Trump promises US coronavirus vaccine soon: US election updates

Biden said Trump’s response to the pandemic “utterly disqualifying” for the presidency.

Trump Press conference
President Donald Trump points to a chart as he speaks about his administration''s coronavirus (COVID-19) response during a news conference at the White House in Washington, DC, on September 16, 2020. [Leah Millis/Reuters]
  • In a White House news conference, President Trump forecast US vaccine approval by October.
  • Democratic candidate Joe Biden, in a speech in Delaware slammed Trump’s coronavirus response while laying out his plan.

  • Vice President Mike Pence went to Ohio, where polls show a close race, despite Trump’s eight-point 2016 victory.
  • Biden ramped up healthcare ads day after Trump was confronted on Obamacare at televised town hall.
  • Jill Biden headed to New Hampshire and Ivanka Trump went to Arizona with 48 days until November 3.

Here are the latest updates:

Wednesday, September 16

19:00 ET – President Trump predicts Saudi Arabia, other Arab nations will join UAE, Bahrain in recognising Israel

“Four or five” other Arab countries “want to come in” and normalise diplomatic relations with Israel following a deal signed at the White House with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, President Trump said at a news conference.

“I talked to two of them yesterday and they are ready to try,” Trump told reporters. “You’re going to have a whole level of peace in the Middle East without blood all over the sand.”

“I think Saudi Arabia ultimately will come in too,” Trump said. “This is my feeling … it’s not based on knowledge other than a couple of conversations I had with the king.”

While Saudi Arabia is not expected to follow the example of its Gulf allies anytime soon, a leading imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca has recently softened their tone on Israel, a potential precursor to warming relations.

(L-R)Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan participate in the signi
The United Arab Emirates, Israel and Bahrain signed historic accords normalising ties. [Saul Loeb/AFP]

18:15 ET – White House staff tested positive for COVID-19

A single White House staff aide tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, President Trump confirmed at a White House press conference.

The president said he was never in contact with the person whose identity was not disclosed. “It was not anybody who was near me,” Trump said.

“It did not affect the event and press was not around,” White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany said.

18:10 ET – Trump discounts WTO ruling against US on steel tariffs

President Trump dismissed the significance of a World Trade Organization ruling on Tuesday in favour of China that Trump’s tariffs on steel imports violated global trade rules.

The WTO was “created to suck money and jobs out of the United States to China”, Trump said.

The multilateral organisation formed in Geneva through US leadership is “a method of taking advantage of the United States”, he said.

Trump presser
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters during a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC, September 16, 2020. [Leah Millis/Reuters]

18:02 ET – Trump considering action on forced labour camps in Xinjiang

Asked at a White House press conference about China’s denials of forced labour camps in Xinjiang, President Trump said his administration is considering taking action on reports of human rights abuses.

“We’re getting reports in over the next two, three days. We’ll know very accurately what the story is and will then take action, one way or another,” Trump said.

17:48 ET – Trump warns of fraud in US election from mail-in ballots

President Trump warned at a White House press conference against the potential for fraud in the November election from mail-in ballots, a theme he has pushed without concrete evidence.

“The biggest problem we have is on the ballots, millions of ballots going out, that’s the biggest problem,” Trump said.

“Our biggest threat to this election is governors from opposing parties controlling ballots, millions of ballots. To me that’s a much bigger threat than foreign countries,” Trump said.

Trump vaccine press conference
US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at a news conference in the White House in Washington, DC, September 16, 2020. [Leah Millis/Reuters]

17:35 ET – Trump: Coronavirus vaccine likely to be approved in October

“We’re very close to that vaccine as you know, closer than most people want to say or certainly than most people understand,” President Trump said at a White House news conference.

Trump said a vaccine for the coronavirus could be announced as soon as October. White House virus adviser Scott Atlas said the first doses for “high-priority” recipients would come in January.

“To get the vaccine in the hands of American people, we’re fully mobilizing the awesome power of American industry and also our military,” Trump said.

“I’m calling on Biden to stop promoting his anti-vaccine theories because all they’re doing is hurting the importance of what we’re doing,” he said.

Separately, the Trump administration released a sweeping plan to distribute vaccines free to the public when one becomes available. Congress had including funding for the plan in coronavirus legislation.

16:45 ET – Biden: Trump’s virus response ‘utterly disqualifying’ for presidency

Biden has said Trump’s coronavirus response has been “utterly disqualifying” for the presidency, while reiterating he would sign an executive order for a national mask mandate if he has the power as president to do so.

“The president’s first responsibility is to protect the American people, and he won’t. And it’s utterly disqualifying,” Biden said during a speech on his coronavirus response plan.

Biden also said that he did not believe his concerns over a vaccine developed under Trump would discourage citizens from eventually getting a vaccine, saying, instead, his suggested reviews would make people more confident.

He added that he thinks front line health workers and those at the highest risk should be the first to get the vaccine, while doubling down that he would seek to mandate a national mask requirement.

16:30 ET – Biden says Trump, on his own, should not be trusted on vaccine

Biden has said Trump, on his own, should not be trusted on a coronavirus vaccine, but said he would trust a vaccine developed under Trump’s watch if approved by non-partisan scientists.

Trump has repeatedly said a vaccine could be ready before the election, despite experts saying that developing a safe vaccine in that timeline is extremely unlikely.

“Scientific breakthroughs don’t care about calendars any more than the virus does,” Biden said during a speech in Wilmington, Delaware. “They certainly don’t adhere to election cycles and their timing their approval and their distribution should never ever be distorted by political considerations.”

“Let me be clear. I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump. At this moment the American people can’t either,” Biden said, adding a vaccine developed by Trump would need to answer three questions: What criteria will be used to ensure that a vaccine meets the scientific standard of safety? Who will validate the development was driven by science and not politics? And how will safe distribution be assured?

COVID-19 vaccine: Safety concerns as countries rush for cure

16:15 ET – Biden slams Trump’s town hall comments

Biden has slammed Trump’s comments on the coronavirus made during Tuesday night’s town hall.

During the Philadelphia event, Trump denied that he intentionally down-played the virus in the early days of the pandemic, as detailed in recorded interviews with reporter Bob Woodward. Trump instead told undecided voters he “up-played” the virus and hailed his administration as doing a “tremendous job” in responding to the pandemic.

“This virus is still taking nearly 1,000 lives a day. Forecast show that those numbers are likely to climb this winter, but incredibly Donald Trump insists that he wouldn’t have done anything differently,” Biden said on Wednesday.

“All President Trump had to offer last night was the same weak and feckless action, the same lies and empty promises that we’ve seen from the very beginning,” he said.

Biden campaign
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks after participating in a coronavirus vaccine briefing with public health experts [File: Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press]

15:45 ET – New poll spells trouble for prominent Republican senators

A new Quinnipiac University poll spells trouble for Senators Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins, who are both running for re-election in November.

The poll shows Democrat Sara Gideon leading the race among likely voters in Maine 54 percent to 42 percent over Collins, who is seeking her fifth term and is considered one of the most moderate Republicans in the chamber.

Meanwhile, in South Carolina, Senator Lindsey Graham, who is seeking his fourth term and has largely tied his political fate to support for Trump, is tied with his Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison. Both candidates have 48 percent support of likely voters.

Democrats need to win four seats to claim a majority in the Senate if Trump is re-elected, and three seats if Biden wins. The vice president casts the tie breaking vote in the event the chamber is split.

Senator Lindsey Graham has tied his political fate to supporting Trump [File: Anjum Naveed/The Associated Press]

15:15 ET – Donor says some Trump allies fear he is ‘overconfident’ on debate

A prominent Republican donor who supports Trump has said some in Trump’s orbit are worried he’s “overconfident” on the upcoming debates against Democrat Joe Biden.

Dan Eberhart says Trump came off as a “little coarse” when confronted by undecided voters at Tuesday’s town hall in Philadelphia, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Eberhart said: “Frankly, I expected President Trump to be better prepared to cajole undecided voters over to his side of the fence at the town hall.”

He added: “President Trump seemed unaware that he needed to downshift his rhetoric to something more moderate being as how his audience was undecided voters and not attendees of one of his rallies”.

Why is Trump worried about mail-voting? | Start Here

14:45 ET – The Take podcast: How will Black women voters affect the election?

Biden kept his vow of choosing a woman as his running mate, selecting Senator Kamala Harris.

Harris, the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, is the first Black woman on a major party ticket in US history.

This episode of Al Jazeera’s The Take podcast explores the power of Black women voters – one of the most important slices of the American electorate in deciding who takes the White House.

14:30 ET – Romney says Senate Biden probe ‘not legitimate role of government’

Senator Mitt Romney has sharply criticised a Republican investigation Biden’s son, saying it’s “not the legitimate role of government” to try and damage political opponents.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson has said the panel will issue a report on Hunter Biden’s activities in Ukraine before the November election. Johnson, a close ally of President Donald Trump, is leading the investigation into Burisma, a gas company in Ukraine that paid Hunter Biden to serve as a board member while Joe Biden was vice president.

Johnson insists that the investigation is not designed to hurt Biden. Democrats on Wednesday introduced a resolution to end the probe.

Romney, the former 2012 Republican presidential candidate, has repeatedly criticised the probe, saying at a committee meeting on Wednesday that the probe from the “outset had the earmarks of a political exercise”.

Donald Trump and Mitt Romney
Senator Mitt Romney has again criticised his party’s Senate investigation of Biden’s son [File: Mike Segar/Reuters]

14:15 ET – White House sees decision ‘in short order’ on TikTok

The Trump administration will make a decision soon on a proposed deal for Oracle to become a “trusted technology provider” for the US operations of China’s social media platform TikTok, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has said.

“We’ll have a decision here in short order,” McEnany said. “I don’t want to get ahead of the president but obviously we care deeply about protecting the data and security of American citizens.”

Marco Rubio and five other Republican senators have called on the Trump administration to reject the deal if ties to Chinese owner Bytedance remain.

14:00 ET – Top Trump health officials say they are not aware of new health plan

Three top Trump administration health officials have said they are not aware of a Trump health care plan that would replace the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, as the president and his aides have said a new plan would soon be announced.

Trump has sought to overturn the Affordable Care Act, but has not introduced a plan that would replace it.

Testifying before a senate committee, Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response said they were not aware of the new health plan the president has referenced. The officials all said developing such a plan was not part of their primary responsibilities.

When asked who was working on the new plan, if the top health officials in the administration are not, White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany said “We have a wide array of people working on it”.

When pushed, she responded: “I’m not going to give you a readout of what our health care plan looks like and who’s working on it. If you want to know come work here at the White House”.

Obamacare: Affordable Care Act under threat in US

13:30 ET – Biden receives virtual coronavirus briefing

Joe Biden is receiving a virtual briefing from a former US surgeon general and a collection of health experts on how best to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Biden’s campaign created a virtual studio that connected the former vice president via video with former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and six other experts at a theater in downtown Wilmington, Delaware. Biden will give a speech on the topic later in the day.

David Kessler, board chairman and director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, stressed for Biden the important of requirements increasing “universal masking” but also increased testing and contact tracing. He suggested doing so could save thousands of lives and ultimately be more effective between now and early next year as vaccines are being developed.

Students coronavirus United States
Students wear protective masks as they arrive for classes at the Immaculate Conception School while observing COVID-19 prevention protocols in The Bronx borough of New York [File: John Minchillo/The Associated Press]

13:00 ET – CDC director denies agency altered publications on coronavirus

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has told Senate lawmakers that his agency has not altered its scientific publications on the coronavirus.

That comes despite pressure from Trump officials who allege the agency has worked against the re-election of Trump.

Dr Robert Redfield testified that the CDC’s “scientific integrity … has not been compromised and it will not be compromised under my watch.”

Last week news outlets reported that Michael Caputo, a Health and Human Services Department political appointee, tried to gain editorial control over CDC’s weekly scientific report. In a separate online video last week, Caputo reportedly said some CDC scientists constituted a “resistance unit” conspiring against the Trump administration.

12:30 ET – Report: Group pays teenagers to pump out pro-Trump disinformation on social media

An affiliate of a prominent conservative youth organisation based in Arizona is paying teenagers, including minors, to pump out pro-Trump disinformation on social media, according to a Washington Post report.

The operation is similar to those used by bots to send out spam-like messages, but is carried out by people paid to use their own accounts, according to the newspaper. It is being bankrolled by Turning Point Action, which is an affiliate of Turning Point USA, a prominent conservative youth organisation. The posts to do not reveal any connection to the group.

The Post reported the operation had generated thousands of posts over summer on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, in what experts said was one of the most ambitious domestic election influence campaigns of this election cycle.

Twitter and Facebook suspended several accounts after being contacted by the newspaper, meanwhile, a field director for Turning Point Action said the comparison to a troll farm was a “gross mischaracterisation”, describing the the operation as “sincere political activism conducted by real people who passionately hold the beliefs they describe online, not an anonymous troll farm in Russia.”

The Strange Death of American Civility: Part 1 | People and Power

12:00 ET – Billionaire Sheldon Adelson plans to spend up to $50m to support Trump

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is planning a spending spree that could total up to $50 million to help Trump beat Biden, according to CNBC.

A source told CNBC that Adelson was currently in touch with Republican officials over where to best deploy the money, amid reports that Trump’s war chest is lacking following a free-spending approach early in the campaign.

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, said earlier this week that he would spend $100 million to help Biden win Florida, a state considered essential to any path to victory for Trump.

Businessman and Republican donor Sheldon Adelson is reportedly planning a spending spree to support Trump [File: Evan Vucci/The Associated Press]

11:30 ET – Democrat poised to become US highest ranking transgender elected official

Sarah McBride, a transgender rights activist, is set to become the country’s highest ranking openly transgender elected official after winning the primary for a State Senate seat in Delaware , according to the New York Times.

McBride, 30, is expected to easily win during the general election in November.

“Right now in America, we are seeing voices that for so long were pushed to the margins and to the shadows finally being heard,” she told the newspaper.

Biden wrote the forward to McBride’s 2018 book, which detailed her work for transgender rights.

11:00 ET – Twitter labels Biden video tweeted by Trump ‘manipulated media’

Twitter has labeled a video shared twice by US President Donald Trump of Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden as “manipulated media”.

The video, which appeared to show Biden playing rap group NWA’s song, “F— tha Police,” now displays a warning that links to collated tweets showing the actual event, where Biden pulled out his phone to play Luis Fonsi’s hit “Despacito” at a Hispanic Heritage Month event in Florida after being introduced by Fonsi.

Trump has cast himself as a “law-and-order” president during the campaign, in response to widespread protests, most of them peaceful, following the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis. He tweeted with the edited video: “What is this all about?”

A Twitter spokeswoman said the video, which garnered more than 2.8 million views, was labeled based on its synthetic and manipulated media policy. The United Spot, self-described as making satirical videos, posted the original tweet.

Biden in Florida: Latino vote courted in key swing state

10:30 ET – Delaware: Political firebrand wins Republican primary for US Senate seat

Political newcomer and firebrand Lauren Witzke, who campaigned on halting US immigration for 10 years, has won the Republican US Senate primary in Delaware, defeating the party’s endorsed candidate.

In November, Witzke will challenge incumbent Senator Chris Coons, who easily won the Democratic primary and is expected to win handily in the deeply blue state.

Witzke, who worked as an Iowa field operator for President Donald Trump last year, defeated attorney James DeMartino, a former marine who has twice run unsuccessfully for the legislative seat held by Delaware’s Democratic state House speaker.

Witzke has tried to distance herself from accusations by some opponents that she supports QAnon. The far-right conspiracy theory centres on an alleged anonymous, high-ranking government official known as “Q”, who shares information about “deep state” enemies of Trump often tied to child sex trafficking.

10:00 ET – Biden campaign releases new healthcare advertisements

The Biden campaign has said it is increasing spending in battleground states, including two new advertisements that focus on healthcare.

Two of the advertisements feature parents, a mother in Texas and a father in Arizona, who recount their experience having a child with a pre-existing condition.

The advertisements come after Trump was confronted at a Tuesday town hall over the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, which Trump has repeatedly sought to repeal, without presenting an alternative plan.

09:30 ET – Biden to deliver speech on COVID-19 vaccine

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will lay out on how he plans to develop and distribute a safe coronavirus vaccine, seeking to draw a contrast with Trump’s approach to combating the pandemic.

Biden will deliver remarks in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, after being briefed by public health experts on the efforts to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Biden has continually attacked what he describes as Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic. While he has said he wants a vaccine as soon as safely possible, he has questioned whether Trump is pressuring drug safety agencies to fast-track an inoculant before the November 3 election.

At a Philadelphia town hall on Tuesday, Trump again asserted a vaccine could be available within a month, despite health experts saying such a timeline is extremely unlikely.

09:00 ET – White House seeks to clarify Trump ‘herd mentality’ statement

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany has sought to clarify statements made by Trump during a Tuesday town hall in which he said the virus would go away over a period of time as “herd mentality” would develop.

McEnany, in an interview on Fox News, said Trump was referring to “herd immunity”.

“Well, the term ‘herd immunity’ is a medical term which means that when you have a certain percentage of a population with antibodies, you have herd immunity,” McEnany said. “It can be done via a vaccine or via prior illness that you develop the antibodies.”

“What the president said very clearly there is that a vaccine gets you there quickest,” she said.


Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the US elections. This is Joseph Stepansky.

Read all the updates from yesterday (September 15) here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies