April 29, 2020

Tesla CEO Elon Musk's coronavirus tweets from last month sure haven't aged well, but he's still got even more to confidently declare about the pandemic.

Musk on Twitter this week criticized lockdown measures put in place in the United States to slow the spread of COVID-19, demanding in one, "FREE AMERICA NOW." He applauded Texas for its plan to begin reopening the state's economy, and said the U.S. should "reopen with care and appropriate protection, but don't put everyone under de facto house arrest."

Musk also replied to a user who claimed the "scariest thing" about the pandemic isn't the coronavirus but seeing Americans willing to give up freedom, to which the Tesla CEO responded, "true."

These tweets, as Gizmodo points out, come after Musk previously downplayed the threat of the coronavirus and in March predicted that by the end of April, there would be "close to zero" new coronavirus cases in the United States. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. continues to rise and just passed one million on Tuesday.

"The coronavirus panic is dumb," Musk also wrote in early March regarding a virus that would go on to kill over 58,000 Americans as of this week, more than were killed in the Vietnam War.

Experts have repeatedly warned about the dangers of reopening the economy too quickly, and recent polls have found a majority of Americans are fearful of the U.S. reopening too soon. "If you jump the gun, and go into a situation where you have a big spike, you're going to set yourself back," Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently stressed.

11:14 a.m.

After Friday's unexpectedly positive May jobs report, President Trump's campaign is mocking the "doomsday economists" whose predictions didn't pan out — despite that group including Trump's economic advisers.

The Trump campaign put out a statement on Friday celebrating the report from the Labor Department showing that the unemployment rate declined to 13.3 percent and the economy added 2.5 million jobs, a shocking result when economists forecasted the unemployment rate would rise to almost 20 percent with more than eight million jobs lost.

"Doomsday economists had predicted a loss of 8.5 million jobs in May, but the economy roared back and added 2.5 million jobs instead, thanks to President Trump's leadership and the solid foundation his policies have laid," a statement from campaign manager Brad Parscale said.

Trump also called out the inaccurate predictions in a Rose Garden press conference celebrating the numbers, describing what he called the "greatest miscalculation in the history of business shows."

But Kevin Hassett, White House economic adviser, was forecasting a grim May jobs report too, having suggested that the unemployment rate would soar to 20 percent or more. In an interview with CNN less than two weeks ago, he said he expected the unemployment rate to be "quite a bit higher" in May than in April, possibly "north of 20 percent."

Additionally, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow warned last month after April's report that "the numbers for May are gonna be also very difficult numbers," predicting that the economy starting to reopen wouldn't have an impact for "a while." Brendan Morrow

10:49 a.m.

As protests against police brutality have spread across the nation in the wake of the killing of George Floyd last week, nowhere have tensions between demonstrators and the Trump administration been higher than on the president's own doorstep. On Friday, the city of Washington, D.C., made it abundantly clear which side its on, writing "Black Lives Matter" in 35-foot-tall letters on a two-block stretch of city street just north of the White House:

Notably, the paint being used to write the message is the same as what is used "to draw traffic lanes," Aaron Mehta of Defense News reported. "This ain't washing away anytime soon."

The message comes a day ahead of "what's expected to be a large demonstration on Saturday," DCist reports, as well as "in the wake of days of political fights between Mayor Muriel Bowser and federal officials over a security perimeter centered at the White House." Additionally, on Friday, Mayor Bowser sent a letter to Trump asking him to remove "extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence from our city," noting that "the protestors have been peaceful, and last night, the Metropolitan Police Department did not make a single arrest."

The local chapter of Black Lives Matter spoke out against the mural going up on the city streets, calling it a "performative distraction from real policy changes." The message is meant "to appease white liberals while ignoring our demands," the group added. "Black Lives Matter means defund the police." Jeva Lange

10:05 a.m.

Friday morning's stunning job report is already being celebrated by the White House as unemployment unexpectedly fell to 13.3 percent in May. But even as forecasters have scrambled to understand how their predictions were so far off, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman stressed on Twitter that "whatever happened, these numbers should make you more, not less, pessimistic about the economic outlook."

Huh? As Krugman goes on to explain, the seemingly encouraging job report could actually "reinforce the White House inclination to do nothing and let emergency aid expire."

That's alarming to Krugman and other analysts because what May's job numbers do seem to prove is that the Payroll Protection Program, which encouraged small businesses to keep workers on payroll during the pandemic, was instrumental in helping bring back workers in May. "U.S. unemployment [is] at 13 percent [with] trillions in government aids," wrote The Washington Post's Jeffrey Stein. "What happens when huge infusion runs dry in July?"

But as of Thursday night, the Post was reporting that President Trump's recovery plan "largely amounts to optimism that as pandemic restrictions are loosened, the nation's economy will turn the lights back on by itself." As the Post goes on to explain, Trump is hesitant to offer states further aid, and opposes extending the soon-to-expire $600 unemployment bonus for laid-off workers.

White House economic adviser Stephen Moore seemed to confirm Krugman's fears. "There's no reason to have a major spending bill," he said in response to Friday's job numbers. "The sense of urgent crisis is very greatly dissipated by the report."

Not everyone shares the opinion that the job report lets the federal government off the hook. "The jobless rate, even if it declines, I believe is going to stay extremely high through the end of the year," former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen told the Post. "It's absolutely essential to have another package that will extend unemployment benefits beyond the summer. That's going to be tremendously needed." Jeva Lange

9:57 a.m.

The economy is finally brushing up.

In a twist that shocked many of the nation's top economists, the U.S.'s May jobs report released Friday showed the country added 2.5 million jobs last month, lowering the unemployment rate from 14.7 percent to 13.3 percent. A large chunk of that gain stemmed from the health care industry, which regained 312,000 jobs between April and May. Around 244,000 of those jobs stemmed singularly from dentists' offices, making that industry responsible for a full tenth of May's jobs gains.

As freelance business reporter Matthew Zeitlin noted, pretty much all of the job gains last month came from temporarily laid off workers heading back to work. The number of unemployed people on temporary layoff decreased by 2.7 million to 15.3 million in March, but the number of permanent job losses rose by 295,000 to 2.3 million in May.

University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers called the shrinking temporary job losses the "good news" of the May jobs report. And while there's still some "bad news" in permanent job loss, it seems clear that the overall unemployment "hole isn't getting any deeper." Kathryn Krawczyk

8:22 a.m.

Attorney General William Barr has declared a loose collective of anti-fascist activists to be domestic terrorists. Events haven't substantiated his claim.

Barr announced Sunday that FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) were working with state and local partners to nab "violent radical agitators who have hijacked peaceful protest and are engaged in violations of federal law," singling out "antifa another other similar groups" as agents of "domestic terrorism." On Wednesday, prosecutors in Las Vegas said the JTTF had arrested "three alleged members of the 'Boogaloo' movement" — generally far-right anti-government extremists — on terrorism charges, alleging they planned to use Molotov cocktails and other explosives to trigger violence at George Floyd rallies.

Twitter said Monday it had suspended a fake antifa account, @ANTIFA_US, that on Sunday urged fellow "Comrades" to "move into the residential areas ... the white hoods ... and we take what's ours." The account was linked to the white nationalist group Identity Evropa, Twitter said. Donald Trump Jr. and conservative sites like Red State and Hot Air amplified the fake antifa tweet, and Fox News claimed Wednesday that armed antifa rioters were "coming to the suburbs," citing one anonymous "government intelligence source."

False rumors spread on Facebook and Nextdoor that buses filled with thousands of antifa agitators were coming to loot "white neighborhoods." Facebook said Tuesday it suspended fake accounts tied to the white nationalist Proud Boys and American Guard groups that had masqueraded as antifa organizers asking members to bring weapons to the protests.

Barr and President Trump have fanned the flames, blaming antifa "terrorists," without evidence, for the looting and vandalism at the fringes of peaceful protests. There may be more than just politics at play, Bryan Bender writes at Politico.

Trump has threatened to send active-duty soldiers to cities under the 1807 Insurrection Act. If governors oppose him sending in the Army to enforce state laws, Trump could deploy troops only to enforce federal laws, Claire Finkelstein, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, tells Politico. "That might set up: 'We couldn't get these federally declared terrorists under control so we have to call out the military to quell the civil unrest on grounds of federal terrorism law,'" she said. "The more the attorney general can identify a federal interest in what is basically a state law matter — destruction of property, failure to abide by curfews — they potentially orchestrate a basis." Peter Weber

8:09 a.m.

In a notable change from 2014, a clear majority of Americans in a new poll say George Floyd's killing was not an isolated incident but part of a larger racial injustice problem.

In an ABC News/Ipsos poll released on Friday, when asked if they believe Floyd's death "is an isolated incident or a sign of broader problems in the treatment of African Americans by police," 74 percent of respondents said it's a sign of broader problems, with just 26 percent believing it to be an isolated incident.

ABC notes this is a "significant shift" from December 2014, when a similar question in an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 51 percent of Americans saw the recent deaths of Michael Brown, a black man shot by a white police officer, and Eric Garner, a black man who was put in a chokehold by a white police officer, as isolated incidents, while only 43 percent said they were signs of a larger problem.

In the new poll released on Friday, in fact, a majority of whites, blacks, Hispanics, Democrats, Republicans, and independents were all on the same page that Floyd's death is part of a larger problem, ABC reports, whereas in 2014, 60 percent of whites saw the deaths of Brown and Garner as isolated incidents.

The ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted by speaking to a random national sample of 706 adults from June 3-4. The margin of error is 4.3 percentage points. Read more at ABC News. Brendan Morrow

4:53 a.m.

Protests sparked by Minneapolis police killing George Floyd have spread to at least 430 U.S. cities and towns, Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. "This isn't happening just in our urban centers," he noted. "These demonstrations are everywhere" and they're "uniting Americans of all backgrounds — you may have noticed that Boise, Idaho, does not have a lot of black people."

"And please don't buy the false narrative that these are lawless mobs," Colbert said. "The vast majority of these protests have been peaceful," though "in many places, police are using curfew as an excuse to bring the smackdown on peaceful protesters." He showed several examples.

Still, Colbert said, "the attack that everyone is still talking about is Monday's military assault on peaceful protesters so that Donald Trump could shamble across the street to get handsy with a Bible. Trump has been criticized by a lot of people for misuse of the military," most powerfully his first defense secretary, James "Mad Dog" Mattis. Colbert re-nicknamed him "Principled Pooch."

"Mattis' decision to speak out is yet another indication of the truly precarious moment we're in," said Late Night's Seth Meyers. "Trump and the police establishment are obviously threatened by widespread popularity of the protests," which "have profoundly swayed public opinion. And this kind of massive, sustained political mobilization represents a direct threat to the unjust system of predatory policing we currently have, which is why the people who benefit from that system are lashing out so aggressively."

"Protests are continuing nationwide, but it seems that some common ground is being reached," at least in some cities, Jimmy Kimmel said. "In Washington, where law enforcement has taken a much more forceful approach, including tear-gassing peaceful protesters, things are not as amicable — authorities there are busy erecting another fence that will go around the existing White House fence," he said. "So it looks like Trump is finally getting his wall built after all. How long before we find out Don Jr. invested in a fence company?"

The new fence should work great — "unless protesters resort to the act of pushing," Jimmy Fallon deadpanned at The Tonight Show. "So far, Trump's turned out the White House lights, hid in a bunker, and is now building an ugly chain-link fence. He's like every crazy neighbor rolled into one." He recited a pitch-perfect Trump version of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Watch below. Peter Weber

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