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Lost in the Sauce: Dec 22 - 28
Welcome to Lost in the Sauce, keeping you caught up on political and legal news that often gets buried in distractions and theater. (the previous edition can be found here if you are super behind)
Two important things:
FIRST, the headings will guide you through this piece. The Main Course covers the “big” stories and The Sides covers the “smaller” stories.
SECOND, I took a break from the audio TLDR this week. My apologies, been super busy. It will return for next week’s edition.
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Ukraine aid: The truthThe New York Times published an in-depth look at what happened during the roughly three months that the aid to Ukraine was withheld, revealing new information that highlights how much evidence the administration has hidden (and is still hiding) from congressional investigators. The piece also underscores that Trump was involved in every decision every step of the way.
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Russell T. Vought, the acting head of the Office of Management and Budget, Robert Blair, the senior adviser to Mulvaney, and Mark Paoletta, the budget office's top lawyer, were the key figures in executing Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine. All three refused to comply with House impeachment investigation.
“I’m just trying to tie up some loose ends,” Mr. Mulvaney wrote. “Did we ever find out about the money for Ukraine and whether we can hold it back?”Not everyone was onboard:
It was June 27, more than a week after Mr. Trump had first asked about putting a hold on security aid to Ukraine, an embattled American ally, and Mr. Mulvaney needed an answer.
The aide, Robert B. Blair, replied that it would be possible, but not pretty. “Expect Congress to become unhinged” if the White House tried to countermand spending passed by the House and Senate, he wrote in a previously undisclosed email. And, he wrote, it might further fuel the narrative that Mr. Trump was pro-Russia.
Pentagon officials, in the dark about the reason for the holdup, grew increasingly frustrated. Ms. McCusker, the powerful Pentagon budget official, notified the budget office that either $61 million of the money would have to be spent by Monday, Aug. 12 or it would be lost. The budget office saw her threat as a ploy to force release of the aid.Among those who disagreed with Trump:
At the White House, which had been looped into the dispute by the budget office, there was a growing consensus that officials could find a legal rationale for continuing the hold, but with the Monday deadline looming, it was a “POTUS-level decision,” one official said.
In late August, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper joined Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser at the time, for a previously undisclosed Oval Office meeting with the president where they tried but failed to convince him that releasing the aid was in interests of the United States.This article is very detailed and important to read to understand the events surrounding the hold on the aid. Message me if you are stuck behind the paywall but would like to read it anyway. Here are some non-paywalled summaries: Business Insider, HuffPost.
...“This is in America’s interest,” Mr. Bolton argued, according to one official briefed on the gathering.
“This defense relationship, we have gotten some really good benefits from it,” Mr. Esper added, noting that most of the money was being spent on military equipment made in the United States.
Mr. Trump responded that he did not believe Mr. Zelensky’s promises of reform. He emphasized his view that corruption remained endemic and repeated his position that European nations needed to do more for European defense.
“Ukraine is a corrupt country,” the president said. “We are pissing away our money.”
Promotion for stonewallingLast week, President Trump gave a big promotion to Mulvaney aide Robert Blair, just weeks after Blair refused to cooperate with a House subpoena for his testimony in the impeachment inquiry. As the above NYT piece describes, Blair played a key role in withholding the aid to Ukraine despite the pushback from top officials and legal risks. Blair is now the special representative for international telecommunications policy and “will support the Administration’s 5G efforts led by the Assistant to the President for Economy Policy, Larry Kudlow.” In addition, Blair “will continue to serve as Assistant to the President and the Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff.”
Trump’s July 25Heidi Przybyla of NBC News noted an interesting detail from Trump’s Twitter feed on July 25, 2019 - the day that he spoke to Ukrainian President Zelensky on the phone. That morning, roughly an hour before the phone call, Trump was reading a Fox News poll (or saw the poll on TV) that showed Biden with a “commanding lead” for the Democratic nomination. The poll also included a hypothetical match-up between Biden and Trump in which Biden was favored by 10 percentage points.
Although circumstantial, this evidence provides insight into Trump’s frame of mind at the time of the July 25 phone call. He had just read a poll showing that he’d lose against Biden; he viewed Biden as a threat to his re-election. It was with this mindset that Trump pressured Zelensky to announce an investigation into Biden, effectively smearing his potential 2020 opponent.
The impact on UkraineNBC News reports that the delay in aid to Ukraine has worried top Ukrainian officials and has “exposed the cracks in the West’s response to an emboldened Russia, inflicted permanent damage on Ukraine and heightened the risk of Moscow extending its influence in the country.”
U.S. support, in particular, is seen as essential in keeping what is widely seen as a bully in the East at bay.Volodymyr Yermolenko, a professor who runs Ukraine World, an English-language media project aimed at combating disinformation and fake news: “The question about military aid to Ukraine is not about Ukraine; it’s about values. It’s about shifting Western liberal democracy eastward.”
“Just the presence of the American army on the territory of Ukraine, in my opinion, already scares the enemy — even without any other aid,” said Ukraine Ground Forces Sgt. Maj. Yevhen Mokhtan, who works in this multinational training facility in western Ukraine.
Putin and Trump callAs has become routine, Americans learned from the Kremlin on Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with our president by phone earlier in the day. 24 hours later and the White House still has not acknowledged the call or provided a readout of what was discussed. The Kremlin released a readout immediately after the call, saying the two leaders discussed counter-terrorism efforts and "matters of mutual interest.”
"Vladimir Putin thanked Donald Trump for the information shared via the special services that helped prevent terrorist acts in Russia," the Kremlin-provided statement said. "Several matters of mutual interest were discussed. An agreement was made to continue bilateral cooperation in the fight against terrorism."Reminder: This is a little out of date, but as of Oct. 4, 2019, Trump had privately spoken to Putin at least 16 times since his inauguration. The actual content of these conversations is often disputed and not recorded in any way. Two government watchdog organizations filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for allowing Trump to seize notes from a meeting he had with Putin in 2017.
Trump outs the whistleblowerIn an unprecedented step last week, the President of the United States put the alleged (and unsubstantiated) name of a federally-protected whistleblower out into the public. First, on Thursday, Trump retweeted a tweet sent by his re-election campaign (menacingly-named Trump “War Room”) containing an article that names the purported whistleblower. Then on Friday, in a late-night Twitter binge, Trump retweeted a post from a suspicious account with the name of the alleged whistleblower in the text of the tweet. In other words, Trump put the name of (who he believes is) the whistleblower on his official Twitter account, his main method of communication.
According to CNN, Twitter confirmed it “has suspended some of the pro-Trump accounts that Trump had promoted Friday night.” CNN also reported that the tweet containing the whistleblower’s name was removed from Trump’s account, but for many people (myself included), it is still visible on Trump’s Twitter page. I will not link to it because I do not believe in assisting Trump’s effort to out the whistleblower, even if Trump’s identification is not accurate.
Senate trialCongressional leaders are still stuck in a stalemate regarding the next steps in impeachment, as the Democrats call for a fair trial with witnesses and the Republicans lean towards a quick Senate trial with a predetermined result.
SchumerSenate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to all senators last Monday arguing that not only is witness testimony essential for a Senate trial - so is “the need for the Senate to review documentary evidence.” In addition to the four witnesses (John Bolton, OMB official Michael Duffey, and Mick Mulvaney and his senior adviser Robert Blair) previously proposed, Schumer lists a range of documents from the White House, State Department, and Office of Management and Budget. The letter specifically notes the recent - partially redacted - FOIA revelation that the aid to Ukraine was frozen just 91 minutes after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky.
There simply is no good reason why evidence that is directly relevant to the conduct at issue in the Articles of Impeachment should be withheld from the Senate and the American people. Relevant documentary evidence currently in the possession of the Administration will augment the existing evidentiary record and will allow Senators to reach judgments informed by all of the available facts. To oppose the admission of this evidence would be to turn a willfully blind eye to the facts, and would clearly be at odds with the obligation of Senators to 'do impartial justice' according to the oath we will all take in the impeachment trial.Further reading: Supreme Court lawyer and former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal argues in The Washington Post that the FOIA email in which Duffey orders a hold on Ukraine aid is an important example of why witness testimony is necessary: “So it wasn’t enough for Duffey to order Defense Department officials to withhold the weapons from Ukraine. He needed to order them to withhold the legally required alert to Congress. And that’s just what he did… If there’s any doubt about what the email meant, Duffey could clear it up by testifying. But he has dodged all attempts to do so.”
McConnellAlaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski told a local news station that she was “disturbed” to hear McConnell describe “total coordination” with the White House in planning and carrying out the Senate’s impeachment trial. However, Murkowski has given no other indication that she intends to break with McConnell’s approach.
GrahamA couple of weeks ago, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham invited Rudy Giuliani to testify before the panel about his recent trip to Ukraine. “Rudy, if you want to come and tell us what you found, I'll be glad to talk to you,” Graham said in an interview on “Face the Nation.” However, it now seems that Graham is having second thoughts due to the realization that Giuliani may be trying to spread Russian propaganda: “My advice to Giuliani would be to share what he got from Ukraine with the IC [intelligence community] to make sure it’s not Russia propaganda. I’m very suspicious of what the Russians are up to all over the world.”
- During Giuliani’s trip to Ukraine, he met with numerous pro-Russia individuals, including one - Andriy Derkach - who attended a KGB school in Moscow. Derkach has been identified as a source (but not the only source) of the discredited claim that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, not Russia.
- Daily Beast: “I wouldn’t trust Rudy to represent me in a parking dispute so I’d say avoid,” one senior GOP Senate aide said when asked about any plans for a Ukraine briefing.
Trump’s defenseTypically, in the Senate impeachment trial, the President’s White House lawyers make up the “defense” lawyers. However, the Wall Street Journal reports that Trump’s team may include House Republicans:
The president has indicated that Mr. Cipollone would lead his legal defense team but is considering adding others with the television experience he values. Under consideration are Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s personal lawyers, and Alan Dershowitz, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and TV commentator, officials said. The White House is also considering adding some of the president’s staunchest defenders on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees to the Senate trial team, according to a person familiar with the deliberations.Legal analyst Ross Garber notes that the impeachment managers (House Democrats that “try” the case) and Senate Democrats would likely object to such an arrangement:
Curious that members of the Legislative Branch would formally represent the Executive, esp in a House v POTUS proceeding. I’d expect an objection from managers/Senate Dems. (Informal advice is one thing, but acting as the President’s - or Presidency’s - lawyers is different.)
Impeachment, Round Two?In a court filing last week, House Judiciary Committee attorneys argued that they urgently require Mueller’s grand jury materials and Don McGahn’s testimony for their continuing impeachment investigation: “The Committee’s investigations did not cease with the House’s recent impeachment vote.” House lawyers added that if the court rules quickly, the materials and testimony would be presented in the Senate’s trial.
If McGahn’s testimony produces new evidence supporting the conclusion that President Trump committed impeachable offenses that are not covered by the Articles approved by the House, the Committee will proceed accordingly — including, if necessary, by considering whether to recommend new articles of impeachment. [page 12]The two cases will be heard by three-judge panels of the D.C. Appeals Court on Jan. 3; the McGahn panel is made up of Judges Karen LeCraft Henderson, Thomas B. Griffith, and Judith W. Rogers; the Mueller case will be heard by Judges Griffith, Rogers, and Neomi Rao.
Dueling opinionsWashington Post columnist Paul Waldman used the recent court filings to argue that Trump could be impeached for a second time: “Don’t dismiss it as an absurd idea just yet. Not only might it happen, but it also might be absolutely necessary.” Waldman believes that between the possibility of discovering currently-unknown misdeeds Trump already committed and the possibility that Trump commits future crimes, a second impeachment “might be all but inevitable.”
However, former SDNY prosecutor Elie Honig threw cold water on the idea that the Mueller materials and/or McGahn’s testimony could lead to another impeachment push:
”Legally, yes, there’s nothing preventing the House from returning more Articles of Impeachment or impeaching again. But let’s operate in the real world: there’s just no way. No way it works politically, no way the public embraces it, no way Pelosi permits it.”
Giuliani’s interviewIn yet another freewheeling interview (over daytime Bloody Mary drinks), Giuliani told New York Magazine that if the Southern District of New York Attorney’s office is investigating him, “they’re idiots” and “assholes.”
“If they think I committed a crime, they’re out of their minds,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 50 years. I know how not to commit crimes. And if they think I’ve lost my integrity, maybe they’ve lost theirs in their insanity over hating Trump with some of the things they did that I never would’ve tolerated when I was U.S. Attorney.”Giuliani suggested the SDNY prosecutors are jealous of him.
“It’s a terrible thing to say because it will get the Southern District all upset, but I know why they’re all upset,” Giuliani said. “Because they’ve never done anything like me since me. They haven’t done an eight years like I did since I left being U.S. Attorney. Nothing close.”Giuliani also addressed the allegations against his client, President Trump, and in the process admitted that it would be in character for Trump to withhold military aid dedicated to Ukraine:
He didn’t think it was such a big deal once he read about it [the freeze on aid], he said, because it was “typical Trump; he withholds aid till the last minute until he makes them beg for it.”And, finally, to top off the interview, Giuliani claimed that former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is “controlled” by George Soros. Then the former NYC mayor launched into an extended anti-semitic diatribe:
“He put all four ambassadors there. And he’s employing the FBI agents.” I told him he sounded crazy, but he insisted he wasn’t.
“Don’t tell me I’m anti-Semitic if I oppose him,” he said. “Soros is hardly a Jew. I’m more of a Jew than Soros is. I probably know more about — he doesn’t go to church, he doesn’t go to religion — synagogue. He doesn’t belong to a synagogue, he doesn’t support Israel, he’s an enemy of Israel. He’s elected eight anarchist DA’s in the United States. He’s a horrible human being.”
- Further reading: “Rudy Giuliani's anti-Soros tirade exposes three uncomfortable truths.” CNN. 12/24/19. And “Rudy Giuliani Doubles Down On Anti-Semitic Attacks Against George Soros.” HuffPost. 12/24/19.
New CyberCom approach
Military cyber officials are developing information warfare tactics that could be deployed against senior Russian officials and oligarchs if Moscow tries to interfere in the 2020 U.S. elections through hacking election systems or sowing widespread discord, according to current and former U.S. officials.
One option being explored by U.S. Cyber Command would target senior leadership and Russian elites, though probably not President Vladimir Putin, which would be considered too provocative, said the current and former officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity. The idea would be to show that the target’s sensitive personal data could be hit if the interference did not stop, though officials declined to be more specific.
...The intelligence community last month issued a classified update — a “national intelligence estimate” — asserting that Russia’s main goal in the 2020 campaign continues to be to sow discord. “It’s always been about exacerbating fault lines in our society,” one senior U.S. official said. (The Washington Post or non-paywalled option)
Political adsThe streaming service Spotify announced last week that “pause” political advertising in early 2020 because it does not have the resources to properly police the content of such ads. “At this point in time, we do not yet have the necessary level of robustness in our process, systems and tools to responsibly validate and review this content,” a representative of the company said.
Reminder: Twitter has banned all ads from political candidates, officials, and political parties on its platform. Google has limited advertisers’ ability to micro-target users based on political affiliation.
Meanwhile, Facebook has taken the opposite approach, allowing political ads on its platform without any fact-checking. According to the Wall Street Journal (non-paywall, millionaire Facebook board member Peter Thiel was a driving force behind the decision not to crack down on political ads, despite some directors and executives arguing for limitations or a complete ban.
Thiel is a supporter of Donald Trump; Thiel and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg attended an “undisclosed dinner” hosted by Trump at the White House in October.
A major donor to Trump’s campaign, Thiel is also the chairman of Palantir, a private data technology company that has become one of the largest recipients of government defense contracts with the United States government since Trump took office. (NBC News)
State wins and setbacksA win for voter rights in North Carolina:
Republican attempts to require photo identification to vote in North Carolina are being thwarted again by judges hearing arguments that the mandate is tainted by bias that would deter black and Latino residents.And a setback for voter rights in Georgia:
A federal court announced that next week U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs will formally block a photo ID requirement scheduled to begin in 2020. Unless the upcoming preliminary injunction is successfully appealed, the requirement will be halted until a lawsuit filed by the state NAACP and others is resolved. (NBC News)
Georgia doesn’t have to put almost 100,000 voters back on its rolls, a federal judge ruled Friday.Further reading: “The Decade When Republicans Stole the States: How the North Carolina GOP's anti-democratic chicanery became the national party's playbook for electoral theft,” The New Republic.
The US district judge Steve C Jones ruled that a voting rights advocacy group founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams is improperly asking him to interpret state law. Jones also said the group hasn’t proved that people who have been removed had their constitutional rights violated.
However, Jones also ordered Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to do more to warn people that they had been removed. The judge is especially singling out a south-west Georgia state House district where a 28 January special election is scheduled. Voters there who have been removed have only until Monday to re-register. (The Guardian)
Andrew McCabe, the ousted deputy director of the FBI, says the Trump administration is withholding evidence related to his lawsuit. McCabe sued the FBI and the Department of Justice after he was fired in March 2018 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions just two days before he was set to retire.
McCabe's attorney, Murad Hussain, filed a declaration on Tuesday claiming that several agencies and 30 individuals — including current FBI Director Chris Wray, Attorney General William Barr and Mr. Trump — have yet to hand over any materials requested as part of his lawsuit against his former employer. (CBS News)
Flynn sentenceIn a court filing last week, the Justice Department hinted that it may seek a harsher sentence for Michael Flynn, who has shifted legal strategy and taken an openly hostile approach to the DOJ. Flynn’s sentencing is set for Jan. 28.
Immigration newsExodus of immigration judges:
Over the past year, in the heat of a border migration crisis, 45 judges have left, moved into new roles in the immigration court system -- which is run by the Justice Department -- or passed away, according to the department. That's nearly double the number who departed their posts in fiscal years 2018 and 2017, when 24 and 21 judges left, respectively, according to data provided by the judges union.Border wall:
The reasons why individual judges have moved on from their posts on the bench vary, but in interviews with judges who left in recent months, one theme ties them all together: frustration over a mounting number of policy changes that, they argue, chipped away at their authority...Their departures come as the Justice Department faces a backlog that exceeds 1 million cases. (CNN)
I’m not going to excerpt this because it’s hard to separate one piece from the whole. It is a very important article and I hope everyone will take the time to read it: “Southern border wall is destroying natural habitats,” The Hill.
US Contractors supported Taliban
Nearly 400 people who were either wounded while serving in the U.S. military in Afghanistan or are family members of service members who died in the conflict sued a group of companies on Friday they say helped fund attacks against Americans by making protection payments to the Taliban.
“Defendants supported the Taliban for a simple reason: Defendants were all large Western companies with lucrative businesses in post-9/11 Afghanistan, and they all paid the Taliban to refrain from attacking their business interests,” the 288-page complaint filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. on Friday states. “Those protection payments aided and abetted terrorism by directly funding an al-Qaeda-backed Taliban insurgency that killed and injured thousands of Americans.”
...”In addition to MTN [South African telecom firm], the complaint names the London-headquartered G4S Holdings International and its subsidiaries, the Palm Beach Gardens, Florida company Centerra Group, the Bethesda, Maryland company DAI Global, the Lenoir City, Tennessee firm Janus Global Operations, Overland Park, Kansas’ Black & Veatch Special Projects and the Canadian company Louis Berger Group and its subsidiaries and affiliates. (Courthouse News)
Trump’s Christmas partyTrump held a Studio 54-themed Christmas Eve party at Mar-a-Lago, attended by Rudy Giuliani, Alan Dershowitz, and recently-pardoned war criminal Edward Gallagher. Parties like these cost the American taxpayers money, as more Secret Service agents are required to provide security for a large bash. Not to mention the money spent at Mar-a-Lago by White House staff and administration officials to attend.
Who else was at the party? None other than close friend of Vladimir Putin - and captain of the Washington Capitals - Alex Ovechkin and his wife, Nastya Ovechkina.
GEO Group and TrumpSen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) sent a letter to the GEO group last week expressing “serious concerns about possible corruption” raised by the private prison company’s spending at Trump’s D.C. hotel. The Senator and Representative request additional information from the company about the “ten to twenty” times GEO execs stayed at Trump’s hotel.
A senior executive of the GEO Group—the nation’s largest private prison and immigrant detention company—who lobbied the Trump administration for a multimillion-dollar cash infusion has also been staying in the luxurious Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., billing an unknown sum to his corporate expense account, according to previously unreported records unearthed by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), a non-profit watchdog.
The admission by David J. Venturella, GEO’s senior vice president of business development, came in a June 2019 deposition in an ongoing federal court case…Venturella testified that he had charged Trump hotel bills to his GEO credit card on at least 10 occasions.
...GEO became an avid fan of then-candidate Donald Trump after President Barack Obama’s Justice Department promised to stop approving new federal private prison contracts days after a report determined that private prisons were not necessarily cheaper than government-run ones, causing the company’s stock to plummet 40 percent. What followed was an outpouring of cash from GEO: hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to pro-Trump political groups and to his inauguration; and over $4 million in Washington lobbying, much of it directed at the Trump administration. For its part, the administration reversed Obama’s policy and has dramatically boosted GEO’s immigrant detention revenue. (Project On Government Oversight)
NunesThe Fresno Bee asks: How is Rep. Devin Nunes funding so many lawsuits?
Mother Jones took a look at Nunes and his associates who are involved in the Ukraine pressure campaign:
Not only did the report include phone records indicating calls between Nunes and numbers associated with Giuliani and Parnas (Nunes claims the Parnas calls actually came from a number associated with Parnas’ wife and that he spoke with “someone,” he does not recall who), it also indicated deep ties between Nunes’ office and the White House. At least three former Nunes staffers currently work in the White House. A onetime National Security Council staffer in the Trump White House, meanwhile, currently works for Nunes. The names of all of these officials have surfaced in recent months in connection with the Ukraine scandal, and three of them were mentioned in the intelligence committee report.
Kellyanne lawsuitGovernment watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit demanding the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an agency tasked with enforcing the Hatch Act, take more disciplinary action against Kellyanne Conway for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act.
The law explicitly states that should OSC determine disciplinary actions should be taken against an employee, it must immediately prepare and present a written complaint to MSPB. The lawsuit would compel OSC to comply with its duty to begin enforcement proceedings with MSPB against Conway.
CREW filed multiple complaints against Conway, as she blatantly used her official government Twitter account and her press appearances to advocate for and against candidates for office. Conway is one of eleven Trump administration officials who have been cited for Hatch Act violations following CREW complaints.
Trump Covid Timeline (2017 - March 24)
The Obama administration authorized (and spent millions on the design of) machines that allowed a "rapid pandemic mask production line", producing up to 1.5 million N95 masks per day. In 2018, the Trump administration cancelled it.
The outgoing Obama administration holds a pandemic-response drill for incoming Trump administration officials. The drill specifically deals with challenges “such as shortages of ventilators, anti-viral drugs and other medical essentials,” and warns that “having a coordinated, unified national response was ‘paramount.’”
The Department of Homeland Security stops pandemic modeling it has produced in partnership with national laboratories since 2005. This effort had produced analyses that predict the impact on critical infrastructure, including hospitals.
OSHA has spent the last six years preparing updated federal regulations to force the healthcare industry to prepare for an airborne infectious disease pandemic like COVID-19. They were confident the new regulations would make hospitals & nursing homes safer when future pandemics hit. In the spring of 2017, the Trump team stripped OSHA's airborne infectious disease rule from the regulatory agenda.
Trump, in a cost-cutting measure, dissolved the pandemic response team. Specifically, he cut 80% of the CDC’s funding for “global disease outbreak prevention”, including all of the funding for the agency’s efforts in China, and removed of the entire management structure around pandemic preparation that the Obama administration had set up as a response to previous pandemic possibilities (SARS / MERS / etc.), which he had been pushing for since 2014. Trump will later say it’s not true, but it is (with video evidence, in addition to the obvious budget cuts, to prove it.)
· Note: Trump is warned at the time that this opens us up to exactly what is happening now… warned both by health experts and by Bill Gates personally. The administration was warned again and again and again that this decision left us open to pandemic disaster.
May: The global health national security team is disbanded after a reorganization effort by then-national security adviser John Bolton. Among the ousted officials is Rear Adm. Tim Ziemer, the head of global health security on the National Security Council, who has yet to be replaced in the White House. Congress questions Bolton’s actions to eliminate the global health security team.
A step by step pandemic playbook, created by the pandemic response team and owned by the National Security Council, is ignored by the administration (link also includes the actual 69 page playbook).
Summer: The contract to maintain the Strategic National Stockpile expires and is followed by a contract dispute, leaving 2,109 ventilators (21% of them) unusable as of April 1, 2020.
July: A CDC-funded epidemiologist working with Chinese public health experts to track outbreaks abruptly leaves the position during heated trade talks between the US and China. This role was intended to provide early updates to United States officials about potential outbreaks.
July: The Trump administration relaxes rules on infection controls in nursing homes, which will contributes to the inability to control the spread of the virus in nursing homes.
September: The Council of Economic Advisers in the White House releases an analysis warning that a pandemic could kill 500,000 Americans and severely damage the economy. According to reports, the Trump administration ignores this warning.
September: The administration ends a program called PREDICT that was designed to serve as an early warning effort, that trained public health experts in other countries to discover and intervene in deadly outbreaks.
November: U.S. intelligence officials begin "warning that a contagion was sweeping through China's Wuhan region, changing the patterns of life and business and posing a threat to the population."
Throughout January and February: Trump is warned over a dozen times (in his daily intelligence briefings, and from within the administration) about the virus threat.
January 3: Trump learns about COVID-19 from intelligence reports, but ‘they couldn’t get him to do anything about it’.
January 9: Trump holds campaign rally in Toledo.
January 14: Trump holds campaign rally in Milwaukee.
January 18: Trump plays golf
January 18: Trump is called by Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and warned about the threat, but dismisses it as ‘alarmist’, then interrupts to talk about vaping. Secretary Azar is sidelined.
January 19: Trump plays golf
January 20: CDC Reports first Case of COVID-19 in US.
January 22: The World Health Organization (WHO) concludes that the virus is spreading rapidly among humans. According to a “pandemic playbook” authored by the Obama administration and provided to the Trump administration, this development should trigger action by the administration to take a lead role in “coordination of workforce protection activities including … PPE determination, procurement, and deployment.” The Trump administration does not take the steps outlined in the playbook.
January 22: Ronald Klain, coordinator for the Obama administration's response to Ebola, publishes an op-ed in The Washington Post criticizing the administration's response to the virus and warning that "we are past the 'if' question and squarely facing the 'how bad will it be' phase of the response."
January 22: Trump: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” (in an CNBC interview)
January 22: US declines offer of first access to additional 1.7 million N95 masks per week from Texas health care company.
January 23: Trump receives an intelligence briefing around the virus, told it was potentially going to spread globally.
January 23: Hubei, China goes on lockdown.
January 23: Senate health committee holds a briefing that included presentations from top level U.S. public-health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci.
January 24: Four Senators from that committee sell stocks that are likely to decrease in value due to the virus. Among them is Senator Burr, who will (a month later) instruct his key donors to do the same; as well as Senator Loeffler, who will later call questions about this sale a ‘Socialist Attack’.
January 27: White House aides met with Chief of Staff to try to get senior officials to take the virus threat more seriously.
January 27: 31 Senate Democrats write a letter to HHS Secretary Azar "to express concern about the rapidly evolving 2019 Novel Coronavirus." The letter notes that the outbreak "follows troubling proposals from the Trump Administration to cut the budgets of core public health programs at home and abroad" and highlights the need for an aggressive response.
January 28: Trump receives an intelligence briefing around the virus, is told it was spreading outside of China, and that China is withholding information.
January 28 & 30: Trump holds Wildwood and Des Moines rallies for thousands. At this point Trump has known about the virus for four weeks.
January 29: White House advisor Peter Navarro writes a memo warning the virus could threaten millions of Americans and cause trillions of dollars of damage to the American economy.
January 30: Azar warned Trump “of the possibility of a pandemic” and that China should be criticized for its lack of transparency. Trump dismissed Azar as alarmist and rejected the idea of criticizing China.
January 30: The World Health Organization declares the coronavirus a global health emergency; only done five times since gaining that power in 2005.
January 31: Secretary of Health and Human Services declares coronavirus poses “a public health emergency in the United States.”
January 31: Travel from China is restricted, but the restriction is quote porous. US citizens, their families, and permanent-residents are *not* affected. 40,000 people will travel to and from China (including Wuhan) in the next three months.
The World Health Organization ships out 1,500,000 Coronavirus tests to 120 countries. The Trump administration declines to purchase any.
Late January / Early February: Warnings from the intelligence community “increased in volume” to the point that “a majority of the intelligence reporting included in daily briefing papers and digests from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA was about covid-19.”
February 1: Trump plays golf in West Palm Beach), tweets about it.
February 2: Trump plays golf with Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
February 2: Trump hosts Super Bowl party at Mar-a-Lago.
February 3: "We pretty much shut it down coming in from China. We’re going to see what happens, but we did shut it down, yes." on Hannity
February 4: Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh, one of the most potent misinformation sources around coronavirus, during the State of the Union address. Coronavirus gets no significant mention in the speech.
February 5: Senators urged the administration in a briefing to take the virus more seriously and asked if additional funds were necessary; the administration turns down emergency funding proposal.
February 10: Trump holds campaign rally in Manchester.
February 10: The White House releases a budget proposal that includes “cutting Health and Human Services funding by $9.5 billion, including a 15 percent cut of $1.2 billion to the CDC and a $35 million decrease to the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund’s annual contribution.”
February 10-14: Trump repeatedly (in at least six different interviews) claims that the virus “miraculously goes away” in April. It doesn’t.
February 14: The death toll globally is over 1,000. U.S. cases have reached 14. Flawed testing kits are sent to state labs by the C.D.C.
February 15: Trumps plays golf.
February 15: Trump holds lavish fundraiser at Palm Beach billionaire’s home.
February 16: Trump attends the Daytona 500, is named Grand Marshall of the race.
February 18: Trump holds fundraiser at the Montage hotel in Beverly Hills.
February 19: Trump holds campaign rally in Phoenix for thousands at the Arizona State Fairgrounds.
February 20: Trump holds campaign rally in Colorado Springs.
February 21: Trump holds campaign rally in Las Vegas
February 21: The White House coronavirus task force conducts a mock exercise of the pandemic. The group concluded that the U.S. would need to implement aggressive social distancing, even if it caused mass disruption to the economy and American lives.
February 23: Navarro doubled down on his warnings in another memo, this time addressed to the president, stating that up to 2 million Americans could die of the virus.
February 24: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA… Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
February 24: The S & P 500 falls 3.4 percent, the worst single day in two years. The global death toll has surpassed 2,600. U.S. cases have reached 53.
February 25: “CDC and my Administration are doing a GREAT job of handling Coronavirus.”
February 25: “You may ask about the coronavirus, which is very well under control in our country. We have very few people with it, and the people that have it are … getting better. They’re all getting better. … As far as what we’re doing with the new virus, I think that we’re doing a great job.”
February 25: Larry Kudlow (Trump’s chief economic advisor) “We have contained this. I won’t say airtight, but pretty close to airtight. We have done a good job in the United States.”
February 26: “The 15 (cases in the US) within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.”
February 26: Vice President Mike Pence is given the job of leading the coronavirus response in the U.S., and immediately leaves for CPAC, where he says “I’m here for one reason, and one reason only...our movement, our party, and America need four more years of Donald Trump in the White House.”
February 26: At a press conference, a senior CDC official (Dr. Nancy Messonnier) sounded the alarm that the outbreak would become a pandemic. Trump immediately threatened to fire her from the CDC, which effectively ended efforts to persuade Trump to action and led to Azar being even further sidelined in favor of Vice President Mike Pence
February 28: Trumps holds yet another campaign rally (in Charleston, SC), claims coronavirus is Democrat's "new hoax" (video).
· Note: It’s at this point that Senator Burr (head of the Senate Intelligence Committee) tells his biggest donors in a private meeting that Trump was working to (temporarily) keep the market up, and that they should sell now.
Late February: Kushner advises Trump that the media is exaggerating the coronavirus threat.
February 28: Trump / Mulvaney accuse media and the Democrats of exaggerating coronavirus threat on same day WHO upgrades risk of global outbreak to "very high" (the highest level)
February 28: “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
February 29: First US citizen, man, dies from coronavirus. Trump mistakenly identifies person as a woman in the press briefing.
February 29: The Surgeon General tweets “Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus”. Of course, this is a lie (meanwhile the White House rushed to get masks for senior staff), and it backfires. On April 3rd the CDC will begin recommending people wear face masks.
The CDC has at this point tested 472 people. In total. Since this began. For the entire country. It becomes embarrassing for them, and as a response they temporarily turn off reporting of their testing numbers.
March 2: The CDC plans to recommend elderly people not fly, but the White House overrules it.
March 2: Despite very real risks of spreading the virus (and knowing about it for two months), Trump holds another rally for 10,000 in Charlotte.
March 2: Six coronavirus deaths have been reported in the U.S., all near Seattle. Global cases top 90,000.
March 2: "We had a great meeting today with a lot of the great companies and they're going to have vaccines, I think relatively soon.” (video) Fauci repeats that vaccines will take a year to 18 months.
March 3: “There’s only one hot spot, and that’s also pretty much in a very — in a home, as you know, in a nursing home.”
The Dow has lost over 3,000 points in the last month. The Federal Reserve cuts interest rates by half a point. The Dow will lose an additional 3,000 points by the end of the month.
March 4: Vice President Mike Pence says that 1.5 million tests will be available by the end of the week. But only 1,895 Americans have been tested by then.
March 4: Trump: “If we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work, but they get better.”
March 5: “I NEVER said people that are feeling sick should go to work.”
March 5: “The United States… has, as of now, only 129 cases… and 11 deaths. We are working very hard to keep these numbers as low as possible!”
March 6: “And in terms of deaths, I don’t know what the count is today. Is it 11? Eleven people? And in terms of cases, it’s very, very few.”
March 6: “I think we’re doing a really good job in this country at keeping it down… a tremendous job at keeping it down.”
March 6: As South Korea establishes robust testing to contain its epidemic, Trump promises 4 million test kits will be available by the end of the following week, but just 25,000 tests are conducted during that time period.
March 6: “Anybody right now, and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test. They’re there. And the tests are beautiful…. the tests are all perfect like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect. Right? This was not as perfect as that but pretty good.”
· This one is particularly heartbreaking, as there are literally tens of thousands of fully symptomatic people that can’t get tested. It will likely expand to hundreds of thousands of people in the coming weeks. Many of which will, in the absence of a test, be forced to go back to work… and will not have their contacts tracked (meaning more people will get infected.) Just a 100% lie. On the most critical fact of the biggest global pandemic in a century.
· As of March 23, the CDC has conducted a total of only 4,607 tests. Other labs (many of which made their *own* tests or purchased tests from other countries because they realized nothing was coming from the Federal government) have conducted 67,623 tests.
· Vice President Mike Pence, the day before, said “we don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward."
· This test shortage is largely has been manufactured by the Trump administration. The administration did not purchase any of the millions of available the W.H.O. coronavirus tests, instead counting on privately developed tests.
· By the way, Jared Kushner’s brother runs a testing company.
March 6: [Holding rallies] “doesn’t really bother me at all”. Within the week, Trump will cancel events in Colorado, Nevada and Wisconsin.
March 7: Trump refuses to talk to Speaker of the House Pelosi about drafting an emergency bill for Americans because he's mad at her.
March 7: Trump goes golfing.
March 8: Trump goes golfing, attends two fundraisers (a donor is later diagnosed with the virus), and holds a birthday party for his son’s girlfriend. When spokesperson Judd Deere is asked about this, he snaps: "You don't think he does work while in Palm Beach?"
March 9: Stocks markets plunge in worst single-day fall in more than a decade.
March 9: “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on.”
· Hours later, cities and counties begin banning large public gatherings.
· Two days later, the NBA suspends its season. The NHL, MLB and NCAA soon follow.
March 9: Trump re-tweets provably false conspiracy theories about this being Obama’s fault, and tweets that this situation proves we need the Wall more than ever. His own director of the CDC disagrees.
March 9: The CDC is silenced by the White House; they will not hold another press conference for over three months. Former CDC Directors lament the politicization.
March 10: Trump insists it will go away. “And we’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.” (video)
March 10: Surgeon General Jerome Adams warns that “this is likely going to get worse before it gets better.”
March 10: Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget holds firm on proposed budget cuts for the CDC.
March 11: Outbreak declared a pandemic by the W.H.O.
March 11: Trump puts Jared Kushner in charge of pandemic response.
March 11: Dow officially enters a bear market.
March 11: Travel to and from the EU (excluding the UK) to the US is frozen for 30 days. Over 1,000 cases in the U.S. and at least 32 deaths.
March 12: “It’s going to go away. ... The United States, because of what I did and what the administration did with China, we have 32 deaths at this point …” That same day, Pence says “we’ll have thousands of more cases,”
March 12: Trump falsely claims that there are “a million tests out now” and promises there will be 4 million more in the following days. Fauci tells Congress testing “is a failing. Let’s admit it."
March 13: Trump declares national emergency. Official statement.
March 13: "I don't take responsibility at all" for testing not being available, deflecting blame to Obama. Asked about the disbanding of the pandemic response team, he says, “I didn’t do it.”
March 17: “This is a pandemic,” Trump told reporters. “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” His delay in taking action will, according to some experts, increase the eventual US death count tenfold.
March 17: Trump says “Number 2, (the WHO test) it was a bad test.”, provably incorrect.
March 18: “I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning, including my very early decision to close the “borders” from China - against the wishes of almost all. Many lives were saved.
March 21: “General Motors, Ford, so many companies — I had three calls yesterday directly, without having to institute like: `You will do this’ — these companies are making them right now.”
March 21: This week 3.3 million Americans file jobless claims. Since 1967 (since these records were kept) the highest previous weekly total was 695,000 – in 1982.
March 22: Trump suggests he may lift restrictions intended to prevent virus spread if the economic is significantly impacted - tweets “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!”
March 24: Trump, during a virtual Town Hall on Fox News, says governors 'have to treat us well' if they want assistance during coronavirus pandemic.
March 24: Trump pushes to open the country by mid-April, saying on Fox that “I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,”