Trump officially files for divorce from the W.H.O., as his niece prepares to publish a cutting memoir. It’s Wednesday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.
Where things stand
Even with coronavirus cases surging, President Trump wants to get schools back to having in-person classes as soon as possible. During a daylong series of conference calls and events at the White House yesterday, he put pressure on state and local officials to let schools reopen their doors when the fall semester begins less than two months from now.
“We’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools, to get them open, and it’s very important,” Trump said, adding that young people “do extraordinarily well” with the disease caused by the virus.
But in an almost perfect juxtaposition to Trump’s statement, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said she had been surprised by how much young people had been spreading the virus. “None of us really anticipated the amount of community spread that began in really our 18-to-35-year-old age group,” Birx told an Atlantic Council panel.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, also seemed to find himself at odds with Trump yesterday. The president has recently highlighted the falling death rate among virus patients as evidence that his response to the pandemic is working. But during a livestream news conference with Senator Doug Jones of Alabama, Fauci disputed that.
“It’s a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death,” Fauci said. “There’s so many other things that are very dangerous and bad about this virus. Don’t get yourself into false complacency.” The overall case rate continues to rise across the country, with the seven-day average of daily new cases breaking 50,000 this week.
There might be no better way to say “America First” — or “America alone,” as Joe Biden has put it — than by pulling the country out of the World Health Organization in the middle of a pandemic. And that’s exactly what the Trump administration has done.
The White House announced yesterday that it had formally notified the W.H.O. of its intention to withdraw from the organization, as Trump had pledged to do. “The United States’ notice of withdrawal, effective July 6, 2021, has been submitted to the U.N. secretary general, who is the depository for the W.H.O.,” a senior administration official said. Per United Nations rules, member countries must give a full year’s notice before leaving the W.H.O.
Biden has been heavily critical of the move, and whether the United States follows through on it probably depends on the November election. “On my first day as President, I will rejoin the @WHO and restore our leadership on the world stage,” Biden wrote on Twitter yesterday.
Back in 2014, when he was being interviewed by a biographer, Trump made a candid admission. “I don’t like to analyze myself,” he said, “because I might not like what I see.” Now he doesn’t have to: A close family member, who also happens to be a clinical psychologist, has done the analysis for him.
Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, plans to publish a tell-all memoir in which she argues that the president is a narcissist whose “twisted behaviors” and “pathologies” make him unfit to lead. “Donald’s ego has been and is a fragile and inadequate barrier between him and the real world, which, thanks to his father’s money and power, he never had to negotiate by himself,” she writes in the book.
Simon & Schuster announced this week that it was moving up the publication date of the memoir, after a judge rejected a court action by other members of the Trump family seeking to prevent the book from being released. Mary Trump is the first member of the family to publish an exposé about the president.
New Jersey and Delaware held primaries yesterday, among the last on the 2020 calendar. In both cases, most votes were cast by mail. New Jersey sent ballots to its 2.3 million registered Democrats and 1.3 million Republicans, as well as ballot applications to 2.4 million unaffiliated registered voters. Partly as a result, the final results probably won’t be known for at least a few days.
While it’s a solidly blue state over all, New Jersey has a high number of congressional districts expected to be competitive in November, including three that flipped Democratic in 2018 and one whose representative, Jeff Van Drew, changed parties to become a Republican last year. In each of those four cases, the nonincumbent party’s primary was hotly contested.
In South Carolina, Senator Lindsey Graham is facing a surprisingly formidable challenge in November from Jaime Harrison, the Democratic nominee, who yesterday became the latest in a string of Democratic Senate challengers to announce impressive second-quarter fund-raising hauls. Harrison’s campaign pulled in nearly $14 million from April through June. And in Kentucky, Amy McGrath raised $17.4 million in her bid to unseat Mitch McConnell.
Sara Gideon, a Democrat who is running to unseat Senator Susan Collins in Maine, announced last week that she had raised more than $9 million in the most recent quarter. Collins has struggled to balance her reputation as a moderate with the demands of Trump-era Republicanism. Collins wouldn’t tell our reporter Emily Cochrane whether she would vote for Trump in November, and pledged that she wouldn’t attack Biden on the campaign trail.
Photo of the day
President Trump during an event about school reopenings at the White House yesterday.
Checking in with Kenneth Vogel on where the Paycheck Protection Program’s $660 billion has gone.
The Trump administration this week published details on all the businesses that have received $150,000 or more from the business loan program set up under coronavirus relief legislation passed in March.
Our investigative reporter Kenneth P. Vogel has been digging through the newly public data, trying to make sense of how this money has been spent — and who has benefited. What he’s found: a lot of small businesses, a good number of bigger ones, and a few conspicuously well-connected Washington insiders. Ken agreed to answer a few questions about it.
The Paycheck Protection Program was purportedly built as a benefit to small businesses. Has it lived up to that?
We have certainly heard frustration from small businesses that have had trouble accessing the loans, or have raised concerns that the program’s rules make it difficult to use the money in a manner that will help the businesses survive long term. And we’ve heard from banks that have had trouble processing applications.
Then, on the flip side, we have seen examples of big, troubled or politically connected companies that have been able to access the loans seemingly with much more ease.
Most of these examples were anecdotal, however, and we haven’t had much data to allow us to comprehensively assess the degree to which the program is living up to its mission of helping small businesses.
The Small Business Administration says 4.9 million loans have been issued through the program, with an average size of $107,000.
The Trump administration wasn’t exactly volunteering to release information on where these loan funds were going. Take us through the ways that the administration — along with allies in Congress — has sought to suppress transparency here. And how did the public overcome this, ultimately gaining access to the list of loan recipients?
The administration has been all over the place on this. It initially signaled it would release individual loan data, then seemed to reverse itself, calling the data proprietary and confidential. But under pressure from congressional Democrats, and in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by The Times and other news outlets, the administration released details of all loans issued that were larger than $150,000. That’s a small fraction of the total loans issued, 86.5 percent of which were for less than that amount.
A lot of lobbyists and political consulting firms received forgivable loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. To what degree does that simply reflect the fact that lobbyists know the details of laws that are passed (it’s their job, after all) and were therefore better about applying for these loans? And to what degree might it reflect lobbyists and their allies in government truly gaming the system?
There is no hard evidence of political favoritism in the loan processing, though certainly there have been a number of stories about well-connected businesses getting loans. That seems at least partly because of the ability of those businesses to get to the front of the line with their banks, rather than because they got preferential treatment from the Trump administration.
More than a few loan recipients had conspicuous ties to the president or members of Congress. Do any stand out in particular?
One example that shows the power of transparency and public perception is that of the Trump megadonor Monty Bennett, who hired two lobbyists with ties to the president, Jeff Miller and Roy Bailey, to help pursue loans for hotels and subsidiaries overseen by his firm, Ashford Inc. They received at least $70 million, making him among the biggest beneficiaries of the program, but when the loans were revealed in corporate filings, it prompted a backlash that led the companies to pledge to return the funds.