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Trump is scratching his itch to end the shutdown

President Donald Trump at a roundtable with business

President Donald Trump at a roundtable with business leaders Wednesday at the White House. Credit: EPA / Stefani Reynolds

Trump: Let's open wide

The coronavirus crisis isn't over, but President Donald Trump has decided that its darkest days are over. He said Wednesday the federal government will not be extending its coronavirus social distancing guidelines once they expire Thursday.

“We’re heartened that the worst of the pain and suffering is going to be behind us,” Trump said as he led a roundtable with executives from companies like Hilton and Toyota. His son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, predicted that by July, the country will be “really rocking again." Kushner called the administration's management of the pandemic response a "great success story" even as the death toll passed 60,000.

Trump laid out a vision of a return to pre-coronavirus normalcy with packed restaurants and sports stadium crowds that will grow. He said he thinks the New York Yankees will "be able to play in Yankee Stadium with obviously smaller crowds and then the crowds would start to build."

That vision doesn't square with sober assessments from doctors who say the country will need to embrace a “new normal” that includes extended social distancing and mask-wearing, The Associated Press writes.

With Trump still resisting warnings that a major relaxing of restrictions won't work without a massive testing capacity yet to be reached, the roundtable heard a warning that business recovery depends on it. Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta said the hotel chain's customers are "looking for the government, both state and federal … to focus on testing, so that they understand what real mortality rates are."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, while a big sports fan, is skeptical about allowing crowds. He told The New York Times that even if baseball resumes with fans watching on TV, the players would face testing and would have to stay "in a place where they don’t have contact with anybody on the outside."

But Trump sounded determined that he will play to live crowds again, namely at "massive" "25,000-person rallies" for his reelection campaign in the not-so-distant future, without leaving seats empty for social distancing because it "wouldn't look too good." He planned to resume travel next week with a trip to Arizona, to be followed by another one to Ohio. 

Hopes rise for treatment drug

Trump has dialed down his hyping of chloroquine drugs as a possible coronavirus treatment following disappointing results. There's a new favorite and this time, disease experts like Fauci are leading the cheers.

Fauci said new results from a clinical trial conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases he leads establish the experimental drug remdesivir as the standard of care for COVID-19. "The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant positive effect in diminishing the time to recover," Fauci said.

The study still requires peer review, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it has been in discussions with manufacturer Gilead about making remdesivir available to patients as quickly as possible. Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said that while “not a home run, a cure by any means,” the drug, if given to patients "early in the course of the disease ... could reduce their chances of having a really bad outcome.”

Fauci also cautioned that the drug was not a complete "knockout," but the findings are significant because "what it has proven is that a drug can block this virus," showing scientists a pathway to improve on its success. Said Trump: "It's a very positive event."

Biden pressed to address accusation

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is facing increasing pressure to address an allegation made by a onetime Senate staffer who has accused him of sexually assaulting her in 1993.

The New York Times reports several progressive and women's rights groups drafted a letter that praised Biden’s work as an “outspoken champion for survivors of sexual violence” but also pushed him to address the allegation from Tara Reade. The letter was then put on hold while the groups urged Biden's advisers to say something before the end of April. Biden's campaign has denied Reade's story that he pushed her against a wall and penetrated her with his fingers when he was a senator from Delaware.

In recent days, a former acquaintance said Reade told her the same story in the mid-1990s, a few years after the incident she describes. But several Democratic women senators who have endorsed Biden are standing by him.

"Vice President Biden has vehemently denied these allegations, and I support Vice President Biden,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who led the charge two years ago to force then-Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to resign over stories of inappropriate touching. Sens. Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar — both potential vice presidential selections — have praised Biden when asked about Reade’s allegation in recent interviews, Politico reports.

Pro-Trump Republicans have charged hypocrisy is at work. Recalling the scrutiny of an accusation of sexual misconduct that dated back more than 30 years during confirmation proceedings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Trump reelection campaign spokesman Ken Farnaso said “there’s no doubt that there is a double standard that exists."

Janison: Threat to who?

Ex-Republican Justin Amash has decided to explore a presidential run as the Libertarian Party candidate. There's no suspense about the congressman's chances: He won't win. But it's not clear whether he would pull more votes away from Trump or from Biden, writes Newsday's Dan Janison

Before his ouster from the GOP made him an independent, Amash cast the lone Republican vote for impeachment in the House. He also is anti-abortion, a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, a stickler on constitutional matters and a deficit hawk. As a result, he could conceivably appeal to at least some conservatives and Republicans who are disgusted by Trump's conduct in office but who wouldn't vote Democratic in any event.

Still, Amash in the race would make Democrats uncomfortable. Former Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri argued: “Every single anti-Trump vote needs to be focused on the viable candidate for president. Every single one. We do not have room for error in this election."

Establishment Democrats still like to blame maverick Ralph Nader for Al Gore's loss in 2000, and even the marginal Green Party's Jill Stein for Hillary Clinton's defeat in 2016. Trump on Twitter suggested they should worry about Amash, too. "I like him even more than Jill Stein!" he tweeted.

A trade for state aid

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is voicing new openness to including aid to states and cities in the next coronavirus relief bill, but he wants something.

“There’s no question all governors, regardless of party, would like to have more money, I’m open to discussing that,” McConnell said on Fox News Radio. He previously depicted the aid appeal as a blue-state money grab, suggesting bankruptcy as an alternative for state and local governments with busted budgets.

But McConnell (R-Ky.) said the next package from Congress must include federal liability protections for businesses that reopen from what he warned will be an “avalanche” of lawsuits.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the U.S. insurance industry is promoting the idea of an insurance plan backed by the federal government to help businesses that in the future suffer losses from a pandemic.

Navy captain still in limbo

The Navy's top civilian leader, acting Navy Secretary James McPherson, has put on hold a recommendation from top uniformed officials to reinstate Capt. Brett Crozier as commander of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Crozier's warnings about a shipboard coronavirus outbreak went public, angering Trump and other officials. Trump, taking no position on Wednesday, said Crozier is "a very, very good man who had a very bad day."

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:

  • Trump berated his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, last week when he was told that internal polls showed him losing key swing states to Biden, according to The Washington Post and CNN. Parscale and others were making the case to Trump that he was hurting himself with his combative performance in coronavirus briefings.
  • A day after Trump’s unprecedented executive order to keep meat plants running, one of them has reopened — but only to cull animals that can’t be processed, Bloomberg News reports. It's a sign the president's action is no quick fix for supply chain woes.
  • Ex-candidate Andrew Yang has sued the New York State Board of Elections for canceling the June 23 Democratic presidential primary. Though Biden is the only still-active candidate who was to be on the ballot, the suit by Yang and some of his delegates said the board's “unprecedented and unwarranted move infringes the rights” of candidates and voters.
  • Trump is still all-in on getting reelected, but he’s also set to take the first steps to formally prepare for someone else to take over should he lose on Nov. 3, The Associated Press reported. He is expected to tap Chris Liddell, deputy chief of staff for policy coordination, to chair a transition council as called for by the Presidential Transition Act.
  • Biden told a fundraising event on Wednesday that he would consider announcing the names of some Cabinet officials before the election and that some of the people might be Republicans.
  • The White House has ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to review intercepted communications and other data to see whether China and possibly the World Health Organization concealed information early on about coronavirus, officials told NBC News.

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