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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 38)

As Leaders Urge Face Masks, Their Behavior Muffles the Message

Westlake Legal Group 22facemasks-01-copy-facebookJumbo-v2 As Leaders Urge Face Masks, Their Behavior Muffles the Message United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Protective Clothing and Gear Politics and Government Polis, Jared S (1975- ) Pence, Mike Mayors Masks Governors (US) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — When Vice President Mike Pence descended onto the tarmac in Colorado Springs last Saturday, his first appearance outside the White House grounds in over a month, he was greeted by the Democratic governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, who was wearing a face mask emblazoned with images from his state flag.

Mr. Pence tapped elbows with Mr. Polis, rather than offering a hand, but he kept his face uncovered, a decision in line with President Trump’s position: Mr. Trump said this month that he would not follow guidelines from his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and wear a face mask.

The tarmac photo opportunity between two elected officials in various states of facial undress underscored how politicians are, or aren’t, modeling the precautions they have recommended to their constituents.

For the most part, top officials — from governors and mayors to Mr. Trump and his team — have chosen not to use masks, at least in public or at televised events, even as they encourage people to wear them. Some political analysts say image-conscious politicians may resist masks, even if they are warranted, for fear that the coverings might make them look pessimistic or nervous.

But leaders inevitably risk looking hypocritical by preaching a message about masks and then forgoing, especially when they are surrounded by aides and others. Health experts say modeling behavior is the right thing for public officials to do.

“If you’re instructing people to do stuff and you yourself aren’t doing it, that often sends the wrong message, and that’s an inconsistency in the guidance,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Political advisers acknowledged that more might go into the decision to don a mask than the advice of health experts. “Masks, whether worn by superheroes or villains, hide your identity,” said Philippe Reines, a longtime aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “Not always a good idea when you’re selling yourself.”

The decision of whether to appear in public in a face mask does not seem to break down by political party, or by whether a lawmaker represents one of the hot spots of the outbreak.

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For instance, Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, has been wearing a mask in public since the C.D.C. put out its recommendation, while Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, a Democrat, has defended his decision not to cover his face during news conferences. Both governors lead states with widespread outbreaks of the coronavirus.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Democrat of Michigan, was photographed in a mask on April 14 while she toured an alternative care facility.

Last weekend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, a Democrat who recently issued an executive order requiring New Yorkers to wear a mask in many public places, was seen leaving his house for a walk with what appeared to be a bandanna tied around his face, the first time the public had seen him cover up.

His rule of thumb, aides said, is to wear a mask or face covering, in public or in private, whenever he is less than six feet from anyone else. That doesn’t include his daily news conference, where reporters and government officials sit far apart from one another.

Mr. DeSantis was slow to shut down his state but quicker to don a mask in public, being photographed wearing one on April 8.

Several other governors have worn face coverings in public, including Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, and J.B. Pritzker of Illinois and Jay Inslee of Washington, both Democrats.

“I’ve been wearing a mask when I go out,” Mr. Pritzker told reporters on April 5, after entering the briefing room with his mouth and nose covered. “I did it this morning when I was out, and I did it when I came here.”

Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey, also a Democrat, said at a news conference this month that he had taken his mask off “because otherwise I’m not sure you’d be able to understand us.”

“We’ll keep them on for the balance of any amount of time we’re remotely near anybody,” Mr. Murphy said.

On Capitol Hill, many senators have not worn masks during their pro forma sessions. But the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, a Republican, was photographed in a surgical mask outside of the Senate on Monday, removing it to deliver his remarks on the Senate floor. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday simply pulled a blue patterned scarf over her face as she arrived at and departed her news conference.

At the White House, aides have dismissed the few National Security Council officials who wear masks in the West Wing as “alarmists.” And Mr. Trump appeared to scoff at a reporter who tried to ask a question at a recent news conference while wearing a mask, saying he could “barely” hear his question.

Administration officials also dismissed Mr. Polis’s decision to wear a mask while greeting Mr. Pence as a bit of political theater. (Mr. Polis’s office did not return a phone call on Tuesday.) The vice president, aides said, did not need to wear one because he is tested regularly for the coronavirus — a faulty argument, according to public health experts.

“When the face-covering guidelines were developed, it was with the intention to not only protect yourself, but primarily to protect others from asymptomatic spread,” said Katie Miller, Mr. Pence’s spokeswoman. “Vice President Pence is negative for Covid-19 and is therefore not asymptomatic.”

Mr. Pence could, of course, contract the virus between tests. More important, public health experts noted that the tests themselves were not infallible.

Even in Covid-19 patients who are showing symptoms, diagnostic tests may detect the virus only 75 percent of the time, said Dr. Mark Loeb, a microbiologist and infectious disease specialist at McMaster University, and it isn’t clear how sensitive the tests are in asymptomatic cases.

“We don’t actually have the estimates for the sensitivity, the ability to rule out false negatives, for asymptomatic testing,” Dr. Loeb said. “So it’s certainly something, but it doesn’t necessarily rule out infection.”

At a White House news conference on Monday night, Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator, also emphasized that tests were not always reliable.

Other experts said that, while preventing asymptomatic transmission is the medical goal of the guidelines on masks, it is not the only reason for public officials to wear them. By wearing masks in public, officials model the behavior they are asking citizens to adopt and can help influence people to take the guidelines seriously.

There is disagreement within the medical community on how effective cloth masks — as opposed to surgical or N95 masks — are in preventing asymptomatic transmission, Dr. Adalja said, but “if you’re part of a team that’s actually advocating people to wear those masks, then I think it becomes odd if you’re not wearing a mask.”

“You can do it,” he said. “You don’t have to do it. I am choosing not to do it.”

“Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens — I don’t know,” he added. “Somehow, I don’t see it for myself.”

Annie Karni reported from Washington, and Maggie Astor from New York. Kitty Bennett contributed research and Emily Cochrane contributed reporting from Washington.

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

Chinese Agents Spread Messages That Sowed Virus Panic in U.S., Officials Say

Westlake Legal Group 20dc-virus-chinadisinfo1-facebookJumbo Chinese Agents Spread Messages That Sowed Virus Panic in U.S., Officials Say Xi Jinping Trump, Donald J State Department Social Media Rumors and Misinformation National Security Council Homeland Security Department Federal Bureau of Investigation Facebook Inc Espionage and Intelligence Services Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Defense Department Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Communist Party of China China Central Television central intelligence agency Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Spread the word, the messages said: The Trump administration was about to lock down the entire country.

“They will announce this as soon as they have troops in place to help prevent looters and rioters,” warned one of the messages, which cited a source in the Department of Homeland Security. “He said he got the call last night and was told to pack and be prepared for the call today with his dispatch orders.”

Since that wave of panic, United States intelligence agencies have assessed that Chinese operatives helped push the messages across platforms, according to six American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to publicly discuss intelligence matters. The amplification techniques are alarming to officials because the disinformation showed up as texts on many Americans’ cellphones, a tactic that several of the officials said they had not seen before.

That has spurred agencies to look at new ways in which China, Russia and other nations are using a range of platforms to spread disinformation during the pandemic, they said.

The origin of the messages remains murky. American officials declined to reveal details of the intelligence linking Chinese agents to the dissemination of the disinformation, citing the need to protect their sources and methods for monitoring Beijing’s activities.

The officials interviewed for this article work in six different agencies. They included both career civil servants and political appointees, and some have spent many years analyzing China. Their broader warnings about China’s spread of disinformation are supported by recent findings from outside bipartisan research groups, including the Alliance for Securing Democracy and the Center for a New American Security, which is expected to release a report on the topic next month.

Two American officials stressed they did not believe Chinese operatives created the lockdown messages, but rather amplified existing ones. Those efforts enabled the messages to catch the attention of enough people that they then spread on their own, with little need for further work by foreign agents. The messages appeared to gain significant traction on Facebook as they were also proliferating through texts, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

American officials said the operatives had adopted some of the techniques mastered by Russia-backed trolls, such as creating fake social media accounts to push messages to sympathetic Americans, who in turn unwittingly help spread them.

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The officials say the Chinese agents also appear to be using texts and encrypted messaging apps, including WhatsApp, as part of their campaigns. It is much harder for researchers and law enforcement officers to track disinformation spread through text messages and encrypted apps than on social media platforms.

American intelligence officers are also examining whether spies in China’s diplomatic missions in the United States helped spread the fake lockdown messages, a senior American official said. American agencies have recently increased their scrutiny of Chinese diplomats and employees of state-run media organizations. In September, the State Department secretly expelled two employees of the Chinese Embassy in Washington suspected of spying.

Other rival powers might have been involved in the dissemination, too. And Americans with prominent online or news media platforms unknowingly helped amplify the messages. Misinformation has proliferated during the pandemic — in recent weeks, some pro-Trump news outlets have promoted anti-American conspiracy theories, including one that suggests the virus was created in a laboratory in the United States.

American officials said China, borrowing from Russia’s strategies, has been trying to widen political divisions in the United States. As public dissent simmers over lockdown policies in several states, officials worry it will be easy for China and Russia to amplify the partisan disagreements.

“It is part of the playbook of spreading division,” said Senator Angus King, independent of Maine, adding that private individuals have identified some social media bots that helped promote the recent lockdown protests that some fringe conservative groups have nurtured.

The propaganda efforts go beyond text messages and social media posts directed at Americans. In China, top officials have issued directives to agencies to engage in a global disinformation campaign around the virus, the American officials said.

Some American intelligence officers are especially concerned about disinformation aimed at Europeans that pro-China actors appear to have helped spread. The messages stress the idea of disunity among European nations during the crisis and praise China’s “donation diplomacy,” American officials said. Left unmentioned are reports of Chinese companies delivering shoddy equipment and European leaders expressing skepticism over China’s handling of its outbreak.

Mr. Trump himself has shown little concern about China’s actions. He has consistently praised the handling of the pandemic by Chinese leaders — “Much respect!” he wrote on Twitter on March 27. Three days later, he dismissed worries over China’s use of disinformation when asked about it on Fox News.

“They do it and we do it and we call them different things,” he said. “Every country does it.”

Asked about the new accusations, the Chinese Foreign Ministry released a statement on Tuesday that said, “The relevant statements are complete nonsense and not worth refuting.” Zhao Lijian, a ministry spokesman, has separately rebutted persistent accusations by American officials that China has supplied bad information and exhibited a broader lack of transparency during the pandemic. “We urge the U.S. to stop political manipulation, get its own house in order and focus more on fighting the epidemic and boosting the economy,” Mr. Zhao said at a news conference on Friday.

As diplomatic tensions rose and Beijing scrambled to control the narrative, the Chinese government last month expelled American journalists for three U.S. news organizations, including The Times.

The extent to which the United States might be engaging in its own covert information warfare in China is not clear. While the C.I.A. in recent decades has tried to support pro-democracy opposition figures in some countries, Chinese counterintelligence officers eviscerated the agency’s network of informants in China about a decade ago, hurting its ability to conduct operations there.

Chinese officials accuse Mr. Trump and his allies of overtly peddling malicious or bad information, pointing to the president’s repeatedly calling the coronavirus a “Chinese virus” or the suggestion by some Republicans that the virus may have originated as a Chinese bioweapon, a theory that U.S. intelligence agencies have since ruled out. (Many Americans have also criticized Mr. Trump’s language as racist.)

Republican strategists have decided that bashing China over the virus will shore up support for Mr. Trump and other conservative politicians before the November elections.

Given the toxic information environment, foreign policy analysts are worried that the Trump administration may politicize intelligence work or make selective leaks to promote an anti-China narrative. Those concerns hover around the speculation over the origin of the virus. American officials in the past have selectively passed intelligence to reporters to shape the domestic political landscape; the most notable instance was under President George W. Bush in the run-up to the Iraq War.

But it has been clear for more than a month that the Chinese government is pushing disinformation and anti-American conspiracy theories related to the pandemic. Mr. Zhao, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, wrote on Twitter in March that the U.S. Army might have taken the virus to the Chinese city of Wuhan. That message was then amplified by the official Twitter accounts of Chinese embassies and consulates.

The state-run China Global Television Network produced a video targeting viewers in the Middle East in which a presenter speaking Arabic asserted that “some new facts” indicated that the pandemic might have originated from American participants in a military sports competition in October in Wuhan. The network has an audience of millions, and the video has had more than 365,000 views on YouTube.

“What we’ve seen is the C.C.P. mobilizing its global messaging apparatus, which includes state media as well as Chinese diplomats, to push out selected and localized versions of the same overarching false narratives,” Lea Gabrielle, coordinator of the Global Engagement Center in the State Department, said in late March, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

But Chinese diplomats and operators of official media accounts recently began moving away from overt disinformation, Ms. Gabrielle said. That dovetailed with a tentative truce Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi reached over publicly sniping about the virus.

American officials said Chinese agencies are most likely embracing covert propagation of disinformation in its place. Current and former American officials have said they are seeing Chinese operatives adopt online strategies long used by Russian agents — a phenomenon that also occurred during the Hong Kong protests last year. Some Chinese operatives have promoted disinformation that originated on Russia-aligned websites, they said.

And the apparent aim of spreading the fake lockdown messages last month is consistent with a type of disinformation favored by Russian actors — namely sowing chaos and undermining confidence among Americans in the U.S. government, the officials said.

“As Beijing and Moscow move to shape the global information environment both independently and jointly through a wide range of digital tools, they have established several diplomatic channels and forums through which they can exchange best practices,” said Kristine Lee, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security who researches disinformation from China and Russia.

“I’d anticipate, as we have seen in recent months, that their mutual learning around these tools will migrate to increasingly cutting-edge capabilities that are difficult to detect but yield maximal payoff in eroding American influence and democratic institutions globally,” she added.

The amplification of the fake lockdown messages was a notable instance of China’s use of covert disinformation messaging, American officials said.

A couple of versions of the message circulated widely, according to The Times analysis. The first instance tracked by The Times appeared on March 13, as many state officials were enacting social distancing policies. This version said Mr. Trump was about to invoke the Stafford Act to shut down the country.

The messages generally attributed their contents to a friend in a federal agency — the Pentagon, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the F.B.I., the C.I.A. and so on. Over days, hundreds of identical posts appeared on Facebook and the online message board 4chan, among other places, and spread through texts.

Another version appeared on March 15, The Times found. This one said Mr. Trump was about to deploy the National Guard, military units and emergency responders across the United States while imposing a one-week nationwide quarantine.

That same day, the National Security Council announced on Twitter that the messages were fake.

“There is no national lockdown,” it said, adding that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “has and will continue to post the latest guidance.”

“I received several texts from loved ones about content they received containing various rumors — they were explicitly asked to share it with their networks,” she wrote. “I advised them to do the opposite. Misinfo is not what we need right now — from any source foreign or domestic.”

Since January, Americans have shared many other messages that included disinformation: that the virus originated in a U.S. Army laboratory at Fort Detrick in Maryland, that it can be killed with garlic water, vitamin C or colloidal silver, that it thrives on ibuprofen. Often the posts are attributed to an unnamed source in the U.S. government or an institution such as Johns Hopkins University or Stanford University.

As the messages have sown confusion, it has been difficult to trace their true origins or pin down all the ways in which they have been amplified.

Ben Decker contributed reporting from Boston. Claire Fu contributed research.

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

Trump Blocks Green Cards During Coronavirus

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-virus-immig1-facebookJumbo Trump Blocks Green Cards During Coronavirus United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Immigration and Emigration Green Cards (US) Foreign Workers Executive Orders and Memorandums Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Tuesday that he would order a temporary halt in issuing green cards to prevent people from immigrating to the United States, but he backed away from plans to suspend guest worker programs after business groups exploded in anger at the threat of losing access to foreign labor.

Mr. Trump, whose administration has faced intense criticism in recent months for his handling of the coronavirus crisis, abruptly sought to change the subject Tuesday night by resuming his assault on immigration, which animated his 2016 campaign and became one of the defining issues of his presidency.

He cast his decision to “suspend immigration,” which he first announced on Twitter Monday night, as a move to protect American jobs. But it comes as the United States economy sheds its work force at a record rate and when few employers are reaching out for workers at home or abroad. More than 22 million Americans have lost their jobs in the economic devastation caused by the virus and efforts to contain it.

Mr. Trump said that his order would initially be in effect for 60 days, but that he might extend it “based on economic conditions at the time.”

“We can do that at a little bit different time if we want,” he said of a second executive order that could further restrict immigration.

While numerous studies have concluded that immigration has an overall positive effect on the American work force and wages for workers, Mr. Trump ignored that research on Tuesday, insisting that American citizens who had lost their jobs in recent weeks should not have to compete with foreigners when the economy reopens.

“By pausing immigration, we will help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens. So important,” the president said. “It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad. We must first take care of the American worker.”

Lawyers at the Justice Department were still studying whether the president had the legal authority to unilaterally suspend the issuance of green cards, an order that caught officials at the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security off guard, according to people with knowledge of the announcement.

The decision not to block guest worker programs — which provide specific visas for technology workers, farm laborers and others — is a concession to business groups, which assailed the White House on Tuesday. Jason Oxman, the president of the Information Technology Industry Council, a trade group, said in a statement earlier in the day that “the United States will not benefit from shutting down legal immigration.”

Rob Larew, the president of the National Farmers Union, said even talk of restrictions on immigrant farm workers was disruptive. “It just adds to an already stressed food system,” he said.

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“If we do not have enough workers at the front end of that, it just adds more challenges to folks that need to get the food,” he added.

As late as Monday night, after Mr. Trump’s tweet, top White House officials said they believed the president’s order would apply to some of the guest worker programs, while exempting others. By Tuesday afternoon — amid the business backlash — officials acknowledged that devising an order that applied to some guest workers but not others would be overly complicated, and they abandoned it.

Mr. Trump said that his “pause” in immigration “will not apply to those entering on a temporary basis,” a reference to the worker visas, though he hinted that could change. “We want to protect our U.S. workers,” he said, “and I think as we move forward, we will become more and more protective of them.”

The decision to maintain most temporary work visas is certain to please business executives, but it will disappoint anti-immigrant groups, which have long called on the president to put an end to the guest worker programs they view as robbing Americans of jobs. And it could undermine Mr. Trump’s message to voters, many of whom are angry about competition from the foreign workers brought into the United States through those programs.

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has used health concerns to justify aggressively restricting immigration. Even before Tuesday’s announcement, the administration had expanded travel restrictions, slowed visa processing and moved to swiftly return to their home countries asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants who cross the border, alarming immigration advocates who have said that Mr. Trump and his advisers are using the pandemic to further hard-line immigration policies.

The president’s new executive order, which he could sign as early as Wednesday, will further close off the United States to tens of thousands of people seeking to live and work in the country, a move intended in part to stoke populist anger among his core supporters as he heads toward Election Day in November. Last year, about one million people were granted legal permanent resident status, commonly referred to as a green card.

Officials said on Tuesday that American citizens seeking to bring their children or spouses to the United States would still be allowed to do so. But the path to living and working in the country legally would be blocked for other foreigners, including the relatives of current green card holders and those seeking green cards based on a job offer.

An analysis by the Migration Policy Institute estimates that the policy could affect as many as 660,000 people.

The announcement on green cards elicited a fierce reaction from immigration rights advocates, who accused Mr. Trump and Stephen Miller, the architect of the president’s immigration agenda, of using the grim economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic as a justification for a broad assault on the nation’s legal immigration system.

“No one is losing their job because of competition from immigrants; they’re losing their job because no one can leave their house,” said Doug Rand, who worked on immigration in the Obama administration and helped found a technology company in Seattle that helps immigrants obtain green cards and citizenship. He said the president’s advisers were using the pandemic to cut back on immigration the way they had always wanted to.

Others called the president’s announcement misguided and accused Mr. Trump of being motivated by an ugly, anti-immigrant sentiment.

“This is both a political act to demagogue and distract from his awful handling of the Covid-19 crisis and lack of testing,” said Todd Schulte, the president of FWD.us, a technology group that advocates immigration, “and it is also a policy effort by hard-liners to use this crisis to enact their awful, decades-old wish list to radically slash immigration.”

The president’s re-election campaign on Tuesday sent an email to his supporters underscoring the political importance of the issue for Mr. Trump, who successfully used anti-immigrant talk as a weapon in the 2016 campaign and made attempts to sharply reduce immigration one of the defining issues of his time in the White House.

“Pres. Trump will sign an Executive Order to suspend immigration,” read a text message to supporters. “Do you support his decision to protect us from the Coronavirus? Take Survey NOW.”

Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the president’s 2020 campaign, said in a statement that “at a time when our economy has been artificially interrupted by the virus, introducing more competition for jobs would worsen unemployment and depress wages, especially in black and Latino communities.”

Anti-immigration activists said they were hopeful that the president’s executive order would make good on the sweeping promise from Monday night’s tweet to suspend immigration into the United States.

Roy H. Beck, the founder of NumbersUSA, a group that presses for deep cuts in legal immigration, said that such a message would be a potent political tool as Mr. Trump faces off against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the election.

“Absolutely it’s powerful,” Mr. Beck said. “If he comes out with an executive order that honors that tweet, he really is telling voters, I get it. When you have job loss, you can’t have immigration. That is the populist message that I think was his strongest suit in 2016.”

It was unclear what legal authority the president will claim to shut off the decades-old immigration system, even temporarily. In the past, he has cited health emergency powers to restrict asylum at the southwestern border, and the White House has repeatedly invoked broad executive powers in immigration law to impose travel bans.

A Homeland Security Department official said early Tuesday that the executive order was still being drafted — leaving some top agency officials in the dark — and that details of the potential ban, including on specific exemptions, were subject to change. Officials said the effort was being coordinated by Mr. Miller and a handful of his allies, including Robert Law, the chief of policy and strategy for Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Some military officials also seemed to be caught by surprise on Tuesday by Mr. Trump’s late-night Twitter message. Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the head of the military’s Northern Command, which supports homeland defense and border security, said on Tuesday that he had not received any new orders to assist border operations.

Even before the president’s announcement Tuesday evening, officials were working on the assumption that visas for guest workers, including farm laborers, would be exempt from the executive order, according to an official. Hours before Mr. Trump tweeted the announcement, the administration published a final rule that eased requirements for employers like farmers that use the H-2A program by lifting a three-year limit for such seasonal workers.

The State Department suspended visa services last month at U.S. embassies and consulates, but immigrants were still able to take procedural steps to come to the United States. Those already in the country were also still able to petition for their relatives abroad to come to the United States in the hopes of reuniting with their families. While the Trump administration has already paralyzed multiple aspects of the immigration system, including halting in-person interviews and naturalization ceremonies, immigration experts and administration officials said an executive order could have longstanding consequences.

“Their first impulse when you’re confronted with a crisis is to shut down immigration,” Jeh Johnson, a homeland security secretary under President Barack Obama, said on Tuesday during an online panel hosted by the House Homeland Security Committee.

“The first impulse and the last impulse,” he said, “can’t always just be stop immigration to prevent a public health disaster that is already here within our borders.”

Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs reported from Washington, and Caitlin Dickerson from New York. Lola Fadulu and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.

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New U.S. Treatment Guidelines for Covid-19 Don’t See Much Progress

Westlake Legal Group 21VIRUS-TREATMENT-facebookJumbo New U.S. Treatment Guidelines for Covid-19 Don’t See Much Progress your-feed-healthcare Veterans Affairs Department Veterans Trump, Donald J National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Hydroxychloroquine (Drug) Fauci, Anthony S Drugs (Pharmaceuticals) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Clinical Trials Azithromycin (Drug)

The federal agency led by Dr. Anthony Fauci issued guidelines on Tuesday that stated there is no proven drug for treating coronavirus patients, a finding that essentially reinforces Dr. Fauci’s dissent from President Trump’s repeated promotion of certain drugs without evidence to support their use.

The report echoed what frustrated doctors already know: Not enough is known about the highly infectious virus or how to combat it.

Months into the pandemic, a panel of experts convened by the research center Dr. Fauci leads, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, concluded that whenever possible, drug therapy should be given as part of a clinical trial, so that data can be collected to determine whether treatments work.

At the White House briefing, Mr. Trump said he had not seen the panel’s guidelines. Dr. Fauci, who often attends the briefings, was not there on Tuesday.

Dr. Fauci has repeatedly pushed back at the president’s enthusiasm over the malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, sometimes disagreeing in public with Mr. Trump.

For weeks Dr. Fauci has stressed the lack of scientific evidence to back up any potential treatment, and this new document, which includes the expertise of more than a dozen federal agencies and professional groups, underscores his reasoning.

In a separate interview before the guidelines were released, Dr. Fauci said there were many clinical trials underway. “Right now, it is premature to say if something is going to be a home run or not,” he said. “Right now there are no early indications of a home run anywhere. There’s nothing that has been dramatic at all.”

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Clinical trials are monitored by safety boards that can stop a trial early if a treatment shows a powerful effect. So far, none of the trials have been halted, Dr. Fauci said.

Experts have collected insufficient data to recommend either for or against the use of any antiviral drug or medication that affects the immune system in patients with Covid-19 who have mild, moderate, severe or critical illness, according to the guidelines.

The decision by the National Institutes of Health panel not to recommend either for or against a treatment included the antiviral remdesivir, which is being studied in several trials in the United States and around the world. Data is also lacking about the use of so-called convalescent plasma donated by coronavirus survivors to provide antibodies that might help patients fight the disease.

But the expert panel did specifically advise against several treatments unless they were given in clinical trials. One was the combination of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine plus the antibiotic azithromycin, which Mr. Trump has repeatedly promoted despite the lack of evidence that they work.

Those drugs should be used only in clinical trials “because of the potential for toxicities,” the experts said.

The panel also had cautionary advice about hydroxychloroquine and the closely related drug chloroquine, even when given without azithromycin, saying that patients receiving them should be monitored for adverse effects, particularly an abnormality in heart rhythm called prolonged QTc interval.

A study of the records of 368 Veterans Affairs patients, posted on Tuesday but not yet peer-reviewed, found that hydroxychloroquine, with or without azithromycin, did not help patients avoid the need for ventilators. And hydroxychloroquine alone was associated with an increased risk of death.

But the study was not a controlled trial, and patients who received the drugs were sicker to begin with. The authors wrote, “These findings highlight the importance of awaiting the results of ongoing prospective, randomized, controlled studies before widespread adoption of these drugs.”

At Tuesday’s White House briefing, Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, described the study as small and retrospective, adding, “what F.D.A. will require is data from randomized clinical trials.”

Even so, he said, “This is something a doctor would need to consider in the decision to write a prescription for hydroxychloroquine.”

The N.I.H. panel also said that combined H.I.V. drugs lopinavir and ritonavir (sold as Kaletra), and other drugs known as H.I.V. protease inhibitors, should not be given outside of clinical trials, because trial data so far has shown no benefit and some unfavorable effects.

Drugs known as interferons should also not be used outside trials, the group advising the infectious disease institute said, because they did not help patients with the other coronavirus diseases SARS and MERS. The same advice applies to a class of drugs called janus kinase inhibitors (the drug baricitinib is one example) because they broadly suppress the immune system.

The guidelines also contain detailed advice for health care providers about the care of infected children and pregnant women, and the use of oxygen, ventilators and steroid drugs in very sick patients.

All the advice will be updated as new data emerges.

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‘I’m Just Living a Nightmare’: Oil Industry Braces for Devastation

Westlake Legal Group im-just-living-a-nightmare-oil-industry-braces-for-devastation ‘I’m Just Living a Nightmare’: Oil Industry Braces for Devastation Wages and Salaries United States Economy Trump, Donald J Texas Strategic Petroleum Reserve (US) Shutdowns (Institutional) Production Prices (Fares, Fees and Rates) Politics and Government Permian Basin (North America) Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Layoffs and Job Reductions Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Westlake Legal Group 21virus-oil-facebookJumbo ‘I’m Just Living a Nightmare’: Oil Industry Braces for Devastation Wages and Salaries United States Economy Trump, Donald J Texas Strategic Petroleum Reserve (US) Shutdowns (Institutional) Production Prices (Fares, Fees and Rates) Politics and Government Permian Basin (North America) Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Layoffs and Job Reductions Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

HOUSTON — Workers at Marathon Petroleum’s refinery in Gallup, N.M., are turning off the valves. Oil companies in West Texas are paying early termination fees to contract employees rather than drill new wells. And in Montana, producers are shutting down wells and slashing salaries and benefits.

Just a few months ago, the American oil industry was triumphant in its quest for energy independence, having turned the United States into the world’s biggest petroleum producer for the first time in decades. But that exhilaration has given way to despair as the coronavirus has kneecapped the economy, destroying demand for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel as cars sit parked in driveways and planes are consigned to remote fields and runways.

The oil industry has lived through many booms and busts, but never before have prices collapsed as they have this week. On Monday, one closely watched price fell below zero, meaning some traders had to pay others to take crude oil off their hands. That price — for May delivery — recovered on Tuesday, but not nearly to levels where oil companies can make a profit. At the same time, the price of oil for June delivery fell by about half to roughly $10 a barrel.

“I’m just living a nightmare,” said Ben Sheppard, president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, which represents companies in the area of Texas and New Mexico that became the world’s most productive oil field last year.

In Midland, Texas, the epicenter of the oil shale boom over the last decade, parking lots at companies like Chevron, Diamondback and Apache are empty aside from a scattering of pumping trucks. Executives are working from home, huddling with their colleagues and board members to decide how quickly to shut down production and lay off workers. Oil giants like Exxon Mobil have slashed their 2020 exploration and production budgets by nearly a third, and that was before the total oil price collapse at the start of this week.

Many smaller oil companies are expected to seek bankruptcy protection in the coming months after having spent years borrowing billions of dollars to extract and move crude. Production companies have $86 billion in debt coming due between 2020 and 2024, and pipeline companies have an additional $123 billion they have to repay or refinance over the same period, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

“We are worried that the current disorderly market has adversely damaged the industry,” said Ben Luckock, co-head of oil trading at Trafigura, a large exporter of American crude. “In the short term some form of government assistance is likely needed because the price levels we are currently transacting at are unsustainable for U.S. producers.”

The reverberations to other industries could be significant. A decade or two ago, low oil prices would serve to bolster the American economy by reducing energy costs. But the oil industry has become so big and important — it directly and indirectly employs 10 million people — that its problems will deal a blow to many kinds of businesses, including manufacturers that build its equipment, steel companies that make its pipes and banks and hedge funds that lend it money.

President Trump has said that he stands ready to help U.S. oil and gas businesses, a position he reiterated on Tuesday. But the policies he and other administration officials have proposed — imposing tariffs on foreign oil or filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — would do so little that their impact would amount to a rounding error.

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Simply put, the global oil industry is producing vastly more oil than the world needs — about 30 million barrels a day too much. Even if the federal government started buying oil for the reserve immediately, it could absorb only half a million barrels a day, or less than 2 percent of the excess world production.

Some industry executives had pinned their hopes on the Texas Railroad Commission, asking it to exercise a power it has not used since 1973 to force oil companies in the state to cut production. But the commission, which regulates the industry there, declined to do so at a meeting held by videoconference on Tuesday, with two of its three commissioners saying that they needed more legal advice before making a decision.

All the while, the glut of oil keeps growing. And refineries, storage tank hubs and pipelines are quickly filling to the brim, while ocean tankers carrying as much as 300 million barrels of oil are floating or sailing figure-eights waiting for buyers.

The tanker operators, who can make more than $100,000 a day for spot charters of their ships, may be the only ones making money right now.

Mr. Trump’s biggest service to the industry was to help push Saudi Arabia, Russia and other producers to reach a deal on April 12 to cut 9.7 million barrels of daily oil output. But oil prices fell sharply after that agreement as traders realized its inadequacy. It also doesn’t help that the pact won’t even go into effect until May 1.

With 73 employees, Texland Petroleum, a producer in the Permian Basin that has 1,211 wells, is typical of hundreds of independent companies that represent the backbone of the industry, especially in rural areas of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and North Dakota. In business since 1973, it has survived several downturns but always managed to sell its oil at prices that allowed it to at least break even.

That is not true anymore. At least four customers have canceled purchases in recent days. One customer canceled contracts effective May 1 for 2,000 barrels a day, nearly 30 percent of the company’s output.

“It’s a sad time for our business, that’s for damn sure,” said Jim Wilkes, president of Texland. “The future is very cloudy right now because the pricing is below our production costs.”

Mr. Wilkes has decided to shut all production and end all sales on May 1. Shutting wells is an expensive, laborious process, he explained, with workers obliged to treat well casings with chemicals so they do not corrode once oil stops flowing. And there is no guarantee that a shuttered well can be restarted and be made to pump out as much oil as it did earlier.

Mr. Wilkes said he was not planning to fire anyone, at least not now, because he took a Small Business Administration loan to pay his workers for two months, at which point the loan will be forgiven. But he is not sure what he will do after that.

“April is going to be terrible, but May is going to be impossible,” he said.

Montalban Oil & Gas Operations, a company with 200 wells in Montana, is planning to shut all of its wells in 10 days when its executives expect to run out of storage space. It has slashed its payroll by 25 percent, and its president, Patrick Montalban, and other senior executives have taken a 50 percent pay cut.

Aside from worrying about the future, Mr. Montalban said he had been stocking up on $6 bottles of chardonnay, his drink of choice.

“It’s a bloodbath out there; can you imagine minus $37 a barrel?” he said, referring to the price oil fell to on Monday. “There is something wrong with that market. It’s ridiculous.”

Oil companies generally employ service companies to do their drilling and fracking, and so the downturn is particularly painful for those businesses — Halliburton, Baker Hughes and Schlumberger. Services companies have slashed payrolls and budgets in recent weeks, as have the thousands of smaller contractors that take care of things like cleaning spills, seismic testing and supplying trucks.

Offshore drillers, which had done a brisk business over the last three years, have gone into a tailspin, with delays in investment decisions and canceled rig contracts. Diamond Offshore missed an interest payment on its debts last week and has hired legal and financial advisers for a potential restructuring.

Latshaw Drilling, a company active in Texas and Oklahoma, has laid off 300 of its 500 employees over the last six weeks. It is operating six of its 41 rigs and dropping an additional rig next week. Trent Latshaw, the company president, said he was confident the industry would eventually come back after the virus is tamed.

“If for some reason Latshaw Drilling doesn’t make it through this,” Mr. Latshaw said, “the good Lord has something else planned for me.”

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Trump (the Company) Asks Trump (the Administration) for Hotel Relief

Westlake Legal Group 00virus-trumphotel-facebookJumbo Trump (the Company) Asks Trump (the Administration) for Hotel Relief United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump Organization Trump International Hotel (Washington, DC) Shutdowns (Institutional) Renting and Leasing (Real Estate) Hotels and Travel Lodgings General Services Administration Ethics and Official Misconduct Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

President Trump’s signature hotel in the nation’s capital wants a break on the terms of its lease. The landlord determining the fate of the request is Mr. Trump’s own administration.

Trump International Hotel, just a few blocks from the White House, had been a favored gathering place for lobbyists, foreign dignitaries and others hoping to score points with the president. But like most hotels, it is now nearly empty and looking to cut costs because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In recent weeks, the president’s family business has inquired about changing its lease payments, according to people familiar with the matter, which the federal government has reported amount to nearly $268,000 per month.

The Trump Organization owns and operates the luxury hotel, but it is in a federally owned building on Pennsylvania Avenue. As part of its deal to open the 263-room hotel, the company signed a 60-year lease in 2013 that requires the monthly payments to the General Services Administration.

The Trump Organization is current on its rent, according to Eric Trump, the president’s son. But he confirmed that the company had opened a conversation about possible changes to the terms of the lease, which could include adjustments to future monthly payments.

The younger Mr. Trump said the company was asking the G.S.A. for any relief that it might be granting other federal tenants. The president still owns the company, but his eldest sons run the day-to-day operations.

“Just treat us the same,” Eric Trump said in a statement on Tuesday. “Whatever that may be is fine.”

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The G.S.A. did not immediately respond to a request for comment, including about whether its other tenants had made similar inquiries. The White House also did not respond to a request for comment.

Companies across the country have pleaded for relief from lenders and landlords, but the Trump Organization’s submission presents a particular predicament.

If it denies the request, the agency risks running afoul of the president, who appoints its leader; but if it accommodates the Trumps, the agency is likely to draw fire from critics.

The Trump Organization was barred by Congress from seeking relief from the $500 billion rescue fund being administered by the Treasury Department, and a Trump Organization executive said on Tuesday that the company had decided not to apply for a federal loan through the Small Business Administration. The company argues that it is seeking only temporary relief from the G.S.A. while the hotel industry globally copes with an extraordinary drop in business.

Along with the broader hospitality industry, the company is expected to take a significant hit from the economic shutdown. The Trump Organization has temporarily closed its hotel overlooking the Las Vegas Strip, cut staff and services at its hotel in New York, and effectively closed its golf clubs in New Jersey and Florida. It also shuttered the Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, which at this time of year would ordinarily be acting as the “winter White House,” as the president refers to it. The Washington hotel’s bar, restaurant and spa are closed, but it is still accepting reservations.

The request to the G.S.A. is one of a number of attempts by the Trump Organization to get breathing room from its lenders and other financial partners.

The company has been talking with Deutsche Bank, the president’s largest creditor, about the possibility of postponing payments on its loans from the bank.

Mr. Trump owes Deutsche Bank more than $300 million on loans connected to the Washington hotel, his Doral golf resort in Florida and a skyscraper in downtown Chicago. The Trump Organization has a small amount of debt compared with other major real estate companies, which could weigh in its favor as it seeks support from Deutsche Bank and others. Representatives have been in talks with Rosemary Vrablic, a senior banker in the Deutsche Bank division that serves the ultrarich, about delaying or reducing its loan payments. Ms. Vrablic has been working with Mr. Trump for nearly a decade and, before that, worked closely with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.

While Ms. Vrablic is in charge of the bank’s relationship with the company, changes to the terms of the loans could generate acrimony inside Deutsche Bank and are likely to be vetted by senior executives responsible for protecting the bank’s reputation, according to a person familiar with the deliberations.

Bank executives already have been debating the wisdom of granting forbearance to the president, with some worried about the political blowback they would almost certainly encounter for cutting Mr. Trump slack, the person said. Deutsche Bank is overseen by federal regulators, and the Justice Department has been conducting a criminal investigation into the bank over allegations of money laundering and other misconduct.

In Florida, the Trump Organization in late March sought guidance from Palm Beach County about whether it had to continue making monthly payments on land that the company leases for its 27-hole Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, according to people briefed on the discussions and documents reviewed by The New York Times.

This month, the Trump Organization was about a week late on its monthly lease payment of about $88,000, according to county documents. Company executives are still seeking guidance from Palm Beach County about whether they are expected to keep making lease payments with the golf industry shut down.

Eric Trump confirmed that the negotiations were underway and said the company was seeking the same relief that any other companies were getting.

“In Florida, the very county that mandated we close is the very county collecting rent,” he said. “What are they doing for others? Just treat us the same.”

Some of Palm Beach County’s commissioners worry that if they don’t give the president’s company extra time to make lease payments, the county could anger the president and lose out on federal assistance to fight the coronavirus, according to a county official who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

Separately, the Trump Organization, like other hotel chains, was eligible to apply for loans of up to $10 million that can be converted into grants from the Small Business Administration, based on a provision inserted into the stimulus package that allowed large companies with hotels that individually had fewer than 500 employees to apply for the assistance.

But this program would have required the Trump Organization to bring back workers, as it is intended to prevent job losses. The Trump Organization did not apply, according to the company.

Of all the company’s dealings, the Washington hotel’s relationship with the federal government has provided the most fodder for the president’s rivals, who argue that the property is a prime example of the president blurring the lines between his administration and his business.

Soon after he took office, the G.S.A. ruled that Mr. Trump’s ascending to the presidency did not violate the terms of the lease between his company and the government. But in 2019, the G.S.A.’s inspector general issued a report asserting that the agency’s lawyers had largely ignored potential constitutional issues related to the lease, essentially allowing the president’s operation of the property to continue.

The president’s lawyers have disputed charges that the arrangement could violate a constitutional provision that bars federal officials from taking payments or gifts from foreign governments. The hotel, frequented by foreigners and others doing business with the government, has been at the center of those allegations, while the Trump Organization has pledged to donate profits from foreign governments.

The company last year put the hotel on the market for a possible sale, citing the ongoing objections, and a potential for a major financial windfall. The company fielded bids, but any deal is now off the table because of the pandemic.

Last week, the managing director of the Washington hotel, Mickael Damelincourt, posted a photo to Twitter of himself wearing a mask, standing in the hotel’s empty bar, with his chin up. “Keep looking up and Never Ever Give Up,” he wrote.

Eric Lipton contributed reporting.

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

Trump (the Company) Asks Trump (the Administration) for Rent Relief

Westlake Legal Group trump-the-company-asks-trump-the-administration-for-rent-relief Trump (the Company) Asks Trump (the Administration) for Rent Relief United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump Organization Trump International Hotel (Washington, DC) Shutdowns (Institutional) Renting and Leasing (Real Estate) Hotels and Travel Lodgings General Services Administration Ethics and Official Misconduct Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Westlake Legal Group 00virus-trumphotel-facebookJumbo Trump (the Company) Asks Trump (the Administration) for Rent Relief United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump Organization Trump International Hotel (Washington, DC) Shutdowns (Institutional) Renting and Leasing (Real Estate) Hotels and Travel Lodgings General Services Administration Ethics and Official Misconduct Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

President Trump’s signature hotel in the nation’s capital wants a break on its rent. The landlord determining the fate of the request is Mr. Trump’s own administration.

Trump International Hotel, just a few blocks from the White House, had been a favored gathering place for lobbyists, foreign dignitaries and others hoping to score points with the president. But like most hotels, it is now nearly empty and looking to cut costs because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In recent weeks, the president’s family business has inquired about changing its lease payments, the company confirmed on Tuesday, which the federal government has reported amount to nearly $268,000 per month.

The Trump Organization owns and operates the luxury hotel, but it is in a federally owned building on Pennsylvania Avenue. As part of its deal to open the 263-room hotel, the company signed a 60-year lease in 2013 that requires the monthly payments to the General Services Administration.

The Trump Organization is current on its rent, according to Eric Trump, the president’s son, but he confirmed that the company had opened a conversation about possible delays in future monthly payments.

The younger Mr. Trump said the company was asking the G.S.A. for any relief that it might be granting other federal tenants. The president still owns the company, but his eldest sons run the day-to-day operations.

“Just treat us the same,” Eric Trump in a statement on Tuesday. “Whatever that may be is fine.”

The G.S.A. did not immediately respond to a request for comment, including about whether its other tenants had made similar inquiries. The White House also did not respond to a request for comment.

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Companies across the country have pleaded for relief from lenders and landlords, but the Trump Organization’s submission presents a particular predicament.

If it denies the request, the agency risks running afoul of the president, who appoints its leader; but if it accommodates the Trumps, the agency is likely to draw fire from critics.

The Trump Organization was barred by Congress from seeking relief from the $500 billion rescue fund being administered by the Treasury Department, and a Trump Organization executive said on Tuesday that the company had decided not to apply for a federal loan through the Small Business Administration. The company argues that it is seeking only temporary relief from the G.S.A. while the hotel industry globally copes with an extraordinary drop in business.

Along with the broader hospitality industry, the company is expected to take a significant hit from the economic shutdown. The Trump Organization has temporarily closed its hotel overlooking the Las Vegas Strip, cut staff and services at its hotel in New York, and effectively closed its golf clubs in New Jersey and Florida. It also shuttered the Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, which at this time of year would ordinarily be acting as the “winter White House,” as the president refers to it. The Washington hotel’s bar, restaurant and spa are closed, but it is still accepting reservations.

The request to the G.S.A. is one of a number of attempts by the Trump Organization to get breathing room from its lenders and other financial partners.

The company has been talking with Deutsche Bank, the president’s largest creditor, about the possibility of postponing payments on its loans from the bank.

Mr. Trump owes Deutsche Bank more than $300 million on loans connected to the Washington hotel, his Doral golf resort in Florida and a skyscraper in downtown Chicago. The Trump Organization has a small amount of debt compared with other major real estate companies, which could weigh in its favor as it seeks support from Deutsche Bank and others. Representatives have been in talks with Rosemary Vrablic, a senior banker in the Deutsche Bank division that serves the ultrarich, about delaying or reducing its loan payments. Ms. Vrablic has been working with Mr. Trump for nearly a decade and, before that, worked closely with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.

While Ms. Vrablic is in charge of the bank’s relationship with the company, changes to the terms of the loans could generate acrimony inside Deutsche Bank and are likely to be vetted by senior executives responsible for protecting the bank’s reputation, according to a person familiar with the deliberations.

Bank executives already have been debating the wisdom of granting forbearance to the president, with some worried about the political blowback they would almost certainly encounter for cutting Mr. Trump slack, the person said. Deutsche Bank is overseen by federal regulators, and the Justice Department has been conducting a criminal investigation into the bank over allegations of money laundering and other misconduct.

In Florida, the Trump Organization in late March sought guidance from Palm Beach County about whether it had to continue making monthly payments on land that the company leases for its 27-hole Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, according to people briefed on the discussions and documents reviewed by The New York Times.

This month, the Trump Organization was about a week late on its monthly lease payment of about $88,000, according to county documents. Company executives are still seeking guidance from Palm Beach County about whether they are expected to keep making lease payments with the golf industry shut down.

Eric Trump confirmed that the negotiations were underway and said the company was seeking the same relief that any other companies were getting.

“In Florida, the very county that mandated we close is the very county collecting rent,” he said. “What are they doing for others? Just treat us the same.”

Some of Palm Beach County’s commissioners worry that if they don’t give the president’s company extra time to make lease payments, the county could anger the president and lose out on federal assistance to fight the coronavirus, according to a county official who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

Separately, the Trump Organization, like other hotel chains, was eligible to apply for loans of up to $10 million that can be converted into grants from the Small Business Administration, based on a provision inserted into the stimulus package that allowed large companies with hotels that individually had fewer than 500 employees to apply for the assistance.

But this program would have required the Trump Organization to bring back workers, as it is intended to prevent job losses. The Trump Organization did not apply, according to the company.

Of all the company’s dealings, the Washington hotel’s relationship with the federal government has provided the most fodder for the president’s rivals, who argue that the property is a prime example of the president blurring the lines between his administration and his business.

Soon after he took office, the G.S.A. ruled that Mr. Trump’s ascending to the presidency did not violate the terms of the lease between his company and the government. But in 2019, the G.S.A.’s inspector general issued a report asserting that the agency’s lawyers had largely ignored potential constitutional issues related to the lease, essentially allowing the president’s operation of the property to continue.

The president’s lawyers have disputed charges that the arrangement could violate a constitutional provision that bars federal officials from taking payments or gifts from foreign governments. The hotel, frequented by foreigners and others doing business with the government, has been at the center of those allegations, while the Trump Organization has pledged to donate profits from foreign governments.

The company last year put the hotel on the market for a possible sale, citing the ongoing objections, and a potential for a major financial windfall. The company fielded bids, but any deal is now off the table because of the pandemic.

Last week, the managing director of the Washington hotel, Mickael Damelincourt, posted a photo to Twitter of himself wearing a mask, standing in the hotel’s empty bar, with his chin up. “Keep looking up and Never Ever Give Up,” he wrote.

Eric Lipton contributed reporting.

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

Trump Plans to Suspend Immigration to U.S.

Westlake Legal Group merlin_171766917_2349072b-9191-4d03-aedf-56ca691d7fca-facebookJumbo Trump Plans to Suspend Immigration to U.S. visas United States Politics and Government United States Economy Trump, Donald J Refugees and Displaced Persons Labor and Jobs Immigration and Emigration Green Cards (US) Foreign Workers Executive Orders and Memorandums Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Asylum, Right of

WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Monday evening that he intended to close the United States to people trying to immigrate into the country to live and work, a drastic move that he said would protect American workers from foreign competition once the nation’s economy began to recover from the shutdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, “I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has said health concerns justified moving swiftly to bar asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants from entering the country, alarming immigration advocates who have said that Mr. Trump and his advisers are using a global pandemic to further hard-line immigration policies.

But the president’s late-night announcement on Monday signals his most wide-ranging attempt yet to seal the country off from the rest of the world. A formal order temporarily barring the provision of new green cards and work visas could come as early as the next few days, according to several people familiar with the plan.

Under such an executive order, the Trump administration would no longer approve any applications from foreigners to live and work in the United States for an undetermined period of time, effectively shutting down the legal immigration system in the same way the president has long advocated closing the borders to illegal immigration. It was not immediately clear what legal basis Mr. Trump would claim to justify shutting down most immigration.

Workers who have for years received visas to perform specialized jobs in the United States would also be denied permission to arrive, though some workers in some industries deemed critical could be exempted from the ban, the people familiar with the president’s discussion said.

The number of visas issued to foreigners abroad looking to immigrate to the United States has declined by about 25 percent, to 462,422 in the 2019 fiscal year from 617,752 in 2016.

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Several people familiar with the president’s plans said the Department of Homeland Security was separately weighing a large expansion of travel restrictions that already prohibited travelers from Europe and China. The restrictions would significantly shrink the number of people able to come to the United States for short-term visits.

Mr. Trump and his advisers have argued inside the White House that doing more to bar people from other countries from coming into the United States, either for short-term visits or to live and work in the country for longer periods, could help limit the number of infected people who arrive from potential coronavirus hot spots around the world. And they argue that it could relieve pressure on the American health care system.

But Mr. Trump’s primary focus appears to be on protecting American workers as the virus ravages what had been a rapidly growing job market.

Even before the pandemic, the president and some of his most hard-line advisers had been eager to reduce legal immigration, arguing that Mr. Trump’s “America First” campaign pledge should be seen as protecting native-born Americans from having to compete with foreign workers.

Stephen Miller, the architect of the president’s immigration agenda, has pushed repeatedly for regulations and executive actions that would limit the amount of immigration that is allowed each year, arguing that immigrants are a drain on American society, drive down wages and take jobs from native-born Americans.

And the president’s restrictionist allies on Capitol Hill quickly praised word of his actions. Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, said on Twitter: “22 million Americans have lost their jobs in the last month because of the China virus. Let’s help them get back to work before we import more foreigners to compete for their jobs.”

Immigrant rights groups angrily dispute the claim that immigration is bad for American workers, pointing to research that shows there is little connection between immigration and wages, and stressing the benefits of America’s immigrant culture. Charanya Krishnaswami, the advocacy director for the Americas at Amnesty International USA, responded to the president’s tweet with one of her own.

“When you’re a xenophobe, bans on migration are the only tired, failed, hateful solution you can think of,” Ms. Krishnaswami wrote. “Suspending immigration won’t make the US — which currently leads among COVID cases worldwide — safe. Our policies need to be grounded in public health, not bigotry.”

Mr. Trump’s denigration of migrants was the centerpiece of his 2016 presidential campaign, and his assault on the nation’s immigration system was a defining feature of his first term in office. As he seeks re-election to a second term, Mr. Trump has made clear that he intends to energize his supporters by continuing to stoke a fear of immigrants.

In the past several months, Mr. Trump has justified sealing the United States to migrants by highlighting the risk of spreading the coronavirus, even as his administration has been widely criticized for not taking precautions this year to prevent an outbreak.

At the end of January, Mr. Trump blocked some travel from China, citing concerns about the spread of the virus. He later extended travel restrictions to most of Europe.

Mr. Trump used authority granted to his surgeon general to immediately turn back migrants and asylum seekers to their home countries, even though the Supreme Court refused to allow a similar policy in 2018. His administration has leaned into the policy, even rapidly turning away unaccompanied children that cross the border alone.

Weeks later, Mr. Trump ordered the State Department to issue visa sanctions against any country that refused to accept an immigrant the administration wanted to deport.

Even before the pandemic, Mr. Trump carried out some consequential immigration policies. In January, the president expanded his travel restrictions to 13 countries, virtually blocking immigration from Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria.

That same month, the Supreme Court allowed the administration to move forward with a wealth test that would deny green cards to immigrants who are thought to be likely to make even occasional and minor use of public benefits like Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers. Many advocates have said the so-called public charge rule has discouraged immigrants from seeking medical assistance at a time when the administration’s top health officials are encouraging Americans to be vigilant for symptoms of the virus.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.

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

Trump, Head of Government, Leans Into Antigovernment Message

Westlake Legal Group 20trump-memo-facebookJumbo Trump, Head of Government, Leans Into Antigovernment Message Trump, Donald J Quarantines Presidential Election of 2020 Demonstrations, Protests and Riots Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Biden, Joseph R Jr

First he was the self-described “wartime president.” Then he trumpeted the “total” authority of the federal government. But in the past few days, President Trump has nurtured protests against state-issued stay-at-home orders aimed at curtailing the spread of the coronavirus.

Hurtling from one position to another is consistent with Mr. Trump’s approach to the presidency over the past three years. Even when external pressures and stresses appear to change the dynamics that the country is facing, Mr. Trump remains unbowed, altering his approach for a day or two, only to return to nursing grievances.

Not even the president’s re-election campaign can harness him: His team is often reactive to his moods and whims, trying but not always succeeding in steering him in a particular direction. Now, with Mr. Trump’s poll numbers falling after a rally-around-the-leader bump, he is road-testing a new turn on a familiar theme — veering into messages aimed at appealing to Americans whose lives have been disrupted by the stay-at-home orders.

Whether his latest theme will be effective for him is an open question: In an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday, just 36 percent of voters said they generally trusted what Mr. Trump says about the coronavirus.

But the president, who ran as an insurgent in 2016, is most comfortable raging against the machine of government, even when he is the one running the country. And while the coronavirus is in every state in the union, it is heavily affecting minority and low-income communities.

So when Mr. Trump on Friday tweeted “LIBERATE,” his all-capitalized exhortations against strict orders in specific states — including Michigan — were in keeping with how he ran in 2016: saying things that seem contradictory, like pledging to work with governors and then urging people to “liberate” their states, and leaving it to his audiences to hear what they want to hear in his words.

For instance, Mr. Trump did not take the opportunity to more forcefully encourage the protesters when he spoke with reporters on Friday.

“These are people expressing their views,” Mr. Trump said. “They seem to be very responsible people to me.” But he said he thought the protesters had been treated “rough.”

In a webcast with Students for Trump on Friday, a conservative activist and Trump ally, Charlie Kirk, echoed the message, encouraging a “peaceful rebellion against governors” in states like Michigan, according to ABC News.

On Fox News, where many of the opinion hosts are aligned with Mr. Trump and which he watches closely, there have also been discussions of such protests. And Mr. Trump has heard from conservative allies who have said they think he is straying from his base of supporters in recent weeks.

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So far, the protests have been relatively small and scattershot, organized by conservative-leaning groups with some organic attendance. It remains to be seen if they will be durable.

But Mr. Trump’s show of affinity for such actions is in keeping with his fomenting of voter anger at the establishment in 2016, a key to his success then — and his fallback position during uncertain moments ever since.

In the case of the state-issued orders, Mr. Trump’s advisers say his criticism of certain places is appropriate.

Stephen Moore, a former adviser to Mr. Trump and an economist with FreedomWorks, an organization that promotes limited government, said he thought protesters ought to be wearing masks and protecting themselves. But, he added, “the people who are doing the protest, for the most part, these are the ‘deplorables,’ they’re largely Trump supporters, but not only Trump supporters.”

On Sunday, Mr. Trump again praised the protesters. “I have never seen so many American flags,” he said.

But Mr. Trump’s advisers are divided about the wisdom of encouraging the protests. At some of them, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, a Democrat, has been compared to Adolf Hitler. At least one protester had a sign featuring a swastika.

One adviser said privately that if someone were to be injured at the protests — or if anyone contracted the coronavirus at large events where people were not wearing masks — there would be potential political risk for the president.

But two other people close to the president, who asked for anonymity in order to speak candidly, said they thought the protests could be politically helpful to Mr. Trump, while acknowledging there might be public health risks.

One of those people said that in much of the country, where the numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths are not as high as in places like New York, New Jersey, California and Washington State, anger is growing over the economic losses that have come with the stringent social-distancing restrictions.

And some states are already preparing to restart their economies. Ohio, where Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, took early actions against the spread of the virus, is planning a staged reopening beginning on May 1.

Still, as Mr. Trump did throughout 2016, as when he said “torture works” and then walked back that statement a short time later, or when he advocated bombing the Middle East while denouncing lengthy foreign engagements, he has long taken various sides of the same issue.

Mobilizing anger and mistrust toward the government was a crucial factor for Mr. Trump in the last presidential election. And for many months he has been looking for ways to contrast himself with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and a Washington lifer.

The problem? Mr. Trump is now president, and disowning responsibility for his administration’s slow and problem-plagued response to the coronavirus could prove difficult. And protests can be an unpredictable factor, particularly at a moment of economic unrest.

Vice President Mike Pence, asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about the president’s tweets urging people to “liberate” states, demurred.

“The American people know that no one in America wants to reopen this country more than President Donald Trump,” Mr. Pence said, “and on Thursday the president directed us to lay out guidelines for when and how states could responsibly do that.”

“And in the president’s tweets and public statements, I can assure you, he’s going to continue to encourage governors to find ways to safely and responsibly let America go back to work,” he said.

With the political campaign halted, Mr. Trump’s advisers have seen an advantage in the frozen-in-time state of the race. Mr. Biden has struggled to fund-raise or even to get daily attention in the news cycle.

But Mr. Trump himself has seemed at sea, according to people close to him, uncertain of how to proceed. His approval numbers in his campaign polling have settled back to a level consistent with before the coronavirus, according to multiple people familiar with the data.

His campaign polling has shown that focusing on criticizing China, in contrast with Mr. Biden, moves voters toward Mr. Trump, according to a Republican who has seen it.

“Trump finally fired the first shot” with his more aggressive stance toward the Chinese government and its leader, Xi Jinping, said Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist. “Xi is put on notice that the death, economic carnage and agony is his and his alone,” Mr. Bannon said. “Only question now: What is America’s president prepared to do about it?”

Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, has advocated messages that contrast Mr. Trump with Mr. Biden on a number of fronts, including China.

But inside and outside the White House, other advisers to Mr. Trump see an advantage in focusing attention on the presidency.

Kellyanne Conway, the White House counselor, has argued in West Wing discussions that there is a time to focus on China, but that for now, the president should embrace commander-in-chief moments amid the crisis.

Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey and a friend of Mr. Trump’s, said on ABC’s “This Week” that he did not think ads criticizing Mr. Biden on China were the right approach for now.

Ultimately, Mr. Trump’s advisers said, most of his team is aware that it can try to drive down Mr. Biden’s poll numbers, but that no matter what tactics it deploys now, the president’s future will most likely depend on whether the economy is improving in the fall and whether the virus’s spread has been mitigated. Those things will remain unknown for months.

“This is going to be a referendum,” Mr. Christie said, “on whether people think, when we get to October, whether or not he handled this crisis in a way that helped the American people, protected lives and moved us forward.”

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White House and Democrats Near Deal on Aid for Small Businesses

Westlake Legal Group white-house-and-democrats-near-deal-on-aid-for-small-businesses White House and Democrats Near Deal on Aid for Small Businesses Wages and Salaries United States Politics and Government United States Economy Unemployment Trump, Donald J small business administration Small Business Shutdowns (Institutional) Schumer, Charles E Republican Party Pelosi, Nancy Mnuchin, Steven T Law and Legislation hospitals Democratic Party Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (2020) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Westlake Legal Group 19dc-virus-cong1-facebookJumbo White House and Democrats Near Deal on Aid for Small Businesses Wages and Salaries United States Politics and Government United States Economy Unemployment Trump, Donald J small business administration Small Business Shutdowns (Institutional) Schumer, Charles E Republican Party Pelosi, Nancy Mnuchin, Steven T Law and Legislation hospitals Democratic Party Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (2020) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — The White House and congressional Democrats on Sunday closed in on an agreement for a $450 billion economic relief package to replenish a depleted emergency fund for small businesses and to expand coronavirus testing around the country, with votes on the measure possible early this week.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin described the broad outlines of the package in an appearance on CNN on Sunday. The agreement would include $300 billion to replenish the emergency fund, called the Paycheck Protection Program; $50 billion for the Small Business Administration’s disaster relief fund; $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for testing.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, said in separate television appearances Sunday morning that a deal appeared to be in the offing.

“We’ve made very good progress, and I’m very hopeful we could come to an agreement tonight or early tomorrow morning,” Mr. Schumer said, appearing shortly after Mr. Mnuchin on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He said the White House was “going along with” some of the Democrats’ requests, “so we feel pretty good.”

Mr. Mnuchin said President Trump approved of the framework, and he expressed hope that the Senate could vote on the bill as early as Monday and the House on Tuesday.

That would represent a significant breakthrough after nearly two weeks of stalemate over the bill, even as the $349 billion small-business fund ran dry Thursday with many applicants still in line, a move that risked adding more bankruptcies, business failures and job losses to an already stunning economic toll.

That timeline, however, could be optimistic, and the path ahead is complicated. With lawmakers scattered across the country, many in states that are restricting travel, House and Senate leaders will most likely try to approve any agreement during procedural sessions this week as opposed to bringing their rank and file back to the Capitol to vote. But during procedural sessions, any one lawmaker could object, delaying final passage.

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The money for hospitals and testing in the package Mr. Mnuchin outlined was a significant concession to Democrats, who were standing in the way of a quick and stand-alone infusion of cash to the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers forgivable loans to small businesses to create incentives for them to keep employees on their payroll.

Democrats had also wanted to couple an infusion for the small-business program with more money for states and cities. But Mr. Mnuchin said such funds would be included in a future relief package.

Partisan warfare has enveloped the talks since the start, with Mr. Trump attacking Ms. Pelosi on Twitter on Sunday as “an inherently ‘dumb’ person” and predicting that she would be “overthrown” as speaker, “either by inside or out.”

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill had spent much of last week trading barbs. Republicans, who argued that there was no need to add money for hospitals and testing when it had not yet run out, accused Democrats of holding small businesses hostage while unemployment numbers soared.

“I cannot understand after watching another five million get unemployed how Speaker Pelosi continues to say no,” Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the minority leader, said Thursday morning on a conference call with reporters.

Republicans have also expressed strong opposition to adding money for states and municipalities, saying Democrats have pushed for unrestricted funds, not related to the coronavirus, that would effectively subsidize bad fiscal decisions that occurred before the pandemic. That has been a red line for Republicans throughout the talks.

But after the funding for the Paycheck Protection Program lapsed, Republicans expressed the first hints of openness to accepting at least some of the Democrats’ demands. In an interview with Politico on Friday, Mr. McCarthy said he was “fine with doing some hospital” funding as part of a package to shore up the program.

Some Republicans, though, have expressed skepticism about Mr. Mnuchin, whom they see as accommodating to Democrats. Asked on Thursday about how a deal that included hospital money would be received, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, remained noncommittal, saying only, “We’d take a look at it.”

Mr. Mnuchin also said on Sunday that he was hopeful that the economy could rebound in a matter of months rather than years. He said that he hoped the extraordinary efforts the government had taken to encourage businesses to keep workers on their payrolls would prevent the jobless rate from reaching 20 percent.

Mr. McConnell hosted a call on Sunday with Mr. Mnuchin, Mr. Trump, Republican senators and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, about the ongoing negotiations. Mr. McConnell said that additional funds for state and local governments, as well as more money for food assistance, would not be included in the final package, according to an aide for a Republican leader who requested anonymity to disclose details of a private phone call.

Mr. Mnuchin added that some of the unresolved items were related to funding for testing, and that he would be conferring with Mr. McConnell, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate health committee, and Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, to resolve the issues to ensure swift passage.

Democrats are calling the current package Stimulus 3.5, in reference to the three bills that came before it. In the House, Ms. Pelosi and her committee leaders are already working on elements of a fourth package, though it is unclear what that will look like.

Once negotiations on the current bill draw to a close, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. McConnell will have to figure out a schedule for voting. One possibility is that the measure could be approved by voice vote, which would spare members the necessity of returning to the Capitol.

But a single lawmaker could stand in the way of such a maneuver, which is what happened last month when the House took up the $2 trillion stimulus package that created the paycheck program. Representative Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, thwarted the effort by demanding a quorum and insisting his colleagues show up in person.

Anticipating a repeat of that episode, Ms. Pelosi said last week that she would back a system of remote voting by proxy — a major shift for the speaker, and one that would break with centuries of tradition of voting in person. To do so would require a change in House rules, which itself would require an in-person vote.

Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the Rules Committee, who has been deputized by Ms. Pelosi to examine alternative methods of voting, proposed the proxy voting plan last week. It would allow lawmakers who could not travel to the Capitol because of the pandemic to give explicit instructions on each vote to a colleague who would be authorized to act on their behalf.

In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Ms. Pelosi said she wanted to know what Republicans thought before moving ahead with the plan. “We want to keep the faith on both sides,” she said.

In an interview on Friday, Mr. Massie said — somewhat surprisingly — that he would not object to forgoing a floor vote on changing rules to permit proxy voting so long as the process was sufficiently “transparent.” Mr. Massie said the rule should require that the names of those who voted in person and who voted by proxy be made public, along with the names of those whom absent lawmakers had authorized to vote on their behalf.

Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.

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