What Now?! – May 20, 2020

And just like that, Obamagate fizzles. The email that National Security Adviser Susan Rice sent herself on the day of President Trump’s inauguration — and has since drawn intense scrutiny from Republicans as the SMOKING GUN OF OBAMAGATE!!!! — has been declassified.

Politico: “It says that then-FBI Director James Comey worried about sharing classified information with the Trump team because of incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn’s frequent conversations with the Russian ambassador, but that Comey had no knowledge of Flynn sharing classified information with him.”

The email noted that President Obama wanted to be sure “every aspect of this issue is handled by the Intelligence and law enforcement communities ‘by the book.’”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that he plans to finish his committee’s investigation into the origins of the FBI’s Russia probe by October and release a public report before the election, CNN reports.

“Graham is preparing to ask his colleagues on the panel for blanket permission to subpoena dozens of Obama and Trump administration officials connected to the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election — and contacts between President Trump’s team and Russians,” Politico reports.

“His proposal would permit the South Carolina Republican to demand testimony and documents from figures involved in the intelligence associated with the launch of the Russia investigation.”

Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes: “The specifics of ‘Obamagate’ are less important than what it is not about: the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 90,000 Americans partly as a consequence of Trump’s own catastrophic and ongoing failures of governance. Trump’s invocation of ‘Obamagate’ gives his fans something to seize on—and the political press something to cover—instead of the ineptitude of Jared Kushner’s pandemic task force or the consistent lack of personal protective equipment at hospitals or the government’s failure to establish the many drive-through testing centers Trump promised in mid-March.”

“Tweeting about ‘Obamagate’ also draws attention away from Trump’s firing of four successive inspectors general since the pandemic began, a decapitation of government oversight that The Washington Post describes as the president’s ‘push to rid the federal bureaucracy of officials he considers insufficiently loyal to or protective of him and his administration.’… The more focus there is on figuring out what Trump is asking for when he demands accountability for the Obama administration’s many and unspecified crimes, the less there is on the accountability Trump is systematically eliminating within his own administration.”

President Trump said the United States having the most coronavirus cases in the world is “a badge of honor,” CNN reports. Said Trump: “I don’t look at that as a bad thing. I look at that, in a certain respect, as being a good thing. Because it means our testing is much better.”

Playbook: “In saying he is ingesting hydroxychloroquine against the advice of his government’s experts and refusing to use a mask, President Trump has unleashed the wail of a siren to his base that he is in charge — not the medical experts in his administration — and will do as he pleases.”

“No two health issues in the coronavirus era have divided America like the use of facial coverings and hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that some have advocated for use against Covid-19. Political leaders and health experts have advised that people wear masks in public, while physicians and scientists have suggested using hydroxychloroquine could be dangerous and even deadly under some circumstances. Trump — the most visible man on planet Earth — has decided to go his own way.”

“Is he actually taking it? Who knows. The timing he laid out — that he’s been taking it for a few weeks — lines up with when his personal valet got sick. But you’d be excused for being a bit skeptical because so much of what he has said doesn’t check out.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) defended her comment claiming that President Trump could be at greater risk of complications from taking an unproven coronavirus treatment because he is “morbidly obese,” adding that she didn’t anticipate he would be “sensitive” about his appearance, The Hill  reports. Said Pelosi: “I didn’t know that he would be so sensitive. He’s always talking about other people’s… their weight, their pounds.”

When reporters asked about the safety of his taking hydroxychloroquine, President Trump claimed a study suggesting the drug was not effective against the coronavirus was conducted by his political opponents to make him look bad.

Said Trump: “If you look at the one survey, the only bad survey, they were giving it to people that were in very bad shape. They were very old. Almost dead. It was a Trump enemy statement.”

Crain’s Detroit Business: “When Ford Motor Co. hosts President Trump on Thursday for a tour of its Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, the automaker will be doing so in technical violation of an executive order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer prohibiting ‘nonessential’ plant tours. Her office signaled it would not stand in the way of the visit.”

“Ford says it will require the president to wear a mask, something he has not done on other recent plant tours.”

USA Today: “The Florida Department of Health had blocked the commission from releasing the spreadsheet. When the state agreed to release, state officials attempted to redact the narratives with details about each death and the cause of death…”

“The data provide grim insight into the early failures of state officials and the medical system to contain and respond to the virus. Florida Today’s analysis of the initial 600 deaths found patients denied testing until their second or third hospital visit, deaths from untraceable cases, meaning contact tracing either didn’t happen or fell apart immediately, and deadly clusters of infection at nursing homes and cruise ships.”

The Oregon Supreme Court stepped in to put a hold on a dramatic decision by an eastern Oregon judge that declared “null and void” all of Gov. Kate Brown’s (D) stay-at-home emergency orders to deal with the coronavirus crisis, the Oregonian reports.

Catherine Rampell: “Let’s just do it and be legends, man.”

“That could well be the slogan of this White House’s slapdash, hubristic approach to reopening the U.S. economy, which is turning into the Fyre Festival of pandemic responses.”

“Rather like the organizers of that infamous, ill-fated music fete, the Trump administration appears to have contempt for nose-to-the-grindstone planning or infrastructure development. Instead, it believes that all problems — logistical, technical and medical — can be solved with slightly different social media messaging. Perhaps a new slogan. Or a more outrageous, puffery-filled, caps-locked presidential tweet.”

“Plus maybe a celebrity endorsement from a marginally flashier set of influencers.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned senators that the economy may never fully recover if states extend their shutdowns for months, the New York Times reports. Said Mnuchin: “There is the risk of permanent damage.”

However, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell suggested that “simply reopening states without a vaccine or a sense that the virus will not resurface is unlikely to provide an immediate economic boost.”

“It’s been a White House tradition for decades: a first-term president hosts his immediate predecessor in the East Room for a ceremony to unveil the portrait of the former president that will hang in the halls of the White House for posterity,” NBC News report.

“Republican presidents have done it for Democratic presidents, and vice versa — even when one of them ascended to the White House by defeating or sharply criticizing the other.”

“Yet this modern ritual won’t be taking place between Obama and President Trump, according to people familiar with the matter. And if Trump wins a second term in November, it could be 2025 before Obama returns to the White House to see his portrait displayed among every U.S. president from George Washington to Bush.”

“The Senate Intelligence Committee has approved Rep. John Ratcliffe’s (R-TX) nomination to be director of national intelligence, paving the way for a full Senate vote in the coming weeks,” the Washington Post reports.

“The Republican congressman from Texas and staunch defender of President Trump has faced difficult questions about his credentials and whether he is capable of acting independently.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced Monday that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) will serve as the acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee while a federal investigation into Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is ongoing, Axios reports.

Dr. Deborah Birx ignored questions when she arrived at the White House about whether she had concerns regarding President Trump’s apparent use of hydroxychloroquine.

Joe Scarborough said on his show that he doesn’t believe Trump is actually taking the drug.

David Graham, writing in The Atlantic: “The war on inspectors general is the third and final front in Trump’s war on any kind of check on the executive branch. In the past few months alone, the White House has argued that Congress doesn’t have the right to oversee the executive branch. It has sought to convince courts that matters of oversight shouldn’t be decided by the judicial branch, either.”

“And in going after inspectors general, an accountability mechanism embedded in the executive branch, it is staking a simple but sweeping claim: No one has the right to check the executive outside of quadrennial elections.”

First Read: “Ignore the experts, attack the referees and undermine global institutions… These events are all new, but the pattern has been the same throughout Trump’s entire presidency.”

“When you ignore the experts, attack and fire the referees, and undermine institutions — no matter all of their imperfections and mistakes — you make it clear that you’re the only one in charge and will do whatever you please, as Politico writes this morning.”

“And that’s the antithesis of America’s democracy (with all of its checks and balances), as well as its federalism.”

Ron Brownstein: “From President Trump through Republican governors and state legislatures, the GOP is coalescing around a position of reopening the economy as quickly as possible despite concerns about seeding a wider spread of the coronavirus.”

“But the party’s efforts face a paradoxical hurdle: The economy can’t regain much momentum without the participation of big Democratic-leaning metropolitan areas, where both local officials and average residents remain more skeptical about quickly unwinding social distancing measures.”

“In almost all of the swing states likely to decide the winner in the 2020 presidential race, the largest metropolitan areas account for at least two-thirds, and in several cases more than four-fifths, of the state’s employment and economic output.”

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

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