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Wake Up To Politics - March 31, 2020

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, March 31, 2020. 217 days until Election Day 2020. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Let this sink in, via journalist Ben Jacobs: “Today is the last day of March. For a sense of how long this month has been and how much has happened, the South Carolina primary was held on the last day of February.” When March began, just one death had been reported from the coronavirus in the United States; as the month ends, the U.S. death toll now stands over 3,000.

Coronavirus: Latest updates

White House to release model predicting outbreak: “The American public on Tuesday is expected to get its first look at the statistical models guiding the policy decisions that have led governors and mayors across the country to order more than 250 million people to stay at home,” the New York Times reports.

--- Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, gave a preview of the model Monday, warning that even “if we do things almost perfectly” by practicing social distancing, 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from the coronavirus.

--- The New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, and CNN have all reported that President Trump's decision to extend social distancing guidelines was influenced by those stark predictions from public health officials as well as by polling data from his political aides. As the AP put it: “The decision shed light on a West Wing beset with divisions and a commander in chief torn between an instinct to embrace the image of a wartime president fighting an invisible enemy and the desire to protect the nation’s bottom line as he barrels into a bruising reelection fight.”

Private companies join response efforts: “Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson plans to begin human clinical trials of its Covid-19 vaccine by September with a goal of the first batches being made available for emergency use authorization by early next year, according to a company announcement released Monday,” CNN reports.

--- Ford and General Electric are partnering to produce 50,000 ventilators over the next 100 days, per Reuters.

--- At his daily briefing on Monday, President Trump showed off a new rapid test kit from Abbott Laboratories that can test for coronavirus in five to 13 minutes. According to CBS News, Trump suggested testing was no longer an issue in the coronavirus response during a conference call with governors earlier in the day. “I haven't heard about testing in weeks,” he said, according to the network. Trump announced Monday that more than a million Americans have now been tested for the virus, although the governors warned him that they continue to face a testing shortage.

--- The Monday briefing also featured Mike Lindell, the founder and CEO of MyPillow,  who announced that his company planned to produce 50,000 face masks a day. (Lindell, a vocal Trump backer whom the president has reportedly urged to run for governor of Minnesota, also launched into a lengthy monologue praising Trump and asking Americans to pray during the crisis.)

Pelosi plans “phase four” package: “House Democrats are moving rapidly on ambitious plans for a fourth coronavirus relief package, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi eager to put her imprint on legislation that she says could be ready for a vote in the coming weeks,” Politico reports.

“Pelosi told reporters Monday that Democrats are in the early stages of drafting another major bill that will not only shore up health systems and protect frontline health care workers but could include substantial investments in infrastructure.”

--- According to the report, Pelosi's approach puts her on a “collision course” with Republican lawmakers, who are in a “wait-and-see mode” after just passing a $2 trillion stimulus bill last week.

New stay-at-home orders: Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., announced stay-at-home orders for their residents on Monday, bringing the total of states and territories under such orders to 34. About three-fourths of Americans have been ordered to remain at home.

DOJ investigates lawmakers for possible insider trading: “The Justice Department is examining whether lawmakers traded ahead of the market turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic based on confidential briefings they received,” per the Wall Street Journal.

--- The Journal and other outlets also reported that the FBI has contacted Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) as part of the probe. After receiving detailed briefings on the growing epidemic in January, Burr and his wife sold shares of companies worth as much as $1.7 million.

CDC considers urging people to wear face coverings in public: Unlike governments in many other parts of the world, U.S. federal guidance currently does not urge Americans to wear masks in public and has even warned against it. But, the Washington Post reports, “officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are considering altering the official guidance to encourage people to take measures to cover their faces amid the coronavirus pandemic.”

Biden adapts to new style of campaigning: “Former Vice President Joe Biden took his virtual presidential campaign to the next level Monday when he launched a podcast as the coronavirus forces him to get creative in reaching voters otherwise distracted by a global pandemic,” NBC News reports.

--- As the campaign turns increasingly virtual in light of the coronavirus, Democrats are seeking to regain their digital edge against President Trump, according to the New York Times.

--- And facing down Trump in November isn't the only thing Biden has to worry about. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders remains in the Democratic primary race, even though he lags behind in delegates. According to the Washington Post, many Democrats are worried that a protracted primary battle with Sanders “could spell doom in November” — for the second consecutive cycle.

Latest stats: As of 10 a.m. Eastern Time, over 800,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported across the globe, according to Johns Hopkins University; more than 39,000 people have died from the pandemic. In the United States, nearly 165,000 cases and upwards of 3,100 deaths have been reported. As of Monday, more Americans have died from the coronavirus than in the 9/11 attacks.

Inside the White House: As he leads the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump will get a new top aide today. After resigning as a North Carolina congressman Monday, Mark Meadows is set to his first day as White House chief of staff. Meadows became known on Capitol Hill as a staunch conservative and vocal Trump ally who often picked fights with Republican leaders. Now, amid a growing crisis, he will become the president's highest-profile adviser.

--- Meadows replaces Mick Mulvaney, who served as chief of staff for 15 months — but only ever on an interim basis. Mulvaney will now become the U.S. Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, President Trump announced earlier this month.


President Donald Trump will participate in a phone call with network service providers at 2:30 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence will lead a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting 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 does not have any conferences or oral arguments scheduled.

*All times Eastern

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