Morning Brief

U.S. Governors Defy Trump by Forming Regional Alliances

In a move that puts them at odds with the White House, the governors plan to chart their own path.

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks in front of the hospital ship USNS Mercy after it arrived into the Port of Los Angeles on March 27, 2020.
California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks in front of the hospital ship USNS Mercy after it arrived into the Port of Los Angeles on March 27, 2020. Carolyn Cole / AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Ten U.S. states form alliances to coordinate reopening their economies while Trump asserts his “authority is total,” Benny Gantz is granted a 48-hour extension to form a government in Israel, and the first U.S. active duty service member dies of COVID-19.

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U.S. Governors Form Alliances to Coordinate Reopening Economies

Two groups of governors on America’s east and west coasts declared they would form regional alliances to coordinate a reopening of their respective economies. Together the ten states represent approximately one-third of the U.S. population and roughly 35 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

On Monday, California, Oregon, and Washington announced the Western States Pact to “flip the script on COVID-19” and “work together on a shared approach” to reopening the economies of each state. The governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island also formed a working group to plan a reopening in the Northeast region, with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announcing his state would join the group, too. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stressed the importance of regional coordination, given that much of New York’s workforce commutes from neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut.

Do they trust the White House? The state leaders appear skeptical of the Trump administration’s ability to lead the country out of a lockdown carefully and responsibly and asserted their right as governors to end the lockdowns that they imposed. “An economic recovery only occurs on the back of a complete health care recovery,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said, adding that “jumping in too early” could result in “unintended consequences which could be grave.”

What does Trump think? The plans put the governors at odds with the White House, where U.S. President Donald Trump pushed back when asked whether a state governor could defy a presidential order to reopen, “When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total,” Trump said at a Monday press briefing.

How are other countries beginning to open up? Spain made its first step in easing lockdown restrictions as it allowed roughly 300,000 non-essential workers to return to work, mostly in the construction and manufacturing sectors. The number of new daily coronavirus cases in Spain has dropped in recent days, and on Monday the country recorded its smallest increase in cases since March 22.

It is the beginning of a gradual relaxation of strict lockdown procedures in Europe as well as a test of whether countries have succeeded in flattening their coronavirus curves: In Austria, small shops will reopen today, and in Denmark, schools and childcare centers will reopen on Wednesday. France is not following the trend, as French President Emmanuel Macron announced that schools and shops would remain closed until May 11.

What We’re Following Today

Netanyahu-Gantz coalition grows closer. The possibility of a coalition government between Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party remains despite Gantz’s 28-day negotiating mandate expiring at midnight yesterday. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin granted a late request for an extension from both Netanyahu and Gantz to continue their negotiations for 48 hours, which have been held up over the matter of appointing judges, according to Haaretz. Rivlin has given Gantz until midnight on Wednesday to come to an agreement.

Gantz’s decision to open talks with Likud have badly weakened his party. A Monday poll asking who voters would consider if an election was held that day showed a four seat gain for Likud, while Blue and White would lose almost half of their 33 seats.

First active duty U.S. service member dies of COVID-19. A U.S. sailor died on Monday, the first casualty of the coronavirus outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the first active duty U.S. service member to die of COVID-19. The coronavirus stricken aircraft carrier was forced to dock in Guam after hundreds of sailors fell ill with coronavirus symptoms.

The ship’s commander, Capt. Brett Crozier, had been relieved from command after a letter he wrote highlighting the conditions aboard the ship was leaked. The Acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, then resigned after off-color comments he made criticizing Crozier to the crew of the carrier.

Sanders endorses Biden. Just five days since he dropped out of the Democratic primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president during a live video chat between the two. “I am asking all Americans … to come together in this campaign to support your candidacy, which I endorse, to make certain that we defeat somebody who I believe is the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country,” he told Biden during the chat. With Sanders’ endorsement, Sen. Elizabeth Warren now remains the only major former 2020 candidate not to have endorsed Biden.

Keep an Eye On

Fire in Chernobyl. A fire in the forests near Chernobyl continues to rage over a week after it began as it grows closer to the defunct nuclear power plant, threatening to unleash further radiation into the surrounding area. Activists from Greenpeace Russia accused the Ukrainian government of downplaying the size of the initial blaze, citing satellite imagery showing the burnt area was much larger than officials had claimed. “A fire approaching a nuclear or hazardous radiation facility is always a risk,” Rashid Alimov, head of energy projects at Greenpeace Russia, said on Monday. “In this case we’re hoping for rain tomorrow.” Dry weather is forecast in Chernobyl throughout this week.

Ireland’s new government. Two months after an inconclusive general election, Ireland’s two major parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are on the cusp of forming a coalition government. Each government since the country’s founding has featured either party, but this would be the first time the two parties would enter government together. By joining together, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael would edge out the left-wing nationalist party Sinn Fein, which received the most votes in February’s election.

Odds and Ends

If travel restrictions are eased in the coming months and airports resume normal traffic, your pilot may be a little rusty. Regulations stipulate pilots must have executed three takeoffs and three landings within the past 90 days to be allowed fly a plane and that becomes difficult when airlines worldwide are effectively grounded. Flight simulators can count toward the pilot’s total, however, many of these facilities have been closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said it would not bring legal action against pilots whose certificates would expire between March 31 and June 30 of this year if they do end up taking to the air.

That’s it for today.

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Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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