Elon Musk's promised ventilators never delivered to California hospitals
From CNN's Jon Passantino
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said last month he had obtained more than 1,000 ventilators to help California hospitals treating patients infected with the coronavirus, an effort Gov. Gavin Newsom hailed as “heroic.”
Now, more than three weeks later, the governor’s office says none of the promised ventilators have been received by hospitals.
At a March 23 news conference, Newsom said the devices, which can provide life-saving support to patients infected with the virus, had already arrived in Los Angeles and were on their way to hospitals in need.
"I told you a few days ago that he was likely to have 1,000 ventilators this week," Newsom said. "They've arrived in Los Angeles, and Elon Musk is already working with hospital association and others to get those ventilators out. It’s a heroic effort."
Shortly after the dramatic announcement, Musk said in a tweet: “China had an oversupply, so we bought 1255 FDA-approved ResMed, Philips & Medtronic ventilators on Friday night & airshipped them to LA. If you want a free ventilator installed, please let us know!”
But despite the claims, none of the ventilators promised by Musk have been delivered to hospitals.
“Elon Musk and his team told the state that he had procured ventilators and wanted to distribute them directly to hospitals with shortages,” a spokesperson for the California governor’s Office of Emergency Services told CNN on Wednesday. “The Administration is communicating every day with hospitals across the state about their ventilator supply and to date we have not heard of any hospital system that has received a ventilator directly from Tesla or Musk.”
Spokespersons for Tesla did not return CNN requests for comment. The news was first reported by the Sacramento Bee.
Some background: Major US companies like Ford and Apple have also announced plans to produce ventilators and donate face masks for health care workers treating patients infected with the virus.
Last week, Newsom reassured residents that California now has enough ventilators to meet its projected needs, after some questioned his decision to lend 500 machines to other states in crisis.
UPDATE: After this post was initially published, Elon Musk responded on Twitter. CNN has more reporting on this story here.
Trump threatens to adjourn Congress during pandemic if his nominees aren't approved
From CNN's Maegan Vazquez, Phil Mattingly, Allie Malloy, Joe Johns and Matthew Hoye
Days after declaring that his authority over the states is total, President Trump threatened Wednesday to apply a never used provision of the US Constitution to allow him to adjourn the US Congress and push through many of his nominees who typically require Senate confirmation.
“As the entire US government works to combat the global pandemic, it is absolutely essential that key positions at relevant federal agencies are fully staffed, and we’re not allowing that to take place through our Congress,” Trump said. “They’re just not giving it to us. We have many positions that are unstaffed because we can’t get approval.”
Trump said there were 129 nominees “stuck in the Senate because of partisan obstruction.”
Trump’s argument seemed to be that many of these vacancies needed to be filled to assist with the coronavirus response, including the Director of National Intelligence, two members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, an assistant secretary of the Treasury Department and an Undersecretary of Agriculture.
The President argued that since the Senate has left until May 4, “the Constitution provides a mechanism for the President to fill positions in such circumstances. The recess appointment, it’s called. The Senate’s practice of gaveling into so-called pro-forma sessions where no one is even there has prevented me from using the Constitutional authority we’re given,” Trump said, calling on the Senate to formally adjourn.
The decision to stay away from Washington until May 4 was made, and announced, by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican and close Trump ally.
A McConnell spokesman said Trump and McConnell spoke about the issue today. “The Leader pledged to find ways to confirm nominees considered mission-critical to the Covid-19 pandemic, but under Senate rules that will take consent from Leader Schumer."
That last point is an important one. McConnell, who is careful with his words, appears to be saying any solution to the confirmation issue will require Democratic consent.
The Constitution allows a president to fill temporary appointments during a recess, without congressional approval. But lawmakers in both parties have sought to thwart certain appointments over the last decade by never technically shutting down the Senate.
When then-President Barack Obama attempted to make recess appointments during pro-forma sessions in 2014, the US Supreme Court ruled "that the Recess Appointment Clause does not give the President the constitutional authority to make the appointments here at issue." Justice Stephen Breyer said, "We hold that the Senate is in session, and not in recess, when the Senate says that it is in session.
However, tonight Trump said he may use powers granted to the executive branch in order to get Congress to return to Washington to fill vacancies and vote on relief aid.
“I have a very strong power. I’d rather not use that power but we have way over a 100 people that we very badly need in this administration that should have been approved a long time ago," he said.
The Constitution says the President "may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper." The Court did not rule on that clause, as it was never invoked by the Obama administration or any prior administration.
Given the authority has never been invoked before, it’s murky as to what would define “disagreement” in this case. Both chambers would technically need to adjourn to clear the way for recess appointments, and the Democratic-led House is exceedingly unlikely to hold a vote to adjourn.
That means McConnell would likely have to bring senators back to Washington to vote to adjourn in order to create the “disagreement” cited in the Constitution that would provide the grounds for Trump to act. The Senate has been out of Washington out of concern over the safety of senators due to the pandemic.
Trump, as he sought to explain his consideration of the action, took special note of Michael Pack, the President’s choice to lead the Broadcasting Board of Governors, whose organization doesn’t hold a clear role in the federal government’s coronavirus health or economic response.
Trump specifically cited his nomination to head the board of Voice of America as a particular grievance in not getting appointed, and continued to attack the news organization.
“He’s been stuck in committee for two years, preventing us from managing the Voice of America, very important. And if you’ve heard what’s coming out of the Voice of America, it’s disgusting. The things they say are disgusting toward our country,” Trump said of Pack.
Trump did not explain how the nominee to be CEO of the US Agency for Global Media would enhance federal efforts to counter the pandemic.
But he reiterated his threat to adjourn both chambers of Congress several times.
“If they don’t approve it, we’re gonna go this route,” Trump said. “We are going to do something that will be something I prefer not doing.”
8:01 p.m. ET, April 15, 2020
There are more than 636,000 coronavirus cases in the US
There are at least636,350cases of coronavirus in the US and at least 28,326people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally of cases in the United States.
On Wednesday, Johns Hopkins reported 27,110 new cases and 2,293 reported deaths.
The totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as all repatriated cases.
7:48 p.m. ET, April 15, 2020
US stock futures down following weak economic data and corporate earnings
From CNN’s Jazmin Goodwin
US stock futures were down in after-hours trading on Wednesday after the Dow and S&P logged their worst trading day since April 1.
Dow futures were down 157 points, or about 0.6%. S&P 500 futures were down about 0.7% and Nasdaq futures were down about 0.7%.
Stocks plummeted on Wednesday following a plethora of negative economic data and weak earnings.
The Dow dipped 445 points, or 1.9%. The S&P dropped 2.2% and the Nasdaq dropped 1.4%, paring its longest four-day winning streak since early February. Both the Dow and S&P 500 logged its worst day since April 1.
Bank of America and Citigroup saw weak bank earnings as they prepare for loan defaults incurred from the pandemic. Bank of America's first quarter profits dropped by 45%. The bank announced on Wednesday it has set aside $4.8 billion for credit losses linked to the virus.
Economic data released on Wednesday also saw sharp declines. Retail sales in March tumbled 8.7%, the worst monthly decline since the department began tracking data in 1992.
Thursday's weekly jobless claims report is expected to post another 5.1 million people who have filed for unemployment benefits.
7:18 p.m. ET, April 15, 2020
Washington governor says coronavirus testing will be key to determining when economy can reopen
From CNN's Andy Rose
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said rapid testing will be key to determining when emergency restrictions can be lifted.
“We're not at a level that we can take off social distancing, nor are we extremely close to a level that we can take off social distancing," he said.
Inslee said he will make that decision on his own timetable without waiting for authorization from President Trump.
“We actually have authorization,” Inslee said. “That comes from our Constitution and the US Constitution.”
He said he wasn't sure, unlike Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, whether he would say there won't be a public event this year in Washington.
“I wish I had a crystal ball to say when, why, what game, what day, what sport,” he said. “I can't do that.”
7:15 p.m. ET, April 15, 2020
Dairy farmers forced to dump milk as schools and restaurants close in California
From CNN's Sarah Moon
Dairy farmers in California are now being forced to dump milk due to an enormous decrease in demand with schools and restaurants remaining closed during the statewide stay-at-home order.
As the shelter-in-place orders increased throughout the month of March and restaurants were forced to close, 50% of the customer base was eliminated almost overnight, according to Western United Dairies CEO Anja Raudabaugh, who represents over 860 dairy farm families in California.
Restaurant chains like TGI Friday’s and Applebee’s are huge customers of the dairy industry, but they stopped placing orders in the middle of March, Raudabaugh said.
The demand also significantly decreased with school closures and the lunch programs shutting down. While schools are still delivering drive-through meals, the demand is not even close to what it was, Raudabaugh said.
California dairy farmers saw the biggest impact from these two sectors and it caused a tremendous amount of distribution challenges.
Plants are now running at about 150% of their capacity, according to Raudabaugh.
“They have milk coming out of their eyes and ears," she said.
6:54 p.m. ET, April 15, 2020
College Board preparing a digital SAT exam for this fall
From CNN's Annie Grayer
The College Board announced on Wednesday that they are preparing to make a digital version of the SAT available to take at home in the event that students cannot return to school in September.
“We know students and educators are worried about how the coronavirus may disrupt the college admissions process, and we want to do all we can to help alleviate that anxiety during this very demanding time,” said College Board CEO David Coleman in a statement. “Our first principle with the SAT and all our work must be to keep families and students safe. The second principle is to make the SAT as widely available as possible for students who wish to test, regardless of the economic or public health circumstances.”
The College Board has already made AP testing available at home, and said they equally would ensure that “at-home SAT testing is simple; secure and fair; accessible to all; and valid for use in college admissions.”
Making the SAT available at home is just one of the three scenarios the College Board is planning for.
The College Board shared that if it is safe to do so, there will be weekend SAT administration every month through the end of the calendar year beginning in August. They also said it would administer SAT testing in the fall, since testing through schools was canceled this spring.
7:00 p.m. ET, April 15, 2020
Trump passes the buck to governors on testing needed to reopen US economy
From CNN's Betsy Klein
President Trump was pressed Wednesday by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on reports that business leaders told him on a call today that testing needs to ramp up before Americans go back to work, echoing his health officials.
Trump said he also wanted widespread testing, but passed the buck to the nation’s governors, many of whom have been looking to the federal government for testing support.
“It’s what I want, too. We have great tests and we want the states to administer these tests for the most part, but we’re standing behind them. We have great tests, we’ve done more testing now than any country in the world,” he said naming two health care companies.
He continued: “We will be working very much with the governors of the states. We want them to do it. We’re not going to be running a parking lot in Arkansas, we’re not going to be running a parking lot where you have a Walmart… but you have a testing center and running that from Washington, DC. The states are much better equipped to do it. But we’ll be working with the states. We’re standing behind the states. We’re going to work very closely with the governors in terms of that, getting additional equipment.”
Trump also warned that the federal government can take “strong action, including a closedown” if he is unhappy with a governor’s actions.
Asked when drive-through tests will be more widespread and available to Americans – not just those health care workers and others on the frontlines, Trump said it would be determined by a combination of states, companies, and the federal government.
“I think the companies will determine that, and the governors will determine that, and the federal government will do and if we’re not happy we’ll take very strong action against a state or a governor.”
6:47 p.m. ET, April 15, 2020
Trump says adding his name to paper stimulus checks won't be "delaying anything"
From CNN's Maegan Vazquez
President Trump said during Wednesday’s press briefing that he doesn’t think printing his name on the paper stimulus checks going out to millions of Americans is “a big deal,” adding that the addition is “not delaying anything.”
“Well I don’t know too much about it, but I understand my name is there. I don’t know where they’re going, how they’re going. I do understand it’s not delaying anything. And I’m satisfied. I don’t imagine it’s a big deal. I’m sure people will be very happy to get a big fat beautiful check and my name is on it,” Trump said in the White House Rose Garden.
Some background: Two senior Treasury officials told The Washington Post, which first reported the decision, that the move will probably set back the delivery date on the first set of paper checks — potentially slowing a process that could already take up to 20 weeks. The Internal Revenue Service, however, insists that the move will not result in a delay.