CORONAVIRUS UPDATE… 2,734 reported coronavirus-related deaths yesterday raised the nation’s number of fatalities above 45,000, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University. There are at least 824,889 cases of coronavirus in the U.S., the university reported. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization declared that the coronavirus probably came from an animal and was not created in a laboratory.
WHITE HOUSE, CONGRESS REACH DEAL FOR AID… The White House and Congress reached agreement yesterday to provide $484 billion more in aid for struggling small businesses that included additional funding for hospitals and coronavirus testing. Funding the Paycheck Protection Program a second time will add $310 billion to its coffers; $60 billion will go to a separate business loan program, $75 billion will go to hospitals, and $25 billion will fund coronavirus testing initiatives. Afterward, President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell all praised the proposed legislation.
TRUMP CLARIFIES IMMIGRATION BAN… President Trump said yesterday his upcoming executive order barring new immigration will apply only to people seeking green cards. The ban would last 60 days and won’t affect workers entering the country on a temporary basis. The clarification came after the president tweeted on Monday night that he would “temporarily suspend immigration into the United States.” According to Trump, the executive order is being written now and he is likely to sign it today.
SENATE PANEL REAFFIRMS RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE IN 2016 ELECTIONS… The Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday reaffirmed its support for the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the goal of helping elect Donald Trump as president. The bipartisan report was released by a panel chaired by North Carolina Republican Richard Burr and defies Trump’s repeated denials that the Kremlin assisted his campaign. The intelligence community’s initial January 2017 assessment of Moscow’s influence campaign included “specific intelligence reporting to support the assessment that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and the Russian government demonstrated a preference for candidate Trump,” the committee’s report says. The panel also found “specific intelligence” to support the conclusion that Putin “approved and directed aspects” of the Kremlin’s interference efforts.
AG BARR WARNS OF ACTION AGAINST LOCKED-DOWN STATES… Attorney General William Barr warned yesterday that the Justice Department could take legal action against governors who continue to enforce restrictions in their states to combat the coronavirus if they “impinge on either civil rights or on national commerce.” Barr vowed in an interview, “We have to give businesses more freedom to operate in a way that’s reasonably safe.” The attorney general said the department wouldn’t hesitate to support lawsuits filed by citizens or businesses in response to certain state directives.
R. KELLY TO STAY JAILED… R&B singer R. Kelly has failed in his second attempt to get released from jail due to the coronavirus pandemic. The federal judge acknowledged the disease has spread at MCC Chicago, where Kelly is being held awaiting the first of many trials. However, the judge said Kelly’s motion for release on bond did not present enough evidence the singer is uniquely at risk to contract the coronavirus.
HBO MAX TO LAUNCH MAY 27… HBO Max has set an official launch date of May 27 for its streaming service, HBO Max. The service will initially offer the scripted comedy “Love Life” and five other original series. The other HBO Max originals are “On the Record,” a documentary about the women who’ve accused Russell Simmons of rape; “Legendary,” a voguing competition series; “Craftopia,” a kids crafting competition show; “Looney Tunes Cartoons,” an animated series based on characters from Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies; and “The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo,” a talk show featuring the “Sesame Street” character Elmo.
PATRIOTS TRADE GRONKOWSKI TO TAMPA BAY… The New England Patriots are trading Rob Gronkowski to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a deal that reunites the retired tight end with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. New England will receive a fourth-round pick in the NFL draft and the Buccaneers will receive a seventh-round pick. The 30-year-old Gronkowski retired after the 2018 season.