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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 31)

How Kushner’s Volunteer Force Led a Fumbling Hunt for Medical Supplies

Westlake Legal Group how-kushners-volunteer-force-led-a-fumbling-hunt-for-medical-supplies How Kushner’s Volunteer Force Led a Fumbling Hunt for Medical Supplies United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Medical Devices Masks Kushner, Jared Government Contracts and Procurement federal emergency management agency Defense Production Act Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

This spring, as the United States faced a critical shortage of masks, gloves and other protective equipment to battle the coronavirus pandemic, a South Carolina physician reached out to the Federal Emergency Management Agency with an offer of help.

Dr. Jeffrey Hendricks had longtime manufacturing contacts in China and a line on millions of masks from established suppliers. Instead of encountering seasoned FEMA procurement officials, his information was diverted to a team of roughly a dozen young volunteers, recruited by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and overseen by a former assistant to Mr. Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump.

The volunteers, foot soldiers in the Trump administration’s new supply-chain task force, had little to no experience with government procurement procedures or medical equipment. But as part of Mr. Kushner’s governmentwide push to secure protective gear for the nation’s doctors and nurses, the volunteers were put in charge of sifting through more than a thousand incoming leads, and told to pass only the best ones on for further review by FEMA officials.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 05virus-fema-hendricks-articleLarge How Kushner’s Volunteer Force Led a Fumbling Hunt for Medical Supplies United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Medical Devices Masks Kushner, Jared Government Contracts and Procurement federal emergency management agency Defense Production Act Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Credit…Stephen Stinson

As the federal government’s warehouses were running bare and medical workers improvised their own safety gear, Dr. Hendricks found his offer stalled. Many of the volunteers were told to prioritize tips from political allies and associates of President Trump, tracked on a spreadsheet called “V.I.P. Update,” according to documents and emails obtained by The New York Times. Among them were leads from Republican members of Congress, the Trump youth activist Charlie Kirk and a former “Apprentice” contestant who serves as the campaign chair of Women for Trump.

Trump allies also pressed FEMA officials directly: A Pennsylvania dentist, once featured at a Trump rally, dropped the president’s name as he pushed the agency to procure test kits from his associates.

Few of the leads, V.I.P. or otherwise, panned out, according to a whistle-blower memo written by one volunteer and sent to the House Oversight Committee. While Vice President Mike Pence dropped by the volunteers’ windowless command center in Washington to cheer them on, they were confused and overwhelmed by their task, the whistle-blower said in interviews.

“The nature and scale of the response seemed grossly inadequate,” said the volunteer, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity and, like the others, signed a nondisclosure agreement. “It was bureaucratic cycles of chaos.”

The fumbling search for new supplies — heralded by Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner as a way to pipe private-sector hustle and accountability into the hidebound federal bureaucracy — became a case study of Mr. Trump’s style of governing, in which personal relationships and loyalty are often prized over governmental expertise, and private interests are granted extraordinary access and deference.

Federal officials who had spent years devising emergency plans were layered over by Kushner allies, working with and within the White House coronavirus task force, who believed their private-sector experience could solve the country’s looming supply shortage. The young volunteers — drawn from venture capital and private equity firms — were expected to apply their deal-making experience to quickly weed out good leads from the mountain of bad ones, administration officials said in an interview. FEMA and other agencies, despite years of emergency preparation, were not equipped for the unprecedented task of a pandemic that impacted all 50 states, they said.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_170742978_0f710a8c-d7eb-43a5-a1d9-ee90abc00607-articleLarge How Kushner’s Volunteer Force Led a Fumbling Hunt for Medical Supplies United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Medical Devices Masks Kushner, Jared Government Contracts and Procurement federal emergency management agency Defense Production Act Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Credit…Pool photo by Evan Vucci

But the officials acknowledged it was difficult to identify specific contracts the volunteers had successfully sourced.

At least one tip the volunteers forwarded turned into an expensive debacle. In late March, according to emails obtained by The Times, two of the volunteers passed along procurement forms submitted by Yaron Oren-Pines, a Silicon Valley engineer who said he could provide more than 1,000 ventilators.

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Mr. Kushner’s volunteers passed the tip to federal officials who then sent it to senior officials in New York, who assumed Mr. Oren-Pines had been vetted and awarded him an eye-popping $69 million contract. Not a single ventilator was delivered, and New York is now seeking to recover the money.

“There’s an old saying in emergency management — disaster is the wrong time to exchange business cards,” said Tim Manning, a former deputy administrator at FEMA. “And it’s absolutely the wrong time to make up new procedures.”

Records and emails obtained by The Times — along with interviews with current and former FEMA officials, former task force volunteers and others briefed on the agency’s work — provide the most detailed picture yet of how the Kushner-installed personnel complicated the government response amid a deadly crisis.

The whistle-blower memo, which has been provided to lawmakers on a House oversight committee, was disclosed on Tuesday by The Washington Post.

In April, as the virus spread, the shortages continued and the volunteers struggled, Dr. Hendricks waited, eager to move forward. Some of his messages to the volunteers went unreturned, he said, as he read news reports of the government making other, questionable, deals.

“When I offered them viable leads at viable prices from an approved vendor, they kept passing me down the line and made terrible deals instead,” said Dr. Hendricks, who has since sold supplies to hospitals in Michigan and elsewhere.

The coronavirus crisis presented a unique test for FEMA, former and current officials said: a 50-state emergency in which acquiring emergency supplies, many of them from overseas, became the overriding concern, rather than efficiently distributing goods readily available in the United States. In interviews, current FEMA officials and former colleagues who have spoken with them in recent weeks conveyed mixed feelings about the Kushner team’s involvement.

Some praised Mr. Kushner for ensuring that other White House officials did not meddle further in the response effort, and for quickly enlisting the Pentagon to link FEMA with the military’s suppliers. At meetings, some said, Mr. Kushner was well prepared with data and determined to act quickly. His deputies, including a Kushner friend and Trump appointee named Adam Boehler, were responsive to questions and concerns.

In a statement, Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, the head of the supply-chain task force, said the volunteers had served an important function.

“The first thing we knew we needed to do was find more product around the globe in order to buy time to increase domestic production,” the admiral said. “This group made lots of calls, followed up on many leads. They helped wade through the hundreds of false claims and turned over a few true sources to government action officers. Their efforts saved many government man hours.”

But other officials described Mr. Kushner’s efforts as the solution to a problem of the president’s own making. Had Mr. Trump acted earlier than mid-March to assign FEMA to lead the federal government’s coronavirus response, the agency’s normal procedures might have been able to cope with the swelling demand. By the time Mr. Trump’s decision came, the Strategic National Stockpile was already running low on critical supplies. FEMA had no choice but to pursue every available lead, officials said, no matter how far-fetched.

And while the volunteers who began arriving around March 20 put eyes on the influx of tips at the agency, the officials did not understand why the White House did not recruit more manpower from the military or other agencies with logistics expertise, as FEMA typically does in a crisis. Two current and a former FEMA official briefed on the agency’s operations said the White House effort led to missed opportunities to procure personal protective gear from legitimate sources.

Some associates of Mr. Trump sought special treatment from FEMA. In one case, Jeanine Pirro, the Trump stalwart and Fox host, repeatedly contacted task force members and FEMA officials until 100,000 masks were sent to a hospital she favored. Ms. Pirro did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Dr. Albert Hazzouri, a Pennsylvania dentist and visitor of Mar-a-Lago, the president’s private Florida club, repeatedly pressed FEMA officials to buy from his associates, after being referred by Rep. Brian Babin, a Texas Republican and fellow dentist.

He said he could help facilitate a procurement of 100,000 test kits from Mexico. Dr. Hazzouri, who has used his relationship with Mr. Trump to gain access to federal agencies in the past, repeatedly called the team of volunteers and FEMA officials, according to those involved in the agency’s operations, even invoking his friendship with the president when he was directed to a portal for submitting bids.

When reached for comment, a man who identified himself as the dentist’s brother said Dr. Hazzouri was not available and denied that the dentist had made use of his friendship with the president, received any special treatment or had a financial interest in the potential deal, saying he merely had made a few introductions. None of his tips resulted in FEMA supply deals.

The agency’s career staff is filled with military veterans and disaster specialists whose careers trace the history of recent American catastrophes: Katrina, Sandy, Deepwater Horizon, Irene. The volunteers, most in their 20s, had different names in their résumés: Stanford, Goldman Sachs, Google. One had graduated from college just the previous spring. They were recruited from Insight Partners, Clayton Dubilier & Rice and other investment firms and consulting companies in New York City.

According to the whistle-blower, they were given little initial instruction. They used personal Gmail accounts, prompting suspicion from some prospective suppliers and brokers who questioned their bona fides. A few days after they began, a government lawyer belatedly showed up with nondisclosure forms from the Department of Homeland Security.

Bottles of hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes were placed around the room, and in a nod to social distancing, sheets of paper were laid on every other chair at the long conference tables, though many of the seats were eventually occupied by volunteers. For Mr. Pence’s pep talk in late March, the televisions were switched from CNN to Fox News.

For the next three weeks, the volunteers worked 12-hour days, struggling to keep up with leads funneled through FEMA’s website and trying to navigate the federal government’s byzantine procurement rules. But their work was plagued by frequent changes in process, efforts that turned out to be wasted, poor communication and mounting dread about their lack of progress, the whistle-blower said in interviews and the blistering memo.

“These problems affect the entire chain of command, hamper our ability to respond and could result in many Americans losing their lives,” the whistle-blower wrote.

Their temporary supervisor was Rachael Baitel, a 2014 Princeton graduate who had worked as a White House assistant to Ms. Trump before moving on to a position at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Ms. Baitel told volunteers to prioritize leads from the politically connected, according to the former volunteer and documents reviewed by The Times. The senior administration officials said that the White House task force was unaware that any FEMA leads were being prioritized on a V.I.P. list. All leads judged by the volunteers to be worth pursuing, the officials said, would have been reviewed by career government officials, with a final contract decision made by FEMA procurement experts.

Many other leads came to the volunteers from Mr. Kushner’s team. There was Mr. Boehler, a former venture capitalist and Mr. Kushner’s college roommate, who was serving elsewhere in the administration, as well as Avi Berkowitz, a Kushner aide, and Ms. Trump’s chief of staff, Julie Radford. Tips also came in from Republican members of congress, conservative media personalities and Admiral Polowczyk.

When Tana Goertz, the former “Apprentice” contestant who now runs Women For Trump, wrote in with a lead for N95 masks, it circulated among top Trump appointees at three federal agencies — including Mr. Trump’s top public health preparedness official, Robert Kadlec. Ms. Goertz did not reply to messages seeking comment.

In contrast, Dr. Hendricks’s messages sometimes went unanswered and were passed from person to person, even though he provided the codes and filled out the forms the government required, and sent a picture of the masks to Ms. Baitel to prove that they were real.

Weeks after the volunteers left in early April, and his tip had been passed to a Defense Department employee, Dr. Hendricks finally saw a sign of progress: notification of a possible site visit in China. “After five weeks of somewhat frustrating efforts, I’m finally hopeful,” he said.

Other potential suppliers contacted FEMA officials after the volunteers departed, asking about lack of follow-up. FEMA officials, who were not provided with complete records on the calls made by the volunteers, were forced to restart vetting some bids.

The volunteers also worked on other aspects of Mr. Kushner’s White House effort, notably Project Airbridge, in which American taxpayers paid to ship crates of gowns, masks and gloves procured in China by large American suppliers, such as Cardinal Health, McKesson and Owens & Minor.

Supplies of protective gear have improved in recent weeks, administration officials said, pointing to an agreement the White House struck with 3M in early April to procure more than 160 million respirators over three months. But many medical workers across the country say that shortages remain a serious problem.

“There are health providers quitting their jobs because they are worried about getting sick,” said Dr. Valerie Griffeth, an emergency room doctor in Oregon and a founder of Get Us P.P.E., a volunteer effort to match available medical supplies with hospitals and emergency workers.

She and other front-line medical workers continue to press Mr. Trump to make use of the Defense Production Act, and she criticized the administration’s reliance on the private sector to address the shortages.

“To bring in inexperienced volunteers is laughable when there are professional logistics experts in government who could have helped with procurement and distribution and get us the supplies we need,” she said.

Christopher Flavelle contributed reporting. Susan C. Beachy, Alain Delaquérière and Lauren Pressman contributed research.

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Administration to Phase Out Coronavirus Task Force

Westlake Legal Group 05dc-virus-taskforce-facebookJumbo Administration to Phase Out Coronavirus Task Force United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Pence, Mike Kushner, Jared Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Azar, Alex M II

WASHINGTON — Despite growing evidence that the pandemic is still raging, administration officials said on Tuesday that they had made so much progress in bringing it under control that they planned to wind down the coronavirus task force in the coming weeks and focus the White House on restarting the economy.

Vice President Mike Pence, who has led the task force for two months, said it would probably wrap up its work around the end of the May, and shift management of the public health response back to the federal agencies whose work it was created to coordinate.

Other administration officials said that under plans still in discussion, the White House would consult with medical experts on a more informal basis and that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, would help oversee a group pushing for progress in developing a vaccine and treatments for the virus.

“It really is all a reflection of the tremendous progress we’ve made as a country,” Mr. Pence told reporters at the White House.

His comments came a day after the revelation of new estimates that suggest deaths from the coronavirus, now above 70,000, could double by early August, and that infection rates may rise sharply as businesses reopen. While the number of new cases logged daily in the New York City area is declining, new cases continue to grow across the rest of the United States.

With President Trump facing a tough re-election battle, the White House appears intent on putting a response to the daily death toll more toward the background as it emphasizes efforts at a return to economic and job growth. The president’s advisers have repeatedly tried to place the responsibility for testing and decisions about reopening on individual states.

The task force spent some of its time preparing talking points for Mr. Trump, who took over its public briefings, often turning them into lengthy opportunities to air grievances, praise his own handling of the crisis and offer up his own prescriptions.

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There were signals in recent days of the task force’s impending demise: The panel did not meet on Saturday, as it typically does, and canceled a meeting on Monday. And the president has stopped linking his news briefings to the task force’s meetings and no longer routinely arrays task force members around him in his public appearances, a change that came swiftly after he mused one day about the possibility of injecting disinfectants to kill the virus.

Members of the coronavirus task force, including Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, had to urge Americans not to take those steps. And they often served as a public check on Mr. Trump’s questionable or false statements, cautioning about promises of a quick vaccine or the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, a drug promoted by the president.

While the task force’s advice has sometimes been swept aside by Mr. Trump and the guidelines it produced for states to reopen ignored by some of them, the group was a comforting symbol for people scared about the virus’s spread and looking for a sign the White House was taking it seriously. People closely monitored which members attended, noting any time Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, a leading infectious disease expert, was absent. The decision to phase out the task force has prompted new questions about whether the administration will be adequately organized to address the complex, life-or-death decisions related to the virus and give sufficient voice to scientists and public health experts in making policy.

“We will have something in a different form,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Tuesday during a trip to Arizona.

Asked why now was the right time to wind down the task force, he replied, “Because we can’t keep our country closed for the next five years.”

If there is a recurrence of cases in the fall, he said, “we’re going to put the flame out.”

White House officials said that medical officials like Dr. Birx would still be advising the president and be available to answer reporters’ questions.

Still, the change means a growing role for Mr. Kushner, who is looking for a czarlike appointee to oversee the development of a vaccine and therapeutic treatments, as well as for top economic officials like Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and the White House advisers Larry Kudlow and Kevin Hassett.

Since it was formed in January, the task force has been the scene of bureaucratic and policy battling, its influence only as great as Mr. Trump’s episodic willingness to accept its advice.

Its priorities and configuration often reflected the most immediate circumstances, starting with quarantines for passengers of cruise ships and repatriated Americans in late January and early February. But the group spent little time managing the testing of Americans for the virus, a problem the administration still has not fully resolved.

It was initially overseen by Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, before he was cast aside for Mr. Pence. Its influence peaked in March, when Dr. Birx led other members in persuading the president to urge the stay-at-home and social-distancing orders that have averted even higher death tolls, but at a huge cost to the economy.

From the task force’s inception, there have been tensions between economic advisers and some of Mr. Trump’s health and national security officials over the right balance between keeping the nation locked down to minimize illness and death and the devastation from a historic surge in joblessness.

In recent weeks, one official said, economic advisers, including Mr. Mnuchin, have had an increasingly prominent role in discussions of public health matters. To critics, Mr. Trump’s promotion of economic recovery reflects the White House’s impatience with the caution that top health officials have urged for months as the virus’s death toll has climbed rapidly.

At the same time, top White House officials have moved much of the coordination of federal resources away from the official task force. A group led by Mr. Kushner has been functioning as something of a shadow task force since early March. Among other issues, Mr. Kushner has told people he is helping oversee the vaccine development process, and he has been overseeing the expansion of testing.

“The task force has been hampered by inconsistent messaging,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, a former top F.D.A. official who teaches on public health crises at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “There were too many times when what the scientists said and what the president said were at odds.”

At various moments, different splinter groups separate from the task force have met elsewhere in the White House, including the one led by Mr. Kushner, which focused on testing and then supplies of personal protective equipment and ventilators. Another has been led by Joe Grogan, the chief of the White House Domestic Policy Council who plans to leave his post this month.

That group, composed mostly of top health officials, gathers in the West Wing’s Roosevelt Room to organize and script discussion for the larger task force meeting that occurs directly after it, one senior administration official said. Another group, which consists solely of top health officials with medical degrees, meets less regularly in person and by phone.

The news of the task force’s potential disbandment was not met with strong resistance from medical officials in the group, according to senior administration officials. In recent months, top health officials had become wary of the amount of time task force obligations were taking, including trips to and from the White House, which is far from the headquarters of agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, where a task force meeting was scheduled to take place on Tuesday before it was moved to the White House, one official said.

Dr. Fauci described the meetings last week as the place where health officials could spend 90 minutes or so examining data about new infections and deaths, the effectiveness of potential treatments and the surging of resources to new hot spots.

“Everyone understands the task force and refers to it as the coordinating body, where policies came out, messaging came out, guidelines were centralized from this one body,” said Dr. Leana S. Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University. “We need to have a national coordinating body that has the ear of the president and is able to direct the entire federal government.”

Noah Weiland and David E. Sanger reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.

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Judge Justin Walker Faces Scrutiny in Bid for Seat on Powerful Appeals Court

Westlake Legal Group 05dc-walker1-facebookJumbo Judge Justin Walker Faces Scrutiny in Bid for Seat on Powerful Appeals Court Walker, Justin R United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Metts, Frank McConnell, Mitch LOUISVILLE, Ky. Kentucky federalist society Appointments and Executive Changes Appeals Courts (US) American Bar Assn

WASHINGTON — In March, after Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh took time off from his Supreme Court duties to swear in Justin Walker to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky in Louisville, the newly minted judge recognized how he had gotten there at the age of 37, with zero trial experience but a pedigree in conservatism.

His mother had supported a rising Republican star named Mitch McConnell when her son was just 8, Judge Walker recalled: “I’ve got to hand it to you, Mom. It has been extremely important to me that Kentucky’s senior senator is Mitch McConnell.”

Then he turned to Justice Kavanaugh as he addressed the justice’s liberal opponents: “What can I say that I haven’t already said on Fox News?” said Judge Walker, who gave 119 interviews to the news media and several speeches paid for by the Federalist Society rebutting Kavanaugh critics. “In Brett Kavanaugh’s America,” he said, “we will not surrender while you wage war on our work, or our cause, or our hope, or our dream.”

He closed with a broadside against the American Bar Association, which had given him a rare “Not Qualified” rating for his absence of courtroom work, categorizing the professional organization among his “opponents.” “Although we are winning we have not won. Although we celebrate today, we cannot take for granted tomorrow — or we will lose our courts and our country to critics who call us terrifying and who describe us as deplorable.”

Barely two months later, Judge Walker will appear Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee as Mr. McConnell’s handpicked nominee to a new seat: the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, long seen as the second-most powerful court in the land and a potential springboard to the most powerful, the Supreme Court.

In his quest to remake the American judiciary, Mr. McConnell is not done with his protégé, Judge Walker, the grandson of a millionaire power broker in Kentucky and a soldier in the Senate majority leader’s judicial push. Calling senators back to Washington amid a pandemic, Mr. McConnell plans a swift confirmation for the youngest nominee to the District of Columbia appellate court since 1983.

Republicans promote Judge Walker as a “drain the swamp” Washington outsider, who triumphed over a hardscrabble upbringing in Kentucky to reach the heights of American jurisprudence 11 years out of law school.

“He’s young, brilliant and conservative,” said Mike Davis, who leads the Article III Project, a judicial advocacy group that has pushed President Trump’s appointments to the federal bench.

Democrats see the appointment differently. “I don’t think Mitch cares much about who is appointed to these spots as long as it’s someone he knows and he has confidence will be a conservative,” said Representative John Yarmuth, a Democrat who represents Mr. McConnell’s hometown, Louisville, and who has known Mr. McConnell for decades.

“It’s the ultimate wielding of power,” he added, “and that’s what Mitch lives for.”

Judge Walker’s biography has received something of a makeover during his judicial ascent. Last year, he described his mother, Deborah Walker, as “a single working mom” who “made indescribable sacrifices to provide me, the first in my family to graduate from college, with the opportunities she didn’t have herself.”

But his maternal grandfather, Frank R. Metts, was a millionaire real estate developer and a Kentucky transportation secretary who was one of the state’s most powerful officials in the early 1980s. Judge Walker’s estranged father, Terry Martin Walker, earned his college degree in 1979, several years before he and Judge Walker’s mother divorced in 1985.

“My father believed strongly in his children working to make their own way in the world,” Deborah Walker said in emailed comments.

“When Justin referred to ‘opportunities I didn’t have,’ he was referring to the opportunities a college graduate has,” she said. “I wanted that for him.”

In an interview, Terry Walker declined to comment on his son’s personal narrative.

“He was funny, just so smart and a good kid all the way around,” Mr. Walker said.

“Justin and I had a great, great relationship. But junior or senior year in high school, he kind of got out of wanting to see me,” said Mr. Walker, a real estate appraiser. “His mom was doing a fantastic job raising him. And I loved him so much I had to let him go.”

Mr. Walker said he had continued to pay child support and half of his son’s tuition at St. Xavier High School, an elite Catholic school in Louisville. Ms. Walker disputed that.

Judge Walker’s parents were barely into their 20s when they married in 1976. They named Justin, born in 1982, after Justin Hayward, the guitarist and frontman for an often over-the-top British progressive rock band, the Moody Blues, and gave him the same middle name, Reed, as his well-known grandfather. Judge Walker served as ring bearer when his father remarried, and in his younger years, he was close to the three children his father had with his second wife.

He grew up in a Democratic household. After making millions on land deals, his grandfather became Kentucky transportation secretary in the administration of Gov. John Y. Brown Jr., overseeing thousands of workers and tens of millions of dollars in construction funds. After his grandparents divorced, his grandmother, Barbara Metts, married Norton Cohen, president of the Acme Paper Stock Company and a prominent member of Louisville’s Jewish community.

Despite his Democratic pedigree, young Justin embraced the Republican Party from childhood. “I remember on Halloween once or more than once, his costume was a G.O.P. elephant,” Terry Walker recalled.

A profile in his high school alumni magazine said Judge Walker was “putting up political yard signs at age 4 or 5.” In a 1995 letter to the editor in The Courier-Journal in Louisville, a 13-year-old Justin Walker defended the Christian Coalition.

“You have made a bunch of concerned parents, who feel strongly about their beliefs and who are trying to take back their government from all the Washington bureaucrats, look like a bunch of fanatical, right-winged, anti-Semitic bigots,” he wrote.

Mr. Cohen arranged his grandson’s first meeting with Mr. McConnell while he was a student at St. Xavier. Judge Walker interviewed Mr. McConnell for a treatise on the Republicans’ 1994 takeover of Congress, a paper that Mr. McConnell hailed as equivalent to “a Ph.D. dissertation” at his protégé’s first judicial confirmation hearing last year.

“He was such a political nerd or junkie, into the ‘contract with America’ and Newt Gingrich,” said Michael Denbow, who was class president at St. Xavier when Judge Walker attended. “It was something the rest of us slackers didn’t even think about.”

In summer 2002, while a student at Duke University, Judge Walker interned in Mr. McConnell’s office. After graduating in 2004, he worked on the re-election campaign of President George W. Bush, and then served as a speechwriter for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

He attended Harvard Law School, joining its chapter of the conservative Federalist Society in 2006. He held leadership roles in the organization until last year, and has kept up his membership from the bench.

Judge Walker clerked for Justice Kavanaugh when he was a judge on the District of Columbia Circuit Court, and then for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court, working for brief periods in between at the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. He then moved back to Louisville for a job teaching legal writing at the University of Louisville, a McConnell power center.

While in Louisville, Judge Walker also did work for Javelin, a literary agency founded by former aides to Mr. McConnell and Mr. Rumsfeld. He declined to tell the Senate whose books he had worked on, citing his clients’ expectations of confidentiality. But he was prominently named as “Justin Walker at Javelin” in the acknowledgments of a 2015 book by Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, which is considering his nomination this week.

“It’s ironic,” Mr. Denbow added, “He’s probably better suited as a circuit court judge than a trial judge, given his lack of trial experience but his great experience as a clerk and an academic.”

The American Bar Association concurred with that assessment. Late Tuesday, it rated Judge Walker “well qualified” for the seat on the District of Columbia Circuit, citing his scholarship as well as his writing and clerking experience.

On June 22, 2018, Judge Walker told Mr. McConnell that he was interested in a judgeship, according to his Senate questionnaire. Five days later, he gave his first interview pressing for the Kavanaugh confirmation.

In July 2018, with Mr. Trump embroiled in the special counsel investigation stemming from his firing of James B. Comey as the F.B.I. director, Judge Walker wrote a paper arguing that “calls for an independent F.B.I. are misguided and dangerous.”

The F.B.I.’s history of “infringements on liberty,” he wrote, “shows why the F.B.I. must not operate as an independent agency. It must be accountable to the President.”

Two months later, in September 2018, Judge Walker was interviewed by White House lawyers to replace Justice Kavanaugh on the District of Columbia Circuit, well before he was being considered for the lower court. He was passed over that time, but in March 2019, he again met with the White House about a potential appointment. He was confirmed along party lines last fall to the trial court in Kentucky, and on Jan. 8, 2020, Mr. McConnell accompanied him to the White House to meet with the president.

At the March swearing-in, Justice Kavanaugh emphasized in his remarks that Justice Elena Kagan, who was named to the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama, had recommended Judge Walker as a clerk to Justice Kennedy, while she was dean of the Harvard Law School.

But after taking the oath, Judge Walker delivered a speech that touched nerves after the bitter Kavanaugh fight. “You were like St. Paul,” he said in describing Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation, “hard pressed on every side but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.”

Judge Walker cited St. Paul again last month in a decision in favor of the On Fire Christian Church, in Louisville, which had sued Mayor Greg Fischer over his urging faith leaders to avoid large gatherings such as the church’s drive-in Easter services amid the coronavirus pandemic. “On Holy Thursday, an American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter,” Judge Walker wrote.

Manning G. Warren III, Judge Walker’s fellow law professor at the University of Louisville, sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee in support of Judge Walker’s confirmation. But even he said he considered that 16-page opinion over the top. “I don’t think Mayor Fischer would ever criminalize Easter,” Mr. Warren said, laughing. “He’s a good guy.”

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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Trump Eyes New Tax Cuts for Next Stimulus Package

Westlake Legal Group 05DC-VIRUS-TAX-01-facebookJumbo Trump Eyes New Tax Cuts for Next Stimulus Package United States Politics and Government United States Economy Trump, Donald J Tax Credits, Deductions and Exemptions Recession and Depression Payroll Tax Federal Taxes (US) Corporate Taxes Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is considering a wide range of tax-cut proposals for businesses and investors in the next coronavirus response bill as it tries to shift from government spending programs to support the economy toward measures that aim to reinvigorate growth.

The list of ideas under discussion includes a reduction in the capital gains tax rate and measures that would allow companies to deduct the full costs of any investments they make now or in the future, according to administration officials and several outside experts who have discussed plans with the White House.

Those proposals, which are still being debated and are not final, could accompany President Trump’s top two priorities for the next rescue package: the suspension of payroll taxes for workers and an expanded deduction for corporate spending on meals and entertainment.

Mr. Trump and his aides are also planning to push lawmakers to approve legal liability limits for businesses that operate during the pandemic, a top priority of business lobbying groups in Washington and Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader.

Some of the administration’s proposals have been disclosed publicly by officials, while others have been discussed internally and with outside advisers.

None of the plans are likely to find favor with congressional Democrats, who are pushing instead for additional support for Americans who have lost their jobs as the pandemic plunges the country into recession and for hundreds of billions of dollars in federal assistance to struggling state and local governments to prevent layoffs of teachers, police officers and other government workers.

The administration’s internal debates reflect a balancing act as the White House tries to continue helping businesses and individuals weather the recession while hoping that a gradual lifting of state restrictions on economic activity will begin to restart growth and move the discussion in Congress away from additional spending programs and toward incentives for investment.

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Activist protests in state capitals in favor of “reopening” the economy — and a growing backlash among congressional conservatives against the $3-trillion-and-growing tab for federal spending on economic assistance during the crisis — have increased the pressure from Mr. Trump’s base to shift the government’s focus, even as millions of Americans are applying for new unemployment benefits each week.

“‘No more spending’ has really become the rallying cry of the right,” said Stephen Moore, an informal adviser to Mr. Trump who is the president of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, which has pushed governors and other officials to ease restrictions on restaurants, bars and other businesses. “We’ve done the spending, it didn’t work, and now we need to try something else. There is going to be civil war in Congress over this.”

But administration officials and many of their allies privately acknowledge what public forecasters, including the Congressional Budget Office, are increasingly projecting: that the recession will be so severe that it could take years for the American economy to fully recover, even if growth returns this year.

That could necessitate continuing government support to people and businesses, though administration officials are divided over what form that should take and how much they should spend. Some believe that business support is best left to the Federal Reserve, which has opened a series of lending programs meant to keep the financial system functioning and to help steady the economy once the recovery begins.

There is debate within the administration, for example, over whether to continue spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides forgivable loans for smaller companies. Congress has already allocated $660 billion for the program and to help companies stay in business and keep paying workers, but it has quickly lost favor among lawmakers amid revelations that larger companies are benefiting from funds meant to help mom-and-pop shops.

Mr. Trump nodded to the tension in a Fox News virtual town hall on Sunday, telling a questioner who was experiencing economic duress: “There is more help coming. There has to be.” But, he added: “I think we’re going to have an incredible following year. We’re going to go into a transition in the third quarter, and we’re going to see things happening that look good. I really believe that. I have a good feel for this stuff.”

Mr. Trump’s advisers are considering several measures that so-called supply-side conservatives have long proposed as a means to accelerate economic growth. In many cases, those measures would expand or make permanent provisions of the sweeping tax overhaul Mr. Trump signed into law in 2017. They include making permanent a provision that allows businesses to immediately deduct the full cost of their investments in equipment and other relatively short-lived assets, which is currently set to begin phasing out in 2022.

In some cases, the proposals would reverse provisions tucked into the 2017 overhaul to help pay for the overall package, such as limiting deductions on research and development investments in 2022.

Officials have also discussed extending the immediate deduction provision, known as “full expensing,” to structures — allowing anyone who buys a building to write off its cost right away. The Tax Foundation in Washington, which analyzes tax proposals and tends to find high economic effects from tax cuts, estimates that such an expansion would reduce federal revenues by $1.6 trillion over a decade, before accounting for additional growth.

Administration officials have also weighed a less-costly substitute for that proposal, which would allow companies to deduct investments in structures over time, but with adjustments for inflation and other factors, in order to increase the value of the deduction. That “neutral cost recovery” system would reduce revenues by about $1.3 trillion before accounting for growth effects, the Tax Foundation estimates.

Officials are also considering some way to encourage individual investors to take risk, perhaps by reducing the rate on capital gains taxes, a senior administration official said. Those taxes, which range from 0 to 20 percent based on income levels, are assessed on realized profits from sales of stock and other investments.

Mr. Trump has made clear, officials and allies said, that his top priorities are a suspension of all payroll taxes paid by employees and an expansion of business deductions for meals, entertainment and sporting events.

Democrats have already begun to criticize Mr. Trump for pushing tax cuts they say are unrelated to the economy’s current situation — where activity is limited and slow to return even in areas where restrictions have been lifted, because would-be consumers continue to fear contracting the virus — and unlikely to help hard-hit workers and small-business owners.

“It’s extraordinarily naïve to think that tax cuts are going to bring this economy back faster,” said Representative Donald S. Beyer Jr., Democrat of Virginia and the vice chairman of the Joint Economic Committee. “I have not talked to a single economist yet who says tax cuts are a viable solution here.”

Mr. Beyer and two Democratic counterparts in the Senate, Michael Bennet of Colorado and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, released a plan on Tuesday for a very different sort of economic response to the virus. It would tie enhanced unemployment benefits to economic conditions, phasing them down from the current benefit — which adds $600 per week to every unemployment check — once the crisis abates and the unemployment rate begins to fall. If the rate stays near 10 percent for years to come, the benefits could last until as late as April 2022.

Republicans have pushed to end the enhanced unemployment benefits earlier than scheduled, saying they are dissuading workers from staying on payrolls or returning to their jobs.

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A Bitter Battle for a California House Seat Unfolds in Quarantine

Westlake Legal Group 00-CA25-facebookJumbo A Bitter Battle for a California House Seat Unfolds in Quarantine United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Smith, Christy Republican Party Hill, Katie (1987- ) Garcia, Mike Elections, House of Representatives Democratic Party Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) California absentee voting

LOS ANGELES — Christy Smith, a Democratic House candidate in suburban Los Angeles, had just finished a debate (over Zoom, of course) and was eager to point something out: First, President Trump had endorsed her Republican opponent, Mike Garcia. Then the president raised the specter of voting fraud, writing on Twitter: “Turn your Ballots in now and track them, watching for dishonesty. Report to Law Enforcement.”

Democrats saw this special election on May 12 as a referendum on Mr. Trump even before the coronavirus crisis brought his leadership front and center for many Americans. For Mr. Garcia, the president’s support means potentially more donors and a motivated, loyal base. For Ms. Smith, it’s a vulnerability to attack.

The same week, we have a president who endorsed both my opponent and potentially using household disinfectants to treat a deadly pandemic,” Ms. Smith said from her home office in a recent interview. “I think that pretty well encapsulates the moment.”

The election is a microcosm of the country’s politics amid the health crisis: It is an early test of Mr. Trump’s sway in a race both he and his former rival, Hillary Clinton, have weighed in on. It is a battle over vote-by-mail in which doubts have been sown over the election’s integrity. And it is showing just how nasty politics can be, even under lockdown.

In the 2018 midterm elections, this Southern California district, the 25th Congressional, was one of the highest-profile victories for Democrats. But after just a year in office, Representative Katie Hill resigned after admitting to an affair with a staff member. Now, Ms. Smith and Mr. Garcia are locked in a bitter battle that will serve as an important early test for both parties ahead of the fall.

One key question is how much of a role Mr. Trump will play. Democrats believe that focusing on his leadership, particularly over the pandemic, will help them in a suburban district north of Los Angeles that Ms. Hill won by nine percentage points. But Republicans appear emboldened, counting on reliable conservatives to cast their ballots.

Each of the roughly 425,000 voters in the district was sent a ballot for the election — with return postage already paid. But there’s another unknowable: How much will it take to get voters to move those ballots from their kitchen counter to their mailbox at a time when many are consumed by worries about their health and finances?

If the choice is between “‘I’ve got to spend a little time thinking about who my congressional candidate is today’ or ‘I’ve got to figure out a way to get back online and apply one more time for my unemployment insurance that I haven’t gotten yet,’” the answer is obvious, Ms. Smith said. “People are going to take care of their families.”

“We get the challenge,” she added. “We understand how hard it is.”

Mr. Garcia, a defense contractor and political newcomer, has relied heavily on his biography — he was raised in the district, leaving after high school for the Navy, where he served as a pilot. Nearly all of his advertisements feature him standing in front of a plane, and his campaign logo is designed to resemble jet wings, with “fighter pilot” above his name on his website.

During a recent call with volunteers, Ms. Smith, a current member of the State Assembly with a long history in politics, laughingly questioned Mr. Garcia’s credentials.

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“Did you guys know he’s a pilot?” she asked sarcastically. During the debate the day before, she said, she texted her team to point out that while he had “pictures of planes behind him,” her background was “constitutional law books.”

Mr. Garcia’s supporters seized on the remarks, saying they were evidence that she does not respect his military service. Mr. Garcia declined to comment for this article.

During the pandemic, the race has become increasingly vitriolic — with the campaigns unable to knock on doors, they have focused on blanketing television and social media with advertisements, many of them negative.

The race is also putting a sharp focus on the increasingly partisan debate over vote-by-mail, which Republicans have portrayed as ripe for fraud, though there is no evidence of widespread wrongdoing. Party officials have focused much of their ire on so-called ballot harvesting, the legal practice in which political organizers collect ballots from voters and drop them off at polling sites on their behalf.

Speaking to supporters in late January, Mr. Garcia said that he believed many votes were left uncounted and that the special election would “magnify or potentially open up the opportunity for more fraud than already existed,” both unfounded claims. Republicans in Congress, including Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader, have repeatedly questioned the results of past elections in the state.

“The question is, how confident am I in the integrity of the election? Not confident at all,” Mr. Garcia said. “The bottom line is, I have very low confidence in a truly high-integrity election process.”

This month, Republican officials in California sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, demanding that he make such collections illegal amid stay-at-home orders. Last week, state party officials filed a lawsuit to try force such an action.

But while Ms. Smith said she was not allowing anyone from her campaign to collect ballots, Democrats say Mr. Garcia’s campaign appears to be setting up the kind of system his party has repeatedly condemned. Officials from his campaign have encouraged local churches to set up unofficial drop-off sites for ballots as recently as last month, according to an internal email provided by Democratic officials.

Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, has not issued any directive over collecting ballots, but has been unabashed in his response to accusations from Republicans that he has presided over elections rife with fraud — a claim he calls baseless.

“Voter fraud is nothing but a distraction and nothing but a pretext for suppressing the vote,” said Mr. Padilla, a Democrat. “It’s disingenuous at a time when we should be making it easier — not stifling rights.”

More than half of all voters in California have voted by mail for the last decade. Mr. Padilla and other election officials view the special election as a test run for November. Though state officials are still hammering out detailed plans, Mr. Padilla expects that voters statewide will automatically receive their ballots by mail.

Even then, local officials will still be expected to open in-person polling places, and they have begun to search for larger locations to allow for social distancing and for new volunteers to work the sites.

“The most important thing is to demonstrate that even during the Covid pandemic, our democracy is resilient, and that we can provide accessible and safe measures both now and especially for November,” Mr. Padilla said.

Early indications suggest voters are turning out in high numbers. Already, nearly 20 percent of voters in the district have cast their ballots, with 31 percent of registered Republicans and 19 percent of Democrats doing so, according to tracking data. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 30,000 voters in the district.

And Mr. Trump is hardly the only high-profile official paying attention to the race: Ms. Smith attracted endorsements from Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, and this week Ms. Hill’s new political action committee began a $200,000 advertising blitz to urge her former supporters to vote in the special election, targeting newly registered voters and those who cast a ballot in 2018 but had not consistently voted in congressional elections.

But many Democrats worry that Ms. Hill’s sudden resignation left the party vulnerable in the district, and strategists have privately reported that Ms. Hill’s high unfavorable ratings in the district have made it more difficult for Ms. Smith. In February, several California lawmakers met at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee headquarters and expressed concern that she was not raising the kind of money needed to win the district. Both Ms. Smith and Mr. Garcia have each raised over $2.2 million and have about $300,000 cash on hand, according to their most recent campaign finance reports. Last month, the Cook Political Report shifted the race from “lean Democratic” to a “tossup.”

During the 2018 midterm elections, activists from safe Democratic districts in Los Angeles routinely trekked an hour north to knock on doors in the middle-class district, which has long drawn families looking for more affordable suburban housing and has grown increasingly diverse — roughly 45 percent of the district is black, Latino or Asian.

Indivisible, the liberal group that helped flip several congressional districts in 2018 and has backed Ms. Smith, had so many volunteers for at-home phone banks in recent weeks that it had to create a waiting list and wrote postcards to send to every voter in the district.

“People are really motivated to defend what they won, and there’s definitely still a lot of energy among volunteers,” said Lucy Solomon, a national political director for the group. But she tempered her optimism. “It’s impossible to know how coronavirus is going to affect the outcome,” she said.

Though Mr. Padilla expects that the overwhelming majority of voters will choose to mail in their ballots, a few in-person voting options will be open on May 12, mostly to allow for same-day voter registration.

Still, he cautioned, if the results show a close race, a winner might not be clear for days, or even weeks. And no matter who wins, a rematch is expected in November, when the candidates will battle for the full congressional term.

Catie Edmondson contributed reporting from Washington.

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A Bitter Battle for a California House Seat Unfolds in Quarantine

Westlake Legal Group 00-CA25-facebookJumbo A Bitter Battle for a California House Seat Unfolds in Quarantine United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Smith, Christy Republican Party Hill, Katie (1987- ) Garcia, Mike Elections, House of Representatives Democratic Party Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) California absentee voting

LOS ANGELES — Christy Smith, a Democratic House candidate in suburban Los Angeles, had just finished a debate (over Zoom, of course) and was eager to point something out: First, President Trump had endorsed her Republican opponent, Mike Garcia. Then the president raised the specter of voting fraud, writing on Twitter: “Turn your Ballots in now and track them, watching for dishonesty. Report to Law Enforcement.”

Democrats saw this special election on May 12 as a referendum on Mr. Trump even before the coronavirus crisis brought his leadership front and center for many Americans. For Mr. Garcia, the president’s support means potentially more donors and a motivated, loyal base. For Ms. Smith, it’s a vulnerability to attack.

The same week, we have a president who endorsed both my opponent and potentially using household disinfectants to treat a deadly pandemic,” Ms. Smith said from her home office in a recent interview. “I think that pretty well encapsulates the moment.”

The election is a microcosm of the country’s politics amid the health crisis: It is an early test of Mr. Trump’s sway in a race both he and his former rival, Hillary Clinton, have weighed in on. It is a battle over vote-by-mail in which doubts have been sown over the election’s integrity. And it is showing just how nasty politics can be, even under lockdown.

In the 2018 midterm elections, this Southern California district, the 25th Congressional, was one of the highest-profile victories for Democrats. But after just a year in office, Representative Katie Hill resigned after admitting to an affair with a staff member. Now, Ms. Smith and Mr. Garcia are locked in a bitter battle that will serve as an important early test for both parties ahead of the fall.

One key question is how much of a role Mr. Trump will play. Democrats believe that focusing on his leadership, particularly over the pandemic, will help them in a suburban district north of Los Angeles that Ms. Hill won by nine percentage points. But Republicans appear emboldened, counting on reliable conservatives to cast their ballots.

Each of the roughly 425,000 voters in the district was sent a ballot for the election — with return postage already paid. But there’s another unknowable: How much will it take to get voters to move those ballots from their kitchen counter to their mailbox at a time when many are consumed by worries about their health and finances?

If the choice is between “‘I’ve got to spend a little time thinking about who my congressional candidate is today’ or ‘I’ve got to figure out a way to get back online and apply one more time for my unemployment insurance that I haven’t gotten yet,’” the answer is obvious, Ms. Smith said. “People are going to take care of their families.”

“We get the challenge,” she added. “We understand how hard it is.”

Mr. Garcia, a defense contractor and political newcomer, has relied heavily on his biography — he was raised in the district, leaving after high school for the Navy, where he served as a pilot. Nearly all of his advertisements feature him standing in front of a plane, and his campaign logo is designed to resemble jet wings, with “fighter pilot” above his name on his website.

During a recent call with volunteers, Ms. Smith, a current member of the State Assembly with a long history in politics, laughingly questioned Mr. Garcia’s credentials.

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“Did you guys know he’s a pilot?” she asked sarcastically. During the debate the day before, she said, she texted her team to point out that while he had “pictures of planes behind him,” her background was “constitutional law books.”

Mr. Garcia’s supporters seized on the remarks, saying they were evidence that she does not respect his military service. Mr. Garcia declined to comment for this article.

During the pandemic, the race has become increasingly vitriolic — with the campaigns unable to knock on doors, they have focused on blanketing television and social media with advertisements, many of them negative.

The race is also putting a sharp focus on the increasingly partisan debate over vote-by-mail, which Republicans have portrayed as ripe for fraud, though there is no evidence of widespread wrongdoing. Party officials have focused much of their ire on so-called ballot harvesting, the legal practice in which political organizers collect ballots from voters and drop them off at polling sites on their behalf.

Speaking to supporters in late January, Mr. Garcia said that he believed many votes were left uncounted and that the special election would “magnify or potentially open up the opportunity for more fraud than already existed,” both unfounded claims. Republicans in Congress, including Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader, have repeatedly questioned the results of past elections in the state.

“The question is, how confident am I in the integrity of the election? Not confident at all,” Mr. Garcia said. “The bottom line is, I have very low confidence in a truly high-integrity election process.”

This month, Republican officials in California sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, demanding that he make such collections illegal amid stay-at-home orders. Last week, state party officials filed a lawsuit to try force such an action.

But while Ms. Smith said she was not allowing anyone from her campaign to collect ballots, Democrats say Mr. Garcia’s campaign appears to be setting up the kind of system his party has repeatedly condemned. Officials from his campaign have encouraged local churches to set up unofficial drop-off sites for ballots as recently as last month, according to an internal email provided by Democratic officials.

Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, has not issued any directive over collecting ballots, but has been unabashed in his response to accusations from Republicans that he has presided over elections rife with fraud — a claim he calls baseless.

“Voter fraud is nothing but a distraction and nothing but a pretext for suppressing the vote,” said Mr. Padilla, a Democrat. “It’s disingenuous at a time when we should be making it easier — not stifling rights.”

More than half of all voters in California have voted by mail for the last decade. Mr. Padilla and other election officials view the special election as a test run for November. Though state officials are still hammering out detailed plans, Mr. Padilla expects that voters statewide will automatically receive their ballots by mail.

Even then, local officials will still be expected to open in-person polling places, and they have begun to search for larger locations to allow for social distancing and for new volunteers to work the sites.

“The most important thing is to demonstrate that even during the Covid pandemic, our democracy is resilient, and that we can provide accessible and safe measures both now and especially for November,” Mr. Padilla said.

Early indications suggest voters are turning out in high numbers. Already, nearly 20 percent of voters in the district have cast their ballots, with 31 percent of registered Republicans and 19 percent of Democrats doing so, according to tracking data. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 30,000 voters in the district.

And Mr. Trump is hardly the only high-profile official paying attention to the race: Ms. Smith attracted endorsements from Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, and this week Ms. Hill’s new political action committee began a $200,000 advertising blitz to urge her former supporters to vote in the special election, targeting newly registered voters and those who cast a ballot in 2018 but had not consistently voted in congressional elections.

But many Democrats worry that Ms. Hill’s sudden resignation left the party vulnerable in the district, and strategists have privately reported that Ms. Hill’s high unfavorable ratings in the district have made it more difficult for Ms. Smith. In February, several California lawmakers met at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee headquarters and expressed concern that she was not raising the kind of money needed to win the district. Both Ms. Smith and Mr. Garcia have each raised over $2.2 million and have about $300,000 cash on hand, according to their most recent campaign finance reports. Last month, the Cook Political Report shifted the race from “lean Democratic” to a “tossup.”

During the 2018 midterm elections, activists from safe Democratic districts in Los Angeles routinely trekked an hour north to knock on doors in the middle-class district, which has long drawn families looking for more affordable suburban housing and has grown increasingly diverse — roughly 45 percent of the district is black, Latino or Asian.

Indivisible, the liberal group that helped flip several congressional districts in 2018 and has backed Ms. Smith, had so many volunteers for at-home phone banks in recent weeks that it had to create a waiting list and wrote postcards to send to every voter in the district.

“People are really motivated to defend what they won, and there’s definitely still a lot of energy among volunteers,” said Lucy Solomon, a national political director for the group. But she tempered her optimism. “It’s impossible to know how coronavirus is going to affect the outcome,” she said.

Though Mr. Padilla expects that the overwhelming majority of voters will choose to mail in their ballots, a few in-person voting options will be open on May 12, mostly to allow for same-day voter registration.

Still, he cautioned, if the results show a close race, a winner might not be clear for days, or even weeks. And no matter who wins, a rematch is expected in November, when the candidates will battle for the full congressional term.

Catie Edmondson contributed reporting from Washington.

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Avigan May Cause Birth Defects. Japan’s Pushing It for Coronavirus.

Westlake Legal Group 00virus-avigan-1-facebookJumbo Avigan May Cause Birth Defects. Japan’s Pushing It for Coronavirus. Trump, Donald J Tests (Medical) Politics and Government Japan Hydroxychloroquine (Drug) Drugs (Pharmaceuticals) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Abe, Shinzo

TOKYO — As President Trump was extolling the promise of a malaria drug in the desperate hunt for coronavirus treatments, one of his top global allies was selling the world on his own “trump card,” a pale yellow pill that he said could be crucial to fighting the pandemic.

This supposed beacon of hope is an antiviral medicine known as Avigan, and its most vocal proponent is Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe.

Mr. Abe has pushed the homegrown drug in news conferences and in meetings with world leaders, including a call with Mr. Trump and the other heads of the Group of 7. He has allocated nearly $130 million to triple an existing stockpile of the medication. And he has offered to provide it free to dozens of other countries.

The prime minister, however, has glossed over one crucial fact: There is no solid evidence that Avigan is actually effective against Covid-19. While the drug has shown potential for treating some deadly diseases like Ebola in animal studies, there are limited findings that it works for any illness in humans.

What Avigan, whose generic name is favipiravir, does have is a peculiar regulatory history and one dangerous potential side effect — birth defects. Mr. Abe himself noted in a news conference on Monday that the side effect was “the same as thalidomide,” which caused deformities in thousands of babies in the 1950s and ’60s.

At the same time, Mr. Abe called for Avigan to be approved for use against Covid-19 by the end of the month. His pitches for the medication, like Mr. Trump’s testimonials for the antimalarial medicine hydroxychloroquine, are adding to concerns that national leaders could warp careful drug approval processes by making unusual interventions in support of unproven medications.

The prime minister’s boosterism has helped get Avigan into over 1,000 medical facilities in Japan, and the country’s foreign ministry says nearly 80 countries have requested the drug.

“We’re all impatient. We want a drug yesterday,” said Susan Ellenberg, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in designing clinical trials. “But we’re not going to know what works until we do these studies.”

As the world clamors for coronavirus treatments, doctors are testing an array of medications. A number of countries, including the United States, have planned or started trials of Avigan.

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For political leaders, backing the right treatment could save lives, bolster political fortunes, win international prestige and supercharge corporate profits. Promoting the wrong drug, however, can be disastrous.

The Food and Drug Administration last week warned that hydroxychloroquine and a related drug, chloroquine, can have dangerous effects on heart rhythm. In one extreme example, a man in Arizona died after ingesting a fish tank additive that had the same active ingredient as chloroquine.

Doubts among medical watchdogs have not slowed Avigan’s rise. The drug has the backing of one of Japan’s most powerful companies, Fujifilm, whose subsidiary Toyama Chemical developed Avigan. The Chinese government has attested to its safety and effectiveness against Covid-19.

On Japanese television, doctors are calling the pill a possible global savior, and celebrities who have taken it have offered glowing testimonials.

But that evidence is entirely anecdotal, said Masaya Yamato, chief of infectious diseases at Rinku General Medical Center in Osaka, who served on a 2016 government panel that considered the drug as a last line of defense against new types of influenza.

“I’m not saying this medicine doesn’t work. I’m saying there’s still no proof that it works,” Dr. Yamato said.

A spokeswoman for Fujifilm, Kana Matsumoto, said that the company was conducting clinical trials in Japan and the United States “in order to obtain substantial evidence of the drug’s efficacy” against Covid-19.

Avigan is potentially valuable because it functions differently from most other antivirals, interfering with viruses’ reproduction, instead of stopping them from entering cells. In studies on animals, the drug has appeared capable of curbing the propagation of certain viruses like Ebola, especially when administered early.

The drug also has major problems. Evidence of birth defects in animal trials led Japan to put unusually strict controls on the pill’s use and production. Before the coronavirus, it had been given to humans only during clinical trials and in desperate attempts to treat Ebola. None of those efforts delivered definitive evidence that it effectively treats any disease in humans, even common types of influenza, Dr. Yamato said.

If Avigan works against Covid-19, it is most likely useful in the illness’s early stages, said Norio Sugaya, an infectious diseases expert at Keiyu Hospital in Yokohama.

Dr. Sugaya said he believed the drug could be useful as a prophylactic if combined with widespread testing, a softening of the views he shared with the government task force in 2016, when he argued that the drug was unproven and should not be stockpiled.

Despite the warnings, officials at the time decided to purchase enough pills for two million patients, a stockpile that is now being tapped. So far, 1,100 Japanese medical facilities have given Avigan to almost 2,200 Covid-19 patients, with more than a thousand on wait lists for the drug, government data showed.

Many of those facilities are not applying rigorous scientific controls, such as double-blinding and the use of placebos. They argue that the potential benefits outweigh the risks, particularly in the elderly, for whom the problem of birth defects is unlikely to be an issue.

Fujifilm and others are now conducting proper trials of the drug for Covid-19. But Mr. Abe has rushed ahead of that process by calling for Avigan’s use to be expanded even further, by urging hospitals to give it to anyone who wants it, and by telling patients to ask for it by name.

On Monday, he said that the approval process would probably not depend on traditional clinical trials carried out by the developer, but instead would most likely take a “different form” after experts made a judgment about the drug’s effectiveness.

It is not clear why he has been such a vocal advocate. Some Japanese media have noted his close ties to Fujifilm’s chief executive, Shigetaka Komori. The two men have often golfed and eaten together, last meeting on Jan. 17, according to the prime minister’s schedule.

In mid-February, Fujifilm was the only company invited to attend a government task force meeting on international cooperation against the virus, according to materials from the meeting posted online.

Its representatives presented a 27-page PowerPoint presentation noting that the Chinese government was preparing to approve the medication for use on an emergency basis. The Chinese patent on Avigan expired last year, and if Japan dawdled, it could lose a potentially enormous market for the medicine.

In a news conference on Feb. 29, Mr. Abe said Japan was testing three treatments against the virus, mentioning only Avigan by name. The next week, the chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, told reporters that Mr. Abe’s relationship with Fujifilm’s chief executive had “absolutely no connection” to the prime minister’s views on the pill.

Government officials are thinking “it’s a drug that’s made in Japan, so let’s use it if we can,” said Dr. Yamato, the infectious diseases expert.

The Fujifilm spokeswoman said “there has never been any favorable treatment” from Mr. Abe or his administration.

The drug gained further support in March, when two Chinese research teams posted papers online suggesting that it had hastened the recovery of patients experiencing mild to moderate cases of Covid-19.

Chinese officials, who have been stung by criticism that they initially covered up the outbreak, began promoting the findings as an example of the country’s successful response to the virus.

But scientists soon began picking the papers apart, arguing that they lacked basic scientific controls. Both papers, which had not been peer reviewed, were revised, their conclusions becoming less assured.

Nevertheless, China quickly approved Avigan for use against Covid-19. It was the first time any country outside Japan had approved its use against any disease.

Japan itself had only conditionally greenlighted the drug in 2014 under what medical watchdogs describe as highly unusual circumstances.

In their assessment, regulators wrote that Avigan “has not shown effectiveness” against seasonal influenza and could not be approved for use against it. Instead, they would allow its use against new or re-emergent strains of influenza, but only in “crisis” situations when existing antivirals proved ineffective.

Ms. Matsumoto, Fujifilm’s spokeswoman, said that the approval process was “robust and rigorous.”

In a report issued Friday, Medwatcher Japan, a nonprofit group that monitors the pharmaceutical industry, described the approval process as “exceedingly abnormal.”

“It’s unbelievable that it was ever stockpiled as an influenza drug,” said Masumi Minaguchi, the group’s secretary general. “And it’s even more unbelievable, that under these circumstances, even without any scientific basis, people are being told to use it.”

Hisako Ueno and Makiko Inoue contributed reporting from Tokyo, and Cao Li from Hong Kong.

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Avigan May Cause Birth Defects. Japan’s Pushing It for Coronavirus.

Westlake Legal Group 00virus-avigan-1-facebookJumbo Avigan May Cause Birth Defects. Japan’s Pushing It for Coronavirus. Trump, Donald J Tests (Medical) Politics and Government Japan Hydroxychloroquine (Drug) Drugs (Pharmaceuticals) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Abe, Shinzo

TOKYO — As President Trump was extolling the promise of a malaria drug in the desperate hunt for coronavirus treatments, one of his top global allies was selling the world on his own “trump card,” a pale yellow pill that he said could be crucial to fighting the pandemic.

This supposed beacon of hope is an antiviral medicine known as Avigan, and its most vocal proponent is Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe.

Mr. Abe has pushed the homegrown drug in news conferences and in meetings with world leaders, including a call with Mr. Trump and the other heads of the Group of 7. He has allocated nearly $130 million to triple an existing stockpile of the medication. And he has offered to provide it free to dozens of other countries.

The prime minister, however, has glossed over one crucial fact: There is no solid evidence that Avigan is actually effective against Covid-19. While the drug has shown potential for treating some deadly diseases like Ebola in animal studies, there are limited findings that it works for any illness in humans.

What Avigan, whose generic name is favipiravir, does have is a peculiar regulatory history and one dangerous potential side effect — birth defects. Mr. Abe himself noted in a news conference on Monday that the side effect was “the same as thalidomide,” which caused deformities in thousands of babies in the 1950s and ’60s.

At the same time, Mr. Abe called for Avigan to be approved for use against Covid-19 by the end of the month. His pitches for the medication, like Mr. Trump’s testimonials for the antimalarial medicine hydroxychloroquine, are adding to concerns that national leaders could warp careful drug approval processes by making unusual interventions in support of unproven medications.

The prime minister’s boosterism has helped get Avigan into over 1,000 medical facilities in Japan, and the country’s foreign ministry says nearly 80 countries have requested the drug.

“We’re all impatient. We want a drug yesterday,” said Susan Ellenberg, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in designing clinical trials. “But we’re not going to know what works until we do these studies.”

As the world clamors for coronavirus treatments, doctors are testing an array of medications. A number of countries, including the United States, have planned or started trials of Avigan.

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For political leaders, backing the right treatment could save lives, bolster political fortunes, win international prestige and supercharge corporate profits. Promoting the wrong drug, however, can be disastrous.

The Food and Drug Administration last week warned that hydroxychloroquine and a related drug, chloroquine, can have dangerous effects on heart rhythm. In one extreme example, a man in Arizona died after ingesting a fish tank additive that had the same active ingredient as chloroquine.

Doubts among medical watchdogs have not slowed Avigan’s rise. The drug has the backing of one of Japan’s most powerful companies, Fujifilm, whose subsidiary Toyama Chemical developed Avigan. The Chinese government has attested to its safety and effectiveness against Covid-19.

On Japanese television, doctors are calling the pill a possible global savior, and celebrities who have taken it have offered glowing testimonials.

But that evidence is entirely anecdotal, said Masaya Yamato, chief of infectious diseases at Rinku General Medical Center in Osaka, who served on a 2016 government panel that considered the drug as a last line of defense against new types of influenza.

“I’m not saying this medicine doesn’t work. I’m saying there’s still no proof that it works,” Dr. Yamato said.

A spokeswoman for Fujifilm, Kana Matsumoto, said that the company was conducting clinical trials in Japan and the United States “in order to obtain substantial evidence of the drug’s efficacy” against Covid-19.

Avigan is potentially valuable because it functions differently from most other antivirals, interfering with viruses’ reproduction, instead of stopping them from entering cells. In studies on animals, the drug has appeared capable of curbing the propagation of certain viruses like Ebola, especially when administered early.

The drug also has major problems. Evidence of birth defects in animal trials led Japan to put unusually strict controls on the pill’s use and production. Before the coronavirus, it had been given to humans only during clinical trials and in desperate attempts to treat Ebola. None of those efforts delivered definitive evidence that it effectively treats any disease in humans, even common types of influenza, Dr. Yamato said.

If Avigan works against Covid-19, it is most likely useful in the illness’s early stages, said Norio Sugaya, an infectious diseases expert at Keiyu Hospital in Yokohama.

Dr. Sugaya said he believed the drug could be useful as a prophylactic if combined with widespread testing, a softening of the views he shared with the government task force in 2016, when he argued that the drug was unproven and should not be stockpiled.

Despite the warnings, officials at the time decided to purchase enough pills for two million patients, a stockpile that is now being tapped. So far, 1,100 Japanese medical facilities have given Avigan to almost 2,200 Covid-19 patients, with more than a thousand on wait lists for the drug, government data showed.

Many of those facilities are not applying rigorous scientific controls, such as double-blinding and the use of placebos. They argue that the potential benefits outweigh the risks, particularly in the elderly, for whom the problem of birth defects is unlikely to be an issue.

Fujifilm and others are now conducting proper trials of the drug for Covid-19. But Mr. Abe has rushed ahead of that process by calling for Avigan’s use to be expanded even further, by urging hospitals to give it to anyone who wants it, and by telling patients to ask for it by name.

On Monday, he said that the approval process would probably not depend on traditional clinical trials carried out by the developer, but instead would most likely take a “different form” after experts made a judgment about the drug’s effectiveness.

It is not clear why he has been such a vocal advocate. Some Japanese media have noted his close ties to Fujifilm’s chief executive, Shigetaka Komori. The two men have often golfed and eaten together, last meeting on Jan. 17, according to the prime minister’s schedule.

In mid-February, Fujifilm was the only company invited to attend a government task force meeting on international cooperation against the virus, according to materials from the meeting posted online.

Its representatives presented a 27-page PowerPoint presentation noting that the Chinese government was preparing to approve the medication for use on an emergency basis. The Chinese patent on Avigan expired last year, and if Japan dawdled, it could lose a potentially enormous market for the medicine.

In a news conference on Feb. 29, Mr. Abe said Japan was testing three treatments against the virus, mentioning only Avigan by name. The next week, the chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, told reporters that Mr. Abe’s relationship with Fujifilm’s chief executive had “absolutely no connection” to the prime minister’s views on the pill.

Government officials are thinking “it’s a drug that’s made in Japan, so let’s use it if we can,” said Dr. Yamato, the infectious diseases expert.

The Fujifilm spokeswoman said “there has never been any favorable treatment” from Mr. Abe or his administration.

The drug gained further support in March, when two Chinese research teams posted papers online suggesting that it had hastened the recovery of patients experiencing mild to moderate cases of Covid-19.

Chinese officials, who have been stung by criticism that they initially covered up the outbreak, began promoting the findings as an example of the country’s successful response to the virus.

But scientists soon began picking the papers apart, arguing that they lacked basic scientific controls. Both papers, which had not been peer reviewed, were revised, their conclusions becoming less assured.

Nevertheless, China quickly approved Avigan for use against Covid-19. It was the first time any country outside Japan had approved its use against any disease.

Japan itself had only conditionally greenlighted the drug in 2014 under what medical watchdogs describe as highly unusual circumstances.

In their assessment, regulators wrote that Avigan “has not shown effectiveness” against seasonal influenza and could not be approved for use against it. Instead, they would allow its use against new or re-emergent strains of influenza, but only in “crisis” situations when existing antivirals proved ineffective.

Ms. Matsumoto, Fujifilm’s spokeswoman, said that the approval process was “robust and rigorous.”

In a report issued Friday, Medwatcher Japan, a nonprofit group that monitors the pharmaceutical industry, described the approval process as “exceedingly abnormal.”

“It’s unbelievable that it was ever stockpiled as an influenza drug,” said Masumi Minaguchi, the group’s secretary general. “And it’s even more unbelievable, that under these circumstances, even without any scientific basis, people are being told to use it.”

Hisako Ueno and Makiko Inoue contributed reporting from Tokyo, and Cao Li from Hong Kong.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Avigan May Cause Birth Defects. Japan’s Pushing It for Coronavirus.

Westlake Legal Group 00virus-avigan-1-facebookJumbo Avigan May Cause Birth Defects. Japan’s Pushing It for Coronavirus. Trump, Donald J Tests (Medical) Politics and Government Japan Hydroxychloroquine (Drug) Drugs (Pharmaceuticals) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Abe, Shinzo

TOKYO — As President Trump was extolling the promise of a malaria drug in the desperate hunt for coronavirus treatments, one of his top global allies was selling the world on his own “trump card,” a pale yellow pill that he said could be crucial to fighting the pandemic.

This supposed beacon of hope is an antiviral medicine known as Avigan, and its most vocal proponent is Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe.

Mr. Abe has pushed the homegrown drug in news conferences and in meetings with world leaders, including a call with Mr. Trump and the other heads of the Group of 7. He has allocated nearly $130 million to triple an existing stockpile of the medication. And he has offered to provide it free to dozens of other countries.

The prime minister, however, has glossed over one crucial fact: There is no solid evidence that Avigan is actually effective against Covid-19. While the drug has shown potential for treating some deadly diseases like Ebola in animal studies, there are limited findings that it works for any illness in humans.

What Avigan, whose generic name is favipiravir, does have is a peculiar regulatory history and one dangerous potential side effect — birth defects. Mr. Abe himself noted in a news conference on Monday that the side effect was “the same as thalidomide,” which caused deformities in thousands of babies in the 1950s and ’60s.

At the same time, Mr. Abe called for Avigan to be approved for use against Covid-19 by the end of the month. His pitches for the medication, like Mr. Trump’s testimonials for the antimalarial medicine hydroxychloroquine, are adding to concerns that national leaders could warp careful drug approval processes by making unusual interventions in support of unproven medications.

The prime minister’s boosterism has helped get Avigan into over 1,000 medical facilities in Japan, and the country’s foreign ministry says nearly 80 countries have requested the drug.

“We’re all impatient. We want a drug yesterday,” said Susan Ellenberg, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in designing clinical trials. “But we’re not going to know what works until we do these studies.”

As the world clamors for coronavirus treatments, doctors are testing an array of medications. A number of countries, including the United States, have planned or started trials of Avigan.

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For political leaders, backing the right treatment could save lives, bolster political fortunes, win international prestige and supercharge corporate profits. Promoting the wrong drug, however, can be disastrous.

The Food and Drug Administration last week warned that hydroxychloroquine and a related drug, chloroquine, can have dangerous effects on heart rhythm. In one extreme example, a man in Arizona died after ingesting a fish tank additive that had the same active ingredient as chloroquine.

Doubts among medical watchdogs have not slowed Avigan’s rise. The drug has the backing of one of Japan’s most powerful companies, Fujifilm, whose subsidiary Toyama Chemical developed Avigan. The Chinese government has attested to its safety and effectiveness against Covid-19.

On Japanese television, doctors are calling the pill a possible global savior, and celebrities who have taken it have offered glowing testimonials.

But that evidence is entirely anecdotal, said Masaya Yamato, chief of infectious diseases at Rinku General Medical Center in Osaka, who served on a 2016 government panel that considered the drug as a last line of defense against new types of influenza.

“I’m not saying this medicine doesn’t work. I’m saying there’s still no proof that it works,” Dr. Yamato said.

A spokeswoman for Fujifilm, Kana Matsumoto, said that the company was conducting clinical trials in Japan and the United States “in order to obtain substantial evidence of the drug’s efficacy” against Covid-19.

Avigan is potentially valuable because it functions differently from most other antivirals, interfering with viruses’ reproduction, instead of stopping them from entering cells. In studies on animals, the drug has appeared capable of curbing the propagation of certain viruses like Ebola, especially when administered early.

The drug also has major problems. Evidence of birth defects in animal trials led Japan to put unusually strict controls on the pill’s use and production. Before the coronavirus, it had been given to humans only during clinical trials and in desperate attempts to treat Ebola. None of those efforts delivered definitive evidence that it effectively treats any disease in humans, even common types of influenza, Dr. Yamato said.

If Avigan works against Covid-19, it is most likely useful in the illness’s early stages, said Norio Sugaya, an infectious diseases expert at Keiyu Hospital in Yokohama.

Dr. Sugaya said he believed the drug could be useful as a prophylactic if combined with widespread testing, a softening of the views he shared with the government task force in 2016, when he argued that the drug was unproven and should not be stockpiled.

Despite the warnings, officials at the time decided to purchase enough pills for two million patients, a stockpile that is now being tapped. So far, 1,100 Japanese medical facilities have given Avigan to almost 2,200 Covid-19 patients, with more than a thousand on wait lists for the drug, government data showed.

Many of those facilities are not applying rigorous scientific controls, such as double-blinding and the use of placebos. They argue that the potential benefits outweigh the risks, particularly in the elderly, for whom the problem of birth defects is unlikely to be an issue.

Fujifilm and others are now conducting proper trials of the drug for Covid-19. But Mr. Abe has rushed ahead of that process by calling for Avigan’s use to be expanded even further, by urging hospitals to give it to anyone who wants it, and by telling patients to ask for it by name.

On Monday, he said that the approval process would probably not depend on traditional clinical trials carried out by the developer, but instead would most likely take a “different form” after experts made a judgment about the drug’s effectiveness.

It is not clear why he has been such a vocal advocate. Some Japanese media have noted his close ties to Fujifilm’s chief executive, Shigetaka Komori. The two men have often golfed and eaten together, last meeting on Jan. 17, according to the prime minister’s schedule.

In mid-February, Fujifilm was the only company invited to attend a government task force meeting on international cooperation against the virus, according to materials from the meeting posted online.

Its representatives presented a 27-page PowerPoint presentation noting that the Chinese government was preparing to approve the medication for use on an emergency basis. The Chinese patent on Avigan expired last year, and if Japan dawdled, it could lose a potentially enormous market for the medicine.

In a news conference on Feb. 29, Mr. Abe said Japan was testing three treatments against the virus, mentioning only Avigan by name. The next week, the chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, told reporters that Mr. Abe’s relationship with Fujifilm’s chief executive had “absolutely no connection” to the prime minister’s views on the pill.

Government officials are thinking “it’s a drug that’s made in Japan, so let’s use it if we can,” said Dr. Yamato, the infectious diseases expert.

The Fujifilm spokeswoman said “there has never been any favorable treatment” from Mr. Abe or his administration.

The drug gained further support in March, when two Chinese research teams posted papers online suggesting that it had hastened the recovery of patients experiencing mild to moderate cases of Covid-19.

Chinese officials, who have been stung by criticism that they initially covered up the outbreak, began promoting the findings as an example of the country’s successful response to the virus.

But scientists soon began picking the papers apart, arguing that they lacked basic scientific controls. Both papers, which had not been peer reviewed, were revised, their conclusions becoming less assured.

Nevertheless, China quickly approved Avigan for use against Covid-19. It was the first time any country outside Japan had approved its use against any disease.

Japan itself had only conditionally greenlighted the drug in 2014 under what medical watchdogs describe as highly unusual circumstances.

In their assessment, regulators wrote that Avigan “has not shown effectiveness” against seasonal influenza and could not be approved for use against it. Instead, they would allow its use against new or re-emergent strains of influenza, but only in “crisis” situations when existing antivirals proved ineffective.

Ms. Matsumoto, Fujifilm’s spokeswoman, said that the approval process was “robust and rigorous.”

In a report issued Friday, Medwatcher Japan, a nonprofit group that monitors the pharmaceutical industry, described the approval process as “exceedingly abnormal.”

“It’s unbelievable that it was ever stockpiled as an influenza drug,” said Masumi Minaguchi, the group’s secretary general. “And it’s even more unbelievable, that under these circumstances, even without any scientific basis, people are being told to use it.”

Hisako Ueno and Makiko Inoue contributed reporting from Tokyo, and Cao Li from Hong Kong.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Biden Camp Finds Selling Point in Ailing Economy: His Work on 2009 Recovery

Westlake Legal Group 05BidenStimulus-01-facebookJumbo Biden Camp Finds Selling Point in Ailing Economy: His Work on 2009 Recovery United States Politics and Government United States Economy Trump, Donald J Recession and Depression Presidential Election of 2020 Presidential Election of 2008 Obama, Barack Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (2020) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Biden, Joseph R Jr American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (2009)

Joseph R. Biden Jr. had just been sworn in as vice president. All he needed now was a job.

During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama had assured Mr. Biden that he would be consulted on every major decision. But many on the new president’s team were still Biden-skeptical, and Mr. Obama was not sure the meandering former senator had the discipline to be an effective governing partner, people close to both men said.

So, during a private lunch in February 2009, Mr. Biden slid a memo across the table to Mr. Obama, outlining a role to erase those doubts: quarterbacking the implementation of the $787 billion economic stimulus that had been rammed through Congress a few days earlier in the depths of recession.

“Sounds good to me,” said Mr. Obama, barely glancing at the memo, according to two people familiar with the exchange.

Mr. Obama was already pivoting to health care reform, so why not encharge Mr. Biden? As it turned out, Mr. Biden’s work on the rollout, implementation, oversight and selling of the 2009 stimulus — officially the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — was the most sustained, and perhaps the most significant, assignment of his time in office.

Eleven years later, in an election season defined by pandemic, economic collapse and a far-larger relief package, Mr. Biden’s campaign is hoping to leverage his stewardship of the 2009 stimulus as a point of contrast with President Trump — whose White House is pushing back at congressional oversight of $2.7 trillion in new spending even as a host of problems has emerged, especially chaos in the small-business loan program.

“The central question of this election will be who can dig us out of a historic economic hole, so his leadership of the recovery act should be his core résumé selling point,” said David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s top political adviser and a Biden surrogate.

An examination of that critical two-year period, drawn from interviews with 30 people involved in the effort, offers a glimpse of Mr. Biden’s strengths as a manager — his enthusiasm, focus on detail and knack for leading a first-rate team that moved the money out quickly and minimized waste and fraud. It was “one big competence test,” and Mr. Biden aced it, his longtime lieutenant, Ron Klain, said in an interview.

But the stimulus says more about the kind of vice president Mr. Biden was than about the kind of president he would be. While he became the expediter-in-chief and offered Mr. Obama advice and tactical suggestions, he made none of the major strategic calls about the size and composition of the program, aides said. Nor did he seriously push Mr. Obama — as he is now pressuring Mr. Trump — to fight for a bigger funding package, even though former officials said he conceded the stimulus was probably too small.

There was nothing ambiguous, though, about the impact of the stimulus on Mr. Biden’s political fortunes.

“It sort of made him, to be honest, in the eyes of the Obama people,” said Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman who served as Mr. Obama’s transportation secretary.

Mr. Obama picked Mr. Biden, in part, because he viewed him as a past-tense presidential aspirant. Yet if overseeing the stimulus proved Mr. Biden was a team player, his pursuit of the assignment — and he wanted it badly — was also a sign that he had never entirely abandoned his own political ambitions. In the end, the stimulus catalyzed his emergence as Mr. Obama’s trusted partner and, eventually, set him up as a presidential contender.

Mr. Biden mentioned the stimulus only in passing on the 2020 trail, when there was a trail, and has only recently begun invoking it as a campaign theme. There is broad agreement that the program had a positive impact on an economy in free fall, with the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluding that it created between two million and 4.8 million full-time jobs.

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But it left a bittersweet aftertaste, attacked by progressives as insufficiently bold and savaged by Republicans to this day as a boondoggle — with the Republican National Committee chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, saying in an email last week that the stimulus “proves” Mr. Biden cannot run a government. For much of the public, however, it is a half-forgotten episode, wedged between the deeply unpopular Bush administration bank bailout and the polarizing war over Obamacare.

“The big problem, when you get right down it, is that we succeeded in making the situation less bad rather than good — so how do you sell that?” said Jared Bernstein, Mr. Biden’s top economic adviser during his vice presidency.

The stimulus was born on a snow-sodden December day at Mr. Obama’s Chicago headquarters, a few weeks after the 2008 election.

There had been earlier talk of a smaller package, but the Obama economic team, led by Mr. Bernstein and Christina Romer, incoming chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said many, many hundreds of billions were needed immediately to prevent a second Great Depression.

Mr. Biden, participants recalled, spoke up for pro-worker provisions, funding for green energy projects and light rail. Later, he would intervene to insert $10 billion in additional funding for the National Institutes of Health. But he mainly supported the work of Mr. Bernstein, who played a central role in formulating the menu of infrastructure projects, payroll-tax cuts and aid to localities.

Mr. Obama’s top advisers were initially optimistic about winning Republican backing, telling aides to Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, that they could secure up to 80 votes in the Senate. Mr. Biden knew better, telling the speaker and Mr. Obama they would snag four or five Republicans at most.

“Don’t listen to any of this happy-talk crap,” he said, according to a senior Obama adviser.

Ultimately three Republicans voted for the bill, and only after Mr. Biden helped wheedle a yes from his close friend Arlen Specter, a moderate from Pennsylvania.

Once the fight was over, Mr. Biden’s chief of staff, Mr. Klain, who had held the same post for Vice President Al Gore, drafted the implementation plan that Mr. Obama did not need to read. It amounted to a congenial power grab, giving Mr. Biden expansive influence over which projects, submitted by local officials and cabinet departments, would be funded.

Mr. Biden’s first priority, according to Mr. Klain, was creating a central management structure, aimed at avoiding the kind of confusion that has thus far plagued the financial response to the coronavirus crisis under Mr. Trump.

Mr. Klain and his team broke their mission into three parts: identifying “shovel-ready” projects, minimizing misuse of the funding (including the creation of an online transaction tracker, Recovery.gov) and trying to muster public enthusiasm.

Mr. Biden started by auditioning veteran state and federal officials for the 10-person operation that would oversee the effort, attacking the task with an abrasive impatience that belied his jovial “Uncle Joe” image. “He was a yeller,” one adviser recalled. He wanted an exemption from Obama administration rules that banned ex-lobbyists from being hired for their expertise, but was quickly shot down — although he often grumbled about it, another aide recalled.

A federal official who had business with the new vice president in early 2009 described the following the scene: Mr. Biden arrived 15 minutes late, ripped off his suit jacket and began rattling off questions in front of a roaring fire that turned his office into a furnace — to the stifling discomfort of his visitor, who did not have the option of taking off his coat.

He left much of the initial vetting of projects to his team, and spent much of his time pressuring mayors, governors and cabinet officials to accelerate work that would create jobs and momentum for the besieged administration.

“He was very impatient at first,” said G. Edward DeSeve, a veteran federal oversight specialist recruited by Mr. Biden. “But it didn’t take him too long to gain an understanding of just how big a task it was to run something on this scale.”

A frequent source of heartburn, aides said, was the water and sewer projects overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency, which were subject to an array of federal and local regulations. A multibillion-dollar effort to weatherize homes, considered a fast way to inject cash into the economy, became tangled in red tape, in part because of labor protections Mr. Biden had championed during the transition.

A marquee project in Mr. Biden’s birthplace state, Pennsylvania, was a $1.7 million replacement of the bridge over Conodoguinet Creek near Harrisburg. It, too, seemed like a straightforward-enough proposition, and Mr. Biden hoped to kick off a national barnstorming tour there within weeks.

No go, state officials shot back. The earliest date was several months out.

Nothing proved quite so nettlesome as the project closest to Mr. Biden’s heart. He had successfully lobbied to include $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, but his plans were slowed when two conservative Republican governors riding the Tea Party backlash, Rick Scott of Florida and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, rejected the cash.

“It would have required a major investment by the state at a time when we were dealing with our own budget crisis,” said Mr. Scott, now a senator, explaining his decision to turn down $2 billion for a route connecting Tampa and Orlando. The money was eventually diverted to other states.

The desire for speed contributed to what would become the centerpiece of Republican efforts to discredit the stimulus — the collapse of Solyndra, a California-based solar-panel manufacturer that went bankrupt after receiving $527 million in loan guarantees.

Mr. Biden’s advisers placed the blame on China, for glutting the market with cheap panels. But the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, describing the rushed review process as “alarming,” concluded that the Energy Department had given preliminary loan approvals before completing detailed assessments of the company’s projects.

For all that, the episode was more exception than norm. By September 2010, a panel monitoring allegations of fraud and abuse concluded stimulus had a 0.2 percent incidence of waste and fraud. That finding was not seriously contested by Republican investigators in Congress, and an 18-month congressional inquiry into Solyndra found no evidence of malfeasance or favoritism.

Still, the drip-drip of Republican attacks was quickly turning the program into a political liability.

The sharpest attacks came from friends of the president and vice president, Senators Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John McCain of Arizona, who began scouring Recovery.com for projects they deemed silly or wasteful, including an online dance course and a study of the effects of cocaine on monkeys.

Nitpicks weren’t the biggest problem, though. Numbers were.

Mr. Biden’s team achieved its goal of spending 70 percent, or roughly $550 billion, of the stimulus funding in the first 18 months. But it took longer than the White House had expected for its effects to be felt. Republicans seized on a January 2009 report in which Biden economic advisers had predicted unemployment would peak at around 8 percent under the stimulus. By October 2009 the rate had hit 10 percent, and it would not fall below the 8 percent benchmark until September 2012.

Mr. Obama’s own approval numbers were sagging, too. “The only thing that is more unpopular than me right now is the stimulus,” Mr. Obama tartly declared at a cabinet meeting around that time, as Mr. Biden listened in silence, according to a person in the room. Eventually, the president dropped the word “stimulus” from his speeches, one former adviser said.

Against that backdrop, Mr. Biden, anointed salesman of the stimulus, was crisscrossing the country trying to gin up excitement, and focusing on what he could control, like making sure the recovery act signs on highway projects were large enough to be seen by motorists. (He also viewed his trips to Midwestern battleground states as opportunities to cement his connection to blue-collar voters, should he ever run for president again, several people close to him said, and he would invoke the stimulus during the 2012 re-election campaign.)

At the same time, he was quietly pressuring Mr. Obama to take more public credit for the one element of the stimulus that put $400 to $800 in tax credits directly into people’s pockets. Writing a single check to taxpayers might have been better politics, but Mr. Obama’s economics working group decided it was better to distribute the money in small increments to encourage spending.

Mr. Klain was livid that the “nerds” had won the argument, a former aide said, and Mr. Biden turned to a plan from another old friend, Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania.

“Let’s have Treasury send a letter to every taxpayer saying, ‘President Obama wants you to spend this money immediately,’” Mr. Rendell recalled in a recent interview. “It wasn’t like Trump putting his name on the check, but it let people know Obama had done this thing for them.”

Mr. Biden brought the idea to Mr. Obama, and there it remained. “Jesus, that was dumb,” Mr. Rendell said.

By the fall of 2009, the external narrative — that the stimulus had significant economic value but little political currency — seemed set. At the same time, an internal narrative was falling into place: Joe Biden could be trusted.

It has proved to be a durable story line, at least inside the party. “Joe led with integrity, which is an enormous contrast from the current administration,” Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who cited the stimulus in her recent endorsement of Mr. Biden, wrote in an email.

The two coronavirus rescue packages differ from the Obama stimulus in significant ways, with most cash being sent directly to taxpayers and businesses. Still, both were backstops against economic calamity, and the new law contains accountability provisions modeled on the 2009 legislation.

But Mr. Trump has not embraced oversight as Mr. Obama did, nor has he deployed Vice President Mike Pence in the Biden watchdog role, leaving the task to various administration officials, like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mr. Biden, already annoyed at having to campaign from his basement in Delaware, exploded: “What a joke! You’ve got to be kidding me!” he shouted, inserting expletives, according to two people who talked with him.

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