Brooke Singman


The ads, titled “On Hold,” were placed in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin

A pro-Trump ad was removed from Facebook after claims that it contained false information, Fox News has learned.

America First Action PAC on Tuesday told Fox News that Facebook removed one of its ads, titled “On Hold,” which was placed in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin on July 24. The ad was flagged by Politifact on July 29, according to the PAC.

“Facebook’s decision to take down this ad shows its anti-conservative bias,” America First Communications Director Kelly Sadler told Fox News. “America First Action has logged an appeal, but the threat of anti-conservative bias, targeting, and censorship remains ahead of Election Day in November and we must be vigilant in holding big tech, like Facebook accountable.”

Sadler, during an interview on Fox Business on Tuesday, added that this “is just more bias from these social media companies.”

“We’re going to file an appeal, but there’s really little we can do about it,” she told host Stuart Varney. “These social media giants are monopolies, and ultimately they make the decision of what runs on their platform.”

Facebook confirmed to Fox News on Tuesday that the ad had, in fact, been fact-checked. A Facebook spokesperson told Fox News that ads that are fact-checked and found to contain false information are not eligible to run as a paid ad on the social media platform.

The spokesman added that the videos can, instead, run as original content on the group’s page.

America First Action, though, said certain versions of the ad were removed in particular states, but the Facebook spokesman said that once the ad was fact-checked as false, all versions would be removed from the platform.

The Facebook spokesperson said that if any version of the ad was still running on the platform, it would be due to a lag in Facebook’s fact-checking system.

The ad in question was titled “On Hold,” and shows a woman calling 9-1-1 and being put on hold. The ad moves to show Democratic nominee former Vice President Joe Biden saying “yes,” with a “defund the police?” banner.

The ad is currently marked on Facebook with a label saying: “False Information. Checked by independent fact-checkers.”

Facebook’s fact-checking comes as members of the Trump administration and prominent Republicans have claimed that social media platforms have censored right-leaning viewpoints.

Attorney General William Barr told Fox News in June that social media platforms are “engaged in censorship” and are acting more like “publishers.”

“They originally held themselves out as open forums where people, where the third parties could come and express their views and they built up a tremendous network of eyeballs,” Barr said on “Special Report” in June.

“They had a lot of market power based on that presentation,” the attorney general added. “And now they are acting much more like publishers because they’re censoring particular viewpoints and putting their own content in there to diminish the impact of various people’s views.”

Twitter, earlier this summer, slapped a warning label on one of President Trump’s tweets for the first time, cautioning readers that despite the president’s claims, “fact checkers” say there is “no evidence” that expanded, nationwide mail-in voting would increase fraud risks — and that “experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud.”

Within minutes, Trump accused Twitter of “interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election,” that the platform “is completely stifling FREE SPEECH” and vowing: “I, as President, will not allow it to happen!”

Two days later, the president signed an executive order that interprets Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 as not providing statutory liability protections for tech companies that engage in censorship and political conduct. It also cuts federal funding for social media platforms that censor users’ political views.

Author: Sally Persons, Brooke Singman

Source: Fox News: Facebook removes pro-Trump ad aimed at Joe Biden, claiming false information

Turning Point’s Charlie Kirk calls it their ‘most aggressive project yet to combat rampant Leftism at universities’

EXCLUSIVE: Conservative group Turning Point USA launched a new initiative Thursday encouraging college and university donors who believe their values no longer align with their alma maters to “de-commit” their gifts and redirect the money to different causes – rather than fund “left-wing indoctrination.”

Turning Point USA founder and President Charlie Kirk dubs the initiative “DivestU,” which the organization calls their “most aggressive project yet to combat rampant Leftism at universities by striking where they are most vulnerable: their wallets.”

In an interview with Fox News, Kirk said his organization has been “on the front lines” of fighting the “left-wing indoctrination and general intolerance toward the diversity of ideas” on college campuses across the nation.

“For years I have grown frustrated at how center-right philanthropists and business people continue to write big checks to these universities,” Kirk said. “We encounter a lot of these colleges that feel emboldened by their multibillion-dollar endowments and steady flow of capital from alumni and donors.”

Kirk argued the initiative turns a common tactic of progressives against them.

“For decades the radical left has used divestments as a tactic to try to push for divisive, Marxist ideas – conservatives have never used divestments as a tactic,” Kirk said. “We’re telling donors they should no longer be writing these seven-figure checks to institutions that are, essentially, the root causes for a lot of the cultural regression we have seen in recent months.”

Turning Point USA, a conservative student organization, launched the program on Thursday with a website and told Fox News that the initiative already has de-committed $7 million in gifts from Harvard and Baylor University.

He said this is not meant to raise money for Turning Point or to redirect the money to any cause in particular, though the website displays a standard donation form for Turning Point on the right side.

“Some donors are just recommitting the money and putting it toward a hospital or a local food bank – they have lots of different types of plans. Some want to divest their dollars and then fund conservative speakers to come onto campuses,” he said. “Whatever they decide to do with their money is within their own volition, but once the university no longer has that capital under their umbrella, it really does send a powerful message and a powerful signal that they are giving a vote of disapproval.”

Kirk told Fox News that Turning Point USA “does not touch the money” as part of this initiative.

“We just encourage and celebrate the people who have recommitted their money, and we profile and platform and celebrate that movement,” Kirk explained.

Kirk said he is encouraging donors to be “vocal” in de-committing their donations and communicating to university and college presidents to explain why.

The first donors to participate in “DivestU” were Stacey Feinberg, from Harvard, and Keith Rose, from Baylor.

“Harvard: for decades we admired your Noah’s Ark of cultures and ideals – but then you filled your hallowed halls with ideological arsonists and as your ivory tower burns you have the audacity to ask alumni to pay for the firemen!” Feinberg said in a statement. “You’re not getting another dime from us, Harvard!”

Rose told Turning Point USA that he “could no longer be a spectator.”

“The first thing I had to do was choose to not support a mechanism that wasn’t teaching or educating my children, but was instead subverting them and changing them through ideology,” Rose said.

Kirk said they are planning “dozens of other university announcements of major gifts and finalizing those figures right now.”

He added: “Let’s just say, they’re done. They no longer want to have their hard-earned capital go toward colleges that are reinforcing the exact opposite of their world view and what is good for our country.”

President Trump last week tweeted that schools could be stripped of their tax-exempt status if they engage in “Radical Left Indoctrination.”

Republicans have long railed against the political environment in public schools and universities, citing “free speech zones,” cases of professors and administrators showing hostility toward conservative students, and saying that in many cases faculty donate overwhelmingly to Democratic politicians and left-wing causes.

But higher education officials bristle at the accusations. Terry Hartle, with the American Council on Education, hit back at Trump’s Twitter threat.

“It’s always deeply troubling to have the president single out schools, colleges or universities in a tweet,” Hartle told The Associated Press.

Kirk argued that universities need to “feel some form of loss for this kind of culture they have allowed to continue toward conservative students and students with dissenting opinions.”

“These colleges need to be put on notice,” he said. “… You hit ‘em in the pocketbook. We are confident this will be the best way.”

Turning Point USA is a nonprofit organization. It also has a political arm, known as Turning Point Action.

Author: Brooke Singman

Source: Fox News: Conservative group launches ‘DivestU’ to redirect donations away from liberal colleges

Earlier in the day, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered the government to explain the “scope” of Trump’s commutation of Stone

The Justice Department on Monday released President Trump’s clemency order for longtime GOP operative Roger Stone showing the president not only wiped away Stone’s prison sentence but also a period of supervised release and a fine.

Earlier in the day, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered the government to explain the “scope” of Trump’s commutation of Stone, which was announced Friday. In February, Jackson sentenced Stone to 40 months in prison, along with 24 months of supervised release and a $20,000 fine.

The document shows that Trump’s order commuted everything. “I commute the entirety of the prison sentence imposed upon the said ROGER JASON STONE, JR. to expire immediately; I also commute the entirety of the two-year term of supervised release with all its conditions; and finally, I remit any unpaid remainder of the $20,000 fine imposed,” Trump says in the order.

The earlier filing, signed by Jackson requesting the executive order commuting Stone’s sentence, comes after the White House announced Friday that the president signed an Executive Grant of Clemency commuting what they called the “unjust sentence” of Stone — just days before the longtime political operative was slated to report to prison to serve more than three years for charges stemming from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Stone was set to report to prison on July 14 to serve 40 months. He was sentenced in February to more than three years in prison after being convicted in November 2019 on seven counts of obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress. Stone, however, has appealed his conviction and continues to deny any wrongdoing.

In a statement to Fox News, Stone’s attorney Grant Smith said: “Mr. Stone is incredibly honored that President Trump used his awesome and unique power under the Constitution of the United States for this act of mercy.”

Smith added: “Mr. and Mrs. Stone appreciate all the consideration the President gave to this matter.”

Earlier Friday, before Trump announced the commutation, an appeals court denied Stone’s request to delay reporting for his sentence, saying he must report for prison on Tuesday.

“In sum, Stone is not legally eligible for further postponement of his reporting date under 18 U.S.C. § 3145(c), which is the only basis on which he seeks relief from this court. We therefore deny his motion,” the court wrote in its order.

The president’s commutation, though, nullifies that order.

Trump, for weeks, has signaled he could be open to granting Stone clemency — tweeting last month that Stone was “a victim of a corrupt and illegal Witch Hunt, one which will go down as the greatest political crime in history. He can sleep well at night!”

During an exclusive interview with Fox News last week, Stone said he was “praying” for Trump to intervene.

When asked whether he’d prefer a pardon or a commutation of his sentence, Stone said “either one obviously would have an effect, in my opinion, of saving my life.”

A presidential pardon completely absolves an individual of the crime he or she is found to have committed. A commutation lessens the punishment or eliminates jail time, but leaves the conviction standing.

Stone was not charged with any underlying crime of coordinating with Russia during the 2016 presidential election, though Mueller’s team investigated Stone over tweets claiming to have information about WikiLeaks document dumps prior to their release.

Author: Brooke Singman, Jake Gibson

Source: Fox News: Stone clemency order shows Trump wiped prison sentence, supervised release and fine, after judge makes request

Richard Grenell has declassified a new batch of Russia probe documents on his way out as acting director of national intelligence, leaving the decision on whether to make those files public up to newly sworn-in Director John Ratcliffe.

The documents include transcripts of phone calls that then-incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak had in December 2016, during the presidential transition period. Grenell said publicly last week that he was in the process of declassifying those files, after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., asked that he do so.

Fox News has learned that the declassification review of those transcripts is now complete, and it will be left up to Ratcliffe on whether to release them publicly.

Fox News has learned that Grenell also completed the declassification review of other documents related to the origins of the Russia probe — including one that a senior intelligence official told Fox News was “very significant in understanding how intelligence was manipulated to support launching the Russia investigation.”

The official could not provide further details on that newly declassified document, but said that it will also be up to Ratcliffe to decide whether to make it public.

The declassification comes after Grenell, who served as acting director while simultaneously serving as the U.S. ambassador to Germany, made waves with previous declassifications related to the Russia investigation, as well as other actions during his three months on the job.

Earlier this month, Grenell cleared for release more than 6,000 pages of transcripts of interviews from the House Intelligence Committee’s long-running Russia investigation. Schiff, under pressure from Grenell and House Republicans, ultimately released the transcripts which revealed, among other things, that top Obama officials acknowledged they knew of no “empirical evidence” of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.

Then, Grenell declassified a list of Obama-era officials who requested to unmask the identity of Flynn in intelligence reports during the presidential transition period. The roster included top-ranking figures including then-Vice President Joe Biden, then-FBI Director James Comey, then-CIA Director John Brennan, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff Denis McDonough, among others.

Flynn’s calls with the former Russian ambassador during the transition were picked up in surveillance and information about them was later leaked. Flynn’s case returned to the national spotlight after the DOJ moved to dismiss charges against him of lying to the FBI about those conversations, despite a guilty plea that he later sought to withdraw.

Considering those calls raised widespread concerns about Flynn, Democrats like Schiff in turn pressed Grenell for the underlying documents. The transcripts Grenell has declassified, though, are for five phone calls Flynn had with Kislyak on Dec. 29, 2016. Flynn’s specific call with Kislyak from Dec. 22, 2016, which was picked up in surveillance and later leaked to the press, is in the FBI’s possession, a source told Fox News, noting that it was not in Grenell’s jurisdiction to declassify.

Meanwhile, last week Grenell moved to declassify an email that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice sent to herself on President Trump’s Inauguration Day, documenting a Jan. 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting with Obama and others, during which the former president provided guidance on how law enforcement needed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race.

The declassified email revealed that Comey suggested to Obama that the National Security Council might not want to pass “sensitive information related to Russia” to Flynn, due to the fact that he had been “speaking frequently” with the Russian ambassador.

Grenell also declassified more than three dozen previously redacted footnotes from the Justice Department inspector general’s report into intelligence community failures during the Russia investigation.

“Richard Grenell brought unmatched energy and transparency to ODNI during his tenure there,” a senior administration official told Fox News. “He took seriously the rule that classification must not be used to hide potential misconduct or to save the government from embarrassment.”

The official added that Grenell “made strides to depoliticize intelligence and towards rebuilding the American peoples’ trust in the IC.”

But Democrats criticized Grenell for being a staunch Trump loyalist, and accused him of carrying out duties as acting intelligence director in the president’s interest.

Schiff said in a recent letter to Grenell that his declassification of the list of Obama administration officials is “without precedent” and “corrupt.”

“It was a transparent political act — in an election year and during a pandemic, no less — in which you used the authorities of your position to insinuate wrongdoing by officials who acted appropriately in requesting the identity of masked U.S. persons to better understand foreign intelligence reports,” Schiff wrote. “This is inconsistent with the oath and obligations of an acting Director of National Intelligence.”

However, aside from his declassification of documents related to the Russia probe, Grenell made other big moves within ODNI during his three-month tenure.

A senior intelligence official told Fox News that during his time at ODNI, Grenell appointed the first female to lead the National Counterterrorism Center, Lora Shiao; established an intelligence community-wide working group to support a policy for the decriminalization of homosexuality in the 69 countries where being LGBT is a punishable offense; finalized and released the National Intelligence Estimate on the future of ISIS through 2021; and engaged foreign liaison partners to form a working group to increase intelligence sharing with key allies on Hezbollah.

The official also told Fox News that Grenell directed the intelligence community to change the way it protects the identities of U.S. citizens contained within intelligence reporting, urging consistency to the process and ensuring the “greater privacy” of U.S. citizens.

Earlier this month, Grenell also announced that the intelligence community would lead new election security threat briefings for presidential candidates, their campaigns and major political parties ahead of the 2020 election. The decision was not made unilaterally, but was “coordinated and approved” by all agencies involved, including the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and other agencies inside the intelligence community.

Another senior intelligence official said that Grenell “set a good precedent for John Ratcliffe to follow, and if the new DNI continues in this mold, the country will be stronger for it.”

Ratcliffe was sworn-in as director of national intelligence on Tuesday by Grenell at ODNI, after having been confirmed to the post by the Senate last week.

During his confirmation hearing earlier this month, Ratcliffe, until recently a Republican member of Congress representing a Texas district, pledged to senators that he’d deliver intelligence information without bias if confirmed for the job. Ratcliffe, who was one of Trump’s fiercest allies during impeachment, said he had the experience to be an independent leader of the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies, given his past work as a federal prosecutor.

“The best job I ever had was to be the United States attorney and what I loved… it was an apolitical position,” Ratcliffe told the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month. “I stood up always to represent the United States of America. Never one party or another. And I very much view that as this role for the DNI.”

Author: Brooke Singman

Source: Fox News: Grenell declassifies slew of Russia probe files, as Ratcliffe takes helm as DNI

Top Obama administration officials purportedly requested to “unmask” the identity of former national security adviser Michael Flynn during the presidential transition period, according to a list of names from that controversial process made public on Wednesday.

The list was declassified in recent days by Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell and then sent to GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson, who made the documents public. The roster features top-ranking figures including then-Vice President Joe Biden — a detail already being raised by the Trump campaign in the bare-knuckle 2020 presidential race where Biden is now the Democrats’ presumptive nominee.

The list also includes then-FBI Director James Comey, then-CIA Director John Brennan, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Obama’s then-chief of staff Denis McDonough.

“I declassified the enclosed document, which I am providing to you for your situational awareness,” Grenell wrote to the GOP senators in sending along the list.

Grenell’s note was addressed to Sens. Grassley, R-Iowa, and Johnson, R-Wis., who had penned a letter to him and Attorney General Bill Barr regarding the declassification of files related to the unmasking process earlier in the day.

As Fox News previously reported, Grenell already made the decision to declassify information about Obama administration officials who were involved in the “unmasking” of Flynn — whose calls with the former Russian ambassador during the presidential transition were picked up in surveillance and later leaked. His case has returned to the national spotlight after the DOJ moved to dismiss charges against him of lying to the FBI about those conversations, despite a guilty plea that he later sought to withdraw.

Trump allies claim Flynn was wrongly targeted, and have suggested high-level involvement in an effort to bring him down. Democrats, however, claim the DOJ’s decision to abandon the case shows how it has become politicized.

Both the DOJ and Grenell had been discussing these “unmasking” files, after Grenell appeared to have delivered those files to the department last week. There were some tensions between the two offices over who would actually pull the trigger to release them — ultimately, the publication came from Capitol Hill after Grenell sent lawmakers the files.

The declassified list specifically showed officials who “may have received Lt. Gen Flynn’s identity in response to a request processed between 8 November 2016 and 31 January 2017 to unmask an identity that had been generically referred to in an NSA foreign intelligence report,” the document, obtained by Fox News, read.

“Each individual was an authorized recipient of the original report and the unmasking was approved through NSA’s standard process, which includes a review of the justification for the request,” the document said. “Only certain personnel are authorized to submit unmasking requests into the NSA system. In this case, 16 authorized individuals requested unmasking for [REDACTED] different NSA intelligence reports for select identified principals.”

The document added: “While the principals are identified below, we cannot confirm they saw the unmasked information. This response does not include any requests outside of the specified time-frame.”

The list revealed that then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power made unmasking requests seven times between Nov. 30, 2016 and Jan. 11, 2017. The list revealed that Clapper made three requests from Dec. 2, 2016 through Jan. 7, 2017; and that Brennan made two requests, one on Dec. 14 and one on Dec. 15, 2016. Comey also made a request on Dec. 15, 2016. On Jan. 5, 2017, McDonough made one request, and on Jan. 12, 2017, Biden made one request.

The day McDonough requested the information is the same day as an Oval Office meeting that has drawn scrutiny in the wake of the Flynn developments. The meeting included Obama, Biden, Clapper, Brennan, Comey, then-National Security Adviser Susan Rice and then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.

That meeting was the first time Yates learned about Flynn’s calls with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, according to notes from her special counsel interview which were released last week. Yates, in her interview, indicated Obama was aware of Flynn’s intercepted December 2016 phone calls with Kislyak during the presidential transition period.

After the briefing, Obama asked Yates and Comey to “stay behind,” and said he had “learned of the information about Flynn” and his conversation with Russia’s ambassador about sanctions. Obama “specified that he did not want any additional information on the matter, but was seeking information on whether the White House should be treating Flynn any differently, given the information.”

That Oval Office meeting aligns with an email that Rice on Jan. 20, 2017, the day President Trump was sworn into office — sent herself documenting Obama’s guidance, evidently in the same meeting, about how law enforcement should investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race.

“President Obama began the conversation by stressing his continued commitment to ensuring that every aspect of this issue is handled by the intelligence and law enforcement communities ‘by the book,’” Rice emailed to herself. “The president stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective. He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book.”

The email also appeared to reflect Obama’s guidance on sharing sensitive information with both the Russians and the incoming Trump administration.

Rice wrote that Obama said, “he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia.”

Meanwhile, the unmasking documents come just a day after Biden initially told ABC News’ “Good Morning America” that he knew “nothing about those moves to investigate Michael Flynn,” and called the topic a “diversion” from the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden was pressed on the issue, and then clarified: “I thought you asked me whether or not I had anything to do with him being prosecuted. I’m sorry. … I was aware that … they asked for an investigation, but that’s all I know about it, and I don’t think anything else.”

Soon after the release of the documents, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale blasted Biden’s claim during his “Good Morning America” interview.

“Joe Biden’s limp claim that he doesn’t know anything about the railroading of Gen. Michael Flynn just got even more unbelievable. Biden is listed among the Obama administration officials who requested the unmasking of Flynn,” Parscale said in a statement. “We already knew Biden was briefed on the Flynn case before President Trump took office and now we know that he wanted Flynn unmasked.”

He added: “Americans have a right to know the depth of Biden’s involvement in the setup of Gen. Flynn to further the Russia collusion hoax.”

The Biden campaign countered by accusing the Trump camp of “lying,” pointing to an argument that those on the list merely made requests that “might” have unmasked Flynn. The documents released Wednesday give a mixed picture on this, saying the list covers officials who requested to unmask Flynn’s identity, but also saying the identity they sought was at first only “generically” referenced in an intelligence report.

In a statement on Wednesday, Andrew Bates, Biden’s Director of Rapid Response, downplayed the latest Flynn revelations.

“These documents have absolutely nothing to do with any FBI investigation and they confirm that all normal procedures were followed — any suggestion otherwise is a flat out lie,” Bates said. “What’s more, it’s telling that these documents were selectively leaked by Republicans abusing their congressional powers to act as arms of the Trump campaign after having them provided by a partisan official installed for this very purpose.”

The unmasking concerns events between the November 2016 election and Inauguration Day 2017. Unmasking occurs after U.S. citizens’ conversations are incidentally picked up in conversations with foreign officials who are being monitored by the intelligence community. The U.S. citizens’ identities are supposed to be protected if their participation is incidental and no wrongdoing is suspected. However, officials can determine the U.S. citizens’ names through a process that is supposed to safeguard their rights.

Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Wednesday penned a letter to Grenell inviting him to testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Government Oversight next week about the unmasking of Flynn, noting that he has questions about what Biden and former President Barack Obama knew.

“During my prior oversight of this matter, I met several dead ends, and I have many remaining questions in regard to President Obama’s administration abusing its authority,” Paul wrote to Grenell Wednesday. “Unlawful unmasking of U.S. persons should never be swept aside in hopes of being forgotten in time.”

But a senior administration official told Fox News that Grenell will not testify.

The official said that Grenell will be “continuing his efforts to be transparent and will continue to be responsive to congressional requests for documents, but will not appear for testimony.”

Officials in the Obama administration have acknowledged that they moved to unmask some Americans in intelligence reports, but insisted that their reasons were legitimate. Those officials include Rice, Power and former deputy national security adviser Benjamin Rhodes.

A Justice Department official told Fox News this week that the DOJ has been reviewing the unmasking of U.S. officials as part of its broader examination of the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation and was taking a look at the files that Grenell declassified and delivered to the Justice Department last week.

Fox News’ Madeleine Rivera contributed to this report.

Author: Brooke Singman, David Spunt

Source: Fox News: List of officials who sought to ‘unmask’ Flynn released: Biden, Comey, Obama chief of staff among them

The Trump administration is in talks over potentially winding down the coronavirus task force, even as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow in the U.S. and as sectors of the economy begin to reopen.

President Trump defended the talks Tuesday while speaking to the media in Phoenix, Ariz., where he was touring a mask production facility, saying his advisers were continuing to examine the virus “very closely,” and the doctors on the task force would continue to make their voices heard. He also said, “We can’t keep our country closed for the next five years… We’ve learned a lot about the coronavirus.”

The president also denied his message was, “mission accomplished.”

Vice President Pence, who has led the task force, said Tuesday that White House officials were “having conversations” about finishing up the group’s business and, instead, having “agencies take over the work” — specifically mentioning the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA]. Pence said, though, that the earliest the agencies could take over the group’s responsibilities would be Memorial Day or early June, if the task force itself were to be discontinued.

A White House official told Fox News the White House has been shifting focus toward re-opening the country, as outlined in Phase 1 of the administration’s “Opening Up America Again” guidelines. The official said it would be an ongoing shift over the next several weeks.

The official told Fox News that doctors will continue to play an “important advisory role” in the process, as the administration has aimed to “make sure medical guidelines are kept up to date” and Americans are able to safely return to work. The official stressed that doctors were not being removed from the equation and called any reports reflecting that “false.”

The official told Fox News that members of the task force will continue to provide input, but the group will not be meeting as regularly as they had been at the outset of the pandemic. The official added that the White House’s focus was shifting towards vaccines, therapeutics, testing and re-opening the economy.

The task force, according to the official, was always meant to be a temporary arrangement. The official stressed that experts will continue to provide input, even while not meeting each day.

The task force has included Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as the U.S. Global AIDS coordinator under both the Trump and Obama administrations; U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams; Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield and more.

The task force had delivered near-daily briefings from the White House for nearly two months, sometimes lasting for more than an hour, providing updates on the impact of the coronavirus and the Trump administration’s response.

But, those briefings also became a source of controversy.

Trump led many of them, taking criticism for spending chunks of time touting his administration’s accomplishments and sparring with some of the media. Perhaps the most controversial moment came last month when Trump seemingly suggested that a product as simple as household disinfectant potentially could be used for treatment in humans for coronavirus.

The president later said he was just being “sarcastic.” But, Lysol and even the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] put out statements reminding people that disinfectants should not be ingested or injected into the human body. Shortly afterward, the White House stopped hosting the briefings on a regular basis.

Fox News’ Mike Arroyo contributed to this report.

Author: Brooke Singman, John Roberts

Source: Fox News: Trump administration in talks over potentially winding down coronavirus task force

President Trump on Wednesday said the administration will be “fading out” the federal social distancing guidelines to curb the spread of coronavirus that are slated to expire Thursday.

The White House implemented the “30 Days to Slow the Spread” guidelines last month, extending the strategy the White House rolled out in early March that included guidance on social distancing, working from home, washing hands frequently and avoiding unnecessary travel.

The 30 days are set to expire Thursday, April 30, and are unlikely to be extended.

The president told reporters from the Oval Office Wednesday that the White House will be “fading out” the guidelines.

Vice President Pence added that those guidelines are “very much incorporated in the guidance.”

The “fading out” of the White House social distancing guidelines comes as the states across the nation begin Phase One to reopen their economies amid the coronavirus crisis.

The White House, earlier this month, laid out guidelines to reopen the economy, and passed the decision on when to move to each phase to governors and local officials.

The Trump administration’s guidelines outline what individuals, businesses, health care workers and more should do over three phases in reopening the economy, with states making it to the first phase only if they see a decrease in the number of cases within their borders over 14 days.

Meanwhile, Fox News obtained a draft proposal of guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a phased reopening of the economy.

The CDC draft contains guidelines for child care centers, schools, day camps, faith-based institutions, bars and restaurants and public transportation, and an outline of specific directions for each sector.

The draft proposal is reportedly under review by White House officials, and the CDC could release a final proposal in the coming days.

As of Wednesday, the U.S. reported more than 1 million positive cases of COVID-19 and more than 58,900 deaths.

Author: Brooke Singman

Source: Fox News: Trump says White House ‘fading out’ social distancing guidelines set to expire this week

President Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee brought in more than $63 million in March, bringing their first-quarter fundraising total to more than $212 million amid the coronavirus crisis.

The Trump campaign, the RNC and its authorized joint-fundraising committees (Trump Victory 2020 and Trump Make America Great Again Committee) on Monday touted their fundraising success during the first quarter of 2020 — which covered the president’s Senate impeachment trial and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new figures released Monday continue to show the campaign with a huge cash advantage over the Democrats, just as former Vice President Joe Biden becomes the party’s presumptive nominee to take on the president. The Trump campaign and RNC committees raised $56 million more than during the final quarter in 2019 – a 36 percent increase – and highlighted their $240 million total cash-on-hand.

“Americans can see President Trump leading this nation through a serious crisis and they are responding with their continued enthusiastic support for his reelection,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement Monday. “Joe Biden, Democrats, and the media continue to oppose his every action, but the people know that President Trump is fighting for them so they are fighting for him as well.”

The first quarter fundraising efforts brought their total this cycle to more than $677 million — a figure the campaign said is $270 million more than former President Barack Obama had at this point in 2012.

While the campaign and joint-fundraising committees raised more than $63 million in March, that figure represented a dip from the month prior, when they raked in more than $86 million in February — but more than their $60 million raised in January.

Democrats have yet to release their March hauls, but at the end of February, Biden’s campaign and the DNC held just roughly $20 million combined, accounting for debt held by the national party.

“President Trump’s unyielding commitment to the American people has shown time and again that he is the President we need to lead our country through the crisis and it’s clear that voters are responding to his bold leadership,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Monday. “The enthusiasm for President Trump and our Party remains strong, and we continue o be all systems go toward November.”

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the campaign and joint-fundraising committees transitioned to a “completely virtual operation in just 24 hours.” The Trump Victory fundraising committee touted nearly 1 million volunteers who were trained last month, and have made more than 17 million contacts since March 13.

Author: Brooke Singman

Source: Fox News: Trump campaign, RNC raise $212 million in first quarter amid impeachment, coronavirus

President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden spoke over the phone Monday afternoon about the coronavirus crisis, Fox News has learned, in a rare conversation between the two likely nominees for president in November.

During the White House coronavirus task force press briefing in the evening, the president confirmed that he spoke to Biden over the phone earlier in the day. “We had a really wonderful, warm conversation, a very nice conversation,” Trump said.

A source familiar with the call said they spoke about the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We talked about, pretty much…what everyone is talking about, this is what they want to talk about,” Trump said, referring to coronavirus. “He gave me his point of view and I fully understood that.”

Trump said the “friendly” conversation lasted about 15 minutes.

“It was really good, really good. Really nice,” he said.

But Trump wouldn’t divulge specifics, telling reporters that he and Biden “agreed we weren’t going to talk about what we said,” and maintained that it was a “very good talk.”

“I enjoyed it. I hope he enjoyed it too,” Trump said, adding that the former vice president “had suggestions” but “it doesn’t mean that I agree with those suggestions, but certainly he had suggestions. I also told him some of the things we’re doing.”

Biden’s deputy campaign manager and communications director Kate Bedingfield also confirmed the call took place.

“Vice President Biden and President Trump had a good call,” Bedingfield said in a statement to Fox News. “VP Biden shared several suggestions for actions the administration can take now to address the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and expressed his appreciation for the spirit of the American people in meeting the challenges facing the nation.”

The call comes after Fox News first reported last week that Biden offered to have a phone call with Trump directly to discuss a strategy to combat the virus.

On Monday, the president teased the former vice president, tweeting: “What ever happened to that phone call he told the Fake News he wanted to make to me?”

Biden, on Monday, replied to the president’s tweet, appearing to keep the offer of a chat on the table.

“Mr. President, I hope we can gather in Milwaukee, but that is going to depend on you stepping up and doing what needs to be done to handle this pandemic,” Biden tweeted, before plugging his campaign page outlining his own response.

He added: “Happy to discuss anytime.”

Earlier Monday, a source familiar told Fox News that despite the president expressing interest in having a phone call with the Democratic frontrunner, the Biden campaign did not hear from the White House.

The source told Fox News that the Biden campaign reached out to the White House Monday to set up the call, which took place Monday afternoon.

Last week, when asked whether he would be receptive to a call with the likely Democratic presidential nominee, Trump said: “Oh sure, absolutely. I’d love to speak with him.”

“I always found him to be a nice guy. I don’t know him very well, frankly, but I think he’s probably a nice guy,” Trump said last week. “If he’d like to call, I’d absolutely take his call.”

Biden’s offer of a phone call came after Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway challenged him to stop criticizing the Trump administration’s efforts and instead “call the White House today and offer some support.”

Author: Brooke Singman

Source: Fox News: Trump, Biden have a ‘really good’ phone call about coronavirus

President Trump said Monday his administration has asked pharmaceutical companies to “accelerate” efforts to create a coronavirus vaccine, just a day after the second confirmed U.S. fatality related to the virus.

The president, sitting alongside Colombian President Dubuque Marquez in the Oval Office, told reporters that pharmaceutical reps have been slated to visit the White House Monday for weeks, but that the meeting will now be focused on coronavirus and vaccines.

“We are working very hard with the CDC, with everyone on a subject that has become a big subject,” Trump said, noting that “our country is doing well” and that those leading the efforts to combat and control the virus are “doing a great job.”

“We have big meetings with the most powerful companies in the world,” Trump said of meetings slated for Monday afternoon. “When it comes to drugs and vaccines, maybe a cure is possible, so we’ll see about that.”

He added: “We’re going to have another subject, vaccines, and how they’re doing…We’ve asked them to accelerate whatever they’re doing in terms of vaccines, absolutely.”

The president was asked whether it was “safe” for him to continue to hold campaign-style rallies as the country battles the virus. “You should ask that to the Democrats…They’re all having rallies, they’re campaigning,” he quipped while saying, “I think it’s very safe.”

Trump’s comments come just days after he authorized new travel restrictions and warnings in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The administration’s strict travel warning affects Iran, Italy and South Korea.

“There’s no reason to panic at all. This is something that is being handled professionally,” he said, while also acknowledging more cases in the U.S. are “likely.”

The virus has sickened 89,000 people across 66 countries, resulting in at least 3,061 deaths including two in the U.S. Most of the deaths have occurred in mainland China.

Author: Brooke Singman

Source: Fox News: Trump calls on US pharmaceutical companies to ‘accelerate’ efforts on coronavirus vaccine

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