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Wake Up To Politics - May 18, 2020

I’m Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Monday, May 18, 2020. 169 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Is the two-party system on its last legs? The latest episode of the Wake Up To Politics Podcast explores the past and future of political parties in America, drawing on illuminating interviews with political scientist Lee Drutman and Politico's chief political correspondent Tim Alberta.

Need to know

New cases of the coronavirus are slowing in the United States. After several days of stagnation, the rate of new cases of COVID-19 has begun to decline across the U.S., while testing has continued to increase. According to Axios, 32 states are moving in the right direction in two key metrics: new cases per day and the percentage of tests that come back positive. States such as New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts that had been among the hardest-hit are some of the states now making the most progress.

These encouraging signs come as much of the country moves towards reopening from virus-induced lockdowns; by Wednesday, stay-at-home orders will have been lifted in 34 states. However, the nation's progress could soon be doomed by a resurgence in cases widely expected to follow the easing of restrictions. “The nation has reached a perilous moment in the course of the epidemic,” the New York Times reports, as many fear the improvement in infection rate will be made temporary once businesses reopen their doors.  

Additionally, as the Times points out, the “true scale and path” of the outbreak remains unknown: about 11.5 million Americans have now been tested for the virus, according to the COVID Tracking Project, accounting for only 3.5% of the population. As of this morning, confirmed cases of the coronavirus had reached 4.7 million worldwide and were nearing 1.5 million in the United States. More than 315,000 people globally, and nearly 90,000 in the U.S., have lost their lives to the pandemic.

  • Related: “White House tensions with CDC spill into public view as top Trump adviser criticizes agency response” (Washington Post)

President Trump continued his purge of government watchdogs on Friday night, ousting State Department Inspector General Steve Linick. Trump plans to replace Linick, who was appointed by Barack Obama in 2013, with Stephen Akard, a State Department official who served in Vice President Mike Pence's gubernatorial administration in Indiana.

Congressional Democrats quickly announced plans to investigate Linick's firing, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said was part of Trump's “dangerous pattern of retaliation against the patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people.” Linick was the fourth inspector general dismissed by the president in the preceding six weeks, following the Health and Human Services Department, Defense Department, and intelligence community IGs. Three of the firings took place on Friday nights.

According to NBC News, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recommended Linick's ouster; the network also reported that Linick had been conducting an investigation into whether Pompeo made a staffer conduct personal errands for him, such as walking his dog, picking up his dry cleaning, and making his dinner reservations.

Michigan Rep. Justin Amash will not mount a third-party bid for the White House, he announced Saturday. Amash, who left the Republican Party to become an independent last year, formed an exploratory committee to run for president as Libertarian last month and was widely expected to move forward with the campaign.

“After much reflection, I’ve concluded that circumstances don’t lend themselves to my success as a candidate for president this year,” he said on Twitter, “and therefore I will not be a candidate.”

Both major parties had feared Amash, at once a vocal Trump critic and a prominent conservative, could peel away votes from their nominees in November, although polling had shown the Michigan congressman with little support or name recognition. Members of the Libertarian Party will hold a virtual convention to select their 2020 nominee on Friday; without Amash in the race, the party's standard-bearer will not be a former Republican officeholder for the first time since 2004.

Reading list

“2016 repeat? Trump revives Clinton playbook to battle Biden” (Associated Press)

“In next phase of pandemic, Trump appears poised to let others take the lead” (Washington Post)

“A Sitting President, Riling the Nation During a Crisis” (New York Times)


*All times Eastern

President Donald Trump will participate in a roundtable with restaurant executives and industry leaders at 2 p.m., followed by a video teleconference with Vice President Mike Pence, First Lady Melania Trump, and the nation's governors on coronavirus response and "ensuring the well-being of all Americans" at 4 p.m.

The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. and vote to advance the nomination of Scott Rah to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of Arizona at 5:30 p.m.

The House is not in session.

The Supreme Court justices will release orders at 9:30 a.m. and opinions at 10 a.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has no events scheduled.

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