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New friends Trump and Cuomo have a meeting of the minds

President Donald Trump and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo

President Donald Trump and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at their respective daily briefings Tuesday. Credit: AFP via Getty Images / Mandel Ngan; NY Governor's Office / Darren McGee

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'A very good conversation'

In examining President Donald Trump's complicated relationship with coronavirus-wracked New York and its governor, it's worth looking back to less than six months ago when Trump confirmed he had officially turned his back on his home state and declared himself a Florida resident.

"Despite the fact that I pay millions of dollars in city, state and local taxes each year, I have been treated very badly by the political leaders of both the city and state," Trump said in his breakup tweet on Oct. 31. To which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo tweeted back: "Good riddance. It’s not like @realDonaldTrump paid taxes here anyway … He’s all yours, Florida." (Among Trump's grievances was a New York lawsuit to see his tax returns.)

But that was another time, before the nonstop wails of ambulances drowned out all other conversation. At the end of March, Trump portrayed himself as shaken by the piles of body bags at a hospital in his native Queens. Being Trump, he hurled insults whenever Cuomo criticized the federal response. But he also sent a Navy ship and the Army Corps of Engineers to set up overflow hospital capacity. Cuomo has floated enough compliments Trump's way in the past few days to press the right buttons. He also suggested they weren't far apart on contentious coronavirus testing issues.

That set the stage for Tuesday's Oval Office meeting between the two leaders. "I think we had a very good conversation,” Cuomo said. He told an evening news conference after returning to Albany that the president had committed to helping New York State double its testing capacity to 40,000 tests a day. 

The federal government would help states with materials they needed by getting directly involved in international supply chains. The states will handle logistics like where tests would be conducted and how many would be needed. “It ends the whole back-and-forth and the finger-pointing in a very fair and smart way,” Cuomo said. Trump, at his daily briefing, said, “We have an agreement, we have an understanding on testing.”

Trump also affirmed to Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez that he will support a coming effort in Congress to send direct funding help to state and local governments. “The president seemed very open and understanding of that," Cuomo said on MSNBC.

Trump said he was “proud of the relationship my administration has forged with New York” and that "the federal government has spared no expense to get New Yorkers the care they need and deserve." They also agreed, Trump said, that with New York appearing to be past its worst days, the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort can return to its base in Virginia "so that we could have it for other locations." For more, see Newsday's story by Figueroa and Yancey Roy.

Pumping in more billions

The Senate approved a $480 billion-plus interim coronavirus spending bill Tuesday after Democratic leaders and the White House agreed on a compromise that will expand small-business loans and add money for health care and testing.

Here's how it breaks down: There's $380 billion for small-business loans and grants, including a stream of funding for firms in rural and minority communities effectively excluded in the first round. That replenishes a small-business aid fund that ran dry last week. Also included is $75 billion for health care providers and $25 billion for coronavirus testing.

The measure passed by unanimous consent after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) proposed it on the Senate floor and an hour of debate, sending it to the House, where it could be taken up as soon as Thursday if a quorum can be assembled. A push by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats for more state and local aid won't be taken up until May. For more, see Tom Brune's story for Newsday.

'Game changer' drug flunks test

An antimalaria drug widely touted by Trump for weeks as holding big promise as a coronavirus treatment showed no benefit in a large analysis of its use in Veterans Health Administration hospitals, The Associated Press reported.

There were more deaths among those given hydroxychloroquine — 28% of that group — versus 11% of those who got standard care alone, researchers reported. About 22% of those getting the drug plus azithromycin died, too, but the difference between that group and usual care was not considered large enough to rule out other factors that could have affected survival. Hydroxychloroquine also made no difference in the need for a breathing machine.

The nationwide study was not a rigorous experiment. But with 368 patients, it’s the largest look so far. There are more advanced trials underway. Trump said at Tuesday's briefing that there are some good reports about hydroxychloroquine, but he acknowledged that "perhaps" there is "not a good report." He has toned down the hydroxychloroquine hype in recent days, according to Politico.

Also on Tuesday, a panel of experts convened by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recommended against doctors using a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin because of potentially fatal cardiac risks.

Janison: Slipping on oil

Not for lack of trying and prematurely claiming success, but Trump can't fix the debacle in world oil markets, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

Trump on Tuesday issued bromides. "We will never let the great U.S. Oil & Gas Industry down," he tweeted. "I have instructed the Secretary of Energy and Secretary of the Treasury to formulate a plan which will make funds available so that these very important companies and jobs will be secured long into the future!"

But Trump can't control the cascade effect of what experts call an unprecedented plunge into the unknown amid the pandemic. The president portrayed the trouble as "more of a financial thing than an oil situation," saying it will be "very short term." But it is widely expected to take months before oil production comes into line with lesser demand, even assuming some recovery.

A total immigration ban? Not totally

Trump's tweeted Monday night that he will issue an executive order "to temporarily suspend immigration," but it turns out there will be exceptions.

He said Tuesday it will apply only to people seeking green cards, last 60 days and won't affect workers entering the country on a temporary basis.

Officials were still working to sort out issues for industries related to the pandemic, from food processing plants to health care, CNN reported. The president also said seasonal farm laborers would not be affected.

Trump said his motivation was to "put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs." Most work visas and green card applications have been on hold anyway due to coronavirus restrictions.

No checks for them

More than 1 million U.S. citizens have been blocked from receiving stimulus checks because they are married to and filed joint tax returns with immigrants who don’t have Social Security numbers, the Los Angeles Times reported.

According to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, any family that files taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, which the Internal Revenue Service issues to workers who lack Social Security numbers, cannot receive an Economic Impact Payment — unless one spouse is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces.

“It’s a deliberately cruel carve-out,” said Manar Waheed, senior legislative and advocacy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union. “In creating an exception for military families, they very, very deliberately left all of these other people out of the cash rebate.”

A similar thing happened in 2008 when Congress passed an economic-stimulus package that gave tax rebate checks to most taxpayers.

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 defended his company's decision to furlough hundreds of employees because of the coronavirus pandemic. "You can’t have many hundreds of employees standing around doing nothing,” Trump said at the briefing Tuesday. His Mar-a-Lago club in Florida revealed this week it is temporarily laying off 153 workers.
  • A Pew Research Center poll asked Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters whether it bothered them that the presumptive nominee, Joe Biden, is an older white man. It didn't bother 51% of those who are white, 72% who are black or 70% who are Hispanic. The most bothered were 54% of voters between 18 and 29 years old. 
  • Trump said at the briefing that he didn't know whether reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is critically ill are true or false. “We don’t know. We don’t know," he said, adding, "I can only say I wish him well.”
  • About 8,000 applicants for the SBA's Economic Injury Disaster Loan program may have had their personal information exposed to others using the loan application website, CNN reports, citing a statement from the SBA.
  • A bipartisan report from the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday stood by the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump. The report, which undercuts Trump's labeling of such allegations as a "hoax," found “specific intelligence” to support the conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin “approved and directed aspects” of the Kremlin’s efforts.
  • A judge decided former Trump campaign deputy chair Rick Gates, whose wife has cancer, does not have to report to jail intermittently during the pandemic. Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy for his role in Paul Manafort's financially fraudulent Ukrainian lobbying operation and cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller's case against Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman. Gates was sentenced in December to 3 years of probation and 45 days in jail to be served intermittently, such as on weekends.

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