COVID-19 roils presidential campaign: US election news

President Trump’s next campaign moves unclear as new COVID-19 cases emerge and Democratic rival Joe Biden pushes forward

President Donald Trump is recovering from COVID-19 at the White House residence as he and his political advisers grapple with next steps in his re-election campaign [Alex Brandon/AP Photo]
  • Michelle Obama on Tuesday released a scathing video, in which she condemned Trump as a “racist”.
  • Donald Trump spent his first full day in the White House since leaving the hospital.
  • Joe Biden gave a major address in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
  • Two new polls showed Biden widening his lead nationally.
  • Early voting began in Indiana and Ohio.
  • Pandemic survivors slammed Trump’s suggestion the virus is nothing to fear, with 28 days until the election on November 3.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the United States elections. This is William Roberts and Joseph Stepansky.

Tuesday, October 6:

20:30 ET – Trump’s next steps in campaign unclear as aides debate best course while president recuperates

President Donald Trump stayed out of sight on Tuesday as aides converted rooms of the White House residence into workspace for him to use while recovering from COVID-19 and they debated next steps in his campaign for re-election.

Trump is eager to return to the campaign trail, telling aides that he wanted a series of mega rallies in Republican-friendly areas in battleground states to mark his recovery, The Associated Press reported. But it remains to be seen when Trump, who is still contagious, would be cleared to set foot on Air Force One again.

“If he had his druthers, I don’t know if he would have ever gotten off the trail,” said campaign spokesperson Hogan Gidley told the AP. “He’s back, and when he’s well enough, he’ll be back on the campaign trail.”

Meanwhile, a division has emerged among Trump’s political advisers over how to manage the fallout. Some believe Trump could use this moment as a late reset to draw on his experience with COVID-19 to at last show empathy for those affected by a pandemic that has killed more than 210,000 Americans, left millions unemployed and sent his poll numbers tumbling.

Others believe that abruptly changing course after seven months of projecting strength over the virus wouldn’t work and instead advocated for intensifying the message as a means to further fire up the president’s supporters to turn out, the AP reported.

Nearly a dozen close allies and confidants of President Donald Trump have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days including from top left, Kellyanne Conway, Ronna McDaniel, Melania Trump, Hope Hicks, Chris Christie, Thom Tillis, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson. [File: Reuters photos]

20:00 ET – Pence aide Katie Miller, wife of Stephen Miller, leaves Utah VP debate site “out of an abundance of caution”

Katie Miller, a top aide to Vice President Mike Pence, has left Salt Lake City, where the vice presidential debate between Pence and Democratic nominee Kamala Harris is to be held on October 7, according to reports.

Miller had two negative tests in the last two days and already had COVID-19 earlier this year but left Salt Lake “out of an abundance of caution” according to a tweet by an NPR reporter.

Miller had mocked a request yesterday from the Harris camp to install plexiglass between Harris and Pence at the debate. “If Senator Harris wants to use a fortress around herself, have at it,” Miller said.

Vice President Mike Pence’s communications director Katie Miller, and her husband White House senior adviser Stephen Miller. She contracted COVID-19 in May. He tested positive today. [File: Alex Brandon/AP Photo]

19:30 ET – Biden hits Trump for ending stimulus talks with Pelosi

Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden criticised President Donald Trump for abruptly ending talks with congressional Democrats on a compromise coronavirus relief package.

“Donald Trump ended the efforts to pass bipartisan relief that our nation desperately needs. He ended talks that would get help for our businesses and schools, for families struggling and for those unemployed — that would have preserved hundreds of thousands of jobs,” Biden said in a statement issued by his campaign.

“Make no mistake: if you are out of work, if your business is closed, if your child’s school is shut down, if you are seeing layoffs in your community, Donald Trump decided today that none of that — none of it — matters to him,” Biden said.

19:00 ET – White House aide Stephen Miller tests positive for COVID-19

Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller, who has been in quarantine at home following the COVID-19 outbreak at the White House, has now tested positive, according to reports.

“Over the last 5 days I have been working remotely and self-isolating, testing negative every day through yesterday. Today, I tested positive for COVID-19 and am in quarantine,” Miller said in a statement.

Miller is the latest White House aide to test positive for COVID-19 after President Trump contracted the virus and was hospitalised for three-and-half days over the weekend.

Senior Advisor to the President Stephen Miller (center) has tested positive for COVID-19 as has Hope Hicks (right), the first person in Trump’s inner circle to have tested positive. Along with Jared Kushner (left), they traveled with Trump to a campaign event in Minnesota on September 30 [Carolyn Kaster/(AP Photo]

18:45 ET – North Carolina Senate candidate had affair in July, new texts and interviews show: Report

The race for US Senate in North Carolina has been thrown into turmoil as new allegations emerge about an extramarital affair by the Democratic candidate Cal Cunningham.

Text messages obtained by The Associate Press and additional interviews show Cunningham’s relationship with Arlene Guzman Todd, a California woman, extended beyond sexually suggestive texting to an intimate encounter as recently as July, the Charlotte Observer newspaper reported.

Prior to the ‘sexting’ scandal breaking over the weekend, Cunningham had been leading Republican incumbent Thom Tillis in polls, giving Democrats hope of regaining majority control of the US Senate. Adding to the shake-up in the North Carolina race, Tillis tested positive for COVID-19 following a visit to the White House on September 26.

Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham, left, and US Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican, debated without masks in a televised event on October 1, 2020, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Cunningham has since been caught in a sex scandal. [Gerry Broome, Pool via AP Photo]

18:20 ET – Biden campaign is targeting Michigan with digital ads featuring farmers on climate change


18:00 ET – Facebook bans all QAnon accounts from its platforms

Facebook said it will ban groups that openly support QAnon, the baseless conspiracy theory that paints President Donald Trump as a secret warrior against a supposed child-trafficking ring run by celebrities and “deep state” government officials.

The social media giant said Tuesday that it will remove Facebook pages, groups and Instagram accounts for “representing QAnon” — even if they don’t promote violence, The Associated Press reported.

The QAnon phenomenon has sprawled across a patchwork of Facebook groups, Twitter accounts and YouTube videos in recent years. QAnon has been linked to real-world violence such as criminal reports of kidnapping and dangerous claims that the coronavirus is a hoax.

QAnon SupporterA Trump supporter holds a QAnon sign at a campaign rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in August 2018 [File: Leah Millis/Reuters]

17:45 ET – Trump tweets polls in Pennsylvania showing Biden lead are ‘fake’

An average of polls in Pennsylvania in last month show Biden with a 6.5 percentage-point lead over Trump, according to Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 by a narrow 0.62 percentage-point margin.

17:00 ET – St. Louis couple indicted for waving guns at protesters

A grand jury on Tuesday indicted the St. Louis couple who displayed guns while hundreds of racial injustice protesters marched on their private street.

Al Watkins, an attorney for the couple, confirmed to The Associated Press the indictments against Mark, 63, and his wife, Patricia McCloskey, 61.

The McCloskeys, who are both attorneys, have become folk heroes among some conservatives, and were featured at the Republican National Convention.

They argue that they were exercising their Second Amendment right to bear arms, and were protected by Missouri’s castle doctrine law that allows the use of deadly force against intruders.

Patricia and Mark McCloskeyPatricia McCloskey and her husband Mark McCloskey have been indicted for brandishing guns at protesters [Reuters]

16:55 ET – Biden warns of ‘something darker’, ‘more dangerous’ happening than ‘just our broken politics’

In a fiery speech from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Biden warned of “something bigger going on in this nation than just our broken politics. Something darker. Something more dangerous.”

The speech, which derided “division” and again cast the election as a battle for the country’s “soul”, referenced the president’s response to ongoing racial justice protests across the country. It comes days after the first presidential debate, when Trump demurred when asked to condemn far right and white supremacist groups.

“I’m not talking about ordinary differences of opinion,” Biden said. “No, I’m talking about something different, something deeper.”

“[It’s] true many Americans seek not to overcome our divisions, but to deepen them,” he said.

“We cannot and will not allow extremists and white supremacists to overturn the America of Lincoln, of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass,” he said.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Gettysburg National Military Park [Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press]

16:45 ET – Pelosi slams Trump for ending stimulus talks

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slammed Donald Trump and the “complete disarray” of the White House on Tuesday after Trump halted coronavirus stimulus talks, saying the president was “putting himself first” at the country’s expense.

“Today, once again, President Trump showed his true colors: putting himself first at the expense of the country, with the full complicity of the GOP Members of Congress,” the House speaker said after Trump postponed negotiations on a new plan until after the November 3 presidential election.

“Clearly, the White House is in complete disarray,” she said, adding that Trump was rejecting Federal Reserve warnings that too little support would result in a weak recovery with unnecessary hardship for millions of American households and businesses.

Trump called off coronavirus relief talks on Tuesday [Mark Lennihan/The Associated Press]

16:30 ET – Biden again tests negative for coronavirus

Biden has again tested negative for the coronavirus, according to his campaign.

Biden has been tested regularly since Trump announced he had tested positive. The two candidates shared a stage, but remained distanced, during the first presidential debate last Tuesday.

16:15 ET – FDA safety guidelines likely push COVID-19 vaccine authorisation past election

The US Food and Drug Administration told coronavirus vaccine developers on Tuesday it wants at least two months of safety data from half of their trial volunteers in order to authorise emergency use, a requirement that would likely push any US vaccine availability past the November 3 presidential election.

The FDA released the guidance laying out more stringent recommendations for drugmakers hoping to apply for an emergency use authorisation (EUA) for their experimental vaccines.

The New York Times reported on Monday that the guidelines had been blocked by the White House. However, the FDA released a document containing a summary of advice it had given to vaccine makers suggesting the additional safety measure earlier on Tuesday. It later released the new guidance.

The White House could still force authorisation of a vaccine without that additional safety data. However, doing so would put it in open disagreement with the FDA and its career scientists, and add to the perception that politics was playing a role in pushing out a vaccine.

16:00 ET – Biden expands lead in Michigan: Poll

Biden has expanded his lead over Trump in battleground Michigan and the two candidates are tied in North Carolina, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday.

Biden had 51 percent support from likely voters, compared to Biden’s 43 percent in Michigan. Both candidates had 47 percent support in North Carolina.

15:30 ET – Pence, Harris at odds over debate plexiglass: Report

Vice President Pence is requesting that no plexiglass dividers be placed on his side of the stage at Wednesday night’s vice-presidential debate, the Washington Post has reported.

The announcement from the vice president comes after the Commission on Presidential Debates said that dividers had been agreed to as a safety measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The commission and the Biden campaign both told the newspaper they understood that the Pence team was in agreement with the notion of plexiglass barriers. But Pence’s team said they did not believe the plexiglass was medically necessary given other precautions in place at the event.

“If she wants it, she’s more than welcome to surround herself with plexiglass if that makes her feel more comfortable,” Short said. “It’s not needed.”

Mike Pence and Kamala Harris reportedly disagree on debate coronavirus precautions[Reuters]

15:00 ET – Trump calls off coronavirus relief talks with Democrats

Trump has called off negotiations with Democratic lawmakers on coronavirus relief legislation until after the election, even as cases of the virus are on the rise across much of the country before flu season.

“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” Trump wrote on Twitter a day after emerging from a hospital stay for COVID-19 treatment.

Read more here.

14:30 ET – Michelle Obama calls Trump ‘racist’ in scalding video

Former First Lady Michelle Obama has called Trump a “racist” president whose strategy of fearmongering, division and promoting ugly conspiracy theories could “destroy” America if he is re-elected.

Obama made the statements, who most direct attack yet on the president, in a 24-minute video offering closing arguments for Biden four weeks before November 3.

Obama described Trump and his Republican allies as unfairly “stoking fears” about African Americans, saying the president is “morally wrong” for taking actions that intimidate voters and for “lying” about how minorities will ruin US suburbs, she said.

“What the president is doing is once again patently false, it’s morally wrong, and yes, it is racist,” said the 56-year-old wife of Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president.

Obama said that, as black woman, having “done everything in my power to live a life of dignity and service and honesty, the knowledge that any of my fellow Americans is more afraid of me than the chaos that we are living through right now, well that hurts,” she said. “It is a heaviness that sits on our hearts.”

14:00 ET – Biden previews Gettysburg speech

Biden has previewed a speech he is set to give in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on Tuesday, saying it will be about “the soul of America and racial equality and what significant trouble we’re in right now”.

“I’m making a speech that I’ve worked and worked and worked on about how the soul of America and racial equality and what significant trouble we’re in right now,” Biden told reporters.

“Some people may think it’s a little dramatic, but I think it’s appropriate. We have to unite this nation and I’ve decided to do it from Gettysburg. I’ve worked on this speech very, very, very hard. You’ll see it and know it. I mean every word of it,” he said.

13:30 ET – US military chiefs self-quarantine after coronavirus hits Coast Guard

The top US military leaders are self-quarantining after the Coast Guard’s Number 2 tested positive for the coronavirus, Pentagon officials said on Tuesday.

The Coast Guard disclosed earlier on Tuesday that Admiral Charles Ray, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard, had tested positive on Monday for the virus. Ray had attended a meeting last week with service chiefs, including Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Out of an abundance of caution, all potential close contacts from these meetings are self-quarantining and have been tested this morning,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

“No Pentagon contacts have exhibited symptoms and we have no additional positive tests to report at this time.”

PentagonUS military bosses are quartanting after vice commandant of the Coast Guard tested positive for coronavirus [Charles Dharapak]

13:15 ET – Twitter raises red flag over Trump flu tweet

Twitter Inc has responded by putting a warning label on the tweet by Trump comparing the coronavirus to the flu.

Twitter said the post included potentially misleading information.

Earlier in the day, Facebook Inc removed a similar post by Trump, according to CNN.

The tweet came hours after Trump was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, as the president has sought to down play the risk of the virus.

13:00 ET -Trump doing “extremely well,” no COVID-19 symptoms: White House physician says

Trump is doing “extremely well” and reporting no symptoms of COVID-19, a day after returning to the White House after being hospitalized with the highly contagious disease, his doctor said in a statement on Tuesday.

Sean Conley, a Navy commander, said a team of physicians met with the president on Tuesday morning.

“He had a restful first night at home, and today he reports no symptoms. Vital signs and physical exam remain stable, with an ambulatory oxygen saturation level of 95-97 percent,” he said in a statement released by the White House. “Overall he continues to do extremely well.”

Dr Sean Conley, physician to President Donald Trump, has said the president is reporting no symptoms of COVID-19 [File: Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press]

12:45 ET – Florida governor extends voter registration after site crash

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis extended the state’s voter registration deadline Tuesday after unexpected and unexplained heavy traffic crashed the state’s online system and potentially prevented thousands of enrolling to cast ballots in next month’s presidential election.

DeSantis will extend the deadline that expired Monday until 7 PM ET Tuesday.

Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee, who oversees the voting system, said in a statement Tuesday that the state “will work with our state and federal law-enforcement partners to ensure this was not a deliberate act against the voting process”.

12:30 ET – US Postal Service warns ruling could undermine mail before election

The US Postal Service asked a federal judge to clarify a ruling on election mail, warning the decision could hinder the agency’s ability to make prompt mail deliveries before the presidential election.

Four US judges have issued preliminary injunctions barring the Postal Service from making service reductions ahead of the November presidential election.

The Postal Service asked Judge Emmet Sullivan to clarify his September 27 ruling warning it “would undermine the Postal Service’s ability to timely deliver the mail before the upcoming election”.

12:00 ET – White House officials block strict FDA vaccine guidelines: Report

White House officials are blocking strict new federal guidelines for the emergency release of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the New York Times.

The officials are objecting ot provision in guidelines that all-but assure that no vaccine would authorised before the election on November 3, people familiar with the approval process told the Newspaper.

Trump has repeatedly accused “deep state” actors in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of trying to slow the approval of a vaccine until after the election. He has repeatedly said, despite the most ambitious estimates from experts, that a vaccine could be ready by the election, prompting fears the administration would try to force through a vaccine before it has met safety standards.

The FDA is seeking other ways to make sure vaccines meet the guidelines, according the newspaper, including sharing the guidelines with an outside advisory committee of experts that is supposed to meet publicly before any vaccine is authorised.

outside image - blog - vaccineTrump has said a coronavirus vaccine could be available by November 3, despite experts saying that is an unrealistic timeline [AFP]

11:30 ET – White House says will take more precautions to protect staff around Trump

The White House will take more precautions to protect staff around President Donald Trump following his positive test for COVID-19 last week, White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah told Fox News.

“We always take precautions at events we host, and I certainly think in light of the President’s positive test and the First Lady, we’re going to take even more for the time being to protect essential staff around him,” Farah said.

Asked by reporters if Trump would speak on Tuesday, Farah said they would hear from him in some form, though she declined to answer when asked if he planned a televised address.

10:45 ET – President Trump says he is ‘looking forward’ to the debate

While continuing treatment for coronavirus on his first full day back at the White House, US President Donald Trump said in a tweet that he was feeling great, and looking forward to the next presidential debate scheduled for October 15.

His opponent Joe Biden has said he would attend the debate if medical experts said it was safe.

It is unclear exactly when and where the president contracted the virus and how long he might remain contagious.


10:00 ET – Biden makes ad push into rural Ohio as early voting begins

Democrat Joe Biden is expanding his ad buys into every corner of Ohio as early voting begins Tuesday, signalling his campaign’s growing hopes that a state Trump won easily four years ago may be within his grasp.

The new spots will air on radio in rural, traditionally Republican areas of the state, the campaign told The Associated Press, as well as on TV in Dayton.

Toni Webb, Biden’s Ohio state director, said the presidential candidate will use the ads to speak “directly with hardworking families across the Buckeye State about his positive vision for unifying the country” – including his plans to “strengthen healthcare, build our economy back better, and deliver for working families”.

Trump carried Ohio over Democrat Hillary Clinton by a comfortable eight percentage points in 2016. He now finds himself locked in a competitive battle for the Midwestern battleground and its 18 electoral votes, with polls showing the candidates tied with 97 percent of voters saying their minds were made up.

The Biden campaign is expanding ad buys into Ohio [Screengrab/Joe Biden Campaign]

09:30 ET – Trump tweets US is ‘learning to live’ with coronavirus

Defying critics, Trump has tweeted that US citizens are learning to live with COVID-19, a day after he returned to the White House for further intensive treatment after being hospitalised with the coronavirus.

Trump, who returned late on Monday after nearly four days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, was due to receive a fifth transfusion of the antiviral drug remdesivir while being treated with the steroid dexamethasone, normally used only in the most severe cases.

Trump has repeatedly played down the disease, which has killed more than one million people worldwide. The US has the world’s highest death toll from the pandemic, with more than 209,000 fatalities. Trump has also not addressed the fact that his access to healthcare and leading therapeutics is far more privileged than that of most citizens.

“Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

09:00 ET – Two polls in two days show Biden increasing national lead

Two polls in two days show Biden increasing his national lead over Trump.

A nationwide CNN poll conducted by SSRS has Biden leading by 16 points nationally over Trump, garnering 57 percent support from likely voters, compared with Trump’s 41 percent support.

Meanwhile, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has Biden up 14 points nationally. Both polls were conducted after the debate last week but before Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Polling averages also show Biden ahead of Trump in six battleground states: Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Arizona. In Pennslyvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, Biden leads by more than five points, according to RealClearPolitics.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden, right, speak with invited guests aboard an Amtrak train on a tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania [Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press]


Read all the updates from Monday, (October 5) here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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