May 9, 2019

President Trump is having second thoughts about "his administration's aggressive strategy in Venezuela," complaining to aides and advisers that "he was misled about how easy it would be to replace the socialist strongman," President Nicolás Maduro, with opposition leader Juan Guaidó, The Washington Post reports. "The president's dissatisfaction has crystallized around National Security Adviser John Bolton and what Trump has groused is an interventionist stance at odds with his view that the United States should stay out of foreign quagmires."

Officially, U.S. policy in Venezuela is the same, and last week's failed effort to oust Maduro has "effectively shelved serious discussion of a heavy U.S. military response," and "Trump is now not inclined to order any sort of military intervention in Venezuela," the Post reports, citing current and former officials and outside advisers. Instead, the U.S. is settling in to wait out Maduro on the expectation he will fall on his own, with the help of U.S. sanctions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin "is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he'd like to see something positive happen for Venezuela," Trump said last week, after a 90-minute phone call with Putin. "And I feel the same way. We want to get some humanitarian aid." U.S. officials say Russia is deeply involved in backing Maduro.

Trump has suggesting bombing or invading Venezuela as early as 2017, and he is reportedly more comfortable with his administration's similarly hawkish and interventionist policy toward Iran. And "despite Trump's grumbling that Bolton had gotten him out on a limb on Venezuela, Bolton's job is safe," the Post reports, citing two senior administration officials, "and Trump has told his national security adviser to keep focusing on Venezuela." Read more at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

11:53 a.m.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Tuesday that he tested positive for the coronavirus after developing mild symptoms, including a fever. He said the fever has subsided and that he's feeling "well, normal."

Bolsonaro has remained one of the biggest outliers among world leaders when it comes to the pandemic. He's frequently downplayed the risk of the virus, describing it as a "little cold," while often joining large crowds of his supporters and, on occasion, attending gatherings without wearing a mask. On a national level he has pushed back against efforts to shut down aspects of the country's economy.

Meanwhile, Brazil has emerged as one of the world's leading hot spots. More than 65,000 people in the world's sixth most populous nation have died from COVID-19 complications, while more than 1.5 million have been infected with the virus. Those numbers only reflect the confirmed cases, however — experts believe the true toll is much higher, with some accusing the government of hiding the data. Tim O'Donnell

11:23 a.m.

President Trump has some unfounded complaints about the media fueled by some unfounded interpretations of what recent COVID-19 numbers mean.

In a Tuesday tweet, Trump shared a headline from the conservative news outlet The Washington Times that reported a "tenfold decrease" in death rates from COVID-19, and claimed the U.S. now has the "lowest mortality rate in the world." Trump then complained that "the fake news" wasn't reporting "these most important of facts," seemingly unaware that the number doesn't indicate coronavirus victory.

As it turns out, news outlets Trump has called "fake" were reporting on America's sinking mortality rate long before Trump tweeted his complaint. CNN fact-checked Trump's claim by noting data from Johns Hopkins puts the U.S.'s coronavirus mortality rate at 4.5 percent as of Monday morning, the sixth highest rate in the world.

And while it's true that the mortality rate has fallen dramatically as of late, The Washington Post reports that's not exactly a good thing. Mortality rate is the percentage of those who've died compared to cases as a whole, meaning more positive tests, especially among young people, will only drive the death rate down. Also worth noting is that death is far from the only consequence of COVID-19, and it's not the only factor we should use to determine if the U.S. is actually a world leader in beating COVID-19. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:17 a.m.

Did some small businesses get shut out of the initial Payroll Protection Program pool by mistake?

Axios' Dan Primack raised the idea Tuesday while breaking down the Treasury Department's disclosure process Monday. The names of 660,000 small businesses that received loans of at least $150,000 from the program to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic were released, but several companies on the list said they never even applied for one.

Reporters caught a few of these potential data errors, but Axios notes they only called a tiny percentage of the businesses on the lengthy list. If the error rate is representative of the larger sample, that raises questions about how many loans actually went out, leaving open the possibility that small businesses that didn't make the cut — and subsequently had to close shop or lay off employees — because the initial funds were supposedly exhausted actually should have been able to get the assistance they needed.

The Treasury Department hasn't explained the disclosure mistakes yet, and it's possible there's nothing more to it, but Axios suggests a full audit will be needed to pinpoint the problem. Read more at Axios. Tim O'Donnell

10:42 a.m.

America's dad is continuing his push for "common sense" during the coronavirus pandemic.

Tom Hanks spoke to Today on Tuesday morning in his first live TV interview since he and his wife, Rita Wilson, recovered from COVID-19 earlier this year. The actor reflected on his experience having "crippling crackling body aches" and compared the pandemic to World War II, another time when Americans were called upon to do their part.

"There was a sensibility [during World War II] that permeated all of society, which was, do your part," he said. "We're all in this together."

Hanks went on to say that the idea of similarly doing your part during the pandemic by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands "should be so simple."

"It's such a small thing," he said. "It's a mystery to me how somehow that has been wiped out of what should be ingrained in the behavior of us all. Simple things. Do your part."

While Hanks observed that "a huge majority of Americans get it," he decried the "ignorance" of those who don't.

"There is a darkness on the edge of town here, folks," he said. "Let's not confuse the fact: it's killing people. ... I don't know how common sense has somehow been put in question in regards to this."

Hanks previously called out those who don't do their part during the pandemic by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing their hands, saying, "If anybody cannot find it in themselves to practice those three very basic things – I just think shame on you." Brendan Morrow

10:11 a.m.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals is still conducting trials on its double-antibody cocktail for COVID-19, but the company will have a head start on distribution should the Food and Drug Administration grant an emergency use authorization for the potential treatment.

Regeneron on Tuesday said the U.S. government signed a $450 million dollar contract with the company to make and supply the cocktail — which consists of two human antibodies binding "non-competitively to the receptor binding domain of the virus' spike protein" hindering its ability "to escape treatment" — as part of "Operation Warp Speed," the initiative aimed at accelerating the development of and access to coronavirus vaccines and treatments during the pandemic.

Pending FDA approval, Regeneron said it expects somewhere between 70,000 and 300,000 treatment doses or 420,000 to 1.3 million prevention doses, with the initial batch ready to go as early as the end of the summer. If that's the case, the government has reportedly committed to making the doses available to Americans at no cost and would be responsible for their distribution. Read more at CNBC. Tim O'Donnell

9:41 a.m.

Democrats have a good chance of reclaiming the Senate this fall if fundraising numbers are any indicator of success.

Challengers to incumbent Republican senators have posted huge gains in the second fundraising quarter, FEC numbers released in the last two days show. Topping that list is Jaime Harrison, who more than doubled his first quarter haul to bring in $13.9 million in his bid to unseat Sen. Lindsey Graham in South Carolina.

Harrison, the former chair of South Carolina's Democratic Party, raised $7.36 million in the first fundraising quarter of the year to Graham's $3.9 million at that time. Graham hasn't shared his Q2 numbers yet, but has still raised more money in total than Harrison. The Cook Political Report predicts Graham will likely retain his seat.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock meanwhile more than doubled his Q1 fundraising haul to bring in $7.7 million as he challenges Sen. Steve Daines (R). Sara Gideon, challenging Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), brought in $2 million more than Q1 for a total of $9 million. And Cal Cunningham, who's looking to replace Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), set a state record by bringing in $7.4 million.

Democrats need to gain four seats to take the majority in the Senate this fall. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:27 a.m.

The Trump administration has often said it would sniff out leakers within its own ranks to no avail. But this time, Politico reports, the White House seems more determined than usual.

Per Politico, the administration has opened an internal investigation to figure out who leaked intelligence about Russia allegedly offering bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. Some of the anger about the leak may have to do with the fact that the information was highly-classified, but the bombshell report also sparked backlash against President Trump for failing to address the issue. The White House responded by denying Trump was ever briefed on the intelligence, which only led to more criticism.

After a series of interviews, the administration reportedly believes it's narrowed down the list to fewer than 10 people who had access to the intelligence. The White House maintains the story was overblown and the report itself is far from conclusive, although follow-up reporting provided further evidence that the bounties were real. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

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