WASHINGTON — After terrorists hijacked airliners, slammed them into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and killed nearly 3,000 Americans, Congress created an independent bipartisan 9/11 Commission to definitively answer what happened—– and how to prevent it from ever happening again.
Our question this morning: Is Congress going to create a 9/11-like commission to study what went wrong with the United States’ handling of the coronavirus — after more than 300,000 and counting deaths, an erosion in trust in our government and allegations of political interference and manipulation?
The latest development here: A pair of CDC political appointees told the New York Times about how the Trump administration exerted ever-increasing influence over the agency’s message and data.
That comes after a whistleblower alleged that CDC director Robert Redfield directed staff to delete an email from a Trump political appointee that sought changes to scientific reports, as well as after the CDC and FDA bungled the United States’ initial coronavirus testing plan.
And we learned yesterday that a former Trump appointee advocated for herd immunity to respond to the coronavirus: “We want them infected.”
All of this hasn’t been lost on the American people. New numbers from Gallup show that just 31 percent of Americans give the CDC good marks on communicating a clear plan to deal with Covid — an even poorer level of confidence than the 33 percent who say the same of President Trump.
These revelations confirm what we thought all along: That a Trump administration, with a vested interest in deemphasizing the pandemic, interfered with government entities that are supposed to be free of political meddling.
But there’s surely more — and not all will be uncovered by investigative journalists and whistleblowers without a concerted effort to investigate using the full power of an official commission.
So why aren’t we hearing more about an investigation of what went wrong?
We can picture, say, a Jeb Bush and a Jeh Johnson leading a bipartisan commission to look into the failures of this era — and how we can be prepared to keep the next health crisis freer of political interference.
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Data Download: The numbers you need to know today
17,038,284: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 244,878 more than yesterday morning.)
308,143: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 3,460 more than yesterday morning.)
224.53 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.
113,090: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus
10,000: The number of eviction actions filed by large corporate landlords in five states since September.
$600: How much individual direct payments may be as part of a Covid relief deal still being hashed out in Congress.
69 percent: The share of undocumented immigrant workers whose jobs are essential to the Covid-19 fight, per a new study.
19: The number of days until the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs.
34: The number of days until Inauguration Day.
Hack and neglect
Speaking of government failures, be sure to read the op-ed by former Trump homeland security adviser Tom Bossert, who writes that the Russian cyberattack into our government is potentially more widespread and problematic than you can imagine.
“The Russians have had access to a considerable number of important and sensitive networks for six to nine months. The Russian S.V.R. will surely have used its access to further exploit and gain administrative control over the networks it considered priority targets. For those targets, the hackers will have long ago moved past their entry point, covered their tracks and gained what experts call “persistent access,” meaning the ability to infiltrate and control networks in a way that is hard to detect or remove.”
This cyberattack happened on Trump’s watch — and right before a new administration is about to take over the federal government.
And the president of the United States isn’t saying or doing anything about it.
Diana Taylor for SBA administrator?
President-elect Joe Biden still hasn’t announced his picks for several of his Cabinet positions. But he may be getting closer to choosing someone to lead the Small Business Administration. NBC’s Geoff Bennett and Stephanie Ruhle report that Biden is considering New York finance executive Diana Taylor for a key role in the administration. Taylor is reportedly under consideration to lead the SBA, the Export-Import Bank or the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).
Taylor also just happens to be the longtime partner of Michael Bloomberg.
For what it’s worth, President Trump picked his first SBA chief, Linda McMahon, 30 days after Election Day 2016. You can read more about how Biden and Trump’s Cabinet timelines compare here.
Filled Cabinet positions
State: Tony Blinken (announced)
Treasury: Janet Yellen (announced)
Defense: Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin (announced)
Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas (announced)
HHS: Xavier Becerra (announced)
Agriculture: Tom Vilsack (announced)
Transportation: Pete Buttigieg (announced)
Energy: Jennifer Granholm (confirmed)
HUD: Marcia Fudge (announced)
Veterans Affairs: Denis McDonough (announced)
UN Ambassador: Linda Thomas-Greenfield (announced)
Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines (announced)
OMB Director: Neera Tanden (announced)
U.S. Trade Representative: Katherine Tai (announced)
Unfilled Cabinet positions
Attorney General: Doug Jones, Sally Yates, Merrick Garland
Interior: Deb Haaland
Labor: Andy Levin, Bernie Sanders, Marty Walsh
Education: Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Randi Weingarten. Sonja Santelises, Linda Darling Hammond
CIA: Michael Morell
SBA: Diana Taylor
Other top Biden staffers
Chief of Staff: Ron Klain (announced)
National Security Adviser: Jake Sullivan (announced)
Climate Envoy: John Kerry (announced)
Domestic Policy Council Director: Susan Rice (announced)
National Economic Council Director: Brian Deese (announced)
Surgeon General: Dr. Vivek Murthy (announced)
Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Dr. Rochelle Walensky (announced)
Covid-19 Czar: Jeff Zients (announced)
White House Communications Director: Kate Bedingfield (announced)
White House Press Secretary: Jen Psaki (announced)
VP Communications Director: Ashley Etienne (announced)
VP Chief Spokesperson: Symone Sanders (announced)
Georgia Runoff Watch by Ben Kamisar
Today’s Runoff Watch highlights some special guests looking to boost the GOP in Georgia.
Today, Vice President Mike Pence touches down in the Peach state for rallies in Columbus and Macon, two county seats in the state. It’s not the VP’s first time in the state, he was there rallying in Augusta last week, and had been there in weeks prior as he charts his own post-White House future.
It’s also worth noting that Donald Trump Jr. will be in the state campaigning over the weekend as well.
The Lid: Love govs
Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at how governors continue to get high marks for communicating their coronavirus management plans.
ICYMI: What else is happening in the world
French president Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for coronavirus.
Who will be Biden’s education secretary?
Biden’s team is looking at expanding access to ACA marketplaces, the Washington Post writes.
Here’s how anti-vaccination disinformation is spreading.
The New York Times looks at Trump’s imprint on the judiciary.
Politico notes that the Never Trump movement is figuring out what’s next in a Biden presidency.