Trump removes watchdog tapped for $2T virus rescue oversight

Trump removes watchdog tapped for $2T virus rescue oversightPresident Donald Trump has removed the inspector general tapped to chair a special oversight board for the $2.2 trillion economic relief package on the coronavirus, the latest in a series of steps Trump has taken to confront government watchdogs tasked with oversight of the executive branch. In the past four days, Trump has fired one inspector general tied to his impeachment, castigated another he felt was overly critical of the coronavirus response and sidelined a third meant to safeguard against wasteful spending of funds for businesses in economic distress. On Friday, Trump fired Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, and on Monday assailed a health and human services official who criticized the administration's response to the coronavirus crisis.


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Stephanie Grisham out as White House press secretary. Don’t feel bad if you’re asking ‘who?’

Consider it the political version of “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, did it really make a sound?” If a White House press secretary never gives a press briefing, did she really do the job? Yes, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham is on her way out—or anyway, she’s headed back to the East Wing to serve as Melania Trump’s chief of staff.

As White House press secretary, Grisham spent her time going on Fox News or media outlets to the right of Fox. She put her name on statements claiming that impeachment was derailing legislative progress (when really Mitch McConnell’s Senate was derailing legislative progress) and calling for "retribution" against Rep. Adam Schiff. She was forced to backtrack after claiming that Obama aides left mean notes for the incoming Trump administration. She claimed that Donald Trump doesn't tell lies.

Grisham’s qualifications for the job included a history of retaliating against reporters for negative coverage and having lost previous jobs for plagiarism and cheating on expense reports.

Grisham is reportedly leaving the job as part of a shake-up by new White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Names being floated to replace her include campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany; Defense Department spokeswoman Alyssa Farah may also be in line for a communications role. Except it’s not clear if the White House communications department will regain any relevance with Trump still taking the role of head spokesman and changing message on a whim.

Conservative courts order Wisconsin election to proceed—risks to health and democracy be damned

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

Wisconsin: A day of maximal chaos in Wisconsin ended with two conservative courts insisting Tuesday's election go forward and limiting absentee voting, moves that threaten to prevent countless voters from participating and render the results illegitimate.

On Monday afternoon, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order postponing the election—which includes a presidential primary and races for state and local office—to June 9. Republicans, however, have bitterly opposed such a delay and immediately challenged the order before the state Supreme Court. Hours later, the court's four conservatives who heard the case blocked Evers' order, with both liberal justices dissenting. As a result, the state was left with no choice but to proceed with in-person voting Tuesday, despite the serious risks to public health and a crippled elections infrastructure.

Not long thereafter, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an order made last Thursday by a lower court, which said that voters could cast absentee ballots so long as election officials received them by April 13, regardless of when they were postmarked. In a 5-4 ruling—which, like the Wisconsin high court's decision, fell along strictly ideological lines—the court's conservatives ruled that all ballots must be postmarked by April 7.

This means that those who have the misfortune to receive their ballots late—a distinct possibility for many, given the huge surge in requests—now face an impossible choice, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in a dissent: They must either risk their health by voting in person on Tuesday, or disenfranchise themselves by not voting at all. The same holds true for anyone who was unable to request a ballot, as well as the many groups of voters who cannot vote by mail, such as those who are without housing.

Campaign Action

And for those who do choose to head to the polls, they face an elections infrastructure in shambles. Due to a shortage of poll workers, Milwaukee, the largest city in Wisconsin, was set to open just five polling sites, down from its usual 180. The same problem has plagued jurisdictions across the state. Many voters will therefore be deprived of their right to vote, and efforts to halt the spread of the coronavirus will be undermined.

But a deep cynicism motivates the right-wing hostility to letting voters participate in the election safely: With progressives mounting a competitive campaign to unseat an arch-conservative appointee of former Gov. Scott Walker on the state Supreme Court, Republicans appear to be counting on the pandemic to disproportionately suppress votes on the left.

In part that's because social distancing is more difficult in denser urban areas, which make up the bulk of the Democratic vote; voters in more sparsely populated rural areas are likely to be less deterred from voting in person, since they're apt to encounter fewer people at the polls or on their way there. In addition, polling shows Republicans are simply less concerned about the coronavirus in general, meaning they're more willing to ignore the danger to public health (and their own) that in-person voting poses.

And now, after decades of concerted effort, Republicans have succeeded in installing partisan ideologues on the bench—both federally and at the state level—who are only too happy to cloak the GOP's malevolent political goals in the language of legalese and bless them with the authority of the bench. In a searing irony, a message atop the Wisconsin Supreme Court's website explains that the courts are closed due to COVID-19—just above a link to the court's order saying Tuesday's election must take place despite COVID-19.

In his ruling last week delaying the deadline for absentee ballots to be received, Judge William Conley included a pregnant footnote. "The court will reserve," he wrote, "on the question as to whether the actual voter turnout, ability to vote on election day or overall conduct of the election and counting votes timely has undermined citizens' right to vote."

In other words, Conley suggested that he might entertain further challenges after the election if the all-important right to vote has been abridged in some way based on how the election is carried out. As things stand, it's impossible to see how those rights won't be sabotaged, but with the partisans in robes sitting above Conley, it's just as hard to see them permitting any remedy he might fashion to stand.

Election Changes

Please bookmark our statewide 2020 primary calendar and our calendar of key downballot races, both of which we're updating continually as changes are finalized.

Iowa: Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate says that he's considering the option of conducting November's general election entirely by mail. Previously, Pate said he'd mail absentee ballot applications to every active registered voter ahead of Iowa's June 2 downballot primaries. Pate says he considered making the primary all-mail but opted not to after talking to officials in Washington and Oregon, who described the long timeframes that had been needed to convert their states to mail voting.

Montana: Republican Secretary of State Corey Stapleton says that all 56 Montana counties plan to conduct the state's June 2 presidential and downballot primaries by mail, an option that Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock recently made available.

New Jersey: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy says he'll be "stunned" if the state doesn't postpone its June 2 presidential and downballot primaries, promising a decision "pretty soon."

Virginia: Republicans in Virginia's 7th Congressional District have indefinitely postponed their April 25 convention and have voted to sue the Board of Elections to seek an exemption from Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. Officials are also considering alternate methods of conducting their convention, such as online or by mail. The committee must pick a nominee by June 9. Republicans in the 5th District, who face the same situation, are meeting on Sunday to discuss their plans.

1Q Fundraising

TN-Sen: Bill Hagerty (R): $1.2 million raised, $5.6 million cash-on-hand (note: Hagerty's campaign would not tell the Associated Press how much of his haul came from self-funding)

IA-03: David Young (R): $400,000 raised

MA-04: Jake Auchincloss (D): $474,000 raised, $947,000 cash-on-hand; Alan Khazei (D): $278,000, $783,000 cash-on-hand raised

NH-01: Matt Mowers (R): $354,000 raised, $315,000 cash-on-hand

TX-07: Wesley Hunt (R): $920,000 raised

TX-24: Kim Olson (D): $370,000 raised; Candace Valenzuela (D): $305,000 raised

Senate

KY-Sen: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently went up with a commercial that praised him for the coronavirus economic bill, and Marine veteran Amy McGrath is now out with a response ad. The narrator declares that McConnell is "already taking a victory lap against the coronavirus in TV ads, even though medical experts say hundreds of thousands of Americans could die." The Democrat's ad also takes McConnell to task for blocking "emergency research until drug companies could overcharge for vaccines."

MI-Sen: The conservative think tank American Principles Project is out with a poll from the GOP firm Spry Strategies that gives Democratic Sen. Gary Peters a 42-40 edge over Republican John James.

South Dakota: Candidate filing closed last week for South Dakota's June 2 primary, and the state has a list of contenders available here. A primary runoff will take place on Aug. 11 in races where no candidate took more than 35% of the vote.

However, both the primary and the general election should be quiet this year in this very red state. GOP Sen. Mike Rounds faces an intra-party challenge from state Rep. Scyller Borglum, who raised very little cash in 2019. Rep. Dusty Johnson also drew a challenge from former state Rep. Liz Marty May, who narrowly lost re-election last cycle.

Gubernatorial

MT-Gov: On Monday, the Montana Federation of Public Employees endorsed Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney in the June Democratic primary. Cooney's campaign says that this is the state's largest union.

WV-Gov: Democratic state Sen. Ron Stollings is out with a spot ahead of the June primary focused on the coronavirus. Stollings, who works as a physician, appears in his lab coat and tells the audience, "Regarding the coronavirus, I'm so glad we were able to get $2 million in the budget to help fight that. That was my amendment."

Stollings spends the rest of the ad telling the audience to use "good common sense" during the pandemic. He says to "assume everyone has the coronavirus. They don't, but that way, you will socially distance yourself and you'll use hand washing techniques." He also urges the viewer, "Do not go around your loved ones, your older loved ones, if you're sick."

House

CA-25: The DCCC has launched a $1 million ad campaign against Republican Mike Garcia that the Los Angeles Times reports will run until the May 12 special election. Politico reports that $930,000 of this is going to cable TV and another $42,000 will be for Spanish-language commercials, while the balance will be for digital advertising.

The DCCC's opening spot alludes to the coronavirus without mentioning it directly: The narrator says, "More than ever we need a leader who will put our health and safety first." The commercial goes on to say, "But Mike Garcia would let insurance companies deny coverage for pre-existing conditions … and hike up costs for life-saving drugs." The commercial then praises Democrat Christy Smith for refusing to "take a dime from pharmaceutical companies."

The ad comes shortly after the NRCC also began spending here. Politico reports that the committee is deploying $330,000 for broadcast TV in addition to the $690,000 cable buy we noted last week.

FL-19: Physician William Figlesthaler uses his first ad ahead of the August GOP primary to tell the audience that "career politicians from both parties have failed" to handle the coronavirus. The candidate uses an image of Bernie Sanders to represent Democrats who "want socialized medicine," while the late John McCain stands in for the establishment Republicans Figlesthaler says "failed to implement President Trump's aggressive free market health care solutions."

KY-04: GOP Rep. Thomas Massie is up with an ad portraying him as a loyal Donald Trump ally while ignoring that Trump called him "a disaster for America, and for the Great State of Kentucky" less than two weeks ago. Massie also doesn't mention Todd McMurtry, who is his opponent in the June primary.

MI-13: Target-Insyght is out with a survey of the August Democratic primary conducted from March 31 to April 2 that gives Rep. Rashida Tlaib a 43-34 advantage in her rematch against Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones. Back in July, well before Jones kicked off her campaign, the same firm found Tlaib with a far larger 56-19 lead. Jones, who entered the race on March 25, announced on Thursday that she had tested positive for COVID-19 but added she was "not experiencing any of the horrific symptoms associated with the coronavirus."

NM-02: A recently formed super PAC called Citizens United for NM is spending at least $47,000 on a commercial attacking 2018 nominee Yvette Herrell ahead of the June GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small. This group was created by Butch Mathews, who owns a trucking company that works in the state's oil and gas industry, and it donated to Herrell's main intra-party foe, oil businesswoman Claire Chase.

The commercial says that in 2016, Herrell sent out emails "to undermine Trump's campaign for president" and also "used taxpayer funds to attend an anti-Trump soiree at a San Diego hotel where they hung a Trump piñata from the ceiling." The commercial comes several months after Chase ran into problems when her old 2016 social media posts attacking Trump surfaced.

Virginia: Candidate filing closed last month for Virginia's June 9 primary, and the state now has a list of contenders.

Virginia allows parties to nominate candidates through party conventions or through a party-run firehouse primary, so not every November matchup will be decided in June. Both parties are holding primaries for Senate, but the situation varies in House seats: The GOP is hosting primaries in only five of the 11 congressional districts, while Democrats are doing primaries everywhere except for the safely red 9th Congressional District.

VA-02: Democrat Elaine Luria unseated Republican incumbent Scott Taylor 51-49 last cycle, and Republicans are hoping to take back this 49-45 Trump seat in the Virginia Beach area.

Taylor initially decided to launch a longshot challenge to Sen. Mark Warner, but he announced in January that he would instead seek a rematch against Luria. Navy veteran and 2010 candidate Ben Loyola was already running, though, and he decided to remain in the contest. Loyola has the support of former Rep. Scott Rigell, who defeated him 40-27 in the primary for an open seat in 2010 and retired in 2016. Navy veteran Jarome Bell is also running, but he didn’t report raising any money during the final months of 2019.

Taylor is the frontrunner to win the GOP nod, but Team Red may still benefit from a different nominee. Taylor’s staff was exposed during the 2018 campaign for forging signatures on behalf of Democrat-turned-independent Shaun Brown (who was booted off the ballot by a judge), and Democrats ran ads slamming Taylor's campaign for its skullduggery.

The story has not gone away since Taylor's defeat. Last month, a former Taylor staffer pleaded guilty for her part in the scheme, and the local prosecutor said the "investigation is still ongoing" and that we're "likely to see more" indictments to come. Taylor himself has consistently denied any knowledge of the scheme, but his staff had previously claimed the congressman was indeed aware of their plans.

VA-05: While the GOP opted to select its nominee through a convention, Democrats decided to hold a primary here instead. This seat, which includes Charlottesville and the south-central part of the state, moved from 53-46 Romney to 53-42 Trump, but Democrats are hoping that the ugly GOP nomination battle between freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman and Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good will give them an opening.

Four Democrats filed to compete in the primary. EMILY’s List is backing Claire Russo, while VoteVets is supporting fellow Marine veteran Roger Dean Huffstetler, who unsuccessfully ran here in 2018. Physician Cameron Webb and Rappahannock County Supervisor John Lesinski are also running.

House: House Majority PAC, which is the second-largest spender on House races among outside groups on the Democratic side, has announced that it's reserved a total of $51 million in fall TV time in 29 different media markets. We've assembled this new data into a spreadsheet, but as you'll see, it's organized by market rather than district, so we've also included our best guesses as to which House seats HMP is specifically targeting or defending.

The reason these buys are organized this way is because advertising can only be booked market by market. The geographic regions served by particular TV stations rarely correspond with political boundaries, and the reverse is true as well.

About half of the nation's 435 congressional districts are contained within a single media market, while the other half cross two or more (sprawling Montana's lone House district reaches into nine different markets, the most in the country). Conversely, all but a couple dozen of the 900-plus media markets in the U.S. overlap with two or more congressional districts; jumbo-sized New York City, for instance, covers all or part of 34 different House seats in four different states. Inevitably, this mismatch means that many TV watchers will wind up seeing ads for districts they don't live in.

Most importantly, these reservations give us an early window into which races HMP expects to be competitive, but they don't tell us everything. As Politico notes, most of these media markets will likely attract hordes of ad money from presidential and Senate campaigns, so HMP is reserving now to lock in cheaper rates before high demand for TV time brings prices up. HMP can afford to wait, though, to book ads in competitive House seats located in markets like Los Angeles and Salt Lake City since there won't be nearly as much competition for airtime there.

As we alluded to just above, HMP included several markets in this first wave of reservations that contain at least a portion of several different competitive House seats, most notably Philadelphia. If you're interested in knowing exactly which media markets cover which congressional districts across the country, naturally we've got all that data for you. It's what we used, in fact, to hone our guesses as to which seats HMP cares about.

However, it's still too early to know how much money the PAC will direct towards each race. Often, major outside groups will change their planning based on how individual contests seem to be shaping up.

In 2018, for instance, the NRCC reserved a large chunk of TV time in the pricey Miami media market but, initially, it only used those bookings to air ads defending Rep. Carlos Curbelo in Florida's 26th District. Late in the cycle, though, the NRCC put some of that reserved airtime to work in an effort to save the open 27th District, which it had previously appeared to give up on.

Around that same time, the committee made the opposite move in the Las Vegas market. The NRCC reserved millions there well before Election Day, and it initially seemed that it would spend to try to flip both Nevada's 3rd and 4th Districts. In October, though, the NRCC decided to direct all its money towards helping former Rep. Cresent Hardy in the 4th District, and it didn't end up spending in the 3rd District at all.

None of these deck chair rearrangements wound up mattering, though: Republicans ultimately lost all four of these races in what was a terrible year for the GOP. But they're a good reminder that TV reservations often do not reveal the entire House battlefield.

Other Races

WA-LG: Retiring Rep. Denny Heck recently filed paperwork with the state to run for lieutenant governor, though the Democrat has not said he’s in yet. The filing deadline for Washington’s August top-two primary is May 15.

Heck surprised political observers in December when he announced that he would not seek a fifth term in his reliably blue seat. In an unusually candid letter, Heck described both the many things he'd loved about serving in Congress but also admitted he'd grown "discouraged," explaining that "countless hours I have spent in the investigation of Russian election interference and the impeachment inquiry have rendered my soul weary." Last month, Democratic Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib made an unexpected decision of his own when he revealed that he wouldn’t be seeking re-election and would instead leave politics to become a Jesuit.

If Heck goes forward with a campaign to succeed Habib, he’ll be the second retiring House member this cycle to run for a lieutenant governor’s post. Utah Rep. Rob Bishop confirmed back in July that he’d leave the House, and the Republican later announced in January that he’d serve as former state party chair Thomas Wright’s running mate.

However, both Heck and Bishop would be running for office under very different rules. In Utah, Wright and Bishop will either win or lose the June primary together as a ticket; if they clear the primary, they’d also both be elected or defeated together in the general election. In Washington, though, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor compete separately in both the top-two primary and the general election.

Susan Collins has nothing to say about lessons in latest post-impeachment retaliation from Trump

Sen. Susan Collins didn't even manage to work herself up to "concerned" in reacting to impeached president Donald Trump's firing of Michael Atkinson from his post as Intelligence Community inspector general. "I have long been a strong advocate for the Inspectors General," the senator, a member of the Senate Select Committee Intelligence wrote.

Then she fluffed herself a bit. "In 2008, I coauthored with former Senators Claire McCaskill and Joe Lieberman The Inspector General Reform Act (P.L. 110-40), which among other provisions requires the President to notify the Congress 30 days prior to the removal of an Inspector General along with the reasons for the removal. In notifying Congress yesterday, the President followed the procedures in that law," and here's where we finally get to her reaction. "I did not find his rationale for removing Inspector General Atkinson to be persuasive."

Let's make sure her time is up. Please give $1 to help Democrats in each of these crucial Senate races, but especially the one in Maine!

So what are you going to do about it, Senator? "While I recognize that the President has the authority to appoint and remove Inspectors General, I believe Inspector General Atkinson served the Intelligence Community and the American people well, and his removal was not warranted." Oh, that's it? You're not going to do anything? Even fret your brow?

Fortunately for Collins, this time Trump has retaliated against a perceived enemy, there aren't any reporters around to remind her about that whole "the president has learned from" impeachment nonsense. She gets to issue statements from self-isolation without having to face questions about her own culpability for Trump's actions.

Pelosi And Schiff Plan Another Witch Hunt Against The President

As the nation fights for its life against a deadly pandemic and the economy is in serious trouble, what do the Democrats think is their greatest duty?

To launch another unfair partisan hoax against President Trump, this time on his handling of the response to the virus. Pelosi and Schiff have proposed, and Pelosi will be going ahead with, a House investigative committee much like the impeachment committees.

Comments Pelosi, “The committee will be empowered to examine all aspects of the federal response to coronavirus, and to assure that the taxpayers’ dollars are being wisely and efficiently spent to save lives, deliver relief and benefit our economy.”

The president is not happy and let it be known last Thursday.

“We have seen Americans unite with incredible selflessness and compassion. I want to remind everyone here in our nation’s capital, especially in Congress, that this is not the time for politics, endless partisan investigations. Here we go again. They’ve already done extraordinary damage to our country in recent years.”

He continued.

“It’s witch hunt after witch hunt after witch hunt. And in the end it’s people doing the witch hunt who are losing — and they’ve been losing by a lot. And it’s not any time for witch hunts.”

What were the Democrats doing to prepare for the virus?

Politico reports, “…that the Trump administration held a briefing on the coronavirus for senators, but it was ‘sparsely attended’ in part because it “was held on the same day as a deadline for senators to submit their impeachment questions.’ ”

So as the Democrats investigate the president again, timing it no doubt to coincide with the fall election, the question should be asked: what were they doing? After all, the legislative branch is coequal with the executive branch in our system. Just what did the Democrats not do to warn of the virus and for how long did they dawdle?

This piece was written by PoliZette Staff on April 6, 2020. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

Read more at LifeZette:
Senator McSally of Arizona calls for resignation of WHO chief
The five most irresponsible liberal news networks
Why Candace Owens could be hard to beat in a CT House race

The post Pelosi And Schiff Plan Another Witch Hunt Against The President appeared first on The Political Insider.

Schumer taps Warren aide for new coronavirus oversight commission

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will appoint Bharat Ramamurti, a former Elizabeth Warren aide, to a newly created panel meant to police the Trump administration’s handling of a $500 billion coronavirus relief fund.

Schumer described Ramamurti Monday as “ferocious in his desire to protect the public from abuse.”

“I’m confident that Bharat’s experience and his desire to protect the public will ensure robust accountability, oversight [and] transparency in the Treasury and Federal Reserve’s loan programs,” Schumer said on a call with reporters.

Ramamurti was a top economic adviser to Warren during the Massachusetts Democrat’s presidential campaign, as well as senior counsel for banking and economic policy in her personal Senate office.

Schumer is the first congressional leader to make an appointment to the five-member panel, which was established in the $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy are each expected to make picks as well, with McConnell and Pelosi directed to jointly pick the chair of the panel.

There's no time frame for the leaders to make their selections, though the commission is due to issue a report within 30 days of Treasury's first distribution of cash from the fund for distressed industries.

The congressional oversight commission is meant to provide a real-time check on the administration's handling of the massive pot, and its work will be parallel to a newly created inspector general for pandemic recovery housed in the Treasury Department. President Donald Trump last week nominated Brian Miller, a White House attorney and former General Services Administration inspector general, to that post, which requires Senate confirmation.

Though some government transparency advocates praised the Miller pick, others — including Pelosi and Schumer — panned the selection of a lawyer involved in defending Trump to a post that requires independence from the White House.

“The person who is inspector general should be independent without fear or favor,” Schumer said. “Somebody who comes from the president’s counsel’s office doesn’t seem to meet that bill. I’m willing to listen to and hear what he has to say but color me dubious that that is the right type of person for somebody of this level of strength and independence.”

The new law also established a council of federal watchdogs to oversee the administration's implementation of the coronavirus relief effort. That two dozen-member panel is being chaired by Glenn Fine, the Pentagon's acting inspector general.

Trump's decision to unceremoniously remove intelligence community inspector general Michael Atkinson on Friday — which the president later attributed to Atkinson's handling of a whistleblower report that led to his impeachment — has raised alarms on Capitol Hill about whether he intends to meddle in the work of other inspectors general.

Schumer emphasized that his concerns over the Miller nomination heightened the significance of the congressional commission, since it is set up in the legislative branch and is not answerable to Trump.

Trump, however, has also indicated he doesn't intend to honor some of the law's requirements that his administration be compelled to share certain internal details with Congress, raising the prospect of future battles between the White House and lawmakers.

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Biden Suggests Trump Should Have Announced China Air Travel Ban Sooner — ’45 Nations Had Already Moved’

On ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden said President Donald Trump should have stopped air travel from China sooner in the effort to battle the coronavirus pandemic, adding that 45 nations had already blocked “China personnel from being able to come to the United States.”

‘We have to move more rapidly’

Commenting on President Trump’s approach to the crisis, former vice president Biden said, “I would tell him what we went through a similar crisis, you have to move swiftly. We have to move more rapidly.”

 

RELATED: AOC, Omar, And Bernie All Calling For Sanctions To Be Lifted On Iran During Coronavirus Crisis

“You have to implement the Defense Production Act, empower a supply commander, create, you know, a Defense Production Act for banks for small business loans, you got to faster than slower, and we started off awfully slow,” he added.

“He indicated that I complimented him on dealing with China,” Biden continued. “Well, you know, 45 nations had already moved to keep — to block China personnel from being able to come to the United States before the president moved. It’s about pace. It’s about —it’s about the urgency, and I don’t think there’s been enough of it.”

Dems Originally Bashed Trump’s China Travel Ban

Keep in mind that while Biden now says Trump should have implemented the travel ban sooner, when he actually did so, many Democrats were calling it racist.

Biden referred to it as “hysteria” and “xenophobia”– and now he’s changing his tune?

 

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, claimed in an interview last month that President Trump’s travel ban was key to America not getting hit as hard by the coronavirus crisis as other nations.

RELATED: Dr. Fauci: President Trump’s Travel Ban Is What May Save This Country From Becoming Italy

 

Democrats Were Distracted By Impeachment During Coronavirus Spread Early Days

In late January, a time when coronavirus was spreading and we can ostensibly believe Biden thinks Trump should have enacted a China travel ban, Democrats were obsessed with just one thing – impeachment.

Joe Biden or any other Democrat accusing Trump of taking his eye off the ball in this moment is laughable at best.

The post Biden Suggests Trump Should Have Announced China Air Travel Ban Sooner — ’45 Nations Had Already Moved’ appeared first on The Political Insider.

Ousted intelligence watchdog ‘disappointed and saddened’ by Trump. Welcome to the club

Michael Atkinson did the right thing. As Intelligence Community inspector general, when Atkinson became aware of a whistleblower complaint that had direct bearing on national security, he briefed Congress on it, ultimately setting in motion the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. That inquiry proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Trump had abused the power of the presidency by trying to force the Ukrainian president into announcing bogus investigations into Trump's top political rival in 2020, Joe Biden.

Over the weekend, Atkinson finally got axed by Trump—because in the midst of a global pandemic that is ravaging the United States, crushing hospitals, and tearing apart families and communities, retribution is Trump's top priority. In case there was any question about that (which there wasn't), Trump told reporters Saturday that Atkinson had been a "disgrace" who did "a terrible job." In other words, Atkinson prioritized the safety and security of the country over blind loyalty to Trump.

In a statement to reporters, Atkinson said he was “disappointed and saddened” to be ousted for "having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and impartial inspector general." 

Not to trivialize Atkinson's heroism, but welcome to the club of being disillusioned by Trump—not that most of the members of that club ever expected Trump was capable of anything greater. Indeed, most knew Trump would be an epic disaster in all facets of government and basic human instincts, right down to the bitter end.

Sign and send to your U.S. representative: Investigate Trump for firing inspector general who brought whistleblower report to Congress.

Lawmakers fight for a piece of coronavirus ‘9/11 Commission’

A bipartisan traffic jam is forming to demand a painstaking investigation into the missteps and policy holes that led to a massive coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.

Lawmakers are circulating at least four proposals in the House intended to establish a coronavirus commission that delves deeply into the government decision-making that failed to prevent the mass illness and death now wracking the country — and to help guide preparations for any future pandemic.

It's a case study in crisis legislating. Though all four proposals are overwhelmingly similar — modeled after the 9/11 Commission that reviewed the failure to prevent the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks — the backers are making competing cases for why their specific bills should advance. And the reactions they're generating have more to do with the identity of the sponsors than the substance of the measures, though Republican resistance could be an obstacle for any of the plans.

For example, a proposal by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) — who President Donald Trump has fashioned as an archrival — drew instant derision from Republicans, who labeled it an effort meant to harm Trump and launch "another bogus impeachment." Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who helped lead Trump's impeachment defense, said it is too soon for Schiff to begin discussing a long-term lookback at what went wrong.

Yet Schiff's proposal is nearly identical to a measure offered by Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) and John Katko (R-N.Y.), who have hailed it as a model of even-keeled bipartisanship.

"There's no room for politics during a pandemic," Murphy said in a phone interview. "I think having a bipartisan proposal is one of the key ways you can assure people you're not trying to make a political tool but rather that you're trying to get to real results and improved capabilities for the American people."

But the competing proposals arrive at a time of extreme distrust between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. Though Congress passed three massive coronavirus relief bills with overwhelming bipartisan support last month, any hope of a moment of national unity has been dashed amid the rising tension of a presidential campaign and a freewheeling response to the crisis by President Donald Trump, who has lashed out at his rivals from a White House podium on a daily basis.

Any commission would also be in addition to the proposed House select committee responsible for real-time oversight of the emergency relief packages, as well as the various panels established by the $2 trillion CARES Act tasked with monitoring the funds.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said Trump's meandering handling of the virus has cost lives, and her proposal for a select committee to oversee the administration's actions, helmed by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) met immediate resistance from Republicans who called it a thinly veiled effort to undermine Trump.

"It’s an open question as to whether we have our members participate in something like that. I’m not sure I would," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). "It’s so transparently political. This is just a committee to harass the president when he’s in the middle of dealing with a national crisis."

Clyburn, however, said Sunday that he didn't intend his panel to dwell on the past so much as ensure the response is handled properly going forward.

"We're not going to be looking back on what the president may or may not have done back before this crisis hit. The crisis is with us," he said on CNN's "State of the Union." "The American people are now out of work, millions of them out of work. The question is whether or not the money that's appropriated will go to support them and their families, or whether or not this money will end up in the pockets of a few profiteers."

But the rapidly multiplying proposals for a forensic review of where the nation went wrong suggest the appetite for that kind of retrospective investigation is rising.

Under Schiff and Murphy's proposals, a 10-member commission would be evenly divided among Republicans and Democrats and the president would pick the chair. In each plan, the commission — armed with subpoena power – would likely begin its work after the 2020 election, an effort to insulate the panel from campaign season sniping and provide distance from the immediate coronavirus crisis as well.

A third proposal from Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), which also has bipartisan sponsors, is nearly identical as well. Under his plan, the chair of the 10-member commission would be selected jointly by the House speaker and Senate majority leader.

The three plans closely track the structure of the 9/11 commission, which was a 10-member panel, evenly divided among the political parties. Schiff and Murphy's proposal also borrow the 9/11 panel's powers: to issue subpoenas and refer any defiance for prosecution. They also require federal agencies to expedite security clearances to commission members and staff. Davis' proposal does not include these features.

House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, of Miss., listens as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf testifies before a House Committee on Homeland Security hearing on the coronavirus and the FY2021 budget, Tuesday, March 3, 2020 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The most distinct proposal comes from House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and the panel's other Democratic members. Their proposal features a 25-member commission selected entirely by the leaders of House and Senate committees. The panel would be required to begin an 18-month investigation within 45 days of the plan's passage.

Pelosi has voiced support for the concept of an "after-action" review but emphasized last week that she's more focused on the immediate crisis and would consider the structure of a commission later.

"It has to be bipartisan," she said at a Thursday news conference. "And, again, anything that affects this many people in our country, their health and affects our economy in such a major way, involves the allocation of so many trillions of dollars, we really do have to subject to an after‑action review, not to point fingers but to make sure that it doesn't happen again in the manner in which it happened, hopefully not at all."

Schiff and Thompson told POLITICO they've spoken to Pelosi about their plans but declined to characterize her response. They also indicated they've had conversations with each other about convening all of the commission sponsors to "harmonize" their plans and agree on a path forward.

Schiff said despite his reputation as a bogeyman to Republicans, he's confident he can lead a bipartisan push. He noted that even during Trump's impeachment trial, while Schiff was leading the prosecution on the Senate floor, he helped drive a bipartisan House effort to recognize the Armenian genocide.

"I can't worry about what the Republicans who view this from a partisan point of view are going to do," Schiff said, contending that most of his GOP colleagues would "support good policy, notwithstanding the fact that Fox demonizes me."

"I'm certainly doing whatever I can do to make the structure of this something that can be embraced by both parties,” he added.

Schiff said he's been conferring with Tim Roemer, a former architect of the 9/11 Commission, to structure his proposal. Murphy, on the other hand, cites her experience as a national security official, who joined the Pentagon after the Sept. 11 attacks and focused on strategic planning. Murphy, a leader of the House's moderate Blue Dog Democrats, has warned her caucus against appearing too partisan in their responses to coronavirus.

"Both parties can share some responsibility for having played a little bit of politics on this issue," she said.

Thompson said the goal of a commission would be distinct from the multiple layers of oversight that Congress has approved to monitor the ongoing coronavirus response, including the distribution of hundreds of billions of dollars to shore up the economy amid the pandemic.

The recently passed $2 trillion CARES Act included a congressional commission to oversee the Trump administration's handling of the funds, a special inspector general to review the funding decisions and a committee of federal watchdogs to oversee the entire implementation of the law.

"I think it's not too soon to start thinking about how can we guarantee the American people that if something like this would happen again, there is a doable plan in place that can be executed," Thompson said. "I don't think there's any question about [whether] this helter-skelter response to this pandemic is orderly, transparent or effective."

"I just think the interest of the American public would be better served," Thompson continued, "if we can look back on this pandemic and make America stronger."

Sarah Ferris contributed reporting to this story.

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Congress flummoxed by firing of top intel watchdog

Senators are responding to President Donald Trump’s firing of the intelligence community’s top watchdog with a muddled message, with some calling for hearings and others saying lawmakers have far more important issues to tackle.

The scattershot response suggests Congress is unlikely to urgently address Trump’s decision to sack Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community’s inspector general — and it underscores how difficult it will be for the Senate and House to conduct oversight of the surprising firing, especially in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the matter is an urgent priority to some, including Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who said the Senate should hold a hearing.

King, who sits on the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee, said officials such as Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell and Atkinson himself — whom Trump fired late Friday night — should be put under oath.

“It should be an open hearing to have members of the administration come forward and provide an explanation,” King, who caucuses with the Democrats, said in a phone interview, calling Trump’s decision to fire Atkinson “terrible on a lot of levels.”

Trump has defended the firing, telling reporters on Saturday during a White House coronavirus task force briefing that the longtime public official was a “total disgrace” for the way he handled a whistleblower complaint that led to the president’s impeachment.

But King cautioned that even a public hearing might not yield many answers because “this was a decision made principally by the president, probably without consulting much of anyone else.”

“We don’t need to know why he did it — he said it. The president yesterday said it!” King quipped.

A spokeswoman for Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the panel’s plans. The Senate is scheduled to return to regular session on April 20, but several senators have cast doubt on that timeline given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has yet to comment on Atkinson’s removal.

Meanwhile, Atkinson released a lengthy statement Sunday night about his firing, asserting that Trump removed him simply for doing his job.

“It is hard not to think that the president’s loss of confidence in me derives from my having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and impartial Inspector General,” Atkinson wrote.

Democrats have condemned the firing as an abuse of power and a brazen act of politically motivated retribution by a president emboldened after the Senate acquitted him in his impeachment trial. Republicans have been tepid in their criticism of the action, but some, including Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said the firing “demands an explanation,” while others largely deferred to the president’s unorthodox leadership style.

“Obviously those people serve at the pleasure of the president and as is usually the case, it’s not something that we have any control over,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the GOP whip. “The president made it pretty clear why he did. But he has the prerogative. We don’t always have to agree with his actions. As we’ve learned in the past he’s going to do what he’s to do.”

Thune said it was too early to assess whether the firing was unwarranted: “I want to talk to the people who are close to it and get some context on it. I don’t understand it at this point. But that’s a question for another day when I can figure out what went into it.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who presided over a pro forma session of the Senate on Monday morning, also said more information was needed.

“I think we should get more detail. I agree with that,” she said. “It’s such an odd time it’s hard to say how we’re going to get that info — I mean, you know what kind of priority that information is going to have — but I think that’ll all come out.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a top Trump ally, said he was more consumed with reforming the foreign surveillance courts than Atkinson’s firing. But he also made clear it didn’t trouble him, either: “I don’t necessarily have any issues with it.”

“My view is that this is the president’s decision, it’s a decision that’s his to make. It doesn’t give me enormous heartburn,” Hawley said in an interview on Monday. “It’s not the main issue.”

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