By Robert A. Vella
As Donald Trump faces increasing criticism of his response to the coronavirus pandemic and his trustworthiness as President of the United States, he is very defensively going on the warpath against anyone who dares to challenge him. Trump has just fired the newly-appointed Inspector General watchdog to oversee his administration’s handling of the $2 trillion financial aid package passed by Congress last month. He is railing against his own Department of Health and Human Services for its recent report detailing the federal government’s failure in providing badly needed medical supplies and equipment to overstressed hospitals (see: Trump: Health and Human Services watchdog produced “fake dossier” on coronavirus). He is once again attacking the World Health Organization and threatening to cut its funding. Trump’s acting Secretary of the Navy traveled several thousand miles to deliver a speech aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt in which he badmouthed the aircraft carrier’s beloved former captain. He has also purged another member of his administration – his press secretary – probably for refusing to kiss his feet or for rejecting some other personal demand (that’s sarcasm, folks). This is why I refer to Trump as megalomaniacal.
Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled U.S. Supreme Court and Wisconsin Supreme Court have dealt destructive blows to democracy in that state by stopping Governor Tony Evers from delaying today’s primary election and allowing additional time for voters to return absentee ballots as means to keep residents safe from contracting and spreading the COVID-19 virus. Considering that 15 other states and Puerto Rico have already delayed their primaries (note: Ohio governor Mike DeWine successfully did so in defiance of court orders, see: 15 States Have Postponed Their Primaries Because of Coronavirus. Here’s a List. and Ohio to run all-mail primary through April 28), what’s so special about Wisconsin that it would warrant intervention by SCOTUS? Well, this primary election will decide a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court which conservatives across the nation want to win. So, all that nonsense Chief Justice John Roberts has been spewing about maintaining a “nonpartisan” judicial system was just a load of public relations bullshit.
Trump goes on the warpath
President Donald Trump has upended the panel of federal watchdogs overseeing implementation of the $2 trillion coronavirus law, tapping a replacement for the Pentagon official who was supposed to lead the effort.
A panel of inspectors general had named Glenn Fine — the acting Pentagon watchdog — to lead the group charged with monitoring the coronavirus relief effort. But Trump on Monday removed Fine from his post, instead naming the EPA inspector general to serve as the temporary Pentagon watchdog in addition to his other responsibilities.
Fine’s removal is Trump’s latest incursion into the community of independent federal watchdogs — punctuated most dramatically by his late Friday ouster of the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, whose handling of a whistleblower report ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment.
The new coronavirus law includes multiple layers of oversight, the most powerful of which is the panel of inspectors general given wide latitude to probe any aspect of its implementation. Fine was named by fellow inspectors general to lead that panel just last week. Now, his colleagues will be forced to make a new selection.
From: A top White House adviser starkly warned Trump administration officials in late January that the coronavirus crisis could cost the United States trillions of dollars and put millions of Americans at risk of illness or death.
The warning, written in a memo by Peter Navarro, President Trump’s trade adviser, is the highest-level alert known to have circulated inside the West Wing as the administration was taking its first substantive steps to confront a crisis that had already consumed China’s leaders and would go on to upend life in Europe and the United States.
“The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil,” Mr. Navarro’s memo said. “This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.”
Dated Jan. 29, it came during a period when Mr. Trump was playing down the risks to the United States, and he would later go on to say that no one could have predicted such a devastating outcome.
After days of chaos and sickness, sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt listened on Monday as the Navy’s top political official took to a loudspeaker and fumed about how wrong it was that their captain had raised the alarm about the Navy’s handling of a coronavirus outbreak on his ship in a letter that leaked to the media.
Acting Navy secretary Thomas Modly told the sailors that Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, relieved of command on Thursday, committed a “betrayal” by writing the letter and distributing it to some people who were not in his chain of command.
The fiery speech, sprinkled with profanity, plunged the Navy and the Trump administration deeper into a political crisis and prompted calls from Democratic lawmakers for Modly’s resignation. It also promised to keep the plight of the Theodore Roosevelt under the microscope, now that Crozier and 172 more of its crew of 4,800 have tested positive for the virus.
Crozier’s removal has drawn widespread attention, especially after videos of sailors cheering him as he left the ship circulated on Friday.
Modly became the de facto top political official in the Navy after his predecessor was fired amid President Trump’s personal intervention in a Navy SEAL’s war-crimes case.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham is leaving the job without ever having briefed the press. CNN has learned she is returning to the East Wing as first lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff as President Donald Trump’s new chief of staff Mark Meadows shakes up the communications team in the West Wing.
Kayleigh McEnany, who served as Trump’s 2020 campaign spokeswoman, will replace Grisham as White House press secretary, according to two sources familiar with the situation.
President Trump’s polling took a nosedive in Florida as the vast majority of the key swing state’s residents say they are concerned about contracting the coronavirus.
A poll released by the University of North Florida on Monday showed Trump’s approval rating in handling the coronavirus pandemic among the 3,244 Florida voters polled was 45% while 53% disapproved of his handling of the outbreak.
In a hypothetical head-to-head matchup with Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential front-runner, the poll found Trump trailing 40% to 46%. The poll is a steep decline from two polls from Univision and Florida Atlantic University, taken before and at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, that showed the president leading Biden by 3% and 2% in the state.
Republican-controlled supreme courts curtail democracy in Wisconsin
Wisconsin voters faced long lines at limited polling locations on Tuesday, as the state’s presidential primary and local elections moved ahead despite mounting fears about the coronavirus outbreak.
Outside Riverside High School in Milwaukee — where officials were forced to close 175 of 180 normal voting sites due to a lack of poll workers — masked voters stood several feet apart in a line that stretched for several blocks early on Tuesday, according to video taken by onlookers and local news media.
More than half of Wisconsin’s municipalities reported shortages of poll workers, prompting the Midwestern state to call up 2,400 National Guard troops to assist.
The election took place even though Wisconsin, like most U.S. states, has imposed a stay-at-home order on its residents. More than a dozen other states have postponed their elections in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has transformed Americans’ daily lives and plunged the economy into an apparent recession.
In a 5-4 decision, the Court rolled back an absentee-ballot extension that would have given voters an extra week to get ballots in by mail. The decision is an ominous sign about what the Court will allow elected officials to get away with during the coronavirus outbreak, even at great harm to our representative democracy.
The election happening today includes the presidential primary in addition to non-primary races for an important seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and other state and local judges. Voters, understandably, want to have a say in who fills these seats. But Wisconsin, like the rest of the United States, is staring down the threat of the coronavirus. And the state is subject to a stay-at-home order to minimize the spread of the virus and prevent the health-care system from being overwhelmed.
The Court did little to explain its decision. It first maintained that the residents never requested the extension (though the dissent referenced a portion of the transcript where they did). It then cited a prior decision, Purcell v. Gonzalez, that reasoned that courts should be reticent to disturb election procedures close to the date of an election. But that principle is based on the idea that elections should not be riddled with last-minute chaos. It has little applicability to the circumstances the country is facing now—namely, an election that is already riddled with the last-minute and sweeping chaos resulting from the coronavirus.
Who will benefit from the Court’s decision and who will be hurt—and possibly killed—by it is entirely predictable. The Court’s decision will depress voter turnout in the all important judicial elections. The president recently said out loud what Republican voting strategists have long seemed to believe: Lower voter turnouts benefit Republicans. With higher levels of voting, as Trump put it, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
There is a brazen irony to the Court’s indifference to Wisconsin voters. Before the Court issued the Wisconsin order, the Court indefinitely postponed hearing all of the cases that were originally scheduled to be argued in March or April of this year, including a major argument over whether the House of Representatives can subpoena the president’s financial records. In the order explaining its decision to postpone the hearings, the Court cited the historic and unprecedented nature of the coronavirus and the threat it poses. But while the Court is more than happy to make accommodations for the sake of its own health and members of the Supreme Court bar, it refuses to do the same for voters who are merely trying to participate in democracy.
Washington (CNN)The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision refusing to extend a deadline for absentee ballots in Tuesday’s Wisconsin elections reflects Chief Justice John Roberts’ cramped view of voting rights in America, a long-held position that has often favored Republican interests.
The pattern, joined by Roberts’ fellow conservatives, was epitomized by a 2013 decision that restricted a crucial part of the Voting Rights Act and has allowed states to eliminate polling places, limit voting times and adopt other practices that make it harder for people, especially racial minorities, the poor and elderly, to cast ballots.
The chief justice, a 2005 appointee of President George W. Bush, has sometimes broken with his conservative brethren, most prominently in the 2012 Affordable Care Act case. But when it comes to politically charged electoral issues such as voting rights, campaign finance and gerrymandering, Roberts does not waver.