Where Things Stand: McConnell Is Desperate To Maintain His Grip

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to members of the press after the weekly Senate Republican Policy Luncheon on May 12, 2020 on Capitol Hill. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
May 14, 2020 12:42 p.m.

It’s not the most important news of the day, but I am endlessly fascinated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) seemingly endless campaign to prod the secretary of state into running for an open senate seat in Kansas.

It’s obvious why this is such a priority for McConnell, who lives to maintain his grip as majority leader. While Republicans are still in a strong place in Kansas, things are bound to get messy during the GOP primary. And McConnell and other party officials are concerned that one particular candidate — former Secretary of State Kris Kobach — is too polarizing for the entire party to get behind in the general election, when the Republican nominee will face a credible Democratic challenger.

Just yesterday, McConnell gave an interview to Politico, acknowledging the “challenging environment” in Kansas and reiterating that Mike Pompeo “would obviously be my first choice and he has been for months.”

But Pompeo hasn’t bit and is still not biting, even while some close to President Trump continue to whisper in his ear about the importance of the race, according to Politico.

McConnell has been pushing this narrative in the press for months and Pompeo continues to deny any interest in the race. As the June 1 deadline to register for the primary approaches, we might see a bit more vocal squirming from McConnell.

Here’s more on other stories we’re following:

What The Investigations Team Is Watching

Matt Shuham is covering Rick Bright’s testimony before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce health subcommittee today. Bright is sharing the details of a complaint he filed after he was reassigned from his post as the head of the Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. Bright alleges he was removed from the post for objecting to the administration’s promotion of an antimalarial drug as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

Tierney Sneed is writing a Prime piece on retired U.S. District Judge John Gleeson, who U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan just appointed last night to brief him on whether Michael Flynn should be held in contempt of court. The move comes just a week after the DOJ announced it wants to drop charges against Flynn, pushing the Trump narrative that the FBI’s investigation into Flynn was politically motivated.

Josh Kovensky is working on an explainer on the “unmasking” of Flynn and the Trump campaign’s efforts to utilize the development to advance conspiracy theories about former President Barack Obama and ex-VP and 2020 candidate Joe Biden.

What The Breaking News Team Is Watching

Just moments ago, McConnell announced that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is stepping down as Senate Intelligence Committee chair while he’s under investigation. The FBI served a search warrant to Burr on Wednesday evening and seized the senator’s phone, the Los Angeles Times was first to report. The seizure was part of the Justice Department’s investigation into Burr’s shady stock sales during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The timing of the $1.5 million stock dump correlates directly with Burr’s committee’s briefings on the spread of the coronavirus in mid-February. We’ll continue following this investigation.

President Trump is once again moving the goalposts on projected COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. During an interview with Fox Business that aired Thursday morning, Trump said the death toll would likely hit 100,000 or more in the U.S. before the pandemic is over. Trump has repeatedly moved up what he thinks the projected death toll in the U.S. will be. Last week, he said it could kill “anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people. In April he claimed it would only be 50,000. We’ll keep an eye on this escalation.

If You Read Anything On COVID-19 Today, Read This

Kate Riga reports today on the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the governor’s efforts to extend his initial stay-at-home order, which has faced intense opposition from the Republican-controlled state legislature. Officials in some of Wisconsin’s largest counties scrambled in the wake of the court’s decision to keep stay-at-home and social distancing orders intact.

Earlier coverage of local backlash to stay-at-home orders

Coming Up

12:00 p.m. ET: Trump left the White House to travel to Pennsylvania.

1:45 p.m. ET: Trump will tour the Owens & Minor Inc. Distribution Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania and then deliver remarks at the facility at 2:15 p.m. ET.

4:35 p.m. ET: Trump will arrive back at the White House.

Yesterday’s Most Read Story

Kushner Cleans Up Remark Saying He’s ‘Not Sure’ He ‘Can Commit’ To Election Being Held As Scheduled — Cristina Cabrera

What We Are Reading

How Can We Save Lives And Keep Workers In Place? Congress Should Pass A Paycheck Guarantee –Darrick Hamilton and Kyle Strickland

After Four Years Of Trump, Left Tells Biden To Court GOP — Hanna Trudo and Hunter Woodall

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