After returning to the White House from the hospital, President Trump continued to downplay the severity of COVID-19, telling Americans, “Don’t be afraid of it.” He also said he was “feeling great,” although he remains on a powerful combination of drugs. Meanwhile, negotiations for additional pandemic relief are on hold amid a standoff with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Yamiche Alcindor reports.
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President Trump is making new headlines tonight on COVID-19, this time on the economic front. He says he is halting negotiations on a new pandemic economic recovery bill for now.
That comes as he's still going through his own diagnosis of being infected by COVID.
Our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor, begins our coverage.
COVID relief talks are on hold tonight until after the election.
Today, President Trump tweeted he has instructed his representatives to stop negotiating and instead focus on confirming his Supreme Court nominee. And he accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of not negotiating in good faith.
That comes as the virus is coursing through the White House, and the president is trying to project strength. The goal of showing confidence was on full display Monday evening, when President Trump returned to the executive mansion.
Critics called the made-for-TV moment political theater. The president's first act? Removing his face mask while still contagious, with White House staff nearby. Federal health guidelines say he should be in isolation.
Within an hour, the White House released a campaign ad-style video hailing his return, and as the U.S. death toll tops 210,000, there was this upbeat message:
President Donald Trump:
Don't let it dominate you. Don't be afraid of it. You're going to beat it. We have the best medical equipment. We have the best medicines.
In fact, most Americans don't have access to the same level of care and drug treatment that the president has received.
Today, President Trump also falsely claimed that COVID is less deadly than the seasonal flu. That prompted Twitter to add a warning that the post contained misleading and potentially harmful information. Facebook blocked the post entirely.
All of this comes with less than 30 days to go until Election Day, and with the president plainly eager to get back to campaigning. He tweeted this morning that he was feeling great, and was already looking forward to next Thursday's presidential debate.
But he remains on a powerful combination of drugs, as he continues to battle the coronavirus. Yesterday, even his personal physician acknowledged he's not out of the woods just yet. Today, Dr. Sean Conley issued a statement that President Trump was reporting no symptoms and that his vital signs and physical exam remain stable.
Vice President Pence's doctor also said he remains healthy, and continues to test negative for the virus.
A spokesman for his Democratic challenger, Senator Kamala Harris, said she also tested negative. They are slated to debate tomorrow night in Salt Lake City.
Meanwhile, the backlash over Mr. Trump's actions in recent days has intensified.
Last night, Democratic rival Joe Biden weighed in at an NBC town hall in Miami.
Former Vice President Joe Biden:
The only thing I heard was one of the tweets saying that, don't be so concerned about all this, essentially.
There's a lot to be concerned about; 210,000 people have died.
Today, the Biden campaign released a video of former first lady Michelle Obama delivering what was billed as her closing argument against reelecting the president.
Today, more Americans have died from this virus than died in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Korea combined. Take all those lives bravely sacrificed and double it. That's roughly the scale of this tragedy.
And our commander in chief, sadly, has been missing in action. And his willful mismanagement of the COVID crisis is just one example of his negligence.
This afternoon, Biden was back on the campaign trail again, this time in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where he appealed for unity in the face of crisis.
Former Vice President Joe Biden:
The country is in a dangerous place. Our trust in each other is ebbing. Hope seems elusive. Instead of treating each other's party as the opposition, we treat them as the enemy. This must end.
Back in Washington, questions remain about just when the president became infected, and how many people have been exposed since.
At least two more White House staffers tested positive, adding to the growing number of COVID infections among the president's inner circle.
And the Pentagon announced that all but one of the service chiefs are self-quarantining after a top Coast Guard official tested positive. Even so, the White House turned down an offer from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help with contact tracing. Instead, they are opting to use their own in-house epidemiologist.
This afternoon, the Trump administration also dropped its initial objections and approved new Food and Drug Administration guidelines for COVID-19 vaccine approval. The new rules will most likely prevent a vaccine from being cleared for use before Election Day.