Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 13, 2020

Image
Harold Maass
Nancy Pelosi speaks to media
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

1.

Pelosi, Mnuchin near deal on coronavirus economic rescue package

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were "close to a deal" on an economic rescue package in response to the coronavirus outbreak, setting up a Friday vote "one way or another." Once the House approves a package, it will go to the Senate, which has called off a recess so it will be able to vote on a compromise. Pelosi said in a letter to House Democrats that the package would include boosted unemployment benefits and free virus testing, as well as more money for food assistance programs and Medicaid. As it stood after hours of negotiations into the night Thursday, the final sticking points included sick leave for employees affected by the coronavirus, according to Democratic and Republican aides. The news came as President Trump suggested that some domestic travel restrictions could become necessary to areas that become "too hot." [The New York Times, Politico]

2.

Stocks struggle to bounce back from sharpest drop since 1987

Stocks on Thursday suffered their deepest one-day percentage loss since the 1987 "Black Monday" stock market crash, continuing to fall due to mounting fears of widespread economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted by 2,353 points or 10 percent, closing at 21,200.62. The S&P 500 fell by 9.5 percent, enough to put it squarely in a bear market, meaning it is 20 percent below its recent highs. A 7 percent morning drop triggered a "circuit breaker" to pause all trade at the New York Stock Exchange for the second time in a week. U.S. stock index futures reversed early losses and were up by as much as 4 percent several hours before the start of trading Friday. [CNBC]

3.

Sanders projected winner of California primary

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has won California's Democratic primary, holding onto the lead he had when the polls closed on Super Tuesday even though former Vice President Joe Biden gained some ground as provisional ballots and votes cast by mail were counted. Sanders had always been projected to win California, but the confirmation of his victory provided a boost to his campaign after a two week Biden surge, raising speculation that he was getting close to locking up the nomination. Biden leads the overall race with 801 delegates to Sanders' 657 before California's delegates are formally divvied up. The state has 415 pledged delegates, so Sanders will edge closer, although Biden will pick up delegates, too, so he'll remain in front. [Vox, CNN]

4.

EU leaders criticize Trump for imposing travel ban without consulting them

The European Union's governing body on Thursday criticized President Trump's decision to suspend travel from Europe to the United States for 30 days due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement, the European Commission said the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is a "global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action." The European Union said it disapproved of the U.S. travel ban because it was "taken unilaterally and without consultation." Trump announced the restriction, which exempts the United Kingdom, in an Oval Office speech, and it will go into effect Friday. It applies not to American citizens but to foreign nationals who had traveled through the restricted countries. [The New York Times, The Washington Post]

5.

Judge orders Chelsea Manning released from jail

A federal judge on Thursday ordered that Chelsea Manning be released from jail. She has spent a year there for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst who in 2010 leaked secret military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks, tried to kill herself on Wednesday and was being treated in a hospital, her lawyers said. The judge, Anthony Trenga, said he also had dismissed the grand jury after it completed its work. "The court finds that Ms. Manning's appearance before the grand jury is no longer needed, in light of which her detention no longer serves any coercive purpose," Judge Trenga wrote. Manning still is on the hook for $256,000 in fines. [The New York Times]

6.

U.S. airstrikes target Iran-backed militia blamed for rocket attack

The U.S. military on Thursday targeted Iran-backed militia with airstrikes in Iraq in response to a rocket attack on Wednesday that left two American troops at Camp Taji dead. Camp Taji is a military base north of Baghdad that is used for training. Wednesday's attack also killed one British service member. The airstrikes targeted weapons facilities in Iraq belonging to the Kataib Hezbollah believed responsible for the rocket attack. Earlier Thursday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States "will not tolerate attacks against our people, our interests, or our allies." Esper and Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it was believed the attack was carried out by Iranian-backed fighters. [The Associated Press, Politico]

7.

Justin Trudeau's wife Sophie tests positive for coronavirus

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office announced Thursday night that his wife, Sophie Trudeau, tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. Both Trudeaus will remain quarantined in their home for the next 14 days. Sophie Trudeau is "feeling well, is taking all the recommended precautions, and her symptoms remain mild," the prime minister's office said in a statement. Justin Trudeau is "in good health with no symptoms," and because of that, his doctors have advised him not to get tested for COVID-19. Sophie Trudeau was recently in the United Kingdom, and upon her return to Canada, began experiencing mild flu-like symptoms. Justin Trudeau continued to work on Thursday, holding virtual meetings and making phone calls to world leaders from his home. [CBC]

8.

Biden, Sanders call for stepped up coronavirus response

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the leading Democratic presidential candidates, on Thursday criticized President Trump's handling of the coronavirus outbreak. "Unfortunately, this virus laid bare the severe shortcomings of the current administration," said Biden, the Democratic frontrunner. "Public fears are being compounded by pervasive lack of trust in this president fueled by adversarial relationship with the truth that he continues to have." Sanders said the Trump administration's "incompetence and recklessness have threatened the lives of many, many people in our country." Sanders called for Trump to declare a national emergency, and Biden said the administration's "failure on testing" so far "is colossal." [NPR, The New York Times]

9.

Report: French antitrust watchdog to fine Apple

France's antitrust watchdog plans to fine Apple next Monday for alleged anti-competitive actions in its distribution and sales network, Reuters reported Thursday, citing two sources close to the case. The sources did not provide details on the scale of the fine. Apple mentioned in its last annual report that French regulators were accusing it of breaking the country's competition law. French authorities said earlier this year that the iPhone maker had agreed to pay $28 million for failing to tell users that operating system updates could slow down their smartphones. [Reuters]

10.

NCAA cancels March Madness due to coronavirus

The NCAA on Thursday announced that it was canceling all remaining winter and spring athletic championships, including the annual basketball tournament known as March Madness, to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus. The decision marked the first March without the basketball tournament in 82 years. The unprecedented decision came on a day when one institution after another announced the scrapping or postponing of large gatherings due to coronavirus fears. Division I conferences cut off post-season tournaments already in progress, and schools including Duke, Virginia, Kansas, and Arizona State suspended all athletic events and travel. Professional soccer and hockey leagues suspended their seasons, following a similar decision by the NBA. Major League Baseball suspended spring training and pushed back opening day by two weeks. [The Washington Post, NJ.com]