The trail and tribulations
There's no place but home for Donald Trump's campaign staff who went to Tulsa, Oklahoma, last week and came up well short on delivering the packed arena crowd that the president wanted.
All of the staffers who attended the rally are quarantining this week after interacting with several colleagues who later tested positive for the coronavirus, CNN reported. Among those self-isolating is campaign manager Brad Parscale, campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh confirmed to the Daily Beast.
"As a precaution, staff who made the trip to Tulsa are working remotely, and they will be tested and return working to the office after that," Murtaugh said. Multiple Secret Service agents also were ordered into quarantine after accompanying the president to the rally.
The post-Tulsa scares, along with exploding infection and hospitalization rates in parts of the Sunbelt, belies Trump's stance that the crisis is past. "We're doing great," Trump told shipyard workers Thursday in Wisconsin. “If we didn’t test, we wouldn’t have cases. But we have cases because we test. Deaths are down. We have one of the lowest mortality rates.” Statistics from Johns Hopkins University show the U.S. is third-worst in COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 population among the 20 countries most affected by the pandemic.
The daily number of confirmed cases across the U.S. is closing in on the peak reached in late April, The Associated Press reports. While the daily death count of about 600 is well below the top marks of about 2,200, fatalities are rising in such states as Arizona and Alabama. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, hailed by Trump when his state was among the first to reopen, put any further lifting of restrictions on hold and reimposed a ban on elective surgeries in some places to preserve hospital space.
In Arizona, 23% of tests conducted over the past seven days have been positive, nearly triple the national average, and a record 415 patients were on ventilators. Mississippi saw its daily count of new cases reach new highs twice this week. For the second consecutive day, Florida has reported more than 5,000 new confirmed cases. Health experts told Newsday's David Olson that the new outbreaks illustrate the need to take a cautious approach to reopening and the dangers of letting people abandon social distancing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, relying on blood tests, estimated Thursday that 20 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus since it arrived in the U.S. That is about 6% of the population and roughly 10 times the 2.3 million confirmed cases. Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, told reporters Thursday at the White House that while there is “no question” the U.S. will experience new hot spots, "we just have to live with that," and "we will not shut down."
Biden: I'll protect America's health
Joe Biden on Thursday accused Trump of making the coronavirus crisis all about himself.
The president is "like a child who can’t believe this has happened to him — all his whining and self-pity,” Biden said during a speech in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “Well, this pandemic didn’t happen to him. It happened to all of us. And his job isn’t to whine about it. His job is to do something about it, to lead.”
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee reiterated his campaign pledge to expand health care coverage by implementing a public insurance option. He also called on the Trump administration to stop its legal battle to kill the Affordable Care Act, warning that removing it could lead to millions of Americans losing coverage.
“Perhaps most cruelly of all, if Donald Trump has his way, those who have complications from COVID-19 could become the new preexisting conditions,” said Biden. “If Donald Trump prevails in court, insurers would be allowed once again to strip away coverage, jack up premiums, simply because of the battle they survived fighting coronavirus.”
Late Thursday, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act, saying “the entire ACA must fall."
Electoral map blues
Trump is trailing Biden by significant margins in six battleground states that he won in 2016, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll. The survey showed Biden up by 11 points each in Michigan and Wisconsin, 10 points in Pennsylvania, 9 points in North Carolina, 7 points in Arizona and 6 points in Florida.
Biden would win the presidency with at least 333 electoral votes, far more than the 270 needed, if he won all six of the states surveyed and held those won by Hillary Clinton four years ago. Most combinations of any three of the six states would suffice, the Times said.
A Fox News poll also shows a Biden advantage in four states that went red four years ago. Biden is up 9 points in Florida, 2 points each in North Carolina and Georgia and 1 point in Texas.
Janison: Hedging his bet
A recent Trump remark has some wondering if his confidence in winning reelection has been rattled, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
During an interview Tuesday in Yuma, Arizona, with a reporter from a Fox affiliate in Phoenix, Trump was asked to respond to Biden's statement that, if elected, he couldn't guarantee he would continue building the border wall.
“No, he’ll complete it. You’d have a revolution if they didn’t do it," Trump replied in part. A bit later, he added: "Hopefully he won’t get the chance." (Watch a video clip.)
The statement perked up ears because it strayed so far from his perpetual boasting that he's a winner and his foes are losers. It is not like him to allow the hypothetical premise of defeat.
Four more years of what?
Trump appeared on a Fox News town hall event Thursday with Sean Hannity, who asked what his priorities would be for a second term. See if you find one in his answer:
“Well, one of the things that will be really great — you know, the word ‘experience’ is still good. I always say talent is more important than experience. I’ve always said that. But the word ‘experience’ is a very important word. It’s in a very important meaning.
“I never did this before. I never slept over in Washington. I was in Washington, I think, 17 times. All of a sudden, I’m president of the United States. You know the story. I’m riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with our first lady, and I say, ‘This is great.’ But I didn’t know very many people in Washington. It wasn’t my thing. I was from Manhattan, from New York.
“Now I know everybody. And I have great people in the administration. You make some mistakes. Like, you know, an idiot like [John] Bolton, all he wanted to do was drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to kill people.”
There also was this surprising digression while he was attacking Biden: “And he's going to be your president because some people don't love me, maybe."
Trump wins an immigration case
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Trump administration can deport some people seeking asylum in the U.S. without additional court hearings. Two justices from the court's liberal wing, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, joined the 7-2 majority in a case brought by a man from Sri Lanka who was detained 25 yards from the Mexican border.
The ruling held that people who fail to make a valid case for asylum in their initial screenings, by credibly claiming that they fear persecution at home, can be fast-tracked for deportation and cannot challenge that decision in federal court.
In its decision, the court noted that asylum claims based on alleged fear of persecution in homelands have increased 1,883% over the past decade, exacerbating a backlog of more than 1 million pending cases in U.S. immigration courts.
Last week, the Trump administration lost a case over its attempt to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protections for young immigrants illegally in the U.S. who were brought in as children.
Jay Clayton, the Securities and Exchange Commission chairman and a Trump golfing friend, refused on Thursday to say whether he would recuse himself from pending investigations involving Trump’s interests and associates if he becomes the new U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
“What I will commit to do, which is what I commit to in my current job, is to approach the job with independence and to follow all ethical rules,” Clayton responded while testifying in his current role before a House Financial Services subcommittee. The Manhattan federal prosecutors' office is pursuing investigations involving Trump, his company and close associates, including the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Clayton also said it was "entirely my idea" for Trump to nominate him for the Justice Department job, and he raised it with the president a week before Geoffrey Berman's sudden ouster from the post last week. He was asked by the committee chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan): "Did you know he was going to be fired to make room for you?" Clayton replied, "I’m not going to get into that here."
The New York Times reported that Attorney General William Barr, shortly after taking office last year, challenged how the Southern District had handled the case that resulted in a guilty plea and prison sentence for former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen. That move suggested Barr planned to exert more influence over the Manhattan office, long known for operating independently, and foreshadowed his interventions on behalf of Trump associates Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Bart Jones. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- In rushing out pandemic stimulus payments, the Trump administration sent nearly $1.4 billion to almost 1.1 million Americans who were dead, according to the Government Accountability Office. The GAO said it was told by Treasury officials that to meet the mandate to deliver payments as "rapidly as possible," Treasury and the IRS did not use the Social Security Administration's death records as a filter. But they do want the money back.
- A Queens Surrogate's Court judge on Thursday turned down a bid by Trump's brother Robert to stop a tell-all book by their niece Mary Trump, saying his jurisdiction covers estate matters, not publication disputes. Robert Trump's lawyer said he'll take the effort to state Supreme Court. The book, due out in July, is called “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.”
- A Trump tweet ripped New York Mayor Bill de Blasio over plans to paint “Black Lives Matter” in giant letters on the stretch of Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower. The president also accused a New York-area Black Lives Matter leader of promoting treasonous activity.
- Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard executive who ran in the 2016 Republican primaries, said she plans to vote for Biden in November. "I’ve been very clear that I can’t support Donald Trump. And, you know, elections are binary choices," she told The Atlantic on a podcast. Trump tweeted in response: "She lost so badly to me, twice in one campaign, that she should be voting for Joe. No complaints!!!"
- Black Americans support Biden by 92% to 5% in a Washington Post-Ipsos poll, but voters under 40 are less enthusiastic about the Democratic candidate. Those surveyed say racism and police conduct are the most important issues in their choice of candidates.
- Senate Republicans confirmed a 200th Trump nomination for a lifetime post in the federal judiciary this week. None of the 53 for appeals courts are black, HuffPost reports.