September 17, 2020

In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was criticized for releasing guidance saying it wasn't necessary to test people without coronavirus symptoms who had been in close contact with an infected person for more than 15 minutes. Several people with knowledge of the matter told The New York Times this recommendation was not written by CDC scientists and was posted online over their strenuous objections.

A federal official told the Times "that was a doc that came from the top down," referring to the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House Coronavirus Task Force. "That policy does not reflect what many people at the CDC feel should be the policy." The document was "dropped" into the CDC's public website, bypassing the agency's scientific review process, and contained several "elementary errors," one official said.

The Trump administration's testing coordinator, Adm. Brett Giroir, told the Times on Thursday the original draft was written by the CDC, but over the course of about a month, it was read and commented on by multiple people, including CDC Director Robert Redfield and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Giroir said he doesn't know why the guidance didn't go through the CDC's typical scientific review, adding that this "certainly was not any direction from me whatsoever."

A federal official with knowledge of the matter told the Times a new version of the testing guidance is expected to go up on the CDC's website on Friday, but this also hasn't undergone the agency's typical internal review for scientific documents, and Health and Human Services officials are now revising it. All of this comes as the CDC faces scrutiny over whether it is maintaining its independence amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 200,000 Americans. Read more at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

12:14 p.m.

Lawmakers who have criticized former President Donald Trump have reportedly had to spend a significant amount of cash on security following the deadly Capitol riot.

A report from Punchbowl News on Friday described how members of Congress "are spending tens of thousands of their campaign dollars on security to protect themselves and their families" in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot, during which supporters of Trump stormed the Capitol to disrupt the certification of President Biden's election win.

This phenomenon has reportedly been "most acute" among Republicans who voted to impeach and convict Trump earlier this year. For example, first-quarter Federal Election Commission reports showed that Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) spent $43,633 on security, while Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) spent almost $70,000 and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) spent $50,400, according to Punchbowl. These lawmakers all drew Trump's ire after they voted to impeach him on charges of inciting the Capitol riot, and Romney was also the only Republican senator to vote to convict Trump in his first impeachment trial.

Some prominent Democrats are also spending similar sums on their private security, according to the report, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-N.Y.) security costs reportedly totaling $45,000 in the first quarter. In the wake of the Jan. 6. attack, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in February unveiled new security measures for lawmakers traveling to and from the nation's capitol, Axios notes, and according to Punchbowl, she's also preparing a spending bill that would add more officers to the Capitol Police and provide certain lawmakers with security in their districts.

"Several lawmakers privately told us that they got a flood of death threats after opposing Trump," Punchbowl also writes, adding that "threat levels against lawmakers have soared." Brendan Morrow

11:36 a.m.

In a Thursday night vote, the House overwhelmingly passed a reauthorization of the National Marrow Donor Program, which matches bone marrow donors and cord blood units with patients who need transplants. Overwhelmingly, that is, except for Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), reports CNN.

The two lawmakers were the only nays in a 415-2 vote, though another 12 representatives didn't vote, including fellow freshman Republican Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), reports Newsweek.

Greene's spokesperson Nick Dyer told Newsweek: "Nothing in this bill prevents the funding of aborted fetal tissue by taxpayers. It opens the door for the [National Institutes of Health] to use this bill to research the remains of babies who were murdered in the womb." Meanwhile Boebert said "this bill added hundreds of millions of dollars to the national debt, while not receiving a [Congressional Budget Office] score or going through the committee process."

As Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said on the House floor before the vote, the authorization greenlit "$23 million each year for 5 years for the cord blood side and, again, some $30 million each year for the bone marrow program." He noted the Be The Match registry, which pairs donors with patients who have leukemia and other diseases, has facilitated more than 105,000 bone marrow transplants and more than 40,000 cord blood transplants.

Greene has continued to double down on her argument, asserting Americans "would be outraged if they knew" the details of the bill, seemingly referring to the authorization of stem cell research as detailed here. Summer Meza

9:43 a.m.

Just when she thought she was out...

Chrissy Teigen returned to Twitter on Friday weeks after generating headlines for deleting her account, as the exit apparently wasn't all she expected it might be.

"Turns out it feels TERRIBLE to silence yourself and also no longer enjoy belly chuckles randomly throughout the day and also lose like 2000 friends at once," she wrote.

Teigen, who had nearly 14 million followers when she deleted her Twitter account in March, had previously explained she was leaving because the platform "no longer serves me as positively as it serves me negatively." She clarified this was "absolutely NOT Twitter's fault" and also wasn't the result of being bullied by trolls, but she said she was struggling to "come to terms with the fact some people aren't gonna like me."

Less than a month later, Teigen's account was back online on Friday, and she's apparently got a lot of catching up to do, joking she's spent "weeks just saying tweets to shampoo bottles." Teigen added that in returning to Twitter, she's choosing to "take the bad with the good," which fans can perhaps see as a more positive lesson out of this whole saga than the idea that there's truly no escape from Twitter for anyone. Brendan Morrow

8:32 a.m.

One of the Louisville police officers who shot Breonna Taylor is writing a book, but Simon & Schuster is now backing away from plans to be involved.

The publisher announced it has "decided not be involved in the distribution of" a book written by Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, one of the officers involved in the raid that Breonna Taylor was killed in last year, The New York Times and CNN report.

Officers in March 2020 were executing a no-knock warrant at Taylor's apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, and Mattingly was shot by Taylor's boyfriend, who says he thought they were intruders and was firing a warning shot. Taylor was killed after the officers returned fire. According to the Times, Mattingly "fired at least one of the six shots that hit Ms. Taylor, but not the lethal bullet."

It had previously been reported by the Louisville Courier Journal that Post Hill Press would publish Mattingly's book, The Fight for Truth: The Inside Story Behind the Breonna Taylor Tragedy. But after facing criticism, Simon & Schuster said it only "learned of plans by distribution client Post Hill Press to publish a book by Jonathan Mattingly" on Thursday as this report emerged and will no longer be involved.

Prior to Simon & Schuster's announcement, a spokesperson for Post Hill Press told the Times it was standing by its decision to publish the book, as "in the case of Sergeant Mattingly, the mainstream media narrative has been entirely one-sided related to this story and we feel that he deserves to have his account of the tragic events heard publicly." Mattingly previously sued Taylor's boyfriend for assault and battery last year. Brendan Morrow

7:45 a.m.

You may soon need a license to drive and vote in Texas but not carry a handgun in public.

After years of failed attempts by gun advocates, the Texas House on Thursday gave initial approval to a bill that would drop the state's requirement that most handgun owners obtain a $40 license to carry their firearm in public, concealed or openly. Currently, Texans 21 and over with no criminal record can get a license to carry a handgun if they complete a training requirement, don't have a drug addiction, and can "exercise sound judgment with respect the proper use and storage of a handgun," the Austin American-Statesman explains.

The measure would drop the license requirement, though federal background checks would remain in place for most handgun purchases, with exceptions for private and gun show sales. It passed 84-56, mainly along party lines; five Democrats voted in favor, one Republican voted against. The legislation needs another vote in the House, and it faces an uncertain future in the state Senate.

The El Paso delegation led the unsuccessful opposition to the bill, HR 1927. After a gunman murdered 23 people at a Walmart in 2019, followed weeks later by the mass shooting of seven people in Midland Odessa, "there were roundtable discussions and stakeholder meetings and a lot of promises — and I was hopeful, members, even knowing the political realities, I was hopeful," said state Rep. Joe Moody (D). "I'm so tired of doing nothing," he added. "I'm so tired of catering to a very small number of very loud people whose thinking about guns is wrapped up in unfounded fears and bizarre conspiracy theories."

Permitless carry has the support of the Texas Republican Party and the National Rifle Association. It is opposed by law enforcement groups, firearms trainers, and groups of clergy and veterans. At a break in the five-hour debate, a group of gun control advocates prayed and sang "Amazing Grace" in the gallery, before being escorted out by law enforcement. Peter Weber

6:12 a.m.

One in five Americans still say they won't get the COVID-19 vaccine, despite the willingness by Americans to put all manner of junk in their bodies and eagerness to take anything offered freely, Jimmy Kimmel sighed on Thursday's Kimmel Live. Dr. Anthony Fauci "must be beating his head against the wall. Dr. Fauci appeared today before a congressional subcommittee on COVID-19 and was forced to endure the relentless stupidity of a shaved ape from Ohio named Jim Jordan," who screamed that Americans' liberties have been assaulted by public health measures. "Yeah, you know who else was assaulted? Those wrestlers when you were their coach at Ohio State," Kimmel said. "I guess that you didn't notice."

"Meanwhile, there are new details in the sordid saga of future former Florida congressman Matt Gaetz," Kimmel said. "Yesterday we learned that Gaetz was involved in more wild house parties than Kid 'n Play in the '90s. Reportedly, there were drugs and sex at these parties, where women were given gifts and money in exchange for their 'participation,' much of it paid through Venmo."

Accused ringleader Joel Greenberg made at least 150 payments to young women, including at least 16 to a future Gaetz girlfriend, Kimmel said, "and of course we know about all of this because stupid Joel Greenberg made his Venmo transactions public, as did Matt Gaetz — they didn't check the privacy box. What's the opposite of a criminal mastermind? "

"Gaetz faces an intensifying investigation in which authorities seized his phone last winter," Seth Meyers said at Late Night, and "I'm no lawyer, but it can't be good when they seize your phone. No one's happy to have their phone seized," even if it's just your wife, he joked. "Chances are pretty high that if you've broken the law, there's evidence of it on your phone, especially since Gaetz was reportedly using Cash App and Venmo to make payments to his indicted buddy."

We're also learning more about those parties Gaetz, Greenberg, and their GOP friends would allegedly hold, Meyers said. "You know, my grandmother used to say nothing good ever happens after midnight, and I'd say the same is true about anything that happens at a party in a gated community in suburban Orlando where they make you give up your phone." Peter Weber

4:28 a.m.

Joel Greenberg, 36, and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), 38, became friends soon after Greenberg was elected Seminole County tax collector and Gaetz won a seat in Congress in 2016. Both men were "brash politicians who hailed from families of considerable wealth and who themselves rose to power quickly," and "they also enjoyed parties and the company of women," The Washington Post reports, citing people who know both Gaetz and Greenberg. That latter interest — woman and parties — is also why both men are under federal investigation.

Before the feds got involved in late 2019 or early 2020, Greenberg had already been on the radar of local law enforcement — for, among other things, allegedly misusing public funds, handing lucrative and unnecessary contracts and state jobs to friends and allies, and impersonating a police officer, pulling over a woman for speeding using a badge and lights on his private vehicle.

But local police did not start investigating Greenberg until, according the a federal indictment, he tried to derail a GOP primary challenger, prep school music teacher Brian Beute, by sending his school a fraudulent note claiming Beute had carried on an inappropriate sexual relationship with a student. Beute roped in a lawyer acquaintance, David Bear, who convinced the sheriff's office that whoever was behind the smear campaign had committed a crime. Bear also successfully encouraged the sheriff's office to seek help from the feds, the Post reports.

"When authorities arrested Greenberg and sifted through his electronic records and devices — according to documents and people involved in the case — they discovered a medley of other alleged wrongdoing, leading them to open an investigation of possible sex trafficking involving a far more high-profile Florida Republican," Gaetz, the Post reports. Beute thought about dropping the matter after local investigators cleared him of having sex with a student, but "he decided not to," Bear told the Post. "All of these other things mushroomed out of that one decision for him to stand tall."

Greenberg, facing 33 counts including sex trafficking of a child, is reportedly cooperating with prosecutors to earn some leniency. Gaetz denies the alleged focus of his investigation — paying for sex and having sex with a minor across state lines — and has not been charged or formally accused of wrongdoing. Read more about how the case came together at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

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