- On Tuesday, President Donald Trump compared COVID-19 to the yearly flu, telling Americans that “we are learning to live” with the coronavirus.
- Despite this comparison, the coronavirus has killed more than 210,000 Americans — much more than the yearly flu — and no vaccine exists for it. On top of that, a COVID-19 resurgence during the flu season could potentially strain hospitals.
- Shortly after posting the message on social media, Facebook removed the comment. While Twitter left it up, it flagged it as “misleading and potentially harmful.”
- That post follows another from Monday where Trump told Americans not to be afraid of the coronavirus. That post generated sharp criticism from medical experts and even celebrities like Chris Evans.
Trump Compares COVID to the Flu
Facebook removed and Twitter flagged a post made by President Donald Trump on Tuesday that compared the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to seasonal flu deaths.
“Flu season is coming up!” Trump wrote. “Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!”
Twitter, which flagged this tweet as “misleading and potentially harmful,” likely did so for multiple reasons.
For one, in the last decade, each year, the flu has not accounted for over 100,000 deaths in the U.S. According to the CDC, the most was actually about 61,000 in the 2017-2018 flu season.
That is much less than the 210,000 Americans who have died from COVID this year alone. In fact, for U.S. flu deaths to outnumber this year’s COVID deaths, you would need to add together the last six flu seasons.
Two, even if over 100,000 people each year did die from the flu, this would still not be a 1:1 comparison. That’s because there is still no widespread vaccine for COVID-19, unlike the flu. On top of that, while some people can express a level of immunity against the flu each year, COVID-19 is completely novel, making it much easier to spread.
That’s not to say the flu isn’t important. Every year, it poses very serious health problems, but that’s particularly why such a comparison is dangerous.
Health experts, for months, have believed that this flu season could be critical to monitor. That’s because colder weather may bring a resurgence in COVID-19 infections, and that could lead to hospitals becoming strained as they have to deal with both COVID and the flu.
Trump, for his part, has now again called for a repeal of the law that allows tech companies to flag or remove his posts.
Trump: “Don’t be afraid of COVID.”
That’s not the only social media post from Trump that has attracted attention and criticism.
On Monday, when announcing that he would be leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center later that evening, he said, “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.”
While many of Trump’s supporters echoed this message, many others overwhelming condemned the comments, with some calling for Twitter and Facebook to take action against it.
Dr. Bob Wachter, a physician and chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, essentially called the comment “callous, inhumane, & counterproductive.”
Emergency Physician Bernard P. Chang warned that medicine shouldn’t be practiced “by one-off anecdotes. Practice by data. And with over 210,000 souls lost, I’d remain VERY afraid.”
Outside of medical professionals, actor Chris Evans explicitly noted the difference between Trump’s care and the everyday person’s care.
“Don’t be afraid of Covid?!” Evans said. “You’ve been under round-the-clock care by the best doctors using the best drugs. Do you really think everyone has access to that?! Sadly, I’m sure you’re aware of that disparity, you just don’t care. This is reckless to a shocking degree, even for you.”
Bill Goodykoontz, a columnist for the Arizona Republic, dubbed this as potentially the most irresponsible tweet from Trump ever.
Neither Twitter nor Facebook — where this same message was also posted — have issued any kind of warning over this tweet. In fact, a Twitter spokesperson even said specifically that this tweet does not violate the company’s rules since it does not include a call to action that could potentially result in real-world harm.
Trump Appears to Struggle to Breathe Normally
After Trump returned to the White House, Trump stoked another level of controversy when he immediately removed his mask after climbing the steps to the building.
While this was very likely an attempt by Trump to show that he’d overcome the virus and that he had recovered, many have noted that the president appears to be struggling to breathe normally.
“This is a textbook example of increased work of breathing” Dr. Ilan Schwartz tweeted. “In addition to using normal respiratory muscles… ‘accessory muscles’ in his neck are kicking in to help draw a breath.”
Minutes later, when Trump turned to enter the White House, he remained maskless as he walked into the building. Notably, other people could be seen inside.
White House Denies CDC Contact Tracing Help
Trump isn’t the only high-profile Republican to contract COVID-19 in the last few days.
Others such as Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC.) and Mike Lee (R-Ut.), RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, former Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, First Lady Melania Trump, and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have all tested positive. Additionally, multiple White House staffers and journalists have also tested positive.
Currently, it’s believed that all of these cases are connected. Because of that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday offered to lead a contact tracing effort to track down and notify people who were exposed to this outbreak.
On Monday, the White House rejected that offer.
“The White House has plans and procedures in place that incorporate current CDC guidelines and best practices for limiting COVID-19 exposure and has established a robust contact tracing program led by the White House Medical Unit with CDC integration,” White House spokesperson Judd Deere said.
Another White House official added that a CDC epidemiologist, who’s been working with the administration since March, is assisting the effort.
However, Michael Shear, a journalist with The New York Times who covers the White House and who has now tested positive for the coronavirus told CNN, “I have not been contacted by the White House,”
“Nobody from the White House has said ‘boo’ and asked anything about where I was or who I talked to or who else I might have infected.”
Shear added that the lack of followup “just shows you that… they’re not taking it seriously, at least as it pertains to themselves.”
Similarly, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has said the health department hasn’t received any response from the White House, despite multiple attempts to do so.
In fact, even within the White House itself, while the coronavirus has taken off, information on what to do has reportedly been slow to spread. For example, it took three days for staffers to receive any kind of response as to what they should do if they start experiencing symptoms.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (USA Today) (CNN)
Dominion Files $1.3 Billion Defamation Suit Against Rudy Giuliani
- Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani seeking $1.3 billion in damages for false claims he made about the company, including that the manufacturer led an effort to flip votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.
- The lawsuit alleges Giuliani, the former president’s personal lawyer, spread the disinformation in large part to enrich himself through legal fees and his podcast.
- It also links his false claims about Dominion to the Capitol insurrection, noting that he mentioned the company while speaking at a rally before the attack and on social media numerous times during.
- This is the second suit Dominion has filed against a Trump campaign lawyer, and an attorney for the company said it might bring similar cases against pro-Trump media outlets or Trump himself.
Dominion Sues Giuliani
Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani, former President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, seeking $1.3 billion in damages for false claims he made about the company.
Dominion, which is one of the largest voting machine manufacturers in the U.S., became the main target for widespread election fraud conspiracies spread by Giuliani and other Trump allies. Those individuals falsely claimed with no evidence that Dominion machines, widely used in key battleground states, were flipping votes from Trump to President Joe Biden.
Now, the company claims that Giuliani and his allies “manufactured and disseminated the ‘Big Lie,’ which foreseeably went viral and deceived millions of people into believing that Dominion had stolen their votes and fixed the election.”
The lawsuit alleges that he did this in large part to enrich himself through legal fees and his podcast. It notes that Trump’s top lawyer “reportedly demanded $20,000 per day” for his legal services to the president, and arguing that he “cashed in by hosting a podcast where he exploited election falsehoods to market gold coins, supplements, cigars and protection from ‘cyberthieves.’”
The 107-page suit also specifically outlines more than 50 statements Giuliani made on Twitter, his podcast, to the conservative media, and during legislative hearings. Notably, the company points out that he never mentioned Dominion in court where he could face legal ramifications because he knew what he was claiming was false.
Despite that, Giuliani continued to push the false narrative, even after Dominion sent him a letter in December warning they were going to take legal action against him.
The lawsuit also links Giuliani’s false claims about Dominion to the Capitol insurrection, noting that he mentioned the company while speaking at the rally before the attack and on social media numerous times during.
According to reports, even after the insurrection, he has still continued to spread those falsities as recently as last week.
“Dominion’s founder and employees have been harassed and have received death threats, and Dominion has suffered unprecedented and irreparable harm,” the court document states.
Other Defamation Cases
The case against Giuliani is not the first defamation suit Dominion has brought against Trump allies in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, the company filed a similar claim against former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell where it also sought $1.3 billion in damages over her false assertions that Dominion was part of a world-wide communist plot to rig the election.
Separately, one of Dominion’s top executives has also filed lawsuits against Giuliani, the Trump campaign, and several pro-Trump media outlets after he was forced into hiding due to conspiracies that he masterminded the plot to steal the election.
These cases could just be the start. According to NPR, an attorney for Dominion said it was possible that the company would file additional suits against pro-Trump media outlets — such as Fox News — and even potentially Trump himself.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (Axios)
House To Send Impeachment Article Monday, Starting Impeachment Trial Process
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the House will send the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday, triggering the start of the impeachment trial process.
- The news comes one day after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell requested that the trial be delayed until mid-February so that Trump’s legal team could have two weeks to prepare.
- The senators could still come to their own agreement to delay the start of oral arguments and give Trump’s team more time to file pretrial briefs.
- Some Democrats have signaled support for this move because it would give them extra time to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominations before the trial starts.
Pelosi To Send Impeachment Article
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) will send the impeachment article against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday.
The move will officially trigger the start of the impeachment trial process. The announcement comes one day after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) requested that the trial be delayed until mid-February so that Trump’s legal team could have two weeks to prepare.
Despite Pelosi’s decision, the senators still could come to their own agreement to start the ceremonial proceedings but delay the start of oral arguments and give Trump’s team more time to file pretrial briefs.
In fact, Democrats, who have been pushing for a schedule that would allow them to still confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees before the trial proceedings start each day, have signaled that they might not oppose a delay because it would give them extra time for confirmations.
During his announcement this morning, Schumer indicated that the details were still being hashed out.
“I’ve been speaking to the Republican leader about the timing and duration of the trial,” he said. “But make no mistake a trial will be held in the United States Senate and there will be a vote on whether to convict the president.”
McConnell, for his part, responded by reiterating that his party will continue to press for Trump’s team to be given enough time.
“This impeachment began with an unprecedentedly fast and minimal process over in the House,” he said. “Senate Republicans strongly believe we need a full and fair process where the former president can mount a defense.”
While the leaders may not have worked out the particulars yet, according to reports, both parties have already agreed that this trial will be shorter than Trump’s first impeachment, which lasted three weeks.
Implications for Power-Sharing Deal
The new impeachment trial deadline could also speed up the currently stalled negotiations between Schumer and McConnell regarding how power will be shared in a Senate with equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats.
Democrats effectively control the Senate because Vice President Kamala Harris will be the deciding vote, but she cannot always be there to resolve every dispute.
As a result, McConnell and Schumer have been working to come up with a power-sharing deal for day to day operations, similar to one that was struck in 2001 the last time the Senate was split 50-50. However, those negotiations have hit a roadblock: the legislative filibuster.
The filibuster is the long-standing Senate rule that requires a supermajority of at least 60 senators to vote to end debate on a given piece of legislation before moving to a full floor vote. Technically, all 50 Democrats and Vice President Harris could agree to change the rule to just require a simple majority to legislation advance, or what’s known as the “nuclear option.”
That move, in effect, would allow them to get through controversial legislation without any bipartisan support, as long as every Democrat stays within party lines. Many more progressive Democrats have pushed for this move, arguing that the filibuster stands in the way of many of their and Biden’s top priorities.
Given this possibility, McConnell has demanded that Democrats agree to protect the filibuster and promise not to pursue the nuclear option as part of the power-sharing deal.
But top Democrats have rejected that demand, with many arguing that having the threat of filibuster is necessary to get Republicans to compromise.
In other words: if Republicans fear that Democrats will “go nuclear,” they will be more likely to agree to certain bills and measures to avoid that.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Politico) (The Wall Street Journal)
Biden Signs 17 Executive Order During His First Day in Office. Here’s What You Need to Know
- In the first hours of his presidency, Joe Biden signed 17 executive orders and proclamations, many of which focused on rolling back Trump administration policies regarding immigration, the environment, and protections for minority groups.
- Biden also implemented several measures to tackle the coronavirus, including requiring masks to be worn on federal property and by federal employees. He is also expected to announce a new national strategy aimed at restructuring the federal response to the pandemic.
- On Thursday, Biden will also invoke the Defense Production Act, which would speed up the development and distribution of vaccine-related equipment.
Biden Rolls Back Trump Policies
President Joe Biden signed 17 executive actions and proclamations Wednesday afternoon. Many of his first acts in office are focused on rolling back several policies implemented by former President Donald Trump that Biden’s aides said have caused the “greatest damage” to the country.
“I thought there’s no time to wait, get to work immediately,” Biden told reporters present during the signed of several of the orders.
Here is a breakdown of some of the key measures Biden implemented.
Biden immediately ended all construction on the border wall by overhauling the national emergency declaration Trump had enacted to divert billions in federal funds to his central campaign promise.
The new president also expanded protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) and overturned a Trump policy that made immigration enforcement more strict and
In similar actions, he also ended the travel ban on multiple Muslim-majority countries and revoked a Trump administration order that would have excluded non-citizens from the 2020 Census count.
One of the most significant actions Biden took was signing a letter to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. It will take 30 days for the return to go into effect.
The president also issued a sweeping order that reversed a number of the Trump administration’s environmental policies, including revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, re-establishing a working group to look into the social costs of greenhouse gasses, and temporarily banning oil and natural gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Justice for Minority Groups
In one far-reaching order, Biden directed all federal agencies to review equity in their programs and policies. They are required to issue a report within 200 days that, among other things, details how each will remove barriers to opportunities and ensure all Americans have equal access to federal resources.
Biden also ended Trump’s policy that limited federal agencies, contractors, and other organizations from holding diversity and inclusion training. The same order also disbanded the 1776 Commission created by Trump to study his claims that the education system was too liberal in its teaching of American history.
In a separate order, the president issued changes that will broaden federal protections against sex discrimination to include LGBTQ+ Americans, reversing a previous action by Trump.
As part of a broad measure aimed at general accountability in the executive branch, Biden issued an order that will establish ethics rules for all people in his administration. The same order will also require all executive branch appointees to sign an ethics pledge.
Separately, the president additionally froze all new regulations Trump had put in place during his last few weeks in office until they can be further evaluated.
Economy and Coronavirus
Chief among Biden’s first acts in office were his plans for the coronavirus pandemic and the damage it has caused to the American people.
In terms of financial relief, Biden extended the ban on evictions and foreclosures and paused student loan payments until September.
As for direct actions concerning the pandemic, the president imposed a mask mandate for all federal employees and anyone on federal property. He also signed an extensive order aimed at restructuring the federal response to the pandemic.
Biden is expected to enact more policies in regards to the coronavirus in the coming days, including taking more executive actions to ramp up testing and vaccine distribution, safely reopening schools and businesses, and provide more money to states to help carry out those efforts, among other things.
To achieve these goals, he will also invoke the Defense Production Act, which will compel American companies to manufacture supplies for the pandemic response such as PPE and other items needed for vaccines.