Philip Ewing | Michigan Radio
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Philip Ewing

Philip Ewing is an election security editor with NPR's Washington Desk. He helps oversee coverage of election security, voting, disinformation, active measures and other issues. Ewing joined the Washington Desk from his previous role as NPR's national security editor, in which he helped direct coverage of the military, intelligence community, counterterrorism, veterans and more. He came to NPR in 2015 from Politico, where he was a Pentagon correspondent and defense editor. Previously, he served as managing editor of Military.com, and before that he covered the U.S. Navy for the Military Times newspapers.

Updated at 2:34 p.m. ET

Democrats and President Trump hectored Senate Republicans on Tuesday to take up legislation passed by the House that would increase direct relief payments to many Americans — but the path ahead remains unclear.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., acknowledged when the chamber convened that Trump had called attention to a few big issues, including the disbursements. McConnell said the Senate would "begin a process to bring [those] priorities into focus," without saying how or when.

Updated at 10 p.m. ET

The House voted to increase coronavirus disaster relief payments for Americans to $2,000 per person on Monday in a bid by Democrats to capitalize on political divisions among Republicans.

Updated at 4:48 p.m. ET

President Trump's legal challenges to the election met with a series of defeats and setbacks on Friday as judges found the Trump campaign's arguments and evidence that there was widespread fraud and irregularities with the vote to be lacking.

Democrats have brought the end of the Trump era into sight — but there are more than 70 days to go before the page actually turns and President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated.

In the meantime, the most unusual era in modern American politics is phasing into what could be one of its most tumultuous transitions.

Here's what you need to know about the final act.

Resolution and reconciliation — or not

The White House must find a way to keep working and show that the government is still operating notwithstanding illness or the absence of the president, a group of former chiefs of staff said on Friday morning.

Updated at 4:18 p.m. ET

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy defended his management of the U.S. Postal Service to the House on Monday amid concerns that his cost-cutting measures have jeopardized the agency's ability to serve Americans.

Mail service has slowed across the country, according to internal documents obtained by the House Oversight Committee, but DeJoy denies the slowdowns are part of any attempt to reduce voting by mail this year.

Testing is the key that will unlock normalization for millions of Americans.

It's the doorway between the disaster response mode of the pandemic and confidence about returning to work, school and life. And it's also still apparently weeks or more away from scaling to a level that will make a big difference for most people in most places.

Precisely how far away isn't clear, although President Trump and a pageant of guests attempted on Monday to sell the idea that victory is just around the corner.

Updated at 7 p.m. ET

More than a dozen states have unveiled formal plans to move from coronavirus disaster response and toward reconstruction, the White House said Thursday, but officials also didn't rule out the need for more mitigation.

Vice President Pence said that 16 states have released formal plans about progressing out of the crisis. Many are pursuing a "phased approach" county by county, he said, pointing specifically to Missouri, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Idaho.

Updated at 7:07 p.m. ET

President Trump vowed to sign the latest coronavirus relief legislation nearing the finish line in Washington on Tuesday after it was passed by the Senate.

Members of Congress have reached an agreement on about $484 billion more in relief funding to help small businesses and others hurt by the mitigation measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

The House could vote as soon as Wednesday.

Updated at 7:21 p.m. ET

The White House unveiled guidelines on Thursday it said the nation can use to plot a course out of the coronavirus disaster and toward something like normal.

Trump also spoke via teleconference with the governors of the 50 states earlier Thursday to outline his plan for the way they'll proceed with re-opening and normalization.

Updated at 7:43 p.m. ET

Parts of the United States could relax their pandemic mitigation countermeasures before the end of the month, President Trump suggested on Tuesday, although the details aren't clear.

Trump used his daily briefing at the White House to tease the prospect that more than 20 states might be able to re-open in some form or change their practices before May 1 — even though he also said the federal guidelines on social distancing and other practices would stay in effect until then.

Updated at 11:13 a.m. ET

President Trump is expected to specify officially on Tuesday who will help him decide when — and how — portions of the country can get onto a path to normal after the coronavirus disaster.

Trump has said the choices associated with that goal may be the most consequential he'll make as president. He made clear on Monday that he considers them his to make, not those of the council, local officials or state governors.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top immunologist who has been helping steer President Trump's pandemic policy, doesn't appear in immediate danger of being fired.

The White House rejected what it called speculation about that prospect even though President Trump retweeted a tweet on Sunday that included the hashtag #FireFauci.

"This media chatter is ridiculous – President Trump is not firing Dr. Fauci," White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement on Monday.

Updated at 4:36 p.m. ET

President Trump plans to appoint a council to advise him on how best to reopen America after much of the nation went dormant to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

Trump said Friday that he plans to announce on Tuesday whom he has named to make recommendations about some kind of path to normalcy.

"I'm going to surround myself with the greatest minds," he said in another marathon news conference at the White House. "We're going to make a decision, and hopefully, it's going to be the right decision."

Updated at 7:38 p.m. ET

President Trump and congressional Democrats appeared to have a ways to go on Wednesday before they could agree on details for more relief spending for the coronavirus disaster.

Updated at 7:18 p.m. ET

President Trump acknowledged that he learned only recently about a warning earlier this year from a top adviser about the risks of the coronavirus — but he defended his actions on Tuesday at a news conference.

"I couldn't have done it any better," Trump said about his and the administration's handling of the pandemic.

Updated at 7:50 p.m. ET

President Trump said "we certainly want to try" to lift restrictions on life in the U.S. by April 30 but he made no definitive commitment at a news conference on Monday at the White House.

Trump sought to walk a tightrope between grim warnings about a new spike in fatalities forecast for the coming weeks and upbeat exuberance about how well he said the response is going.

"Tremendous progress has been made in a very short period," Trump said.

Updated at 7:37 p.m. ET

The government has gone to work disbursing the billions of dollars Washington has committed to sustain the economy after the deep shock it has undergone in the pandemic, the White House promised on Thursday.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Jovita Carranza, head of the Small Business Administration, vowed that some of the first systems for loans or payments would be up and running as soon as Friday.

Updated at 7:40 p.m. ET

America must brace for 100,000 or more people to die in the coming months in the coronavirus pandemic, the White House's response team warned Tuesday.

"As sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top immunologist helping to steer White House policy on the disaster. "No one is denying the fact that we are going through a very, very difficult time right now."

Updated at 6:15 p.m. ET

President Trump warned Americans on Monday to prepare for more disruption and death as he and other authorities extended mitigation procedures for several more weeks amid the widening coronavirus disaster.

Trump acknowledged on Sunday that his goal for a return to normalcy by Easter won't happen, and he extended the federal guidelines for social distancing and mitigation to April 30. He said on Monday that the pandemic will take longer than he hoped to abate.

The hospital ship USNS Comfort got underway from its pier in Norfolk, Va., on Saturday after a pomp-filled benediction by President Trump complete with a coterie of American flags and a military band.

The ship is scheduled to arrive in New York City on Monday to offer its roughly 1,000 hospital beds as surge capacity for the region hardest hit by the coronavirus disaster.

Patients without the disease can get treatment aboard the ship, the president said, freeing up treatment centers ashore for sufferers in the pandemic.

President Trump ordered General Motors and health care vendor Ventec to begin producing ventilators on Friday, invoking a Cold War-era law that grants him such authority.

Trump, who complained earlier on Friday about what he called problems with GM and its CEO, Mary Barra, said in a statement that the automaker was taking too long to conclude the deal.

President Trump unloaded on Detroit's big two American automakers on Friday with complaints and exhortations about how they must begin producing ventilators for the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump first complained about what he suggested was a breakdown in negotiations with General Motors CEO Mary Barra and then said both GM and Ford must devote some of their production capacity to medical equipment immediately.

Updated at 6:37 p.m. ET

President Trump told governors his administration is working on publishing guidelines for state and local governments to use to determine whether to increase or relax social distancing rules to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The announcement came ahead of the White House's regular news conference on its response to the pandemic.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons could begin sending home some of its oldest and most at-risk inmates as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, Attorney General Bill Barr said on Thursday.

Barr, who convened an unrelated press conference at a mostly empty Main Justice in Washington, addressed the Bureau of Prisons' handling of the pandemic in response to a reporter's question.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House's coronavirus task force, warned on Wednesday about the long-lasting and personal implications about spreading a virus with a story from her own family.

Birx said she remembered the guilt borne by her grandmother, whom she said caught the flu as a child during the 1918 pandemic, known by many Americans as the "Spanish flu," and then passed the disease along to her family.

Updated at 1:50 a.m. ET Thursday

The White House's pandemic task force convened another briefing on Wednesday afternoon amid a tense denouement for legislation aimed at helping an economy poleaxed by the disaster.

Last-minute objections on Wednesday delayed the Senate vote until late in the evening, when it passed on a vote of 96 to 0.

The United States and China are locked in a struggle over influence and messaging about the coronavirus pandemic even as governments around the world struggle to control the outbreak.

This week, Washington claimed a small victory.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus hailed comments by China's ambassador walking back an earlier false claim in Beijing that the U.S. Army had introduced the coronavirus to its epicenter in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Updated at 7:35 p.m. ET

In his Tuesday afternoon briefing with the coronavirus task force, President Trump couched earlier comments about the need to reopen the U.S. economy within weeks, emphasizing that the decision would ultimately be data driven and made in consultation with public health experts.

The president said he still wants Americans working again by Easter Sunday, something he first said during a virtual town hall with Fox News earlier in the day. But he was much more circumspect over whether that would be possible from a medical standpoint.

Updated at 8:03 p.m. ET

On Monday evening, President Trump stressed what he called the need to reopen America for business even as he said the government also would continue tackling the spiraling coronavirus pandemic.

The White House's team will make an assessment after next week as to how effective social distancing and other mitigation measures have been in stifling the spread of the virus, said Vice President Pence.

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