The Early Edition: April 7, 2020

Curated summary of up-to-the-minute national security developments at home and abroad.

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Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.  

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus death toll in the United States topped 10,500 yesterday with more than 368,400 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University, which has become the leading authority on tracking the global pandemic. The United States has the third-highest number of reported deaths from the disease in the world, exceeded only by Italy with 16,523 and Spain with 13,341. There have now been over 74,800 deaths globally related to the pandemic, with 1.35 million people infected worldwide. Jennifer Calfas, Chong Koh Ping and Nick Kostov report for the Wall Street Journal.

White House officials expressed optimism yesterday that with continued mitigation efforts, there is potential to bring down the estimated U.S. death toll from 100,000. “I don’t think anyone has ever mitigated the way I’ve seen people mitigate right now … I am optimistic … always cautiously optimistic,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading health official, said. Christina Maxouris reports for CNN.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said yesterday that the daily death toll in New York fell under 600 for two days in a row, suggesting a “possible flattening of the curve.” However, Cuomo warned that the hospital system remains overburdened. Al Jazeera reporting.

President Trump’s trade adviser bluntly warned White House officials in late January that the coronavirus outbreak could cost the country “trillions of dollars” and put “millions” of Americans in danger of illness or death. The warning, issued in a Jan. 29 memo by Peter Navarro obtained by Axios, is the highest-level alert known to have passed round the West Wing as the administration was taking its first solid steps to tackle a crisis that had already gripped China’s leaders and would go on to disturb life in Europe and the United States. Maggie Haberman reports for the New York Times.

Trump has a “small financial interest” in the maker of an anti-malarial drug that he has been strongly promoting as a treatment for coronavirus. Trump and his allies have touted hydroxychloroquine as a potential cure, despite a lack of evidence that the drug is effective. The president’s family trusts all have investments in a mutual fund whose largest holding is Sanofi, the manufacturer of Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine. Peter Baker, Katie Rogers, David Enrich and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times.

Six things to know about the malaria drugs Trump keeps pushing are provided by Sarah Owermohle at POLITICO.

Children make up a very small percentage of American coronavirus cases so far and are remarkably less likely to become seriously ill than American adults, according to an initial report on the first wave of coronavirus cases in the United States. The study, published yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.), also found that children appear less likely than adults to exhibit any of the major known coronavirus symptoms — fever, cough or shortness of breath — indicating that many children have mild or undetected cases of the disease and could be transmitting the virus to others in their families and communities. Pam Belluck reports for the New York Times.

A new report from the Inspector General of Health and Human Services (H.H.S.) found that many hospitals across the United States battling the virus are running out of protective gear, tests, medical staff and bed space. The report, the first public federal assessment of hospitals’ ability to cope with the surge of infected patients in coronavirus hot spots, appeared to refute certain assertions made by the president and his team — that some doctors complaining about shortages are being greedy. Trump rejected the report’s findings yesterday, suggesting they were political. Anthony Goldstein reports for the Washington Post.

The Trump administration has struck a deal with the U.S. manufacturer 3M to ship in more than 166 million respirators from China over the next three months and allow 3M to continue exporting its U.S.-made respirators. The agreement breaks a stalemate which resulted in Washington halting nearly three million of the specialized masks from being exported to Ontario, prompting fears that Canada’s most populous province would run out of supplies for medical staff fighting coronavirus by the end of the week. Leyland Cecco and Julian Borger report for The Guardian.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers tried to cancel in-person voting in today’s primary, but the state Supreme Court blocked him at Republicans’ request. Brett Neely reports for NPR.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly apologized last night to Capt. Brett Crozier and the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt’s crew after calling the commander “stupid” in a speech yesterday morning. “Let me be clear, I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naive nor stupid,” Modly wrote in a statement. Capt. Crozier, who took command of the Theodore Roosevelt in November, was dismissed last week after writing a letter describing a bleak situation aboard the carrier as more of his crew began falling ill. John Bowden reports for the Hill.

The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) has warned countries not to lift or ease measures for slowing the spread of the coronavirus too early, a spokesperson said today. “One of the most important parts is not to let go of the measures too early in order not to have a fall back again,” Christian Lindmeier said in a virtual briefing, adding, “It’s similar to being sick yourself if you get out of bed too early and get running too early you risk falling back and having complications.” Reuters reporting.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved to intensive care after being hospitalized Sunday with coronavirus, the prime minister’s office said yesterday. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been deputized to assume his duties in the meantime. The BBC reporting.

China announced 32 new coronavirus cases yesterday, all of them imported, but no new deaths for the first time since it began regularly reporting figures in January. Al Jazeera reporting.

Japan plans to declare a state of emergency in the capital Tokyo and six other regions in an attempt to tackle the rapid spread of coronavirus. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the move could come as early as today. AFP reporting.

Key takeaways from yesterday’s White House briefing are provided in an analysis by Aaron Blake for The Washington Post. 

The coronavirus “may be giving Beijing an opening in the South China Sea,” with the People’s Liberation Army recently carrying out large-scale naval exercises, and also recently sinking a Vietnamese fishing boat, Brad Lendon writes in an analysis for CNN.

Trump’s mishandling and mismanagement of the pandemic undermines his C.E.O. image, in which “instead of accepting responsibility for the administration’s laggard, chaotic response, Trump has launched a full-scale attempt to shift blame onto others, including China and the media,” Jon Harwood comments at CNN.

Trump cannot be the only one to blame in the coronavirus blame game; many senior officials are guilty of underestimating the threat of the pandemic, Alice Stewart argues at CNN.

A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.

U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.

Latest updates on the pandemic at The Guardian and NBC News.

SYRIA

The U.N.’s chemical weapons watchdog – The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (O.P.C.W.) – is to release a report that blames the Syrian government forces and its allies for sarin and chlorine gas attacks on civilians in Syria in 2017 and 2018 respectively. The report states that it is “highly probable” that the government of President Bashar al-Assad or its allies acted alone in at least one of the seven attacks, which is expected to trigger new sanctions on Syria. Beth McKernan reports for The Guardian. 

The U.N.’s report on Syria’s chemical weapons bombing is silent on Russia’s role, with Richard Gowan, the U.N. director at the Inter Crisis Group, saying “this is a deliberately mealy-mouthed report … On a charitable reading, this summary contains enough oblique and tentative statements confirming the Syrian government and Russians’ responsibility.” Evan Hill reports for The New York Times.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

President Trump’s firing of Inspector General for the Intelligence Community (I.C. I.G.) Michael Atkinson poses a threat to U.S. democracy and to the rule of law. Noah Bookbinder reports for The New York Times. 

The Taliban says it will no longer engage with the Afghan government over prisoner exchange, with the group’s political spokesperson Suhail Shaheen stating in a message on Twitter that the release of Taliban prisoners has “been delayed under one pretext or another till now … Therefore, our technical team will not participate in fruitless meetings with relevant sides starting from tomorrow.” Al Jazeera reporting 

About the Author(s)

Nat O'Connell

Associate News Editor at Just Security and Legal Fellow at JUSTICE, a law reform and human rights organization based in the UK - Follow her on Twitter (@oconnellnat).