AS OF NOW, THE PRESIDENT is not holding a news briefing for the third day in a row, and instead has opened up a 4 p.m. meeting with industry executives to the smaller White House press pool.
THE PARTICIPANTS in the 4 p.m. event: Walgreens President Richard Ashworth; Thermo Fisher Scientific CEO Marc Casper; Rite-Aid CEO Heyward Donigan; American Clinical Laboratory Association President Julie Khani; U.S. Cotton CEO and President John Nims; Walmart CEO Doug McMillon; CVS CEO Larry Merlo; CVS EVP Tom Moriarty; Quest Diagnostics Chairman and President Stephen Rusckowski; and LabCorp CEO Adam Schecter.
HERE’S AN INTERESTING DYNAMIC: Speaker NANCY PELOSI — the top Democrat in government and a frequent irritant of the president — is planning daily television appearances for the foreseeable future. PELOSI was on MSNBC with Stephanie Ruhle this morning, and on Sunday, she was on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper and MSNBC’s “AM Joy” with Joy Reid.
TRUMP’S NEW MEDIA POSTURE COMES as he has again switched positions on a critical and high-profile issue, abandoning his support for aid to state and local governments hit hard by the coronavirus — the chief Democratic ask for the next stimulus bill.
— @realDonaldTrump at 10:41 a.m.: “Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help? I am open to discussing anything, but just asking?”
NEW … SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-Fla.) in the Capitol this morning, per a pool report by TRISH TURNER of ABC, on aid to states: “It’s not fair to the taxpayers of Florida. We sit here, we live within our means, and then New York, Illinois, California and other states don’t. And we’re supposed to go bail them out? That’s not right. … I get it.
“WE SHOULD HELP THE STATES with the coronavirus. If you go back to how FEMA works — the federal government doesn’t pay for everything. And states have an obligation, cities have an obligation to balance their budgets and watch how they spend money, too.”
NEW … MICHIGAN GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER joined us this morning for a virtual Playbook Interview. When asked about her interest in becoming JOE BIDEN’S VP, Whitmer said she was not actively lobbying for the slot, a considerable difference from other much-talked about Democrats like STACEY ABRAMS.
— MORE VIA QUINT FORGEY: “Whitmer said she was unsure how Biden’s eventual running mate would campaign for office while governing or legislating amid the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. ‘Beats me! I don’t know. I mean, I’m not running for anything,’ Whitmer said, adding: ‘I just know that, you know, you don’t run for that. That is a selection of the top of the ticket, and everyone else should be just busy doing their jobs.’
“The governor also revealed she has provided no documents to the Biden campaign to facilitate a vetting process, but spoke in glowing terms about her personal relationship with the former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee — who has pledged to select a female running mate.
“‘We’re cut from a similar cloth. He loves people. He is, you know, regularly checking in with me about what’s going on here in Michigan, what do we need. I’ve gotten some counsel from him in terms of, you know, just trying to communicate to people what we’re really confronting,’ Whitmer said. ‘I’m grateful for the friendship, and that’s — you know, everything that I’m doing right now is focused on helping the people of my state through this crisis,’ she said. ‘And that’s all the energy that I have is going into that effort.’” POLITICO
WHERE WE GO FROM HERE … “White House is reviewing expanded guidance on reopening society,” by WaPo’s Lena Sun and Josh Dawsey: “The White House is finalizing expanded guidelines to allow the phased reopening of schools and camps, child-care programs, certain workplaces, houses of worship, restaurants and mass transit, according to documents under review by administration officials. …
“It represents the most detailed guidance to date on the administration’s plan to gradually reopen key sectors of society … The guidelines have sparked sharp debates within the administration between public health experts and other officials … Among the most contentious issues are the guidelines for faith communities and restaurants.” WaPo … The 17-page guidance
Good Monday afternoon.
ENGAGED — Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) has gotten engaged to Nadine Arslanian, an international businesswoman from Bergen County, N.J. They met at a campaign rally many years ago. Pic
AP/NEW YORK: “New York officials make unprecedented decision to cancel June 23 presidential primary due to virus concerns.”
WHAT ELSE IS ON THE PRESIDENT’S MIND — @realDonaldTrump at 8:20 a.m.: “Blame the Democrats for any ‘lateness’ in your Enhanced Unemployment Insurance. I wanted the money to be paid directly, they insisted it be paid by states for distribution. I told them this would happen, especially with many states which have old computers.”
SCOTUS WATCH … SUSANNAH LUTHI: “Supreme Court rules government must pay billions to Obamacare insurers”: “The 8-1 decision could open the floodgates for federal cash to the insurance industry. Insurers who accused the government of a ‘bait and switch’ claimed they’re owed $12 billion from the Affordable Care Act program. …
“The decision will have little impact on Obamacare. The law faces a legal threat in a separate case brought by Republican-led states challenging the law’s constitutionality, which the Supreme Court has agreed to hear, likely later this year. But the ruling represents a loss for the Trump administration, which argued it wasn’t obligated to make the risk corridor payments and is supporting the red states’ lawsuit.” POLITICO … The opinion
— “Court tosses NY case that could have expanded gun rights,” by AP’s Mark Sherman: “The justices threw out a challenge from gun rights groups. It ruled that the city’s move to ease restrictions on taking licensed, locked and unloaded guns outside the city limits, coupled with a change in state law to prevent New York from reviving the ban, left the court with nothing to decide. The court asked a lower court to consider whether the city’s new rules still pose problems for gun owners. …
“Although the opinion was unsigned, the court was split, 6-3, over the outcome. Gorsuch joined Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas in dissenting from the dismissal. Kavanaugh wrote a brief concurring opinion in which he agreed with the result, but also said the court should take up another guns case soon.” AP
A CLASSIC AMERICAN SMALL BUSINESS … ESPN’S KEVIN ARNOVITZ: “The Los Angeles Lakers have returned approximately $4.6 million that they received from a federal government program intended to help small businesses weather the economic burden caused by the coronavirus pandemic.” ESPN
WAR REPORT — “Trump tells advisers U.S. should pull troops as Afghanistan COVID-19 outbreak looms,” by NBC’s Carol Lee and Courtney Kube: “Trump complains almost daily that U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan and are now vulnerable to the pandemic, the officials said. His renewed push to withdraw all of them has been spurred by the convergence of his concern that coronavirus poses a force protection issue for thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and his impatience with the halting progress of his peace deal with the Taliban, the officials said.” NBC
HEADS UP — “Unreliable antibody tests flood the market as FDA waives quality reviews,” by Zachary Brennan and David Lim: “The Food and Drug Administration is dealing with a flood of inaccurate coronavirus antibody tests after it allowed more than 120 manufacturers and labs to bring the tests to market without an agency review. … Agency leaders have said they tried to create more flexibility for makers of antibody tests …
“But many of the tests available now aren’t accurate enough for such purposes. Some are giving too many false positive results, which could mislead some people into thinking they have already been infected. … The current FDA commissioner, Stephen Hahn, told POLITICO that the agency has discussed changing the current policy.” POLITICO
— MEANWHILE: “Positive Covid-19 Test Results Can Linger, Prevent Plasma Donation: Swab tests reveal unsettling news for some recovered coronavirus patients long after they are symptom-free,” by WSJ’s Amy Dockser Marcus
— BOOKMARK THIS: “Tracking the hunt for coronavirus drugs and vaccines,” by Zachary Brennan
OVERSIGHT WATCH — “Federal watchdogs name top staffer to oversee pandemic response,” by Kyle Cheney: “A council of inspectors general that went dark after President Donald Trump removed the top coronavirus relief watchdog earlier this month resurfaced Monday, naming a top staffer to oversee the government’s pandemic response and launching a website that will catalog their efforts. …
“[Robert] Westbrooks, a certified public accountant, attorney and inspector general of a massive federal retirement benefit program, has held senior watchdog positions at the Small Business Administration, the Department of Transportation, the Postal Service and the National Archives.” POLITICO
FASCINATING — “Can Estrogen and Other Sex Hormones Help Men Survive Covid-19?” by NYT’s Roni Caryn Rabin: “[O]ne disadvantaged group has demonstrated a remarkable resistance. Women, whether from China, Italy or the U.S., have been less likely to become acutely ill — and far more likely to survive. Which has made doctors wonder: Could hormones produced in greater quantities by women be at work?
“Now scientists on two coasts, acting quickly on their hunches in an effort to save men’s lives, are testing the hypothesis. … Last week, doctors on Long Island in New York started treating Covid-19 patients with estrogen in an effort to increase their immune systems, and next week, physicians in Los Angeles will start treating male patients with another hormone that is predominantly found in women, progesterone.” NYT
FOR YOUR RADAR — “The Secret Group of Scientists and Billionaires Pushing Trump on a Covid-19 Plan,” by WSJ’s Rob Copeland: “These scientists and their backers describe their work as a lockdown-era Manhattan Project, a nod to the World War II group of scientists who helped develop the atomic bomb. This time around, the scientists are marshaling brains and money to distill unorthodox ideas gleaned from around the globe.
“They call themselves Scientists to Stop Covid-19, and they include chemical biologists, an immunobiologist, a neurobiologist, a chronobiologist, an oncologist, a gastroenterologist, an epidemiologist and a nuclear scientist. … This group, whose work hasn’t been previously reported, has acted as the go-between for pharmaceutical companies looking for a reputable link to Trump administration decision makers. They are working remotely as an ad hoc review board for the flood of research on the coronavirus, weeding out flawed studies before they reach policy makers.” WSJ
MEDIAWATCH — “Many Newspapers Want Coronavirus Stimulus. Four Out of Five Can’t Get It,” by WSJ’s Keach Hagey, Jeffrey Trachtenberg and Lindsay Wise: “Seattle Times Co. received a nearly $10 million loan last week as part of the federal government’s rescue program for small businesses. … The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is in essentially the same financial distress as the Times, with a similar size workforce among its parent’s publications. Yet it isn’t eligible for the aid and had to furlough or cut pay for 10% of its 900 employees this month.
“The reason: its parent company, WEHCO Media Inc., has more than 1,000 employees — the Small Business Administration’s maximum size for newspapers to qualify for the forgivable loans. … Papers representing more than 80% of U.S. circulation are disqualified from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program because of the way their companies are structured, according to data from the Alliance for Audited Media. The issue has prompted a bipartisan push in Congress to either amend PPP rules to make an exception for local news, or get news organizations other forms of aid in the next stimulus bill.” WSJ
— Fox News announced it would award the inaugural Dr. Charles Krauthammer Memorial Scholarship to high school seniors Ami Carey and Michael Carey. Ami will attend UCLA in the fall and is the daughter of Fox News’ SVP of technical operations, Steve Carey. Michael will study accounting and finance and is the son of Fox News’ senior director of IT operations, John Carey. The announcement
#MONDAYMOOD … JESSE VENTURA (@GovJVentura): “OK, I’ve decided I’m going to test the waters. IF I were going to run for president, the GREEN party would be my first choice. I’ve endorsed the party and I’m testing the waters. #mondaythoughts #MondayMorning #MondayMotivaton #MondayMood”
TRANSITION — REALCLEARPOLITICS’ @PhilipWegmann: “New: Pence deputy press secretary @DarinBMiller moved over to the White House today. He’s a special assistant to the president and will be working with conservative press.”
— DARIN is also a MARK MEADOWS alum — they worked together in the Freedom Caucus days.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Taylor Hittle, chief of staff for the HHS assistant secretary for financial resources, and Matthew Hittle, senior adviser to the CMS administrator, welcomed Maximilian Peter Hittle on Sunday — which was also Matthew’s birthday. Pic
— Brody Mullins, an investigative reporter at the Wall Street Journal, and Lauren Mullins, senior director of communications at Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy, welcomed Robert James “Bobby” Mullins on April 4. He came in at 5 lbs, 13 oz. Pic
— Mary Ann Weiss, a program officer at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and Brandon Rattiner, an associate at Covington & Burling, welcomed Neleh Joy Rattiner on March 16. Pic … Another pic