White House chief of staff says ‘we’re not going to control pandemic’, after Pence staffers test positive – as it happened

White House chief of staff says ‘we’re not going to control pandemic’, after Pence staffers test positive – as it happened

5.32pm EDT
17:32

Summary

Here’s a quick overview of what happened today:

The Senate, which is in the middle of a special weekend session, made its final step toward confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court. Senate Republicans overrode a Democratic filibuster and are set to confirm Barrett tomorrow night.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said in an interview with CNN that the president is “not going to control the pandemic”. The unusually candid statement gave insight into the mindset of a White House that has, from the beginning, played down the effect of the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the US merely set a new Covid case record on Saturday, coming close to the 83,757 cases that were reported on Friday – the highest number in a single day – at 83,718 new cases. US health officials have for weeks voiced concerns of a new surge as the weather gets colder, and people stay indoors where the virus is more likely to spread.

We’ll be back tomorrow with more live updates. Thanks for reading.

5.24pm EDT
17:24

A ballot drop box that held more than 120 ballots was set on fire in Boston earlier Sunday. The box was outside the Boston Public Library in downtown Boston. Police say that the fire appears to have been a “deliberate attack”.

Officials said that of the 122 ballots that were inside the box when it was emptied, and 87 of the ballots were still legible and able to process. The Massachusetts secretary of state said that voters whose ballots were affected by the fire will be sent a new ballot and will also have the option of voting early in person, if they choose.

Security cameras around the box showed footage of a person setting fire to the box. The Boston Police Department is asking the public to help identify the person who started the fire.

Boston Police Dept.
(@bostonpolice)
BPD Investigating Ballot Box Fire in the area of 700 Boylston Street in Boston. https://t.co/8FYA34H815 pic.twitter.com/FNrO1PpEUg

October 25, 2020

In a joint statement, William Galvin, Massachusetts’ secretary of state, and Boston mayor Marty Walsh said: “We ask voters not to be intimidated by this bad act, and remain committed to making their voices heard in this and every election.”

5.08pm EDT
17:08

Donald Trump Jr. posed in front of a “Don Jr. 2024” sign for a picture he posted on Instagram yesterday.

“Hahahahaha. Oh boy. This was a sign up at the Fallon Nevada Livestock Auction,” he wrote on Instagram. “This will make the lib heads explode. To whomever made that thanks for the compliment… but let’s get through 2020 with a big win first!!!!!”

Ben Riley-Smith
(@benrileysmith)
Hmm. Don Jr not going out of his way to play down the 2024 speculation. pic.twitter.com/G99NigQSpA

October 24, 2020

Though Nevada went blue for Hillary Clinton in 2016, the state is technically a swing state that leans slightly left. Joe Biden holds a lead over Trump in the state, where Democratic voters are concentrated in Las Vegas and its surrounding suburbs while Republicans can be found in more rural areas of the state.

Donald Trump Jr, 42, is best known for being an internet provocateur, complementing his father’s brashness and inclination for sharing disinformation on Twitter. Trump hasn’t been as involved in White House policy as his sister, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, nor has he been as active in running the Trump Organization as his brother, Eric, but Don Jr. has seemed to be the Trump offspring most inclined to politics and has turned into a valuable asset for his father’s campaign.

“Don Jr. represents the emotional center of the MAGA universe,” Jason MIller, a senior advisor on Trump’s campaign, told the New York Times.

While Trump has only joked about running for office, a Vice reporter suggested that Pennsylvania Republicans were floating the idea of Trump replacing a Republican Senator from the state who will be retiring. Trump himself has not spoken about the Pennsylvania Senate seat.

4.34pm EDT
16:34

At least 58 million Americans have voted in the 2020 general election through early voting, according to Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who is running the US Election Project that’s keeping tabs on early voting count.

Using individual state reports with ballot counts, the project estimates that 39.7 million Americans have voted by mail while 19 million have voted early in-person. Over 19 million of the total early votes come from California, Texas and Florida – the states with the highest population. Across 19 states that provide party registration with their reports, 13 million have been Democrat while 7 million are Republican. Another 6 million are registered independents.

On Twitter, McDonald pointed out that Texas has hit nearly 80% of the total turnout in the state in 2016. McDonald has suggested that this election could have the highest voter turnout since 1908, with an estimated 65% of eligible voters participating in the election.

Michael McDonald
(@ElectProject)
#earlyvote morning update 10/25

At least 58 million people have voted in the 2020 general election 🥳https://t.co/s8K2xFDeSA pic.twitter.com/8NI64sWGRq

October 25, 2020

Joining the group of early voters is this interesting group of Joe Biden supporters in Nevada.

Rex Chapman🏇🏼
(@RexChapman)
Nevada:

Biden voters. Latinos. On horseback. In style.

This is my America… pic.twitter.com/8ri9Ur7SyH

October 25, 2020

4.13pm EDT
16:13

From the Guardian’s Richard Luscombe in Miami:

Born in Hawaii with deep roots in Chicago, Barack Obama is far removed from the traditional image of Florida Man. But with two appearances here in four days stumping for Joe Biden, the former president is relishing the atmosphere of the Sunshine State in the final days of the 2020 campaign.

On Tuesday, Obama will follow up Saturday’s skewering of Donald Trump at a drive-in rally in North Miami with a similar gathering in Orlando, the exact details yet to be released by the Biden campaign.

But the event means that, inside 96 hours, Obama will have made the same number of Florida appearances campaigning for his former vice-president that he did for Hillary Clinton in the last weeks of her run for the White House four years ago,

“Oh, it’s good to be back in Florida,” Obama told the crowd in North Miami, shortly after paying a surprise visit to thank campaign workers in the nearby city of Miami Springs who helped him carry the state in 2008 and 2012.

“You delivered twice for me, Florida. And now I’m asking you to deliver for Joe and deliver for Kamala.”

Obama’s role in flipping Florida back blue after Trump seized the state by barely 1.2 percent in 2016 is more than just symbolic. Popular with Hispanic voters to a level that Biden has not been able to achieve, his messaging in a state where 2.5 million Latinos make up 17 percent of the electorate is crucial.

On Saturday, he attacked Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and noted it had “hit African Americans and Latinos harder than anybody in Florida.”

It is a point he is certain to press again on Tuesday in Orlando, the heart of the I-4 corridor with a significant Hispanic population, including about 300,000 Puerto Ricans.

The demographic also offers Obama another opportunity to slam Trump. Criticism of the president’s handling of 2017’s Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island, was loud among Central Florida’s Puerto Rican community, with images of Trump casually tossing rolls of paper towels to suffering residents still fresh.

“When a hurricane devastates Puerto Rico, a president’s supposed to help it rebuild, not toss paper towels [or] withhold billions of dollars in aid until just before an election,” Obama told the crowd in Miami.

Expect more of the same in Orlando on Tuesday as Trump, the ultimate Florida Man, gets roasted by his nemesis once again.

3.53pm EDT
15:53

Joe Biden released a statement in response to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ interview with CNN today where he said that the White House is not going to control the pandemic.

“We’re not going to control the pandemic. We’re going to control the fact that we get a vaccine, therapeutics and other mitigation,” Meadows told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Biden said that the interview wasn’t a slip-up, but “a candid acknowledgement of what President Trump’s strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away. It hasn’t, and it won’t.”

Scott Wong
(@scottwongDC)
BIDEN: “This wasn’t a slip by Meadows, it was a candid acknowledgement of what President Trump’s strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away. It hasn’t, and it won’t.” pic.twitter.com/BTizJZMQdf

October 25, 2020

3.30pm EDT
15:30

Vladimir Putin has made it clear that he’s happy with Donald Trump’s coziness with Russia, but the Kremlin today contradicted Trump and said that he doesn’t believe Joe Biden’s ties with Ukraine are criminal.

Trump used Thursday’s debate with Biden as an opportunity to accuse Biden’s son of having unethical ties to Ukraine, accusations that have not been verified and that Biden has denied.

According to Reuters, Putin said today that he is willing to work with any US leader, but noted that Biden has “sharp anti-Russian rhetoric”. Here’s more from the Reuters report:

Putin appeared less friendly towards Trump in remarks broadcast by Russian state TV on Sunday. In what may be seen by some analysts as an attempt to try to curry favour with the Biden camp, the Russian presdient took the time to knock down what he made clear he regarded as false allegations from Trump about the Bidens.

“Yes, in Ukraine he [Hunter Biden] had or maybe still has a business, I don’t know. It doesn’t concern us. It concerns the Americans and the Ukrainians,” said Putin.

“But well yes he had at least one company, which he practically headed up, and judging from everything he made good money. I don’t see anything criminal about this, at least we don’t know anything about this [being criminal]”.

3.00pm EDT
15:00

Mike Pence, who as vice president is technically the president of the Senate, is coming under criticism from Democrats for planning to come into the chamber to preside over the vote for Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.

At a rally in Florida yesterday, Pence said “I wouldn’t miss that vote for the world”. Pence’s appearance would be symbolic as he does not need to be physically present in the Senate for the confirmation to go through.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer denounced Pence’s plan to attend the vote tomorrow, saying it sets “a terrible, terrible example for the American public”.

“It is clear to me that their closing message is that they’re going to personally deliver Covid to as many people as possible,” Brian Schatz, a Democratic senator for Hawaii, told a reporter.

Igor Bobic
(@igorbobic)
“It is clear to me that their closing message is that they’re going to personally deliver COVID to as many people as possible,” Schatz adds

October 25, 2020

At least five people close to Pence, including his chief of staff, have tested positive for Covid-19. A White House official said Sunday that Pence and his wife have tested negative for the virus. His office said that the vice president does not plan to quarantine. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say a person should quarantine for 14 days if they were in close contact with a person who tested positive, even if they themselves do not have symptoms or tested negative.

Pence, who is head of the White House’s coronavirus task force, has said that he can bypass CDC guidelines because he is an essential worker – a claim that has been questioned by health experts.

2.27pm EDT
14:27

Ed Pilkington

Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York state, is having a field day over the comments of the White House chief of staff Mark Meadows this morning. In a rare moment of transparency, Meadows admitted to a Sunday political talk show that the Trump administration had no intention of containing coronavirus, saying: “We’re not going to control the pandemic”.

Cuomo said that thinking was tantamount to giving in to the virus. “They surrendered without firing a shot. It was the great American surrender,” he said on Sunday, as reported by the Daily News.

The New York governor said that the Trump administration’s approach to Covid was summed up from the start by such capitulation. “They have believed from the beginning that they can’t control the virus,” he said.

By contrast, Cuomo prides himself on having wrestled coronavirus to the ground. After a bad start to the pandemic, which saw New York City become the world’s top hotspot, the rate of infection has been reduced to one of the lowest in the country through an aggressive program of testing and contact tracing.

There have been a total of almost 500,000 confirmed cases in the state, and 25,730 deaths. About 120,000 New Yorkers are being tested every day.

“What we learned in New York was, if you put up a fight you will have won. Because New York won,” Cuomo said.

2.10pm EDT
14:10

After the Senate voted to move forward with the final vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Mitch McConnell spoke on the Senate floor, celebrating the lasting influence of the vote for posterity.

“By tomorrow night, we’ll have a new member of the United States Supreme Court,” he told the chamber.

McConnell acknowledged that this election could change the tide in Washington but said that not much could be done to change the nature of the court “for a long time to come”.

Nicholas Fandos
(@npfandos)
McConnell, just after the Senate votes to limit debate on Amy Coney Barrett: “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

October 25, 2020

One Capitol Hill reporter noted that it appears the bruising on McConnell’s face and hands that were seen on Friday appeared to have gotten better. Apparently, getting three judges onto the Supreme Court in four years can do wonders to one’s health.

Seung Min Kim
(@seungminkim)
Also, McConnell’s right hand, which was deeply bruised earlier this week and prompted several Qs about his health, appears much better. Most of the bruising is gone https://t.co/WPFJcqsog2

October 25, 2020

Updated
at 2.19pm EDT

1.35pm EDT
13:35

Senate to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court tomorrow

McConnell revels in moving Amy Coney Barrett’s supreme court vote forward – video

The Senate just made a 51-48 vote to move forward with the final vote for Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Republicans overrode a Democratic filibuster with today’s vote, and the final vote for her confirmation will take place tomorrow night.

With the Republican majority in the Senate, Barrett’s nomination is pretty much a guarantee, despite weeks of criticism from Democrats about a Supreme Court nomination weeks before the presidential election.

Manu Raju
(@mkraju)
#Breaking: Amy Coney Barrett on track for confirmation tomorrow evening after Senate Republicans defeat a Democratic filibuster, 51-48, during a rare Sunday session just nine days before the election

October 25, 2020

Updated
at 4.31pm EDT

1.10pm EDT
13:10

The NFL has fined the Tennessee Titans $350,000 for violating protocols leading to the league’s first Covid-19 outbreak during the season, multiple outlets are reporting.

The Titans had 24 people, including 13 players, test positive for the coronavirus between 24 September and 11 October. The outbreak led the NFL to postpone two Tennessee games and the rescheduling of a game against Pittsburgh from 4 October to today and the second against Buffalo from 11 October to 13 October.

The league and its players association sent officials, including infectious disease experts, to Nashville where they reviewed video and interviewed players, coaches and other personnel.

ESPN reports the NFL informed the Titans last week that their review had concluded and the organization would face a potential fine. Individuals would not be disciplined and there was no discussion of forfeiture of draft picks.

12.35pm EDT
12:35

Archie Bland

One of the more surprising headlines of the day comes from the Wall Street Journal in: Health Agency Halts Coronavirus Ad Campaign, Leaving Santa Claus in the Cold.

The WSJ reports that the Trump administration offered Santa Claus performers a deal: if they agreed to promote a Covid-19 vaccine, they would get early access to it. The story says that performers playing Mrs Claus or elves would also have been included. But the plan has now been called off.

The article continues:

Ric Erwin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, called the news “extremely disappointing”, adding: “this was our greatest hope for Christmas 2020, and now it looks like it won’t happen.”

You can read more of this belter at the Wall Street Journal (although it’s behind a paywall).

12.08pm EDT
12:08

The US Senate has started day two of a rare weekend session to continue debate over the confirmation of federal appeals court judge Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court.

Democrats have expressed outrage at the vacancy being filled so close to the election – in fact boycotting Thursday’s vote to advance her nomination to the full Senate – but the Republicans’ 53-47 majority in the upper chamber ensures they have the votes they need to approve her nomination and cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the high court for years to come.

No supreme court nominee has ever been installed so close to a presidential election and, just four years ago, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and senator Lindsey Graham, who now chairs the judiciary committee, said that installing a nominee in an election year would be a shameful defiance of the will of voters.

Barrett, 48, is expected to be confirmed Monday and quickly join the court.

This post was amended on 25 October 2020 to give the correct figure for the Republicans’ senate majority.

Updated
at 7.21pm EDT

12.04pm EDT
12:04

More from Richard Luscombe…

Joe Biden’s deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, was grilled on NBC’s Meet the Press about the Democrat nominee’s “light physical footprint”.

To the backdrop of a graphic comparing Biden’s appearances since September in four key battleground states – North Carolina, Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania – to Trump’s (the president leads 19-14), host Chuck Todd wanted to know why Biden was concentrating heavily on Georgia instead of more northerly swing states.

The answer: Biden is “focused on maintaining as many paths to 270 electoral votes as we possibly can.” Bedingfield also pointed out that at a scheduled appearance in Warm Springs, Georgia, on Tuesday, Biden would deliver his closing arguments at a place “which obviously has historical significance in this country”.

Warm Springs is the resort town where the 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, built his Little White House, a cottage he used while suffering from polio in the 1930s.

“Vice-President Biden has visited all of these battleground states multiple times,” Bedingfield said. “He was in Pennsylvania yesterday, doing two events, along with Dr [Jill] Biden. So no, we have been very aggressively campaigning.

“Here’s the difference between what we’re doing and what Donald Trump is doing, we’re doing it safely.”

Bedingfield noted that the president’s rallies feature large, mostly maskless crowds with no social distancing.

A new CBS poll, meanwhile, showed Biden tied with Trump in Georgia and holding narrow leads in other southern battlegrounds, including Florida and North Carolina.

Todd also pressed Bedingfield on Biden’s comments at last week’s final debate about the oil industry. Why, he wondered, would oil workers in Texas or elsewhere support a candidate who supports a transition away from the industry at a risk to their jobs?

“There is only one person in this country who Joe Biden thinks should lose his job and it’s Donald Trump,” she said.

“Joe Biden … is not going to end the fossil fuel industry, he’s going to end subsidies for the oil industry. He believes your taxpayer dollars should go to education. Donald Trump believes they should go to Exxon. That’s a conversation we’re willing to have any day.”

11.26am EDT
11:26

A CBS News/YouGov poll of three southern battleground states finds Joe Biden in a dead heat with Donald Trump in Georgia with slight edges in Florida (by two points) and North Carolina (by four).

Some other key findings from CBS News:

• Early voters in each told us they favored Joe Biden, but those who have not yet voted favor Donald Trump, setting up a key turnout test running now through Election Day for both parties.

• Very different views on the coronavirus outbreak still shape the race in all these states. In all, most Biden voters are very concerned about getting it, and Trump’s voters, by comparison, are far less concerned. Biden also gets better marks overall on how he would handle the outbreak.

• Biden voters are more likely to say the outbreak and a candidate’s personal character are major factors in their vote. For Trump voters, the economy and immigration are the biggest factors.

• In splits among key demographic groups, Biden currently leads among White women with college degrees in Florida and North Carolina; and across all three states it’s shifts from 2016 that are helping Biden. In Georgia, White voters without college degrees – both men and women – tend to like how Trump handles himself personally and dislike Biden’s approach. Biden is cutting into Trump’s 2016 margins with seniors in Florida and Georgia, cutting Trump’s 2016 advantage in half. In North Carolina Biden has a two-point edge with seniors.

Last week Trump was forced to play defense when he staged a prime-time rally in Georgia, which no Republican presidential candidate has lost since George HW Bush in 1992 – a far cry from his original designs on expanding the map into Democratic-leaning states.

An evangelical Trump supporter’s banner in displayed on a fence outside rural central Georgia home. The state has been largely conservative in past elections. Photograph: Robin Rayne/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Updated
at 11.28am EDT

Read More