November 15, 2019

The House Ethics Committee disclosed Thursday that two Florida congressmen, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D) and Rep. Ross Spano (R), are under investigation. Hastings, who has been in the House for 26 years, is being investigated by the Ethics Committee for his long-term relationship with a member of his staff, Patricia Williams. Former Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) resigned last month after denying she had an intimate relationship with a member of her staff while admitting she had such a relationship with a campaign staffer.

Williams has been on Hastings' staff since 2000, and they bought a house together in 2017, the Palm Beach Post reports. He downplayed any impropriety this fall, telling the Post, "However it looks, it's been looking like that for 25 years."

With Spano, the House Ethics Committee announced it is deferring its investigation at the request of the Justice Department, which, the committee revealed, has opened a criminal investigation into possible campaign finance violations. Spano claimed last year that he loaned his campaign $175,000 from personal funds when in fact he had received $180,000 in loans from personal friends, Politico reports. Spano's lawyer informed the Federal Election Commission of the erroneous campaign finance report soon after Spano won the race.

"Today, the House Committee on Ethics deferred their review of my self-reported filings with the FEC," Spano said in a statement. "We plan to cooperate fully with the Justice Department on this matter." Peter Weber

9:28 a.m.

The COVID-19 unemployment plunge is, yet again, like nothing we've ever seen before.

More than 6.6 million Americans filed initial jobless claims last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, adding to the record 3.3 million who filed the week before. That leaves at least 9.9 million people out of work, far higher than the 2008 Great Recession's peak of 7.7 million as new coronavirus cases continue to grow. And as The Atlantic's Derek Thompson pointed out with a graph from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, that means the labor market "is contracting at the rate of one Great Recession per 10 days."

Thursday's report far surpassed expectations of 3.1 million more unemployment claims being filed in the last week, and the coronavirus pandemic is still far from over. Kathryn Krawczyk

8:59 a.m.

Amid the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis, weekly unemployment claims just once again reached a shocking new high.

The Labor Department announced Thursday that more than 6.6 million Americans filed initial jobless claims last week. This massive number easily surpasses the 3.3 million initial jobless claims announced last Thursday, which at the time was the largest number ever recorded, soaring past the previous record of 695,000 in October 1982. A week later, that startling figure has been roughly doubled. The data first started to be tracked in 1967.

Last week's report was already a massive surge from the 282,000 initial jobless claims that had been reported the previous week as businesses around the country were forced to close amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Between the two weeks, about 10 million Americans filed unemployment claims. The data released Thursday is for the week ending on March 28.

"The speed and magnitude of the labor market's decline is unprecedented," economist Constance Hunter told The Wall Street Journal ahead of the report. But many analysts had been expecting a number this week closer to 3 million. CNBC notes highest weekly jobless claims reported during the Great Recession was 665,000.

"It really is a jobs shock here," CNN's Christine Romans said Thursday. Brendan Morrow

8:02 a.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will self-quarantine once again after the country's health minister tested positive for coronavirus.

Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and his wife both tested positive for COVID-19 and have now self-isolated, the Health Ministry announced Thursday. Litzman "has had frequent contact with" Netanyahu, The Associated Press reports.

Netanyahu as a result will self-quarantine, with this coming after he already isolated himself when an aide tested positive for COVID-19. The prime minister had concluded his two days of isolation on Wednesday, but he will now go back into self-quarantine until next week, Reuters reports. Litzman and his wife reportedly feel well, and Netanyahu has tested negative for COVID-19 twice, according to CNN.

Additionally, other Israel officials like the head of Israel's spy agency Mossad have reportedly been told to self-quarantine, and the director of the Health Ministry and members of Litzman's staff will do so as well, per the AP. Israel has reported more than 6,000 cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Brendan Morrow

7:58 a.m.

You may have missed it among any (poorly timed) April Fools' Day pranks, but Wednesday was Census Day, that time of year where your residence starts counting for the 2020 census. Full Frontal's Samantha Bee did not forget. On Wednesday's show, filmed in the woods, Bee said — no doubt accurately, in many cases — that you've probably received a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau already and dropped it "in your mail quarantine pile."

"If you open it, you'll find an ID code that, for the first time, lets you fill out the census online," Bee said. "It shouldn't take more than 10 minutes — and I do know that you have 10 minutes right now." Since the census is so "incredibly important to fill out," Bee said, she commissioned a song from rapper and filmmaker TT the Artist to explain why, with help from Full Frontal animators Daniel Spenser and Cassidy Routh.

The Census Bureau is legal compelled to finish collecting information about every American by Dec. 31, but it suspended field operations two weeks ago to assess the safest way forward amid the coronavirus pandemic. If people fill in their census forms online, fewer census takers will have to start knocking on doors starting in mid-April or May. As of the March 31, more than 38 percent of households had already answered the census questions. In case you didn't watch TT the Artist's song, the decennial census determines the number of U.S. House seats and Electoral College votes each state gets, plus the amount of money from the federal government. Peter Weber

6:59 a.m.

Chris Cuomo, the CNN host and younger brother of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), announced Tuesday that he tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. He still broadcast his CNN show from his basement, explaining that his greatest fear was spreading the disease to his wife and children. On Wednesday night's show, Cuomo said his wife and children have tested negative, and he described his "freaky" Tuesday night of fever, hallucinations, and rigors — shivers — so intense he chipped a tooth.

"This virus came at me — I've never seen anything like it," Cuomo said, explaining that he had a fever of up to 103-plus "that wouldn't quit. And it was like somebody was beating me like a piñata." He said he shivered so violently he chipped a tooth — "these are not cheap, okay?" — and after staying up all night, "I'm telling you, I was hallucinating. My dad was talking to me, I was seeing people from college, people I hadn't seen in forever. It was freaky what I lived through last night. And it may happen again tonight," or for the next eight to nine nights.

Cuomo urged everyone to do everything the can — primarily self-isolating — to protect themselves, their loved ones, and medical workers from suffering his fate or worse. Earlier, he and CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta discussed what went wrong in the U.S. and the mistakes some states are still making, and Gupta suggested Cuomo might consider taking a sick day or two. Watch below. Peter Weber

6:04 a.m.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, longtime head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the trusted face of President Trump's COVID-19 response, has been assigned his own security detail amid a sharp uptick in unwanted attention, positive and negative, The Washington Post reported Wednesday evening. The Justice Department confirmed it approved a request for the U.S. Marshal's Service to deputize Health and Human Services Department security officials to guard Fauci.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar had requested a security detail for Fauci after growing concerned about online threats and right-wing conspiracy theories targeting the top U.S. infectious disease expert, the Post reports. "The concerns include threats as well as unwelcome communications from fervent admirers," thought "the exact nature of the threats against him was not clear." Fringe conservative sites have accused Fauci of trying to sabotage Trump's re-election by advising economically painful social-distancing measures to slow the spread of the deadly virus and hundreds of thousands of lives. Pro-Trump groups have glommed onto the baseless allegations.

Trump himself is said to respect Fauci, 79, and value their working relationship. Fauci declined to address questions Wednesday about whether he was assigned bodyguards, but Trump jumped in, telling reporters: "He doesn't need security. Everybody loves him." Peter Weber

5:11 a.m.

"Social distancing is working" to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, but "we know the worst is yet to come," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "Yesterday, the White House announced they project between 100,000 and 240,000 coronavirus deaths. And with these devastating projections, it seems like President Trump now understands the gravity of the situation we're all in. He held a two-hour briefing yesterday, and his tone was far more serious," mostly. But "even though the president appears to be taking this seriously, he still hasn't issued any order to shut down the whole country," he noted.

Yes, "Trump, who usually treats his daily briefings like the last scene in Scarface, came out yesterday and acted, for the first time ever, like he had also been reading the news," Trevor Noah said on his Daily Social Distancing Show. "But while the president may finally be grasping the gravity of this outbreak, he and his allies continue to make excuses for why it took him so long to respond." Noah explained why China's obfuscation, impeachment, and Barack Obama — the "one person who Trump loves to blame for everything that goes wrong in his life" — are not responsible for Trump ignoring the advisers warning him about the pandemic since mid-January. Still, he said, "I hope that he is taking it seriously, because let's be real: This is still Donald Trump, people. I wouldn't be shocked if he acted like this and then tomorrow he comes out like, 'April Fool! I'll see you losers on Easter! Did you see me? I acted sad, hahaha.'"

"Because he managed to restrain himself for an hour, after weeks of lies and serial failures that led us to this harrowing moment, some in the media were actually gullible enough — after four years! — to give Trump credit for his change of tone," Seth Meyers said at Late Night, now taped in his attic. Look, "Trump had many warnings that something like this was coming, and yet he and his aids repeatedly downplayed or dismissed the threat." He was especially exasperated at Trump trying to "memory-hole" his comparison of COVID-19 to the flu. Trump is "deeply ill-equipped" to be president during this pandemic, but he "would have been great at quarantine," Meyers said. "President Hillary Clinton would have held you up as an example of how to do social distancing." Watch below. Peter Weber

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