5 min read

Wake Up To Politics - April 7, 2020

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, April 7, 2020. 210 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Wisconsin moves ahead with election, despite pandemic

More than a dozen states have postponed elections due to the coronavirus outbreak, but Wisconsin is moving forward with its primary today, asking voters to come to the polls despite a shelter-in-place order that penalizes residents for non-essential trips out of their homes.

After the state's Republican-led legislature resisted his calls to postpone the primary, Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI) made a last-ditch attempt to push back the election Monday, issuing an order that would have re-scheduled the primary for June 9.

But the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned his decree after a challenge from GOP lawmakers; an hour later, the U.S. Supreme Court also sided with Republicans in blocking a lower court's extension of the absentee ballot deadline. Both courts' decisions were split along ideological lines.

Although a district court had ruled that the state should count any absentee ballots received by April 13 (no matter the postmark date), the U.S. Supreme Court said in its Monday night ruling that the ballots would have to be postmarked by today.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned in her dissent that the decision "will result in massive disenfranchisement," as voters are forced to choose to either "brave the polls, endangering their own and others’ safety" or "lose their right to vote, through no fault of their own."

However, the presidential primary in Wisconsin (as well as the general election for several statewide and local positions) will still go on today, with polls remaining open for in-person voting from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central Time.

Although turnout is expected to be sharply limited, polls have shown former Vice President Joe Biden comfortably leading Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the state's primary — a result that "is certain to intensify the growing calls for [Sanders] to exit the Democratic presidential race," as the New York Times reported.

--- For more on holding elections mid-pandemic, listen to the latest episode of the Wake Up To Politics Podcast.

More coronavirus updates:

Trump's embrace of unproven drug divides White House: President Donald Trump's decision to champion hydroxychloroquine as a "game-changer" drug to combat the coronavirus has divided his advisers, according to multiple news reports. "Top health officials are increasingly unsettled" by his advocacy of the drug's unproven effectiveness, Politico reported, "even as some of the president’s political and policy advisers and outside allies cheer him on."

According to the New York Times, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz, business magnate Larry Ellison, and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani are among the circle of associates pushing Trump to promote the drug as a cure to coronavirus. Public health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, have warned that more research is needed on the drug.

--- Politico reported on the chain of chance events that led Trump to champion hydroxychloroquine, following a paper published on Google Docs from a Twitter thread to Fox News to the White House.

--- Noted by the Times: "If hydroxychloroquine becomes an accepted treatment, several pharmaceutical companies stand to profit, including shareholders and senior executives with connections to the president. Mr. Trump himself has a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine."

White House received early warning of pandemic: "A top White House adviser starkly warned Trump administration officials in late January that the coronavirus crisis could cost the United States trillions of dollars and put millions of Americans at risk of illness or death."

"The warning, written in a memo by Peter Navarro, President Trump’s trade adviser, is the highest-level alert known to have circulated inside the West Wing as the administration was taking its first substantive steps to confront a crisis that had already consumed China’s leaders and would go on to upend life in Europe and the United States."

..."Dated Jan. 29, it came during a period when Mr. Trump was playing down the risks to the United States, and he would later go on to say that no one could have predicted such a devastating outcome." (New York Times)

Trump announces mask production deal with GM: "President Donald Trump on Monday said that 3M would produce 166.5 million masks over the next three months, cementing a commitment from a company the administration had blamed for exacerbating a shortage for health workers responding to the coronavirus pandemic." (Politico)

--- Also announced at Monday's briefing: The U.S. had conducted nearly 1.8 million coronavirus tests... Trump has approved New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's request to treat coronavirus patients on the USNS Comfort, a hospital ship docked off of Manhattan.  

Acting Navy Secretary apologizes after blasting ousted captain: "Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly apologized Monday night for calling the now-ousted commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt 'stupid' in an address to the ship's crew Monday morning."

"Modly told the crew that their former commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, was either 'too naive or too stupid' to be in command or that he intentionally leaked to the media a memo in which he warned about coronavirus spreading aboard the aircraft carrier and urged action to save his sailors, according to remarks obtained by CNN.

..."Later Monday evening, after top members of the House Armed Services Committee began calling for his resignation, Modly apologized to the Navy for his comment." (CNN)

--- Crozier was removed as commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt last week, days after his letter to Navy leadership pleading to allow isolation of his crew was leaked. As of Monday, 173 members of the ship's crew (as well as Crozier himself) have tested positive for coronavirus.

British PM, infected by virus, moves to intensive care: "British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved to the intensive care unit of a London hospital after his coronavirus symptoms dramatically worsened Monday, just a day after he was admitted for what were said to be routine tests."

"Johnson was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital late Sunday, 10 days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19, the first major world leader to be confirmed to have the virus." (Associated Press)

--- A spokesman said this morning that Johnson remains in intensive care, but has been "stable" and "in good spirits," according to BBC. He added that the prime minister has received "standard oxygen treatment" but is not on a ventilator.

Latest stats: As of 9 a.m. Eastern Time, 1.36 million cases of coronavirus have been confirmed across the world, as well as 75,973 deaths from the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the United States, there are 368,449 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 10,993 deaths.

Recommended reads

"Texts From My Father, in Elmhurst Hospital" (New Yorker)

"Black Americans Face Alarming Rates of Coronavirus Infection in Some States" (New York Times)

"America’s most influential coronavirus model just revised its estimates downward. But not every model agrees." (Washington Post)

"Governors see possible 'flattening' of the curve in latest coronavirus data" (Politico)


President Donald Trump will participate in "America CARES: Small Business Relief Update" at 3 p.m.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force will hold a press briefing at 5 p.m.

The House and Senate are on recess.

The Supreme Court has no conferences or oral arguments scheduled.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will deliver virtual remarks for Pennsylvania's AFL-CIO Convention at 11:45 a.m.

*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.