Welcome to Sneak Peek, our weekly lookahead from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, plus our best scoops.
🇨🇳 Tonight on "Axios on HBO" (6pm ET/PT): An intense interview with China's ambassador to the U.S. ... Sen. Ted Cruz talks from self-quarantine ... plus the CEOs of Microsoft and Carnival, and a rare sit-down with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
Situational awareness: Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for coronavirus. He is the first senator to contract the disease.
Tonight's newsletter is 1,941 words, a 7-minute read.
Photo: "Axios on HBO"
In a rare interview, China's ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, told "Axios on HBO" that he stands by his belief that it's "crazy" to spread rumors about the coronavirus originating from a military laboratory the United States.
Why it matters: Cui called this exact conspiracy theory "crazy" more than a month ago on CBS' "Face the Nation." But that was before the spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zhao Lijian, began publicly promoting the conspiracy.
The big picture: There's not a credible epidemiologist in the world who has shown evidence that the virus originated anywhere but China. Scientists believe the virus emerged from animals sold in a market in Wuhan, where the first cases of the disease were discovered.
Driving the news: In our interview, which aired tonight, "Axios on HBO" quoted back to the ambassador a statement he made on "Face the Nation" Feb. 9: "There are people who are saying that these virus [sic] are coming from some- some military lab, not of China, maybe in the United States. How can we believe all these crazy things?"
Between the lines: Asked whether Cui's Foreign Ministry colleague had any evidence to support the conspiracy theory, Cui replied, with a slight smile, "maybe you could go and ask him."
What's next: "Axios on HBO" asked Cui what he made of Trump calling the coronavirus the "Chinese virus."
The interview had tense moments. At one point, during an exchange about allegations of torture from former Muslim detainees in Xinjiang camps, Cui said it would not be productive to keep discussing such matters.
On the expulsion of American journalists from China:
On the disappearances of Chinese citizen journalists who were reporting on the coronavirus from inside Wuhan:
Bonus: Watch Cui defend China's decision to expel the Wall Street Journal reporters and our exchange about the disappeared Chinese journalists.
Go deeper: Read Axios' China reporter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian's timeline of the Chinese government's cover-up in the early weeks of the coronavirus.
Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
After the press hammered President Trump for a dismissive and dysfunctional response that wasted precious time and let the coronavirus spread undetected through the U.S., he is now eager to spend whatever it takes to bail out the economy, according to White House officials.
The bottom line: Aides say Trump's instinctive view is that no coronavirus check is too big. He's searching for dramatic, quick-fix interventions.
Socially distanced apart, Mitch McConnell and Steven Mnuchin attend a meeting with a select group of senators and Trump administration officials, March 20. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
After days of intense negotiations, talks between Capitol Hill leaders and the White House over a Phase 3 stimulus package to fight the coronavirus broke down on Sunday, leading to a failed procedural vote meant to move the bill forward, reports Axios' Alayna Treene.
Why it matters: The emergency legislation, which is expected to be one of the largest and most expensive stimulus packages in American history (it could grow beyond $2 trillion), would deliver desperately needed aid to American families, small businesses and corporations hit hardest by the virus.
The latest: Senate Majority Leader McConnell led a meeting this morning with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to hammer out the sticking points.
What's next: McConnell will continue to work with Democratic leaders and the White House to reach a deal that will get enough Democratic votes to pass.
Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
The House will remain on recess until a vote on the Phase 3 deal is announced. They will be notified 24 hours ahead so they can arrange travel back to Washington, Alayna writes.
The Senate will resume negotiations on their stimulus bill.
The White House did not provide a copy of President Trump's schedule, but administration officials say the daily televised briefings from the coronavirus task force will continue.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The government of Singapore is tracing the coronavirus in ways that are simultaneously impressive and terrifying for those who worry about high-tech dictatorship.
The latest example: On Saturday, a friend living there received a WhatsApp message from the Singaporean government with instructions to download a new coronavirus tracing app called "TraceTogether."
How it works, per ChannelNewsAsia (CNA):
Why it matters: Singapore has had extraordinary success, so far, in controlling the coronavirus. It only recently reported its first deaths from the virus.
Between the lines: "This app is a high-tech form of contact tracing — identify an infected person, then immediately identify who they might have infected, test those people, on down the line," writes Axios' Sam Baker.
The other side: Some of the government's techniques would be difficult to implement in a free society. Over many decades, Singaporeans have become comfortable unquestioningly following directives from their dictatorial government.