May 15, 2017

Morning Joe co-hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough claimed Monday that President Trump's most trusted, talented spin doctor, Kellyanne Conway, secretly detested defending Trump on the campaign trail. Brzezinski alleged Conway would come on Morning Joe to "shill for Trump in extensive fashion and then she would get off the air, the camera would be turned off, the microphone would be taken off, and she would say 'bleh, I need to take a shower' because she disliked her candidate so much."

Scarborough added that Conway allegedly said: "This is just, like my summer in Europe. I'm just doing this for the money, I'll be off this soon." He clarified, "I don't know that she ever said 'I'm doing this for the money,' but 'this is just my summer vacation, my summer in Europe.' And basically, 'I'm gonna get through this.'"

The hosts also alleged Conway would refer to Trump as "my client" to distance herself from him after his lewd comments on the Access Hollywood tape became public. Watch below. Jeva Lange

8:28 a.m.

The United States Postal Service has warned that in Pennsylvania, some mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted this November.

In a July letter to Pennsylvania State Secretary Kathy Boockvar, USPS general counsel Thomas Marshall described the "risk that ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them," NBC News reports.

The USPS also described Pennsylvania's current deadlines as "incongruous with the Postal Service's delivery standards," per Axios. Voters in the swing state can request a mail-in ballot up to Oct. 27, and they have to be received by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, according to The Hill.

But officials in the state are looking to extend the deadline to receive mail-in ballots three days, with Boockvar raising concern in a court filing that "voters who apply for mail-in ballots in the last week of the application period and return their completed ballot by mail will, through no fault of their own, likely be disenfranchised," CNN reports.

The warning in Pennsylvania came just after President Trump in an interview cited his desire to prevent universal mail-in voting this November, noting that if the Postal Service doesn't get the funding that Democrats are seeking, "that means you can't have universal mail-in voting, because they're not equipped to have it." Brendan Morrow

8:22 a.m.

Newly installed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy met with President Trump in the Oval Office last week, before a contentious meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) about his controversial new policies at the U.S. Postal Service, The Washington Post reports. A few days later, DeJoy removed several top USPS officials, including two that oversaw day-to-day operations, and postal employees are now warning about the unexplained removal of vote-sorting machines.

Trump spokesman Judd Deere told the Post the Oval Office meeting was "congratulatory," because DeJoy took over the post on June 15, though "he declined to offer any other details." The measures enacted by DeJoy, a billionaire donor to Trump and other Republicans with significant financial interests in USPS competitors and contractors, have slowed mail delivery — a temporary "unintended consequences" of his cost-cutting measures, he told postal workers in a letter Thursday. DeJoy is also "in frequent contact with top Republican Party officials," the Post reports.

The reliability of the USPS is now an overtly political issue after Trump directly tied funding for the independent agency to his opposition to mail-in voting during the 2020 election. Democrats, who have insisted at least $10 billion be given to the USPS as part of a COVID-19 deal, "need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots," Trump told Fox Business on Thursday morning. "If they don't get those two items, that means you can't have universal mail-in voting because they're not equipped to have it." Trump later suggested he was using USPS funding as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Pelosi and Schumer.

USPS officials have repeatedly said the post office can handle the expected surge in mail-in ballots, The New York Times notes.

Trump has claimed baselessly and frequently that widespread mail-in voting will lead to significant fraud, and the Republican National Committee and conservative groups are spending tens of millions of dollars to fight mail-in voting expansion, before and after the election, the Post reports. "The president is afraid of the American people," Pelosi argued. "He's been afraid for a while, he knows that on the legit, it'd be hard for him to win, so he wants to put obstacles of participation." Peter Weber

6:36 a.m.

With just a few weeks before people start mailing in their ballots in the 2020 presidential election — probably — Democrat Joe Biden maintains his steady lead over President Trump. A Fox News poll released Thursday had Biden up 7 percentage points, 49 percent to 42 percent, more or less even with his 8 point lead in the July Fox News poll, though down from Biden's 12 point chasm in June. Pew Research Center registered an 8 point advantage for Biden in its own survey Thursday, 53 percent to 45 percent — and Biden's main selling point, it seems, is that he isn't Trump.

While 56 percent of Biden supporters said his main asset is that he isn't Trump, only 19 percent of Trump supporters said they were primarily voting against Biden. "This is very different from the 2016 presidential campaign, when opposition to the other candidate was among the top reasons given by supporters of both Trump and Hillary Clinton for their voting decisions," Pew notes.

Biden is viewed much more favorably than Trump in the Fox News poll: While Trump is 12 points underwater — 55 percent unfavorable, 43 percent favorable — Biden's favorability rating is 53 percent versus 43 percent unfavorable. In both polls, Trump holds a narrow lead on the economy but lags Biden on all other issues.

The Fox News poll found 54 percent of voters saying the federal government failed to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak seriously enough and 85 percent are concerned about its spread. "But inside the White House, Trump's top political aides are increasingly assured about their response — feeling like they're finally getting a handle on how to fight the disease," Politico reports. "As the crippling crisis turns toward heading into a third season, an alternate reality is taking shape inside the White House even in the face of spiking case counts, long lags in test processing, and a COVID-19 death toll that regularly tops 1,000 Americans a day."

Both polls are in line with other national surveys of the race: RealClearPolitics shows Biden with an average 7.4-point lead, while FiveThirtyEight has him beating Trump by 8.1 points. The Fox News poll was conducted Aug. 9-12 among 1,000 registered voters nationwide contacted by phone. Its margin of sampling error is ± 3 percentage points. Pew surveyed 9,114 registered voters July 27 to Aug. 2, and its margin of sampling error is ± 1.5 points. Peter Weber

5:15 a.m.

Stephen Colbert was tickled by Michael Cohen's surprise bombshell about working for President Trump, especially the part about the "golden showers in a sex club in Vegas," he said on Thursday's Late Show. "I'm sure Donald Trump would rather talk about his love life in the splash zone than how badly he has shanked the global pandemic," but he spent most of Wednesday evening's "coronavirus press briefing laser-focused on the pandemic threatening America: mail-in voting."

"Trump despises mail-in voting — and just regular voting, too — because he's way behind in the polls and he knows that, due to the pandemic, tens of millions of us will have to vote by mail," Colbert said. "So after three years spent damaging everything from international relationships to ethical norms to the Department of Justice, Trump's coming after something people actually care about: He's destroying the Post Office." Trump admitted as much, and confirmed his self-serving motive, in a Fox Business interview Thursday morning, he added. "You're not supposed to say the cheating part out loud!"

"I've never seen a villain give away a plan like that without seeing James Bond tied to a chair in front of him," Trevor Noah agreed on The Daily Show. "This is insane. Trump got impeached for trying to secretly rig the election, and his response" is to rig it out in the open? "If Trump gets his way, they're going to have to change all the 'I Voted' stickers to end in a question mark," he joked darkly. "I Voted?"

Yes, "he just admitted that he's not agreeing to a deal to fund the Postal Service because he doesn't want mail-in voting to be possible for the election," Jimmy Fallon recapped at The Tonight Show. "Trump's like one of those movie villains who spends so much time explaining his plan out loud that the good guy manages to shimmy out of his handcuffs." He actually spent most of his Fox Business interview "attacking different women," he added. "'Mad woman,' 'not smart,' and 'stone-cold crazy.' ... At this point, our best shot at getting Trump attacking COVID is someone telling him the virus ovulates."

"He called Kamala Harris a 'mad woman'?" James Corden asked on The Late Late Show. "In Trump's defense, it's probably hard for him to tell when women are really mad, given that this is how his wife smiles." Watch below. Peter Weber

2:50 a.m.

"Symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased considerably in the United States during April–June of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report released Friday. Just over 40 percent of respondents in a June 24-30 survey reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, ranging from anxiety disorder to increased substance use to cope with the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And 10.7 percent of respondents reported having seriously considered suicide over the previous 30 days because of the pandemic. That's a high number, but it was especially prevalent among certain groups.

For example, 25.5 percent of young adults age 18 to 24 said they had considered suicide in June, versus 16 percent of respondents age 25-44 and 3.8 percent of those 45 to 64. Other groups with high rates of suicidal ideation included essential workers (21.7 percent), people with less than a high school diploma (30 percent), Black (15.1 percent) and Hispanic (18.6 percent) respondents — 7.9 percent of white respondents said they had considered suicide — and unpaid adult caregivers (32.9 percent). Men (12.6 percent) were more likely to have considered suicide than women (8.9 percent).

"Community-level intervention and prevention efforts, including health communication strategies, designed to reach these groups could help address various mental health conditions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic," the CDC suggested. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, for those needing help, is 1-800-273-8255. Peter Weber

2:05 a.m.

Newly installed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a large donor to President Trump and other Republicans, has made controversial changes at the U.S. Postal Service right before it is called on to handle a surge in mail-in ballots, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has some concerns about the resulting service delays.

"I write to request that you promptly address the delays in mail delivery that have occurred following recent operational changes at the United States Postal Service (USPS)," Collins said in a letter to DeJoy on Thursday, released soon after Trump laid out his opposition to funding for the USPS that Collins supports. "Following these operational changes," she wrote, "Mainers are experiencing delays in delivery of needed prescriptions, personal protective equipment, such as masks, and payments sent through the mail. While I support efforts to improve the USPS's financial condition, I am concerned that the reported changes will have the opposite effect, reducing service to the public and driving away customers."

Along with slashing overtime and removing mail-sorting machines, DeJoy removed two of the top USPS officials in charge of day-to-day operations and reassigned 23 other postal executives. He has portrayed them as cost-cutting measures. The USPS has lost money since 2006, when Congress — with support from Collins — passed a law making the Postal Service set aside billions of dollars for future benefit payments. The pandemic has made its financial situation worse.

House Democrats have approved $25 billion to help the USPS stay solvent during the pandemic, and Collins co-sponsored a similar measure in the Senate, "but few other Republicans seem to be on board and the bill has not progressed so far," the Bangor Daily News reports. Collins faces her toughest re-election fight in November; a Bangor Daily News poll released Tuesday showed her challenger, state Rep. Sara Gideon (D), ahead by 8 percentage points. Peter Weber

1:06 a.m.

Welcome to the "K-shaped" recovery.

The U.S. stock market has recovered most of its sharp losses since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. economy in February, housing prices are reaching new highs, and "jobs are fully back for the highest wage earners," The Washington Post reports, citing an analysis of Labor Department data by Opportunity Insights. "But fewer than half the jobs lost this spring have returned for those making less than $20 an hour," the federal supplemental unemployment checks keeping the jobless afloat have run out with no deal on the horizon, small businesses are shutting down nationwide, and lower-income renters are facing a wave of evictions.

"This has been a very clear K-shaped recovery," economist Peter Atwater at the College of William & Mary tells the Post. "The biggest and wealthiest have been on a clear path toward recovery. Meanwhile, for most small businesses and those worst off, things have only become worse. The contrast is piercing: One group feels better than ever while the other borders on hopelessness."

Employment for those making $14 an hour or less is still 20 percent below pre-pandemic levels, Opportunity Insights found, and Labor Department data shows that Black workers have recovered only about 20 percent of the jobs they lost during COVID-19, versus 40 percent for white men and 45 percent for white women. Households with children have also been disproportionately hit by the recession, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found, especially single parents, 23.2 percent of whom lost their jobs during the pandemic.

President Trump has focused on the "tremendous" rebound on Wall Street. "We're in the middle of a pandemic and yet we're going to be hitting records," he told Fox Business on Thursday. The stock market recovery is driven mostly by Big Tech firms like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook, whose huge market values "carry the most weight in the S&P 500," The Associated Press notes. "The corner bars, the family restaurants, the hair salons, and other small businesses across the U.S. that are teetering or closing for good aren't listed on the stock market."

In fact, former Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn tweeted, "the stock market continues to reflect big businesses increasing their market share during #COVID19. If a small business closes, a larger business fills the void. We need to contemplate what this means for Main Street USA going forward. Is this really the future we want?" Peter Weber

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