I’m Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Friday, May 15, 2020. 172 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
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Burr to hand over Intel gavel amid probe of stock trades
From Politico: "Sen. Richard Burr will step down temporarily as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee while under investigation by the FBI for his stock trading, a political earthquake that shocked Republican senators on Thursday and upended the Senate’s daily business."
"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Burr informed him he would step aside at the end of the day on Friday, news that followed the FBI serving him a search warrant and seizing his cell phone Wednesday evening as part of its investigation into his financial transactions."
"The North Carolina Republican told reporters he stepped aside because the investigation is a 'distraction to the hard work of the committee, and the members and I think that the security of the country is too important to have a distraction.' He will remain on the committee, a source familiar with the situation said, and his decision to step down for now is not required by the Senate Republican Conference."
- According to the New York Times, federal investigators are also investigating stock trades made by Sens. James Inhofe (R-OK), Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) as the coronavirus outbreak began. Loeffler and Feinstein have both turned over documents to the FBI.
Coronavirus: Latest updates
"The window is closing," whistleblower tells House subcommittee: "The whistle-blower who was ousted as the head of a federal medical research agency charged on Thursday that top Trump administration officials failed to heed his early warnings to stock up on masks and other supplies to combat the coronavirus, and that Americans died as a result."
"'Lives were endangered, and I believe lives were lost,' Dr. Rick Bright, who was removed in April as the director of the Department of Health and Human Services's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, told a House subcommittee as he warned, 'The window is closing to address this pandemic.'"
Over nearly four hours of testimony, Dr. Bright told lawmakers that the outbreak would 'get worse and be prolonged' if the United States did not swiftly develop a national testing strategy. He also predicted vaccine shortages if the administration did not draft a distribution plan now." (New York Times)
- President Trump's response: "I don’t know the so-called Whistleblower Rick Bright, never met him or even heard of him, but to me he is a disgruntled employee, not liked or respected by people I spoke to and who, with his attitude, should no longer be working for our government!"
CDC issues "scant" guidance on reopening: "With hundreds of millions of people still seeking advice on resuming their lives safely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a scant six pages of recommendations Thursday to guide schools, businesses, day-care facilities and others into the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic."
"The six checklists — which also address restaurants, mass transit and camps — come days, and in some cases weeks, after many states have begun to lift restrictions on their own. The advice is less detailed than draft recommendations the agency sent to the White House for review last month."
"The nation is still awaiting that detailed technical guidance, which the White House has held up and not shared publicly. The delay has left the responsibility for decision-making about reopening to states and localities. It has also left many health experts clamoring for greater transparency." (Washington Post)
McConnell backtracks on Obama "game plan": "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., admitted he was wrong when he said that the Obama administration never left a plan for President Donald Trump for how to handle a pandemic."
"'I was wrong — they did leave behind a plan. So I clearly made a mistake in that regard,' McConnell said in a Thursday evening interview with Fox News' Brett Baier when asked about his initial comments."
. . . "In an interview on Monday with Trump 2020 senior adviser Lara Trump on a YouTube episode of 'Team Trump Online!' McConnell said the Obama administration ''did not leave to this administration any kind of game plan for something like this,' referring to the coronavirus crisis." (NBC News)
*All times Eastern
President Donald Trump will deliver remarks on vaccine development at 12 p.m., sign a proclamation marking Armed Forces Day and participate in the presentation of the U.S. Space Force Flag at 12:30 p.m., receive his intelligence briefing at 2:30 p.m., and deliver remarks at a ceremony recognizing "hard work, heroism, and hope" at 4 p.m., before traveling to Camp David to spend the weekend.
Vice President Mike Pence will lead a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting at 2:30 p.m.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany will hold a press briefing at 2 p.m.
The Senate is not in session.
The House will convene at 9 a.m. to consider two pieces of legislation: H.Res.965, which would authorize remote voting by proxy for House votes and remote committee meetings, and H.R. 6800, the $3 trillion coronavirus relief package.
The package, speedily put together by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), has received criticism from both sides of the aisle, with Republicans calling it "dead on arrival" in the Senate and some moderate Democrats expressing opposition as well.
The Supreme Court justices will meet for their weekly conference.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has no events scheduled.
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