Chaos follows Trump’s return to the White House

President orders a sudden halt to economic relief talks as White House Covid cluster continues to grow

Stephen Miller




Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller confirmed he has tested positive for Covid.
Photograph: Chris Kleponis/EPA

Welcome to today’s US election briefing for Australia.

Donald Trump’s first day back in the White House coincided with a chaotic day in politics – with the president ordering a sudden halt to talks on a new economic relief package until after the election.

Just hours after the chair of the Federal Reserve warned of “tragic” consequences if the government failed to provide more support for families and businesses, Trump pulled the plug on negotiations with House Democrats – via Twitter, of course.

The move sent stocks sliding and drew rebuke not just from Democrats, but some anxious Republican senators too, who were hoping to head into the final stretch of the campaign armed with fresh aid. Many pundits were also flummoxed, with FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver noting the economy is one of Trump’s strongest points – why would he risk undermining “his best comeback strategy”?

Trump may have been asking himself that question, because late in the evening, he appeared to attempt a handbrake turn, calling on Congress – again via a series of tweets – to pass some relief measures. The exact state of play remained unclear.

Some have speculated the erratic decision-making may have had something to do with the cocktail of drugs the president is being treated with amidst his Covid diagnosis, but in truth, how would we know?

The moves came as the White House coronavirus cluster continued to grow on Tuesday (US time), with immigration hardliner Stephen Miller the latest aide to test positive. Beyond the beltway, the news was even more concerning with six US states reporting record numbers of patients hospitalised with the virus.

The big stories

Nancy Pelosi rebuked Trump after he called to end stimulus talks over a pandemic relief package.


Nancy Pelosi rebuked Trump after he called to end stimulus talks over a pandemic relief package. Photograph: Erin Scott/Reuters

Democrats responded with outrage at Trump’s decision to cease Covid stimulus talks, with House speaker Nancy Pelosi accusing him of “putting himself first at the expense of the country”. You can read more on the Fed chair’s dire warning here.

A swathe of US military leaders were self-quarantining today as the virus continued to spread among Trump officials.

E Jean Carroll, the New York journalist who alleges Donald Trump raped her in the mid-1990s, has filed a defamation lawsuit against the president after he ridiculed her claim – which he denies – on the grounds she was “not my type”.

Trump’s supreme court pick Amy Coney Barrett lived in the home of one of the founders of the People of Praise while she was a student, a secretive Christian faith group criticised for dominating the lives of its members and subjugating women. The Washington Post reported she held the title of “handmaid” within the group.

Kamala Harris and Mike Pence will face off on Wednesday night, US time, in what could be the last debate of the election (more on that next) albeit 12 feet apart and through a plexiglass barrier. Here’s what pundits are predicting.

Biden issued a call for national unity and reiterated his support for wearing a mask during an outdoor speech at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The candidate also suggested he would not debate Trump again if the president remains infectious with Covid.

Quote of the day


We need to take away children.

Former US attorney general Jeff Sessions pushed hard for the policy of separating the children of migrants and asylum seekers from their parents at the Mexico border, the New York Times revealed.

Election views

Women who support Trump gather at a campaign meet-up in Canton, Ohio.


Women who support Trump gather at a campaign meet-up in Canton, Ohio. Photograph: Farnoush Amiri/AP

“Don’t call him Wussolini,” writes the peerless Marina Hyde. Trump beat this illness – which he still very much has – like a man: “one of the really manly ones, who takes all the best drugs and leaves everyone else exposed and misled and unprotected.”

Donald Trump’s bizarre maschismo around the virus is just the latest example of how vitality and physical health is too often conflated with character in politics, writes Eleanor Gordon-Smith. “As any sufferer of chronic illness will tell you, the presumed connection between character and body runs deep in society, in the glances of strangers, the minds of loved ones.”

Video of the day

“What the president is doing is, once again, patently false, it’s morally wrong, and yes, it is racist.” Michelle Obama issued a plea to “frustrated” would-be Trump voters in a new campaign video, accusing the president of “stoking fears about Black and brown Americans” in order to “distract from his breathtaking failures”.

Around the web

The Morrison government received a glowing review for providing economic stimulus during the pandemic in the Washington Post today, with columnist Henry Olsen arguing US Republicans should take note.

But not all Australians are being so warmly received in the US. Even Fox News host Dana Perino seemed a little perplexed when News Corp columnist Miranda Devine laid into selfish “older people or neurotic people who are timid and afraid” during an appearance on the network.

As the first woman of colour on the debate stage during a general election, Kamala Harris and her team are wary of what tone she should strike, according to Buzzfeed US. “The elephant in the room is that the ‘angry Black woman’ stereotype is something she has to be mindful of,” one former Democrat official said.

What the numbers say: 39,557

The number of new coronavirus cases in the US yesterday. States including New York and Wisconsin are tightening restrictions amid fears of a resurgence.

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