Trump Administration, Week 162: Friday, 21 February – Thursday, 27 February 2020 (Days 1,127-1,133)

 

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are usually my emphasis, though not always. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently during the day. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ for a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

For “a weekly newsletter celebrating people-powered wins against the Trump administration’s agenda,” visit Small Victories.

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Friday, 21 February, Day 1,127:

 

Trump Dismisses as a Democratic ‘Hoax’ the Warning by U.S. Intelligence Officials That Russia Is Meddling in the 2020 U.S. Election, The New York Times, Katie Rogers, Friday, 21 February 2020: “President Trump said Friday that the disclosure by American intelligence officials that Russia was again meddling in a presidential election in his favor was merely another partisan attack against him, continuing a pattern in which he has sought to dismiss warnings of foreign interference in American elections. ‘Another misinformation campaign is being launched by Democrats in Congress saying that Russia prefers me to any of the Do Nothing Democrat candidates who still have been unable to, after two weeks, count their votes in Iowa,’ Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. ‘Hoax number 7!’ He was responding to reports of a classified briefing in which intelligence officials told members of the House Intelligence Committee that Russia was interfering in the 2020 presidential campaign to aid his re-election. Republicans on the committee challenged the conclusions and Mr. Trump berated Joseph Maguire, the outgoing acting director of national intelligence, for allowing the briefing to happen. Intelligence officials have also concluded that the Russians are seeking to help Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the Democratic presidential primaries.”

Bernie Sanders briefed by U.S. officials that Russia is trying to help his presidential campaign, The Washington Post, Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Michael Scherer, and Sean Sullivan, Friday, 21 February 2020: “U.S. officials have told Sen. Bernie Sanders that Russia is attempting to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic contest, according to people familiar with the matter. President Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill also have been informed about the Russian assistance to the Vermont senator, those people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. It is not clear what form that Russian assistance has taken. U.S. prosecutors found a Russian effort in 2016 to use social media to boost Sanders’s campaign against Hillary Clinton, part of a broader effort to hurt Clinton, sow dissension in the American electorate and ultimately help elect Donald Trump. ‘I don’t care, frankly, who [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants to be president,’ Sanders said in a statement. ‘My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do.'” See also, Bernie Sanders Says Intelligence Officials Recently Told Him That Russia Has Been Trying to Intervene in the Democratic Primaries to Aid Him. Sanders Denounced Russia’s Efforts to Attack American Democracy. The New York Times, Julian E. Barnes and Sydney Ember, Friday, 21 February 2020: “Russia has been trying to intervene in the Democratic primaries to aid Senator Bernie Sanders, according to people familiar with the matter, and Mr. Sanders said on Friday that intelligence officials recently briefed him. The disclosure came a day before the Nevada caucuses, where Mr. Sanders is a favorite, and followed revelations a day earlier that Moscow was interfering on President Trump’s behalf this year, as it did in 2016. Mr. Sanders denounced Russia in a statement, calling President Vladimir V. Putin an ‘autocratic thug’ and warning Moscow to stay out of the election. Drawing a contrast with Mr. Trump, he said he would stand against any efforts by Russia or another foreign power to interfere in the vote. ‘The intelligence community is telling us they are interfering in this campaign right now in 2020,’ Mr. Sanders separately told reporters in Bakersfield, Calif., where he held a rally on Friday. ‘And what I say to Mr. Putin: If elected president, trust me, you are not going to be interfering in American elections.’” See also, Bernie Sanders condemns Russian interference in 2020 U.S. elections. ‘Unlike Donald Trump, I do not consider Vladimir Putin a good friend,’ Sanders said in a statement. Politico, Myah Ward, Friday, 21 February 2020: “Bernie Sanders on Friday condemned Russian interference in the 2020 election, telling Russian President Vladimir Putin that ‘if elected president, trust me, you are not going to be interfering in American elections.’ Sanders issued a statement in response to The Washington Post’s report that the Vermont senator was briefed by U.S. officials on Russia’s attempt to help his campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic [primary] elections. And in a later gaggle with reporters Friday afternoon, Sanders confirmed that the briefing happened ‘about a month ago.’ ‘Unlike Donald Trump, I do not consider Vladimir Putin a good friend,’ the statement said. ‘He is an autocratic thug who is attempting to destroy democracy and crush dissent in Russia. Let’s be clear, the Russians want to undermine American democracy by dividing us up and, unlike the current president, I stand firmly against their efforts, and any other foreign power that wants to interfere in our election.'”

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Builds Progressive Campaign Arm to Challenge Democrats, The New York Times, Catie Edmondson, Friday, 21 February 2020: “Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday endorsed an all-female slate of progressive candidates through her new political action committee, using her clout in the insurgent left and the considerable campaign funds she has drawn to counter the Democratic establishment in key races around the country. The endorsements of the congressional candidates — including one who is challenging Senate Democrats’ preferred candidate in Texas — amount to a powerful stamp of approval for a diverse group of newcomers. They also are a clear sign that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a celebrity of the liberal left, intends to leverage her influence among activists to try to reshape the Democratic Party. The move also underlines the struggle among Democrats that is defining the race for the presidency, which is pitting Senator Bernie Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist, against more moderate candidates who are presenting themselves as better able to appeal to a broad section of voters in taking on President Trump. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has traversed the country to campaign for Mr. Sanders, and her efforts to pull Congress to the left parallel his bid to deploy his progressive message to emerge as the Democratic nominee, an effort that has instilled fear in many centrist lawmakers who believe it could cost them their seats.” See also, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s political action committee endorses 7 progressive women candidates, CNN Politics, Clare Foran and Gregory Krieg, Friday, 21 February 2020: “Democratic freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York announced on Friday that her political action committee will endorse a series of progressive women congressional candidates, including challengers to incumbent Democrats. Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter that the group, Courage to Change, is endorsing seven women candidates. Six of them are running for House seats and one is running for a Senate seat.” See also, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorses 7 female progressive candidates to challenge establishment Democrats, The Washington Post, Colby Itkowitz, Friday, 21 February 2020: “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) will use her considerable star power to help other progressive women achieve what she did two years ago — take on the Democratic Party establishment. The freshman congresswoman, whose insurgent campaign’s success against a high-ranking member of the Democratic leadership rattled the party in 2018, endorsed seven new female candidates on Friday who are running against party-preferred candidates and two sitting Democratic congressmen.”

Continue reading Week 162, Friday, 21 February – Thursday, 27 February 2020 (Days 1,127-1,133)

Johnny McEntee, the new White House Director of Presidential Personnel, tells Cabinet liaisons to target Never Trumpers, Axios, Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene, Friday, 21 February 2020: “Johnny McEntee called in White House liaisons from cabinet agencies for an introductory meeting Thursday, in which he asked them to identify political appointees across the U.S. government who are believed to be anti-Trump, three sources familiar with the meeting tell Axios. McEntee, a 29-year-old former body man to Trump who was fired in 2018 by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly but recently rehired — and promoted to head the presidential personnel office — foreshadowed sweeping personnel changes across government…. Trump has empowered McEntee — whom he considers an absolute loyalist — to purge the ‘bad people’ and ‘Deep State.'” See also, Trump embarks on expansive search for disloyalty as administration-wide purge escalates, The Washington Post, Toluse Olorunnipa, Ashley Parker, and Josh Dawsey, Friday, 21 February 2020: “President Trump has instructed his White House to identify and force out officials across his administration who are not seen as sufficiently loyal, a post-impeachment escalation that administration officials say reflects a new phase of a campaign of retribution and restructuring ahead of the November election. Johnny McEntee, Trump’s former personal aide who now leads the effort as director of presidential personnel, has begun combing through various agencies with a mandate from the president to oust or sideline political appointees who have not proved their loyalty, according to several administration officials and others familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.” See also, John McEntee, Trump’s new director of presidential personnel, tells agencies to look out for disloyal staffers, CNN Politics, Jeremy Diamond, Jim Acosta, Kaitlan Collins, and Kristen Holmes, Friday, 21 February 2020: “President Donald Trump’s new personnel chief told agency officials at a meeting on Thursday to expect staffing changes and movements across the government, people familiar with the meeting told CNN. A White House official said John McEntee, the President’s former body man who was elevated to run the presidential personnel office, made it clear his office will be on the lookout for staffers across the bureaucracy who are seen as disloyal to Trump.”

Sonia Sotomayor Just Accused the Supreme Court’s Conservatives of Having a Clear Bias In Favor of the Trump Administration, Slate, Mark Joseph Stern, Friday, 21 February 2020: “On Friday evening, by a 5–4 vote, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration’s wealth test for immigrants to take effect in Illinois. All four liberal justices dissented from the order, which changes relatively little: Thanks to the conservative justices’ intervention in January, the wealth test was poised to take effect in 49 states, and Friday’s vote lets the government apply it in the last state left. What’s most remarkable about the decision is Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s withering dissent, which calls out—with startling candor—a distressing pattern: The court’s Republican appointees have a clear bias toward the Trump administration. Trump’s wealth test marks a brazen attempt to limit legal immigration by forcing immigrants to prove their financial status to enter, or remain in, the United States. It goes far beyond any statute passed by Congress, forcing immigrants to demonstrate that they will not be a ‘public charge’—that is, they won’t rely on any public assistance, including Medicaid, housing vouchers, and food stamps. Because the policy departs so dramatically from federal law, several courts blocked its implementation in 2019. In January, however, the Supreme Court allowed the wealth test to take effect over the dissent of all four liberals. The majority did not explain its reasoning. But Justice Neil Gorsuch, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote a concurrence complaining that a district court had blocked it across the country, decrying the ‘rise of nationwide injunctions.'” See also, Justice Sotomayor warns the Supreme Court is doing special favors for the Trump administration, Vox, Ian Millhiser, published on Saturday, 22 February 2020: “The Supreme Court voted along ideological lines Friday evening to allow a Trump administration rule restricting low-income immigrants’ ability to enter the US to take full effect. All four of the Court’s Democratic appointees dissented, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor writing a sharply worded dissenting opinion accusing her Court of ‘putting a thumb on the scale in favor of’ the Trump administration. ‘It is hard to say what is more troubling,’ Sotomayor wrote. ‘That the government would seek this extraordinary relief seemingly as a matter of course, or that the Court would grant it.'”

Michael Bloomberg, in Reversal, Says He’ll Release 3 Women From Nondisclosure Agreements, The New York Times, Nick Corasaniti and Michael M. Grynbaum, Friday, 21 February 2020: “Michael R. Bloomberg said Friday that he was willing to release three women from nondisclosure agreements with his company so they could discuss their complaints about him publicly, reversing himself from his position at this week’s Democratic presidential debate when he came under fire from his rivals for resisting such a move. But Mr. Bloomberg’s decision was seized upon as insufficient by the Democratic rivals who had denounced him during the debate, setting off a new round of sparring on the eve of the Nevada caucuses in which a representative for Mr. Bloomberg hit back at Senator Elizabeth Warren for the trouble she has encountered invoking her ancestry…. The statement by Mr. Bloomberg did not appear to release all former employees of his media and technology company from such agreements. For instance, it did not say he would allow people to speak out if they had signed nondisclosure agreements after complaining of harassment from any person other than Mr. Bloomberg.” See also, Michael Bloomberg says he will release three women from nondisclosure agreements, The Washington Post, Colby Itkowitz and Michael Scherer, Friday, 21 February 2020: “Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg said Friday that his company will release from their nondisclosure agreements three women who have accused him of making offensive comments, a decision that comes after days of pressure from fellow presidential candidates. Bloomberg, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, also said that after ‘a lot of reflecting,’ he would not propose confidential agreements to resolve sexual misconduct claims in the future.”

New Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell Begins Overhauling Intelligence Office, Prompting Fears of Partisanship, The New York Times, Julian E. Barnes, Adam Goldman, and Nicholas Fandos, Friday, 21 February 2020: “Richard Grenell’s tenure as the nation’s top intelligence official may be short-lived, but he wasted no time this week starting to shape his team of advisers, ousting his office’s No. 2 official — a longtime intelligence officer — and bringing in an expert on Trump conspiracy theories to help lead the agency, according to officials. Mr. Grenell has also requested the intelligence behind the classified briefing last week before the House Intelligence Committee where officials told lawmakers that Russia was interfering in November’s presidential election and that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia favored President Trump’s re-election. The briefing later prompted Mr. Trump’s anger as he complained that Democrats would use it against him…. One of his first hires was Kashyap Patel, a senior National Security Council staff member and former key aide to Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Mr. Patel will have a mandate to ‘clean house,’ CBS News reported, citing a person close to the matter. Mr. Patel was best known as the lead author of a politically charged memo two years ago that accused F.B.I. and Justice Department leaders of abusing their surveillance powers to spy on a former Trump campaign adviser. The memo was widely criticized as misleading, though an inspector general later found other problems with aspects of the surveillance.”

Richard Grenell, Trump’s new acting intelligence director, did not disclose payments for advocacy work on behalf of a Moldovan politician whom the U.S. later accused of corruption, ProPublica, Isaac Arnsdorf, Friday, 21 February 2020: “President Donald Trump’s new acting intelligence director, Richard Grenell, used to do consulting work on behalf of an Eastern European oligarch who is now a fugitive and was recently barred from entering the U.S. under anti-corruption sanctions imposed last month by the State Department. In 2016, Grenell wrote several articles defending the oligarch, a Moldovan politician named Vladimir Plahotniuc, but did not disclose that he was being paid, according to records and interviews. Grenell also did not register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which generally requires people to disclose work in the U.S. on behalf of foreign politicians.”

Twitter is suspending 70 pro-Bloomberg accounts, citing ‘platform manipulation,’ Los Angeles Times, Suhauna Hussain and Jeff Bercovici, Friday, 21 February 2020: “Michael R. Bloomberg’s presidential campaign has been experimenting with novel tactics to cultivate an online following, or at least the appearance of one. But one of the strategies — deploying a large number of Twitter accounts to push out identical messages — has backfired. On Friday, Twitter began suspending 70 accounts posting pro-Bloomberg content in a pattern that violates company rules.” See also, Twitter suspends 70 pro-Bloomberg accounts of paid campaign workers over copy-and-paste scheme, The Washington Post, Meryl Kornfield, published on Saturday, 22 February 2020.

Trump suggests on Twitter that he will give more bailout payments to farmers this year, Politico, Ryan McCrimmon, Friday, 21 February 2020: “President Donald Trump suggested on Twitter that he would give more bailout payments to farmers this year as they wait for trade deals to boost agricultural exports. ‘If our formally targeted farmers need additional aid until such time as the trade deals with China, Mexico, Canada and others fully kick in, that aid will be provided by the federal government,’ Trump tweeted in all-caps. He also added, erroneously, that the money for the aid would come from tariffs his administration has slapped on billions of dollars of imported goods. Economists have shown that U.S. businesses and consumers are paying those duties, rather than China.” See also, Trump Says He’s Prepared to Give More Aid to Farmers Hurt by Trade Conflict, The Wall Street Journal, Josh Zumbrun, Friday, 21 February 2020.

Trump wants to block John Bolton’s book, claiming that everything he told Bolton about national security is classified, The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, and Carol D. Leonnig, Friday, 21 February 2020: “President Trump has directly weighed in on the White House review of a forthcoming book by his former national security adviser, telling his staff that he views John Bolton as ‘a traitor,’ that everything he uttered to the departed aide about national security is classified and that he will seek to block the book’s publication, according to two people familiar with the conversations.”

As Trump Seizes Money to Build His Wall, Congress’s Spending Power Weakens, The New York Times, Emily Cochrane, Friday, 21 February 2020: “When the Pentagon announced this month that it would divert billions more dollars in military funding to the construction of President Trump’s border wall, bipartisan outrage ricocheted across Capitol Hill. Republicans and Democrats alike issued fiery statements in defense of both their congressional districts, some of which stand to lose valuable work making military equipment, and their constitutionally enshrined power of the purse. But the howls of protest are unlikely to amount to much in a Congress where lawmakers — many of whom once prized their spending prerogatives almost above all else — acknowledge their power to steer federal dollars has been severely eroded. The dysfunction has taken hold in large part because of decisions that members of Congress themselves have made. But it has become particularly pronounced under Mr. Trump, who has moved aggressively to divert government money when it suits his agenda.”

How Stephen Miller Manipulates Donald Trump to Further His Immigration Obsession, The New Yorker, Jonathan Blitzer, Friday, 21 February 2020: “One afternoon in November, a half-dozen government officials sat at a conference table in the White House, waiting for the arrival of Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to Donald Trump. Miller had summoned officials from the Departments of Homeland Security, State, and Justice to discuss a new Administration policy initiative: a series of agreements with the governments of Central America that would force asylum seekers to apply for protection in that region instead of in the United States. Miller, who had helped make the deals, wanted to know when their provisions could go into effect. Typically, everyone rises when top White House officials enter a room. But when Miller walked in, wearing a dark suit and an expression of wry resolve, everyone remained seated, their eyes cast down. ‘You go into meetings with Miller and try to get out with as little damage as possible,’ a former Administration official told me. Miller has a habit of berating officials, especially lower-ranking ones, for an agency’s perceived failures. Chad Wolf, now the acting head of D.H.S., used to advise colleagues to placate Miller by picking one item from his long list of demands, and vowing to execute it. ‘It’s a war of attrition,’ Wolf told them. ‘Maybe he forgets the rest for a while, and you buy yourself some time.’ One participant in the November meeting pointed out that El Salvador didn’t have a functioning asylum system. ‘They don’t need a system,’ Miller interrupted. He began speaking over people, asking questions, then cutting off the answers. As the meeting ended, Miller held up his hand to make a final comment. ‘I didn’t mean to come across as harsh,’ he said. His voice dropped. ‘It’s just that this is all I care about. I don’t have a family. I don’t have anything else. This is my life.'”

National Archives’ Emails Show Little Debate Over Altering Photo of Women’s March, The New York Times, Maria Cramer, Friday, 21 February 2020: “It did not take long for conspiracy theories and accusations of censorship to emerge after the National Archives and Records Administration admitted it had altered a photo of the 2017 Women’s March to hide disparaging references to President Trump. Doctoring the photo was ‘nothing less than Orwellian,’ fumed the American Civil Liberties Union, which accused the archives of trying to hide criticism. Historians and archivists said the agency had violated the public’s trust. March organizers called it an attempt to silence women. And on social media, some questioned whether Mr. Trump himself had ordered the alterations, recalling his fury over a photo of his inauguration crowds. But in dozens of emails released by the National Archives about the image, officials appeared more concerned about the costs of licensing the photo than the ethics of changing it. Though a few of the emails were heavily redacted, nearly all of the emails suggest employees at the archives were not worried about political fallout from using an image that had signs critical of Mr. Trump. Nor do the emails, released in response to a public records request filed by The New York Times and other organizations, reveal that anyone at the National Archives considered that the decision could be seen as unethical, sexist or even remotely contentious.”

Trump slams Hollywood for giving best picture to a foreign film. But the man who funded its Oscar run is a car tycoon from Texas. The Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik, Friday, 21 February 2020: “President Trump on Thursday lamented Oscar voters’ recent decision to name ‘Parasite,’ the Korean-language thriller, as this year’s best picture. ‘And the winner is a … movie from South Korea. What the hell was that all about?’ Trump told a crowd at a reelection rally in Colorado Springs. ‘I thought it was best foreign film, right? No, it was [best picture].’ He said he wanted to see more winners like ‘Gone With the Wind,’ the epic love story set in the American South. But it turns out ‘Parasite’ won thanks to the backing of the very type of all-American character Trump complained the Oscars overlooked — a Texas car-dealership mogul.”

 

Saturday, 22 February 2020, Day 1,128:

 

Bernie Sanders Wins Nevada Caucuses, Strengthening His Primary Lead, The New York Times, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Saturday, 22 February 2020: “Senator Bernie Sanders claimed a major victory in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday that demonstrated his broad appeal in the first racially diverse state in the presidential primary race and established him as the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination. In a significant show of force, Mr. Sanders, a liberal from Vermont, had a lead that was more than double his nearest rivals with 50 percent of the precincts reporting, and The Associated Press named him the winner on Saturday evening.” See also, Bernie Sanders decisively wins Nevada caucuses, The Washington Post, Matt Viser, Saturday, 22 February 2020: “Sen. Bernie Sanders won a resounding victory in the Nevada caucuses Saturday, providing another boost to an insurgent campaign that is challenging the Democratic establishment and stifling the plans of rivals who still hold out hope of stopping him. Sanders’s advantage in Nevada was overwhelming, with substantial leads in nearly every demographic group, allowing him to set down a marker in the first state with a significant share of nonwhite voters. Sanders expanded the electorate by attracting relatively large numbers of first-time caucus-goers, providing momentum as the race shifts into a critical stretch over the next 10 days. He prevailed among those with college degrees and those without; those living in union and nonunion households; and in every age group except those over 65. He won more than half of Hispanic caucus-goers — almost four times as much support as his nearest rival, former vice president Joe Biden — and even narrowly prevailed among those who identified as moderate or conservative. Despite attacks on his health proposal by the powerful Culinary Union, he won in caucus sites filled with union members.” See also, How Bernie Sanders Dominated in Nevada. A multiracial coalition brought the senator’s long-promised political revolution to vivid life. The New York Times, Jennifer Medina and Astead W. Herndon, Saturday, 22 February 2020: “For at least one day, in one state, the long-promised political revolution of Mr. Sanders came to vivid life, a multiracial coalition of immigrants, college students, Latina mothers, younger black voters, white liberals and even some moderates who embraced his idea of radical change and lifted him to victory in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday. By harnessing such a broad cross-section of voters, Mr. Sanders offered a preview of the path that he hopes to take to the Democratic presidential nomination: uniting an array of voting blocs in racially diverse states in the West and the South and in economically strapped parts of the Midwest and the Southwest, all behind the message of social and economic justice that he has preached for years.” See also, 5 Takeaways From the Nevada Caucuses (The Big One: Sanders Takes Control), The New York Times, Shane Goldmacher, published on Sunday, 23 February 2020. See also, One Guaranteed Winner in the Democratic Primary: Plans to Tax the Rich, The New York Times, Jim Tankersley and Thomas Kaplan, Saturday, 22 February 2020: “Every leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination is proposing trillions of dollars of new taxes on wealthy Americans and businesses. The divide in the field is how high to go.”

How to Win the Democratic Nomination, and Why It Could Get Complicated, The New York Times, Matt Stevens, Saturday, 22 February 2020: “Bernie Sanders says winning a plurality of delegates is good enough for the nomination. His rivals say a majority is needed. What does that mean? And why are superdelegates coming up again?”

Chris Matthews Likens Bernie Sanders’s Strong Nevada Showing to France Falling to Nazi Germany in WWII, Daily Beast, Julia Arciga, Saturday, 22 February 2020: “Cable news personalities had a lot to say about Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (D-VT) early lead in the Nevada caucuses Saturday, with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews likening it to the shock of France falling to Germany during WWII. ‘It looks like Bernie Sanders is hard to beat… I think it’s a little late to stop him, and that’s the problem,’ Matthews said during a panel segment. ‘It’s pretty much over unless that changes.’ He then dropped the eyebrow-raising WWII reference, seemingly as a way to describe how Sanders has—in his view—clinched the Democratic nomination. ‘I’m reading last night about the fall of France in the summer of 1940. And the general calls up Churchill and says, It’s over,’ Matthews said. ‘And Churchill says, How can it be? You got the greatest army in Europe. How can it be over? He said, It’s over.’” See also, ‘Like Out-of Touch Aristocrats’: MSNBC Analyst Anand Giridharadas Calls Out Democrats and Chris Matthews After Bernie Sanders’s Win in Nevada, Mediaite, Josh Feldman, Sunday, 23 February 2020: “Time editor-at-large and MSNBC political analyst Anand Giridharadas went on a tear this morning saying Bernie Sanders’ political ascendancy should be a wake-up call for the ‘American power establishment’ and even called out Chris Matthews for his comparison to the Nazis taking France…. He elaborated with blunt commentary that called out Matthews for his much-denounced take last night: ‘Something is happening in America right now that actually does not fit our mental models. It certainly doesn’t fit the mental models of a lot of people on TV, it doesn’t fit the mental models of a lot of people in the parties, it doesn’t fit our cultural mental models. You have someone talking about, in a way we have not heard, genuine, deeper democracy, popular movements, human equality in a meaningful way, and a politics of love in the tradition of Dr. King. And winning elections, in America, the United States of America. And I just have to say — I’ve been encouraged watching you on air talk about your own rethinking of things, which I think we all have to be in this type of work, I think this is a wake-up moment for the American power establishment. For Michael Bloomberg to those of us in the media, to Democratic Party, to donors, to CEOs. Many in this establishment are behaving, in my view, as they face the prospect of a Bernie Sanders nomination, like out-of-touch aristocrats in a dying aristocracy. Just sort of “How do we stop this? How do we block this?” And there is no curiosity. Why is this happening? What is going on in the lives of my fellow citizens that they may be voting for something I find so hard to understand? What is happening? This is a moment for curiosity in America. I think about this network, which I love, you love, and I think we have to look within also — why is a lobbyist for Uber and Mark Zuckerberg on the air many nights explaining a political revolution to us? Why is Chris Matthews on this air talking about the victory of Bernie Sanders, who had kin murdered in the Holocaust, analogizing it to the Nazi conquest of France? The people who are stuck in an old way of thinking, in 20th century frameworks, in gulag thinking, are missing what is going on. It is time for all of us to step up, rethink, and understand the dawn of what may be, frankly, a new era in American life.'” See also, Chris Matthews rebuked by MSNBC colleague Anand Giridharadas for comparing Sanders win in Nevada to Nazi invasion of France, Salon, Igor Derysh, published on Monday, 24 February 2020: “MSNBC host Chris Matthews came under fire for his comments comparing Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., winning the Nevada caucus to the Nazi invasion of France. The comments led to growing calls for Matthews to resign and drew a rebuke from one of the network’s own pundits. ‘Why is Chris Matthews on the air talking about the victory [of] Bernie Sanders, who had kin murdered in the Holocaust, analogizing it to the Nazi conquest of France?’ MSNBC political analyst Anand Giridharadas asked on the air Sunday. ‘People stuck in an old way of thinking, in 20th-century thinking, are missing what is going on. It is time for all of us to step up, rethink the dawn of what may be, frankly, a new era in American life. This is a wake-up moment for the American power establishment,’ he said, adding that establishment figures lamenting Sanders’ rise are ‘like out of touch aristocrats in a dying aristocracy.’ Matthews ignited controversy earlier this month over comments invoking public executions while discussing Sanders and democratic socialists. ‘You know, I have my own views of the word socialist,’ Matthews said. ‘They go back to the early 1950s. I have an attitude about them. I remember the Cold War. I have an attitude towards Castro. I believe if Castro and the Reds had won the Cold War, there would have been executions in Central Park, and I might have been one of the ones getting executed, and certain other people would be there cheering, OK? So, I have a problem with people who took the other side.'” See also, Calls for MSNBC’s Chris Matthews to Resign After He Likens Sanders’s Nevada Win to Nazi Takeover of France, Democracy Now!, broadcast on Monday, 24 February 2020: “Calls are mounting for MSNBC host Chris Matthews to resign following his remarks comparing Senator Sanders’s Nevada victory to Nazi Germany’s takeover of France. Chris Matthews: ‘I’m reading last night about the fall of France in the summer of 1940. And the general, Reynaud, calls up Churchill and says, It’s over. And Churchill says, How can it be? You’ve got the greatest army in Europe. How can it be over? He said, It’s over. So I had that suppressed feeling.’ Bernie Sanders’s communications director, Mike Casca, responded to Matthews’s comment on Twitter, saying, ‘never thought part of my job would be pleading with a national news network to stop likening the campaign of a jewish presidential candidate whose family was wiped out by the nazis to the third reich. but here we are.'”

Trump’s Efforts to Remove the Disloyal Heightens Unease Across His Administration. As senior officials are shown the door, a new personnel chief (Johnny McEntee) orders a search for political appointees as well as career officials deemed insufficiently supportive of Trump. The New York Times, Peter Baker, Saturday, 22 February 2020: “In some of the most critical corners of the Trump administration, officials show up for work now never entirely sure who will be there by the end of the evening — themselves included. Even for an administration that has been a revolving door since Day 1, this has become a season of turmoil. At a moment when first-term presidents are typically seeking a stable team to focus on their re-election, President Trump has embarked on a systematic attempt to sweep out officials perceived to be disloyal. The headquarters of the nation’s intelligence apparatus roiled with the ouster of the acting director Joseph Maguire and his replacement by a sharp partisan amid a dispute over Russian election interference. The Justice Department remained on edge with whispers of further resignations, including perhaps even that of Attorney General William P. Barr, after the president’s intervention in a case involving one of his friends. Witnesses from the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump have been summarily dismissed. Dozens of policy experts have been cleared out of the National Security Council staff as part of a restructuring that will mean fewer career professionals in range of the president. A deputy national security adviser dogged by innuendo about disloyalty was exiled to the Energy Department. A Trump appointee’s nomination for a top Treasury Department post was pulled. The No. 3 official at the Defense Department was shown the door. And Johnny McEntee, a 29-year-old loyalist just installed to take over the Office of Presidential Personnel and reporting directly to Mr. Trump, has ordered a freeze on all political appointments across the government. He also convened a meeting to instruct departments to search for people not devoted to the president so they can be removed, according to people briefed about the session, and informed colleagues that he planned to tell cabinet secretaries that the White House would be choosing their deputies from now on.” See also, A new senior leader at the White House personnel office: A college senior, Politico, Daniel Lippman and Meridith McGraw, published on Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “The White House has hired a college senior to be one of the top officials in its powerful Presidential Personnel Office, according to three administration officials familiar with the matter. James Bacon, 23, is acting as one of the right-hand men to new PPO director John McEntee, according to the officials. Bacon, a senior at George Washington University pursuing a bachelor’s degree….”

‘He Turned Purple’: U.S. Overlooks Ill Asylum Seekers. When the Trump administration rolled out its policy to force asylum seekers to wait in Mexico, officials said medical exemptions would help the sick. They haven’t. The New York Times, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Saturday, 22 February 2020: “In January 2019, the [Trump] administration introduced the Migrant Protection Protocols, or M.P.P., which empowered officers to return migrants south of the border to wait for the duration of their cases. Senior officials with the Department of Homeland Security were quick to note the exemptions for migrants who could establish a sufficient fear of torture or persecution or had known physical or mental health issues. But as the policy returned around 60,000 migrants to Mexico, those exemptions were largely ignored, according to immigration lawyers, American doctors in Matamoros [Mexico] and the migrants themselves.”

Members of Nevada’s Largest Union, the Culinary Workers Union, Defied Their Leadership to Support Bernie Sanders, BuzzFeed News, Nidhi Prakash, Saturday, 22 February 2020: “Despite the leadership of Nevada’s largest union criticizing Bernie Sanders over his health care plan in the lead-up to the state’s presidential caucus, the majority of union members caucusing at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas strip backed Sanders on Saturday. Some workers who spoke to BuzzFeed News said they support Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal, even though they appreciate the union health care they have, because they have friends and relatives who don’t have union health care and worry about what would happen if they lost their jobs.”

Under Robert O’Brien, the National Security Council Carries Out Trump’s Policy, but It Doesn’t Develop It, The New York Times, Michael Crowley and David E. Sanger, Friday, 21 February 2020: “When President Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, convenes meetings with top National Security Council officials at the White House, he sometimes opens by distributing printouts of Mr. Trump’s latest tweets on the subject at hand. The gesture amounts to an implicit challenge for those present. Their job is to find ways of justifying, enacting or explaining Mr. Trump’s policy, not to advise the president on what it should be. That is the reverse of what the National Security Council was created to do at the Cold War’s dawn — to inform and advise the president on national security decisions. But under Mr. O’Brien, the White House’s hostage negotiator when Mr. Trump chose him to succeed John R. Bolton in September, that dynamic has often been turned on its head.”

 

Sunday, 23 February 2020, Day 1,129:

 

Trump’s ‘Deep State’ hit list, Axios, Jonathan Swan, Sunday, 23 February 2020: “The Trump White House and its allies, over the past 18 months, assembled detailed lists of disloyal government officials to oust — and trusted pro-Trump people to replace them — according to more than a dozen sources familiar with the effort who spoke to Axios. By the time President Trump instructed his 29-year-old former body man and new head of presidential personnel to rid his government of anti-Trump officials, he’d gathered reams of material to support his suspicions. While Trump’s distrust has only intensified since his impeachment and acquittal, he has long been on the hunt for ‘bad people’ inside the White House and U.S. government, and fresh ‘pro-Trump’ options. Outside advisers have been happy to oblige. I have been briefed on, or reviewed, memos and lists the president received since 2018 suggesting whom he should hire and fire. Most of these details have never been published.” See also, Among Those Pressing Trump to Weed Out Disloyalty: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s Wife, Ginni Thomas, The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, published on Monday, 24 February 2020: “For the past 18 months, Ginni Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, and other conservatives have plied the White House with memos and suggestions about which people to fire — and who should replace them. President Trump has generally treated Ms. Thomas’s suggestions coolly, passing them off to advisers, according to people familiar with Ms. Thomas’s efforts. But since the end of the Senate impeachment trial, the president has become more distrustful of the people filling the ranks of government and has been giving those recommendations a closer look. The memos from Ms. Thomas were first reported by Axios.”

Trump makes veiled threat toward House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff over classified briefing on Russian 2020 election interference, The Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez, Sunday, 23 February 2020: “President Trump on Sunday made a veiled threat toward House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, claiming without evidence that the California Democrat had leaked information from a classified briefing in which a senior U.S. intelligence official told lawmakers that Russia wants to see Trump reelected. ‘Somebody please tell incompetent (thanks for my high poll numbers) & corrupt politician Adam “Shifty” Schiff to stop leaking Classified information or, even worse, made up information, to the Fake News Media,’ Trump tweeted. ‘Someday he will be caught, & that will be a very unpleasant experience!'”

The real impact of Trump’s ‘public charge’ immigration rule, Axios, Stef W. Kight, Sunday, 23 February 2020: “Effective Monday, the U.S. will begin blocking more foreigners from obtaining green cards and some visas based on the Trump administration’s guesses about what kind of people they’ll become and whether they may ever burden taxpayers. The long-expected ‘public charge’ rule effectively creates a wealth and health test, which could keep hundreds of thousands of people from making the U.S. their legal home. Technically, the public charge rule targets immigrants that U.S. officials predict are likely to rely on certain government benefits at any point in the future. In reality, the new regulations could make it harder for some people with middle incomes to come to the U.S. as well as those who are sick or impoverished. The act of applying for a permanent green card itself will be counted against an applicant by the Department of Homeland Security.”

 

Monday, 24 February 2020, Day 1,130:

 

Harvey Weinstein Is Found Guilty of Sex Crimes in #MeToo Watershed, The New York Times, Jan Ransom, Monday, 24 February 2020: “Harvey Weinstein, the powerhouse film producer whose downfall over sexual misconduct ignited a global movement, was found guilty of two felony sex crimes on Monday after a trial at which six women testified that he sexually assaulted them. A Manhattan jury convicted Mr. Weinstein of rape and criminal sexual act but acquitted him on three other counts, including the two most serious charges against him: being a sexual predator…. Sexual misconduct complaints about Mr. Weinstein, an Oscar-winning producer of films like ‘Shakespeare in Love,’ had circulated for years, but exposés published by The New York Times and The New Yorker opened the floodgates in late 2017. Scores of women went public with accusations that Mr. Weinstein had sexually assaulted or harassed them, while thousands more shared similar stories on social media about abuse by powerful men. Mr. Weinstein quickly became a symbol not just of Hollywood’s casting-couch culture, but also of what women had endured in all kinds of workplaces for years. For many, Mr. Weinstein’s trial in State Supreme Court in Manhattan was a watershed moment for the #MeToo movement and a crucial test in the effort to hold influential men accountable for sexual misconduct. He faces a prison sentence of up to 29 years.” See also, Harvey Weinstein is found guilty on two charges and is acquitted on others in New York sexual assault case, The Washington Post, Shayna Jacobs, Monday, 24 February 2020: “Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of sexual assault in a New York court Monday, the first conviction to emerge from the dozens of misconduct allegations against the once-powerful movie producer. The jury determined that Weinstein forced oral sex on former production assistant Mimi Haleyi at his apartment in July 2006 and raped former aspiring actress Jessica Mann at a hotel in 2013. He was found not guilty of the most severe charges, of predatory sexual assault, which would have acknowledged a pattern that included forcing sex on actress Annabella Sciorra in 1993 or 1994. Weinstein, 67, faces at least five years and up to 25 on the count of first-degree criminal sex act for his assault on Haleyi, and up to four years on a third-degree rape count for the Mann encounter. The judge can consider running the sentences consecutively, for a maximum of 29 years. Sentencing is scheduled for March 11.” See also, With Weinstein Conviction, Jury Delivers a Verdict on #MeToo, The New York Times, Megan Twohey and Jody Kantor, Monday, 24 February 2020: “Many of his accusers were bracing for an acquittal. Fellow prosecutors across the country were quietly questioning whether the New York district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., had made a mistake by bringing charges. But by pushing the boundaries of sex-crimes prosecutions, the Manhattan prosecutors delivered what many people declared a victory for the global movement against sexual misconduct that Mr. Weinstein’s actions had helped ignite…. [P]rosecutors persuaded the jury to convict on two felony sexual assault charges — which could send him to prison for up to 29 years — suggesting that accountability stretches from the court of public opinion to the court of criminal law. On Monday, some of Mr. Weinstein’s more than 90 accusers, and others around the world, reacted to the verdict with relief, tears and gratitude that the law had spoken for them. ‘For so long these women believed that he was untouchable and could never be held responsible, but now the criminal justice system has found him guilty,’ said Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement. ‘That sends a powerful message.'” See also, ‘Finally’: Ashley Judd and Other Weinstein Accusers Respond to Verdict, The New York Times, Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey, Grace Ashford, Catrin Einhorn, and Ellen Gabler, Monday, 24 February 2020: “Harvey Weinstein was one of the most powerful tastemakers in Hollywood. Now, after a Manhattan jury convicted him of two felony sex crimes, he faces the prospect of years in prison. While the New York case was narrowly focused — the criminal charges centered largely on just two women — its symbolism was sweeping. More than 90 women have accused Mr. Weinstein of sexual misconduct, and the allegations against him set off the global #MeToo movement.” See also, Editorial: The #MeToo movement let victims be heard. The Harvey Weinstein verdict tells victims they can be believed. Los Angeles Times, Editorial Board, Monday, 24 February 2020: “At last, the disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein has been held legally accountable for his reprehensible sexual misconduct and the trauma it caused to far too many women working in the entertainment industry.” See also, ‘One of those days when the whole world changes’: Advocates hail Weinstein conviction as a breakthrough, The Washington Post, Caitlin Gibson and Elahe Izadi, Monday, 24 February 2020: “They were the kind of witnesses who were once avoided by prosecutors, torn to shreds by defense attorneys and regarded with skepticism by jurors. Some of the women who accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault had been friendly with him, and some remained cordial or even intimate with him after their assaults. They waited years before reporting the crimes, and then could offer no forensic evidence of violence. Specific details of the memories they recounted were sometimes fuzzy and inconsistent. But on Monday, their testimony against the fallen Hollywood mogul helped cinch a guilty verdict that could send him to prison for up to 29 years. It was not just a stunning outcome for a case that had become a potent symbol of the #MeToo movement but also a sign of a striking shift toward a more sophisticated and comprehensive understanding of sexual assault and the complex effect of trauma on victims.” See also, Full Coverage: Harvey Weinstein Is Found Guilty of Rape, The New York Times, Monday, 24 February 2020.

White House asks Congress for $1.8 billion to bolster coronavirus response, The Washington Post, Erica Werner, Jeff Stein, and Lena H. Sun, Monday, 24 February 2020: “The White House late Monday asked Congress for $1.8 billion in emergency spending to respond to the coronavirus as the epidemic spread around the globe and sent shock waves through financial markets. The request includes $1.25 billion in new funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the ability to transfer an additional $535 million set aside to fight Ebola and use it for the coronavirus response instead…. Democrats immediately slammed the request as too small, with House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) calling it ‘woefully insufficient to protect Americans’ and criticizing the administration for trying to ‘raid’ money from other public health accounts.” See also, White House Asks Congress for Billions to Fight Coronavirus, The New York Times, Noah Weiland, Emily Cochrane, and Maggie Haberman, Monday, 24 February 2020: “The Trump administration, after weeks of pleading from lawmakers, asked Congress on Monday to allocate $1.25 billion in new emergency funds to bolster its coronavirus response. The request from the White House, which also called for $1.25 billion in money diverted from other federal programs, is a significant escalation in the administration’s response to the outbreak of the virus and a sign of how long the fight to stop it may be.” See also, Trump sending coronavirus budget request to Congress, Politico, Nancy Cook and Caitlin Emma, Monday, 24 February 2020: “The Trump administration sent to Capitol Hill on Monday night its $2.5 billion supplemental budget request for additional money to fight the coronavirus, but House Democrats immediately labeled it as insufficient, indicating a battle ahead in Congress over the emergency aid. The administration’s request would require enhanced authority to move around federal funds — a non-starter with Democrats, who are already livid over White House moves to reshuffle existing federal funds toward the border wall.” See also, Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli Criticized for Asking Twitter Where to Find Coronavirus Information, Newsweek, Matt Keeley, Monday, 24 February 2020: “Homeland Security Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli came under fire for asking Twitter if others had trouble accessing Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 coronavirus map Monday. ‘Has the Johns Hopkins map of the coronavirus stopped working for other people, or just me?’ Cuccinelli wrote, including a link to the map. ‘I just tried again, and it looks like Johns Hopkins put the information behind a membership wall of some kind. Seems like bad timing to stop helping the world with this (previously) useful resource. Here’s hoping it goes back up soon.’ Cuccinelli’s tweets garnered hundreds of replies, with the vast majority displaying disbelief that a government official would ask the public where to find information on the coronavirus. ‘Thanks for inspiring confidence. Shouldn’t YOU GUYS have a map of this? Shouldn’t the CDC? You know who they are, right? Isn’t there anyone in charge of response to this? Or did someone colossally stupid eliminate that position?’ columnist Max Burbank asked.”

As Trump Barricades the Border, Legal immigration Is Starting to Plunge, The New York Times, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Monday, 24 February 2020: “President Trump’s immigration policies — from travel bans and visa restrictions to refugee caps and asylum changes — have begun to deliver on a longstanding goal: Legal immigration has fallen more than 11 percent and a steeper drop is looming. While Mr. Trump highlights the construction of a border wall to stress his war on illegal immigration, it is through policy changes, not physical barriers, that his administration has been able to diminish the flow of migrants into the United States. Two more measures took effect Friday and Monday, an expansion of his travel ban and strict wealth tests on green card applicants.”

Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell’s paid consulting included work for U.S. nonprofit funded mostly by the Hungarian government led by far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban, The Washington Post, Emma Brown, Beth Reinhard, and Dalton Bennett, Monday, 24 February 2020: “Two years before President Trump nominated him to become ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell wrote an op-ed about Nigeria’s highly charged 2015 presidential race, a move that drew notice from Nigerian media. A year later, Grenell defended the government of Moldova against corruption allegations from a whistleblower who, Grenell argued, was a Russian operative bent on destabilizing an Eastern European country trying to move toward the West. And Grenell’s public relations firm was paid to do work for a U.S. nonprofit funded almost entirely by the Hungarian government led by far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban.”

Supreme Court to Hear Case on Gay Rights and Foster Care, The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Monday, 24 February 2020: “The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether Philadelphia may exclude a Catholic agency that does not work with same-sex couples from the city’s foster-care system. The city stopped placements with the agency, Catholic Social Services, after a 2018 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer described its policy against placing children with same-sex couples. The agency and several foster parents sued the city, saying the decision violated their First Amendment rights to religious freedom and free speech. A unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, ruled against the agency. The city was entitled to require compliance with its nondiscrimination policies, the count said.”

At Supreme Court, a Case on Abuse of the No-Fly List, The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Monday, 24 February 2020: “When F.B.I. agents asked Muhammad Tanvir to spy on his fellow Muslims, he turned them down. His faith, he said, did not allow him to become an informant. The agents were persistent. According to a lawsuit filed by Mr. Tanvir, they cajoled him, threatened him and finally, in 2010, applied a novel sort of pressure: They put him on the No-Fly List, barring him from boarding any planes leaving from or landing in American airports. If he cooperated, the agents said, he would be allowed to fly again. Next month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether Mr. Tanvir and two other men with similar stories can sue the agents for violating a federal law protecting religious freedom. The Trump administration, which in other settings has taken a broad view of the law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, has urged the court to dismiss the suit, saying it would interfere with ‘sensitive matters of national security and law enforcement.'”

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews formally apologizes to Bernie Sanders for comparing his Nevada win to the Nazis taking over France, Business Insider, Eliza Relman, Monday, 24 February 2020: “MSNBC host Chris Matthews issued an apology to Sen. Bernie Sanders and his supporters for comparing the 2020 candidate’s landslide win in the Nevada caucus on Saturday to the Nazi takeover of France during World War II. Matthews’ comments sparked immediate outrage, the trending hashtag ‘#FireChrisMatthews,’ and backlash from Sanders’ campaign, which has long accused the left-leaning network of bias against it. ‘Sen. Sanders, I’m sorry for comparing anything from that tragic era in which so many suffered, especially the Jewish people, to an electoral result in which you were the well-deserved winner,’ Matthews said at the top of his prime time program on Monday night. He went on, ‘Congratulations to you, Sen. Sanders, and to your supporters on a tremendous win down in Nevada.’ The veteran cable host added that he would seek to ‘elevate’ political discourse in the coming months and congratulated Sanders on his win.” See also, Chris Matthews Apologizes to Bernie Sanders for Remarks on Nevada Win, The New York Times, Michael M. Grynbaum, Monday, 24 February 2020.

Amy Klobuchar Has Been Criticized by Some Civil Rights Groups for Her Support of Trump’s Judicial Nominees, The New York Times, Lisa Lerer and Nick Corasaniti, Monday, 24 February 2020: “On the campaign trail, from the debate stage and in private fund-raisers, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota trumpets her years of experience as a lawmaker and her bipartisan appeal as a pragmatist as the central assets that would make her the toughest Democratic nominee to face off against President Trump. But one aspect of her record in particular has frustrated and even outraged some in her own party: her support for Mr. Trump’s judges. Last year, Ms. Klobuchar’s willingness to aid the Trump administration in its sweeping transformation of the federal judiciary earned Ms. Klobuchar an F grade from a liberal advocacy group focused on the federal judiciary. From 2017 to 2018, Ms. Klobuchar voted to advance Mr. Trump’s judicial confirmations 64 percent of the time, according to Demand Justice, the advocacy group. The other two senators still in the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, voted slightly less than half the time to advance Mr. Trump’s nominations.”

Canada Oil-Sands Plan Collapses Over Politics and Economics, The New York Times, Clifford Krauss, Monday, 24 February 2020: “A major effort to expand development of Canada’s oil sands has collapsed shortly before a deadline for government approval, undone by investor concerns over oil’s future and the political fault lines between economic and environmental priorities. Nine years in the planning, the project would have increased Canada’s oil production by roughly 5 percent. But it would have also slashed through 24,000 acres of boreal forest and released millions of tons of climate-warming carbon dioxide every year. Some Canadian oil executives had predicted that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet would approve the project by a regulatory deadline this week, though with burdensome conditions. But in a letter released Sunday night, the Vancouver-based developer, Teck Resources, declared that ‘there is no constructive path forward.'”

Trump’s India visit opens with more symbolism than substance as he celebrates ties with a fellow nationalist, The Washington Post, Anne Gearan, Seung Min Kim, Joanna Slater, and Hiha Masih, Monday, 24 February 2020: “President Trump began a whirlwind visit to the world’s largest democracy Monday by praising what he called India’s unity and tolerance, but offering no public critique of recent actions by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that have been widely condemned as discriminatory. Amid pageantry and crowds that were enormous but apparently shy of the president’s predictions, Trump and Modi celebrated their warm personal bond and shared nationalist political philosophy while talking up economic and military cooperation that is a bulwark to China. Trump said a long-promised trade deal with India is in sight, but he gave no date for its completion…. Trump … did not mention Modi’s controversial citizenship law that passed in December or the state of emergency that his Hindu-nationalist government imposed on Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state.” See also, Trump Begins Two-Day Visit to India, The New York Times, Michael Crowley, Monday, 24 February 2020: “Trump began a two-day visit to India by joining Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a campaign-style rally in a 110,000-seat cricket stadium that illustrated the populist bond between the two men and impressed a president who revels in spectacle…. [E]ven as [Trump] name-checked famous cricket players and Bollywood stars, Mr. Trump betrayed unfamiliarity with the country — and even his immediate location — when he stumbled over several pronunciations, including those of Ahmedabad itself, as well as Gujarat, the state it anchors and Mr. Modi’s political home base…. Before departing from Washington on Sunday, Mr. Trump told reporters that his appearance here would be ‘the biggest event they’ve ever had in India. That’s what the prime minister told me.’ (The rally was likely not even the biggest Indian turnout for an American president: Dwight D. Eisenhower drew a crowd of one million during a 1959 visit to New Delhi, according to an Associated Press report at the time.)… [S]keptics of the two men say they have each undermined democratic traditions  by demonizing immigrants, promoting nationalism and seeking to suppress media freedoms. Mr. Trump has shown little public concern for actions by Mr. Modi that have drawn international condemnation, including abruptly revoking the statehood of predominantly Muslim Kashmir and backing a law establishing a religious test for new migrants that critics call evidence of plans to turn India into a Hindu-centric state whose 200 million Muslims would be second-class citizens.”

 

Tuesday, 25 February 2020, Day 1,131:

 

Trump, in India, Demands 2 Liberal Justices Recuse Themselves From His Cases, The New York Times, Peter Baker, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “President Trump lashed out at two liberal Supreme Court justices on Tuesday, escalating his battle with the judicial system to new heights despite entreaties by his attorney general to refrain from attacks that complicate the administration’s legal fights. Weighing in on a domestic matter as he began a day of ceremony, meetings and a joint appearance with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, Mr. Trump seized on a dissenting opinion last week by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and a years-old comment by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to demand that the two Democratic-appointed jurists recuse themselves from any cases involving him. ‘I just thought it was so inappropriate, such a terrible statement for a Supreme Court justice,’ the president said. Besides ignoring the entreaties of Attorney General William P. Barr, the president’s attack on the two justices also risked provoking a reaction from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. In 2018, Chief Justice Roberts admonished Mr. Trump for calling a Supreme Court justice who ruled against one of his administration’s policies, ‘an Obama judge.'” See also, Trump slams Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and says they should recuse themselves from ‘Trump-related’ cases, The Washington Post, Meagan Flynn and Brittany Shammas, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “President Trump went after Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a pair of tweets and at a news conference in India on Tuesday, days after Sotomayor issued a dissent critical of the Trump administration’s legal strategy and the court’s majority for enabling it. Tweeting just before appearing at a welcome ceremony at the Indian president’s ceremonial residence in New Delhi, Trump cited a Laura Ingraham segment on Fox News titled, ‘Sotomayor accuses GOP-appointed justices of being biased in favor of Trump.’ He then called on Sotomayor and Ginsburg to recuse themselves in all Trump-related matters. ‘Trying to “shame” some into voting her way?’ Trump said of Sotomayor. ‘She never criticized Justice Ginsberg when she called me a “faker.” Both should recuse themselves on all Trump, or Trump related matters! While “elections have consequences,” I only ask for fairness, especially when it comes to decisions made by the United States Supreme Court!’… Trump’s comments targeting Sotomayor and Ginsburg come as he has faced criticism for targeting sitting judges and injecting politics into the judiciary. It’s not unusual for a president to criticize decisions of the Supreme Court and the lower courts. Most have avoided singling out a judge or justice by name, as Trump does, or challenging their fairness and integrity.” See also, Trump calls for Sotomayor and Ginsburg to recuse themselves from ‘Trump-related’ cases as he has a lot at stake before the court, CNN Politics, Devan Cole, Ariane de Vogue, and Betsy Klein, Tuesday, 25 February 2020. See also, Trump calls for Sotomayor and Ginsburg to recuse themselves from cases dealing with his administration, Politico, Eli Okun, Tuesday, 25 February 2020.

Physicians for Human Rights finds that Trump’s separation of families constitutes torture, The Guardian, Amanda Holpuch, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “The trauma Donald Trump’s administration caused to young children and parents separated at the US-Mexico border constitutes torture, according to evaluations of 26 children and adults by the group Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). The not-for-profit group’s report provides the first in-depth look at the psychological impact of family separation, which the US government continued despite warnings from the nation’s top medical bodies. ‘As a clinician, nobody was prepared for this to happen on our soil,’ the report co-author Dr Ranit Mishori, senior medical adviser at PHR, told the Guardian. ‘It is beyond shocking that this could happen in the United States, by Americans, at the instruction and direct intention of US government officials.’ Legal experts have argued family separation constituted torture, but this is the first time a medical group has reached the determination.”

Coronavirus’s spread in U.S. is ‘inevitable,’ CDC warns, The Washington Post, Erica Werner, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Lena H. Sun, and Lenny Bernstein, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “Trump administration health officials urged the public Tuesday to prepare for the ‘inevitable’ spread of the coronavirus within the United States, escalating warnings about a growing threat from the virus to Americans’ everyday lives. The warnings from officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and other agencies, contrasted sharply with assessments from President Trump and other White House officials, who have largely dismissed concerns about the virus. The mixed messages continued Tuesday as dire warnings issued to senators and reporters early in the day gave way to a more positive assessment, after the Dow Jones industrial average plunged 3.4 percent, bringing the two-day loss to more than 1,900 points — the worst in two years. ‘We believe the immediate risk here in the United States remains low, and we’re working hard to keep that risk low,’ Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, said during a hastily convened afternoon news briefing. Earlier in the day, CDC officials and others expressed greater urgency. ‘Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in the United States. It’s not a question of if this will happen, but when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses,’ Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, said during the morning briefing with reporters.” See also, Trump claims coronavirus is ‘going to go away’ despite mounting concerns, CNN Politics, Stephen Collinson, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “President Donald Trump on Tuesday predicted the coronavirus is ‘going to go away’ despite warnings from Democrats that his White House is asleep amid cresting fears in Washington that the outbreak could spark a pandemic. The President maintained his sunny optimism about the virus that is showing signs of spreading around the world from its Chinese epicenter and is already having a huge impact on global commerce. But behind the scenes the President is less calm, and he is expressing frustration at some of the ways his administration is responding to the outbreak, sources familiar with the conversations told CNN. His mood reflects a growing realization among Trump’s staff that the coronavirus is going to pose a greater challenge than previously understood.” See also, CDC Warns It Expects Coronavirus to Spread in U.S., The Wall Street Journal, Brianna Abbott and Stephanie Armour, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “Federal health authorities said Tuesday they now expect a wider spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. and are preparing for a potential pandemic, though they remain unsure about how severe the health threat could be. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday the agency expects a sustained transmission of the virus and called for businesses, schools and communities to brace themselves and plan for potential outbreaks.” See also, C.D.C. Officials Warn of Coronavirus Outbreaks in the U.S., The New York Times, Pam Belluck and Noah Weiland, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “Federal health officials starkly warned on Tuesday that the new coronavirus will almost certainly spread in the United States, and that hospitals, businesses and schools should begin making preparations. ‘It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen,’ Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a news briefing.” See also, Coronavirus Updates: Disruptions, Rising Cases, Market Tremors, and Warnings, The New York Times, Tuesday, 25 February 2020. See also, Acting secretary of homeland security Chad Wolf has a brutal exchange on coronavirus, courtesy of Republican Senator John Neely Kennedy of Louisiana, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “The Department of Homeland Security is coordinating the U.S. government’s response to the increasing threat of the novel coronavirus. The agency has also been under the control of acting head Chad Wolf for more than four months, with no full-time replacement selected. And Wolf’s testimony Tuesday morning wasn’t exactly confidence-inspiring — particularly for one GOP senator. Appearing in front of a Senate appropriations subcommittee, Wolf was on the receiving end of a brutal line of questioning from Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.). Throughout the exchange, Wolf struggled to produce basic facts and projections about the disease. Perhaps most strikingly, the hearing came at a time of heightened fears about the disease, with the stock market plunging over new estimates about its spread into the United States. It’s a moment in which you’d expect such things to be top of mind for someone in Wolf’s position.” See also, Shortages, confusion, and poor communication complicate coronavirus preparations, The Washington Post, Lena H. Sun, Christopher Rowland, and Lenny Bernstein, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “Major U.S. hospital systems are burning through their supplies of specialized masks needed for a widespread epidemic of coronavirus, in part because federal protocols call for them to be thrown out after a single use in practice sessions, federal officials have told health-care leaders…. The possible mask shortage is one of many critical issues that federal, state and local officials and health-care providers are confronting as the U.S. posture on the covid-19 crisis shifts from keeping the virus that causes the disease out of the country to mitigating its impact here. Already, coordination and communication problems among the various parts of the public health apparatus are beginning to cause difficulties, according to providers on the front lines.” See also, A faulty CDC coronavirus test delays monitoring of the disease’s spread, The Washington Post, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Laurie McGinley, and Lena H. Sun, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “Problems with a government-created coronavirus test have limited the United States’ capacity to rapidly increase testing, just as the outbreak has entered a worrisome new phase in countries worldwide. Experts are increasingly concerned that the small number of U.S. cases may be a reflection of limited testing, not of the virus’s spread.”

Supreme Court says parents can’t sue US Border Patrol agent who fatally shot their teenage son in Mexico, CNN Politics, Ariane de Vogue and Devan Cole, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “The Supreme Court said Tuesday that the parents of a Mexican youth who was shot to death in Mexico by a US Border Patrol agent standing on American soil cannot try to sue the agent in US courts for damages. The ruling is a win for the agent and the United States government, who argued the case should not be allowed to go forward. The decision will make it harder for individuals to sue federal officers when their constitutional rights are violated. The 5-4 ruling came down along familiar ideological lines, with the Court’s five conservative justices siding with the government and its four liberal justices dissenting.” See also, Supreme Court Rules for U.S. Agent Who Shot Mexican Teenager, The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “The Supreme Court divided 5 to 4 twice along its usual lines on Tuesday, with its conservative majority ruling against the parents of a teenager killed by an American agent shooting across the Mexican border and a death row inmate in Arizona who said his sentencing was unlawful.” See also, Supreme Court Justices find that parents of Mexican teen slain by Border Patrol agent cannot sue in U.S. courts, The Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “An ideologically divided Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the family of a Mexican teenager killed by a Border Patrol agent in a cross-border shooting could not sue in U.S. courts, citing implications for American foreign policy and national security. The court’s conservatives prevailed in the 5 to 4 ruling, in which the court for the second time considered whether relatives of foreign victims injured on foreign soil can go to court without express authorization from Congress.”

Ex-Senator Russ Feingold Joins Fight Over Courts as Liberals Try to Counter Trump, The New York Times, Carl Hulse, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “Russ Feingold, the former Democratic senator from Wisconsin, is assuming the leadership of the American Constitution Society, a progressive group active on judicial nominations and the justice system, signaling that Democrats are planning an aggressive effort to sharpen their focus on the federal courts as a defining issue. Mr. Feingold’s elevation is the latest sign that Democrats are looking for ways to counter President Trump’s efforts to reshape the federal judiciary through a three-year campaign — steered by Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader — to confirm conservative judges for lifetime appointments. It comes as Mr. Trump has renewed criticism of judges he claims are biased against him, while seeking to impose his own will on the justice system.”

70 former U.S. senators: The Senate is failing to perform its constitutional duties, The Washington Post, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “An open letter to the U.S. Senate: Congress is not fulfilling its constitutional duties. Much of the responsibility rests on the Senate. We are writing to encourage the creation of a bipartisan caucus of incumbent senators who would be committed to making the Senate function as the Framers of the Constitution intended. As their first priority, the Framers explicitly entrusted all legislative responsibility in Article I of the Constitution: ‘All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.’ To the extent that Congress doesn’t function as the Framers intended, policymaking is left to the less democratic executive and judicial branches.”

Trump Accuses House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff of Leaking Intelligence on Russia’s 2020 Interference, The New York Times, Eileen Sullivan, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “President Trump on Tuesday accused Representative Adam B. Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, of leaking information about Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2020 election, dismissed the intelligence as ‘exaggerated’ and refused to acknowledge that Moscow was behind similar efforts in 2016.”

Amid Insults and Interruptions, Sanders Absorbs Burst of Attacks in Debate, The New York Times, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “The Democratic presidential candidates delivered a barrage of criticism against their party’s emerging front-runner, Senator Bernie Sanders, at a debate on Tuesday night, casting him as a divisive figure with unrealistic ideas, even as they continued to batter Michael R. Bloomberg for his extreme wealth, his record on policing and his alleged behavior toward women. Mr. Sanders, in his first debate since a smashing victory in the Nevada caucuses last weekend, cut a combative but perhaps not a commanding figure, firmly defending his left-wing agenda on subjects like health care and foreign policy against attacks from all sides. The forum plunged repeatedly into an unsightly spectacle of flailing hands and raised voices, and even outright chaos, with candidates talking over one another and the moderators struggling and failing at times to direct an orderly argument. But Mr. Sanders said little that seemed intended to ease the concerns of Democrats who do not share his views or who worry that such stances could be politically damaging to the party. And the debate underscored vulnerabilities that are likely to shadow him for as long as the race lasts, and perhaps into a general election against President Trump.” See also, 6 Takeaways From the Democratic Debate in South Carolina, The New York Times, Shane Goldmacher, Reid J. Epstein, and Isabella Grullón Paz, Tuesday, 25 February 2020. See also, Fact-Checking the South Carolina Democratic Debate, The New York Times, Tuesday, 25 February 2020. See also, Democrats gang up on Senator Bernie Sanders in South Carolina presidential debate, The Washington Post, Matt Viser, Annie Linskey, Sean Sullivan, and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., published on Wednesday, 26 February 2020. See also, Elizabeth Warren Challenges Michael Bloomberg on ‘Kill It’ Abortion Comment, The New York Times, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “In a moment that briefly froze the debate stage in Charleston, S.C., on Tuesday, Senator Elizabeth Warren explained why she thought Michael R. Bloomberg was the ‘riskiest’ candidate for the Democratic Party to nominate, with a pointed recitation of his history of crude and sexist comments. Recalling pregnancy discrimination she had faced as a special-education teacher, Ms. Warren lamented that she hadn’t had a union or a federal law protecting her. And then she turned to Mr. Bloomberg. ‘At least I didn’t have a boss who said to me, “Kill it,” the way that Mayor Bloomberg is alleged to have said to one of his pregnant employees,’ Ms. Warren said. ‘People want a chance to hear from the women who have worked for Mayor Bloomberg.'”

Amy Berman Jackson, Judge in Roger Stone Case, Warns About Attacks on Juror by Trump and Others, The New York Times, Zach Montague and Sharon LaFraniere, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “The federal judge overseeing the criminal case against Roger J. Stone Jr. warned on Tuesday about attacks by President Trump and others on a juror in the trial, saying that fomenting public anger about the guilty verdict could prompt someone to “take it out on” members of the jury.”

Workers at Franchise Outlets Lose Some Power to Challenge Labor Practices, The New York Times, Noam Scheiber, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “The National Labor Relations Board announced a new regulation on Tuesday that makes it harder to challenge companies over their labor practices, potentially affecting the rights of millions of workers. The rule, which will take effect on April 27, scales back the responsibility of companies like McDonald’s for labor-law violations by their franchisees, such as firing workers in retaliation for attempts to unionize. The rule also applies to workers employed through contractors like staffing agencies or cleaning services. That is a reversal of the doctrine that the board adopted late in the Obama administration, which had made it possible to deem a much wider range of parent companies to be so-called joint employers.”

After Trump Mocks a Sea Wall in New York, Plan Is Abruptly Shelved, The New York Times, Anne Barnard, Tuesday, 25 February 2020: “The Trump administration has unexpectedly halted a project to protect the New York City region from flooding during dangerous storms like Hurricane Sandy — a decision that came six weeks after President Trump took to Twitter to ridicule the study’s most expensive proposal, a giant sea wall that could have cost billions of dollars. The Army Corps of Engineers’ announcement that the project was ‘indefinitely postponed’ surprised some of its own officials, and local politicians and advocates said the decision was stunning at a time when climate change is threatening New York’s future with intensifying storms.”

 

Wednesday, 26 February 2020, Day 1,132:

 

Trump Names Vice President Mike Pence to Lead Coronavirus Response, The New York Times, Michael D. Shear, Noah Weiland, and Katie Rogers, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “President Trump named Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday to coordinate the government’s response to the coronavirus, even as he repeatedly played down the danger to the United States of a widespread domestic outbreak. The president’s announcement, at a White House news conference, followed mounting bipartisan criticism that the administration’s response had been sluggish and came after two days of contradictory messages about the virus, which has infected more than 81,000 people globally, killing nearly 3,000. The announcement also came on a day when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a person with no known risk factors had been infected in Northern California…. [T]he president’s naming of Mr. Pence as his point person immediately drew partisan fire even as he vowed to ensure that the ‘full resources of the American government’ were deployed to protect Americans from the coronavirus. The Democratic National Committee immediately pointed out that as governor of Indiana, Mr. Pence was blamed for aggravating a severe AIDS outbreak among intravenous drug users in a rural Indiana county when he opposed calls for a clean needle exchange program on the grounds it would encourage more drug use.” See also, Trump downplays risk and places Vice President Mike Pence in charge of coronavirus outbreak response, The Washington Post, Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey, and Yasmeen Abutaleb, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “President Trump announced Wednesday that Vice President Pence will lead the administration’s response to the deadly coronavirus in an attempt to reassure the public amid growing concerns of a global health crisis and criticism that the United States has been slow to respond to the fast-moving outbreak. The move came as a person in Northern California tested positive Wednesday for the virus, the first case in the United States that has no known link to foreign travel or contact with someone known to be infected — a sign the virus may be spreading in at least one location. Officials have begun tracing the contacts of the resident to find out how that person may have been infected and who else might have been exposed…. Trump’s positive message was at odds with the statements by top members of his administration in recent days who have warned of an unpredictable virus that could spread into communities and upend Americans’ daily lives. The president was contradicted almost in real time by some of the government experts who flanked him as he stood in the White House press briefing room.” See also, Mike Pence was criticized for his handling of Indiana’s HIV outbreak. He will lead the U.S. coronavirus response. The Washington Post, Meryl Kornfield, published on Thursday, 27 February 2020: “When President Trump announced that Vice President Pence would lead federal efforts against the spread of the coronavirus, he said Pence was the right person for the task because of his experience…. The announcement has cast light on Pence’s record as a lawmaker and his handling of a major public health crisis during his time as governor of Indiana. The worst HIV outbreak in the state’s history happened on his watch in 2015, which critics blamed on Pence’s belated response and his opposition to authorizing a needle-exchange program. In 2011, as a member of Congress, he voted to cut funding for Planned Parenthood. Two years later, a Planned Parenthood clinic that had been the only HIV-testing center in Scott County, Ind., closed after public health spending cuts, HuffPost reported. Two months passed from the start of the outbreak in 2015 before Pence declared a public state of emergency.” See also, Donald Trump puts Mike Pence in charge of US coronavirus response, The Guardian, Amanda Holpuch, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “Donald Trump on Wednesday put Vice-President Mike Pence in charge of the US response to coronavirus. In a lengthy, rambling and often confusing address meant to reassure Americans about the potential impact of the virus, Trump said the risk to the American people ‘remains very low.’… Trump said on Wednesday he was ready to spend ‘whatever’s appropriate,’ even if that meant the extra billions of dollars that Democrats have said is necessary to beef up the US response. Trump had told Congress earlier this week that the government needed to spend $2.5bn in emergency funding to fight the virus…. Public health experts raised concerns that the US had tested fewer than 500 people for the virus, excluding people who had returned on evacuation flights. (By comparison, South Korea has tested more than 35,000 people.) That lack of testing, they warned, may be misrepresenting the spread of the virus across the country…. It is unclear whether Pence’s appointment will quell their concerns. Pence has in the past been criticized for his role as Indiana governor in blocking clean needle exchange programs amid an HIV outbreak.” See also, Trump, seeking to tamp down fears of coronavirus, names Pence to lead response and blames Democrats and the media for stoking public fear, Los Angeles Times, Noah Bierman, Jennifer Haberkorn, and Noam N. Levey, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “Desperate to stanch anxieties on Wall Street and public fears that the White House is unprepared for a major coronavirus outbreak, President Trump on Wednesday named Vice President Mike Pence to coordinate the administration’s response while asserting that ‘the risk to the American people remains very low.’ Public health officials who flanked Trump at a rare news conference in the White House briefing room were noticeably less upbeat, repeatedly warning of the risk that the deadly COVID-19 virus — which has infected 60 Americans, including a newly confirmed case Wednesday in California — could still spread quickly in the United States…. Trump blamed Democrats and the media for stoking public fear, accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of ‘trying to create a panic,’ even as his administration faces increased bipartisan concern over its disjointed response.” See also, Trump’s war on truth takes a dangerous turn as he attacks the media’s coronavirus coverage, CNN Business, Brian Stelter, Wednesday, 26 February 2020. See also, Trump backers see a coronavirus conspiracy. CDC official who raised fears turns out to be Rod Rosenstein’s sister, setting off MAGA-world alarms. Politico, Ben Schreckinger and Alice Miranda Ollstein, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “Some supporters of President Donald Trump see a threat bigger than the spread of a highly contagious novel coronavirus: a conspiracy by deep state actors to use the virus against the president. One key piece of evidence fueling their theory: An official from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention making public statements on the outbreak is the sister of Rod Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general who oversaw the Mueller probe and, according to a disputed report, once discussed removing Trump from office. Dr. Nancy Messonnier, head of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases — who got a shoutout from her brother for attending his 2017 confirmation hearing — warned Americans in a Tuesday media briefing that an outbreak in the U.S. is inevitable…. Trump — who rose to political prominence by promoting the false idea that Barack Obama was not born in the United States — has aired suspicions that mainstream media outlets are sensationalizing the virus and contributing to a plunging stock market. ‘Low Ratings Fake News MSDNC (Comcast) & @CNN are doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible,’ he tweeted on Wednesday morning. The tweet came after Limbaugh aired fears that the virus is being ‘weaponized’ against Trump on his Monday radio program. He accused the ‘Drive-By Media’ of overhyping the threat posed by the virus to tank financial markets.”

C.D.C. Confirms First Possible Community Transmission of Coronavirus in U.S., The New York Times, Roni Caryn Rabin, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “A person in California who was not exposed to anyone known to be infected with the coronavirus, and had not traveled to countries in which the virus is circulating, has tested positive for the infection. It may be the first case of community spread in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday. ‘At this point, the patient’s exposure is unknown,’ the C.D.C. statement said. ‘The case was detected through the U.S. public health system and picked up by astute clinicians.'” See also, Coronavirus Patient in California Was Not Tested for Days. Doctors suspected infection with the virus, but the patient did not fit the federal criteria for testing. The New York Times, Roni Caryn Rabin and Sheri Fink, published on Thursday, 27 February 2020: “A California coronavirus patient had to wait days to be tested because of restrictive federal criteria, despite doctors’ requests. The patient, who has tested positive, may be the first person to be infected through community spread in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. C.D.C. officials said it was possible the patient was exposed to a returning traveler who was infected. At the moment, however, the new case appears to be one in which the source of infection is unknown, suggesting that the virus may be transmitted within the community.”

Trump Campaign Sues New York Times Over 2019 Opinion Article, The New York Times, Michael M. Grynbaum and Marc Tracy, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “President Trump’s re-election campaign sued The New York Times for libel on Wednesday, alleging that an Op-Ed article published by the newspaper falsely asserted a ‘quid pro quo’ between Russian officials and Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign. Mr. Trump often threatens to sue media organizations but rarely follows through. The lawsuit, filed in New York State court in Manhattan, is the first time his political operation has taken legal action against an American news outlet since he took office. The lawsuit concerns an essay published by the Opinion section of The Times in March 2019. The article, headlined ‘The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo,’ was written by Max Frankel, who served as executive editor of The Times from 1986 to 1994. (The Opinion section of The Times operates separately from its newsroom.) In the essay, Mr. Frankel wrote about communications between Mr. Trump’s inner circle and Russian emissaries in the lead-up to the 2016 election. He concluded that, rather than any ‘detailed electoral collusion,’ the Trump campaign and Russian officials ‘had an overarching deal’: ‘the quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy.’ The Trump lawsuit argues that this conclusion ‘is false’ and that The Times published the essay ‘knowing it would misinform and mislead its own readers.’ The suit also accuses The Times, without evidence, of harboring ‘extreme bias against and animosity toward’ Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign.” See also, Trump campaign files libel lawsuit against The New York Times over 2010 opinion piece on Russia, CNN Business, Oliver Darcy, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign on Wednesday escalated its feud with the news media to new heights, filing a libel lawsuit against The New York Times in which it alleged the newspaper ‘knowingly published false and defamatory statements’ in a March 2019 opinion piece. In a statement, a spokesperson for The Times said, ‘The Trump Campaign has turned to the courts to try to punish an opinion writer for having an opinion they find unacceptable. Fortunately,’ the spokesperson added, ‘the law protects the right of Americans to express their judgments and conclusions, especially about events of public importance. We look forward to vindicating that right in this case.'” See also, Trump campaign says it is suing New York Times over Russia opinion piece, Reuters, Steve Holland, Wednesday, 26 February 2020.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan Rules the Trump Administration Can Withhold Millions From ‘Sanctuary’ States and Cities, The New York Times, Annie Correal, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “The Trump administration can withhold millions of dollars from law enforcement agencies in states and cities that do not cooperate with U.S. immigration authorities, a federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday. The decision, by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan, was the first by an appellate court to side with the administration’s argument that it can impose conditions on the release of the money, which comes in the form of grants. Three other appeals courts have previously affirmed lower court rulings that it was unlawful for the White House to tie the grant money to state and local governments’ cooperation with the federal authorities…. Officials with the jurisdictions that filed the lawsuit that led to the decision vowed to continue battling the administration.” See also, Court sides with Trump in ‘sanctuary cities’ grant fight, Associated Press, Larry Neumeister, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “The Trump administration can withhold millions of dollars in law enforcement grants to force states to cooperate with U.S. immigration enforcement, a federal appeals court in New York ruled Wednesday in a decision that conflicted with three other federal appeals courts.”

Lawmakers from both parties warn Pentagon not to move money to fund Trump wall, Associated Press, Lolita C. Baldor, Wednesday, 27 February 2020: “Lawmakers from both parties told Pentagon leaders on Wednesday that the Defense Department is undermining its own efforts to get military money by diverting billions of dollars for the construction of President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall. The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and the committee’s top Republican warned Defense Secretary Mark Esper that overturning congressional funding decisions to shift money for the wall is an enormous problem that will have consequences. The plan to shift money has triggered rare Republican opposition to one of Trump’s priorities.”

Congress Makes Lynching a Federal Crime After 120 Years of Failure, The New York Times, Jacey Fortin, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “Since at least 1900, members of the House and Senate have tried to pass a law making lynching a federal crime. The bills were consistently blocked, shelved or ignored, and the passage of time has rendered anti-lynching legislation increasingly symbolic. But on Wednesday, a measure to add lynching to the United States Criminal Code passed in the House. The Senate passed a version of the bill last year. Once the bills are formally reconciled, the legislation can be sent to the Oval Office, where President Trump is expected to sign it into law. The House bill, called the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, was introduced by Representative Bobby Rush, a Democrat from Illinois. The Senate bill, which passed unanimously last year, was introduced by Kamala Harris, Democrat of California; Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey; and Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina.” See also, House passes historic anti-lynching bill after Congress’s century of failure, The Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed legislation that would make lynching a federal hate crime, more than 100 years since the first such measure was introduced in Congress. H.R. 35, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, was approved on a bipartisan 410-to-4 vote after a sometimes emotional debate in the House. Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), who sponsored the legislation, said the bill will ‘send a strong message that violence, and race-based violence in particular, has no place in American society.’… The measure’s passage comes after lawmakers tried, and failed, to pass anti-lynching bills nearly 200 times.”

F.B.I. Says White Supremacists Targeted Journalists and a Trump Official, The New York Times, Mike Baker, Adam Goldman, and Neil MacFarquhar, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “Federal prosecutors have charged five people tied to a neo-Nazi group with engaging in a campaign to intimidate and harass journalists and others, including a member of President Trump’s cabinet, a university and a church. The charges, announced on Wednesday in Virginia and Washington State, are part of a broader recent crackdown by federal law enforcement on violent white supremacists in the United States. Authorities said the individuals were associated with the Atomwaffen Division, a small but violent paramilitary neo-Nazi group. In the Virginia case, prosecutors accused John Cameron Denton, 26, whom they described as a former Atomwaffen leader, of harassment through a tactic known as ‘swatting’ — calling the police and falsely describing an imminent threat at a specific location, causing the authorities to respond in force. In one instance, prosecutors said, Mr. Denton targeted an investigative journalist at ProPublica because he was angry that the news organization had named him in its reporting on Atomwaffen. In other cases in 2018 and 2019, Mr. Denton and others placed swatting calls that targeted Old Dominion University and Alfred Street Baptist Church, prosecutors said.” See also, Five arrested, accused of targeting journalists as part of neo-Nazi Atomwaffen group, The Washington Post, Rachel Weiner and Matt Zapotosky, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “Federal officials on Wednesday arrested several alleged members of a white-supremacist group called Atomwaffen Division, including its two leaders, accusing them of plotting to intimidate journalists by calling police to their homes and offices and dropping off threatening fliers. John Cameron Denton, of Montgomery, Tex., is charged in U.S. District Court in Alexandria with conspiring to call in fake threats targeting a ProPublica reporter and his office. Police arrived in force at both locations, at one point briefly detaining the reporter. In federal court in Seattle, prosecutors say Kaleb Cole and three others hatched a different intimidation plan: finding out where journalists live and leaving posters at their homes with messages featuring swastikas, weapons and the vague threat that they were being watched.”

ABC News suspends corespondent David Wright after comments about Trump coverage and socialism that were captured in a Project Veritas sting, The Washington Post, Paul Farhi, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “ABC News suspended one of its veteran correspondents late Tuesday for unguarded remarks he made in a video by operatives of Project Veritas, the conservative group that records ‘undercover’ footage of mainstream journalists to bolster its accusations of media bias. The network disciplined David Wright, who reports for ABC’s signature news programs, including ‘World News Tonight,’ ‘Good Morning America’ and ‘Nightline,’ several people confirmed late Tuesday. The choppy, poorly shot video, released Wednesday morning by Project Veritas, captured Wright on what appeared to be a hidden camera, seeming to complain in general terms about political coverage.” See also, ABC News suspends correspondent for remarks that were secretly recorded by right-wing group, CNN Business, Oliver Darcy, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “ABC News said on Wednesday that it had suspended a veteran correspondent after the journalist was secretly recorded on video by a right-wing activist group leveling criticism against the network and making disparaging comments about President Donald Trump. ‘Any action that damages our reputation for fairness and impartiality or gives the appearance of compromising it harms ABC News and the individuals involved,’ an ABC News spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday. The ABC News spokesperson added that the correspondent, David Wright, had ‘been suspended, and to avoid any possible appearance of bias, he will be reassigned away from political coverage when he returns.'” See also, ABC’s David Wright told the truth about network news and Trump, and he paid the price, Salon, Dan Froomkin, published on Thursday, 27 February 2020: “There are few things more loathsome than Project Veritas and its attempts to ‘sting’ journalists in an effort to delegitimize the reality-based media. But in its latest video, Project Veritas has done us all a favor. The group’s sneaky surveillance has uncovered someone speaking profound truths about how commercial pressures have skewed corporate media’s political-news values — not toward making things up, but toward turning it all into shallow, value-neutral entertainment. The truth-teller was David Wright, an Emmy Award-winning ABC News correspondent who’s been with the network since 2000. And unfortunately for him — and the truth — when his bosses at ABC saw the video, they suspended him and reassigned him away from political coverage.” See also, ABC News should be ashamed for caving to James O’Keefe’s scam, The Washington Post, Paul Waldman, Wednesday, 26 February 2020.

A New Section of US Attorneys Is Being Created to Strip Naturalized Citizenship From Suspected Fraudsters, Buzz Feed News, Hamed Aleaziz, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “The Department of Justice is creating a new section of attorneys to handle cases aimed at stripping naturalized citizenship from people suspected of fraud, officials announced Wednesday. The move will likely inspire increased fear in immigrant communities already on edge over the Trump administration’s immigration restrictions.” See also, Justice Department Establishes Office to Denaturalize Immigrants, The New York Times, Katie Benner, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “The department called the decision a move ‘to bring justice to terrorists, war criminals, sex offenders and other fraudsters,’ but some lawyers there feared a broader crackdown. See also, Justice Department creates section dedicated to denaturalization cases, CNN Politics, Priscilla Alvarez, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “The Justice Department announced Wednesday that it’s dedicating a section of its workforce to review denaturalization cases — a move that’s likely to worry immigrant advocates who’ve expressed concern about the administration stripping citizenship from Americans.”

A Mexican Exodus Is Helping Shrink the Undocumented Population, The New York Times, Miriam Jordan, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “The number of unauthorized residents in the United States is down to its lowest point in more than 15 years. Mexicans, Poles and South Koreans are all among those leaving…. New data that was released on Wednesday by the Center for Migration Studies shows there were 10.6 million immigrants living unlawfully in the United States in 2018 compared with 11.75 million in 2010, a decline propelled primarily by Mexicans returning south.”

Tribal Nation Condemns ‘Desecration’ to Build Border Wall. Construction of a wall on the Arizona border is endangering sacred Indigenous sites, including an oasis that has supported human beings for the last 16,000 years. The New York Times, Simon Romero, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “Cut down a saguaro cactus in Arizona and you can face years in prison. But over the past several weeks, work crews have been destroying dozens of the protected cactuses, which can live for 200 years, to build a new wall on the southwestern border. The remains of chopped-up saguaros are now visible along a swath of the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona, part of what Native American leaders warn is a range of environmental and archaeological threats posed by the Trump administration’s scramble to build the wall. Work along the border, according to tribal leaders of the Tohono O’odham Nation who live on both sides of the border, is blasting ancient burial sites and siphoning an aquifer that feeds a desert oasis where human beings have slaked their thirst for 16,000 years. The outcry by tribal citizens reflects the latest phase in the quarreling over the border wall, after federal courts allowed the Trump administration to speed construction by waiving dozens of laws, including measures protecting endangered species and Native American burial sites. Federal officials have cited President Trump’s national emergency declaration in 2019, aimed at curbing unauthorized immigration, as justification for the waivers.”

When Safety Rules on Oil Drilling Were Changed, Some Staff Objected. Those Notes Were Cut. The Wall Street Journal, Ted Mann, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “As the offshore oil industry’s federal regulator completed its overhaul of a major well-drilling safety rule in 2018, the agency’s director picked up the phone to a staff engineer to order up some changes. Scott Angelle, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, told the engineer to delete language from memos showing that the changes would contradict guidance from the agency’s own engineers, according to emails and memos reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The memos were subsequently revised but with no indication that Mr. Angelle had personally ordered the changes, the records show. Among the details stripped: a note that agency staffers wanted ‘no change to the testing frequency’ of critical safety equipment and that the staff ‘does not agree with industry’ that an industry-crafted protocol for managing well pressure was sufficient in all situations, the records show. The Trump administration has made no secret of its goal to reduce regulatory burdens on the oil industry. But the internal correspondence could prove a liability, as environmental groups challenge the agency’s rationale for its decision, legal experts say.”

Attorney General William Barr Criticizes Mainstream Media as ‘Monolithic in Viewpoint,’ The New York Times, Katie Benner, Wednesday, 26 February 2020: “In a wide-ranging speech on the importance of Christianity in public life, Attorney General William P. Barr said on Wednesday that religious news publications and broadcasters were essential checks on a mainstream media that has consolidated far too much power. Mr. Barr, speaking at the National Religious Broadcasters annual convention in Nashville, called the mainstream press ‘remarkably monolithic in viewpoint’ and said that ‘an increasing number of journalists see themselves less as objective reporters of the facts and more as agents of change.'”

 

Thursday, 27 February 2020, Day 1,133:

 

Pence Will Control All Coronavirus Messaging From Health Officials, The New York Times, Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “The White House moved on Thursday to tighten control of coronavirus messaging by government health officials and scientists, directing them to coordinate all statements and public appearances with the office of Vice President Mike Pence, according to several officials familiar with the new approach. But on a day that the White House sought to display a more disciplined strategy to the administration’s communications about the virus, Mr. Trump used an evening event honoring African-American History Month to rail against the news media, claiming it is overstating the threat, and to congratulate himself for keeping the number of cases low…. Officials insist Mr. Pence’s goal is not to control what experts and other officials say, but to make sure their efforts are coordinated, after days of confusion with various administration officials making contradictory statements on television. But the attempt to demonstrate a unified administration voice was undercut early in the day, when Mr. Pence said that he had selected Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the director of the United States effort to combat H.I.V. and AIDS, to serve as the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House, enlisting an experienced scientist and physician to address the potential spread of the virus…. [Trump] said [on Thursday] that the virus could get worse or better in the days and weeks ahead, but that nobody knows, contradicting Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, one of the country’s leading experts on viruses and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. At the meeting with Mr. Pence on Thursday, Dr. Fauci described the seriousness of the public health threat facing Americans, saying that ‘this virus has adapted extremely well to human species’ and noting that it appeared to have a higher mortality rate than influenza. ‘We are dealing with a serious virus,’ Dr. Fauci said. Dr. Fauci has told associates that the White House had instructed him not to say anything else without clearance.”

Vice President Mike Pence seizes control of the Trump administration’s coronavirus response amid criticism of his qualifications, The Washington Post, Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey, and Yasmeen Abutaleb, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “Vice President Pence tried to project a sense of steady control over the government’s response to the coronavirus Thursday, even as he faced fresh questions about his qualifications for the role and criticism over his handling of an HIV outbreak while he was governor of Indiana. Pence appointed a doctor, Ambassador Debbie Birx, to serve as White House response coordinator for the virus, enforced tight control of the government’s public communications and added new members to a task force aimed at containing the spread of the outbreak…. In an effort to combat further fragmented messaging, Pence moved to seize control of all federal communications on the virus, requiring Cabinet officials and government experts to get clearance from his office before making public remarks, according to two senior administration officials. The move came after Trump grew frustrated about some of the public statements made by government officials warning the public, which the president viewed as overly alarmist, according to the officials, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The move drew immediate criticism from Democrats, who warned that Pence’s attempt at message control could quickly turn into an effort to suppress critical health information that the public needs. ‘I will try to be as precise and non shrill as possible with my language here: It is essential in times like these that experts are allowed to tell us what’s really going on in their own words,’ Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) tweeted.” See also, What Has Mike Pence Done in Health? The New York Times, Abby Goodnough, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “[W]hat does Mr. Pence’s record on health care look like? He has no training or expertise in health policy…. In 2015, he was one of the first Republican governors who agreed to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, a move that others in his party have shunned because of their opposition to the law. That same year, he allowed — albeit reluctantly — a program to provide clean needles for intravenous drug users in a rural county that was in the throes of an HIV outbreak. For weeks, Mr. Pence delayed permitting public health workers to distribute the clean needles to slow the epidemic, stating moral opposition to drug use. He relented as the number of HIV cases approached 100 (they ultimately surpassed 200) and doctors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pleaded with him — and after taking a few more nights to ‘pray on it,’ according to Dr. Jerome Adams, the state health commissioner at the time and now the United States surgeon general. But while his decision allowed such exchanges to open statewide, no state funding was made available for them. More broadly, critics said that Mr. Pence, like previous Indiana governors, had failed to invest adequately in public health.”

Big media is covering up Trump’s terrifying incoherence in a time of emergency, Press Watch, Dan Froomkin, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “Here is some of what Donald Trump had to say Wednesday evening at a briefing intended to inform and reassure the American public about a public-health emergency: ‘This will end. This will end. You look at flu season. I said 26,000 people. I never heard of a number like that: 26,000 people, going up to 69,000 people, doctor, you told me before. 69,000 people die every year — from 20 to 69 — every year from the flu. Think of that. That’s incredible. So far, the results of all of this that everybody is reading about — and part of the thing is, you want to keep it the way it is, you don’t want to see panic, because there’s no reason to be panicked about it — but when I mentioned the flu, I asked the various doctors, “Is this just like flu?” Because people die from the flu. And this is very unusual. And it is a little bit different, but in some ways it’s easier and in some ways it’s a little bit tougher, but we have it so well under control, I mean, we really have done a very good job.’… Tell me this is normal. Tell me this is unremarkable. Tell me this is behavior by the President of the United States of America at a critically important briefing about a potentially deadly pandemic that does not bear mentioning. Wednesday’s briefing was arguably the most abnormal moment yet in a profoundly abnormal presidency. But top news organizations, rather than accurately representing Trump’s alarming behavior, made it sound like nothing untoward happened at all.” See also, Fact-checking Trump’s coronavirus news conference, The Washington Post, Glenn Kessler and Meg Kelly, published on Friday, 28 February 2020. See also, Trump administration tries to play down the health and economic risks of the coronavirus, The Washington Post, Anne Gearan, Seung Min Kim, and Erica Werner, Friday, 28 February 2020.

Health and Human Services whistleblower says U.S. workers without protective gear assisted coronavirus evacuees, The Washington Post, Lena H. Sun and Yasmeen Abutaleb, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services sent more than a dozen workers to receive the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, without proper training for infection control or appropriate protective gear, according to a whistleblower complaint. The workers did not show symptoms of infection and were not tested for the virus, according to lawyers for the whistleblower, a senior HHS official based in Washington who oversees workers at the Administration for Children and Families, a unit within HHS. The whistleblower is seeking federal protection, alleging she was unfairly and improperly reassigned after raising concerns about the safety of these workers to HHS officials, including those within the office of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. She was told Feb. 19 that if she does not accept the new position in 15 days, which is March 5, she would be terminated. The whistleblower has decades of experience in the field, received two HHS department awards from Azar last year and has received the highest performance evaluations, her lawyers said.” See also, Whistle-Blower Says U.S. Health Workers Responding to Coronavirus Lacked Training and Protective Gear, The New York Times, Emily Cochrane, Noah Weiland, and Margot Sanger-Katz, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “Federal health employees interacted with Americans quarantined for possible exposure to the coronavirus without proper medical training or protective gear, then scattered into the general population, according to a government whistle-blower who lawmakers say faced retaliation for reporting concerns. The team was ‘improperly deployed’ to two military bases in California to assist the processing of Americans who had been evacuated from coronavirus hot zones in China and elsewhere, according to a portion of a narrative account shared with Congress and obtained by The New York Times ahead of a formal complaint to the Office of the Special Counsel, an independent government agency that handles federal whistle-blower complaints. Staff members from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families were sent to Travis Air Force Base and March Air Reserve Base in late January and early February and were ordered to enter quarantined areas, including a hangar where coronavirus evacuees were being received, the complaint said. They were not provided safety-protocol training until five days into their assignment, said the whistle-blower, who is described as a senior leader at the health agency. Without proper training or equipment, some of the exposed staff members moved freely around and off the bases, with at least one person staying in a nearby hotel and leaving California on a commercial flight. Many were unaware of the need to test their temperatures three times a day.” See also, Health and Human Services whistleblower claims US workers received coronavirus evacuees without proper precautions, CNN Politics, Kristen Holmes, Amanda Watts, and Caroline Kelly, Thursday, 27 Friday 2020: “A whistleblower at the Department of Health and Human Services is seeking federal protection after complaining that more than a dozen workers who received the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, lacked proper training or protective gear for coronavirus infection control.See also, Whistleblower Says Federal Employees Flown From Coronavirus Sites Didn’t Follow Safety Protocols. Employees weren’t tested for virus before leaving California quarantine sites on commercial flights, complaint says. The Wall Street Journal, Stephanie Armour and Natalie Andrews, Thursday, 27 February 2020.

Trump says he can bring in coronavirus experts quickly. The experts say it is not that simple. The Washington Post, Beth Reinhard, Emma Brown, and Neena Satija, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “The White House official charged with leading the U.S. response to deadly pandemics left nearly two years ago as his global health security team was disbanded. Federal funding for preventing and mitigating the spread of infectious disease has been repeatedly threatened since President Trump’s election. Despite the mounting threat of a coronavirus outbreak in the United States, Trump said he has no regrets about those actions and that expertise and resources can be quickly ramped up to meet the current needs. Former federal officials and public-health experts argue that an effective response to a epidemiological crisis demands sustained planning and investment. While the administration’s response to coronavirus has been criticized in recent weeks as slow and disjointed, people in and outside the White House have warned for years that the nation is ill prepared for a dangerous pandemic. ‘You build a fire department ahead of time. You don’t wait for a fire,’ said Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. ‘There is an underappreciation for the amount of time and resources required to build a prepared system.'” See also, Coronavirus pushes Trump to rely on experts he has long maligned, The Washington Post, Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “When President Trump sought to reassure a nation on edge over the coronavirus, he was flanked Wednesday evening at the White House by more than a half-dozen public health experts. But the very officials whose expertise the president is now counting on are part of the vast bureaucracy of scientists and other public servants that Trump has repeatedly maligned, ignored and jettisoned.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a Former Pharmaceutical Executive, Refuses to Vow Coronavirus Vaccine Will Be Affordable for All, Not Just the Rich, Common Dreams, Jake Johnson, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “Members of Congress and advocacy groups are voicing outrage after Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar—a former pharmaceutical executive—repeatedly refused during House testimony Wednesday to guarantee that any coronavirus vaccine or treatment developed with taxpayer money will be affordable for all in the U.S., not just the rich. ‘Under the Trump doctrine, if you are wealthy you can buy a vaccine and not succumb to the sickness,’ Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a Democratic presidential candidate, said in a statement. ‘If you are poor or working class, you may have to get sick or even die. That is an outrage. That is unacceptable. We need a vaccine that is available to all.’ During testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Wednesday, Azar was pressed multiple times to vow that vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus will be priced fairly and made affordable for all U.S. households. ‘We would want to ensure that we’d work to make it affordable,’ Azar told Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), ‘but we can’t control that price because we need the private sector to invest.'” See also, The Trump administration just backtracked and said a coronavirus vacccine would be affordable for Americans–after triggering massive blowback, Business Insider, Joseph Zeballos-Roig, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “The Trump administration reversed itself on Thursday and said a coronavirus vaccine would be affordable for the American public after it generated a storm of criticism over the drug’s potential high cost. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said he would guarantee public access to a vaccine. Only a day earlier, he declined to do so and cited the need for financial involvement from the private sector. The development of a vaccine that successfully treats COVID-19 is still far off — at least a year in the best case scenario.”

California undertakes massive effort to trace contacts of woman with coronavirus, The Washington Post, Geoffrey A. Fowler, Laurie McGinley, and Lenny Bernstein, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “California has launched a far-reaching effort to find anyone who might have come in contact with a new coronavirus patient, officials said Thursday, as federal officials moved to improve the faulty testing process that has hamstrung their ability to track how widely the disease has spread. Gov. Gavin C. Newsom (D) and state health officials declined to reveal how many people may have crossed paths with the Solano County woman, who is the first person in the United States to develop the new covid-19 disease without traveling to a virus hotspot or having close contact with someone who did. But they acknowledged the woman was living in the community and showing symptoms of the disease before she was admitted to a local hospital here Feb. 15. That is a worrisome prospect because the virus is highly transmissible, especially when someone with the disease has symptoms. They did not share any details about the woman’s family, work and social contacts, citing patient privacy.”

U.S. Stocks Slide Into a Correction as Virus Fears Show No sign of Easing, The Wall Street Journal, Karen Langley, Caitlin Ostroff, and Chong Koh Ping, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “The February market rout deepened Thursday, as major stock indexes around the globe posted another round of significant declines and uncertainty over the impact of the coronavirus began shading into fear. All three major U.S. indexes slipped into correction territory—a drop of at least 10% from a recent peak—and posted their biggest one-day point drops ever.” See also, Coronavirus Fears Drive Stocks Down for 6th Day and Into Correction, The New York Times, Matt Phillips, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “The global stock market slid for the sixth straight day on Thursday, as the S&P 500 index plunged to its worst loss in almost nine years and investors worldwide grew increasingly fearful that the coronavirus outbreak could cause a recession as it squeezes corporate profits.” See also, U.S. markets drop into correction territory, extending brutal week of losses, The Washington Post, David J. Lynch, Rachel Siegel, and Thomas Heath, Thursday, 27 February 2020.

Warren, Bloomberg, and Rivals Agree: Trump Is ‘Not Ready’ for Coronavirus, The New York Times, Rebecca R. Ruiz, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts called Wednesday for the federal government to redirect money from the construction of President Trump’s border wall and put it toward the containment of the fast-spreading coronavirus. ‘I’m going to be introducing a plan tomorrow to take every dime that the president is now taking to spend on his racist wall at the southern border and divert it to the coronavirus,’ Ms. Warren said on a CNN town hall program from Charleston, S.C., joining her opponents in the Democratic presidential primary in excoriating the Trump administration’s response to the threat.”

Democratic Leaders Are Willing to Risk Party Damage to Stop Bernie Sanders, The New York Times, Lisa Lerer and Reid J. Epstein, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, hear constant warnings from allies about congressional losses in November if the party nominates Bernie Sanders for president. Democratic House members share their Sanders fears on text-messaging chains. Bill Clinton, in calls with old friends, vents about the party getting wiped out in the general election. And officials in the national and states parties are increasingly anxious about splintered primaries on Super Tuesday and beyond, where the liberal Mr. Sanders edges out moderate candidates who collectively win more votes. Dozens of interviews with Democratic establishment leaders this week show that they are not just worried about Mr. Sanders’s candidacy, but are also willing to risk intraparty damage to stop his nomination at the national convention in July if they get the chance. Since Mr. Sanders’s victory in Nevada’s caucuses on Saturday, The Times has interviewed 93 party officials — all of them superdelegates, who could have a say on the nominee at the convention — and found overwhelming opposition to handing the Vermont senator the nomination if he arrived with the most delegates but fell short of a majority.” See also, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Trying to Save House Majority, Fends Off Angst Over Sanders, The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Nicholas Fandos, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi, facing deep alarm among moderate Democrats who worry that Senator Bernie Sanders will win their party’s presidential nomination only to cost them control of the House, has begun distancing her caucus from the race for the White House in an effort to insulate her rank and file and preserve the party’s majority. Ms. Pelosi, the highest-ranking Democrat and the de facto leader of her party, insisted in public and in private on Thursday that Democrats would be united around their nominee no matter who it was — even as she pointedly refused to embrace Mr. Sanders’s agenda, especially Medicare for All, which lacks the votes to pass the House.”

Citing Climate Commitments, U.K. Court Blocks New Runway at Heathrow Airport, NPR, Colin Dwyer, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “The U.K. Court of Appeal dealt climate activists a big legal win, blocking plans for the addition of a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport, one of the busiest international hubs in the world. In its judgment Thursday, the three-justice panel concluded that the plans failed to satisfy the government’s stated commitments on combating climate change.”

U.S. Moves to Raise Fees for Deportation Appeals by Nearly Ninefold, The Wall Street Journal, Michelle Hackman, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “The Justice Department is proposing to dramatically increase the cost of appealing deportation orders, according to a federal regulatory filing Thursday, a move critics say would effectively limit access to the legal system to more affluent immigrants. The government is proposing to raise the fee required to file appeals in the immigration court system from $110 to $975, a nearly 800% increase. The Justice Department says the move is necessary to keep pace with inflation, as fees haven’t been raised since 1986. Inflation has been roughly 130% since that year. Immigration advocates say the plan is designed to make fighting deportation prohibitively expensive and say it would raise due-process concerns that could form the basis of lawsuits, should the higher fees take effect.”

Trump Endorsed a Risky Antidepressant for Veterans. Lawmakers Want to Know if His Mar-a-Lago Pals Had a Stake in the Drugmaker. ProPublica, Isaac Arnsdorf, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “House Democrats are expanding their investigation of outside influence at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, examining whether a push to use a new antidepressant from Johnson & Johnson was advanced by a group of unofficial advisers who convened at Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s private club. The chairmen of the House veterans affairs and oversight committees sent letters last week asking for emails and financial records from the three advisers, Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, physician Bruce Moskowitz and lawyer Marc Sherman. The Democrats are seeking, among other documents, any communications the men had with Johnson & Johnson and financial records showing whether they had any stake in the company.”

Inspector general to investigate whether Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie tried to discredit Democratic aide who reported sexual assault, The Washington Post, Lisa Rein, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “The Veterans Affairs Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation into allegations that Secretary Robert Wilkie tried to dig up dirt on an aide to a top Democrat in Congress after she said she was sexually assaulted at the agency’s Washington hospital.”

Top General Orders Removal of All Confederate Paraphernalia From Marine Bases, Slate, Elliot Hannon, Thursday, 27 February 2020: “The Marine Corps took a welcome step toward modernizing after the service’s top general ordered the removal of all Confederate paraphernalia from all Marine installations around the world. The directive from Commandant Gen. David Berger came last week, shortly after a congressional hearing on the rise of the racist ideology of white nationalism in the military. The directive did not specify what exact forms of paraphernalia would now be prohibited beyond, presumably, the Confederate flag. The move was a long time in coming and could draw the Marines further into what has been a divisive societal issue that has morphed into a political issue in the Trump years: the push for the removal of Confederate statues and iconography across American life. The U.S. has witnessed a troubling rise of white nationalist extremism since Trump’s election, and the military is no different.”