But several reports, including from The Post, documented skepticism:
- South Korea says everything's fine: “South Korea said on Tuesday it was not true that [Kim] was gravely ill, contradicting U.S. media reports, though his absence from recent public events has sparked speculation about his health and refocused attention on his eventual succession," per our colleagues Simon Denyer and Min Joo Kim.
- “Mystery surrounded Kim Jong Un’s health after U.S. and South Korean officials gave differing accounts of the North Korean leader’s condition following his unusual absence from recent holiday celebrations,” Bloomberg News reports.
- From The Post's Anna Fifield: “My take on the Kim Jong Un rumors: We always need to be extremely cautious about speculation from North Korea because it's very difficult to verify. But these latest rumors are gaining traction because Kim is so obviously in such bad shape."
At The White House
AMERICA ON TRUMP'S LEADERSHIP: As President Trump pushes to reopen the economy — with several states in the South moving to start up business again — most Americans disapprove of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. And widespread concern about easing restrictions remains, with a majority saying it could be June or later until it's safe for larger gatherings and social distancing practices should remain in place until at least midsummer.
Those are the conclusions of a fresh Washington Post-University of Maryland poll out this morning, underscoring the bleak national mood about the novel coronavirus that has killed 42,000 and infected nearly 800,000 Americans and tethered most of us to our homes.
And the new numbers should send warning flares to the president who is seeking reelection in November. In recent days, Trump has sought in recent days to shift blame for his administration's slow response to the crisis to the World Health Organization, cutting off new funding, and governors, who he says should be largely responsible for testing.
Fifty-four percent of Americans give Trump negative marks for his overall response to the outbreak and a majority of Americans — 57 percent — are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about becoming infected and seriously ill from covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Not so fast: Trump's attacks on governors across the country who have publicly been at odds with the president are not sticking: Americans rate leadership of their governors highly and the support for governors crosses party lines:
- “In contrast, 72 percent of Americans give positive ratings to the governors of their states for the way they have dealt with the crisis, with workers also rating their employers positively,” our colleagues Dan Balz and Scott Clement report.
- “Partisan allegiances shape perceptions of when it will be safe to have gatherings of 10 or more people and of the president’s performance during the pandemic. But governors win praise across the political spectrum for their leadership, which has sometimes put them sharply at odds with Trump and his administration,” according to Dan and Scott.
- Our poll comes on the heels of an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll from over the weekend showing 65 percent of Americans believe Trump did not take the virus “seriously enough at the beginning. ”
Despite Trump's push for a quick reopening of the country and his tweets urging several states to protest stay-at-home orders, the majority of Americans believe it will take until the end of June or later to safely socialize again.
Sixty-five percent of Americans predict public gatherings of 10 or more people will be safe by the end of June or later. Only 10 percent of Americans expect public gatherings will be safe by the end of April or sooner – and 21 percent expects it to be safe by the end of May.
- “Partisans divide on this question, with 77 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents saying they expect public gatherings will not be safe until July or later, compared with 51 percent of Republicans and Republican leaners who say the same,” Dan and Scott report. “Yet Republicans themselves split depending on personal health concerns.”
- Fears of becoming sick and concern over personal safety override partisan allegiances: “Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who are less worried about becoming infected and seriously ill from the coronavirus, 60 percent expect public gatherings will be safe by the end of May or earlier. But among Republicans who are at least somewhat concerned about becoming seriously sick, 66 percent say this will take until July, not far from the share of all Democrats who anticipate such a delay.”
About the economy: The pandemic has been a source of stress and financial hardship for a majority of Americans, with the economic impact of the crisis being felt most severely among nonwhite groups. And 63 percent of Americans expect that even once the outbreak is under control, the U.S. economy will recover slowly:
- “About 7 in 10 adults, and more women than men, say the pandemic has been a source of stress in their lives. Half of all adults say the crisis has produced financial hardship for themselves or members of their family,” per Dan and Scott.
The poll finds 1 in 3 Americans are concerned about being able to pay bills and afford food and basic household items in the coming month.
- “Some 48 percent of Hispanics are concerned about affording food or other basic items, as are 39 percent of blacks and 23 percent of whites," Dan and Scott report.
- “I found those numbers alarming,” Michael Hanmer, a professor of government and politics at Maryland who co-directed the survey, told Dan and Scott. “There’s a big gap between whites and nonwhites for financial hardship and particularly when you get into paying the bills.”
BACK TO BASE-ICS: “Trump announced in a tweet late Monday night that he plans to suspend immigration to the United States, a move he said is needed to safeguard American jobs and defend the country from coronavirus pandemic, which he called ‘the Invisible Enemy,’” Nick Miroff, Josh Dawsey and Teo Armus report.
Two White House officials said an executive order is being drafted and Trump could sign it as soon as today: “The order, which was discussed among senior staff members Monday, would suspend nearly all immigration under the rationale of preventing the spread of infection by foreigners arriving from abroad,” our colleagues write.
- Not everyone was aware of the plan: “The president’s announcement caught some senior Department of Homeland Security officials off guard, and the agency did not respond to questions and requests to explain Trump’s plan late Monday.”
What it all means:
- “Under such an executive order, the Trump administration would no longer approve any applications from foreigners to live and work in the United States for an undetermined period of time, effectively shutting down the legal immigration system in the same way the president has long advocated closing the borders to illegal immigration,” the New York Times reported.
- “Workers who have for years received visas to perform specialized jobs in the United States would also be denied permission to arrive, though some workers in some industries deemed critical could be exempted from the ban, the people familiar with the president’s discussion said,” the Times added.
- And from the Times: “It was not immediately clear what legal basis Mr. Trump would claim to justify shutting down most immigration.”
There appears to be no modern precedent for such an order: “For the executive order to work, it would have to direct the State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to immediately stop the issuance of immigration visas,” our colleagues write. This would potentially leave the fiancees, children and other close relatives of U.S. citizens in limbo.
- During the height of the 1918 flu pandemic, immigration was still allowed: The United States allowed more than 110,000 immigrants to enter the country, Alex Nowrasteh, the director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, told our colleagues. “And during World War II, the United States accepted more than 170,000 immigrants with green cards and more than 227,000 temporary agricultural workers, mostly from Mexico, on the bracero guest worker visa program.”
In other White House news: The White House is planning a series of regulatory rollbacks, our colleagues Jeff Stein and Robert Costa scoop. These efforts could affect environmental, labor, and health-care policy as well as workplace safety:
- “Senior White House and Trump administration officials are planning to launch a sweeping effort in the coming days to repeal or suspend federal regulations affecting businesses, with the expected executive action seen by advisers as a way to boost an economy facing its worst shock in generations, two people familiar with the internal planning said," per Jeff and Robert.
- “The White House-driven initiative is expected to center on suspending federal regulations for small businesses and expanding an existing administration program that requires agencies to revoke two regulations for every new one they issue, the two people said.”
On The Hill
NO DEAL YET, BUT ‘DOWN TO THE FINE PRINT’: “The White House and Congress tried to design another giant bailout package aimed at combating the coronavirus pandemic’s economic and health fallout, scrambling to resolve last-minute snags over loan access and testing,” Erica Werner reports.
- Key quote: “We have I believe come to terms on the principles of the legislation, which is a good thing, but it’s always in the fine print,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on CNN Monday evening. “And so now we’re down to fine print, but I feel very optimistic and hopeful that we’ll come to a conclusion tonight so that it can be taken up [Tuesday] in the Senate and Wednesday in the House or Representatives.”
- The latest on the timing: Votes on the agreement are expected as early as this afternoon in the Senate and Thursday in the House.
What's in the package: $470 billion in new spending, with $370 billion directed to small businesses, $75 billion going to hospitals, and $25 billion set aside for testing. $310 billion would go to the Paycheck Protection Program initially funded through the historically massive CARES Act but ran out of money last week.
- But bankers are saying PPP, the small business fund, needs a lot more money: "This is going to go within, at most, 72 hours," Consumer Bankers Association President Richard Hunt, who represents large banks, told Politico's Zach Warmbrodt. "But the odds are more like 48 hours." Banks are pushing for closer to $1 trillion in new funding.
The White House is facing heat over large companies getting PPP loans: “Ruth’s Chris Steak House, a chain that has 150 locations and is valued at $250 million, reported receiving $20 million in funding from the small business portion of the economic stimulus legislation called the Paycheck Protection Program. The Potbelly chain of sandwich shops, which has more than 400 locations and a value of $89 million, reported receiving $10 million last week,” Jonathan O'Connell reports.
Outside the Beltway
TRIO OF SOUTHERN STATES MOVES TO REOPEN: Republican governors in Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina have all taken steps to reopen their state economies. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) is moving the quickest, allowing public beaches, department stores and some other nonessential businesses to reopen as soon as today, the Times's Rick Rojas and Michael Cooper report.
Georgia and South Carolina appear not to meet all of the White House's benchmarks for reopening, Philip Bump reports. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) was among the last of the nation’s governors to impose statewide social-distancing measures, and now is among the first to begin lifting them. "With applications for unemployment benefits soaring and companies large and small limiting their operations, he has been under pressure from business leaders and some political figures to end the lockdown as soon as possible,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Alan Jupplidd and Greg Bluestein report.
- Not all businesses are following Kemp's call: “Exhibition insiders stress that it would be nearly impossible for most major chains to start business back up by next week,” Variety's Rebecca Rubin and Brent Lang report of the fact that most movie theaters won't reopen in the state.
Florida might come next: “Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is in a hurry to open the state for business and gave a specially appointed committee five days to come up with ways to do it,” Lori Rozsa reports.
NETANYAHU REMAINS PRIME MINISTER FOR NOW: “Israel's rival political leaders broke the country's unprecedented political impasse when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and challenger Benny Gantz announced a deal to join forces and form an emergency unity government,” Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash report from Jerusalem.
Under the agreement, Netanyahu will remain prime minister for the next 18 months: Gantz will then succeed him. “The deal represents a triumph for Netanyahu, who has pushed relentlessly to extend his record run at the top of Israeli politics Critics have bemoaned and observers marveled that Israel’s longest-serving prime minister has once again outrun the political obituaries written for him after his party and its allies failed to regain their majority in three straight national elections and he was indicted on corruption charges along the way," our colleagues write.
- “King Bibi,” as his unshakable base of supporters calls him, still faces a trial: ”Netanyahu, who unsuccessfully sought parliamentary immunity earlier this year, is widely expected to use his office to further delay prosecution or to seek some form of official protection." He faces charges on multiple counts of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Proceedings were supposed to begin last month but were put on hold when the covid-19 outbreak shut down most of Israel’s courts.
THE LATEST IN THE DMV: “Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Monday that Maryland has purchased 500,000 tests from South Korea, saying the Trump administration ‘made it clear over and over again’ that states ‘have to go out and do it ourselves,’” Fenit Nirappil, Erin Cox and Gregory S. Schneider report.
Trump has taken offense to the governor's efforts: “In a case of, as an example, Governor Hogan he didn't really understand the list,” Trump claimed during Monday's task force briefing of the facilities in Maryland with testing capacity.
- Hogan said labs identified by the White House weren't being cooperative: “[He] had told reporters most of the Maryland labs identified by the White House were at federal installations such as the National Institutes of Health and Fort Detrick, and some had not been helpful in assisting with testing,” our colleagues write. But the governor later tried to move past his latest tiff with the president.
In the Media
WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Nearly one in ten nursing homes nationwide has reported coronavirus cases: “ … A count that has soared in the past three days as several hard-hit states released the names of facilities after weeks of pressure from families, journalists and watchdog groups,” Debbie Cenziper, Joel Jacobs and Shawn Mulcahy report.
- “Through state reports and media accounts, The Washington Post has compiled a nationwide list of more than 1,300 nursing homes, with a death count that has spiraled into the thousands.”
Oil dropped below $0: “It was fleeting, and symbolic, more than anything, and it won’t have much effect on the price of gasoline at the pump. But it showed just how much the coronavirus pandemic has crushed the world’s energy markets — and how the global effort to stabilize them was failing,” Will Englund reports.
PSA: Some taxpayers only have until Wednesday to check their checks. “Individuals receiving Social Security, survivor or disability, and Railroad Retirement benefits have a very short window — 12 p.m. Wednesday — to use an online tool to receive the $500 stimulus payment per dependent child, the Internal Revenue Service announced,” Michelle Singletary reports.
- More details: “The 12 p.m. Wednesday deadline only applies to certain individuals who were not required to file a 2018 or 2019 tax return but have dependent children under the age of 17 who qualify for the additional $500 stimulus payment,” our colleague writes. “Those who miss the deadline to register their children with the new non-filer tool at irs.gov will still get their payments of $1,200 per individual, but they will have to wait until next year to get the additional $500 per dependent child under 17, the IRS said.”