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Amid the pandemic, Trump's priority remains the same

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump arrives for the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House on April 13, 2020.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Nearly 24,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, millions have lost their jobs while businesses and schools shuttered their doors.

And — to paraphrase Carly Simon — the president of the United States thinks this pandemic is about him.

"Everything we did was right," Trump said at Monday's White House briefing. "I saved tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of lives,"

"When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that's the way it's got to be. It's total," Trump added (incorrectly). "And the governors know that."

As the Washington Post’s Ashley Parker writes of yesterday’s Trump briefing, “[I]n the middle of this deadly pandemic that shows no obvious signs of abating, the president made clear that the paramount concern for Trump is Trump — his self-image, his media coverage, his supplicants and his opponents, both real and imagined.”

Trump has used his office and his powers to be an irresistible force during this pandemic.

Governors try to work around the president, but they find out that they still have to respond to him.

An infectious disease expert like Anthony Fauci has to swallow his pride to walk back statements that appeared to criticize the president’s handling of the response.

And despite so much else going on — Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Joe Biden, the Wisconsin election results, Biden’s veepstakes process — the president’s daily briefings (and the fact-checks of them) drown out the coverage of almost everything else.

Trump has made it where elected leaders, the bureaucrats working for him and the news media can’t … avoid … him.

And that ultimately complicates the recovery effort — when a president makes the pandemic about him and his re-election bid.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

583,300: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 25,971 more than yesterday morning.)

23,594: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,600 more than yesterday morning).

2.96 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

Almost 2 million: The number of coronavirus cases worldwide

0: The number of business leaders to date publicly lending their names to the president’s “opening our country council.”

68 percent: The share of voters who say the pandemic will have a major impact on election turnout in November, according to a new TargetSmart survey.

Two so far: The number of coordinated efforts between states — one on the East Coast (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Massachusetts and Rhode Island) and one on the West Coast (California, Oregon and Washington) — to work on a joint strategy to lift stay-at-home restrictions, despite the president’s statements that the call is his alone to make

More than 300: The number of coronavirus cases at a giant pork-processing plant in South Dakota, making it one of the nation’s largest clusters

More than 2,100: The number of U.S. cities bracing for budget shortfalls amid the pandemic.

Why Sanders endorsing Biden this early matters

In 2016, it took Bernie Sanders 36 days to endorse Hillary Clinton — from the time she became the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee (on June 6), to when he finally endorsed her (on July 12).

But in 2020, it took him just five days to endorse Joe Biden — from the time he suspended his campaign (April 8), to his endorsement yesterday (on April 13).

“Today, I am asking all Americans, I'm asking every Democrat, I'm asking every independent, I'm asking a lot of Republicans to come together in this campaign to support your candidacy, which I endorse, to make certain that we defeat somebody who I believe, I'm speaking just for myself now, is the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country,” Sanders said yesterday in a livestream appearance with Biden.

Ultimately, it hurt Hillary Clinton that Sanders waited more than a month to endorse her.

And this time around, it helps Biden that this endorsement is happening in April rather than July – because it gives the former vice president more time to woo Sanders’ supporters.

You’ve got to give credit to Biden and his campaign.

For all of the grief that he gets from the political intelligentsia when talking about how he’ll work better with Mitch McConnell and congressional Republicans, Biden — using his personal relationship with Sanders — certainly managed Bernie better than Hillary did four years ago.

Yes, we live in a divided and deeply polarized country. But personal relationships still matter.

2020 Vision: Biden easily wins Wisconsin

With 99 percent in from the (incredibly marred) April 7 election in Wisconsin, Joe Biden beat Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary by more than 30 points, 63 percent to 32 percent.

In fact, as he did in Michigan and Florida, Biden won every single county in the Badger State. (Four years ago, Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin, 57 percent to 43 percent.)

Not surprisingly, turnout in the 2020 primary (925,000) was down from 2016 (1 million-plus).

In the more competitive race for state Supreme Court, liberal Jill Karofsky defeated conservative incumbent Daniel Kelly, 55 percent to 45 percent.

“Karofsky’s victory marked the first time in a dozen years that a Supreme Court challenger beat an incumbent — and just the second time in more than half a century. Her win over Justice Daniel Kelly will shift conservative control of the court from 5-2 to 4-3,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes.

Tweet of the day

Ad watch

From NBC News' Ben Kamisar: Stuck at home like the rest of us, the NRSC is doing something quite relatable: a quarantine shopping spree.

On Monday, the Senate GOP campaign arm began booking its first round of television and radio ads across the 2020 Senate battlegrounds. The reservations are still coming in, but all told, an NRSC official told NBC News that it will total around $33 million across seven states —Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Montana and North Carolina. The largest initial investment will be in North Carolina, with $7.3 million.

Read more from Politico’s James Arkin, who first reported on the buy.

The House is out for another month

The House is not in session — at least for a while. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer informed House members on Monday that the House will not return to Washington until at least May 4, unless they were needed back for a vote on the next phase of a coronavirus relief package. But as of now, as well as our NBC Capitol Hill team’s reporting, not much is happening on that front.

Our team reports, Pelosi told her members on call on Monday (per an aide on the call) that she has told Republicans “let’s negotiate. We all care about small businesses and want them to succeed.” And she added, according to the aide, “hopefully we can come to some terms if they will negotiate.”

But that indicates that, as of now, the two sides aren’t negotiating. And there still hasn’t been any rules changes put in place for the House to vote remotely if they needed to take a vote with a quorum and members couldn’t get back to D.C. safely. And per our Hill team, Democrats are feeling emboldened to not acquiesce to Republicans’ small business aid package (which doesn’t address hospitals and state and local government needs because governors like Republican Larry Hogan of Maryland and Democrat Andrew Cuomo of New York are asking for more money for states directly.

Shameless plug

Tonight, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb will anchor “NBC News Special Report: Coronavirus Pandemic” at 10:10 p.m. ET across NBC, MSNBC and NBC News NOW. The hour will feature critical, real-time information on the coronavirus pandemic. Plus, NBC News’ Coronavirus Crisis Team will answer viewer questions.

The Lid: Day to day to day to day

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at new polling showing just how much the coronavirus crisis has changed Americans’ daily lives

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Mike Memoli and Marianna Sotomayor have a deep dive into how Joe Biden — a man who knows a lot about the vice presidency – is approaching his own search for his second-in-command.

A new poll points to the potential upside for Biden if he picks a black running mate.

Stacey Abrams and Amy Klobuchar are teaming up in a new video promoting the expansion of vote-by-mail and early voting.

Biden is taking on Trump over rising anti-Asian violence in the wake of the coronavirus.

The Trump administration wants to delay the Census deadline until October.

Democrats are in a situation few predicted a few months ago: unity, at least on the face of it.

Rep. Justin Amash says he’s looking “closely” at a third-party run for president.