Franco Ordoñez

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.

Ordoñez has received several state and national awards for his work, including the Casey Medal, the Gerald Loeb Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Journalism. He is a two-time reporting fellow with the International Center for Journalists, and is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and the University of Georgia.

Two weeks ago, President Trump entered the White House briefing room and announced an aggressive plan to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Stay home for 15 days, he told Americans. Avoid groups of more than 10 people. "If everyone makes this change, or these critical changes, and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus," he said.

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The nation's 15 days of social distancing are nearly over. And while many states have issued stay-at-home orders for much longer periods of time, new guidance from the White House coronavirus task force is due soon.

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The United States and China are locked in a struggle over influence and messaging about the coronavirus pandemic even as governments around the world struggle to control the outbreak.

This week, Washington claimed a small victory.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus hailed comments by China's ambassador walking back an earlier false claim in Beijing that the U.S. Army had introduced the coronavirus to its epicenter in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

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Updated at 3:37 p.m. ET

The Food and Drug Administration is trying to clear the way to expand the types of medicines or treatments available during the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump said Thursday.

Early trials have begun for a prospective coronavirus vaccine, and the FDA also is working to permit patients to have access to medicines approved for use in other countries or for other uses.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn stressed that the agency is moving as quickly as it can while still following protocol to ensure safety standards are met.

Updated at 9:30 p.m. ET

President Trump on Friday declared that the coronavirus pandemic is a national emergency, a designation that frees up as much as $50 billion in federal assistance to state and local governments overwhelmed by the spread of the virus, and makes it easier to surge medical resources to areas that need them most.

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Rachel, let's talk more about the White House response to the coronavirus here. I want to bring in NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez, who is at the White House. Hi, Franco. Franco, you with us?

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hello.

Ricardo Flores can't vote on Tuesday. He's not a citizen.

But Flores wants to play a role now. He figures if he can convince a few people, especially members of his own Latino community in Kansas City, Mo., to cast a ballot for his candidate — that's a close second.

"I'm going to become a citizen of this country," he says. "And I'm going to be able to vote and I have my life here now, I want to see things better."

Updated at 7 p.m. ET

President Trump on Friday stopped in at the Atlanta headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency marshaling the response to coronavirus — a major political test for his administration.

The trip itself was almost derailed by coronavirus fears, and mixed signals about what was happening created an on-again, off-again drama that played out in front of television cameras. The chaotic impression clashed with the White House quest to show that the public health crisis is under control.

Updated at 7 p.m. ET

Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Olympia, Wash., on Thursday to meet with the governor and health officials and express support for the region that has been hit hardest by coronavirus.

"By being there on the ground, I want to assure the people of Washington State, people of California, people that are in the communities that are being impacted by the virus, that we're with them," Pence told reporters, pledging federal resources to help.

Updated at 5 :45 p.m.

The White House sought to show it was shoring up its efforts to corral the spread of coronavirus on Thursday, naming an internationally recognized HIV/AIDS expert as its new coronavirus response coordinator.

Debbie Birx is a State Department ambassador-at-large who works on global health diplomacy issues. Vice President Pence said Birx would be detailed to his office.

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Updated at 9:10 p.m. ET

Jared Kushner has been quietly trying to resurrect discussions to overhaul the U.S. immigration system, multiple people familiar with the conversations have told NPR.

President Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law has been meeting with business leaders, immigration hard-liners and other interest groups important to Republicans with the goal of rolling out a new immigration plan once Trump's impeachment trial ended.

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President Trump took full advantage of the large television audience for his State of the Union speech on Tuesday to make his case for reelection in November, touting the strong economy and delighting Republicans in the room with a series of made-for-TV moments.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó's appearance at the State of the Union — as well as the bipartisan ovation he received — was intended to send a strong message of U.S. support for his efforts to unseat Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro.

Guaidó attended the address as a guest of the White House.

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As the second week of the Senate impeachment trial begins, President Trump is making sure not to fully cede the spotlight to Democrats' effort to oust him.

Trump is set to meet Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then Netanyahu's political rival, Benny Gantz, as the administration plans to release its plan for Middle East peace.

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The Senate impeachment trial kicked off today with arguments about the rules for the hours of arguments and debate to come in the days ahead. Today we got our first preview of President Trump's defense from White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

Updated at 6:30 p.m. ET

President Trump on Thursday defended students who feel they can't pray in their schools — and warned school administrators they risk losing federal funds if they violate their students' rights to religious expression.

Trump held an event in the Oval Office with a group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim students and teachers to commemorate National Religious Freedom Day. The students and teachers said they have been discriminated against for practicing their religion at school.

Updated on Jan. 17 at 9:30 p.m. ET

President Trump has picked some high-wattage lawyers to round out his defense team for the Senate impeachment trial — a group of attorneys who are as comfortable in front of the television cameras as they are in courtrooms.

Ken Starr, a Fox news commentator whose special counsel investigations led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment, will join the team. Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz also will help deliver opening arguments.

President Trump's national security adviser said tensions with Iran won't slow his plans to shrink the size of the National Security Council.

In an exclusive interview with NPR, Robert O'Brien said he expects to have trimmed about a third of the ranks at the National Security Council by the end of next month.

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The U.S. Department of Defense says Iran has launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against American military forces in Iraq. This attack against U.S. forces comes after Iranian leaders vowed to retaliate for the killing of an Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani. NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez joins us here in the studio.

President Trump and his Russian counterpart have the coming year to deal with an expiring nuclear treaty that will lapse just after the end of his first term.

Trump hasn't ruled out renewing the treaty, known as New START. But he has made it clear that he would rather strike a bigger deal that includes different kinds of nuclear weapons — and that also brings China into the fold.

President Trump has often surrounded himself with lawyers whom he sees as being good on television. But Pat Cipollone, the attorney who will play a leading role in Trump's Senate impeachment trial defense, is better known for working behind the scenes.

President Trump's new national security adviser is warning of an information security doomsday scenario for U.S. allies that allow Chinese telecommunications company Huawei to build their next generation 5G networks.

Robert O'Brien said countries that allow Huawei in could give China's communist government backdoor access to their citizens' most sensitive data.

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Updated at 4 p.m. ET

During a surprise Thanksgiving Day visit to troops stationed in Afghanistan, President Trump said that his administration has reopened peace talks with the Taliban, nearly three months after he abruptly canceled them. Trump made the announcement at a rally staged at Bagram Airfield outside Kabul, where he exchanged handshakes and posed for photographs with U.S. troops.

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