Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 18, 2020

Harold Maass
Joe Biden at a debate
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

1.

White House backs calls to send checks to all U.S. households

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters on Tuesday that the Trump administration wants Congress to approve sending checks to most American adults in the next two weeks to help them get through the coronavirus crisis. "Americans need cash now," Mnuchin said. The White House suggested the amount could exceed the $1,000 suggested by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). Mnuchin reportedly warned Republican senators unemployment could rise to 20 percent if the government doesn't step in with massive aid, including tax deferrals for corporations and some individuals. A Democratic plan would provide a series of several checks. "We will need multiple rounds of money for everyone," said Claudia Sahm, a former Federal Reserve economist. "This recession is going to be more severe than the Great Recession." [The Washington Post, The New York Times]

2.

Biden sweeps three more Democratic primaries

Former Vice President Joe Biden swept Democratic presidential primaries in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona on Tuesday, doubling his delegate lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Biden now has 1,132 delegates to Sanders' 817. The gap grew from 154 delegates before polls opened to 315, a nearly insurmountable lead on the path toward the 1,991 delegates needed to win the nomination. Sanders did not address the results in a livestream on his campaign website, focusing instead on the coronavirus pandemic. Biden, in a livestream from his home, made an appeal to Sanders voters. "Senator Sanders and his supporters have brought a remarkable passion and tenacity to all of these issues. And together they have shifted the fundamental conversation in this country," Biden said. "I hear you." [NBC News]

3.

West Virginia case means coronavirus now in all 50 states

West Virginia on Tuesday reported its first coronavirus infection, meaning that the outbreak has now spread to all 50 states and Washington, D.C. "We knew it was coming, we've prepared for this, and we shouldn't panic," Gov. Jim Justice (R) said. He ordered all restaurants, bars, and casinos in the state to close to prevent the flu-like virus from spreading. The novel COVID-19 coronavirus has infected more than 5,800 people in the U.S., and killed more than 100. The first case in the country was confirmed in January in a Washington state man who returned from Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began. Cities and states continued to impose new restrictions to prevent infections. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is "absolutely considering" a shelter-in-place order like the one issued for the San Francisco Bay area on Monday. [The Washington Post]

4.

Wall Street struggles after Tuesday's big gains

U.S. stock index futures plunged early Wednesday in ongoing volatility as investors awaited details on the federal government's response to the coronavirus crisis. Trading was briefly halted around 5 a.m. when the losses hit 5 percent. On Tuesday, Wall Street bounced back from its worst day since 1987 as the White House considered a $1 trillion package to boost the economy during the coronavirus crisis. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up by 5.2 percent. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq gained 4.6 percent and 6 percent, respectively. "We're going big," President Trump said of the stimulus package. The news of the stimulus plan drove down prices of the 10-year Treasury, pushing the yield of the 10-year note (which moves inversely to prices) above 1 percent. [CNBC]

5.

Former Rep. Duncan Hunter sentenced to 11 months

Former Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter on Tuesday was sentenced to 11 months in prison and three years of parole for corruption charges. Hunter at first called the allegations a "witch hunt," then pleaded guilty in December to one count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds. Prosecutors said he used more than $200,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses, including a $14,000 Italian vacation and routine items like groceries and bedding. Hunter, who resigned from Congress in January, said in the hearing that he took "full responsibility for any dime that was spent by me or anyone else on my campaign." Hunter's wife, Margaret, pleaded guilty to conspiring with her husband to misuse $25,000 in campaign funds, and has yet to be sentenced. [CNN]

6.

Biden gets Secret Service protection as he closes in on nomination

Former Vice President Joe Biden has started receiving Secret Service protection, the Secret Service said Tuesday. The Biden campaign requested protection for Biden last week, following an incident last month in which an anti-dairy protester stormed the stage during a Biden primary-victory speech. The scare was a "wake-up call" for the campaigns of Biden, who is increasingly considered the presumptive Democratic nominee, and his rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former Secret Service agent Jonathan Wackrow told NPR. The decision on whether a candidate needs protection is made in consultation between senior congressional officials and the Homeland Security Department. [CNBC]

7.

Poll: 60 percent of Americans don't trust Trump on coronavirus

Only 37 percent of Americans trust what President Trump says about the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Tuesday. Sixty percent of respondents said they had little or no trust in what Trump says. Just 46 percent said they believed the federal government is doing enough to contain the flu-like virus, a drop from 61 percent in February. More Americans disapproved of Trump's handling of the crisis, by a margin of 49 percent to 44 percent. Public health officials scored highest in public trust, with 84 percent expressing confidence in them, followed by state and local leaders, at 72 percent. Two-thirds of Democrats said they trust information from the news media, while Republicans overwhelmingly said they didn't trust the media. [NPR]

8.

E.U. leaders close borders to most outsiders

Leaders of the 26 European countries in the Schengen zone, which enables borderless movement in much of the European Union, voted on Tuesday to temporarily close their borders to people from countries outside the E.U. to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The travel ban marked the first joint response to the pandemic in the E.U. The measure also prohibits sending medical supplies to other countries. The ban, which Britain didn't plan to join, will remain in place for at least 30 days. E.U. leaders said they would continue the free circulation of goods within the zone. European citizens and residents returning home will be allowed in. Medical professionals and scientists also will be exempt. France and Spain also announced massive relief packages to soften the economic damage of the crisis. [The New York Times, The Washington Post]

9.

China expels U.S. journalists in retaliation for U.S. restrictions

China said Wednesday that it was revoking the media credentials of American citizens working for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. The move, which effectively expels the journalists, came in response to U.S. restrictions on state-owned Chinese media outlets operating in the United States. China's foreign ministry said the affected journalists with credentials expiring before the end of the year have to hand over their press cards within 10 days. The back-and-forth media restrictions imposed by the two countries came despite a first-phase deal to end the trade war between the Trump administration and Beijing. [The Associated Press, CNN]

10.

Tom Brady leaves Patriots, reportedly heads to Buccaneers

Superstar quarterback Tom Brady announced Tuesday that he would be leaving the New England Patriots, which he led to six Super Bowl championships in his 20 years there. "Although my football journey will take place elsewhere," he wrote in a statement, "I appreciate everything that we have achieved." Brady becomes a free agent on Wednesday after he and the team failed to agree on a new contract. Brady, 42, recently said he planned to play until he was 45, although it was not immediately clear what team he would be joining next season. "While sad today, the overwhelming feeling I have is appreciation for his countless contributions to our team and community," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said. Brady is expected to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. [ESPN]