The Note: Trump vs. science opens new political battle over COVID-19

This is the rare debate over science that impacts lives immediately.

The TAKE with Rick Klein

President Donald Trump has been seeking political enemies since virtually the moment he realized that the COVID-19 crisis was as bad as it turned out to be.

Now he's got an enemy that found him.

The director of the federal agency tasked with developing vaccines is saying he was ousted because he insisted that the federal government pursue "scientifically vetted solutions," as opposed to concepts that "lack scientific merit."

"I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science -- not politics or cronyism -- has to lead the way," Rick Bright, the now-former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, said in a statement.

Bright said he believes he was sidelined because he resisted efforts to push hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment. The president, of course, has been an aggressive advocate in using the anti-malaria drug to treat the virus.

"I'm a smart guy," Trump said about the drug March 20. "I feel good about it."

Bright's statement came, somewhat appropriately, on Earth Day. White House tree planting aside, Trump's often sarcastic skepticism of climate change was already shaping up as a potential political liability, particularly among younger voters for whom the issue is a bigger concern.

Tensions had already been mounting between the president and the high-profile scientists inside the federal government who are making recommendations over how to reopen the nation. Squabbles between Trump and governors are expanding inside a wide range of states, as protests pop up and workers and some businesses press for a resumption of something approaching normal.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

Economists are bracing for the next round of weekly jobs and unemployment claims numbers out Thursday. It is expected that millions of Americans likely applied for unemployment benefits last week, as had been the case each week for the last month.

In total, more than more than 22 million Americans have filed unemployment insurance claims since wide-spread social distancing measures went into place nationwide.

According to a new poll this week from the Pew Research Center, 43% of American adults say they or someone in their household have lost a job or taken a cut in pay due to the outbreak. Of course the hits are not evenly felt.

And as April ticks by, 32% of respondents said they will not be able to pay all of their bills in full this month.

A second poll from The Associated Press-NORC at the University of Chicago found that a majority of Americans think the government is not doing enough to financially help small businesses and individual Americans, and many think too much financial help is being given to large corporations, though this poll was in the field and talking to respondents before Congress and the White House reached a deal on more money for PPP Tuesday.

Overall that poll found a majority of Americans -- 61% -- said they thought the restrictions put in place where they live to prevent the spread of coronavirus are about right.

The TIP with Meg Cunningham

Ohio, the first state to cancel its in-person voting on election day due to the coronavirus, is nearing the end of its newly established mail-in voting period -- and turnout is less than ideal.

Of the state's 7.7 million registered voters, 1.67 million have requested their ballots, for a preliminary turnout rate of about 22%. Just under 700,000 ballots have yet to be returned to elections officials. In 2016, the state saw about 44% turnout in the primary.

And in Kentucky, officials have seen voter registration numbers essentially grind to a halt since the start of the pandemic.

In a Republican-controlled state, voting rights groups are happy with efforts from officials to get out the vote and raise awareness about the new mail-in processes. But with the coronavirus looming over elections, turnout could remain grim for the primaries to come in what was once seen as the main political storyline of the year.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, one of the chief executives on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis as her state suffers some of the highest tolls in the country, said she is "assessing daily" the restrictions put in place by her administration to stem the spread of the virus. https://bit.ly/2w091jE

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee appears on ABC's "The View."
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden participates in virtual Biden for President finance events throughout the day.
  • Vice President Mike Pence participates in a call with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development stakeholders on the coronavirus response at 11 a.m. and he leads the White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting at 3 p.m.
  • Members of the Coronavirus Task Force hold a press briefing at the White House at 5 p.m.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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