Trump will declare national emergency over coronavirus pandemic

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to journalists while hosting Prime Minister of Ireland Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office at the White House March 12, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

President Donald Trump plans to declare a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, administration officials told NBC News.

The declaration would free up financial resources to assist Americans affected by the outbreak.

The president has scheduled a 3 p.m. ET news conference Friday at the White House.

The conference is set to occur shortly after Trump is scheduled to meet at the White House with major laboratory company executives about the response to the coronavirus outbreak.

A White House spokesman declined to comment when asked about the plan.

Trump’s emergency designation is expected to fall under the Stafford Act, which allows for two types of presidential declarations.

The first is an emergency, which is what Trump is expected to declare.

The second is a major disaster, which gives emergency management even more access to resources. Both designations place FEMA in charge of what happens.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday that he, Trump and the rest of leaders of the Group of 7 economic giant nations have “agreed to organize an extraordinary Leaders Summit by videoconference on Monday on Covid-19.”

“We will coordinate research efforts on a vaccine and treatments, and work on an economic and financial response,” Macron announced in a tweet.

The announcement of a U.S. national emergency would come just a day after Trump said he was not yet ready to make such a declaration.

“We have very strong emergency powers under the Stafford Act, and we are — we have it — I mean, I have it memorized, practically, as to the powers in that act. If I need to do something, I’ll do it,” Trump said in an Oval Office meeting with Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar. 
“I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about.” 
An emergency declaration also would put to rest weeks of debate within the White House, where different factions of Trump’s top aides disagreed about whether a Stafford Act declaration is necessary. 

Those opposed to making the declaration, which had included Trump himself, worried that it would cause financial markets to panic.

They also feared political fallout if it appeared Trump was sending the opposite message about coronavirus, namely that it is an emergency, from the one he had consistently delivered so far. Trump has claimed that coronavirus is no more dangerous than the common flu, and that it will likely disappear quickly and without a significant impact on American life. Health officials say neither of these statements is accurate.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency in the city on Thursday. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the same day banned gatherings of 500 or more in the state “for the forseeable future.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC earlier Friday the White House and Congress are nearing a deal that would provide stimulus to the U.S. economy amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“I think we’re very close to getting this done,” Mnuchin said in a “Squawk on the Street” interview.

“The president is absolutely committed that this will be an entire government effort, that we will be working with the House and Senate.”

As of Friday, there were more than 135,000 known cases of coronavirus globally, including nearly 5,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

In the United States, there have been at least 1,700 known cases, with at least 40 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

– Additional reporting by Yelena Dhzanova

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