January 21, 2020

Jay Sekulow apparently missed a few memos from the Trump administration.

Sekulow, who is serving as President Trump's outside lawyer in the Senate's impeachment trial, argued Tuesday that disputes between the White House and Congress are "why we have courts." But as the Department of Justice has repeatedly argued, including as recently as last month, that's not what this administration believes.

Arguments began Tuesday in the impeachment trial of Trump, during which House impeachment managers and Trump's defense team debated Republican-back rules for the trial. That's when Sekulow took shots at House Democrats who brought the charges against Trump, saying they should've let the courts rule on their subpoenas for documents and testimony from Trump administration officials before moving forward with impeachment. If they took issue with Trump claiming executive privilege to block those subpoenas, well, "it is why we have courts," Sekulow said.

Yet in December court filing regarding a House lawsuit against former White House Counsel Don McGahn, the Trump administration argued the opposite is true. Asking the court to "weigh in" on the subpoena "when political tensions are at their highest levels" reveals "why this sort of interbranch dispute is not one that has 'traditionally thought to be capable of resolution through the judicial process,'" the DOJ wrote.

Sekulow also alleged the Mueller report cleared Trump of collusion, which isn't a crime and not something former Special Counsel Robert Mueller even investigated. And as for Sekulow's claim that House Republicans weren't allowed into closed-door impeachment hearings, well, 48 of them were. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:51 p.m.

In order to reduce crowding at its state prisons and slow down the spread of coronavirus, California is granting early release to 3,500 inmates within the next several weeks.

The inmates are serving terms for nonviolent crimes and were already set to be released over the next 60 days. There are 35 prisons in California, and COVID-19 coronavirus cases have been reported at 10 locations, affecting 22 workers and four inmates, the Los Angeles Times reports. Visitors are no longer allowed into the prisons, and volunteer programs have been shut down.

Attorneys representing inmates in a civil rights litigation have asked for more releases and increased safety measures for older inmates and those with underlying medical conditions during the pandemic. The Times reports that when inmates experience flu-like symptoms, their cell blocks go into lockdown. One woman whose father is at the California Institution for Men in Chino, where one inmate and 11 employees have tested positive for COVID-19, said he "feels like he's in a Nazi Germany death camp."

Her father told her they are locked in "the 'sick dorm' and are only taking guys out with a high fever. An inmate in his dorm of 150 men just tested positive, so they put his entire dorm on lockdown. He can't get bandages he needs for open sores from an autoimmune disease. He's 72 and due out in August." Read more at The Los Angeles Times. Catherine Garcia

8:29 p.m.

President Trump on Tuesday said he wants "every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead," as the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread across the United States.

Trump's tone has shifted dramatically from earlier this month, when he said the United States would be back open for business by Easter on April 12. During the evening press conference, Trump said the next two weeks will be "painful" and "very tough," and called the pandemic a "great national trial unlike anything we have ever faced before."

Health officials also presented slides showing epidemiological models and how social distancing measures can help slow the spread of coronavirus. In a worst case scenario, even if guidelines are followed, up to 240,000 Americans could still die. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that it's important to "brace ourselves," but noted that officials are "continuing to see things go up. We cannot be discouraged by that because the mitigation is actually working and will work." Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, reminded Americans to follow government guidelines and not gather in groups of 10 or more, avoid unnecessary travel, and stay away from restaurants and bars. 

As of Tuesday night, there are 183,532 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States, and at least 3,727 people have died from the virus. Catherine Garcia

6:56 p.m.

In a four-page memo sent to the Navy on Monday, USS Theodore Roosevelt Captain Brett Crozier asked for help stopping the spread of coronavirus on the aircraft carrier.

"We are not at war," he said. "Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors."

The USS Theodore Roosevelt is docked in Guam, and a defense official told CBS News that as of Tuesday morning, there are at least 70 people on the carrier who have tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. Crozier wrote that of the 33 sailors to first test positive for COVID-19, seven initially tested negative, and were then returned to quarantine areas where they were housed with other sailors. "Decisive action is required now," Crozier said, in order to "prevent tragic outcomes."

Because the sailors are in close quarters, they can't practice safe social distancing, and "the spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating," Crozier said. There are about 4,000 crew members on board, and Crozier proposed having 90 percent leave the ship and immediately go into 14-day individual quarantines. The other 10 percent would stay and thoroughly clean the carrier and run the reactor. This, Crozier said, is a "necessary risk." Catherine Garcia

5:32 p.m.

Chris Meloni's Elliot Stabler is reportedly making a remarkable reappearance after his retirement nearly a decade ago.

Meloni will reprise his role as the NYPD detective in his own Law & Order: SVU spinoff show, Deadline reports. NBC has already ordered 13 episodes of the show, and it's likely to be branded as part of Dick Wolf's Law & Order universe.

Wolf, the mastermind behind the rest of the Law & Order shows and spinoffs, will executive produce the show alongside Arthur W. Forney and Peter Jankowski — they both have a long history working with Wolf Entertainment. Universal will produce the series, as it's reportedly part of the five-year, nine-figure deal the studio inked with Wolf to produce multiple series across NBCUniversal's platforms, per The Hollywood Reporter.

In this series, Stabler, who was written off the show after its 12th season, will be heading an organized crime unit within the NYPD, Variety reports. That leaves the door open for "potential seamless crossovers" with SVU and the other Law & Order shows, including a possible reunion with Mariska Hargitay's Olivia Benson. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:05 p.m.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of rhyme or reason when it comes to the federal government fulfilling state's requests for medical supplies to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic, The Washington Post reports.

For instance, Oklahoma has reportedly received 120,000 face shields despite only requesting 16,000. North Carolina, meanwhile, wound up on the other end of the spectrum — after reportedly requesting 500,000 medical coveralls, only 306 showed up, state records show.

Despite President Trump's comments about wanting governors to show him appreciation when making their requests, the Post notes there's no evidence the White House is favoring Republicans. Indeed, Trump has talked up his cooperation with some Democratic governors, while GOP-led states like Georgia has reportedly struggled to fill its requests. Democratic aides have said the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency return calls promptly and always agree to consider requests.

Still, one White House officials told the Post on condition of anonymity that Trump isn't completely ignoring politics, at least in one swing state that could play a major role in the 2020 election. Florida, whose Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) gets along swimmingly with Trump, has had all of its requests received so far. "He pays close attention to what Florida wants," the official said. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

4:50 p.m.

Almost 30 students who recently traveled to Mexico for spring break have tested positive for COVID-19.

Health officials in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday announced an investigation into a "cluster" of COVID-19 cases among a group of roughly 70 people in their 20s who traveled in a chartered plane to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for spring break about a week-and-a-half ago amid the coronavirus crisis.

"Currently, 28 young adults on this trip have tested positive for COVID-19 and dozens more are under public health investigation," the Austin Public Health Department said. "Four of the confirmed cases did not present any symptoms."

The 28 people who tested positive are currently self-isolating, and more are being monitored while quarantined, according to the statement. The University of Texas at Austin told NBC News that the 28 young adults with COVID-19 are students at the school. Some individuals who went on the trip came back home on commercial flights, according to the Austin Public Health Department's statement.

Austin officials said that although Mexico wasn't under a federal travel advisory when the young adults traveled there, "Austin-Travis County residents should follow CDC's travel recommendations indicating travelers avoid all non-essential international travel," and "a leisure vacation of any kind is not considered essential." The University of Texas at Austin told NBC that this serves as a "reminder of the vital importance" of following health officials' warnings amid the coronavirus pandemic. Brendan Morrow

4:44 p.m.

The major U.S. indexes weren't as volatile as they've been recently by the time markets closed Tuesday, but stocks still capped off their worst quarter since the 2008 financial crisis as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The S&P 500 finished the quarter down 20 percent, its largest decline since 2008, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 23 percent. You'd have to go back to 1987 and the Black Monday era to find a lower point for the index. The downturn, unsurprisingly, was global in scope — Stoxx Europe 600 had its biggest quarterly drop since 2002, and Japan's Nikkei Stock Average fell to 2008 levels, as well.

Analysts are hoping the long-term consequences more closely resemble 1987, which allowed for a quicker recovery. Still, Shawn Snyder, the head of investment strategy at Citi Personal Wealth Management, told The Wall Street Journal "we're really in unprecedented territory" where "there's still a huge amount of uncertainty." Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

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