- Eleven Secret Service members have tested positive for COIVD-19, while 60 others are self-isolating and 23 have recovered, according to documents from the Department of Homeland Security viewed by Yahoo News.
- It’s unknown if those individuals worked in the White House, but the news comes after one of the President’s drivers tested positive, as well as Vice President Pence’s Press Secretary Katie Miller, and Ivanka Trump’s personal assistant.
- For many Americans, especially those headed back to work as their states reopen, the news is unsettling.
- To them, it shows the virus hitting places with high security and the best means for prevention, making them less confident about their own situations.
Secret Service Members Test Positive
Several members of the U.S. Secret Service have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Thursday evening, according to Yahoo News, raising more questions and concerns about cases in close proximity to President Donald Trump.
Yahoo reported on data it reviewed in documents from the Department of Homeland Security. Those documents allegedly revealed that the agency has 11 active coronavirus cases. An additional 60 employees are reportedly self-isolating and over 23 members have already recovered from the virus.
Justine Whelan, a spokesperson for the Secret Service told Yahoo that the agency is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, she declined to comment on more specific details about those with confirmed cases.
“To protect the privacy of our employee’s health information and for operational security, the Secret Service is not releasing how many of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19, nor how many of its employees were, or currently are, quarantined,” Whelan added.
So as of now, it’s unknown whether or not the employees who tested positive worked at the White House of if they had any close contact with Trump or Vice President Mike Pence.
However, the news follows reports of confirmed cases among White House staffers.
Trumps Driver’s, Pence’s Press Secretary, and Ivanka’s Assistant Test Positive
On Thursday, a U.S. Navy member who serves as one of Trump’s valets tested positive for COVID-19. According to CNBC, the valet “had very close contact with the president, including serving meals and helping him with his clothes and other personal needs.”
Trump, however, denied having close contact with him. “I’ve had very little personal contact with this gentleman,” Trump told reporters Thursday in the Oval Office. “I know who he is, good person, but I’ve had very little contact.”
Following that news, the president said he and Pence, as well as those who work closely with them, will switch from weekly to daily tests. Then on Friday, Trump revealed that Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, had also tested positive.
Miler had tested negative on Thursday but then positive Friday morning, forcing Pence’s scheduled flight to DesMoines to be delayed for about an hour even though she was not traveling with him. The delay instead was so that six others who had been in contact with her could be escorted off the plane. All six later tested negative but were sent home out of caution.
White House officials initially asked reporters not to identify Miller as the aide who tested positive, but Trump blew the secret himself when he identified her publicly during his meeting with the congressional Republicans as “Katie” and “the press person” for Pence.
The president also used Miler’s case to point to the limits of testing. “This is why the whole concept of tests aren’t necessarily great,” the president said Friday. “The tests are perfect but something can happen between a test where it’s good and then something happens and then all of a sudden, she was tested very recently and tested negative.”
Miller, who is the wife of Trump’s senior advisor Steven Miller, later confirmed the diagnosis on NBC News herself. She announced that she was asymptomatic and later sent out a tweet thanking those who have been wishing her well.
Both Pence and Trump tested negative following the reports, as well as Miller’s husband.
Shortly afterward, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins reported that Ivanka Trump’s personal assistant had also tested positive for the virus; however, the assistant has not been around the first daughter in several weeks and is said to have been working remotely.
Still, the new string of cases has raised concerns about the president’s possible exposure to the virus, which has now infected more than 1.3 million people across the country.
The president has previously said he’s “not worried” about becoming infected and has notably chosen not to wear a face mask at any public gathers or meetings, despite guidance on face coverings from the CDC.
The White House infections and new testing policies also sparked debate and frustration about testing as many states begin reopening. For some, these infections have been viewed as a sign that high risks continue to exists and could be worse among Americans who are being asked to return to work with less testing and monitoring than the White House receives.
“The virus is in the White House, any way you look at it,” said Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary of homeland security under President Barack Obama told The New York Times.
“Whether it’s contained or not, we will know soon enough. But the fact that a place — secured, with access to the best means to mitigate harm — is not able to stop the virus has the potential of undermining confidence in any capacity to defeat it.”
See what others are saying; (CNBC) (The New York Times) (AP News)
Jan. 6 Committee Prepares Criminal Charges Against Steve Bannon for Ignoring Subpoena
The move comes after former President Trump told several of his previous aides not to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the insurrection.
Bannon Refuses to Comply With Subpoena
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced Thursday that it is seeking to hold former White House advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena.
The decision marks a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to force officials under former President Donald Trump’s administration to comply with its probe amid Trump’s growing efforts to obstruct the inquiry.
In recent weeks, the former president has launched a number of attempts to block the panel from getting key documents, testimonies, and other evidence requested by the committee that he claims are protected by executive privilege.
Notably, some of those assertions have been shut down. On Friday, President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s effort to withhold documents relating to the insurrection.
Still, Trump has also directed former officials in his administration not to comply with subpoenas or cooperate with the committee.
That demand came after the panel issued subpoenas ordering depositions from Bannon and three other former officials: Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.
After Trump issued his demand, Bannon’s lawyer announced that he would not obey the subpoena until the panel reached an agreement with Trump or a court ruled on the executive privilege matter.
Many legal experts have questioned whether Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, can claim executive privilege for something that happened when he was not working for the executive.
Panel Intensifies Compliance Efforts
The Thursday decision from the committee is significant because it will likely set up a legal battle and test how much authority the committee can and will exercise in requiring compliance.
It also sets an important precedent for those who have been subpoenaed. While Bannon is the first former official to openly defy the committee, there have been reports that others plan to do the same.
The panel previously said Patel and Meadows were “engaging” with investigators, but on Thursday, several outlets reported that the two — who were supposed to appear before the body on Thursday and Friday respectively — are now expected to be given an extension or continuance.
Sources told reporters that Scavino, who was also asked to testify Friday, has had his deposition postponed because service of his subpoena was delayed.
As far as what happens next for Bannon, the committee will vote to adopt the contempt report next week. Once that is complete, the matter will go before the House for a full vote.
Assuming the Democratic-held House approves the contempt charge, it will then get referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a grand jury.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)
Senate Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling Until December
The move adds another deadline to Dec. 3, which is also when the federal government is set to shut down unless Congress approves new spending.
Debt Ceiling Raised Temporarily
The Senate voted on Thursday to extend the debt ceiling until December, temporarily averting a fiscal catastrophe.
The move, which followed weeks of stalemate due to Republican objections, came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially backed down from his blockade and offered a short-term proposal.
After much whipping of votes, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to break the legislative filibuster and move to final approval of the measure. The bill ultimately passed in a vote of 50-48 without any Republican support.
The legislation will now head to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their current recess for a vote on Tuesday.
The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the measure, but urged Congress to pass a longer extension.
“We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months,’’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Under the current bill, the nation’s borrowing limit will be increased by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department said will cover federal borrowing until around Dec. 3.
The agency had previously warned that it would run out of money by Oct. 18 if Congress failed to act. Such a move would have a chilling impact on the economy, forcing the U.S. to default on its debts and potentially plunging the country into a recession.
Major Hurdles Remain
While the legislation extending the ceiling will certainly offer temporary relief, it sets up another perilous deadline for the first Friday in December, when government funding is also set to expire if Congress does not approve another spending bill.
Regardless of the new deadline, many of the same hurdles lawmakers faced the first time around remain.
Democrats are still struggling to hammer out the final details of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending agenda, which Republicans have strongly opposed.
Notably, Democratic leaders previously said they could pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with 50 votes and no Republican support.
Such a move would require all 50 Senators, but intraparty disputes remain over objections brought by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), who have been stalling the process for months.
Although disagreements over reconciliation are ongoing among Democrats, McConnell has insisted the party use the obscure procedural process to raise the debt limit. Democrats, however, have balked at the idea, arguing that tying the debt ceiling to reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.
Despite Republican efforts to connect the limit to Biden’s economic agenda, raising the ceiling is not the same as adopting new spending. Rather, the limit is increased to pay off spending that has already been authorized by previous sessions of Congress and past administrations.
In fact, much of the current debt stems from policies passed by Republicans during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax overhaul.
As a result, while Democrats have signaled they may make concessions to Manchin and Sinema, they strongly believe that Republicans must join them to increase the debt ceiling to fund projects their party supported.
It is currently unclear when or how the ongoing stalemate will be resolved, or how either party will overcome their fervent objections.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
California Makes Universal Voting by Mail Permanent
California is now the eighth state to make universal mail-in ballots permanent after it temporarily adopted the policy for elections held amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
CA Approves Universal Voting by Mail
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Monday requiring every registered voter in the state to be mailed a ballot at least 29 days before an election, whether they request it or not.
Assembly Bill 37 makes permanent a practice that was temporarily adopted for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law, which officially takes effect in January, also extends the time mail ballots have to arrive at elections offices from three days to seven days after an election. Voters can still choose to cast their vote in person if they prefer.
Supporters of the policy have cheered the move, arguing that proactively sending ballots to registered voters increases turnout.
“Data shows that sending everyone a ballot in the mail provides voters access. And when voters get ballots in the mail, they vote,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), said during a Senate committee hearing in July.
Meanwhile opponents — mostly Republicans — have long cast doubts about the safety of mail-in voting, despite a lack of evidence to support their claims that it leads to widespread voter fraud. That strategy, however, has also faced notable pushback from some that a lot of Republicans who say it can actually hurt GOP turnout.
Others May Follow
The new legislation probably isn’t too surprising for California, where over 50% of votes cast in general elections have been through mail ballots since 2012, according to The Sacramento Bee. Now, many believe California will be followed by similar legislation from Democrats across the country as more Republican leaders move forward with elections bills that significantly limit voting access.
Newsome signed 10 other measures Monday changing election and campaign procedures, including a bill that would require anyone advocating for or against a candidate to stand farther away from a polling place. Another bill increases penalties for candidates who use campaign funds for personal expenses while a third measure increases reporting requirements for limited liability corporations that engage in campaign activity.
“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said in a statement.
“Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election.”
The news regarding California came just in time for National Voter Registration day today, giving Americans another reminder to make sure they’re registered in their states. For more information on how to register, visit Vote.gov or any of the other resources linked below.