Trump said his COVID-19 a ‘blessing’: US election news

Trump’s said he feels ‘great’, touted ‘cure’, as VP Pence and Democratic nominee Harris prepared to debate.

US President Donald Trump delivers remarks about his COVID diagnosis at the White House, October 7, 2020. [Twitter]
  • Donald Trump’s doctor on Wednesday said the president had not shown COVID-19 symptoms in 24 hours.
  • Mike Pence and Kamala Harris face off in their only vice-presidential debate, after a spat over the event’s coronavirus precautions.
  • Early voting began in Arizona, a battleground that has become increasingly competitive for Biden.
  • With Trump still recovering from the coronavirus, the next steps for his campaign remained uncertain with 27 days left until the November 3 election.
  • The president said in a video on Twitter his infection was a ‘blessing from God’ because he learned about Regeneron drug

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

Wednesday, October 7:

19:00 ET – Trump receives phone call from UK prime minister

18:45 ET – White House chief of staff says president was on phone with congressional Republicans trying to restart COVID-19 stimulus talks

“He’s been constantly on the phone with Secretary Mnuchin, Leader McConnell, Leader McCarthy as it relates to the stimulus and where we are and how we can best make sure that the American people can get help,” Mark Meadows, White House chief of staff told Fox News.

Trump had said in a tweet on Tuesday that he had instructed Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to suspend talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and congressional Democrats on legislation that would have provided between $1 tn and $3 tn in coronavirus relief.

18:00 ET – In Twitter video, Trump calls his COVID-19 a ‘blessing from God’, touts Regeneron antibody drug

President Donald Trump issued a nearly five-minute video on Twitter in which  he extolled the beneficial effects he felt from receiving the experimental Regeneron antibody cocktail early in his COVID-19 infection.

“It was like, unbelievable. I felt good. Immediately. I felt as good, three days ago as I do now,” Trump said standing outside the Oval Office at the White House.

Trump said he was authorising federal acquisition of Regeneron and a new, similar anti-COVID-19 drug from Ely Lilly for free distribution to hospital patients nationwide.

“So I think this was a blessing from God that I caught it. This was a blessing in disguise,” Trump said.

“That’s what I want for everybody. I want everybody to be given the same treatment as your President, because I feel great. I feel like perfect,” he said.

Read more here.

17:50 ET – Facebook will remove posts with ‘militarised’ calls for US election poll watchers

Facebook Inc said it would remove calls for people to engage in poll watching that use “militarised language” or suggest the goal is to intimidate voters or election officials.

Facebook further said that it would respond to candidates or parties making premature claims of victory, or contesting declared outcomes, by adding labels and notifications with authoritative information about the state of the race.

The announcement is a tightening of the social media company’s policies around the US elections. Facebook had said previously it would temporarily stop running political ads in the US after polls close on November 3.

Facebook logo
Facebook is implementing restrictions on certain ‘militarised’ political content ahead of the US election  [File: Dado Ruvic/Reuters]

17:30 ET – Biden campaign to re-start negative television ads against Trump

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign will resume running negative TV advertisements against President Donald Trump after pulling the ads when Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 last week.

“Our campaign has always been about making the positive case for Joe Biden, but there’s a stark contrast between Vice President Biden and Donald Trump and their visions for our country,” a Biden spokesman said in a statement given to reporters.

“We’re going to continue to make a full-throated case for Vice President Biden and we will forcefully correct the record when Trump attacks and lies.”

Joe Biden Campaign Ad [Screengrab/Joe Biden Campaign]

17:15 ET – US women organize watch parties for historic VP debate

The US vice presidential debate on Wednesday night – featuring Kamala Harris, a woman of color against, matched against Mike Pence, a conservative white male – is drawing special attention from women voters.

Activist groups, college associations and individuals around the country have organized mostly online “watch parties” as Harris debates Pence, the Reuters news service reported.

“I really can tell that Kamala is ready,” said Rahdiah Barnes, the president of the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications in New York, which pushes for diversity in media, and has organized a watch party.

“This is history. She has something to prove, and I’ve heard her say a couple of things over the past couple days, so I can know that she’s getting ready for war.”

The vice presidential debate normally does not attract as much attention as the presidential debates. In 2016, the match-up between Tim Kaine and Pence drew 37 million.

US Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris will face-off in a televised debate tonight [Saul Loeb/AFP]

16:30 ET – Democratic Senate candidate leads incumbent in Arizona: Poll

Democratic Senate candidate Mark Kelly is leading Arizona’s Republican incumbent Martha McSally among likely voters in the November 3 elections, according to Reuters/Ipsos opinion polls released on Wednesday.

The Democratic challenger, former astronaut Mike Kelly, has 51 percent among likely voters, compared to 41 percent for Republican Martha McSally.

Democratic challenger Mark Kelly leads Republican incumbent Martha McSally, according to a new poll [File: Rob Schumacher/The Associated Press]

16:00 ET – White House again refuses to say when Trump last tested negative

A White House spokesman has again declined to say when Trump last tested negative for the coronavirus, which could shed light on the course of his infection and how he was infected.

When asked about the last negative test, White House Deputy Press Secretary Brian Morgenstern said: “So I think we put out the information that we’ve got on that that you know. Hope [Hicks] had her positive test Thursday the President announced his positive test very late Thursday and that’s the kind of timeline that we’ve gotten.”

When pushed, he said: “I don’t know when he last tested negative… we’re not asking to go back through a bunch of records and look backwards we’re looking to contact tracing processes to mitigate further spread of the disease.”

15:50 ET – Trump enters Oval Office for first time since returning to White House

Trump on Wednesday entered the White House Oval Office for the first time since returning earlier this week from a military hospital where he was being treated for COVID-19, a White House spokesman said.

“Was just briefed on Hurricane Delta, and spoke with @GovAbbott of Texas and @LouisianaGov John Bel Edwards,” Trump said in a tweet a short while later.

15:30 ET – Biden has slight lead in Florida: Poll

Biden appeared to lead Trump among likely voters in Florida and the two were locked in a tight race in Arizona, according to Reuters/Ipsos opinion polls released on Wednesday.

The polls showed the former vice president ahead by 4 percentage points in Florida, matching the poll’s credibility interval. Biden had 49 percent support to Trump 45 percent.

In Arizona, Biden was up by 2 percentage points, with 48 percent support to Trump’s 46. The two candidates had been effectively tied in Florida and Arizona the prior week.

14:45 ET – Parents of ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller to be Pence’s debate guests: Report

The parents of Kayla Mueller, who was killed after being taken hostage by ISIS (ISIL), will be among Pence’s guests at the vice presidential debate, Axios news reported.

Carl and Marsha Mueller had spoken at the Republican National Convention, blaming Obama-Biden policies for the death of their daughter.

The guests indicate Pence will try to steer the debate away from the less favourable topics like the coronavirus.

Carl and Marsha Mueller will be Pence’s guest at the first vice presidential debate [Susan Walsh/The Associated Press]

14:00 ET – Tillis: I made a mistake taking off mask inside White House

North Carolina Republican Senator Thom Tillis says he made a mistake by taking off his face mask indoors last month at a White House event. Many attendees – including Tillis and Trump – later tested positive for COVID-19.

The senator, who has been a strong supporter of wearing masks in public, was wearing one outside at the White House Rose Garden on September 26, when Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. But photos showed him without one at an indoor reception later.

“I have to admit that I let my guard down because we’d all been tested about two hours before the event,” Tillis told WRAL-TV in an interview Tuesday. “It’s just another experience that tells me, even when you think you’re in a safe setting, you should always wear a mask.”

Tillis, who is running for reelection next month against Democrat Cal Cunningham, announced his positive test last Friday and has been quarantined at his North Carolina home. He had already apologised in late August when he took off his mask while in a crowd of people attending Trump’s GOP nomination speech outside the White House.

Thom tillis
SenatorThom Tillis is one of several Republicans who tested positive for coronavirus after attending the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett at the White House [Tom Williams/The Associated Press]

13:30 ET – Server configuration caused Florida voter registration crash

Florida’s chief information officer has said that misconfigured computer servers were to blame for the crash of the state’s voter registration system as the deadline approached for enrolling to cast ballots in next month’s presidential election.

Because of Monday’s crash, Governor Ron DeSantis allowed additional registrations for seven hours on Tuesday. The crash raised concerns over a possible cyber attack.

James Grant told The Associated Press in an interview that the voter registration system worked as expected during that extra time after technicians reconfigured existing servers, expanding the network’s capacity and giving the system a “whole lot more horsepower.”

He said it is unknown how many people were prevented from registering to vote during Monday’s bottleneck.

13:00 ET – Trump COVID symptom-free for 24 hours, no fever in four days: Doctor

Trump’s personal physician has said the president has been free of COVID-19 symptoms for 24 hours and has not had a fever in four days.

The doctor Sean Conley, in a statement, also said Trump has not received supplemental oxygen since he left the hospital and his vital signs are stable.

12:30 ET – Harris again tests negative for coronavirus

The campaign reported that Harris has again tested negative for the coronavirus, less than 12 hours before she is scheduled to debate Vice President Mike Pence. She took the test Tuesday.

Pence also tested negative on Tuesday, according to the White House.

Harris and Pence will appear on stage at the University of Utah for a 90-minute debate. Both candidates will have plexiglass around them as an additional precaution. That was requested by the Biden-Harris campaign, and Pence’s team objected.

Harris also tested negative for the virus on Monday.

Members of the production crew stand in on the stage near plexiglass barriers which will serve as a way to protect the spread of the coronavirus at the University of Utah [Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press]

12:00 ET – Biden campaign announces debate guests

The Biden campaign’s guests for the vice presidential debate will be a local state representative and teacher running for Salt Lake City council.

The guests will be state representative Angela Romero, who the campaign describes as “a longtime community organizer advancing progressive causes, equality and social justice” and Deborah Gatrell, a veteran and full-time teacher at Hunter High School currently running for Salt Lake County Council, according to the campaign.

The guests are meant to “showcase the resolve hard-working Americans have shown as Donald Trump has failed to control the virus and save the economy,” the campaign said.

11:30 ET – Texas high court blocks Houston plan to offer mail ballots

The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that 2 million Houston voters cannot receive unsolicited mail ballot applications from local elections officials, who have sought to expand ways to vote in November in the nation’s third-largest county.

The decision by the all-Republican court is the latest defeat in a string of losses for Democrats whose efforts to change Texas voting laws during the coronavirus pandemic have largely failed.

Polls show unusually tight races this year in America’s biggest red state, intensifying battles over voting access. Texas is one of just five states not allowing widespread mail-in voting this year.

Republican Governor Greg Abbott has resisted calls to expand eligibility and courts have sided with GOP leaders who say fear of catching COVID-19 doesn’t qualify voters for mail-in ballots.

11:00 ET – Meadows says ‘safety protocols in place’ for Trump Oval office return

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows says they have “safety protocols in place” if and when the president, who is still infected with COVID-19, decides to go back to work in the Oval Office.

“His schedule right now is fluid, we’re looking at his prognosis from a health standpoint, he wanted to go to the Oval yesterday. If he decides to go the Oval, we’ve got safety protocols there,” said Meadows while talking to reporters on the White House driveway Wednesday. “Not only from a PPE standpoint, but from a ventilation standpoint in the Oval where we can actually work to that in as well. ”

This comes after President Donald Trump, said to be making progress in his recovery, tweeted his eagerness to return to the campaign trail even as the outbreak that has killed more than 210,000 Americans reached ever more widely into the upper echelons of the U.S. government.

Trump has been working out of makeshift office space on the ground floor of the White House residence, in close proximity to the White House Medical Unit’s office suite, with only a few aides granted a face-to-face audience.

10:30 ET – Appeals court: Trump must turn over taxes to prosecutor

Trump’s accountant must turn over his tax records to a New York state prosecutor, an appeals court ruled Wednesday in a decision that likely sets up a second trip to the US Supreme Court over the issue.

The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said in a written decision that a stay of a lower-court decision will remain in effect so Trump’s lawyers can appeal the ruling to the high court.

Part of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr probe pertains to an investigation related to payoffs to two women — porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal — to keep them quiet during the 2016 presidential campaign about alleged extramarital affairs with Trump. Trump has denied the affairs.

Ruling comes days after the New York Times released a bombshell report on Trump’s taxes that showed, among other things, that he paid only $750 in taxes in 2016 and 2017.

10:00 ET – Who has tested positive in Trump’s orbit?

A growing number of White House staff and senior Republicans have tested positive for the novel coronavirus since United States President Donald Trump revealed he had contracted the disease.

The infections have roiled campaigning for the November 3 presidential election, rattled financial markets and slowed the work of Congress, with the Senate vowing to delay any votes now that three members of the Republican majority have tested positive.

Several people who met with Trump last week said they had since tested negative, but it can take days for someone who has been exposed to the virus to develop symptoms or to test positive.

Find out who’s who here.

Trump contacts who tested positive for COVID-19
[Alia Chughtai/Al Jazeera]

09:30 ET – Pence gives in to Plexiglass at debate: Report

Pence acquiesced to the use of Plexiglass barriers on Tuesday night, after his team initially objected, saying they were not medically necessary.

Pence’s team backed down following a series of talks, sources familiar with the situation told Politico.

The barriers had reportedly been agreed to earlier in the week by both campaigns before Pence’s about-face on Tuesday.

09:00 ET – Pence-Harris debate takes on heightened importance: Analysis

Even if Donald Trump had not become the international poster child for COVID-19, he was always destined to loom over the vice-presidential debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, especially after his disastrous opening encounter with Joe Biden, debate analyst Alan Schroeder writes for Al Jazeera.

Now, the president’s illness – and the uncertainty shrouding the state of his health – present Republican running mate Mike Pence with a tricky challenge. The situation also complicates the task of Democratic nominee Kamala Harris, leaving her with a delicate line to walk. Even in absentia, even from his sickbed, Trump commands centre stage at the vice-presidential debate.

The debate between Pence and Harris, which begins at 9pm ET (01:00GMT) has the potential to shatter viewership records for vice-presidential debates, which normally draw much smaller audiences than their top-of-the-ticket counterparts. The exception was Biden’s debate against vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin in 2008.

Read more here.

Mike Pence and Kamala Harris will face off in the only vice-presidential debate on Wednesday [Reuters]


Read all the updates from Tuesday, (October 6) here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies