On Politics: Fauci Speaks. Is the Government Listening?

Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.

Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

  • Well, you asked. That’s basically what Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told Republican senators who had called him to testify on Tuesday before the health committee. In his first appearance before Congress since the president declared a public health emergency, Fauci warned about the deadly risks of reopening the economy too soon. “The consequences could be really serious,” he said, particularly if proper precautions aren’t taken to head off a second wave of infections in the fall. Fauci’s remarks — delivered from his home, where he is self-quarantining after possible exposure to the virus — were echoed by Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We are not out of the woods yet,” Redfield said, “but we are more prepared.” (He largely avoided discussing the set of guidelines on safe reopening that the C.D.C. is expected to release soon, but that the White House has sought to influence.)

  • But it was not a message Republicans particularly wanted to hear. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky pointed to statistics showing relatively low infection rates in rural states and among children. “I don’t think you’re the end-all,” Paul said. “I don’t think you’re the one person that gets to make a decision.” To which Fauci replied: “I have never made myself to be the end-all and only voice of this. I’m a scientist, a physician and a public-health official. I give advice according to the best scientific evidence.” Paul may be picking a fight that’s tough to win: Polls have consistently shown that amid the outbreak, Americans overwhelmingly trust the C.D.C. and other government scientists; when asked about the job Congress is doing, they’ve got much less positive things to say.

  • Want to know the fate of President Trump’s tax returns? There’s now a livestream for that. The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday over whether Trump should be required to cough up documents related to his business dealings and finances, which were requested during the House’s impeachment proceedings last year. The arguments were all heard via telephone and streamed on YouTube, part of a week of pandemic-driven firsts for the court. Most justices seemed skeptical of Trump’s argument that he was immune from criminal investigation while in office, as his legal team stated in response to a subpoena from the Manhattan district attorney. But they seemed more receptive to the idea that House Democrats might have overstepped by requesting documents unrelated to their legislative responsibilities.

  • Nancy Pelosi knows she’s not going to be able to get everything she and fellow Democrats want on coronavirus aid. But now at least she knows where they’re starting from. Pelosi and her caucus in the House released an ambitious $3 trillion proposal on Tuesday for the next round of stimulus legislation. She intends to bring the House back to Washington for a vote on Friday. The bill includes $875 billion for state and local governments — just shy of the $1 trillion some governors said they thought was needed — as well as $75 billion for mortgage relief, $100 billion for renters, $25 billion to backstop the Postal Service and $3.6 billion for election security. Pelosi rejected some major proposals from the left, including a “Paycheck Guarantee” that would have covered the wages of Americans thrown out of work by the pandemic. But she is still certain to meet staunch opposition from Republicans in the Senate and the White House, who have said they think it’s too early for more stimulus funding.

  • Did Republicans just pick up their first Democratic House seat in California since 1998? The results weren’t official as of early this morning, but the Republican, Mike Garcia, had a sizable lead. The special election was for a seat that opened up after Katie Hill, a rising Democrat, resigned amid revelations of an extramarital affair. Early results come primarily from mail-in ballots, which tend to be from older voters, but based on those numbers Garcia led by better than 10 points with more than three-fourths of precincts reporting. Also yesterday, Tom Tiffany, a Republican, won a special election for a House seat in heavily red northern Wisconsin. But he won by seven percentage points less than another Republican, Sean Duffy, did in 2018, offering a possible sign of hope for Democrats in a closely watched swing state. The winners in both Wisconsin and California will need to defend their new seats in November’s general election.

Credit…Jenna Schoenefeld for The New York Times

Voters waited in line at a polling place in a parking lot in Palmdale, Calif., where a House special election was being held.

Michael Flynn isn’t off the hook just yet.

Last week the Justice Department moved to drop charges against Flynn, the former national security adviser, who stands accused of lying to F.B.I. agents. He had already pleaded guilty to a felony charge of making false statements to federal authorities.

Trump has repeatedly stated that he thinks Flynn was “treated unfairly”; legal observers immediately saw the choice to drop charges as politically motivated. One of the line prosecutors who supervised the case withdrew from it outright, and none of the others signed the motion to abort prosecution.

Opening things to so-called amicus briefs isn’t all the judge can do. He could subsequently take other measures if he thinks the prosecution is not operating in good faith, like holding a hearing to consider possible next steps. At the very minimum, his move on Tuesday makes clear that the Justice Department will not be able to swiftly put its case against Flynn to bed.

In 2016, Sullivan heard a lawsuit brought by conservative groups seeking access to Hillary Clinton’s private emails during her tenure as secretary of state; he ultimately ordered her to respond to questions about her use of a private server.

“A criminal proceeding is not a free for all,” Sullivan said on Tuesday, assuring both sides that he would keep a tight watch on the amicus briefs process. He said that he would schedule a time for outside parties to present arguments against the Justice Department’s move to drop charges.

On Politics is also available as a newsletter. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox.

Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

Continue reading at New York Times