Tuesday's politics & policy stories

Trump's national security adviser returns to work after coronavirus recovery

National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien in Florida on July 10. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

National security adviser Robert O'Brien returned to the White House on Tuesday after recovering from a mild case of COVID-19, AP reports.

Why it matters: O'Brien was the closest official to President Trump to test positive for the coronavirus on July 27.

Updated Aug 4, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Navy SEALs sever ties with museum over Colin Kaepernick video

The U.S. Navy is investigating an incident in which a target wearing a Colin Kaepernick jersey was used for a "K-9 demonstration" at a fundraiser held at the National Navy SEAL Museum in Florida, according to a statement posted to the Navy SEALs' Twitter account.

What's new: The Commander of the Navy SEALs said Tuesday it will cut ties with the museum, a nonprofit not overseen by the military, adding their relationship with the museum could return "when I am convinced that they have made the necessary changes to ensure this type of behavior does not happen again," the AP reports.

Aug 4, 2020 - Podcasts

The debate over COVID-19 liability protections

Stimulus talks continue to move slowly, with Democrats and Republicans unable to agree on whether or not to include coronavirus-related liability protections for businesses, health facilities and schools.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the debate, which could reset the cost-benefit analysis for businesses thinking about reopening and employees thinking about returning.

Editor’s note: This episode has been updated to clarify that McConnell said a "second pandemic" of litigation could be coming, not legislation.

Republicans push to expand small business loan program

Senators Marco Rubio and Susan Collins. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Tuesday filed two big amendments to legislation introduced last week that would extend the deadline to apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans and permit some recipients to apply for new PPP loans.

Why it matters: The current program expires on Saturday, despite more than $100 billion left over from the CARES Act.

Updated Aug 4, 2020 - Health

NYC health commissioner resigns in protest of De Blasio's coronavirus response

Dr. Oxiris Barbot attends a Mayor bill de Blasio briefing on August 3. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

New York City health commissioner Oxiris Barbot resigned Tuesday, citing "deep disappointment" that Mayor Bill de Blasio did not use the full extent of available disease control expertise to handle the pandemic, the New York Times reports.

Context: De Blasio has faced criticism from health officials for handing control of the city's army of coronavirus contract tracers to the public hospital system, rather than the health department, according to the Times. The health department conducted contact tracing at the start of the outbreak and has decades of experience doing the same for diseases like tuberculosis, HIV and Ebola.

Atlanta mayor: "I'm disgusted" by Trump's comments on John Lewis

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) condemned President Trump for appearing to downplay civil rights icon John Lewis' legacy in an interview with "Axios on HBO," telling CNN Tuesday: "He's delusional. He's a narcissist and he is delusional."

Driving the news: Trump declined to say whether he found Lewis "impressive" in the Axios interview, which aired Monday and was taped as the late congressman was lying in state in the Capitol. Instead, the president only said that Lewis made a "big mistake" by not coming to his inauguration and claimed that he has done more for Black Americans than anyone.

Trump defends wishing Ghislaine Maxwell "good luck" in prison

President Trump referred repeatedly during an "Axios on HBO" interview to Jeffrey Epstein's death in prison custody, citing it when asked about his prior comments wishing Ghislaine Maxwell good luck in the criminal justice system.

Why it matters: Maxwell has been charged with multiple counts of allegedly helping Epstein sexually abuse minor girls. She was arrested in New Hampshire in early July.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Aug 4, 2020 - Economy & Business

Trump's new TikTok threat

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump said twice Monday that the U.S. Treasury would need to get a portion of the sale price of TikTok, as a condition of regulatory approval.

Why it matters: This is akin to extortion — the sort of thing you'd expect to hear on a wiretap, not from the White House in front of reporters.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Aug 4, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Biden's 100% carbon-free hurdle

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

A new post from UC Berkeley's Energy Institute at Haas looks broadly at Joe Biden's revised climate plan, including the goal of achieving 100% carbon-free U.S. power by 2035.

The intrigue: Flashback for a moment to a June study co-authored by Berkeley analysts that found a cost-effective case for achieving 90% power sector decarbonization by 2035. But, what about the remaining 10%?

Updated Aug 4, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Watch the full "Axios on HBO" interview with President Trump

In this episode of “Axios on HBO”, President Trump discusses his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the upcoming election and much more with National Political Correspondent Jonathan Swan.

The interview was filmed on Tuesday, July 28 and aired Monday, Aug. 3 on HBO.

73% see bias in news reporting as "a major problem"

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo. Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

73% of Americans see bias in news reporting as "a major problem," according to a study out Tuesday from the Knight Foundation and Gallup.

Why it matters: That's up from 65% in 2017, indicating "the gap between what Americans expect from the news — and what they think they are getting — is growing," the Knight Foundation writes.

Americans' satisfaction with state of the nation has plunged 32 points since February

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Americans' satisfaction with how things are going in the U.S. has plunged 32 points to 13% since reaching a 15-year high in February, per Gallup polling released Tuesday.

Why it matters: The result, which marks a nine-year low for the metric, comes amid mass unemployment, civil unrest and the nation's coronavirus surge — and as President Trump tries to win another term in November.

GOP plans "nightly surprise" for revamped convention

President Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Photo: Bill Clark/Getty Images

The reworked Republican National Convention will be a four-night spectacle including still-under-wraps venues, a 10 p.m. "nightly surprise" and guests and themes playing to "the forgotten men and women of America," two senior Trump campaign officials involved tell Axios.

Driving the news: The messaging will focus heavily on "very granular details" of what a second term for President Trump would look like — answering a question Trump left hanging in a Fox News event earlier this summer — and attack cancel culture, "radical elements" of society and threats to public safety.

Aug 4, 2020 - Health

40% of Americans continue to put off medical care

Data: U.S. Census; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon

Roughly 40% of Americans have postponed getting medical care due to the coronavirus outbreak. That number has stayed around 40% in all 12 weeks of the Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey.

Why it matters: Hospitals and doctors started rescheduling surgeries and other appointments as early as mid-May, and many patient volumes are mostly back to pre-pandemic numbers. But this data suggests there is still a major backlog of Americans who need care — a phenomenon that existed well before the pandemic.

The 2020 voter registration race

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump campaign and RNC have now registered 100,000 new voters in the 2020 cycle, more than doubling their numbers from 2016, according to new Trump Victory data provided exclusively to Axios.

Yes, but: Democrats are still registering new voters in key battleground states.

Trump: Coronavirus is "under control"

President Trump said in an interview with “Axios on HBO” that he thinks the coronavirus is as well-controlled in the U.S. as it can be, despite dramatic surges in new infections over the course of the summer and more than 150,000 American deaths.

  • “They are dying, that's true. And you have — it is what it is. But that doesn't mean we aren't doing everything we can. It's under control as much as you can control it. This is a horrible plague,” he told Axios' Jonathan Swan.

Exclusive: Trump declines to praise John Lewis, citing inauguration snub

President Trump dismissed the legacy of the late Rep. John Lewis in an interview with “Axios on HBO,” saying only that Lewis made a “big mistake” by not coming to his inauguration.

The big picture: Trump's comments were a glaring contrast with the praise Republicans and Democrats showered upon Lewis this week, and a default to personal grudges during a week of mourning for a civil rights hero.

Trump stokes fears of election-night mail voting fraud

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

President Trump raised new alarms about the alleged danger of election fraud in an interview with "Axios on HBO," warning that "lots of things can happen" with voting by mail if the presidential race isn't decided on election night.

Why it matters: Trump's comments — which contradict the lengthy history and widespread use of mail-in voting — could be a preview of the claims he'll make on election night to undermine trust in the results if he appears to be losing.

Nevada governor signs mail-in voting bill after Trump threatens lawsuit

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak at a February event in Las Vegas. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced Monday evening that he's signed a bill enabling all registered voters in the state to vote by mail in November's elections.

Why it matters: President Trump told reporters Monday he'd sue Nevada in a bid to stop the mail-in measure. After Sisolak's announcement, Trump retweeted his earlier tweet stating: "In an illegal late night coup, Nevada's clubhouse Governor made it impossible for Republicans to win the state. Post Office could never handle the Traffic of Mail-In Votes without preparation. Using Covid to steal the state. See you in Court!"

Go deeper: Trump stokes fears of election-night mail voting fraud

Trump authorizes reduced National Guard coronavirus response funding

Members of the Nevada National Guard put down social distancing decals at a new coronavirus testing site in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Monday. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

President Trump issued a memo Monday announcing he's reauthorized funding for the National Guard to assist states with their response to the coronavirus pandemic until the end of 2020.

The big picture: Trump's memo to the secretaries of Homeland Security and Defense outlines that the federal government won't fully cover states for National Guard use when the current authorization expires on Aug. 21.

Trump fires Tennessee Valley Authority chair in push against foreign workers

President Trump at the White House on August 3. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump told reporters on Monday that he had fired Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) chair Skip Thompson after signing an executive order that targeted the federally owned company for outsourcing jobs to foreign countries.

Why it matters: TVA generates electricity and provides flood control and electricity generation for a region that covers most of Tennessee as well as sections of Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina, AP reports.