Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.
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Where things stand
President Trump declared yesterday that he would temporarily halt the issuance of green cards, a drastic move to cut immigration but not quite the all-out ban that he had threatened on Twitter the night before. The headline-grabbing action may shift public focus, at least temporarily, away from coronavirus-related debates over medical supplies and virus testing — disputes that have put Trump at odds with governors and his own health officials. But according to people familiar with the immigration announcement, officials at the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security were caught off guard by Trump’s plan. And on Tuesday night, with the executive order not yet finalized, they were still evaluating whether the president had the legal authority to unilaterally stop green cards from being issued.
The Senate on Tuesday passed the next phase of coronavirus relief, a $484 billion piece of legislation that will replenish the small-business loan program established last month as well as allocate funds for hospitals and virus testing. In a significant concession to House Democrats, Trump and his Republican allies agreed to include a nationwide framework to help states and local governments effectively manage their testing programs. The House is expected to pass the legislation on Thursday, sending it to Trump for approval. The bill is meant as a stopgap measure, with much larger legislation — in the ballpark of $1 trillion — expected to be taken up in the weeks ahead.
Trump has claimed for years that findings of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election are largely false, the work of a “deep state” inside the intelligence community that is out to get him. But a newly released report by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee directly contradicts Trump’s denials, affirming that intelligence officials were right to blame Russia for interfering in the election and for seeking to undermine American democracy. “The committee found no reason to dispute the intelligence community’s conclusions,” said Richard Burr, a Republican senator from North Carolina and the committee’s chairman.
A pandemic is a very hard time to be raising money, but as the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, Joe Biden is going to have to find a way to do it. And fast. He and the Democratic National Committee are almost $187 million behind Trump and the Republican Party as they pivot toward the general election, according to financial disclosure filings. Throughout the Democratic primary race, Biden’s fund-raising operation often lagged behind some of his rivals’, and his campaign organization was often seen as being relatively disorganized. There are signs these issues could continue to dog him: More than a month after a string of decisive primary victories have made his nomination all but certain, Biden still has not struck an agreement to collect big checks in concert with the Democratic National Committee. And he has been slow to expand hiring or to commit to an overall digital campaign strategy; Biden’s digital operation, at roughly 25 employees, is less than a quarter the size of Trump’s, Politico reported.
Jay Inslee, the liberal governor of Washington State, endorsed Biden on Wednesday — a meaningful if not altogether surprising embrace from one of the country’s most prominent environmentalists. Inslee briefly ran for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, and on the campaign trail he criticized Biden for not having a sufficiently ambitious climate policy. But Inslee told our reporter Alexander Burns that in private conversations over the past few weeks, Biden had persuaded him that he was “willing to aim faster and higher” than before in the fight against climate change. “I am convinced, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that this will be a major driving force of his administration,” Inslee said.
Photo of the day
President Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during the coronavirus briefing at the White House on Tuesday.
Milwaukee confirms coronavirus cases after Wisconsin’s elections.
Two weeks after Republicans in Wisconsin’s State Legislature forced the state to hold in-person elections, Milwaukee health officials announced the first cases of voters testing positive for the coronavirus.
Milwaukee officials said that six people who voted in the elections and one poll worker had tested positive for the virus, seeming to validate the warnings of state public health officials who had said that in-person voting in the April 7 elections could put lives at risk.
While Wisconsin Republicans have said that they have no interest in making voting by mail easier for the November general election, Milwaukee aldermen on Tuesday voted unanimously to send ballots to every registered voter in the city — a move that could increase turnout in the predominately Democratic city. It’s likely to be met by legal challenges from Republicans.
In the meantime, Wisconsin is set to hold yet another in-person vote, a May 12 special election to fill a House seat from the part of the state known as Up North. Plans are for polls to open in 20 counties, as they did statewide this month.