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Trump says 'we've prevailed' as Fauci warns of declaring victory too soon

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: Anthony Fauci Donald Trump
President Donald Trump looks at National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci as Fauci answers a question during the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on April 17, 2020.Leah Millis / Reuters

WASHINGTON — The message — and tone — couldn’t be more different from the Trump administration’s two best-known spokesmen on the coronavirus.

Top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci versus President Donald Trump.

“The major message that I wish to convey to the Senate HLP committee [today] is the danger of trying to open the country prematurely,” Fauci told the New York Times, previewing his congressional testimony that begins at 10:00 a.m. ET.

“If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to ‘Open America Again,’ then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country. This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal,” Fauci added.

Compare that warning with Trump’s happy talk from Monday afternoon.

“We have met the moment and we have prevailed,” Trump said.

(When NBC’s Geoff Bennett later asked the president if he was declaring “Mission Accomplished” when it comes to the coronavirus, Trump answered he was talking about testing. “No, we've prevailed on testing, you never prevail when you have 90,000 people, 100,000 people, 80,000 people as of today — when you have the kind of death you are talking about.”)

Then the president painted a picture of the U.S. economy roaring back to life in the summer and fall.

“We will revive our economy, and we will transition into greatness,” Trump said yesterday. “That is a phrase you will hear a lot because that is what is going to happen. We are going into the third quarter, and we're going to do well. In the fourth quarter we're going to do very good, and next year I think we're going to have one of the best years we have ever had because there is a tremendous pent-up demand.”

It’s the same tension we’ve seen over the last two months — Trump (who’s focused on his re-election) versus Fauci (who’s focused on mitigating the virus).

But that tension is now more apparent than ever before.

And the question we have is: If Fauci repeats that warning to the Senate, will the nation’s political and business leaders — Democrats and Republicans — listen?

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

1,343,873: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 18,811 more than yesterday morning.)

81,816: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,092 more than yesterday morning).

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

86 percent: The share of Ohio adults who approve of GOP Gov. Mike DeWine, one of the Republican governors who moved most aggressively to put lockdown measures in place as coronavirus cases mounted, according to a new Washington Post/ Ipsos online survey

39 percent: The share of Georgia adults who approve of GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, who has been one of the most aggressive in calling for a reopening to the economy, according to the same poll.

$11 billion: The funds that the White House says it will distribute to states to facilitate coronavirus testing.

11 million: The population of Wuhan, where the entire population is set to be tested for the virus after six new cases were reported.

Less than 3 percent: The share of the U.S. population that has received a coronavirus test.

72.4 percent or greater over a seven-day period: The spike in coronavirus cases in 10 new hotspots, including Nashville and Des Moines, according to an unreleased May 7 White House task force report.

Tweet of the day

McConnell: Obama “should have kept his mouth shut”

“Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Monday evening slammed former President Barack Obama for what the Senate Majority leader said was breaking tradition of not criticizing the sitting president,” NBC’s Rebecca Shabad writes.

“‘I think President Obama should have kept his mouth shut,’ McConnell said in an interview with Trump 2020 senior adviser Lara Trump on an episode of Team Trump Online!”

“‘You know, we know he doesn't like much (what this) administration is doing, that's understandable,’ he added. ‘But I think it's a little bit classless, frankly, to critique an administration that comes after you. You had your shot, you were there for eight years.’”

In fact, Obama’s criticism of Trump were remarks to former staffers and aides that got leaked — they weren’t public remarks.

2020 Vision: It’s another Election/Primary Day

There are three races taking place today that we’re watching.

First is the competitive special congressional election in CA-25 between Democrat Christy Smith and Republican Mike Garcia to fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif.

Second is the less competitive special congressional election in WI-7 between Republican Tom Tiffany and Democrat Tricia Zunker to fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis.

And the third is the Democratic primary in NE-2 between progressive Kara Eastman and Ann Ashford for the right to challenge Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., in the fall over a seat Republicans barely won in 2018.

NBC’s Ben Kamisar and Liz Brown-Kaiser write that the CA-25 and WI-7 contests are the first special congressional elections since the coronavirus pandemic began, with the CA-25 race being conducted almost all by mail (which makes turnout a wild card). Note: Because it’s California, we probably won’t get all of the results for days.

And NBC’s Shaquille Brewster notes that the WI-7 special comes a month after Wisconsin — controversially — held its presidential primary and statewide judicial contest. The state’s Department of Health says that 67 people who tested positive for COVID-19 afterward reported that they voted in person or worked at the polls (though several also reported other potential exposures as well).

Ad watch from Ben Kamisar

Meanwhile, in NE-2, both Kara Eastman and Ann Ashford have some important history.

Ashford’s husband, Brad, represented the district for one term before losing to Bacon in 2016. He lost to Eastman in the 2018 Democratic primary, but Eastman ultimately lost to Bacon by 2 percentage points later that fall.

It’s that narrow loss to Bacon that Ann Ashford is leaning on in her closing-argument ad, one that centers on highlighting Eastman’s loss.

“If Kara Eastman can’t beat Don Bacon with millions of dollars in a Democratic wave, how can she do it in 2020?” the narrator in Ashford’s ad asks.

“Ann can win, Kara can’t.”

In Eastman’s recent ad, she warns she’s “never afraid of a fight.” It’s that dynamic that makes this race one to watch tonight in a seat currently rated “Lean Republican” by the Cook Political Report.

What’s in the House Democrats’ next relief bill?

The House Democrats’ next coronavirus plan will likely include another round of direct stimulus money, our NBC Capitol Hill team reports. But the bill is still being negotiated, and while the text is expected to be seen this week, our team says it’s unlikely to be taken up by the Senate. “It was crafted by Pelosi and her caucus without the input of Republicans and intended to put down a place marker of what Democrats would like,” the Hill team reports.

But the marker will continue the already popular-among-Democrats initiative to put money directly in people’s pockets during the crisis. Three Dem senators – Kamala Harris, Ed Markey and Bernie Sanders — proposed recurring $2,000 payments to most Americans last week. The House’s plan is still unclear as to whether another round of stimulus checks would be one payment or recurring payments.

Aside from this bill not including Republican input, the GOP-controlled Senate leader Mitch McConnell, told reporters on Monday that he’s not on the same page as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on needing to move forward with more relief, and that his next steps will be in line with the White House’s. “If we decide to go forward we'll go forward together. In the meantime, I don’t think we have yet felt the urgency of acting immediately,” McConnell said.

The Lid: California, here we come

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we previewed today’s CA-25 special election.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world:

The Supreme Court will hear a pair of blockbuster cases today centering on President Trump’s tax returns.

Two thousand former DOJ and FBI officials are calling on AG Bill Barr to resign over the Michael Flynn case.

Bernie Sanders dropped out a month ago. But has he been sending mixed signals since then?

Trump and the RNC just narrowly outraised Biden and the DNC in April.