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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has come under fire from far-right and ultra-conservative groups supporting Trump for what they perceive as efforts to undermine the president on the coronavirus pandemic, The New York Times reports. An emerging effort is underway to discredit the top infectious disease expert on Twitter and other social media platforms employing the hashtag #FauciFraud, which has been tweeted as much as 795 times a day, according to the Times. Groups point to a flattering email Fauci sent to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2013 as well as Democratic resistance to Trump's stated plan to prematurely end social distancing measures by Easter. Fauci's candid characterization of the difficulty in getting the president to understand the grave threat of the fast spreading coronavirus has drawn the ire of conservative groups such as Judicial Watch and the talk show YourVoiceAmerica.


In a signing statement, the president undermined a key safeguard Democrats had insisted upon as a condition of approving $500 billion in corporate relief in the $2 trillion law. read more


President Donald Trump again bashed the Democratic governors of Washington and Michigan on Friday, saying they "should be appreciative" of the federal government and that he's told Vice President Mike Pence -- who heads the White House's response to the coronavirus pandemic -- not to call them. read more


Friday, March 27, 2020

The White House chose the week the United States became the epicenter of a historic pandemic to virtually stop policing big polluters, privatize a bedrock federal food safety job, advance a mining road through a pristine swath of northern Alaska and revive a regulatory rollback so difficult to defend that the Trump administration abandoned the effort last year at the peak of a high-profile fight.

On Thursday afternoon, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would suspend enforcement of bedrock clean air and water laws, leaving the fossil fuel, chemical and agribusiness industries to police themselves amid a historic public health crisis.

Hours later, the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed a waiver allowing a private company to take over inspection duties at a Tyson Foods beef slaughterhouse.


On Thursday night, [Donald] Trump shifted blame for coronavirus's spread to Democratic governors, making it clear he recognizes little obligation to do all he can to avert a truly calamitous number of American deaths. Among the governors Trump singled out was Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. ... Whitmer recounted that the most recent delivery of masks, gowns, face shields and gloves from the federal government's national strategic stockpile that was earmarked for a Michigan hospital on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis -- in southeast Michigan -- was woefully short of what is needed. "With the exception of the gloves, that allotment is barely enough to cover one shift at that hospital," Whitmer said. "Not even a whole day's worth of shifts. One shift." read more


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"We need the product now," Andrew Cuomo, New York's Democratic governor, said on Sunday. "We have cries from hospitals around the state. I've spoken to governors around the country, and they're in the same situation."

The federal government could intervene using its authority under the Defense Production Act, a 1950 law that gives the president legal power over industrial production like Franklin D. Roosevelt had in World War II and Harry Truman wanted during the Korean War. But the decision to use that authority would have to come from President Donald Trump, and so far he has mostly resisted, saying the private sector is doing enough on its own.

An increasingly loud chorus of officials and public health experts disagree. They say the federal government needs to take more control over the production and supply of medical equipment and some wonder why Trump didn't take this action weeks ago when it could have had a much bigger impact.

What This 1950 Law Actually Does

Through a series of reauthorizations and executive actions, the Defense Production Act has evolved so that presidents can now use it for all kinds of crises, including natural disasters. In 2001, for example, President George W. Bush used some of its powers to make sure material for power generation and transmission got to California during a wave of blackouts.

In popular lore, the Defense Production Act lets the federal government commandeer factories so that they start churning out equipment for war or some other kind of emergency. But that's not quite how it works.

Instead, the law gives the president a set of narrow but powerful tools for organizing and increasing the production of goods necessary to address a national crisis.

These tools include emergency authority for the federal government to make purchases, or offer loan guarantees for purchasers, in order to create a demand for goods that manufacturers might not otherwise produce. This is precisely the sort of financial commitment that many experts have said would give industry incentive to ramp up production of the medical equipment in such short supply right now.

Under another part of the Defense Production Act, the president can issue a declaration that certain goods are essential, which gives federal contracts priority over other orders. This is precisely what Pritzker couldn't do when he was on the phone with that ventilator manufacturer.

The same provision also protects against price gouging, by allowing the federal government to insist that manufacturers sell goods at no more than the production cost plus a modest markup.

Even so, the prospect of giving the federal government more control over production ------ the corporate community and its allies. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have lobbied the Trump administration not to use the Defense Production Act, according to reports in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.


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