Where Things Stand: Desperate Appeasement

This is your TPM early-afternoon briefing.
President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force in the Rose Garden at the White House on April 14, 2020. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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May 19, 2020 1:17 p.m.

The World Health Organization just unanimously agreed it would conduct a “comprehensive evaluation” of its own response to the coronavirus pandemic that’s rocked the globe. The Associated Press reported that the vote was taken after a resolution was brought forward by European Union members and African nations. But you’d be remiss to assume that Trump’s latest Twitter tangent and funding threats didn’t have something to do with this decision.

Overnight, President Trump sent a sharp letter to the director general of the United Nations health agency, criticizing the agency’s “failed response” to the outbreak and floating his own conspiracies about China as evidence that the organization has an “alarming lack of independence” from the nation. Trump threatened, again, to pull funding and terminate the U.S.’s membership.

The letter also conveniently accused the WHO of the same charges of incompetence that have plagued his administration since the outbreak first reached the U.S. He rounded out the correspondence by pinning the global death toll on Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, suggesting “many lives could have been saved” if he had taken different action.

Chaser: He then pinned the letter to his Twitter timeline.

The fact that Trump is using his power as the leader of the free world to perpetuate his own conspiracy theories about China — he claims the WHO helped the Chinese government hide the COVID-19 outbreak when it first started escalating earlier this year — is one thing. But forcing a global health organization in the throngs of fighting a pandemic to take the time to conduct an internal review so he can shift the blame for his administration’s own sordid, botched handling of a crisis is another entirely.

Yes, “many lives” could be saved if the global health agency put in place to deal with public health crises, such as this, could focus on that work instead of placating distractions. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following today:

What The Investigations Team Is Watching

Tierney Sneed is working on a story about the unprecedentedly aggressive, Republican-led campaign in Texas to combat COVID-19 related absentee voting.

Matt Shuham is following up on reports that the woman who created the COVID-19 dashboard for data and surveillance in Florida was fired because she refused to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.”

What The Breaking News Team Is Watching

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) expressed a level of concern for the President’s health during an interview with CNN Monday evening, just after Trump admitted to taking the antimalarial drug that the FDA has urged non-health professionals away from using. “As far as the President is concerned…he’s our president and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group–morbidly obese, they say,” Pelosi told CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. There will inevitably be a Trump tweet reaction to this. We’ll be waiting with bated breath.

The pettiness continues. According to new reports, President Trump will not hold an official portrait ceremony for former President Barack Obama at the White House. Apparently neither party wishes to participate. This is just the latest in a string of escalated attacks against Trump has lobbed against his predecessor in recent weeks.

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

Cristina Cabrera writes on President Trump’s latest Twitter fit going after his once-beloved Fox News channel. The outburst comes after a Fox News host criticized the President when he revealed to reporters he’s been taking hydroxychloroquine to ward off COVID-19. Trump has repeatedly touted the antimalarial drug as treatment for the virus despite a clear lack of scientific evidence proving it to be so.

Earlier coverage of the Trump administration’s botched response to the outbreak:

Coming Up

11:00 a.m. ET: Trump addressed the food supply chain and spoke in support of farmers and ranchers in the Roosevelt Room.

3:00 p.m. ET: There will be a Cabinet meeting in the East Room.

Yesterday’s Most Read Story

The Mueller Interference Everyone Feared Has Happened — Just Two Years Late — Tierney Sneed

What We Are Reading

Global Emissions Plunged An Unprecedented 17 Percent During The Coronavirus Pandemic — Chris Mooney, Brady Dennis and John Muyskens

Sister Of Ahmaud Arbery’s Alleged Killer Posted Picture Of His Body To Snapchat — George Fitz-Gibbon

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