Sessions Falls in Alabama, and Gideon Rises in Maine

Jeff Sessions goes down, Trump retreats from a hard-line position on international student visas, and Biden announces an ambitious climate plan — just don’t call it a Green New Deal. It’s Wednesday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

  • Jeff Sessions’s political career may have just reached the end of the road. President Trump’s former attorney general-turned-political nemesis, Sessions lost to Tommy Tuberville in a runoff yesterday for the Republican Senate nomination in Alabama. Tuberville, a former Auburn University football coach who had received Trump’s endorsement, will face off in November against Doug Jones, the Democratic incumbent, for Sessions’s old Senate seat.

  • In Maine, the establishment-backed candidate, Sara Gideon, easily won the Democratic Senate nomination and will take on Senator Susan Collins in the general election. Gideon has already raised $23 million, a record for a Maine Senate candidate, and she is viewed as one of the best-positioned candidates to unseat a Republican incumbent this fall.

  • The Democratic Senate runoff in Texas was much closer, with M.J. Hegar, the party establishment’s choice, winning a tight race against Royce West, who was vying to become the first Black senator from the Lone Star State.

  • Given the complications of holding elections during a pandemic, many votes remain uncounted in primaries across the country, including for a variety of New York House districts. But yesterday, The Associated Press called the race in one closely watched election there: The progressive Mondaire Jones was declared the victor in the Democratic primary for a suburban House seat just north of New York City, all but ensuring he will be elected to Congress in November.

  • Public health experts sounded the alarm over a new Trump administration order that seeks to tighten the White House’s grip on information about coronavirus infections and fatalities. The Department of Health and Human Services quietly released guidelines this week that will prevent hospitals from sending data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an agency that Trump has frequently criticized.

  • Instead, hospitals are now ordered to send their daily reports about the patients that each hospital is treating, how many beds and ventilators are available, and other pandemic-related information directly to H.H.S.

  • Administration officials said the new guidelines would help streamline data collection and allow the White House coronavirus task force to more efficiently allocate scarce supplies. But some experts said that logic didn’t hold up. “The C.D.C. is the right agency to be at the forefront of collecting the data,” said Dr. Bala Hota, the chief analytics officer at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

  • And in an op-ed article published by The Washington Post, four former directors of the C.D.C. strongly criticized Trump for his “repeated efforts to subvert” the agency, referring to Trump’s recent criticisms of the C.D.C.’s guidelines on reopening. The agency subsequently promised to amend the guidelines.

  • “The four of us led the C.D.C. over a period of more than 15 years, spanning Republican and Democratic administrations alike,” the former directors write. “We cannot recall over our collective tenure a single time when political pressure led to a change in the interpretation of scientific evidence.”

  • The White House yesterday abandoned a heavily criticized rule that would have taken visas away from international college students whose schools have moved to online instruction in the fall.

  • Harvard and M.I.T. had immediately filed a lawsuit challenging the rule, which was issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and would have required students to leave the country if they were not taking at least one class in person. More than 200 other colleges filed briefs in support of the lawsuit.

  • Joe Biden unveiled a $2 trillion plan to fight climate change during a speech to reporters yesterday in Wilmington, Del. The plan aims to eliminate fossil fuels from the United States economy within 30 years, making the country entirely reliant on clean energy by 2050.

  • “We can create millions of high-paying, union jobs by building a modern infrastructure and a clean-energy future,” Biden said. “These are the most critical investments we can make for the long-term health and vitality of both the American economy and the physical health and safety of the American people.”

  • Biden has not endorsed the Green New Deal, a far-reaching proposal taken up by Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive leaders. A climate task force convened by allies of Biden and Sanders avoided mentioning the Green New Deal in the recommendations it released last week.

  • But Biden’s speech was shot through with many of the same guiding principles — framing the climate crisis as an opportunity for both ecological and economic renewal. “When Donald Trump thinks about climate change, the only word he can muster is ‘hoax,’” Biden said. “When I think about climate change, the word I think of is ‘jobs.’”

  • Some progressives lauded the Biden plan, including Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington and a prominent environmentalist. He called it “visionary” and “not a status quo plan.”

  • Although Biden has been careful not to invoke the Green New Deal directly, Trump’s campaign sought to link yesterday’s proposal to it anyway. “Joe Biden is embracing the Green New Deal and other socialist priorities that would devastate American families and businesses,” the president’s team said in a statement released after Biden’s speech. And the president himself went on a rambling attack against Biden yesterday, calling his agenda extreme.

  • Still, it’s not clear how many voters will be irked by the Green New Deal association. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll in December found that 63 percent of American adults said it would be a good idea to pass “a Green New Deal to address climate change by investing government money in green jobs and energy efficient infrastructure.” That included more than three in five independent voters.

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the most senior justice on the Supreme Court’s left wing, was hospitalized yesterday for a possible infection, a Supreme Court spokeswoman said. Ginsburg had been experiencing a fever and chills, and at the hospital she underwent an endoscopic procedure to clean out a bile duct stent.

  • At 87, Ginsburg has had a number of health challenges in recent years. Last year she was treated for a malignant tumor on her pancreas; it was then that she had the stent put in. Each health scare has been met with intense concern from Democrats, who worry that a vacancy on the court could allow Trump to install another conservative, which would lead to a commanding 6-to-3 right-leaning majority.

  • After the procedure last year, Ginsburg pronounced herself “cancer-free” and vowed not to step down as long as she is of sound mind and body.

Credit…Nitashia Johnson for The New York Times

Texas residents voted in primary runoff elections in Dallas yesterday.


Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has advised six presidents on public health issues. He’s not a stranger to the concept of partisan politics’ getting mixed up in science. But this is probably the first time Fauci has encountered a senior White House adviser spreading a mocking cartoon about him on Facebook.

Dan Scavino is the White House social media director and deputy director for communications in President Trump’s White House, and he’s one of the president’s closest advisers.

On Sunday, Scavino posted to his own Facebook account a rendering of Fauci that likened him to a faucet drowning Uncle Sam — in this case, representing the economy — with water drops labeled with mock public health warnings considered antithetical to White House policy: “Schools stay closed this fall!” “Indefinite lockdown!” “Shut up and obey!”

Scavino wrote a caption to accompany the cartoon, which was drawn by Ben Garrison, a right-wing cartoonist who was barred from a White House event last year over a cartoon that was widely condemned as anti-Semitic.

“At least you know if I’m going to disagree with a colleague, such as yourself, it’s done publicly — and not cowardly, behind journalists with leaks,” Scavino wrote. “See you tomorrow!”

The White House had no comment on Scavino’s post, but it added to the pile of statements advisers have put out — both on the record and in private — disparaging Fauci’s relationship with Trump and his track record of statements on the virus.

While the president has denied he dislikes Fauci — at least personally — it helps to understand just how close Scavino is to the president, how closely they are aligned, and just how much Trump enjoys it when aides spar on his behalf: It allows him to appear to take the high road, at least temporarily.

In an interview with CBS News on Tuesday, Trump did not answer a question about Scavino’s post.

“No, I like Dr. Fauci,” Trump said. “To me, he’s a really good guy and a nice guy, but he’s made mistakes.”

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