Not calling it 'perfect'
When President Donald Trump was promoting an unproven coronavirus cure, he said, "What do you have to lose?" That refrain isn't part of his current pitch for reopening the country and its economy.
"It's possible there will be some [death] because you won't be locked into an apartment or a house or whatever it is," Trump said in an interview with ABC's "World News Tonight" on Tuesday from Arizona, where he visited a factory making N95 masks. "But at the same time, we're going to practice social distancing, we're going to be washing hands, we're going to be doing a lot of the things that we've learned to do over the last period of time."
"I'm viewing our great citizens of this country to a certain extent and to a large extent as warriors. They're warriors. We can't keep our country closed. We have to open our country," Trump said as he was leaving Washington. He stuck to the theme while in Arizona. "I'm not saying anything is perfect, and, yes, will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon." He's leaving the state-by-state calls up to the governors.
Trump also lapsed into wishful-sounding thinking on ABC by suggesting the virus could go away without a vaccine, which isn't expected to be ready until the start of 2021 at the earliest, while scientists are warning the public to prepare for new waves of infections starting in the fall. "There'll be more death … the virus will pass, with or without a vaccine,” the president said. “And I think we're doing very well on the vaccines, but with or without a vaccine, it's going to pass, and we're going to be back to normal.”
The U.S. death toll passed 70,000 on Tuesday. Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said on NBC's "Today" show that while New York, the U.S. epicenter for coronavirus since March, has recorded a sustained decline in cases, the pandemic is getting worse in other parts of the country. "There's about 20 states where cases are going up on a daily basis, and so are hospitalizations," Gottlieb said.
An Associated Press analysis found new confirmed infections per day in the U.S. exceed 20,000, and deaths per day are well over 1,000, based on figures from Johns Hopkins University. And public health officials warn that the failure to flatten the curve and drive down the infection rate in places could lead to many more deaths — perhaps tens of thousands — as people are allowed to venture out and businesses reopen.
But with the administration's focus shifting to the economy, the White House is planning to wind down its coronavirus task force. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters it could wrap up its work by early June. “We will have something in a different form,” Trump said.
The years just flew by
During the ABC interview, Trump, as he often does, blamed the Barack Obama administration for leaving "nothing" in medical supplies that were needed when the pandemic struck. Network anchor David Muir pointed out that Trump had been president for three years and asked what he had done "to restock those cupboards that you say were bare."
“Well, I’ll be honest, I have a lot of things going on,” Trump responded. “We had a lot of people that refused to allow the country to be successful. They wasted a lot of time on Russia, Russia, Russia. That turned out to be a total hoax. Then they did Ukraine, Ukraine, and that was a total hoax. Then they impeached the president of the United States for absolutely no reason." (Watch the video clip here.)
Trump again said the Obama administration had left "broken tests." There was no COVID-19 to test for when Obama left office in January 2017.
A whistleblower with a name
A senior government scientist charged in a whistleblower complaint filed Tuesday that the Trump administration failed to prepare for coronavirus, wasting time that could have been used to start stocking up on protective equipment for front-line responders, specifically N95 masks. When the onslaught came, the administration sought a quick fix by trying to rush an unproven-for-coronavirus drug to patients, said Dr. Rick Bright.
Bright, a top official for vaccine and treatment development until he was removed as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, said he “encountered resistance from HHS leadership, including Health and Human Services Secretary [Alex] Azar, who appeared intent on downplaying this catastrophic event.”
Bright alleges he was reassigned to a lesser role because he resisted political pressure to allow widespread use of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalaria drug pushed by Trump. Bright said the Trump administration wanted to “flood” hot spots in New York and New Jersey with the drug.
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), chair of the House energy and commerce subcommittee on health, said a hearing over the complaint would be held next week. Bright’s lawyers said he would testify.
Janison: Clashing agendas
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sounded happy the other day to link what he has called the "Wuhan virus" to a research lab in China. “There’s enormous evidence” of it, he said in a TV interview Sunday. But Pompeo acknowledged the scientific consensus that there is no indication of coronavirus being manmade or genetically modified. He also offered no evidence of any connection to a laboratory.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, supports no talk of a lab connection. “If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what's out there now, [scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward ‘this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated,’ ” Fauci told National Geographic in an interview published Monday. He also dismissed the idea that coronavirus escaped from a lab after someone somehow allegedly found it in the wild and brought it there.
Fauci holds an edge over Pompeo when it comes to public credibility, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. Pompeo, a former congressman and CIA director who in his current job went along with Trump's pursuit of a Ukraine "investigation," now seeks to help prop up the president's campaign to keep the coronavirus blame focused on Beijing and away from the administration's response.
In another administration, you could expect a president to try to reconcile such conflicting accounts. In this one, confusion is the status quo.
Bipartisan plea for New York aid
The entire New York delegation to the House — Democrats and Republicans — urged congressional leaders in a letter Tuesday to pass additional financial aid to state and local governments, including small municipalities, reports Newsday's Tom Brune.
“State and local governments are currently faced with massive budgetary shortfalls due to COVID-19. Bankruptcy is not the answer,” stated the letter organized by Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove).
Trump continued to spin the appeals as a money grab for Democratic-run states. "I think Congress is inclined to do a lot of things, but I don't think they're inclined to do bailouts. A bailout is different than, you know, reimbursing for the plague,” Trump told the New York Post in a Monday interview. "It's not fair to the Republicans because all the states that need help — they're run by Democrats in every case."
But as NBC News reported, numerous Republican-led states also are facing pandemic-caused financial crises, just like the Democrats.
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo decried Trump's remarks, calling "bailout" a "loaded word" and asking, “If you starve the states, how do you expect the states to be able to fund this entire reopening plan which the governors are in charge of?” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Trump "seems to enjoy stabbing his hometown in the back" and asked: “What kind of human being sees the suffering here and decides that people in New York don't deserve help?"
Doctor not in the House
The official White House reason for not letting Fauci testify before a House committee this week was that it would be "counterproductive" to take him away from his work.
Trump on Tuesday gave his own reason. "The House is a bunch of Trump-haters," the president told reporters as he was leaving for Arizona. The remark amounted to an admission that he wants to block Democrats from conducting oversight duties on his administration's management of the coronavirus crisis.
Fauci is still expected to appear later this month before a Republican-led Senate committee, which also will have Democrats on it. Trump accused the House of rooting for him to fail in the fight against the disease.
"They, frankly, want our situation to be unsuccessful, which means death," the president claimed. "They should be ashamed of themselves."
More coronavirus news
Cuomo defended his cautious reopening of New York State as a more humane approach to the coronavirus pandemic, and he suggested states that do so more quickly are sacrificing human lives. For more, 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:
- More than half of the 150 million Americans eligible for an economic relief payment from the federal government have received their money, but what if you're still waiting? Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez has some answers, and how you can find out more.
- A White House coronavirus response group led by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner has relied in part on volunteers from consulting and private equity firms with little expertise in the tasks to which they were assigned, according to The Washington Post. That has exacerbated problems in obtaining supplies for hospitals and other needs, the report said.
- Trump did not wear a mask during his tour of the Honeywell factory in Arizona despite guidelines saying they should be worn inside the facility at all times. While the president was there, the loudspeakers blared the Paul McCartney-penned “Live and Let Die” as performed by Guns N' Roses.
- A Manhattan federal judge threw out a decision by Democrats on the state Board of Elections and ruled that the New York Democratic presidential primary must take place June 23. Judge Analisa Torres said there was enough time before the primary occurs to figure out how to carry it out safely. She said that canceling the primary, even with Joe Biden as the presumptive nominee, would be an unconstitutional violation of the rights of candidates and their delegates.
- Trump complained in a New York Post interview that two female CBS News journalists have irritated him with their questions during his coronavirus briefings. He said of Weijia Jiang and Paula Reid: "It wasn’t Donna Reed, I can tell you that.” Reed played a TV sitcom mom and housewife when Trump was a youngster.
- Trump launched a post-midnight tweetstorm and fulminated more during the day Tuesday over a new video ad by the Lincoln Project, a group of anti-Trump Republicans and ex-Republicans. The spot — called "Mourning in America," a play on Ronald Reagan's classic 1984 "Morning in America" ad — savaged the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Amid grim images, a narrator asks: “If we have another four years like this, will there even be an America?”
- Trump said in the New York Post interview that he wants to visit New York City "when things calm down a little bit.”