September 24, 2019

The White House does not believe there's a way to block the whistleblower who lodged a complaint against President Trump from meeting with congressional investigators, and officials are now working on a deal to allow the person to speak with them, two people with knowledge of the matter told The New York Times on Tuesday.

The complaint is reportedly linked to a phone call Trump had in July with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump asked him multiple times to launch an investigation into the business dealings of Hunter Biden, the son of 2020 presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. After the complaint was filed in August, Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson marked it as being of "urgent concern," and passed it on to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire.

Under the law, Maguire was supposed to give the complaint to Congress, but he said he consulted with the Justice Department and was told the complaint was not under the DNI's jurisdiction and also didn't meet the definition of urgent concern. This is what led to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announcing on Tuesday afternoon that she has directed the House to open a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump.

The whistleblower's attorney sent Maguire a letter on Monday, saying his client wants to meet with lawmakers but needs the DNI's approval, the Times reports. Lawyers for the intelligence community have been speaking with White House and Justice Department officials to figure out the next steps, the Times says, so the whistleblower can discuss the complaint without worrying about executive privilege. A White House official told Politico that Trump has approved sending the complaint to Congress by the end of the week.

Earlier Tuesday, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) confirmed that the whistleblower's attorney says his client is ready to speak to the committee, and Schiff said he looks forward to "the whistleblower's testimony as soon as this week." Catherine Garcia

12:11 p.m.

Ford and General Motors, two longstanding titans of the American automobile industry, are working rapidly around the clock to produce potentially life-saving ventilators for patients suffering from the novel COVID-19 coronavirus, but there are two major issues that could render their attempts ineffective in the end, The Washington Post reports.

First, they may simply not have enough time. The companies are working fast, but they may not have started early enough. So, by the time they produce the necessary amount of ventilators, many places around the U.S. may have already experienced the peak of the pandemic, which is expected to come sometime in April. "Even though we are moving mountains ... and we are moving as fast as we can," said an auto executive involved with the process, "these herculean efforts might not be enough."

For example, the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates the U.S. will need 32,000 ventilators by mid-April. Ford is aiming to get 1,500 out by the end of April, and GM thinks it will produce 10,000 per month by mid-May, meaning both companies would still fall short at the time of expected peak.

The other issue is that it's unclear if the ventilators will be sufficient. Intensive care specialists and ventilator experts told the Post that Ford's product is more geared toward ambulance and hospital transports than the ventilators they rely on in hospital to keep patients breathing for weeks. Dr. Matthew Aldrich, the medical director of critical care at the University off California at San Francisco, said his hospital normally vets their ventilators before making a purchase, and he hopes the same thing is being done to make sure Ford's and GM's are up to the task.

Still, Dr. Jeff Hirsch, the chief medical officer for GE health care, said even simplified ventilators have "the potential to be lifesaving." Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

10:52 a.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is still in the running for the Democratic presidential nomination, but his competitor, former Vice President Joe Biden, has his sights set on the next step of his campaign.

Biden said Friday he informed Sanders he will begin the process of vetting potential cabinet and vice presidential candidates, telling donors at a virtual fundraising event that he plans on launching a committee to select a running mate sometime in mid-April. Former primary challengers like Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are often mentioned as possibilities.

Biden has emerged as the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination after a slate of decisive primary victories, but he gave Sanders — whom he considers a friend — a heads up about the decision because he didn't "want him to think I'm being presumptuous." But Biden said the process takes time, so he wants to get a head start.

The former vice president also said he's asked his old boss, former President Barack Obama, for advice on cabinet selections, though he said the conversation was more focused on how to begin the process rather than any individual candidates. Read more at NBC News and Politico. Tim O'Donnell

8:45 a.m.

German officials appear quite displeased with the United States, as both countries search for supplies to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Berlin regional government said Friday the U.S. confiscated 200,000 FFP2 respirator masks (known as N95 masks in the U.S.) it ordered from a U.S. manufacturer based in China while they were in transit in Bangkok, Thailand. The masks reportedly never reached their destination.

Berlin Interior Minister Andreas Geisel called it an act of "modern piracy," arguing that "even in times of global crisis, methods from the Wild West should not become prevalent."

The Berlin government didn't provide many details about the incident, including when it happened, and U.S. and German officials didn't comment on the accusations. 3M, the manufacturer, said it "has no evidence to suggest" its products were seized. But one German federal official told The Wall Street Journal that "America's behavior since the crisis has been positively rabid when it comes to medical supplies."

France has also complained about the U.S. diverting shipments, and Germany officials previously accused the Trump administration of trying to convince a German company working on a COVID-19 vaccine to relocate stateside. Read more at The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times. Tim O'Donnell

8:00 a.m.

President Trump on Friday fired Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who informed Congress about the whistleblower complaint regarding Trump's communications with Ukraine that eventually led to his impeachment. The president said he "no longer" has the "fullest confidence" in Atkinson.

Democrats were not happy with the decision, especially considering it came as the novel coronavirus pandemic intensifies across the United States. "In the midst of a national emergency, it is unconscionable that the president is once again attempting to undermine the integrity of the intelligence community by firing yet another intelligence official simply for doing his job," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The Trump administration has already removed numerous officials from their posts involved with Trump's impeachment proceedings, including Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a former National Security Council official, and former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Others, like former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, resigned.

Atkinson won't be immediately removed — the statute for the intelligence community inspector general requires both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees be informed of a dismissal with 30 days notice, so there won't be an official change until next month. Read more at The Guardian and CNN. Tim O'Donnell

April 3, 2020

President Trump is admittedly not doing everything he can to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a recommendation for all Americans to wear cloth masks when in public around people, Trump announced at Friday's coronavirus task force press conference. Trump then repeatedly clarified that the recommendation is "voluntary," and declared that he won't be wearing a mask at all.

Americans are being asked to wear cloth masks when going outside around others. It'll add an extra layer of protection against transmitting COVID-19 even if someone who has the virus is asymptomatic, while saving medical-grade N95 masks for health care workers who desperately need them, Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Friday. Los Angeles and New York City recently issued the same recommendation, and a Thursday report indicated the CDC's recommendation was coming.

When Trump was asked why he wouldn't wear a mask, he said he was "feeling fine," and then implied that it would be odd to be "sitting in the Oval Office, behind that beautiful Resolute Desk" in a mask while meeting "presidents, prime ministers, dictators," and so on. It's unclear which world leaders would be dropping by the Oval Office given the current climate. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 3, 2020

It's time to take a break from the monotony of quarantine and enjoy all that nature has to offer — through technology.

Though coronavirus restrictions may prevent you from going to zoos, wildlife centers, or taking nature hikes, these three animal livestreams will help you get your fix.

1. Three baby eagles in Minnesota

(Screenshot/Minnesota DNR)

This is the first brood on this live-cam since 2017, and the three babies just hatched in late March. It's the perfect opportunity to get up close with our national bird, without any of the risk. Watch the nest here.

2. Bella the hummingbird's nest

(Screenshot/Explore)

Bella and her baby live in a nest in California on a front porch ficus. The owner of that porch graciously decided to share the beauty with the rest of us. Their speed and size can make them hard to spot in the wild, so check out the hummingbirds here.

3. Aquarium viewing at home

(Screenshot/Monterey Bay Aquarium)

Let's make shark week every week. Though closed due to coronavirus, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has several live cams available for viewing, including the rocky reef shark cam. Enjoy the beautiful rays and fish as you wait for a shark to pass by. Watch them swim around here. Taylor Watson

April 3, 2020

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is looking ahead to the next few steps in the coronavirus pandemic response.

On Friday, Sanders unveiled his "Priorities for the Next Coronavirus Relief Package," proposing a number of relief measures from guaranteeing paid medical and sick leave to all workers to expanding food programs like Meals on Wheels.

The proposal unsurprisingly includes a major expansion of Medicare. "We were facing a catastrophic health care crisis before the pandemic, and now that crisis has become much, much worse," writes Sanders. The legislation would use Medicare to cover all health care expenses, notably including anyone who is sick, "regardless of immigration status."

In addition to further invoking the Defense Production Act, Sanders says payment on all rent, mortgage payments, and forms of debt should be suspended entirely, not just deferred during the pandemic only to cause "financial ruin" once they become due. Building on the one-time $1,200 payments, Sanders calls for monthly $2,000 payments.

The entire plan fits alongside policy ideas Sanders has touted throughout his presidential bid, but are ramped up in both scale and urgency now that the COVID-19 pandemic has quickly exploded to affect millions of Americans both medically and economically. This week's jobs reports showed that likely 3.5 million Americans have lost employer-provided health insurance since the pandemic began.

Bloomberg's Joe Weisenthal noted the similarities between Sanders' presidential platform and his latest proposal to Congress, but argued the ideas now sound remarkably "un-radical." The suggestions are "obviously on par with the scale of this crisis," says Weisenthal, and in line with the $2.2 trillion relief package Congress previously passed, "except on a sufficient scale to really counteract the damage."

"To prevent the collapse of the economy is far more humane and cost effective than rebuilding the economy after it collapses," Sanders told MSNBC. See Sanders' proposal, which does not yet have a budget estimate, here. Summer Meza

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