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President Trump speaks at the White House on Monday. Photo: Doug Mills - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted a letter Monday night threatening to permanently cut off the World Health Organization's U.S. funding, accusing the WHO of "repeated missteps" during the pandemic and demanding it "demonstrate independence from China."

What he's saying: If the WHO "does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the World Health Organization permanent and reconsider our membership in the organization," Trump said in the letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"My administration has already started discussions with you on how to reform the organization. But action is needed quickly. We do not have time to waste ... I cannot allow American taxpayer dollars to continue to finance an organization that, in its present state, is so clearly not serving America's interests."
— Excerpt from Trump's letter

By the numbers: The novel coronavirus death toll continues to rise along with the number of cases in the U.S. and across the world. COVID-19 has killed almost 319,000 people worldwide — including over 90,300 in the U.S., which has the world's highest death toll, per Johns Hopkins data.

  • More than 4.8 million people worldwide and 1.5 million in the U.S. have tested positive for the virus. Experts have cast doubt on China's official coronavirus statistics. The country has reported more than 84,000 infections and over 4,600 deaths as of Tuesday morning.

The big picture: Trump tweeted his letter the same day that all 194 WHO member states attended a virtual meeting of the World Health Assembly, where the World Health Organization agreed to a call from over 110 countries for an independent review of the global coronavirus response.

  • China backed the review, which won't examine the origins of the virus.
  • Trump declined an invitation to address the talks, per Axios' Jonathan Swan.
  • China's President Xi Jinping did address the meeting, where he pledged to donate $2 billion over the next two years to support COVID-19 response efforts — particularly in developing countries.
  • Trump announced last month that the U.S. was halting funding to the WHO for 60 to 90 days over its handling of the outbreak, pending a review.

Behind the scenes: Swan reported Sunday that following a trip to Camp David with close House Republican allies over the weekend, Trump was "leaning toward preserving his total funding cut" for the WHO.

Of note: Swan points out that House Democrats say Trump doesn't have the legal authority to unilaterally halt the WHO funding and that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has foreshadowed a challenge to the decision.

  • "The Trump administration counters that there is no explicit language in Congress' spending bills that forces them to give money to the WHO," Swan notes.

Go deeper: Xi accepts, while Trump rejects, invite to address WHO

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

Aug 25, 2020 - World

Biden campaign says China's treatment of Uighur Muslims is "genocide"

Chinese flag behind razor wire at a housing compound in Yengisar, Xinjiang. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden campaign said in a statement Tuesday that the Chinese government's oppression of Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in the northwest region of Xinjiang is "genocide," and that Joe Biden "stands against it in the strongest terms."

Why it matters: Genocide is a serious crime under international law, and the U.S. government has adopted the formal label only on rare occasions after extensive documentation.

Aug 26, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Eric Trump says Democrats view the U.S. as "the source of the world's problems"

The president's son Eric Trump tore into Democrats Tuesday evening, saying the party believes "America is the source of the world's problems" during his GOP Convention speech.

Details: "As a result, they believe the only path forward is to erase history and forget the past. They want to destroy the monuments of our forefathers ... They want to disrespect our National Anthem by taking a knee, while our armed forces lay down their lives every day to protect our freedom," he said.