Second US presidential debate cancelled: US election news

Debate called off after Trump refuses to participate virtually; Commission says Oct 22 debate in Nashville still on

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will face-off next in a debate on October 22 in Nashville, Tennessee [File: Brian Snyder/Reuters]
  • More than 7 million have already voted with 25 days until election day.
  • Trump appeared on conservative radio and television outlets.
  • Despite illness, Trump scheduled campaign travel for Monday.
  • Biden campaigned in the battleground state of Nevada.
  • House Speaker Pelosi raised questions about Trump’s fitness for office.

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

Friday October 9, 2020

20:20 ET – Trump says he’s feeling ‘strong’ after COVID-19 bout

In a taped appearance on Fox News television, President Donald Trump said he is feeling “strong” after his bout with COVID-19.

The president again credited an infusion of the experimental Regeneron antibody cocktail for his rapid recovery from the deadly virus.

When asked about his symptoms when he became sick, Trump was vague, saying he “didn’t feel strong … I didn’t feel how the president of the United States should feel.”

Trump acknowledged that lung scans showed he “initially had some congestion in there” which he said was one reason “why they wanted me to stay” in the hospital longer.

Trump’s physician Dr. Sean Conley in media briefings had refused to describe specifically what scans of Trump’s lungs had shown beyond.

Trump said he thinks catching the virus “early was a big factor”. He said he is being tested regularly to assess whether he still has the virus.

19:16 ET – Trump campaign accuses debate commission of ‘protecting Biden’

The Trump campaign responded to the commission’s decision to cancel the next debate by saying the president “will be healthy and ready to debate” on October 15 and the planned town hall event should still go forward in-person.

“We have suggested using October 22 and October 29 to hold the final two debates. It’s time for the biased commission to stop protecting Biden and preventing voters from hearing from the two candidates for president,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement.

“There’s nothing that says that President Trump and Joe Biden can’t debate together without the overlords at the commission having a say in the matter.  We would be glad to debate one-on-one without the commission’s interference.”

18:45 ET – Presidential debate commission cancels next debate, says October 22 event still on

The Commission on Presidential Debates has cancelled the planned October 15 debate between Democratic candidate Joe Biden and President Donald Trump after Trump refused to agree to conduct it virtually and Biden made plans to do a town hall event with ABC.

“It is now apparent there will be no debate on October 15, and the CPD will turn its attention to preparations for the final presidential debate scheduled for October 22,” the commission said in a statement.

“Subject to health security considerations, and in accordance with all required testing, masking, social distancing and other protocols, the debate will take place at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee,” the statement said.

The Nashville debate will be divided into six 15-minute segments, the commission said, and the topics for those segments will be selected and announced by the moderator, Kristen Welker of NBC News.

“Both candidates have agreed to participate in the October 22 debate,” the commission said.

18:00 ET – US gov’t to buy AstraZeneca antibody treatment for COVID-19

The US government signed an agreement with AstraZeneca Plc worth $486m to develop and secure supplies of up to 100,000 doses of a COVID-19 antibody treatment, a medication similar to that used to treat President Donald Trump.

The US health agency will provide the funding to AstraZeneca for two Phase 3 clinical trials under operation Warp Speed, which is aimed at speeding up treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the Reuters news agency reported.

One trial will evaluate the safety and efficacy of the experimental treatment to prevent infection for up to 12 months in about 5,000 participants, while the second trial will evaluate post-exposure preventative and pre-emptive treatment in roughly 1,100 participants.

AstraZeneca said it plans to supply up to 100,000 doses starting near the end of the year and the US government can acquire up to an additional one million doses in 2021 under a separate agreement.

Patients are asking to join clinical trials of antibody-based COVID-19 drugs after Trump was treated last week with an experimental therapy from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. The president promised to make the treatment free to Americans, while touting its benefits.

17:00 ET – Biden campaigns with Latinos in Las Vegas

“You have close to 20 percent of the population of the United States – 24 out of every 100 kids in grade school through high school – are Latino,” Biden told a Latino group during a campaign stop in Las Vegas today.

“And it’s just ridiculous that we continue to see policies that this administration has moved forward on and not embrace that and see it as our future. I’m not trying to be solicitous with you. I’m not trying to be nice. You are the future of the country,” Biden said.

Members of a mariachi band look on as Democratic US presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks about the disproportionate ways COVID-19 has impacted Latinos in Nevada during a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

16:30 ET – White House spokesperson says stimulus offer to Democrats is ‘below’ $2 trillion

Trump spokeswoman Alyssa Farah told reporters at the White House that the Trump administration was “willing to come up on the level” offered in coronavirus aid talks with Democrats on Capitol Hill.

But the administration’s position was that they want to keep the price tag “below two trillion”, Farah said.

She later revised her message in a conversation with a pool reporter: “My remarks were confirming what the president had said earlier, and that he was willing to come up on our previous offer of $1.6 trillion.”

Farah said her statement was reflective of an offer being made by Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin, which was $1.8 trillion. She reiterated that the administration wants to “stay below 2 trillion”.

Farah’s remarks appear to undercut what President Trump said earlier in the day on the Rush Limbaugh radio show.

White House communications director Alyssa Farah offered clarification of the dollar value of the Trump administration’s offer today in negotiations with congressional Democrats on coronavirus legislation [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

15:50 ET – Trump plans to hold in-person event at White House on Saturday, rally in Florida on Monday

President Donald Trump is planning to hold his first in-person event at the White House since testing positive for COVID-19.

Trump is planning to convene another large crowd outside the White House for an event on “law and order”. That’s despite the ongoing White House COVID-19 outbreak.

A White House official told The Associated Press that Trump will address the group from a White House balcony. The official declined to say how many people had been invited.

The Trump campaign is planning to do a in-person rally with the president in Florida on Monday.

15:15 ET – Texas senator warns of ‘bloodbath’ for Republicans in election without economic stimulus, virus aid

Senator Ted Cruz warned on Friday that Republicans could see “a bloodbath of Watergate proportions” if voters are angry and broke when casting their ballots next month.

The Texas Republican blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for holding up a deal to provide a new round stimulus and direct payment checks to Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, although it was President Donald Trump who abruptly called off talks earlier this week.

“If people are going back to work, if they’re optimistic, if they’re positive about the future, we could see a fantastic election: the president getting re-elected with a big margin, Republicans winning both Houses of Congress,” Cruz said in an interview on CNBC.

Senator Ted Cruz warns of a Republican ‘bloodbath’ in upcoming US election without passage of additional economic assistance for Americans still reeling from the corona virus [File: Ken Cedeno/Pool via AP]

“But I also think if on Election Day, people are angry and they’ve given up hope and they’re depressed, which is what Pelosi and Schumer want them to be, I think it could be a terrible election. I think we could lose the White House and both houses of Congress, that it could be a bloodbath of Watergate proportions.”

Cruz was referring to congressional gains Democrats made in 1974 following President Richard Nixon’s resignation over the Watergate scandal. Democrat Jimmy Carter would go on to win the presidential race in 1976.

Cruz said he spoke with Trump on Thursday and that the president wants to make a deal.

14:40 ET – Coronavirus detected at school attended by children of Trump Supreme Court nominee

A school attended by some of the children of Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee who brought her family to a Rose Garden celebration at the White House on September 26, has notified parents that one teacher and two students tested positive for the coronavirus, the New York Times newspaper reported.

The outbreak at Trinity School, a small, private school in South Bend, Indiana, is likely to intensify scrutiny of the White House event that some health experts fear led to the virus spreading among administration officials, guests and others who subsequently came in contact with them.

John A. Lee, the school’s head, informed parents Thursday afternoon that a high school teacher had tested positive for the disease. Less than five hours later, he notified parents of two more cases: a girl in her junior year and a boy in his senior year.

President Donald Trump walks along the White House Colonnade with Judge Amy Coney Barrett to a news conference to announce Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court on September 26, 2020 [Alex Brandon/AP Photo]

14:20 ET – Ohio county says nearly 50,000 voters received wrong ballots

Nearly 50,000 voters received incorrect absentee ballots in Columbus, the capital of Ohio, officials said as they promised corrected ballots would be mailed within 72 hours, The Associated Press reported.

With about 240,000 ballots mailed, that meant one in five voters received a wrong ballot. The error happened Saturday afternoon when someone changed a setting on a machine that places absentee ballots into mailing envelopes, officials said.

Some ballots had an incorrect congressional race, while others had the correct information but were sent to voters in a different precinct. Printing and mailing of the replacement ballots was underway Friday, the Franklin County Elections Board announced.

Franklin County encompasses the city of Columbus and surrounding area with about 1.3 million residents. It played a crucial role in swinging the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections to George W. Bush.

13:45 ET – Days after halting talks, Trump now wants ‘bigger’ coronavirus package

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin resume discussions over a stimulus package to deal with the pandemic-related economic downturn, Trump is now calling for more funding than is currently being discussed

“I would like to see a bigger stimulus package, frankly, than either the Democrats or the Republicans are offering. I’m going in the exact opposite now, OK?,” Trump told radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

Tuesday, Trump called off the talks saying Pelosi’s $2.4 trillion proposal was not part of a good faith negotiation. Mnuchin is entering today’s talks with a $1.8 trillion offer, but now Trump is saying he supports more spending than what’s on the table.

Read more here:

13:30 ET – Trump growing impatient about Justice Department Russia probe

Donald Trump is increasingly critical of the Justice Department’s investigation into the origin of the Russia probe, saying today that if it doesn’t wrap up before the election, Democrats will make it disappear.

Trump told Rush Limbaugh that he’d be “very disappointed” in Attorney General William Barr if reports that Barr told Republicans that the investigation won’t be ready before election day.

“I think it’s a terrible thing and I’ll say it to his face,” Trump said.

Trump is has been complaining about the Justice Department in tweets and television appearances recently. Barr, the Associated Press reports, has privately expressed frustration over the public comments, according to a person familiar with his thinking.

AG Bill Barr with Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, September 1, 2020. [File: Leah Millis/Reuters]

13:00 ET – Chris Christie still hospitalised with COVID-19

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who helped President Trump with debate preparations last week, still remains hospitalized with coronavirus, reports.

Christie has been in the hospital since Saturday and there’s been no update on his condition since Wednesday.

Current Governor Phil Murphy said Thursday he’s been in touch with Christie. “I shot him a note, as I had done a couple of days earlier, just to say that we’re here for him,” Murphy said. “He was very gracious in his reply. And he remains in our prayers.”

12:20 ET – Doctors said Trump was ‘going into a very bad phase’ when diagnosed with COVID-19

President Trump said in a radio interview with Rush Limbaugh his doctors said he was “going into a very bad phase” when his COVID-19 infection was diagnosed on October 1.

Trump said he feels much better, is no longer taking any medications, and believes the dose of the experimental antibody cocktail drug Regeneron that he was given was like a “cure”.

“People are going to get immediately better, like I did… I recovered immediately…” said Trump, who is speaking on the Rush Limbaugh radio show.

“I’m telling you we have a cure. Much more than a theraputic, we have a cure”

12:00 ET – Pelosi, Mnuchin to discuss coronavirus relief bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are talking today, potentially restarting negotiations over a coronavirus relief bill.

Talks have been at a standstill and President Trump declared the idea dead earlier this week, but now Pelosi and Trump are expressing hope that a deal can be reached.

“We’ll see what they have to offer today,” Pelosi said this morning. “We need to crush the virus and put money in the pockets of the American people.”

Trump tweeted his encouragement writing, “Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!”

No deal is possible without buy-in from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has battled Pelosi over the cost of a relief bill and remains pessimistic that a deal will happen before the election.

“The situation is kind of murky and I think the murkiness is a result of the proximity to the election and everybody kind of trying to elbow for political advantage,” McConnell said. “I’d like to see us rise above that … but I think that’s unlikely in the next three weeks.”

11:30 ET – White House: Trump unlikely to travel this weekend

While President Trump is itching to get back to in-person campaign events and hinted he’s planning on hitting the road this weekend, the reality is that’s not likely to happen.

A Trump administration official said it’s unlikely he will travel this weekend and will probably have to hold off until Monday before returning to the campaign trail.

Earlier on Fox News, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who has also tested positive for COVID-19, hinted it would be “tough” to make tomorrow work.

“He wants to talk to the American people, and he wants to be out there. Logistically, whether tomorrow’s possible, it would be tough.”

Trump said on Sean Hannity’s Fox News programme last night that he was planning to try to visit Florida tomorrow and Pennsylvania on Sunday.

11:15 ET – Trump to get medical examination on TV

Donald Trump will appear on Tucker Carlson’s programme on Fox News tonight where he will sit for his first on-camera interview since his COVID-19 diagnosis. He’ll also receive a medical “evaluation” from Fox News’ resident doctor.

Dr. Marc Siegel, a contributor to Fox News, will interview the president and conduct the evaluation.

To date, the only updates on the president’s health have come from Trump himself and his doctors, and those have come in written statements the past several days.

Siegel, for his part, has a history of downplaying the pandemic during his appearances on Fox News, previously comparing the virus to influenza and saying there’s “no science” regarding the importance of mask-wearing.

10:45 ET – Pelosi pushes panel to determine president’s ‘capacity’ to serve

Insisting it is not a reaction to the current president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a proposal to create a panel that would determine whether a president is fit to serve. The panel would have the power to replace the president with the vice president if it’s determined he or she is not capable of serving.

“This is not about President Trump; he will face the judgment of the voters,” Pelosi said at a news conference. “But he shows the need for us to create a process for future presidents.”

Despite her comments today, Pelosi has been highly critical of Trump’s behavior during his COVID convalescence. “The president is, shall we say, in an altered state right now,” she said in an interview Thursday.

Trump tweeted on Thursday: “Crazy Nancy is the one who should be under observation. They don’t call her Crazy for nothing!”

10:15 ET – Judge cites past Florida “chaos” to deny voter registration extension

A judge denied a request from civil rights and voting groups to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline, citing concern about overwhelming a state that has had a lot of trouble administering elections over the years.

Chief US District Judge Mark Walker said it was an “incredibly close call” but “Florida’s interest in preventing chaos in its already precarious — and perennially chaotic — election outweighs the substantial burden imposed on the right to vote.”

“This court notes that every man who has stepped foot on the Moon launched from the Kennedy Space Center, in Florida,” Walker wrote. “Yet, Florida has failed to figure out how to run an election properly – a task simpler than rocket science.”

Florida has had many controversial elections in recent years, most notably the close presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000, which ended up with the Supreme Court stopping a recount, resulting in Bush’s victory there and in the Electoral College.

09:30 ET – 7 million have already cast their ballots

Americans are voting early in record numbers, due to the pandemic, as almost 7.1 million have already sent in mail-in ballots or voted in person, according to the US Elections Project.

The current total is almost 10 times the number of voters who had voted early by this point in 2016. More than 50 million people have requested mail-in ballots this year. According to the US Elections Assistance Commission, 57.2 million Americans voted early in person, by mail or via absentee ballot in 2016.

Voters fill out their ballot during early voting at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections on October 6, 2020, in Cleveland, Ohio [Tony Dejak/AP Photo] (AP)

Not every state registers voters by party, but in those that do, more Democrats than Republicans have requested and returned ballots so far. While that is notable and shows that registered Democrats in several states are eager to vote, experts point out that early vote totals are a poor predictor of electoral outcomes.

Democrats significantly outpaced Republicans in early votes in 2016, and polls indicated Hillary Clinton held a wide lead over Donald Trump among those who voted early, yet Trump was able to make up ground with those voters who showed up in person on election day.

09:00 ET – Trump itching to get back on the campaign trail

With no indication that he has completely recovered from COVID-19, a hoarse Donald Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Thursday, “I think I’m going to try doing a rally on Saturday night, probably in Florida on Saturday … Pennsylvania the following night.”

Trump’s physician, Dr Sean Conley, said in a memo on Thursday “Saturday will be day 10 since Thursday’s diagnosis, and based on the trajectory of advanced diagnostics the team has been conducting, I fully anticipate the president’s safe return to public engagements at that time.” Trump, nor his doctors or spokespeople, have disclosed the last time he has been tested for the virus, or a test result, since his initial diagnosis. They also refuse to disclose the date of his last negative test.

08:30 ET – Biden releases new ads targeting Latinos, older voters

Joe Biden’s campaign will be running a new set of advertisements targeting various voting groups, including Latinos, rural voters and older voters.

Among the ads to run on television and online in 16 states is one targeting working-class voters that touts the Obama-Biden record on the economy while slamming Trump’s economic stewardship and handling of the pandemic.


Read the US election news from Thursday, October 8, here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies