‘I’m not losing’ says US President in interview – as it happened

‘I’m not losing’ says US President in interview – as it happened

Summary

We’ll be shutting down today’s blog shortly. Here’s a look at the days major news items:

  • Trump refuses to commit to accepting election result as Biden enjoys poll lead. In an extraordinary interview with Fox News Sunday recorded at the White House on Friday, Trump said “I’m not losing, because those are fake polls” and refused to say if he would accept the result if Biden won in November.
  • Trump bids to stop billions in track-and-trace funds as virus cases spike. The president is seeking to block billions of dollars in funding for coronavirus testing and contact tracing efforts even as cases rise across the US, where around 70,000 people are testing positive each day.
  • Portland protesters’ outrage grows over federal officers’ ‘blatant abuse’. Trump tweets ‘we are trying to help Portland, not hurt it’ but the presence of militarized federal agents has prompted shock and anger in the Oregon city.
  • Honor John Lewis by passing voting rights bill, leading Democrat urges. House majority whip James Clyburn called on Sunday for both voting rights legislation and an infamous bridge in Alabama to be named after the late civil rights hero.
  • Roger Stone uses racial slur on black radio host’s show. The political operative whose 40-month prison sentence was commuted by Donald Trump, his longtime friend, used a racial slur on air while verbally sparring with a black Los Angeles-based radio host.
  • Trump equates support for Confederate flag with Black Lives Matter. The president has equated the Black Lives Matter movement with displays of the Confederate flag, saying: “I’m not offended either by Black Lives Matter, that’s freedom of speech. You know the whole thing with cancel culture – we can’t cancel our whole history. We can’t forget that the north and the south fought.”
  • Republican senators post pictures of Elijah Cummings in John Lewis tribute. Social media accounts for two Republican senators, Marco Rubio of Florida and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, mistakenly posted photos of the late congressman Elijah Cummings alongside comments meant to honor John Lewis.

If you missed Donald Trump’s combative interview with Fox News’s Chris Wallace, my colleague Amanda Holpuch has you covered.

The US president’s first Sunday show appearance in more than a year was peppered with a series of extraordinary moments, including a claim not to care what the military has to say about renaming its bases and an argument about whether identifying an elephant was strong evidence of mental stability.

“Nearly four years into his wild and unlikely presidency,” Holpuch writes, “Donald Trump managed to shock the world again.”


Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti conceded Sunday that his city relaxed Covid-19 restrictions too quickly and warned that the city was “on the brink” of new shutdown orders following a week that saw Los Angeles county record both its highest number of daily new cases and new hospitalizations since the pandemic began.

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, Garcetti criticized the “lack of national leadership” in engendering an atmosphere conducive to backsliding.

“I think a lot of things went wrong,” Garcetti said. “But, here, where we have had fewer deaths than many of the big cities, and our rate of increase hasn’t accelerated as much as others – we’re kind of in the middle of the pack – we have seen no national leadership. We have had to stand up testing centers on our own. We have had to do so much that is outside of our lane because of the lack of national leadership.

“But, also, I think that there are people who are just exhausted. They were sold a bill of goods. They said this was under control. They said this would be over soon. And I think, when leaders say that, people react and they do the wrong things. They stop distancing themselves. They stop washing their hands. They stop wearing masks.”

Garcetti did not dispute the main thrust of a Los Angeles Times editorial published on Wednesday that stated the state’s rapid reopening “wasn’t a good idea, especially because it suggested to a public desperate for release that the coronavirus was in retreat”.

“I do agree that those things happened too quickly,” Garcetti said. “But … It’s not just what’s open and closed. It’s also about what we do individually. It’s about the people who are getting together outside of their households with people they might know. It might be their extended family. It might be friends. They might think, because they got a test two weeks ago, that it’s OK. But it’s not. This virus preys on our division. It preys when we get exhausted. It preys on us in those moments when we don’t have a unified national front or we as individuals think, ‘Oh, this ain’t going to be a big deal.’ We have to be as vigilant right now as we were the first day, bring 100% of our strength, the way we did the first or second month. I kind of feel like people are 20% or 30% of their strength these days.

“But we are seeing some hopeful signs. And then you have to be patient. You have to be patient when you close things down again, as we have done, wait two or three weeks to see the effect. And you have to be patient when you reopen things, and don’t have this domino effect of, hey, last week, it was the restaurants. Next week, it can be the bars. Week after that, everything’s open. That is a failed way to go forward. Listen to the science. Track the data, and be smart.”

Eric Garcetti

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti warned that his city was ‘on the brink’ of new shutdown orders. Photograph: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/REX/Shutterstock

Louisiana officials said on Sunday they have temporarily suspended an emergency rent assistance program to help those hurt economically by the coronavirus pandemic because they were deluged with applicants.

The Louisiana Housing Corporation (LHC) said more than 40,000 renters have expressed interest in the Louisiana Emergency Rental Assistance Program in the less than four days since the program was launched during a press conference on Thursday, with both the LaRentHelp.com website and 2-1-1 phone line getting overwhelmed.

“The response to our state’s emergency rental assistance program proves how significant the economic burden of Covid-19 is for our citizens,” Louisiana’s Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, said on Sunday. “This program was designed to help mitigate and off-set evictions and homelessness, and while we have allocated an additional $17 million for a total of $24 million in federal assistance, we know that much more is needed to address this serious crisis for the hard-working men and women who continue to keep our state going during this crisis.”

The LHC, which had estimated it had enough money to assist roughly 10,000 at-risk tenants, said it will try to find more funds to help applicants in addition to the $24m in federal money originally allotted. Housing advocates had previously warned more relief would be needed with the $600-per-week federal unemployment payments due to expire at the end of the month.

“We know there are many individuals and families whose lives have been upended by this pandemic and that there is a great sense of urgency for housing assistance,” LHC executive director E Keith Cunningham Jr said. “As the state’s housing agency, we are committed to doing everything we can to meet the needs of renters and landlords and are hopeful that additional federal dollars will become available as soon as possible.”

John Bel Edwards

Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards has acknowledged more funds will be needed to help renters amid the coronavirus pandemic. Photograph: Travis Spradling/AP

A number of NFL players took to social media on Sunday to publicly express their concerns and anger over the lack of agreed-upon coronavirus safety protocols with teams preparing to open training camps this week.

America’s most popular sports league has moved full speed ahead with plans to start the season on schedule in early September, All 32 teams having conducted their offseason programs remotely under the assumption that training camps will be held in person starting no later than 28 July.

But some of the league’s biggest stars expressed alarm on Sunday that too many outstanding issues remain before players can report in good conscience.

“We need Football! We need sports! We need hope!” New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees wrote on Twitter. “The NFL’s unwillingness to follow the recommendations of their own medical experts will prevent that. If the NFL doesn’t do their part to keep players healthy there is no football in 2020. It’s that simple. Get it done @NFL.”

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said he is concerned because his wife, Ciara, is pregnant.

He wrote: “My wife is pregnant. @NFL Training camp is about to start.. And there’s still No Clear Plan on Player Health & Family Safety. ???? We want to play football but we also want to protect our loved ones. #WeWantToPlay.”

The Houston Texans’ JJ Watt, a three-time NFL defensive player of the year, highlighted a list of issues that need to be resolved before camps open on Tuesday, including information about how often players will be tested and what will happen if someone does test positive for the coronavirus.

JJ Watt
(@JJWatt)

Once again in the interest of keeping everyone (players & fans) as informed as possible, here is an updated list of what we as players know and don’t know as the first group gets set to report to training camp tomorrow.#WeWantToPlay pic.twitter.com/xQcjs33zgM

July 19, 2020

Watt noted that an opt-out clause “for those at higher risk or those with family members at higher risk” had still not been agreed upon.

The NFL is America’s richest sports league with an estimated $15bn in revenue last year, but Dr Anthony Fauci, the US’s top infectious disease expert, has described the sport as a “perfect setup” for spreading Covid-19 due to the full-contact nature of the sport on every play.

Updated


It came as little surprise when Donald Trump lost New York state by 22 points in the 2016 presidential election, a landslide powered by Hillary Clinton’s overwhelming 60.9% margin of victory in the massively populated five boroughs of New York City.

And while polling shows the US president trailing Joe Biden by an even wider margin ahead of November’s election, Trump’s supporters in his home state made themselves heard on Sunday by taking to the water for the TrumpStock boat parade, which started with a flotilla near the Statue of Liberty before heading up the Hudson River toward the George Washington Bridge.

Footage posted to social media showed vessels and jetskis carrying Trump 2020 flags as they cruised up the Hudson from New York Harbor amid clear skies and 93F temperatures.

TrumpStock

Trump supporters take part in a Sunday parade on New York’s Hudson River called TrumpStock to support the president in his home state. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

TrumpStock

Trump supporters take photos while observing Sunday’s TrumpStock boat parade along the Hudson River. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

TrumpStock

Trump supporters cruise up the Hudson River during Sunday’s TrumpStock boat parade and flotilla. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Updated


Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has issued a statement in response to Donald Trump’s pre-recorded interview with Fox News’s Chris Wallace that aired on Sunday morning, describing the US president’s coronavirus response as “actively undercutting our ability to save lives and stop Covid-19”:


Yet again this morning, President Trump attacked the CDC and the public health experts who should be guiding our response to Covid-19, saying that they “don’t know” what they’re talking about.

The past six months have proven again and again that it’s Donald Trump who doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to Covid-19. He said the virus would disappear. He said anyone who wants a test could get a test. He said the virus was under control. When it comes to the coronavirus, you can’t believe a word he says.

It’s astonishing that even after 140,000 Americans have died in the worst Covid-19 outbreak in the developed world, President Trump continues his offensive against the CDC and scientists like Dr Fauci, instead of heeding their clear advice about the steps we must take to stop this virus – from ramping up testing to getting protective equipment to the heroes on the front lines.

But what’s truly disturbing is that President Trump isn’t just attacking our leading health experts – he’s waving the white flag and actively undercutting our ability to save lives and stop Covid-19 by shamefully trying to block critical additional new funding for the CDC, as well as for testing and tracing. Think about that again: In the middle of a pandemic that continues to worsen on his watch, President Trump is trying to keep money away from the public health measures that we know will keep us and our families safe. He even went on to attack the value of testing again in the same interview, perpetuating a terrible months-long streak.

Mr President, your ignorance isn’t a virtue or a sign of your strength – it’s undercutting our response to this unprecedented crisis at every turn and it’s costing Americans their jobs and their lives.

It’s long past due for President Trump to listen to somebody other than himself in how to fight this virus, because after six straight months of deadly mismanagement it is spiraling even more out of control. He can start immediately by adopting the proposals I have laid out for months now that experts tell us will help us stop this virus, save lives, and safely re-open our economy.

Joe Biden

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden released a statement on Sunday hammering away at US president Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Donald Trump is back at the White House after this morning’s visit to Trump National Golf Club across the Potomac, his ninth trip to his Loudoun county property in 29 days.

A White House pool report describes what’s become a regular scene outside the club during the president’s twice-weekly visits over the past month.


Outside the club entrance, about 15 or so protesters displayed mostly handmade anti-Trump signs like “The World Despises You,” “Have a Nice Convention,” “Trump the Body Snatcher. What Country Is This?” “No Trump. No KKK. No Racist Fascist USA,” “Trump Is The Virus,” “Trump Is Corrupt,” “Grifter and Failure,” and one that said “PIG” with the “I” in the shape of a female stick figure.

About five or so POTUS supporters waved pro-Trump flags (versions of “Trump 2020: Keep America Great”), planted a “Trump-Pence” sign in the grass or held up a handwritten “Jobs Not Mobs” sign. A Jeep flying a blue “Trump: Make America Great Again” flag and a US flag drove back and forth repeatedly with patriotic songs playing on the radio. Other drivers honked as they passed by, although it was not always clear which camp they were cheering on.

Trump fired off a couple of tweets on his ride back to the White House, taking a shot at “Radical Left Democrats” as the motorcade neared the Beltway and popping off at Obama and Biden once again on the final approach to the executive mansion, according to the pool report.

Trump National Golf Club

Protesters and supporters of Donald Trump’s hold signs on Sunday outside Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia. Photograph: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

Georgia Democrats to pick Lewis successor

Martin Pengelly

Georgia Democrats will gather on Monday to decide a replacement for John Lewis, the great civil rights leader who died on Friday aged 80, after serving more than 30 years in Congress.

Lewis’s Atlanta-area seat will remain empty until Governor Brian Kemp schedules a special election but the Democratic party of Georgia is accepting applications for the nomination online until 6.30pm on Sunday.

A special seven-member committee – including Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, 2018 gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams and 2014 gubernatorial nominee Jason Carter – will then choose between three and five candidates. The state party’s executive committee will then choose a nominee and submit the name to the Georgia secretary of state by 4pm on Monday.

In November, the nominee will face Republican Angela Stanton-King. Stanton-King is a reality TV personality who was pardoned earlier this year by Donald Trump for her role in a stolen car ring, for which she served six months of home confinement in 2007.

Lewis won more than 84% of the vote when he last faced a Republican, in 2016.

Bottoms, the Atlanta mayor and like Abrams a possible vice-presidential pick for Joe Biden, paid tribute to Lewis on Sunday.

On CBS’s Face the Nation, she said: “You know, growing up in Atlanta, we have the great privilege of having these giants walk amongst us. So for me personally, John Lewis was more than this historical figure. He’s a person you see in the grocery store, that you see a church, that you see out and about around town.

“And his legacy really speaks to so much about where we are with this movement and this moment in America. What he instilled in all of us was just courage and to do the right thing and treat people in a way that would then in turn have dignity and respect upon all of us. And so I am so grateful for his leadership and legacy.

“I don’t think it happenstance that his last public appearance was on the Black Lives Matter Plaza [near the White House in Washington]. Because I think in his own way, he was leaving with us this reminder that the fight continues.”


Martin Pengelly

To adapt the words of the great Bruce Robinson, writer of Withnail and I, Donald Trump has finished thwacking his orb about and is prepared to step back into society. Or if not quite that, this huge thatched head of state with his earlobes and golf ball is back at the White House from his course in Virginia and has been tweeting again. Here’s the pool report, from Peter Baker of the New York Times:



The motorcade arrived back at the White House at 1.16pm. The ride was uneventful. POTUS lobbed a Twitter shot at ‘Radical Left Democrats’ just as the Beast neared the Beltway and another at Obama and Biden as the vehicles approached the White House. Your pool briefly spotted POTUS in a white shirt and red baseball cap heading back into the building.

The tweet aimed at Obama and Biden was Obamagate-themed, which is what it is, but the one about “radical left Democrats” was again aimed towards Portland, where federal agents acting alongside city police continue to confront and sometimes detain protesters against police brutality and structural racism.

Here’s what Portland mayor Ted Wheeler had to say to CNN’s State of the Union this morning:


The president has a complete misunderstanding of cause and effect. We have dozens, if not hundreds of federal troops descending upon our city. And … they are sharply escalating the situation. Their presence is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism. It’s not helping the situation at all. They’re not wanted here. We haven’t asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave.

The tactics that the Trump administration are using on the streets of Portland are abhorrent. People are … being denied probable cause and they’re denied due process. They don’t even know who’s pulling them into the vans. The people aren’t identifying themselves. And, as far as I can see, this is completely unconstitutional.”

Here’s Hallie Golden’s report, which includes interviews with three protesters who have been subject to the attentions of such federal officers, or seen them in action:


A sliver of good news from Vermont. The state has now gone 30 days without reporting a Covid-19 death, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. A total of 56 people have died from the virus in the rural, northeastern state but none since 19 June.


Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has told CNN that cutting funding for the Centers for Disease Control during the pandemic would be extremely foolish.

“The administration is talking about – Republican McConnell is talking about cutting it – that would be cutting your nose to spite your face. We need the CDC to help us fight Covid,” he said. “To not have the facts, to not have the science makes no sense at all.”

Schumer added that the Democrats would fight to keep funding for the CDC. “We are going to do everything we can to make sure that the CDC is fully funded in the stimulus package,” he said.

Schumer also said it was important to keep data about the pandemic public. “For the president, the administration to want to sweep the facts under the rug so they can hide them, it’s not gonna work,” he said. “Whenever the President has tried to avoid the problem, like this will go away, this wont affect many people, it’s gotten worse.”


Some have sought to downplay the alarming rise in Covid-19 cases across the US by saying that it is mostly younger, healthier people who are contracting the virus. Apart from the fact that young people can spread the virus to more vulnerable populations, there are also plenty of examples of healthy people suffering devastating effect from Covid-19.

And they don’t get much healthier than professional athletes. Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, one of the best players in baseball, said he prayed for his life after contracting the virus.

Freddie Freeman is an All-Star first baseman for the Braves

Freddie Freeman is an All-Star first baseman for the Braves. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

“I said a little prayer that night,” Freeman said, describing how his temperature rose to 104.5F (40.2C) at one point. “I’ve never been that hot before. My body was really, really hot. … I said ‘Please don’t take me’ because I wasn’t ready.”

The 30-year-old Freeman has since recovered but says he does not know if he will be ready for the start of the MLB season, which is due to get underway on Thursday.

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