10 things you need to know today: April 16, 2020
Trump threatens to adjourn Congress so he can make recess appointments, Warren endorses Biden, and more
Trump threatens to adjourn Congress to make recess appointments
President Trump threatened Wednesday to exercise a never-used presidential power and adjourn Congress so he can make recess appointments to fill judicial vacancies and administration jobs without Senate approval. The House and Senate have stopped doing business due to the coronavirus pandemic but the Senate has continued brief so-called pro forma sessions every two days, a common practice used to prevent presidents from making recess appointments. Trump slammed the practice, calling it "a scam" and "dereliction of duty" that was hampering his administration's response to the coronavirus crisis. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) office said he had "pledged to find ways to confirm nominees considered mission-critical to the COVID-19 pandemic," but that under Senate rules he needed consent from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Elizabeth Warren endorses Joe Biden for president
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) became the last of Joe Biden's leading primary-season rivals to endorse the former vice president ahead of the November presidential election. Warren battled Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for the support of the party's progressive wing during the primaries, and dropped out after falling behind Sanders, who recently dropped out and this week also announced his support for Biden. "In this moment of crisis, it's more important than ever that the next president restores Americans' faith in good, effective government," Warren said. Biden "knows that a government run with integrity, competence, and heart will save lives and save livelihoods," Warren said. "And we can't afford to let Donald Trump continue to endanger the lives and livelihoods of every American." Biden tweeted that he was "proud to have the fiercest of fighters, Senator @ewarren, on my side."
Cuomo orders New Yorkers to wear masks when social distancing is impossible
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Wednesday ordered everyone in the state to wear face coverings in public if there's any danger they won't be able to observe social distancing to help contain the coronavirus outbreak. Cuomo's executive order takes effect after a three-day grace period. Cuomo said the state, which has more than a third of the nation's more than 600,000 confirmed COVID-19 coronavirus cases, was moving toward slowly reopening businesses in what will become the "new normal." "Where we're going, it's not a reopening in that we're going to reopen what was. We're going to a different place," Cuomo said. The governor added that there would be no penalties "for now" but he expected citizens to enforce the policy by saying to anyone uncovered, "Where's your mask, buddy?"
Governors in some states aim to reopen economies May 1
Governors of 20 states that have been spared the worst of the coronavirus pandemic are looking at starting to reopen their economies around May 1, a top public health official said Wednesday. "There are a number of states — 19, 20 states — that really have had limited impact from it. So I think we will see some states that are — the governors feel that they're ready — we're poised to assist them with that reopening," Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told ABC's Good Morning America. President Trump said Wednesday that the U.S. had passed the peak for new coronavirus cases, and that on Thursday he would unveil new federal guidelines for reopening the country slowly. Leading federal public health officials have warned that restarting businesses and easing lockdowns too soon could spark more infections.
WHO leaders call Trump's criticism of coronavirus response unfair
World Health Organization leaders on Wednesday objected to President Trump's decision to suspend U.S. funding of the United Nations agency pending a review of its handling of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. WHO leaders noted that they "alerted the world" to the coronavirus outbreak in China in early January. Former President Jimmy Carter said he was "distressed" by the news of Trump's decision, saying "WHO is the only international organization capable of leading the effort to control the virus." Philanthropist Bill Gates said defunding the organization is "as dangerous as it sounds." American Medical Association president Patrice Harris called Trump's move a "dangerous step in the wrong direction."
China denies report it hid coronavirus outbreak for 6 crucial days
China on Wednesday denied hiding early warnings of the coronavirus outbreak after The Associated Press published a report saying Beijing delayed announcing the threat for six crucial days. There was compelling evidence by late December that the new coronavirus in Wuhan, China, was spreading from person to person, but Chinese officials didn't take the threat of a significant outbreak seriously until the coronavirus was detected in Thailand on Jan. 13, AP reported, citing leaked internal documents. Top officials in Beijing started secretly preparing for a pandemic on Jan. 14 as the virus spread silently until President Xi Jinping issued a public warning on Jan. 20. Over those six days of silence, more than 3,000 people were infected with the coronavirus, and Wuhan hosted a banquet for tens of thousands of people.
Retail sales plunged by 8.7 percent in March
The Commerce Department said Wednesday that retail sales dropped by 8.7 percent in March, the biggest decline since the data started being tracked in 1992. In February, retail sales fell a revised 0.4 percent. The March drop was worse than the 8 percent decline economists were expecting due to widespread business closures and slowdowns under "stay-at-home" policies imposed to curb spreading of the coronavirus. Previously, the biggest monthly decline in retail sales was in the fall of 2008, when there was a drop of almost 4 percent. CNN's Julia Chatterley warned that since most non-essential businesses didn't start shutting down until halfway through the month, "as bad as this March number is, April is going to be worse."
U.S. Navy says Iranian vessels came dangerously close to American ships
The U.S. Navy said that Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy boats approached six U.S. military vessels in a "dangerous and harassing manner" in international waters on Wednesday. The alleged incident occurred in the North Arabian Gulf during U.S. Navy exercises that also involved U.S. Army helicopters. The U.S. military said the Iranian ships came as close as 10 yards to the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Maui, despite multiple warnings over bridge-to-bridge radio and blasts from the horns and other signaling equipment on the U.S. ships. The incident ended after about an hour, when the Iranian ships left. There were no immediate reports on the confrontation in Iranian media.
California giving cash to immigrants ineligible for federal coronavirus payments
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced Wednesday that his state would give cash payments to immigrants living in the country illegally. California has an estimated two million undocumented immigrants who paid more than $2.5 billion in state and local taxes last year, but aren't eligible for checks under the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package Congress approved last month. Newsom said California would use a mix of money from taxpayers and charitable donors to provide 150,000 undocumented adults with $500 each during the pandemic. "We feel a deep sense of gratitude for people that are in fear of deportations that are still addressing essential needs of tens of millions of Californians," Newsom said.
32 Rohingya refugees died on ship that drifted for weeks
Bangladesh coast guard officials said Thursday that at least 32 ethnic Rohingya died on a ship that drifted for weeks as coronavirus lockdowns in Malaysia and Thailand prevented the vessel from finding refuge. "They were at sea for about two months and were starving," a Bangladesh coast guard official told Reuters. The ship was brought to shore late Wednesday with 396 survivors on board. The refugees, all Muslim-minority Rohingya, were trying to flee Buddhist-majority Myanmar, but appeared destined to be sent back. One of the survivors told a reporter the group had been turned away from Malaysia twice, and a human rights group said more boats carrying Rohingya refugees probably remained adrift.