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Americans don’t know what to do about coronavirus. Neither does the president.

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President Donald Trump has told Americans that he’s taking bold moves to fight the coronavirus crisis, but his actions and messages have been muddled by uncertainty about public health, the economy and politics.

All across the globe, regardless of the form of government or political ideology, foreign leaders are issuing edicts to shut down society to slow the spread of the deadly disease. Governors and mayors are doing the same, heeding the warnings of epidemiologists who say there’s no way of telling when it will be safe for people to congregate. And most of Congress is expected to flee Washington for weeks — available to return when needed — if an emergency $2 trillion rescue bill is sent to Trump in the next few days.

But the president, the leader of the free world, is acting as if he’s smarter than the rest of them — suggesting that he can save lives and salvage fortunes by encouraging America to get back to work sooner rather than later. He’s even chosen a day with great symbolic but little scientific value as his target for people to congregate again: Easter Sunday, April 12.

“President Trump is balancing two huge responsibilities — to safeguard the physical and the economic health of the country,” said Boris Epshteyn, a member of the Trump 2020 advisory board and former special assistant to the president. “It is vital for Americans to remain healthy and safe while it is also critical for the American economy to not be crippled by the fight against the coronavirus, which we will win.”

Many of Trump’s allies and critics see a commander-in-chief who is actually torn by competing instincts, advice and political pressures, which helps explain why he is delivering confusing messages to the American public while using only some of the powers available to him to fight the spread of the disease. Trump, who has seen his approval numbers rise during the crisis, will ultimately be judged by the outcomes for public health and the economy come November’s election.

The Gallup polling organization concluded the boost in Trump’s favorability among independents and Democrats suggests a “rally effect” in recent weeks.

“Historically, presidential job approval has increased when the nation is under threat,” Jeffrey M. Jones wrote on Gallup’s website. Those gains do not always last long — George H.W. Bush saw approval around the 90 percent mark during the first Iraq War before he lost re-election — and they have tended to show much smaller swings in the recent era of partisan polarization.

Health experts in the Trump administration have said that failing to slow the virus would have catastrophic consequences both in terms of deaths and in the resulting economic calamity. Until recently, Trump was listening to them enough that he said on March 16 that his focus was on “this virus problem” because “everything else is going to fall into place” once the public health crisis is dealt with.

Since Trump hasn’t actually ordered anyone to stay at home or frozen economic activity, it’s not clear that word from him would encourage Americans to leave their houses or force state, local and business officials to lift bans on gatherings. Moreover, some warn that the economy could be harmed even more if the president calls for the resumption of normal activities and the health crisis gets worse as a result.

On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, followed up Trump’s talk about an Easter timeline by noting that “no one is going to want to tone down things” when they see how badly New York and other cities are being overwhelmed by the disease.

“Trump needs to resist the urge to listen to economists until we have defeated the virus,” said Dan Eberhart, a major Republican donor and CEO of Canary, an oilfield services company. “If Trump tries to restart the economy too soon and the pandemic continues to spread, that will be his legacy and it will be a legacy of failure.”

Eberhart supports Trump and believes the president should listen to medical professionals now and economists later.

There will be plenty of time for political considerations, said Chris Kofinis, a Democratic strategist, who warned that efforts by partisans to turn Trump’s handling of the crisis to his benefit or detriment are risky.

“The reality here is that voters are paralyzed by a crisis defined by two powerful fears: the fear of a worsening pandemic and fear of a coming depression,” Kofinis said. “President Trump and Democrats should be extremely careful about trivializing either fear or trying to exploit either one for political gain.” He added that few Americans care about partisan politics at the moment.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, has been countering the president in interviews from the basement of his home while political action committees that support him are attacking Trump in ads.

And Jim Messina, who ran President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, told MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on Wednesday that Trump’s various remarks over the course of the crisis lend themselves to political ads that will be “very difficult for him to rebut in the fall of this year.”

No one is in a more precarious political position than the president, who wavers between appealing to a Republican base that is increasingly pushing him to put economic considerations ahead of slowing the spread of the virus and bowing to the reality that the disease is a growing threat.

When Trump is riffing in front of a microphone, he is often pitting Americans against each other along political, ideological and geographical grounds — picking winners and losers, casting blame and patting himself on the back for winning a “war” against a virus that doesn’t respond nearly as much to unpredictability in strategy and tactics as his language might imply.

Behind the scenes, members of his administration are working to deliver resources to states, negotiating a rescue package with Democrats in Congress and listening closely to scientists on how to handle the public health part of the pandemic. At the same time, those efforts have been constrained by Trump’s reluctance to deploy the full power of the federal government to allocate medical supplies to states and to force private companies to replenish them.

Vice President Mike Pence has hinted at the ideological underpinning of the administration’s decision not to invoke the Defense Production Act to do more to manage the crisis, leaving more responsibility and accountability at the state and local level.

“It’s extremely important that the American people recognize that one of the things that makes America different is that we have a system of federalism,” Pence said Sunday.

“We want states to be able to manage the unique circumstances in their states,” he said.

Governors, particularly Andrew Cuomo of New York, have said that the help isn’t coming fast enough from the federal government.

What may be coming too fast are the twists, turns and lurches in Trump’s thinking.

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Biden debuts podcast in his virtual campaign for president

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WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden took his virtual presidential campaign to the next level Monday when he launched a podcast as the coronavirus forces him to get creative in reaching voters otherwise distracted by a global pandemic.

The podcast “Here’s the Deal” is intended to provide listeners “a voice of clarity during uncertain times” by delving into pressing subjects affecting Americans’ day-to-day lives in conversations between Biden and “national top experts,” according to a description of the podcast shown to NBC News.

“Hey, Team Biden. It’s Joe, and I’m sitting in Wilmington, Delaware,” Biden says at the top of the debut podcast. “It’s a scary time, people are confused, things are changing every day, every hour so I wanted to have this conversation with you now if we could.”

The title plays on one of Biden’s favorite phrases he uses before launching into an explanation about a subject he wants people to understand.

In the 20-minute episode recorded last Tuesday, Biden interviews his former chief of staff, Ron Klain, who also served as the Obama administration’s Ebola czar, on how President Donald Trump should be handling the pandemic that has killed more than 2,000 people in the U.S.

Both take turns talking about the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola crisis before Biden brings up his coronavirus and economic plans.

“It’s critical for the president not to resort to fear-mongering and also baseless downplaying or lying about the situation,” Biden said during the phone interview. “The president needs to be honest, needs to follow the science, needs to be transparent with the American people.”

Listeners asked Biden and Klain questions about the initial plans they put into action during the Ebola crisis and asked Biden what he is doing to practice social distancing.

“First, I’m recording this podcast to connect with all of you instead of traveling across the country as I have been doing most of the last year,” he said. “It’s just not worth it to go out there and take a chance of getting sick and further spreading the virus.”

The podcast is another way for the campaign to try to connect with voters confined to their homes a challenge recent political candidates have not had to face. The launch comes one week after Biden debuted his home TV studio in his basement, where he was able to reinsert himself into the national conversation on cable news following several technical difficulties encountered in his first week of “working from home.”

The campaign said it plans to upload episodes regularly and to expand the conversations beyond the pandemic, although staffers acknowledge the topic will be revisited often as the nation continues to grapple with its life-altering effects.

In the past week, the campaign has held a number of virtual events, including question-and-answer sessions with workers helping patients recover from COVID-19, and a “happy hour” with young adults. It also launched a newsletter that will be emailed to supporters, featuring Biden’s recommendations on how to prevent coronavirus spread and movies to watch as they stay at home.

The podcast also allows the campaign to remind listeners what Biden is doing to stay on top of the crisis as he battles for national news coverage that has turned away from the presidential campaign to focus on the coronavirus.

“I think it’s important for people to know that you’re talking to almost, every day, top economists about what to do about this,” Klain told Biden on the podcast. “You’re talking to Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill and making the point that it’s important that as we fight this economic crisis, we focus on people and families, not corporations.”

“Bingo,” Biden responds.

Besides trying to provide “clarity” on important issues, the podcast promises to bring “the heart, compassion and wisdom” of Biden to Americans as the campaign contrasts President Donald Trump’s crisis-management leadership to that of the former vice president.

“Why am I doing this?,” Biden asks listeners. “So we can keep talking to each other. We can’t hold rallies anymore, but we’re not gathering in big public spaces. We’re living in the new normal, but I want you to know that I’m with you and I’m on your side and we’re going to get through this together as a country.”



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‘I wouldn’t mind running against Andrew’

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday that he wouldn’t mind running against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for president, adding that he thought Cuomo would make a better candidate than former Vice President Joe Biden.

In an interview on Fox News, Trump was asked to react to speculation that Cuomo would be a better candidate for the Democrats.

“If he’s going to run, that’s fine,” Trump said. “I wouldn’t mind running against Andrew. I’ve known Andrew for a long time. I wouldn’t mind that but I’ll be honest, I think he’d be a better candidate than sleepy Joe.”

The president added, “I wouldn’t mind running against Andrew; I don’t mind running against Joe Biden.”

“I think probably Andrew would be better,” Trump continued. “I’m telling you right now, you know, I want somebody [for] this country that’s gonna do a great job, and I hope I’m going to win.”

Cuomo, of course, is not running for president and the race for the Democratic nomination is now down to just Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Speaking at his daily coronavirus press conference later Monday, Cuomo dismissed rumors he is considering jumping into the race.

“I am not engaging the president in politics,” he said. “My only goal is to engage the president in partnership. This is no time for politics.”

“I’m not going to rise to the bait of a political challenge,” Cuomo added. “I’m not running for president, I was never running for president. I said from day one I wasn’t running for president. I’m not running for president now. I’m not playing politics.”

Some have suggested that Cuomo should have launched a White House bid because they say he’s handling the coronavirus crisis well in New York. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote about it over the weekend and said she asked Cuomo if the current situation has revived his dreams of a presidential run.

“No. I know presidential politics. I was there in the White House with Clinton. I was there with Gore. No, I’m at peace with who I am and what I’m doing,” Cuomo told Dowd.

Dowd wrote that Cuomo’s friends said the New York governor will be loyal to Biden. But they said if Trump is re-elected, Cuomo could run for president in 2024.

As for the approval of the job Cuomo is doing, Trump took some credit, saying Monday that the governor is doing well because of the federal government, which has dispatched a hospital ship and ventilators to the state.

“One of the reasons he’s successful is because we’ve helped make him successful now,” Trump said.



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Democratic presidential primary schedule changes due to coronavirus

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WASHINGTON — States continue to postpone Democratic presidential caucuses and primaries as the threat of coronavirus looms large and White House social distancing guidelines remain in place for another month. 

All presidential contests before March 17 were held as scheduled but the list of states that have altered voting plans due to the novel coronavirus is extensive.

A voter casts their ballot at a polling station in Hillsboro, Va., on March 3, 2020.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Here’s the modified schedule so far listed by original contest date.

March 17

Arizona primary (held)

Florida primary (held)

Illinois primary (held)

Ohio primary: now set to be an all-mail election on April 28

March 24

Georgia primary: postponed to May 19

March 29

Puerto Rico primary: postponed to April 26 at the earliest.

April 4

Alaska Democratic Party-Run primary: in-person voting plans scrapped in favor of all-mail voting with the deadline on April 10

Hawaii Democratic Party-Run primary: in-person voting plans scrapped in favor of all-mail voting with a deadline of May 22

Louisiana primary: postponed to June 20

Wyoming Caucuses: in-person caucuses suspended in favor of mail. The deadline is April 17

April 7

Wisconsin primary

April 28

Connecticut primary: postponed to June 2.

Delaware primary: postponed to June 2.

Maryland primary: postponed  to June 2.

New York primary: postponed to June 23.

Pennsylvania primary: postponed to June 2.

Rhode Island primary: postponed to June 2, will be “primarily” by mail.

Saturday, May 2

Kansas Party-Run primary (DNC considers this a caucus)

Guam caucuses

Tuesday, May 5

Indiana primary: postponed to June 2.

Tuesday, May 12

Nebraska primary

West Virginia primary

Tuesday, May 19

Kentucky primary: postponed to June 23.

Oregon primary

Tuesday, June 2

Montana primary

New Jersey primary

New Mexico primary

South Dakota primary

Washington, D.C. primary

Saturday, June 6

Virgin Island caucuses

New Biden digital ad argues Trump’s ‘ego will cost lives’ to coronavirus

WASHINGTON – The Biden campaign is issuing a cautious warning about President Donald Trump’s leadership in a new video, saying that his “ego will cost lives” in the fight against coronavirus. 

In a digital video posted to Twitter and Facebook Saturday evening, the campaign uses Trump’s own words during a White House press briefing, where he admitted to telling Vice President Mike Pence not to call Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, two Democrats, because he is “wasting” his time speaking with them.

“You don’t want to call the governor of Washington? You know what I say? If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” the video shows Trump saying.

In response, the campaign posts text on the screen over horror-movie like music that say, “His failure will cost lives. His downplaying will cost lives. His incompetence will cost lives. His ego will cost lives.”

The digital video, which is currently not a paid ad, already has about 5 million views on Twitter and thousands of engagements on Facebook and Instagram.

Biden has spent the past week criticizing Trump for his slow response to preventing the spread of the COVID-19, often pointing to numerous examples of Trump downplaying the seriousness of it earlier this year. The claims in the video are the furthest the campaign has gone in sharply pointing out how Trump’s continued approach to leading the effort could lead to American deaths.

On “Meet the Press” Sunday, Biden’s criticisms of the president were not as aggressive as his campaign’s.

While his campaign has repeatedly warned that Trump’s reaction to the crisis could cost American lives, Biden says he thinks it would be “too harsh” to say Trump has blood on his hands.

“He should stop thinking out loud and start thinking deeply. He should start listening to the scientists before he speaks. He should listen to the health experts. He should listen to his economists,” Biden said.

Whitmer also deflected Trump’s direct attacks against her in a “Meet the Press” interview.

“I’ve talked to the vice president a number of times. We’re working with everyone from the White House on down through FEMA, DHS, the Army Corps of Engineers because it’s got to be all hands on deck. We are not one another’s enemies. The enemy is the virus,” she said on Meet the Press.

Joe Biden leads Donald Trump in latest national poll

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by nine points in the latest Fox News general election poll. The poll, released Saturday, shows Biden garnering 49 percent support of registered voters, and Trump at 40 percent — pushing Biden outside the poll’s three-point margin of error. 

The subsection groups show even stronger support for Biden. Suburban women, a key group in the 2018 midterms, support Biden over Trump by a 57-34 point margin. Biden also won self-described “moderates” with 53 percent support — Trump garnered just 24 percent support from the same group. 

Joe Biden addresses supporters at his South Carolina primary night rally in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.Elizabeth Frantz / Reuters file

The Fox News poll shows overall stability of Biden’s support. In their February poll, Biden led Trump 49-41 percent, and in January he led 50-41 in the same poll. However, this is the first Fox News poll to also measure support of potential general election tickets. 

Biden announced at the last Democratic presidential debate that he would choose a woman as his running mate. Registered voters seem to agree with that decision — in this poll, 63 percent of registered voters approve of that choice. And of three potential female senators Biden could pick, each ticket leads the Republican Trump-Pence ticket. 

Fox News polled Biden with California Sen. Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — all former presidential candidates in this cycle. Harris and Klobuchar have since endorsed Biden, while Warren has yet to endorse either Biden or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

According to this poll, a Biden-Harris ticket and a Biden-Klobuchar ticket beat Trump-Pence with a 50 to 42 percent margin. A potential Biden-Warren ticket had a larger margin of victory at 52-42 percent support. All three ticket victories were outside of the poll’s margin for error. 

The Fox News poll was conducted between March 21 and 24. 

Democratic super PAC expands ad on Trump’s coronavirus response

WASHINGTON — The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA is expanding their ad buy attacking President Trump on his coronavirus response to Arizona, a source with knowledge of the activity told NBC News.

NBC News reported Thursday that the group had been inquiring about rates in Arizona, a state that tends to vote Republican but has become more competitive for 2020. Later Thursday, Priorities USA announced it would spend $600,000 to run the ad in Arizona.

The ad, titled “Exponential Threat,” splices remarks by the president downplaying the threat of the coronavirus alongside a chart that shows growing cases.

The Trump campaign had already issued letters to TV stations Wednesday arguing that the ad should be taken down because it contains “false, deceptive, and misleading information” about the president and threatened to take legal action if they didn’t immediately stop airing it. 

The ad was part of a $6 million TV and digital buy from Priorities USA in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It is still running in all four states despite the Trump campaign’s efforts, the source with knowledge said on Thursday.

 

Bernie Sanders’ big delegate math problem

WASHINGTON — With Senator Bernie Sanders deciding to remain in the Democratic presidential race — possibly all the way through June — it’s time to crunch the delegate numbers once again.

And the exercise shows just how challenging the math is for the Independent Vermont senator.

Overall, former Vice President Joe Biden leads Sanders by 312 pledged delegates, according to NBC News’ Decision Desk.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden during a Democratic presidential debate in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 12, 2019.Win McNamee / Getty Images file

Biden has won 1,174 pledged delegates or 53 percent of all allocated pledged delegates, while Sanders has won 862 or 39 percent. 

To reach the magic number of 1,991 — a majority of all pledged delegates — Biden needs to win 46 percent of the remaining pledged delegates.

Sanders, by contrast, needs 64 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to obtain a majority.

There are two main reasons why Sanders’ deficit is so daunting.

The first is the Democrats’ proportional-allocation system. Unlike Republicans, who often award their delegates based on winner-take-all rules, Democrats award theirs proportionately — so if you win a state or congressional district 55 percent to 45 percent, you get 55 percent of the available pledged delegates while your opponent gets 45 percent.

So the only way to rack up huge delegate hauls is to win a state decisively — like Biden did last week in Florida, when his 62 percent-to-23 percent victory in the state netted him 100-plus more delegates than Sanders earned in the Sunshine State.

Bottom line: Narrow victories in future contests for Sanders won’t really cut into Biden’s lead.  

The second delegate challenge for Sanders is that there are fewer caucus contests than were four years ago.

In 2016, Sanders was often able to keep close with Hillary Clinton because he’d rack up decisive victories in caucus states like Colorado or Washington state. But this time around, those states — and a few others — are holding primaries instead of caucuses, which keeps Sanders’ margin and his resulting delegate hauls smaller than they were in 2016.

Sanders might trail Biden by just 312 delegates. But that deficit is really wider than those numbers suggest.

Former Obama labor secretary among those launching new pro-Biden super PAC

WASHINGTON — A group of Democrats, including former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, are launching a new super PAC backing former Vice President Joe Biden that is aimed at helping him secure pivotal western battlegrounds in a general election bid against President Trump. 

NBC News has learned that the group, Win the West, will launch Thursday with Solis, a current member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors who served with Biden in the White House, as the group’s first co-chair. Former Biden speechwriter Mathew Littman will serve as the executive director. 

While Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is still running in the Democratic primary race against Biden, the NBC News Decision Desk projects he trails Biden by more than 312 delegates, as the nominating contest has been upended by the coronavirus outbreak. 

Joe Biden delivers remarks at his primary night election event in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.Jim Watson / AFP – Getty Images file

Win the West aims to protect two blue-trending states in Nevada and Colorado, while also taking the battle to two red-leaning states where Democrats have had recent success, Texas and Arizona. Its leadership argues that while other groups are focusing on more conventional swing states, it can be effective in those western states where Democrats believe demographics are shifting in their favor. 

“America is at a watershed moment in our nation’s history. Now, more than ever and especially during this time of crisis, it’s vital that we elect a true patriot, someone who values facts and the truth, and who has a profound understanding of how government works and how it can help everyday Americans who are hurting,” Solis said in a statement announcing the group’s creation.

“The only candidate who meets this criteria is former Vice President Joe Biden, and that is why I was proud to be an early endorser of his campaign for President. I know, because I’ve worked with Joe and I’ve seen him in action.”

Along with the announcement of the group’s launch, Win the West is out with its first video, a digital ad that primarily points to Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic to argue the president has not lived up to the moment. 

The digital spot highlights Trump’s late January comments to CNBC that his administration had the coronavirus outbreak “totally under control,” the administration’s decision not to replace top officials who handled pandemics after they had left their jobs, and uses a mash-up of Trump’s comments compared to recent headlines to argue that the president “has downplayed the coronavirus.” 

The Trump campaign and its allies have spent the past few weeks defending the administration’s response to the outbreak, arguing that Democrats are politicizing the moment and obfuscating about the president’s response. 

“While Joe Biden and his allies are spreading falsehoods about the administration’s response to coronavirus, President Trump, his administration and Congressional Republicans are stepping up and making sure Americans are safe,” Joe Ascioti, the Republican National Committee’s research director and deputy communications director, said in a Wednesday statement criticizing another pro-Biden super PAC’s ad hitting Trump on the virus response. 

Administration’s mixed messaging on Defense Production Act causes confusion

WASHINGTON — President Trump signed the Defense Production Act (DPA) a week ago today but there has been consistent confusion as to whether it is being utilized to produce medical equipment needed for the coronavirus pandemic. 

The bottom line: the DPA has not yet been used in this manner, despite calls from governors and mayors of the hardest-hit areas to fully activate the DPA. Medical professionals have been among the most outspoken on the desperate need for certain equipment and supplies. 

The Korean War-era DPA would allow the federal government to control the supply chain and compel companies to produce much-needed items. So far, according to the president, several private sector corporations like 3M, Ford, General Motors and Tesla are already doing this themselves without needing the DPA.

Boxes of N95 protective masks for use by medical field personnel are seen at a New York State emergency operations incident command center during the coronavirus outbreak in New Rochelle, New York on March 17, 2020.Mike Segar / Reuters

Here’s a timeline of how the president and his administration have discussed the DPA in recent days: 

March 18, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “We’ll be invoking the Defense Production Act, just in case we need it.  In other words, I think you all know what it is, and it can do a lot of good things if we need it.  And we will — we will have it all completed, signing it in just a little while.  Right after I’m finished with this conference, I’ll be signing it.  It’s prepared to go.  So we will be invoking the Defense Production Act.”

Trump tweeted that same day: 

March 19, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “We hope we are not going to need that…I’ve done it. Yeah, if we find that we need something, we will do that, and you don’t know what we’ve done. You don’t know whether or not we’ve ordered. You don’t know if we’ve invoked it. You don’t know what’s been ordered, what’s not been ordered…I also just invoked the Defense Production Act to help facilitate distribution of essential supplies if necessary.”

March 20, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “I did it yesterday…We have a lot of people working very hard to do ventilators and various other things…. We are using it.” 

March 21, 2020

President Trump to Kelly O’Donnell at briefing: “ If I don’t have to use — specifically, we have the act to use, in case we need it. But we have so many things being made right now by so many — they’ve just stepped up.” 

March 22, 2020

FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor on Meet the Press: “Yeah, so I think it’s an insurance policy. Right? It’s a lever. If we have to throw that lever we will… And so we haven’t had to use it yet. Will we have to use it? Maybe.  

March 22, 2020

White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro at briefing: “Now what I can tell you so far is that the Defense Production Act, sir, has given me quiet leverage. When you have a strong leader you can take a light hand initially. So what we’ve seen with this outpouring of volunteers from private enterprise, we’re getting what we need without, without putting the heavy hand of government.”

March 24, 2020

FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor on CNN: “Just a little while ago my team came in and we’re actually going to use the DPA for the first time today. There’s some test kits we need to get our hands on. And the second thing we’re going to do it we’re going to insert some language into these mask contracts that we have for the 500 million masks. DPA language will be in that today.” 

March 24, 2020

FEMA spokeswoman Lizzie Litzow clarifies in statement to NBC News: “At the last minute we were able to procure the test kits from the private market without evoking the DPA.” 

March 24, 2020

President Trump tweet: “The Defense Production Act is in full force, but haven’t had to use it because no one has said NO! Millions of masks coming as back up to States.”

March 24, 2020

President Trump at briefing: “Private companies are heeding our call to produce medical equipment and supplies because they know that we will not hesitate to invoke the DPA in order to get them to do what they have to do.  It’s called leverage.  You don’t have to use it from the standpoint of — actually, it’s been activated, but you don’t have to use it.  But the threat of it being there is great leverage.  And companies are doing as we ask, and companies are actually — even better than that, they’re coming through and they’re calling us.  And it’s been, really, something to see. This morning, Ford, 3M, and General Electric Healthcare are making tremendous numbers — they’ve already started — of respirators ventilators and face shields.  They’re working together.  We didn’t have to exercise or utilize the DPA in any way.  The fact that we have it helps, but we didn’t have to.  And for the most part, we won’t have to.”

Biden says there have been ‘enough debates’ with Sanders

WASHINGTON — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders may be ready to debate former Vice President Joe Biden, but the frontrunner and current delegate-leader in the Democratic primary thinks it may be time to move on. 

In a virtual press conference with campaign reporters on Wednesday, Biden responded to Sanders’ latest signal that he’s staying in the race by wanting to participate in an April Democratic debate. A debate has not yet been scheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I think we’ve had enough debates. I think we should get on with this,” Biden said after noting that his focus since stepping off the campaign trail two weeks ago has been devoted to the coronavirus crisis.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders during a debate in Washington on March 15, 2020.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters file

Biden and Sanders remain as the only two Democratic candidates still vying for the nomination as the campaign trail has come to a halt. While Sanders continues to mull staying in the race, his announcement to debate Biden and organizing investments in New York suggest he will remain a competitor at least through April’s primaries.

On Tuesday, Biden said on MSNBC that he intends to continue to campaign regardless of how long Sanders stays in the race. 

“As I said from the beginning, that’s not for me to decide,” Biden said. “I’ll continue to make the case why I think I could be president and should be president now and make the case for it. It’s in a sense putting all politics aside.”

Brenda Jones announces bid against Rashida Tlaib in 2018 rematch

WASHINGTON — Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib is poised for a rematch against Detroit City Council President and former Rep. Brenda Jones two years after voters briefly sent both women to Congress on the same ballot. 

Jones, who officially announced her bid for Congress on Wednesday, narrowly won the Democratic primary in the special election to replace the late Rep. John Conyers and serve out the rest of his term in 2018. But Tlaib edged her out in the party’s primary for the next full term, which began on 2019, by a similarly small margin. 

With both Democrats cruising through the general election in the deep-blue seat, that meant Jones served in Congress for a few weeks before turning the seat over to Tlaib to start 2019. 

Rashida Tlaib, left, and Brenda Jones speak during a rally in Detroit on Oct. 26, 2018.Paul Sancya / AP file

Jones officially filed paperwork declaring her bid with the Federal Election Commission on March 18, but announced her bid on Wednesday in a video. She said she recorded the video instead of holding a press conference because she wanted to set an example of following the new social distancing policies being championed to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. 

In that video, she addressed the “period of uncertainty” as coronavirus has dramatically changed Americans’ way of life, let along upended the political campaign process

“You cannot live without hope. That’s why my candidacy is based on hope — hope for a better tomorrow, hope for our children, hope for our families, and hope for the hopeless,” Jones said. 

She went on to lay out a “three-pronged” plan for the district if elected: Bringing resources to the district, “uniting the district,”  and focusing on important issues.  

And she pointed to her city council experience as indicative of how she’d serve if elected again to Congress. 

In 2018, there were six total candidates on the Democratic primary ballot running for the full term in Congress, with four on the ballot to serve out Conyers’ partial term. As of Tuesday, Jones and Tlaib are the only two major Democratic candidates running, with a third candidate, Stephen Michael Patterson, having not reported spending or receiving any money so far this cycle. 

Tlaib has become a national name since she took office, partially because of her standing among progressives and work with a group of female freshman Democrats nicknamed “The Squad,” a group that  includes Tlaib as well as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar .

The group of lawmakers has been a top target for Republicans as, particularly President Trump

Recently, Tlaib has been appearing with Omar and Ocasio-Cortez during livestreamed roundtables with Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, who they’ve endorsed to be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, on coronavirus. 

“Rep. Tlaib looks forward to running a strong campaign and winning re-election regardless of who is on the ballot, but at this time she is 100% focused on responding to the coronavirus and getting our communities and residents the resources they need to protect human health and our local economy,” Denzel McCampbell, a Tlaib spokesperson, told NBC by email. 

“Rep. Tlaib is hard at work pushing groundbreaking policies to make direct payments to all Americans to weather this storm, leading legislation to save state and local governments from financial collapse, and preventing utility shutoffs, evictions, and foreclosures.”

Congressional candidates put elections on back burner

WASHINGTON — While coronavirus has shut most of America behind closed doors, congressional candidates are juggling the uncertainty of the situation with the electoral reality.

The guidelines from the White House aimed at curbing the spread of the virus makes it virtually impossible for candidates to fundraise and campaign in the way they normally would. 

“The character of our district and neighborhood is one of social interaction. We don’t have large living rooms, homes and yards to spread out,” Suraj Patel, a Democrat who is challenging Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney for her deep-blue, New York City seat, told NBC News. 

Patel told NBC that his entire campaign staff has shifted to remote and digital work, focusing on community service, holding virtual town hall meetings with those affected by the economic slowdown, and releasing policy proposals aimed at recovery. 

Meanwhile, he said his staff has used telephone canvassing software to check in with seniors, delivering supplies and handmade cards across the district. 

Maloney told NBC her campaign shifted quickly to remote work too, suspending its attempts to collect signatures to qualify for the ballot and pledging not to challenge any opponents’ signatures so that they could keep all staff safe. The primary for the seat is on June 23, and New York has not yet announced if any of their primaries will be moved because of coronavirus. 

With her team contacting constituents to keep them informed about the crisis, she said she’s remained “laser-focused on taking action to alleviate the suffering that people are experiencing during the crisis, passing bills that will help everyday Americans get through the challenges of the coming months, and holding the administration accountable.”

Another elected official balancing a run for Congress during the crisis is Republican New York State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis — she represents a coronavirus hotspot and is trying to unseat Democratic Rep. Max Rose in New York’s 11th district. 

But Malliotakis says her priority is no longer her congressional campaign. 

“The campaign’s on the back burner. I’m 100 percent focused on doing my job as an Assembly member, making sure that we do important things that need to be taken care of in Albany,” Malliotakis said. 

She also said this has been a time to work across party lines — she’s been in constant contact with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, as well as Rose too. 

Empty voting booths during a primary election at Madero Middle School in Chicago on March 17, 2020.Joshua Lott / Reuters

“We may be adversaries often times when it comes to policy,” Malliotakis said of Democrats, but noted that in New York, “we are working together really closely.” 

And Rose is on the same page. 

“All I care about is addressing the incredibly serious public health crisis,” Rose told NBC. “Elections be damned, we’ve got lives on the line.” 

Rose added that when it comes to elections, there is “no balance” with campaigning until this pandemic subsides, and that politics has no place in current conversations. 

“Right now, nobody should be talking politics in any way, shape or form. Nobody. Now, the only thing that anybody should be concerned about is saving lives,” Rose said. 

On that front, challenger candidates like Malliotakis are hoping that focusing on their current jobs will end up as their biggest campaigning tool. 

“Quite frankly, if I don’t do a good job in the position that I’m elected right now, I wouldn’t deserve to be elected to Congress,” Malliotakis said. 

Malliotakis’ focus on her current position is similar to that of another state Assemblywoman, Christy Smith in California. Smith and Naval officer Mike Garcia are facing off in the CA-25 special election, currently slated for May 12. 

Smith told NBC in a statement that she is “focused on my work as this community’s public servant, ensuring state response to my local constituents and connecting people with essential information, services, and resources.” She added that she’ll “revisit campaign-related issues” after the crisis is at bay. 

While Garcia doesn’t hold public office, he told NBC he’s prioritizing getting accurate information out to his would-be constituents, primarily through his website, which includes a list of local and small business resources as well as official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“This coronavirus is a serious challenge. We are taking it seriously,” Garcia said “We have no choice. We have to do it with class, we have to do it with grace.” 

Sanders campaign ramps up virtual organizing ahead of potential New York primary

BURLINGTON, VT — Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign has shifted to entirely virtual organizing while Americans socially distance due to the coronavirus outbreak but the campaign put out a release Tuesday touting New York state staffing and volunteer organizing. While some states have moved their primaries due to the outbreak, New York’s Democratic Primary is still set for April 28.

The Sanders campaign says they hosted a volunteer call with thousands of New York supporters this week, signing up more than 1,300 call and text shifts. The campaign is using their proprietary “BERN” app and old-fashioned phone banking, as well as organizing “Digital house parties,” while New Yorkers are holed up at home. 

While the Sanders campaign shifts resources to future states, the campaign continues to say nothing has changed since last week’s statement that the candidate is assessing the status of his campaign and having conversations with supporters on a path forward. 

Sanders has been focused this week on coronavirus, holding multiple campaign live-streams on the topic with experts and congressional colleagues, raising millions for charities involved in coronavirus aid, and releasing a $2 trillion plan of his own. 



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