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On the roster: Facing calls to quit, Burr seeks ethics probe – Time Out: Best political books list – Cuomo orders massive New York shutdown – Dem women under microscope as running mates – But did she score the Charmin!?
FACING CALLS TO QUIT, BURR SEEKS ETHICS PROBE
WaPo: “Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Friday that he has asked the Senate Ethics Committee to review his recent stock sales, which included some in industries that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak. The Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, who had expressed confidence in the country’s preparedness for the pandemic, sold a significant share of his stocks last month, according to public disclosures. Burr said he relied solely on public news reports for the sales but asked Senate Ethics Chairman James Lankford (R-Okla.) for a review. ‘Understanding the assumption many could make in hindsight however, I spoke this morning with the Chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee and asked him to open a complete review of the matter with full transparency,’ Burr said in a statement. The sales included stocks in hotels and restaurants, shipping, drug manufacturing and health care, records show. In his statement, Burr said he had relied specifically on ‘CNBC’s daily health and science reporting out of its Asia bureaus.’”
Senate newbie Kelly Loeffler also sold off stocks – Daily Beast: “The Senate’s newest member sold off seven figures’ worth of stock holdings in the days and weeks after a private, all-senators meeting on the novel coronavirus that subsequently hammered U.S. equities. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) reported the first sale of stock jointly owned by her and her husband on Jan. 24, the very day that her committee, the Senate Health Committee, hosted a private, all-senators briefing from administration officials, including the CDC director and Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on the coronavirus. … That first transaction was a sale of stock in the company Resideo Technologies valued at between $50,001 and $100,000. The company’s stock price has fallen by more than half since then… It was the first of 29 stock transactions that Loeffler and her husband made through mid-February, all but two of which were sales.”
Inhofe and Feinstein, too – NY Post: “Two more senators made hefty stock sales before the coronavirus pandemic tanked global markets, records revealed as two other lawmakers who dumped millions in shares faced mounting calls to resign. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Jim Inhofe sold as much as $6.4 million worth of stock in the weeks before panic about the coronavirus sparked a worldwide selloff, according to disclosure filings… Feinstein, a California Democrat, sold $500,001 to $1 million worth of stock in a company called Allogene Therapeutics on Jan. 31, less than a month before panic about the virus caused markets to plunge, Senate records show. Her husband sold $1,000,001 to $5 million worth of Allogene shares on Feb. 18, according to financial disclosures. And Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, dumped as much as $400,000 worth of stock on Jan. 27, records show. He sold shares in five different companies including Apple, PayPal and Brookfield Asset Management, according to a disclosure report.”
Administration seeks to keep economic bad news under wraps – WSJ: “The Trump administration asked states to abstain from releasing unemployment claims figures prior to the publication of a national compilation of weekly U.S. jobless claims, according to a state labor department official. The official cited an email sent on Wednesday from Gay Gilbert, an administrator at the U.S. Labor Department. … The emailed message asked states to keep the numbers embargoed until the national claims figures are released each Thursday, the state official said. The number of Americans applying for first time unemployment benefits jumped last week in a spike tied to the coronavirus pandemic, increasing by 70,000 to 281,000, the fourth biggest weekly increase on record going back to 1967. State level anecdotes suggest jobless claims could hit more than 2 million in next Thursday’s report, an unprecedented level, according to a note from Goldman Sachs.”
THE RULEBOOK: ROCK SOLID
“A FIRM Union will be of the utmost moment to the peace and liberty of the States, as a barrier against domestic faction and insurrection.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 9
TIME OUT: BEST POLITICAL BOOKS LIST
So it’s been a week, and you’re starting to get a little bit of ranch fever. Okay, maybe a lot. You’re following the good advice to keep some structure in your day, especially if there are younger ones around. You’re attending to your intellectual, physical and spiritual needs, getting plenty of fresh air and going to bed before 11 o’clock. But you still feel the strains of isolation and loss of routine. So read a book! Not just any book, but a world-class book that will hold your attention, expand your mind and transport you to someplace else entirely. There are lots of lists of great books out there for generalists. But what about political books? Glad you asked… Here is the Halftime Report’s latest and greatest list of the best political books to read:
“Shelley’s Heart” by Charles McCarry (1995) – This remains, by our lights, the best novel about Washington and American politics ever written. When you realize how much of what McCarry wrote about politics was prophetic, it gets even better. It would be an engrossing thriller even without its political insights, but with them it’s just… *Italian chef kissing fingers emoji*
“All the King’s Men” by Robert Penn Warren (1946) – You know the “king” in this novel, Willie Stark, better as his real-world inspiration, Louisiana’s dictatorial governor of the 1930s, Huey Long. Warren’s writing is so good and his characters so real that you will practically smell the acrid cigar smoke and whiskey in the back room of Slade’s Pool Hall. If you never read it — or never gave it a chance as required reading in school — you owe it to yourself.
“Brave New World” by Aldus Huxley (1931) – Huxley’s vision of a 26th century world free from want and dedicated to the pursuit of personal happiness fueled by prescription drugs must have seemed utterly bizarre to his contemporaries. But with each passing decade, his vision of a rigidly enforced social code and the dangers of a mob mentality have come to seem more and more prescient.
“The Gay Place” by Billy Lee Brammer (1962) – Brammer was a Texas newspaperman who joined the staff of then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson as he was reaching the pinnacle of his power in the Senate. The book is a collection of three novellas that beautifully, achingly capture the world of hacks and flacks in post-WWII Texas with all their human frailty. It was the only work Brammer, a tragic figure himself, ever completed.
“Bonfire of the Vanities” by Tom Wolfe (1987) – We know this isn’t a political book, per se. But boy is it a great insight on the way the world of politics functions. Wolfe’s masterwork, set in the heady days of mid-1980s Manhattan, provides amazing insight on the way racial politics, media muckraking, politicians’ opportunism and cultural trends shape the way we are governed.
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
ESTIMATED DELEGATES FOR DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION
[Ed. note: 1,991 delegates needed to win]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 43.8 percent
Average disapproval: 51.8 percent
Net Score: -8 percent
Change from one week ago: ↑ 0.4 points
[Average includes: NPR/PBS News/Marist: 43% approve – 50% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 46% approve – 51% disapprove; Gallup: 44% approve – 52% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve – 54% disapprove; CNN: 45% approve – 52% disapprove.]
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CUOMO ORDERS MASSIVE NEW YORK SHUTDOWN
NYT: “On Friday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo told New York’s 19 million residents to stay indoors as much as possible and ordered nonessential businesses to keep all of their workers home. The measures, the state’s most drastic yet, come as confirmed coronavirus cases in New York topped 7,000, by far the most in the nation. ‘These provisions will be enforced,’ the governor said at a briefing in Albany. ‘These are not helpful hints.’ They will take effect Sunday night. Even as he told New Yorkers to stay indoors, Mr. Cuomo added that if they did go out — whether to do essential shopping or to exercise — they must stay six feet away from each other.”
Newsom orders California’s nearly 40 millions residents to stay home – Sacramento Bee: “All Californians need to stay at home and avoid nonessential social contact to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered Thursday. ‘It’s time for all of us to recognize as individuals and as a community we need to do more to meet this moment,’ he said at an evening press conference. Newsom said he hopes not to have to enforce the order, instead encouraging Californians to influence one another to do the right thing. ‘I don’t believe the people of California need to be told through law enforcement to home isolate, protect themselves,’ he said. More than a quarter of the state’s residents were already under some type of shelter in place or stay at home orders, including in Sacramento County.”
Federal travel ban expands – USA Today: “The U.S.-Mexico border will be closed to nonessential travel to further help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, President Donald Trump announced Friday. ‘As we did with Canada, we’re also working with Mexico to implement new rules at our ports of entry to suspend non-essential travel,’ Trump said. ‘These new rules and procedures will not impede lawful trade and commerce.’ Trump said that Mexico is also suspending air travel from Europe. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. has taken ‘two important steps’ this week to curb the spread of the virus. He noted the border closure with Canada, announced Wednesday, would go into effect at midnight. He said the closure would last 30 days and reiterated the news Trump shared that the border with Mexico would also close.”
Governors clamor for more federal controls – Fox News: “Despite pleas from governors, members of Congress and presidential candidates, President Trump so far has resisted using his powers under the Defense Production Act as officials look to ramp up the American medical system’s capacity in anticipation of a spike in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act… But as of Friday morning, he has not actually taken action under the law, tweeting Wednesday that he only signed the act ‘should we need to invoke it in a worst case scenario in the future. Hopefully there will be no need….’ That has concerned officials across the political spectrum who see an immediate need for things like personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical professionals who will be treating patients sick with the novel coronavirus. A potential shortage has concerned medical professionals and even led multiple TV medical dramas to donate the masks they use in their wardrobe to hospitals.”
McConnell sets Monday deadline on stimulus deal – Bloomberg: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wants the chamber to finish and pass a massive stimulus bill to bolster the economy by Monday — lightning speed for legislation expected to top $1 trillion. McConnell, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin arrived at the Capitol Friday morning for a blitz of bipartisan negotiations, with all sides stressing the need to act fast. ‘I’ve tasked the bipartisan team to reach an agreement by the end of the day today,’ McConnell said at the Capitol. Getting a deal done Friday would give bill drafters Saturday to write up the text, with McConnell planning to start the process for teeing up votes on Monday. Eric Ueland, the White House legislative liaison, also stressed the need for speed. … He noted that Mnuchin said he wants Congress to complete action on the bill by Monday ‘to ensure that aid swiftly gets to the American people as well as to provide confidence with the American economy, and American markets.’”
Plan has payments of $1,200 per person for middle class and poor – Fox News: “Saying lawmakers ‘need to take bold and swift action as soon as possible,’ Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday introduced legislation to provide as much as $1,200 per person and $2,400 per couple in the U.S. amid the coronavirus outbreak and skyrocketing jobless claims. The draft legislation, obtained by Fox News, would provide minimum payments of $600, and aid would be phased down at adjusted gross income thresholds of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 per couple. Additionally, there would be $500 payments for each child. The rebate amount is slated to then be reduced by $5 for each $100 a taxpayer’s income exceeds the legislation’s threshold. The amount is therefore reduced to zero for single taxpayers with incomes exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers. The IRS would determine income based on taxpayers’ 2018 tax returns, or 2019 tax returns in cases where there is no 2018 return…”
Continetti: Coronavirus Tests America’s Social Capacity – Free Beacon: “A few months after September 11, 2001, David Brooks went back and looked at coverage of Pearl Harbor for an article in the Weekly Standard (‘After Pearl Harbor,’ December 10, 2001). … I revisited Brooks’s article this week while thinking about the differences between America during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919 and America during the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic today. … What changed is the American ethos. Expressive individualism replaced self-restraint. Narcissism and the therapeutic sensibility triumphed over the reticence and sense of tragedy that comes from living in places and times where there is no safety net and death is a constant presence. The culture of debunking, revisionism, and repudiation informs education, entertainment, art, and occasionally sport.”
DEM WOMEN UNDER MICROSCOPE AS RUNNING MATES
NYT: “[Former Vice President Joe Biden] has shown his hand in a big and unusual way for a front-runner, saying he would pick a woman as a running mate. That has opened the path for Democratic officials to start picking favorites — from a socially safe distance. In discussions with The Times since Mr. Biden’s big primary victories on Tuesday, 60 Democratic National Committee members and congressional and party leaders most frequently proposed three former rivals of Mr. Biden as his running mate — Senator Kamala Harris of California, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Next up was Stacey Abrams, a former state House leader whose defeat in 2018 Georgia governor’s race remains disputed by many in the party. Other popular suggestions included Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Representative Val Demings of Florida. The Democrats interviewed also proposed seven other women, including Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico.”
Bloomy transfers $18 million from campaign to DNC – Politico: “Mike Bloomberg is sending $18 million from his defunct presidential campaign to the Democratic National Committee, a dramatic investment in the national party that appears to push the boundaries of campaign finance law. The money will support the DNC’s ‘Battleground Build-Up 2020’ program, the DNC’s initiative in 12 swing states across the country. The money could fund potentially hundreds of organizers in those swing states. ‘This will help us invest in more organizers across the country to elect the next president and help Democrats win up and down the ballot,’ DNC chairman Tom Perez said in a statement. ‘The DNC has made early, historic investments in our battleground and general election programs, and the additional organizers we’re putting on the ground will significantly bolster those efforts and help make sure Donald Trump is a one-term president.’ The massive transfer signals a change of plans for Bloomberg, who is nixing an earlier idea to form his own super PAC to take on President Donald Trump in 2020.”
Really going out on a limb… Gillibrand backs Biden – WaPo: “Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) threw her support behind former vice president Joe Biden on Thursday, joining a dozen other former competitors to back his bid to become the Democratic nominee for president. ‘He’s the absolute best candidate to defeat President Trump, and I think he is the person who has gained the trust and the respect of the American people in a way that no one else has,’ Gillibrand said in an interview with The Washington Post. ‘The truth is he’s run the strongest campaign.’”
Trump’s temporary spy chief making big changes – WaPo
A decade later, ObamaCare opposition falls to lowest level in poll – NBC News
WSJ Editorial Board: Rethinking the Coronavirus Shutdown – WSJ
Washington Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib announces he’s leaving politics to join the Jesuits – American Magazine
Tax Day moving to July 15 amid coronavirus crisis, Mnuchin announces – Fox News
AUDIBLE: HEAD TO YOUR LOCAL DRIVE-IN THEATER!
“We’ve been trying to let people know that we have a safe environment and [offer] a little escape.” – Beau Bianchi, whose family has owned the Paramount Drive-In in Lakewood, Calif. since 1946, talking to the LAT about the increase in business due to the coronavirus pandemic.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This weekend John Roberts will guest anchor for Mr. Sunday. He’ll sit down with Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz – Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“What are your thoughts on whether political conventions serve any purpose other than providing a platform for long-winded speakers and advertising revenue for the networks? Would it imperil our democracy if we just said, ‘Never mind, don’t bother,’ and directed our resources toward getting MLB back in business?” – Mary Carol Miller, Greenwood, Miss.
[Ed. note: If I had my way, Dr. Miller, conventions would increase rather than decrease in importance. I’d do away with primaries and caucuses and have delegates chosen in conventions on the county, district and state level who would then be free to choose a nominee. But I also recognize that this year of pandemic presents some special challenges. Republicans don’t need a convention, having opted to rig the process to protect President Trump. But Democrats aren’t yet finished with their work and may need a convention to fill in gaps left by what has become a very uncertain primary process. I can certainly see Democrats opting to hold a virtual convention in which the 4,753 delegates would participate remotely. But I’m certainly with you on getting MLB back on its feet. April without the Cardinals is going to feel like Thanksgiving without the turkey.]
“As to your comments [in Thursday’s Halftime Report], who knows? But like most Americans I want to do the patriotic thing to help staunch the contagion. Thus, I have ordered T shirts from Zazzle inscribed, ‘Don’t Shed On Me.’” – Paul Thomson, Edmond, Okla.
[Ed. note: Mr. Thompson, the Gadsden coronavirus flag can’t be far behind!]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
BUT DID SHE SCORE THE CHARMIN!?
KYTV: “Amid the empty shelves and store closures, a Springfield [Mo.] Walmart had its own commotion going Wednesday afternoon. A baby was born in the toilet paper aisle of the Walmart at Sunshine and West Bypass. One Walmart customer didn’t have a chance to get any of those groceries she came for, but she left with something much more special. ‘We were like oh my gosh, is this actually going to happen,’ said store manager Jessica Hinkle. Hinkle said the woman warned store associates that her last child came in just 30 minutes. When the woman’s water broke in the toilet paper aisle, she was prepared to go into labor right then and there. ‘We were like what do we do now?’ she said. ‘Another lady comes around the corner and she says ‘I’m a labor nurse, can I help?’ and we said yes, yes please. She had gloves in her pocket [and] she was ready.’ Hinkle said she grabbed a sheet and blocked the aisle to give the woman as much privacy as possible. … Springfield firefighters rushed into the store and helped deliver the baby girl. ‘They’re the typical fire department that shops in our store, so they were pretty proud of themselves,’ Hinkle said. She said the entire process took about 45 minutes and customers were cheering for the woman the whole time.”
AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Timing is everything.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on March 5, 2007.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.