By Robert A. Vella
I had hoped that a news post wouldn’t be necessary today, because I really need a break from this madness, but alas I was mistaken. As a Sunday supplement, we’ll examine the latest coronavirus pandemic updates including the persistence of COVID-19 in the global population, former President Barack Obama’s sharp criticism of President Trump’s failed response to the public health crisis, an early medical supply offer that was rejected by the Trump administration, and new concerns that tens of millions of Americans could lose their health insurance. A stunning report from inside the Department of Justice reveals internal strife over the decision to drop the criminal case against Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn which appears to have been opposed by everyone inside the DOJ except Attorney General William Barr and another Trump henchman. Trump and the Republican National Committee are launching rhetorical and legal attacks against states which are trying to implement vote-by-mail options. GOP fears that it might lose control of the U.S. Senate this election cycle are reaching a fever pitch as public/private polling and fundraising numbers consistently show that Trump’s unpopularity is weighing down the party ahead of the November elections (note: this probably explains why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing so hard right now to get as many of Trump’s judicial nominees confirmed as possible).
ROME (AP) — Both China and South Korea reported new spikes in coronavirus cases on Sunday, setting off fresh concerns in countries where local outbreaks had been in dramatic decline.
Around the world, the U.S. and other hard-hit countries are wrestling with how to ease curbs on business and public activity without causing the virus to come surging back.
During a conversation with ex-members of his administration, Obama said combating the virus would have been bad even for the best of governments, but it’s been “an absolute chaotic disaster” when the mindset of “what’s in it for me” infiltrates government, according to a recording obtained by Yahoo News.
The United States has suffered nearly 80,000 deaths from COVID-19, the most of any nation.
It was Jan. 22, a day after the first case of covid-19 was detected in the United States, and orders were pouring into Michael Bowen’s company outside Fort Worth, some from as far away as Hong Kong.
Bowen’s medical supply company, Prestige Ameritech, could ramp up production to make an additional 1.7 million N95 masks a week. He viewed the shrinking domestic production of medical masks as a national security issue, though, and he wanted to give the federal government first dibs.
But communications over several days with senior agency officials — including Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and emergency response — left Bowen with the clear impression that there was little immediate interest in his offer.
Prior to the pandemic, 160 million Americans, or roughly half the population, received their medical insurance through their job. The tidal wave of layoffs triggered by quarantine measures now threatens that coverage for millions.
If the pandemic results in a 20% unemployment rate, as some analysts expect, researchers at the Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) predict anywhere from 25 to 43 million people could lose health insurance. Many will use social safety nets to obtain insurance, including Medicaid, the public health insurance program for low-income people. However, eligibility criteria varies from state to state, with more restrictions in Republican-led states.
The bombshell court filing was signed only by interim DC US attorney Timothy Shea, a political appointee who used the court identity number of his ousted predecessor Jesse Liu. The incorrect ID number is a technical error that may need to be fixed before the judge weighs in.
Shea’s filing on Thursday — undoing more than two years of work from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and his own office’s work on the case — shocked lawyers across the country, who alleged the undermining of the rule of law for President Donald Trump’s political gain. Shea’s signature on the document already raised questions about who within the Justice Department prepared it, why other prosecutors didn’t sign the filing, and why the lead prosecutor on the case withdrew from it an hour before its submission.
A Justice Department official told CNN on Saturday that the ID number under Shea’s name was a clerical oversight. The official said it was the mistake of a staffer who submitted the filing to the court on Shea’s behalf — but who didn’t sign it herself. The official said Shea was part of a team who wrote the document, and declined to explain why the career prosecutor, Jocelyn Ballantine, who signed several other recent filings in the Flynn case, didn’t sign it.
People close to the DC US attorney’s office said the mistake isn’t one trial lawyers in that office would likely make. And they pointed to the fact that no other lawyer in that office signed the dismissal request as a possible indicator the document was prepared elsewhere, perhaps at the Justice Department headquarters, where Attorney General William Barr was closely managing the Flynn review.
Trump attacks vote-by-mail
President Donald Trump has been increasingly engaged in the legal battles unfolding across the country over the issue of vote-by-mail, urging his political advisers to take an aggressive posture to counter Democratic lawsuits on the issue.
Trump met with his political aides on Thursday at the White House about the legal efforts, a source familiar with the meeting said. The meeting came as the Republican National Committee has upped their initial spending of $10 million to $20 million to fight legal battles across the country on vote-by-mail.
The RNC’s legal efforts are largely defensive in nature, but have dramatically ramped up in response to an increase in lawsuits by Democrats seeking to expand mail-in voting rules across the country in light of the coronavirus crisis. Republicans are involved in legal battles in 13 states across the country.
The pandemic has upended 2020 politics — not just for President Donald Trump — and his party increasingly worries that the turmoil has given Democrats fundraising and strategic advantages that put Republicans’ 53-47 Senate majority at risk.
Even as Republicans struggle to avoid being dragged down by Trump’s unsteady handling of the COVID-19 response, they’re facing an enthusiasm gap, at least among donors, that favors Democrats.
Fundraising reports show that Senate Democratic challengers far surpassed their Republican opponents in the first three months of 2020 — in large part because of superior online fundraising, much of it from small-dollar donors.
Online fundraising is a crucial tool for raking in donations while social distancing rules are in place, and Republicans, who were once confident of holding their Senate majority, concede that they’ve fallen behind.
“The Senate is absolutely at risk of going Democratic,” said Josh Holmes, a top GOP strategist and confidant of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “Democrats are still way ahead when it comes to digital fundraising. It will get worse. It will get a lot worse, because there is no easy way to play catch-up.”