White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has now concluded today’s briefing.
Before leaving the podium, McEnany was asked about criticism that Trump has inappropriately politicized recent White House events, including his Rose Garden press conference earlier this week, during which the president leveled attacks against Joe Biden.
In response, the press secretary said the White House always complies with the Hatch Act, an ethics law that exempts the president and the vice president from its provisions.
When a reporter noted the Hatch Act was not the focus of the criticism, McEnany told the journalist, “What your real problem was is that the president gave a very good, powerful speech from the Rose Garden.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the president’s standing with the American people, as multiple polls show his approval rating dropping.
“We believe this president has great approval in this country,” McEnany said. “His historic Covid response speaks for itself.”
In reality, a number of polls have shown Trump’s approval rating slipping in recent weeks, as criticism of his response to the pandemic intensifies.
According to the FiveThirtyEight average, the president’s approval has dropped more than five points since late March and now stands at 40%.
An ABC News/Ipsos poll released last week also showed Trump’s approval rating specifically on coronavirus had hit a record low, with 67% of Americans expressing disapproval of his response to the pandemic.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump would remain on Twitter, despite yesterday’s widespread hack of the social media platform.
McEnany said the president’s account was secure and White House officials were in “constant” contact with Twitter executives to ensure the security of Trump’s account.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany pushed back against a question on why Trump has been holding many events unrelated to coronavirus in recent weeks.
McEnany replied that the pandemic was a “top priority of this administration,” insisting Trump and his advisers are focused on coronavirus.
“We doing stuff each and every day,” McEnany said. “The president is focusing on a lot.”
Asked whether he has recently met with the White House coronavirus task force, McEnany deflected, saying, “The president is briefed on coronavirus each and every day.”
White House accuses Hogan of ‘revisionist history’ after critical op-ed
Trump’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, is currently holding a briefing at the White House.
The first question to McEnany centered on the newly published op-ed by Republican governor Larry Hogan, which criticized Trump for failing to provide federal leadership amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The press secretary said Hogan’s comments were “really striking” considering the governor’s past praise of Trump. McEnany then read some of Hogan’s comments about the president from March and April.
McEnany accused Hogan of engaing in “revisionist history” when it comes to Trump’s response to the pandemic.
CDC report: Trump’s European travel ban came too late for New York
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Trump’s European travel ban was enacted too late to protect New York residents.
“Although travel restrictions are an important mitigation strategy, by the time the European restrictions were implemented, importation and community transmission of Sars-CoV-2 had already occurred in NYC,” the report says.
Trump introduced severe restrictions on travel from China in early February in the hope of preventing travelers from spreading coronavirus in the US.
However, the president did not unveil similar restrictions on European travel until mid-March, when the CDC says the virus had already made its way to New York.
New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, has previously sought to deflect criticism of his administration’s response to the pandemic by arguing he was not adequately warned about how the virus was spreading from European travel.
“We closed the front door with the China travel ban, which was right,” Cuomo said in late April. “But we left the back door open because the virus had left China by the time we did the China travel ban.”
One of Cuomo’s top advisers quickly shared the report on Twitter, encouraging “those who wonder why NYC was hit so hard” to read the findings.
Although New York’s rate of coronavirus deaths has dropped substantially in the past few months, the state’s total death toll still surpasses that of any other US state.
Since the start of the pandemic, New York has confirmed more than 400,000 coronavirus cases across the state, and more than 32,000 residents have lost their lives to the virus.
More from the Guardian’s Sam Levine on the supreme court’s ruling:
In late May, US district Judge Robert Hinkle struck down the Florida law that required those with felony convictions to repay any debts assessed as part of their sentence before they could vote again.
Florida appealed the ruling, and in late May, the US court of appeals blocked the lower court’s ruling while the appeal was pending. The plaintiffs in the case filed an emergency request with the US supreme court to let Hinkle’s ruling go into effect so the people impacted by the law could vote in Florida’s August primary.
The supreme court declined to do so on Thursday, meaning Hinkle’s ruling will not be in effect while the 11th circuit considers the appeal. It is currently scheduled to hear the case 18 August.
The supreme court did not offer an explanation for its ruling on Thursday, but Justice Sonia Sotomayor – joined by Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg – authored a scathing dissent, saying they would have let Hinkle’s ruling go into effect.
“This Court’s order prevents thousands of otherwise eligible voters from participating in Florida’s primary election simply because they are poor,” Sotomayor wrote in dissent.
Sotomayor also called out the supreme court for its willingness to uphold voting restrictions in a number of cases over the last several months.
The court shortened the deadline to return absentee ballots in Wisconsin as well as u[held restrictions on voting by mail in Texas and Alabama. Only in the Wisconsin case has the court offered any reasoning for its thinking, relying on a 2006 case, Purcell v. Gonzalez, that says courts should not interfere with election rules on the eve of an election.
“This Court’s inaction continues a trend of condoning disfranchisement. Ironically, this Court has wielded Purcell as a reason to forbid courts to make voting safer during a pandemic,” she wrote. “Now, faced with an appellate court stay that disrupts a legal status quo and risks immense disfranchisement—a situation that Purcell sought to avoid—the Court balks.”
Supreme court declines to block Florida law criticized as ‘poll tax’
The Guardian’s Sam Levine reports:
Florida can continue to block people with felony convictions from voting until they’ve repaid all fines and fees they owe, the US supreme court ruled on Thursday, a major ruling that makes it more unlikely that nearly three quarters of a million affected Floridians will get to vote in November.
The supreme court’s ruling on Thursday came at a preliminary stage procedurally in one of the most closely-watched voting rights lawsuits in the United States.
There are an estimated 774,000 people in Florida who cannot vote because they owe money and the state has no centralized way to inform people how much they owe. Many people with felonies also simply can never afford to repay the insurmountable debt they accumulate with their court sentences.
Florida Republicans passed the law requiring repayment after Florida overs overwhelmingly approved a 2018 constitutional amendment allowing people to vote once they complete their sentences, a change that was seen to affect 1.4 million people.
The Republican-authored law was widely seen as an effort to undercut the amendment and make it more difficult and confusing for people to get their voting rights back.
USA Today labeled Peter Navarro’s op-ed on Dr Anthony Fauci, which was published on the newspaper’s website earlier this week, as “midleading.”
Bill Sternberg, USA Today’s editorial page editor, added a note to the top of the op-ed saying the editors chose to publish the op-ed because it was “newsworthy,” considering the White House’s recent attacks on Fauci’s credibility.
But Sternberg added, “However, several of Navarro’s criticisms of Fauci — on the China travel restrictions, the risk from the coronavirus and falling mortality rates — were misleading or lacked context. As such, Navarro’s op-ed did not meet USA TODAY’s fact-checking standards.”
In the op-ed, Navarro said Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, had been “wrong about everything I have interacted with him on.”
Trump sought to distance himself from the op-ed, claiming it only represented Navarro’s personal opinion. However, administration officials privately told reporters that the president urged Navarro to write the op-ed because of his frustration with Fauci’s recent comments on the coronavirus pandemic.
Sternberg said in his note on Navarro’s op-ed, “We dealt directly with Navarro and do not know whether he spoke to anyone else at the White House about his statement.”
Brad Parscale tweeted an interesting biblical passage just now, a day after being pushed out as Trump’s campaign manager.
“Romans 12:14: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them,” Parscale said in the tweet, his first message on Twitter since his demotion.
Parscale is staying on a senior adviser to the president’s reelection campaign, but seasoned political operative Bill Stepien is taking over as campaign manager.
The internal change came as a new set of national polls show Trump trailing Joe Biden by double digits, with many battleground state polls showing similar warning signs for the president.
The demotion of Parscale is clearly meant to shake up the Trump campaign in the hope of changing the trajectory of the race, but some Republican strategists are warning the president is running out of time to reverse his downward trend.
Minor planning note: today’s White House briefing has been pushed back an hour, to 2 pm ET.
During the briefing, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany will likely be pressed on efforts by some administration officials to discredit Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert.
According to reports, the president spoke with Fauci in a phone call yesterday, marking the first conversation between the two in weeks.
Today so far
Here’s where the day stands so far:
- House speaker Nancy Pelosi sharply criticized Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, as infections rise in 41 states. “Observing his behavior, I have concluded that he is like the man who refuses to ask for directions,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference this morning. “Mr President, admit it, you’ve gone down the wrong path. Ask for directions.”
- The Republican National Committee is reportedly planning for a downsized nominating convention next month, as public health experts express concern about large events in the middle of a pandemic. According to reports, RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a letter to delegates that attendance would be strictly limited at next month’s convention in Jacksonville, Florida.
- Russian state-sponsored hackers have been targeting organizations working to develop a coronavirus vaccine, British security officials said. The hacking efforts have been specifically targeting groups involved in vaccine work in the UK, the US and Canada.
The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
Republicans plan for downsized convention – reports
In case you missed it this morning: Republicans are reportedly making plans to sharply restrict attendance at next month’s nominating convention in Jakcsonville, Florida.
Party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who is overseeing planning for the convention, has written a letter to RNC members saying that attendance for the first three nights of the four-night event will be limited to delegates. When Trump delivers his nomination acceptance speech on the fourth night of the convention, August 27, attendance will be expanded to delegates, a guest of their choosing, and alternate delegates. …
‘I want to make clear that we still intend to host a fantastic convention celebration in Jacksonville,’ McDaniel wrote. ‘We can gather and put on a top-notch event that celebrates the incredible accomplishments of President Trump’s administration and his re-nomination for a second term — while also doing so in a safe and responsible manner.’
The development will certainly disappoint Trump, who specifically demanded the convention be moved from North Carolina after that state’s governor asked the RNC to scale down the event in order to comply with public health guidance.
The pandemic has upended plans for both the Democratic and Republican conventions, with Democrats saying their Milwaukee convention to nominate Joe Biden will be mostly virtual.
Data is already disappearing from the CDC’s website, after the Trump administration announced it was shifting the reporting of statistics on hospital capacity to the department of health and human services.
A ProPublica editor noted this morning that the CDC’s dashboard on hospital capacity had disappeared from the health agency’s website.
The dashboard is now visible on the CDC website with data from ealier this week, and a note on the top of the page reads, “Data displayed on this page was submitted directly to CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) and does not include data submitted to other entities contracted by or within the federal government.”
The development comes a day after CDC director Robert Redfield confirmed states would start sending hospital data directly to HHS. Redfield described the new system as a way to streamline the data, but the change raised concerns that the Trump administration was attempting to suppress data on coronavirus.
The change did not escape the attention the top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer. “You cannot sweep this under the rug. You cannot hide the facts,” Schumer said in a tweet linking to an article about the CDC data.
“More than 130,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. President Trump: Get to work fighting this virus, and stop trying to undermine public health experts.”
Here’s some unsurprising news: the National Rifle Association’s political arm has officially endorsed Trump’s reelection bid.
In a new statement, the gun rights group said the endorsement was announced in a letter sent to Trump yesterday.
“On behalf of America’s 5 million NRA members, the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) is proud to endorse your reelection as president of the United States of America,” the letter reads.
“You have done more than any president to protect the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. The NRA stands behind you and your administration.”
The endorsement is unsurprising considering Democrats have been pushing for years to pass more stringent restrictions on gun ownership, which the NRA has resisted.
Despite the many mass shootings that have taken place since Trump took office, the president has embraced his role as a champion of gun rights as he seeks reelection.
During her weekly press conference this morning, House speaker Nancy Pelosi also offered an unflattering comparison between Trump and some of his Republican predecessors.
“I yearn for other Republican presidents,” the Democratic speaker said. “While we may disagree on many points, at least we had a shared commitment to the governance of our country.”
Pelosi has previously admitted to some nostalgia for former president George W Bush, who she criticized a “total failure” when he was in office.
Pelosi said in late 2018 that she and Bush “had our differences of opinion, especially on the war in Iraq, but we had many areas of agreement and we were able to work together in respectful ways.”
Pelosi: ‘Mr President, admit it, you’ve gone down the wrong path’
House speaker Nancy Pelosi harshly criticized Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic during her weekly press conference this morning.
“Observing his behavior, I have concluded that he is like the man who refuses to ask for directions,” Pelosi said moments ago. “All of the answers are there.”
The Democratic speaker accused Trump of a “massive dereliction of duty,” as the number of coronavirus cases in the US continues to surge.
“Mr President, admit it, you’ve gone down the wrong path,” Pelosi said. “Ask for directions. Ask for directions from our scientists, who know better.”