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Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks(WASHINGTON) -- As the U.S. death tolls nears 15,000, President Donald Trump continues to try to shift blame for his response to the coronavirus crisis, lashing out at the World Health Organization, claiming the United Nations agency got "every aspect" of the outbreak wrong, and threatened to put a hold on U.S. funding amid the ongoing pandemic.

As Trump's GOP allies like Sen. Lindsey Graham and Fox News hosts pushed that narrative, newly-surfaced documents reveal the White House was warned of the deadly pathogen -- and its potential to cost the economy trillions and to claim half a million American lives -- even before the president's travel ban on China which he continues to tout.

With the U.S. death toll climbing and markets crashing, Democratic leaders said Wednesday they are seeking to double the $250 billion in funding the Trump administration proposed Tuesday for small businesses, adding aid to hospitals and local governments, among other benefits, to the interim relief package.

The CDC also plans to release guidance Wednesday that could allow people who have been close to positive COVID-19 individuals -- but remain asymptomatic -- to return to work, Vice President Mike Pence said at Tuesday's White House briefing, after the president for weeks has emphasized that the U.S. wasn't built to be shut down.

Here are the latest developments in the government response:

Trump notes Americans must celebrate Passover and Easter amid the crisis

President Trump began the daily White House briefing by noting that Passover begins this evening and Easter is being marked this coming Sunday.

"We're going to have many Easters together in churches in the future," he said.

He was joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who gave an update on State Department efforts to bring thousands of Americans home from abroad.

“The worldwide scale of our repatriation efforts is without parallel in our lifetime,” Pompeo said.

Since Jan. 29, Pompeo said, the State Department has repatriated over 50,000 citizens in more than 490 flights back to the U.S. from 90 countries across the world.

Asked by ABC News' Mutliplatform Reporter Rachel Scott if China should face consequences for withholding information about the spread of the virus, as the U.S. has charged, Pompeo responded,

"This is not the time for retribution. But this is the time for clarity and transparency -- China included."

"Every country needs to be transparent about what's gone on in their country," Pompeo said, not directly answering Scott's follow up on whether China specifically should have shared information sooner. "Every country has an obligation to share that information accurately, timely, completely, transparently and thoroughly, just as quickly as they can gather it."

The president confirmed that CDC would release guidance that would allow some people to return to work amid the pandemic.

"Later today, the CDC will release further guidance to help ensure critical infrastructure workers can perform their job safely, after potential exposure to the virus and so they're working on that," the president said.

Pressed on when he first learned about the pathogen -- following an ABC News report Wednesday that the White House was warned back in November -- President Trump said he learned "about the gravity" of the virus "just prior to closing the country to China" on Feb. 2.

Trump also said he didn’t “remember” being briefed on trade adviser Peter Navarro’s memos -- warning a pandemic could costs trillions and take millions of American lives -- or discussing them with anyone, although he said he has “now seen the memo.”

“Peter sends a lot of memos,” he added.

“I didn't see the memo but I acted as quickly as -- people were shocked that I acted so quickly,” Trump said, once again raising his order to restrict travel from China on Jan. 31.

ABC News' Jordyn Phelps reports:

Overall, President Trump is striking an upbeat tone in offering a progress report on the United States' fight against the coronavirus tonight -- saying the U.S. is "hopefully" headed for the "final stretch."

"Some terrible days ahead, but we're going to have some wonderful days ahead and we're going to get this behind us, this terrible thing behind us," Trump said.

The president -- citing downward projections of the U.S. death toll -- optimistically predicted that "soon we'll be over that curve. We'll be over that top and we'll be headed in the right direction."

Once the country is "on that downside of that slope," Trump said, he would like the country to be able to "open with a big bang." Qualifying that his envisioned reopening may have to be done in phases, he said "I think we're gonna to do that soon."

Dr. Deborah Birx, the crisis task force coordinator, addressing the downward mortality estimates, expressed her admiration at the American people's efforts in social distancing.

"We are impressed by the American people and I think models are models. I've always worked on validating. I spent my life validating models," Birx said, downplaying the changing projections.

Asked about when the government may suggest it's safe to no longer engage in social distancing, President Trump argued that Americans “want to go back” to work.

“They're going stir crazy. They've been in those houses and those apartments and I mean, they've really been, they've done a great job,” Trump said, reminding of predictions the death toll could have been 2.2 million million if the U.S. did nothing. “So if we stay under the original projection, I think we all did a very good job. Even though there's a lot of people.”

After Trump left, Vice President Mike Pence took a more somber tone even as he tried to be positive. "We find ourselves in the midst of a very tough week," he said. We grieve, but as the 'Good Book' says, we do not grieve like those who have no hope."

Pence also announced the White House task force will be meeting Thursday "with leaders in the African-American community” after the CDC released limited data Wednesday confirming racial disparities in COVID-19 deaths on a national scale.

“There have been historic challenges in the health care of the African-American communities, particularly in our inner cities,” Pence said. “I'll just say from my heart to all of our African-American family members, now more than ever, practice the guidelines, look after those most vulnerable people that have underlying serious health conditions.”

Trump diminishes death toll as one key model reports lower projections

A leading forecasting model for COVID-19 used by the White House task force is now predicting the U.S. may need less medical equipment, that the peak may hit sooner in some states, and that the total death toll may be lower than previously projected.

As of Wednesday morning, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington predicted 60,415 COVID-19 deaths by Aug. 4, 2020, and that the peak of those deaths will come in just four days. Last week, the model had forecasted roughly 84,000 deaths by early August with a predicted peak on April 16. The White House task force has projected a death toll of between 100,000 and 240,000 in a best-case scenario -- even with extensive social distancing measures.

"We're way under any polls or any of the models, as they call them -- they have models, and we're way under, and we hope to keep it that way, in terms of death," the president told Fox News Sean Hannity Tuesday night.

In Tuesday's briefing, Trump also suggested that states would need fewer hospital beds, ventilators and other equipment than governors originally requested.

"A lot of the occupancy is really getting a little bit lower than anticipated, and that is good. We sort of thought that was going to happen," the president said.

CDC Director Robert Redfield also suggested Monday that because Americans are taking social distancing recommendations "to heart," the death toll will be "much, much, much lower" than models have projected.

However, some officials suggest the model may be too optimistic.

When asked about the new model projections this morning on Fox News, Fauci said, “There's no doubt in my mind it's because of the social distancing” and repeated his note that models are not ideal.

“The thing that trumps models is real data,” Fauci added, responding to a question about the projected number of deaths dropping. “And as we continue to accumulate real data, you go back and modify the models. So that's the explanation for what you just said.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged in his press conference Wednesday that hospital admissions in the hard-hit state are decreasing but cautioned that now is the time to “double down” on social distancing, as the death toll continues to steadily go up.

CDC to release guidance that could allow some to return to work

Vice President Pence said at Tuesday’s White House briefing that the CDC planned to release new guidance today that could allow people who have been in proximity to a person who tested positive for COVID-19 -- but subsequently showed no symptoms -- to return to work.

"The CDC will have new guidance tomorrow that the CDC will be publishing for people who were in proximity to an individual that tested positive for coronavirus but have no symptoms," Pence said Tuesday. "And CDC will be publishing new guidance about how those individuals and the circumstances under which they might be able to return back to work using some facial protection and monitoring their temperature."

"Some of the best minds here at the White House are beginning to think about what recommendations will look like that we give to businesses, that we give to states," Pence added.

The CDC recommended on Friday that all American wear non-medical masks in public.

Birx says U.S. may investigate WHO's handling of pandemic after Trump threatens to put hold on funding

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, was asked to explain Wednesday what President Trump meant when he threatened on Tuesday to put a "powerful hold" on U.S. funding to the World Health Organization, the United Nations health agency.

Birx appeared to partially walk back those comments on ABC's Good Morning America, noting that the U.S. contributes to the WHO annually.

"When the president said he was holding funds, he didn't say he was restricting and keeping funds permanently away, but instead said, let's investigate what happened," Birx said. "I think that the president wants to complete an investigation of what happened during this current outbreak."

The U.S. is, by far, the single largest financial contributor to the organization.

When asked about an ABC News report that sources say U.S. intelligence officials warned of a potentially disruptive contagion in China’s Wuhan region as early as last November -- and that those concerns were laid out in an intelligence report and later briefed to the White House -- Birx responded she was only detailed to the White House five weeks ago.

"I wasn’t here during any of those events," she explained. "I was working in sub-Saharan Africa on HIV/AIDS, so I don’t really know the situational awareness around that report."

Birx also said they hope to roll out an antibody test "within the next 10 or 14 days" that can detect how many Americans have already had the virus but were asymptomatic.

"This makes a very big difference in really understanding who can go back to work and how they can go back to work," she said. "So all of those pieces need to come together over the next couple of weeks."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Oleg Albinksy/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Dr. Zeke Emanuel, one of the key architects of the Affordable Care Act and a special adviser to the director general of the World Health Organization, said on ABC News’ "Powerhouse Politics" podcast that he doesn’t anticipate life fully returning to normal for another 18 months, based on guidance from health professionals in the Trump administration.

"The kind of normal where we go traveling, we go to restaurants, we go to concerts, we go to religious services, we go on cruises, until we have a vaccine that protects everyone. That's 18 months, it's not going to be sooner," Emanuel told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein.

"Anyone who tells you we're going to have a vaccine in three or four months, that's just not the reality of how biology and research works," the oncologist, bioethicist and professor and vice provost at the University of Pennsylvania said.

Emanuel joined the show to promote his new podcast, "Making the Call," where the hosts evaluate the ethics surrounding governmental responses to the pandemic. He is a former special adviser on health policy to the director of the Office of Management and Budget and National Economic Council in the Obama administration. His brother, ABC News contributor Rahm Emanuel served as President Barack Obama's chief of staff.

For the nation to be prepared to operate normally, Emanuel said, the number of new cases needs to be brought down to zero -- but the United States doesn’t have the infrastructure in place to handle that kind of oversight.

"You have to have a structure and infrastructure that allows you to test and quickly quarantine and isolate people who are suspected or test positive for COVID. We're not there yet," he said.

Karl highlighted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for how the nation functions are set to expire on April 30.

"What happens on April 30?" Karl asked.

The plan is going to expire, Emanuel said. The government has no choice but to renew it.

"We're going to have to renew it because some places in the country will have reached the top of the curve and coming back back down, some patients in the country won't have reached the top of the curve," Emanuel said, adding that rural areas of the country likely won’t have reached their peak by the time the guidelines are set to expire.

"We watch the daily response from federal health officials. What goes through your mind, what are the things that should be said now, and done now, from the federal level that are glaring in your mind that that aren't happening?" Klein asked.

"Well, I do think we need a more strategic plan for what do we do in the next 18 months," Emanuel said.

"I noticed that every bailout bill seems to be … we have this bailout for small businesses, keeping people on their payroll (for) eight weeks, we have an extension of unemployment (for) 13 weeks, as if somehow at the end of three months it's going to be magically different. This is an18-month process," Emanuel said.

He also called on the federal response for distributing ventilators and personal protective equipment to be stronger.

"The federal government in this case is competing with the states for new ventilators, for PPE. And that's not helpful. The federal government ought to be bulk purchasing it and ought to be then distributing it based upon need at the moment," Emanuel said.

If life can’t return to normal for 18 months, that has key implications for November, Karl said, "What's the outlook there? It's obviously going to be well before we have a vaccine."

"I think we need to plan now -- you're going to have to have a different model, either voting by internet, voting by mail, voting early, so that people have a chance to go over time," Emanuel said.

"I think this is, you know, this is unfortunately a perfect model for Republican suppression of voting," he said.

On Tuesday, Wisconsin held in-person voting after Republicans blocked Democrats from delaying the election or moving to an entirely mail-in system.

"This is a perfect storm situation for, you know, just not getting a lot of those people who want to vote, even though everyone was predicting this would be a super record turnout because of the high stakes of this election," Emanuel said.

Emanuel, who helped build the Affordable Care Act, a topic of discussion in recent weeks as Americans struggle with health care coverage, said a universal health care system is the best way to fill in the gaps during a pandemic.

"COVID-19 is a great argument for universal health care coverage that isn't 'hole-y' and doesn't allow, you know, millions of people to slip through. It is an argument for simplification of the system," Emanuel said.

"Sen. (Bernie) Sanders is right, we definitely need to have a universal coverage system where all 100% of people in the United States are covered," he continued. "Certainly the Affordable Care Act was not put in place thinking about a pandemic, I can say that categorically having been involved and also having thought about pandemics."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump had already sparred with reporters for more than an hour-and-a-half Monday evening, during his now daily update on his administration's battle with the coronavirus pandemic, when he handed the reins over to Vice President Pence, waiting patiently nearby.

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. I'm going to let our vice president take over,” Trump said, ducking out of the press briefing, leaving Pence to explain more about how the White House is dealing with the crisis.

It was six weeks ago that the president, facing criticism that the government's response was slow and chaotic, tapped Pence to assume leadership of the task force. At the time, the president was still bragging about the low number of documented cases in the U.S. and professing that the virus would “disappear,” saying it would be “like a miracle.”

Every day since, the vice president has been at the helm, managing the non-stop operations involved in the U.S. effort, the nation’s biggest public health crisis in a century.

While the president has lavished praise on Pence for the job he's doing, the vice president never fails to quickly credit the president’s "leadership." A source familiar with their working relationship says they are in touch multiple times a day.

“The vice president is nothing but the president’s best staffer,” a senior administration official said in describing Pence’s dedication to carrying out the president’s directives.

Still, while the president has largely commandeered the daily briefings before the cameras, behind the scenes it is Pence who chairs the daily task force meetings in the Situation Room. The president has attended only some of the sessions, which run an hour-and-a-half on average, according to a senior official.

The vice president also is fielding calls from governors and task force members from the early morning hours until late in the night, the official said, and holding back-to-back meetings throughout the day with various stakeholders and affected industries.

Pence’s singular focus has earned him the president’s particular admiration, with Trump declaring on Monday that Pence has done “an unbelievable job."

“He's done much better than well. And he gets along with people. I think much better than I do,” Trump said in a rare moment of public self-reflection.

Unlike Trump, who seems to relish fighting with reporters, Pence calmly answers their questions. In his trademark reassuring voice, he offers empathy, and often, prayers.

But even as he earned the president’s praise, Pence is careful never to assume credit directly and consistently attributes anything positive to the president’s decision-making prowess. His actions are “at the president’s direction” and under “the president’s leadership.”

Beyond Pence’s diplomatic approach in giving credit to the president, Pence is himself a former governor and has particularly impressed the president with his deft touch in dealing with governors, even those who have criticized the administration’s response.

“I like people being -- Mike can put up with things that -- sometimes I say it's amazing that he can put up with it. But he's done an incredible job,” Trump has said.

Trump has expressed disdain for governors who have been publicly critical of the administration response, saying they should “be appreciative,” and has expressed particular disdain for Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, calling him a “nasty person.”

“I don't have to call because I'm probably better off not, because we don't get -- he's a failed presidential candidate. He's a nasty person,” Trump said of Inslee on March 29. ” I don't like the governor of Washington. So you know who calls? I get Mike Pence to call.” (Pence knows Inslee from when they served in the House together.)

There’s a good cop-bad cop dynamic at play, according to an administration official, who said the differing styles serve to complement one another and acknowledged that the approach is not free of political calculations.

“At the end of the day, these people are still going to run on this in six to eight months,” the official said.

While the president may rant against a particular governor in public comments, the official said, if a state with a critical governor is “in need of ventilators, the federal government is going to get them the ventilators.”

When the president strikes a combative tone in public, the vice president follows up -- oftentimes in private -- with a reassuring message.

When the New York health care workers raised alarm bells last week about shortages in critical protective gear needed to protect them on the front lines in treating patients, President Trump raised questions about whether the gear was slipping out the back door.

“That statement was made that they’ve been delivering for years, 10 to 20,000 masks,” Trump said. “Okay, it’s a New York hospital. Very — it’s packed all the time. How do you go from 10 to 20, to 300,000? 10 to 20,000 masks to 300,000?”

Vice President Pence followed up several days later with a message directed at the state’s health care workers.

“Help is on the way,” Pence said on the day it was announced that the federal government was sending an additional supply of 200 thousand N95 masks to New York.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump repeated Tuesday that he has asked U.S. drug companies to recommend what he called "possible cures" to doctors treating British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, currently battling the novel coronavirus in an intensive care unit in London.

“We had (the drug companies) contact his doctors at the hospital in London, and they're talking right now,” Trump told Fox News Tuesday night. Trump has recently held a meeting with drug company CEOs.

Talking to Sean Hannity, the president called himself a “matchmaker,” putting people with “potential cures” in touch with Johnson’s doctors.

“I have set people up with his doctors in London and these are people … are amazingly accomplished people that have found the answer to other things that were equally as tough,” he said.

However, Trump denied that one of the treatments recommended for Johnson was hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug he repeatedly touts as a possible "game-changer" in dealing with COVID-19.

“Two other (potential drugs) out there, very, very high-level and they've shown very good promise. So we have them talking to the doctors to see whether or not it would work,” he said Tuesday.

“Johnson & Johnson and others are getting close on a vaccine, but it takes a while to test it, as you can imagine," Trump said.

Diagnosed with the novel coronavirus on March 27, Johnson was hospitalized at St. Thomas' Hospital in London on April 5 before moving to the ICU the next day. Trump called the prime minister’s hospitalization “a bad sign.”

“When they bring you to the hospital with this one, this is not having your appendix taken out. It's a bad -- that's a bad thing,” he added.

Trump and Johnson have maintained friendly ties since the prime minister assumed power in July. The president is reportedly so fond of his British counterpart that he gave Johnson his personal cell phone number last year.

“Maybe 10 days ago or so and we talked and he didn't sound good at all,” Trump said.

 Despite denying companies had recommended hydroxychloroquine for Johnson, the president continued to promote the drug’s potential in his interview with Hannity.

“(Hydroxychloroquine) seems to be, with the azithromycin -- that really seems to be the combination that's great,” he claimed. “But the combination has been pretty amazing," he claimed, without providing any evidence. While the drug is undergoing trials in New York and elsewhere, top medical experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, has cautioned that any evidence so far is anecdotal.

At coronavirus task force press conferences on Monday and Tuesday, Trump told reporters that he had contacted drug companies to make sure the U.K. prime minister’s doctors would “have everything with them should it be needed.”

Since Johnson’s hospitalization, the U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been asked to deputize for the prime minister while he battles the illness.

Johnson's partner, Carrie Symonds, who is pregnant with their child, also announced that she had been bed-ridden over the past week with coronavirus symptoms over the weekend.

‘The Prime Minister remains clinically stable and is responding to treatment. He continues to be cared for in intensive care at St Thomas’ hospital. He is in good spirits,” Johnson’s spokesperson said Wednesday.

As of Wednesday morning, 60,733 people in the U.K. had tested positive for coronavirus, with 7,097 deaths, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

The Daily Mail reports that the the prime minister's office thanked Trump for his offer of coronavirus treatment and said officials are in 'constant contact' with the White House.

ABC has reached out to the prime minister's office for comment.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock/lucky-photographer(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday called for half a trillion dollars in additional financial aid to boost local and state governments, small businesses, food stamp recipients and hospitals struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Their request comes in response to the Trump administration’s call for more than $250 billion to help ailing small businesses.

“The heartbreaking acceleration of the coronavirus crisis demands bold, urgent and ongoing action from Congress to protect Americans’ lives and livelihoods,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement Wednesday.

Pelosi and Schumer’s request tops $500 billion, with $250 billion going to small businesses with half of the funds going to those businesses owned and operated by women, minorities, and veterans; $100 billion for hospitals, community health centers and health systems; $150 billion for state and local governments; and a 15 percent increase in food stamp benefits.

The Democrats’ list of demands comes one day after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin notified congressional leaders of its request to approve $250 billion in additional funds for the small business loan program that has been swamped by overwhelming demand.

The Paycheck Protection Program, created under the stimulus package, offers small business owners federally-backed loans that will be forgiven if the money is used to keep employees on payroll.

But the program hasn’t worked as planned. Small business owners reported quick rejections from banks if they didn’t already have an existing relationship. Banks, for their part, were unprepared for the massive onslaught of small businesses seeking loans.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he plans to pass the administration’s request for $250 billion on Thursday with a quick voice vote, which would not require all senators to return to Washington as the health crisis looms. It will require unanimous approval.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, chairman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, said Wednesday that McConnell put forward a unanimous consent agreement that expedites passage of the request.

“Any Senator objecting is asked to do so by noon today. Hope for the best,” he wrote in a tweet.

A spokesman for McConnell did not indicate whether the Republican leader plans to consider Pelosi and Schumer’s proposal.

But GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas released a statement Wednesday making his thoughts known.

“Senate Democrats should drop their shameful threat to block this funding immediately. Our small businesses desperately need help – now,” Cornyn said in a statement.

A spokesman for Schumer said the Democratic Leader had spoken with Mnuchin on Wednesday about the "Small Business Plus" proposal.

"We hope our Republican colleagues will support this “Small Business Plus” proposal tomorrow in the Senate," the aide said in a statement.

It’s also unclear what House Democrats will do should the Senate approve the $250 billion request on Thursday.

An aide to House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told ABC News that the House could pass a bill as early as Friday, “assuming the Senate passes something Thursday that there is unanimous consent for.”

The White House wants both chambers of Congress to pass the legislation by Friday.

Mnuchin did not address the Democrats’ demands during a televised interview on Wednesday.

“The president has asked us to go back to Congress we hope they pass this tomorrow and Friday,” Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC. “We want to assure everybody, if you don't get a loan this week, you'll get a loan next week or the following week, the money will be there.”

Mnuchin said there are 3,500 lenders available via the Small Business Administration system to start doling out loans.

Pelosi and Schumer’s emergency stopgap coronavirus relief bill is separate from a bill they hope to pass in the coming weeks that expands on the $2 trillion stimulus package Congress passed last month.

“After we pass this interim emergency legislation, Congress will move to pass a CARES 2 Act that will extend and expand the bipartisan CARES Act to meet the needs of the American people,” Pelosi and Schumer said in their statement. “CARES 2 must provide transformational relief as the American people weather this assault on their lives and livelihoods.”

Pelosi has said she wants the next stimulus package to include extended unemployment insurance benefits, more aid for hospitals and local and state governments, and another round of direct payments to Americans.

Schumer and Senate Democrats introduced their own proposal Tuesday that would create a so-called “Heroes Fund,” a two-pronged federal program that would give all essential, frontline workers a pay increase of $25,000 through the end of this year, and a $15,000 recruitment incentive specifically designed to attract and secure the medical workforce needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's a premium pay increase for essential workers, not just health care workers," Schumer told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. "It includes truck drivers who deliver supplies, grocery store workers who keep food on the shelves. Transit workers who keep the trains running."

The Democrats' plan, which they hope will be included in the fourth stimulus package, would give about a $13 per hour raise to those essential workers earning less than $200,000 per year and $5,000 for each essential worker earning $200,000 or more per year.

It was not immediately clear how much the proposal would cost, according to Democratic aides.

"This is a heroes fund," Schumer said. "They deserve it."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- As many Americans prepare to celebrate Easter or Passover while separated from their families and friends, the Department of Homeland Security is asking churches, synagogues, mosques and other temples across the country to start planning for life after the novel coronavirus crisis, when worshippers can be together again.

"Although many people undoubtedly continue to practice their faith, including through remote services and prayer, most are inevitably eager to return to normalcy and join their fellow congregants in practicing their faiths," the assistant director for infrastructure security at DHS, Brian Harrell, said in a letter to leaders of faith-based communities. "The American people are resilient, and we will achieve this goal soon."

In the letter, Harrell not only suggested that the practice of "social distancing" might have to continue even when houses of worship open up again, but he warned that terrorists, white supremacists and other extremists are exploiting the unfolding pandemic "to encourage violence or use the ongoing situation as an excuse to spread hatred."

In fact, federal authorities have warned that some anti-Semitic conspiracy theories spreading online claim Israel manufactured the new coronavirus and then spread it around the world.

But even without such conspiracy theories, the "stressors caused by the pandemic may contribute to an individual's decision to commit an attack or influence their target of choice," according to Harrell's letter.

"(W)e have no information to suggest such attacks are imminent or even likely, instead we are looking to provide you with useful information for planning for restoration of normal operations, whenever that may be," he wrote.

He encouraged houses of worship to "review your security plans and ensure procedures are in place to protect your facilities and visitors."

He concluded his letter by telling recipients, "Thank you again for everything you do to champion the American people's Constitutional First Amendment rights, as well as your leadership in keeping our houses of worship safe and secure."

Nevertheless, even in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, some houses of worship around the country are continuing to hold services, despite the dangers it could pose and despite orders from local and state governments.

Two weeks ago, a pastor in Tampa, Florida, was arrested on unlawful assembly charges after he defied such orders and "refused … to temporarily stop holding large gatherings at his church," Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said at the time.

"His reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people in his congregation at risk and thousands of residents who may interact with them this week in danger," Chronister said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News(BURLINGTON, Vt.) -- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a progressive standard-bearer whose campaigns for the Oval Office have helped usher in a left-leaning movement within segments of the Democratic party, has ended his 2020 bid

His departure from the race comes amid a coronavirus pandemic that has roiled the 2020 election cycle. Voters in exit polls across multiple states and on several primary nights indicated that they trusted former Vice President Joe Biden over the veteran senator to handle a crisis. For example, in telephone surveys--which were conducted in lieu of traditional exit polls due to the pandemic, respondents overwhelmingly picked Biden over Sanders as the candidate they trusted more to handle a crisis, by 73% to 20% in Florida, 63% to 32% in Illinois and 63% to 31% in preliminary results in Arizona.

Sanders' exit from the 2020 field all but assures that former Vice President Joe Biden will likely become the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

In a virtual address to supporters on Wednesday, Sanders thanked the more than 2 million people who donated to his campaign.

Sanders maintained that his campaign was winning the “ideological” and “generational” struggle by fighting for issues young people cared about.

“We are now some 300 delegates behind, Vice President Biden, and the path toward victory is virtually impossible, “ Sanders said. “So while we are winning the ideological battle and while we are winning the support of so many young people and working people throughout the country, I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful. And so today, I am announcing the suspension of my campaign.”

“I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win, and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour,” Sanders added.

Sanders congratulated Biden and said he would work with the presumptive nominee to push his progressive agenda. Sanders pledged to support progressive candidates “at every level of government from Congress to the school board.” He also, hinted that he would remain on the ballot to snag delegates in an effort to effect change within the Democratic party.

"We must continue working to assemble, as many delegates as possible at the Democratic Convention, where we will be able to exert significant influence over the party platform and other functions," said Sanders.

“Let us go forward together. The struggle continues,” Sanders said as he closed his remarks.

Building the Bernie base

Over his decades-long career -- starting as mayor of Burlington, Vermont to the halls of congress -- the 78-year-old, veteran lawmaker has cultivated both an extensive and lauded congressional record and an avid following among devoted supporters who turned out en masse to his political rallies, wore merchandise touting "Feel the Bern" and he even inspired a video game.

Sanders was endorsed not only by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but two other members of the so-called “Squad” of freshmen congresswomen of color: Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib. He was also endorsed by both leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington State and Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan.

The Sanders campaign also boasted a laundry list of endorsements from progressive grassroots organizations and labor unions.

“It wasn’t until I heard of a man by the name of Bernie Sanders that I began to question, and assert, and recognize my inherent value as a human being that deserves health care, housing, education, and a living wage," Ocasio-Cortez once said during a rally.

Earlier this month, however Ocasio-Cortez, took to Instagram Live to react to a disappointing night’s primary results. She acknowledged how difficult the evening was for Sanders and for the progressive revolution he sought to inspire.

"You know, there’s no sugar coating it -- tonight’s a tough night," she said. "Tonight’s a tough night for the movement overall."

The willingness of his supporters to shift loyalties and enthusiastically back the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee could, in part, hinge on signals Sanders sends on support. As the race tightened between the two final front-runners, Biden attempted to broaden his coalition and reach out to progressives who were Sanders' supporters as a general election matchup with President Donald Trump became more likely.

For his part, Sanders has been unwavering on the priorities he feels any future president should undertake.

Since the self-described Democratic socialist announced his 2020 presidential bid in February of 2019 his raison d'être throughout the campaign has been the support of the working class and policies centered around those efforts.

He is the chief proponent of Medicare for All-- his signature plan which would establish a single-payer system and eliminate private insurance. In June, Sanders unveiled a plan to cancel $1.6 trillion in student loan debt and to make all public colleges and trade schools tuition free and he is also a proponent of raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.

While campaigning, the senator targeted Biden over the former vice president's 1993 vote in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the 2000 vote to approve permanent normal trade relations with China and his 2003 vote in favor of the Iraq War. Sanders has argued that these positions could cost Biden votes in a general election with blue-collar workers and young voters.

Roots of a revolution

From its inception, his campaign aimed to build upon the organizing network of his 2016 presidential primary run against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In that election cycle, however, he was able to eke out a surprising win against his opponent in the battleground state of Michigan -- a move which helped further propel what would ultimately become a heated showdown between the two candidates for the nomination.

Ultimately, he lost that nomination amid claims that the Democratic establishment weighed in heavily for Clinton.

In a CBS interview with Sanders about his campaign launch, Sanders was asked what will be different about this campaign than his 2016 run.

"We're going to win," Sanders said, "We are gonna also launch what I think is unprecedented in modern American history and that is a grassroots movement."

And for a while, it looked as if he might do just that.

Sanders raised more than $46.5 million in February alone and since launching his campaign in 2019, he received more than 8.7 million individual contributions. Sanders has said it was more “than any campaign has received at this point in a presidential election in the history of our country.”

He fared well in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshires before his momentum slowed finishing a distant second to Biden in South Carolina -- a win largely attributed to support among black voters. Sanders lost 10 of 14 states to Biden, including all the southern contests.

And as Biden emerged from Super Tuesday in an apparent sweep, moderate Democrats--including many former presidential contenders such as Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, California Sen. Kamala Harris, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and entrepreneur Andrew Yang -- coalesced behind the former vice president.

Sanders, whose strategy relied heavily on turnout, ultimately lost in Michigan a delegate-rich state he took in 2016. He did not win a single county in Florida and only one county in Illinois. In 2016, Sanders won nine counties in Florida and last cycle, Clinton narrowly eked out a win over Sanders, winning 23 of the state’s 102 counties along the state's edges, while Sanders ran up the score in the rural counties that made up the middle of the state.

As Sanders' losses mounted in the 2020 cycle, his ability to campaign in the traditional methods was further complicated amid the rapid spread of coronavirus and the need to nix mass gatherings such as rallies and rope lines, have staff telework and other changes.

Still, Sanders' virtual rallies and other digital events garnered millions of views.

Missed opportunities with some minority voters

Sanders' campaign, in latter contests, trailed in garnering support from black voters. Though, in places like Arizona, Sanders, who tended to appeal to younger voters, fared well with Hispanic voters -- a group with a disproportionate share of the population under 45 -- winning them by 45-27 percent over Biden.

The Sanders campaign was working to invigorate his efforts to reach African Americans and he had recently secured the endorsement of civil rights icon Rev. Jesse Jackson. The campaign also hired one of its surrogates, justice reform activist Phillip Agnew, to shore up organizing in black communities.

Sanders rolled out a policy proposal dubbed "The Reproductive Health Care and Justice for All" which aimed to tackle issues of access to reproductive health care and eliminate health disparities, namely black maternal mortality rates, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are three times higher for black women than for white women in the United States.

The Sanders campaign also overcame his own health crisis when he suffered a heart attack in Las Vegas in October. After uncertainty about if and at what pace he would be able to return to the campaign trail, Sanders returned to campaigning after a few weeks with a massive New York City rally announcing the endorsement of Ocasio-Cortez.

The path forward

Last month on ABC's This Week, Sanders characterized a potential brokered convention for a less-popular candidate as the undermining of the people's will.

"I want you to think about it for a moment. If we go into Milwaukee, into the Democratic Convention with a lead. Having won many, many states, having won the people's vote -- and that is reversed at the convention. How do you think people all over this country are going to feel?" he asked.

"Do you think, really, that will give us the unity? You talked about unity, we need unity. If you reject the candidate that has the most votes from the people and you win it through superdelegates and the Democratic establishment and the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, do you think you're going to have the energy and the excitement of the grassroots movement to defeat Donald Trump? I honestly don't think you will," he added.

For his part, Biden commended Sanders and his supporters, who he said have “changed the dialogue in America,” on issues like income inequality, universal health care, climate change and student loan debt. In a statement, Biden vowed that the movement Sanders started and has fought for will not end with his campaign, adopting the Vermont senator's campaign slogan “Not me, Us.”

"Bernie has done something rare in politics," Biden said. "He hasn’t just run a political campaign; he’s created a movement. And make no mistake about it, I believe it’s a movement that is as powerful today as it was yesterday. That’s a good thing for our nation and our future.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Sen. Kamala Harris appears on "Good Morning America," Jan. 21, 2019. - (Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC)(NEW YORK) -- California Sen. Kamala Harris, who ended her presidential bid late last year weighed in on President Trump's handling of the coronavirus saying the president is ultimately responsible for leading the nation at a time of unprecedented crisis.

"The buck stops with him. You know, here's the thing, this is a this is a moment of international crisis," Harris told the hosts of ABC's The View. "And this is where leaders must lead. The president of the United States was also the commander in chief in a moment of national crisis, which is that we have a public health pandemic that has led to an economic crisis. The president of the United States, the commander in chief must use the voice of that office in a way that is about speaking truth, embracing fact ....no matter how uncomfortable it may make people to hear"

Harris ended her historic effort to secure the Democratic nomination in December.

"I’ve taken stock and looked at this from every angle, and over the last few days have come to one of the hardest decisions of my life. My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue," the California lawmaker wrote in a letter to supporters at the time. "I’m not a billionaire. I can’t fund my own campaign. And as the campaign has gone on, it’s become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete. In good faith, I can’t tell you, my supporters and volunteers, that I have a path forward if I don’t believe I do. So, to you my supporters, it is with deep regret -- but also with deep gratitude -- that I am suspending my campaign today."

Harris had said she took a hard look at the campaign’s resources over the Thanksgiving holiday and made the decision after discussing the path forward with her family and senior aides, a senior Harris aide told ABC News. She ultimately endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president.

NEW: Sen. Kamala Harris tells @TheView that Bernie Sanders “is really an extraordinary leader” who “has the ability to think beyond what is and see what can be and I admire him for that.”

Sanders suspended his 2020 campaign today: https://t.co/FKrCZRuVjl pic.twitter.com/DqmuMkgus4

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) April 8, 2020

On Wednesday, Biden's last remaining rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, suspended his campaign.

Sanders' exit from the 2020 field all but assures that Biden will likely become the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

"I work in the senate with Bernie Sanders and of course I ran for president and was on that stage with him," she told the show's hosts "Bernie is really an extraordinary leader, one of the things that Bernie brought to not only the race but the national dialogue and discourse and was was this point about everyone having access to health care, and affordable health care and universal healthcare and Medicare for all and Bernie really pushed that conversation so that it became -actually consumed the majority of the conversations that were happening on the debate stage."

Of Biden, who she pushed on his past stances on desegregation busing policies earlier in the 2020 campaign, Harris said the two have cleared the air.

"I have a great deal of affection for him, and I believe that he is going to be an extraordinary president and the kind of President that we need at this moment, which is someone who has the ability to hold that office with a sense of dignity and a sense of kindness and empathy, but also address the challenges," she said.

She also demurred on questions about whether she is under consideration as a vice presidential running mate.

"So I know that conversation is taking place in the press and among pundits and I'm honored to even be considered," she said adding that her attention is focused on the congressional response to coronavirus' impact on Americans.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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.


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.


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.”

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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.


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.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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