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.
It is October, but news that Donald Trump has been diagnosed with Covid-19 should come as no surprise. Trump believes that masks make you look weak– which would come as a surprise to goalies, catchers and Darth Vader–and attends indoor events with other maskless people. And, as The New York Times reported, the White House’s strategy to keep the virus at bay relies on screening everyone with a rapid test “that was never intended for that purpose and is known to deliver incorrect results.” (Meanwhile, the Coronavirus Task Force is rarely meeting these days and, according to Anthony Fauci, when it does taskforce members spend all of their time discussing how to reopen the economy and barely talk about public health.) The only surprise is that the guy didn’t contract the disease earlier.
Meanwhile, the White House is painting a rosy picture of Trump’s condition, saying that he’s only experiencing mild symptoms and was transferred to Walter Reed Medical Center out of “an abundance of caution,” and will continue to work from there for a few days. But while we don’t know what his status is with any certainty, everything else they’re saying is inconsistent with those sunny statements.
First, there’s no clear reason why Trump would be moved to Walter Reed if his symptoms were mild. The White House Medical Unit is a state-of-the-art urgent care facility managed by the military and staffed by highly qualified medical personnel around-the-clock. They can handle any emergency, but they don’t have an Intensive Care Unit. The presidential suite at Walter Reed does.
Second, Trump’s physician said that Trump was given the maximum dose of an experimental antibody treatment that’s currently undergoing testing on a “compassionate use” basis. These are typically approved for patients with serious illnesses when other treatments have proven ineffective. On Twitter, Ezekiel Emanuel, a clinician and bioethicist, wrote, “you do not give a patient — much less the President of the United States — a drug that is not yet approved by the FDA (to say nothing of one with ‘mild symptoms’). Unsurprisingly, the Trump WH is not being forthright to the American people about the health of their President.”
He is also being administered Remdesivir, a drug that is not indicated for the treatment of Covid-19 but has received an Emergency Use Authorization for use in severe cases. That needs to be administered in a hospital setting, which may be another reason they moved him to Walter Reed. One clinical trial found that one-in-five patients who received the drug for five days and more than a third of those who were on it for ten days experienced “severe adverse events” including worsening respiratory failure and liver damage. Giving the guy with the nuclear codes such a treatment is entirely inconsistent with a mild case of Covid.
Now, we should note that none of this proves anything. It could simply be a matter of Trump demanding every drug he’s heard about and his medical staff refusing to say “no” to a panicky patient who happens to be the most powerful person in America.
But this notoriously mendacious White House isn’t doing much to assure the public that the information they’re providing is reliable. Moments after a Saturday press briefing in which Trump’s physician, Sean Conley, said that his patient is only “slightly overweight” and refused to say outright that Trump has not required supplemental oxygen, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows went off of the record to give reporters “contradictory information” about his boss’s condition, according to NYMag’s Olivia Nuzzi.
Question: “Has [Trump] EVER been on supplemental oxygen?”
Conley says he was not on it “yesterday or today” and is coy saying “he is not on it right now” when asked if he has been on it during his COVID treatment pic.twitter.com/g5KEICpI6g
— Brandon Wall (@Walldo) October 3, 2020
A White House official clarifies Dr. Conley’s timeline. He says Conley meant to say it’s Day 3, not 72 hours in—the diagnosis was made Thursday night—and that Garibaldi meant to say it’s been two days, not 48 hours, since the Regeneron was administered on Thursday night.
— Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) October 3, 2020
“Vice President Mike Pence in March directed the nation’s top disease control agency to use its emergency powers to effectively seal the U.S. borders, overruling the agency’s scientists who said there was no evidence the action would slow the coronavirus,” according to the AP. “The action has so far caused nearly 150,000 children and adults to be expelled from the country.”
“Top White House officials pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this summer to play down the risk of sending children back to school, a strikingly political intervention in one of the most sensitive public health debates of the pandemic,” according to The New York Times.
A huge study out of India was released this week, and it found that “children were actually quite important” in spreading the disease. According to NPR, “the proportion of children who are infected but don’t show any symptoms, he says, is higher than adults. So they may not even be recognized as potential carriers.” ‘[Many] kids are silent spreaders in the sense that they don’t manifest the disease with symptoms,” [said one of the authors of the study]. ‘They happen to get infected as much as anyone else, and then they happen to spread it to other people.'”
Last year, news broke “that government-sponsored lending agency Freddie Mac had agreed to back $786 million in loans to the Kushner Companies,” leading to questions about whether Jared Kushner’s family’s business “had received special treatment,” according to ProPublica.
The loans helped Kushner Companies scoop up thousands of apartments in Maryland and Virginia, the business’s biggest purchase in a decade. The deal, first reported by Bloomberg, also ranked among Freddie Mac’s largest ever. At the time, the details of its terms weren’t disclosed.
Now, ProPublica reports that “Kushner Companies received unusually favorable loan terms for the 18 mortgages it obtained with Freddie Mac’s backing. The loans allowed the Kushner family company to make lower monthly payments and borrow more money than was typical for similar loans.”
ICE has become nakedly partisan and is all-in for Donald Trump.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that “ICE officials have launched a billboard campaign in Pennsylvania that they say will educate the public about the dangers of sanctuary policies in places like Philadelphia… ‘These billboards are clearly intended to fuel anti-immigrant fervor one month before the election,’ said city spokesperson Mike Dunn.”
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that the Trump regime “is preparing an immigration enforcement blitz next month that would target arrests in U.S. cities and jurisdictions that have adopted “sanctuary” policies, according to three U.S. officials who described a plan with public messaging that echoes the president’s law-and-order campaign rhetoric.” According to the report, this is all for show: “Two officials with knowledge of plans for the sanctuary op described it as more of a political messaging campaign than a major ICE operation, noting that the agency already concentrates on immigration violators with criminal records and routinely arrests them without much fanfare.”
Compare and contrast:
“Federal law enforcement officials were directed to make public comments sympathetic to Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with fatally shooting two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, according to internal Department of Homeland Security talking points obtained by NBC News.”
In preparing Homeland Security officials for questions about Rittenhouse from the media, the document suggests that they note that he “took his rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small business owners.”
Another set of talking points distributed to Homeland Security officials said the media were incorrectly labeling the group Patriot Prayer as racists after clashes erupted between the group and protesters in Portland, Oregon.
Meanwhile, The Nation’s Ken Klippenstein obtained an internal FBI report that paints a very different picture.
[When asked] if he would condemn white supremacist violence by groups like the Proud Boys, President Trump was defiant, remarking: “Almost everything I see is from the left-wing, not the right-wing.” But that very same day, the FBI issued an intelligence report warning of an imminent “violent extremist threat” posed by a far-right militia that includes white supremacists—identifying the current election period up to the 2021 inauguration as a “potential flashpoint.”…
The intelligence report concludes by citing concerns of the Boogaloos’ “increased ‘patrolling’ or attendance at events” amenable to their cause. You might say those orders are coming from the top—at the presidential debate last night, President Trump called for his supporters to patrol polling places. “I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully because that’s what has to happen,” Trump said.
Finally, the September jobs report fell far short of expectations–CNBC called it “massively disturbing”–and The Washington Post reports that “the worst economic crisis in more than a generation has thrust potentially millions of Americans across the country into… sudden peril: Cash-strapped, and in some cases still unemployed, they have fallen far behind on their electricity, water and gas bills, staring down the prospect of potential utility shut-offs and fast-growing debts they may never be able to repay.”
And amid all of this suffering, “the Agriculture Department last week began mandating that millions of boxes of surplus food for needy families include a letter from President Donald Trump claiming credit for the progra,” according to Politico. In reality, Trump has proposed radical cuts to the agency’s nutritional assistance programs.
Trump baffled by vaccine hold-up because he has the ’emotional make-up of a small child’: CNN
Reporting on a planned White House task force meeting on Tuesday where FDA head Steven Hahn is expected to provide an update on the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, CNN's John Harwood said officials in the government are having to fend off a pestering Donald Trump.
According to CNN's Jim Sciutto, Trump is "upset" that the vaccine hasn't been released to the public yet because he doesn't understand the complexity of the massive public health project and why the FDA hasn't approved the vaccine's release.
"This is not the first time we've been concerned about the president interfering, perhaps with an eye towards politics, to the scientific questions about vaccine approval. What do we know?" Sciutto asked.
Republicans are giving Trump ‘two more weeks’ to see the ‘writing on the wall’ before intervening: CNN’s Raju
Top Republican officials are remaining silent as President Donald Trump continues peddling false conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election, but a new report from CNN's Manu Raju suggests their patience does have its limits.
During an interview with CNN host Jim Sciutto, Raju said that Republicans know they're going to have to acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden won the election at some point, although they're trying to string it out for as long as they can to avoid angering the president.
"Republican senators tell me they believe this will all sort itself out on December 14th," he explained. "I have it at two more weeks, hoping it gets resolved by the time that the state electors are chosen, and at that time they hope the president sees the writing on the wall and they do not have to get involved."
Here’s how Biden plans to roll back Trump’s executive orders in his first 100 days
On Tuesday, CNN reported that President-elect Joe Biden is already mapping out his agenda for the first 100 days — including a series of actions rolling back outgoing President Donald Trump's executive orders on a wide spectrum of issues.
"Trump officials have gutted or hamstrung agencies whose charters clash with the President's long-running efforts to crush what his former chief strategist derisively labeled 'the administrative state,'" reported Gregory Krieg, MJ Lee, and Sarah Mucha. "That means an early effort, Biden indicated in his NBC News interview, to rebuild the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA, he said, has been 'eviscerated' by Trump."