- President Donald Trump announced Monday that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine daily for the past couple of weeks.
- Currently, the drug is not approved for use in COVID-19 patients or for preventing COVID-19, though several clinical trials are underway.
- In April, researchers working on one trial warned that they had found higher rates of death in Veterans Affairs patients taking hydroxychloroquine.
- Late Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed concerns about Trump’s use of the drug, citing a risk factor, “especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group… morbidly obese, they say.”
Trumps Says He’s Taking HCQ
After continually touting hydroxychloroquine as treatment for COVID-19, President Donald Trump announced on Monday that he’s been taking the drug daily for about two weeks.
That announcement was immediately met with concern among many because hydroxychloroquine has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a safe and effective treatment against COVID-19. The most notable reaction, however, came from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who described Trump as “morbidly obese.”
“He’s our president, and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group…morbidly obese, they say,” Pelosi said in an interview with Anderson Cooper.
Hydroxychloroquine, along with chloroquine, is being investigated as a possible treatment for patients with COVID-19. Another study is also looking into whether hydroxychloroquine can be used to prevent frontline healthcare workers from contracting the coronavirus.
While announcing he was taking the drug, Trump referenced the fact that it’s been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean it works against COVID-19 or that it’s safe for people to take to prevent getting COVID-19.
In fact, on April 24, the FDA said as much when it issued a safety alert on the drug, saying both it and chloroquine could have serious side effects. In the alert, it warned people only to take hydroxychloroquine under the close supervision of a doctor in a hospital setting or in a clinical trial.
In that warning, the FDA also said it is aware of reports of “serious heart rhythm problems in patients with COVID-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine.”
One study that may have played a role in this alert published preliminary findings several days earlier. That study, conducted on hundreds of Veterans Affairs patients across the country, found higher rates of death in patients taking hydroxychloroquine as opposed to those who weren’t.
To be clear, this study still hasn’t been peer reviewed and published in a medical journal, but its research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Trump dismissed that VA study on Monday when talking to reporters, saying that the researchers weren’t big fans of him.
“And if you look at that phony report that was put out, that report, all that hydroxy was given to people that were in extraordinarily bad condition, extraordinarily bad,” he claimed. “People that were dying.”
In their study, researchers did say they adjusted for comorbidities. That’s because patients averaged around 70-years-old and many of them had other pre-existing conditions. Still, that doesn’t mean they were necessarily in “extraordinarily bad condition” during the study.
As far as why Trump is taking hydroxychloroquine, it seems to be more of a preventative measure than anything. In fact, Trump even said he approached his physician, Dr. Sean Conley, about taking the drug.
“I asked him, ‘What do you think?’” Trump said. “He said, “Well, if you’d like it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’d like it. I’d like to take it.’ A lot of people are taking it.”
Later in the day in a memo, Conley alluded to another reason why he might have put Trump on hydroxychloroquine, referencing that two weeks ago, Trump’s personal valet tested positive for the virus.
“After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks,” Conley said.
Fox News’ Cavuto: “[HCQ] will kill you.”
Even with this, several notable people have pushed back against the president’s use of hydroxychloroquine. In fact, on Fox News, anchor Neil Cavuto blasted the decision and implored people not to take the drug to try to prevent contracting the coronavirus.
“If you are in a risky population here,” Cavuto said, “and you are taking this as a preventative treatment to ward off the virus or in a worst-case scenario you are dealing with the virus, and you are in this vulnerable population, it will kill you. I cannot stress enough: This will kill you.”
“So again, whatever benefits the president says this has,” he added, “and it certainly has had for those suffering from malaria, dealing with lupus, this is a leap that should not be taken casually by those watching at home who are assuming, well, the president of the United States says it’s OK.”
Cavuto also said that the VA study Trump dismissed wasn’t a political one and that it should be taken seriously.
Even with Cavuto’s warning, after his show ended, “The Five” host Greg Gutfeld encouraged viewers to take the drug.
Still, that didn’t seem to be enough to stop Trump from going after Fox News Monday night as he later lobbed what has become an increasing amount of criticism at his former favorite news network.
“@FoxNews is no longer the same. We miss the great Roger Ailes,” he said, referring to the former Fox News CEO who resigned in 2016 after multiple sexual assault allegations. “You have more anti-Trump people, by far, than ever before. Looking for a new outlet!”
Pelosi Calls Trump “Morbidly Obese”
Pelosi’s comment seemed to start a firestorm on Twitter, many applauding her for fighting fire with fire and hurling what seemed to be an attack on Trump’s age and weight. Trump has repeatedly been known to attack his dissenters for their looks.
Others were much less enthusiastic, saying that Pelosi was fat-shaming Trump.
“Y’all would be TIGHT (and rightfully so) if a Republican called a Democrat ‘morbidly obese,’” one Twitter user said. “If you’re not someone’s doctor, you have no business commenting on their mental or physical health, because all you’re doing is pushing stigma and inviting bigotry disguised as wokeness.”
y’all would be TIGHT (and rightfully so) if a republican called a democrat “morbidly obese”. if you’re not someone’s doctor, you have no business commenting on their mental or physical health, because all you’re doing is pushing stigma and inviting bigotry disguised as wokeness.— maybe: diane (@dianelyssa) May 19, 2020
So far, neither Trump nor Pelosi have publicly responded to the situation any further.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (The Hill) (CNN)
Trump Issues Over 140 Pardons and Commutations Ahead of Biden’s Inauguration
- In his last moments in office, now-former President Donald Trump granted clemency to more than 140 people at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.
- Among the notable pardons and commutations were rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and Trump megadonor Elliott Broidy.
- Trump’s final round of clemency did include several nonviolent drug offenders whose requests had been supported by criminal justice reform advocates.
- Still, many also condemned Trump for overlooking people wronged by the justice system or those who have been rehabilitated. Instead, critics feel he was focused on giving out political favors to his allies.
Trump Grants Clemency
Former President Donald Trump issued more than 140 pardons and commutations at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, just hours ahead of President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
The move marks Trump’s final major act before the end of his term. Many of the most notable pardons and commutations were given to people whose names had been circulating in reports earlier this week, including rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, as well as former adviser Steve Bannon.
Bannon’s pardon is especially significant because he has not yet stood trial for the charges he faces. The charges against Trump’s former right-hand man center around allegations that he defrauded half a million people who donated to a crowdsourcing campaign to fund the construction of the border wall.
The leaders of the charity, aptly named We Build the Wall, had claimed that the more than $25 million they had solicited in donations would go to their goal, but prosecutors claim that Bannon took $1 million for his own personal expenses.
Bannon’s pardon is also significant because, according to reports, the reason the clemency announcements were late was because Trump could not decide whether or not to pardon him. However, as The Washington Post notes, Trump’s ultimate decision “underscores how Trump has used his presidential power to benefit allies and political backers.”
Trump has recently granted pardons to several of his former top aides, many of whom seem to have a knack for committing crimes for him.
At the end of last year, he pardoned his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and his close friend and adviser, Roger Stone. All three had been convicted of crimes during the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In this newest batch of clemency grants, the former president also pardoned Elliott Broidy, a top Trump campaign fundraiser. Broidy pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws and accepting millions of dollars as part of a secret campaign to lobby the administration for Malaysian and Chinese interests.
Trump additionally pardoned a number of politicians who have been indicted for corruption, including three former Republican members of Congress and one former Democratic mayor.
Those Left Out
Trump’s last round of pardons and commutations did include several nonviolent drug offenders whose requests had been supported by criminal justice reformers. One of those individuals was Chris Young, a man who had been sentenced to life for drug conspiracy, and whose commutation Kim Kardashian West had lobbied.
But in general, Trump has largely been condemned by criminal justice advocates for overlooking people wronged by the justice system or those who have rehabilitated. Instead, they feel he was focused on giving out political favors to his allies.
Despite the attention some of his pardons have received, either because they had celebrity power behind them or were controversial, Trump has actually approved fewer clemency requests than most previous presidents who served one term or less. Until this week, he had only granted clemency to 95 people.
Also of note are the controversial pardons that Trump was reportedly considering but ultimately decided against. These included WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and “Tiger King” star Joe Exotic, the latter of whom was so sure he would be pardoned that he had a limo waiting for him outside his prison.
Trump was also reportedly considering preemptively pardoning himself and his children, but he apparently decided against the move. In addition to a self-pardon being questionably unconstitutional, any clemency for the former president and his family would require them to admit they committed crimes they have not yet been charged with.
While Trump decided against becoming the first president to ever pardon himself, the fact that he decided to give clemency to so many of his allies might pose some issues.
President Bill Clinton faced both congressional and criminal investigations for giving out 140 pardons and commutations on his final day in office in 2001, though notably, no wrongdoing was ultimately found.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)
GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert Accused of Leading Capitol Tour Before Insurrection
- Rep. Steve Cohen told CNN Monday that he and another lawmaker personally saw GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert guiding a “large” group of people around the Capitol days before the insurrection.
- Numerous representatives have said they saw GOP members leading an unusual amount of tours before the riots. They also said some of the visitors were involved with the rally that preceded the attack.
- Boebert preemptively denied giving tours to insurrectionists last week before any official accused her by name.
- She reiterated that denial in a statement responding to Cohen’s accusations and claimed that she had only ever given a tour to members of her family.
Rep. Cohen’s Claims
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tn.) said Monday that he and a fellow Democratic member of Congress personally witnessed Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Co.) leading a “large” group of people around the Capitol complex in the days before the violent attacks on Jan. 6.
While speaking on CNN, Cohen said that he and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) “saw Boebert taking a group of people for a tour sometime after the 3rd and before the 6th.”
“I don’t remember the day we were walking in a tunnel and we saw her and commented who she was and she had a large group with her,” he continued. “Now whether these people were people that were involved in the insurrection or not, I do not know.”
Notably, Cohen said he did not know who was in the group or if they were part of the attack. That fact was also echoed by Yarmuth, who confirmed in a statement that he did see Boebert with a group of people around her but added that he “has no knowledge of who they were or if they were with her.”
Over the last few weeks, dozens of Democrats have been demanding that officials investigate whether or not Republican lawmakers aided in the riots. Last Tuesday, Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) told reporters she saw some of her GOP colleagues leading “reconnaissance” tours of the Capitol with people who she later saw during the riots.
The following day, 31 House Democrats signed a letter claiming they and some of their staffers “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting the Capitol on Jan. 5.
“The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day,” they wrote. “Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex.”
Boebert’s Checkered Record
Until Monday, no lawmakers had named any of the members involved in the alleged tours, but many outlets and political analysts both implicitly and explicitly tied Boebert to the accusations.
In her roughly two-week-long tenure as a member of Congress, the young Republican has received significant heat for her role in the insurrection among other recent, controversial moves.
Last week, Boebert was temporarily banned from Twitter and faced numerous calls to resign for tweeting out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s location during the insurrection.
She has also been widely criticized for publicly announcing she would bring her gun to the Capitol complex, refusing to have her bag searched after she set off a metal detector, and voting to invalidate millions of votes by objecting to the certification of the electoral college.
In fact, Boebert has faced so much scrutiny that she preemptively denied giving tours to insurrectionists last week, even before anyone directly named her. At the time, she issued a statement saying she has only ever given a tour to her children, husband, mother, aunt, and uncle.
Boebert reiterated those claims in a letter to Cohen Monday, where she called his remarks “categorically false.”
“I have never given a tour of the U.S. Capitol to any outside group,” she wrote. “As I previously stated, I brought my family to the Capitol on January 2nd for a tour and on the 3rd for pictures to commemorate the day I was sworn in as a Member of the U.S. Congress.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (CPR News)
Washington, D.C. Ramps Up Security Before Inauguration
- Officials in Washington are ramping up security measures and imposing heavy restrictions ahead of the inauguration Wednesday.
- The National Mall has been closed down since Friday, barricades have been put up all over the city, car traffic has been limited, and many public transit routes have also been shut down.
- Around 25,000 National Guard troops have been deployed from across the country, and the FBI is vetting all of them due to concerns of an insider attack.
- Security has also been significantly increased in many state capitals nationwide following calls for armed protests in all 50 states, but so far, most of the protests at statehouses have been peaceful and exceptionally small.
Capitol Increases Security Measures
With two days to go until the inauguration, security has been massively ramped up in the nation’s Capitol.
While the inauguration is usually a high-security event, Washington has now instituted security measures not seen since the Civil War following a Jan. 6 insurrection attempt on the U.S. Capitol. Intelligence agencies have since warned about more threats of violence.
In an unprecedented move, the National Park Service announced Friday that the National Mall — which usually hosts massive crowds during the inauguration — will be closed until at least Thursday. The inaugural ceremony itself will also be scaled down due to both security threats and the pandemic.
Various barricades ranging from small metal barriers to tall fencing reinforced with heavy concrete blocks have been set up around the Mall and in other parts of the city, such as at federal buildings and businesses.
The Capitol complex itself, which will be entirely shut off to the public on Wednesday, is currently surrounded by a 7-foot fence topped with razor wire.
Over a dozen metro lines will be shut down and more than two dozen bus routes will be detoured around the security perimeter. Car traffic in most of the city will be either banned entirely or limited exclusively to residents and businesses only. Several bridges that connect DC to Virginia will also be shut down, and all street closures are subject to change or to be extended at the discretion of the Secret Service.
In addition to the wide variety of military and law enforcement personnel who are normally involved in inauguration security, around 25,000 National Guard troops have also been deployed from all across the country.
That is nearly two and a half times the number present for previous inaugurations. Notably, officials have been vetting all 25,000 coming to Washington because they are worried about an insider attack.
States Ramp Up Security
It is not just D.C. that is ramping up security. There have been mass deployments of the National Guard and other law enforcement officers to state Capitols all across the country. According to The New York Times, 19 states have deployed their National Guards following calls for armed protests in all 50 states.
So far, most of the activity that has been seen around statehouses are small, peaceful demonstrations by a few people, some of whom are armed. Even the most attended rallies had two dozen people or less.
Notably, all of the largest demonstrations documented so far have reportedly been held by or included members of the Boogaloo Boys, a far-right group that wants to start a second Civil War. The group showed up in some of the highest numbers in front of the Capitol buildings in Ohio, Michigan, and Utah.
As was the case with all of the other demonstrations so far, the protestors have been far outnumbered by security officials — and in some cases, spectators.