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Brooks urges Jones to confirm Mike Pompeo as secretary of state

Brandon Moseley

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Monday, Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Hunstville, announced that he has sent a letter to Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, urging him to vote to confirm CIA Director Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State.

“I urge Senator Jones to vote to confirm Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State,” Brooks said. “I personally know Mike Pompeo. He has an impeccable reputation, graduated first in his class at West Point, served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, graduated Harvard Law School (where he made Law Review), and has served capably and honorably as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.”

“With the upcoming vote on Mike Pompeo, Senator Jones has the opportunity to keep his campaign promise to be bipartisan and put the interest of America above the partisan obstructionism that has plagued the Senate for years,” Brooks concluded. “Each president of the United States has the right to select his cabinet and, absent some major nominee flaw, it is incumbent upon the Senate to confirm those nominees so that the president can put together the team he needs to properly carry out his duties. Mike Pompeo has no major, disqualifying flaw. As such, I ask and hope Senator Jones will put aside partisanship and defer to the wishes and judgment of President Trump and vote to confirm Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State.”

Jones recently voted against confirming Congressman Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma, for Administrator of NASA even though Bridenstine was a veteran Navy pilot who has flown combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan in the E-2 Hawkeye and flown the F-18 Hornet, as well as the MC-12 tanker aircraft.

Bridenstine also had a MBA from Cornell and was the former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium. All Democrats in the Senate, including Doug Jones, voted against Bridenstine’s confirmation.

Secretary of State is vacant after Rex Tillerson resigned. CNN reported that Trump asked Tillerson to resign.

Trump and Tillerson were known to disagree over issues ranging from how to deal with North Korea to the future of the Iran nuclear deal.

The relationship between secretary of state Tillerson and President Trump was perhaps irrevocably breached by reports that he called Trump a “fucking moron” in front of other top officials.

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Trump has nominated CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel to replace Pompeo as CIA Director.

“Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State,” Trump said on Twitter. “He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!”

Brooks ran for U.S. Senate himself in 2017, finishing third in the Republican primary behind Bentley-appointed Sen. Luther Strange and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore in the Republican primary. Jones reached out to disaffected Republicans who did not like Moore in the general election on December 12.

Mo Brooks represents Alabama’s 5th Congressional District.

Original reporting by CNN, Vox, and Fox News contributed to this report.

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National

CDC provides guidance for cloth masks

Brandon Moseley

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that Americans wear masks when they go out to ward against the spread of the coronavirus. On Wednesday the CDC issued guidance for cloth masks, which many Americans are making themselves to protect against the virus.

The CDC said that a cloth mask should fit snugly, but comfortably against the side of the face. The mask should be secured with ties or ear loops, include multiple layers of fabric, allow for breathing without restriction, and be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

“CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission,” the CDC wrote in a statement. “CDC also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.”

The CDC cautioned that cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

The CDC says that cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth when removing their face covering and wash hands immediately after removing the mask the CDC warned.

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R) said on social media, “‪I’m wearing my mask today to make sure I’m doing my part to protect others. If you have to go out for essential work or supplies, make sure and wear a mask. Numbers are looking better in Alabama, everyone continue to do their part to flatten the curve. We can do this Alabama!!!‬”

Trump national finance committee member former State Representative Perry O. Hooper Jr. (R-Montgomery) said that Congress should provide masks to all Americans as part of the next coronavirus relief bill.

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“Experts are now in agreement. Everyone wearing a mask in public can reduce the spread of this deadly disease,” Hooper told the Alabama Political Reporter. “We should make available for all Americans a sterile reusable mask. Funds should be made available at the state level so Governors and Mayors could decide how best to distribute these masks on the local level.”

The U.S. has 435,160 confirmed COVID-19 cases. 14,797 Americans have died in the global pandemic, including 67 Alabamians. 22,891 Americans have recovered from their illness.

Projections showing hundreds of thousands of Americans dying have been revised dramatically lower. Americans are urged to continue to practice social distancing.

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National

Jones asks for faster emergency loans to small businesses

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., and a ranking Republican colleague led other lawmakers in a request that the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration speed up loans to small businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Jones and Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and other legislators in a letter Wednesday to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza asked that payroll processing companies be allowed to disburse CARES Act small business loans to speed up payments to those small businesses and to get workers paid quickly. 

“Payroll processors have the needed existing infrastructure that will enable businesses to quickly pay their workers and pending bills. Given they originate approximately 40 percent of all the payroll checks in the country and mostly cater to small businesses with 500 employees or less, involving these companies will ensure a deeper dissemination of funds nationwide to the businesses that need it most to keep their doors open,” the letter reads. 

 “It is critical that all tools be used to distribute federal funds effectively and expeditiously, including payroll processing companies used by many small businesses,” they continued. “Please consider permitting payroll processors to partner with small businesses and banks to help alleviate any potential complications for many small businesses during this tumultuous time, the letter continues. 

 Jones in a separate letter Tuesday to Mnuchin asked that the federal government expedite direct assistance payments to citizens amid the COVID-19 outbreak by allowing some to receive the money quicker through debit cards rather than paper checks. 

Senators Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Mark Warner, D-Va. and Bob Menendez, D-N.J. also signed the Wednesday letter.

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Congress

Jones asks for faster COVID-19 emergency payments

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, asked the Treasury Secretary on Tuesday to expedite direct assistance payments to citizens amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Jones and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., expressed concern that CARES Act payments made through paper checks to some citizens would not be mailed until April 24. The senators asked that debit cards be mailed instead, thereby speeding up assistance.

“It is our understanding that payments made electronically can be distributed quickly, but the Internal Revenue System (IRS) must print paper checks and mail them separately. As a result, we encourage the Treasury Department to offer a targeted group of Americans the option of receiving their direct assistance payment on the Direct Express debit cards, which are used for other federal benefits like Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits,” the senators wrote.

“While a slight lag between Congressional action and the support arriving to workers is understandable, the Treasury Department must act expeditiously to get these funds to their intended recipients,” the letter continues.

The $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package includes payments of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. The first round of payments are likely to begin around April 13 and will be directly deposited into the accounts of those who filed taxes in 2018 or 2019.

Social Security beneficiaries who did not file taxes in recent years but who receive their benefits through direct deposit are to receive the emergency payments around 10 days after the first round of payments, also through direct deposit. Paper checks will then be mailed to other individuals.

The letter’s full text: 

April 7, 2020

The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin

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Secretary of the Treasury

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20220

Dear Secretary Mnuchin,

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act included economic relief to Americans in the form of direct cash payments to provide support during this unprecedented public health and economic crisis. In order to provide this much-needed assistance directly and quickly, we request the Treasury Department utilize its Direct Express debit card as one method, at the option of the individual, for disbursing these payments as an alternative to paper checks.

We were alarmed by the Washington Post report on April 2, 2020, that “$30 million in paper checks for millions of other Americans won’t start being sent out until April 24, as the government lacks their banking information. And some of those checks won’t reach people until September.”[1] Americans should not have to wait five months to receive their checks.

While a slight lag between Congressional action and the support arriving to workers is understandable, the Treasury Department must act expeditiously to get these funds to their intended recipients. These direct assistance payments are aimed at assisting American workers in covering the cost of essentials household items, including rent and mortgage payments, outstanding bills, and food to feed their families.

It is our understanding that payments made electronically can be distributed quickly, but the Internal Revenue System (IRS) must print paper checks and mail them separately. As a result, we encourage the Treasury Department to offer a targeted group of Americans the option of receiving their direct assistance payment on the Direct Express debit cards, which are used for other federal benefits like Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits.[2] Using debit cards could be limited to Americans eligible for this program not already signed up for direct deposit, have a bank account, or require a paper check.

As Americans across the country practice social distancing to contain the spread of COVID-19, we support delivering benefits automatically to as many people as possible and request that debit cards be offered as an option to distribute the assistance payment. Debit cards are a safer method of delivery than paper checks. Paper checks will force Americans to leave their homes to deposit the funds and can be a source of fraud. We appreciate your consideration of this request to keep Americans safe during these challenging times.

 

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Elections

Sessions attacks Tuberville’s views on China

Brandon Moseley

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Former Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, rolled out an ambitious, comprehensive plan to hold the Chinese government accountable for what Sessions called a cover-up of the coronavirus that has killed tens of thousands of people and devastated economies worldwide.

In an interview Thursday on the Matt & Aunie radio show on Talk 99.5 in Birmingham, for Auburn head football Coach and current GOP Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville expressed his views on China.

Matt Murphy asked: What do you see happening with China?

“Well, we can’t worry about China right now…” Tuberville responded.

“You say you don’t need to worry about China, but this came from China and our economy depends on China,” Murphy asked on follow up. “Specifically how to overcome some of that dependence on Chinese goods and specifically in the pharmaceutical industry because right now we’re dependent on the country that covered this up.”

“Now we’re seeing firsthand the results of letting everything go to China,” Tuberville said. “The good thing about this is we’ll have manufacturing come back and drugs and all those things….we’re headed in that direction, just the simple fact that we can’t control our own destiny. Everything’s controlled by China. But that’ll take care of itself.”

During the show, Tuberville also characterized the Wuhan Virus, which has killed over 53,000 people and infected more than 1 million people across the globe, which then including over 1,300 people in Alabama, as “just a virus.”

Jeff Sessions issued a statement critical of Tuberville on Friday in response.

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“Amazingly, Tommy Tuberville said yesterday, ‘We can’t worry about China right now,”” Sessions quoted. “China is where the virus is from, and their deliberate lies hid the danger and resulted in a pandemic that never should have happened. We must take on China now and win, not run scared like Tommy Tuberville.”

“There are over 1 million infected with the Wuhan Virus, and more than 1,300 in Alabama already,” Sessions continued. “This is serious. But Tommy Tuberville said yesterday that ‘this is just a virus.’ What planet is he on? Tuberville is clueless. No wonder he’s scared to debate me. We must stop relying on China for our critical medicines and equipment. I have a detailed plan to fix it. Amazingly, Tuberville also said yesterday, ‘Everything’s controlled by China, but that’ll take care of itself.’ Wrong! We must lead with action, this will not ‘take care of itself.’”

On Thursday, a U.S. intelligence report claimed that China understated the damage that the coronavirus was doing in their country.

“Alabama’s next Senator must be a leader who has the drive and determination to push a Congress that is too often unwilling to confront the critical issues of our time,” Sessions continued. “I have proven my willingness and preparedness to lead from Day One. Tuberville is weak: all talk and no action.”

Sessions is a former Senator, U.S. Attorney General, Alabama Attorney General, Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, U.S. Attorney, asst. U.S. Attorney, and U.S. Army Captain.

The Republican primary runoff has been moved to July by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) due to fears of the coronavirus. The virus is believed to have originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in late 2019.

As of press time, 10,943 Americans have died from COVID-19 including 53 Alabamians. 367,650 Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including 2,006 Alabamians. At this point, only 240 Alabamians are confirmed hospitalized with COVID-19.

COVID-19 is the medical condition caused by a strain of coronavirus first identified late last year in Wuhan City, Hubei Province China, SARS-CoV-2. Since then it has spread across the globe infecting 1,346,566 persons that we are aware of killing 74,697 people.

The winner of the Republican primary runoff will then face Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) in the November election.

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