NC and local:
Today we’re learning that two years before the novel coronavirus pandemic upended the world, U.S. Embassy officials visited a Chinese research facility in the city of Wuhan several times and sent two official warnings back to Washington about inadequate safety at the lab, which was conducting risky studies on coronaviruses from bats. The cables have fueled discussions inside the U.S. government about whether this or another Wuhan lab was the source of the virus — even though conclusive proof has yet to emerge.
In January 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing took the unusual step of repeatedly sending U.S. science diplomats to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which had in 2015 become China’s first laboratory to achieve the highest level of international bioresearch safety (known as BSL-4). WIV issued a news release in English about the last of these visits, which occurred on March 27, 2018. The U.S. delegation was led by Jamison Fouss, the consul general in Wuhan, and Rick Switzer, the embassy’s counselor of environment, science, technology and health. Last week, WIV erased that statement from its website, though it remains archived on the Internet.
What the U.S. officials learned during their visits concerned them so much that they dispatched two diplomatic cables categorized as Sensitive But Unclassified back to Washington. The cables warned about safety and management weaknesses at the WIV lab and proposed more attention and help. The first cable also warns that the lab’s work on bat coronaviruses and their potential human transmission represented a risk of a new SARS-like pandemic.
We’re also learning that the CIA has privately advised its workforce that taking an anti-malarial drug touted by President Trump and some of his supporters as a promising treatment for the novel coronavirus has potentially dangerous side effects, including sudden death.
The warning, featured on a website for CIA employees with questions related to the spread of covid-19, came in late March after public discussion — and promotion by the president — that hydroxychloroquine, administered in concert with the antibiotic azithromycin, might prove effective against the disease.
The politically charged debate over hydroxychloroquine — medical experts say there’s no conclusive evidence it does what Trump has suggested — underscores a recurring phenomenon in this administration, in which the president stakes out a very public, sometimes controversial position on a subject only to have agencies within the government chart a different, more cautious approach.
Everybody is noting the Wisconsin election. Liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Judge Jill Karofsky beat conservative incumbent Justice Daniel Kelly in the state’s elections, according to poll results released on Monday evening, even after voters were forced to show up at the polls in person last week despite the COVID-19 outbreak.
It was a decisive victory, with Karofsky winning 55.3 percent of the vote over Kelly’s vote share of 44.7 percent, according to the New York Times.
Karofsky won in spite of — or perhaps because of — machinations by the Wisconsin GOP to force in-person voting during a pandemic. The justice-elect pointed out that despite her victory, the fact that Wisconsinites had to vote in-person even under the threat of catching the coronavirus was “simply unacceptable” and “raise serious concerns for the future of our democracy.”
“Nobody in this state or in this country should have been forced to choose between their safety and participating in an election,” she said. “Too many were unable to have their voices heard because they didn’t feel safe leaving their home or absentee ballots weren’t counted.”
Still more fallout from Trump’s stultifying press conference yesterday. Here’s the BBC’s Jon Sopel, “Trump berates media at jaw-dropping briefing”:
… This has been the most dizzying, jaw-dropping, eyeball-popping, head-spinning news conference I have ever attended. And I was at Bill Clinton’s news conference in 1998 when he faced the press for the first time over his relationship with Monica Lewinsky…
There are more than 23,000 Americans dead because of coronavirus and more than half a million infected – and remember that, in early March, Donald Trump was saying there were a handful of cases, but that would soon be down to zero.
Yet Donald Trump walked into the briefing room with scores to settle with the media. This wasn’t about the dead, the desperately sick, the people fearful of catching the virus. This was about him. And more particularly his profound sense of grievance that the media has been critical of his handling of Covid-19.
If you think that is an unfair exaggeration, after a few moments he said he was going to play a video. It had been produced by White House staff, even though it bore all the hallmarks of a campaign video. If it was a movie, it would have been called “Coronavirus: Why Donald Trump is Great – and the Media Awful”.
If you were watching the news conference on TV, you would have seen the film. But in the briefing room, where I had my vantage point, Donald Trump was alternately scowling at us, then pointing and smiling derisively and then smirking, as if to say, “Look at all you losers – I’ve nailed you with this”…
On Morning Joe this morning, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski held an extensive conversation with their panel to discuss how Trump used his press briefing to storm at the press, overshadowed the health experts in attendance, and played a “weird” video to diminish his administration’s failings throughout the pandemic.
Scarborough said Trump was “even more unmoored than usual” throughout the briefing, while Brzezinski emphatically noted that “clearly, the record shows he wasn’t” prepared to deal with the seriousness of Covid-19.
“Is he in eighth grade?” Brzezinski asked, while Scarborough mockingly commented that “everything I learned in constitutional law was wrong if you believe Donald Trump.”
From there, the show ran through tapes of Trump claiming “total” authority over the United States, which Scarborough decried as “a completely ignorant view of power.”
“He doesn’t know the system better than anybody,” Scarborough said. “In fact, you could look at those clips and say that perhaps he knows the system less than anybody who has ever sat in the Oval Office.”
The show went on from there by saying Trump made no news of any kind throughout the briefing, and that he turned it into a two hour “personal therapy session.”
More news as the day develops… maybe.
Cuomo’s been calling daily, even hourly, begging for everything, most of which should have been the state’s responsibility, such as new hospitals, beds, ventilators, etc. I got it all done for him, and everyone else, and now he seems to want Independence! That won’t happen!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 14, 2020
He’s responding to Cuomo about this:
Leadership is about never proclaiming power. It’s about collaboration, it’s about coming together in a crisis and finding common ground. It’s about results.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) April 14, 2020
That’s who I am and the role I aspire to fulfill in guiding this democratic nation to better times.
In his press conference:
BREAKING: Trump, in the middle of a pandemic, says he's halting all funding to the World Health Organization pending a review— Josh Lederman (@JoshNBCNews) April 14, 2020
President Trump says U.S. is pulling funding to WHO because the group praised China's "transparency."— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) April 14, 2020
Below is President Trump's tweet from January 24 praising China's transparency. https://t.co/zVew3c212c
He also backtracked from his statement yesterday that he has “total authority” to re-open the country. Now he is “giving the authority” for governors to decide when to re-open (an authority that is not his to give).