Posts tagged with "Politico"

North Carolina throws threat back at Trump; requests public health plan for GOP convention

May 28, 2020

President Donald Trump needs to “feel the love” at the GOP convention, August 24-27 in Charlotte, North Carolina. That means he wants 50,000 Trump MAGA  acolytes in the arena, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, to cheer his nomination on—and to provide testament to his popularity.

Indeed, according to a report by Politico, the president threatened on Monday, May 25, to pull the Republican National Convention out of North Carolina if state officials don’t roll out the red carpet soon.

But on Tuesday, North Carolina pushed back. Officials there said they would put the onus on national Republicans to show they can pull off a 50,000-person event safely, the news outlet said.

In a letter to Marcia Kelly, the president and CEO of the convention, North Carolina Secretary of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen acknowledged the president’s warning and requested a public health plan for the event.

“The status of Covid-19 infections in our state and in the Charlotte area continues to rapidly evolve [so] it will be important to have several scenarios planned that can be deployed depending on the public health situation,” she wrote. “[M]easured and careful planning efforts are important not only to convention-goers, but also to the North Carolinians who rely on us to protect the public’s health.”

The missive came as Republicans held conference calls Tuesday to decide how to proceed with plans for the convention. People familiar with the discussions said an array of options were considered, including holding the event in a different state. The three most frequently mentioned states include Florida, Texas and Georgia, all of which have Republican governors. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp have said they would welcome the convention.

Trump has implied that North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, is motivated purely by politics—and not by concern for his electorate during the pandemic.

“We have a governor who doesn’t want to open up the state,” Trump said. “He’s been acting very very slowly and very suspiciously.”

But Republicans involved in convention planning say there remains strong interest in holding the event in North Carolina, a critical swing state. They also acknowledge privately that

Fueling the GOP’s angst is a perception that Cooper is unlikely to lift restrictions to accommodate them. With cases rising in the Charlotte area, Republicans say they’re skeptical that the Democratic governor will allow a mass gathering.

Charlotte City Council member Malcolm Graham, who represents the city’s business district, called Republicans’ plans to host a fully attended convention “literally insane,” citing the number of attendees, vendors and volunteers it would require.

“Obviously, that’s not going to happen in Charlotte, nor would it happen in any other city that they’re going to move it to,” Graham, a Democrat, said in an interview.

Research contact: @politico

NASA’s human spaceflight leader mysteriously resigns before SpaceX Crew Dragon launch

May 21, 2020

The head of NASA’s Human Spaceflight program, Douglas Loverro, has resigned after spending about seven months at the agency.

The unexpected exit has set off alarms in Congress about the flight, itself—as well as how this disruption could affect the historic mission.

Indeed, in a letter to NASA employees, Loverro said that he is leaving the program “with a very, very heavy heart” after making a “mistake” during his tenure, according to a letter obtained by Politico,

The resignation comes little more than a week before NASA and SpaceX—the latter, a private American aerospace manufacturer—are slated to launch two astronauts from U.S. soil to the International Space Station for the first time, Fast Company reports.

Meanwhile, Ars Technica reports that Loverro was set to give the final okay for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, which will carry astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.

That job now will fall to Ken Bowersox, the acting associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations.

Loverro wrote that he was leaving the agency due to an undisclosed “mistake,” according to the letter obtained by Politico. Throughout my long government career of over four and a half decades I have always found it to be true that we are sometimes, as leaders, called on to take risks,” Loverro reportedly wrote. “I took such a risk earlier in the year because I judged it necessary to fulfill our mission. Now, over the balance of time, it is clear that I made a mistake in that choice for which I alone must bear the consequences.”

The question is, why?

Top lawmakers demanded answers late Tuesday, May 19, about Loverro’s departure, especially since it occurred just eight days before the maiden voyage set for May 27 of two astronauts aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

“I am deeply concerned over this sudden resignation, especially given its timing,” Representative Kendra Horn (D-Oklahoma), the chairperson of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s space subcommittee, said in a statement. “Under this administration, we’ve seen a pattern of abrupt departures that have disrupted our nation’s efforts at human space flight.”

The bottom line is that, as the committee that overseas NASA, we need answers,” she concluded.

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), who chairs the science panel, was “shocked” by the development; but said in a statement. “I trust that NASA Administrator [Jim] Bridenstine will ensure that the right decision is made as to whether or not to delay the launch attempt.”

“Beyond that, Mr. Loverro’s resignation is another troubling indication that the Artemis Moon-Mars initiative is still not on stable footing.  I look forward to clarification from NASA as to the reasons for this latest personnel action.”

Reached by Fast Company, a NASA spokesperson sent over a boilerplate statement confirming Loverro’s departure and said that the agency is “unable to discuss personnel matters” beyond it.

Research contact: @FastCompany

Governors call Trump’s testing claims ‘delusional’ and ‘absolutely false’

April 21, 2020

Although President Donald Trump is pushing to “reopen” parts of the country by May 1, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) and California Governor Gavin Newsom (D), along with the leaders of six other states and the District of Columbia, already have extended their COVID-19 lockdowns through May 15.

What’s more, several governors are not mincing words about their opinion of the president’s decision, The Huffington Post reports.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D)—who has extended the lockdown for his state’s residents to June 10 and has instructed non-essential business to remain closed at least through May 8—on Sunday told CNN’s Jake Tapper it was “delusional” for President Donald Trump to claim the U.S. currently has the testing capacity needed for states to relax social distancing measures amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Maryland’s Republican leader, Governor Larry Hogan, told Tapper that Trump’s claim “is just absolutely false.” “It’s not accurate to say there’s plenty of testing out there and the governors should just get it done,” Hogan said. “That’s just not being straightforward … Every governor in America has been pushing and fighting and clawing to get more tests.”

Hogan added, “Look, we have increased our testing in Maryland by 5,000% over the past month, but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be.”

And they are not alone: Multiple health officials in the Trump administration have cautioned against setting May 1 as a target date to loosen social distancing guidelines, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said last week that the U.S. has not yet developed the testing and tracing procedures needed to begin reopening the economy.

But that hasn’t stopped the president. On Saturday, echoing comments Vice President Mike Pence made a day prior, Trump claimed “experts” had said that “America’s testing capability and capacity is fully sufficient to begin opening up the country totally.”

Indeed, The Huffington Post reports, Trump has taken an adversarial stance toward a number of governors as states struggle to overcome nationwide test shortages. The Trump Administration has tried to cobble together a belated response to the pandemic and has faced criticism after initially calling concerns about the coronavirus a “hoax” and downplaying its impact.

In recent weeks, Trump has used language that appears aimed at shifting responsibility for the economic recovery from the administration to individual states.

“People’s initial reaction is always to look to the president, but as time goes on and it becomes clear other states are doing other things, that blame and credit will shift to the governors, considering they are the ones making the calls,” one Trump political adviser told Politico.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Democrats postpone presidential convention until August 17

April 6, 2020

The Democrats are “Biden” their time—postponing their convention and presidential nomination process by one month to allow them to “germinate” ideas and policies instead of COVID-19.

Specifically, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is pushing back the party’s convention in Milwaukee, from July 13 to August 17, the week before the Republican Party’s convention, Politico reports.

The delay came after likely nominee Joe Biden publicly called for the convention to be rescheduled in response to the coronavirus pandemic. And it followed weeks of behind-the-scenes discussions with party leaders and the campaigns of the two remaining presidential candidates, Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders.

“I’m confident our convention planning team and our partners will find a way to deliver a convention in Milwaukee this summer that places our Democratic nominee on the path to victory in November,” convention CEO Joe Solmonese said in a statement on April 2.

In addition to postponing, DNC officials are discussing ways to scale back the convention, Politico reports. The committee is not flush with cash and wants to avoid the appearance of throwing a big party in the midst of a severe economic downturn.

“People are going to be hurting,” a DNC official said. “It’s not a time be lavish.”

While there has been talk about having a virtual convention, party officials and Biden—the presumptive nominee —would like to have a live event as long as it can be done safely, according to sources within the DNC and one with Biden’s campaign.

“Joe earned this, and we do want something to mark that, but it’s really complicated,” the Biden campaign source said.

The new date would put the Democratic National Convention back-to-back with its Republican counterpart, which is set to begin August 24 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The proximity in time presents messaging challenges for both sides: Biden will not have as much time to enjoy a potential polling bounce before the Republican National Convention begins dominating coverage. And Republicans will not have as much time to plan out responses to speeches and events in Milwaukee.

The new dates also complicate the Biden campaign’s financial situation, because it will not be able to access general election funds until August instead of July. Biden has relied more on wealthy donors who gave the maximum amount than Bernie Sanders did. But the former vice president isn’t legally allowed to access the portion of those contributions dedicated to the general election until he’s officially the nominee.

The coronavirus has undoubtedly taken a toll on Biden’s fundraising just as he was starting to pull in record sums for his campaign. However, Biden’s campaign staff was relatively small for a de facto nominee because of his earlier struggles with fundraising, so the campaign was used to subsisting on less than its rivals, Politico says.

Biden aides said the campaign has saved additional money during the coronavirus crisis because it scaled back on advertising, didn’t go on a hiring binge and doesn’t have to pay the overhead of a traditional campaign as the candidate and staff shelter in place.

“It’s amazing how much you save if you don’t put on rallies and have to fly across the country every day,” an adviser said.

Another Biden campaign official said the new dynamic was manageable. “We can still raise and spend primary money up to the time we are the nominee, and we can raise (and not spend) general money,” the official said. “This is about when the 2008 convention took place, and it didn’t hurt us.”

Research contact: @politico

Trump reneges on reopening federal health insurance exchanges during the COVID-19 crisis

April 2, 2020

Defying appeals from insurers and Democrats, the Trump Administration said on March 31 that it would not reopen Obamacare enrollment to allow uninsured Americans to buy health coverage during the coronavirus pandemic, Slate reports.

The decision comes after the White House told lawmakers and insurers it was considering a special enrollment period in addition to the usual November 1 through December 15 window for the federally run exchange that covers roughly two-thirds of U.S. states.

Eleven largely Democratic-leaning states, as well as Washington, D.C., have temporarily reopened their health insurance exchanges, CNN reports, in order to provide frontline workers with the chance to buy in during the coronavirus outbreak.

Democratic legislators had called on the White House to open the federally run exchanges for some 30 million Americans who remain uninsured and— after initial hesitation from the health insurance industry over the prospect of being hit with a deluge of coronavirus-related claims—“the main insurance lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans, endorsed the special enrollment period roughly two weeks ago while also urging lawmakers to expand premium subsidies to make coverage more affordable for middle-income people,” Politico reports.

“Given the risk posed by COVID-19, it is more important than ever for people to have health coverage,” the CEOs of America’s Health Insurance Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association wrote in a letter to Congress in mid-March.

The insurers told Politico they had expected the Trump White House to announce a special enrollment period last week after receiving private assurances from the administration that the exchanges would be reopened. The coronavirus has already put intense pressure on the job market, and with the economic toll of the pandemic expected to worsen over the coming weeks, millions of newly unemployed workers who previously had insurance through their employer will likely be in need of health insurance options.

Workers who lose their health insurance through their employer are eligible to buy a plan on a federal or state exchange for up to 60 days after becoming unemployed.

The Trump administration did not give any reason for refusing to reopen the health insurance marketplace during the pandemic, but President Donald Trump has publicly supported the GOP legal effort, this one led by Republican governors, to destroy the Affordable Care Act once and for all. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, which could put the ten-year-old law, and the 20 million Americans who get health coverage from it, in jeopardy.

Research contact: @Slate

Pelosi: Mail-in voting will protect free and fair elections—and American voters—amid coronavirus

April 1, 2020

The $2 trillion stimulus bill just passed by the U.S. Congress—and signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27—provides $400 million in election security grants, which are intended to help states to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” But just how that $400 million will be put to use to protect the American values of fair and free elections is now the subject of debate among Washington lawmakers, Politico reports.

On Tuesday, March 31, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that vote-by-mail capabilities should be scaled up ahead of 2020’s remaining elections—a move that would shield voters from the threats that in-person voting could pose amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“In terms of the elections, I think that we’ll probably be moving to vote by mail,” Pelosi told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” adding that congressional Democrats had pushed to allocate more funding in the recent $2 trillion relief package “to get those resources to the states to facilitate the reality of life: that we are going to have to have more vote by mail.”

More than a dozen states have postponed their presidential primaries, as the public health crisis sweeps the nation, however the pivot to mail voting has proved difficult for election officials to navigate in the run-up to general elections in November, Politico notes.

“The integrity of the election system is central to our democracy,” Pelosi said. “How anyone could oppose our enabling the states to have vote-by-mail raises so many other questions, but let’s just be hopeful and have public opinion weigh in on that.”

Almost immediately, it became clear that President Trump not only would balk at Pelosi’s idea, but would hinder any efforts to implement the vote-by-mail movement.

Indeed, Politico reported, Trump on Monday criticized Democrats’ push for expanded election provisions in the relief package, arguing that “the things they had in there were crazy” before the final text of the legislation was negotiated.

“They had things — levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” he told Fox & Friends.

Responding to Trump’s remarks on Tuesday, Pelosi said she felt “sad that the president doesn’t have confidence that his party cannot convince the American people about a path to go forward,” and lamented his belief that “vote by mail would deter any future elections. No, I don’t think that’s the case.”

Trump offered his own appraisal of the speaker’s interview later Tuesday morning, tweeting that he tuned into a “portion of low rated (very) Morning Psycho (Joe) this Morning in order to see what Nancy Pelosi had to say, & what moves she was planning to further hurt our Country.”

“Actually, other than her usual complaining that I’m a terrible person, she wasn’t bad,” the president wrote. “Still praying!”

Research contact: @politico

Biden takes the lead in Democratic race

March 11, 2020

Advantage Biden: Former Vice President Joe Biden was poised to take the lead in the Democratic presidential race on Tuesday, March 10, after he scored a major victory in Michigan over Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), The Hill reported.

With 83% of the ballots counted, Biden led in Michigan with 53% of the vote, against 38% for Sanders.

The victory followed on the heels of Biden’s two other wins in Mississippi and Missouri on Tuesday. Biden also won Idaho, which Sanders had won in his 2016 primary bid against Hillary Clinton, while North Dakota and Washington were yet to be determined.

Speaking at his campaign’s Philadelphia headquarters on Tuesday night, Biden all but declared himself the Democratic presidential nominee. He thanked Sanders and his supporters for their “tireless energy and their passion,” noting that they all “share a common goal” in defeating Trump.

“This campaign is taking off and I believe we’re going to do well from this point on,” Biden said. “Take nothing for granted. I want to earn every single vote from every single state.”

For his part, the Vermont Senator announced on Wednesday that he would continue his campaign for president, Politico reported, and vowed to participate in a debate with Biden this coming weekend.

“Last night, obviously, was not a good night for our campaign from a delegate point of view,” Sanders acknowledged in an address delivered from his campaign headquarters in Burlington, Vermont.

Describing what he still saw as the positives in the race, Sanders said, “”…While we are currently losing the delegate count” in the race for the Democratic nomination, “we are strongly winning in two enormously important areas which will determine the future of our country,” he noted, claiming strong public support for his proposals and noting the lack of enthusiasm Biden has elicited among younger voters.

Research contact: @thehill

Trump and GOP mount coordinated campaign to portray Biden as ‘senile’

March 11, 2020

The president has settled on a schoolyard strategy to take out his likely general election opponent, Politico reports.

Indeed, President Donald Trump—for whom bullying is second nature and an oft-chosen first line of attack—stood before about 500 of the Republican Party’s biggest benefactors at his Mar-a-Lago resort on Friday, March 6, and raised a topic few in the audience expected (even of him): Joe Biden’s mental capacity.

Trump walked the donors through a list of Biden’s recent verbal stumbles, such as his recent declaration that he was running for Senate and his assertion that 150 million Americans had been killed by gun violence since 2007.

The president—who is 73 years old, compared to Biden’s age of 77—questioned whether the former vice president had the mental stamina to sustain the rigors of a general election campaign.

Then, he appeared to give donors permission to leak his remarks about Biden to the media. “I would hope you not repeat that,” Trump said sarcastically according to an attendee who spoke with Politico.

With Biden emerging as the likely Democratic frontrunner, Trump has launched an organized, near-daily campaign to stoke misgivings and misinformation about the former VP’s mental acuity. The president has been bolstered by a conservative echo chamber flooding social media with video clips highlighting Biden’s gaffes.

The effort provides a window into how Trump — who’s been dogged by questions about his own mental fitness — regularly picks apart his political opponents, Politico said, noting that the POTUS “has an unmatched ability to zero in on his foe’s biggest vulnerability or insecurity, and through sheer repetition, bake it into the public consciousness.

“It’s similar to the tack Trump used in 2016 against Hillary Clinton, whom he tagged as ‘low energy,’” the political news outlet said. He also suggested she didn’t “have the stamina” to be president.

Former Clinton advisers see a replay of that campaign, and warn that Biden needs to take the attacks seriously.

“He’s not responding to the threat strong enough, because it is absolutely a problem now and [is] going to be a problem” going forward, said Philippe Reines, a former top Hillary Clinton adviser who prepped her for the debates with Trump. “You have to defend yourself, because that stuff absolutely sticks.”

To date, Biden only has laughed off the attacks. During a recent appearance on Fox News Sunday, the former vice president was asked to respond to a clip of Trump saying that he would “be sitting in a home someplace” if elected.

“Is that the stable genius saying that?” Biden shot back.

Research contact: @politico

Empty stadiums and no babies to kiss? Coronavirus becomes 2020 ‘X Factor’

March 3, 2020

Fears of coronavirus are prompting soccer teams to play in empty stadiums in Italy. If the virus spreads, it’s not hard to imagine rallies for this year’s U.S. presidential campaign looking much the same, Politico reports.

Will the candidates—most of whom are age 70-plus—plucky enough to continue to enthusiastically dive into crowds to shake hands with potential voters, kiss babies, and organize selfie lines?

And will the American electorate show up? Not to mention the tens of thousand of people set to descend on Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Charlotte, North Carolina, this summer for the two major party conventions.

“There’s been nothing like this,” Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime Democratic strategist based in New York, told Politico.

If the coronavirus spreads throughout the United States, he said, “We’re going to go through a period, obviously, where public health officials and experts are going to say no shaking hands, no public contact … We may be witnessing an era where television, or more so, social media, becomes the means to campaign in a coronavirus world.”

To most campaign observers, the likelihood of any widespread disruption of the primary remains dim. But if the virus does spread, the mechanical implications for campaigns could be profound.

In the case of an outbreak, Boyd Brown, a former South Carolina lawmaker and former Democratic National Committee member, told the political news outlet, “It’s going to be tough. I’m watching [TV] right now and they’re stoking fears, they’re coming live from face mask manufacturing facilities.”

In South Carolina this week, Mike Bloomberg said the “stock market’s falling apart because people are really worried, and they should be.” Joe Biden pointed to his experience helping respond to the Ebola epidemic, while Elizabeth Warren accused the White House of “absolutely bungling” its response to the disease.

At a breakfast in South Carolina on Friday, Bernie Sanders ripped into Trump, saying that instead of campaigning in the state, he should “worry about the coronavirus rather than disrupting the Democratic primary right here in South Carolina.”

Research contact: @politico

Trump politicizes Supremes: Instructs Sotomayor, Ginsburg to recuse themselves from ‘his’ cases

February 26, 2020

President Donald Trump on Tuesday slammed Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, saying both should recuse themselves from cases involving him or his administration, Politico reported.

His comments at a press conference in India — and previous tweets to the same effect —came after Sotomayor criticized the court’s conservative majority for granting a number of the administration’s emergency stay requests.

Most recently, on February 21, the Supreme Court had unveiled a 5-4 decision to allow the Trump Administration to deny entry or green cards to immigrants based on a “wealth test,” claiming that low-income immigrants were likely to become a “public charge” and use social programs such as food stamps or Medicaid, Rolling Stone reported.

In her dissenting comments on the case (Chad Wolf, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, et. al, v. Cook County, Illinois, et. al.) Justice Sotomayor said the administration has too quickly gone to the Supreme Court to appeal unfavorable decisions made by lower courts, and that by taking the cases, the Supreme Court is “putting a thumb on the scale in favor of” the president.

“Claiming one emergency after another, the government has recently sought stays in an unprecedented number of cases, demanding immediate attention and consuming limited court resources in each,” Sotomayor wrote. “And with each successive application, of course, its cries of urgency ring increasingly hollow.”

“It is hard to say what is more troubling,” she added. “That the government would seek this extraordinary relief seemingly as a matter of course, or that the Court would grant it.”

“Perhaps most troublingly, the Court’s recent behavior on stay applications has benefited one litigant over all others,” Sotomayor wrote in the sharp opinion.

As he always does, the president clapped right back:  “She’s trying to shame people with perhaps a different view into voting her way, and that’s so inappropriate,” Trump said of Sotomayor to reporters.

The president also criticized Ginsburg for her comments during his 2016 campaign, when she called Trump a “faker” who “has no consistency about him” and “really has an ego” to CNN and told The New York Times that “I can’t imagine what the country would be with Donald Trump as our president.”

Trump at the time called on Ginsburg to resign, and she later apologized.

Trump’s call for the two justices to recuse themselves comes as the Supreme Court prepares next month to tackle several issues directly involving the president, Politico noted. On March 31, the court will hear back-to-back oral arguments on cases that ask whether the president must comply with congressional subpoenas for his financial records and whether he is immune from state criminal investigations while serving in the White House.

Research contact: @politico