February 15, 2017

Shortly after President Trump slammed the "failing" New York Times for its report on Trump campaign aides' alleged contact with Russian intelligence officers, NBC News editor Bradd Jaffy pointed out that the reporter who broke that story was the same guy behind the report revealing Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email address during her tenure as secretary of state. As it turns out, The New York Times' Michael S. Schmidt was behind both the Clinton story in March 2015, and the equally damning Trump story published Tuesday night:

Jaffy's observation seems to undermine Trump's argument that the Times' story about his campaign aides was "merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's campaign." Surely Trump didn't mind when Schmidt's reporting was taking aim at Clinton. Becca Stanek

9:02 p.m.

President Trump is actively "undermining" the guidelines developed by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Olivia Troye, Vice President Mike Pence's former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, told Andrea Mitchell in an interview that aired during Tuesday's NBC Nightly News.

This was made clear in June, Troye said, when Trump held a rally in Tulsa. Before resigning in July, Troye was a member of the task force, and she said staffers were "scared" to attend the rally because they knew people wouldn't be social distancing. The event was held inside and Trump didn't wear a mask, but none of this surprised Troye. "He's not actually looking out for you," she said. "He's not looking out for these people. He's not looking out for them. He just wants you in that audience so he can have the camera shot of ... his fanfare and the people around him. But the truth is, he's putting those lives at risk."

It was "very challenging" working on the task force, Troye said, because "suddenly the course of what we were doing had changed because that wasn't really what the president wanted. It's very hard when you're trying to actually base things on facts and science and on the data to have a president that wasn't focused on that." Instead, Trump was "really focused on public image, messaging, and it was really more about ... his personal agenda than really the agenda that the task force had at hand, which was how are we going to save and protect Americans."


A lifelong Republican, Troye appeared in a video released last week by the Republican Voters Against Trump organization, which revealed that she is voting for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. In the ad, Troye said Trump "doesn't actually care about anyone else but himself," and once stated that COVID-19 was "a good thing" because he didn't like "shaking hands with people. I don't have to shake hands with these disgusting people."

The White House has accused Troye of being disgruntled, and Pence's national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, said on Tuesday he "fired her" and claimed what "she has said, I have never heard." On Twitter, Troye said Kellogg "is telling a bald faced lie to protect the president. I resigned on my own accord & was asked to stay. He never escorted me out. He knows this. I wrote a note thanking all the colleagues who had worked so hard with me in spite of POTUS & I stand by that." Catherine Garcia

7:44 p.m.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced on Tuesday during a virtual fundraiser that Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), will endorse him.

Biden said McCain decided to make her support public after The Atlantic and other news organizations reported that President Trump called U.S. soldiers who died in combat "suckers" and "losers;" Trump has denied making these comments. Prior to McCain's death in 2018, Trump declared he was "no hero," saying of the former Vietnam prisoner of war, "I like people who weren't captured."

Biden and McCain served together in the Senate, and during August's Democratic National Convention, Cindy McCain made an appearance, discussing their friendship. She won't be the only person close to McCain to throw their support behind Biden — last month, dozens of former McCain staffers, including many who worked on his failed 2008 presidential bid, signed a letter saying they are backing Biden. Arizona is a crucial battleground state, and pundits note that her endorsement could give Biden an edge with undecided independent voters. Catherine Garcia

7:01 p.m.

Now a tropical depression, Beta is stalled over the Texas coast, hovering about 40 miles north of Port O'Connor with maximum sustained winds of 30 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Beta made landfall as a tropical storm late Monday night, about five miles north of Port O'Connor. As of Tuesday evening, it is moving east-northeast at 5 mph, and by the end of this week, Beta is expected to move over Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

Forecasters are worried there could be extensive flooding in the Houston area, and some parts have already seen up to 14 inches of rain, the National Hurricane Center said. Since Monday evening, fire officials in Houston have conducted nearly 100 water rescues from city roads, The Associated Press reports, and residents are being asked to stay home.

"Your sedan is not a submarine," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said. "Your minivan is not magical. So stay off the roads right now. Your destination is not worth your life. It's not worth the life of the first responder that's going to have to come and rescue you if you drive into high water and are stuck there." Catherine Garcia

5:37 p.m.

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) are both in jeopardy of losing their re-election bids, and polls show President Trump is also struggling in Maine and Colorado, so it seems like the GOP's platform isn't registering in the two states. Still, there's hope among Republicans that voters will split their tickets between the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, and down-ballot Republicans. But, Peter Nicholas writes for The Atlantic, that's fading as the GOP pushes to confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee as swiftly as possible.

In Nicholas' view, Collins, Gardner, and others would likely get a boost if Trump put off the nomination, allowing the winner of the presidential contest to make the selection. At the very least, he writes, he could announce the nominee during the lame-duck period, meaning senators wouldn't have to cast polarizing votes before their elections. (Collins said she won't vote for the nominee because it's an election year, while Gardner said he's prepared to approve Trump's unnamed nominee.)

As things stand, both those scenarios are unlikely, which has some Republican advocates worried they'll lose crucial down-ballot votes. "I need suburban women to be ticket splitters, and I can't lose them as ticket splitters," Sarah Chamberlain, the CEO of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership, told The Atlantic. "If we don't handle this correctly as a party, we're going to have a problem."

While there's a sense Trump is willing to abandon senators like Gardner and Collins, some analysts think Trump is also being left out to dry — by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Read more at The Atlantic. Tim O'Donnell

5:16 p.m.

The city of Louisville, Kentucky, is seemingly preparing for uproar after a update in Breonna Taylor's case.

Police shot and killed Taylor in March while serving a no-knock warrant at the wrong apartment, later sparking protests in Louisville and around the country. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is expected to deliver an update on the case soon, prompting Louisville's mayor and police department to seemingly prepare for more protests this week, the Louisville Courier Journal reports.

Police first started blocking access to downtown Louisville and setting up no-parking zones on Monday, prompting downtown businesses to start boarding their windows. The Louisville Metro Police Department also canceled vacation and time off requests for officers for the indefinite future. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer bolstered those moves on Tuesday, using an executive order to block on-street parking downtown and shut down five parking garages. A second executive order implemented a state of emergency in the city.

Fischer and the LMPD's interim chief insisted Tuesday they don't know when the results of the state's investigation into Taylor's killing will come out. Cameron denied a report earlier that month that he was ready to present his findings to a grand jury.

The city of Louisville announced a $12 million wrongful death settlement with Taylor's family last week. Taylor's mother Tamika Palmer renewed calls for the arrest of the officers involved in Taylor's death in a press conference after the settlement. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:26 p.m.

The Food and Drug Administration is poised to roll out new, rigorous standards for an emergency approval for a coronavirus vaccine, The Washington Post reports.

The standards, which appear to be an example of the agency's efforts to increase public trust amid the politicization of vaccine development, could be unveiled as soon as this week and are expected to be much tougher than what was used for the controversial emergency clearances of potential COVID-19 treatments hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma, per the Post. Manufacturers will be asked to follow vaccine trial participants for at least two months after they receive their second shot, two individuals familiar with situation told the Post on condition of anonymity. The agency will also reportedly be looking for at least five severe COVID-19 cases in the placebo group for each trial, as well as some cases of the disease in older people to see if the vaccine works.

Given the new standards, plus the time it will take companies developing vaccine candidates to apply for an emergency use authorization and for the FDA to review the data, "it's hard to imagine how an EUA could possibly occur before December," Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and FDA vaccine advisory board member, told the Post.

That will likely allay at least some fears that the White House will try to push a vaccine out before the November election, although there are some people who think the FDA shouldn't grant an EUA for a vaccine at all since there'd still be less safety data required for approval than under normal circumstances. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

4:19 p.m.

Expect Halloween 2020 to look quite a bit different than we're used to.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidelines on celebrating Halloween during the COVID-19 pandemic, warning that many of the holiday's "traditional" activities "can be high-risk for spreading viruses." For one, the CDC lists "traditional trick-or-treating" as a higher-risk activity and recommends avoiding it. Other activities it says should be avoided this year include attending a crowded indoor costume party, going to a crowded indoor haunted house, and going on hayrides or tractor rides with people from outside your household.

However, the CDC lists some activities that are "lower risk" and can be "safe alternatives" for celebrating Halloween, including carving or decorating pumpkins either with those in your household or outside with others while practicing social distancing, as well as holding a "virtual Halloween costume contest." It also says that a "Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house" would be a lower-risk option.

Additionally, "one-way trick-or-treating" involving lining up goodie bags of treats so families can grab them while practicing social distancing is listed as a more "moderate risk" activity, as is going to an outdoor one-way haunted forest and having an outdoor costume party where masks are worn and social distancing is practiced. When it comes to dressing up, though, the CDC stresses that a mask you'd wear as part of a costume "is not a substitute for a cloth mask" and that a costume mask shouldn't be worn over a cloth mask.

This new guidance also touches on celebrations for upcoming holidays like Thanksgiving, warning that "large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household" should be avoided and that in general, "staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others." Brendan Morrow

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