Not So Fast
October 19, 2020

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows doesn't sound too supportive of President Trump's optimism on another coronavirus stimulus bill.

Meadows was pessimistic about stimulus talks on Monday, saying "Senate Republicans have been very vocal in terms of their lack of support of a number that isn't even close to what the President has already supported at the $1.8 trillion range."

His view of the gridlocked negotiations are in line with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has cast doubt on the idea of more aid before the November elections. But Meadows sounds out of step with Trump, who flipped after spiking stimulus negotiations and has now been calling for a bill that's "bigger" than what Republicans or Democrats are requesting.

Trump said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who passed a $3.4 trillion stimulus bill in May and a $2.2 trillion bill this month, is being too frugal now. "I want to do it at a bigger number than she wants," he said. "That doesn't mean all the Republicans agree with me, but I think they will in the end."

Meadows, however, isn't so sure. There are "some in the Senate" who might go for some type of deal before November, but not necessarily the 60 votes needed, he said. NBC News' Sahil Kapur reports Meadows says "that's up to McConnell." If Meadows is leaving it in McConnell's hands, it's not likely Trump will get his wish for a major spending package, seeing as the Senate majority leader has said Trump is "talking about a much larger amount than I can sell to my members."

Meadows "undercutting" his boss's messaging on negotiations, says The New York Times' Alex Burns, is just one more reason the chief of staff is reportedly "seen as unlikely to hold onto his job past Election Day." Summer Meza

August 24, 2020

Jerry Falwell Jr. is disputing various reports that he's resigning as Liberty University's president, telling Virginia Business they're "completely false." Politico has confirmed the update.

Although he remains on indefinite leave from the school, Falwell said he does not plan to step down from the post permanently, despite calls to do so from many of the private evangelical Christian university's alumni and former faculty.

Falwell, no stranger to controversy, has become embroiled in back-to-back scandals, one that stemmed from his posting a photo posing with a woman while both their pants were partially unzipped, and another, which was first reported Monday, that involves he and his wife having a years-long sexual relationship with a business partner. Falwell also told Virginia Business the latter story was "90 percent false" and has accused the business associate, Giancarlo Granda, of trying to extort him and his wife, a claim Granda denies. Read more at Virginia Business. Tim O'Donnell

June 22, 2020

Some Democratic lawmakers, like Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), are feeling pretty good about former Vice President Joe Biden's chances against President Trump in November's presidential election, Politico reports. Brown predicted a Biden victory nationally and in his own battleground state, which he said would "mean an Electoral College landslide."

Polling at the moment does seem to suggest Biden's in a strong position — he's leading or within striking distance of most battleground states. But other Democrats are urging caution. They remember, after all, what happened in 2016. "I'm not confident at all," said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who is close with Biden. "I think the easiest way to ensure Trump's re-election is to be overconfident. Too many Democrats are looking at national polls and finding them encouraging. Too many Democrats assumed that Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in and didn't vote or didn't work."

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) suggested her state is a perfect example. Michigan is seen as a potentially election-turning state, and while many Democrats think they'll take it back, Dingell said she's heard directly from voters in her district who are committed to backing Trump in November. The congresswoman tried to send warning signals in 2016 that Clinton could lose Michigan, and she's worried the party is setting itself up for another shocker. "Anybody who believes the polls right now is overconfident," she said. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

May 12, 2020

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said Tuesday that before he decides whether to dismiss charges against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, he will let third parties submit filings in the case.

Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI. He changed legal teams and now claims he was pressured into entering the plea. Last week, the Justice Department moved to drop Flynn's case, citing "newly discovered and disclosed information."

Sullivan said the third party briefings will give the court more information on the case and could help shape his decision, and he expects the filings to come from "individuals and organizations."

The Justice Department's move outraged former employees, with nearly 2,000 signing a letter earlier this week calling on Attorney General William Barr to resign over his handling of the case, saying he "once again assaulted the rule of law." Catherine Garcia

April 24, 2020

As some states look to begin reopening their economies amid the coronavirus pandemic, Bill Gates is concerned about moving "too quickly" and warning that a return to normal is still far down the road.

Gates, whose foundation is putting billions of dollars toward the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, spoke to Today on Friday morning, and asked for his thoughts on certain states like Georgia planning to reopen some nonessential businesses, the Microsoft co-founder expressed trepidation.

"We know that if you go fully back to normal mixing, that then you get onto that exponential growth curve," Gates said. "You know, I am afraid we'll have some people and some states that move too quickly and have to back off."

Gates also told Today that "I wish I could say that we're halfway through" the coronavirus crisis, but "I don't think" that's the case, and "it's going to be a while before things go back to normal."

President Trump has said he doesn't support Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's (R) reopening plan, and recent polls have consistently shown most Americans are concerned about stay-at-home orders lifting too soon; in an ABC News/Ipsos poll released on Friday, 72 percent of respondents said moving too quickly to loosen restrictions is a greater threat than moving too slowly.

Gates on Thursday stressed the importance of expanding testing before reopening, writing, "To reopen the economy, we need to be testing enough people that we can quickly detect emerging hotspots and intervene early. We don't want to wait until the hospitals start to fill up and more people die." Brendan Morrow

April 14, 2020

President Trump on Monday declared that his "authority is total" when it comes to deciding how and when states reopen their economies.

He made this claim after the governors of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Rhode Island announced they will coordinate their plans to reopen once it's safe to do so. Each state has come up with its own approach to shutting down amid the coronavirus pandemic; California was one of the earliest states to limit large gatherings and ask people 65 and older to stay home, while Arkansas has yet to issue a stay-at-home order.

During his daily coronavirus briefing, Trump told reporters that when "somebody's president of the United States, the authority is total. And that's the way it's got to be. It's total. It's total. And the governors know that." He went on to assert that governors "can't do anything without approval from the president of the United States." CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins pushed Trump on this, telling him this wasn't true and asking several times who told him that the president has total authority over the states. Trump did not answer, and finally told her, "Enough."

Several Republicans also called Trump out for his remarks, with Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.) quoting the 10th Amendment and tweeting, "The federal government does not have absolute power." Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, a Republican witness during the impeachment inquiry into Trump, tweeted that the Constitution "was written precisely" to deny Trump's claim that the president's authority is total. "It also reserved to the states (and individuals) rights not expressly given to the federal government," he added. Catherine Garcia

November 7, 2019

The United States will not keep any of the revenue from oil fields American troops are protecting in Syria, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

Last month, President Trump ordered a withdrawal of most troops from northeastern Syria, but then revised his plan, tasking some with securing Syrian oil fields. He then told a gathering of police officers in Chicago, "We're keeping the oil — remember that. I've always said that. Keep the oil. We want to keep the oil. $45 million a month? Keep the oil."

The Pentagon burst his bubble, with a spokesperson saying that the revenue is not going to the United States, but rather the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Catherine Garcia

March 31, 2019

President Trump's executive order that overturned a ban on drilling for oil in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans was ruled "unlawful and invalid" by a federal judge in Alaska on Saturday.

Just weeks before leaving office, former President Barack Obama issued an executive order which prohibited drilling in certain areas in the two oceans. But Trump signed an executive order of his own to reopen those areas, which prompted ten environmental groups to file a lawsuit in the hopes of blocking Trump's reversal.

According to the judge's ruling, Trump will need congressional approval to do so. The judge, Sharon Gleason, wrote that a president only has the authority to withdraw lands from consideration for drilling. The office does not, she said, have the power to revoke a prior withdrawal.

"This is a great victory for the Arctic, its polar bears, other wildlife, and communities," Kristen Monsell, an attorney for the Center of Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed against the Trump administration, told The Wall Street Journal. "It's absolutely the right outcome under the law and for the sake of our planet."

Gleason's decision could face appeal. But if it is not overturned, Congress will have to approve Trump's expansion plans, which the Journal reports seems unlikely given Democratic control of the House. Tim O'Donnell

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