US State Department hits France over prisoner swap with Iran

The Trump administration lashed out at France on Sunday for releasing an Iranian man wanted for prosecution. Jalal Rohollahnejad was the subject of a extradition request on charges of violating American sanctions on Iran.

He was released from French custody on Friday in an apparent swap instead. In exchange Iran released French researcher Roland Marchal, who had been detained for more than 8 months on charges of violating state security laws.

US State department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement:

The United States and France have a shared interest in bringing those accused of serious crimes to justice, particularly in cases with national security implications. It is regrettable in this instance that France failed to uphold its treaty obligations and prevented justice from being pursued.”

Iranian state TV reported late Friday that Marchal had been freed, just hours after French authorities released Ruhollahnejad.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren calls for nationwide closure of immigration courts

Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren urged US Attorney General Bill Barr to close US immigration courts nationwide as the country grapples with the coronavirus outbreak.

In a letter to sent to the US Justice department, Senator Warren called Barr’s handling of immigration and CDC cooperation “irresponsible,” claiming the department is “putting people’s health at risk.”

“Courtrooms and waiting areas remain full of people,” Senator Warren said. “Limited availability of testing means that we do not know who is sick and transmitting the virus.”

Letter from Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren to US Attorney General William Barr

Letter from Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren to US Attorney General William Barr Photograph: Public Domain

NY Governor to young people: ‘You are not immune to this’

According to the New York governor Andrew Cuomo, “18-49 year-olds represent 53%” of the total number of confirmed coronaviruses cases statewide.

“Too many young people are not taking things serious & this why this is going to get much worse,” Governor Cuomo said. “I say to the young people of America, you are not immune to this. It’s a very nasty sickness.”

Charles Ornstein

Probably not lethal in young people. But you can transfer it to someone who may very well die, Cuomo says. “You can touch a surface, walk away, a day later someone can sit at this table and put their hand in the same place and contract the virus.”

March 22, 2020

As part of his now-daily briefings on the state’s crisis response, Cuomo laid into young people for continuing to party and congregate in many of the state’s public parks:

“It’s insensitive, it’s arrogant, it’s self destructive. It’s disrespectful to other people and it has to stop and it has to stop now. This is not a joke and I am not kidding.

NYC Mayor blasts Trump on coronavirus response

Bill De Blasio, the mayor of New York City, warned on Sunday that essential hospital supplies would be exhausted in barely more than a week, leading to the deaths of many more people.

In comments sharply critical of what he sees as a botched federal response to the escalating Coronavirus crisis, De Blasio said: “It feels like we’re on our own.”

Speaking on CNN, the mayor said: “We’re about 10 days away now from seeing widespread shortages of ventilators, surgical masks, the things necessary to keep a hospital system running.

“We have seen next to nothing from the federal government at this point. We’ve made this plea publicly, privately, letters, phone calls, very little has arrived.

“The military has not been mobilized. The Defense Production Act has not been utilized in any way I can see. Not just for New York City, New York state, for a lot of the country, it feels like we’re on our own at this point. We’re not seeing action from the federal government.”

He added bluntly: “If we don’t get more ventilators in the next 10 days, people will die.”

New York’s hospitals are dealing with a “deluge” of Coronavirus cases, the New York Times reported, with critical shortages of equipment in several boroughs including Bronx and Brooklyn. By Saturday night, hospitals statewide were already handling more than 10,000 cases.

Speaking later Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, De Blasio said: “April is going to be a lot worse than March and I fear May will be worse than April.

“If the president does not act, people will die who could have lived otherwise.”

Cuomo to Trump: invoke the Defense Production Act

New York governor Andrew Cuomo called on US President Donald Trump and the federal government to increase its response to the coronavirus pandemic spreading throughout the US.

At his daily press conference Sunday, Governor Cuomo implored the president to enact the Defense Production Act, which would mandate firms to make essential medical supplies such as masks.

“We are ready to go as soon as the federal government is ready to go,” he said. “If the federal government did it then they can do it in a very orderly way. They can distribute these goods by need rather than have these states competing with each other.”

Andrew Cuomo

Holding a briefing with updates on #Coronavirus. WATCH LIVE:

March 22, 2020

In the press conference Cuomo offered a scathing indictment of the federal government’s continued delays and missteps, specifically calling on the president to “cut the red tape, cut the bureaucracy”.

“Time matters, minutes count and this is literally a matter of life and death,” Cuomo said.

The Defense Production Act, passed in the 1950s, allows the president to “prioritize and accept government contracts” with private sector companies to produce needed materials during war or national emergency.

Despite growing calls, so far, the Trump administration has been inconsistent. Trump first issued an executive order invoking the act this week, but has resisted using it to mobilize private industry.

From The New York Times:

Mr. Trump has given mixed signals about whether his administration has actually used the law at all to spur the production of scarce and necessary items like ventilators; testing kits; and protective masks, gloves, and gowns.

at 4.32pm GMT

Good day and welcome to the Sunday US liveblog. I’m Kenya Evelyn leading off today’s coverage.

We’re following the country’s continued response to the coronavirus pandemic, which you can follow more in depth on our coronavirus live blog

And several key figures are making the rounds on the US Sunday morning shows. We’ll keep you posted on all the latest. Stay tuned.

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