IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The White House waves a white flag in fight against coronavirus

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: President Donald Trump tours a Honeywell International Inc. factory producing N95 masks during his first trip since widespread COVID-19 related lockdowns went into effect
President Donald Trump tours a Honeywell International Inc. factory producing N95 masks during his first trip since widespread COVID-19 related lockdowns went into effect May 5, 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Let’s be blunt about it: President Trump signaled Tuesday that he’s surrendering in the country’s fight against the coronavirus.

He did that by announcing his administration has begun to wind down its coronavirus taskforce.

“We have flattened the curve and countless American lives have been saved,” Trump said yesterday in Arizona as the U.S. death toll surpassed 70,000. “Our country is now in the next stage of the battle, a safe and gradual reopening of our country.”

He also did it by conceding there will be more death as a result of the reopening.

“It's possible there will be some [more lives lost], because you won't be locked into an apartment or a house or whatever it is. But at the same time, we're going to practice social distancing, we're going to be washing hands, we're going to be doing a lot of the things that we've learned to do over the last period of time. And we have to get our country back,” Trump told ABC News.

(On Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted that the task force would "continue on" with a focus on "SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN" but provided no other details).

This white flag from Trump comes as the United States is only treading water when it comes to beating back the virus. While the curve of new coronavirus cases has declined in the New York area, it hasn’t elsewhere.

It also comes at a when most Americans are willing to stay at home.

Our April NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 58 percent of registered voters saying they’re more concerned that relaxing stay-at-home restrictions would lead to more COVID-19 deaths than they are that the restrictions will hurt the U.S. economy.

And a Monmouth poll out yesterday showed that 63 percent of voters are more concerned that states will lift their restrictions too quickly, versus 29 percent who are more worried they won’t lift them quickly enough.

What remains most puzzling to us is why Trump and his administration are so focused on reopening the economy rather than giving Americans confidence to shop, eat out and return to their workplaces.

Bottom line: The economy won’t return until that confidence does.

Tweet of the Day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

1,214,194: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 24,517 more than yesterday morning.)

71,411: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 2,262 more than yesterday morning).

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

7.4 percent: How much the European Union’s economy is now set to shrink in 2020.

$36 billion: How much nine states — including California, Illinois and Texas and West Virginia — plan to ask for in an advance from the Department of Labor to cover unemployment shortfalls.

2020 Vision: Bernie (and others) are back on New York’s ballot

“A federal judge ordered Tuesday that New York state hold its canceled Democratic primary in June, which places Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and other former 2020 candidates back on the ballot,” per NBC News.

“U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres of Manhattan ruled in favor of the legal team representing businessman Andrew Yang, who dropped out of the Democratic race in early February.”

“Yang's lawyers sued the State Board of Elections late last month after it canceled the state's primary, which had already been postponed for two months. Citing coronavirus concerns, the board stripped Sanders' name from the June 23 presidential primary ballot after he dropped out — effectively canceling the primary and making former Vice President Joe Biden the winner.”

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s Ad Watch heads to New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District Republican primary, where things are getting rough both on the airways and off of it.

It’s another GOP primary where the ad messaging is turning on the race to embrace President Trump, and neither oil executive Claire Chase nor 2018 GOP nominee and former state Rep. Yvette Herrell are pulling any punches.

Chase is running a spot accusing Herrell of “standing against President Trump,” pointing to an interview where Herrell criticizedunified Republican government during Trump’s early years for not getting some issues “put to bed.”

And Herrell’s recent spot is entirely devoted to undercutting Chase’s claim to support Trump — a “reading of Never Trumper Claire Chase’s actual Facebook posts,” which includes comments like her saying Trump is “unworthy of the office” and that there are “836,297 reasons not to vote for him.”

Yesterday’s Senate confirmation hearing for John Ratcliffe

On Tuesday, Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, sat for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee to be the next director of national intelligence.

As a quick refresher: This is the second time Ratcliffe has been considered for the DNI post. In Aug. 2019, President Trump withdrew his intention to nominate Ratcliffe after bipartisan concern over his lack of experience and exaggerated claims on his resume. You can read more about that episode here.

This time around, though, Senate Republicans seem to be getting in line. Here’s what Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr said yesterday: “It's my intent to run the nomination through the committee as quickly as possible next week. Then hopefully work with the majority leader to the floor quickly so we can have a permanent DNI in place.” Back in August when Ratcliffe was taken out of the running for DNI, Burr said he respected the “decision to withdraw his name.”

And while Senate Democrats will need Republican votes to defeat the nomination when it comes before the full Senate, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is already laying out his case: “If we move Ratcliffe and pass him, we will repeat the same mistake the president has made on COVID – not hearing the truth, not acting on the truth, listening to flattery and not much else. That we did on COVID – we will repeat it on national security,” Schumer said Tuesday.

The Lid: Bear necessities

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we offered a briefer on what looks like a pretty competitive race in Montana.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent a non-surgical treatment for a gall bladder condition, the Supreme Court announced last night.

The Supreme Court is set to hear a key Obamacare/ birth control case.

The president says a payroll tax cut is a must-have in the next economic stimulus bill. Many of his own GOP colleagues disagree.

When she left to join the Senate, Sen. Kelly Loeffler got a hefty financial boost from her old job as an executive to the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange.

The office of former President Barack Obama has a strong response for Senate investigators looking into Hunter Biden and Ukraine.

Some Republicans have implied that only blue states are facing huge budget shortfalls. That’s not the case.

A lot of people have some very strong feelings about whom Joe Biden should pick as his running mate.