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Wake Up To Politics - May 8, 2020

I’m Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Friday, May 8, 2020. 179 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Breaking: Unemployment rate skyrockets to 14.7%

More than 20.5 million Americans lost their jobs in April, the Labor Department said this morning, and the unemployment rate jumped to 14.7% — its highest level since the Great Depression.

The jobs report showcased the staggering economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic; in February, before the outbreak had spread throughout the United States, the unemployment rate stood at 3.5%, a half-century low. The government's unemployment number also does not include people not actively looking for work or take into account the millions who have received pay cuts due to the pandemic.

The losses sustained in April alone far exceed the devastation of the 2008-9 recession, when 8.7 million jobs were lost and unemployment hit a high of 10% in October 2009. The U.S. has not seen a comparable level of job losses since the 1930s.

More coronavirus news:

  • "One of Trump's personal valets has tested positive for coronavirus" (CNN)
  • "White House considers measures to boost economy without Congress" (NBC News)
  • "Pompeo changes tune on Chinese lab's role in virus outbreak, as intel officials cast doubt" (ABC News)
  • "Travel From New York City Seeded Wave of U.S. Outbreaks" (New York Times)

Justice Department drops charges against Michael Flynn

The Justice Department dropped its criminal case against Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump's first national security adviser, on Thursday.

The decision was the latest in a string of moves by Attorney General William Barr to dismantle the ongoing prosecutions from the Russia investigation led by former special counsel Robert Mueller; the charges against Flynn, for lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian diplomat during the Trump transition, were one of Mueller's highest-profile cases. Earlier this year, Barr intervened to reduce the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, another former Trump aide ensnared in the Russia probe, overruling four career Justice Department prosecutors.

Flynn twice pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI, but in recent months — backed by prominent conservative allies, including President Trump — has claimed he was the victim of prosecutorial misconduct. Barr ordered a review of the case in January; Barr's former aide, acting U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea, wrote in his motion to dismiss the case Thursday that the FBI interview with Flynn in which he later admitted to lying to agents was not "materially" relevant to any investigation. Shea pointed to the agents' notes, which were unsealed by the DOJ last week, arguing that they proved the FBI had set Flynn up in the interview.

No career prosecutors signed the motion, which came just after the final member of Mueller's team who had remained involved with the case, Brandon Van Grack, abruptly withdrew from it.

President Trump — who fired Flynn in 2017, just 24 days into his tenure, for lying to Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials — applauded the move. "Things are falling out now and coming in line showing what a hoax this whole investigation was," he told reporters. "It was a total disgrace, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you see a lot of things happen over the next number of weeks. This is just one piece of a very dishonest puzzle."

It is highly unusual for the Justice Department to drop charges in a case after the defendant has already pleaded guilty; former prosecutors told the New York Times that there was "no obvious precedent" for the decision.

More Russia probe news:

  • "House Intelligence Committee releases transcripts from Russia investigation" (Fox News)
  • "Trump administration asks Supreme Court to stop release of Mueller material" (Washington Post)
  • "DOJ releases Mueller's marching orders" (Politico)

In other legal news:

  • "A unanimous Supreme Court on Thursday threw out the convictions of two political insiders involved in the 'Bridgegate' scandal that ultimately derailed the 2016 president bid of their ally, then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie." (Associated Press)

Reade calls on Biden to withdraw as court document emerges

Tara Reade, the former staffer to then-Sen. Joe Biden who has accused the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee of sexually assaulting her in 1993, called on Biden to drop out of the presidential race in her first on-camera interview.

"I want to say: 'You and I were there, Joe Biden, please step forward and be held accountable. You should not be running on character for the president of the United States,'" Reade told former Fox News and NBC News host Megyn Kelly when asked if she had a message for her onetime boss. Clips of the interview began posting online Thursday; the full interview has yet to be released.

Reade's comments were posted around the same time that a 1996 court document surfaced confirming that Reade told her husband she was sexually harassed while working in Biden's office in 1993. The document, first reported by a local California newspaper, does not name Biden (or anyone else) as the harasser and does not include Reade's more recent allegations of sexual assault, but it is the first written record that she contemporaneously discussed at least part of her claims.

Other friends and neighbors have said Reade told them about the alleged harassment and assault in the 1990s.

After previously accusing Biden of touching her in ways that made her uncomfortable, Reade alleged in March that he pushed her against a wall on Capitol Hill and digitally penetrated her. Biden has denied the allegation, telling MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski last week: "It never, never happened."

The Associated Press reported Thursday that Reade is being represented by a new lawyer, Douglas Wigdor, who is well known for his work on sexual harassment and assault cases. Wigdor, who represented six accusers of former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, was also a donor to President Trump's 2016 campaign.

More 2020 news:

  • "Biden Leads Trump in First Poll to Address Sexual Assault Allegation" (New York Times)
  • "Trump campaign to unload on Biden with negative ad onslaught" (Politico)


*All times Eastern

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the World War II Memorial in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. Later, at the White House, the president will meet with a group of Republican members of Congress.

Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Des Moines, Iowa, where he will participate in a discussion with faith leaders on responsible religious and spiritual gatherings at 11:40 a.m. at Westkirk Presbyterian Church and participate in a roundtable discussion on securing the food supply at 12:55 p.m. at the headquarters of the Hy-Vee supermarket chain.

White House press secretary Kaleigh McEnany will hold a press briefing at 12:30 p.m.

The Senate is not in session.

The House will meet for a pro forma session at 10 a.m.

The Supreme Court justices will hold their weekly conference.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will deliver remarks on the economy on the NowThis social media platforms and attend a fundraiser.

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