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Court nixes Trump policy of tying grants to enforcement

CHICAGO (AP) — A sharply worded ruling by a federal appeals court in Chicago on Thursday said the Trump administration…

CHICAGO (AP) — A sharply worded ruling by a federal appeals court in Chicago on Thursday said the Trump administration policy of threatening to withhold grant money from so-called sanctuary cities to force them to comply with its more stringent immigration policies violates the separation-of-powers provisions enshrined the U.S. Constitution.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also said a freeze of that policy should extend nationwide, rejecting arguments by U.S. Department of Justice lawyers that if an injunction were OKed in the case it should only apply to the city of Chicago.

Broad executive-branch powers on immigration matters don’t include withholding money allocated by the legislative branch to pressure states to comply with an executive-branch policy, said Judge Ilana Rovner, who authored the 95-page ruling.

“Such a concentration of power,” she said, “would allow tyranny to flourish, and our system of government is wisely set up by the Founders to foreclose such a danger.”

She added: “The separation of powers is a foundation of our government, not a formality to be swept aside on the path to achieving goals that the executive branch deems worthy. … The (grant) conditions imposed here are an executive usurpation of the power of the purse.”

One the three judges on the panel, Daniel Manion, concurred with the bulk of the ruling. But he said in a separate opinion that he disagreed with approval of a nationwide injunction, saying that “broad, sweeping relief of such nature is rarely appropriate.”

Congress established the main grant at issue, called a Byrne JAG grant, to help local law enforcement buy equipment, including body cameras and bulletproof vests. But Judge Rovner wrote that the Trump administration was wielding the grant “as a hammer to further a completely different policy of the executive branch — presenting a city such as Chicago with the stark choice of forfeiting the funds or undermining its own law enforcement effectiveness.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot described being thrilled by the ruling in the litigation that stretches back to Donald Trump’s first year as president.

“When I got the news from our corporation counsel earlier this morning, I let out a cheer,” Lightfoot told reporters. She added: “This is a great victory, not only for Chicago, but for our immigrant and refugee communities everywhere in the country.”

Then-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel initiated the legal action in 2017 against the U.S. Department of Justice, which oversees the grants, over the tying of grants to compliance with U.S. immigration law as the Trump administration wants it enforced.

Other cities who opted to similarly limit their cooperation with federal immigration agents also filed lawsuits against the department. Several cases are still playing out around the country.

Jeff Sessions was U.S. attorney general when Chicago sued in 2017, decrying what he called in the wake of Chicago’s lawsuit what he called “open hostility” to enforcing immigration laws. His successor, William Barr, has defended the administration policy just as vigorously.

The suit focused on conditions on Chicago and other cities for grants, which included that they share immigration-status records with U.S. agencies and provide federal agents unfettered access to jails that might hold immigrants without proper documentation.

A Justice Department spokesman declined comment Thursday. The department would have the option of appealing the 7th Circuit decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Lightfoot said the city “will be right there with them” if the department goes to the nation’s highest court.

Chicago’s sanctuary policies date back to the mid-1980s and successive city councils have confirmed or expanded the protections.

The city prohibits police from providing federal Immigration and Customs officials access to people in police custody, unless they are wanted on a criminal warrant or have serious criminal convictions. Local police are also barred from allowing ICE agents to use their facilities for interviews or investigations and from responding to ICE inquiries or talking to ICE officials about a person’s custody status or release date.


Associated Press reporter Kathleen Foody contributed to this report.


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Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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Amid coronavirus, reopening states look to contact tracers

With governors nationwide lifting stay-at-home orders implemented to slow the spread of coronavirus, many are now seeking new combatants: contact tracers.

These hired public health officials work with patients to help them recall everyone they had close contact with during the time when they were most infectious. It’s no easy task.

On Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that about three dozen contact tracers would be needed for every 100,000 people in affected areas. He estimated New York would need between 6,400 and 70,000 contract tracers, depending on the outcome of projected cases.

“It’s not rocket science to do it on an individual basis. The problem is the scale that we have to do this at,” the Democratic governor said during a news conference in Albany.

“It will require, under any estimate, a tracing army to come up to scale very, very quickly,” Cuomo said.

New York state has remained a hotbed of the coronavirus outbreak, with 305,000 cases and more than 23,300 deaths. The state’s stay-at-home requirement is set to expire on May 15, but could be extended.

Cuomo said next week the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority would halt service from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. to disinfect trains. The subway system normally runs 24 hours, with service only halted during emergencies.

Nationwide, the death toll from COVID-19 approached 62,000 on Thursday, and the number of confirmed cases has surpassed 1 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.

With little support from the federal government — White House guidelines suggests that states conduct contact tracing themselves — the effort has fallen on governors and locals leaders to implement as they reopen. By Friday, over 30 states will have lifted stay-at-home orders to some extent.

Earlier this month, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, announced an effort to set aside $44 million for contact tracing. Washington‘s Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee has said his state plans to recruit and train roughly 1,900 contact tracers by mid-May. The Seattle area was among the first virus hot spots in the country.

In Indiana, officials announced a program this week that includes having 500 trained contact tracers in place in the weeks ahead.

“As we fight the spread of COVID-19, we need the ability to rapidly contact positive patients and their close contacts to determine who else might have been exposed,” Indiana‘s GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb said. “Centralizing this work will allow us to quickly identify individuals who need to be quarantined, reduce the risk of additional infections and take actions to ensure our schools, workplaces and public settings are safe.”

On Thursday, several states — Idaho, Pennsylvania, Texas, to name a few — have stay-at-home orders that will expire. Still, most businesses in those states will have limited capacities.

But some states are expanding orders and current orders are receiving strong push-back.

Protesters in Michigan marched through the state Capitol in Lansing against a stay-at-home order that, in recent days, was extended by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer until mid-May. Some carried firearms, which are allowed under state law inside the Capitol building. Earlier this month, several hundred marched outside.

Black communities in the state, primarily in Detroit, have seen high rates of infections and death due to, among other things, a lack of quality healthcare and inequities in housing.

In Minnesota, Democratic Gov. Tim Walz extended a stay-at-home order until May 18 that was supposed to expire next week.

“We are on a very fine line with this virus that can come very, very quickly,” Walz said. “It won’t be a slow burn. It will be exponential growth.”

His state has seen 5,100 cases of the virus and 350 deaths.

More than 200 workers at the JBS plant in rural Minnesota tested positive for coronavirus earlier this week, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Several meatpacking plants have shuttered nationwide in recent weeks due to workers contracting the virus.

This week President Trump signed an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act to keep meatpacking plants in the U.S. open during the pandemic.

On Thursday, Trump met with Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy at the White House. He’s the third governor to meet with Trump this week, following Democratic Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican. Murphy announced he will reopen all state parks and golf courses on Saturday. He said social distancing will still be required for the foreseeable future.

“The curves, thank God, are beginning to show promise,” Murphy said in his Oval Office meeting. “And we’re beginning to take some baby steps on that road to reopening.”

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Joe Biden set to break his silence on Tara Reade allegations

As Biden is set to break his silence, his campaign would not discuss the MSNBC interview. But the discussions about Reade, who was a staff assistant in Biden’s office while he was a senator from Delaware, have occupied the time of his top advisers, who have been discussing for days how to handle the matter — whether to continue to be quiet, or when and how to address the allegations.

“There’s no doubt this is going to come up, so the only question is when,” said one Democratic operative who has talked about Reade with senior advisers to the campaign.

The steady drumbeat of calls for Biden to address the charges personally — along with new reports from friends of Reade who say she told them years ago of the accusations — finally made the topic unavoidable.

Numerous media outlets, including POLITICO, asked to speak with Biden personally about the accusations, but “Morning Joe” was chosen by the campaign as a better forum for the candidate to address the topic.

As one of the voices of establishment Washington, the program is a perfect forum for a career-senator-turned-vice-president whose campaign advisers are longtime Democratic establishment figures. Also, according to those familiar with Biden’s thinking, the candidate has a friendly relationship with the host, Joe Scarborough.

The allegations have added a complication for those Biden might consider as a running mate, many of whom opposed the Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 because of sexual-assault allegations against him by Christine Blasey Ford and others. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), one name that has been floated as a potential pick, said on Thursday that anyone who brought forward an allegation deserved “to be listened to.”

In a POLITICO Women Rule interview, Duckworth said that Biden has her support in November and pointed to his record of supporting women. But she said that the allegations needed to be investigated, and that the Biden campaign had to address them.

“I certainly think that we need to thoroughly look at these allegations,” Duckworth said. “It’s why I supported, you know, a real investigation into Dr. Ford’s allegation against Brett Kavanaugh. I know that quite a few number of news outlets that are doing investigative journalism, and I certainly support that moving forward. And I think that the Biden campaign should address this issue, and they have been.”

Marc Caputo and Anna Palmer contributed to this report.

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Joe Biden Will Address Tara Reade’s Allegation on ‘Morning Joe’

WASHINGTON — Joseph R. Biden Jr. will publicly address an allegation of sexual assault for the first time in an appearance on morning television on Friday, after weeks of silence on the issue that had prompted frustration from Democrats and attacks from Republicans seeking to weaken him for a general election contest against President Trump.

Mr. Biden will discuss the allegation on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, according to a Twitter post from the network. The decision followed intensive discussions in the Biden campaign about how to more forcefully confront the allegation.

The planned appearance came as scrutiny of the allegation intensified along partisan lines on Capitol Hill on Thursday. Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker and the Democratic Party’s highest-ranking officeholder, expressed support for Mr. Biden’s presidential bid, while Republicans weaponized the accusation to attack congressional Democrats as hypocritical.

The allegation Mr. Biden will address was made by a former aide in his Senate office, Tara Reade, who has said Mr. Biden assaulted her in a Senate building in 1993. Mr. Biden’s campaign has said the accusation is not true, but the former vice president himself had not addressed the issue publicly. His silence has raised questions among some Democrats about the agility of his campaign operation and its ability to navigate what is widely expected to be a heated and deeply divisive presidential campaign this fall.

It has also frustrated some activists and prominent women’s groups who support Mr. Biden’s bid but have pushed his campaign to make a public statement on the allegation to allay concerns on an issue that deeply resonates with their party’s base. Other women in the party privately were irritated that Mr. Biden’s most prominent female supporters have been asked to answer for the allegation in media interviews, while he has remained silent.

The Biden campaign has told allies that it does not believe the issue is affecting how voters view Mr. Biden and his character. Since Ms. Reade’s allegation surfaced, Mr. Biden has not been asked about it in any interviews. The Biden campaign has not made him available for an interview with The New York Times.

The issue did not come up on Thursday during a virtual event Mr. Biden held on Instagram with the soccer star Megan Rapinoe, known for her equal pay advocacy and support of female empowerment. Some of the comments posted during the video urged Ms. Rapinoe to ask about Ms. Reade’s allegation.

By appearing on MSNBC, a network that features left-leaning programming and commentators, Mr. Biden is choosing a relatively comfortable venue for discussing a sensitive topic, one that is likely to reach the Democratic audience he needs to persuade.

As the clamor around the allegations rose on Thursday, Ms. Pelosi sought to calm anxious Democrats during her weekly news conference, calling Mr. Biden a person of “great integrity” and saying that there were no records or additional witnesses corroborating the account.

“I want to remove all doubt in anyone’s mind: I have a great comfort level with the situation as I see it, with all due respect in the world for any woman who comes forward, with all the highest regard for Joe Biden,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters.

“There is a lot of excitement around the idea that women will be heard and be listened to,” she said, and expressed “complete respect” for the #MeToo movement. “There is also due process, and the fact that Joe Biden is Joe Biden.”

Her comments came as Republicans expanded their attacks against Mr. Biden, the party’s presumptive nominee, as well as a broad array of Democratic candidates, calling the party hypocritical on issues of sexual violence, harassment and gender inequality. They also compared the way Democrats have responded to Ms. Reade’s allegation with their response to accusations of sexual assault in 2018 against Brett M. Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Already, the Trump campaign has signaled that it plans to make the allegation against Mr. Biden a central part of its campaign narrative, accusing him in a memo on Wednesday of “misrepresenting news reports and his own past positions in an effort to put controversies to bed or to level charges against the president.”

Mr. Trump himself waded somewhat tentatively into the conversation on Thursday. Asked by a reporter about Ms. Reade’s allegation, Mr. Trump said: “I think he should respond. It could be false accusations.”

“I know all about false accusations, I’ve been falsely charged numerous times — and there is such a thing,” he added, before pivoting to talk about Justice Kavanaugh, whom he said was “falsely charged.”

Mr. Trump has been accused of sexual assault and misconduct by more than a dozen women, who have described behavior that went far beyond the allegation against Mr. Biden. Mr. Trump has also repeatedly denigrated women over their appearance and intellect.

At a time when congressional Republicans and their strategists fear being dragged down by Mr. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, top party leaders see an opportunity to move the political conversation toward a focus on Mr. Biden and his long record.

Ms. Pelosi’s Republican counterpart, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, quickly said her reasoning was insufficient.

“She’s being a hypocrite,” Mr. McCarthy said. “You can’t say one thing about every other time she has commented about any other accusation, and now say this is different.”

Republicans circulated remarks Ms. Pelosi made after the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh to underscore their point. In a statement at the time, Ms. Pelosi said that in declining to fully investigate the assault allegations against the Supreme Court nominee, Senate Republicans had failed women across America.

“Senate Republicans chose to send a clear message to all women: Do not speak out, and if you do — do not expect to be heard, believed or respected,” she said at the time.

The National Republican Congressional Committee sought to turn down-ballot Democrats into collateral damage, firing off a flurry of emails attacking House candidates, including Representatives Cindy Axne of Iowa, Lucy McBath of Georgia and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia.

“During the Kavanaugh hearings, Lucy McBath said, ‘I will not stay silent when women throughout this country are speaking out,’” one email said. “But so far, she’s stayed silent about Tara Reade who has accused Vice President Joe Biden of sexual assault. Will Lucy McBath be a leader and speak out for ALL women even when it doesn’t politically suit her?”

In an interview with Fox News, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said Mr. Biden should release his Senate papers to offer information that could shed light on the alleged assault. Mr. McConnell has not made a similar request of Mr. Trump regarding the allegations he has faced.

“When you run for president of the United States, your life is an open book and I can’t imagine that Vice President Biden is not going to have to participate in releasing all of the information related to the allegations,” Mr. McConnell said. “It’s a very challenging thing to run for president. And I think everyone who’s done that has realized their entire life is opened up to scrutiny. And I think that’s happening to Vice President Biden and they shouldn’t be surprised.”

Mr. Biden’s Senate papers are housed at the University of Delaware but are not open to the public, according to Andrea Boyle Tippett, the university’s director of external relations.

“We are currently curating the collection, a process that we estimate will carry at least into the spring of 2021,” she said in an email. “As the curating process is not complete, the papers are not yet available to the public, and we are not able to identify what documents or files can be found within the collection.”

She confirmed that members of the Biden campaign had gained access to the collection, as reported by Business Insider, but she said that no one from the campaign had looked at the papers since Ms. Reade’s allegations surfaced on March 25.

Nicholas Fandos and Jonathan Martin contributed reporting.

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Congress looks to punish China over coronavirus crisis

Republican lawmakers and other U.S. officials, determined to punish China for concealing early data on the coronavirus outbreak, are proposing numerous measures to turn up the heat, from suing Beijing to ending U.S. military cooperation with Hollywood studios that censor their films for Chinese consumption.

Some of the proposals are less likely to prosper than others, but all come as the Trump administration is eager to deflect blame for its handling of the pandemic and amid a growing contempt for Chinese policies that many officials believe cost lives.

Senior administration officials have also toughened their rhetoric of China. After first praising Chinese President Xi Jinping for his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, Trump now blames China’s lack of transparency for deaths around the world. This week Trump said he was contemplating investigating China’s role in the spread of the disease.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) plans to introduce a bill next week that would bar the Pentagon from advising U.S. film studios about war-reenactment and other military practices, or lend military equipment for the movie, unless the filmmaker pledges to not censor the movie for Chinese audiences at Beijing’s behest, a relatively common practice.

“China is America’s greatest geopolitical threat, and we need to start acting like it,” Cruz said in an interview. “Far too many members of Congress, far too many national media players have underestimated the threat posed by the Chinese communist government.”

As an example, Cruz cited the willingness of filmmakers to remove references in last year’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to singer Freddie Mercury being gay.

“It is difficult to imagine a biopic of Freddie Mercury without including that Mercury was gay,” Cruz said. “And yet Hollywood was more than happy to comply to get access to the Chinese market.”

Prospects are unclear for the Cruz bill, which he calls “The Stopping Censorship, Restoring Integrity, Protecting Talkies Act,” or SCRIPT Act. But regardless of what actions Congress might take, he said the U.S.-China relationship has been fundamentally changed as a result of the recent crisis.

The initiative is part of a widening debate as lawmakers mark territory on ways to confront China.

Sixty-two bills related to China have been introduced in Congress by Republicans and Democrats since Feb. 1, a dramatic increase in what had already been a steady uptick in China-related legislation since 2017.

The COVID-19 outbreak opened the door for a tougher stance that lawmakers in both parties had been itching to take toward China for years, particularly as polls show U.S. public opinion turning decidedly sour on Beijing.

But while there is growing bipartisan consensus that the U.S. policy positions on China need to be readdressed, there is less consensus on how to do it.

“What you’re seeing right now is the full-throated beginnings of that policy debate and discussion,” said one Senate Republican aide, requesting anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

In recent weeks, Republicans have introduced policy proposals that allow U.S. citizens to sue China or to impose sanctions against Chinese officials. Senate Republicans have called for economic sanctions; cancellation of visas for Chinese officials and families; and investigations into the pandemic, including China’s culpability and its relationship with the World Health Organization.

President Trump has accused the WHO, the United Nation’s chief health body, of bias in favor of China and has threatened to cut off funding.

U.S. governments have traditionally resisted allowing their citizens to sue foreign governments for actions overseas out of a fear that other nations would likewise permit their citizens to sue the United States. And the Trump administration has been particularly skeptical of the leading international legal bodies that might handle such claims, like the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.

It’s unlikely that Congress would move quickly on China policy. Senate Republicans have discussed the issue on their weekly conference calls but have no agreement on how to move forward.

A key concern is getting the U.S. manufacturing supply chain — particularly prescription drugs and health products — out of China.

A proposal from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that directs the Defense Department and Food and Drug Administration to analyze the country’s dependence on foreign countries for manufacturing, including pharmaceuticals, has support from three Democrats, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

But lawmakers and policy experts acknowledge there are steep challenges in redirecting manufacturing back to the United States, and perhaps more importantly, convincing consumers to accept the higher prices they would face on prescription drugs and other goods.

Initially, it will be difficult to reduce U.S. reliance on China, which has steadily integrated itself into the global supply chain, and few economies can step up to fill the void.

The Trump administration is also divided over how to proceed against China. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin favors keeping lines open to foster trade deals. Matthew Pottinger, the official in charge of Asia on the National Security Council, and Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo are among the hawks.

Pompeo initially insisted on referring to the disease as the Wuhan virus to emphasize its supposed origin in that Chinese region. Though he eventually dropped the term, he has continued to demand Chinese accountability and has hinted at accusations floated among some conservatives that the virus was man-made. Most scientists have dismissed such claims.

“There are multiple labs that are continuing to conduct work … on contagious pathogens inside of China today, and we don’t know if they are operating at a level of security to prevent this from happening again,” Pompeo said at a news conference this week. “Remember, this isn’t the first time that we’ve had a virus come out of China.”

Like the Trump administration, China has also attempted to shift the narrative, embarking on what some have called “mask diplomacy” by shipping masks and other medical supplies, as well as healthcare workers, to countries in need around the world.

Whether that campaign will be enough to alleviate the Xi government of blame remains to be seen. A new poll by the Pew Research Center shows six in 10 Americans now consider China’s growing power to be the greatest threat to the United States, after the spread of infectious disease and cyber attacks. It is a huge uptick from just three years ago, Pew said.

But some experts say the impulse to punish China may ultimately be short-sighted and mistaken. Its growing worldwide influence and habit of moving in where the U.S. has withdrawn make it a force to reckon with.

“In terms of U.S. policy, we will have to strike a balance between competition and cooperation,” said Patricia Kim, a China policy analyst at the nonpartisan U.S. Institute for Peace. “China is such a major player now. Its influence, capabilities and economic capacity all need to be leveraged to confront global challenges.”

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Powell: More Evidence Shows FBI Set Up Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. No Evidence He Committed A Crime.


In another dramatic twist of events 15 documents unsealed Thursday show that the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team and senior FBI officials had worked diligently behind the scenes to target former National Security Advisor for President Trump Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has withdrawn his guilty plea and is fighting for his case to be dismissed by the courts.

Further, the text messages reveal that there was an original 302 interview with Flynn that was never turned over to the defense. In those text messages between former FBI lovebirds Attorney Lisa Page and FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, they discuss the interview that was conducted with Flynn at the White House and allude to the alteration of the document.

Those explosive documents suggest that the FBI was planning on closing the case on Flynn because there was no proof that he committed any crimes. In fact, the case against Flynn was closed on January 4, 2017 but reopened against Flynn, according to text messages unsealed and obtained by Powell.

The documents, which reveal his FBI code name ‘Crossfire Razor,’ expose that the Department of Justice withheld large amounts of exculpatory evidence from his defense team and, according to his attorney Sidney Powell, reveal egregious government misconduct.

“To be clear, we now know by the production of new text messages between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok that there in fact exists an original 302 document created by SSA 1 from his own notes of the January 24, 2017 ambush interview of Gen Flynn,” said Powell. “Further, we know in fact that SSA 1’s original 302 document went to Stzrok who rewrote it substantially, but tried not to “completely re-write it so as to save [redacted] voice” and then was shared by Stzrok with a “pissed off” Page who revised it substantively yet again, crafting the narrative to charge Gen Flynn with a crime he did not commit.”

She noted that as repugnant as this conduct is on its face, “the travel of this vital document establishes continuously – and until this day – the original FBI agents, the prosecutors, and FBI management’s determination to withhold exculpatory evidence required under Brady, among other violations of Gen Flynn’s civil rights. They withheld it not only to try to convict an innocent man, but to hide their own crimes.”

Moreover, the documents reveal that, according to the closing Electronic Communications memorandum, the goal was to determine if General Flynn “was directed and controlled by and/or coordinated activities with the Russian Federation in a manner which was a threat to the national security.”

They found that there was ‘NO DEROGATORY’ info on him in FBI files:

  • NO DEROGATORY info on him in [redacted: likely DIA] files.
  • NO DEROGATORY information on him in [redacted: likely CIA] files

Powell stated that all they had was a confidential human source “who seems to be the lovely and ubiquitous Stephan Halper. What follows then [reading between redactions and with knowledge of the players] is a recitation of lies from Halper about Flynn being at the infamous dinner in London when Ms.(Svetlana) Lokhova—a British historian of Russian descent— was also present.”

She noted that “this was while Flynn was head of DIA for Obama, and it’s the Halper smear machine at work through Colonel James Baker in the DOJ ONA who was paying Halper a lot of money through a slush fund to crank out lies like this. In truth, Halper wasn’t at the dinner—which was attended by about 20 members of the DIA, MI6, MI5, etc, and there was nothing of concern to anyone. Everyone had been vetted by our DIA and others.”

Another example, in one email, unsealed Thursday from former Strzok to the then Counterintelligence Director to the FBI William Priestap, Strzok discusses the defensive briefing given to the Trump campaign, in which an agent was sent to spy on Flynn during the briefing. Strzok, who had interviewed Flynn at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017, was building the case against the general and for the first time the FBI used a briefing to an incoming president to spy on him, along with members of his campaign.

Strzok’s email to Priestap on January 21, 2017, just days before interviewing Flynn lists process they will utilize to conduct the briefing “CROSSFIRE RAZOR: Provide a defensive briefing to him about CROSS WIND and (redacted) put him on notice, and see what he does with that. If that’s not possible, then continue to monitor. We need to discuss what happens if DOJ directs us, or directly tells, VPOTUS or anyone else about the (redacted) specifically w/r/t what we do under light “defensive briefing” pretext unless WH specifically directs us not to CROSS WIND (redacted).”

Strzok also mentions George Papadopoulos in his email by using his code name ‘Crossfire Typhoon,’ but that part of the email has been redacted. On “The Sara Carter Show” Thursday, Papadopoulos and his wife Simona, discussed the bizarre behavior of the FBI and the circumstances surrounding their case.

Papadopolous, who was sentenced to 12 days in jail, told this reporter that the FBI and intelligence community was weaponized to target President Donald Trump by tearing apart the lives of those around him.

He said that he is hopeful U.S. Prosecutor John Durham, who has been appointed by Attorney General William Barr to investigate the FBI’s handling of its probe into the campaign, will hold those who violated the law accountable and there will be indictments.

On Wednesday, the second tranche of documents unsealed comprised of these 11 pages of text messages and emails that were unsealed today by U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan. On Wednesday, Sullivan also unsealed four pages of stunning FBI emails and handwritten notes which allegedly reveal that the retired three star general was targeted by senior FBI officials for prosecution.

Those handwritten notes and emails revealed that the retired three-star general appeared to be set up for a perjury trap and that senior FBI officials were also intending to target him to get him ‘fired’ by the President.

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On coronavirus pandemic patrol with the paramedics of Paterson

The call had come in as a 61-year-old male with difficulty breathing. The dispatcher had flagged it as a probable Covid-19 case. A woman wearing scrubs and a face mask peered down from the window at Complete Care nursing home as paramedics Alex Storzillo and Jim Incorvaia entered, wearing respirators that covered their whole face.

Inside, they found the man, who had a fever for several days, and was now barely alert. His oxygen saturation and blood pressure were very low.

He needed to be intubated and rushed to the hospital, where he could be placed on a ventilator.

For Storzillo and Incorvaia and so many paramedic colleagues across the country, this is their new routine, their daily grind: Trying to save lives while risking exposure to Covid-19, the deadly disease caused by coronavirus.

‘No such thing as being more sick than that’

In the ambulance, standing by the man’s feet near the open rear doors, Storzillo, 29, prepared what he’d called “half of a lethal injection,” a combination of sedative and paralytic meant to halt a patient’s breathing so that the paramedics could take over.

Incorvaia, 31, phoned ahead to the emergency room. “He feels very hot,” he said to the doctor on the other end of the line. “We know he has Parkinson’s, he has kidney failure, and he has (a history of) hypertension.”

Back in the ambulance, the man’s blood pressure was so low that Storzillo couldn’t find a vein to administer the drugs. Instead, the paramedics drilled into the man’s shin, allowing Storzillo to inject the medication into the man’s bone marrow.

In about a minute, the man was completely paralyzed.

Now up at the man’s head, Incorvaia began to work. Aided by a small video camera placed down the throat, Incorvaia guided a breathing tube through the man’s mouth, past his vocal cords, and into his trachea.

Storzillo works on an intubated patient while Nicole Tugwell, an EMT on loan from Baltimore, keeps the patient breathing.

Storzillo came up alongside and attached a tough plastic bladder to the tube, squeezing it rhythmically. He had now taken over the most fundamental of human tasks: breathing.

Sitting at the man’s chest, Nicole Tugwell, an emergency medical technician on loan from Baltimore, took the bag. For the next 10 minutes, as the ambulance headed to the hospital, she would be the man’s lungs.

Storzillo, meanwhile, placed a blood pressure cuff around a bag of saline solution hanging from the ceiling and tied in to the IV. He pumped up the cuff in an effort to squeeze the bag and maintain the patient’s blood pressure.

Later, after delivering the man to the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, Incorvaia summed up the patient’s condition.

“There really is no such thing as being more sick than that,” he said.

Their bond is forged by ink

In between calls, Incorvaia and Storzillo show off their matching tattoos.

Storzillo and Incorvaia have been partners on the streets of Paterson for a little over a year but they’ve been friends since they were teenagers: They met as cadets in the Civil Air Patrol in northern New Jersey.

The pair work for the mobile intensive care unit at St. Joseph’s, serving an emergency room that, by the hospital’s own count, was the third busiest in the nation last year.

An early Wednesday morning last week found them taking inventory of medication and equipment in the back of their truck while an ultraviolet light hung in the cab, decontaminating the vehicle before their 12-hour shift.

Coronavirus pandemic in the US

As they worked their tattooed forearms were visible, revealing their matching ink: “VERITAS,” Latin for “truth,” below Incorvaia’s left elbow; “AEQUITAS”– “justice”– below Storzillo’s right elbow.

It’s a reference, they said, to the 1999 cult-classic shoot-em-up “The Boondock Saints.”

In the office adjoining the paramedics’ three-bay garage, Storzillo’s black Les Paul guitar sat in its case. In less disease-ridden times, he’d be playing out around north Jersey with his band the Grease Guns.

But these days, as the two friends race around Paterson, bringing urgent life support to ailing residents, Storzillo plays a different instrument.

“I’m like Mozart with the siren,” he joked, while navigating one crowded intersection with a particularly staccato wail from the truck.

Storzillo discusses a patient with a Paterson fire supervisor before entering a residence.

Paramedics, distinct from EMTs, are practitioners of what is termed “advanced life support.” They are authorized to give medications and perform high-risk and invasive procedures, and are often the highest medical authority on-scene.

“We get dispatched to more higher acuity emergencies — shortness of breath, diabetic emergencies, seizures, chest pain, things like that,” Storzillo said.

“Right now,” he continued, “we’re almost getting dispatched for exclusively respiratory calls.”

For a disease that targets the lungs, radio calls for “respiratory problems” have become the pandemic’s refrain.

While EMTs head to a call in an ambulance, the paramedics of Paterson meet them for the most difficult jobs. The back of their truck is stocked with medication, specialized equipment, and a combination heart-monitor/defibrillator/external-pacemaker called a Lifepak.

“We can get in there and we can intervene early,” Storzillo said, “and hopefully set these patients up for a better outcome down the line.”

They take ‘a very high risk’ to save lives

Incorvaia prepares medication during a field intubation he calls "the most high-risk procedure we can do in this job."

Under ordinary circumstances, an in-the-field intubation using paralytic drugs — known as a rapid-sequence intubation — is a risky procedure for them and for the patient. In the time of Covid-19, a procedure like the one Storzillo and Incorvaia performed outside the nursing home is downright dangerous.

“It’s the most high-risk procedure we can do in this job,” Incorvaia said later. “We’re taking someone who’s able to breathe on their own, we’re sedating them, we’re paralyzing them, and we’re taking that ability for them to breathe away.”

Intubation, as the medics put it, serves to “manage” a patient’s airway — to get them breathing as consistently functionally as possible when there is reason to believe that they can’t do that alone. Those reasons can be as varied as an acute lung infection like Covid-19, heart failure, or head trauma.

Stress on health care workers is creating 'second victims' in the coronavirus pandemic

And when the decision is made to intubate, the paramedics need to ensure that the patient doesn’t try to fight the new breathing rhythm with their own lungs, or try to remove the tube that’s been carefully threaded down their throat, through their vocal cords, and into their trachea.

“It’s a lot of liability, it’s a lot of stress, and it could go south if done incorrectly,” Incorvaia said.

Before Covid-19, such field intubations were not terribly common. But now, in the midst of a pandemic, the paramedics said they are doing them more often.

“We’re trying to do it as a last resort,” Storzillo said, “but a lot of these patients do require intubation.”

That means pumping air into and out of a set of lungs infected with an extremely contagious, potentially lethal pathogen.

“You have to take special precautions,” Storzillo said. “It’s a very high-risk procedure.”

Incorvaia decontaminates the leads of a heart monitor before stowing the device.

Each intubation is conducted with the ambulance doors open and the vent fan on, should a patient cough despite the sedation.

Once the patient is intubated, a small HEPA filter is attached to the breathing bag, to trap the virus as the patient exhales.

On every call, Storzillo and Incorvaia don a so-called full-face respirator, which seals around the front of their head, protecting their eyes as well as their lungs. The respirators carry filters with a P100 rating from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, better protection than the standard-issue N95 masks.

In addition to these protections, every single call is treated like a Covid-19 call.

While still on-scene, the paramedics wipe down each piece of equipment with a virucidal solution before packing it back in their truck. They then go “out-of-service,” bringing the truck back to the garage for further decontamination. All of their equipment is put in a decontamination tent —”decon” for short — and exposed to a sanitizing dose of ultraviolet light for at least 10 minutes. Only then can the truck be packed back up and dispatched on another call.

“There’s no way to be too clean,” Storzillo said. “Would I put this monitor on my mother or my grandmother? Absolutely not — not until it goes through the UV light and we decon it a couple times.”

So many are ‘dying at home’ these days

Storzillo and Incorvaia prep to enter a house with a suspected Covid-19 patient.

Paterson, a city of 146,000 people some 20 miles northwest of New York City, is statistically positioned to be hard hit by the pandemic.

Pitted against a disease that disproportionately affects both communities of color and those below the poverty line, the health care workers of Paterson have their work cut out for them. As of the last U.S. Census, 26% of Paterson’s population identified as black or African American, and 60% identified as Hispanic or Latino. Twenty-eight percent of the population reported being below the poverty line.

In Paterson, Storzillo said, “You have an incredibly diverse population and an incredibly underserved population.”

Most US states will begin reopening within days

Storzillo spoke as he drove down Main Street, through a canyon of shuttered store front. Nonetheless, and despite the unseasonal chill, residents were out and walking around. Two men sat without masks on a bench in front of a 7-Eleven.

“You see people in this city that get sick from diseases that in more affluent areas — or middle-class areas, even — are completely managed,” Storzillo said. “You have people dying as a result of diabetes, you have people dying from seizures, because they either don’t have the access to medication or they don’t have the proper education from their physicians to take the medication as needed.”

“You see stuff here that you don’t see anywhere else,” he said. “People dying from asthma, severe, severe asthmatics, and it puts this population at an incredibly higher risk for Covid-19.”

Incorvaia and Steve Besselman, an EMT on loan from Columbus, Ohio,  treat a probable Covid-19 patient.

As of Wednesday, 4,637 people in Paterson had tested positive for the disease, according to data released by the city. Of those, 148 have died.

Storzillo said he doubts those numbers tell the whole story.

“The amount of people that we’re pronouncing dead at home is astronomical,” he said. Before the outbreak, “we would maybe pronounce one or two people dead per shift, and they’d be elderly people on hospice that died of natural causes. Now we’re seeing 20-year-olds, 40-year-olds, that are all dying at home.”

“My fear is that they may not be counted in the numbers,” Storzillo said, estimating that some shifts had as many as eight deaths each since the coronavirus outbreak began. “It actually boggles my mind, the amount of people that we’ve been pronouncing outside of the hospital.”

The New Jersey Department of Health told CNN Tuesday that data on suspected Covid-19 home deaths was not available.

Citing “the overwhelming number of cases,” Donna Leusner, a spokesperson for the department, said that data on overall home deaths was also not available, although it will be later on.

A new dispatch code for a new time

Incorvaia gears up for a call -- and he just assumes it's a potential Covid-19 case.

Throughout the day, the word “pandemic” filled the air, most often in the crackly monotone of the dispatcher on the radio.

“They had to make a new dispatch code for ‘pandemic,'” Storzillo explained.

“‘Pandemic/exposure/outbreak,'” he said, echoing the official classification.

30 million Americans have filed initial unemployment claims since mid-March

Now that the disease has become the paramedics’ new normal, however, the word is often simply appended on to more standard dispatch codes: “difficulty breathing — pandemic.”

But the distinction hardly matters.

“Every call, I’m wondering, is this the one where I could get it and then bring it home to my family?” Incorvaia said. His wife is a nurse in a nearby hospital. His children, ages 1 and 3, are cared for during the day by their grandparents.

Storzillo and Incorvaia both said they’ve agreed to treat every call as a pandemic call.

Last Wednesday, that meant a lot of fighting the wind while tying the straps on one another’s bright yellow protective gowns, checking fit on respirators, and doubling up on gloves, regardless of the dispatch code.

Volume’s down, but ‘it’s still so real’

Incorvaia, in front seat, dons a surgical mask; Storzillo removes his respirator.

Of the nine calls that Storzillo and Incorvaia answered on their shift, four were suspected Covid-19 cases. One man refused to go to the ER for unrelated diabetic issues, because of concerns over catching the virus. Four were “released to BLS” — taken to the emergency room by the “basic life support” EMTs — including two suspected Covid-19 patients who did not immediately require intervention by the paramedics.

For the past few weeks, the Paterson Fire Department’s EMTs have been supplemented by EMTs from elsewhere in the country, an arrangement brokered by the Federal Emergency Management Administration. The support has allowed the city’s EMTs to work less overtime, a bulwark against burnout.

There is no such arrangement in place for Paterson’s paramedics.

“There’s times when you’d have a shift, in years past, where you’ll have one or two sick people a shift, and you may have to intubate one of them,” Storzillo said. “Now in the past couple weeks we’ve been seeing three or four in a row where you have to intubate them … and they’re horrifically ill.”

“We’ve never had that before,” Storzillo said. “Dealing with all these patients one after another, it really wears on you.”

“Anybody who says they’re not scared during this is lying to you,” he added. “We may not feel it now, but, summer? Fall? when the dust settles, I think that a lot of first responders might be dealing with PTSD.”

Storzillo changes into a fresh set of gloves while decontaminating gear.

For his part, Storzillo said that working with a friend helps. “He knows everything about me, and I think I know everything about him,” he said of Incorvaia. “Just the security of knowing that somebody has my back, I feel like I can get through this.”

Incorvaia agreed. “It’s reassuring. You know that you’re both watching each other’s back, and that no matter what happens there’s someone there to look out for you.”

But both men expressed concern that they’d be on this footing for a long time.

“We’re going to be dealing with pockets of Covid for the rest of the year,” Storzillo said. “I truly believe that. I can’t see us becoming completely lax — we’re always going to suspect it.”

What to know about the three main types of coronavirus tests

“You don’t want to be the last person to catch Covid,” he added.

Incorvaia said he worried they’d be in this fight for a while.

“When we’re here driving through the city I’d say there’s a decent amount of people still on the sidewalks, not social distancing,” he said.

“The ER is still quite inundated,” Storzillo said. “Just today I went into the ER, and you get reminded of how serious this still is. You still see patients on ventilators. It’s almost like an eerie sort of quiet to what’s going on, all you hear is the hum of the ventilators.”

“Though our call volume’s been going down, you walk in there and it’s still so real,” he added.

A different kind of call, another intubation

Storzillo calls the ER to prepare doctors for his last call of the day, a trauma patient requiring intubation in the field.

At 6:01 p.m., the last call of the shift came in. The details were piecemeal: Traumatic injuries, a male of unknown age, head trauma, unconsciousness.

It was the kind of call that would have been typical two months ago.

Storzillo and Incorvaia got in their truck and sped across town. The dispatch computer led them to a furniture store, where a Paterson Fire Department ambulance was already outside. Storzillo and Incorvaia suited up in their protective gear as several EMTs and a fire supervisor walked out of the furniture store. They spoke, and went inside to see the patient.

“Makes no sense,” Storzillo said upon returning. He said the patient was bleeding from the nose and mouth, and had been found face down in a pool of congealed blood.

The man was wheeled out on a stretcher, and Incorvaia assisted the EMTs as Storzillo called ahead to the emergency room, then rushed back to the patient.

The back of the ambulance was a full house. The patient lay on the stretcher, his clothes cut off to search for wounds. Storzillo and Incorvaia were at opposite ends of the stretcher, along with two out-of-town EMTs. A needle was pushed through the man’s chest to relieve pressure on a suspected punctured lung. For the second time in three hours, the paramedics prepared for a field intubation.

Incorvaia works on a trauma patient during a field intubation.

This time, Storzillo crouched at the man’s head, looking down his throat with a small camera. Blood covered the man’s face and pooled around a cervical collar brace that had been placed around his neck. Copper-colored splotches of congealed blood marked the white hazmat suits of the EMTs.

“We have too much trauma in the airway,” Storzillo said to Incorvaia.

Incorvaia, near the man’s feet, was administering the drugs.

“How much ketamine?” he asked Storzillo, preparing the sedative.

“One hundred,” his partner responded.

Storzillo reached for a so-called rescue airway, a tool that goes down a patients’ throat and then inflates, clearing a path for the intubating tube through the man’s battered throat.

Bloodied tools on the floor, Storzillo completed the team’s second intubation of the day. The ambulance door was shut, and the team raced back across Paterson to the hospital.

“These calls,” Incorvaia would say later, “one minute you’re sitting there having your coffee, the next minute your adrenaline is pumping and some guy is almost dying in front of you.”

EMT Besselman checks a monitor for a suspected Covid-19 patient.

“With traumas,” he went on, “there’s nothing we can do, nothing in the field. You’ve got ten minutes — they need a surgeon. They need blood.”

The ambulance pulled into the ER bay, and the team prepared to move.

“Swap out the oxygen?” Incorvaia asked.

Storzillo grabbed at an oxygen bottle near the side door. Empty.

“This one is dead,” he said through his mask.

He grabbed at another. “This one is probably dead too.”

He turned, frustrated, to the out-of-town EMTs. “I know it’s Paterson, but–” he trailed off.

There was enough oxygen in the third tank. They wheeled the man from the ambulance, and through the doors of the emergency room.

New Jersey requires paramedics to check in on the status of their patients at the end of their shift.

Storzillo said later that he and Incorvaia will sometimes check on patients well after their legal obligation to do so has ended.

Storzillo said the last time he checked, a week after those calls, both the patients they intubated were still alive, but in poor shape. The man from the nursing home had been admitted to the intensive care unit with Covid-19. The head trauma patient had suffered a major stroke, then a fall.

A long day, and then another one

Storzillo and Incorvaia head back to their truck after bringing a probable Covid-19 patient to the ER.

Back at the garage, Storzillo backed the truck in for the last time that day. It had been nearly 13 hours since the day began.

“Not only are we dealing with the Covid patients, we have everything else that’s happening,” he said. “It really wears on you. I feel completely wiped after a day like today.”

“Doing a 12-hour shift here during this pandemic?” he said. “You go home, you immediately want to shower and go to bed, and you have work the next day. You’ve got to be up at five in the morning and do it all over again.”

The two began the decontamination process again, and made notes on what medications needed to be replenished. The 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. crew had arrived.

The decontamination process began again. Together, the four paramedics replenished the medications used over two intubations and seven other calls.

The sun was beginning to set, and the work was about to begin again.

Posted on

New York to hire thousands of contact tracers, reduce subway service to clean trains

(Reuters) – New York state will hire thousands of people to trace the contacts of people who test positive for the coronavirus and halt early-hour New York City subway service to disinfect the trains every day, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday.

Cuomo announced the initiatives as the state hardest hit by the outbreak looks to ease restrictions on social life and businesses with a massive public transport system that is clean and safe for riders and transit workers.

Cuomo said New York City’s subway system would be shut between 1 and 5 a.m. ET so that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency that oversees the trains, can conduct an unprecedented cleaning program.

“This is a daunting challenge,” Cuomo told a daily briefing. “The entire public transport system in downstate New York will be disinfected every 24 hours.”

Cuomo also detailed plans to recruit from 6,400 to 17,000 people across the state to handle contact tracing, a process for identifying the contacts of a person who has tested positive for an infectious disease.

Health experts say that contact tracing is critical to isolating potentially contagious people in order to limit further outbreaks.

Cuomo said that former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, in coordination with Johns Hopkins University, would oversee the recruitment and training of the contact tracers and make the program available to governments worldwide.

reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and Maria Caspani and Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Howard Goller

Posted on

Coronavirus Live Updates: As Federal Guidelines Expire, States Struggle to Reopen

As federal guidelines expire, some states press ahead to reopen, despite health warnings.

As some states moved to reopen Friday — while others kept residents home to curb the outbreak — America is finding itself divided in new ways: not just by politics and geography, but by public health policy, the toll of the pandemic, and where people can dine in restaurants or get haircuts in barber shops.

Millions more Americans will soon be able to eat at restaurants and shop in stores as some states moved toward reopening on Thursday, despite warnings from public health experts.

Governors in several states — including Alabama, Maine, Tennessee and Texas — plan to allow stay-at-home orders to expire on Thursday, paving the way for certain businesses to reopen and marking the end of an unparalleled month in which an astonishing nine in 10 residents in the United States were told to stay at home to help stop the spread of the virus.

Federal guidelines encouraging people to curtail nearly all public activities are also poised to expire Thursday after President Trump indicated he did not intend to extend them.

“They’ll be fading out, because now the governors are doing it,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Wednesday, referring to the restrictions.

More restrictions will be lifted on Friday as additional states, including Iowa, North Dakota and Wyoming, ease their rules.

The latest reopenings represent a pivotal moment in America’s response to the virus, even as the number of deaths from the virus in the United States has surged past 60,000. As of Friday, more than a dozen states will have begun to partially reopen their economies and restart public life, raising concerns among health experts about another spike in cases that may not be detected in official numbers for two weeks.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has warned that premature action by states could lead to “a rebound to get us right back in the same boat that we were in a few weeks ago.”

Texas is expected to take one of the most expansive actions on Friday, allowing retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls to reopen and operate at 25 percent capacity. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, lifted his stay at home order after less than a month, citing the state’s expanded testing, stock of protective equipment and a high number of coronavirus recoveries.

The pace of reopening has created a divided America, along both political and geographical lines. Many states in the South with Republican governors were among the first to partially reopen, including Georgia, Oklahoma and South Carolina, which paved the way last week. Also beginning to reopen are less dense states, including Alaska and Montana.

Several of the nation’s most populous states remain on extended lockdown, including California, New York, Illinois, and Michigan, where armed protesters gathered at the Capitol in Lansing on Thursday to urge lawmakers to vote against extending the state of emergency.

After pictures of packed California beaches led to an outcry that social distancing guidelines were being flagrantly flouted, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said Thursday that beaches in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, were ordered closed.

“We are going to do a hard close in that part of the state, just in the Orange County area,” he said, while praising the behavior of beachgoers elsewhere.

The governor’s decision came after his pleas to slow the spread of the virus by staying home, despite the temptations of seawater and sunny weather. Photographs of umbrellas and surfers dotting the shorelines of some beaches showed that many residents had not heeded his requests.

Mr. Newsom said the beach shutdown in Orange County was a “temporary closure,” adding, “I hope it’s a very short-term adjustment.”

State parks would remain open “as long as we are modifying our behavior and practicing the physical distancing,” he said.

Nathan Click, a spokesman for Mr. Newsom, said the beach closures were effective on Friday. The order applied to both state and local beaches, Mr. Click said.

Beaches in warmer parts of the nation have become flash points for weeks, as photographs showed social distancing guidelines being flouted. Images of crowded beaches in Florida during spring break prompted national outrage.

Now, as spring brings warmer weather, beaches are posing a challenge to more coastal states. Many are struggling to find a balance that will allow them to provide safe outdoor spaces to a frustrated, pent-up public while preventing the kind of large, packed gatherings that can help spread the virus — but which are commonly found on big public beaches.

Other states, however, were reopening their beaches.

Alabama was set to reopen its beaches on Thursday afternoon under the governor’s new “safer-at-home” order, which limits gatherings to fewer than 10 people and requires six feet between groups from different households. Beaches in Galveston, Texas, will reopen on Friday after the governor’s phased reopening order, which permits outdoor activities as long as people take precautions to “minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household.”

The municipal authorities in Orange County said earlier that they had seen a notification from the California Police Chiefs Association, which said it was offering “a heads up” to local law enforcement “to provide time for you to plan for any situations you might expect as a result, knowing each community has its own dynamics.”

Earlier this week, the City Council in Newport Beach, which is in Orange County, voted down a measure that would have closed the beaches during the next three weekends. Instead, the city asked for more police officers and lifeguards to patrol the beaches and enforce social distancing.

Even before the state began considering closing beaches, the flurry of beachgoers last weekend prompted some local governments to take action.

In Northern California, Santa Cruz County on Wednesday said it was closing beaches entirely between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. beginning this weekend, and that they would be open for only “recreational activities to promote physical and mental health” outside of that window. Officials there said the order was a direct result of the “overwhelming weekend beach crowds.”

“Despite warnings against traveling to Santa Cruz County for beach access and against congregating on beaches, local law enforcement spent the weekend responding to numerous issues all along our coastline,” Sheriff Jim Hart of Santa Cruz County said in a statement. “Unfortunately, these actions are necessary to protect the health and welfare of our most vulnerable residents.”

A Newport Beach spokesman, John Pope, said a statewide closure would not be difficult to enforce, but that it could inflame divisions among conservative civil libertarians and residents who fear further spread of the virus. “There are passionate arguments on both sides,” he said, “and this is going to get very political very fast.”

The figures announced Thursday by the Labor Department brought the number of workers joining the official jobless ranks in the last six weeks to more than 30 million, underscoring just how dire economic conditions remain.

Many state agencies still find themselves overwhelmed by the flood of claims, leaving perhaps millions with dwindling resources to pay the rent or put food on the table.

If anything, the job losses may be far worse than government figures indicate, according to many economists. A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that roughly 50 percent more people than counted as filing claims in a recent four-week period may have qualified for benefits but were stymied in applying or didn’t even try because they found the process too formidable.

“The problem is even bigger than the data suggest,” said Elise Gould, a senior economist with the institute, a left-leaning research group. “We’re undercounting the economic pain.”

As Emily Badger and Alicia Parlapiano reported, systems that were devised to treat each unemployment case as potentially fraudulent are now rushing to deal with millions of newly unemployed people.

The state unemployment systems that were supposed to help millions of jobless workers were full of boxes to check and mandates to meet that couldn’t possibly apply in a pandemic.

States required workers to document their job searches, weekly; to register with employment services, in person; to take a wait period before their first check, up to 10 days.

Such requirements increased in the years following the Great Recession, as many states moved to tighten access to or reduce unemployment benefits. With them, most states cut the share of jobless workers they helped.

Now these requirements have been getting in the way. Effectively, many states have been trying to scale up aid with systems built to keep claims low.

Gilead Sciences plans to give away the first 1.5 million doses of remdesivir, an antiviral drug shown to modestly reduce recovery time in virus patients, if the Food and Drug Administration grants emergency approval.

Gilead could charge for the drug under a so-called emergency use authorization from the agency. But at least at the beginning, Gilead will provide the drug free of charge, Dan O’Day, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview on Thursday.

The company started planning in January to manufacture remdesivir in large quantities, well before large federal trial of the antiviral drug began at the end of February.

The results, announced by administration officials on Wednesday, showed that patients receiving the drug recovered in 11 days on average, compared to 15 days for patients receiving a placebo.

Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the results were “a very important proof of concept” but not a “knockout.”

Gilead has about 1.5 million vials of remdesivir on hand, enough to treat 140,000 to 150,000 patients with a ten-day course, Mr. O’Day said. Gilead should have enough to treat 500,000 patients by the fall, and one million by December, he added.

Gilead has not decided yet on whether or what to charge for the drug in the long run, Mr. O’Day said.

Gilead has a controversial history with drug pricing, noted Harvard health care economist Aaron Kesselheim.

The company bought a drug that cured hepatitis C from a small company, and then charged so much for it –- $1,000 for a pill, which translated into $84,000 for a course of treatment — that many state Medicaid programs and prison systems could not afford it.

“A lot of people with hepatitis C did not get the drug early on,” Dr. Kesselheim said. “And this was a drug, unlike remdesivir, that was a curative treatment for an otherwise chronic and deadly disease.”

Dr. Kesselheim said pricing for remdesivir should take into account a large public investment in the drug. It was developed and tested by scientists at Vanderbilt University and Emory University, among other institutions, and the federal trial was taxpayer-funded, he noted.

Earlier on Thursday, Dr. Fauci said that he was optimistic a vaccine could be available in large quantities as early as January.

He said a new research program, known as Warp Speed, will accelerate development of a vaccine. In the next phase, he said Thursday on NBC’s Today, “We’re going to safely and carefully — but as quickly as we possibly can — try and get an answer as to whether it works and is safe.”

Senator Mitch McConnell’s plan to bring the Senate back to Washington next week drew criticism on Thursday from the chamber’s top Democrat, who said it could endanger not only lawmakers and their aides, but low-level workers, many of them minorities and at higher risk of infection and death from Covid-19.

Democrats have been particularly critical of the decision to return given that Mr. McConnell has not scheduled any coronavirus-related work, instead planning to move on nominations including of a judge nominated for a federal appeals court.

“We are going to scrutinize Leader McConnell’s plan very carefully and see if it does provide the needed protection for the staff and the workers that are here,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, told reporters during a conference call to discuss how the pandemic is disproportionately affecting minorities.

Mr. McConnell’s announcement that the Senate would return on Monday came as virus cases continue to rise in the District of Columbia, a city where nearly half the population is black. District residents are still bound by a stay-at-home order issued by Mayor Muriel Bowser on March 16.

Under pressure from rank-and-file lawmakers, Democratic leaders scrapped their plans to call the House back into session next week, saying they were acting on the advice of Congress’s attending physician, who told them it was a health risk.

On Wednesday, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, who at 86 is the oldest senator, implored Mr. McConnell in a letter to heed that advice and reconsider his plan to return.

Eight Capitol Police officers and 11 facilities workers have already tested positive for Covid-19, she wrote, adding that, “returning the Senate for non-essential business is not worth the risk.”

At Thursday’s news conference, Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, said he was concerned about the janitors who work in the Senate buildings late at night.

“To see them being disproportionately minority and knowing that we are going to be pulling people against the rules of the city,” he said, adding, “I do not know what the health justification of that is.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said her new plan is to reconvene the week of May 11, and begin consideration of another sweeping coronavirus response measure that could top $1 trillion. She said the measure would include funding for state, local, tribal and municipal governments, something that Mr. McConnell has resisted.

And Democrats proposed providing $80 billion over five years for deploying internet connections in places that do not currently have them. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, said he wanted the next relief package to include tax incentives and regulatory changes aimed at kick-starting the manufacturing of drugs and medical supplies in the United States to break American reliance on countries like China.

Vice President Mike Pence was photographed wearing a face mask for the first time on Thursday during a visit to a General Motors plant in Indiana.

Mr. Pence was criticized earlier this week for flouting the guidelines of the Mayo Clinic that asked for all visitors to wear face masks. Surrounded by administration officials and medical professionals wearing masks, Mr. Pence appeared to be the only person at the clinic who was not covering his face.

At the time, Mr. Pence defended himself, saying he was tested regularly for the coronavirus, so there was no need for him to wear a face mask because he was not at risk of contributing to asymptomatic spread, an argument that experts immediately dismissed as faulty. But in his first public outing since then, Mr. Pence appeared to concede to public pressure and covered his face.

The vice president visited a General Motors plant in his home state that had been converted into a ventilator production site. He participated in a round-table discussion with employees there.

“It’s amazing to think this floor was empty about a month ago,” Mr. Pence said. “It was a partnership to meet a vital need for Americans struggling in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said Thursday that the New York City subway would halt service from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. each night so trains could be disinfected.

The policy will go into effect next Wednesday, May 6, the governor said. Public transit in New York City is the only system in the United States, and among the relatively few in the world, that runs 24 hours a day. The system has only shut down twice in the past decade, both times as a result of hurricanes, including Sandy in 2012.

“This is as ambitious as anything we’ve ever undertaken,” the governor said.

He said that shuttle buses, dollar vans and even for-hire vehicles would provide what he called an “essential connector” during those hours to transport essential workers who needed to get to their jobs.

The announcement comes after days of building tension over homeless people using subway trains as an alternative form of shelter and creating what many felt were unsanitary conditions on trains. On Tuesday, Mr. Cuomo, who effectively controls the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state agency that runs the transit system, had declared the situation “disgusting.”

The governor said Thursday that Mayor Bill de Blasio would help lead the effort to coordinate transportation during the nightly halt and praised the mayor for his cooperation.

“It’s a heck of an undertaking by the mayor and I applaud him for his ambition here in stepping up and taking this on,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Mr. de Blasio, appearing at Mr. Cuomo’s briefing via video, said that the effort would be a way to help homeless people, whose life on the subways he called “an unacceptable reality.”

The M.T.A. had rolled out new measures to address the use of the subway by the homeless on Wednesday.

Here are some other highlights from the governor’s morning briefing:

  • 306 more people died of the virus in the state, the lowest daily death toll since March 30.

  • The number of new hospital admissions for virus patients declined, after it ticked up slightly on Wednesday.

  • The number of virus patients in hospitals dropped for the 17th day in a row and is now below 12,000 — down nearly 40 percent from mid-April, when there were nearly 19,000 hospitalized patients.

Mr. Cuomo also gave more details on the state’s planned effort to test and trace, saying that the “massive” effort would require hiring between 6,400 and 17,000 contact tracers, depending on the virus’s spread.

“When social distancing is relaxed, contract tracing is our best hope for isolating the virus when it appears and keeping it isolated,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, who appeared by video at the governor’s briefing and who has volunteered to lead the effort.

There’s no evidence that drugs championed by Trump help virus patients, researchers say.

A report from Harvard researchers adds to the growing doubts about chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drugs that Mr. Trump has repeatedly advocated for virus patients.

The drugs “should only be used with caution and in the context of carefully thought out clinical trials, or on a case-by-case basis after rigorous consideration of the risks and benefits,” the researchers wrote, in an article posted Thursday in The Faseb Journal, published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

The authors found evidence that the drugs could harm Covid patients, but no evidence that they could help, in an analysis of 10 published studies.

The drugs can cause dangerous abnormalities in heart rhythm, especially in high doses or when combined with the antibiotic azithromycin — which some doctors have recommended — or with other drugs that may also disrupt heart rhythm.

The Harvard researchers also noted that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine affect the immune system, which could have unintended consequences in virus patients, maybe even diminishing their ability to fight it off.

Senior Trump administration officials have pushed American spy agencies to hunt for evidence to support an unsubstantiated theory that a government laboratory in Wuhan, China, was the origin of the outbreak, according to current and former American officials. The effort comes as Mr. Trump escalates a public campaign to blame China for the pandemic.

Most intelligence agencies remain skeptical that conclusive evidence of a link to a lab can be found, and scientists who have studied the genetics of the coronavirus say that the overwhelming probability is that it leapt from animal to human in a nonlaboratory setting, as was the case with H.I.V., Ebola and SARS.

Reporting for The New York Times, Mark Mazzetti, Julian E. Barnes, Edward Wong and Adam Goldman investigate how scientists, spies and government officials have wrestled for months with varying theories about how the outbreak began. Many agree on the importance of determining the genesis of the pandemic. In government and academia, however, experts have ruled out the notion that it was concocted as a bioweapon. And they agree that the new pathogen began as a bat virus that evolved naturally, probably in another mammal, to become adept at infecting and killing humans.

A few veteran national security experts have pointed to a history of lab accidents infecting researchers to suggest it might have happened in this case, but many scientists have dismissed such theories.

Oprah Winfrey will headline a virtual commencement ceremony in Chicago.

Chicago has a workaround for its more than 40,000 graduating seniors stuck at home: a virtual commencement ceremony featuring Oprah Winfrey.

The ceremony, details of which are still being worked out, will take place in mid-June. It will include performances, speeches, and a keynote address by Ms. Winfrey, who lives and works in the city. In addition to graduating seniors from Chicago’s public high schools, students from local private and religious schools will also be included.

The planned event is one of the first of its kind to be announced as states and cities continue to grapple with widespread school and business closures as they try to contain the virus’s spread. In states like Illinois, where the illness’s outbreak and death toll has been relatively high, state officials have said that schools will remain closed through the end of the current academic year.

In an interview, Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago said that it’s been a difficult period for the city’s students, whose studies and post-graduation plans were affected by a teacher’s strike that was followed a few months later by the March school closures.

Given everything, “I feel we owe our seniors a proper sendoff,” she said.

The mayor said she had recently convened a working group to discuss the ceremony’s details, including officials from a variety of area schools. Some of the ideas currently under discussion are mentioning individual student accolades and carrying a livestream of the names of all the graduating seniors on the web and on social media. Ms. Lightfoot, who plans to announce the virtual commencement plan at her regularly scheduled press briefing on Thursday, is hoping to convince a local television news outlet to carry the event live.

Help is also being provided by the large trading firm and hedge-fund company Citadel, which is based in downtown Chicago. Citadel will provide both financing and production assistance, according to Ms. Lightfoot and a Citadel spokesman. Ms. Winfrey won’t be paid for her remarks.

The reopening plan will start on Monday with 68 stores in Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, and another 50 locations on May 11. Macy’s said it would reopen stores only in markets where state and local governments said it was safe for nonessential retailers to return to business. The chain temporarily closed its stores on March 18, causing the majority of its sales to disappear, and furloughed the majority of its 123,000 employees in the past month.

Macy’s expects that its reopened stores will only bring in about 15 to 20 percent of their typical business at first and “slowly build” from there, the company’s chief executive, Jeff Gennette, said during a presentation. He acknowledged that it was an open question as to whether shoppers would return.

There will be new protocols for fitting rooms and beauty counters, associates will wear company-issued cloth masks and sometimes gloves, hand sanitizer stations will be placed by elevators and escalators, and plexiglass barriers will be installed at cash registers.

Top Army leaders on Thursday defended their decision to summon 1,000 cadets back to West Point in June for a graduation ceremony featuring a speech by the president. The students would have to return anyway to take physical exams, pack their belongings and move out of their barracks, they said.

“They have to come back to the academy to begin the process to become second lieutenants and report to their first assignments,” Ryan McCarthy, the Army secretary, told reporters in a conference call.

Mr. Trump and the academy have been criticized since he abruptly announced on April 17 that he would be speaking at West Point, the only major service academy he had not yet addressed. Students had left campus in early March as the outbreak in New York State intensified.

After postponing its graduation ceremony, the academy had been looking at the option of a delayed presidential commencement in June but had yet to finalize any plans. Mr. Trump’s pre-emptive statement, later confirmed by the Pentagon, meant recalling 1,000 cadets scattered across the country.

The West Point superintendent said on Thursday that returning seniors would be screened, tested and quarantined for 14 days before graduation. Ample medical supplies and personnel were on hand, he said, adding, “we’ve created a safety bubble.”

Other service academies have done things differently. The Naval Academy decided it was too risky to bring back its nearly 1,000 graduating midshipmen to Annapolis, Md., for commencement, opting for a virtual event. The Air Force Academy sent home its underclassmen, locked down its seniors on campus, moved up graduation, mandated social distancing — and went ahead with plans for the vice president to be its speaker on April 18.

The pandemic has hit small and independent restaurants hard, forcing owners to shutter dining rooms and lay off employees. But the shutdowns have done more than imperil the restaurants’ financial health — they have made the buildings themselves tempting targets for burglars emboldened by the quiet streets and deserted spaces.

Across the country, closed restaurants have been invaded by thieves who seem especially drawn to well-stocked liquor cabinets, and iPads and other equipment.

“It’s the perfect storm,” said Kam Razavi, an owner of a California restaurant who watched from his phone as security cameras recorded a burglar helping himself to the best bottles in the bar. “They know everybody is probably at home with a loaded gun. They’re not going to go rob homes. They’re going to go to closed businesses.”

When his restaurant was broken into in early April, Mr. Razavi had already laid off most of his 75 or so employees, and was uncertain whether he would ever reopen. Now, he is out $5,000 from stolen alcohol, a broken door and cleanup costs.

Most restaurant owners who have had burglaries expect their insurance companies to cover at least a portion of the damage, though the pandemic has created backlogs for claims, delaying payments in some cases.

Some burglars haven’t gotten far. Shortly after the lockdown in New York, a would-be thief broke into Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, in Harlem, and put a few half-empty bottles of alcohol into a bag. When he came upstairs from the basement, police officers were waiting for him.

Need help figuring out the balance between your screens and your life?

Phones and computers are keeping us tethered to the outside world during the pandemic. But being thoughtful about your use of screens can help you emerge from this crisis empowered and in control, and with more self-awareness.

Follow updates on the pandemic from our team of international correspondents.

South Korea on Thursday reported that for the first time since the virus peaked on Feb. 29, it had no new domestic cases and just four cases among people who came from outside the country. That progress has been mirrored in Hong Kong, which on Thursday reported that there had been no new cases for five straight days.

Reporting was contributed by Emily Badger, Karen Barrow, Alan Blinder, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Emily Cochrane, Michael Cooper, Alan Feuer, Thomas Fuller, Michael Gold, Dana Goldstein, Denise Grady, Shawn Hubler, Annie Karni, Kate Kelly, Gina Kolata, Lisa Lerer, Sapna Maheshwari, David McCabe, Sarah Mervosh, Tariro Mzezewa, Amelia Nierenberg, Alicia Parlapiano, Matt Phillips, Brad Plumer, Marc Santora, Eric Schmitt, Ashley Southall, Eileen Sullivan, Kenneth P. Vogel, David Waldstein and David Yaffe-Bellany.

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WILKES: The ‘Abolish ICE’ Movement Maligns Border Personnel Working During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, America has had a refreshing conversation about the true heroes in our society. From medical professionals to truck drivers, work that was once considered unglamorous or even marginalized is finally being appreciated, and it’s overdue.

But not everyone gets the thanks they deserve. Every day, the men and women who staff our U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, including doctors, nurses, counselors, chaplains, detention officers and others are working hard. There’s no “work from home” option for a nurse working in an ICE facility, ensuring the health and safety of migrant detainees.

In a far cry from the wonderful displays of gratitude we see in the nightly “thank you” applause for first responders, there is a very different type of public demonstration taking place around the nation. Extremist activists are targeting ICE facilities. These activists are encircling immigration processing centers in their cars, calling the facilities COVID-19 “death camps” and demanding they be emptied and shut down.

So, we are seeing two reactions to the human tragedy of this COVID-19 pandemic.

One is a massive “thank you” to the doctors, nurses, EMTs and other workers on the front lines of this fight.

The other attempts to use a national crisis to achieve long-held political objectives – namely abolishing ICE and dismantling the federal infrastructure largely built by President Obama’s administration to safely and humanely address periodic surges of migrants across our southern border.

In order to really fire up their political base, these activists have to identify a bogeyman. In this case, they’re targeting the private sector contractors who have for years, under Democrat and Republican presidents, operated immigration processing centers in partnership with ICE.

The only problem? Government agencies and the courts determine if and when immigrant detainees are released – not the contractors.

Additionally, privately-run facilities have actively helped to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Since the outset of this crisis, contractors have worked closely with local, state, and federal health officials – just as publicly-run facilities do – and have followed the most updated guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For example, CoreCivic offered at no cost the use of available facilities to create critical care facilities for local COVID-19 patients.

But you won’t hear any of this from the activists targeting facilities on a daily basis. You also won’t hear about actions ICE is taking today to release hundreds of low-risk detainees to mitigate COVID-19 spread or similar moves by Attorney General William Barr in the federal prison system.

Meanwhile, every day, at significant personal risk, thousands of employees are at the forefront of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. They put their lives on the line to keep the men and women in their care safe and healthy.

Just like others who are braving this fight, they deserve our respect and thanks, or at least a debate based on the facts rather than politically-motivated attacks.

Alexandra Wilkes is national spokeswoman for the Day 1 Alliance, a trade association representing private sector contractors helping address corrections and detention challenges in the United States.