Trump says voting by mail will ‘lead to the end’ of the Republican Party

On Thursday evening, in an all-caps tweet, President Donald Trump once again attacked early voting — this time going so far to say that it could “lead to the end of our great Republican Party.”

Contrary to Trump’s claim, studies have shown that voting by mail does not actually benefit one party over the other.

Indeed, some solidly Republican states, like Utah, make extensive use of mail-in ballots, as do some swing states Republicans frequently win like Florida — where the president himself cast a mail-in ballot.

[Raw Story]

Trump halts US funding for World Health Organization as it conducts coronavirus review

The U.S. will suspend funding to the World Health Organization while it reviews the agency’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday, saying the international health agency made mistakes that “caused so much death” as the coronavirus spread across the globe.

“Today I’m instructing my administration to halt funding of the World Health Organization while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” Trump said at a White House press conference.

Trump criticized the international agency’s response to the outbreak, saying “one of the most dangerous and costly decisions from the WHO was its disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China and other nations” that Trump imposed early on in the outbreak.

“Fortunately, I was not convinced and suspended travel from China saving untold numbers of lives,” he said.

It’s unclear exactly what mechanism Trump intends to use to withhold WHO funding, much of which is appropriated by Congress. The president typically does not have the authority to unilaterally redirect congressional funding.

One option might be for Trump to use powers granted to the president under the Impoundment Control Act of 1974. Under this statute, the president may propose to withhold congressional funds, but it requires congressional approval within 45 days. Absent this approval, the funds must be returned to their original, congressionally mandated purpose after 45 days.

When asked by reporters why the administration is choosing now to withhold funds, Trump said the U.S. has had problems with WHO “for years” and the nation should have done this “a long time ago.”

He said the administration will conduct a “thorough” investigation that should last 60 to 90 days.

Trump said it wasn’t about the money, “but it’s not right. So we’ll see,” he said. “This is an evaluation period, but in the meantime, we’re putting a hold on all funds going to World Health. We’ll be able to take that money and channel it to the areas that most need it.” 

The WHO didn’t immediately return CNBC’s request for comment. But in a statement, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that now is not the time to reduce resources in the fight against Covid-19.

He said there will come a time after the epidemic is over, to look back and understand how the disease emerged and spread its devastation so quickly, “but now is not that time.”

“It is also not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus,” Guterres said.

The coronavirus, which emerged in Wuhan, China over three months ago, has infected more than 1.9 million people worldwide and killed at least 125,678 as of Tuesday night, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Trump had first threatened last week to withhold funds from WHO, saying it pushed back on his travel ban from China early in the Covid-19 outbreak. He claimed Tuesday that WHO “pushed China’s misinformation about the virus, saying it wasn’t communicable and there was no need for travel bans.”

“The WHO willingly took China’s assurances at face value, and they willingly took it at face value and defended the actions of the Chinese government even while praising China for its so-called transparency,” he said. “I don’t think so.”

WHO started sounding the alarm on the outbreak of a new coronavirus in China, in mid-January, designating the now Covid-19 pandemic as a global health emergency on Jan. 30 when there were just 8,200 cases in 18 countries across the world.

The WHO’s global emergency declaration on Jan. 30 was nearly a month before Trump tweeted that “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA” and six weeks before he declared a national emergency on March 13.

Two days earlier, on March 11, WHO officials declared the outbreak a pandemic, when there were just 121,000 global cases. 

In response to Trump’s attacks last week, WHO’s top official urged leaders against politicizing the outbreak “if you don’t want to have many more body bags.”

“At the end of the day, the people belong to all political parties. The focus of all political parties should be to save their people, please do not politicize this virus,”  Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a fiery address on April 8. He called for unity across the globe, saying the virus will exploit cracks in political parties, religious groups or between different nations to spread even more widely. “If you want to be exploited and if you want to have many more body bags, then you do it. If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it,” he said.

[CNBC]


Breaking precedent, White House won’t release formal economic projections this summer that would forecast extent of downturn

White House officials have decided not to release updated economic projections this summer, opting against publishing forecasts that would almost certainly codify an administration assessment that the coronavirus pandemic has led to a severe economic downturn, according to three people with knowledge of the decision.

The White House is supposed to unveil a federal budget proposal every February and then typically provides a “mid-session review” in July or August with updated projections on economic trends such as unemployment, inflation and economic growth.

Budget experts said they were not aware of any previous White House opting against providing forecasts in this “mid-session review” document in any other year since at least the 1970s.

Two White House officials confirmed the decision had been made not to include the economic projections as part of the mid-session release. The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said that the novel coronavirus is causing extreme volatility in the U.S. economy, making it difficult to model economic trends.

The document would be slated for publication just a few months before the November elections.

“It gets them off the hook for having to say what the economic outlook looks like,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office who served as an economic adviser to the late senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Both liberal and conservative critics said the White House should publish its economic projections in line with the precedent set by prior administrations, regardless of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. The White House under President Barack Obama continued to release these numbers during the Great Recession, although they were unflattering.

This year’s White House budget report is expected to include data on federal spending, along with information on enacted legislation, but not an annual federal deficit projection, the White House officials said. The officials said the White House will release the annual deficit for the year by the end of the fiscal year in October.

A senior administration official said in a statement that it would be “foolish” to publish forecasting data when it “may mislead the public.”

“Given the unprecedented state of play in the economy at the moment, the data is also extremely fluid and would produce a less instructive forecast,” said senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the White House’s decision. “Furthermore, we remain in complete accordance with the law as there is no statutory requirement to release this information, just precedent, which, when compared to our current economic situation, is dismissible.”

The magnitude of the economic impact has grown by the week. The Treasury Department said earlier this month it plans to borrow $3 trillion from April through June to finance spending in response to the pandemic, while the monthly deficit in April soared to $738 billion.

On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that Americans filed another 2.1 million jobless claims last week, bringing the 10-week total to more than 40 million.

The budget review will include a brief summary of economic conditions to date. One official said White House staff are also busy with implementing the $2 trillion Cares Act aid package approved by Congress in March.

The economic projections are jointly produced by a “troika” consisting of the director of OMB, the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and the treasury secretary.

Since the release of the White House budget in January, the unemployment rate has skyrocketed from about 3.5 percent to close to 15 percent. President Trump has repeatedly expressed confidence in a rapid economic rebound from the virus, but mainstream economists and Wall Street forecasters have predicted unemployment could remain north of 10 percent through 2020 and into 2021.

Budget experts say there is no reason the White House would be unable to release its own economic projections. The Congressional Budget Office, for instance, updated its economic projections in both April and May as the coronavirus rippled through the U.S. economy.

[Washington Post]

Donald Trump signs executive order targeting social media companies

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Thursday targeting tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google and the pivotal internet law that provides them broad legal immunity over content posted by their users.

“We’re fed up with it,” Trump said in the Oval Office Thursday before signing the order, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The official executive order has not been released, but a draft order circulated earlier this week sought to pare back platform liability protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Under Section 230, internet companies have broad immunity from liability for the content their users post on their platforms. The draft order would open the door for the Commerce Department and the Federal Communications Commission to reinterpret the law and allow the Federal Trade Commission to create a tool for users to report bias online.

“That’s a big deal. They have a shield. They can do what they want,” Trump said Thursday. “They’re not going to have that shield.”

Trump announced his plans to sign this executive order after Twitter fact-checked two of his tweets for the first time earlier this week. The tweets made false and misleading claims about mail-in voting and voter fraud, and Twitter labeled them with a link leading users to additional reporting about the issue.

Trump is attacking a Twitter employee over the company’s decision to fact-check him because the employee criticized Trump in past tweets

President Donald Trump slammed a Twitter employee Thursday who was critical of Trump in past tweets, calling the employee a “hater” and tagging his twitter handle.

Trump has reacted strongly this week to Twitter’s decision to add fact-checking labels to some of his tweets for the first time, and has accused Twitter and other tech companies, again and without evidence, of anti-conservative bias.

On Wednesday, Trump allies and advisers started directing their ire at Twitter’s head of site integrity, Yoel Roth, who has tweeted harsh criticism of Trump in the past.

Roth’s old tweets from 2016 and 2017 were resurfaced and shared widely on Wednesday, including a tweet calling Trump a “racist tangerine,” a tweet decrying “ACTUAL NAZIS IN THE WHITE HOUSE,” and a tweet describing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as “a personality-free bag of farts.”

A Twitter spokesperson told Business Insider Wednesday that Roth is part of the team overseen by VP for trust and safety Del Harvey that recommends whether to label tweets that contain misinformation, but added that the decision to label tweets is ultimately made by “leadership” following recommendations from the trust and safety team.

On Wednesday night, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey stood by the decision to correct Trump’s false claims about voting.

“Fact check: there is someone ultimately accountable for our actions as a company, and that’s me,” Dorsey posted. “Please leave our employees out of this. We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally.”

“Per our Civic Integrity policy (https://help.twitter.com/en/rules-and-policies/election-integrity-policy), the tweets yesterday may mislead people into thinking they don’t need to register to get a ballot (only registered voters receive ballots),” Dorsey continued. “We’re updating the link on @realDonaldTrump’s tweet to make this more clear.”

Trump advisers are presenting Roth’s tweets as evidence of alleged anti-conservative bias across Twitter and other tech companies. Donald Trump Jr. slammed Roth on Twitter after Breitbart reported on his past tweets. On Fox News Wednesday morning, senior adviser Kellyanne Conway called Roth “horrible” and read his Twitter handle out loud on air.

“Somebody in San Francisco go wake him up and tell him he’s about to get a lot more followers,” Conway said on “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday.

The jabs at Roth are part of the Trump world’s broader backlash to Twitter’s decision to add fact-checking labels to Trump’s tweets that claimed without evidence that vote by mail is being used by Democrats to commit voter fraud. The tweets now include a disclaimer reading “get the facts” with a link to independent fact-checkers who debunk Trump’s claim.

This is the first time Twitter has taken action to mediate Trump’s false or misleading statements on the platform. Twitter has been upbraided by Trump critics over the years who say the platform enables Trump to spread falsehoods despite its policies against misinformation.

Trump lashed out at Twitter in response to the labels early Wednesday, threatening to shut down or “strongly regulate” social-media platforms that he claims are unfair to conservatives.

[Business Insider]

Trump Promotes Video That Opens With ‘The Only Good Democrat is a Dead Democrat’

President Donald Trump promoted a video on Twitter late Wednesday night that opens with Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin declaring that “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”

Griffin made these comments at a New Mexico church while rallying a crowd to protest stay at home guidelines and amid the coronavirus. “I’ve come to a place where I’ve come to a conclusion where the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat,” Griffin said, adding that he didn’t mean that in a “physical sense,” but in a “political sense.”

The video of which was featured in a Wednesday story by The Daily Beast and was shared widely, which the Cowboys for Trump twitter account replied with “The news is fake.” It’s not clear what news was fake as The Daily Beast article and tweet accurately portrayed what any viewer could see in the video. Nonetheless, Trump quote tweeted the video and added “Thank you Cowboys. See in you New Mexico!”

In an interview with The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer, Griffin said “I could’ve chosen a different verbiage, you know. I guess I need to be more careful when I choose the words that I speak,” Griffin said. “But you know, it’s just so hypocritical of the left how they’re blowing this up, like I’m some hate-speech murderer.”

Griffin is an avid Trump supporter and the reaction on Twitter is exactly what one might expect, and almost certainly pleases the political self-promoter.

[Mediaite]

Trump shares disturbing meme of Joe Biden in a coffin

President Trump has given the Biden campaign a death sentence — literally.

On Tuesday, Trump shared a video declaring former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign effectively over for declaring that black voters who can’t decide between him and Trump “ain’t black.” It first shares the devastating clip, and then cuts to video of Ghana’s dancing pallbearers, with Biden’s campaign logo on the coffin.

While closing out a Friday interview with Charlamagne tha God on The Breakfast Club, Biden declared that “you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or [President] Trump, you ain’t black.” A whole lot of people unexpectedly found Biden’s comment racist and offensive, and by Friday afternoon, Biden had acknowledged he “shouldn’t have been such a wise guy.”

[The Week]

Media

Trump tweets baseless conspiracy theory accusing Joe Scarborough of murder

President Trump again baselessly accused MSNBC host Joe Scarborough of murdering his intern in 2001 in a tweet Saturday, calling on his followers to “keep digging” and to “use forensic geniuses” to find out more about a death that occurred at Scarborough’s Florida office when he was a member of Congress.

Why it matters: Trump has had a lengthy feud with Scarborough and his wife Mika Brzezinski, who host “Morning Joe” and are often critical of the president and his administration. Brzezinski demanded last week that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey stop allowing Trump to “abuse” the platform by spreading conspiracy theories.

The president’s tweet referred to the 2001 death of Lori Klausutis, a 28-year-old aide at Scarborough’s office. 

  • Authorities determined that she died after losing consciousness from an abnormal heart rhythm and collapsed, striking her head, the Washington Post reports.
  • Police ruled that Klausutis’ death was accidental and never suspected foul play.

[Axios]


Trump threatens to move GOP convention over North Carolina’s coronavirus restrictions

President Trump warned Monday that the Republican Party could seek to move its 2020 convention if North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) cannot guarantee that coronavirus restrictions will be lifted, allowing the full use of Charlotte’s Spectrum Center this summer.

“I love the Great State of North Carolina, so much so that I insisted on having the Republican National Convention in Charlotte at the end of August. Unfortunately, Democrat Governor, @RoyCooperNC is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed full attendance in the Arena,” Trump said in a series of tweets. “In other words, we would be spending millions of dollars building the Arena to a very high standard without even knowing if the Democrat Governor would allow the Republican Party to fully occupy the space.”

“Plans are being made by many thousands of enthusiastic Republicans, and others, to head to beautiful North Carolina in August. They must be immediately given an answer by the Governor as to whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied,” he continued. “If not, we will be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site. This is not something I want to do. Thank you, and I LOVE the people of North Carolina!”

Vice President Pence later backed up Trump during an appearance on “Fox & Friends” on Monday morning, warning that the GOP could decide to move the August convention to a different location “that is farther along on reopening and can say with confidence that, that we can gather there.”

The Republican National Committee did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment. Cooper responded in a statement later Monday morning, explaining that discussions with the Republican National Committee (RNC) were ongoing.

Trump has encouraged governors for weeks to begin accelerating their plans to reopen their economies and lift social distancing measures, even as some states have seen their numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases continue to rise.

North Carolina entered phase two of its reopening plan last week, allowing restaurants to open at 50 percent capacity but still prohibiting large gatherings.

The Democratic National Committee has already pushed back its own convention by a month, and the presumptive presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, has floated the option of the Milwaukee event going digital. 

Trump, however, has rejected suggestions of altering the GOP convention in the face of the pandemic.

[The Hill]

Trump says Sessions wasn’t ‘mentally qualified’ to be attorney general

President Trump said in a new interview that Jeff Sessions wasn’t “mentally qualified” to be attorney general and was a “disaster” while in office. 

The president told Sharyl Attkisson that Sessions “should have never” held the position.

“Jeff Sessions was a disaster as attorney general,” Trump said during the “Full Measure” interview, which aired on Sunday morning. “He’s not mentally qualified to be attorney general. He was the biggest problem.”

Trump’s remarks escalated an ongoing feud between the president and Sessions, a former Republican senator from Alabama who as attorney general recused himself from the FBI’s investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election. 

On Saturday, the president formally endorsed college football coach Tommy Tuberville, who is challenging Sessions’s bid to return to the Senate, citing the recusal.

Sessions responded on Twitter, saying, “I did my duty & you’re damn fortunate I did.”

“It protected the rule of law & resulted in your exoneration,” he posted. “Your personal feelings don’t dictate who Alabama picks as their senator, the people of Alabama do.”

Sessions and Tuberville will compete in a July 14 runoff after a close Republican primary election in March. The Republicans seek to unseat Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who took over Sessions’s seat in a 2017 special election.

Trump fired Sessions in November 2018 and told NBC News’s “Meet the Press” last year that Sessions would be his only “do-over” as president.

[The Hill]

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