POLITICO Playbook: The pile-on against China

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PLAYBOOK FLASHBACK … 10 YEARS AGO (YESTERDAY) “BREAKING — Treasury Secretary [Timothy] Geithner has added a SURPRISE STOP in Beijing on Thursday to meet with a Chinese vice premier for economic affairs, after two days in India. The FT calls it ‘a clear sign that relations between China and US are improving.’ Geithner told Lizzie O’Leary in a Bloomberg Television interview in Mumbai that China is ‘becoming more open to the world, and with that, you’re going to see the currency take on a broader role internationally. … That’s a healthy, necessary adjustment.’”

COMPARE THAT TO TODAY: If any foreign policy change is emerging in the post-coronavirus era, it’s the desire to tangle with and inch away from China. BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN scooped about DOJ’s focus on cracking down on Chinese espionage. The NYT reported a few days ago that the CIA is engaged in sleuthing to try to figure out just how many people have really died of Covid-19, which originated in China. GABBY ORR is reporting that religious leaders are looking to smack China over its handling of the coronavirus, and ANDREW DESIDERIO and NAHAL TOOSI write about how China is becoming a punching bag for Republicans on the Hill as “Trump plays nice.” And OUR REPORTING shows that the administration is intently interested in using the Phase Four stimulus bill to begin shifting medical supply chains away from China.

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION on Tuesday sent a letter to Capitol Hill formally requesting $251 BILLION in fresh small business lending. This is scheduled to hit the Senate floor Thursday. There are rumors aplenty that extraneous items are going to land in this bill — business has a load of requested fixes to the Phase Three bill — but our sources told us late Tuesday night that it will be limited to the new money for the Paycheck Protection Program, and they’ll be sticking to the limited text suggested by the administration. The letter, including the leg text

WHERE’S SCHUMER? … House Democrats have all but publicly said they are in favor of this infusion of cash to the small-business lending program. Senate Minority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER has not, and it’s in his chamber that this will originate. His cooperation is desperately needed to get this through quickly. (Senate Majority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL wants to push the extra $251 billion through with unanimous consent or a voice vote.)

TREASURY SECRETARY STEVEN MNUCHIN will be on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” at 9:15 this morning. A recurrent theme during MNUCHIN’S appearances on the network has been questions about whether he’s in favor of a coronavirus “war bond.” He’s said no, even as LARRY KUDLOW has told his former colleagues on the network that he’s in favor of them.

N.Y. POST COVER: “BILLY THE COVID … Undercover boss de Blasio shows off his corona mask … Virus deaths hit grim high, but new cases may be leveling off”

ADAM CANCRYN on the RED ZONE/GREEN ZONE: “Kushner’s team seeks national coronavirus surveillance system”: “White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s task force has reached out to a range of health technology companies about creating a national coronavirus surveillance system to give the government a near real-time view of where patients are seeking treatment and for what, and whether hospitals can accommodate them, according to four people with knowledge of the discussions.

“The proposed national network could help determine which areas of the country can safely relax social-distancing rules and which should remain vigilant. But it would also represent a significant expansion of government use of individual patient data, forcing a new reckoning over privacy limits amid a national crisis.

“Health privacy laws already grant broad exceptions for national security purposes. But the prospect of compiling a national database of potentially sensitive health information has prompted concerns about its impact on civil liberties well after the coronavirus threat recedes, with some critics comparing it to the Patriot Act enacted after the 9/11 attacks.” POLITICO

GLIMMERS OF HOPE — “Even as deaths mount, officials see signs pandemic’s toll may not match worst fears,” by WaPo’s Brady Dennis, William Wan and David Fahrenthold: “Nationwide, one computer model of the disease’s future spread — relied upon by governors and the White House — shifted its estimate of covid-19’s U.S. death toll downward this week. Instead of roughly 94,000 deaths as estimated a week ago, the University of Washington model now predicts about 82,000 by late summer.

“[S]everal West Coast states announced this week that they are sending ventilators to New York since their need is now less urgent. … Still, what is passing for good news still means about 70,000 Americans alive today may die by August. The University of Washington model predicts the worst day for deaths will be around April 16, meaning daily death tolls will grow higher until then.” WaPo

WUHAN IS OPENING — “Fear Lingers in Wuhan as China Eases Lockdown,” by WSJ’s Jeremy Page, Natasha Khan and Warren Strobel: “The city has announced only three new confirmed cases with symptoms since March 18. Authorities have just formally ended the 77-day lockdown on the city, allowing inbound and outbound travel for healthy people, after easing some residential restrictions to revive a crippled local economy.

“In the past few days, however, it has tightened restrictions on some housing complexes, and said others will remain in place, after confirming dozens of new asymptomatic cases. An official newspaper said Monday there could be 10,000 to 20,000 such cases in Wuhan. The report was swiftly deleted online.

“Epidemiologists, U.S. intelligence sources and Wuhan residents suspect that Chinese authorities substantially undercounted infections and deaths over the past several months, especially in Wuhan, in part to boost President Xi Jinping’s image. Such doubts, combined with the reports of new asymptomatic cases, are triggering fears of a potential second wave of infections that could undermine Beijing’s claim to have tamed the virus.” WSJ

WHEN WILL THINGS GO BACK TO NORMAL? — ANNA spoke to JANIS ORLOWSKI, chief health care officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges, in the latest Women Rule podcast episode. Despite expectations that things will go back to semi-normal around Memorial Day, she made a sobering prediction: “We have to prepare ourselves to go through a similar exercise in the fall, in the late fall. If you take a look at the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic, and if you take a look at how coronavirus is acting, this is not just the winter and spring of 2020. Probably late November, by December, we are going to go through this again.” Listen and subscribe

GAVIN NEWSOM GETS HIS MASKS: “California inks nearly $1B deal to buy 200 million masks each month,” by Carla Marinucci in Oakland

Good Wednesday morning. PASSOVER begins today at sundown — 7:38 p.m.

SAD NEWS … SINGER JOHN PRINE died at 73 from the coronavirus. Rolling Stone

NEW POLITICO/MORNING CONSULT POLL — “Poll: Obama would be better amid coronavirus, but Trump bests Biden,” by Myah Ward: “Voters believe former President Barack Obama would be a better leader than President Donald Trump amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday.

“But of 1,990 participants in the survey, a plurality said Trump would be better than former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading Democratic presidential candidate. When asked who would be a better leader during the outbreak, 52 percent of voters said Obama would be better during the crisis, compared with 38 percent who said Trump would be the stronger of the two leaders. Ten percent did not have an opinion.” POLITICO

WHAT MEADOWS IS THINKING, via NYT’s Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman: “[The press shop] is the first of several planned shake-ups that Mr. Meadows, who has officially been in his job for only a little over a week, plans on making.

“Other changes have included the office of legislative affairs, where a deputy was recently asked to leave and where more changes are said to be likely. Mr. Meadows is said to be working closely with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who signed off on the communications office changes.”

VAPORWARE — “At FEMA, Companies Offer Critical Coronavirus Supplies the Government Can’t Buy,” by WSJ’s Rachael Levy: “More than 1,000 companies responded to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s call about two weeks ago to provide needed supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“As of early Monday, only three companies had supplies the agency could actually buy. Many of the offers, for items ranging from protective medical gear to tests and body bags, didn’t work out, according to people familiar with the matter, because some companies have asked for payment up front, something FEMA can’t agree to. Another issue: Some companies have oversold what they can actually get to FEMA. ‘There’s a lot of disappointment in how the business community is responding,’ the person said.” WSJ

UPDATE ON BORIS JOHNSON, via London Playbook, under the header “NO NEWS IS … GOOD NEWS?”

TRUMP’S WEDNESDAY — The president will participate in a phone call with state, local and tribal leaders on the coronavirus response in the Oval Office at 1:45 p.m. He will participate in a phone call with faith leaders at 2:30 p.m. in the Oval Office.

— THE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE will hold a briefing at 5 p.m.


THE WFH READ — RON SUSKIND’S 1995 Pulitzer winner in the WSJ, the basis for his classic book “A Hope in the Unseen”: “AGAINST ALL ODDS” In Rough City School, Top Students Struggle to Learn, Escape” “Class Struggle: Poor, Black and Smart, An Inner-City Teen Tries to Survive M.I.T.”

DAVID HERSZENHORN and SARAH WHEATON: “How Europe failed the coronavirus test”

DEEP DIVE — “The coronavirus is infecting and killing black Americans at an alarmingly high rate,” by WaPo’s Reis Thebault, Andrew Ba Tran and Vanessa Williams: “A Post analysis of available data and census demographics shows that counties that are majority-black have three times the rate of infections and almost six times the rate of deaths as counties where white residents are in the majority.

“In Milwaukee County, home to Wisconsin’s largest city, African Americans account for about 70 percent of the dead but just 26 percent of the population. The disparity is similar in Louisiana, where 70 percent of the people who have died were black, although African Americans make up just 32 percent of the state’s population.

“In Michigan, where the state’s 845 reported deaths outrank all but New York’s and New Jersey’s, African Americans account for 33 percent of cases and roughly 40 percent of deaths, despite comprising only 14 percent of the population. The state does not offer a breakdown of race by county or city, but more than a quarter of deaths occurred in Detroit, where African Americans make up 79 percent of the population.

“And in Illinois, a disparity nearly identical to Michigan’s exists at the state level, but the picture becomes far starker when looking at data just from Chicago, where black residents have died at a rate six times that of white residents. Of the city’s 118 reported deaths, nearly 70 percent were black — a share 40 points greater than the percentage of African Americans living in Chicago.” WaPo

BURGESS EVERETT and ANDREW DESIDERIO: “Grassley seeks explanation of Trump’s firing of Atkinson”: “Sen. Chuck Grassley is working on a bipartisan letter addressed to President Donald Trump demanding an explanation for the firing of Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, according to aides in both parties.

“The Senate Finance Committee chairman is still working to secure cosponsors for the letter, a Republican aide said. The letter will focus on Atkinson’s Friday firing amid a broader purge by the president of inspectors general. The letter is supported by Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.” POLITICO

SIREN … THE BOSTON GLOBE’S VICKY MCGRANE: “Ed Markey falling short of signatures ahead of May deadline”: “The Markey campaign has about 7,000 of the 10,000 signatures from registered Democratic or unenrolled voters it needs, campaign manager John Walsh said in an interview. … [Opponent Joe Kennedy III’s] campaign delivered more than 15,000 signatures to town and city clerks to be certified as valid, after which the campaign will send them to the secretary of state.”

BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN: “NRA has laid off more than 60 employees”: “The National Rifle Association has laid off more than 60 employees in recent weeks, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. The move comes as the gun rights group faces acute financial challenges during the economic crunch caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

“The association recently took a large financial hit when the pandemic forced the NRA to cancel its massive annual meeting. The group usually makes millions of dollars off the event, from the fees people pay to attend, to the millions more raised during the convention. Its cancellation appears to have wiped out that revenue.” POLITICO

K STREET FILES — “Coronavirus pandemic breeds Washington lobbying boom,” by AP’s Richard Lardner and Brian Slodysko: “An Associated Press analysis of federal lobbying filings shows the number of companies and organizations hiring lobbyists shot up dramatically across the months of February, March and early April. Of the more than 700 registrations filed since the beginning of the year, at least 70 specifically mention the new virus, COVID-19 or a global health crisis. Dozens of other lobbyists and firms who were previously retained list the virus or the stimulus legislation in recent quarterly lobbying reports.

“And there has also been a stark increase in medical groups, drug makers and others connected to the medical industry who have hired lobbyists, even if the virus was not specifically given as a reason in the disclosures.” AP

E-RING READING … LARA SELIGMAN ON A U.S. NAVY IN CRISIS: “An aircraft carrier sidelined by a coronavirus outbreak. A promising captain fired for requesting help as infections spread among his 5,000 sailors. And a service leaderless once more, after the acting Navy secretary resigned Tuesday following an uproar over a profanity-laced address to the ship’s crew.

“The Navy has weathered its share of crises, and in the past few months saw the previous Navy secretary forced out over his handling of a war crimes case, and the man selected to be its top admiral instead retire due to an improper professional relationship with a former staffer who was accused of making unwanted sexual advances to several women.

“Yet the resignation of acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly leaves the service lurching in the middle of a devastating pandemic that has roiled global markets, upended everyday life and left tens of thousands dead around the world.” POLITICOModly’s resignation letter

— NOTE: Trump was critical of Capt. Brett Crozier’s letter, which was published by the San Francisco Chronicle, sounding the alarm about the outbreak aboard the USS Roosevelt. The president has noted repeatedly that it was four pages long. “He didn’t have to be Ernest Hemingway,” Trump said Tuesday night. Well, Modly also sent a memo to members of the Navy apologizing for his handling of the incident that was … four pages long.


Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].

TRANSITIONS — Valerie Shen is now investigative counsel for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. She previously was chief counsel and senior policy adviser for the House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. … Doug Heye is joining CRAFT Media/Digital as SVP of media. He is a CNN political commentator and is an Eric Cantor and RNC alum.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Hannah Katch, senior analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Lisa Kohn, senior manager for public policy at Amazon, recently welcomed Maya Eliana Katch Kohn.

Kris Anderson, a partner of Prospect Strategic Communications, and Natalie Ethridge, of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, welcomed Isabel Lenore Anderson on March 31. Pic

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Meghan Pianta, VP of comms at Ro. How she’s celebrating: “While it will be hard to top last year’s bday watching UVA win the national championship in Minneapolis (Go Hoos!), I’m fortunate to be with family in the foothills of the Blue Ridge outside of Charlottesville. Daytime plans include pancakes, a long run outside (appropriately distanced), followed by a day of teleworking for telehealth. Evening plans feature homemade funfetti cake and attempting ‘Zoom Karaoke’ with friends.” Playbook Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is 65 … Rep. Ron Wright (R-Texas) is 67 … Chuck Todd is 48 (h/t Ben Chang) … Mary Beth Cahill (h/t Teresa Vilmain) … Susan Brophy (h/ts Jon Haber) … John Weaver is 61 … Liza Georges … Brady Brookes, deputy administrator and deputy COS at CMS … former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is 73 … Seymour Hersh is 83 … Robin Sproul, EVP of Javelin … Mike Leiter, partner at Skadden Arps … NYT’s Dave Shaw … WaPo deputy business editor Zach Goldfarb … Madeline Beecher … Annie Palisi … Kelle Long … POLITICO’s Christian Guirreri … John Gray … Mike Cohen, founder of the Cohen Research Group, is 5-0 … NPR’s Emily Hamilton …

… WSJ’s Lukas Alpert … Jack Daly … Lauren Skowronski, SVP of corporate and internal comms at NBCUniversal … Jake Itzkowitz … NRSC’s David Crane, the pride of Lino Lakes, Minn., is 24 (h/ts Kevin McLaughlin and Jesse Hunt) … Pascal Lamy is 73 … Croatian PM Andrej Plenković is 5-0 … Raymond Siller is 81 … Melissa Wagoner Olesen … Mackenzie Bezos … Sarah Ryan … Shreya Singh … Maria Orilla … George Arzt … Jackie Kessel … Aaron Klein … E&E News’ Corbin Hiar … Mike McCauley … Dan Gainor, VP for business and culture of TechWatch at the Media Research Center … Karolina Jewett … Liz Wasden … Boyd Norton is 84 … Kate Stence … Bob McManus … Jim Garamone

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