Good morning! It’s Thursday, September 17, 2020. Election Day is 47 days away. The first presidential debate is 12 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testified Wednesday that most Americans will likely not have access to a coronavirus vaccine until late spring or summer of next year. President Donald Trump would quickly contradict the comments, an extraordinary display of dissonance between the president and one of the nation’s top scientists.
Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC Director, predicted to a Senate subcommittee that a vaccine will become available in late November or December — but “if you’re asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life,” he added, “I think we’re probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter 2021.”
At a press conference later in the day, President Trump insisted to reporters that the vaccine would actually be ready by mid-October (just before the presidential election) and then would be “immediately” distributed widely. “It was an incorrect statement,” Trump said of Redfield’s comments, directly rebuffing his own CDC director even though nearly all experts side with Redfield’s timeline.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden warned earlier Wednesday about the potential that Trump could seek to politicize the vaccine process. “I trust vaccines. I trust scientists. But I don’t trust Donald Trump,” Biden said. Later, after the president’s contradiction of Redfield, the former vice president tweeted: “This is what I meant.” (Trump accused Biden of promoting “anti-vaccine theories” at his White House press conference.)
During his Senate testimony, Redfield also emphasized the importance of face masks in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus. “I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine,” Redfield said, because the vaccine may not be effective for all patients.
Redfield’s comments came after Trump had spurned medical experts to cast doubt on masks in an ABC News town hall on Wednesday. “A lot of people think that masks are not good,” the president claimed, providing no evidence for the assertion.
Attorney General William Barr attacked his own Justice Department staff in a Wednesday night speech, describing prosecutors as “headhunting” for political targets. He also described a nationwide coronavirus lockdown as an “intrusion on civil liberties” on par with slavery.
In the speech at Hillsdale College, Barr defended himself against criticism that he has interfered with politically sensitive cases at the DOJ, such as the convictions and sentences of Trump allies Michael Flynn and Roger Stone. “What exactly am I interfering with?” he asked. “Under the law, all prosecutorial power is invested in the attorney general.”
He said that prohibiting the attorney general from being involved in high-profile cases would be akin to allowing “the will of the most junior member of the organization” to reign supreme. “It might be a good philosophy for a Montessori preschool,” he added, “but it is no way to run a federal agency.”
Barr also took aim at calls for a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the coroanvirus, whcih he said would be “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties...other than slavery” in American history.
Earlier Wednesday, according to the Wall Street Journal, Barr told the nation’s U.S. attorneys on a conference call that they should consider charging violent demonstrators who have participated in recent riots with sedition.
The Senate Homeland Security Committee voted Wednesday to authorize 40 subpoenas and depositions as part of a probe into the origins of the FBI’s investigation of the 2016 campaign. The vote will allow Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), the panel’s chairman, to compel testimony from former FBI Director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and other Obama-era figures involved in the investigation.
President Trump has claimed that the investigation — which would find widespread interference in the election from Russia, as well as numerous contacts between Moscow and the Trump campaign — was a politically-motivated effort to spy on his campaign.
The Senate committee scrapped a separate vote which would have authorized a subpoena to Bridget Brink, the U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, as part of an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s work in Ukraine. The subpoena vote was on track to fail after Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) signaled plans to join Democrats in opposition.
Romney called the Biden probe being led by his fellow Republicans “a political exercise,” adding: “It’s not the legitimate role of government, for Congress or for taxpayer expense, to be used in an effort to damage political opponents.”
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump will participate in a credentialing ceremony for new foreign ambassadors at 11:30 a.m. in the Oval Office and deliver remarks at the White House Conference on American History at 2:30 p.m. at the National Archives.
Later, the president will deliver remarks at a campaign event in Mosinee, Wisconsin, at 9 p.m.
The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. The chamber will vote to advance and then confirm the nomination of Franklin Ulyses Valderrama to be a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois at 11:30 a.m.
Later, the Senate will vote to confirm the nomination of Iain D. Johnston to be a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois at 1:30 p.m.
The House will convene at 9 a.m. and consider two pieces of legislation: H.Res. 908, a resolution “condemning all forms of anti-Asian sentiment as related to COVID-19” and H.R. 2694, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
The Supreme Court is on summer recess.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will attend a virtual fundraiser and host a virtual Rosh Hashanah event.
Later, he will travel to Scranton, Pennsylvania, to participate in a CNN town hall.
Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will travel to Philadelphia. She will attend an event hosted by She Can Win (a non-partisan group that provides resources for women running for office), participate in a community conversation with Latino leaders and elected officials, and attend a virtual fundraiser.
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