April 10, 2019

Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday said he believes the FBI spied on President Trump's 2016 campaign.

Barr while testifying before Congress was questioned about reports that he'll be launching an investigation into the origins of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Asked why he feels the need to do so, Barr said it's because he thinks "spying on a political campaign is a big deal."

When Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) asked if he's suggesting spying on the campaign occurred, Barr responded that yes, he "think[s] spying did occur." He said he hopes to get to the bottom of whether this surveillance was "predicated," although he's "not suggesting that it wasn't."

Trump and other Republicans have repeatedly claimed that law enforcement improperly obtained a FISA warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The warrant was obtained after Page left the Trump campaign, notes Politico's Kyle Cheney. Barr said Wednesday he believes there was "probably a failure among a group of leaders there in the upper echelon" and that he is not blaming the FBI as a whole, per The Washington Post.

Later, when asked to clarify what he means by spying, Barr said he's talking about "unauthorized surveillance," which The Atlantic's Natasha Bertrand observes may suggest he's "not talking about FISA warrants," since those are court-authorized. Barr also said he has "no specific evidence that I can cite right now" about wrongdoing by the FBI, per CNN's Manu Raju, but that "there is a basis for my concern." Brendan Morrow

12:06 p.m.

This might blow your mind, but indoor cats are technically in quarantine all the time. Anyway, Jennifer Garner and her three children were evidentially getting a little stir crazy earlier this week and decided to take their family cat for a walk. In a stroller.

"As someone who religiously checks Garner's Instagram feed for hilarious cooking adventures and fangirl ballet posts, I considered myself pretty in-the-know about Garner's pets, but this one got me," a baffled Marissa DeSantis wrote for The Evening Standard. Importantly, while they were out the family did not awkwardly run into the kids' dad (and Garner's ex) Ben Affleck, who lives in the same Los Angeles neighborhood and has been spending his time in quarantine taking daily PDA-filled walks with Ana de Armas.

Check out pictures of the family's fluffy friend out for a joyride at The Daily Mail. Jeva Lange

11:29 a.m.

The governor of Georgia seems to have been unaware until this week that the novel coronavirus can be spread by people without symptoms, something that is by no means new information.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) in a news conference on Wednesday, in which he announced a stay-at-home order for the state, pointed out that the COVID-19 coronavirus is "transmitting before people see signs" while wrongly suggesting this was not known until very recently.

"We've been telling people from directives from the CDC for weeks now that if you start feeling bad, stay home," Kemp said. "Those individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad. Well, we didn't know that until the last 24 hours."

In fact, health officials have been warning about this for quite some time. The Washington Post notes, for example, that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said as far back as Jan. 31 that it was at first "not clear whether an asymptomatic person could transmit it to someone while they were asymptomatic," but "now, we know from a recent report from Germany that that is absolutely the case." Brendan Morrow

11:05 a.m.

An alarming new report by The Wall Street Journal suggests that nearly one in three patients who are infected with COVID-19 receive incorrectly negative test results. "A false negative is problematic because it tells the patient they don't have the virus," Dr. Craig Deligdish explained to the paper.

The estimate about the incorrect results is based on limited data, but the implication that tests may be far from accurate is worrisome. As Deligdish observed, it means that people who've been reassured they are not contagious are likely going forth and spreading the disease to others.

Health care experts additionally told The Wall Street Journal that part of the problem with the tests is how fast they've been approved. "The thing that is different this time is most of these tests are going through a really rapid validation process," said Ohio State University epidemiologist Bill Miller. "As a result, we can't be completely confident in how they will perform." Other doctors have already picked up on the faulty results; in New York City, the center of the U.S. outbreak, "a negative is not clearing anybody who is symptomatic," one emergency room doctor said.

New guidelines to sick Americans asks that if you have coronavirus symptoms, assume you have COVID-19. "Research coming out of China indicates that the false-negative rate may be around 30 percent," writes The New York Times' Harlan M. Krumholz. "Some of my colleagues, experts in laboratory medicine, express concerns the false-negative rate in this country could be even higher."

Curiously, it doesn't seem to go the other way. The Times adds, "the tests appear to be highly specific: If your test comes back positive, it is almost certain you have the infection." Jeva Lange

11:00 a.m.

Elon Musk's ventilator giveaway may do more harm than good.

After weeks of brushing off the COVID-19 pandemic as "dumb," the billionaire Tesla founder earlier this week announced he had 1,000 "FDA-approved ventilators" and ended up donating 40 to New York City's hospital system. Except the devices Musk gave away aren't powerful enough to use in the ICU, and health officials have actually warned against using them on COVID-19 patients because they could spread the virus further.

What Musk purchased and gave to New York's hospitals were BiPAP machines made by ResMed, a photo shared by the hospital system reveals. ResMed CEO Mick Farrell later confirmed Musk's purchase of 1,000 5-year-old "bi-level, non-invasive ventilators" known as BiPAPs to CNBC, and said it was "fantastic" that Tesla could transport ResMed's product like it did.

But hospitals are far more desperate for ventilators more invasive than BiPAP and CPAP machines, which are usually used to treat sleep apnea — many doctors don't even call them "ventilators," the Los Angeles Times' Russ Mitchell reports. In fact, CPAP machines may have only helped spread COVID-19 through the nursing home outside Seattle that was the center of the U.S.'s initial coronavirus outbreak, NPR reports. These machines can "possibly increase the spread of infectious disease by aerosolizing the virus," NPR writes. Health officials in King County, Washington, have since warned against using CPAP machines on coronavirus patients, as did the American Society of Anesthesiologists back in February.

What would actually help, Farrell added to CNBC, is if Musk's Tesla could produce and donate lithium ion batteries — ResMed can use them to make invasive ventilators that hospitals actually need. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:36 a.m.

Actress Ali Wentworth, ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos' wife, has tested positive for COVID-19.

Wentworth revealed her diagnosis on Instagram, saying she has "never been sicker" and calling the illness "pure misery." She appeared in a video message on Good Morning America on Thursday, describing feeling "very winded" before she tested positive and experiencing tightness in her chest, as well as a fever.

"It feels like a really, really horrible flu," she explained, saying some of the things that have helped have been Tylenol, chicken soup, and hot baths.

Stephanopoulos on GMA said Wentworth was "doing ok" early this morning and that her fever was slightly down last night, although the symptoms have been going "in cycles" for her. Stephanopoulos also said he personally doesn't have symptoms and is "definitely being careful" while taking care of Wentworth, although he speculated about the potential that he, and many other New Yorkers, could have already contracted the coronavirus.

"At this point, it's just so hard to know," Stephanopoulos said. "So many of us in New York City are already presumed to have had it. Right now, I have no symptoms. ... But, you know, I wonder myself whether I already had maybe a mild version and just didn't even know it. There's no way to know right now." Brendan Morrow

10:34 a.m.

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the police and military to "shoot dead" any "troublemakers" who cause disturbances during the coronavirus quarantine in the Philippines, The Philippine Star reports. The move comes after protestors staged demonstrations over the lack of food and financial aid they've received from the government since the lockdown began in the country on March 17.

"I will not hesitate [to tell] my soldiers to shoot you. I will not hesitate to order the police to arrest and detain you," said Duterte in his address, adding: "Instead of causing trouble, I'll send you to the grave." The president is infamous for his alleged violations of human rights, previously drawing the fury of the international community over his order for vigilante hit squads to murder suspected drug dealers without due process.

Amnesty International condemned Duterte's new statements. "The abusive methods used to punish those accused of breaching quarantine and the vast number of mass arrests that have been carried out to date, against mainly poor people, are further examples of the oppressive approach the government takes against those struggling with basic needs," said the organization's local section director, Butch Olano.

The human rights NGO added that more than 17,000 people have already been arrested for violations of the lockdown and curfew in the Philippines, and that "reports have also appeared of inhumane punishments those breaching quarantine have been made to endure, including sitting for hours in the hot sun or being detained in dog cages." Jeva Lange

9:59 a.m.

The Secret Service signed an "emergency order" this week to rent $45,000-worth of golf carts in the town of Sterling, Virginia, where President Trump has a golf course, The Washington Post reports. The 30-cart fleet, which the Secret Service is renting through the end of September, was described as being necessary in order to protect a "dignitary," although the president was not explicitly referenced by name.

Surprisingly, while many nonessential businesses around the country have closed to prevent the spread of disease, Virginia's Trump National Golf Club remains open. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) allowed for golf courses to continue to operate so long as golfers keep a six-foot distance from others. The Virginia club is a favorite of the president's; he has visited it 76 times since taking office, most recently in October.

The Post notes that Trump has not played golf since March 8, when there were still only about 500 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and 21 deaths, most of which were concentrated at a nursing home in Washington State. In a statement, Secret Service spokesperson Cathy Milhoan clarified that the "emergency" contract referred specifically to "a need for expedited handling of the procurement due to deadlines within the agency's business processes." Read more at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange

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