April 6, 2020

There is complicated news about voter suppression tonight out of Wisconsin. It has overridden today's news of the extraordinary outburst of Trump’s acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, who flew almost 8000 miles to Guam to harangue the sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

I'll cover the Modly story later in the week, but for tonight, Wisconsin.

There is a crucial election there tomorrow that landed tonight at the US Supreme Court. The backstory is that in 2010, thanks to REDMAP the Republican Redistricting Majority Project I wrote about on Saturday, the Wisconsin legislature was controlled by Republicans. They worked to guarantee their control, gerrymandering the state so effectively in 2011 that in the 2012 elections, Republicans lost a majority of voters, but took 60% of the seats in the legislature. (They won only 48.6% of the votes, but took 61% of the seats.)

With this power, they promptly passed a strict voter-ID law that reduced black and Latino voting, resulting in 200,000 fewer voters in 2016 than had voted in 2012. (Remember, Wisconsin is a key battleground state, and Trump won it in 2016 by fewer than 23,000 votes.)

Now, there is a move afoot to purge about 240,000 more voters from the rolls, thanks to the old system called “voter caging.” The state sent letters to registered voters, largely in districts that voted Democratic in 2016, and those who did not respond to the letters have been removed from the voter rolls on the argument that the fact they didn't respond to the letters must mean they have moved. Initially, the purge was supposed to happen in 2021, after the election, but a conservative group sued to removed them earlier and a conservative state judge, Paul V. Malloy ordered it done. Malloy’s decision has been appealed to the Wisconsin state supreme court, which has deadlocked over the issue by a vote of 3-3.

On tomorrow’s ballot is a contest for a seat on that court. The Republicans desperately want to reelect their candidate, Justice Daniel Kelly, who recused himself from the voter purge vote pending the election. Trump has endorsed Kelly, who will uphold the purge if he is reelected. Before the pandemic, observers thought Kelly’s opponent had a good chance of unseating him because of expected high turnout among Democrats. But now, of course, all bets are off, especially since the Democratic strongholds in the state are in the cities, where the residents are hunkered down.

The election was originally scheduled for tomorrow, but the pandemic has gummed up the works. A stay-at-home order went into effect in the state on March 25, and more than a million voters have requested absentee ballots. But this huge surge means the state is running behind and hasn’t been able to deliver the ballots. Meanwhile, roughly 7000 poll workers, who are volunteers and often elderly, have said they would not come manage the election, so a large number of polls can’t open. The city of Milwaukee, whose 600,000 people normally would have 180 polling places, will have five. Milwaukee tends to vote Democratic.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, tried to get the Republican-dominated legislature to postpone the election or to mail ballots to all voters for a May 26 election deadline, but it refused. Over the weekend, the mayors of Wisconsin’s ten biggest cities urged the state’s top health official, Andrea Palm, to “step up” and use her emergency powers to replace in-person voting with mail-in voting, as Ohio did when faced with a similar problem. On Monday, Evers signed an executive order postponing the election until June 9—something even he was unsure he had the power to do, but he said he felt he had to try to keep people safe-- but Republicans challenged the order and the Republican-dominated state Supreme Court blocked it.

Last Thursday, a federal judge permitted absentee ballots to be counted in the election so long as they arrived back to election officials by April 13, but Republicans immediately challenged the decision. Tonight, in a 5-4 decision, the US. Supreme Court refused to permit this extension of time for the state to receive absentee ballots, arguing (apparently without any self-awareness) that the federal judge made a mistake by changing the rules of an election so close to its date. This means that absentee ballots have to be postmarked tomorrow, even if the voter hasn't gotten one by then.

The court insisted that the issue in the decision was quite narrow, and had nothing to do with the larger question of the right to vote. The four dissenting justices cried foul.

Writing for the four other judges in dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote that “the court’s order, I fear, will result in massive disenfranchisement.” “The majority of this Court declares that this case presents a “narrow, technical question”…. That is wrong. The question here is whether tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens can vote safely in the midst of a pandemic. Under the District Court’s order, they would be able to do so. Even if they receive their absentee ballot in the days immediately following election day, they could return it. With the majority’s stay in place, that will not be possible. Either they will have to brave the polls, endangering their own and others’ safety, or they will lose their right to vote, through no fault of their own. That is a matter of utmost importance—to the constitutional rights of Wisconsin’s citizens, the integrity of the State’s election process, and in this most extraordinary time, the health of the Nation.”

The New York Times editorial board echoed Ginsburg, warning that what is happening in Wisconsin, where Republicans are trying to use the pandemic to steal an election, could happen nationally in 2020. This is why Democrats tried to get robust election funding in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus bill to bolster mail-in ballots, and why Trump said: “The things they had in there were crazy, they had things, levels of voting that if you ever agreed to, you would never have another Republican elected in this country again.”

This crisis in Wisconsin has national implications. The reelection of Kelly will likely mean Wisconsin loses another 240,000 voters, most of them Democrats. This will increase Trump's chances of winning the state in 2020, and Wisconsin is likely key to a victory in the Electoral College.

This is why I watch the minutia of politics so carefully. It's hard to imagine that the election of a state judge in Wisconsin matters to our nation of fifty states and 330 million people, but it does. Oh, boy, does it.

—-

You can sign up for this free newsletter at heathercoxrichardson.substack.com

——

Notes:

Wisconsin situation:

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/us/wisconsin-redistricting-found-to-unfairly-favor-republicans.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/13/us/wisconsin-voter-rolls-purge.html

https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/04/02/wisconsin-election-judge-extends-absentee-voting-but-keeps-vote-date/5112276002/

https://lawandcrime.com/2020-election/ruth-bader-ginsburg-goes-off-on-conservative-majority-for-jeopardizing-voters-safety-amid-pandemic/

https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/491376-wisconsin-governor-suspends-in-person-voting-amid-coronavirus-outbreak

https://patch.com/wisconsin/milwaukee/wisconsin-election-results-supreme-court-race

https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/06/politics/wisconsin-primary-election/index.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/06/us/politics/supreme-court-voting-wisconsin-virus.html

Ginsberg closing:

Mail in voting in 2020: https://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/490905-vote-by-mail-advocates-dial-up-pressure-on-republicans-to-provide-more

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/03/opinion/wisconsin-primary-coronavirus.html

April 5, 2020

The storm is upon us. America has at least 337,274 coronavirus cases and at least 9,633 dead, and the numbers are climbing. The next two weeks will be a challenge.

There is much political news today, but it can wait. It seems inappropriate to scratch into the weeds of political machinations as we draw our breath for the great wave ahead of us.

As I read the news and your messages, I am struck by the great uncertainty with which we are facing what is to come. Some people are warning that this crisis will last for years; others that it will end quickly and painfully. Some are warning of the rise of fascism; others hope for a renewal of democracy. All of us are afraid; some of us are hopeful.

I would urge you to remember that calamity reveals who we truly are, and that, in our past, we have weathered great crises. More than that, those crises have produced a renewal of our vow that all of us are created equal and are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Great challenges have inspired us to try to create a government and a nation that really reflects, once and for all, the principle of human self-determination.

I am missing a friend tonight, a good man, a Jesuit who has chosen to weather this storm ministering to the poor in Nairobi rather than being evacuated home to the United States. In honor of him and of the many front-line workers who are shepherding us through this crisis, I offer the words that my friend’s spiritual leader Pope Francis spoke today in a nearly empty St. Peters Basilica in honor of Palm Sunday:

“Dear friends, look at the real heroes who come to light in these days: they are not famous, rich and successful people; rather, they are those who are giving themselves in order to serve others.”

We are surrounded by ordinary people who are giving themselves to serve others: bus drivers, delivery people, airline workers, grocery store clerks, post office workers, line cooks, police officers, food producers, social workers, janitorial staff, tradespeople, teachers, child care providers, farm workers, utility maintenance professionals, health care workers, servicemen and women, nurses, doctors. Their dedication deserves our profound thanks. It also proves that the great strength of America remains where it has always been: in ordinary Americans, setting their shoulders to accomplish the task before them.

Sleep well, everyone. We’ll go back to politics tomorrow.

——

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——

Notes:

https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/05/health/us-coronavirus-sunday/index.html

Pope Francis: https://catholicherald.co.uk/pope-francis-celebrates-palm-sunday-in-nearly-empty-st-peters-basilica/

April 4, 2020

In an interview on the Fox News Channel on Monday, Trump explained his objection to Democrats’ efforts to appropriate billions of dollars for election security in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package. “The things they had in there were crazy,” he told the hosts. “They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” On Wednesday, the Georgia House Speaker, Republican David Ralston, echoed Trump. He opposed sending absentee ballots to the state’s registered voters because the effort would lead to higher voter participation. That would “be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.”

They are saying out loud what scholars of politics have known for a long time: the Republicans are a minority party. They win by keeping their opponents from voting, or by making sure their votes are undercounted.

A democracy is in crisis if the majority of its people do not support the party in power. We can manage a glitch or two, but a systemic perversion of the government through manipulation by one group or another will destroy our faith that our government truly represents us.

Manipulating the vote has a long and shameful history in America, but modern media and computer modeling has enabled today’s Republican Party to carve out its voters with surgical precision.

The process of culling voters began in 1986, when Republicans who knew that Reagan’s budget cuts were unpopular began to talk of cutting down black voting. In a secret memo later made public by a judge, an official for the Republican National Committee explained that paring the voting rolls down in a call for “ballot integrity” “will eliminate at least 60-80,000 folks from the rolls.” Referring to a Senate race, the official noted, “If it’s a close race, which I’m assuming it is, this could keep the black vote down considerably.” (After the memo came out, the chair of the RNC stated “there has never been, nor is there now, any program at the Republican National Committee designed to intimidate or discourage any voter from exercising his or her right to vote…. [T]he purpose of the program was to help election officials make certain that no dead or fictitious persons vote.”)

When Democrats tried to expand voter registration in 1993 with the Motor-Voter Law, which permitted people to sign up to vote when at certain state offices-- including the Department of Motor Vehicles and welfare offices-- Republicans insisted that the Democrats were simply trying to register more of their own “special interest” voters and fought the law.

The next year, losing Republican candidates for office began to charge that they had lost because of “voter fraud,” and in 1996, House and Senate Republicans each launched year-long investigations into what they insisted were problematic elections, including the one that put Dianne Feinstein into the Senate from California. The loser in that contest, who had spent more than $28 million of his own money on his campaign, insisted on national television that there were serious voting irregularities. “I think, frankly, the fraud is overwhelming,” he said. Every study has shown that voter fraud is so rare as to be virtually nonexistent, but Republican leaders kept the case in front of the media for close to a year, helping to convince Americans that voter fraud was a serious issue and that Democrats were winning elections thanks to illegal, usually immigrant, voters.

In 1998, the Florida legislature passed a law to prevent such voter fraud, and the law quickly became a purge of black voters, people presumed to vote Democratic. In the election of 2000, Republican George W. Bush won the state of Florida and thus the election by 537 votes. A later investigation by the United States Commission on Civil Rights revealed “an extraordinarily high and inexcusable level of disenfranchisement,” primarily of Democratic African American voters, in that election.

When Democrat Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, Republicans set out to guarantee he had a hostile Congress to keep him from accomplishing anything. They raised money from corporate donors to elect Republicans to state legislatures in 2010, so Republicans would redistrict key states after the 2010 census, in a process called “gerrymandering.” They called the plan “REDMAP,” for Redistricting Majority Project. Republicans won control of the key states of Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Ohio, and Michigan, as well as other, smaller states, and they used computer modeling to redraw congressional maps to their advantage. In the 2012 election, Democrats won a majority of 1.4 million votes for House candidates. And yet Republicans came away with 33 more seats than Democrats in the House of Representatives.

The next year, in 2013, when the Supreme Court gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act with the Shelby County v. Holder decision, by ruling that states could change their voting laws without preclearance by the Department of Justice, Republican state officials immediately began to introduce voter ID laws and bills restricting voter registration.

And now, as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the nation right before the 2020 election, Trump and the Republican National Committee have launched a multimillion-dollar legal fight to keep Democrats from changing voting rules to enable people under 65 to vote from home, rather than risking their health or violating stay-at-home policies by gathering at polling places to cast ballots. (Republicans are fine with permitting older Americans to vote by mail, recognizing that older voters skew toward them.)

Trump has insisted without evidence since 2016 that he lost New Hampshire that year because of voter fraud, and that if you “deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” he actually won the popular vote. (Once in office, he set up a voter fraud commission that disbanded in 2018 after finding no widespread voter fraud.) Trump has pointed to voter fraud again this week for his opposition to mail in ballots, and has called for voter ID, which tends to disfranchise Democrats far more than Republicans.

The attempt to suppress the majority in order to stay in power is more than partisanship. It is an illustration that the leaders of today’s Republican Party feel entitled to govern even though they are not popular, entitled to enforce policies they know voters would reject if they could. It also means that Republicans increasingly do not have to answer to the people; their seats are secure.

Opposition to this manipulation of our political system is not about electing Democrats; it is about protecting democracy, as Michael Waldman of the non-partisan Brennan Center wrote in USA Today on Tuesday. Using the Trump technique of accusing an opponent of his own tricks, though, a senior Trump campaign counsel, Justin Clark, says: “It is beyond disgusting that the Democrats are using this crisis to try to dismantle the integrity of our voting system…. The American people won’t stand for this, and the campaign and the party intend to fight with them for a free, fair, and open vote in November.”

Clark made the news late last year when a tape leaked from a private event in which he told Republican leaders in the key state of Wisconsin: “Traditionally it’s always been Republicans suppressing votes in places…. Let’s start protecting our voters. We know where they are. ... Let’s start playing offense a little bit. That’s what you’re going to see in 2020. It’s going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, a much better-funded program.”

——

Sign up for this free newsletter at heathercoxrichardson.substack.com

——

Notes:

Trump and Ralston: https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trump-georgia-house-speaker-turnout

“ballot integrity” https://www.nytimes.com/1986/10/25/us/gop-memo-tells-of-black-vote-cut.html

Feinstein election: https://www.nytimes.com/1994/11/30/us/lame-duck-congress-california-feinstein-opponent-hopes-uncover-ballot-fraud.html

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: https://www.usccr.gov/pubs/vote2000/report/main.html

Trump:

Voter fraud commission: https://apnews.com/f5f6a73b2af546ee97816bb35e82c18d/Report:-Trump-commission-did-not-find-widespread-voter-fraud

Republican opposition to mail in ballots: https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/03/trump-2020-election-legal-battle-coronavirus-162152

Clark: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/trump-top-adviser-traditionally-it-s-always-been-republicans-suppressing-n1106031

April 3, 2020

Quite the Friday night news dump today. At about ten o’clock tonight, Trump notified Congress he has fired the Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson.

In September 2019, Atkinson made sure Congress knew that then-acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire was illegally withholding from the congressional intelligence committees a whistleblower complaint. Atkinson had examined the complaint, as required by law, and had determined it was “credible” and “urgent” and so sent it on to the acting DNI, who was supposed to send it to Congress. Instead, Maguire took it to the Department of Justice, where Attorney General Barr stopped the transmission by arguing that since it was a complaint about the president, and since the president was not a member of the intelligence community, the complaint shouldn’t go forward. And we know where it went from there.

Now Trump has fired Atkinson. The key paragraph in the letter informing Congress of his action reads as follows: “It is extremely important that we promote the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of Federal programs and activities. The Inspectors General have a critical role in the achievement of these goals. As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as President, have the power of appointment, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General. That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.”

This paragraph is doing a lot of work. The reference to economy, efficiency, and effectiveness should be read with the knowledge that Trump fired Maguire, who was thought to be a Trump loyalist, in late February after the chief election security advisor in his Office of the Director of National Intelligence delivered a classified briefing to Congress warning that Russia was already interfering in the 2020 election to help Trump.

Trump replaced Maguire with a fierce partisan, another acting DNI because he will have trouble making it through the Senate because he has no experience in the intelligence sector, which the law requires the DNI have. This man, Richard A. Grenell, has not given up his other government position to take the DNI job; he is still the US Ambassador to Germany.

Grenell had been vocal about his belief that the idea of Russian interference in US elections is a hoax, and as soon as he took office, he requested intelligence information on Russia and began bringing in his own people, including a key staffer, Kashyap Patel, who had worked for Devin Nunes (R-CA) and insisted that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that had attacked our 2016 election. (The intelligence community says this is false, and is Russian propaganda.)

Grenell immediately froze hiring at the ODNI, prompting accusations that he was purging the agency of career professionals and replacing them with Trump loyalists. While Grenell denied it saying he was simply promoting efficiency, the accusation seemed supported by a tweet from Don Jr., who wrote that “4 internal studies in the past 2 years have said the DNI needs to be reformed. No one has done it. [Grenell] is now starting to do it.”

On March 10 Grenell’s people briefed Congress with an assessment that said the opposite of the earlier one, claiming there was no proof Putin was working on behalf of Trump.

So the statement that Trump is simply streamlining the intelligence community has a subtext.

The sentence reminding Congress that Trump has the right to fire Atkinson is also working hard. The law requires 30 days notice to the congressional intelligence committees of such a removal, but Trump fired Atkinson abruptly and then immediately put him on administrative leave, so he is effectively removed. Thus Trump is circumventing the guardrail put into the law to make sure we do not have an abrupt change in our national intelligence without congressional input. And, of course, Congress is not in session because of the coronavirus, permitting Trump to act with impunity.

This is especially problematic right now, as the Supreme Court announced today it will not hold oral arguments in April because of the coronavirus, so the pending cases concerning whether investigators can access Trump’s finances to investigate crimes and his insistence that none of his advisors can be compelled to testify before Congress are all on hold. He is clearly feeling free to flirt with lawbreaking while the court is inactive.

The sentence announcing that he no longer has “the fullest confidence” in Atkinson is also working hard. Why has his confidence faded? Why now? Is there something that was about to come out and he wants to keep it hidden? It was the intelligence community that repeatedly tried to get him to take the coronavirus seriously; perhaps there is a whistleblower complaint over that. In the chaos over supplies it seems likely that there is profiteering going on; perhaps someone knows something about that.

Or perhaps this is part of Grenell’s longer strategy to stop any investigation of Russian attacks on the 2020 election.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not dropped his determination to end the US sanctions imposed on the country after Russia invaded Ukraine, sanctions that hit oligarchs, especially Putin, hard. These sanctions were at the heart of Putin preferring Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016, and have been key to much of our international affairs ever since.

One of the stories that has flown under the radar this week is that Russia is asking the United Nations to drop sanctions around the world to enable nations better to combat Covid-19. An initial resolution to that effect sponsored by Russia said “We are resolved to cooperate in addressing the disruptions to international trade and the market uncertainty due to the pandemic, mitigating the damage caused to the global economy by the spread of COVID-19, and promoting economic growth throughout the world, especially in developing countries.” The spokesman for Russia’s UN Mission, Fedor Strzhizhovskiy, said the Russian declaration was “result-oriented,” unlike the “general” one it sought to replace.

The European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Ukraine objected to the adoption of the Russian declaration, with Ukraine noting that the declaration was an attempt “to abuse humanitarian goals to plant a mine under international sanctions applied in response to gross violations of international law.”

But that is only Russia’s opening gambit. It is hard not to see the planeload of supplies Russia donated to New York this week after Trump and Putin spoke last Friday as an attempt to illustrate the benefits of lifting sanctions so Russia can work with other nations. According to Reuters, the ventilators on the plane were produced by a company under US sanctions, meaning that US firms and people are barred from doing business with it; sending those ventilators to our eager hands was a propaganda victory for Putin. Further, it was unclear whether the payment for the supplies came from the US or from Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, also under sanction. A senior US official said that the United States had purchased the supplies outright, but also noted that sanctions did “not apply to transactions for the provision of medical equipment and supplies.”

The UN Security Council will meet to discuss the pandemic next week.

For me, the kicker of this entire post is that I already had a full list of things to write about before Trump fired Atkinson. While we are all focused on the pandemic, there is a lot going on.

—-

You can sign up for this free newsletter at heathercoxrichardson.substack.com

——

Notes:                

Letter firing Atkinson: https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/03/politics/read-michael-atkinson-letter/index.html

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/03/trump-fires-intelligence-community-inspector-general-164287

Maguire: https://www.vox.com/2020/2/21/21147318/russian-meddling-2020-election-briefing-trump-grenell

Grenell: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/21/us/politics/richard-grenell-dni.html

https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/12/politics/grenell-dni-hiring-freeze/index.html

March briefing: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/richard-grenell-trump-intelligence-election-security/2020/03/10/6504cc36-62d6-11ea-acca-80c22bbee96f_story.html

SCOTUS: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-cancels-april-arguments-unclear-how-it-will-finish-term/2020/04/03/745cebe4-75de-11ea-a9bd-9f8b593300d0_story.html

UN: https://www.livemint.com/news/world/unga-adopts-resolution-on-covid-19-calls-for-global-cooperation-to-fight-pandemic-11585919363049.html

https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/general-assembly-decide-rival-covid-19-resolutions-69910791

https://www.unian.info/politics/10943636-ukraine-blocks-russia-s-un-declaration-on-fighting-coronavirus.html

https://www.unian.info/politics/10943636-ukraine-blocks-russia-s-un-declaration-on-fighting-coronavirus.html

Russian aid: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/02/world/europe/coronavirus-us-russia-aid.html

sanctions: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-russia-usa-sanctio/russian-ventilators-shipped-to-us-made-by-firm-under-us-sanctions-rbc-idUSKBN21L243

April 2, 2020

Behind the confusion and foot-dragging as the White House confronts the global pandemic is the administration’s desire to dismantle the federal government and give power to businesspeople.

The Trump administration has been clear that it does not want the federal government to assume responsibility for American citizens any longer. Trump has refused to issue a stay at home order from the federal government, insisting instead that governors make their own calls. He has refused to use the Defense Production Act to mobilize industry to produce the masks and ventilators Americans so desperately need. He is refusing to tell manufacturers where to place their supplies. In place of government coordination, his administration officials are counting on business people to assume leadership.

Instead, the fifty states are trying to respond on their own. They are making their own decisions about what to shut down, when, and are bidding against each other for supplies. This piecemeal response to the pandemic crisis means we are not effectively cutting off the spread of the virus, or supporting the healthcare we will need.

Today Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) wrote to Trump to urge him to appoint a “senior military officer” as a “czar” to coordinate a federal response to the crisis and to use the DPA to increase production, procurement, and distribution of medical devices and equipment. “America cannot rely on a patchwork of uncoordinated voluntary efforts to combat the awful magnitude of this pandemic,” Schumer wrote. “The existing federal void has left America with an ugly spectacle in which States and cities are literally fending for themselves, often in conflict and competition with each other, when trying to procure precious medical supplies and equipment. The only way we will fix our PPE [personal protective equipment] and ventilator shortage is with a data-driven, organized and robust plan from the federal government. Anything short of that will inevitably mean this problem will remain unsolved and prolong this crisis.”

Trump responded with a letter that was remarkable, even by his standards. It began: “Thank you for your Democrat public relations letter and incorrect sound bites, which are wrong in every way.” Trump denied that there was anything wrong with his administration’s response to the crisis. “As you are aware, the Federal Government is merely a back-up for state governments. Unfortunately, your state needed far more of a back-up than most states.”

He went on: “If you spent less time on your ridiculous impeachment hoax, which went haplessly on forever and ended up going nowhere (except increasing my poll numbers), and instead focused on helping the people of New York, then New York would not have been unprepared for the ‘invisible enemy.’” (Schumer called for a declaration of a public health emergency on January 26.) “I’ve known you for many years, but I never knew how bad a Senator you are for the state of New York, until I became President.”

Meanwhile, today Republican Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts gave a press conference in which he announced that the Kraft family, which owns the New England Patriots football team, had generously used the Patriots’ plane to transport more than 1 million masks the state had purchased in China, as well as picking up $2 million of the cost of the masks. While warmly complimenting the Kraft family’s generosity, state representative Katherine Clark said “this is not how it’s supposed to work…. What we need is a coordinated federal system.”

But there isn’t one. Instead, the White House is turning to private interests to manage the national response. It is a philosophical position embraced by those who would overturn the active government that has presided over the United States since the New Deal.

There was a remarkable moment tonight in the press conference tonight at the White House, flagged by Josh Marshall at TPM (Talking Points Memo). Countries have been sending supplies of masks, gowns, and so forth that our medical professionals so desperately need. But at the same time, ProPublica has reported that states are paying up to 15 times what medical supplies usually cost to get this equipment. So what’s going on?

At the press conference, Weijia Jiang of CBS News asked the official in charge of the shipments, Rear Admiral John P. Polowczyk, what was happening to them. He explained they are not going directly to the states or to FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency). Rather, they are going to the private sector, which has systems in place for distributing such materials. But the states are in a bidding war in the private sector to buy this equipment, which is driving prices up.

Shouldn’t the federal government step in to stop profiteering and make sure states get the supplies they need? “I’m not here to disrupt a [commercial] supply chain,” the admiral said.

—-

Notes:

https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/01/politics/coronavirus-manufacturers-ventilators/index.html

Schumer to Trump:

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/02/schumer-trump-spar-over-coronavirus-response-161109

https://www.axios.com/trump-coronavirus-schumer-impeachment-4455884d-14c1-4a7d-9886-de158667bc57.html

Krafts: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/04/02/nation/kraft-family-used-patriots-team-plane-shuttle-protective-masks-china-boston-wsj-reports/

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/letter-president-donald-j-trump-senator-charles-e-schumer/

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/you-need-to-look-at-this

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/pelosi-house-select-committee-handling-coronavirus

https://www.propublica.org/article/in-desperation-new-york-state-pays-up-to-15-times-the-normal-price-for-medical-equipment

Baker:

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trump-georgia-house-speaker-turnout

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