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Politics News

da-kuk/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- As far back as late November, U.S. intelligence officials were 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, according to four sources briefed on the secret reporting.

Concerns about what is now known to be the novel coronavirus pandemic were detailed in a November intelligence report by the military's National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI), according to two officials familiar with the document’s contents.

The report was the result of analysis of wire and computer intercepts, coupled with satellite images. It raised alarms because an out-of-control disease would pose a serious threat to U.S. forces in Asia -- forces that depend on the NCMI’s work. And it paints a picture of an American government that could have ramped up mitigation and containment efforts far earlier to prepare for a crisis poised to come home.

"Analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event," one of the sources said of the NCMI’s report. "It was then briefed multiple times to" the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff and the White House.

From that warning in November, the sources described repeated briefings through December for policy-makers and decision-makers across the federal government as well as the National Security Council at the White House. All of that culminated with a detailed explanation of the problem that appeared in the President’s Daily Brief of intelligence matters in early January, the sources said. For something to have appeared in the PDB, it would have had to go through weeks of vetting and analysis, according to people who have worked on presidential briefings in both Republican and Democratic administrations.

"The timeline of the intel side of this may be further back than we’re discussing," the source said of preliminary reports from Wuhan. "But this was definitely being briefed beginning at the end of November as something the military needed to take a posture on."

The NCMI report was made available widely to people authorized to access intelligence community alerts. Following the report’s release, other intelligence community bulletins began circulating through confidential channels across the government around Thanksgiving, the sources said. Those analyses said China’s leadership knew the epidemic was out of control even as it kept such crucial information from foreign governments and public health agencies.

"It would be a significant alarm that would have been set off by this," former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Mick Mulroy, now an ABC News contributor, said of the NCMI report. "And it would have been something that would be followed up by literally every intelligence-collection agency."

Mulroy, who previously served as a senior official at the CIA, said NCMI does serious work that senior government leaders do not ignore.

"Medical intelligence takes into account all source information -- imagery intelligence, human intelligence, signals intelligence," Mulroy said. "Then there’s analysis by people who know those specific areas. So for something like this to have come out, it has been reviewed by experts in the field. They’re taking together what those pieces of information mean and then looking at the potential for an international health crisis."

NCMI is a component of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency. Together, the agencies’ core responsibilities are to ensure U.S. military forces have the information they need to carry out their missions -- both offensively and defensively. It is a critical priority for the Pentagon to keep American service members healthy on deployments.

Asked about the November warning last Sunday on ABC’s This Week, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, "I can't recall, George. But we have many people who watch this closely. We have the premier infectious disease research institute in America, within the United States Army. So, our people who work these issues directly watch this all the time."

Pressing the secretary, Stephanopoulos asked, "So, you would have known if there was briefed to the National Security Council in December, wouldn't you?"

Esper said, "Yes. I'm not aware of that."

The Pentagon, White House National Security Council and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence each declined to comment Tuesday.

Critics have charged the Trump administration with being flat-footed and late in its response to a pandemic that, after sweeping through Wuhan and then parts of Europe, has now killed more than 12,000 in the U.S.

For his part, President Donald Trump has alternated between taking credit for early action and claiming that the coronavirus was a surprise to him and everyone else. He has repeatedly touted his Jan. 31 decision to restrict air travel with China, but at the same time, he spent weeks telling the public and top administration officials that there was nothing for Americans to fear.

On Jan. 22, for instance, Trump made his first comments about the virus when asked in a CNBC interview, "Are there worries about a pandemic at this point?" The president responded, "No. Not at all. And we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine."

As late as Feb. 19, Trump was offering positive reviews for the way China’s leaders had handled the coronavirus.

"I'm confident that they're trying very hard," Trump told an interviewer from Fox 10 in Phoenix. "They're working it -- they built, they built a hospital in seven days, and now they're building another one. I think it's going to work out fine."

It was not until March 13 when Trump declared a national emergency and mobilized the vast resources of the federal government to help public-health agencies deal with the crisis that was poised to crash on to the homeland.

If it were true that America’s spy agencies were caught that off guard, one intelligence official told ABC News, "that would be a massive intel failure on the order of 9/11. But it wasn’t. They had the intelligence."

ABC News contributor John Cohen, who used to oversee intelligence operations at the Department of Homeland Security, said even the best information would be of no use if officials do not act on it.

"When responding to a public health crisis or any other serious security threat, it is critical that our leaders react quickly and take steps to address the threat identified in the intelligence reporting," said Cohen, the former acting undersecretary of DHS. "It’s not surprising to me that the intelligence community detected the outbreak; what is surprising and disappointing is that the White House ignored the clear warning signs, failed to follow established pandemic response protocols and were slow to put in place a government-wide effort to respond to this crisis."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Utah Rep. Ben McAdams was the second in a growing list of members of Congress who have announced that they’ve tested positive for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. On Tuesday, he joined ABC News to share the news that he has recovered.

“It hit me really hard. But I’m doing so much better right now. I'm virus-free,” he said. “They told me I can be out of quarantine. I still am practicing social distancing and remaining isolated but I'm doing so much better.”

McAdams said he lost 13 pounds while in the hospital. He said that now "I'm back on my feet and back at work."

On March 18, McAdams became the second member of Congress to announce that he had tested positive for COVID-19 just hours after Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

In an interview with ABC News after his diagnosis, McAdams said that he started having mild symptoms after flying home to Salt Lake City from Washington, D.C. on March 14. He said he immediately isolated himself and self-quarantined. But when his symptoms worsened and he developed trouble breathing and a temperature of 104 degrees, his doctor recommended taking the test.

In that same interview after his diagnosis, he said his symptoms make him feel “like I’ve got a belt around my chest that's tightened up. I can't take [a] full breath. The muscles in my torso are sore, so when I cough, I feel pain."

Since then, at least two other members of Congress, Kentucky Rep. Joe Cunningham and Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly, have tested positive for COVID-19. Another member, New York Rep. Nydia Velazquez, announced she has a “presumed coronavirus infection.” Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul also announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 in late March.

Now recovered, McAdams is urging all people, whether or not they fall into a category of people with increased risk for the virus or not, to “take this seriously.”

“I'm young, I'm 45 years old, I'm healthy, I exercise every day and it hit me really hard,” he said. “Please take this seriously and follow the guidance of our public health officials. If not for your sake, do it for your friends or your loved ones who you might expose, or just be a part of slowing the spread of, this dangerous virus — flattening the curve so we can treat those people who it does hit hard. Because it could happen to anyone.”

McAdams said the illness was hard on his family, who tried to FaceTime and speak on the phone with him while he was in the hospital.

On “some of the worst days … I just didn't have the energy to carry on a conversation," he said. "We had brief conversations and I let them know I was doing OK. I was on supplemental oxygen.”

McAdams said his family was quarantined because of their exposure to me and “either nobody got it or they had a really mild case… Everybody's doing really well.”

McAdams said that just as he was working from home, Congress should continue to work in an “isolated fashion” and work across party lines to pass legislation “making sure the relief is available to hardworking families.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian(WASHINGTON) -- One day after President Donald Trump's trade adviser Peter Navarro publicly pushed back against the nation's top infectious disease expert on whether to promote use of an unproven drug to treat COVID-19, memoranda that the economist wrote to the White House earlier this year may come back to haunt the administration.

Navarro issued dire warnings in two White House memos dated late January and February of the potential for the novel coronavirus to cost the U.S. economy trillions of dollars and to claim half a million American lives, multiple sources familiar with the matter confirm to ABC News.

The documents reveal that at least some Trump administration officials had considered and perhaps even circulated the possibility of a serious outbreak, while the president was publicly downplaying its impact.

Meanwhile, Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx and other members of the White House coronavirus task force revealed Monday that social distancing and mitigation measures appear to be working to flatten the curve in some areas.

Trump, Fauci confirm blacks especially hard hit

President Trump began his daily briefing at the White House saying he sees "glimmers of very, very strong hope" but warned Americans that it will be a "painful" two weeks.

"Look, if one person dies, it’s a painful week. And we know that’s gonna unfortunately happen. This is a monster, we are fighting," Trump said.

But Trump encouraged people that social distancing efforts are working.

"Signs are that our strategy is totally working. Every American has a role to play in winning this war, and we are going to be winning it. We are going to be winning it powerfully, and we will be prepared for the next one, should it happen, but hopefully it won't," Trump said.

Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top expert on infectious diseases, both took the podium to address the disproportionate number of deaths in black communities, which Trump called "terrible" and a "tremendous challenge."

"We have a difficult problem of exacerbation of a health disparity. We have known literally forever that diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and asthma are disproportionately afflicting the minority populations, particularly the African-American," Fauci said, adding that those are the same conditions that "lead to a bad outcome with the coronavirus."

"So we are very concerned about that. It is very sad. There is nothing we can do about it right now except to give them the best possible care to avoid complications," Fauci said.

The disproportionate sickness and deaths from coronavirus in black communities across the country has become more and more apparent as states begin to release data by race and ethnicity.

Speaking about ventilators and other equipment, Trump said: “I will protect you if your governor fails. If you have a governor that is failing, we’re going to protect you.”

Trump threatens to cut off funding for World Health Organization

After tweeting criticism at the World Health Organization Monday, Trump announced that the U.S. is going to put “a powerful hold” on all money sent to the W.H.O. amid the global pandemic.

“They actually criticized and disagreed with my travel ban at the time I did it, and they were wrong. They've been wrong about a lot of things,” the president said, calling the organization “China-centric” and suggesting it held onto vital information about COVID-19 early on.

“They missed the call. They could've called it months earlier. They would have known. They should have known. They probably didn't know. So will be looking into that very carefully,” Trump continued. “And we're going to put a hold on money spent to the W.H.O. We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it and we’re going to see.

Trump says he didn't see Navarro memos


When asked about the newly-surfaced memos from trade adviser Peter Navarro, which ABC News confirmed, warning the White House of the deadly virus beginning in January, Trump largely dismissed the matter, sticking by Navarro and claiming he only heard about the memos “maybe one, two days ago.”

“I think he told certain people on the staff, but it didn't matter. I didn't see it,” Trump said, of Navarro's dire warnings that the virus would cost the U.S. economy trillions of dollars and claim half a million American lives.

While Navarro’s January memo made a case to block travel from China just days before Trump gave the order, Trump maintained Tuesday that he still hasn’t seen either memo.

"I guess he talked to various people about it but, ultimately, I did what the memo -- more or less -- what the memo said just about the time the memo came out." Trump said. “I didn’t see ‘em, but I heard he wrote some memos talking about pandemic.”

Trump said he doesn't know if his response would have changed had he seen them earlier.

US official confirms Modly has submitted resignation

A U.S. official confirms to ABC News that acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly has submitted his resignation. One official tells ABC that Under Secretary of the Army James McPherson has been tapped to takeover as the acting Secretary of the Navy.

The act comes one day after leaked audio showed Modly suggesting the ousted commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Capt. Brett Crozier, was “naive" and "stupid” in an address to the ship's crew. He apologized for the comments late Monday.

“I want to apologize to the Navy for my recent comments to the crew of the TR," Modly said in a statement. "Let me be clear, I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naive nor stupid. I think, and always believed him to be the opposite."

The apology also came after President Trump said in Monday’s White House briefing that he was "going to get involved" and look into the incident involving Crozier and his future status.

ABC News' Luis Martinez reports

Trump replaces IG who was to oversee $2 trillion coronavirus relief package


President Trump has replaced the leader of a new panel Congress tasked with overseeing the implementation of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package signed into law last month.

Glenn Fine, who had served as the acting Department of Defense inspector general since before Trump took office and was tapped last week to lead the relief oversight panel, is being replaced on the committee by Sean O'Donnell, currently the acting inspector general at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The president also nominated Jason Abend, a senior policy adviser at Customs and Border Protection, to be the permanent inspector general at the Defense Department.

"Mr. Fine is no longer on the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee," said Dwerna Allen, a spokesperson for the office of the inspector general at the Pentagon. "Fine reverts to his position as the Principal Deputy Inspector General."

At the White House briefing, Trump defended his decision to remove Fine, saying he was within his rights as the nation's chief executive.

"As you know, it's a presidential decision," Trump said, adding that his administration has "a lot" of inspectors general left over from the Obama administration and that he's "largely" left them in place.

He also claimed that he doesn't even know Fine, has never met him but suggested that reports of bias may have contributed to his decision.

"When we have, you know, reports of bias and when we have different things coming in -- I don't know Fine. I don't know Fine, I don't think I ever met Fine. I heard the name," Trump said.

ABC News' Ben Siegel reports

Mnuchin says administration requesting $250B in additional funding from Congress to replenish small business relief program

A senior administration official confirms to ABC News that the Treasury Department is preparing to request roughly $250 billion to replenish the rapidly-depleting paycheck protection program as early as today.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin later confirmed the news on Twitter and said he's already spoken to congressional leaders about the imminent request.

The roughly $367 billion small business loan program was founded last month as part of the $2 trillion relief package and designed to help distribute federally-backed loans amid the coronavirus pandemic. The program is still having technical problems, on top of it become increasingly clear this week that the current fund will run out of money.

Small business owners, who desperately need federally-backed loans just to survive, have flooded the program since it began accepting applications Friday.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who co-authored the program, tweeted about the need for more funds Tuesday morning.

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell later said he will work with his counterparts to get it passed in Thursday's session.

"I will work with Secretary Mnuchin and Leader Schumer and hope to approve further funding for the Paycheck Protection Program by unanimous consent or voice vote during the next scheduled Senate session on Thursday," McConnell said in a statement.

The news was first reported in the Washington Post.

Despite three days of majors complaints with the program -- from banks not meeting the deadline to go live with applications to the Small Business Administration portal experiencing heavy security and traffic issues -- Trump touted it at Monday's coronavirus briefing.

"Couple of little glitches, minor glitches that have already been taken care of," Trump said.

When a reporter noted that Wells Fargo has stopped taking applications, Trump falsely replied, "Not anymore, they haven't."

The president said he would ask Congress to "refill it immediately" if the $367 billion earmarked for the program ran out.

U.S. official confirms Modly has submitted resignation

A U.S. official confirms to ABC News that acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly has submitted his resignation. One official tells ABC that Under Secretary of the Army James McPherson has been tapped to takeover as the acting Secretary of the Navy.

The act comes one day after leaked audio showed Modly suggesting the ousted commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Capt. Brett Crozier, was “naive" and "stupid” in an address to the ship's crew. He apologized for the comments late Monday.

“I want to apologize to the Navy for my recent comments to the crew of the TR," Modly said in a statement. "Let me be clear, I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naive nor stupid. I think, and always believed him to be the opposite."

The apology also came after President Trump said in Monday’s White House briefing that he was "going to get involved" and look into the incident involving Crozier and his future status.

Trump replaces IG who was to oversee $2 trillion coronavirus relief package

President Trump has replaced the leader of a new panel Congress tasked with overseeing the implementation of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package signed into law last month.

Glenn Fine, who had served as the acting Department of Defense inspector general since before Trump took office and was tapped last week to lead the relief oversight panel, is being replaced on the committee by Sean O'Donnell, currently the acting inspector general at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The president also nominated Jason Abend, a senior policy adviser at Customs and Border Protection, to be the permanent inspector general at the Defense Department.

"Mr. Fine is no longer on the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee," said Dwerna Allen, a spokesperson for the office of the inspector general at the Pentagon. "Fine reverts to his position as the Principal Deputy Inspector General."

Mnuchin says administration requesting $250B in additional funding from Congress to replenish small business relief program

A senior administration official confirms to ABC News that the Treasury Department is preparing to request roughly $250 billion to replenish the rapidly-depleting paycheck protection program as early as today.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin later confirmed the news on Twitter and said he's already spoken to congressional leaders about the imminent request.

The roughly $367 billion small business loan program was founded last month as part of the $2 trillion relief package and designed to help distribute federally-backed loans amid the coronavirus pandemic. The program is still having technical problems, on top of it become increasingly clear this week that the current fund will run out of money.

Small business owners, who desperately need federally-backed loans just to survive, have flooded the program since it began accepting applications Friday.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who co-authored the program, tweeted about the need for more funds Tuesday morning.

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell later said he will work with his counterparts to get it passed in Thursday's session.

"I will work with Secretary Mnuchin and Leader Schumer and hope to approve further funding for the Paycheck Protection Program by unanimous consent or voice vote during the next scheduled Senate session on Thursday," McConnell said in a statement.

The news was first reported in the Washington Post.

Despite three days of majors complaints with the program -- from banks not meeting the deadline to go live with applications to the Small Business Administration portal experiencing heavy security and traffic issues -- Trump touted it at Monday's coronavirus briefing.

"Couple of little glitches, minor glitches that have already been taken care of," Trump said.

When a reporter noted that Wells Fargo has stopped taking applications, Trump falsely replied, "Not anymore, they haven't."

The president said he would ask Congress to "refill it immediately" if the $367 billion earmarked for the program ran out.

Navarro issued dire internal warning of virus in January


President Trump's trade adviser Peter Navarro issued a dire warning in a White House memorandum in late January of the potential for the novel coronavirus to claim a half-million American lives and cost the U.S. economy trillions of dollars, multiple sources familiar with the matter confirmed to ABC News.

While it wasn't immediately clear whether Trump himself had seen the warning, he said, “I know all about it" when asked at the end of video teleconference call with bankers Tuesday afternoon. “We’ll talk about it at the press conference," he said, referring to his daily afternoon briefing on how his administration is dealing with the crisis.

Navarro's warnings grew still more urgent in a second m in February, in which he estimated that as many as one to two million Americans could die and called for taking immediate supplemental appropriations measures.

The existence of the memos, which represent the first high-level warning of the virus circulated within the White House, was first reported by the New York Times.

In his January memo, Navarro made a case for an immediate travel ban on China. Days later, President Trump announced tight restrictions on travel from China.

Even as the president took action to restrict travel from China, President Trump continued to publicly downplay the virus for weeks and has since defended the administration's slow response time.

While the White House has declined to comment on the memorandums, another one of President Trump's top economic advisers, Larry Kudlow, said he had not seen the memos and noted that there are "a lot of voices in the administration."

Surgeon General Jerome Adams also said he had not seen the memorandums but acknowledged that the virus has "humbled many of us" in government.

"I've been in public health for 20 years. We've been saying for decades this is a possible. When you look at SARS, MERS, the situations we've dealt with, many people at all levels just did not expect something like this to happen at this magnitude. There are many lessons learned. This virus humbled many of us. At the federal, state, local level we'll backtrack and try to figure out how to improve going forward," Adams said Tuesday in an interview with NBC News.

Surgeon general says mitigation is working


Surgeon General Jerome Adams, on ABC's "Good Morning America" this morning, said there's cause for "both" optimism and concern in the days ahead as the nation fights the coronavirus.

While he said it's going to be "a hard and tough week," Adams also said he's encouraged by evidence that some U.S. hot spot locations like Washington and California having seen cases come down, demonstrating that "the American people have the power to change the trajectory of this epidemic if we come together."

"I feel a lot more optimistic again because I'm seeing mitigation work," Adams said Tuesday morning, after earlier warning that this week would be a "Pearl Harbor" or "9/11 moment."

For voters in Wisconsin set to head to the polls, Adams advised that where in-person voting is the only option, people should "please try to maintain six feet of distance between you and the next nearest person" and to "consider wearing a cloth facial covering."

On the lack of a national stay-at-home order, Adams was careful not to break with the president and emphasized that local governments have the real enforcement capabilities and applauded the American people for voluntarily abiding by social distancing practices.

Grisham out as White House press secretary

After less than a year on the job, White House press secretary and communications director Stephanie Grisham is stepping down, according to senior Trump administration officials.

Grisham is returning to the East Wing to start immediately as first lady Melania Trump's chief of staff and spokesperson, her office announced Tuesday.

Sources say the president is considering adding to the White House communications team by bringing on Alyssa Farah, the current spokesperson for the Department of Defense and longtime aide to new Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Trump is also considering having Kayleigh McEnany transition from the re-election campaign to the White House, though no final decisions have been made.

Grisham spent two weeks in self-quarantine in March after coming into contact with a Brazilian official who tested positive for COVID-19, though she later negative for the virus.

She leaves the role without ever having given a press briefing at the podium.

White House organizes blood drives for employees as nation faces 'severe blood shortage'

As the United States faces a severe blood shortage, the White House said today it had organized two blood drives for its employees.

Fifty-five staff members of the Executive Office of the President signed up to donate blood today through the American Red Cross, according to a White House official.

The drive was scheduled to take place in the ornate Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House, and spots were limited in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines, the official said.

The White House declined to say if any senior officials were participating, citing privacy concerns.

Another drive will take place on April 14 in conjunction with the military's Armed Services Blood Program, the official said.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams has repeatedly urged Americans to donate blood. The American Red Cross said on March 17 that it faced a "severe blood shortage."

Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, said Pence wanted to host a blood drive for White House staff in order “to encourage Americans to donate blood and do what they can to help a fellow American in need.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

At the White House briefing, Trump defended his decision to remove Fine, saying he was within his rights as the nation's chief executive.

 

"As you know, it's a presidential decision," Trump said, adding that his administration has "a lot" of inspectors general left over from the Obama administration and that he's "largely" left them in place.

 

He also claimed that he doesn't even know Fine, has never met him but suggested that reports of bias may have contributed to his decision.

 

"When we have, you know, reports of bias and when we have different things coming in -- I don't know Fine. I don't know Fine, I don't think I ever met Fine. I heard the name," Trump said.

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bboserup/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the total number of hospitalizations, ICU admissions and daily intubations are down, which “suggests a possible flattening of the curve.”

As top officials across the country continue to grapple with the spread of novel coronavirus, President Trump’s public tangles with governors leading responses in key battleground states have increasingly served as tangible reminders that a presidential election is still unfolding amid the growing pandemic.

The stakes are especially high for the incumbent president as he aims to lead the nation through an unprecedented crisis, while also treading into the uncharted waters of virtual campaigning.

President Trump's daily, hours-long briefings offer an elevated national spotlight and coupled with his frequent interactions with governors, serves as potential measurements of his ability to lead both in the moment as well as into another possible presidential term.

"A great part of it is political, but part of it is public health, in the sense that if the president doesn't get this pandemic under control well before the November election then that, combined with a completely sinking economy, will sink him,” Larry Sabato, a political scientist and the director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told ABC News.

Campaigning for public opinion

With just under a month of recommended social distancing guidelines on the horizon, governors in 2020 battleground states will continue to play critical and highly public roles in bridging the divide between federal and state responses amid a hurting economy and experts say the president’s ultimate political success could be weighed along the way.

“The biggest political story that no one’s commented on at great length is the difference between the approval ratings on handling this crisis for the governors and those for the president,” said Allan Lichtman, a political historian and professor at American University. “We’ve never seen anything like this before in American history.”

According to the latest polling conducted by ABC News/Washington Post, nearly 60% of respondents said they thought President Trump was too slow to take action to address the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak. Overall, 51% of respondents said they approved of President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

Although similar polling is not currently available for every battleground state governor, a wide gap could exist in constituents’ favorability toward states’ chief executives and the nation’s top government leader.

As an example, a Marquette University Law School poll, indicates 76% of registered voters in the battleground state of Wisconsin approve of how Democrat Gov. Tony Evers has handled the coronavirus pandemic, compared to the 51% of Wisconsin registered voters who approve of President Trump’s handling of the crisis.

While New York is not traditionally considered a political swing state, recent polling coming out of the nation’s fourth most populous state suggests a similar gap in the perception of leadership at the state and federal level. According to a poll conducted by Siena College 87% of New Yorkers approve of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, while 41% approve of President Trump’s handling of the same issue. The perception of Cuomo’s success as an executive even boosted the optics of a groundswell for a Cuomo 2020 presidential candidacy.

“I'm sure that Trump wishes he had some of those numbers but it is very different being president, and being governor, it's easier to manage your image and manage the flow of information in a state than it is the country,” Sabato said.

The New York governor repeatedly denied giving any thought to the possibility of a 2020 candidacy, but was still called out by President Trump in a cable news interview as being a better Democratic candidate than former Vice President Joe Biden. President Trump’s surmised his other Democratic opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, “will be dropping out soon” in a tweet more than two weeks ago.

As the president continues to sporadically jab at his actual Democratic opponents, his regular reviews of some battleground state governors’ leadership performances have also taken center stage during his press briefings.

Speaking at a press conference Saturday, President Trump appeared to speculate that a group of governors of the same party were politicizing the distribution of resources issued by the federal government.

“That’s one party doing it, and the other party is happy,” President Trump said. “But they’re all really happy because they should have been doing this work themselves for a long period of time. Many of their cupboards were bare.”

Speculation aside, the president also touts his administration’s efforts to work with all governors.

“I mean I get along with many of them because I’m doing a good job,” he said in a recent cable news interview. “They wouldn’t be getting along with me if I wasn’t producing. We’re building hospitals for people, for governors all over the country.”

While there is no evidence that the Trump administration is evaluating the distribution of federal aid along states’ political leanings, discrepancies in the type of aid apportioned across the country has led to increased tensions between the president and some of the nation’s governors.

“[Trump] is not in the position of strength when it comes to attacking the governors; they are in a vastly stronger position than he is,” Lichtman said. “It gets him nowhere either substantively or politically.”


Trump and the Democratic battleground state governors


For some, Trump first fueled the flames of suspected partisanship last month when he urged Vice President Mike Pence not to call governors in affected states if they criticized the federal response. In doing so, Trump called out Democrat governors Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Jay Inslee of Washington.

“I mean, I’m a different type of person. I say Mike, don't call the governor of Washington. You're wasting your time with him. Don't call the woman in Michigan. It doesn't make any difference what happens,” Trump said at the time. “You know what I say? If they don't treat you right, I don't call.”

While President Trump may not be as focused on laying groundwork to win the solidly blue state of Washington, he frequently touts his 2016 win in Michigan where his interactions with Whitmer could play a factor come November.

“I think he made a profound mistake going after Gov. Whitmer in going after the state of Michigan -- that was one of the critical states that he wasn't expected to win, and that he did win in 2016 that put him over the top,” Lichtman said, adding “You would think the last thing that he would want to do would be to disrespect a very popular governor of that state and make it look like he doesn't care about the people of Michigan."

For her part, Whitmer -- who delivered the Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union in February -- alluded to the president’s remarks rather than overtly pushing back.

“Not having a national strategy where there is one policy for the country as opposed to a patchwork based on whomever the governor is something that I think is creating a more porous situation where Covid-19 will go longer and more people will get sick and sadly more lives get lost,” Whitmer said in an interview on Fox News Sunday.

The Michigan governor was specifically asked to weigh in on the president’s personal attacks aimed her way -- Whitmer insisted she would rather speak to policy rather than politics.

“None of the comments that I've made have been a personal attack in nature. I don't do that kind of thing,” Whitmer said. “I got elected in the state that voted for President Trump in 2016 and then voted overwhelmingly for me. I won by almost ten points in 2018. I don't wage for those kinds of political attacks.”

Despite indicating that she believes better federal policies could be instituted, Whitmer denied a war of words and said she’s thankful for the response her state has received.

“I've spoken with the president, I've spoken with the vice president many times, the Army Corps, FEMA, and we are grateful for any federal partnership we can get,” Whitmer said. “I'm doing my job and part of my job is telling people what I've learned, what I think we can do better, and what we are going to continue to do to protect people.”

In Wisconsin, another midwestern battleground state Trump claimed victory in 2016, Gov. Evers expressed similar gratitude when the Badger State was granted a Major Disaster Declaration on Saturday.

“I am grateful for the swift action of the federal government in reviewing our request for a major disaster declaration,” Gov. Evers said in a statement. “The assistance granted today will help ensure Wisconsin can gain access to critical assistance as we continue our work to respond to this pandemic.”

Still, Evers is working to secure the resources needed to combat the spread of the virus.

In a letter addressed to FEMA Administrator, Peter Gaynor, last month, Evers described the personal protective equipment delivered from the Strategic National Stockpile as being “woefully inadequate” to meet the state’s needs. Evers added that some critical materials, including testing supplies, “appear to be stuck in the queue at the National Response Coordination Center.”

As of Thursday, Evers’ office indicated it received the second phase of the requested personal protective equipment from the national stockpile, but the deliveries still lagged behind the necessary amounts requested for some of the equipment.

President Trump has not critiqued Evers in his calls for more assistance, despite Evers’ requests echoing those of other Democrat governors.

In a statement to ABC News, Trump Campaign Principal Deputy Communications Director Erin Perrine pushed back on any notion of political calculus being at play.

"President Trump has been clear -- through actions and words -- that what matters most is the health and safety of every American. This crisis is hitting Americans -- not Democrats or Republicans," Perrine said.

"He has made sure that the hardest hit states receive the resources necessary from the federal government including Naval Hospital ships, ventilators, and PPE. His priorities are clear -- to lead America through this crisis and bring our nation back stronger than before after. To try and politicize this crisis in terms of the election is ludicrous," she added.

Trump appears to take a different tone with some battleground GOP governors


As Evers and Whitmer assess the shortage of some of their states’ federally distributed resources, the requests coming out of the battleground state of Florida, an emerging CoVid-19 hotspot, were answered in full.

According to Florida Governor DeSantis’ office, the state’s March 11 request for resources -- including 430,000 surgical masks, 180,000 N95 masks, and more than 230,000 pairs of gloves -- were fulfilled within three days. An identical shipment was received less than two weeks later, and as of Wednesday, a third shipment with the same amount of supplies was in the process of being fully delivered.

"Great governor,” the president said of DeSantis, a close ally, at a press conference last week. “Knows exactly what he’s doing."

Despite the praise, DeSantis spent weeks fielding criticism from state Democrats for not being aggressive enough to stop the spread of coronavirus.

On the 2020 front, Biden issued a statement in which he referred to the “absence of leadership from President Trump and his Administration” before adding that “Floridians deserve science-based action from Governor Ron DeSantis.”

As many of his counterparts across the country implemented stringent mandates, DeSantis kept Sunshine State beaches open through spring break season, delayed closing down businesses, and resisted issuing a stay-at-home order for his constituents as CoVid-19 cases spiked.

“While other large states continue to take strong, urgent, and sweeping action to stop the spread of COVID-19, Florida has not,” Biden added in the statement.

A day after the White House released data projecting the death toll in the U.S. to reach between 100,000 and 250,000, DeSantis reversed his decision and issued a stay-at-home order. At a Wednesday press conference, DeSantis also noted that he spoke with the president about the decision.

"I did consult with folks in the White House. I did speak with the president about it," DeSantis said. "He agreed with the approach of focusing on the hot spots but at the same time, you know, he understood that this is another 30-day situation and you gotta just do what makes the most sense."

President Trump has also issued strong support for Republican Ohio Governor Mike DeWine whom he frequently mentions in coronavirus task force briefings.

Las week, the president praised DeWine’s efforts to lift FDA restrictions on an Ohio-based company’s ability to utilize surgical mask sterilization technology.

“I got a call from Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio -- and he’s a tremendous guy, a tremendous governor,” the president said. “He said, ‘we have a company named Battelle, and they’re having a hard time getting approval from the FDA.”

The president went on to say that he personally called FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn to resolve the issue and “within a very short period of time, [the company] got the approval.”

Although the president frequently praises the Buckeye State governor and considers him an ally, DeWine’s governing decisions don’t always align perfectly with Trump’s assertions. While the president has yet to institute a nationwide stay at home order, DeWine was one of the first governors to mandate strict social distancing guidelines that included delaying Ohio’s primary election.

Conducting an election during an “unprecedented health crisis...would force poll workers and voters to place themselves at an unacceptable health risk of contracting coronavirus” DeWine tweeted at the time.

While the president called the move “not a very good thing,” he did not directly criticize DeWine and said he would leave the decision to postpone elections to the states.

“Trump is a is an old-fashioned politician even though he doesn't think of himself that way,” Sabato says. “It's ‘scratch my back I'll scratch yours’.”

What’s next on the campaign trail?


For now, politicians on both sides of the aisle, and across the government, are indicating they prefer to stay away from partisan bickering as much as possible, but maintaining an apolitical stance could become more difficult as the election year goes on.

As President Trump continues to warn governors that the federal government should serve as a backstop to states’ own efforts to gather equipment necessary to combat the spread of CoVid-19, the ongoing crisscross could shed light on the political messaging voters will likely have to digest ahead of November.

“We appreciate all of the great assistance from the governors and people within the states. The relationships have been, really, very good,” President Trump said at a press conference on Saturday.

Later in the same press conference, the president appeared to reverse course by comparing the ways California Gov. Gavin Newsom and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo responded to his administration’s support efforts in each governor’s respective state. Newsom, the president said, “has been gracious” whereas, he suggested, Cuomo had not been.

Pressed by reporters to answer why being gracious matters in terms of getting supplies from the federal government, the president appeared to reverse course yet again by saying it doesn’t.

“He has to work with the governors to a certain extent,” Sabato said. “Though, it has to be said, he knows very well that he will never win Washington state or California or New York or New Jersey or Connecticut -- the two that matter to him are Michigan and Florida.”

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U.S. Navy(WASHINGTON) -- Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly submitted his resignation on Tuesday morning and Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Twitter that he'd accepted the resignation and nominated Under Secretary of the Army James McPherson to be his replacement.

Modly resigned Tuesday morning following his controversial remarks to the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt about their fired captain, where he labeled him "too naive' and "too stupid."

Esper wrote in his statement on Twitter Tuesday afternoon that Modly "resigned on his own accord, putting the Navy and the Sailors above self so that the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, and the Navy as an institution, can move forward."

This morning I accepted Secretary Modly's resignation. With the approval of the President, I am appointing current Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson as acting Secretary of the Navy. pic.twitter.com/FvfgOwuXw4

— @EsperDoD (@EsperDoD) April 7, 2020

The defense secretary also said that he spoke with President Donald Trump after his conversation with Modly and with his approval is nominating McPherson.

Modly's resignation caps a tumultuous week for the Navy's top civilian official after he fired the captain of the Roosevelt for writing a letter -- later leaked to the press -- that used blunt language to ask the Navy to use stronger measures to stop the spread of novel coronavirus among the ship's crew.

Capt. Brett Crozier received rousing cheers by hundreds of his sailors as he walked off the ship for the final time according to videos later posted on social media.

During a visit to Guam on Monday, Modly addressed the crew over the ship's loudspeaker system and blasted Crozier for how he distributed the letter.

"If he didn’t think, in my opinion, that this information wasn’t going to get out to the public, in this day and information age that we live in, then he was either A -- too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this," Modly said, according to a transcript and audio recording of the remarks that were sent to two news organizations. "The alternative is that he did this on purpose.”

Several times he also labeled the letter “a betrayal.”

After those comments drew a firestorm of criticism Modly issued a statement Monday afternoon where he said he stood by his remarks.

But he changed course late Monday night and issued an apology for his use of the words “too naïve” and “too stupid” to characterize the fired ship’s captain.

Two U.S. officials told ABC News that Esper directed Modly to apologize for his remarks.

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iStock/Kiyoshi Tanno(WASHINGTON) -- The Treasury Department on Tuesday asked Congress for $250 billion in additional funding for small business loans, a key part of the stimulus package passed last month aimed at keeping the economy afloat during the coronavirus crisis.

President Donald Trump said administration officials were "in talks" with congressional leaders to secure more funding for the $350 billion program, which is already running out of money despite having started just on Friday. The loans are designed to be quickly forgiven if owners use the money to keep workers on the payroll instead of laying them off.

"We just asked Congress to pass legislation to fund an additional $250 billion dollars for Paycheck Protection Program," Trump said at the White House, where he was hosting a video teleconference with the nation's top CEOs and members of his administration, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

"The way it's going, we're going to need that, because it’s really going. People are loving it. They're really loving it," Trump said about the program.

The $250 billion proposed addition to the program would be more than 70% of the initial investment of $350 billion, a large portion of the $2 trillion the government put into the latest stimulus effort. Mnuchin announced that he'd spoken to the president and leaders of both parties to secure the request earlier on Tuesday, just four days after the program began with multiple problems.

At the event at the White House Tuesday afternoon, Mnuchin said he'd urged them all to pass the $250 billion in the Senate by Thursday and the House by Friday.

“I had the opportunity this morning to speak to Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and Kevin McCarthy. I urged them at the president's request that they get us another $250 billion approved, and we look forward to the Senate passing that on Thursday and the House passing that on Friday. This is much needed support ,and we want to make sure that every single small business can participate, and we want to assure the workers that if you don't get the loan this week, there'll be plenty of money for you next week," Mnuchin said.

On Monday, Trump pledged an immediate "refill" if the program ran dry and said "we're already preparing because it's going so fast for the small businesses and their employees." Republicans were quick to offer their support for Mnuchin's impending request, which Senate Majority Leader McConnell said he will work to get passed by Thursday. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who said he spoke to Mnuchin Tuesday morning, urged House Leader Nancy Pelosi to also move “swiftly” to pass the funds.

Pelosi, however, didn't see the same need to rush forward in a CNN interview earlier Tuesday afternoon. Before allocating hundreds of billions more to the loan program, she wanted to be sure the payments were being dolled out equitably, Pelosi said.

"We have no data though, we don't know so much about who's being served or who's being underserved," Pelosi said. "And so when the secretary called this morning to ask for the additional funds, we want to make sure they are administered in a way that does not solidify inequality and how people have access to capital and instead benefits everyone who qualifies for it. We will have certain considerations if we were to go forward with that," Pelosi said.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, also expected the request to come on Tuesday and said his office was working with Senate leadership to move the funds through as “quickly as possible,” according to an aide.

The Paycheck Protection Program, created under the stimulus package, offers desperate small business owners federally-backed loans that will be essentially forgiven if the money is used to keep employees on payroll and go toward other overhead operating expenses.

But the program hasn’t worked as planned, plagued by unprepared banks who said they had just hours to get a $350 billion system up and running. Small business owners also reported quick rejections from banks if they didn’t already have an existing loan out.

Patrick Slaughter, who owns a law firm in Tennessee, was rejected for his Paycheck Protection Program loan just hours after he applied. Slaughter told ABC News he has a business credit card and business checking with Bank of America, but has never needed to apply for a business loan.

Instead, he said, Bank of America offered him a conventional loan or a credit card.

"They are purposefully denying us this Paycheck Protection Program opportunity so they can profit by selling us their loans," Slaughter said.

A spokesperson for Bank of America said small business owners who had already borrowed from the bank were easier to get through the system, which requires speed.

"We know for these businesses speed is of the essence. We can move fastest with our nearly 1 million small business borrowing clients. That is our near term priority. As the administration has made clear going to your current lending bank is the fastest route to completion," said Bank of America spokesperson Ball Haldin.

Despite the complications, the president on Monday continued to defend the program's success, calling the issues "minor glitches," describing Bank of America as a "leader" and lashing out at a reporter who asked about the program's "confusing start."

"I wish you'd ask the question differently. Why don't you say, 'it's gotten off to a tremendous start, but there are some little glitches,' which by the way have been worked out?" Trump said, speaking to the press at the daily coronavirus task force briefing.

According to the president's top economic adviser Larry Kudlow, $50 billion of small business loans were processed as of Tuesday morning, up $12 million from the day before.

"It's really been performing well," the president said on Monday. "Couple of little glitches, minor glitches that have already been taken care of, or they say. These funds will result in nearly two million jobs being preserved so we're taking care of our workers -- small businesses and our workers," Trump said.

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iStock/fizkes(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump has effectively removed the inspector general set to monitor spending from the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, the latest move to curb oversight efforts over the massive government coronavirus crisis relief measure.

Top congressional Democrats immediately charged Trump's move was politically motivated.

Glenn Fine, the acting Department of Defense inspector general, was set to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, the group of government watchdogs tasked with rooting out fraud and waste in coronavirus spending programs.

But Trump on Monday nominated Jason Abend, a senior policy adviser at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, for that stimulus oversight role after replacing Fine as the acting DOD inspector general and designating Sean O’Donnell, the inspector general for the Environmental Protection Agency, to serve as the acting watchdog at the Pentagon, according to Dwerna Allen, a spokesperson for Fine.

Fine, who served for 11 years at as the Department of Justice inspector general, will now return to the position of principal deputy inspector general for the Department of Defense, Allen told ABC News. In that deputy role, he was no longer eligible to lead the stimulus watchdog group.

“President Trump is abusing the coronavirus pandemic to eliminate honest and independent public servants because they are willing to speak truth to power and because he is so clearly afraid of strong oversight," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

"President Trump’s corrupt action to sideline Acting Inspector General Glenn Fine, who was newly-appointed as chair of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, only strengthens Democrats’ resolve to hold the administration accountable and enforce the multiple strict oversight provisions of the CARES Act,” Schumer said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in an interview on CNN, appeared to refer to Trump's comment on March 23, saying, "I'll be the oversight."

"The president thinks he should be the 'one' and that is exactly upside down.... The president is sending in some of his loyalists. This is really a problem," she said.

Later, she issued a statement, saying, “The sudden removal and replacement of Acting Inspector General Fine is part of a disturbing pattern of retaliation by the President against independent overseers fulfilling their statutory and patriotic duties to conduct oversight on behalf of the American people."

Trump in recent days has swiped at efforts to conduct oversight of the stimulus spending, and the role of inspectors general throughout government.

On Monday and Tuesday, he assailed a report released by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services that highlighted the acute supply shortages at over 300 hospitals fighting the coronavirus outbreak across the country.

On Friday night, he nominated Brian Miller, a White House lawyer, to serve as the special inspector general to supervise the handling of stimulus funds by the Treasury Department, a move criticized by Democrats given the apolitical nature of the post.

Trump also told Congress on Friday he would remove Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general, from his post. It was Atkinson who first alerted Congress to the whistleblower complaint that triggered Trump’s impeachment over military aid to Ukraine.

In a statement reacting to Atkinson's firing, Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz released a statement that paired a defense of Atkinson's tenure with a pledge for "aggressive" oversight of the coronavirus stimulus program.

"The Inspector General Community will continue to conduct aggressive, independent oversight of the agencies that we oversee," Horowitz said. "This includes CIGIE’s Pandemic Response Accountability Committee and its efforts on behalf of American taxpayers, families, businesses, patients, and health care providers to ensure that over $2 trillion dollars in emergency federal spending is being used consistently with the law’s mandate.”

Additionally, last week the president attacked Pelosi for her plans to set up a select committee in the House to monitor coronavirus spending, accusing her of trying to stage “witch hunt after witch hunt after witch hunt.”

In his signing statement for the CARES Act, Trump said he wouldn’t allow the special inspector general to share information with Congress without “presidential supervision.”

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Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks(WASHINGTON) -- White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx knows how tough the social distancing guidelines can be, revealing one "sacrifice" on Monday that, she says, has personally challenged her.

Birx said she opted out of visiting her granddaughter over the weekend, despite the 10-month-old having "a fever of 105" and Birx feeling a responsibility as the doctor of the family -- calling it an illustration of the sacrifices everyone must also take to slow the spread of COVID-19.

"We need to take care of each other now as Americans and do everything that's in those guidelines. And I know they're tough. I know incredibly how tough they are," Birx said at Monday’s briefing. "My grandchild of 10 months got a fever of 105 this weekend. I'm the doctor. And I couldn't get there."

"I was trying to explain to my daughter how to listen to her lungs -- how to listen to her lungs and the baby's," Birx continued, before the president interjected.

"But you did not get there, you did not get there?" he asked.

"I did not go there," Birx emphasized.

"Good, I’m very happy with that," Trump said.

"Because of you two," she quickly reminded, gesturing to the president, who is 73, and the vice president, who is 60, both standing within a few feet of her. "You can't take that kind of risk with the leaders of the country."

 

Dr. Deborah Birx says COVID-19 is a “highly transmittable virus” and families should “consolidate“ trips to grocery stores and pharmacies and make the trip “maybe once every two weeks.”

“The entire family doesn’t need to go out on these occasions.” https://t.co/VtpJpK2F6g pic.twitter.com/p57aPRCWNC

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) April 6, 2020

 

Trump then mistakenly asked Birx if her "grandson" was okay, and after she corrected him that it actually was her granddaughter, she added, to the relief of many, that the infant is now "coming out of it."

"That’s a lot of temperature, 105," the president said.

Birx later said she probably had roseola, a common viral illness in young children, not COVID-19.

"Babies can do that, but it's very scary, especially when I couldn't assure myself that she was fine," Birx, who is 64, added. "It was just sleepless nights for me and them as they kept her fever down."

She also emphasized that her family has been diligently self-isolating "because there’s too much precious cargo inside the house," explaining that her elderly parents live in the same home as her daughter and young granddaughters.

Monday was not the first time Birx has spoken of avoiding her younger grandchildren amid the pandemic.

"All of us have made sacrifices. I haven't seen my grandchildren in three weeks. I know other people are like that -- that they have really made those personal sacrifices," she said at another briefing two weeks ago.

Birx, who meets daily with the president and vice president, is a prominent face in the government’s response to the novel virus alongside Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert of infectious diseases and director at the National Institutes of Health.

The two have become nearly synonymous with the science and medicine behind the administration’s briefings. One is also known for trademark silk scarves.

Before she was detailed to the White House coronavirus task force, Birx led the government response in the fight against HIV/AIDS globally, a role held since 2014.

Seeking to clarify advice she gave over the weekend, Birx also suggested on Monday that Americans in hot spot areas try to skip their trips to the pharmacy or grocery store at the height of the crisis and instead go once every two weeks, shopping for the entire family, so as to reduce their time out and about.

"If you can send one person, the entire family doesn't need to go out on these occasions," Birx said, reminding that coronavirus is "highly transmissible" and that social distancing should also be done "out of respect" to health care workers.

Anecdotes like the one Birx shared of her grandchild add to the consistent messaging that she and Fauci have modeled for weeks: to take the pandemic seriously.

"I know you all are making sacrifices, and I guess I want everyone to take this seriously,” she added.

Birx and Fauci also reported some relatively good news amid the crisis on Monday, saying that social distancing appears to be helping to level the curve, at least in some places.

Fauci cautioned against "claiming victory prematurely" but said that early modeling continually shows it is "our best and only great public health tool."

 

“If we do it right, you’re going to see those [states] who have not peaked, will not peak,” Dr. Anthony Fauci tells @jonkarl, emphasizing the importance of mitigation in fighting COVID-19. https://t.co/bV7kkGmZSK pic.twitter.com/BHUT2TyPo5

— ABC News (@ABC) April 6, 2020

 

"Governor Cuomo reported that the number of hospitalizations, the number of admissions to intensive care and requirements for intubations over the last three days have actually started to level off," Fauci said Monday. "So everybody who knows me knows I'm conservative about making projections -- but those are the kind of good signs that you look for."

"That's the first thing you see when you start to see the turnaround," Fauci added. "Despite all the suffering and the death that has occurred, what we have been doing has been working."

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Dzonsli/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- As the U.S. faces shortages of critical medical supplies like N95 respirator masks and other personal protective equipment, or PPE, allegations have swirled that U.S. officials are seizing shipments or using other sketchy tactics to secure stockpiles -- prompting swift denials in some cases, but diplomatic moves to reassure allies in others.

President Donald Trump directed one U.S. manufacturer to cease exports of certain supplies needed to fight the coronavirus, with the company agreeing to comply but warning it could prompt retaliation and ultimately worsen shortages in the U.S.

"Right now, given the great need for PPE in our own country, our focus will be on keeping critical medical items in the United States until demand is met here," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday.

In particular, the accusations have revealed some sharp divides between the U.S. and key Western allies that have been exacerbated during Trump's presidency and the growing every-country-for-itself mentality around the world amid dire shortages that has fueled distrust. But a State Department spokesperson told ABC News the U.S. is "working in solidarity with our partners and allies" and appeared to blame "unsourced, unattributed disinformation campaigns" for "pervasive attempts to divide international efforts."

In France, regional officials, including the presidents of the Paris and Grand Est regional councils, said Americans paid cash on airport tarmacs to secure masks shipped from China to France.

"On the tarmac, the Americans arrive, take out cash, and pay three or four times more for the orders we have made, so we really have to fight," Grand Est president Jean Rottner told RTL, a French radio broadcaster.

But the U.S. embassy in Paris forcefully denied any efforts: "The United States government has not purchased any masks intended for delivery from China to France. Reports to the contrary are completely false."

In Germany, a senior Berlin official specifically accused the U.S. on Friday of confiscating 200,000 masks that were in transit from a manufacturer in China to Berlin through Bangkok, Thailand.

"We view this as an act of modern piracy," said Andreas Geisel, interior minister of Berlin's city government. "Such wild west methods can't dominate, even in a time of global crisis."

Trump called the accusation "fake news" in a tweet Saturday.

The U.S. manufacturer 3M, one of the world's leading producers of N95 respirator masks, denied that it had an order of masks from Berlin's government or that any PPE was seized and diverted by U.S. authorities. It offered to work with German law enforcement to investigate what is said may be "fraudulent activity."

But a Berlin government spokesperson said the shipment was not from 3M, but a German medical supplier. Geisel doubled down on Monday, telling German television broadcaster ZDF that the masks ended up in the U.S., without providing evidence.

A State Department spokesperson told ABC News Tuesday that the administration is "working through appropriate channels to purchase excess supplies from other nations to meet our needs," but denied any U.S. knowledge of a shipment to Germany.

"The U.S. government has been clear that we will take action against price-gouging and pandemic profiteering, and we take seriously incidents that are reported to us for action. We remain concerned about pervasive attempts to divide international efforts through unsourced, unattributed disinformation campaigns," they added.

Elsewhere, however, the U.S. government has taken extraordinary steps to secure stockpiles of medical supplies, particularly after Trump invoked the Defense Production Act last week and ordered 3M to stop exporting N95 respirator masks to Canada and Latin America. The DPA gives the president broad powers to direct industrial production during emergencies and push private companies to meet domestic need.

Hours after Trump's order for 3M to halt exports, the manufacturer said it would comply, but warned of "significant humanitarian implications" as health care workers in many Western Hemisphere countries have no other source for protective masks.

"Ceasing all export of respirators produced in the United States would likely cause other countries to retaliate and do the same, as some have already done. If that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease," 3M added in the statement Friday.

With a Canadian government order for three million masks from 3M halted from crossing the border, according to Ontario premier Doug Ford, the Canadian government stepped in. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday, "It would be a mistake to create blockages or reduce the amount of back-and-forth trade of essential goods and services, including medical goods, across our border, and that is the point we're making very clearly to the American administration right now."

Pompeo spoke to his Canadian counterpart, Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, Monday, telling him the U.S. wants to "work with Canada to ensure the viability of international supply chains for crucial medical supplies and personnel, while also meeting the needs of regions with the most severe outbreaks," per his spokesperson.

After the call, it seems a compromise was reached, with Trudeau saying Tuesday that 500,000 masks will be delivered to Ontario this week and describing the call Monday as "productive and positive."

In a statement Monday, 3M said it reached an agreement with the Trump administration to "continue sending U.S. produced respirators to Canada and Latin America, where 3M is the primary source of supply," but did not offer any specific figures.

The manufacturer will also combat the dire shortages in the U.S. by importing up to importing 166.5 million masks over the next three months from China and producing 35 million more domestically, it added.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- After less than a year on the job, White House press secretary and communications director Stephanie Grisham is stepping down, according to senior Trump administration officials.

Grisham is returning to the East Wing to start immediately as first lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff and spokesperson, her office announced Tuesday. She previously served in the East Wing as communications director and deputy chief of staff.

Alyssa Farah, a Pentagon spokesperson and longtime aide to Trump’s new chief of staff Mark Meadows, is expected to be named as the White House's director of strategic communications.

Additionally, sources say Ben Williamson, a senior adviser to Meadows, will become a senior communications adviser in the press office.

Farah is also a longtime aide to Trump’s new chief of staff, Mark Meadows. Sources also indicate that Trump is contemplating moving spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany from working on his re-election campaign to the West Wing.

As Trump’s third press secretary, Grisham replaced Sarah Sanders in July 2020. As communications director, she succeeded former Fox News executive Bill Shine, assuming the role after it had been left vacant for a number of months. Her appointment was announced in a tweet by Melania Trump last June.

Grisham has been a long-serving member and loyal of the Trump administration, beginning as a campaign aide in 2015 and later serving as a deputy press secretary under Sean Spicer. Grisham developed a reputation for prioritizing the first family’s privacy while working for the first lady.

Through her tenure as press secretary, Grisham never gave a traditional briefing, saying they had become “a lot of theater.” She has publicly criticized the press a number of times, asserting that the media does not regularly cover the president’s successes.

Last month, Grisham spent two weeks in self-quarantine after coming into contact with a Brazilian official who tested positive for COVID-19. She tested negative for the virus.

Grisham fervently defended the president throughout his impeachment, appearing on a number of news programs, including ABC's Good Morning America last December. In that interview with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, Grisham adamantly insisted the president “did nothing wrong” in regard to withholding aid from Ukraine. She also attempted to justify derogatory comments Trump made about the deceased husband of a Michigan congresswoman who supported his impeachment, saying the president was a “counter-puncher.”

Grisham came under fire in November 2019 for claiming without evidence that Obama administration aides left behind taunting notes for incoming Trump officials as they vacated their White House offices in 2017. A number of Obama staffers flatly denied leaving any negative messages, and some even shared letters of encouragement that they said they left behind for their successors.

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flySnow/iStock(MADISON, Wis.) -- After a chaotic series of emergency orders and legal challenges, Wisconsin’s election is set to take place on Tuesday against the backdrop of a country waging war with a surging global pandemic.

In battleground Wisconsin, one of the most crucial states in November, the spring election careened toward chaos in the 24 hours before polls were to open, with partisan debates over how the election should proceed.

The state’s top Democrat, Gov. Tony Evers, and state Republican lawmakers spent the days leading up to the election at sharp odds after the governor reversed his stance on postponing the election late last week.

Tensions escalated between the two parties on the eve of the election after Evers issued an executive order delaying in-person voting until early June. The abrupt move was a reversal for the governor, who for weeks said he could not change the election "on my own" -- meaning without the GOP-controlled state legislature.

Evers acted only after state lawmakers refused to postpone the election in a special session, saying at a press conference on Monday the "circumstances have changed." The election includes the Democratic presidential primary between former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, as well as general elections for the state Supreme Court and local races.

"I cannot in good conscience stand by and do nothing," said Evers. "The bottom line is that I have an obligation to keep people safe. I've tried for weeks to meet Republicans in the middle to find common ground and figure out a Wisconsin solution, but at every turn, they fought all the way to the United States Supreme Court, even the most basic and common sense proposals to ensure a safe and fair election."

State Republicans swiftly challenged his emergency action, filing a motion with the state Supreme Court. Within hours, the conservative-leaning bench blocked Evers’ order in a 4-2 decision. One justice, Daniel Kelly, who is up for election on Tuesday, recused himself from the case.

Evers said the order was his last available course of action.

"This is it ... this will be the last avenue that we're taking," he said at a press conference Monday. "There is not a Plan B, there's not a Plan C."

Republicans scored another victory in a separate lawsuit also seeking to postpone the election, this one before the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation's highest court, voting 5-4 along ideological lines, reversed a lower court's ruling that had extended the deadline for absentee ballots by six days.

The court ruled that absentee ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday and arrive by April 13 to be counted. As of Monday, nearly 1.3 million absentee ballots had been requested, an unprecedented number, and 12,000 ballots had not yet been sent to voters. Only about 57% of absentee ballots that were sent have been returned.

Running an election on empty

In the wake of the legal wrangling, election officials held an emergency meeting late Monday night to determine how to apply the latest court rulings to the election. Among the issues was a debate about when clerks can report the election results under the order from the U.S. Supreme Court. The lower federal court had ruled that clerks could not begin reporting results until 4 p.m. on April 13. The state's chief elections official, Meagan Wolfe, said Monday night that the state would still follow that guideline.

"Election night results will not be made available until the 13th," she said.

Wisconsin, which has 2,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19, is one of a shrinking number of states that are moving forward with in-person voting despite the coronavirus outbreak. Fifteen states and one territory have postponed elections due to the coronavirus.

For weeks, voters were strongly encouraged to vote absentee while state leaders, mayors and local clerks tried to minimize the spread of coronavirus on election day. Efforts to enforce social distancing at the ballot box were hampered by a shortage of poll workers, which required consolidating polling sites.

Nearly 60% of Wisconsin municipalities reported a shortage of election volunteers, and 111 jurisdictions reported they could not staff even one polling place. As a result, Milwaukee, the state's largest city, will have only five polling locations instead of the 180 that historically operate on election day. Local officials said there could be as many as 4,000 to 5,000 voters at each of the five polling sites on Tuesday.

After a number of polling sites consolidated, Wolfe said on Monday that she is "not aware at this point of any place that is stating that they're unable to open" on election day. She said that "nearly 2,500 service members with the National Guard" will be deployed to fill any shortages of poll workers.

In an effort to safeguard both voters and volunteers, the state procured nearly 6,000 liters of hand sanitizer, about 7,000 rolls of paper towels, and at least 750,000 disinfecting wipes to distribute to county clerks on election day. Poll workers will be wearing masks and gloves -- but it's still unclear how many of them will actually show up.

The election is moving forward as planned despite repeated pleas from local officials for state leaders to delay the election.

The mayor of Madison, Satya Rhodes-Conway, criticized the decision, saying, "The Wisconsin Supreme Court is moving ahead with the April 7 election in reckless disregard for public health and the constitutionally protected right to vote. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong with this election, not because of the pandemic, but because of cruel choices made by Republican politicians and their pet judges."

Neil Albrecht, the executive director for the city of Milwaukee Elections Commission, told ABC News in an interview on Friday, "I don't think anything about this election moving forward, both in terms of democracy or in terms of public health, is beneficial."

State Supreme Court race becomes epicenter of partisan battle

Some Democrats argued that Republicans pushed to move forward with the election for “political gain.” On the ballot is a state Supreme Court seat that could be instrumental in voting rights and election cases ahead of the November general election, in which Wisconsin will play a significant role.

"It's outrageous that the Republican legislative leaders and the conservative majority on the Supreme Court in Wisconsin are willing to risk the health and safety of many thousands of Wisconsin voters tomorrow for their own political gain," Sanders said in a statement late Monday night. "Let's be clear: holding this election amid the coronavirus outbreak is dangerous, disregards the guidance of public health experts, and may very well prove deadly."

Kelly, the incumbent judge who was appointed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2016, is defending his seat against local circuit court judge and former prosecutor Jill Karofsky. Although the election is intended to be nonpartisan, Kelly nabbed a “complete endorsement” from President Donald Trump last week, while both Biden and Sanders backed Karofsky.

The race has been the focal point of the debate between Republicans and Democrats over delaying the primary.

"There's a common sense element to this," Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt told ABC News. "If you can go out and vote on election day, please go out and vote because we have an important Supreme Court race. And we also have important local government races."

A win by Karofsky would cut into the conservative majority on the bench, which could be crucial as the court weighs a closely watched case about voter purges. The state is poised to clear more than 200,000 voters from its rolls. Kelly has recused himself from the case.

The state’s nonpartisan elections commission, which oversees the state’s elections, argued that those voters do not need to be removed from the rolls until 2021. But Republican-aligned groups would like to see the removal happen before the general election in November.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Georgia Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis has endorsed former vice president Joe Biden, calling the Democratic front-runner a “a friend, a man of courage, a man of conscience,” and promising to do whatever he can to support his candidacy.

“It is my belief that we need Joe Biden now, more than ever before,” Lewis said on a call with reporters Monday evening.

“He will be a great president. He will lead our country to a great place. He would inspire another next generation to stand up, speak up and speak out. To be brave, to be bold, and that’s why I am committed to supporting him,” Lewis said, calling Biden a “dear friend.”

One of the nation’s most influential voices on civil rights, Lewis was a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and walked alongside the civil rights leader in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965, when he was badly beaten by police while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

He suffered a fractured skull in the attack.

"I know hatred when I see it. I have felt it. I've stared down the deepest and darkest forces in this nation. Over the past four years, I've seen the same kind of evil rear its head again," Lewis says in a video released by the campaign accompanying his endorsement, as images of the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia flash across the screen.

"You judge the character of a man by how he chooses to respond to that moral obligation. Vice President Joe Biden has never stopped speaking up for his fellow man," Lewis says in the video, adding that he believes Biden has "no delusion about this nation's past."

Biden's strength with African-American voters, and backing from a slew of prominent black lawmakers, has helped propel him to a large lead in the delegate race over his lone rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Lewis is the 38th member of the Congressional Black Caucus to endorse Biden's presidential bid.

Lewis, who is in the midst of a fight with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, also said “it would be good” for Biden to have a woman of color as his running mate, advocating for a vice presidential candidate who looks like “the rest of America.”

“I think Vice President Biden should look around. It would be good to have a woman of color. It would be good to have a woman. It would be good to have a woman who looks like the rest of America,” Lewis said.

Biden pledged at the most recent Democratic debate to select a woman as his vice presidential running mate, and said last week he will formally announce a committee to begin the vetting process for potential candidates later this month.

Addressing Biden’s relative lack of support among younger African-Americans, Lewis urged those same young voters to turn out, referencing his own past with the civil rights movement and arguing that people died for the right to vote, calling it “the most powerful non-violent instrument or tool that we have in a democratic society.”

“My message would be very simple. Look around, we have a choice, you must decide,” Lewis said. “Get out there and vote, like we’ve never, ever, voted before.”

Lewis, who was first elected to Congress in 1986 and is in the middle of his 18th term, also stressed the importance of voting, even amidst the global coronavirus pandemic that has largely put traditional campaigning on hold.

“I'm worried about whether we're going to be able to have a free and clean election. I just hope that in spite of whatever is going on now, that people will not be afraid to come out and vote, we have to vote,” Lewis said Monday when asked about his concerns over campaigning amid the COVID-19 crisis.

“If we fail to vote, we don't count,” he added.

Lewis has been a fiercely vocal critic of President Donald Trump, participating in a protest march over the administration’s immigration policies, and labeling Trump a “racist” in a 2018 interview with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The acting secretary of the Navy is apologizing for his tough words to the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, where he blasted their former captain as "either too naive or too stupid to command a ship" over his distribution of a letter, later leaked to the press, that requested stronger measures from the Navy to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus among his crew.

The apology comes after acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly had issued a statement earlier on Monday standing by his controversial comments to the crew after an audio recording and transcript of his remarks on the carrier became public.

“I want to apologize to the Navy for my recent comments to the crew of the TR," Modly said in the statement issued late Monday. "Let me be clear, I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naive nor stupid. I think, and always believed him to be the opposite."

"We pick our carrier commanding officers with great care," he said. "Captain Crozier is smart and passionate. I believe, precisely because he is not naive and stupid, that he sent his alarming email with the intention of getting it into the public domain in an effort to draw public attention to the situation on his ship. I apologize for any confusion this choice of words may have caused."

"I also want to apologize directly to Captain Crozier, his family, and the entire crew of the Theodore Roosevelt for any pain my remarks may have caused," he added. "They, and the entire Navy, have my full commitment that I will continue to help get the TR back to full health and back to sea where we can move forward beyond this unfortunate situation.”

The apology follows an earlier statement where Modly said his words to the crew of the Roosevelt were "spoken from the heart and meant for them."

"I stand by every word I said, even, regrettably any profanity that may have been used for emphasis," he said in the earlier statement. "Anyone who has served on a Navy ship would understand. I ask, but don't expect, that people read them in their entirety."

His apology also came after a White House briefing Monday where President Donald Trump said he was "going to get involved" and look into the incident involving Crozier and his future status.

"I don't want to destroy somebody for having a bad day," said Trump.

The president said he would call Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Modly for details about Crozier's status, noting he was "an outstanding person" who has had a "very exemplary military career."

Trump reaffirmed that Crozier's sending the letter "was a mistake, he should have gone through his chain of command" but added "I'm not looking to destroy a person's life."

"If I can help two good people I'm going to help them," said Trump.

Earlier on Monday, the online news site The Daily Caller published a transcript of Modly's remarks to the crew of the carrier that was broadcast over its internal loudspeaker system.

Later in the day, Task and Purpose, an online military news site, posted an audio recording of what appeared to be a voice similar to Modly's speaking over a public address system that matched the transcript in its content.

According to the transcript and the recording, Modly described Crozier as being "either too naive or too stupid to command a ship like this" for not anticipating that the letter could get leaked since it was sent to so many people outside of his chain of command.

"The alternative is that he did this on purpose," Modly said of the letter's publication in the San Francisco Examiner, which would be a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

More than once he labeled the letter as "a betrayal" because the Navy's internal deliberations had been made public and diminished the Navy's early actions to address the quarantine housing and social distancing that Crozier had requested.

Modly also referenced the rousing farewell that the crew gave Crozier as he walked off the ship and that was captured on videos posted on social media.

"I understand that you may be angry with me for the rest of your lives. I guarantee that you won't be alone," Modly said.

"Being angry is not your duty," he told the crew. "Your duty is to each other, to this ship, and to the nation that built it for you to protect them."

Modly then told the ship's crew to never take any concerns to the press.

"I'm going to tell you something, all of you, there is no -- no -- situation where you go to the media," he said. "Because the media has an agenda. And the agenda that they have depends on which side of the political aisle they sit, and I'm sorry that's the way the country is right now, but it's the truth. And so they use it to divide us and use it to embarrass the Navy. They use it to embarrass you."

Democrats on Capitol Hill labeled Modly's comments to the Roosevelt crew as inappropriate and some, including the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said they warranted his ouster.

"Acting Secretary Modly's decision to address the sailors on the Roosevelt and personally attack Captain Crozier shows a tone-deaf approach more focused on personal ego than one of the calm, steady leadership we so desperately need in this crisis," said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash.

"I no longer have confidence in acting Secretary Modly's leadership of the Navy and believe he should be removed from his position," the committee chairman added.

Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., herself a former Navy commander, also suggested that Esper should fire Modly.

"Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly's remarks to the crew show that he is in no way fit to lead our Navy through this trying time," Luria said in a statement. "Secretary Esper should immediately fire him."

In an appearance on ABC's This Week on Sunday, Esper said he supported Modly's decision to relieve Crozier from his command.

The number of USS Theodore Roosevelt sailors testing positive for the coronavirus is now 173, according to new Navy figures released Monday, with 6% of the ship's crew of 4,800 having been tested.

The Navy was moving 2,700 crewmembers off the carrier and into quarantine facilities on Guam, including some empty hotels on the island. So far, 1,999 sailors have been taken off the ship.

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Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden had a “wonderful, warm” conversation about the nation’s coronavirus response on Monday afternoon, the president said during a press briefing.

“We had a really wonderful, warm conversation,” Trump said at Monday's coronavirus task force briefing. “It was a very nice conversation.”

Following several days of Twitter taunts about the planned call, Trump and his likely Democratic rival in the 2020 presidential race finally spoke for about 15 minutes, and the president said that he “appreciated” Biden’s call.

“He gave me his point of view, and I fully understood that,” Trump said. “And we just had a very friendly conversation.”

On Monday, Biden’s campaign issued a brief statement providing a similarly cordial account.

"Vice President Biden and President Trump had a good call,” campaign spokesperson Kate Bedingfield wrote. “VP Biden shared several suggestions for actions the Administration can take now to address the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and expressed his appreciation for the spirit of the American people in meeting the challenges facing the nation.”

When pressed for details, Trump declined to provide specifics about their discussion, saying that he and Biden agreed not to discuss the contents of the call.

“He had suggestions,” Trump said. “It doesn't mean that I agree with those suggestions but certainly he had suggestions, and I also told him some of the things we're doing. But the conversation was a friendly, very friendly conversation.”

The call comes on the heels of the former vice president’s campaign reaching out to state and local officials offering to assist with their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to an email addressed to “State and Local Officials” and obtained by ABC News, the campaign is seeking to “connect those offering help with those in need of it.”

“The Biden for President Campaign has been receiving a significant number of offers from individuals or organizations eager to support your efforts to respond to the COVID19 pandemic by donating, volunteering, or otherwise contributing their resources or capacity,” wrote Stacy Eichner, political chief of staff for the Biden campaign, on Sunday.

“In this moment of national emergency, we are eager to connect those offering help with those in need of it – we would like to provide these individuals and organizations with a way to reach your offices directly,” she continued. “Please let us know if you would like to identify a designee from your office for this contact list.”

The Biden campaign said the email was sent to governors' staffs from all 50 states and Puerto Rico, but would not provide details on the types of organizations offering help. The campaign also declined to comment on whether the unnamed organizations were already coordinating with the federal government or whether the campaign had communicated about their offer with the White House.

“It’s an effort to direct our base of support that wants to help out those in need to put them directly in touch with the people who can use that help,” a Biden aide told ABC News.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is forging ahead on her plans to develop another coronavirus-related relief package to address the ongoing public health crisis, including more direct payments to Americans and increased unemployment benefits.

Pelosi, in a letter addressed to House members, said she hopes to craft the legislation and bring it to the House floor for a vote later this month.

Both chambers of Congress are slated to return to the nation’s capital on April 20, but it’s largely dependent on the nation’s stability as the deadly novel virus continues to wreak havoc across the country.

Leaders in both the House and Senate have acknowledged Congress’ return on the 20th is not certain.

“The coronavirus is moving swiftly, and our communities cannot afford for us to wait. House Democrats will continue to work relentlessly and in a bipartisan way to lift up American families and workers to protect their health, economic security and well-being today and throughout this crisis,” Pelosi said Friday.

In the letter sent over the weekend, Pelosi said she wants to double down on the “down-payment we made in the CARES ACT” by passing more legislation aimed at providing relief to ailing communities.

Pelosi said she plans to extend and expand on legislation that will further assist small businesses, including farmers. The legislation will also strengthen unemployment benefits and will include a second round of direct payments to Americans, Pelosi said.

Pelosi acknowledged during a press call last week that she remains in touch with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who worked incredibly closely with lawmakers on Capitol Hill during the last round of negotiations on the $2 trillion stimulus package.

Pelosi said the legislation will also provide more aid to state and local governments, hospitals, community health centers, health systems and health workers, and first responders.

“Our communities cannot afford to wait, and we must move quickly. It is my hope that we will craft this legislation and bring it to the floor later this month,” Pelosi said in her letter.

Pelosi has maintained a presence on Capitol Hill despite the fact that most members returned to their home states immediately after passing the $2 trillion stimulus package.

The 80-year old speaker has made the rounds on several cable stations conducting interviews on the need for a fourth relief bill in recent days.

The renewed focus on providing relief and aid to stricken American workers is a shift in tone from Pelosi and House Democrats, who last week were full speed ahead on drafting legislation with a heavy focus on infrastructure.

The shift also came amid a record-setting number of Americans -- 6.6 million -- who filed for unemployment last week.

“Does that not just take your breath away?” Pelosi told reporters during a press call last week.

Republican leaders initially seemed to downplay the necessity of a fourth bill and said they instead wanted to “wait and see” how the $2 trillion relief package affects the economy and American workers.

“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,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in an interview with The Washington Post last week.

He called Pelosi’s talk about the need for a fourth round of virus-related legislation “premature.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., echoed McConnell, telling reporters that while Pelosi “is trying to talk about a fourth bill, I don't think that is appropriate at this time.”

Asked about the break between the two congressional leaders, Mnuchin told reporters he was in touch with both of them.

“I've spoken to the leader. I've spoken to the speaker. I've spoken to the president constantly. When the president is ready and thinks we should do the next stage, we're ready,” he said.

Not only is Pelosi staying the course on the need for a fourth package, she also announced on Thursday the creation of a bipartisan House select committee to oversee the $2 trillion federal response to the coronavirus crisis.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, the Democratic whip, will lead the bipartisan panel, which will be authorized to “examine all aspects of the federal response to the Coronavirus and ensure the taxpayer dollars are being wisely and efficiently spent.”

"The panel will root out waste, fraud and abuse; it will protect against price-gauging, profiteering and political favoritism," she told reporters on a press call last week. "We need transparency and accountability."

The committee will also try to ensure the U.S. response to the outbreak is “based on the best possible science” and the advice of leading health experts, Pelosi said.

The committee will also have subpoena power.

Clyburn, whom Pelosi has tapped to oversee the watchdog committee, said the committee will be “forward-looking” and will not focus on the Trump administration’s initial response to the coronavirus crisis.

“My understanding is that this committee will be forward-looking,” the No. 3 House Democrat told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.

Some Republicans have called the creation of Pelosi’s oversight committee unnecessary.

“I don’t really think that’s necessary,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., told reporters Monday at the Capitol building. Capito was in town to oversee a brief Senate pro forma session.

“We have oversight committees,” Capito said. “I don’t think it’s necessary, I think we’ve got a lot of safeguards in place, and oversight.”

Trump also blasted the new oversight committee.

"I want to remind everyone here in our nation's capital, especially in Congress, that this is not the time for politics, endless partisan investigations,” Trump said during a White House briefing last week. “Here we go again. They've already done extraordinary damage to our country in recent years."

"It's witch hunt after witch hunt after witch hunt," Trump continued. "And in the end it's people doing the witch hunt who are losing --- and they've been losing by a lot. And it's not any time for witch hunts."

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