I’m Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, April 28, 2020. 189 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
States move toward reopening as U.S. nears one million cases
Governors across the country are moving forward with plans to reopen their economies, even as confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States inches toward one million.
Restaurants in three states — Tennessee, Georgia, and Alaska's biggest city — opened their doors to dine-in customers on Monday; staff members wore masks and checked patrons' temperatures at the door.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he will let his statewide stay-at-home order expire on Thursday and allow malls, stores, movie theaters, and restaurants to open with 25% occupancy the next day. In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine said restrictions will begin to relax on Friday, as dentists and veterinarians are allowed to reopen. And in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis has announced that non-essential businesses can begin to reopen their offices on Monday.
Without a federal plan for testing and contact tracing — which experts say is key for a nationwide reopening to be possible — this patchwork mix of state-by-state strategies is likely to continue through the summer. President Donald Trump attempted to fill the void Monday with a new plan to ramp up testing in the U.S., although he continued to place the onus on states to test most of their citizens.
According to administration officials, Trump's new plan would distribute enough tests for each of the 50 states to screen at least 2% of their residents, less than the amount that experts have said needs to be tested before the country can safely reopen.
"We're deploying the full power and strength of the federal government to help states, cities, to help local governments get this horrible plague over with," Trump said in a press conference with business executives, which had briefly been canceled earlier in the day.
The White House blueprint describes the federal government as a "supplier of last resort" for testing, calling on states to "develop testing plans and rapid response programs" and "maximize the use of all available testing platforms and venues" themselves. More guidance from the administration on reopening schools, camps, restaurants, and workplaces is reportedly forthcoming.
Although Trump has chastised governors such as Georgia's Kemp for easing stay-at-home restrictions too quickly, he did urge other executives to eye reopening soon. The president reportedly told all 50 governors in a call on Monday to consider reopening schools before the academic year ends, instead of waiting until the fall.
Congress to return next week: Both chambers of Congress will return to Washington on May 4, leaders announced Monday, signaling that negotiations would begin over the next coronavirus relief legislation. Democrats have called for the package to include aid for state and local governments; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell previously rejected such requests, saying states should declare bankruptcy instead, but he seemed to ease his position Monday.
McConnell told Politico that he is open to including aid for states and cities, in exchange for a provision that enforces liability protections for business owners who reopen amid the pandemic. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised that the package would include funding for vote-by-mail programs.
On a caucus wide call Monday, a group of House Democrats reportedly railed against the chamber's May 4 return date, which some called "dangerous." Pelosi did say that the chamber would move forward next week with a proposal to allow remote voting by proxy, even with Republican objections.
Neighbor corroborates allegations against Biden: Tara Reade, a former aide to then-Sen. Joe Biden, received corroboration on Monday for her allegations of sexual assault against the Democratic presidential candidate.
A former neighbor of Reade's, Lynda LaCasse, told Business Insider that Reade described the alleged assault to her in the mid-1990's, recounting that she was told Biden "put his hand up her skirt and he put his fingers inside her." Business Insider also reported on a onetime colleague who recalled Reade complaining about fired from a job in Washington, D.C., after raising concerns that her boss had sexually harassed her.
A video also surfaced on Monday of Reade's mother calling into a cable TV show in 1993 to seek advice about her daughter having "problems" with a "prominent senator" she worked for. Biden's campaign has denied Reade's claims, although the former vice president himself has yet to comment on the allegations.
Trump repeatedly warned about coronavirus in briefings: "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, according to current and former U.S. officials."
"The repeated warnings were conveyed in issues of the President’s Daily Brief, a sensitive report that is produced before dawn each day and designed to call the president’s attention to the most significant global developments and security threats."
"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, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified material." (Washington Post)
*All times Eastern
President Donald Trump will meet with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) at 11 a.m., receive his intelligence briefing at 12:30 p.m., and deliver remarks on supporting small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program at 3 p.m.
- No press briefing with President Trump and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force is on the schedule, for the first time on a weekday since March 12. Axios and other news outlets reported recently that the White House is planning to pare back Trump's daily briefings, amid fears of political fallout.
Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Rochester, Minnesota, where he will tour the Mayo Clinic and participate in a roundtable discussion with Mayo Clinic employees.
- This is Pence's fourth trip outside of Washington, D.C., this month. According to NBC News, aides are exploring ways for President Trump to hold events outside of the capital in the coming weeks as well.
The Senate is not in session.
The House will meet for a pro forma session at 9 a.m.
The Supreme Court has no conferences or oral arguments scheduled.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and a "special guest" will hold a virtual town hall on the impact of COVID-19 on women.
*All times Eastern
Thanks for reading! If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, please consider donating to support me and my work, listening to my podcast with St. Louis Public Radio, and spreading the word about the newsletter to your friends and family. If this newsletter was forwarded to you, go to wakeuptopolitics.com to subscribe and learn more.