moved them into the White House briefing room.”

At today’s briefing by the coronavirus task force, Peter Alexander of NBC News asked President Trump:

NBC NEWS: What do you say to Americans that are scared?

TRUMP: I say you’re a terrible reporter.

Garrett Graff: “This is a actually a super basic and softball question. The fact that the president doesn’t realize it is deeply troubling. He really only sees himself in all this.”

President Trump’s former press secretary, Sean Spicer, asked the president about reports of U.S. senators dumping stock last month as they received private briefings on the scope of the coronavirus pandemic, Voxreports.

Said Trump: “I’m not aware of it. I find them all to be very honorable people, and they said they did nothing wrong.”

“Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sees the proposed Senate Republican stimulus measure as too small in some areas and wants it to include direct payments to more individuals to mitigate the economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak,” Bloomberg reports.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday defended the Senate Republicans coming up with a proposed $1 trillion economic stimulus plan to battle the coronavirus without any input from Democrats, saying bipartisan negotiations were skipped in favor of speed, CNN reports.

Said McConnell: “Actually, it’s speeding it up. We just passed yesterday a bill, it was written in the Democratic House of Representatives.”

He added: “The Republicans are in the majority in the Senate. We wanted to put forward our proposal. We feel like we have an obligation to do that as a majority and the Democrats, of course, need to be given an opportunity to react to it and that all begins tomorrow. So don’t create controversy where there isn’t controversy.”

“The White House, under the guise of its coronavirus response, is quietly advancing policies that President Trump has long advocated, from tougher border controls to an assault on organized labor to the stonewalling of congressional oversight,” the New York Times reports.

“And across the government, departments have been citing the “whole of government” response to the pandemic as they push through the same policies they sought before the crisis. Just this week during a coronavirus briefing, Mr. Trump said his administration would use authority granted to the surgeon general to immediately turn away those who crossed the border illegally.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told his state’s 19 million residents to stay indoors as much as possible and ordered nonessential businesses to keep all of their workers home, the New York Times reports. The measures, the state’s most drastic yet, come as confirmed coronavirus cases in New York topped 7,000, by far the most in the nation. Said Cuomo: “These provisions will be enforced. These are not helpful hints.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued an immediate order for all Californians to stay home to help stop an anticipated surge in coronavirus cases, CBS San Francisco reports. Newsom told President Trump that roughly 56% of Californians, or 25.5 million people, could be infected with the coronavirus over the next eight weeks, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) plans to issue a “shelter-in-place” order for the entire state starting Saturday, essentially commanding residents to stay in their homes as the officials take drastic measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Adam Serwer: “I don’t mean that I disagree with him on policy, although I do. I don’t mean that I abhor the president’s expressed bigotry toward religious and ethnic minorities, although that is also true. I am not referring to Donald Trump’s efforts to corrupt the Justice Department, shield his criminal associates from legal peril, or funnel taxpayer money to his tacky hotels and golf courses, although all of these things are reason enough to oppose the president.”

“What I am referring to is the fact that, soon after the coronavirus outbreak emerged in China, the rest of the world began to regard it as a threat to public health, while Trump has seen it as a public-relations problem. Trump’s primary method of dealing with public-relations problems is to exert the full force of the authoritarian cult of personality that surrounds him to deny that a problem even exists. This approach has paid political dividends for the Republican Party, in the form of judicial appointments, tax cuts for the wealthy, and a rapid erosion of the rule of law. But applied to the deadly pandemic now sweeping the planet, all it has done is exacerbate the inevitable public-health crisis, while leaving both the federal government and the entire swath of the country that hangs on his every word unprepared for the catastrophe now unfolding in the United States. The cardinal belief of Trumpism is that loyalty to Trump is loyalty to the country, and that equation leaves no room for the public interest.”

“Neither the tide of pestilence sweeping the nation nor the economic calamity that will follow was inevitable. They are the predictable outcomes of the president’s authoritarian instincts, his obvious incompetence, and the propaganda apparatus that has shielded him from accountability by ensuring that the public is blinded to his role in the scale of this disaster.”

New York Times: “The prospect of a bailout of a scale without precedent has set off a rush to the fiscal trough, with businesses enduring undeniable dislocation jostling with more opportunistic interests to ensure they get a share.”

“While the halls of the Capitol are eerily quiet, lobbyists are burning up the phone lines and flooding email inboxes trying to capitalize on the stimulus bills moving quickly through Congress.”

“The Trump administration asked states to abstain from releasing unemployment-claims figures prior to the publication of a national compilation of weekly U.S. jobless claims,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The official cited an email sent on Wednesday from Gay Gilbert, an administrator at the U.S. Labor Department. The message, sent as states across the nation started reporting surges in claims tied to the coronavirus pandemic, said jobless claims are closely watched by policy makers and financial markets during a time of fast-changing economic conditions. The emailed message asked states to keep the numbers embargoed until the national claims figures are released each Thursday.”

A new Goldman Sachs report will show 2.25 million Americans filed for their first week of unemployment benefits this week — eight times the number of people who filed last week and the highest level on record.

Goldman Sachs is now projecting a massive U.S. economic contraction in the second quarter of the year, Barrons reports.

“The bank is forecasting a 24% decline in economic activity next quarter, compared to their previous forecast for a 5% decline. That’s because U.S. economic data (specifically manufacturing data) have already started to miss economist estimates, even before Americans started to stay home to avoid spreading the coronavirus.”

“If Goldman’s economists are right, that means the U.S. is approaching the sharpest single-quarter decline in gross domestic product since the U.S. started measuring GDP in its current form.”

“The drug touted by the President Trump as a possible line of treatment against the coronavirus comes with severe warnings in China and can kill in dosages as little as two grams,” Bloomberg reports.

“China, where the deadly pathogen first emerged in December, recommended the decades-old malaria drug chloroquine to treat infected patients in guidelines issued in February after seeing encouraging results in clinical trials. But within days, it cautioned doctors and health officials about the drug’s lethal side effects and rolled back its usage.”

Sean Spicer joined White House press corp at today’s coronavirus task force briefing by taking the Newsmax seat in briefing room, the Daily Mail reports. Spicer has a show on the conservative network.

Kelly O’Donnell: “It is simply not appropriate for the former press secretary to sit among journalists to ask questions of the president he served. The door between politics and media sometimes revolves but it is not appropriate to question one’s former boss.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Friday that the IRS tax filing deadline was extended three months to July 15 amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) told the Washington Post that he has asked Senate Ethics Committee for review of his recent stock sales, made after he had private briefings on the coronavirus pandemic. Burr said he relied solely on public news reports on the sales.

Sources close to President Trump tell ABC News that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) needs to resign after reports he dumped millions of dollars of stock after private briefings on the coronavirus pandemic.

Tucker Carlson called for Burr “to resign and await prosecution for insider trading” while adding he betrayed his country in a time of crisis.

“President Trump made a gathering of world leaders at the Group of 7 summit a video teleconference and canceled plans to hold the June meeting in person at Camp David due to the coronavirus pandemic,” CNN reports.

“President Trump told his top national security advisers last week that because of the coronavirus pandemic he didn’t think an aggressive response to new attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq by Iranian-backed militias was the right move,” NBC News reports.

“Trump expressed concern that hitting back hard at Iran at this time would make the U.S. look bad, given the extent to which Iran and the rest of the world are struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19.”

“The acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center was fired Wednesday night in what insiders fear is a purge by the Trump administration of career professionals at an organization set up after 9/11 to protect the nation from attacks,” the Washington Post reports.

Financial Times: “U.S. Treasury bill yields dipped below zero while longer-dated government debt yields rose on Wednesday in a sign of frightened investors flocking to more easily traded securities during the global market tumult.”

Garrett Graff: “The worry and unease about COVID-19 feels so inescapable that Americans can easily miss the sheer beauty of what is unfolding across the country right now. Yes, we are approaching errands that were routine just a week ago—to the hardware store or the grocery store—with the same wariness that we might bring to an Arctic exploration. Yet if we take a step back from the panic-buying of toilet paper, the response to COVID-19 should stand as one of the most beautiful moments in our country’s long history—a moment of shared, galvanizing national spirit that has existed in perhaps only in a handful of epochal years before, like 1776, 1861, 1933, and 1941, and, in modern times, after 9/11.”

“We are witnessing people everywhere, acting mostly independently but all together, shutting our country down—a move that ensures millions will face a massive, incalculable economic hit—to give the weakest among us a better chance against the novel coronavirus. We are each sacrificing our daily routines—our gyms and coffee shops and offices—to keep health-care professionals from becoming overwhelmed.”

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

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