Trump contradicted his administration’s top intelligence officials, saying he’s seen strong evidence that the novel coronavirus emerged from a laboratory in Wuhan, China. Trump presented no evidence.
John Roberts: “And what gives you a high degree of confidence that this originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology?”
President Donald Trump: “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”
After The New York Times reported top administration officials have pushed intelligence agencies to link the novel coronavirus to Chinese labs, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a rare public statement Thursday. It read, “The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified.”
On Thursday, Trump also accused China of backing Joe Biden in November’s election and threatened to impose new tariffs on Chinese goods. The Washington Post reports some administration officials have discussed having the U.S. cancel part of its debt obligations to China.
President Trump once again blamed the Obama administration for a slow roll-out of coronavirus tests, even though the virus only emerged late last year. Trump was questioned by CNN’s Jim Acosta.
Jim Acosta: “You say 'broken tests.' It’s a new virus. So how could the tests be broken” —
President Donald Trump: “We had a broken” —
Jim Acosta: — “when you needed a new test?”
President Donald Trump: “Jim, we had broken tests. We had tests that were obsolete. We had tests that didn’t take care of people.”
In Indiana, Vice President Mike Pence wore a face mask Thursday as he toured a General Motors plant that is now making ventilators. Pence’s about-face came two days after he violated hospital policy by refusing to wear a facial covering while meeting with doctors and COVID-19 patients during a tour of the Mayo Clinic.
In Texas, ProPublica reports state officials are refusing to reveal which nursing homes and long-term care facilities have COVID-19 cases, citing a state medical privacy law. At least 300 people have died in such facilities, and family members report they’re unable to make informed decisions about how best to care for vulnerable loved ones. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered beaches in Orange County closed after crowds defied social distancing rules. California reported 95 more coronavirus deaths over the most recent 24-hour period.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday announced plans to deploy thousands of workers to trace the contacts of everyone who’s tested positive for the coronavirus. Cuomo said he hopes to assign 30 “contact tracers” for every 100,000 New Yorkers. Billionaire former presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg will oversee the program.
Governor Cuomo also announced that, beginning May 6, the New York City subway system will be shut down between 1 and 5 a.m. each day to clean and disinfect subway cars and stations. It’s the first time in over a century of New York subway history that transit officials have canceled 24-hour service across all subway lines. The shutdown will exacerbate a crisis for thousands of unhoused residents of New York City, who’ve used subway cars as shelters of last resort.
In California, medical students and doctors with the UC San Francisco Do No Harm Coalition staged a die-in outside of the home of San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Wednesday to protest her refusal to swiftly move unhoused people into hotel rooms. The die-in lasted 30 minutes to symbolize 30,000 vacant hotel rooms in the city that could be used to house the homeless during the pandemic. The protesters also held a moment of silence for three unhoused people in San Francisco who have died of COVID-19.
In Michigan, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has extended a state of emergency declaration until May 28, over the objections of Republican state lawmakers.
On Thursday, hundreds of protesters defying social distancing rules — many of them armed with assault rifles and wearing tactical gear — descended on Michigan’s state Capitol in Lansing demanding a lifting of remain-at-home orders. The crowd packed into the Capitol rotunda and tried to storm onto the floor of the legislative chamber. Lawmaker Dayna Polehanki tweeted a photo of armed men looking down from the gallery. She wrote, “Directly above me, men with rifles yelling at us. Some of my colleagues who own bullet proof vests are wearing them. I have never appreciated our Sergeants-at-Arms more than today.”
The protests came a day after Michigan state Senator Sylvia Santana introduced a bill to ban the Confederate battle flag from display on the Capitol grounds. Last Friday, Republican lawmaker Dale Zorn wore a face mask resembling a Confederate flag to the floor of the Michigan Senate. On Wednesday, state Senator Erika Geiss called for Zorn to be formally censured.
Sen. Erika Geiss: “We cannot make progress or change by ignoring issues of race or by tolerating examples of hatred, whether overt, covert, by microaggression or by accident.”
In Puerto Rico, activists in dozens of cars held a “Caravan for Life” through San Juan to demand the government provide more COVID-19 tests and sufficient resources for people to stay at home during the pandemic. Police stopped the caravan and said their sound trucks were illegal. When organizer Giovanni Roberto demanded police to describe the laws they were breaking, they arrested him. He was released later in the night, and his charges of obstruction of justice were dropped. We’ll have more on the coronavirus crisis in Puerto Rico later in the broadcast.
The Economic Policy Institute reports a staggering 12.7 million U.S. workers have lost their employer-based health insurance since the start of the pandemic. The finding came as the for-profit healthcare firm Cigna reported better-than-anticipated profits during the first quarter and said it is expecting to meet its profit estimates for 2020.
Today, as rent comes due and tens of millions of U.S. workers have been left unemployed by the pandemic, people across the United States are joining a general strike on May Day — the same day President Donald Trump says much of the country will reopen for business. Among those walking off the job or calling in sick to demand workplace protections are employees of Amazon and its subsidiary Whole Foods. In Washington, D.C., protesters painted a mural Wednesday with the words “protect Amazon workers” on the street outside a mansion owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos — the world’s richest person.
Amazon reports revenues surged 26% in the first three months of the year to more than $75 billion, as millions of homebound Americans under quarantine placed orders online with retail stores closed. Today Amazon is ending unlimited unpaid time off for its workers, who will have to choose between returning to the job or getting fired and possibly becoming ineligible for unemployment benefits. On Thursday, Amazon said a worker at a massive fulfillment center in Tracy, California, died of COVID-19, and others have tested positive for the disease at the warehouse.
A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled the Trump administration cannot withhold millions of dollars in funding from so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. The ruling stems from a 2017 lawsuit filed by the city of Chicago against the Trump administration. On Wednesday, President Trump said he might withhold coronavirus aid from sanctuary states and cities unless they comply with federal immigration policies.
In Southern California, immigrants jailed at the for-profit Adelanto ICE Processing Center are continuing a hunger strike to demand their release during the pandemic. Nationwide, nearly 500 people have tested positive for the virus in ICE immigration jails. This is “Freddy,” one of the hunger strikers.
“Freddy”: “I am a diabetic with high blood pressure. We are on strike because we’re afraid of getting infected with coronavirus. This center does not take adequate measures so that we can avoid getting infected. There is no social distancing, since we all line up at the dining room, and they don’t give us hand sanitizer. They don’t give us masks for us to protect ourselves.”
The former national police chief of Honduras has been charged in a federal court in New York of trafficking tons of cocaine into the United States on behalf of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández and the president’s already-convicted brother. The official, Juan Carlos Bonilla, is accused of participating in “extreme violence, including the murder of a rival trafficker, to further the conspiracy.” Bonilla once worked closely with the DEA, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has responded to sexual assault allegations against him for the first time, breaking his silence after weeks of mounting pressure. It’s the first time the Democratic presidential nominee has spoken publicly about Tara Reade, a former staffer of Joe Biden who says he sexually assaulted her in 1993. In a statement Friday morning, Biden said, “I want to address allegations by a former staffer that I engaged in misconduct 27 years ago. They aren’t true. This never happened.” As we go to air, Biden is being interviewed on MSNBC, where he’s expected to directly address the allegations. Tara Reade first came forward with her allegations in March, saying Biden pushed her up against a wall and digitally penetrated her.
Later in the broadcast, we’ll speak with reporter Rich McHugh, whose new investigation was the first to confirm Tara Reade’s accounts with two people who knew her in the '90s. And in a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, we'll talk to one of those women: Lynda LaCasse, Reade’s former neighbor.
The International Energy Agency is predicting global greenhouse gas emissions will drop a record 8% this year as air travel, vehicular traffic and oil use has plummeted across much of the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the IEA warns emissions may soar again unless governments invest now in clean energy.
This comes as a new study by NASA finds that 5,000 gigatons of ice have melted in Greenland and Antarctica over the past 16 years, producing enough water to fill Lake Michigan.
The famous Mexican protest singer Óscar Chávez has died at the age 85 after being hospitalized with coronavirus symptoms.
And the pioneering Nigerian drummer Tony Allen has died at the age of 79. He helped invent the music genre of Afrobeat while working with Fela Kuti’s band, Africa ’70. Brian Eno once said Allen was “perhaps the greatest drummer who ever lived.”