Trump Administration, Week 163: Friday, 28 February – Thursday, 5 March 2020 (Days 1,134-1,140)

 

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 independent global news, visit Democracy Now!

 

Friday, 28 February 2020, Day 1,134:

 

Federal Appeals Court Blocks Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy, The New York Times, Caitlin Dickerson, Friday, 28 February 2020: “A federal court on Friday upended a central pillar of the Trump administration’s immigration agenda, ruling that asylum seekers must be allowed into the United States while their cases weave through American immigration courts. A three-judge panel in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco blocked a policy that has required people applying for asylum at the border to wait in Mexico while their claims for protection are reviewed, a process that often takes months or years. Since the new restrictions were rolled out early in 2019, more than 59,000 asylum seekers have been turned back by American authorities into Mexican border cities, where kidnappings and violence have surged. Because shelters in Mexico are scant and overrun, many of the migrants are living in vast tent encampments exposed to the elements. Powerful Mexican drug cartels have moved in to exploit them.” See also, Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy blocked in federal court, The Washington Post, Maria Sacchetti and Nick Miroff, Friday, 28 February 2020: “A federal appeals court in California halted the Trump administration’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ immigration policy on Friday, a blow to the president’s restrictive immigration agenda that cripples one of the government’s approaches to curbing migration across the U.S. southern border.” See also, Federal appeals court issues major blow to the Trump administration’s immigration agenda, CNN Politics, Priscilla Alvarez, Friday, 28 February 2020. Update: Confusion on the Border as Appeals Court Rules Against Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy and Then Stays Its Decision in Order to Allow the Government Time to Appeal the Ruling, The New York Times, Caitlin Dickerson, Friday, 28 February 2020: “A federal appeals court found a central pillar of the Trump administration’s immigration agenda legally invalid on Friday, ruling that asylum seekers must be allowed into the United States while their cases weave through American immigration courts. The court stayed its decision, however, in order to allow the government time to appeal the ruling.” See also, Court halts Trump asylum policy and then suspends its own order, Associated Press, Elliot Spagat, Saturday, 29 February 2020: “A Trump administration immigration policy that requires asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases wind through U.S. courts was blocked and then reinstated by a court in the matter of hours, creating chaos at border crossings, courtrooms and legal offices. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put the policy on hold midday Friday, delivering a setback to a policy that has become one of President Donald Trump’s signature efforts to restrict immigration. But by the end of the day, the court allowed the program to go back into effect after the Justice Department argued that its suspension will prompt migrants to overrun the border and endanger national security. The White House argued that the suspension of the policy would overwhelm the nation’s immigration system, damage relations with the government of Mexico and increase the risk of outbreak from the new coronavirus.” See also, For Migrants at the Border, a Day of Hopes Uplifted and Dashed, The New York Times, Manny Fernandez, published on Saturday, 29 February 2020.

House Democrats Inquire About Political Interference at the Justice Department, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos, Friday, 28 February 2020: “House Democrats are scrutinizing whether President Trump or his appointees have interfered at the Justice Department for political reasons, a committee chairman said Friday, requesting documents and interviews with 15 U.S. attorneys related to the cases of three Trump associates and a review of the F.B.I.’s Russia inquiry. Among those singled out for interviews in a letter from Democrats to Attorney General William P. Barr were four career prosecutors who quit in protest after senior officials intervened to reverse their recommendation and suggest a shorter sentence for Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime Trump confidant, in line with what the president had publicly demanded. The episode ignited long-smoldering fears that Mr. Trump’s personal and political interests were tilting the scales of justice. ‘These circumstances are deeply troubling,’ Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the Judiciary Committee chairman, wrote in the letter to Mr. Barr. ‘Although you serve at the president’s pleasure, you are also charged with the impartial administration of our laws. In turn, the House Judiciary Committee is charged with holding you to that responsibility.'” See also, House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler seeks interviews with prosecutors who quit the Roger Stone case, Politico, Kyle Cheney, Friday, 28 February 2020: “House Democrats are seeking interviews with the four career prosecutors who quit the case of Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of President Donald Trump, after Trump and Justice Department leaders intervened to demand a lighter jail sentence. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) requested the interviews in a Friday letter to Attorney General William Barr that also included broader demands for documents and testimony about allegations of political interference by Trump in the work of the Justice Department.”

Court Rules Congress Cannot Sue to Force Executive Branch Officials to Testify, The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Friday, 28 February 2020: “A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that Congress could not sue to enforce its subpoenas of executive branch officials, handing a major victory to President Trump and dealing a severe blow to the power of Congress to conduct oversight. In a ruling that could have far-reaching consequences for executive branch secrecy powers long after Mr. Trump leaves office, a divided three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit brought by the House Judiciary Committee against Mr. Trump’s former White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II.” See also, Trump wins appeal to block the testimony of former White House counsel Don McGahn, a key witness in the Russia investigation, Politico, Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein, Friday, 28 February 2020: “President Donald Trump scored a major legal victory on Friday when a federal appeals court panel ruled former White House counsel Don McGahn can defy a congressional subpoena for his testimony.” See also, Appeals court finds former White House counsel Don McGahn does not have to testify to House, The Washington Post, Spencer S. Hsu and Ann E. Marimow, Friday, 28 February 2020: “Former White House counsel Donald McGahn may defy a congressional subpoena, a federal appeals court in Washington ruled Friday in a decision siding with President Trump, who had blocked top advisers from testifying as part of the impeachment proceedings. The 2-to-1 ruling, which can be appealed, deals a sweeping blow to Congress’s investigative powers. The decision means Trump’s former lawyer cannot be compelled to appear on Capitol Hill, and it comes after Democrats lost their bid to call additional witnesses during Trump’s Senate impeachment trial.”

Continue reading Week 163, Friday, 28 February – Thursday, 5 March 2020 (Days 1,134-1,140)

Trump Taps John Ratcliffe for Director of National Intelligence, The New York Times, Michael Crowley, Julian E. Barnes, Nicholas Fandos, and Maggie Haberman, Friday, 28 February 2020: “President Trump announced on Friday that he intended to nominate Representative John Ratcliffe, Republican of Texas, as his director of national intelligence, choosing someone he considered last summer before senior Republicans in Congress deemed him unqualified for the job. Mr. Ratcliffe is a vocal supporter of the president who serves on the House Intelligence Committee. If confirmed, he would replace Richard Grenell, whom Mr. Trump put in charge of American intelligence agencies this month on an acting basis. The job has been vacant since Dan Coats stepped down on Aug. 15. It is unclear whether Mr. Ratcliffe could be confirmed by the Senate. When Mr. Trump floated his name for the job last summer, some Republicans, including Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told White House officials that Mr. Ratcliffe was too partisan for the position, according to people familiar with the discussions. Members of both parties also expressed concern at the time about his qualifications for such a senior position, as well as charges that he had exaggerated his résumé. But just nominating Mr. Ratcliffe creates a benefit for the White House: Once Mr. Trump sends formal nomination papers to the Senate, it will extend the time the current acting director, Mr. Grenell, a favorite of Mr. Trump’s, can remain in the office.” See also, Trump again nominates Representative John Ratcliffe to be director of national intelligence, The Washington Post, Shane Harris and Ellen Nakashima, Friday, 28 February 2020: “President Trump announced Friday that he would nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe as the next director of national intelligence, turning to a vocal political ally after dismissing his previous acting intelligence director amid new questions of election interference by Russia.” See also, Trump Again Selects Texas Representative John Ratcliffe to Be His Director of National Intelligence, The Wall Street Journal, Andrew Restuccia and Warren P. Strobel, Friday, 28 February 2020: “President Trump said he intends to nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe as his director of national intelligence, reviving a selection that foundered last year over concerns about his qualifications and fears he would politicize the nation’s spy apparatus.” See also, Trump says he will nominate Representative John Ratcliffe to be director of national intelligence, CNN Politics, Zachary Cohen and Jason Hoffman, Friday, 28 February 2020.

Key Missteps at the Centers for Disease Congrol Have Set Back Its Ability to Detect the Potential Spread of Coronavirus, ProPublica, Caroline Chen, Marshall Allen, Lexi Churchill, and Isaac Arnsdorf, Friday, 28 February 2020: “As the highly infectious coronavirus jumped from China to country after country in January and February, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lost valuable weeks that could have been used to track its possible spread in the United States because it insisted upon devising its own test. The federal agency shunned the World Health Organization test guidelines used by other countries and set out to create a more complicated test of its own that could identify a range of similar viruses. But when it was sent to labs across the country in the first week of February, it didn’t work as expected. The CDC test correctly identified COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. But in all but a handful of state labs, it falsely flagged the presence of the other viruses in harmless samples. As a result, until Wednesday the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration only allowed those state labs to use the test — a decision with potentially significant consequences. The lack of a reliable test prevented local officials from taking a crucial first step in coping with a possible outbreak — ‘surveillance testing’ of hundreds of people in possible hotspots. Epidemiologists in other countries have used this sort of testing to track the spread of the disease before large numbers of people turn up at hospitals.”

World Health Organization Raises Global Risk for Coronavirus to Very High, Bloomberg, Thomas Mulier, Friday, 28 February 2020: “The World Health Organization raised its global risk assessment for the new coronavirus to ‘very high’ from ‘high’ as some countries struggle to contain the pathogen. Infections that are spreading from Italy and Iran to other countries are raising concerns about the virus that emerged in China, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing Friday. Some health systems aren’t ready to deal with the widening epidemic, he said. Elevating the risk level is meant to spur countries to step up their responses, said Mike Ryan, who runs the agency’s emergencies program. Health officials need to be ready to isolate patients and carefully trace their contacts to keep the disease from spiraling out of control, he said.”

Trump Administration Eyes War Powers to Speed Medical Manufacturing Ahead of a Potential Coronavirus Outbreak, The New York Times, Noah Weiland and Emily Cochrane, Friday, 28 February 2020: “The Trump administration may use a 70-year-old law to speed up the manufacturing of medical supplies before a coronavirus outbreak, Alex M. Azar II, the health secretary, said on Friday, a seeming acknowledgment that the virus poses a threat beyond the reassurances of President Trump. The Defense Production Act, passed by Congress in 1950 during the Korean War, allows the president to expand production of the materials for national security purposes. Mr. Azar said that the federal government could move to expedite certain contracts, including for supplies like face masks, gowns and gloves. Mr. Azar has said that 300 million of a type of mask known as N95 are needed for the emergency medical stockpile for health care workers.”

Stocks Suffer Worst Week Since Financial Crisis Amid Coronavirus Fears, The New York Times, Friday, 28 February 2020: “Stocks tumbled for a seventh consecutive day on Friday, with the S&P 500 index falling about 0.8 percent, bringing its loss for the week to more than 11 percent. It was the worst weekly decline for stocks since the 2008 financial crisis. In early October that year, the S&P 500 fell about 18 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 1 percent on Friday. The sell-off was fueled mostly by worry that measures to contain the virus would hamper corporate profits and economic growth, and fears that the outbreak could get worse. The selling has in a matter of days dragged stock benchmarks around the world into a correction — a drop of 10 percent or more that is taken as a measure of extreme pessimism.” See also, Stocks Suffer Biggest Weekly Losses Since 2008, The Wall Street Journal, Gunjan Banerji, Friday, 28 February 2020.

Trump says the coronavirus is the Democrats’ ‘new hoax,’ CNBC, Thomas Franck, Friday, 28 February 2020: “President Trump says that Democrats are using the virulent coronavirus as a ‘hoax’ to damage him and his administration. ‘The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,’ he said from a campaign rally in North Charleston, South Carolina. ‘This is their new hoax.’ The coronavirus, which began in Wuhan, China, has now killed more than 2,800 people worldwide and infected more than 80,000. The total number of cases in the U.S. was 63 as of the latest announcements, with most cases being former passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship and evacuees from Wuhan.” See also, Trump rallies his base to treat coronavirus as a ‘hoax,’ Politico, Nancy Cook and Matthew Choi, Friday, 28 February 2020: “President Donald Trump on Friday night tried to cast the global outbreak of the coronavirus as a liberal conspiracy intended to undermine his first term, lumping it alongside impeachment and the Mueller investigation. He blamed the press for acting hysterically about the virus, which has now spread to China, Japan, South Korea, Iran, Italy and the U.S, and he downplayed its dangers, saying against expert opinion it was on par with the flu. ‘The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. They’re politicizing it,’ he said. ‘They don’t have any clue…. Then Trump called the coronavirus ‘their new hoax.'” See also, White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney alleges U.S. media is focusing on the coronavirus to hurt Trump. He advises turning off TV. Reuters, Lisa Lambert, Friday, 28 February 2020: “White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on Friday played down the deadly coronavirus that has caused U.S. stock markets to plummet, telling top conservatives that wall-to-wall news coverage of the disease is a ploy to hurt his boss, President Donald Trump. ‘The reason you’re seeing so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to be what brings down the President. That’s what this is all about,’ Mulvaney said at a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, where Republican Party superstars and right wing media personalities gather each year. ‘I got a note today from a reporter saying “What are you going to do today to calm the markets?” I’m like, really, what I might do today to calm the markets is tell people to turn off their televisions for 24 hours,’ he added.”

Donald Trump Jr. says Democrats hope coronavirus ‘comes here and kills millions’ and ends his dad’s ‘streak of winning,’ Business Insider, Jake Lahut, Friday, 28 February 2020: “Donald Trump Jr. went on a tirade during a ‘Fox & Friends’ appearance and said Democrats were rooting for the coronavirus to kill millions of people just to besmirch his father’s presidency. The executive vice president of the Trump organization was speaking from CPAC in Maryland, where conservatives gather annually to exchange ideas and, more recently, unite behind President Donald Trump.”

First Drug Shortage Caused by Coronavirus, F.D.A. Says. But It Won’t Disclose What Drug or Where It’s Made. The New York Times, Katie Thomas, Friday, 28 February 2020: “For weeks, public health experts have been watching to see whether factory shutdowns and shipping problems in China caused by the coronavirus epidemic will cause drug shortages in the United States. Late Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration issued a statement noting that one drug is now in short supply because of problems related to the coronavirus outbreak. But it refused to disclose the name of the drug and its manufacturer — as well as where the product or its ingredients were made — saying that it could not reveal ‘confidential commercial information.’ The agency’s vague announcement angered public health advocates and those who track drug shortages, who said the lack of information would only create more confusion as the virus has spread around the globe to at least 56 countries from the original epidemic in China. The F.D.A. has long been criticized by public interest groups for refusing to reveal company information that could affect public safety. Federal law protects companies from having trade secrets and confidential proprietary information disclosed, which the agency has cited to withhold details, like naming countries where raw ingredients come from.”

Plan to drain Congo peat bog for oil could release vast amount of carbon, The Guardian, Phoebe Weston, Friday, 28 February 2020: “The world’s largest tropical peatlands could be destroyed if plans go ahead to drill for oil under the Congo basin, according to an investigation that suggests draining the area would release the same amount of carbon dioxide as Japan emits annually. Preserving the Congo’s Cuvette Centrale peatlands, which are the size of England and store 30bn tonnes of carbon, is ‘absolutely essential’ if there is any hope of meeting Paris climate agreement goals, scientists warn. However, this jungle is now the latest frontier for oil exploration, according to an investigation by Global Witness and the European Investigative Collaborations network that questions claims by developers that the oil deposit could contain 359m barrels of oil.”

Wisconsin court overturns ruling ordering voter purge, Associated Press, Scott Bauer, Friday, 28 February 2020: “A Wisconsin appeals court on Friday overturned a ruling that ordered the removal of up to 209,000 people from the state’s voter rolls, handing Democrats a victory in a case they said was intended to make it more difficult for their voters to cast ballots in November. The conservative group that brought the case immediately said it would appeal to the state Supreme Court.” See also, Wisconsin appeals court overturns ruling ordering voter purge, CNN Politics, Kelly Mena and Omar Jimenez, Friday, 28 February 2020: “The Wisconsin Appeals Court has ruled that more than 200,000 voters who were set to be purged from the state’s voter rolls will officially stay registered, court documents show. The appeals court ‘reversed’ a previous circuit court order that said the voters were invalid because they may have moved recently. The court also reversed a previous contempt order against the Wisconsin Board of Elections for not removing the voter registrations.”

The Trump Administration Is Gagging America’s Immigration Judges, The Atlantic, Cristian Farias, 28 February 2020: “For more than two years, immigration judges have been subject to a policy that more or less prevents them from performing an essential part of their civic duties: speaking publicly about their work. Since September 2017, immigration judges and all other employees at the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review have been required to adhere to an onerous pre-approval process whenever they desire or are invited to speak publicly on any issue, immigration-related or not. I learned of the policy through a Freedom of Information Act request my colleagues made to the department, as part of an investigation I’ve been conducting on the intersection of free speech and U.S. border enforcement. It is not uncommon for government agencies to set rules on employee conduct and outside activities. But the perspective of immigration judges is particularly valuable to the public, especially one grappling with complicated questions about America’s immigration laws.”

When the Billionaire Sackler Family Behind the Opioid Crisis Needed PR Help, They Turned to Mike Bloomberg, ProPublica, Hannah Dreier, Friday, 28 February 2020: “Bloomberg gave media advice to the Sacklers and recommended his longtime mayoral spokesman to them. The relationship could shadow his presidential bid.”

Education Department to Cut Off Federal Funding for Some Rural Schools, The New York Times, Erica L. Green, Friday, 28 February 2020: “A bookkeeping change at the Education Department will kick hundreds of rural school districts out of a federal program that for nearly two decades has funneled funding to some of the most geographically isolated and cash-strapped schools in the United States. More than 800 schools stand to lose thousands of dollars from the Rural and Low-Income School Program because the department has abruptly changed how districts are to report how many of their students live in poverty.”

Biden admits he was never arrested in South Africa, Politico, Caitlin Oprysko, Friday, 28 February 2020: “Former Vice President Joe Biden admitted Friday that his recent claims of being arrested during a congressional delegation trip to South Africa in the 1970s were false. Biden has faced scrutiny over the claims, made repeatedly over the past few weeks, that he was arrested with former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young ‘on the streets of Soweto,’ a township in Johannesburg, attempting to see imprisoned anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela. Fact-checking site Snopes and The Washington Post’s fact checker both found similar holes in the story after a New York Times report questioning its veracity. Young, who was a Georgia congressman at the time of the trip rather than the U.N. ambassador, told both the Times and the Post that he was never arrested in South Africa, let alone with Biden. The former vice president appears to have made no reference to being arrested in South Africa before campaign appearances this year. But in an interview on CNN’s ‘New Day’ Friday morning, Biden walked back the claim himself for the first time. ‘When I said arrested, I meant I was not able to move,’ Biden said, after recounting what had happened to him. ‘Cops would not let me go with them. I wasn’t arrested, I was stopped. I was not able to move where I wanted to go.'”

 

Saturday, 29 February 2020, Day 1,135:

 

Taliban and U.S. Strike Deal to Withdraw American Troops From Afghanistan, The New York Times, Mujib Mashal, Saturday, 29 February 2020: “The United States signed a deal with the Taliban on Saturday that sets the stage to end America’s longest war — the nearly two-decade-old conflict in Afghanistan that began after the Sept. 11 attacks, killed tens of thousands of people, vexed three White House administrations and left mistrust and uncertainty on all sides. The agreement lays out a timetable for the final withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan, the impoverished Central Asian country once unfamiliar to many Americans that now symbolizes endless conflict, foreign entanglements and an incubator of terrorist plots. The war in Afghanistan in some ways echoes the American experience in Vietnam. In both, a superpower bet heavily on brute strength and the lives of its young, then walked away with seemingly little to show.” See also, After 18 Years, Is This Afghan Peace, or Just a Way Out? The New York Times, David E. Sanger, Saturday, 29 February 2020: “President Trump has left no doubt that his first priority in Afghanistan is a peace treaty that would enable him to claim that he is fulfilling his vow to withdraw American troops. But a parade of his former national security aides say he is far less interested in an actual Afghan peace. And that creates an enormous risk for Mr. Trump and for Afghanistan: that, like President Richard M. Nixon’s peace deal with North Vietnam in January 1973, the accord signed Saturday will speed an American exit and do little to stabilize an allied government. In the case of Vietnam, it took two years for the ‘decent interval,’ in Henry A. Kissinger’s famous phrase, to expire and for the South Vietnamese government to be overrun.” See also, 4 Takeaways From the U.S. Deal With the Taliban, The New York Times, Mujib Mashal and Russell Goldman, Saturday, 29 February 2020. See also, U.S. signs peace deal with Taliban that calls for the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan within 14 months, The Washington Post, Sarah Dadouch, Susannah George, and Dan Lamothe, Saturday, 29 February 2020: “The United States and the Taliban signed a peace deal Saturday that calls for the full withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan within 14 months — a turning point in an 18-year war that has cost tens of thousands of lives. The complete withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops is contingent on a guarantee from the Taliban that Afghan soil will not be used by terrorists with aims to attack the United States or its allies, according to a copy of the agreement released by the State Department as the signing was underway. But the Taliban does not have full control over all areas outside government hands. Other factions, including breakaway Taliban groups and others claiming allegiance to the Islamic State, have footholds around the country and potentially could grow stronger without U.S.-led forces to keep them in check. Other major challenges lie ahead: Afghanistan’s deepening political crisis, a controversial prisoner swap and complex intra-Afghan talks that could drag on for months or longer.” See also, Peace deal with Taliban sets timetable for U.S. exit but no long-term solutions for Afghans, The Washington Post, Karen DeYoung, Saturday, 29 February 2020: “Many veterans of the years-long efforts to end the war and leave a stable Afghanistan, as well as Trump supporters, questioned whether the new agreement laid a sturdy groundwork for permanent peace. Some described it as a capitulation to the Taliban, whose primary demand has always been the full departure of foreign troops. One former senior defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s extreme sensitivity, said that some senior military and intelligence officials ‘are concerned that the administration is putting too much stock in the promises of the Taliban,’ who will ‘simply sign anything to get us to leave.'” See also, Thread on what’s new in US-Taliban deal and an analysis of who got what, Threadreaderapp, Laurel Miller, Saturday, 29 February 2020. See also, U.S. and Taliban Sign Deal Meant to End America’s Longest War, The Wall Street Journal, Dion Nissenbaum and Ehsanullah Amiri, Saturday, 29 February 2020.

Winning South Carolina, Joe Biden Makes Case Against Bernie Sanders: ‘Win Big or Lose,’ The New York Times, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Saturday, 29 February 2020: “Joseph R. Biden Jr. scored a decisive victory in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, reviving his listing campaign and establishing himself as the leading contender to slow Senator Bernie Sanders as the turbulent Democratic race turns to a slew of coast-to-coast contests on Tuesday. Propelled by an outpouring of support from South Carolina’s African-American voters, Mr. Biden easily overcame a late effort by Mr. Sanders to stage an upset. The victory in a state long seen as his firewall will vault Mr. Biden into Super Tuesday, where polls open in just over 48 hours, as the clear alternative to Mr. Sanders for establishment-aligned Democrats.” See also, 5 Takeaways From the South Carolina Primary, The New York Times, Shane Goldmacher, published on Sunday, 1 March 2020. See also, Highlights From the South Carolina Primary and Joe Biden’s Big Win, The New York Times, Saturday, 29 February 2020. See also, Joe Biden wins South Carolina primary, reshaping the Democratic race, The Washington Post, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Michael Scherer, Saturday, 29 February 2020: “Former vice president Joe Biden decisively won the South Carolina primary Saturday, as the first Southern primary contest reshaped the race and dealt a blow to the surging candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders. The win pumped new life into Biden’s struggling campaign, as he became the first candidate to score a clear-cut victory against Sanders this year, boosting his efforts to become the major alternative to the liberal senator. Still, Sanders (I-Vt.) is polling strongly in several of the Super Tuesday states that vote this week, and it could yet prove difficult for any of his competitors to catch up.” See also, 4 takeaways from the South Carolina primary, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Saturday, 29 February 2020. See also, Tom Steyer Drops Out of 2020 Presidential Race, The New York Times, Stephanie Saul and Matt Stevens, Saturday, 29 February 2020: “Tom Steyer, the billionaire former hedge-fund executive whose prolific campaign spending altered the Democratic primary and allowed him to persist in the race, withdrew after an apparent third-place finish Saturday night in South Carolina. Speaking to supporters here, Mr. Steyer announced he was ending his long shot presidential bid, but promised to continue working on issues that are of great importance to him — environmental and economic injustice.”

Washington State Declares Emergency Amid Coronavirus Death and Illnesses at Nursing Home, The New York Times, Mike Baker, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, and Karen Weise, Saturday, 29 February 2020: “Concerns about the coronavirus intensified across the Pacific Northwest on Saturday, after a person from the Seattle area died and as two new cases emerged inside a nursing care center in Kirkland, Wash., where dozens of other people were reported to be feeling sick. Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington declared a state of emergency, and said officials were considering canceling sporting events, closing schools and taking any other steps needed to slow the spread of the virus. ‘If — and this is a big if — there is a social distancing strategy that becomes necessary, the emergency declaration would give us some legal authority,’ Mr. Inslee said.” See also, Coronavirus is spreading through communities on the West Coast, The Washington Post, Lenny Bernstein, Lena H. Sun, Josh Dawsey, and Jay Greene, Saturday, 29 February 2020: “California reported its second case of community transmission of the coronavirus Friday, and Oregon and Washington announced others just hours later, providing fresh evidence that the deadly virus is circulating in the United States.” See also, Washington State Man Becomes First U.S. Coronavirus Fatality, U.S. News & World Report, Gabriella Borter and Steve Gorman, Saturday, 29 February 2020: “A Washington state man in his 50s with underlying health issues became the United States’ first fatality from the coronavirus, officials said on Saturday, as the Trump administration stepped up efforts to combat the spread of the global outbreak.”

Inside Trump’s frantic attempts to minimize the coronavirus crisis, The Washington Post, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Ashley Parker, and Josh Dawsey, Saturday, 29 February 2020: “Minutes before President Trump was preparing Wednesday to reassure a skittish nation about the coronavirus threat, he received a piece of crucial information: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had identified in California the first U.S. case of the illness not tied to foreign travel, a sign that the virus’s spread in the United States was likely to explode. But when Trump took to the lectern for a news conference intended to bring transparency to the spiraling global crisis, he made no explicit mention of the California case and its implications — and falsely suggested the virus might soon be eradicated in the United States. ‘And again, when you have 15 people — and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero — that’s a pretty good job we’ve done,’ he said. Trump’s playing down of the California patient at his news conference underscores the administration’s slapdash and often misleading attempts to contain not just the virus, but also potential political damage from the outbreak — which has tanked financial markets, slowed global commerce and killed some 3,000 people worldwide, including the first U.S. death, announced Saturday.”

Trump Found Himself Veering Off Message in Discussing the Two Big News Stories of the Day: the Signing of an Agreement With the Taliban and the Spread of the Coronavirus, The New York Times, Saturday, 29 February 2020: “On a day that saw the signing of a historic agreement with the Taliban and the first American death of the coronavirus outbreak, President Trump found himself veering off message on Saturday during both a news conference and a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. The president said the administration was thinking about closing the Mexican border to fight the spread of the coronavirus only to say a few minutes later that the border was not a problem. He said the first American victim was a woman, based on information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only to have Washington State health officials correct the record after a period of confusion over the patient’s identity.”

 

Sunday, 1 March 2020, Day 1,136:

 

Pete Buttigieg Drops Out of Democratic Presidential Race, The New York Times, Reid J. Epstein and Trip Gabriel, Sunday, 1 March 2020: “Pete Buttigieg, the former small-city Indiana mayor and first openly gay major presidential candidate, said Sunday night he was dropping out of the Democratic race, following a crushing loss in the South Carolina primary where his poor performance with black Democrats signaled an inability to build a broad coalition of voters. The decision comes just 48 hours before the biggest voting day of the primary, Super Tuesday, when 15 states and territories will allot about one-third of the delegates over all.” See also, Pete Buttigieg is ending his presidential bid, The Washington Post, Chelsea Janes and Amy B. Wang, Sunday, 1 March 2020: “Pete Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Ind., who saw a meteoric rise from virtual unknown to top-tier contender and became the first openly gay candidate to make a high-profile presidential run, ended his campaign Sunday as he confronted the reality that his prospects of victory had all but collapsed. Buttigieg’s decision came shortly before Super Tuesday, the biggest primary day of the year, at a time when the Democratic race shows signs of becoming a race between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former vice president Joe Biden, with Biden occupying a centrist position that Buttigieg had hoped to make his own. Buttigieg struggled to win support from black voters, a key pillar of the Democratic coalition and a vulnerability that was emphasized Saturday in South Carolina, where he finished fourth.”

Federal Judge Rules Ken Cuccinelli Was Unlawfully Appointed to Lead the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, The New York Times, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Sunday, 1 March 2020: “A federal judge ruled on Sunday that Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II was unlawfully appointed to lead United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and that two policies he put in place that limited asylum seekers’ access to counsel should be nullified. The judge, Randolph D. Moss of United States District Court in Washington, said the Trump administration violated a federal law that stipulates who can fill vacant leadership positions at federal agencies when Mr. Cuccinelli was tapped in June to be the acting director of the agency that oversees legal immigration. One of the policies in question was a directive that reduced the time — from 48 hours to 24 — that detained migrants have to consult with lawyers before an interview with an asylum officer. The other policy prohibited asylum officers from granting migrants an extension to prepare for that interview, which is used to assess their claim of fear of returning to their home country.” See also, Ken Cuccinelli’s appointment to top immigration job was unlawful, court rules, invalidating policy memos he signed, The Washington Post, Nick Miroff, Sunday, 1 March 2020: “A federal judge ruled Sunday that President Trump’s appointment last year of Ken Cuccinelli to be head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was a violation of federal vacancy laws, and that Cuccinelli lacked the authority to issue policy directives tightening asylum rules.” See also, Federal judge rules Cuccinelli appointment is unlawful, Politico, Sunday, 1 March 2020.

Churchgoers at the Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Alabama, turn their backs on Mike Bloomberg, The New York Daily News, Shant Shahrigian, Sunday, 1 March 2020: “With Democratic presidential candidates blitzing states set to vote on ‘Super Tuesday’ this week, a handful of congregants at a historic black church in Selma, Ala., delivered a stunning rebuke of Mike Bloomberg on Sunday. Ten minutes into his remarks about voter suppression and the civil rights movement, about a dozen churchgoers stood up and turned their backs to the candidate, where they silently stayed in place for the duration of the speech. It was the 55th anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday,’ when state troopers viciously attacked black civil rights activists who marched over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. Gathered at the Brown Chapel AME Church just blocks away from the bridge, the anti-Bloomberg churchgoers seemed to evoke the legacy of nonviolent protest immortalized on March 7, 1965. While they didn’t utter a word, the signal they sent was loud and clear: They don’t want the ex-mayor who once championed stop-and-frisk for president.” See also, Selma churchgoers turn their backs to Mike Bloomberg, CNN Politics, Sarah Mucha, Chandelis Duster, and Caroline Kenny, Sunday, 1 March 2020: “A group of at least nine people took part in the protest as Bloomberg spoke during a 55th commemoration of ‘Bloody Sunday’ — a historic civil rights march in 1965 where 17 people were injured by police as they attempted to across Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma during their march to Montgomery, Alabama, to demand the right to vote for black people. Bloomberg was the first Democratic presidential candidate to address the congregation Sunday. As he spoke about his Greenwood Initiative — which he launched in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in January and to address systemic bias that has kept many black Americans from gaining wealth — several people sitting in the church pews stood up and turned their backs to him. During his campaign, Bloomberg has faced repeated criticism over policies that impacted minority communities, including the controversial stop-and-frisk policing strategy.” See also, ‘Bloody Sunday’ Commemoration Draws Democratic Candidates to Selma, The New York Times, Astead W. Herndon, Sunday, 1 March 2020.

2nd Death Near Seattle Adds to Signs Virus Is Spreading in the U.S., The New York Times, Mike Baker, Sheri Fink, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, and Jack Healy, Sunday, 1 March 2020: “Officials across Washington State were racing on Monday to assess risks for schools, medical centers, emergency workers and businesses after the deaths of two state residents who were found to have been infected with the coronavirus, and an unfolding outbreak inside a nursing facility. More testing for the virus was expected across the region as the Seattle suburb of Kirkland became an epicenter of both illness and fear, much of it focused on the nursing facility, where six coronavirus cases have been confirmed and many more residents and employees have complained of illness. One of the two people who died in Washington State — the first fatalities from the outbreak in the United States —  had been a resident of the nursing home. Three more residents from the nursing home were in critical condition.” See also, Coronavirus Cases Mount as Second Person Dies in U.S., The Wall Street Journal, Brianna Abbott and Brody Mullins, Sunday, 1 March 2020: “New cases of the novel coronavirus reported Sunday, including the second death from the virus in the U.S., raised fears of a wider spread of the disease, prompting federal officials to ramp up efforts to test for and fight the growing health threat. Health officials are focused on a cluster of confirmed cases in Washington, including the two deaths. Those infections, and several others in states such as Oregon and California—many with no clear path to exposure—signal that there might be wider spread of the virus in some communities, with many cases still undiagnosed. New cases were also reported in New York, Florida and Rhode Island.” See also, Coronavirus in N.Y.: Manhattan Woman Is First Confirmed Case in State, The New York Times, Joseph Goldstein and Jesse McKinley, Sunday, 1 March 2020: “Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday confirmed New York State’s first case of the coronavirus, saying that a woman contracted the virus while traveling in Iran and is now in New York City isolated in her home.” See also, Gene Sequencing Suggests Coronavirus May Have Spread in the U.S. for Weeks, The New York Times, Sheri Fink and Mike Baker, Sunday, 1 March 2020: “Researchers who have examined the genomes of two coronavirus infections in Washington State say the similarities between the cases suggest that the virus may have been spreading in the state for weeks. Washington had the United States’ first confirmed case of coronavirus, announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Jan. 20. Based on an analysis of the virus’s genetic sequence, another case that surfaced in the state and was announced on Friday probably was descended from that first case.” See also, Coronavirus may have spread undetected for weeks in Washington state, which reported first two deaths in U.S., The Washington Post, Joel Achenbach, Katie Mettler, Lena H. Sun, and Ben Guarino, Sunday, 1 March 2020: “The coronavirus has been circulating undetected and has possibly infected scores of people over the past six weeks in Washington state, according to a genetic analysis of virus samples that has sobering implications for the entire country amid heightening anxiety about the likely spread of the disease.” See also, U.S. health officials probe coronavirus test problems at the Centers for Disease Control, Politico, David Lim, Sarah Karlin-Smith, and Dan Diamond, Sunday, 1 March 2020: “HHS has launched an investigation into CDC’s first round of coronavirus diagnostic tests that many public health laboratories across the country were unable to use because one component was flawed. The delay in testing capacity has slowed the U.S. response to the coronavirus, which public health experts say impeded the detection of what are now outbreaks in multiple states. Only this week is the pace of testing beginning to step up.”

Trump is pushing a dangerous, false spin on coronavirus, and the media is helping him spread it, The Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan, Sunday, 1 March 2020: “Some months ago, I wrote about the linguist George Lakoff’s prescription for handling the president’s false statements and lies, an approach that’s become known as the ‘truth sandwich.’ Rather than lead with the falsehood and then try to debunk it, Lakoff — an expert on how propaganda works — suggested flipping that formula: Lead with the truth, air the falsehood, and then follow with the fact check. Avoid giving prominence to lies, he advises. Don’t put them in headlines, leads or tweets. It is that very amplification that gives them power, even if they are proclaimed false in the next beat. Of course, that recommendation runs in direct opposition to how news usually works. Traditionally, we have emphasized the words of top officials, and only then tempered them with fact checks. Too often, Lakoff told me, the media ‘has become complicit with Trump by allowing itself to be used as an amplifier for his falsehoods and frames.’ And that’s true even when journalists make lists of lies. It’s the repetition and the prominence that does the harm.”

 

Monday, 2 March 2020, Day 1,137:

 

Supreme Court to Hear Obamacare Appeal, The New York Times, Adam Liptak and Abby Goodnough, Monday, 2 March 2020: “The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear a third major challenge to the Affordable Care Act, setting up likely arguments this fall in a case that could wipe out President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement. The court granted requests from Democratic state officials and House members who wanted to thrust the fate of the Affordable Care Act into the public eye just as Americans prepare to vote this November. The Supreme Court did not say when it would hear the case, but under its ordinary practices, arguments would be held in the fall and a decision would land in the spring or summer of 2021. Democrats, who consider health care a winning issue and worry about possible changes in the composition of the Supreme Court, had urged the justices to act quickly even though lower courts had not issued definitive rulings. They wanted to focus political attention on the health law’s most popular provisions — like guaranteed coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, emergency care, prescription drugs and maternity care — and to ensure that the case was decided while justices who had rejected earlier challenges to the law remain on the court. In the meantime, the law remains almost entirely intact but faces an uncertain future.” See also, Supreme Court’s Obamacare review cheers Democrats with election year health-care focus, The Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Monday, 2 March 2020: “The Supreme Court on Monday said it will review the latest Republican efforts to doom the Affordable Care Act, guaranteeing that partisan battles over health care will remain at the forefront of public debate in the closing weeks of the presidential campaign. The justices will review a federal appeals court decision that found part of the law, also known as Obamacare, unconstitutional and raised questions about whether the law in its entirety must fall. The Trump administration agreed with the lower court’s decision but said it was premature for the court to join the legal fight now.” See also, Supreme Court will hear major challenge to Obamacare, Politico, Susannah Luthi, Monday, 2 March 2020: “The Supreme Court on Monday said it will take up a Republican challenge to Obamacare, in a move that boosts Democrats who want to highlight the lawsuit’s threat to health care coverage during campaign season. The justices said they would hear the case, likely later this year, after turning down an earlier request from Democrats to fast-track a ruling by June. The decision increases pressure on President Donald Trump over health care, a top concern for voters and an issue that has benefited Democrats since the GOP’s failed effort to repeal Obamacare during Trump’s first year in office.”

‘When Is It Going to End?’: Where Coronovirus Has Turned Deadly in the U.S., The New York Times, Mike Baker and Karen Weise, Monday, 2 March 2020: “On Monday, Washington State reported four fatalities associated with the coronavirus, bringing the death toll in the United States to six — all in Washington — and raising concerns that the cluster of cases in the Pacific Northwest could presage a much wider outbreak. Across the region, leaders began taking extraordinary steps to contain the virus. Residents were warned to prepare for significant changes to their daily lives.”

Live updates of significant developments in the coronavirus outbreak on Monday, 2 March 2020: 15 states are treating coronavirus patients as virus death toll in U.S. reaches 6, officials say, The Washington Post, Siobhán O’Grady, Kim Bellware, Katie Mettler, Michael Brice-Saddler, and Derek Hawkins, Monday, 2 March 2020: “Washington state announced four more coronavirus deaths on Monday, bringing the total death toll in the United States to six, officials said, as the virus continues to spread despite travel restrictions aimed at curtailing it. In the United States, tests have taken place at a far slower pace than in South Korea and China, where reported cases of the virus continue to rise. A genetic analysis suggested that the coronavirus, which causes a highly infectious respiratory disease called covid-19, had been spreading undetected for about six weeks in Washington state. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Saturday took steps to sharply expand testing. Italy has more than 1,600 confirmed cases, while Iran surpassed 1,500, with 66 deaths. Travelers from both countries appear to have spread the virus to other nations in the Middle East and Europe. A French citizen was diagnosed with the virus in Senegal on Monday, marking the country’s first known case and the second in sub-Saharan Africa. Elsewhere, Indonesia, one of the few large nations thought to be free of the virus, said Monday it had two confirmed cases, while others were reported from Australia to India to Portugal.” This article covers many more significant developments that happened today.

As Coronavirus Numbers Rise, C.D.C. Testing Comes Under Fire, The New York Times, Roni Caryn Rabin, Knvul Sheikh, and Katie Thomas, Monday, 2 March 2020: “The coronavirus has found a crack in the nation’s public health armor, and it is not one that scientists foresaw: diagnostic testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention botched its first attempt to mass produce a diagnostic test kit, a discovery made only after officials had shipped hundreds of kits to state laboratories. A promised replacement took several weeks, and still did not permit state and local laboratories to make final diagnoses. And the C.D.C. essentially ensured that [very few] Americans would be tested by imposing stringent and narrow criteria, critics say.” See also, Public Health and Law Experts Issue Guidelines for U.S. Response to Coronavirus Transmission, Yale Law School, Monday, 2 March 2020: “Widespread transmission of the COVID-19 coronavirus within the United States is ‘inevitable’ and a successful response to the epidemic must protect the health and human rights of everyone in the country, over 450 public health, human rights, and legal experts and organizations warned today in an open letter to Vice President Mike Pence and other government officials. The open letter details a series of recommendations that government officials must consider through new legislation, policies, leadership, and spending. The recommendations stress the protection of vulnerable populations, including healthcare workers, people living with chronic health conditions, incarcerated individuals, and the elderly. Experts affiliated with Yale, Harvard, Northeastern, and Temple University, among others, as well as leading health and human rights organizations including the American Public Health Association and the Big Cities Health Coalition drafted and signed on to the letter.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper Directed Overseas Officers Not to Run Afoul of Trump’s Messaging on the Coronavirus and Asked Them to Clear Decisions With the White House on Protecting Their Troops, The New York Times, Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper, Monday, 2 March 2020: “Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper has urged American military commanders overseas not to make any decisions related to the coronavirus that might surprise the White House or run afoul of President Trump’s messaging on the growing health challenge, American officials said.”

Amy Klobuchar Drops Out of Presidential Race and Endorses Joe Biden, The New York Times, Nick Corasaniti and Alexander Burns, Monday, 2 March 2020: “Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who entered the Democratic presidential race with an appeal to moderate voters and offered herself as a candidate who could win in Midwestern swing states, dropped out of the race on Monday and endorsed a rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.  ‘Today I am ending my campaign and endorsing Joe Biden for president,’ she said at a rally here for the former vice president. She added: ‘He can bring our country together and build that coalition of our fired-up Democratic base as well as independents and moderate Republicans. We do not in our party want to just eke by a victory. We want to win big.’ The decision came one day after former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., departed the race, and after weeks of Democratic Party hand-wringing about a crowded field of moderate candidates splitting a finite field of centrist votes, allowing Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont to march forward unopposed among progressives and amass delegates. Both Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Buttigieg appeared with Mr. Biden at events in Dallas Monday night and endorsed him.” See also, Buttigieg and Klobuchar Endorse Biden, Aiming to Slow Sanders, The New York Times, Alexander Burns, Jonathan Martin, and NIck Corasaniti, Monday, 2 March 2020: “In a last-minute bid to unite the moderate wing of the Democratic Party, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg on Monday threw their support behind a presidential campaign rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., giving him an extraordinary boost ahead of the Super Tuesday primaries that promised to test his strength against the liberal front-runner, Senator Bernie Sanders. Even by the standards of the tumultuous 2020 campaign, the dual endorsement from Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Buttigieg — and their joint appearances with Mr. Biden at campaign events in Dallas on Monday night — was remarkable. Rarely, if ever, have opponents joined forces so dramatically, as Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Buttigieg went from campaigning at full tilt in the South Carolina primary on Saturday to joining on a political rescue mission for a former competitor, Mr. Biden, whom they had once regarded as a spent force.” See also, Biden racks up Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and O’Rourke endorsements on the same night, CNN Politics, Dan Merica and Kate Sullivan, Monday, 2 March 2020: “Joe Biden just had the best day of his campaign. The former vice president racked up three key endorsements in the span of 24 hours, earning the backing of former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke on the same night. The endorsements are a boon for Biden and come on the eve of the critical Super Tuesday contests, when voters in 14 states and one US territory will decide about one-third of all pledged delegates. And they represent a coalescing among more moderate Democrats around Biden and firmly against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the more progressive candidate who currently holds the lead in national delegates.” See also, Election highlights: Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, and Harry Reid endorse Joe Biden, The Washington Post, John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez, Monday, 2 March 2020: “A consolidation of the party’s moderate wing came as fears grow that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a self-described democratic socialist, could amass an insurmountable lead in delegates. A third of the pledged delegates for the party’s presidential nomination are up for grabs on Tuesday.” See also, How the Democratic Establishment Stumbled as Bernie Sanders Surged, The New York Times, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Monday, 2 March 2020: “[O]n the eve of Super Tuesday, when Democrats across 15 states and territories will hand out more than a third of the delegates required to claim the nomination, Mr. Sanders is within reach of a clear national lead and Mr. Biden is racing to catch up. In the last few days, moderate Democrats acting with a new sense of urgency have begun a large-scale effort to coalesce around Mr. Biden, with Mr. Buttigieg leaving the race on Sunday and Ms. Klobuchar abandoning her own campaign Monday. In a sign of the new, if frantic, spirit of unity, the two bitter foes both endorsed the former vice president at campaign events on Monday night in Dallas.” See also, Trump goes after Democrats in Super Tuesday eve rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, Politico, Matthew Choi, Monday, 2 March 2020: “President Donald Trump on Monday mocked Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar for dropping out of the Democratic presidential race and endorsing Joe Biden, comparing their moves to the accusations of collusion with foreign governments that have marred his presidency. ‘It sounds like they made a deal. They both supported Sleepy Joe. You know why? Quid pro quo!’ Trump said during a rally in Charlotte, N.C. ‘Impeach them! They should be impeached!’… Insulting his Democratic rivals formed the bulk of Trump’s rally, which came on the eve of the Super Tuesday elections in which 14 states, including North Carolina, will vote. The president laid into Biden, calling him one of his favorite insults, ‘Sleepy Joe,’ and saying that the former vice president would be ‘put in a home’ if he were to win the election, leaving ‘super left radical’ staffers to run his administration. He also mocked Biden for misspeaking at past campaign events, including accidentally calling this week’s collection of primaries ‘Super Thursday.'”

The Lasting Effects of Stop-and-Frisk in Bloomberg’s New York, The New York Times, Emily Badger, Monday, 2 March 2020: “In the years since Michael Bloomberg left the mayor’s office in New York, the legacy of stop-and-frisk policing widely used during his administration has become clearer. Crime in the city continued to decline, suggesting that the aggressive use of police stops wasn’t so essential to New York’s safety after all. And evidence has emerged of the harms created by the strategy. We now know that students heavily exposed to stop-and-frisk were more likely to struggle in school, that young men were more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression, that this exposure fostered cynicism in policing and government writ large, and that it made residents more likely to retreat from civic life.”

Indur M. Goklany, A Trump Insider at the Interior Department, Embeds Climate Denial in Scientific Research, The New York Times, Hiroko Tabuchi, Monday, 2 March 2020: “An official at the Interior Department embarked on a campaign that has inserted misleading language about climate change — including debunked claims that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is beneficial — into the agency’s scientific reports, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times. The misleading language appears in at least nine reports, including environmental studies and impact statements on major watersheds in the American West that could be used to justify allocating increasingly scarce water to farmers at the expense of wildlife conservation and fisheries. The effort was led by Indur M. Goklany, a longtime Interior Department employee who, in 2017 near the start of the Trump administration, was promoted to the office of the deputy secretary with responsibility for reviewing the agency’s climate policies. The Interior Department’s scientific work is the basis for critical decisions about water and mineral rights affecting millions of Americans and hundreds of millions of acres of land. The wording, known internally as the ‘Goks uncertainty language’ based on Mr. Goklany’s nickname, inaccurately claims that there is a lack of consensus among scientists that the earth is warming. In Interior Department emails to scientists, Mr. Goklany pushed misleading interpretations of climate science, saying it ‘may be overestimating the rate of global warming, for whatever reason;’ climate modeling has largely predicted global warming accurately. The final language states inaccurately that some studies have found the earth to be warming, while others have not.”

Mueller Memos Part 6: What Witnesses Told Investigators About Trump and Russia, BuzzFeed News, Jason Leopold, Emma Loop, and Anthony Cormier, Monday, 2 March 2020: “The Justice Department and FBI have turned over to BuzzFeed News and CNN the latest cache of highly secretive interview summaries from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and President Donald Trump’s attempts to obstruct the inquiry. The documents include interview summaries from Trump adviser Jared Kushner, former campaign chair Paul Manafort, former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, and former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon…. Since last November, the government has released about 1,700 pages of interview summaries representing more than 100 interviews. The majority of the documents released thus far have been heavily redacted. BuzzFeed News began a legal challenge last month to one particular category of exemption from the Freedom of Information Act.”

Texas closes hundreds of polling sites, making it harder for minorities to vote, The Guardian, Richard Salame, Monday, 2 March 2020: “Guardian analysis finds that places where the black and Latino population is growing by the largest numbers experienced the majority of closures and could benefit Republicans.”

Trump, Returning to Retribution, Withdraws Nomination of Elaine McCusker to a Top Defense Department Post, The New York Times, Helene Cooper and Catie Edmondson, Monday, 2 March 2020: “President Trump returned on Monday to his post-impeachment score-settling, withdrawing the nomination of Elaine McCusker to a top Defense Department post. Ms. McCusker had questioned the suspension of assistance to Ukraine, a central line of inquiry in the president’s impeachment.” See also, White House withdraws the nomination of Elaine McCusker to be the Pentagon’s comptroller. She questioned the legality of Trump’s freeze on military aid to Ukraine. Politico, Connor O’Brien, Monday, 2 March 2020: “The White House is withdrawing the nominee for a top Pentagon post, according to two Senate aides, following reports that she questioned the legality of the administration’s efforts to freeze military aid to Ukraine. Elaine McCusker was nominated late last year to be the Pentagon’s comptroller. She has been the acting comptroller since the summer and was the public face of the Pentagon’s budget rollout last month, briefing reporters on the details of the Defense Department’s $741 billion military spending request.”

Chris Matthews Is Out at MSNBC, The New York Times, Michael M. Grynbaum, Monday, 2 March 2020: “Chris Matthews, the veteran political anchor and voluble host of the long-running MSNBC talk show ‘Hardball,’ resigned on Monday night, an abrupt departure from a television perch that made him a fixture of politics and the news media over the past quarter-century. Mr. Matthews, 74, had faced mounting criticism in recent days over a spate of embarrassing on-air moments, including a comparison of Senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign to the Nazi invasion of France and an interview with Senator Elizabeth Warren in which the anchor was criticized for a condescending and disbelieving tone. On Saturday, the journalist Laura Bassett published an essay accusing Mr. Matthews of making multiple inappropriate comments about her appearance, reviving longstanding allegations about the anchor’s sexist behavior. By Monday, his position at the news network he helped build had become untenable.” See also, Chris Matthews, MSNBC host of ‘Hardball,’ quits on air after several controversies, The Washington Post, Paul Farhi, published on Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “Chris Matthews, the long-running host of ‘Hardball’ on ­MSNBC, announced Monday that he is resigning from the program, an abrupt exit prompted by a series of recent gaffes and controversies. Matthews, 74, made the announcement at the start of his weeknight program. His resignation is effective immediately, MSNBC said. Matthews has been a familiar commentator on cable news for a quarter century, and his departure — which Matthews called a retirement — was a surprise. He appeared for about two minutes at the start of his 7 p.m. program and effectively signed off on his television career…. Matthews apologized last week for comparing Sen. Bernie Sanders’s victory in the Nevada Democratic caucuses to the Nazi invasion of France. He also was criticized for a skeptical interview with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) last week. Matthews asked Warren why she believes a female employee who sued former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg accusing him of telling her to ‘kill’ her unborn child…. During President Trump’s rally in South Carolina on Friday, Matthews mistook South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate ­Jaime Harrison for Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). Both are African Americans. And on Saturday, journalist Laura Bassett wrote on GQ.com that Matthews made inappropriate comments to her and other women when they were guests on his show.”

 

Tuesday, 3 March 2020, Day 1,138:

 

Biden Revives Campaign, Winning Nine States, but Sanders Takes California, The New York Times, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “The Democratic presidential race emerged from Super Tuesday with two clear front-runners as Joseph R. Biden Jr. won Texas, Virginia, North Carolina and at least six other states, largely through support from African-Americans and moderates, while Senator Bernie Sanders harnessed the backing of liberals and young voters to claim the biggest prize of the campaign, California, and several other primaries. With the results were still being counted in several states, Mr. Biden received another boost to his campaign Wednesday morning when Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, ended his bid for the nomination and endorsed Mr. Biden. The decision removes another candidate from the centrist lane as Mr. Biden consolidates the moderate wing of the party. The returns across the country on the biggest night of voting suggested that the Democratic contest was increasingly focused on two candidates who are standard-bearers for competing wings of the party, Mr. Biden in the political center and Mr. Sanders on the left. Their two other major rivals, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Mr. Bloomberg, were on track to finish well behind them and faced an uncertain path forward.” See also, 5 Takeaways From a Super Tuesday That Changed the Democratic Race, The New York Times, Lazaro Gamio and Shane Goldmacher, published on Wednesday, 4 March 2020. See also, A wild Super Tuesday boosts Biden and brings new challenges for Sanders, The Washington Post, Dan Balz, published on Wednesday, 4 March 2020. See also, 5 Takeaways from Super Tuesday, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, published on Wednesday, 4 March 2020.

Live updates of some significant developments in the coronavirus outbreak on Tuesday, 3 March 2020: U.S. reports ninth coronavirus death as the virus continues to spread, The Washington Post, Adam Taylor, Miriam Berger, Michael Brice-Saddler, and Siobhán O’Grady, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “Washington state reported new deaths from the coronavirus Tuesday, raising the U.S. death toll from the virus to nine. With illness spreading unpredictably and Americans bracing for an increasing impact at home, the Federal Reserve made an emergency interest rate cut earlier in the day, slashing the benchmark U.S. rate by half a percentage point…. South Korean President Moon Jae-in declared ‘war’ on the coronavirus as government officials were placed on 24-hour alert and health tests expanded in virus-hit areas. The number of confirmed cases in South Korea tops 5,000, the most outside China. About 70 countries have reported incidences of the virus, with the number of cases in the United States topping 100 across 15 states. China, the epicenter of the outbreak and still the worst-hit, announced its lowest number of new cases since late January — 125 in 24 hours — and 31 deaths, bringing its totals to 80,151 infections and 2,943 deaths. The country has pledged to help other nations hit by the outbreak, offering advice to Iran, which has reported 2,336 confirmed cases and 77 deaths.” This article covers many more significant developments that happened today.

Any American Can Now Be Tested for the Coronavirus, Pence Says, The New York Times, Noah Weiland, Katie Rogers, and Emily Cochrane, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “Vice President Mike Pence said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had lifted all restrictions on testing for the coronavirus and would be releasing new guidelines to fast-track testing for people who fear they have the virus, even if they are displaying mild symptoms…. The Trump administration has struggled to project confidence and progress in the fight against the coronavirus and simultaneously prepare Americans for what could be a difficult struggle. The slow start in testing for the virus has been particularly vexing.” See also, U.S. Will Drop Limits on Testing for Coronavirus, Pence Says, The New York Times, Tuesday, 3 March 2020. See also, Pence says every American can get a coronavirus test if a doctor deems it necessary, The Washington Post, Seung Min Kim, Maria Sacchetti, and Brady Dennis, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “Facing growing pressure to demonstrate that it is moving aggressively to combat the spreading coronavirus that has claimed at least nine lives in the United States so far, the Trump administration vowed late Tuesday that any American can now be tested for the virus if a doctor deems it necessary. ‘When I talked to some state officials, there was a sense that the tests would not be administered to people that were mildly symptomatic,’ Vice President Pence told reporters in an off-camera White House briefing. ‘We’re issuing clear guidance that subject to doctors’ orders, any American can be tested.’ Pence’s comments perplexed some public health officials, as physicians already have discretion to order testing. The announcement also raised questions about whether the government can rapidly accelerate the production of testing kits, as well as how much patients will ultimately have to pay for getting tested. The White House’s scramble to reassure citizens, calm financial markets and catch up with the deepening outbreak came as the deadly virus continued its spread around the nation on Tuesday.” See also, The U.S. Will Not Have the Capacity to Produce One Million Coronavirus Tests by the End of the Week, The New York Times, Katie Thomas and Knvul Sheikh, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “Public and private labs say they’re not even close to reaching the federal government’s promises that thousands, if not a million, tests for the virus could be ‘performed’ soon.” See also, Homeland Security facility in Washington state closes after employee visited nursing home affected by coronavirus outbreak, CNN Politics, Priscilla Alvarez and Devan Cole, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “A Department of Homeland Security facility in King County, Washington, has been temporarily closed after an employee visited a nursing home that was affected by the coronavirus outbreak, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced Tuesday. Wolf told the House Homeland Security Committee that the decision was made ‘out of an abundance of caution.’ He said employees have been told to ‘telework,’ if possible, to reduce the chance that it will spread, and that the facility will remain closed for 14 days. Employees were also ‘directed to self-quarantine for 14 days.'” See also, U.S. Weighs Paying Hospitals for Treating Uninsured Coronavirus Patients, The Wall Street Journal, Stephanie Armour, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “The Trump administration is considering using a national disaster program to pay hospitals and doctors for their care of uninsured people infected with the new coronavirus as concerns rise over costs of treating some of the 27 million Americans without health coverage, a person familiar with the conversations said. In natural disasters such as hurricanes, hospitals and medical facilities can be reimbursed under a federal program that pays them about 110% of Medicare rates for treating patients such as those evacuated from hard-hit areas. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been in discussions about using that program to pay providers who treat uninsured patients with coronavirus, the person said.” See also, Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says ‘You don’t want to go to war with a president,’ Politico, Sarah Owermohle, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “Anthony Fauci might be the one person everyone in Washington trusts right now. But at 79, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is in the thick of one of the biggest battles of 35 years in the role: The race to contain coronavirus when the nation is deeply polarized and misinformation can spread with one tweet — sometimes, from the president himself. ‘You should never destroy your own credibility. And you don’t want to go to war with a president,’ Fauci, who has been the country’s top infectious diseases expert through a dozen outbreaks and six presidents, told POLITICO in an interview Friday. ‘But you got to walk the fine balance of making sure you continue to tell the truth.'” See also, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo requires insurers to waive cost sharing for COVID-19 tests, Tech Crunch, Jonathan Shieber, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “In a move that other states might want to emulate, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said that the state’s Department of Financial Services is requiring health insurers in the state to waive cost sharing associated with testing for the new coronavirus, COVID-19. The initiative paves the way for low-cost emergency room, urgent care, and hospital visits for patients worried that they may have contracted the virus. The Governor also said that New Yorkers receiving Medicaid coverage will not be expected to pay a co-pay for any testing related to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. The steps are designed to ensure that residents of the state won’t have to worry about cost as an obstacle for getting tested. Any tests that are being conducted at the State’s Wadsworth Lab are fully covered.” See also, Health Experts Urge That Fees Be Waived for Coronavirus Tests and Treatment, The New York Times, Reed Abelson and Sarah Kliff, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “New York is among the first states in the country to waive some fees and expenses for people who undergo testing for the coronavirus, as public health officials are increasingly worried that medical bills will discourage the poor and uninsured from getting medical care. The federal government is also considering paying for care for those affected, possibly based on funds available through federal disaster relief programs. There are ‘initial conversations,’ Dr. Robert Kadlec, a senior official at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told Congress on Wednesday. In addition to the nation’s 27.5 million uninsured, some lawmakers are concerned that the tens of millions who are underinsured — Americans with high deductibles or limited insurance — may also be at risk of unexpected expenses as more and more people are exposed to the virus.”

World Health Organization’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, says the latest coronavirus death rate is 3.4%–higher than earlier figures. Older patients face the highest risk. Business Insider, Rosie Perper, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “The global death rate for the novel coronavirus based on the latest figures is 3.4% — higher than earlier figures of about 2%. In contrast, the seasonal flu kills 0.1% of those infected. A patient’s risk of death from COVID-19 varies depending on age and preexisting health conditions. Though the latest numbers mark an increase in mortality, experts have predicted that the fatality rate of COVID-19 could decrease as the number of confirmed cases rises.” See also, World Health Organization Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19, WHO, Tuesday, 3 March 2020.

The Federal Reserve Cut Interest Rates by Half a Percentage Point, Its Biggest Single Cut in More Than a Decade, as a Pre-emptive Move to Protect the Economy From the Coronavirus, But Markets Continue Tumbling, The New York Times, Jeanna Smialek and Jim Tankersley, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “In an extraordinary attempt to contain the coronavirus’s economic fallout, the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates on Tuesday as policymakers unanimously approved their biggest one-time cut — and first emergency rate move — since the depths of the 2008 financial crisis. Stocks in the United States rallied for about 15 minutes after the rate cut, but worries about the Fed’s impotence in the face of economic risks from the coronavirus quickly fueled a market sell-off. By late Tuesday, stocks were sharply lower and bond yields had plummeted to previously unthinkable lows as investors sought a safe place to park their money.” See also, Federal Reserve Cuts Rates by Half Percentage Point to Combat Coronavirus Fear, The Wall Street Journal, Nick Timiraos, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “The Federal Reserve executed an emergency half-percentage-point rate cut and markets slid, reflecting fears the coronavirus epidemic is raising recession risks for the U.S. and global economies. The Fed reduced the federal-funds rate to a range between 1% and 1.25% in the first rate change in between scheduled Fed policy meetings since the 2008 financial crisis. Stock markets fell anyway. Major market indexes declined around 3% and the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury dipped below 1% for the first time as investors sought havens.” See also, Federal Reserve makes largest emergency cut to interest rates since the financial crisis of 2008, The Washington Post, Heather Long, Tuesday, 3 March 2020. See also, Big banks want regulation eased because of coronavirus. Experts call it opportunistic. The Washington Post, Renae Merle, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “The country’s biggest banks are asking federal officials for long-sought regulatory relief as part of the government’s efforts to contain the economic fallout from the coronavirus, requests that experts lambasted as opportunistic and unnecessary. The Bank Policy Institute — a lobbying group for big banks including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup — is recommending, among other things, that the Federal Reserve lower capital requirements and ease the periodic ‘stress tests’ banks take to prove they can survive another economic crisis.”

On Wednesday the Supreme Court Will Hear Arguments in its First Major Abortion Case Since the Retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. It could Leave Louisiana With a Single Abortion Clinic. The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “Kathaleen Pittman, the director of the Hope Medical Group for Women, remembers when there were 11 abortion clinics in Louisiana. Now there are only three, hers among them. Soon, depending on how the Supreme Court rules in a case to be argued on Wednesday, there may be just one, in New Orleans, more than 300 miles away. Since 1973, when the court established a constitutional right to abortion in Roe v. Wade, Louisiana has enacted 89 abortion restrictions, the most of any state. The restriction at issue now requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The goal of all of them, Ms. Pittman said, is to drive abortion clinics out of business.” See also, Abortion case out of Louisiana is a first test for Trump’s Supreme Court justices, The Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “The Supreme Court’s next big abortion challenge comes from here in Louisiana. If the state’s politicians had their way, so would the one after that. And also the one after that, until Roe v. Wade was no longer the law of the land. Since the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling protecting a woman’s constitutional right to abortion, no state has passed more restrictions on the procedure, a national study shows: 89 and counting. A repopulated and more conservative Supreme Court on Wednesday will consider one of those Louisiana laws, and some politicians here wonder if it might be the breakthrough they’ve been waiting for in a decades-long effort to rid the state, and the nation, of abortion.” See also, Future of Roe v. Wade is in the spotlight as the Supreme Court considers Louisiana abortion access case, CNN Politics, Caroline Kelly, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “On Wednesday, the Supreme Court hears arguments in the first major abortion case to come before the court since Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch took the bench. Kavanaugh notably replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was seen as a swing vote on the issue. The case, which considers a Louisiana law that requires doctors performing abortions to obtain admitting privileges from a nearby hospital, does not directly challenge Roe vs. Wade — the landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. But all sides recognize the stakes. Abortion rights supporters are fearful that this is the first of what could be a growing number of opportunities for the new conservative majority to offer a blueprint for states to continue to chip away at abortion rights.”

Virginia Is the First Southern State to Ban Conversion Therapy for Minors, The New York Times, Sandra E. Garcia, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “Virginia became the first Southern state to ban licensed medical professionals from practicing conversion therapy on minors, as Democrats in the state pass expansive civil rights bills after gaining control of the legislature and governor’s mansion for the first time in nearly 30 years. Conversion therapy — a widely discredited practice based on the premise that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer is a mental illness — attempts to change someone’s sexual identity or gender orientation through different procedures that could include shock therapy. On Monday, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill that made Virginia the 20th state to ban the practice for minors.” See also, Virginia governor signs bill banning conversion therapy for minors, CNN Politics, Caroline Kelly, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has signed into law a bill banning the controversial practice of ‘conversion therapy’ for minors, according to a release from his office Tuesday. The legislation, House Bill 386, adds the commonwealth to a growing list of states that have issued similar bans on the widely discredited practice, which attempts to forcibly change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Wells Fargo, Top Banker of Fracked Oil and Gas, Ditches Arctic Drilling, Sierra, Garet Bleir, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “Wells Fargo committed to ruling out funding oil and gas drilling in the Arctic region, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, according to the company’s updated environmental and social risk management policy. The mega-bank is now the third in the United States to withdraw lending for drilling projects in the region following a years-long campaign by Indigenous groups and environmentalists pressuring Wells Fargo and other lending institutions to halt financing fossil fuel projects. Wells Fargo is one of the largest bankers of fossil fuel projects in the world, second only to JPMorgan Chase, according to a study by environmental organizations including the Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, Bank Track, and the Indigenous Environmental Network. Just days ago, JPMorgan Chase announced its own policy ruling out arctic drilling, and Goldman Sachs declared a similar policy late last year.”

Fossil Corals Suggest a Mass Extinction Is on the Way: ‘It’s Like a Slow-Motion Car Crash,’ Newsweek, Emily Laber-Warren, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “If those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it, then we should pay close attention to the last time that life on Earth almost ended. That’s according to a team of scientists who have found compelling evidence that another mass extinction is underway…. Coral reefs, which harbor a teeming variety of fish and other sea life, have been devastated by the ocean warming associated with climate change. More than half the world’s reefs have perished in the past 30 years. The study, published today in Scientific Reports, reveals that the coral species that are bleaching and dying are hauntingly similar to the ones that vanished in the last mass extinction 66 million years ago.”

White House questionnaire adds new litmus tests for prospective hires, CNN Politics, Jeremy Diamond, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “Candidates applying to join President Donald Trump’s administration will now have to explain what part of Trump’s campaign message ‘most appealed’ to them and why. The question is one of several Trump-focused litmus tests that has been added to a questionnaire that candidates for political appointments across the federal government must now complete. The new questionnaire, distributed by the White House’s Presidential Personnel Office to federal departments on Monday and obtained by CNN, is the latest move by the office’s new head John McEntee to emphasize loyalty to the President in the hiring process.”

Lawmakers want acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell to make public the intelligence community’s assessment of who’s responsible for killing Jamal Khashoggi, The Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “Senior lawmakers want the intelligence community to make public what its officials have been willing to say only in classified settings: that Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist and regime critic. The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Democratic vice chairman sent a letter Monday to Richard Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence, urging him to reconsider his agency’s decision not to declassify information related to the brutal killing in October 2018 of Khashoggi, a U.S. resident at the time of his death in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The previously undisclosed letter was sent by Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.). At the same time, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is moving to invoke a rarely used legislative procedure that would enable the Senate to release the requested material if it is deemed in the public interest.”

Trump loyalist Michael Ellis is installed in top intelligence post on the National Security Council, Politico, Natasha Bertrand and Daniel Lippman, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “A White House lawyer and former counsel to the House Intelligence Committee under Devin Nunes has been named senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council, the latest instance of President Donald Trump elevating a trusted loyalist to control the intelligence community. Michael Ellis, a deputy to White House lawyer John Eisenberg, started in the role on Monday, according to a senior administration official and a former national security official. Ellis left the counsel’s office, so he won’t be dual-hatted with his new job. The office of the director for intelligence serves as the day-to-day connective tissue between the intelligence community and the White House. Sensitive information coming in from the intelligence agencies will go to that office, especially if it is in hard copy form. The office also coordinates covert action activities between the White House and the intelligence community, and it’s where the NSC server is housed that stores the most sensitive classified information.” See also, Trump installs loyalist Michael Ellis in key White House intelligence post, CNN Politics, Zachary Cohen and Kylie Atwood, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “White House lawyer Michael Ellis has been named senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council, three sources familiar with the move confirm to CNN. By elevating Ellis to this new role, President Donald Trump has installed yet another loyalist to a key intelligence-related leadership position after appointing Richard Grenell, the US Ambassador to Germany, as acting Director of National Intelligence.”

Trump Nominates Chemical Industry Executive Nancy Beck to Lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an Independent Consumer Watchdog Agency, The New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “President Trump has tapped Nancy B. Beck, a former chemical industry executive, to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an independent federal agency charged with protecting the public against dangers like toxic substances in products. Dr. Beck previously led the Environmental Protection Agency’s office of chemical safety, a position she came to after serving as the senior director of regulatory science policy at the American Chemistry Council, a lobbying group for the chemical industry. Democrats and environmental groups on Tuesday criticized Dr. Beck’s nomination as chair of the commission and accused her of using her previous government positions to advance the agenda of the chemical industry.”

Trump campaign sues Washington Post over opinion columns asserting link to Russian election interference, The Washington Post, Paul Farhi, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “President Trump’s campaign sued The Washington Post for defamation Tuesday over two opinion columns published last year that alleged a connection between the campaign and Russian election interference. The campaign sued the New York Times last week for another opinion column that had asserted such ties. Legal experts say Trump stands little chance of prevailing in court in either case because libel laws extend a high degree of protection to published material about public figures and to opinion articles. Nevertheless, the campaign may be aiming to highlight its criticism of the mainstream media and to blunt suggestions that it colluded with Russian operatives.”

Jeff Sessions Forced Into Runoff in Fight to Reclaim Senate Seat In Alabama, The New York Times, Jeremy W. Peters, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “Jeff Sessions, the former attorney general who emerged from political exile and defied President Trump to run for the United States Senate in Alabama, suffered a setback on Tuesday in his fight to win back the seat he held for 20 years, falling well short of a majority and landing in a runoff election where he will compete with a Republican rival from a weakened position. Precincts across the state were still counting votes after midnight. But Mr. Sessions was barely fending off a strong challenge from a political upstart, Tommy Tuberville, the former Auburn University football coach who clung closely to Mr. Trump in a relentlessly negative and personal campaign that turned the race into a contest of who was more loyal to the president. He will now face Mr. Sessions in a March 31 runoff.” See also, Trump’s latest attack on Jeff Sessions inadvertently confirms one of Mueller’s key findings about Trump’s efforts to obstruct justice, Vox, Aaron Rupar, published on Wednesday, 4 March 2020: “President Donald Trump reacted to Jeff Sessions’s so-so primary showing in his quest to regain his old Alabama US Senate seat by taking yet another shot at his former attorney general. But in the process of doing so, Trump confirmed one of the Mueller report’s key findings about his efforts to obstruct justice. On Wednesday morning, Trump quote-tweeted a post from Politico about Sessions’s second-place finish in Tuesday’s Republican primary — one that will result in a runoff next month between Sessions and first-place finisher Tommy Tuberville — and wrote, ‘This is what happens to someone who loyally gets appointed Attorney General of the United States & then doesn’t have the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt. Recuses himself on FIRST DAY in office, and the Mueller Scam begins!'” See also, An emboldened Trump says the quiet part out loud:  He fired Jeff Sessions because Sessions allowed the Russia investigation to begin, The Washington Post, Amber Phillips, Wednesday, 4 March 2020: “Trump is now publicly acknowledging something he spent years not quite saying: that he fired Sessions specifically because Sessions didn’t stop the inquiry by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The implication is that Sessions wasn’t loyal to Trump and what Trump wanted to happen in the Justice Department. The Mueller inquiry was a legitimate law enforcement investigation by all standards, except for Trump’s. It was an investigation that Sessions’s No. 2, Trump appointee Rod J. Rosenstein, thought was necessary and that even most congressional Republicans urged Trump to let play out without interference. In addition, the job of attorney general is to be the nation’s law enforcement officer, not the president’s.”

19 states sue the Trump administration over border wall money shift, Politico, Connor O’Brien, Tuesday, 3 March 2020: “Nineteen states are going to court to stop the Trump administration from diverting billions of dollars from the military toward a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The newly filed federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Northern California is the latest backlash against President Donald Trump’s diversion of $3.8 billion from the Pentagon toward the border, which also has some Republican defense hawks on edge on Capitol Hill. The lawsuit says diverting billions from defense programs in the states, including from National Guard accounts, ‘will cause damage to their economies, harming their proprietary interests.’ The states also argue that the diversion of money already allocated by lawmakers toward a border wall violates Congress’ appropriation powers. The states involved in the lawsuit are: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.”

 

Wednesday, 4 March 2020, Day 1,139:

 

House Passes $8.3 Billion Emergency Coronavirus Response Bill, The New York Times, Emily Cochrane, Wednesday, 4 March 2020: “Racing to confront a growing public health threat, the House resoundingly approved $8.3 billion in emergency aid on Wednesday to combat the novel coronavirus, hours after congressional leaders reached a deal on the funding. The bipartisan package, which includes nearly $7.8 billion for agencies dealing with the virus and came together after days of intensive negotiations, is substantially larger than what the White House proposed in late February. It also authorizes roughly $500 million to allow Medicare providers to administer telehealth services so that more elderly patients, who are at greater risk from the virus, can receive care at home.” See also, House passes $8.3 billion emergency spending package to respond to coronavirus outbreak, The Washington Post, Erica Werner and Mike DeBonis, Wednesday, 4 March 2020: “The House overwhelmingly approved an $8.3 billion emergency spending bill Wednesday to combat the coronavirus, sending the legislation to the Senate, which could act as soon as Thursday. President Trump is expected to sign the legislation, which is more than triple the size of the White House’s budget request from last week. It sends billions to address nearly every aspect of the outbreak, from vaccine research and development, to support for state and local public health agencies, to medical supplies and preparation at home and abroad. The vote in the House was 415-2.” See also, House Passes $8.3 Billion Bill to Battle Coronavirus, The Wall Street Journal, Andrew Duehren, Wednesday, 4 March 2020.

Live updates of some significant developments in the coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday, 4 March 2020: U.S. coronavirus death toll rises; cruise ship held off California coast after passengers show symptoms, The Washington Post, Rick Noack, Siobhán O’Grady, Michael Brice-Saddler, Teo Armus, and Adam Taylor, Wednesday, 4 March 2020: “California announced its first coronavirus-linked death Wednesday, bringing the death toll in the United States to 11. The death, which occurred in Placer County in Northern California, is the first U.S. coronavirus fatality to occur outside of Washington state, where a 10th death was confirmed Wednesday. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) declared a state of emergency in California, and he requested that a cruise ship be held off the coast after confirmation that a number of passengers and crew members aboard had developed symptoms consistent with coronavirus disease. Los Angeles County declared a local health emergency as officials confirmed six new cases of coronavirus there, and nine new cases were confirmed in New York. American workers face increasing disruptions to their routines as companies, schools and local governments implement precautions to curb the outbreak, with many firms restricting travel or weighing work-from-home arrangements. In China, the outbreak appeared to be easing. Far more new cases were reported outside the country than within, suggesting that Chinese authorities’ draconian efforts to curb transmission may be paying off at home, even as the casualty count mounts elsewhere. The World Health Organization said Tuesday that covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, has killed about 3.4 percent of those diagnosed with the illness — a higher rate than experts previously estimated. Governments are struggling to contain anxiety among households, businesses and investors about a prolonged economic impact. South Korea proposed a $10 billion stimulus package Wednesday as its coronavirus infection total soared past 5,200, the highest national count outside China. Elsewhere, authorities are warning against the hoarding of emergency supplies and price gouging, and some large-scale events, including the London Book Fair, have been canceled.” This article covers many more significant developments that happened today.

New research finds tropical forests are losing their ability to absorb carbon, The Guardian, Fiona Harvey, Wednesday, 4 March 2020: “Tropical forests are taking up less carbon dioxide from the air, reducing their ability to act as ‘carbon sinks’ and bringing closer the prospect of accelerating climate breakdown. The Amazon could turn into a source of carbon in the atmosphere, instead of one of the biggest absorbers of the gas, as soon as the next decade, owing to the damage caused by loggers and farming interests and the impacts of the climate crisis, new research has found. If that happens, climate breakdown is likely to become much more severe in its impacts, and the world will have to cut down much faster on carbon-producing activities to counteract the loss of the carbon sinks.”

Greta Thunberg brands the European Union’s new climate law ‘surrender,’ BBC, Wednesday, 4 March 2020: “Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg has rebuked the EU’s plan for tackling climate change, telling MEPs it amounts to ‘surrender.’ Ms Thunberg spoke in Brussels on Wednesday as the EU unveiled a proposed law for reducing carbon emissions. If passed, the law would make it a legal requirement for the EU to be carbon neutral by 2050. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hailed the law as the ‘heart of the European Green Deal.’ But 17-year-old Ms Thunberg dismissed the law as ’empty words,’ accusing the EU of ‘pretending’ to be a leader on climate change. ‘When your house is on fire, you don’t wait a few more years to start putting it out. And yet this is what the Commission is proposing today,’ Thunberg told the European Parliament’s environment committee. She said the law, which would give the EU Commission more powers to set tougher carbon reduction goals, did not go far enough.” See also, Open Letter to EU leaders from 34 youth climate activists, including Greta Thunberg, on why their new climate law is ‘surrender,’ CarbonBrief, published on Tuesday, 3 March 2020.

Michael Bloomberg Drops Out of the Presidential Race and Endorses Joe Biden. Bernie Sanders Laments Low Turnout of Younger Voters. The New York Times, Alexander Burns, Wednesday, 4 March 2020: “Michael R. Bloomberg dropped out of the presidential race and backed Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday, throwing the financial might of the Democratic Party’s biggest benefactor behind the former vice president’s campaign as Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont vowed to wage a long battle for the nomination. Mr. Sanders, regarded a week ago as having a clear upper hand over Mr. Biden, sounded chagrined after losses in states from Maine to Texas where he was hoping for huge turnout. There was a surge in voter participation, but it lifted Mr. Biden instead. Mr. Sanders now faces pressure to show he can expand his political base, and he acknowledged that he had not yet managed to transform the electorate with a wave of young people.” See also, Mike Bloomberg suspends his presidential campaign and endorses Joe Biden, The Washington Post, Amy B. Wang and Michael Scherer, Wednesday, 4 March 2020: “Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York who had hoped to self-fund his way to the Democratic presidential nomination but was spurned by voters in Tuesday’s balloting, dropped out of the race Wednesday. Bloomberg endorsed Joe Biden, saying the former vice president had the best chance to win in November.”

Long voting lines in Texas spotlight concerns about access to the polls, The Washington Post, Elise Viebeck, Wednesday, 4 March 2020: “The lines stretched in the dark across the plaza at Texas Southern University, as hundreds of would-be voters stood for hours Tuesday to cast ballots in the Democratic presidential primary. As they waited, students shared phone chargers, activists sent in pizza and exhausted voters resorted to sitting on the ground. The voting center at the historically black university in Houston was one of a number of such locations around Texas that were plagued by long delays on Super Tuesday, raising questions about the readiness of local election officials and spurring outrage among voting rights advocates. Many cited as a factor the closing of hundreds of precincts around the state after a pivotal Supreme Court decision in 2013…. ‘There was actually a failure in the system at multiple junctures,’ said Beth Stevens, the voting rights program director with the Texas Civil Rights Project, in an interview. ‘The effect is that you have black and brown people on college campuses standing in line for two hours, four hours, seven hours to vote,’ she said.”

Chief Justice John Roberts Condemns Senator Chuck Schumer for Saying Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh ‘Will Pay the Price’ for ‘Awful Decisions,’ The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Wednesday, 4 March 2020: “Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who only very rarely responds to criticism of federal judges, issued a statement on Wednesday denouncing remarks made by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, at a rally outside the Supreme Court. Mr. Schumer, speaking while the court heard arguments in a major abortion case, attacked President Trump’s two Supreme Court appointees, Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh. ‘You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price,’ Mr. Schumer said. ‘You will not know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.’ Chief Justice Roberts condemned Mr. Schumer’s remarks. ‘Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous,’ he said in a statement. ‘All members of the court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.’ Mr. Trump later joined the criticism, accusing Mr. Schumer of making ‘a direct & dangerous threat to the U.S. Supreme Court.’ He said on Twitter that if a Republican had made those remarks, ‘he or she would be arrested, or impeached.’ A spokesman for Mr. Schumer said the chief justice had engaged in a willful misrepresentation…. ‘For Justice Roberts to follow the right wing’s deliberate misinterpretation of what Senator Schumer said, while remaining silent when President Trump attacked Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg last week, shows Justice Roberts does not just call balls and strikes,’ he said.” See also, Chief Justice John Roberts rebukes Senator Chuck Schumer for saying justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh will ‘pay the price’ for a vote against abortion rights, The Washington Post, Robert Barnes and Colby Itkowitz, Wednesday, 4 March 2020: “Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. issued a rare rebuke of a sitting member of Congress on Wednesday, chastising the Senate’s top Democrat, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, for saying at a rally outside the Supreme Court that President Trump’s two nominees to the court would ‘pay the price’ for a vote against abortion rights.” See also, Senator Chuck Schumer, Criticized for Blasting Justices, Regrets the Words but Not the Message, The New York Times, Carl Hulse, published on Thursday, 5 March 2020: “Under fire from President Trump and Republican senators who accused him of threatening two conservative Supreme Court justices, Senator Chuck Schumer said on Thursday he ‘should not have used the words’ he did Wednesday in a fiery speech warning of the consequences of their rulings. But Mr. Schumer, who chalked up his sharp tongue to his Brooklyn upbringing, refused to apologize for the spirit of his remarks, saying that Republicans would pay a political price if the court struck down abortion rights.” See also, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer says he misspoke in remarks directed at two Supreme Court justices, and he defends abortion rights, The Washington Post, John Wagner, published on Thursday, 5 March 2020: “Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday that he misspoke when he said that two justices appointed by President Trump to the Supreme Court would ‘pay the price’ for a vote against abortion rights, but he defended his passion on the issue, saying his anger reflected that of ‘women across America.’ Schumer’s remarks on the Senate floor came a day after his comments at a rally outside the Supreme Court prompted a rare rebuke of a sitting member of Congress by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who said in a statement that ‘threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous.’ ‘I should not have used the words I used yesterday. They didn’t come out the way I intended them to,’ Schumer told Senate colleagues Thursday. ‘I’m from Brooklyn. We speak in strong language. I shouldn’t have used the words I did, but in no way was I making a threat. I never — never — would do such a thing.'”

Education Department Reverses Plan to Cut Funding for Rural Schools, The New York Times, Erica L. Green, Wednesday, 4 March 2020: “Facing a bipartisan backlash led by Republican lawmakers, the Trump administration is backing off a bookkeeping change that would have drastically cut federal funds for rural schools — at least for a year. Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, will allow states to more easily qualify for funding under the Rural and Low-Income School Program, after hundreds of districts faced cuts when the department abruptly began using eligibility requirements it had not enforced in 17 years.”

Taliban Ramp Up Attacks on Afghans After Trump Says ‘No Violence,’ The New York Times, Najim Rahim and Mujib Mashal, Wednesday, 4 March 2020: “The Taliban have resumed attacks against Afghan forces soon after signing a deal to end their war with the U.S. military, raising concerns that the Americans are leaving their Afghan allies vulnerable to an insurgency unwilling to let go of violence as its main leverage.” U.S. targets Taliban hours after Trump phone call with militant leader, The Washington Post, Susannah George, Wednesday, 4 March 2020: “The United States conducted an airstrike against Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday just hours after President Trump spoke by phone to one of the group’s senior leaders. Trump spoke to Taliban political leader Abdul Ghani Baradar on Tuesday, just days after the signing of a U.S.-Taliban peace deal. Trump said the two ‘had a good conversation’ and agreed on ‘no violence, we don’t want violence.’ But violence across Afghanistan has spiked in recent days following a Taliban announcement Monday that it had resumed offensive operations against Afghan security forces.”

 

Thursday, 5 March 2020, Day 1,140:

 

Elizabeth Warren, Once a Front-Runner, Drops Out of Presidential Race, The New York Times, Shane Goldmacher and Astead W. Herndon, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “Senator Elizabeth Warren entered the 2020 race with expansive plans to use the federal government to remake American society, pressing to strip power and wealth from a moneyed class that she saw as fundamentally corrupting the country’s economic and political order. She exited on Thursday after her avalanche of progressive policy proposals, which briefly elevated her to front-runner status last fall, failed to attract a broader political coalition in a Democratic Party increasingly, if not singularly, focused on defeating President Trump. Her departure means that a Democratic field that began as the most diverse in American history — and included six women — is now essentially down to two white men: former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Bernie Sanders. Ms. Warren said that from the start, she had been told there were only two true lanes in the 2020 contest: a [progressive] one dominated by Mr. Sanders, 78, and a moderate one led by Mr. Biden, 77. ‘I thought that wasn’t right,’ Ms. Warren said in front of her house in Cambridge as she suspended her campaign, ‘But evidently I was wrong.'” See also, The Fight Goes On: Remarks from Elizabeth Warren shared in a call with her campaign staff, Medium, Thursday, 5 March 2020. See also, Elizabeth Warren’s exit raises questions about the role of women in U.S. politics, The Washington Post, Annie Linskey and Amy B. Wang, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “Elizabeth Warren attracted big crowds. She won rave reviews in nearly every debate. Her organization was second to none. She developed plans, a strategy and a message. Yet when voting started, she not only lost, she lost by a lot. Now as Warren, who ended her presidential campaign Thursday, decides whether to endorse either of the two male candidates remaining, her supporters are left to contemplate a factor that many believe contributed significantly to her loss: She’s female. ‘Gender in this race, you know, that is the trap question for every woman,’ Warren told reporters gathered outside her house Thursday. ‘If you say, Yeah, there was sexism in this race, everyone says, Whiner! And if you say, No, there was no sexism, about a bazillion women think, What planet do you live on?’ ”  See also, Nevertheless she persisted: Elizabeth Warren ends campaign after drawing loyal female following, The Washington Post, Melina Mara and Annie Linskey, Thursday, 5 March 2020. See also, Elizabeth Warren ends her presidential campaign, CNN Politics, MJ Lee, Gregory Krieg, Daniella Diaz, and Kate Sullivan, Thursday, 5 March 2020. See also, Was It Always Going to Be the Last Men Standing? The New York Times, Lisa Lerer, Thursday, 5 March 2020. See also, Elizabeth Warren’s Policy Agenda Will Live On, The New Yorker, John Cassidy, published on Friday, 6 March 2020: “Economists are still debating the details of Warren’s [tax] proposal and whether it would raise as much revenue as she claims. But there can be no doubt that it changed the terms of the debate about taxes inside the Democratic Party. As the campaign progressed, Senator Bernie Sanders, who in 2016 had proposed a different type of wealth tax—a progressive estate tax —unveiled a new proposal that looked like Warren’s, but with higher rates on the very largest fortunes. Other 2020 candidates proposed alternative ways of taxing extreme wealth to raise revenues and tackle chronic inequality. Biden’s plan, which draws on some ideas that the Obama Administration put forward in its second term, when the Republicans controlled the House of Representatives, is one of these alternatives. This is just a single example of the Warren campaign’s many policy legacies. She didn’t create the resurgence in progressive thinking that we’ve witnessed in recent years. It was a response to underlying developments in the economy—particularly a sharp rise in inequality, a mammoth financial crisis, and even climate change, which is ultimately a market failure, because market transactions fail to account for the social cost of burning carbon. But, in terms of national politics, Warren has arguably been the key synthesizer and champion of a new progressivism.”

Live updates of significant developments in the coronavirus outbreak on Thursday, 5 March 2020: Maryland confirms its first positive cases as U.S. deaths rise; Vice President Mike Pence promises expanded testing, The Washington Post, Rick Noack, Miriam Berger, Alex Horton, Andrew Freedman, Hannah Knowles, and Adam Taylor, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “The U.S. coronavirus death toll rose to 12 on Thursday as officials confirmed another fatality in Washington state, and several states announced their first positive tests, including Maryland, which has declared a state of emergency. Vice President Pence promised enough materials by the end of the week to test 1.2 million people for the virus that has continued to disrupt the economy and strain resources. By Thursday evening, the United States had more than 200 confirmed cases in at least 17 states. In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Thursday that three positive coronavirus cases were confirmed in the state, and that the patients contracted the virus while traveling overseas. They are quarantined in their homes in Montgomery County, a suburb of about 1 million people outside Washington, D.C. California is also under a state of emergency, and a cruise ship carrying some 2,500 passengers was held off the coast for coronavirus testing. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 970 points Thursday as the outlook for the outbreak worsens.” This article covers many more significant developments that happened today.

Centers for Disease Control Says Coronavirus Testing Will Be Offered With Just a Doctor’s Approval, The New York Times, Roni Caryn and Katie Thomas, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “Federal health officials announced on Wednesday that anyone who wants a coronavirus test may get one if a doctor agrees. But the nation’s testing capacity is still so limited that experts feared clinics and hospitals could be overwhelmed by an avalanche of requests. Under the new criteria, patients who have fevers, coughs or difficulty breathing qualify for diagnostic testing, depending on their doctor’s judgment. But with flu season in full swing, tens of millions of Americans already have respiratory symptoms, and doctors have no quick way to discern who should be tested. The Trump administration has repeatedly promised to expand the nation’s testing capabilities by Friday, even as state laboratories estimated that it would be weeks before millions of American could be tested.” See also, California Reports First Coronavirus Death as Symptoms Swirl on Cruise Ship, The New York Times, Sarah Mervosh and Mitch Smith, Thursday, 5 March 2020; “Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency as California confronted a deepening sense of crisis over the spread of the coronavirus on Wednesday, when an older patient in the Sacramento area died from the virus and a cruise ship carrying 21 people with symptoms was held off the coast of San Francisco. The person who died, in Placer County, was the 11th death linked to the virus in the United States, and the first outside of Washington State. The patient had underlying health conditions and was most likely exposed to the virus last month during international travel that included a cruise to Mexico, officials said.” See also, ‘Doomed from the Start.’ Experts Say the Trump Administration’s Coronavirus Response Was Never Going to Work. Time, Vera Bergengruen and W.J. Hennigan, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “The Trump Administration’s strategy to combat COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, began with a relatively simple focus: keep it out of the United States. In service of that goal, the White House issued drastic travel restrictions, imposed mandatory quarantines, and repeatedly told the public that these steps were working. ‘We have contained this. I won’t say airtight but pretty close to airtight,’ White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said in a television interview on Feb. 25, echoing Trump’s tweeted declaration that the virus was ‘very much under control’ in the United States. But it wasn’t, and the administration’s rosy messaging was fundamentally at odds with a growing cacophony of alarm bells inside and outside the U.S. government. Since January, epidemiologists, former U.S. public health officials and experts have been warning, publicly and privately, that the administration’s insistence that containment was—and should remain—the primary way to confront an emerging infectious disease was a grave mistake.” See also, Nurses Are Raising Red Flags About Hospitals’ Coronavirus Response, Mother Jones, Madison Pauly, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “Shortfalls in safety equipment, planning, and communication have left US hospitals unprepared to isolate coronavirus patients and protect healthcare staff during the viral outbreak, according to a new survey of more than 6,500 nurses. The survey, conducted by the National Nurses United, the nation’s largest professional nursing union, found that fewer than half of responding nurses had received information from their employers about how to recognize and respond to possible cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Less than a third reported that their employers had enough protective equipment on hand to protect staff in the event of a surge of infections. And just 29 percent said their employers had a plan to isolate possible coronavirus patients.” See also, Nurses Are Among the Most at Risk of Contracting COVID-19, but Many Say They Lack Protective Gear and Protocols to Keep Themselves and Their Patients Safe, The New York Times, Farah Stockman and Mike Baker, published on Friday, 6 March 2020: “In the fight against the coronavirus, nurses play a critical role, but some on the front lines in the hardest-hit areas in the United States say they fear that their health is not being made a priority. Nurses in Washington State and California said they have had to beg for N95 masks, which are thicker than surgical masks and block out much smaller particles, and have faced ridicule from colleagues when expressing concerns about catching the highly contagious virus. Some have complained about being pulled out of quarantine early to treat patients because of staff shortages.”

Senate approves $8.3 billion total coronavirus response package, CNN Politics, Clare Foran and Ted Barrett, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “The Senate voted on Thursday to overwhelmingly approve a sweeping spending package to direct billions of dollars toward the US government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak as lawmakers scramble to fight the spread of the disease. The package will next be sent to the White House for the President’s signature. It passed the House on Wednesday with broad, bipartisan support.” See also, Stocks Close Sharply Lower as Anxiety About the Coronavirus Returns, The Wall Street Journal, Gunjan Banerji, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “Painful market turbulence resumed Thursday, pulling major stock indexes down more than 3% and government-bond yields to record lows as fears grew over the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. The declines continued what has been a dizzying two weeks on Wall Street as investors tried to gauge how the epidemic will affect global growth and whether governments would be able to combat it.” See also, U.S. markets tank as coronavirus outlook worsens, The Washington Post, Taylor Telford and Thomas Heath, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “Economic fears about the coronavirus weighed on U.S. stocks on Thursday, shaking investors who are desperate for clarity on the growing global outbreak. The Dow Jones industrial average closed down almost 970 points on Thursday as investors fled stocks and headed for the safety of U.S. debt. The Dow’s 3.6 percent drop canceled out most of Wednesday’s eye-popping rally, and was in line with the punishing sell-offs that have dominated trading over the past two weeks as the outbreak threatens to grind down global economies. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite also closed down 3.10 percent.” See also, Stocks Plunge Again on Coronavirus Fears, The New York Times, published on Friday, 6 March 2020.

Trump’s latest coronavirus lies have a galling subtext, The Washington Post, Greg Sargent, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “President Trump is now claiming he has a ‘hunch’ that the World Health Organization is wrong about the death rate from coronavirus — it’s far lower, Trump claims — while also suggesting that going to work with the virus isn’t dangerous. Meanwhile, Trump is attacking Democratic criticism of his administration’s response to the virus as nothing more than an effort to hurt him politically — a move that’s designed to place his government’s handling of a public health emergency beyond scrutiny entirely. Each of those things is profoundly galling on its own. But if you put them together, they add up to something substantially worse than the sum of their parts. To wit: It is now falling to Democratic elected officials to correct Trump’s lies to the American people about something that poses a dire threat to them. At times Democrats are literally going around Trump to get the real truth out to the public. Yet even as this is happening, Trump is working to delegitimize what those Democrats are saying. It’s a double whammy of gaslighting: Trump is misleading the American people while making it harder for other elected officials to responsibly inform them where Trump will not.” See also, Tracking Trump’s Series of Rosy and Sometimes False Claims About the Coronavirus, The New York Times, Linda Qiu and Mikayla Bouchard, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “President Trump has made a series of rosy — and sometimes false — claims about the coronavirus, including the risks to Americans and how his administration is responding. Here is a timeline of some of his comments, placed in context and fact-checked.” See also, Trump calls the World Health Organization’s global death rate from coronavirus ‘a false number’ and then plucks his own number out of the air, The Guardian, Joanna Walters, Lauren Aratani, and Peter Beaumont, Thursday, 5 March 2020. See also, Trump floats his won coronavirus hunches on ‘Hannity,’ Politico, Quint Forgey, Thursday, 5 March 2020. See also, Trump’s coronavirus musings put scientists on edge. His habit of favoring his own judgments over those of the experts is vastly complicating efforts to fight the outbreak. Politico, Joanne Kenen, Thursday, 5 March 2020.

US District Court Judge Reggie Walton Slammed Attorney General William Barr for Being Misleading About What Was Actually in the Mueller Report, BuzzFeed News, Jason Leopold, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “Sharply questioning the credibility of Attorney General Bill Barr, a federal court judge has ordered the Justice Department to turn over a complete copy of the Mueller report so he can personally review the hundreds of redactions and decide what information should be released to the public. The opinion was written in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by BuzzFeed News and the watchdog group Electronic Privacy Information Center. US District Court Judge Reggie Walton pointedly rebuked Barr and the Department of Justice and specifically called into question his credibility. Before the redacted report was released, Walton said, Barr’s public characterization of it had ‘failed to provide a thorough representation of the findings.'” See also, Federal Judge Reggie B. Walton Calls Attorney General William Barr’s Handling of the Mueller Report ‘Distorted’ and ‘Misleading,’ The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “A federal judge on Thursday sharply criticized Attorney General William P. Barr’s handling of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, saying that Mr. Barr put forward a ‘distorted’ and ‘misleading’ account of its findings and lacked credibility on the topic. Mr. Barr could not be trusted, Judge Reggie B. Walton said, citing ‘inconsistencies’ between the attorney general’s statements about the report when it was secret and its actual contents that turned out to be more damaging to President Trump. Mr. Barr’s ‘lack of candor’ called into question his ‘credibility and, in turn, the department’s’ assurances to the court, Judge Walton said. The judge ordered the Justice Department to privately show him the portions of the report that were censored in the publicly released version so he could independently verify the justifications for those redactions. The ruling came in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking a full-text version of the report.” See also, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton cites Attorney General William Barr’s ‘misleading’ statements in ordering review of Mueller report redactions, The Washington Post, Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “A federal judge in Washington sharply criticized Attorney General William P. Barr on Thursday for a ‘lack of candor,’ questioning the truthfulness of the nation’s top law enforcement official in his handling of last year’s report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, overseeing a lawsuit brought by EPIC, a watchdog group, and BuzzFeed News, said he saw serious discrepancies between Barr’s public statements about Mueller’s findings and the public, partially redacted version of that report detailing the special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Because of those discrepancies, Walton ruled, the judge would conduct an independent review of Mueller’s full report to see whether the Justice Department’s redactions were appropriate.” Read Judge Reggie B. Walton’s opinion on the Justice Department’s handling of the Mueller report. See also, A Republican-appointed judge’s scathing review of Attorney General William Barr’s ‘candor’ and ‘credibility,’ annotated, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Thursday, 5 March 2020.

On immigration, Attorney General William Barr is his own Supreme Court. Judges and lawyers say that’s a problem. The Washington Post, Kim Bellware, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “Attorney General William P. Barr quietly intervened in an immigration asylum case last week when he issued a decision that narrowed the definition of torture for asylum seekers who invoke it as a grounds for staying in the United States. Barr used a process known as ‘certification,’ a historically little-used power of the attorney general that allows him to overrule decisions made by the Board of Immigration Appeals and set binding precedent. Immigration lawyers and judges say the Trump administration is using the power with greater frequency — to the point of abuse — as it seeks to severely limit the number of immigrants who can remain in the United States. The administration is also using it as a check on immigration judges whose decisions don’t align with the administration’s immigration agenda, experts say.”

Revised Justice Department Policy Still Silences Immigration Judges, Just Security, Stephanie Krent, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “Some of the sharpest critics of the Trump administration’s immigration policies are the former immigration judges who were once charged with enforcing them. But there’s a reason many of those judges speak up only once they’ve left the bench. A policy issued by the Justice Department in 2017 effectively prevents immigration judges—and their colleagues at the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR)—from speaking publicly about their work. In response to a records request, the Knight First Amendment Institute obtained the policy and in January sent a letter to the agency explaining why it was unconstitutional. Less than two weeks later, the agency issued a revised policy, which we have obtained and are releasing today. Unfortunately, the revisions only make things worse.”

‘Flood the Streets’: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Targets Sanctuary Cities With Increased Surveillance, The New York Times, Caitlin Dickerson, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, and Annie Correal, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “Intensifying its enforcement in so-called sanctuary cities across the country, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has begun 24-hour-a-day surveillance operations around the homes and workplaces of undocumented immigrants. The agency plans to deploy hundreds of additional officers in unmarked cars in the coming weeks to increase arrests in cities where local law enforcement agencies do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. ICE leadership has requested at least 500 special agents who normally conduct long-term investigations into dangerous criminals and traffickers to join the enhanced arrest campaign rolling out in sanctuary cities, according to an internal email reviewed by The New York Times. The request follows an earlier decision, made public last month, to deploy elite tactical BORTAC agents — immigration SWAT teams that are normally assigned to risky border smuggling, rescue and intelligence operations — to help arrest and deport immigrants in sanctuary cities. The expanded surveillance operations and added manpower are the latest intensification in a conflict between the Trump administration and cities that refuse to help with deportations, including Boston, New York, Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, New Orleans and Newark. The effort began last month and will run through Dec. 31, according to the internal email, which says the initiative is called Operation Palladium.”

The International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) Allows Afghanistan War Crimes Inquiry to Proceed, Angering the U.S., The New York Times, Elian Peltier and Fatima Faizi, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “The International Criminal Court ruled on Thursday that its chief prosecutor could open an investigation into allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan including any that may have been committed by Americans, a step that infuriated the Trump administration. The ruling by an appeals chamber of the court in The Hague reversed a lower chamber’s decision that had halted an inquiry into the behavior of forces from the United States, which does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction. Washington revoked the visa of the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, last year after she had signaled her intentions to pursue the case. The reversal of the lower chamber’s decision was widely viewed as a vindication of complaints by rights activists and legal scholars, who said that the lower chamber had buckled to intimidation by the Trump administration and had raised doubts about the court’s independence.” Senior ICC judges authorise Afghanistan war crimes inquiry, The Guardian, Owen Bowcott, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “Senior judges at the international criminal court have authorised an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, overturning an earlier rejection of the inquiry. The ICC investigation will look at actions by US, Afghan and Taliban troops. It is possible, however, that allegations relating to UK troops could emerge in that process. The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, on Thursday attacked the ruling by the ICC’s appeals chamber as ‘reckless’ and said it would outline measures in the coming weeks to prevent US citizens being brought before the court.” See also, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounces probe by the International Criminal Court of possible U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan, Politico, Lara Seligman, Thursday, 5 March 2020.

Facebook Removes Misleading Trump Census Ads, The New York Times, Cecilia Kang, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “Facebook said on Thursday that it had removed misleading ads run by President Trump’s re-election campaign about the 2020 census, in a stand against disinformation ahead of the decennial population count that begins next week. Earlier this week, Trump Make America Great Again, a joint fund-raising arm of Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and the Republican National Committee, started running ads on the social media site that Facebook said could have caused confusion about the timing of the census. ‘President Trump needs you to take the Official 2020 Congressional District Census today. We need to hear from you before the most important election in American history,’ the ad said. The campaign asked followers to ‘respond NOW’ to help our campaign messaging strategy, with an appeal to text ‘TRUMP to 8022.'” See also, Facebook removes ‘deceptive’ Trump census ads, BBC, Tom Gerken, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “Facebook has removed a series of misleading adverts from the Donald Trump campaign promoting ‘the Official 2020 Congressional District Census.’ The adverts made it appear respondents were taking part in the official 2020 US census, which begins on 12 March. They were promoted by a fundraising group backed by Republican officials and Mr Trump’s re-election team. ‘There are policies in place to prevent confusion around the official US census,’ Facebook said. ‘This is an example of those being enforced,’ said the spokesperson. The adverts began running on Facebook on 3 March. Clicking the link takes users to a general survey focusing on Republican talking points.” See also, After first allowing them, Facebook takes down deceptive Trump campaign ads that were misleading about the U.S. census, The Washington Post, Craig Timberg and Tara Bahrampour, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “Facebook removed Trump campaign ads on Thursday for violating its policy against misleading references to the U.S. census amid criticism that it has given politicians too much leeway to misinform users on its platform. The Trump ads urged Facebook users to ‘take the official 2020 Congressional District Census today,’ but despite the look and language of the ad, they were not related to the once-a-decade national count of U.S. citizens happening this year. Instead, the ads linked to a survey on the ‘Certified Website of President Donald J. Trump,’ which collected information and requested a donation. Facebook initially said it would permit the ads, ruling that they were clearly not a part of the U.S. census, according to Popular Information, a politically themed online newsletter that first reported on the ads and the company’s refusal to remove them. Facebook announced its policy against misleading references to the census in December. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sharply criticized Facebook’s decision in a news conference Thursday. ‘I am particularly annoyed today at the actions of Facebook. Facebook has something that is an official document of Donald Trump as saying, “Fill this out, this is a census form” — it is not. It is an absolute lie, a lie that is consistent with the misrepresentation policy of Facebook. But now they are messing with who we are as Americans,’ she said, according to a transcript on her website.” See also, Facebook removes Trump campaign ads because they cause confusion about  the census, Politico, Steven Overly, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “Facebook said it will remove ads from President Donald Trump that invoked the U.S. Census when directing people to his reelection campaign’s website, saying they violated policies against causing confusion about the nationwide count. It was a rare action by Facebook to take down content posted by Trump, who has used the giant social media platform as a major element of both his presidential campaigns. The ads in question urged people to complete an ‘Official 2020 Congressional District Census’ to help ‘defeat the Democrats and the FAKE NEWS.’ The ad linked to a survey on the Trump campaign’s website that asked people about their political views on issues like immigration, military spending and the economy, before ultimately asking them to donate money to the campaign.”

Mike Bloomberg plans new group to support Democratic presidential nominee, The Washington Post, Michael Scherer, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg has decided to form an independent expenditure campaign that will absorb hundreds of his presidential campaign staffers in six swing states to work to elect the Democratic nominee this fall. The group, with a name that is still undisclosed because its trademark application is in process, would also be a vehicle for Bloomberg to spend money on advertising to attack President Trump and support the Democratic nominee, according to a person familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal deliberations.” See also, Mike Bloomberg is rehiring hundreds of staffers in 6 swing states to help the Democratic nominee take on Trump in November, Business Insider, Sonam Sheth, Thursday, 5 March 2020.

Newly obtained documents show $157,000 in additional payments by the Secret Service to Trump properties, The Washington Post, David A. Fahrenthold, Joshua Partlow, Jonathan O’Connell, and Carol D. Leonnig, Thursday, 5 March 2020: “President Trump’s company charged the Secret Service $157,000 more than was previously known — billing taxpayers for rooms at his clubs at rates far higher than his company has claimed, according to a new trove of receipts and billing documents released by the Secret Service. Many of the new receipts were obtained by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which spent three years battling the Secret Service over a public-records request from January 2017. When added to dozens of charges already reported by The Washington Post, the new documents show that Trump’s company has charged the Secret Service more than $628,000 since he took office in 2017. The payments show Trump has an unprecedented — and still partially hidden — business relationship with his own government. The full scope of that relationship is still unknown because the publicly available records are largely from 2017 and 2018, leaving huge gaps in the data.”