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Busting the Left's Myths About Georgia's Voting Law

Real Clear Politics -

Myth and reality collided on Capitol Hill recently. Senate Democrats convened a hearing provocatively titled Jim Crow 2021 and featuring a who's who of liberal activist witnesses, including Stacey Abrams. They likely wished for a national stage to cement their straw-man attacks on Georgia's new...

Biden's Fiscal (and Other) Follies

Real Clear Politics -

Conservatives don't have a monopoly on gloom and doom. For confirmation of this, one need only look at the Malthusian Left's repeated, and repeatedly mistaken, predictions that global warming, now known as climate change, is about to extinguish life on Earth.

Threats against members of Congress doubled in 2021, Capitol Police say

Politico -

Threats against members of Congress increased by 107 percent compared to last year, the United States Capitol Police said Friday.

"Provided the unique threat environment we currently live in, the Department is confident the number of cases will continue to increase," they said in a statement on Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton's latest report.

Their disclosure shows threats continue to rise against members of Congress. It comes as lawmakers debate additional funding to increase Capitol Police staffing and to address security needs in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot, including whether to install permanent fencing around the Capitol complex.

Some members of Congress have been harassed in airports and in public places. Others have spent thousands of dollars on security details and security systems to protect themselves. The Capitol Police themselves are stretched thin and understaffed after months of heightened security around the Capitol.

In their Friday statement, the Capitol Police note Bolton suggested their Threat Assessment Section be modeled after the United States Secret Service, which handles threats related to the White House. The Secret Service dealt with 8,000 cases in 2020 and had 100 agents and analysts, whereas the Capitol Police said they addressed about 9,000 cases and only had 30 agents and analysts.

Bolton is set to testify Monday before the House Administration Committee on counter-surveillance and threats to the Capitol complex. House Administration Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren said Bolton's latest report "had identified troubling deficiencies" on a number of topics including the Capitol Police's "threat assessment and counter-surveillance operations."

Virginia gubernatorial hopefuls key on 'election integrity' in major post-Trump contest

Politico -

The first statewide Republican nominating contest since former President Donald Trump left office has added a new issue to the top tier of traditional GOP campaign messages: “election integrity.”

All four of the leading Republican candidates for this weekend’s “unassembled convention,” where Republican delegates will vote for their nominee at 39 sites around the state, are talking about election and voting rules on the trail and in ads, with some putting forth detailed plans for how they would change Virginia’s election rules.

The proposals are an unmistakable response to Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, which quickly became a cause on the right. “Election integrity” is far from the only thing Republicans are discussing on the trail, with guns, abortion and pandemic policies all playing key roles, too. But the renewed focus on voting laws by four candidates trying to appeal to convention delegates underscores how much this issue is on the minds of Republican voters — and that Republicans who win state office in Virginia and elsewhere are poised to count changing voting laws among their top priorities.

“Election integrity has been a top message that people are concerned about, given some of the allegations that came out of last year’s election,” said Geary Higgins, the chair of the 10th congressional district Republican committee who has remained neutral in the primary. “It’s broader election integrity, but also concern about integrity in this process as well. So it is kind of a two-prong thing.”

Meanwhile, the Republican nominating process itself has been rife with fighting over how to choose the party’s standard-bearer, from the conflict over whether to have a state-run primary or a party-run convention to questions about how the ballots are ultimately counted.

There are seven Republican gubernatorial hopefuls on the ballot this year, and the consensus among the more than half-dozen Virginia Republican officials who spoke to POLITICO is that four are in the top tier: businessmen Pete Snyder and Glenn Youngkin, former state House Speaker Kirk Cox and state Sen. Amanda Chase.

Chase has been the most explicit, parroting Trump’s lies about the election while proactively seeking his support, while Snyder and Youngkin both launched “election integrity” plans or task forces early on in their campaigns.

Cox has also put forward proposals under the election integrity banner — but a spokesperson for Cox noted that he was the only “Republican candidate in the race to acknowledge President Biden as the legitimate president,” which he did following the Electoral College count in the states in December.

“Unfortunately, for too many Virginians, whether they be Republicans, Democrats or Independents, trust in our election system has been severely strained and [sic] due to many last-minute Covid-related changes to our voting systems,” Snyder said in a statement when he launched his plan. “Government has failed to deliver on the transparency and accountability expected from voters.”

Youngkin, Snyder and Cox’s campaigns all declined to make their candidate available for an interview on their election proposals and trust in the state party’s process, citing hectic schedules in the final days before the convention. Chase’s campaign did not respond to an interview request.

Former GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman, who has become a prominent critic of the Trump-era Republican Party, said that the focus on election integrity messaging is harmful to the state and the party.

“We can have an honest discussion about ‘election integrity,’ if that wasn’t a cover term for ‘Stop the Steal’ right now throughout the commonwealth,” he said, calling it less a “wink and a nod” than a “pie in the face.”

“If any candidate did not run on election integrity, because I’ve seen the local polling, they would lose,” Riggleman added.

The former lawmaker has floated running for governor as an independent. He told POLITICO he was “leaning toward the negative” on running, but that he still has time to decide.

Republicans are also grappling with the end of a contentious, months-long fight over how the party will ultimately pick its statewide candidates. After knockdown fights between pro-primary and pro-convention wings of the state central committee, the party settled on this weekend’s “unassembled convention,” with ranked-choice voting.

People who wanted to vote in the convention had to pre-register ahead of time, and the state party said that around 54,000 people had done so. They’ll vote at 39 sites spread out across the state on Saturday, after which ballots will be transported back to Richmond for counting, which will begin on Sunday. The ranked-choice system will reallocate support for the candidates with the fewest votes to those delegates’ next choices until someone secures a majority.

An additional wrinkle is that counties get a certain number of “delegates” based on population and past performance of Republicans in the area, meaning the “raw vote” total from each voting location alone won’t determine the winner.

Virginia Republicans are wary of predictions about either turnout or results because of the unusual system, noting it is a fractured field, even among the top four candidates, with a new process. Those who spoke to POLITICO unanimously agree that it will take multiple rounds to determine a winner, with the second- or third-choice of voters being decisive in the race.

Kristi Way, the party’s first vice-chair and a supporter of Cox, recalled how E.W. Jackson dominated the in-person convention in 2013 to win the lieutenant governor’s nomination after several rounds of voting. “He got up there, he gave a humdinger of speech,” she said. “And lo and behold, E.W. Jackson was the nominee when no one thought that was a possibility walking into the room.”

But that last minute horse-trading and campaigning won’t be an option for candidates this year, with voters having to fill out their ballots ahead of time. “I think it will be a more sort of straightforward outcome, than when you allow dynamics in a room to take over,” Way continued. “Not having that, I think, removes a lot of the emotion from the decision.”

There’s also some concerns that the new process could create room for rabble-rousing from a candidate on the losing side of the ledger. Chase has constantly railed against the nominating process, accusing Snyder of stacking the deck in his favor. Chase — a self-styled “Trump in heels” who was censured by her state Senate colleagues after praising the Jan. 6 insurrectionists and spreading election conspiracy theories — has threatened to run as an independent if Snyder wins the nomination.

The party plans on starting the count on Sunday, the day after voting takes place, starting from the bottom of the ballot: first attorney general, then lieutenant governor, and then governor. Officials are hoping to have the process wrapped up as soon as possible, but they are expecting multiple days of hand-counting the ballots.

“I know that some party officials are talking about later in the week, but I think that would be really tough on the party and pretty tough on the eventual nominee to have it go that long,” said state Sen. Steve Newman, a supporter of Youngkin, who said he was hopeful the process would wrap up quickly.

Republican Party of Virginia officials also said they were confident in the process: “We’ve taken so many steps to ensure this is a well run, functioning, seamless convention,” said John March, a party spokesperson.

Democrats will not select their nominee until June, when a five-candidate field competes in the state-run, first-past-the-post primary. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe is the frontrunner in available polling, with the four other candidates in the field failing to break out with a month to go.

Many Republicans were eager to have another crack at McAuliffe, who edged out then-Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in 2013, believing him to be a well-defined candidate who won’t animate the Democratic base.

But it is also important for Republicans to rally around their nominee quickly in a state Republicans have struggled to win statewide over the last decade. “He will be very, very prepared and very well funded, and we will have to come together quickly,” Newman said. “And then if we do and we have proper funding, I think we have a great shot at taking Virginia back.”

But Democrats assert that, no matter who wins the Republican nomination, they will not be able to pivot successfully to carrying swing voters while still holding on to their base in November — citing Republicans’ “election integrity” talk as a top example.

“Even if they don’t mention Trump by name in a video, they are pushing the exact policies that his base is demanding they follow in order to get credibility, whether it’s the voter integrity stuff, whether it’s ‘The Big Lie,” whether it’s not believing science and COVID,” Marshall Cohen, the political director of the Democratic Governors Association, said in a call with reporters earlier this week.

California population drops for first time in state history

Politico -

SACRAMENTO — California's population declined in 2020 for the first time in the state's recorded history due to Covid-19 deaths, federal immigration restrictions and declining births, state officials announced Friday.

The nation's most populous state lost more than 180,000 people between January 2020 and January 2021, a decline of 0.46 percent, according to data released by the state Department of Finance. Though population growth has slowed dramatically in recent years, compounded by high costs of living and a housing shortage, this was the first time California experienced an actual annual drop since the state began recording such data in 1900, according to Finance spokesperson H.D. Palmer.

Census data last month showed that California experienced its lowest-ever growth rates in the last decade, resulting in the state losing a House seat for the first time.

"Much has been made of the California exodus, and rightly so. This migration, over the decades, has the power to reshape the state," states a separate report by the Public Policy Institute of California released Thursday.

Opponents of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is facing a recall election, are sure to use the historic decline as proof of California's woes. Republicans have long assailed the state's regulations and tax rates as reasons to leave for red states, a point punctuated by the departure of Tesla CEO Elon Musk for Texas last year. Newsom critics in the past year have pointed to California's pandemic restrictions and school closures as additional reasons to flee.

But state officials insisted Friday that the population decline is likely a blip due to the unprecedented pandemic, and that California is projected to return to "slight annual positive growth" when estimates are released next year.

The biggest loss of California residents in 2020 was due to a continued decline in foreign immigration into the state, "a direct impact" of the Trump administration's suspension of some visas when the pandemic hit, according to the Department of Finance.

Declines in foreign immigration accounted for 100,000 less people living in California, according to the state. That includes 53,000 international students who remained home due to global restrictions.

Meanwhile, 51,000 Californians died of the coronavirus in 2020 — pushing the average death rate 19 percent higher than in preceding years.

The nationwide trend of declining birth rates also impacts California more than most states, resulting in a population drop of 24,000 as calculated by annual births minus deaths.

"In recent years, the slowdown in natural increase — a nationwide trend affecting California more than other states — has contributed to the state’s population growth slowing and plateauing. The addition of 2020’s COVID-19-related deaths, combined with immigration restrictions in the past year, tipped population change to an annual loss," the Department of Finance said in a statement.

Otherwise, people are continuing to leave California.

In 28 of the last 30 years, the state has seen more people moving out than in, according to state officials. Since 2018, that outmigration has outpaced international migration into the state, leaving "natural increase," or the difference between births and deaths, as the only source of population growth, the Department of Finance said.

The PPIC report threw cold water on the political narrative about California's loss of fed-up wealthy residents, noting that people who move into the state continue to be wealthier and more educated than those who leave. Higher-income residents pay the bulk of California's income and property taxes.

Research also shows that people left the state, or moved to cheaper parts of the state, to take advantage of telework in the pandemic.

Still, a high cost of living and a severe housing shortage continue to impact the state. The median price of a single-family home in California rose to a record $758,990 in March — up nearly 24 percent from the prior year. Meanwhile, lower-income workers bore the brunt of pandemic job losses as restaurants, tourism spots and service industries had to shut down. California's seasonably adjusted unemployment rate in March was 8.3 percent, tied for third highest in the nation.

"People who move to California have higher incomes than those who move away. Some have argued that the opposite is taking place—that California’s relatively progressive and high personal income tax rates drive out higher-income residents. But the fact is that California has been losing lower- and middle-income residents to other states for some time while continuing to gain higher-income adults," the report states.

The strange saga of the IRS' plague of broken printers

Politico -

The IRS is struggling to catch up with a backlog of work, and a new report fingers a surprising culprit: broken printers.

A plague of non-functioning printers and copiers is making it difficult for the agency to process tax returns and provide other types of assistance, an independent agency watchdog said Friday.

“A major concern that surfaced during these walkthroughs [of IRS offices] was a lack of working printers and copiers,” the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said.

Forty-two percent of printers for those involved in processing returns were unusable at the end of March. In the agency’s Kansas City outpost, officials are down to three working printers and “the employees we spoke with were concerned that they would have a work stoppage if these remaining devices became unfunctional.”

Some of the printers didn’t have ink and, in other cases, “the waste cartridge container is full,” the report said, noting the agency uses printers for everything from making copies of tax returns to preparing training packages for new hires.

The department began the year with 8.3 million returns from last year that still needed processing, the watchdog said. Among returns filed on paper, that represented a 1,200 percent increase from the previous year.

Broken printers are hardly the only reason the IRS has been struggling to catch up, the report said.

The coronavirus pandemic forced the agency to close offices for a time, and Democrats made a series of changes to tax law in the middle of filing season, including creating a new tax break for unemployment benefits — why the tax filing deadline this year was delayed until May 17. While IRS offices are open, they are not always operating at full capacity because of social-distancing rules.

The agency has also had trouble finding temporary workers to help out with this year's filing season because "this seasonal work does not provide permanent employment or desirable schedules and shifts."

The report comes as Democrats promise to shower the agency with money after years of budget cuts.

The printer problems appear to stem from the pandemic, though, rather than a lack of funding.

The agency’s contract for the printers ended last September, though “due to COVID-19, these printers remain in the Tax Processing Centers, and the IRS is continuing to use them.”

The agency signed a contract for new printers, from a different provider the following month. “However, [IRS employees] indicated that the new contractor may not have been coming into the sites to replace the old printers due to COVID-19 concerns.”

The IG added: “When we discussed the issue with IRS management on March 30, 2021, they indicated they are working with the IRS Information Technology organization to resolve the issue, and that organization has started replacing the devices.”

Biden finds reasons for optimism in disappointing jobs report

Politico -

President Joe Biden said Friday afternoon that the United States’ economy is “on the right track” despite a vastly disappointing monthly jobs report.

“Today there is more evidence our economy is moving in the right direction, but it is clear we have a long way to go,” Biden said.

The economy created 266,000 jobs in April, a figure that shocked many Wall Street observers who had been anticipating figures around 1 million as states lift public health restrictions and vaccination rates climb. The numbers for March were also revised sharply downward, to 146,000 jobs added from 770,000.

Biden, speaking from the East Room of the White House, argued that the jobs report underscored the need for the multitrillion-dollar recovery package enacted earlier this year, as well as the huge spending proposals the president has laid out in recent weeks.

“This month’s job numbers show we are on the right track,” Biden said. “We still have a long way to go. My laser focus is on growing the nation’s economy and creating jobs.”

Biden’s remarks were crafted as an apparent rebuttal to conservatives who blamed the disappointing numbers on the juiced-up unemployment benefits put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic, which they said have deterred people from seeking work, and the friction caused by schools not being fully opened in many parts of the country.

Biden recognized that “some employers are having trouble filling jobs,” but dismissed the idea that the supplemental jobless benefits were at fault.

“No, nothing measurable,” Biden told a reporter following his remarks in response to a question on whether the enhanced benefits have incentivized people to stay out of the workforce.

Liberals have argued that employers are contributing to the problem by not offering higher wages and sufficient safety protections to attract workers to fill the open positions.

Biden’s comments echoed those of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, who made the rounds on cable news channels earlier Friday to cast the jobs numbers in a favorable light and defend the administration’s economic policies.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told reporters Friday that "it's clear that there are people who are not ready and able to go back into the labor force," citing child care needs and concerns about the risk posed by the coronavirus. She said she believes those are what's holding back the economic rebound.

"I don't think that the additional unemployment compensation is really the factor that's making the difference," Yellen said.

She added that economic officials believe the U.S. will reach full employment "next year," and that while they are anticipating an uptick in inflation in the near term "I really doubt we're going to see an inflationary cycle."

Keisha Lance Bottoms exits Atlanta's mayoral race without ruling out political future

Politico -

Keisha Lance Bottoms said Friday morning that she would not seek a second term as Atlanta's mayor, citing the tumultuous last four years.

Bottoms alerted staffers and allies of her plans to exit the race on Thursday evening in a call first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. During a news conference at Atlanta’s City Hall on Friday, Bottoms held back tears as she called her term as mayor her “highest honor.”

“In the same way that it was very clear to me almost five years ago that I should run for mayor of Atlanta, it is abundantly clear to me today that it is time to pass the baton on to someone else,” Bottoms said in her remarks to reporters.

The mayor immediately squashed speculation around her decision, including that her exit from the race was driven by a family crisis, administrative scandal or possible move to work for Walgreens, whose CEO, Rosalind Brewer, is a friend of the Bottoms family. Bottoms did not rule out future political ambitions in her news conference nor in a letter she wrote to the City of Atlanta that was posted online late Thursday evening. But she did not provide any specifics.

“While I am not yet certain of what the future holds, I trust that my next season will continue to be one full of passion and purpose,” she wrote.

The state of Georgia has moved rapidly in Democrats' direction in recent years, capped off by President Joe Biden carrying the state in November and now-Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock winning runoff elections in January that won Democrats control of the Senate. But those narrow victories have limited the options for higher office in the state. Warnock is running for a full term next year, and Ossoff won't be on the ballot again until 2026. Stacey Abrams, the former state House minority leader and 2018 gubernatorial candidate, is widely expected to run for governor again in 2022.

“There is no obvious in-state political reason to do this," said one Democrat with experience in Georgia politics, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. "What else is there to run for?”

“She could go do something for Biden, no question," the Democrat added. "But does that really put you in a better place? And why do that now? It’s all just very odd. Was it going to not be the easiest reelection in the world? Sure, but it’s not an impossible reelection."

Another Democratic consultant, who also requested anonymity, called Bottoms a "star" and said she could join the Biden administration or be an ambassador.

"But there's no office to run for in Georgia right now," the consultant said.

Bottoms, 51, served as a judge and city council member before winning the mayor’s race by fewer than 800 votes in 2017. While mayor, she oversaw a city marred by multiple crises, including a sweeping citywide cyber attack in her first three months, last summer’s protests following the police killing of Rayshard Brooks and a spike in violent crime across the city.

During the news conference, Bottoms said that she had been considering her exit from the mayor’s race for “a very long time” and that she knew as early as her first year in office that she might not seek a second term, citing these issues among others.

Bottoms also served as a surrogate for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign from its early months and was later floated as a possible vice presidential candidate or cabinet secretary — a position she said she turned down to complete her four years as mayor. Before announcing that she would not run again, Bottoms hosted a fundraiser with Biden that she said raised more than a half million dollars.

“If the race for mayor were held today, I would win this race without a runoff,” Bottoms said, citing internal polling. “Just because you can do it doesn't always necessarily mean that you should do it. I can be mayor again. But there is a reason that there are elections every four years.”

Her departure from the race is sure to open it up to a wide range of prospects, including a handful of city council members who have already toyed with the idea of running or have launched campaigns. City Council President Felicia Moore has announced her intention to run and former mayor Kasim Reed is rumored to be exploring a comeback bid.

In a statement posted to his Twitter, Reed thanked Bottoms for her service and wished her well in future endeavors, but did not address the mayor's race.

Emily Cain, the executive director of EMILY's List, a major Democratic organization that supports women for office, praised Bottoms' tenure as mayor in a statement, calling her a "national example of strong leadership in challenging times." She also signaled that the organization could get involved in Atlanta's upcoming elections and back another candidate for mayor.

"We are excited to see what Mayor Bottoms does next, and the EMILY's List community looks forward to working with the people of Atlanta to ensure that her tenure is followed by more Democratic pro-choice women in leadership positions across the city and at all levels of government," Cain said.

Bottoms said she announced her exit from the race early enough to give a candidate who is “not self-funded” the opportunity to organize. She would not identify anyone in particular who she would like to see succeed her.

Bottoms ended the press conference saying the next mayor will have a number of issues to aim to rectify in Atlanta, including its income gap, crime rate and criminal justice record.

Jobs surprise triggers battle over federal aid

Politico -

The steady jobs recovery from Covid-19 slowed dramatically in April, stunning Wall Street analysts and raising questions about the strength of the pandemic comeback and the impact of generous unemployment benefits.

The government said Friday that the economy created 266,000 jobs in April — a strong number in ordinary times but sharply below the Wall Street consensus of nearly 1 million, driven by reopenings in the beaten-down leisure and hospitality sectors as vaccinations continue.

The figure for March was also revised down by 146,000 to 770,000. The soft April number embarrassed prognosticators and provided fuel for partisans and economists across the ideological spectrum to declare that their policy ideas were vindicated.

For conservatives, the report suggested that generous pandemic-era jobless benefits are discouraging workers from taking available positions. Several states including South Carolina and Montana are already trimming back benefits packages. Other states may soon follow.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce used the weak number to call for an end to the $300 supplemental unemployment benefit included in President Joe Biden’s most recent stimulus package.

“The disappointing jobs report makes it clear that paying people not to work is dampening what should be a stronger jobs market,” the business group said.

For progressives, the report suggested that corporate America has to step up and offer higher wages and that more government intervention is needed, especially with increased child care benefits, to help workers take the millions of jobs that are open. The dismal number could also mean that workers remain hesitant to return to in-person jobs because of Covid-19 even amid the vaccination campaign.

Or the number could mean nothing much at all.

Monthly jobs numbers, especially coming out of deep recessions, can be highly volatile. And any single number can turn out to be an anomaly reversed in subsequent months. Most other data suggest both a strong recovery and a vibrant labor market. Job creation for May could wind up being far stronger and the April number could be revised higher. In August of 2011 for example, the economy created exactly zero jobs, raising fears of a double-dip recession that never materialized. Steady job growth continued the following month.

So economists suggested caution in drawing any firm conclusions from the weak April figure.

“There is nothing definitive here and we will know a lot more after the May numbers and we’ll find out whether something real is happening or this is just noise and problems with seasonal adjustments a year after Covid first hit,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. “People with big mouths can bang the table and say they know exactly what happened but they don’t and we won’t know for a while.”

White House officials strongly rejected the idea that enhanced jobless benefits are keeping people from going back to work and leaving employers with millions of unfilled positions.

"Still don't see strong evidence of that,” Council of Economic Advisers member Heather Boushey said on MSNBC. “We are not seeing that there are a lot of folks who are not searching because of unemployment benefits. Indeed as this report shows, there was an uptick in labor supply last month, and it still remains a difficult labor market for millions of workers.”

Congress extended several emergency unemployment benefits programs through September as part of Biden’s massive March rescue plan, including Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation which provides jobless workers with an extra $300 a week in benefits. Some Republican governors have already chosen to cut off the programs to tackle what they call a labor shortage in their states, arguing that the additional aid and the fact that the program doesn't end until September are keeping workers on the sidelines.

“This labor shortage is being created in large part by the supplemental unemployment payments that the federal government provides claimants on top of their state unemployment benefits,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said this week. “What was intended to be a short-term financial assistance for the vulnerable and displaced during the height of the pandemic has turned into a dangerous federal entitlement.”

McMaster, following Montana’s Governor Greg Gianforte, announced this week that his state would no longer participate in the pandemic unemployment programs. Georgia and Wyoming officials are also weighing whether to drop out, spokespersons for the states told POLITICO.

Quint Forgey and Louis Nelson contributed to this report.

Top CDC official resigns from post following reassignment

Politico -

Nancy Messonnier, a senior Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist who was the first U.S. official to warn of the severity of the coronavirus pandemic last year, is resigning from the agency.

Messonnier’s resignation comes two weeks after she had been reassigned within the CDC from her position heading the agency's Covid-19 vaccine task force, as first reported by POLITICO. Following her reassignment, Messonnier went on leave, which senior administration officials described as an unplanned vacation.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky offered well wishes for Messonnier on Friday but did not elaborate further on the circumstances of her departure.

"Over this pandemic and through a many-decade career she's made significant contributions, and she leaves behind a strong force of leadership and courage in all that she has done," Walensky said during a press conference Friday.

Messonnier will join the Skoll Foundation on June 1, as the executive director for Pandemics and Health Systems, the foundation confirmed to POLITICO. She will lead the organization's work on Covid-19 and preparedness for future infectious disease outbreaks.

The Washington Post first reported Messonnier's resignation Friday morning.

Messonnier had spent more than 20 years at the CDC as a prominent respiratory disease expert. She became a central figure in the Trump administration’s chaotic early coronavirus response last February, when she told reporters the coronavirus outbreak would soon change the nation’s way of life.

“It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen,” she said at the time, two weeks before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. Her dire warning sent the stock market spiraling and contradicted assurances from top Trump appointees, catching the White House off guard.

An infuriated former President Donald Trump threatened to fire her, leading to the halt of regular CDC press briefings on the crisis and Messonnier's sidelining from the administration's communications.

Mesonnier was expected to reemerge in the wake of President Joe Biden's election, as part of the new administration's effort to put top scientists at the forefront of the Covid response and restore public trust in the federal government. But she clashed at times with Biden officials over decision-making, said two people familiar with the matter. The White House has not resumed regular CDC briefings, instead putting its own Covid-19 response team in charge of public messaging. Walensky has regularly participated in those briefings.

Messonnier's recent reassignment came the day before the agency’s advisory panel on immunizations was set to meet to decide whether to lift a pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. She had played a prominent role in the agency’s work investigating the rare but severe blood clots that emerged in multiple individuals after vaccination. Federal officials have since lifted their recommend pause on use of the vaccine.

Messonnier's position was absorbed into the CDC’s incident management response team headed by Walensky and Henry Walke, the director of the agency's Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections.

As of two weeks ago, Messonnier was still copied on agency emails and was referred to as an "adviser" of Walensky, two officials familiar with the matter said.


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