Here is a summary of the latest events:
- Trump returns to public events with ‘law and order’ speech at White House. Defiant in the face of slipping opinion polls, and determined to justify his implausible claim of a swift and full recovery from his encounter with Covid-19, the US president returned to public events on Saturday with a brief “law and order” speech from a White House balcony.
- Republicans express fears Trump will lose presidential election. Ted Cruz fears an election “bloodbath”. His fellow top Republican senator Thom Tillis is talking in terms of a Joe Biden presidency. And even Mitch McConnell, the fiercely loyal Senate majority leader, won’t go near the White House over Trump’s handling of coronavirus protocols.
- Forecast projects 395,000 US Covid-19 deaths by February. A model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine predicts 181,000 people will die from Covid-19 in the US between now and 1 February.
- Lindsey Graham says Black people can ‘go anywhere’ in South Carolina if conservative. In a televised campaign event, the South Carolina senator said African Americans and immigrants can “go anywhere” in his home state but they “ just need to be conservative”.
- Louisiana picks up pieces after Hurricane Delta blows through state. The day after Hurricane Delta blew through the besieged Louisiana bayou, residents started the routine again: dodging overturned cars on the roads, trudging through knee-deep water to flooded homes with ruined floors and no power, and pledging to rebuild after the storm.
- US Covid cases climb as midwestern states report steep increases. Covid-19 cases are again climbing in the US, with the highest daily rates of new infections since August, when major states such as Florida became hotspots, new data from Johns Hopkins University’s Covid-19 tracker shows.
- Federal judge blocks Texas governor’s order to shut down ballot drop-off sites. On Friday evening, US federal judge Robert Pitman blocked Texas governor Greg Abbott’s order to shut down mail-in ballot drop-off sites across the state as the election is currently under way.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden continued to frame the November election as a choice between the interests of Scranton and Park Avenue in a speech on Saturday night at the Plumbers Local Union No 27 training center in Erie, Pennsylvania.
“Anyone who actually does an honest day’s work sees him and his promises for what they are,” Biden told a masked, socially distanced crowd at a training facility for plumbers and other tradespeople in Pennsylvania’s fourth-largest city.
Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 – by fewer than 2,000 votes in Erie – helped deliver him the key battleground state and the presidency, even as he lost the popular vote. He became the first Republican presidential nominee to carry the longtime Democratic bastion since Ronald Reagan’s landslide reelection in 1984 and the first to win Pennsylvania since George HW Bush’s election in 1988.
Erie County rebounded strongly to Democrats in the 2018 midterms.
“The president can only see the world from Park Avenue. I see it from Scranton and Claymont. Y’all see it from Erie,” Biden told union officers and members, referring to his childhood hometowns in Pennsylvania and Delaware.
A federal judge in Pennsylvania has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Donald Trump’s campaign that was seeking to block the use of drop boxes as receptacles for mail ballots, require ballot signatures to match voter registration records and allow nonresident poll watchers at polling places in all-important battleground state.
The Associated Press reports:
The ruling by U.S. District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan who was appointed by Trump in Pittsburgh also poured cold water on Trump’s claims that Pennsylvania is fertile ground for election fraud.
Trump’s campaign said it would appeal at least one element of the decision, with barely three weeks to go until Election Day in a state hotly contested by Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
The lawsuit was opposed by the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, the state Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters, the NAACP’s Pennsylvania office and other allied groups.
“The ruling is a complete rejection of the continued misinformation about voter fraud and corruption, and those who seek to sow chaos and discord ahead of the upcoming election,” Wolf’s office said in a statement.
The state’s attorney general, Josh Shapiro, a Democrat whose office fought the Trump campaign’s claims, called the lawsuit a political stunt designed to sow doubt in the state’s election.
“We told the Trump campaign and the president, ‘put up or shut up’ to his claims of voter fraud in Pennsylvania,” Shapiro told the Associated Press. “It’s important to note they didn’t even need to prove actual voter fraud, just that it was likely or impending, and they couldn’t even do that.”
Trump’s campaign said in a statement that it looked forward to a quick decision from the appeals court “that will further protect Pennsylvania voters from the Democrats’ radical voting system.”
Ranjan’s opinion made a point of noting the lack of evidence of fraud put forth by the campaign.
“While Plaintiffs may not need to prove actual voter fraud, they must at least prove that such fraud is ‘certainly impending,’” Ranjan wrote. “They haven’t met that burden. At most, they have pieced together a sequence of uncertain assumptions.”
Six US states saw record single-day increases in coronavirus cases on Friday, according to NBC News.
The record highs in Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and West Virginia come at a time when nationwide numbers are on the climb and a seventh state, Wisconsin, has set up a field hospital to cope with the influx of patients.
“We have to get back to the basics in fighting this virus,” Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, said on Twitter this week, as the state posted another record day of Covid-19 infections.
Wisconsin set up a field hospital near state fairgrounds to treat what could be an overflow of patients with Covid-19. More than 8,000 people in the state are hospitalized.
“We are on the verge of a crisis in Green Bay and our surrounding counties,” Dr Paul Casey, emergency department head at Bellin health systems in Green Bay, Wisconsin, told CNBC.
More than 211,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the US.
South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham said African Americans and immigrants can “go anywhere” in his home state but they “just need to be conservative” during a televised candidates’ forum on Friday night.
Graham, who finds himself in a tooth-and-nail reelection battle with Democratic challenger Jamie Harrison in a once-safe conservative district, made the remark in the context of political careers and said his opponent would lose because he is a Democrat, not because he is Black.
“Do I believe our cops are systemically racist? No,” Graham said. “Do I believe South Carolina is a racist state? No. Let me tell you why. To young people out there, young people of color, young immigrants, this is a great state, but one thing I can say without any doubt, you can be an African American and go to the Senate but you just have to share our values.”
He went on to say: “If you’re a young, African American or an immigrant, you can go anywhere in this state, you just need to be conservative, not liberal”.
The comment was in response to a question about civil unrest, and as America reckons with its long history of racism and ongoing police brutality, including the national revulsion following the killing of Black man George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was asked whether Donald Trump should be resuming rallies on Saturday in Delaware before departing for a scheduled a campaign event in Erie, Pennsylvania.
“I think it’s important the president makes sure of two things,” Biden told reporters. “One, that he is clear, he is not a spreader like his, like Dr Fauci said the super spreader event he had for the Supreme Court announcement.
“And secondly, I think it’s important that he make it clear to all the people that they should be socially distanced, they can be on the lawn, that’s fine. But in fact, they should be socially distanced and wearing masks. That’s the only responsible thing to do. And I don’t know what’s going on at the moment now, but I hope he does that.”
Biden, who last week said he would be screened more frequently for Covid-19 and committed to release the results of all future tests, told reporters he tested negative on Saturday morning.
Donald Trump’s reelection bid was officially endorsed by the Taliban on Saturday, the latest improbably headline in a campaign season with no shortage of them.
According to CBS News:
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told CBS News in a phone interview: “We hope he will win the election and wind up U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.” The militant group expressed some concern about Mr. Trump’s bout with the coronavirus. “When we heard about Trump being COVID-19 positive, we got worried for his health, but seems he is getting better,” another Taliban senior leader told CBS News.
The announcement came on the same day Trump’s opponent in the November election, Democratic candidate Joe Biden, was endorsed by climate crisis activist Greta Thunberg.
Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communications director, told CBS News that it rejects the Taliban’s support.
Close-ups of Donald Trump’s right hand during today’s remarks from the White House balcony show a couple of flesh-colored bandages, presumably where he received intravenous injection.
His remarks were also significantly shorter in duration than anticipated: Trump spoke for 17 minutes after White House officials said he would be at the podium for a half hour.
Questions about the US president’s health continue to loom amid the refusal of doctors or aides to reveal when Trump last tested negative for coronavirus. He insisted he was “medication-free” during a Friday night appearance on Tucker Carlson’s prime-time opinion show that was pitched as a “medical evaluation”.
“We pretty much finished, and now we’ll see how things go. But pretty much nothing,” Trump said when Fox medical analyst Dr Marc Siegel asked the president what medications he was still taking.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday said a new $1.8tn economic stimulus proposal from the Trump administration “amounted to one step forward, two steps back” and would need changes to get support from congressional Democrats.
The California lawmaker said in her weekly letter to Democratic colleagues the Trump administration’s proposal lacked a “strategic plan to crush the virus” and gave US president too much discretion to decide how funds were allocated.
“At this point, we still have disagreement on many priorities, and Democrats are awaiting language from the Administration on several provisions as the negotiations on the overall funding amount continue,” Pelosi’s letter said.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said on Friday he doubted lawmakers would pass a package before the general election on 3 November.
“The proximity to the election and the differences of opinion over what is needed at this particular juncture are pretty vast,” McConnell told a news conference in his home state of Kentucky.
The number of New Yorkers hospitalized with the coronavirus continues to rise, state governor Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday, as authorities heightened their focus on banning mass gatherings in Covid-19 hotspots.
Cuomo announced that 826 people were hospitalized with the virus – the highest number since 15 July.
Eight further coronavirus deaths were recorded in New York on Friday.
Still, the governor insisted the “numbers remain good news,” noting that public health officials traced 18% of positive tests this week to a so-called “Red Zone” that’s home to 2.8% of the state population.
Six coronavirus clusters have cropped up in Brooklyn and Queens, as well as Broome, Orange and Rockland counties, the Associated Press reports.
The state has closed schools and nonessential businesses in those areas and limited gatherings.
“It’s going to take the work of all of us now to make sure we don’t go backwards on our hard-fought progress,” Cuomo said in a statement.
“We must all continue to wear our masks, wash our hands, remain socially distant, and above all, stay New York Tough.”
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn said Saturday that church officials “are left with no choice” but to abide by new restrictions that temporarily limit the size of religious gatherings in the Covid-19 hotspots.
The restrictions limit attendance at all houses of worship to 25% capacity, or a maximum of 10 people.
The diocese had sued the state in federal court this week, saying Cuomo’s plan would effectively force over two dozen of its churches to close their doors even though they “have been reopened for months in strict adherence to all medical and governmental guidance without any Covid-related incidents whatsoever.”
US district judge Eric Komitee called the case a “difficult decision” but sided with Cuomo in denying the church’s request for a temporary restraining order.
The government, he ruled late Friday, “is afforded wide latitude in managing the spread of deadly diseases under the Supreme Court’s precedent”.
“There is no reason for this latest interference with our First Amendment right to celebrate Mass together,” DiMarzio said in a statement responding to the ruling.
“So we will continue to press the courts and our elected officials to end it as soon as possible.”
The ruling followed a similar decision Friday by another judge in the Eastern District of New York who refused to block Cuomo’s plan.
That ruling followed an emergency hearing in a lawsuit brought by rabbis and synagogues who said the restrictions were unconstitutional and sought to have enforcement delayed until after the Jewish holy days.