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 7:20 p.m. ET

President Trump on Thursday mused about delaying this year's election based on unsupported conspiracy theorizing about the integrity of voting during the coronavirus disaster.

Trump used a Twitter post to repeat what has become a pet theme about what he calls the prospect of inaccuracies or fraud with mail-in voting.

Updated at 4:06 p.m. ET

Attorney General William Barr puts the founding principles of the Justice Department "more at risk than at any time in modern history," the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee charged on Tuesday.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., excoriated Barr because he said the attorney general sought conflict with Americans at an unprecedented scale, including via federal law enforcement crackdowns, and has created what Nadler called a special reserve of justice for the well-connected.

In the bleak midwinter of a political year in Washington, a top out-of-power partisan contacts a Russian diplomat at the embassy in Washington.

The topic of discussion: What their governments might do for each other in the coming administration.

This scene may sound familiar, only it wasn't former national security adviser Mike Flynn. The American political figure was former Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson, who went up to the Soviet embassy in January of 1960 to see Ambassador Mikhail Menshikov.

Updated at 6:07 p.m. ET

The Senate sought to strengthen some protections for those targeted by government surveillance on Thursday with the passage of an amended bill that now faces an uncertain outlook.

Senators voted 80-16 to reauthorize lapsed provisions of the now-notorious Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and also revise some aspects of how it can be used by the Justice Department and the FBI.

Updated at 3:11 p.m. ET

President Trump's nominee to serve as America's top spy vowed on Tuesday to operate independently in response to bipartisan questions as to whether he could keep politics out of intelligence work.

Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas., assured both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that if confirmed as director of national intelligence, he would not apply a partisan filter to reporting, shade conclusions to please Trump, or apply inappropriate tests to workers in the intelligence community.

The U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort is scheduled to depart New York City on Thursday after deploying there to help with the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. Northern Command announced on Tuesday that the Comfort, which arrived in Manhattan on March 30, would return to its berth in Norfolk, Va.

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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