An ousted federal scientist said he was pressured to steer contracts to clients of a well-connected consultant. More than 1, People have died each day for over a month. Meat is scarcer at groceries and restaurants.
A federal scientist who says he was ousted from his job amid a dispute over an unproven malaria drug promoted by President Trump said on Tuesday that he was pressured to steer contracts to the clients of a well-connected consultant.
President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence conferred as Dr. Deborah Birx spoke at a White House coronavirus briefing in April.
“We will have something in a different form,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he toured a Honeywell mask manufacturing plant in Arizona. The president praised the work of the task force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, but he said it was time to focus on safety and reopening the country.
“I think we are looking at Phase 2, and we’re looking at other phases,” Mr. Trump said after he was asked whether it was a good idea to shut down the task force while the virus was still spreading through the country. He said that Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the virus response coordinator for the task force, and other top public officials would still be involved in the efforts to address the pandemic after the task force disbanded.
“They will be, and so will other doctors, and so will other experts in the field,” he said, adding, “We are bringing our country back. ”
Administration officials have been telling staff members of the task force that the White House plans to wind down the operation in the weeks to come, despite growing evidence that the crisis is still raging.
The news That the White House was planning to end the task force came as the rate of new infections and deaths was falling in New York but was continuing to rise in much of the rest of the country . A number of projections suggest that deaths will remain at elevated levels for months and are likely to increase as states ease their stay-at-home orders.
The task force’s demise would only intensify questions about whether the administration is adequately organized to address the complex, life-or-death decisions related to the virus and give adequate voice to scientists and public health experts in making policy.
After The New York Times reported that the administration was thinking of winding down the task force, Mr. Pence acknowledged that the White House was “having conversations” about it.
“We’re having conversations about that, and about what the proper time is for the task force to complete its work and for the ongoing efforts to take place on an agency-by-agency level, ”Mr. Pence told reporters, adding that the task force could wrap up its work by early June.
While the task force’s advice has sometimes been swept aside by Mr. Trump and its recommendations for criteria on reopening businesses was defied by a number of states, it has served as the closest thing the White House has for running a centralized response to the pandemic.
While the task force met Tuesday at the White House, a meeting on Monday was canceled, and a Saturday session, a staple of recent months, was not held. Mr. Trump has stopped linking his news briefings to the task force’s meetings.
It was not clear exactly what might replace the task force. A group led by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has been performing as something of a shadow task force. That group is likely to continue working; among other issues, Mr. Kushner is said to be discussing a new role for someone to oversee development of therapeutic treatments.
From its start in January, the task force has been rived with divisions. Health Secretary Alex M. Azar II has been criticized for excluding key administration officials and was ousted as the leader of the group; he was replaced by Mr. Pence in late February. Mr. Trump took over the public briefings, often turning them into – minute to two-hour moments to air grievances, praise his own handling of the crisis and offer up his own prescriptions.
An ousted federal scientist said he was pressured to steer contracts to clients of a well-connected consultant.
A federal scientist who says he was ousted from his job amid a dispute over an unproven malaria drug promoted by Mr. Trump said on Tuesday that a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services repeatedly pressured him to steer millions of dollars in contracts to the clients of a well-connected consultant, Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports.
Dr. Rick Bright, who was the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority until his removal in April, said in a formal whistle-blower complaint that since He has been protesting “cronyism and award of contracts to companies with political connections to the administration,” including a drug company executive who is close to Mr . Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.
The – page complaint , filed with the Office of Special Counsel, which protects federal whistle-blowers, also said Dr. Bright “encountered opposition” from his Health and Human Services superiors – including Mr. Azar – while pushing as early as January for the necessary resources to develop drugs and vaccines to counter the emerging pandemic.
But the complaint says Dr. Bright found an ally in Peter Navarro, Mr. Trump’s trade adviser, who “shared Dr. Bright’s sense of urgency, recognized his expertise and was prepared to help. ”
Officials named in the complaint were not available for immediate comment. A consultant named in the complaint, John Clerici, said, “I unequivocally deny all of the allegations lodged by Dr. Bright and his lawyers. ”
“ It’s sad that during a pandemic, Dr. Bright and his team have chosen to distract people like Dr. Kadlec, who are critical to the response, with politically motivated allegations, ”Mr. Clerici said, referring to Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at Health and Human Services. “The record is clear that his allegations are false and will be proven so.”
The report provides a window into the inner workings of BARDA, a tiny agency created in 2019 as a response to the Sept. , , attacks. It partners with industry in developing so-called “medical countermeasures” that can be stockpiled by the federal government to combat biological or chemical attack, and pandemic threats.
As outbreaks shutter meatpacking plants, meat is scarcer in grocery aisles and drive-throughs.
On Monday, nearly one in five Wendy’s restaurants – a total of 1, 96 locations – were completely sold out of beef products, including burgers, according to an analysis by the financial firm Stephens, which examined every Wendy’s online menu in the United States.
“Some of our menu items may be temporarily limited at some restaurants in this current environment,” a Wendy’s spokesman said in a statement on Tuesday. “It is widely known that beef suppliers across North America are currently facing production challenges.”
At the same time, some grocery stores have announced limits on meat purchases. In addition to Costco and Kroger, Hy-Vee said on Tuesday that it would restrict customers to four packages of fresh beef, ground beef, pork and chicken.
Stores are also anticipating that certain products may become more difficult to find. A Wegman’s spokeswoman said on Tuesday that the chain “may not have every product cut or variety available for the next few weeks.”
The reality of the virus in the US is an unrelenting crush of cases and deaths.
While the worst-hit parts of the United States have seen new infections recede and hospitalizations drop after strict social distancing measures were put in place, new outbreaks have emerged elsewhere in the country, providing a steady, unrelenting march of deaths and infections.
New Reported Cases by Day As the New York metro area has seen a recent decline in new cases, the number of cases in the rest of the United States has steadily increased.
Rest of the United States
Source: (New York Times database) of reports from state and local health agencies and hospitals.
Julie Bosman, Mitch Smith and Amy Harmon report that any notion that the threat is fading appears to be magical thinking, at odds with what the latest numbers show.
A panoramic view of the country reveals a grim and distressing picture.
“If you include New York, it looks like a plateau moving down,” said Andrew Noymer, an associate professor of public health at the University of California, Irvine. “If you exclude New York, it’s a plateau slowly moving up.”
It is not just the major cities. Smaller towns and rural counties in the Midwest and South have suddenly been hit hard, underscoring the capriciousness of the pandemic.
Dakota County, Neb., Which has the third-most cases per capita in the country, had no known cases as recently as April 22. Now the county is a hot zone.
“It’s the balance of something that’s a very difficult choice, Like how many deaths and how much suffering are you willing to accept to get back to what you want to be, some form of normality, sooner rather than later? ” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration’s top infectious disease official, said Monday on CNN.
Mr. Abbott, a Republican, had the call with state legislators and members of Congress on Friday, the same day he the state’s stay-at-home order and allowed shopping malls, restaurants and other businesses to reopen at a limited capacity.
In a portion of the leaked audio
He continues:“ Listen, the fact of the matter is, pretty much every scientific and medical report shows that whenever you have a reopening, whether you want to call it a reopening of business or just a reopening of society in the aftermath of something like this, it actually will lead to an increase in spread. It’s almost ipso facto. The more that you have people out there, the greater the possibility there is for transmission. And so the goal never has been to get transmission of Covid – (down to zero. ”)
The governor’s remarks echo similar statements he has made previously about containing the spread of the virus and are in line with public-health experts, who have repeatedly said that as the state reopens and as social-distancing eases, the number of cases in Texas will go up. Some public health experts say that can be managed through testing and case monitoring; others say Texas is reopening too soon.
The recording of the phone call was released by the liberal activist group Progress Texas.
“Governor Abbott finally admitted that prematurely opening Texas is going to lead to more cases and more deaths,” Manny Garcia, the executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, said in a statement.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Mr. Abbott defended his approach.
“I think everybody recognizes – it’s been said frequently – that as a society does begin to open up again, it could lead to increased infections,” the governor said. “And that’s exactly why we have this surge team in place. And that is, if infections get out of control, we will be able to quickly respond to it. ”
The governor on Tuesday expanded the list of businesses allowed to reopen, saying that hair and nail salons, barbershops and tanning salons can resume operations with restrictions on Friday, and gyms on May .
The expansion represented a shift by the governor, who had previously said he wanted to see two weeks of data to ensure there were no flare-ups before reopening any of those businesses.
“The trajectory in Texas looks good,” Mr. Abbott said.
Brian D. Miller, Mr. Trump’s nominee for the role of a special inspector general, told lawmakers that he would remain independent and vowed to resign or be fired if he faced political pressure from the president.
Lawmakers created the inspector general role to oversee funds that are part of the $ 2 trillion economic relief package that Congress passed in March, including money that is being used to support the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending facilities, along with money for loans and grants to airlines and other companies that are deemed critical for national security.
The nomination, which requires Senate confirmation, has not been received well by Democrats, who insisted on strict oversight as a condition of passage.
In an (unusual signing statement) , Mr. Trump suggested he had the power to decide what information a newly created inspector general intended to monitor the fund could share with Congress. That prompted concern among lawmakers and watchdog groups, which said Mr. Trump’s statement went further than previous presidents in limiting the inspector general’s authority.
For more than two hours, Mr. Miller was grilled by senators about the president’s statement and his willingness to defy the White House if necessary. He said that the law governing inspectors general would require him to report wrongdoing to Congress, suggesting that he would not comply with that statement, and he insisted that he would resign or accept being fired if he faced political pressure from Mr. Trump.
“I will be independent,” Mr. Miller said. “If the president removes me, he removes me. If I am unable to do my job, I will resign. ”
Mr. Trump has not been shy about his resistance to (independent oversight) and has removed several inspectors general in recent weeks, including a (top official) at the Department of Health and Human Services who angered him with a report last month highlighting supply shortages and testing delays at hospitals during the pandemic.
In , Mr. Miller joined the White House Counselor’s Office and worked on the team defending Mr. Trump during his impeachment proceedings.
The men, David Staveley of Andover, Mass., And David Butziger of Warwick, RI, were accused of conspiring to file false bank loan applications falsely claiming that Mr. Staveley needed government assistance for three struggling restaurants that employed dozens of people, the U.S. attorney’s office in Rhode Island said.
The men sought about half-million dollars in loans through the federal government Paycheck Protection Program, which is intended to help businesses pay employees; the loans would be forgiven if Mr. Staveley met certain requirements.
But the employees did not exist, two of the three restaurants had closed weeks before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered restaurants nationwide and Mr. Staveley had no relationship with the third restaurant on the application, prosecutors said. Lawyers for the men could not be immediately found.
As social restrictions begin to ease, hear from the health care workers who are still on the front lines.
The Trump administration is considering tax-cut proposals for the next response bill.
The Trump administration is considering a wide range of tax-cut proposals for businesses and investors in the next bill as it attempts to shift from government spending programs to support the economy toward measures that aim to reinvigorate growth.
The list of ideas under discussion includes a reduction in the capital gains tax rate and measures that would allow companies to deduct the full costs of any investments they make now or in the future, according to administration officials and s everal outside experts who have discussed plans with the White House.
Those proposals, which are still being debated and not final, could accompany Mr. Trump’s top two differences for the next package: the suspension of payroll taxes for workers and an expanded deduction for corporate spending on meals and entertainment.
It’s a surreal scene as the Senate returns for its first week of regular business.
The Senate returned for its first week of regular business, a move that Congress’s top doctor said carried health risks.
With the United States Senate back in Washington for a session that Congress’s top doctor said carried health risks, the chamber has quickly resumed its routine. Senators across the country traveled back to the Capitol in time for a confirmation vote on Monday at 5: 75 pm, with one or two stragglers rushing to the floor in the jeans they wore on the plane to Washington.
A hearing unfolded on Tuesday morning in a half -empty room, in line with new policies to avert the spread. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, readied yet another vote on a lifetime judicial appointment.
Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, the sole senator to have tested positive, was among the only senators walking around without a mask. With nearly half of the senators over the age of 100, putting them at higher risk , the pandemic has prompted an undercurrent of anxiety in a building unaccustomed to accommodating for personal space.
Summoned back to Capitol Hill for the first time in 89 days, the Senate, an institution loath to change, found itself doing just that.
Sparse attendance is now mandated at hearings to ensure appropriate distance between senators. The weekly Republican lunch was moved out of the stately but small, Vermont marble- and black walnut-paneled Mansfield Room in the Capitol to a larger space in an unnamed room tucked away in an office building nearby. Senate Democrats outright canceled their lunch and conducted it by phone.
Later in the day, an attempt by Democrats, led by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, to unanimously pass legislation to require public reporting every day and week on which businesses were benefiting from small business lending programs, was blocked by Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, the chairman of the Small Business Committee.
“I just think this agency is already struggling to manage this massive program, and to add an additional requirement without thinking it through would have unintended consequences of potential slowing the program through, ”Mr. Rubio said.
(transcript ‘Wearing a Mask Is Not the Greatest Intrusion,’ Cuomo Says Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York urged all New Yorkers to wear masks, and warned against reopening the state too quickly.
There’s a cost, you reopen quickly and there’s a cost. The faster we reopen, the lower the economic cost, but the higher the human cost because the more lives lost. What we’ve said from the beginning is the key is testing and tracing and isolating. It’s very hard to do. It’s easy to say, no one has ever done this before. We’ve never put this kind of testing regimen in place. Industrywide, we’ve never had a tracing operation that’s anywhere near this magnitude. We’ve never done isolation, quarantine. That’s never happened before. But it’s – we do what we have to do, and this is what we have to do to monitor the infection rate and to control it. And that’s what we’re doing. You wear a mask to protect me. I wear a mask to protect you, and wearing a mask is not the greatest intrusion. I do not understand why people think it’s such a burden to wear a mask.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York urged all New Yorkers to wear masks, and warned against reopening the state too quickly.