Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Elliot Setzer
Thursday, March 19, 2020, 2:59 PM

As negotiations continued on Capitol Hill over the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump Administration on Wednesday outlined an expanded $1 trillion economic package, reports the New York Times. Trump asked Congress to provide $500 billion in direct payments to taxpayers and $500 billion in loans to businesses, and directed federal agencies to suspend all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April. Priorities set out in a two-page Treasury Department report also include $50 billion in assistance to the airline industry and $150 billion to prop up other sectors, potentially including the hotel industry, writes the Washington Post.

President Trump announced yesterday that he will invoke the Defense Production Act, which would give the administration broad authorities to order American industry to manufacture much-needed medical supplies to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to the Hill. Passed in 1950, the Defense Production Act would give federal agencies priority in placing orders with companies. This move would mean that companies have to fulfill federal government orders before filling other commercial orders.

Pentagon officials announced Wednesday that two Navy hospital ships and two Army field hospitals are preparing to deploy to help regions of America overburdened with the coronavirus pandemic, reports the Associated Press in a summary of the military’s response to the outbreak. So far, 49 members of the military have tested positive for COVID-19.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement will temporarily delay enforcement actions across the U.S. in response to COVID-19, except for efforts to deport foreign nationals who have committed crimes or pose a threat to public safety, writes the Washington Post.

The Surgeon General acknowledged yesterday that the Trump administration’s recommendation that Americans practice social distancing for 15 days is “likely not going to be enough” time spent social distancing to halt the spread of the coronavirus, reports Politico. And a report issued Wednesday by the CDC found that nearly 40 percent of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. were aged 20 to 54, despite public perceptions that the disease primarily affects the elderly, according to the New York Times.

Iran yesterday saw its biggest single-day increase in COVID-19 deaths, as the country’s death toll reached 1,135, writes the Hill. China on Thursday reported no new local infections for the first time since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus three months ago, reports the Times.

Iran announced it will pardon 10,000 prisoners—including political ones—to mark the Iranian new year on Friday, according to Reuters. Iran had temporarily freed roughly 85,000 people from jail in response to the coronavirus epidemic, and many of the temporarily freed prisoners will now not return to jail following Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s pardon.

Coronavirus has complicated the drawdown of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan ordered by President Trump after the recently signed peace agreement with the Taliban, writes the New York Times. The U.S. commander in Afghanistan is stopping American and allied troops from entering Afghanistan and is also preventing some troops from leaving in order to protect forces from COVID-19.

President Trump on Tuesday appointed Christopher Miller to serve as the next director of the National Counterterrorism Center, reports the Hill.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared the most recent episode of Rational Security, reflecting on the White House response to the coronavirus pandemic and Congress’ delaying voting on FISA reform until the end of May.

Robert Loeb, Katie Kopp and Melanie Hallum analyzed how federal courts have adjusted to navigate the COVID-19 outbreak.

Carrie Cordero and David Thaw analyzed the Cyberspace Solarium Commission’s mandate to fix congressional oversight on cybersecurity.

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