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I’m Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Friday, May 22, 2020. 165 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

🎧: The latest episode of the Wake Up To Politics Podcast explores the past and future of the two-party system in America, featuring interviews with political scientist Lee Drutman and Politico’s chief political correspondent Tim Alberta. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, or Stitcher
Trump goes maskless in Michigan as public support drops
President Donald Trump clashed with officials in Michigan on Thursday over his decision not to wear a mask in public during a visit to the state. 

While participating in a private tour of a Ford manufacturing plant, Trump did don a mask in accordance with company policy, but he took it off for the rest of the visit as soon as there were cameras present.

“I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,” Trump said, although the state’s governor had issued an executive order requiring masks to be worn at all times at manufacturing facilities.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, compared the president to a “petulant child who refuses to follow the rules” in a CNN appearance on Thursday night, leading Trump to refer to her in a tweet as a “do nothing A.G.” Nessel had penned a letter to Trump before his visit warning him to wear a mask while at the Ford plant. 

While in Michigan — a key battleground politically, as well as in the fight against coronavirus — Trump also dismissed fears about a potential second wave of virus infections emerging as the United States reopens. The president ruled out closing down the country again if another wave does hit: “We’re not going to close the country — we’re going to put out the fires,” he said during the public, unmasked portion of his Thursday visit. 

According to the Washington Post, Democrats plan to use the presdient’s calls to reopen the nation against him politically. “From the campaign of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden down to local House races, operatives and lawmakers point to new public and private polling to argue that Trump is out of step with a nation worried about a new wave of coronavirus outbreaks and a second economic freeze,” the report said. 


Indeed, new polls are showing the president’s approval rating lagging as the pandemic reaches a new stage. 39% of Americans said they approve of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus in an ABC News/Ispsos poll released this morning, his lowest level of support yet, while 60% said they disapprove. The week in March that he announced his “15 days to slow the spread” guidance, 55% of Americans approved of his response to the pandemic in the same poll while 43% disapproved. But Trump soon dismissed that guidance (and other directives from his public health advisers) and his approval rating has been slipping ever since.

Recent surveys also show Trump trailing his likely Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, in the upcoming general election. A Fox News poll released Thursday showed Biden boasting an eight-point lead, 48% to 40%, over Trump; the same poll showed the race tied, 42% to 42%, a month ago.

The poll also found voters trusted Biden more than a Trump to do a better job responding to the coronavirus, 46% to 37%, while trusting Trump more than Biden to do a better job on the economy, 45% to 42%. The president’s favorability rating in the poll stood at 43% favorable, 55% unfavorable; Biden’s was 48% favorable, 46% unfavorable.

The same trend can be found in polling of the race in Michigan and other swing states. According to RealClearPolitics, Trump trails Biden by an average of 6.5% in Pennsylvania, 5.5% in Michigan, 4% in Arizona, 3.3% in Florida, and 2.7% in Wisconsin, while leading by an average of 1% in North Carolina. 

Even Trump’s opinion on wearing a mask has been polled, and at least one survey found Americans largely disagreeing with him: 53% said they “always” wear a face mask when “in public and near other people,” according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll released this week. (16% said “most of the time,” 12% said “once in a while,” 11% said “never,” and 9% said they “don’t go near other people at all.”) 62% of Americans described the decision to wear a mask as a “matter of public health” in the same poll. 

More coronavirus news: 
  • Coronavirus spreads “mainly from person-to-person” and “does not spread easily” from contaminated surfaces, the CDC said in recently revised guidelines. (The guidelines did note that “it may be possible” to contract the virus by touching a contained surface, although it “is not thought to be a main way the virus spreads.”)
  • President Trump announced Thursday that flags on all federal buildings will be lowered to half-mast today and over the weekend “in memory of the Americans we have lost to the CoronaVirus.” Flags will then be half-mast on Monday to honor “the men and women in our Military who have made the Ultimate Sacrifice for our Nation.”
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Fox News on Thursday that there is a “high likelihood” that Congress would approve another coronavirus relief package, adding that the next phase of legislation is “not too far off.” According to Axios, McConnell has privately stressed to Trump that the package cannot cost more than $1 trillion. 
  • A new study published this morning reaffirmed the finding that coronavirus patients treated with hydroxychloroquine were more likely to develop an irregular heart rhythm that can lead to sudden cardiac death. President Trump has promoted use of the drug to combat the coronavirus and said this week that he has been taking it himself every day. 
The Rundown
Trump to withdraw from major arms control treaty: “The Trump administration is moving to withdraw from the Open Skies treaty, a nearly three-decade-old accord intended to reduce the risk of war between Russia and the West,” the Wall Street Journal reported. 

“Senior U.S. officials [notified] allied nations Thursday that it is giving six-months notice that it is leaving the 1992 treaty, which allows both sides to carry out reconnaissance flights over each other’s territories to build confidence that an attack isn’t being planned.”

New scrutiny of Reade’s credentials: “Defense lawyers in California are reviewing criminal cases in which Tara Reade, the former Senate aide who has accused Joseph R. Biden Jr. of sexual assault, served as an expert witness on domestic violence, concerned that she misrepresented her educational credentials in court,” the New York Times reported. 

According to the Times, the public defender’s office in Monterey County has been scrutinizing cases in which Reade testified as a government witness after a CNN report that disputed her claim of having received a bachelor’s degree at Antioch University in Seattle. 
  • Related: “Tara Reade Stood Apart In Joe Biden’s 1990s Senate Staff” (BuzzFeedNews)

Biden’s VP shortlist takes shape: Joe Biden’s vice presidential search has increasingly played out in the public eye. On Thursday, CBS News reported that Biden had asked Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to undergo formal vetting as a potential running mate. WMUR then reported that Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) has also agreed to participate in initial interviews for the post, and Rep. Val Dennings (D-FL) confirmed in an interview on SiriusXM that she is on the shortlist. Politico also reported that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), who formally endorsed Biden this morning, has told allies she has begun the vetting process.

Biden has said he is considering about a dozen women as his running mate; according to the Washington Post, Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Klobuchar have emerged as the early frontrunners. Other top candidates include Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), former Georgia State Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-GA), and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI). 
Daybook
*All times Eastern

President Donald Trump will participate in a “Rolling to Remember ceremony” honoring veterans and prisoners of war at 11:30 a.m. and receive his intelligence briefing at 12:30 p.m.
  • Related: “For Spy Agencies, Briefing Trump Is a Test of Holding His Attention” (New York Times)
Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Marietta, Georgia, to have lunch with Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) to discuss the state’s phased economic reopening at a local café at 11:40 a.m. and participate in a roundtable discussion with restaurant owners and executives at the Waffle House corporate headquarters at 1:35 p.m.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany will hold a press briefing at 2 p.m.

The Senate and House will meet for pro forma sessions, brief meetings without conducting business, at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., respectively. 

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will attend a virtual grassroots fundraiser with his ex-rival, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. 
  • Related: “Biden Limits Press Access to Virtual Wall Street Fundraiser” (Bloomberg)
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