Oct 1, 2017

Scoop: Homeland security adviser pushes upbeat PR campaign for Puerto Rico

Tom Bossert. Photo: Evan Vucci / AP

President Trump digs in this morning, tweeting: "We have done a great job with the almost impossible situation in Puerto Rico. Outside of the Fake News or politically motivated ingrates, ... people are now starting to recognize the amazing work that has been done by FEMA and our great Military."

In contrast to dire reports from the island, White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert sent West Wing colleagues an unusually upbeat update — leaked to Axios — that points to a rapid recovery no one on the ground is witnessing.

Bossert, back from a trip to Puerto Rico earlier in the week, says it's "still an urgent situation," but that the administration has "a strong ground game in place on the island with military leadership":

  • "I hope to turn the corner on our public communications ... I recommend that [this weekend] we use the general theme of supporting the governor and standing with the people of Puerto Rico to get them food, water, shelter and emergency medical care."
  • "Monday and Tuesday we can pivot hopefully to a theme of stabilizing as we address temporary housing and sustaining the flow of commodities and basic government services, including temporary power. After that we focus on restoration of basic services throughout next week and next weekend."
  • "Then we start a theme of recovery planning for the bright future that lies ahead for Puerto Rico. Planned hits, tweets, tv bookings and other work will limit the need for reactionary efforts."
  • "The storm caused these problems, not our response to it. We have pushed about as much stuff and people through a tiny hole in as short a timeframe as possible."
  • Full text here.

The White House's sunny plan comes as TV reports "increasingly echo those after Katrina a dozen years ago in sounding the alarm for a desperate population frustrated by the pace of relief efforts," AP's David Bauder points out:

  • "The words were blunt by the usually easygoing Bill Weir on CNN: 'This is a humanitarian crisis the likes of which we have not seen for a long time.'"
  • "With each day, reporters are questioning the effectiveness of relief efforts that U.S. officials say are going well. Several news organizations showed truckloads of emergency supplies sitting in a port because drivers couldn't be located to distribute them."
  • "NBC's Gadi Schwartz told Rachel Maddow of hundreds of officials milling around an air conditioned convention center, seemingly unsure what to do."
  • CBS News' David Begnaud, who has been in Puerto Rico since before Maria hit on Sept. 20: "I'm tired of going to press conferences where officials give credit to other officials for being involved."
  • Begnaud and CNN's Leyla Santiago "both said they receive hundreds of messages a day from people on the mainland, asking them to check on relatives."

Be smart: President Trump's tweets blame Puerto Rico for its straits (WashPost lead story: "Trump's newest target? A mayor" ... L.A. Times lead story: "Trump lashes out at Puerto Ricans"), and try to undermine skeptical coverage ("Because of #FakeNews my people are not getting the credit they deserve for doing a great job").

  • But having failed to bank credibility of his own, Trump looks out of touch as he heads to Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 665,164 — Total deaths: 30,852 — Total recoveries: 140,225.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 124,665 — Total deaths: 2,191 — Total recoveries: 1,095.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump announces new travel advisories for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but rules out quarantine enforcement. Per the CDC, residents of those states must now "refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days," with the exception of critical infrastructure industry workers.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters who backed Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Coronavirus updates: Global death toll tops 30,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 30,000 people around the world — with Italy reporting over 10,000 deaths, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. surpassed 2,000 on Saturday. The United States leads the world in confirmed coronavirus infections — more than 124,000 by early Sunday. The number of those recovered from the virus in the U.S. passed the 1,000-mark on Saturday evening.

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Gilead expands access to experimental coronavirus drug in emergency cases

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day said in an open letter Saturday the company is expanding access to its experimental anti-coronavirus drug remdesivir to include severely ill COVID-19 patients.

The big pig picture: President Trump has called the antiviral drug "promising," but the results of six clinical trials on this investigational medicine are still being conducted, so its effectiveness the treatment of the novel coronavirus has yet to be proved. The World Health Organization is involved in the tests.

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