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Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senior Trump administration officials discussed shutting down travel from Italy and South Korea as the coronavirus outbreak worsened in those countries, but ultimately decided the virus is spreading too quickly to be contained, sources with direct knowledge of the discussions tell Axios.

Why it matters: It's extremely difficult to contain a viral outbreak in a globalized society, and if such a strategy isn't likely to be much help, it's even harder to justify the diplomatic, logistical and economic consequences.

What we're hearing: Several federal agencies, including the State and Defense departments, were concerned about cutting off travel from those countries because the U.S. has a strong military presence in South Korea and Italy's central location in the European Union would complicate restrictions, the sources said.

  • Public health officials involved in the talks also tended to not favor travel bans, which informed the ultimate decision not to restrict travel from Italy and South Korea, one of the sources said.
  • "You want to move towards mitigating, knowing that once you figure out that the virus is spreading consistently across America or in certain spots, there's diminishing returns," the source said.
  • While curtailing travel to China was viewed as having a high return in the early days of the outbreak, the same wasn't true of Italy and South Korea — especially because the virus is spreading through other European countries beyond Italy, the source added.

Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Marc Short told Axios he wouldn't "comment specifically on conversations we have inside the WH Situation Room and disappointed other[s] do, but the purpose of the task force in part is to allow discussion around many points of view to try to reach the best recommendation possible to deliver to the President. Many viewpoints are represented every day."

What's next: Trump has just arrived on Capitol Hill to discuss options for combatting the economic effects of the coronavirus with Senate Republicans. Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow, and trade adviser Peter Navarro are also attending the meeting.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Special report: Trump's U.S.-China transformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.

McConnell: Trump "provoked" Capitol mob

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was "provoked by the president and other powerful people."

Why it matters: Trump was impeached by the House last week for "incitement of insurrection." McConnell has not said how he will vote in Trump's coming Senate impeachment trial, but sources told Axios' Mike Allen that the chances of him voting to convict are higher than 50%.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP leaders skip Trump sendoff in favor of church with Biden

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in July. Photo by Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images

Congressional leaders, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will skip President Trump's departure ceremony in Maryland tomorrow morning in favor of attending mass with incoming President Joe Biden ahead of his inauguration, congressional sources familiar with their plans tell Axios.

Why it matters: Their decision is a clear sign of unity before Biden takes the oath of office.