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During 1st day back at White House, Trump suspends pandemic aid talks

President Trump is back in the White House after a hospital stay for COVID-19 treatment -- and he’s again making headlines, announcing virus relief talks are tabled until after the election. He also repeated misleading claims about the severity of the illness, likening it to the seasonal flu when it is in fact much more deadly. Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Yamiche joins me now, along with our Lisa Desjardins.

    So, hello to both of you.

    And, Lisa, I want to come to you — or — I'm sorry — Yamiche, I want to come to you first with what we mentioned at the top of the show.

    And that is the president's saying that he is pulling out of negotiations with the Democrats to try to find a COVID economic relief bill. What do we know about that?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, in a surprising move, the president decided to go to Twitter to announce that he unilaterally was pulling out of the COVID-19 relief negotiation.

    And the issue here is that the president essentially is saying that this is a waste of time and that this should not be going on. The president tweeted that he was lashing out at Democrats.

    And then he also made a promise that I want to share. He said: "Nancy Pelosi is asking for $2.4 trillion to bail out poorly run high-crime Democratic states, money that is in no way related to COVID-19. Immediately after I win, I will pass a major stimulus bill."

    Now, it's not surprising that these talks broke down, because they have been going on for weeks, and Democrats and Republicans were very far apart. But it is surprising that the president is deciding that he's going to do this on his own.

    This comes hours after Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, said that he was urging Congress to pass more relief funds because the stimulus, while — the economy, rather, while doing well, needed more help from Congress. He said that it would be tragic, possibly, if the recovery did not get that help.

    It is, of course, that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is saying he agrees with the president in backing out of these negotiations. The other thing to note is that there are a lot of Americans who are really worried about whether or not they are going to be able to weather this economic storm through this pandemic.

    And there are political strategists who say that the president here is on really tricky ground, because Democrats have been saying that he is really focused on himself and not on these negotiations. And here now he's saying, I want the Supreme Court nominee more than I want relief for millions of Americans.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, to Lisa, what are Democrats saying? How do they see this?

    And what do we know about how this will affect, or not, the American people?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    There is a lot of confusion at the U.S. Capitol over what happened, and not just from Democrats. We also have seen Republicans just in the last hour or so come out and say they also have a problem with the president's actions here.

    But let's go to the top Democrat in the country, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Here is her reaction today.

    She put out a statement, and part of that said: "President Trump showed his true colors, putting himself first, above — at the expense of the country."

    It is true these talks were still not complete. However, Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin had been speaking for days. They were still talking today when this broke down.

    Who does this effect, Judy? Well, the truth is, small businesses have been getting by, but many are running out of cash. The season is changing, Judy. And for restaurants especially, who will not be able to offer outdoor seating, say, in the next month, this could be particularly harmful.

    But, above all, Judy, the airlines. Two airlines have announced in the last week that they expect furloughs of over 30,000 workers if there is no relief. Those could go in place as soon as Thursday.

    Judy, also, so much news today. I want to report that out of the Capitol we do have a sense of what the COVID kind of position is at the Capitol. The House Administration Committee tells me that 123 positive or presumed positive cases of COVID have been accounted for at the Capitol.

    But, note, Judy, that is since March. So, that's over a seven-month timeline.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A hundred and twenty-three cases.

    So, Yamiche, back to you.

    Today, we know the president, of course, still infected with the coronavirus. He is now back to saying that it's essentially nothing to worry about. He says he's immune.

    And what do we know about the president's attitude?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the president continues to falsely compare the coronavirus to the seasonal flu.

    And when you look at the two, the numbers just don't bear it out. The coronavirus has killed more Americans just this year than the flu has killed Americans in the last five seasons.

    When you look at the numbers, they're just staggering. So I want to put up a chart for people. The CDC estimates the deadliest flu season in the last five seasons was in 2017 and 2018. And it was 61,000 Americans dead.

    Compare that to 210 (sic) Americans who died of the coronavirus just this year. And in the last five years, the estimated deaths from the flu season, for the most part, have hovered around 20,000 to 40,000 Americans who have died.

    So, there are a lot of people who are very angry at the president for continuing to make this comparison. It's in some ways remarkable.

    Another thing to note is that the president has been saying that he is, of course, as you said, immune. There are a lot of people who are saying the president doesn't understand what's going on. And there's a lot of anger there that there are people who were really struggling through this virus, and who don't see the president as being empathetic to that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so, very quickly, in just a few seconds, Yamiche, the president saying — painting a rosy picture, his campaign painting a rosy picture, but not exactly what his doctor is saying.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    That's right.

    The president's doctors say that he's stable, that he's not reporting any symptoms. But we don't really know exactly when the president got this virus. We don't know how many people could have been exposed.

    Today, at the White House, we find out now that there are a total four White House press officials that are testing positive. So, there's a lot of people worrying just in the building right behind me who are very anxious about this.

    And the president continues to want to put on the face of really confidence, when there are a lot of people who are scared.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, so much to report on.

    Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins, thank you both.

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