POLITICO Playbook: The White House gives Dems an opening – Politico
THE 2020 ELECTION IS 220 DAYS AWAY, and it is shaping up to be the strangest campaign for the White House of our lifetime. It’s possible that neither candidate will be able to hold a public event until the summer, and even then, those events will likely have to be small. The conventions will likewise be limited.
SIX WEEKS AGO, the issue set would have looked completely different than it does today. The economy is contracting, people are dying, and yet the president’s approval ratings have held steady. The campaign has been reduced to a single overarching topic: the coronavirus.
BUT, AS SURE AS the sun rises, Democrats again believe they have a potent weapon to wield against President DONALD TRUMP and the White House: health care. TRUMP never was able to replace Obamacare, as he promised on the campaign trail; and as our colleague SUSANNAH LUTHI scooped Wednesday, the administration will not reopen the exchanges to help people get covered during this time of distress.
JOHN ROBERTS — FOX NEWS’ White House correspondent — asked the vice president Wednesday what the administration would do for those people lacking employer-provided coverage in the wake of the decision to keep the exchanges closed. VP MIKE PENCE suggested the administration had loosened Medicaid requirements to allow people to get coverage. ROBERTS asked: Could the administration expand Medicaid to cover middle-class people? PENCE punted, and said Medicaid would be flexible and added he was “inspired by the spirit of American businesses” and by health-insurance companies.
BUT TRUMP knew blather when he heard it. “John, I think it’s a very fair question, though, and it’s something we’re really going to look at because it doesn’t seem fair. If you have it, you have a big advantage, and if you’re at a certain income level, you do. I think it’s one of the greatest answers I’ve ever heard, because Mike was able to speak for five minutes and not even touch your question.”
PENCE touched TRUMP’S back with the kind of look you only give someone when they say the quiet part out loud. TRUMP WRAPPED UP by saying that the administration would look into it. The clip
YOU CAN BE SURE DEMOCRATS were looking into something too: using the virus as a bat to bludgeon Republicans on health care. With some polls showing the public somewhat happy with TRUMP and PENCE’S handling of the coronavirus for the moment, Democrats believe this tried-and-true tactic will be powerful.
Good Thursday morning.
FAUCI GETS MUSCLE … WAPO: “Anthony Fauci’s security is stepped up as doctor and face of U.S. coronavirus response receives threats,” by Isaac Stanley-Becker, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Devlin Barrett: “Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert and the face of the U.S. response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, is facing growing threats to his personal safety, prompting the government to step up his security, according to people familiar with the matter. …
“Alex Azar, the HHS secretary, recently grew concerned about Fauci’s safety as his profile rose and he endured more vitriolic criticism online, according to people familiar with the situation. In recent weeks, admirers have also approached Fauci, asking to him sign baseballs, along with other acts of adulation. It was determined that Fauci should have a security detail. Azar also has a security detail because he is in the presidential line of succession.
“Asked Wednesday whether he was receiving security protection, Fauci told reporters, ‘I would have to refer you to HHS [inspector general] on that. I wouldn’t comment.’ The president interjected, saying, ‘He doesn’t need security. Everybody loves him.’
“HHS asked the U.S. Marshals Service to deputize a group of agents in the office of the HHS inspector general to provide protective services for the doctor, according to an official with knowledge of the request.”
REIMAGINING GOV’T, MIDDLE-EAST PEACE, MEXICO, CHINA, IMMIGRATION AND PANDEMICS — JARED’S GOT IT … ADAM CANCRYN and DAN DIAMOND: “Behind the scenes, Kushner takes charge of coronavirus response”: “What started two-and-a-half weeks ago as an effort to utilize the private sector to fix early testing failures has become an all-encompassing portfolio for Kushner, who, alongside a kitchen cabinet of outside experts including his former roommate and a suite of McKinsey consultants, has taken charge of the most important challenges facing the federal government: Expanding test access, ramping up industry production of needed medical supplies, and figuring out how to get those supplies to key locations.”
THE NEW SPIN — “Trump’s new coronavirus argument: 2 million people are being saved,” by Meridith McGraw
MITCH NOT INTO A BIG PHASE FOUR YET … BOB COSTA TALKS TO MCCONNELL … WAPO: “Pelosi should ‘stand down’ on passing another rescue bill in House, McConnell says”: “‘She needs to stand down on the notion that we’re going to go along with taking advantage of the crisis to do things that are unrelated to the crisis,’ McConnell said in an interview with The Washington Post, calling the speaker’s recent comments about a fourth round of virus-related legislation ‘premature.’ …
“McConnell, who contracted polio as a 2-year-old in Alabama, said that he has thought about his own life in recent weeks and how the polio epidemic affected the nation years ago. The word that keeps coming to mind, he said, is ‘fear.’ ‘I was thinking about it with this eerie feeling descending over the country, of the fear that every mother had, according to my mother, of sending their kids out to play in the summer,’ he said.”
AP: “New York virus toll doubles in 72 hours as hot spots spread,” by Robert Bumsted, Angela Charlton and Mark Sherman: “New York rushed to bring in an army of medical volunteers as the statewide death toll from the coronavirus doubled in 72 hours to more than 1,900, while the global number of people diagnosed with the illness edged closer to 1 million on Thursday.”
… AND IN D.C: “More than 4,000 coronavirus cases in Washington region, with peak still weeks away,” by WaPo’s Antonio Olivo, Fenit Nirappil and Gregory Schneider
— “D.C. leaders fear an outbreak that cripples the country,” by Chris Cadelago and Nolan McCaskill: “Unions representing federal workers, attesting to abysmal conditions on the ground, are calling on the administration to immediately enact so-called continuity of operations plans across the government. Without leadership from the administration, officials said agencies have had to act on their own, with uneven levels of response. They complain there’s been no governmentwide report on how many federal employees have contracted the virus or been exposed to it, which labor groups demand.”
THE PLAYBOOK VIRTUAL HALLWAY: One thing that makes reporting in Washington unique is the availability of people to talk to. But right now, we don’t have the opportunity to roam the corridors of Capitol Hill as usual. So, as we try to figure out what lawmakers are learning from this crisis — and what they think needs to be changed — we’ll be doing frequent, quick interviews in the spirit of the hallway walk and talk. First up:
— REP. PATRICK MCHENRY of North Carolina — the top Republican on the Financial Services Committee — makes this observation to us: “We need to give employees and gig workers direct ownership stakes in their company — options or stock grants. They need to get the benefit of what their labor is creating in value. Plus, everyone needs broad access to the social safety net, regardless of the type of work they perform. … Let’s get people bought into the recovery. … This is a great linkage for the average worker to own a piece of the American economy.”
— SEND JAKE AN EMAIL — [email protected] — if you want to chat.
WALL STREET AT THE WHEEL — “Treasury Department Selects Wall Street Banks to Advise on Airline Aid,” by WSJ’s Cara Lombardo and Liz Hoffman: “The department is expected to tap PJT Partners Inc., Moelis & Co. and Perella Weinberg Partners for help with the airline portion of the $2 trillion stimulus bill, according to people familiar with the matter. Each bank is likely to advise on aid to one of three subsectors: commercial airlines, cargo carriers and firms critical to national security, such as Boeing Co., the people said. The assignments could be disclosed this week, though the plans could change or be delayed as they are still being finalized.” WSJ
— REMINDER: ERIC CANTOR, former House majority leader, serves as vice chairman and managing director at Moelis. CANTOR was also known as a staunch ally of airlines during his time on Capitol Hill. Read DAVID ROGERS on that relationship from 2012.
WSJ ED BOARD: “Welcome to Uncle Sam Airways”: “Mr. Mnuchin has been given the power to take airline equity on the taxpayer’s behalf, and he seems intent on using it. The White House should make clear that it will dispose of this stake at the earliest convenience. Helping the airlines weather a 100-year pandemic might be, arguably, within the government’s job description. Owning them isn’t. There used to be a company called US Airways, and there’s no sense dusting off that livery for Uncle Sam’s airline.”
BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN and DANIEL LIPPMAN: “FEMA braces for a multi-front war as hurricane season looms”: “Federal emergency managers are bracing themselves for the herculean task of handling multiple natural disasters while the coronavirus pandemic taxes their resources.
“According to current and former Department of Homeland Security officials, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is considering setting up a second National Response Coordination Center to handle disasters unrelated to the global outbreak. A second center would basically gear up for Atlantic hurricane season, which officially starts on June 1, a former DHS official said. The agency is also looking to rehire retirees to build out its ranks, the sources said.” POLITICO
THE NEW DEMOCRATIC STARS … DAVID SIDERS: “Coronavirus puts governors back in presidential pipeline”: “Andrew Cuomo’s poll ratings are soaring. Jay Inslee is drawing more attention than his failed presidential campaign ever did. Gretchen Whitmer is burnishing her credentials as a possible running mate for Joe Biden.
“The daily split screen between President Donald Trump and the nation’s governors over the coronavirus pandemic is advancing the political fortunes of a handful of Democratic state leaders, by contrasting their management of a crisis with the president’s disjointed response to it. But the Democratic governors aren’t just having a moment. There are signs they may be reshaping the party’s pipeline of prospective presidential candidates for years to come.
“‘When you’ve got governors with stratospheric approval ratings for their handling of the crisis, and ratings that are 20 and 30 points higher than the president’s, and you have governors from states like California and New York and Illinois leading the crisis response — all big-name, major-league governors — you’re going to see that leadership reflected in polls for the presidency in future election years,’ said Doug Herman, a Democratic strategist. ‘This is the kind of stuff that gets forged and built into your resume.’” POLITICO
— “Democrats Fear for Their Convention. For Republicans, ‘The Show Must Go On,’” by NYT’s Reid Epstein and Annie Karni
WHO NEEDS TOM BRADY? — “Bob Kraft sends Patriots plane to China to get equipment for Mass.,” by Stephanie Murray in Boston: “A New England Patriots plane full of much-needed personal protective equipment from China is to fly into Boston on Thursday afternoon, according to a source familiar with the plans.
“Gov. Charlie Baker will greet the National Football League team’s plane when it arrives at Logan Airport with Patriots owner Bob Kraft and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. From there, the state’s National Guard will transport the equipment to a strategic stockpile in Marlboro, Mass., according to the person familiar with the plans.” POLITICO
TRUMP’S THURSDAY — The president has nothing on his public schedule.
— THE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE will hold a press conference at 5 p.m.
INTRODUCING … THE WFH READ — This might not be an everyday feature, but we’re going to try to reach into the past to find a compelling piece of journalism that interested and inspired us. Hopefully it will do the same for you. These stories won’t necessarily be political in nature — some might be! — and many of them are memorialized in bound collections on our shelves. Hopefully you’ll find time to enjoy.
— WILLIAM NACK in Sports Illustrated’s July 29, 1985, edition: “BOBBY FISCHER”
BEYOND THE BELTWAY … MARC CAPUTO in Miami: “Want a Florida beachfront hotel? Get coronavirus”: “Coronavirus patients could soon isolate in style: Taxpayer-subsidized rooms at Florida hotels, including the luxurious Fontainebleau Miami Beach.
“Under a plan that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has floated to federal planning agencies, the state is prepared to use hotels as quarantine or rehabilitation sites to break the chain of viral transmission.
“With hotels empty and desperate for money, and public health officials demanding isolation centers, the state sees an elegant solution. ‘We have already been in contact with major hotel groups as well as local hotels, and we’re being contacted by major hotel chains offering to house first responders and potentially to be isolation centers — that’s including big hotels like the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach,’ said Jared Moskowitz, Florida’s director of emergency management.”
— “In an Alaska town where almost everyone lives under the same roof, the pandemic threat feels different,” by the Anchorage Daily News’ Michelle Theriault Boots: “In the past, before the new coronavirus, the conversation in an active Facebook group for residents of Whittier was dominated by the chitchat of small-town Alaska life: reports of bears eating out of the trash bin, offers of free used treadmills for giveaway, a recitation of the nightly dinner special at the Anchor Inn.
“Since mid-March, the posts, and the focus of the community, have turned almost exclusively to the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic in this tiny, singular hamlet at the edge of Prince William Sound.
“Whittier is like nowhere else in Alaska. About 80% of the roughly 280 year-round residents live in a single building, the Begich Towers, a 14-story high-rise that sits opposite a reindeer pen. Virtually everyone else in town lives in a second, smaller condo building called Whittier Manor. There are no single-family homes and no neighborhoods in Whittier, a railroad and shipping hub that also serves as a jumping-off point for Prince William Sound.”
WATCH THIS SPACE — “Cast Adrift by the Virus, the Newly Homeless Seek a Place to Recover,” by The City’s Claudia Irizarry Aponte
ACROSS THE POND — “Britain faces testing crunch as crisis worsens,” by Ashleigh Furlong in London: “The U.K. has a testing problem. Despite countless promises to ‘ramp up testing,’ numbers have remained stubbornly low as the government has struggled with both its capacity to increase testing and its ability to convince Brits that its strategy will work.
“While the British government is now pledging to roll out mass testing, this has been delayed by an apparent de-prioritization of testing in mid-March when the government decided to test only the most serious cases.
“In daily press conferences since, top government ministers and their scientific advisers have declined to answer repeated questions about whether this change in strategy was a deliberate choice or the result of a lack of testing resources.” POLITICO
AL QAEDA WEIGHS IN — “Extremists see global chaos from virus as an opportunity,” by AP’s Cara Anna
WSJ: “Boeing to Offer Early Retirement, Buyouts as Coronavirus Takes Toll,” by Andrew Tangel: “Boeing Co. is expected to begin offering early retirement and buyout packages to its workforce as the plane maker comes to grips with the coronavirus pandemic’s deepening toll on the global aviation industry, people familiar with the matter said.
“An internal announcement was expected as soon as early Thursday, one of these people said. The Chicago-based aerospace giant is the largest U.S. exporter and one of the nation’s largest manufacturing employers. It has previously announced steps including a freeze on hiring and overtime as it seeks to preserve cash amid turmoil in the credit markets and a broader economic downturn.” WSJ
PLEASE FIGURE THIS OUT! … NYT’S BILL PENNINGTON: “The Masters on Halloween? Golf Weighs Tradition Against the Calendar”: “The Masters will not be a springtime ritual this year; instead the club’s leadership has discussed holding the tournament closer to Thanksgiving. The United States Open, which is certain to be delayed soon, may not end on Father’s Day, as always, but could become part of Labor Day weekend — joining that other early September tradition, the Kentucky Derby. …
“But let’s say there is the best possible news on the battle to contain the coronavirus pandemic and the playing of major championship golf, at least in some regions, is approved by health experts by August. A prospective 2020 men’s major schedule could look like this:
“The P.G.A. Championship in San Francisco, beginning Aug. 6. … The United States Open from Sept. 3 to 6, although it may have to be moved from the New York metropolitan area. Among the alternative sites: Oakmont Country Club outside Pittsburgh and the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina. …
“With the Ryder Cup postponed for a year, the British Open at Royal St. George’s is held from Sept. 24 to 27. … The Masters moves to the last week of October with its final round on Nov. 1. Everybody enjoys a new tradition unlike any other: a Halloween Saturday at the Masters.”
MEDIAWATCH — “OAN Gets the Boot,” by CNN’s Oliver Darcy and Jim Acosta: “The White House Correspondents Association on Wednesday voted to remove One America News, a small right-wing media organization, from the rotation for a seat in the briefing room, an extraordinary rebuke of the network for violating social distancing guidelines put into place to protect the health of its members.
“‘We do not take this action lightly,’ the WHCA board wrote in an email to members, notifying them of the decision. ‘This is a matter of public safety.’
“The decision was made after a fringe personality for the far-right media outlet, Chanel Rion, continued to attend the briefings, in defiance of the WHCA’s new rules limiting the number of journalists in the room.” CNN
— NYT’S JEREMY PETERS: “Alarm, Denial, Blame: The Pro-Trump Media’s Coronavirus Distortion”
— “Former Hulu Boss Will Lead WarnerMedia, Home of HBO and CNN,” by NYT’s Edmund Lee and John Koblin: “AT&T announced on Wednesday that it would bring in the former head of Hulu to lead WarnerMedia, the news and entertainment division that includes HBO, CNN and the Warner Bros. movie studio. Jason Kilar, the founding chief executive of the streaming platform Hulu, will take over for John Stankey, a veteran AT&T executive who has run WarnerMedia since June 2018.” NYT
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].
WHITE HOUSE DEPARTURE LOUNGE — Billy Gribbin is leaving the White House, where he was special assistant to the president and speechwriter, to launch a private speechwriting practice and become editor at American Renewal, a project of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
TRANSITIONS — Kathryn Schubert will be president and CEO of the Society for Women’s Health Research. She currently is chief advocacy officer at Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. … Liz Halloran will be a principal at Cornerstone Public Affairs. She previously was deputy communications director at the Human Rights Campaign.
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Lynda Tran, 270 Strategies founding partner and CBS News political contributor. A fun fact about her: “I don’t know if it’s fun, but it’s a fact: I am terrified of the ocean but got scuba certified and learned to surf to face my fears.” Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Tim Pataki, director of the Office of Public Liaison and deputy assistant to the president, is 35 … Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) is 65 … Deputy A.G. Jeff Rosen is 62 … Evan McMullin is 44 … NYT’s Emily Steel … Kelsey Kilgore, a White House policy adviser … Chad Banghart, executive director of the Committee to Defend the President … POLITICO’s Dana Rubinstein, Danielle Muoio, Katya Moukhina and Sarah Cammarata … Brent Colburn, Princeton’s VP of public affairs and comms, is 44 (h/t Jon Haber) … Meridith Webster, chief comms officer at Vox Media (h/ts Ben Chang) … Caitlyn Morrison, policy and advocacy analyst at Arnold Ventures … Sander Lurie, a principal in Dentons’ public policy practice (h/t wife Dorian Friedman) … Naji Filali, partner at Percipient Strategies … State Department’s David Shwiff …
… Joe Hack, COS for Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) … Booz Allen Hamilton’s Patrick Zimet is 31 … Brian Austin … NBC’s Liz Brown-Kaiser is 23 … BBC’s Adam Fleming … Alex Rosenwald is 34 … Jennifer Morrow … former Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) is 7-0 … former Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) is 83 … Josefa Velasquez … Robby Zirkelbach, EVP of public affairs at PhRMA … Dan Sallick, partner and co-founder of Subject Matter … Alicia Long, a D.C. assistant U.S. attorney (h/t Ed Cash) … David Bohnett … Ryan Kuntz, EVP of corporate affairs at Edelman … Sean Long … John McCauley … Jim O’Grady, WNYC reporter … John Keener … Google’s Nikhil Joshi … Marguerita ten Houten … NBA’s Danny Kanner … Dan Reilly … Abe Dyk … Sarah Fenn … Christy Agner … Tony Lake is 81 … USTR’s Brian Janovitz … Rachel Pankuch