October 29, 2020

America just posted its biggest annualized and single-quarter GDP growth of all time. It isn't that impressive.

The U.S. GDP jumped at a 33.1 percent annualized rate in the third quarter, a growth of 7.4 percent from Q2, Commerce Department records released Thursday reveal. But as Gregory Daco, the chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, put it in a tweet, that growth is both "record-breaking and meaningless at the same time."

It's true that the 7.4 percent GDP rise from Q2 to Q3 is a record. But it also comes after a record contraction from Q1 to Q2, and a total loss of 10.3 percent throughout 2020, so it doesn't even come close to making up what was lost amid the pandemic. In fact, the 3.5 percent total GDP shrinkage during 2020 "means we are still down almost as much as we were during the height of the Great Recession," tweets Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton.

Economist Justin Wolfers meanwhile debunked the 33.1 percent growth rate the entire Trump family was touting Thursday morning. Looking at annualized growth reveals how much bigger the economy would be if it "grew at this rate for the next three quarters," Wolfers tweeted. "But there's no chance that will happen, so the annualized rate answers a question no one is asking." And if that wasn't convincing enough, Wolfers had another way of looking at it. Kathryn Krawczyk

Kathryn Krawczyk

4:50 p.m.

Former President Donald Trump could be poised for another impeachment acquittal.

The Senate on Tuesday afternoon voted on whether to table a point of order from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who argued that Trump's second impeachment trial is unconstitutional because he's no longer in office, Axios reports. While the Senate ultimately voted in favor of tabling Paul's motion, the majority of Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), sided with him and voted against proceeding with the trial, according to The Washington Post.

This would seem to indicate it's "highly unlikely" the Senate will ultimately convict Trump, Axios reports. After all, NBC News' Frank Thorp writes, "the Senate needs 67 senators to convict," and Tuesday's vote suggested that "only 55 Senators think it's constitutional" to hold the trial. The five Senators who voted to table Paul's point of order were Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), per Axios.

At least one Republican did suggest he's still open to convicting Trump despite not joining these five GOP senators, as Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told the National Review he voted not to table Paul's motion simply because he wanted to continue the debate on whether the trial is constitutional. But following Tuesday's vote, Politico's Rachael Bade declared that the impeachment trial is "over before it even starts."

Trump is facing a charge of "incitement of insurrection" after a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol building in a deadly riot on Jan. 6. Now that the impeachment article has been delivered to the Senate, the trial is set to begin the week of Feb. 8. Brendan Morrow

3:46 p.m.

President Biden signed four more executive orders on Tuesday, this round focusing on improving racial equity in the United States.

The actions, reports Bloomberg, include directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to "review and change policies from the Trump administration that undermined protections under the Fair Housing Act" and directing the attorney general not to renew contracts with private prisons. The other two are aimed at empowering self-determination for Native American tribes and stemming xenophobia against Asian Americans.

Biden explained that he was compelled to act following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed by police officers in Minneapolis last year. "What many Americans didn't see, or had simply refused to see, couldn't be ignored any longer," he said. "Those eight minutes and 46 seconds that took George Floyd's life opened the eyes of millions of Americans and millions of people all over the world." Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

3:31 p.m.

President Biden has held his first phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The White House confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Biden spoke with Putin for the first time since his swearing-in last week and raised several "matters of concern," including the SolarWinds hack, Russia allegedly placing bounties on American troops in Afghanistan, election interference, and opposition leader Alexei Navalny's poisoning.

"President Biden made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies," the White House said.

Nationwide protests have erupted in Russia calling for Navalny's release after the Putin critic was detained earlier this month, and CNN reports that during their conversation, Biden called on Putin to release him. The president also "broke sharply with Trump by declaring that he knew that Russia attempted to interfere with both the 2016 and 2020 elections," The Associated Press reports. However, AP also notes that Biden has looked to "preserve room for diplomacy," and the White House said Biden and Putin talked about "both countries' willingness to extend" the New START arms control treaty and agreed to "maintain transparent and consistent communication."

CNN also noted that the extensive agenda for the call alone pointed to the "troubled state of affairs between Washington and Moscow that he inherited from the previous administration." Brendan Morrow

2:57 p.m.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Tuesday that at least some of the damage done to the United States Capitol on Jan. 6 should be preserved for future generations.

"I think it would be a good thing to preserve some evidence of the destruction of the building," said Romney, who has been vocal in his criticism about both the mob that violently entered the Capitol and former President Donald Trump's role in stoking the incident. He told reporters he thinks it's a good idea, "so that 150 years from now as people are touring the building they'll say, 'Ah this is where that insurrection occurred.'"

Per ABC News, Romney's spokesperson said the senator has spoken to the Senate curator about the possibility, adding that Romney said a potential preservation effort wouldn't involve any legislation. Tim O'Donnell

2:23 p.m.

Multiple reports published Tuesday from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that schools have seen little transmission of the coronavirus and that spread can likely be kept low with the "proper prevention efforts" including masks, social distancing, and smaller cohorts of students, The Washington Post reports.

In one study, researchers looked at 17 rural K-12 schools in Wisconsin during the fall semester and found that just seven out of 191 COVID-19 cases among students and staff members were the result of in-school transmission, and none of the staff members were infected at school.

Two other domestic studies of school districts in Mississippi and North Carolina that were reviewed by the CDC offered similar findings. "The preponderance of available evidence from the fall school semester has been reassuring," wrote three CDC researchers wrote in a viewpoint piece in the Journal of American Medical Association. "There has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission."

The agency, however, is cautioning that indoor sports and other extracurricular activities that do not allow for distancing or mask usage pose a higher risk, the Post notes. For instance, another CDC report released Tuesday described two Florida high school wrestling tournaments in December that resulted in 30 percent of the 130 athletes, coaches, and referees who participated becoming infected. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

2:11 p.m.

The Senate voted on Tuesday to confirm Antony Blinken as the next secretary of state.

Blinken, a longtime adviser to President Biden, was approved by a 78-22 vote, reports The New York Times. He has indicated he will move to undo many policies instated under former President Donald Trump, especially those focused on Trump's "America first" approach. Blinken has signaled he will rejoin global alliances, eventually including an effort to limit Iran's nuclear program. He also promised a tougher approach to Russia's cyberattacks and election interference.

Though he breaks with his predecessor, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on many fronts, Blinken told lawmakers he believes the Trump administration "was right" in "basic principle" on its tough approach on China. Read more at The New York Times. The Week Staff

1:10 p.m.

The acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police has offered an apology to lawmakers following a deadly attack on the Capitol building, acknowledging the department "should have been more prepared."

Yogananda Pittman, the acting Capitol Police chief, apologized to Congress during a closed-door briefing on Tuesday for "our failings" during the riot at the Capitol that left five people dead earlier this month, The New York Times reports.

"On January 6th, in the face of a terrorist attack by tens of thousands of insurrectionists determined to stop the certification of Electoral College votes, the Department failed to meet its own high standards as well as yours," Pittman said, according to remarks obtained by the Times. "We fully expect to answer to you and the American people for our failings on January 6th. I am here to offer my sincerest apologies on behalf of the Department."

Supporters of former President Donald Trump breached the Capitol building as lawmakers met to certify President Biden's election win. Pittman told Congress that Capitol Police "should have been more prepared for this attack" and that prior to the riot, "we knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target."

"The Department prepared in order to meet these challenges, but we did not do enough," Pittman acknowledged, also praising the officers who "performed valiantly" during the attack as "heroes."

The apology from Pittman, who the Times notes wasn't serving as acting chief when the Capitol attack occurred, comes as CNN reports that Capitol Police officers are discussing potentially holding a no-confidence vote against department leaders who were working on the day of the pro-Trump riot. A source told CNN, "The rank-and-file of this department has no faith in any of our chiefs, especially the ones in that were here on January 6th." Brendan Morrow

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