The Trump administration released its "in a call with the governors on Thursday. CBS News political correspondent Ed O'Keefe obtained an 18-page document from a person familiar with the call, that laid out recommendations for governors and employees to reopen their state's economy.
The guidance says that before states and employers move to phases of reopening, they first need to see evidence of a downward trajectory of documented cases and influenza-like illnesses within a 14-day period.
It also says they need to see a robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, and the ability to treat all patients without crisis care. The document adds the recommendations are "implementable on statewide or county-by-county basis at governors' discretion."
"You're going to be running it, we're going to be helping you. We're going to be supplying you as needed, if you need something that you don't have," Trump said at the beginning of the call, according to audio obtained by CBS News.
The president grew defensive as the call went on, blaming China for not stopping the spread of COVID-19. "This could have been stopped at the source. It could have been stopped and it should have been stopped. And we did a lot to do that, by the way. But, we're going to get on with this. It is what it is," he said.
Mr. Trump added that the work of the federal and state governments helped curb the potential death toll, which he said was at 2.2 million in the initial estimates. "Nobody has to hang their head, because you've all worked really hard and we have made the best out of a horrible situation and I'm very proud to have worked with you and we're going to continue to work together," the president told the governors.
The document also says the three-phase approach is "based on up-to-date data and readiness, mitigates risk of resurgence, and protects the most vulnerable." One participant on the call said the recommendations are "all guidelines no directives" and are "what states are already doing and focused on."
CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro says one example of this is in the Midwest, where a group of governors from seven states announced a partnership Thursday to work on gradually reopening their economies. Similar to the groups of governors on the East and West Coasts, the seven states (Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, and Kentucky) will be looking at four main factors: sustained control of new infections and hospitalization, an enhanced ability to test and trace, a sufficient health care capacity to handle any surges, and best practices for social distancing in the workplace.
"We recognize that our economies are all reliant on each other, and we must work together to safely reopen them so hardworking people can get back to work and businesses can get back on their feet," the statement says. The regional agreement also points out that it doesn't mean every state's economy will reopen at once, or that they'll all take the same steps. Ohio Governor Mike Dewine said his state will reopen "in phases," starting May 1. "I am an optimist and am confident that Ohioans will also live up to the challenge of doing things differently as we open back up beginning on May 1st," Dewine Tweeted.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
After the announcement of last week's unemployment numbers, Joe Biden called for national implementation of "work-sharing" today. CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports the new plan, also known as short-term compensation, is directed at businesses to divide work hours among employees in an effort to keep more individuals on the payroll.
The government, as it stands in 27 states, pays the additional employee hours when they are not working. Biden wants "100% federal financing" paid for by a "mix of conditioned assistance and additional incentives." "The Trump administration has been given a number of extraordinary tools to make this happen — to keep people employed," Biden said in a statement, "Yet, they are failing to use them effectively. For more people to stay in their jobs, Donald Trump has to do his job."
The Democratic presumptive nominee was also endorsed today by Voto Latino, the nation's largest Latinx voter registration and advocacy organization.
Pro-Trump Super PAC America First Action debuted three new attack ads this morning, targeting the Former Vice President's posture on China, reports CBS News Campaign Reporter Nicole Sganga. The attack ads will begin airing tomorrow, as part of a previously announced broadcast and cable buy in the battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
"Our internal polling has shown us the vast majority of Americans blame the coronavirus pandemic on China, and Joe Biden's track record on China has been weak," America First Action spokesperson Kelly Sadler told CBS News.
This announcement comes in the wake of similar attacks on Biden's diplomatic record with China launched by the Trump campaign. "We have data that shows that among Joe Biden's many weaknesses, his 'soft on China' record is a major vulnerability," Trump communications director Tim Murtaugh told CBS News.
Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement the former vice president "publicly urged [Trump] not to believe China's spin about the worst public health crisis in over 100 years, and to insist that our CDC experts be given access there. Instead, despite repeated warnings from our intelligence agencies and public health experts, Trump spent vital weeks praising China's response as successful and transparent while deceiving the American people about the extreme threat we faced and failing to prepare our country."
Two weeks ago, the president told reporters in a White House briefing, "I like China. The Chinese people are phenomenal people." On February 7, Trump tweeted that Chinese President Xi Jinping was "strong, sharp and powerfully focused" on responding to COVID-19. Mr. Trump's re-election campaign faced backlash after releasing a campaign attack ad launched last Thursday, targeting former Joe Biden's China policy. The ad also features a montage of Chinese leaders that included an image of Asian-American Governor Gary Locke – former chief executive of Washington state, commerce secretary, ambassador to China under the Obama administration and American citizen.
The California senator announced the VoteSafe Act Thursday, new legislation that according to Harris would expand voting options and improve safety in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. The bill would authorize $5 billion to expand vote-by-mail and early voting efforts. This would include states being required to maintain an early voting period of at least 20 days. The bill would also provide grants to improve safety at polling locations, like implementing curbside voting, and the bill would ensure voting access for American Indians, Alaska native and rural voters.
During an interview with MSNBC Harris said, "And it's very exciting because it's about the federal government encouraging states to actually make voting in this moment safe and accessible for all voters." Harris added, "When you look at Wisconsin, the most recent election, and you look at the fact that they had to close over 100 polling places because they didn't have the workers, because they didn't have the infrastructure to accommodate voting in this era of a pandemic. And so it's only the smart thing to do. And it should be non-partisan. It's about patriotism in fact."
CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry also notes during the same interview Harris built more suspense about the possibility of her joining presumptive nominee Joe Biden's ticket. While Harris has been asked several times in the last week about the possibility, she has normally said she is honored to be part of the conversation, but she's primarily focused on handling coronavirus. Today, Harris said, "I mean, obviously I'd be honored to serve with Joe. But I'm just telling you that my focus right now is really on what we're dealing with right now"
Elizabeth Warren on Thursday criticized the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department's implementation of two bailout programs for businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, saying they were inadequately enforcing worker protections.
"The Federal Reserve is handing out billions of dollars with little oversight and failing to require basic protections that companies retain workers and maintain payroll, failing to include protections against outsourcing, and failing to retain basic protections for union workers," Warren wrote in one of two letters she sent to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak says Warren is also calling on the top White House ethics official to ensure COVID-19-related decisions are not made to benefit President Trump and Jared Kushner's personal interests, and to make sure that banks end the seizure of stimulus checks and that the VA eases medical marijuana restrictions. Warren made the calls in three letters written with other lawmakers that she released Thursday.
The first, also signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal and Tom Carper, raised concerns about a "shadow task force" being run by Kushner to oversee the White House response to the covonavirus pandemic. They noted that one of the largest shareholders in a company that produces hydroxychloroquine, a drug President Trump has said shows great potential to stop the pandemic. "These potential conflicts raise obvious questions regarding whether the actions of White House and other Trump administration officials during the COVID-19 pandemic are consistent with federal criminal conflict of interest law,'" the senators wrote.
In another letter, Warren and Senator Sherrod Brown sent letters to half a dozen trade organizations for banks and credit unions asking that they not seize stimulus checks from recipients to pay their debts, a process the New York Times reported yesterday had already begun. They wrote that the stimulus payments can be a"financial lifeline" for Americans during the crisis, and "will also provide a much needed boost to the economy — but only if spent by American families instead of siphoned off by predatory banks and debt collectors."
In a third letter, Warren, Senator Ed Markey and five representatives from Massachusetts urged the Department of Veterans Affairs to allow health providers to recommend medical marijuana to veterans during the pandemic. Marijuana is legal in Massachusetts, but only dispensaries for those with a prescription have remained open.
"As this global pandemic continues to adversely affect veterans' behavioral and physical health conditions, we believe that veterans who legally use cannabis in the Commonwealth to treat their ailments deserve to receive more robust assistance from qualified medical personnel at their local VA," they wrote to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer commented on speculation that she is being considered to be former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate in an interview Wednesday night.
"I literally am spending every ounce of energy fighting COVID-19 and protecting the people of my state," Whitmer said in an interview with Dean Obeidallah on SiriusXM radio. "I think the world of Joe Biden. You know, I would do just about anything for Joe Biden and to be even mentioned among this phenomenal caliber of women leaders across the country, that in and of itself is an honor."
CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman says Whitmer joins former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, Harris and Warren as potential vice presidential contenders to express interest in the job or willingness to take the job. Whitmer's comments also mark a shift since she said in an interview in March that she will not be the running mate, but would "help [Biden] vet and make sure he's got a great running mate."
Asked about President Trump's attacks on her and her response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Michigan governor dismissed the attacks, saying she has "zero energy for anything other working on COVID-19 and protecting people in my state." She added, "I just want, you know, the testing…I just want ventilators. I just need the help from the federal government to get Michigan's share of the federal stockpile."
Conservative protesters gathered around the state capitol in Lansing, Michigan on Wednesday to protest Whitmer's stay at home order amid the coronavirus pandemic. Whitmer addressed the protesters in a briefing on Wednesday saying her decisions on executive orders on the coronavirus are not "political decisions."
In a briefing Whitmer said, "We know that this demonstration is going to come at a cost to people's health." Tiffany Brown, Whitmer's press secretary, said in a statement that the governor understands that citizens may be frustrated under the stay at home order, but cautioned that protesters might be putting themselves and others at risk. "The governor supports Michiganders' right to free speech and the right to protest, but those participating should not put themselves or first responders at risk," Brown said in the statement.
BY THE NUMBERS
As Democrats set their sights on flipping the Senate from red to blue in 2020, a number of their candidates gearing up in battleground races are showing strong fundraising support starting out the election year. In the first quarter of the year, ending in March, Democratic challengers in Maine, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina and Kentucky all outraised Republican incumbents reports CBS News political unit associate producers Sarah Ewall-Wice and Eleanor Watson.
The big cash hauls came in a fundraising period that was marked by a series of heated presidential primaries across the country, as well as a Senate impeachment trial that acquitted President Trump mostly along party lines and inspired GOP and Democratic donors alike to give to their party's candidates.
Looking at some of races considered more competitive, in Maine, Democrat Sara Gideon raised $7 million to Senator Susan Collins' $2.4 million. In Arizona, Mark Kelly raised $11 million while Senator Martha McSally reported just over $6 million. In Colorado, former Governor John Hickenlooper hauled in more than $4 million to Senator Cory Gardner's less than $2.5 million. And in North Carolina, Cal Cunningham brought in nearly double what Senator Thom Tillis did in the first quarter with more than $4 million.
Even in states that Cook Political Report rates has red or likely red, Democrats are seeing big fundraising numbers. In South Carolina Jaime Harrison broke a state record with more than $7 million to Senator Lindsey Graham's $5.6 million. And in Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath raised more than $12.5 million to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's $7.5 million.
But despite strong fundraising numbers in the first three months of the year, Democrats still face an uphill battle. The 53 Republican senators hold a three-seat majority or four seats if Vice President Pence votes to break a tie. And even though in some key races, Democrats are reporting strong fundraising figures, GOP incumbents have already amassed substantial war chests, giving them a cash advantage for now. Read here for more on the state-by-state breakdowns.
A new Gallup poll shows President Trump's 43% job approval rating has dropped six percentage points from last month – the sharpest drop Gallup has recorded for the Trump presidency thus far. Overall, Trump's approval ratings have been incredibly stable, reports the CBS News Polling Unit. The president's numbers have yet to reach Gallup's historical average for presidents dating to 1945 – 53% – according to the research firm.
Today's latest Gallup data is further evidence that a recent uptick in Trump's approval rating was likely a rally-around-the-flag effect. Historically, incumbent presidents garner the benefit of the doubt in times of war or crisis. Trump's 49% approval rating in late March was driven by Democrats and independents, who have since reverted. However, his current 43% approval is still higher than most of the ratings he has received since he has been in the White House; his average rating since taking office is 40%. This year has been a relatively bright one for the president's standing – averaging 46%, including three separate ratings of 49%.
Candidates who planned to spend the spring connecting with voters face-to-face have seen their campaigns thwarted by the coronavirus. As a result, Democrats have been compensating with more time on the airwaves, spending largely on ads related to health care, report CBS News political unit associate producers Eleanor Watson and Sarah Ewall-Wice.
Democratic Senate campaigns and outside groups have been racking up big ad buys to highlight flaws in the healthcare system and slam Republicans over access to coverage. Since the week of March 13, the day President Trump declared a national emergency, Democrats have spent about $82 million mostly on health-focused ad buys scheduled through the fall, according to CMAG/Kantar Media data. Read more here.
ISSUES THAT MATTER
The staggering rate of job loss from the Coronavirus pandemic continued on Thursday, as new data shows that more than 20 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits over the past four weeks, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. That essentially cancels out the approximately 20 million jobs gained during the recovery from the Great Recession.
The Labor Department reported on Thursday morning that 5,245,000 Americans filed initial unemployment claims for the week ending April 11. The number of claims, which is the third highest ever recorded, was a slight dip from the past two weeks: 6.6 million people filed claims the previous week and 6.9 million filed for unemployment benefits the week before that, which was the highest weekly number ever recorded. But those numbers are all seasonally adjusted, meaning the Labor Department tries to "measure and remove the influences of predictable seasonal patterns to reveal how employment and unemployment change from month to month."
Without those adjustments, 20.1 million people have filed for unemployment over the past four weeks. That's more than five times the number of claims during the worst four-week stretch of the Great Recession, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). The EPI also estimates that the record-setting job losses means that 9.2 million people were at risk of losing their employer-provided health insurance over the past four weeks.
The layoffs are also now starting to reach areas of the economy beyond the service-sector jobs dependent on tourism and travel, according to Morgan Stanley analysts. Also on Thursday, the U.S. Small Business Administration said that its Paycheck Protection Program hit its $350 billion limit and is unable to accept new applications.
The Host Committee for the Democratic National Convention is making cuts to its staff, which will reduce the number of people working for the committee by about half. CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster says the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee had been operating with 31 staffers, but 11 of those staffers are moving to work with the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) or as organizers for the party.
Six staffers are being laid off, but will keep their health insurance benefits through August. "The entire nation is facing the unprecedented challenge of responding to the coronavirus pandemic, and unfortunately, the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee is no different," Raquel Filmanowicz, CEO of the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee, said in a statement. "As we work to help our staff transition through this difficult time, we remain steadfast in our commitment to hosting a successful and safe Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee this August."
The Host Committee is in charge of making sure Milwaukee can deliver on promises the city made during its bid to host the convention, while the DNCC is actually in charge of planning and conducting the convention. "We are committed to doing everything we can to support the employees who are transitioning as the Host Committee makes adjustments to continue their important work in light of this unprecedented global pandemic," Joe Solmonese, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee, said in a statement. Earlier this month, the DNCC announced that the Milwaukee convention was being pushed back from July to August due to the coronavirus.
IN THE SENATE
Massachusetts Representative Joe Kennedy's Senate campaign announced Wednesday night he has qualified to be on the primary ballot, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. The secretary of state's office in Massachusetts confirmed Kennedy submitted his nomination papers with the required 10,000 signatures.
The deadline to collect these signatures is May 5. Incumbent Democratic Senator Ed Markey has reportedly been struggling to collect signatures while voters are practicing self-distancing. Markey's campaign manager John Walsh told CBS News in a statement, "We are confident that we will get the 10,000 signatures we need and we are grateful for the massive amount of support we have seen, and we will be finishing this up over the next few weeks."