First Thing election special: an isolated Trump plans a rally

First Thing election special: an isolated Trump plans a rally

The president called Fox News to demand Biden’s indictment, to suggest vets’ families gave him Covid, and to pull out of the next debate. Plus, keeping track of the key US Senate races

A Marine stands guard outside the West Wing, where Trump is still supposedly under quarantine.

A Marine stands guard outside the West Wing, where Trump is still supposedly under quarantine.
Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock
Good morning.

Donald Trump is itching to return to the campaign trail, despite refusing to say whether he has yet tested negative for Covid-19 since his discharge from hospital. In a call to Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Thursday night – rambling and punctuated by coughs – the president said he was planning a rally in Florida on Saturday.

In an earlier phone interview with the Fox Business channel, the president suggested he might have caught the disease from the families of fallen US soldiers, castigated his own attorney general for failing to indict Joe Biden and Barack Obama, and announced he would not participate in the second presidential debate if the event was to be a virtual affair with the candidates appearing remotely.

  • Trump’s chief of staff hosted a 70-person indoor wedding for his daughter in Atlanta in May, in defiance of state and municipal coronavirus guidelines. Photographs from the event showed guests eschewing masks and social distancing.

Trump says his golf buddy’s drug ‘cured’ the coronavirus

Trump attributes what he claims was his swift recovery from Covid-19 to an experimental antibody cocktail from the pharmaceutical firm Regeneron, whose CEO is a member of the president’s golf club. Doctors say demand for the drug has surged since the president touted it as a potential “cure” for the coronavirus, despite its development using human cells obtained from an elective abortion – a practice he has repeatedly denounced.

Trump has made the unlikely claim that the drug will soon be available for free to all Americans suffering from the disease. As Amanda Holpuch reports, the president’s treatment was markedly different from what an average 74-year-old American can expect if they come down with a serious illness.

  • China has joined the Covax global vaccine initiative, which aims to distribute 2bn doses of Covid-19 vaccines around the world by the end of 2021, leaving the US increasingly isolated in its refusal to sign on to the plan.

  • The administration’s handling of the pandemic is ‘dangerously incompetent’, according to an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, which took the unprecedented step of urging its readers to vote Trump out of office.

Pelosi says the president is suffering ‘disassociation from reality’

Nancy Pelosi suggests future 25th Amendment discussion on Donald Trump’s fitness for office – video

Democrats are launching a congressional commission to assess whether Trump remains capable of carrying out his presidential duties – or whether he ought to be removed from office under the 25th amendment. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Nancy Pelosi said the president’s erratic tweeting and interviews in recent days suggest he is “in an altered state right now”, adding: “The disassociation from reality would be funny if it weren’t so deadly.”

A rightwing militia planned to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer slams Trump in response to kidnapping plot – video

Six people with links to the rightwing militia group Wolverine Watchmen have been charged with plotting to kidnap the Democratic governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer. Their plan, which was made public in an FBI affidavit on Thursday, involved snatching the governor from her second home in northern Michigan and then staging a mock trial for treason.

Whitmer, who has become a focal point for rightwing anti-government sentiment during the pandemic, told reporters on Thursday that Trump had encouraged such groups by urging the Proud Boys to “stand by” at last week’s presidential debate:

Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke but as a rallying cry, as a call to action.

  • Will armed militias show up to the polls? Experts fear that Trump’s call for his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully” will encourage far-right and white-supremacist paramilitaries to disrupt the election on 3 November, as Ed Pilkington reports.

In other election news …

  • Utah senator Mike Lee has insisted the US is “not a democracy” in tweets that drew criticism at a time when Republicans have been accused of voter suppression. In a later tweet, Lee elaborated: “Democracy isn’t the objective; liberty, peace, and prosperity are. We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that.”

  • Facebook has removed hundreds of fake profiles linked to Turning Point USA, saying the conservative group had tried to influence public conversations by flooding news articles with pro-Trump comments and misinformation.

Stat of the day

There are 35 seats up for re-election in November, but expert observers say control of the US Senate comes down to five key races. Tom McCarthy and the Guardian’s visuals team break down how Democrats could win back the upper house.

Don’t miss this

A group of filmmakers producing pro-Biden trailers and ads, which are designed to go viral on Twitter, say their videos’ popularity is being strategically throttled by “an army of online Trump supporters – a mix of humans and bots.” Peter Savodnik reports for Vanity Fair.

View from the right

Trump’s refusal to take part in the second presidential debate came a day after his controversial adviser Roger Stone advised the president to skip the event in a piece for the Spectator, claiming the format was rigged against him.

It is important to note that the so-called ‘Presidential Commission on Debates’ is not appointed by the President, is not a commission, and its real purpose is to limit debate.

Last Thing: this West Wing gathering is Covid safe

Almost 15 years after its finale, the cast of The West Wing is reuniting for a staged reading of a classic episode of the beloved political drama, to be broadcast on 15 October, with Sterling K Brown standing in for the late John Spencer as White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry. HBO Max has released a trailer for the election special, which was organised to benefit the non-profit group When We All Vote.

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