U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) addresses her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., June 18, 2020.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would delay or cancel her chamber’s August recess to pass another coronavirus relief bill as financial lifelines are poised to expire in the coming days, she said Tuesday.
“We absolutely have to. We also have to come to an agreement,” the California Democrat told CNN when asked if she would forgo or postpone representatives’ month-long return to their districts.
Congress would need to rush to craft pandemic relief legislation that could pass both the Democratic-held House and GOP-controlled Senate before the end of July. The chambers have not found consensus yet on how to address an ongoing economic and health crisis as coronavirus cases surge in southern and western states.
Democrats have pushed for a sprawling aid package to build on previous bills, calling to extend the enhanced federal unemployment insurance provision, send more direct payments to individuals, offer assistance to renters and homeowners and send relief to state and local governments. Republicans have outlined a more narrow approach: they aim to change rather than extend the jobless benefit, protect businesses and doctors from certain lawsuits and potentially send stimulus checks to fewer people than Democrats would want.
If Congress cannot act, millions of Americans will face a sudden and sharp drop in income when the $600 per week federal unemployment benefit expires at the end of the month. States will only pay the benefit through July 25 or July 26.
Pelosi also brought up the need to pass aid to help people stay in their homes as moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures expire in parts of the country.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pushed to end the $600 per week benefit. He has called it a “mistake” because it left many people making more at home than they did at their jobs. Late last month, the Kentucky Republicans said that “to have the basic protections of unemployment insurance is extremely important and should be continued.”
Speaking to CNBC last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the White House wanted to overhaul the jobless benefit plan but did not give details on how it aimed to address the coming income gulf. He said “you can assume” individuals will get “no more than 100%” of their normal pay.
The Trump administration has previously backed the possibility of offering Americans a “return to work” bonus.
The push to pass another relief bill comes as the pandemic rampages through the United States in a way that it has not hit any other country. Coronavirus cases continue to spike in California, Florida and Texas. The U.S. has now reported more than 3.3 million cases and more than 135,000 deaths from the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
California, the most populous U.S. state, rolled back its reopening plans on Monday.
After two strong months of U.S. jobs growth as states restarted their economies, President Donald Trump has publicly projected little concern about the ongoing crisis. He has pushed for swift reopening of both businesses and schools.
A leading group of infectious disease specialists Tuesday called efforts to discredit the nation’s top infectious disease expert “disturbing” while four former heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chastised U.S. leaders for politicizing the country’s Covid-19 response.
Reports of the Trump administration’s campaign to discredit and diminish the role of White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the leading voices in the country’s response to the coronavirus, “at this perilous moment are disturbing,” Thomas M. File, Jr., president of the Infectious Disease Society of America, said in a statement issued Tuesday.
“The only way out of this pandemic is by following the science, and developing evidence-based prevention practices and treatment protocols as new scientifically rigorous data become available. Knowledge changes over time. That is to be expected,” File said in his statement in support of Fauci on Tuesday.
The rift between Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and President Donald Trump widened last week after Fauci told the Financial Times in an interview that he hasn’t seen Trump at the White House since early June and hasn’t briefed him on the pandemic in at least two months.
His comments came as Trump told Fox News Thursday that “Dr. Fauci’s a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes.”
“They’ve been wrong about a lot of things, including face masks,” Trump said in the interview. “Maybe they’re wrong, maybe not. A lot of them said don’t wear a mask, don’t wear a mask. Now they’re saying wear a mask. A lot of mistakes were made, a lot of mistakes.”
The Trump administration has increasingly disregarded advice from its top scientific advisors on Covid-19 with Trump himself calling the CDC’s guidelines on school reopenings too cumbersome and expensive.
The White House further tried to distance itself from and discredit Fauci over the weekend, saying “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things,” according to a statement first reported by The Washington Post. The White House pointed to comments and positions taken by Fauci early in the outbreak that have since changed.
File, of the Infectious Disease Society, said “all of America must support public health experts, including Dr. Fauci, and stand with science” if there’s any hope to ending the pandemic.
Past directors of the CDC also criticized the Trump administration of dismissing advice from public health officials in a separate op-ed published in The Washington Post on Tuesday. Four former CDC directors wrote that the U.S. faces “two opponents” in its efforts to reopen the country: Covid-19 and politicians and others attempting to undermine the CDC.
“It is not unusual for CDC guidelines to be changed or amended during a clearance process that moves through multiple agencies and the White House. But it is extraordinary for guidelines to be undermined after their release,” wrote the former CDC directors: Tom Frieden, who served under former President Barack Obama; Jeffrey Koplan, who served under former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; David Satcher, who served under Clinton and Richard Besser, who served under Obama.
“Through last week, and into Monday, the administration continued to cast public doubt on the agency’s recommendations and role in informing and guiding the nation’s pandemic response,” they said.
The former CDC directors, while not naming Fauci, noted that that there are “thousands of experts” at the CDC who are “best positioned to help our country emerge from this crisis.” However, their advice has been challenged with “partisan potshots” that have caused confusion. The CDC and NIH are both divisions under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The rebuke from the former directors come after Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spent days pressuring schools to reopen amid a surge in Covid-19 cases nationwide. Trump threatened to withhold federal funding from states that don’t reopen their schools.
Vice President Mike Pence confirmed on Wednesday that the Trump administration is looking to the upcoming phase four coronavirus relief bill as a potential way to exert leverage over schools.
“As the debate last week around reopening schools more safely showed, these repeated efforts to subvert sound public health guidelines introduce chaos and uncertainty while unnecessarily putting lives at risk,” the directors wrote.
White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said the United States is seeing a surge in new Covid-19 infections because the country never shut down entirely.
Early in the outbreak, U.S. coronavirus cases peaked at around 30,000 new cases a day before falling and plateauing at roughly 20,000 new cases per day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. As some states began to reopen in late April through June, new cases began to surge, Fauci told Stanford Medicine Dean Lloyd Minor during an interview.
“We did not shut down entirely,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said. “We need to draw back a few yards and say, ‘OK, we can’t stay shut down forever.’ …You’ve got to shut down but then you’ve got to gradually open.”
The U.S. has reported more than 3.3 million Covid-19 cases and at least 135,205 deaths as of Monday, Hopkins data shows. As of Sunday, cases are growing by 5% or more in 37 states and also Washington, D.C., according to CNBC’s analysis of the data. The seven-day average of U.S. cases is more than 59,100.
In recent weeks, President Donald Trump and some state leaders have downplayed the threat of the virus, tying the surge in new cases to an increase in testing. However, public health officials and infectious disease experts refute those claims, saying the rate of cases that test positive in the U.S., hospitalizations and deaths remain high in some states.
Fauci said Monday that the outbreak in the U.S. hasn’t “even begun to see the end” of the coronavirus pandemic yet as scientists continue to work on potential drugs and vaccines for the virus. He said he’s “cautiously optimistic” scientists will be able to create at least one safe and effective vaccine by the end of the year or early 2021.
Biotech firm Moderna, which is working with the National Institutes of Health, and Johnson & Johnson are expected to begin late-stage human trials for potential vaccines by the end of this month. It’s a record-breaking time frame to produce a vaccine — even as scientists say there is no guarantee the vaccines will be effective.
Fauci also said he expects the public to compare the Covid-19 pandemic to the 1918 pandemic flu, which killed around 50 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
He mentioned the “extreme” range of symptoms people can experience after contracting the virus, including pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome. PMIS is a rare inflammatory condition found in children with Covid-19 that’s similar to Kawasaki syndrome and has caused neurological damage in some kids.
“We learn things every week,” he said.
The comments by Fauci come as the rift between Trump and the nation’s top infectious disease expert widens. Just last week, Trump, who has previously said the pandemic was nearing its end, criticized Fauci’s response to the pandemic.
During an interview Thursday with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Trump said, “Dr. Fauci’s a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes.
“They’ve been wrong about a lot of things, including face masks,” he said. “Maybe they’re wrong, maybe not. A lot of them said don’t wear a mask, don’t wear a mask. Now they’re saying wear a mask. A lot of mistakes were made, a lot of mistakes.”
However, Trump has often been seen without a mask despite recommendations from the CDC and the World Health Organization that people wear them as a way to slow the spread of the virus. Scientists say the virus can spread through respiratory droplets that pass when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Studies suggest the masks may help limit transmission.
On Saturday, Trump wore a mask in public for the first time while visiting Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Trump retweets game show host Chuck Woolery’s baseless claim that ‘everyone is lying’ about coronavirus
President Donald Trump retweeted a post by game show host Chuck Woolery that baselessly claimed “everyone is lying” about the coronavirus pandemic in a possible effort to thwart Trump’s re-election chances this fall by harming the economy.
The conservative Woolery, who hosted shows such as “Love Connection,” wrote on Sunday evening, “The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19.”
“Everyone is lying. The CDC [federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust,” Woolery wrote.
“I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election. I’m sick of it,” he added.
Woolery did not cite any evidence for his claim, or detail any purported “lies” by the targets of his tweet that the president reposted.
Soon after Trump shared the post, the president retweeted another comment by Woolery about the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.
“There is so much evidence, yes scientific evidence, that schools should open this fall. It’s worldwide and it’s overwhelming. BUT NO,” wrote Woolery, whose game show resume also includes acting as the first host of “Wheel of Fortune,” and helming “Scrabble,” “Greed” and “Lingo.”
Woolery’s comments were harshly criticized by a number of people, including by actress Rosanna Arquette, who in a Twitter reply wrote: “The most outrageous lies are being spoon fed to American citizens by the racist barbaric cruel trump administration and ignorant morons like yourself because of gross negligence Americans are dying and are loathed around the world because of impeached individual criminal.”
The journalist Kurt Eichenwald wrote: “Let’s see. A game show host, a politician, someone on social media, a guy on Fox News, or a person trained in epidemiology and infectious disease. Huh. You’re right. Hard to know which one of those to trust about issues involving epidemiology and infectious disease.”
The posts came as the United States hit new records for coronavirus cases as the virus spread in the South and West, with new cases of Covid-19 topping or approaching 60,000 additional diagnoses each day for the past week.
On Sunday, Florida reported 15,299 new cases of Covid-19 in a single day, shattering New York state’s individual state daily record by more than 3,000 cases.
Trump’s implicit endorsement of Woolery’s comments also came as officials in the Trump administration sought to discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top federal infectious disease official. He has continued to issue stark warnings about the risks of reopening the country amid the pandemic.
On Monday, top executives at the Association of American Medical Colleges issued a statement saying the group “is extremely concerned and alarmed by efforts to discredit Anthony Fauci.”
“Dr. Fauci has been an independent and outspoken voice for truth as the nation has struggled to fight the coronavirus pandemic,” wrote AAMC President Dr. David Skorton, and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Ross McKinney.
“As we are seeing from the surge in COVID-19 cases in areas that have reopened, science and facts — not wishful thinking or politics — must guide America’s response to this pandemic,” Skorton and McKinney said.
Earlier Sunday, U.S. Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos argued for the Trump administration‘s push to reopen schools in the fall even as the pandemic continues to rage.
“School leaders across the country need to be making plans” to have students in the classroom, DeVos said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“There will be exceptions to the rule, but the rule should be kids go back to school this fall,” she said.
On Monday, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, warned against making the decision to reopen schools “yet another political football in this game.”
“If we suppress the virus in our society, in our communities, then our schools can open safely,” Ryan said.
Trump on Sunday night also retweeted a third Twitter post from Woolery, who was replying to a Trump supporter who criticized Democrats.
Sen. Marco Rubio says the costs of not reopening schools in Florida are ‘extraordinary’ despite surge in coronavirus cases
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in Russell Building on Wednesday, June 24, 2020.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call | Getty Images
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio suggested Monday that some high-risk Florida counties take “additional measures” to reopen schools in the fall as the state gets battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think we need to be flexible about all sorts of things,” Rubio said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” while stressing that “the costs of not reopening our schools are extraordinary.”
The senator’s remarks came a day after Florida reported the largest single-day increase in positive Covid-19 cases of any state since the crisis began. More than 15,000 cases were confirmed Sunday in the Sunshine state.
Less than a week earlier, Florida’s education commissioner ordered schools throughout the state to reopen in August for in-person instruction at least five days a week.
In a tweet later Monday morning, Rubio reiterated that despite the risks, “at some point this fall kids need to be back in school.”
Despite the record-breaking number of infections, Rubio said most Florida counties will be able to safely reopen their schools on schedule.
“Florida’s an enormous state. We have 67 counties. I spent over a week now in northwest Florida where the vast majority of the counties could reopen. They’re not facing this,” Rubio said. “So I think in many of our counties the answer to that question is yes, we could.”
In the counties being hardest hit by the surge in cases, Rubio said he believed extra precautions should be taken – but he did not suggest that those areas should wait longer to reopen their schools.
For those areas, “I think we are going to have to take additional measures to be able reopen schools and I think we need to be flexible about all sorts of things,” Rubio said.
“It isn’t going to be school the way we’re used to in normal times, but at some point you have to make those decisions on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis: What are the costs of not reopening schools, what are the benefits with regard to the virus for not opening schools,” Rubio said. “And I think in the short and long term the costs are extraordinary.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, agreed.
“I have no doubt we can do this safely,” DeSantis said at a press conference Thursday, CNN reported. “We spent months saying that there were certain things that were essential — that included fast food restaurants, it included Walmart, it included Home Depot. If fast food and Walmart and Home Depot — and look, I do all that, so I’m not looking down on it — but if all that is essential, then educating our kids is absolutely essential.”
President Donald Trump has pushed state leaders to reopen their schools in the fall, threatening to cut off funding if in-person classes don’t resume. Vice President Mike Pence said that the Trump administration is considering ways to use a potential additional round of federal coronavirus relief to provide “incentives” for schools to reopen their doors.
Teachers’ advocates have pushed back on the pressure to get kids back in the classroom, warning that reopening prematurely could pose risks.
The nation’s second largest teachers union last week announced it would launch a $1 million ad campaign aimed at lobbying Congress to approve additional funds to help schools prepare for reopening.
Rubio told “Squawk Box” that lawmakers in Washington, D.C., need to do more to combat the spread of the virus and blunt the economic and societal impacts of the pandemic.
“I don’t have any doubt we do, particularly for smaller firms,” he said. “I think we’re 90% of the way there in terms of putting together some ideas about how to help truly small business under 300 employees or less, microtargeted not just for payroll but for the costs of paying for some of these adaptive technologies that they have to come up with to comply with local regulations.”
He added: “We’re going to have to be nimble and flexible here, because as this virus’ impact on our economy evolves our policies will to have to evolve to keep pace.”
— CNBC’s Christina Wilkie contributed to this report.
Roger Stone leaves Federal Court after a sentencing hearing February 20, 2020, in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images
Roger Stone says President Donald Trump saved his life by commuting his prison sentence Friday night.
“The president has saved my life,” Stone said, “And he’s given me the opportunity to fight for vindication.”
He previously had said that any period in a federal prison would amount to a death sentence, given the coronavirus pandemic and his health problems. “I’m 67 years old. I had very, very severe asthma as a child. If you look at the profile of those who are most at risk, I think I fit that,” he said.
While he expressed his gratitude for Trump’s decision, Stone says it didn’t come as a shock.
“Well I was, I was elated,” he said Friday night outside his Fort Lauderdale, Florida, home surrounded by onlookers. “Obviously I was somewhat relieved, but I was not surprised.”
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Stone described his legal ordeal as a “nightmare” and a “witch hunt.”
“This is a horrific, horrific nightmare when you realize that … this investigation never had any legitimate or lawful beginning,” he said. “It was a witch hunt. There’s no question about that.”
Stone was convicted of obstructing a congressional investigation of Russia’s 2016 presidential election meddling.
The 67-year-old former Trump campaign aide, who spoke to reporters while wearing a face mask that read “Free Roger Stone!,” said he is “elated” by being spared 40 months in prison during the coronavirus outbreak.
Trump’s commutation of Stone’s sentence less than a week before he was due to report to federal prison drew ire and applause from lawmakers split down the political divide. Republicans celebrated the move, while Democrats said Trump behaved “like a Mafia boss” in commuting the sentence of someone accused of lying to Congress.
Stone said he will celebrate his freedom by writing a book about his experience and also helping to “exonerate” former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to charges that he lied to FBI agents in January 2017 about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. The Justice Department dropped the charges in May.
Stone also threatened to file a formal complaint against prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky, accusing him of defrauding the courts and breaking the law on “numerous occasions.”
“If you saw his testimony before the [House Judiciary Committee] it was an incredible blend of obfuscation, hearsay and perjury,” Stone said. “I got special treatment, he says. Let’s go through the special treatment: 29 FBI agents show up at your house to rouse you out of bed for a white-collar process crime. That’s special treatment?”
Zelinky testified last month that Stone was given “a break” because of politics and his relationship with Trump. That sentiment was echoed Friday by several Democrats, including Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. who accused the president of political favoritism.
Stone, however, continued to deny any wrongdoing and welcomed the commutation because it allows him to continue fighting the charges in court.
“I want to clear my name,” he said. “I would like a new trial and vindication.”