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 7:37 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.

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.

Updated at 12:18 p.m. ET

The Justice Department unsealed criminal charges against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and other regime heavies on Thursday in connection with alleged narcoterrorism and drug smuggling into the United States.

Attorney General William Barr announced the charges at the Justice Department in Washington with some officials in attendance and others connected via teleconference — precautions taken because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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.

Updated at 2:05 p.m. ET

The White House sought to show that it's in control of the sprawling coronavirus crisis on Friday even as it acknowledged enduring shortfalls in key supplies.

Administration officials also said they're imposing new controls on travel and restricting passage through the northern border with Canada and the southern border with Mexico following agreements with those governments.

Here were some key points from the latest briefing.

Too few tests

Updated at 3:37 p.m. ET

The Food and Drug Administration is trying to clear the way to expand the types of medicines or treatments available during the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump said Thursday.

Early trials have begun for a prospective coronavirus vaccine, and the FDA also is working to permit patients to have access to medicines approved for use in other countries or for other uses.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn stressed that the agency is moving as quickly as it can while still following protocol to ensure safety standards are met.

Updated at 12:54 a.m. ET

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House agreed Friday on relief legislation in response to the national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic.

The House passed the measure by an overwhelming vote Friday night.

The breakthrough followed hours of negotiations between the speaker and the administration, including more than a dozen phone calls on Friday between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about the priorities for the package.

Russia's trolling specialists have evolved their disinformation and agitation techniques to become subtler and tougher to track, according to new research unveiled on Thursday.

A cache of Instagram posts captured by researchers showed that the Russians were "better at impersonating candidates" and that influence-mongers "have moved away from creating their own fake advocacy groups to mimicking and appropriating the names of actual American groups," wrote Young Mie Kim, a University of Wisconsin professor who analyzed the material with her team.

The big picture on election security in the 2020 campaign after Super Tuesday: could be worse — but also could be better.

The biggest day of voting so far in this year's race wasn't problem-free: Officials dealt with problems in Texas, California and North Carolina, plus tornadoes disrupted the vote in middle Tennessee.

Attorney General William Barr is scheduled to travel down Pennsylvania Avenue on Tuesday to make what could be a very difficult sales pitch to Senate Republicans.

Provisions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act are set to expire next month, and Barr is expected to try to persuade senators to vote to reauthorize them.

Criticism of FISA is now mainstream among many Republicans and some Democrats after a thorny subplot from the Russia investigation.

Updated at 6:56 p.m. ET

Four federal prosecutors withdrew from the Roger Stone case on Tuesday, hours after the Justice Department took the unusual step of intervening in the case to seek a shorter sentence for the longtime ally of the president.

The four prosecutors who filed their papers with the court to withdraw are Aaron Zelinsky, Jonathan Kravis, Adam Jed and Michael Marando.

Russia's attack on the 2016 presidential election caught then-President Barack Obama off guard, and he and advisers were partly paralyzed with indecision over how to respond, a new Senate report concludes.

The study by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence found that the government was "not well-postured" at the time Obama's administration began to detect and assess the wave of active measures launched by Russia against the presidential race.

Updated at 5:43 p.m. ET

Senators voted on Wednesday afternoon to acquit President Trump on two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — after a historically unusual but typically contentious trial.

Forty-eight senators supported a verdict of guilty on Article I; 52 voted not guilty. Forty-seven senators supported a verdict of guilty on Article II; 53 voted not guilty. The Senate would have needed 67 votes to convict Trump on either article.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

President Trump's legal position welcoming information from foreigners threatens to open Pandora's box in coming elections and nullify one of the key lessons from 2016, critics warned.

"This is setting precedent that is unheard of in our country," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. "It's dangerous, dangerous, dangerous."

Updated at 10:08 p.m. ET

Senators fought a genteel melee over new witnesses in the impeachment trial on Wednesday but even hours' worth of questions, answers, and litigation on other issues didn't reveal an obvious path forward.

Members used dozens of written submissions over several hours to argue for and against the case for witnesses, the strength of the impeachment case and, in some cases, to actually ask questions.

The admission of new witnesses into President Trump's impeachment trial began to look less likely on Tuesday as defense attorneys and the White House signaled opposition in hopes of persuading Republicans to block them.

Lawyer Jay Sekulow called the claims in John Bolton's forthcoming book "inadmissible" as he delivered closing arguments and separately, White House aides reportedly began warning senators that a legal fight over witnesses could drag on for months.

Updated at 9:27 p.m. ET

President Trump's lawyers tore into Democrats' impeachment allegations on Monday with a legal and political pageant that culminated with a rejection of the relevance of new allegations from John Bolton.

Retired law professor Alan Dershowitz closed the day's arguments with a stemwinder about what he called the constitutional weaknesses of the case against Trump.

President Trump's accusers fell far short of proving wrongdoing or the case for removing him from office, defense attorneys told senators on Saturday as they opened their portion of the impeachment trial.

The presentation by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his colleagues follows three days of opening arguments from House Democratic managers and marks the end of the first week of Trump's impeachment trial.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Trump's defense team began its arguments today in his Senate impeachment trial. NPR election security editor Phil Ewing has been covering the story. Phil, thanks so much for being with us.

PHIL EWING, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

Updated at 9:43 p.m. ET

Congress has the power to impeach and remove a president over conduct that may not violate black-letter law — and President Trump's actions qualify, House Democratic impeachment managers argued Thursday.

The Constitution doesn't specify that a president must technically have broken a law in order to be impeached, said Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., although Democrats also underscored that Trump did break at least one law in the Ukraine affair.

Updated at 9:49 p.m. ET

The matter before the Senate isn't just President Trump's conduct; it is no less than the fate of the Constitution and America's role in the world, House managers said on Wednesday.

With the ground rules having been settled in the early hours after sometimes-bitter litigation between the House delegation and Trump's legal team, senators returned Wednesday afternoon to hear the formal opening of the case.

Democrats are going first with 24 hours over three days to present their arguments for removing Trump from office.

Updated at 1:57 a.m. ET on Wednesday

After more than 12 hours of action Tuesday, the Senate adopted the ground rules for the coming weeks in President Trump's impeachment trial. It brought a reminder that even this highly scripted ordeal may include a few surprises after all.

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