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Where things stand
President Trump announced on Twitter last night that he would use an executive order to suspend all immigration into the United States in an attempt to quell the spread of the coronavirus. In recent weeks the administration had already barred asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants from entering the country, prompting objections from advocacy groups that he was using the crisis to further his anti-immigration agenda. As the virus spreads throughout the United States, and as his critics argue that he has not done enough to confront the pandemic, Trump has often pointed to his decision in late January to bar travel from China as evidence that he was working to confront it.
A dispute over virus testing is at the heart of the latest standoff in Washington: House Democrats say they are close to a deal with the president on the next phase of federal virus relief, but before they sign off they want a nationwide testing plan included in the bill. The legislation is already likely to include $25 billion for testing, as well as more than $300 billion in new loans for small businesses, and $75 billion for hospitals, but Republicans have thus far resisted instituting a national testing framework. The Senate’s Republican leadership has scheduled a session for 4 p.m. today, suggesting that it expects Trump and the Democrats to have come to an agreement by then. But on Monday, the president once again argued on Twitter that “States, not the Federal Government, should be doing the Testing.”
Protesters have gathered in states across the country over the past week, defying stay-at-home orders and demanding that their governors — in most cases, Democrats or moderate Republicans — lift lockdown restrictions. In Kentucky, where a number of well-attended protests have occurred, the Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, announced over the weekend that the state had begun to experience a higher rate of infection. Beshear has said that he will not begin to lift restrictions until the state’s infection rate has been in decline for 14 consecutive days. But some other Southern states are moving to reopen, making them canaries in the mine as the nation wonders when a return to public life will become safe. In South Carolina, many retail stores will be allowed to reopen today after the governor decided to ignore federal health officials’ recommendations. Georgia is set to follow by the end of the week, and in Tennessee, the governor has indicated that he will let stay-at-home restrictions in many places lapse on May 1.
Nearly three-quarters of the inmate population at a prison in Ohio has tested positive for the virus, making it the country’s leading single source of reported infections, with over 1,800. Across the country, from North Carolina to Louisiana to California, jails and prisons are considered among the highest-risk places to be during the pandemic because of their crowded conditions. Some cities and states — including New York and California — have begun to release a limited number of nonviolent offenders in order to reduce crowding. But prisoners’ rights advocates continue to argue that the virus warrants a more widespread reduction to the prison population.
Perhaps not surprisingly, many of Trump’s disgraced allies are seeking to jump the line and get out of prison now, arguing that the virus puts them at undue risk. Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, former top officials on Trump’s campaign who are now behind bars, have filed separate motions asking to serve the rest of their sentences at home. It’s also possible that the president could use the virus as an opportunity to grant clemency to some of his allies. When asked at a news conference on Sunday whether he was considering issuing more pardons, Trump pointed to Manafort, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn as people who had been “treated unfairly,” adding: “What am I going to do? You’ll find out what I’m going to do.”
Photo of the day
President Trump during the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on Monday.
Klobuchar, whose husband has struggled with the virus, sits down for a chat with Biden.
Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic senator from Minnesota and a potential vice-presidential pick for Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, joined Biden on his podcast for a wide-ranging conversation that quickly took on a strikingly personal tone.
At a time when many voters are more focused on their own vulnerability than on the politics of a general election, Klobuchar spoke to Biden about her husband’s battle with the coronavirus, though he is now on the mend. Speaking on Monday’s episode of the podcast, “Here’s the Deal,” she called it “the most lonely, horrific disease.”
Biden, whose first wife and daughter died in a car crash and whose son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015, has sought to use his personal experiences with grief to connect with struggling voters. That goal has been made more difficult these days by social distancing, and by the fact that Trump enjoys the bully pulpit of the presidency amid the crisis.
Klobuchar suggested that Biden’s “empathy” was a critical factor in her decision to support him, a choice that helped put wind in his sails on the eve of Super Tuesday. And she previewed a contrast Democrats are hoping to draw with Trump over matters of character.
“That sense that you have, which has marked your whole life from your own losses, of empathy, is something that we are missing right now in the White House,” Klobuchar said.