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This way to the egress. MA


By REX HUPPKE
CHICAGO TRIBUNE |
OCT 05, 2020 AT 11:55 AM

As President Donald Trump continues to battle COVID-19, a number of questions have come up about the accuracy of health updates coming from his medical team and the decision to allow him to take a Sunday SUV ride to wave at supporters outside Walter Reed Medical Center.

As a self-appointed member of President Trump’s nationwide team of citizen-physicians, I want to assure Americans the president is doing unbelievably fantastic and everything you’re hearing about him is accurate.

First, let me share my credentials. I am an almost-graduate of the Central Florida Institute of Therapeutic Clown Medicine and Exotic Dancing and a member in good standing of the Coalition of Ombudsmen Validating Information about Donald, or COVID.

On Sunday, Trump briefly left the hospital with a Secret Service detail in an SUV with windows closed. The president’s motorcade drove past supporters lining the road outside the hospital. He waved and then returned to the hospital.

I want to assure everyone that the excursion was both sensible and medically necessary.

Some so-called medical professionals disagree, including Dr. James Phillips, a doctor affiliated with Walter Reed. He tweeted: “Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days. They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.”

Fact check: FALSE! The last thing patriotic Americans and their president need is Dr. Donnie Downer claiming a COVID Car Ride is a bad idea.

I promise you, one of the leading treatments for COVID-19 is a quick outing or, if feasible, a short boat parade. It allows the infected person to “share the viral load” with healthier, more expendable people, and it also gives the ego a chance to reinflate.

Furthermore, by leaving the hospital for a joyride while suffering from a wildly contagious disease that has killed more than 200,000 Americans and decimated the economy, President Trump modeled sensible behavior that encourages others to put their emotional needs first while ignoring the health of others. Isn’t that what America is all about?

Another area of complaint involves the information White House officials and Trump’s medical team are sharing with the public.

For example, there was confusion Saturday about when exactly the president tested positive for the virus and whether he was given supplemental oxygen.

Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, explained Sunday that he had intentionally delivered vague answers about the health of the leader of the free world because: “I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction.”

Based on my expansive knowledge of medicine (and exotic dancing), I can tell you Conley made the right move. Positive thinking and dishonesty are two of the best ways to defeat a virus, along with gargling bleach, telling other people to take hydroxychloroquine and sticking a week-old russet potato in your ear.

To save Conley and other physicians on Trump’s team from having to waste time updating the stupid media, I offer this summary of President Trump’s medical condition, which will stand until he is fully recovered and back in the White House making American great again:

Glorious God-King Trump continues to exhibit heroic manliness and tonight did many thousands of pushups before donating testosterone to lesser men.

He continues to be the best COVID-19 patient in the world, with many saying he is handling the virus far better than anyone they have ever seen, including former President Barack Obama. (The fact that Obama has never tested positive for the coronavirus is just another sign of his weakness.)

President Trump has had no trouble breathing, and in fact is breathing so well he has been teaching other patients at Walter Reed to breathe better. Many have applauded the president for his generosity and kindness and excellence in teaching breathing. He also has a beautiful singing voice, tremendous strength and weighs 180 pounds.

Since being admitted to the hospital, the president has thrice leapt from his bed shouting, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds!” This is a common part of the COVID-19 recovery.

While the president’s remarkably strong immune system could defeat the virus on its own — and the virus would consider it an honor to be felled by white blood cells of such vitality — doctors are giving President Trump an antibody cocktail made by the pharmaceutical company Regeneron along with remdesivir and dexamethasone. They have also offered a blót, or blood sacrifice, to Magni, the Norse god of strength, but that’s purely a precaution.

He recited the following and asked it be relayed to the American people: “The past and present wilt — I have fill’d them, emptied them. And proceed to fill my next fold of the future. I AM LARGE, I CONTAIN MULTITUDES!”

Also, on Monday morning, the president’s head briefly separated from his body, an expected side effect seen only in the strongest and most handsome of patients.

Is it possible the man in charge of America’s nuclear codes is on oxygen, taking drugs that can affect his mood and judgment and cause hallucinations, or recklessly endangering the lives of Secret Service agents so he can wave at strangers? Well, medically speaking, anything’s possible. But is that really information you want to know? Of course not.

That’s why it’s crucial you rely only on White House officials and the president’s therapeutically fibbing doctor, whose words sound reassuring as long as you don’t think about them too hard.

As a medical (and exotic dancing) expert, I can tell you thinking is VERY unhealthy.

Especially when it involves this administration.

rhuppke@chicagotribune.com

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Could this be a political tactic to suppress the vote? It seems that we must suppose that we are dealing with criminals in suits whose sole objective is to “Bernie Madoff” us, so they can stay in power. WE already know TOTUS is not wealthy but billions in debt to someone. The miscreant Congressional leader(just another hooker) is in bed with who knows who. The vote is our power to correct this debauchery. MA

Ken Alltucker

USA TODAY

0:58

David Rohlfing, a Queens resident and high school English teacher, attended outdoor picnics, an outdoor bar and a Black Lives Matter protest earlier this summer. Though he did not feel sick, he wanted to get tested for COVID-19 before visiting his sister in Connecticut.

On July 6, he was tested at a New York City-run site and was told results could take a week. He checked a patient testing portal every day. On July 23 – 17 days after he took the test – he learned he did not have the disease. 

Now Rohlfing wonders whether there will be enough testing when he returns to the classroom in September. He wants a guarantee he can take a test with quick results if he interacts with an infected student or staffer. If there is no such assurance, and testing has not improved, he might not go back to class.

“I’m not going to do it,” he said. “I will join any effort to not open the schools if that part of the piece is not in place.”

The slow turnaround time for patients like Rohlfing could harm efforts to curtail outbreaks. Professional athletes and private businesses that purchase lab testing can get access to quick tests. Teachers, students and others who rely on traditional retail clinics or doctors’ offices, however, might wait days for results.

Federal officials and private labs acknowledge they must prioritize the nation’s limited supply of coronavirus tests for hospitalized patients, health care workers and other high-risk individuals. But many Americans worried about contracting the sometimes deadly virus often must wait in long lines and several days for results. 

Without a national plan on how to best allocate hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 tests each day, there simply is not enough capacity now to screen Americans who might unwittingly pass the virus to others.

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And some warn the problem will be further strained when universities and K-12 schools resume classes, more companies bring employees back to the workplace and influenza testing spikes this winter.

Dr. Howard Koh, a professor at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and former Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary during the Obama administration, said the testing shortage has created a pattern of unequal access.

“Some privileged parts of our country are getting daily access and others have no access at all,” Koh said. “We’re never going to solve this pandemic until we give everybody access, particularly high-risk groups. That’s the public health principle we always try to follow.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said testing delays are “totally unacceptable” and need to be fixed.

Speaking at a forum hosted Wednesday by the Harvard public health school , Fauci said in some communities “the gap between the time you get the test and the time you get the result, in some respects, obviates the reason why you did the test … We’ve got to correct that.”


A STATEMENT BY FORMER REPUBLICAN NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICIALS

The statement below was issued by over 70 former senior Republican national security officials on August 20, 2020, and 60 additional senior officials have now signed on, including many who served in the Trump Administration.  Since its release, Donald Trump has continued to demonstrate that he is unfit to serve as president, reportedly calling Americans who served in our armed forces “losers” and “suckers,” admitting that he deliberately downplayed the threat from the coronavirus, and, alarmingly, now refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election.

We are former national security officials who served during the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and/or Donald Trump, or as Republican Members of Congress. We are profoundly concerned about the course of our nation under the leadership of Donald Trump. Through his actions and his rhetoric, Trump has demonstrated that he lacks the character and competence to lead this nation and has engaged in corrupt behavior that renders him unfit to serve as President.

For the following reasons, we have concluded that Donald Trump has failed our country and that Vice President Joe Biden should be elected the next President of the United States.

  1. Donald Trump has gravely damaged America’s role as a world leader. Trump has disgraced America’s global reputation and undermined our nation’s moral and diplomatic influence. He has called NATO “obsolete,” branded Europe a “foe,” mocked the leaders of America’s closest friends, and threatened to terminate longstanding US alliances. Other global leaders, friends and foes alike, view him as unreliable, unstable, and unworthy of respect.
  2. Donald Trump has shown that he is unfit to lead during a national crisis. Instead of rallying the American people and the world to confront the coronavirus, Trump has spent the past half year spreading misinformation, undermining public health experts, attacking state and local officials, and wallowing in self-pity. He has demonstrated far greater concern about the fate of his reelection than the health of the American people.
  3. Donald Trump has solicited foreign influence and undermined confidence in our presidential elections. Trump publicly asked Russian president Vladimir Putin to assist his 2016 campaign, called on Chinese president Xi Jinping to “start an investigation” into his current political opponent, and pressured the president of Ukraine to act against his opponent. Citing exaggerated claims of voter fraud, he has challenged the integrity of this year’s election, even suggesting that it be postponed.
  4. Donald Trump has aligned himself with dictators and failed to stand up for American values. Trump has regularly praised the actions of dictators and human rights abusers. He proclaimed his “love” and “great respect” for North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un, endorsed “brilliant leader” Xi Jinping’s move to serve as China’s president for life, repeatedly sided with Vladimir Putin against our own intelligence community, and pronounced himself a “big fan” of Turkish president Recep Erdogan despite his crackdown on democracy.
  5. Donald Trump has disparaged our armed forces, intelligence agencies, and diplomats. Trump has attacked Gold Star families, scoffed at American prisoners of war, interfered in the military justice system, and embroiled our military in domestic politics. He has ridiculed US intelligence agencies and falsely branded our nation’s diplomats as the “deep state.”
  6. Donald Trump has undermined the rule of law. Trump has compromised the independence of the Department of Justice, repeatedly attacked federal judges, and punished government officials who have sought to uphold the law. To protect himself from accountability, he has fired officials who launched investigations or testified against him, threatened whistleblowers, dangled pardons as incentives to stay silent, and blocked prison time for a political crony convicted of lying on his behalf. He has impugned journalists investigating his misconduct and has repeatedly denounced the press as the “enemy of the people.”
  7. Donald Trump has dishonored the office of the presidency. Trump engages in childish name-calling, mocks the disabled, belittles women, persistently lies, peddles baseless conspiracy theories, and continually embarrasses Americans in the eyes of the world.
  8. Donald Trump has divided our nation and preached a dark and pessimistic view of America. Trump consistently seeks to incite political, racial, and ethnic divisions, weakening our nation and delighting our adversaries. In contrast to Reagan’s vision of America as a “shining city on a hill,” Trump speaks of “American carnage,” pits Americans against each other, and stokes fears that “angry mobs” and “anarchists” are destroying our country.
  9. Donald Trump has attacked and vilified immigrants to our country. Trump routinely denigrates immigrants and inflames prejudices as he seeks support for his reelection. Despite America’s legacy as a nation of immigrants, he has demonized Americans who come from other countries, even telling members of Congress whose families immigrated to the United States to “go back” to the “crime-infested places” from which they came.
  10. Donald Trump has imperiled America’s security by mismanaging his national security team. Trump has dismissed or replaced — often by tweet — the secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, the Attorney General, the Directors of National Intelligence and the FBI, three National Security Advisors, and other senior officials in critical national security positions, many because they refused to cover for his misdeeds or demonstrate sufficient personal loyalty.

While we – like all Americans – had hoped that Donald Trump would govern wisely, he has disappointed millions of voters who put their faith in him and has demonstrated that he is dangerously unfit to serve another term.

In contrast, we believe Joe Biden has the character, experience, and temperament to lead this nation. We believe he will restore the dignity of the presidency, bring Americans together, reassert America’s role as a global leader, and inspire our nation to live up to its ideals.

While some of us hold policy positions that differ from those of Joe Biden and his party, the time to debate those policy differences will come later. For now, it is imperative that we stop Trump’s assault on our nation’s values and institutions and reinstate the moral foundations of our democracy.

To that end, we are firmly convinced that it is in the best interest of our nation that Vice President Joe Biden be elected as the next President of the United States, and we will vote for him.


  • Adm. Steve AbbotFmr Dep Homeland Security Advisor
  • Kenneth AdelmanFmr Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
  • Amb. Peter AllgeierFmr Deputy US Trade Representative
  • Mary Catherine AndrewsFmr Special Asst to the President
  • Richard ArmitageFmr Deputy Secretary of State
  • Christopher BartonFmr Director, NSC Staff
  • Nancy BeargFmr Senior Director, NSC Staff
  • John BellingerFmr Legal Adviser, Dept of State
  • Adm. Kenneth BernardFmr Special Asst to the President
  • Mark BittermanFmr Special Asst to the Secretary of Defense
  • Amb. Robert BlackwillFmr Deputy National Security Advisor
  • Christian BonatFmr Dep General Counsel, Defense Dept
  • Amb. Richard BoucherFmr Asst Secretary of State
  • Amb. Charles BowersFmr US Ambassador
  • Bertram BraunFmr Director, NSC Staff
  • Amb. Peter BridgesFmr US Ambassador
  • Douglas BrookFmr Asst Secretary of the Army
  • Linton BrooksFmr Under Secretary of Energy
  • Greg BrowerFmr Asst Director of the FBI
  • Kara BueFmr Dep Asst Secretary of State
  • Amb. Richard BurtFmr US Ambassador to Germany
  • Sally CanfieldFmr Dep Chief of Staff, Dept of Homeland Security
  • Victor ChaFmr Director, NSC Staff
  • Amb. Jack ChowFmr Dep Asst Secretary of State
  • Thomas ChristensenFmr Dep Asst Secretary of State
  • Eliot CohenFmr Counselor of the Dept of State
  • Joseph CollinsFmr Dep Asst Secretary of Defense
  • Heather ConleyFmr Dep Asst Secretary of State
  • Bret CoulsonFmr Director, NSC Staff
  • Chester CrockerFmr Asst Secretary of State
  • Patrick CroninFmr Asst Administrator, USAID
  • Amb. Sada CumberFmr US Special Envoy to the OIC​
  • Mike DonleyFmr Secretary of the Air Force
  • Raymond DuBoisFmr Acting Under Secretary of the Army
  • Lewis DunnFmr Asst Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
  • Amb. Eric EdelmanFmr Under Secretary of Defense
  • Gary EdsonFmr Deputy National Security Advisor
  • Richard FalkenrathFmr Dep Asst to the President
  • Amb. Julie FinleyFmr US Ambassador
  • Carl FordFmr Asst Secretary of State
  • Aaron FriedbergFmr Dep Asst to the Vice President
  • William GachesFmr Director of Counterterrorism, NSA
  • Janice GardnerFmr Asst Secretary of the Treasury
  • John GardnerFmr Special Asst to the President
  • Amb. James GlassmanFmr Under Secretary of State
  • Amb. Jon GlassmanFmr Dep National Security Advisor to the Vice President
  • David GordonFmr Director, State Dept, Policy Planning
  • Colleen GraffyFmr Dep Asst Secretary of State
  • Michael GreenFmr Senior Director, NSC Staff
  • Sen. Chuck HagelFmr Secretary of Defense and US Senator
  • Christopher HankinFmr Dep Asst Secretry of State
  • Mark HarveyFmr Special Asst to the President
  • Gen. Michael HaydenFmr Director of the CIA and the NSA
  • Amb. Carla HillsFmr US Trade Representative
  • Seth HurwitzFmr Counsel, President’s Intelligence Oversight Board
  • Ash JainFmr Member, State Dept Policy Planning
  • Les JankaFmr Dep Asst Secretary of Defense
  • Neil JoeckFmr Director, NSC Staff
  • Amb. Richard KauzlarichFmr Dep Asst Secretary of State
  • James KellyFmr Asst Secretary of State
  • Donald KerrFmr Princ Dep Director of National Intelligence
  • Rep. Jim KolbeFmr Member of Congress
  • David KramerFmr Asst Secretary of State
  • Stephen KrasnerFmr Director, State Dept Policy Planning
  • Ken KriegFmr Under Secretary of Defense
  • James KunderFmr Deputy Administrator, USAID
  • Amb. Frank LavinFmr Under Secretary of Commerce
  • Rep. Jim LeachFmr Member of Congress
  • Bruce LemkinFmr Dep Under Secretary of the Air Force
  • Michael LeiterFmr Director, National Counterterrorism Ctr
  • Peter LichtenbaumFmr Asst Secretary of Commerce
  • Amb. Winston LordFmr US Ambassador
  • James LoyFmr Dep Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Peter MadiganFmr Dep Asst Secretary State
  • Amb. Steven MannFmr Prin Dep Asst Secretary of State
  • Col. John McDonaldFmr Dep Under Secretary of the Army
  • Bryan McGrathFormer US Navy Officer
  • Amb. Michael McKinleyFmr US Ambassador
  • Christopher MellonFmr Dep Asst Secretary of Defense
  • David MerkelFmr Dep Asst Secretary of State
  • John MitnickFmr General Counsel, Department of Homeland Security
  • Allen MooreFmr Under Secretary of Commerce
  • Alberto MoraFmr Gen Counsel, Dept of the Navy
  • Holly MorrowFmr Director, NSC Staff
  • Kenneth MortensenFmr Assoc Dep Attorney General
  • Virginia MulbergerFmr Special Asst to the President
  • Alden MunsonFmr Dep Director of National Intelligence
  • Amb. John NegroponteFmr Director of National Intelligence, and Fmr Deputy Secretary of State
  • Elizabeth NeumannFmr Asst Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Sean O’KeefeFmr Secretary of the Navy and NASA Administrator
  • Douglas PaalFmr Senior Director, NSC Staff
  • Larry PfeifferFmr Chief of Staff, CIA
  • William PiekneyFmr Chief of Station, CIA
  • Daniel PriceFmr Dep National Security Advisor
  • Sen. Larry PresslerFmr US Senator
  • Clyde PrestowitzFmr Counselor to the Secretary of Commerce
  • Victor ReisFmr Director, Defense Adv Research Projects Agency
  • Paul RosenzweigFmr Dep Asst Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Nicholas RostowFmr NSC Legal Adviser
  • Kori SchakeFmr Prin Dep Director, State Dept Policy Planning
  • Wayne SchroederFmr Dep Under Secretary of Defense
  • Amb. Gregory SchulteFmr Senior Director, NSC Staff
  • Robert ShanksFmr Dep Asst Attorney General
  • Amb. Thomas ShannonFmr Under Secretary of State
  • Rep. Christopher ShaysFmr Member of Congress
  • John SimonFmr Senior Director, NSC Staff
  • Stephen SlickFmr Senior Director, NSC Staff
  • Amb. Mark StorellaFmr US Ambassador
  • Timothy StratfordFmr Asst US Trade Representative
  • Amb. William TaftFmr Deputy Secretary of Defense
  • Shirin Tahir-KheliFmr Special Asst to the President
  • Miles TaylorFmr Chief of Staff, Dept of Homeland Security
  • William TobeyFmr Dep Administrator, Nat Nuclear Security Admin
  • Jack TomarchioFmr Princ Dep Under Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Olivia TroyeFmr Special Advisor to the Vice President
  • Amb. Robert TuttleFmr US Ambassador to the United Kingdom
  • John VeroneauFmr Dep US Trade Representative
  • Michael VickersFmr Under Secretary of Defense
  • Ken WainsteinFmr Homeland Security Advisor
  • David WallerFmr Asst Secretary of Energy
  • Thomas WardFmr Director of Threats, Ballistic Missile Defense Organization
  • Sen. John WarnerFmr US Senator
  • Matthew WaxmanFmr Prin Dep Director, State Dept Policy Planning
  • William WebsterFmr Director of the CIA and FBI
  • Wendell Willkie IIFmr General Counsel, Dept of Commerce
  • John WoodworthFmr Dep Asst Secretary of Defense
  • John WolfFmr Asst Secretary of State
  • Dov ZakheimFmr Under Secretary of Defense
  • Philip ZelikowFmr Counselor of the Dept of State

If you are a national security official who worked for a Republican administration and are supporting Vice President Biden in November, we urge you to join us. Please get in touch at natsec@defendingdemocracytogether.org

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Trump Didn’t Disclose First Positive Covid-19 Test While Awaiting a Second Test on Thursday

An example of Presidential Mortification-no regard for anyone other than himself. MA

Michael C. Bender, Rebecca Ballhaus  11 hrs ago

WASHINGTON—President Trump didn’t disclose a positive result from a rapid test for Covid-19 on Thursday while awaiting the findings from a more thorough coronavirus screening, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Trump received a positive result on Thursday evening before making an appearance on Fox News in which he didn’t reveal those results. Instead, he confirmed earlier reports that one of his top aides had tested positive for coronavirus and mentioned the second test he had taken that night for which he was awaiting results.

“I’ll get my test back either tonight or tomorrow morning,” Mr. Trump said during the interview. At 1 a.m. on Friday, the president tweeted that he indeed had tested positive.

Under White House protocols, the more reliable test that screens a specimen from deeper in the nasal passage is administered only after a rapid test shows a positive reading. Based on people familiar with the matter, the president’s tests followed that protocol.

As the virus spread among the people closest to him, Mr. Trump also asked one adviser not to disclose results of their own positive test. “Don’t tell anyone,” Mr. Trump said, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

Mr. Trump and his top advisers also aimed to keep such a close hold on the early positive results that his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, didn’t know that Hope Hicks, one of the president’s closest White House aides, had tested positive on Thursday morning until news reports later that evening, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Trump campaign said Friday evening that Mr. Stepien had tested positive.

The initial secrecy within Mr. Trump’s inner circle has created a sense of anxiety within the West Wing. Publicly, the White House has issued evolving and contradictory statements about the president’s health that has some officials worried about their own credibility.

“I’m glued to Twitter and TV because I have no official communication from anyone in the West Wing,” an administration official said.

The White House didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment.

The lack of clear communication about who was getting the virus has extended to reports on the president’s status as he undergoes treatment.

At a press briefing Saturday, the president, who has been hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center since Friday, watched as the White House physician, Dr. Sean Conley, told reporters that his symptoms were improving. Minutes later, Mr. Trump grew alarmed when another person familiar with the situation warned reporters that Mr. Trump’s recent condition had been concerning. An angry president quickly dialed an adviser from his hospital room.

“Who the f— said that?” Mr. Trump demanded, according to a person familiar with the call. The Associated Press later identified the person as White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

The president’s doctors said Sunday that his condition was improving and that he could be discharged from the hospital as soon as Monday, but also said he was taking a steroid typically recommended for serious cases.

That fast-moving revelations began Thursday evening when Mr. Trump confirmed on Fox News that one of his closest aides, Hope Hicks, had tested positive that day, and said: “I just heard about this.” CBS News first reported that by that point, Mr. Trump had received his own positive result on a rapid test.

But Ms. Hicks had learned about her own positive test result that morning, and the information was kept to a tight circle of advisers, according to people familiar with the matter. Ms. Hicks’s positive test results were first reported by Bloomberg News later that evening. The White House offered no official statement on Ms. Hope’s positive test.

Mr. Stepien and the rest of the Trump campaign first learned of Ms. Hicks’ positive test from Bloomberg News, and weren’t consulted on whether to proceed with a Thursday trip to New Jersey, a campaign official said.

The White House has said the operations team deemed the trip safe. The president had tested negative on a rapid test that morning, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Meadows has said the White House learned of Ms. Hicks’ results right as Marine One was leaving for New Jersey, and said the administration pulled some advisers off the trip. The president left the White House just after 1 p.m. that day.

The decision not to cancel the New Jersey trip drew swift criticism from health experts. Lisa M. Lee, a public-health expert specializing in infectious-disease epidemiology and public-health ethics at Virginia Tech University, said “holding the [Bedminster] event in spite of knowing that one of the team was infected and had exposed others was a recipe for spreading disease.”

White House officials said their medical team is conducting contact tracing for staff that have tested positive, but uncertainty has also been infused into that process, people familiar with the matter said. Contact tracing is a crucial step, public health experts have said, to stem the spread of infectious disease.

That process is gaining importance since Mr. Trump and his senior advisers spent most of last week following their normal schedule rarely using other tools—safe distance and masks—to keep the virus at bay. In some instances, protocols were followed. At the New Jersey events, attendees had to test negative, complete a wellness questionnaire and pass a temperature screening. Guests were kept 6 feet from the president.

Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, said on Friday that he learned about the initial positive tests at the White House on Thursday through news reports. No one had contacted him even though he had spent much of the past week with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Christie tested positive for the virus on Saturday, he said on Twitter, and a few hours later checked himself into Morristown Medical Center.

Mr. Christie was part of a debate preparation team that met with Mr. Trump the morning of Sept. 26, which included Ms. Hicks, former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and Mr. Stepien. All four have since tested positive. The White House typically administers a rapid test to anyone who will be close to the president.

Others who participated in the debate practices have reported negative Covid-19 tests, including former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Jason Miller, a senior campaign adviser. Mr. Giuliani said he learned of Ms. Hicks’ positive test from news reports, though he received a call from Mr. Meadows when the president tested positive.

Mr. Christie and Ms. Conway were among hundreds of guests later that afternoon at a White House event where Mr. Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his latest Supreme Court nominee. Few of the guests wore masks as they were seated shoulder-to-shoulder in the Rose Garden or congregated inside the White House, where an ad hoc reception line emerged at one point as guests waited to meet Judge Barrett or take pictures together. Several other guests have since tested positive.

Minnesota state Rep. Kurt Daudt said Saturday he was awaiting a Covid-19 test after greeting Mr. Trump at the Minneapolis airport on Wednesday. Mr. Daudt and other greeters had been tested before meeting the president, and were instructed not to shake hands with him or get close to him, but when the president came down the stairs from the plane, he offered to take photos.

“You’ve been tested, right?” Mr. Trump said, according to Mr. Daudt.

Several of the greeters posed for photos with the president, with some standing less than a foot away from him, according to photos from the event. None wore a mask. Mr. Trump then attended a fundraiser at the home of Mike Davis, owners of a quartz countertop company, according to his campaign schedule.

Ms. Hicks had fallen ill by the time Air Force One departed Minneapolis for a campaign rally in Duluth, a person familiar with the matter said. She isolated herself from other aides for the short flight and again on the return flight home to Washington that night.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany held a news conference with reporters Thursday morning, unaware that her colleague had tested positive earlier that day, a personal familiar with the matter said. She had traveled with Ms. Hicks on Wednesday and Tuesday.

After she finished the briefing, and around 45 minutes before the president left for New Jersey, she was told she was no longer included in White House entourage flying with the president that afternoon to a fundraiser in Bedminster, New Jersey, but not given a reason why, according to the same person. She didn’t learn until later that afternoon that Ms. Hicks had tested positive, the person said.

Write to Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com and Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com

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By NEIL RIDGELY

CARROLL COUNTY TIMES |

AUG 03, 2020 AT 5:15 AM

Assessing the events of each passing day lately, I’ve pondered the question, “Have we finally hit the bottom of the barrel with the current president’s outrageous behavior, lying, speech, and tweets?”

I cringe when I read thoughtful conservative writers like George Will describe these times as “a national mortification” and “a national nightmare” and David Brooks as our president having prompted “a national humiliation” of a country now led by a person who’s devoid of empathy; concerned only with feeding his narcissism at any cost.00:1811:05

I thought we’d surely hit the bottom of Trump’s behavior when he used his position and the Oval Office to endorse cans of beans and seasonings produced by one of his large campaign contributors. No president before him has so defiled his office and the dignity of the place that is symbolic as the seat of the power of the presidency and the nation; a place where many pieces of historic legislation have been signed, a place used frequently to greet leaders of the world’s nations and negotiate with them. Only in third-world backwater countries would such a stunt be performed. It is one worthy of Philippine dictator Rodrigo Duerte.

Within a week of the above outrage I was proven wrong when we hit the bottoming out of the bottom of all bottoms when Trump sic’d his Department of Homeland Security federalistas upon the streets of Portland. Using the shield of the Department of Justice he’s sent federal agents from at least four divisions to violently police the city streets of a major U.S. city; then he threatened to do so again on the basis of a governor’s or mayor’s political party; both a violation of his oath of office and the Constitution.

President Bone Spurs has decided to pour gasoline on the embers of tensions felt throughout cities across the country by using the ill-trained DHS troops that he has at his disposal to go beyond their appointed duties.

These “agents” in camouflage are not accustomed or trained to deal with urban unrest. Only the Federal Protective Service is charged with protecting federal buildings and monuments. The FPS’s presence in Portland is understandable if confined to their limited mission and so long as they do not use any of its 13,000 contract mercenaries to enforce local laws

Personnel from ICE and Customs and Border Protection patrolling the streets of any city is using them for jobs that they did not sign on for. Both agencies are welcome help when requested by local authorities to help combat organized crime, human trafficking and the illegal gun and narcotics trade that are eroding our cities. DHS specialized agents are normally assigned to engage in low-grade warfare against heavily armed narco-terrorists; not provide civil patrol upon the streets of our country. As stands now they are accepting illegal orders by detaining civilians without a pronounced charge; and having both clear rules of engagement and the invitation of the local government.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge recently reminded us that the DHS was established to “protect the country from the ever present threat of global terrorism; it was not created to be the President’s personal militia. The federal government has no mandate to enforce local, criminal laws.

This self-serving president has intentionally managed to turn protests in the cause of Black Lives Matter into protests of the federal troops dressed in combat regalia and armed to the teeth with weapons intended for war against foreign enemies.

Those so-called protesters damaging and defacing property, looting, and hurling anything other than words at any law enforcement officer need to be constrained by the legitimate protesters who they disservice.

On the other hand, Trump is using DHS agents as his storm troopers because he can dictate to a political Secretary of DHS to lap up his ill-conceived orders whereas those managing our professional armed forces know the legal boundaries of their missions and would balk at performing his illegal directives.

It is up to the U.S. citizens to recognize this as a time for “Good Trouble” as the late John Lewis characterized the non-violent civil rights protests of the previous century. It is time for people of all color and political stripe to draw the line in the sand at Portland’s border. We cannot turn away from Trump’s bottoming out of our country to embellish his rapidly deteriorating political agenda at the cost of our civil liberties.

Neil Ridgely writes from Finksburg.

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EXCLUSIVE

Seema Verma, a member of the coronavirus task force, spent more than $3.5 million taxpayer dollars on GOP-aligned consultants, a congressional report found.

By DAN DIAMOND and ADAM CANCRYN

09/10/2020 05:00 AM EDT

Updated: 09/10/2020 04:28 PM EDT

When Seema Verma, the Trump administration’s top Medicaid official, went to a reporter’s home in November 2018 for a “Girl’s Night” thrown in her honor, taxpayers footed the bill to organize the event: $2,933.

When Verma wrote an op-ed on Fox News’ website that fall, touting President Donald Trump’s changes to Obamacare, taxpayers got charged for one consultant’s price to place it: $977.

And when consultants spent months promoting Verma to win awards like Washingtonian magazine’s “Most Powerful Women in Washington” and appear onhigh-profile panels, taxpayers got billed for that too: more than $13,000.

The efforts were steered by Pam Stevens, a Republican communications consultant and former Trump administration official working to raise the brand of Verma, who leads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The prices were the amount a consulting company billed the government for her services, based on her invoices, which were obtained by congressional Democrats.

They are among the revelations included in a sweeping congressional investigation chronicling how Verma spent more than $3.5 million on a range of GOP-connected consultants, who polished her public profile, wrote her speeches and Twitter posts, brokered meetings with high-profile individuals — and even billed taxpayers for connectingVerma with fellow Republicans in Congress.

The 49-year-old Verma, who advised then-Gov. Mike Pence in Indiana on health policy before joining the Trump administration, has strongly rejected any suggestion of wrongdoing in her consulting practices. In October 2019, she told a House committee that “all the contracts we have at CMS are based on promoting the work of CMS” and the spending was “consistent with how the agency has used resources in the past.”

But the probe — conducted by Democrats across four congressional committees — found that Verma surrounded herself with a rotating cast of at least 15 highly paid communications consultants during her first two years in office, even as she publicly called for fiscal restraint and championed policies like work requirements for Americans on Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income people.

“Verma and her top aides abused the federal contracting process to Administrator Verma’s benefit and wasted millions of taxpayer dollars,” the Democrats concludedin a 53-page summary of the investigation, which was shared with POLITICO and was released on Thursday.

Verma declined to comment through the health department’s top spokesperson, Michael Caputo, who described the report as “another reckless drive-by election year hit job.”

“The CMS Administrator will continue her unprecedented efforts to transform the American healthcare system to ensure health policy innovation drives public discussion — not purposefully timed political attacks,” Caputo said in a statement.

Stevens declined to address the specific line items in her invoices, but said in a statement thata top consultingfirm, Porter Novelli, “asked me to put together a plan to educate media about CMS’s work through meetings with the CMS Administrator. I was then asked to facilitate meetings with some of the organizations in the plan as well as with thought leaders. That was the extent of my work.”

A spokesperson for Porter Novelli declined comment until the organization could review the Democrats’ report.

The congressional committees’ investigation, which spanned 18 months, found that the consultants worked directly for Verma and her top officials — an unusual arrangement that gave some of them broad power over CMS’ daily activities and policy planning and access at times to sensitive nonpublic information. Other contractors, meanwhile, racked up hefty expenses as Verma’s personal drivers and press aides; during a two-day trip to New York City in September 2018, contractors filed for almost $8,900 in reimbursements, including stays in a hotel that cost more than $500 per room per night, the report found.

The consultants separately spent eight months refining and implementing a plan intended to “highlight and promote Seema Verma leadership and accomplishment,” according to one draft of the plan, which formed the backbone of a concerted effort to secure major interviews, speaking opportunities and awards, at a cost billed to taxpayers that stretched into the tens of thousands of dollars.

While CMS has previously downplayed the “executive visibility” proposal as conceived by contractors and filled with recommendations that were mostly ignored, the congressionalcommittees found thatVerma’s aides at the health department were regularly briefed on the plan. Meanwhile, consultants pursued its objectives, such as having Verma contend for Glamour Magazine’s “Woman of the Year” award and network with brand-building organizations like Girlboss.

Consultants also charged the health department hundreds of dollars to set up each of Verma’s off-record conversations with reporters, pundits and influencers, such as billing taxpayers $837 to arrange Verma’s lunch with Marc Siegel, a Fox News contributor, and $209 for a conversation with then-Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.). The consultantsalso billed taxpayers at least $1,117 for arranging Verma’s profile in AARP’s magazine and at least $3,400 to coordinate Verma’s appearance on POLITICO’s “Women Rule” podcast.

Meanwhile, Verma and her aides frequently shared market-sensitive proposals with her hand-picked team of GOP contractors before announcing the information publicly — in one case, about three months before the agency’s proposed rules were publicly issued, investigators found. That information, containing key details about Verma’s plan to overhaul the $15 billion electronic health record market, was shared with contractors in mid-November 2018 in hopes of pitching CNN’s Sanjay Gupta to do a story. Federal officials raised concerns that the information should not be shared, with Verma’s top aide warning in an email that she was “fairly concerned about giving this much info prior to a rollout.” The rules weren’t issued until Feb. 11, 2019.

Taken together, the investigation offers the most detailed window yet into Verma’s extensive reliance on outside consultants during her time atop CMS — a practice first reported by POLITICO and which the health department’s inspector general found in July broke federal contracting rules.

The report draws on roughly 10,000 pages of documents obtained by congressional staff from the Trump administration’s health department, including some of Verma’s emails. The Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce, House Oversight, Senate Finance and Senate HELP committees also reviewed extensive billing records and other documents provided by consultants to CMS.

Those documents, Democrats said, demonstrate the degree to which Verma has leaned on expensive outside contractors from her first days as CMS chief — a group that included Marcus Barlow, who previously served as a spokesperson for Verma’s health consulting firm, as well as longtime GOP consultant Brett O’Donnell and a public relations firm co-led by Trump’s former transition team director, Ken Nahigian.

That firm, Nahigian Strategies, billed for nearly $3 million in taxpayer funds from CMS for aiding Verma, the Democrats found. The contracts were halted in April 2019, after POLITICO’s investigation.

“Congress did not intend for taxpayer dollars to be spent on handpicked communications consultants used to promote Administrator Verma’s public profile and personal brand,” Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a joint statement. “Administrator Verma has shown reckless disregard for the public’s trust. We believe she should personally reimburse the taxpayers for these inappropriate expenditures.”

The four committee leaders on Thursday asked the Government Accountability Office to review the payments CMS made to its communications contractors, citing prohibitions on the unauthorized use of appropriated funds for “publicity or propaganda purposes.”

One of the consultants featured in the report pushed back on its findings. Barlow questioned the Democrats’ intentions in conducting the investigation, telling POLITICO that the committees never sought to interview him.

“They didn’t talk to me because they weren’t interested in the truth,” he said. “They were interested in making a political show.”

After this article’s publication, a Nahigian Strategies spokesperson also criticized the investigation, calling it a “narrative in search of a story.”

“It is unfortunate that a small business with a track record of delivering exceptional work to Democratic and Republican administrations in agencies across the federal government over the past 20 years has been treated in such a partisan manner with such disregard for the facts,” the spokesperson said.

O’Donnell declined to comment.

Announcing Medicaid work requirements

The Democrats’ investigation reveals how an effort to plug holes early in the Trump administration swelled into an operation that ran for more than two years, as Verma’s aides repeatedly sought out communications experts and then looked for ways to cover their costs.

The Medicaid chief initially turned to consultants like O’Donnell and Barlow as she was settling into her role in early 2017, seeking communications advice and having been blocked by the White House from hiring Barlow as an agency staffer. Over time, those consultants and others became crucial parts of agency operations by helping shape major Trump administration health priorities, with Verma leaning on them to manage policy announcements and craft her messaging, such as her talking points on repealing and replacing Obamacare in 2017.

Barlow, O’Donnell and Nahigian also advised CMS as the agency readied its rollout of new work requirements for Medicaid in early 2018 — a key plank of Trump’s health agenda. In one initiative, the three men helped write an op-ed touting Medicaid work requirements that would ultimately be published in The Washington Post under Verma’s name. Among their duties: incorporating feedback from the White House on a draft of the article and pitching headline ideas, according to emails obtained in the investigation. Nahigian “carried most of the water on this,” Barlow wrote in one Sunday night email, as the men and CMS officials deliberated about edits.

Meanwhile,Barlow and Nahigian weighed in on the wording of the CMS press release officially announcing the Medicaid work requirements. And on the day before the agency went public with the policy, a senior CMS official identified O’Donnell to a reporter as “our point person for media” on the topic.

As Verma’s reliance on outside communications experts grew, CMS officials searched for contracting vehicles to pay for consultants who had become trusted advisers to Verma. Emails obtained by the committees show top CMS officials repeatedly seeking ways to cover the cost of O’Donnell, such as moving him between contracts with different firms and exploring ways to keep his services after exhausting the funds available under an existing contract.

But Verma’s reliance on consultants created confusion inside her agency, with the Democrats identifying emails where staff raised questions or concerns about the strategy. Officials in the Health and Human Services department — which technically oversaw Verma and CMS — also appeared to be caught unawares by Verma’s media approach, shaped by her consultants.

The then-HHS chief of staff emailed Verma in August 2017, referencing a New York Times article about an anonymous Trump official who had briefed 20 reporters about the administration’s strategy on the Affordable Care Act, with the official referencing her perspective as a “mom” with “two kids.” The description fit Verma, and four people with knowledge of the episode told POLITICO that Verma and her communications advisers had organized the media briefing.

“The article below is causing an uproar internally,” HHS chief Lance Leggitt wrote to Verma. “Any clue who this [is]?” Verma forwarded the email to O’Donnell with no comment.

O’Donnell himself would be gone from CMS by February 2018, shortly after an episode where he clashed with a reporter for health care publicationModern Healthcare who Verma believed had misrepresented the departure of one of her aides.

In an email to O’Donnell and her aides on Jan. 23, Verma instructed them to “take the strongest action possible with [the reporter’s] editors.” The following day, O’Donnell warned the reporter’s editor that “short of fully correcting the piece we will not be able to include your outlet in further press calls with CMS,” and the reporter later said he was removed from a Feb. 1 press call.

While the agency at the time denied that the reporter was banned, O’Donnell and CMS officials did strategize to remove him, the Democrats concluded, pointing to emails obtained in their investigation. “Modern Healthcare needs to come off the call list for today,” Brady Brookes, Verma’s deputy chief of staff at the time, wrote in an email on Feb. 1.

O’Donnell departed the agency just days afterward amid growing scrutiny ofhis role as an adviser to Verma, with a CMS spokesperson saying that they had decided not to renew his contract.

‘A shadow operation’

By mid-2018, Verma’s team was againhunting for a specialist to boost her communications strategy — specifically, an expertwho could get “more media” for Verma, according to one official’s email obtained by the Democrats. Verma’s own aides intentionally sought out Stevens, a well-regarded communications expert who specialized in promoting Republican women, and helped initiate the plan to hire her.

“Just remember that people like this are expensive per hour,” a senior CMS communications official warned Brookes in a July 24 email, as officials strategized over how to bring on Stevens. The agency would ultimately spend about $115,000 on Stevens’ services, as she tried to broker conversations between Verma and well-known Washington reporters, booked media appearances for Verma with conservative outletsand even tried toset up a meeting between Verma and then-White House communications director Bill Shine.

Stevens also adopted novel strategies to boost Verma’s profile. Between October and November 2018, she arranged a “Girl’s Night” to honor Verma, according to Stevens’ billing records obtained by the committee. The off-the-record event was intended for media personalities and prominent women and was hosted at the home of USA Today reporter Susan Page. In documents obtained by the committee, Stevens described the event as a networking opportunity for Verma, although the evening carried a pricey tab: Taxpayers were ultimately charged nearly $3,000 to cover Stevens’ costs in arranging the event.

A USA Today spokesperson said that Page was not personally reimbursed for the event or aware that CMS had been billed, and that she paid over $4,000 from her own pocket to cover catering and other costs of the reception. The evening was intended “to honor women on both sides of the aisle doing notable things,” said spokesperson Chrissy Terrell, adding that it fell “well within the ethical standards that our journalists are expected to uphold.”

But as Stevens created new opportunities for Verma, her tactics confused other consultants and some of the bookings unsettled the administrator herself, according to emails uncovered in Democrats’ investigation. After Stevens booked Verma on several political radio shows in early December 2018, leading to uncomfortable questions about partisan politics, one consultant recommended to Brookes in an email that Stevens could be used just for “profile pieces and softballs” in the future.

“I think moving forward, we would rather have a small market or station that may be less risky as to not upset the Administrator if things go off topic,” a Porter Novelli consultant wrote.

Meanwhile, Verma’s other consultants continued to craft pricey media opportunities for Verma, billing the agency for a $13,856 video shoot for a two-minute “eMedicare” video that was published in October 2018 and included a $450 charge for Verma’s makeup artist.

Consultants accompanied Verma even when traveling to events where they told Democratic investigators that no media were present, like Verma’s October 2018 trip to York, Pa., that featured a driver from Nahigian Strategies and two other consultants, according to an itinerary obtained by Democrats.

“The size of Administrator Verma’s travel entourage appears to be a particularly questionable use of taxpayer dollars given the high rates charged by Nahigian Strategies for logistical tasks such as driving and event labor on these trips,” the Democrats’ report notes.

By early 2019, Verma’s handpicked team of communications consultants had swelled to include multiple consultants who were booking media appearances and strategizing on her remarks, and even three speechwriters — an arrangement that Democrats characterized as “a shadow operation that sidelined CMS’s Office of Communications in favor of the handpicked consultants.”

Inside Verma’ agency, career officials were finding reasons to complain, too.

“This has been chaos for a number of reasons,” Johnathan Monroe, a career civil servant who helped lead the agency’s media relations team, wrote to CMS colleagues in January 2019, according to an email obtained by Democrats.

In his message, Monroe detailed how Stevens’ independent work had led to duplicated efforts and confusion inside the agency. “The fact that we have managed this much is a testament to how hard [the communications office] has been working to help correct and cope with the chaos,” the CMS official lamented.

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Nick Anderson Comic Strip for September 11, 2020
Clay Bennett Comic Strip for September 11, 2020
Jeff Danziger Comic Strip for September 10, 2020
Ken Catalino Comic Strip for September 11, 2020
Mike Luckovich Comic Strip for September 11, 2020
Tom Toles Comic Strip for September 11, 2020

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So the Pinocchio team continues to grow. MA

Brett Samuels  3 hrs ago

Pence denies Trump’s downplaying hampered COVID-19 response

Vice President Pence on Thursday denied that the country’s response to the coronavirus was in any way hampered by President Trump repeatedly downplaying the threat from the deadly disease.Mike Pence wearing a suit and tie: Pence denies Trump's downplaying hampered COVID-19 response© Getty Images Pence denies Trump’s downplaying hampered COVID-19 response

“Absolutely not,” Pence said on Fox News when asked if Trump’s public dismissiveness of the virus limited the ability of the U.S. to contain the pandemic.

“His tone was one of projecting calm and confidence,” Pence said. “But I heard him at that podium, I heard him at every setting. We gave the American people the facts.”

The remarks come as the White House grapples with the fallout of audio recordings of the president privately acknowledging the threat of COVID-19 as he publicly downplayed it. The recordings were part of numerous interviews Trump gave to veteran journalist Bob Woodward for an upcoming book.

Pence on Thursday framed Trump as a decisive leader during the pandemic and echoed the president’s own rationale that he did not want to incite panic by portraying the virus as a serious and imminent threat to American lives.

The vice president repeatedly praised Trump for his “historic” decision to bar some incoming travel from China in late January, though he at one point mischaracterized it as suspending all travel.

“I literally believe that the president’s decision to suspend China, the largest mobilization since World War II, and asking the American people to shut down our economy for 45 days to slow the spread to save lives is exactly the kind of presidential leadership that the American people hope for and pray for in times like this,” Pence said.

Pence was tapped in late February to lead the White House coronavirus task force, and he acknowledged to Fox that he was in the Oval Office a month earlier when national security adviser Robert O’Brien told Trump that the emerging coronavirus outbreak would be the most difficult national security challenge of his presidency.

The first excerpts of Woodward’s book, “Rage,” were released Tuesday, along with audio recordings of Trump’s interviews with the author.

In one such recording, Trump said in early February that the virus was “deadly” and could spread through the air. But Trump spent weeks comparing it to the common flu and insisting that it would go away.

The president’s remarks to the Watergate journalist underscored how Trump privately talked about the severity of COVID-19, even as he brushed it off in public remarks in January and February.

“I wanted to, I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” Trump told Woodward in a recording from mid-March.

The president on Wednesday acknowledged that “perhaps” he misled the American public about the severity of the virus in order to reduce panic.

The U.S. has had the highest reported number of infections and deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, and the economy is still climbing out of a recession caused by the outbreak. Majorities of Americans have said in public polling that they disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic and do not trust information he provides about the virus.

Pence on Thursday did not directly respond when asked whether it was a good idea for Trump to participate in extensive interviews with Woodward for the book.

“I ran into Bob Woodward, I think, once in the White House,” Pence said. “I wasn’t aware of the number of times the president spoke to him.”

“I don’t know if there’s ever been a more accessible president of the United States than President Donald Trump,” he added.

Brett Samuels  3 hrs ago


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Trump knew virus danger, but lied anyway









 

 
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By Holly Thomas
 



Thursday, September 10


CONFESSION ON TAPE: TRUMP DOWNPLAYED DEADLY THREAT President Donald Trump knew in early February that the coronavirus was “deadly stuff” and “more deadly than even your strenuous flus,” according to journalist Bob Woodward’s new book “Rage.” But Trump decided to mislead the public anyway, deliberately downplaying the threat and claiming it would go away. Trump defended his behavior in a news conference and in a Fox News interview Wednesday, saying he didn’t want to cause panic. Joe Biden, meanwhile, chastised the president for having “willingly lied” to the American people. [HuffPost]


WOODWARD DEFENDS SITTING ON TAPES FOR MONTHS Bob Woodward, facing widespread criticism for only now revealing Trump’s early concerns about the severity of the coronavirus, said he needed time to be sure that Trump’s private comments from February were accurate. “He tells me this, and I’m thinking … Trump says things that don’t check out, right?” Woodward told the AP. Using a famous phrase from the Watergate era, when Woodward’s reporting for the Post helped lead to President Richard Nixon’s resignation, Woodward said his mission was to determine, “What did he know and when did he know it?” [AP]


REPUBLICANS STILL DEFEND TRUMP AFTER CORONAVIRUS CONFESSION Republican lawmakers defended Trump after the revelation that he knowingly downplayed the threat of the coronavirus, which has resulted in millions of job losses and the deaths of 190,000 Americans. “It doesn’t bother me,” Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota told reporters. “He’s a hopeful, upbeat, positive person.” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina argued that voters should take more heed of Trump’s actions than his rhetoric. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that “The president has never lied to the American public on COVID,” despite the new evidence that he literally did. [HuffPost]
 
 
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Ramsey Touchberry  3 hrs ago


As the White House repeatedly downplayed the state of the pandemic throughout the summer, its own coronavirus task force was quietly sending reports to states that directly contradicted the public remarks offered by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, showed documents that were unveiled Monday by a congressional panel.Donald Trump et al. standing next to a person in a suit and tie: President Donald Trump, with Response coordinator for White House Coronavirus Task Force Deborah Birx (L) and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci (R), speaks on vaccine development on May 15 in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC.© Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty President Donald Trump, with Response coordinator for White House Coronavirus Task Force Deborah Birx (L) and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci (R), speaks on vaccine development on May 15 in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC.

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released eight reports, ranging from June 23 to August 9, from the White House Coronavirus Task Force that were provided to states.

The reports, which were not previously available to the public, show that while Trump and Pence publicly tried to quell fears by saying the resurgence of the virus was “overblown” and that it is “going to disappear,” top health officials within the administration warned “red zone” states about increased spread and advised specific mitigation efforts that often went ignored.

Further, the Democratic-led committee concluded, “many states are still failing to comply with key Task Force recommendations, including some recommendations first made nearly two months ago.”

The panel specifically references four states—Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma—that it said “acknowledged” receiving the private reports and recommendations, yet largely ignored them by not “implementing additional public health measures recommended by the Task Force to stop the spread of the virus.”

The earliest report to states on June 23 stated that seven states were in a “red zone” and that new cases were up by 70 percent in Arizona, 72 percent in Texas, 87 percent in Florida, 93 percent in Oklahoma and 134 percent in Idaho. One week earlier, on June 16, Pence penned an op-ed that “panic is overblown” about a second wave.

A July 5 report stated 15 states were now in the “red zone” and that Florida “has seen a significant increase in new cases and a significant increase in testing positivity over the past week continuing from the previous 4 weeks.” Two days later, on July 7, Trump rebuked a grim assessment by Dr. Anthony Fauci, a task force member and the country’s top infectious disease expert, saying that “we’ve done a good job” and “I think we are going to be in two, three, four weeks, by the time we next speak, I think we’re going to be in very good shape.”

A July 14 report said 19 states were in the “red zone” and that “more testing is needed.” That same day, Trump inaccurately claimed that “no other country tests like us. In fact, I could say it’s working too much. It’s working too well.”

An August 2 report said 23 states were in the “red zone” and warned about the spread in Louisiana, South Carolina and Oklahoma. The week prior, on July 28, Trump told Axios that “it’s under control as much as you can control it.”

“They are dying, that’s true. And you have—it is what it is,” the president continued. “But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can.”

On August 3, Trump tweeted that “cases up because of BIG Testing! Much of our Country is doing very well. Open the Schools!”

An August 9 report showed that 48 states and the District of Columbia were in red or yellow zones.

The congressional panel concluded that many states refused to implement recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force meant to curb the spread.

In a letter to the coronavirus subcommittee, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R), who recently dropped a lawsuit against the Atlanta mayor Kesha Lance Bottoms over a mask mandate, wrote that Americans in both Georgia and the U.S. “grew complacent.”

“Summer holidays coupled with televised protests caused many to let their guard down and abandon guidance provided by public health officials,” Kemp wrote.

In other examples, the committee noted that Florida has declined to initiate a mask mandate, despite the task force’s June 29 advice to do so; Tennessee refused a mask mandate and to close bars and limit restaurant activity in red and yellow zones; and Oklahoma rebuffed the task force’s mask mandate recommendation.

In total, the committee concluded after reviewing the task force reports, “14 states that have been in the ‘red zone’ since June 23 have refused to impose statewide mask mandates per Task Force’s recommendations—including states with severe case spikes like Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee.”

This is a developing story and will be updated with additional information as it becomes available.

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