US elections updates: Biden attacks Trump on coronavirus

The president had reportedly said he intentionally minimised the threat of the coronavirus to the American public.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event on manufacturing and buying American-made products at UAW Region 1 headquarters in Warren, Mich., Wedne
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event on manufacturing and buying American-made products in Michigan [Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press]
  • Democratic United States presidential candidate Joe Biden, in Michigan on Wednesday, slammed President Donald Trump after a new report detailed how Trump, by his own admission, played down the threat of the coronavirus to the public.
  • Trump said the comments he made to reporter Bob Woodward referred to his attempt to maintain calm and avoid panic in the early days of the coronavirus, and not to lie to US citizens.

  • The White House touted reducing troops in Iraq amid reports that Trump disparaged war dead.
  • Vice President Mike Pence participated in a Pennsylvania anti-abortion rights event, while vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris held virtual fundraisers on Wednesday, 54 days before the November 3 vote.

Here are the latest updates:

Wednesday, September 9

17:00 ET- Pelosi calls Trump’s coronavirus response ‘historic national tragedy’

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has weighed in a new report that quotes Trump as saying he intentionally played down the threat of the coronavirus to the US public, calling a “historic national tragedy”.

“More than six million Americans have been infected, 190,000 have died and tens of millions are jobless and at risk of hunger and homelessness. So much of this pain could have been avoided, but President Trump refused to tell the truth or to act to protect the American people,” Pelosi said, referring to revelations in a new book by respected Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.

Trump described to Woodward in February the deadly threat of the coronavirus, while publicly saying it posed no more danger than the seasonal flu.

Trump has said he was referring to maintaining a calm message to avoid widespread panic when he told Woodward: “I wanted to always play it down”.

Pelosi and McConnell apart
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (left) has responded to a new report on Trump’s coronavirus response [File: Brendan Smialowski/Reuters]

16:30 ET – Trump releases list of possible Supreme Court picks

Trump has released a list of 20 new possible Supreme Court justice picks.

The list includes prominent Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley, as well as a rising star in the party, the Attorney General of Kentucky Daniel Cameron.

Trump released a previous list in 2016 shortly after becoming the party’s presumptive nominee, as he sought to consolidate support among Republicans following a contentious primary.

Trump has already filled two vacancies in the highest court in the country during his first four years in office. Whoever is elected could potentially shape the court, which rules on constitutional matters, for years to come, making it an important factor in the election season.

Church of Trump | Fault Lines

16:00 ET – Trump dismisses report he minimised the coronavirus threat as ‘another political hit job’

Trump has dismissed telling reporter Bob Woodward that he was intentionally downplaying the threat of the coronavirus pandemic as “just another political hit job”.

The new book by Woodward says that Trump told him in February that the virus posed a deadly threat, greater than the flu, even as he simultaneously told the public the danger of the coronavirus and flu were comparable. In March, he told the report he “wanted to always play it down”, referring to the coronavirus.

Trump denied that meant he was lying to US citizens, and instead said he was trying to signal calm.

“We had to show calm,” he said during a news conference at the White House. “The last thing that we can show is panic, or excitement, or fear, or anything else. We had to take care of the situation we were given.”

15:30 ET – Former US official told to halt Russia influence assessments: Complaint

Acting US Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told a former senior aide to stop providing intelligence assessments on Russia’s interference in the US, former acting Homeland Security undersecretary Brian Murphy said in a whistle-blower complaint released on Wednesday.

Murphy also said in the complaint that Wolf told him to begin reporting on Chinese and Iranian interference, and that the instructions to do so came from White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.

US officials have said that Russia, China and Iran have been working to influence the outcome of the November 3 presidential election.

Russia Meddling
US intelligence has concluded that Russians conducted a coordinated campaign to influence the 2016 elections and are attempting to influence voting again in 2020 [File: Manuel Balce Cenet/The Associated Press]

15:00 ET – Poll shows Kenosha visits made little change in support

A new Marquette Law School poll has found that, despite visits from both Donald Trump and Joe Biden last week, voting preferences and attitudes of likely Wisconsin voters did not change much.

The poll found Biden had 47 percent support of likely voters in Wisconsin, while Trump had 43 percent of support.

In August, before the candidates visited Kenosha, Biden had 49 percent of support while Trump had 44 percent.

The poll also showed the visits did little to change opinion on the Black Lives Matter movement in the state.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks as he meets with members of the community at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wis., Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks in Kenosha, Wisconsin [File: Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press]

14:30 ET – Biden says Trump ‘lied to the American people’ on coronavirus

Biden said Trump “lied to American people” following revelations by reporter Bob Woodward that the president understood the danger posed by the coronavirus, but intentionally downplayed it to the American people.

“He knew that it passed through the air. He knew how deadly it was, that it was much more deadly than the flu,” Biden said at the beginning of his campaign event in Michigan, which was scheduled to focus on keeping jobs in the US.

“He knew and purposely played it down. Worse, he lied to the American people,” said Biden. “He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed to the country for months. He had the information. He knew how dangerous it was. And while this deadly disease ripped through our nation, he failed to do his job on purpose.”

The former vice president called it a “life-or-death betrayal of the American people”.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden attacked Trump over report he minimised coronavirus threat to American public [Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press]

14:00 ET – White House spokeswoman denies Trump minimised coronavirus

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has denied Trump minimised the threat of the coronavirus to the public while understanding the danger it posed.

Reporter Bob Woodward, in a new book, reported that Trump told him in March: “I wanted to always play it down”, referring to the coronavirus danger.

In February, Trump also told Woodward about the deadly threat posed by the virus, despite simultaneously telling Americans it was no more dangerous than the seasonal flu.

McEnany said the president’s words to the public were designed to express confidence and calm at a time of insurmountable challenges.

“The president has never lied to the American public on COVID. The president was expressing calm and his actions reflect that,” McEnany said.

Coronavirus vaccine
US President Donald Trump tours a manufacturing plant where components for a potential coronavirus vaccine candidate are being developed, in Morrisville, North Carolina, US [File: Carlos Barria/Reuters]

13:30 ET – Trump campaign, RNC announce $210m funding haul

The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee announced a $210m funding haul in August, amid a bump from the Republican National Convention.

Trump’s campaign, in a statement, said August was the largest online fundraising month of the president’s re-election effort. It said $76m had been raised during the convention.

The haul still pales in comparison to the $364.5m raised by Biden’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

The announcement comes amid reports the Trump campaign is facing a financial crunch.

13:00 ET – Alabama becomes second state to begin voting in the general election

Today is the first day Alabama voters can apply for, receive and vote using mail-in ballots in the state, making it the second state in the country to officially begin voting after North Carolina sent out requested mail ballots last week.

Alabama recently changed its policy regarding voting by mail, and now allows all registered voters to use the excuse of “physical illness or infirmity”. North Carolina had previously allowed residents to vote by mail without an excuse. Both states still require at least one witness to sign the ballot when it is voted.

The majority of voters are expected to vote by mail in November, a large increase from the roughly 25 percent of Americans who voted by mail in 2016.

Vote by mail
Experts expect as many as half of US voters to cast ballots by mail [File: Nati Harnik/The Associated Press]

12:30 ET – Barr defends Justice Dept intervention in defamation case

US Attorney General William Barr has defended his department’s decision to intervene and defend President Donald Trump against a defamation lawsuit brought by author E Jean Carroll, who has alleged that Trump raped her in the 1990s.

“This was a normal application of the law. The law is clear. It is done frequently,” Barr said during a press conference in Chicago, noting that elected officials who answer questions about their personal lives in the course of their federal employment can be defended by government attorneys.

On Tuesday, US Department of Justice lawyers filed court papers aiming to shift the case into federal court and to substitute the US for Trump as the defendant. That means the federal government, rather than Trump himself, might have to pay damages if any are awarded.

The move comes amid concerns that Barr has gone out of his way to intervene in other legal cases involving Trump or his allies, including trying to decrease the amount of prison time his office sought for Trump ally Roger Stone.

US Justice Department seeks to defend Trump in rape case

12:00 ET – Trump said he intentionally minimised dangers of coronavirus: Woodward

A new book by respected journalist Bob Woodward says that Trump understood the danger of the coronavirus in the early days of the outbreak, but intentionally minimised those dangers in public statements.

On a February 7 call with Woodward, Trump told the reporter the virus was “deadly stuff” and said it was more deadly than “even your strenuous flu”, according to the new book. The call came as Trump was telling the country the virus was no more dangerous than a seasonal flu, while insisting the government had it under control.

In a March 19 interview, Trump told Woodward he was intentionally minimising the danger.

“I wanted to always play it down,” the president told Woodward, a Washington Post journalist whose reporting uncovered the Watergate Scandal that led to the resignation of former President Richard Nixon.

Read more here.

Pence claims US victory over coronavirus, condemns racial unrest

11:30 ET – Trump expected to address troop withdrawal

The US military on Wednesday announced it will reduce its presence in Iraq from 5,200 to 3,000 troops this month, formalising a move that had been long expected.

The US and Iraq in June affirmed their commitment to the reduction of US troops in the country in coming months, with no plans by Washington to maintain permanent bases or a permanent military presence.

Trump, who had campaigned on a policy of ending US involvement in “endless wars”, is expected to address the drawdown on Wednesday.

11:15 ET – Norwegian MP nominates Trump for Nobel Peace Prize

A Norwegian lawmaker has said that he has nominated US President Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in the Middle East.

Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a member of the Norwegian Parliament for the far-right Progress Party, said on Wednesday that Trump should be considered because of his work “for a peace agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, which opens up for possible peace in the Middle East”.

Israel and the UAE agreed last month to a historic deal normalising relations and are scheduled to sign it at a White House ceremony on September 15.

“No matter how Trump acts at home and what he says at press conferences, he has absolutely a chance at getting the Nobel Peace Prize,” Tybring-Gjedde told The Associated Press news agency.

Read more here.

11:00 ET – Trump shrugs off traditional prep with three weeks until first debate: Report

Trump has not held a single mock debate, and does not plan to conduct a formal practice round before his first debate face-off with Joe Biden, according to a report.

Biden and Trump will take the debate stage for the first time on September 29, but the president has largely shrugged off traditional debate preparation, according to NBC news. Trump took part in traditional preparation before the 2016 debates with then-opponent Hillary Clinton, which included having former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie play Clinton.

Trump has joked to aides that he’s been preparing for debates since he was born. He has instead been preparing through informal discussions with allies and briefings with administration officials on topics that are expected to come up, the report said.

Some advisors in Trump’s circle have sought to raise expectations for Biden’s debate performance to will the president to more fully prepare, while others have supported his approach, arguing he performs better when unscripted or rehearsed.

Trump Clinton
Trump’s campaign is reportedly banking on a strong debate performance against Biden [File: Saul Loeb/The Associated Press]

10:30 ET – Biden to propose ‘offshoring tax penalty’

Biden is visiting the battleground state of Michigan, where he will outline new proposals to tax companies that move US jobs overseas and offer incentives for companies to invest in domestic operations.

In a visit to the Detroit suburb of Warren, Biden will propose an “offshoring tax penalty” on profits from products made overseas and sold in the US, a Biden adviser told Reuters news agency.

Biden’s plan envisions a companion 10 percent tax credit for companies that reopen closed or closing facilities, bringing back offshored jobs or expanding manufacturing payroll, among other domestic investments.

The announcement is an apparent response to Trump’s “America First” platform. While Biden has led Trump in virtually every national poll for months, the surveys suggest the economy still could prove a relative strength for Trump despite the downturn wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump and Biden on the offensive as US general election kicks off

10:00 ET – Cohen says Trump ‘not joking’ about wanting to stay beyond two terms

Michael Cohen, a former Trump fixer who had a high-profile falling out with the president, has said Trump is “not joking” about his desire to stay in office beyond two terms.

Trump repeatedly referenced staying in power beyond the next four years, encouraging chants of “12 more years” at his events.

“He wants to be an autocrat. He wants to be the president of this country for life,” Cohen told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, amid a press tour promoting his newly released book.

Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer to President Donald Trump, has said Trump is serious about wanting to stay in office for more than 12 years [Spencer Platt/AFP]

09:30 ET – Zuckerberg says ‘just wrong’ to call Facebook a right-wing echo chamber

Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg, in an interview, said it was “just wrong” to consider the social media site a right-wing echo chamber, despite conservatives topping engagement on the platform.

“It’s true that partisan content often has kind of a higher percent of people … engaging with it, commenting on it, liking it,” Zuckerberg told Axios on HBO. “But I think it’s important to differentiate that from, broadly, what people are seeing and reading and learning about on our service.”

On Thursday, Facebook released a set of sweeping policy changes aimed at combatting misinformation and limiting politicians’ influence on the platform, amid increasing concern about its inflated role in US elections.

09:00 ET – Trump-backed candidates win New Hampshire primary

Trump’s preferred candidates for Senate and House of Representatives seats won Republican primaries in New Hampshire, but face an uphill battle in the general election in the state where Democrats have a slight edge.

Lawyer Bryant “Corky” Messner, 63, who proudly campaigned on his Trump endorsement, defeated retired Army general Don Bolduc for the Republican nomination for Senate, according to the New York Times said. He will face incumbent Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who easily won her primary, in November.

In New Hampshire’s first congressional district, a 31-year-old Trump-endorsed candidate, Matt Mowers, beat a crowded Republican field for the party’s nomination to take on freshman Democratic Representative Chris Pappas on November 3, the New York Times 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 8) here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies