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Wake Up To Politics - May 6, 2020

I’m Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, May 6, 2020. 181 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Latest podcast: "This is going to be a major, major event for Gen Z," TIME national correspondent Charlotte Alter says of the coronavirus outbreak in the latest episode of the Wake Up To Politics Podcast. "But I don't think we know exactly how it's going to change them. Only that it will."

Two whistleblower memos detail Trump administration's haphazard coronavirus response

Dr. Rick Bright, who was ousted last month as director of the Health and Human Services Department office leading the search for a coronavirus vaccine, filed a whistleblower complaint Tuesday alleging that the Trump administration failed to take early action to combat the coronavirus.

In his 89-page complaint, Bright described a public health process that was driven by politics, claiming that his early attempts to respond to the coronavirus "encountered opposition" from top officials and that he was pushed out of his position because of his "efforts to prioritize science and safety over political expediency."

Bright also accused administration officials of ignoring "scientific merit and expert recommendations" to award lucrative drug contracts to "companies with political connections to the administration."

He also said his ouster came about in part because he refused to "fall in line with the administration's directive to promote the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine" after President Trump was repeatedly pushed by political allies to promote the class of drugs as a "game-changer" in combatting coronavirus despite limited scientific evidence.

But Bright's was not the only whistleblower memo that came to light on Tuesday: the Washington Post also reported on a complaint filed with the House Oversight Committee by a volunteer who has departed a coronavirus response team led by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner.

A lengthy New York Times piece, based on the complaint and numerous interviews with other sources, offered more details about Kushner's team of "young, inexperienced workers" scrambling to sort through tips in order to find sorely-needed equipment to fight the coronavirus.

According to the Times, the search — much like Bright alleged with drug contracts — showed the extent to which "personal relationships and loyalty are often prized over governmental expertise" in the Trump administration "and private interests are granted extraordinary access and deference."

The Times cited one instance in which Kushner's group passed a tip from a Silicon Valley engineer claiming he could provide more than 1,000 ventilators to senior officials in New York.

The New York officials assumed the engineer had been vetted and awarded him a $69 million contract. "Not a single ventilator was delivered, and New York is now seeking to recover the money," the Times said.

The Rundown

White House coronavirus ask force to shift focus: "President Trump said the White House coronavirus task force would remain in place with a new focus on reopening the country and developing a vaccine, one day after administration officials said they were considering disbanding the group in the coming weeks."

"In a series of Wednesday morning tweets, Mr. Trump praised Vice President Mike Pence’s work as the leader of the task force. 'Because of this success, the Task Force will continue on indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN,' he wrote."

. . . "Mr. Trump’s comments came less than 24 hours after he and Mr. Pence said they were considering phasing out the task force, which was set up in late January as the virus began sweeping across the country. Mr. Pence had said the administration was considering shifting coronavirus responsibilities to the states and was eyeing a late May or early June time frame." (Wall Street Journal)

Race for the Senate: "A raft of new polls from states with competitive Senate races shows momentum veering away from Republican incumbents at a time when doubts are also growing about President Trump’s re-election prospects."

"To win control of the Senate, Democrats likely will have to flip five of eight competitive seats with a Republican incumbent. Of the six races with recent polling, Democrats lead in five and trail by just one point in the other."

. . . "In the three states where Senate polling can be tracked before and during the [coronavirus] crisis — Montana, North Carolina and Arizona — Democrats have gained ground in each."

"Republican incumbents were outraised in Q1 in North Carolina, Colorado, Montana, Arizona, Maine and Georgia." (Axios)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg hospitalized: "Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Tuesday was hospitalized for treatment of a gallbladder condition at Johns Hopkins Hospital, according to the court's office of public information."

"She was treated without surgery for acute cholecystitis, which is a 'benign gallbladder condition,' according to the office, and Ginsburg plans to participate in oral arguments Wednesday." (CBS News)


*All times Eastern

President Donald Trump will sign a proclamation in honor of National Nurses Day at 12:15 p.m., have lunch with Vice President Mike Pence at 12:45 p.m., meet with Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-IA) at 2 p.m., and receive his intelligence briefing at 3:30 p.m.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany will hold a press briefing at 4 p.m.

The Senate will convene at 11 a.m., hold a cloture vote on the nomination of William Evanina to be Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center at 12 p.m., and vote on Evanina's confirmation at 2 p.m.

The House is not in session.

The Supreme Court will hear consolidated oral arguments in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania and Trump v. Pennsylvaniatwo cases challenging Trump administration regulations that allow employers to opt out of providing free birth control coverage in their insurance plans for moral or religious reasons — at 10 a.m.

The court will then hear oral arguments in Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants a First Amendment challenge to a 2015 law that prohibiting robocalls to cellphones — at 1 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will participate in a virtual fundraiser and a virtual event with the Human Rights Campaign.

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