April 25, 2019

President Trump has offered a not-so-warm welcome to his possible 2020 opponent.

After former Vice President Joe Biden officially announced his presidential campaign on Thursday, Trump wasted little time in going on the offensive, tweeting that it has long been in doubt whether Biden has the intelligence to wage a successful primary campaign.

Once again, Trump also used the nickname "Sleepy Joe" and warned Biden the 2020 race will be nasty because he'll be "dealing with people who truly have some very sick and demented ideas."

In the months leading up to Biden's announcement, Trump viewed him as his "most formidable" potential opponent, Politico reported in February. But Trump's aides have reportedly assured him that Biden isn't a threat and probably won't make it through the Democratic primaries. Trump has said publicly that he would love to run against Biden, saying in 2018 that doing so would be "a dream."

Biden in his announcement video on Thursday went directly after Trump for his response to the 2017 Charlottesville protests, saying that if Trump is re-elected, "he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation." Brendan Morrow

10:06 a.m.

"On the domestic front, I have not yet witnessed something I've been happy about," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Politico in an interview, referring to the Biden administration's policy choices. But when it comes to Myanmar, the Southeast Asian nation which has recently been rocked by a military coup and subsequent nationwide pro-democracy protests, "[the administration's] instincts are good. I think they're trying to do the right thing."

As it turns out the White House feels the same way about McConnell, who has been invested in Myanmar's fate for decades. Because of his experience championing democratic efforts in the country and his relationship with ousted and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the White House is relying on McConnell, normally a political adversary, to help shape its Myanmar policy. McConnell's heavy involvement has helped the Biden administration "create a united front with lawmakers in both parties" on the issue, Politico reports, and he's getting some rare praise from top administration officials in response.

"Senator McConnell has played an important leadership role promoting an immediate return to democracy in Burma (Myanmar's other name), ensuring those responsible for the coup and the devastating violence against civilians are held to account, and standing firmly with the people of Burma as they peacefully resist military oppression," National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told Politico. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

10:04 a.m.

Regeneron's antibody cocktail could effectively provide "immediate protection to unvaccinated people," the company said Monday.

Regeneron announced that in a phase 3 trial, its monoclonal antibody cocktail protected against COVID-19 among people who were living with someone infected with the coronavirus, The New York Times reports.

This trial consisted of 1,505 people who lived in the same household as a person who tested positive for COVID-19 within the previous four days, and the antibody cocktail reduced the risk of symptomatic COVID-19 by 81 percent. Regeneron says it will ask the FDA to expand the emergency use authorization given to the antibody cocktail, which is now used for high-risk people infected with COVID-19.

"These antibodies may be particularly useful in individuals who are not yet vaccinated, and may also have potential in those who are immunosuppressed and may not respond well to vaccines," Dan Barouch, the trial's co-principal investigator, said.

Regeneron Chief Scientific Officer George Yancopoulos also said the antibody cocktail "may help provide immediate protection to unvaccinated people who are exposed to the virus." This study was the newest evidence suggesting that drugs of this kind "not only prevent the worst outcomes of the disease when given early enough, but also help prevent people from getting sick in the first place," the Times wrote, while The Wall Street Journal noted the Regeneron drug could "provide temporary stopgap protection as people await vaccines."

Myron Cohen, one of the lead investigators of the study, also pointed out to Stat News that it's a "really, really big deal" that the Regeneron study administered the antibody drug via an injection, as needing to start an IV to use such antibody drugs has "unequivocally" been a barrier. Brendan Morrow

8:00 a.m.

Joseph Siravo, the actor who starred as Tony Soprano's father on The Sopranos, has died at 64.

Siravo died following a battle with cancer, his co-star Garry Pastore confirmed on social media, according to The Hollywood Reporter and Variety.

"RIP my dear friend, who fought an incredible fight," Pastore wrote on Instagram. "I will miss you. See you on the other side."

In addition to Johnny Soprano on HBO's The Sopranos, Siravo's other roles included Ron Goldman's father Fred Goldman on The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story, and he starred in films like Carlito's Way, which served as his screen debut. Outside of film and television, Siravo had a successful theater career starring in shows like Jersey Boys, Oslo, and The Light in the Piazza. He was also "highly regarded" as an acting teacher in New York, Variety writes.

"Joe was an excellent actor and a wonderful guy and he will be missed dearly," The Sopranos star Michael Imperioli wrote on Instagram. "His performance of Johnny Boy Soprano was spot on and he also made a perfect John Gotti in Nick Sandow's The Wannabe. In my opinion he was the best of all the actors who've played the Teflon Don. Farewell Joe. Until the next life my friend." Brendan Morrow

7:12 a.m.

President Biden is preparing to nominate a slate of ambassadors, and among them will be Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and a key Biden backer in Arizona last year, Politico reports. McCain is being vetted as the U.S. envoy to the United Nations Food Programme in Rome, a "coveted ambassador post in Western Europe in what would be his administration's first Republican appointee to a Senate-confirmed position," Politico says.

McCain, 66, has worked on global food scarcity and hunger issues, including collaborating with the World Food Programme in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Georgia. The three presidents before former President Donald Trump all appointed at least one member of the other party to their Cabinet, and Biden has not resumed that tradition. The Arizona Republican Party censured McCain in January, along with former Sen. Jeff Flake (R) and Gov. Doug Ducey (R), for insufficient fealty to Trump. Biden won Arizona in November, becoming the first Democrat to do so since 1996. Peter Weber

6:21 a.m.

President Biden signed an executive order Feb. 4 revoking the historically low cap on refugees and other related restrictions put in place by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, and pledged to raise that limit to 125,000 a year. But he "has yet to do one thing that would make all of those changes official: sign what is known as a presidential determination," The Washington Post reported Sunday. Until he does, Trump's cap of 15,000 refugees in the 2020-21 fiscal year will remain in place.

In a report released Friday, the humanitarian nonprofit International Rescue Committee said Biden is on track to admit the fewest number of refugees of any modern president, including Trump. In its first two and a half months, the Biden administration has admitted 2,050 refugees, the IRC said, and without a change in policy, that will result in just 4,510 refugees this fiscal year.

Biden's effort to sharply raise the number of refugees resettled in the U.S. is supposed to take effect in "the first full fiscal year of the Biden-Harris administration," which begins in October. Biden "also intends to propose a raise in refugee admissions for this fiscal year, after appropriate consultation with Congress," the White House said in its Feb. 4 fact sheet.

Refugee advocacy groups have "deep concern" about Biden's delay in ramping up refugee resettlement, said Nazanin Ash, the IRC's vice president for global policy and advocacy, and "tens of thousands of already cleared refugees" are stuck "in uncertain limbo." Biden's fiscal 2021-22 budget calls for large increases in refugee resettlement funds, but "refugee advocates say those in limbo often cannot afford to wait weeks, let alone months, until the next fiscal year," the Post reports.

At Friday's White House press briefing, a reporter noted that Biden hasn't formally signed the paperwork on refugees and asked if he's "still committed to raising that cap to 62,500 by this fiscal year." White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said yes, "the president remains committed to raising the cap." Peter Weber

4:41 a.m.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) may have only briefly figured in the cold open of this week's Saturday Night Live, but he was the lead story on "Weekend Update" again. "Matt Gaetz, who looks like all the dudes from American Pie combined, reportedly sent $900 on Venmo to an alleged sex trafficker, who then forwarded that same exact amount to three young women in payments labeled 'tuition' and 'school' — which, if true, would make him the only congressman actually helping with student loans," joked anchor Colin Jost.

"But at least Gaetz is taking the allegations seriously," Jost added. "That's why yesterday he spoke at the Women for America First summit — which was a nice change to see women pay for an hour with Matt Gaetz." The best part was when Gaetz boasted of the support he's getting from former President Trump and GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (Ga.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio), he said. "Oh no, did he think those were good character references? Who was next on his list, the ghost of Jeffrey Epstein?"

Jost also pointed to President Biden's order to regulate make-at-home gun kits. "Remember how frustrated and angry you get assembling a dresser? Now imagine at the end of that you had a gun," he said. "Also, I gotta say, it's weird seeing a guy who's basically doing a Clint Eastwood impression be pro-gun control. I mean, look at him, you could put him into Gran Torino and no one would know the difference."

Jost and co-anchor Michael Che also interviewed the unrepentant iceberg that sank the Titanic (Bowen Yang), but all the iceberg wanted to talk about was his new album. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:53 a.m.

"Nursing homes, and long-term care in general, are something that we tend to try to avoid thinking about, but the truth is, whether due to old age or disability, many of us do — or will — require help with daily living," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "For the rich, there are plenty of options," but "the vast majority of people receive long-term care at home," not retirement palaces with $200 Versace plates.

About 80 percent of home care is provided by unpaid caregivers, typically family members trying to keep their loved ones out of institutional care. But "taking care of someone at home can be an incredibly complicated full-time job that is almost always unpaid," Oliver said. "In fact, in terms of lost wages, the labor of family caregivers totals about $67 billion annually," or roughly the GDP of Bulgaria.

There are more than 2 million people in long-term care facilities, though, and that 0.63 percent of the U.S. population accounts for about 33 percent of COVID-19 deaths, Oliver noted. "The truth is, COVID just exposed what we've basically known for years: that the way the elderly and disabled are treated in far too many of these facilities is with, at best, indifference, and at worst abuse and neglect. So tonight let's talk about long-term care: how the industry is structured, how that structure creates bad incentives, and what we can do going forward."

There are different issues depending on whether you are underserved on Medicaid or inappropriately over-treated on Medicare — for the short period Medicare covers nursing home care, at least, Oliver said. But partly because of the myriad problems at both kinds of facilities, 90 percent of people 65 and older want to stay in their homes for as long as possible, something Medicaid generally doesn't cover. There are bills to fix that, and President Biden's infrastructure plan would help a lot, he said, "but we do need to do something, and it all starts with showing we give a sh-t about what happens to the elderly and people with disabilities in this country. Because right now, evidence points to the fact that we absolutely don't, and all the other problems are stemming from that." There is some off-color language, disturbing tales, and one Andrew Cuomo joke. Peter Weber

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