Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.
Arguably the most important news story this week was from The Washington Post, which reported that "U.S. intelligence agencies issued warnings about the novel coronavirus in more than a dozen classified briefings prepared for President Trump in January and February, months during which he continued to play down the threat."
For weeks, the PDB — as the report is known — traced the virus’s spread around the globe, made clear that China was suppressing information about the contagion’s transmissibility and lethal toll, and raised the prospect of dire political and economic consequences.
But the alarms appear to have failed to register with the president, who routinely skips reading the PDB and has at times shown little patience for even the oral summary he takes two or three times per week.
Epidemiologists say that up to 90 percent of U.S. deaths from COVID-19 could have been avoided if we had started sheltering in place just two weeks earlier than we did.
It's reminiscent of George W. Bush famously ignoring an August, 2001 PFB titled, "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US," which warned that intelligence agencies were seeing "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for a hijacking" of commercial airliners. That was a massive scandal, but in the Trump era, there is no time for any one outrage to gain traction with the public before the next one is thrust upon us.
So it should come as no surprise that Trump is relentlessly working to cover his tracks. This week, the White House blocked Anthony Fauci from testifying before a House committee, and Trump is trying to replace the HHS Inspector General who brought public attention to critical shortages in medical supplies. She is the latest in a series of agency watchdogs that Trump has axed for bringing his incompetence and corruption to light. And the regime "is refusing to disclose how it is distributing medical supplies for the coronavirus response that were brought to the U.S. at taxpayer expense through a White House initiative known as Project Air Bridge," according to The LA Times. "The administration instead has allowed six multibillion-dollar medical supply companies that are receiving government aid to import the supplies to block public release of the data."
The coverup may not be worse than the crime in this case, but it is a sprawling effort.
Relatedly, it appears that the regime is punishing former Trump consigliere Michael Cohen for writing a book about Trump's sleaze.
Cohen expected to be granted early release from federal prison due to the coronavirus outbreak but according to The Daily Beast, he was informed that he won't be set loose after all. At the same time, Trump's attorney Charles Harder sent Trump's old fixer a letter "demanding that Cohen stop writing a 'tell-all' anti-Trump book... The sources noted that the letter, sent on behalf of the Trump Organization, cited Cohen’s non-disclosure agreement that he signed while working for the Trump family’s business empire."
The White House denied that Trump had intervened in Cohen's release but "Trump was noticeably irritated about the news of the possible early release of Cohen, whom the president has lambasted as a double-crossing 'rat.'"
Dismantling the regulatory state appears to be an essential activity with this bunch.
Lot of news today but this filing is big: "This Trump administration rule would reduce vital protections of wetla… https://t.co/XM1LmVPfCi— Brian Powell (@Brian Powell)1588357761.0
OSHA citations have dropped nearly 70% during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new analysis from watchdog… https://t.co/p7tNnGOfZw— Chris D'Angelo 🌎 (@Chris D'Angelo 🌎)1588366197.0
Conservatives have long argued that "private enforcement," AKA litigation, is preferable to government regulation. But...
1. The purpose of the Defense Production Act is to allow the president to compel private industry to produce things… https://t.co/2ECRJ9UEwZ— Judd Legum (@Judd Legum)1588249515.0
"A Federal Reserve program expected to begin within weeks will provide hundreds of billions in emergency aid to large American corporations without requiring them to save jobs or limit payments to executives and shareholders." [WaPo]
"Tens of millions of pounds of American-grown produce is rotting in fields as food banks across the country scramble to meet a massive surge in demand," according to Politico, which characterized the disconnect as "a two-pronged disaster that has deprived farmers of billions of dollars in revenue while millions of newly jobless Americans struggle to feed their families."
Politico also reports that "Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is continuing to garnish the wages of federal student loan borrowers who fall behind on payments even though Congress suspended the practice in the economic rescue package, according to a new lawsuit."
We still don't know exactly what's happening with the WH waylaying medical supplies.
States are now having to essentially smuggle tests into the US from countries with functioning public health system… https://t.co/i2gYqqNARD— Josh Marshall (@Josh Marshall)1588304737.0
Hogan says he made sure the plane with tests landed at BWI instead of Dulles, with a large presence of Maryland Nat… https://t.co/601qAwQcw2— Kathryn Watson (@Kathryn Watson)1588270261.0
And we'll leave you with some good news this week, courtesy of The Missoulian, which reports that "a federal judge on Friday canceled nearly 300 oil and gas leases in Montana because government officials failed to properly study the risks of all that drilling to the environment and water supply."