The Associated Press
OPA-LOCKA, Fla. — President Donald Trump is suggesting that he will fire Dr. Anthony Fauci after Tuesday's election, as his rift with the nation's top infectious disease expert widens while the nation sees its most alarming outbreak of the coronavirus since the spring.
Speaking at a campaign rally in Opa-locka, Florida, Trump expressed frustration that the surging cases of the virus that has killed more than 231,000 people in the United States this year remains prominent in the news, sparking chants of "Fire Fauci" from his supporters.
"Don't tell anybody but let me wait until a little bit after the election," Trump replied to thousands of supporters early Monday, adding he appreciated their "advice."
Trump's comments on Fauci less than 48 hours before polls close all but assure that his handling of the pandemic will remain front and center heading into Election Day.
It's the most direct Trump has been in suggesting he was serious about trying to remove Fauci from his position. He has previously expressed that he was concerned about the political blowback of removing the popular and respected doctor before Election Day.
Trump's comments come after Fauci leveled his sharpest criticism yet of the White House's response to the coronavirus and Trump's public assertion that the nation is "rounding the turn" on the virus.
Fauci has grown outspoken that Trump has ignored his advice for containing the virus, saying he hasn't spoken with Trump in more than a month. He has raised alarm that the nation was heading for a challenging winter if more isn't done soon to slow the spread of the disease.
In an interview with The Washington Post this weekend, Fauci cautioned that the U.S. will have to deal with "a whole lot of hurt" in the weeks ahead due to surging coronavirus cases.
Fauci said the U.S. "could not possibly be positioned more poorly" to stem rising cases as more people gather indoors during the colder fall and winter months. He says the U.S. will need to make an "abrupt change" in public health precautions.
Fauci added that he believed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden "is taking it seriously from a public health perspective," while Trump is "looking at it from a different perspective." Fauci, who's on the White House coronavirus task force, said that perspective emphasizes "the economy and reopening the country."
In response, White House spokesman Judd Deere said Trump always puts people's well-being first and Deere charges that Fauci has decided "to play politics" right before Tuesday's election. Deere said Fauci "has a duty to express concerns or push for a change in strategy" but instead is "choosing to criticize the president in the media and make his political leanings known."
Trump in recent days has stepped up his attacks on Biden for pledging to heed the advice of scientists in responding to the pandemic. Trump has claimed Biden would "lock down" the nation once again. Biden has promised to heed the warnings of Fauci and other medical professionals but has not endorsed another national lockdown.
Trump has recently relied on the advice of Stanford doctor Scott Atlas, who has no prior background in infectious diseases or public health, as his lead science adviser on the pandemic. Atlas has been a public skeptic about mask wearing and other measures widely accepted by the scientific community to slow the spread of the virus.
Other members of the White House coronavirus task force have grown increasingly vocal about what they see as a dangerous fall spike in the virus.
Campaign draws to a close with US facing a crossroads
PHILADEPHIA — President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden have one last chance to make their case to voters in critical battleground states on Monday, the final full day of a campaign that has laid bare their dramatically different visions for tackling the nation's pressing problems and for the office of the presidency itself.
The candidates are seeking to lead a nation at a crossroads, gripped by a historic pandemic that is raging anew in nearly every corner of the country and a reckoning over race. More than 93 million people have already voted and each campaign insists it has a pathway to victory, though Biden's options for picking up the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win are more plentiful. Trump is banking on a surge of enthusiasm from his most loyal supporters.
The Republican president's final day has him sprinting through five rallies, from North Carolina to Wisconsin. Biden, meanwhile, was devoting most of his time to Pennsylvania, where a win would leave Trump with an exceedingly narrow path. Biden was also dipping into Ohio, a show of confidence in a state where Trump won by 8 percentage points four years ago.
Heading into the closing 24 hours, Trump and Biden each painted the other as unfit for office and described the next four years in near apocalyptic terms if the other were to win.
"The Biden plan will turn America into a prison state locking you down while letting the far-left rioters roam free to loot and burn," Trump thundered Sunday at a rally in Iowa, one of the five he held in battleground states.
Bruised and haunted, US holds tight as 2020 campaigns close
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Just over her mask, Patra Okelo's eyes brimmed with tears when she recalled the instant that a truth about America dawned and her innocence burned away.
One moment on Aug. 11, 2017, she thought the tiki torches blazing in the distance at the University of Virginia were "the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen, lighting up the darkness." Later, on television, she could see the fire more clearly. Hundreds of white supremacists carried those torches, sparking 24 hours of fury and death that transformed Charlottesville into an enduring battle cry of the 2020 presidential election.
"My heart broke that night," Okelo, now 29, said on Saturday, as President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden blitzed across the country to make the closing arguments of their bitter contest to lead the divided nation.
Presidential elections are traditionally moments when Americans get a high-definition look in the mirror. But by the final, frenetic sprint of the 2020 race, the world had long peered into the country's darkest corners and seen a battered and haunted image staring back.
The presidency and control of the Senate are in the balance, but for many, there was something even more urgent. Survival was the immediate goal, both as human beings and as a country whose very name seems aspirational at a time of such division and angst.
Trump admin funds plasma company based in owner's condo
WASHINGTON — When the Trump administration gave a well-connected Republican donor seed money to test a possible COVID-19-fighting blood plasma technology, it noted the company's "manufacturing facilities" in Charleston, South Carolina.
Plasma Technologies LLC is indeed based in the stately waterfront city. But there are no manufacturing facilities. Instead, the company exists within the luxury condo of its majority owner, Eugene Zurlo.
Zurlo's company may be in line for as much as $65 million in taxpayer dollars; enough to start building an actual production plant, according to internal government records and other documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The story of how a tiny business that exists only on paper has managed to snare attention from the highest reaches of the U.S. military and government is emblematic of the Trump administration's frenetic response to the coronavirus pandemic.
It's also another in a series of contracts awarded to people with close political ties to key officials despite concerns voiced by government scientists. Among the others: an ill-conceived $21 million study of Pepcid as a COVID therapy and more than a half billion dollars to ApiJect Systems America, a startup with an unapproved medicine injection technology and no factory to manufacture the devices.
Germany launches 4-week partial shutdown to curb virus
BERLIN — A four-week partial shutdown has started in Germany, with restaurants, bars, theaters, cinemas and other leisure facilities closing down until the end of the month in a drive to flatten a rapid rise in coronavirus infections.
The restrictions that took effect Monday are milder than the ones Germany imposed in the first phase of the pandemic in March and April. This time around, schools, kindergartens, non-essential shops and hairdressers are to remain open.
But leading officials decided last week that a "lockdown light" was necessary in light of a sharp rise in cases that has prompted many other European countries to impose more or less drastic restrictions.
On Saturday, the national disease control center reported the highest number of infections in one day -- 19,059 -- since the pandemic began. Figures at the beginning of the week tend to be lower, and the center reported 12,097 cases Monday. But that compared with 8,685 a week earlier, underlining the upward trend.
Germany has reported over 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past week. That is fewer than in many other European countries, but far above the 50 mark that officials set earlier this year as an alarm signal that requires action by local authorities.
Turkey pulls 2 girls out of rubble three days after quake
IZMIR, Turkey — In what one rescue worker called "a miracle," extraction teams brought two girls out alive Monday from the wreckage of their collapsed apartment buildings in the Turkish city of Izmir, three days after a strong earthquake hit Turkey and Greece.
Onlookers applauded in joy and wept with relief as ambulances carrying the girls rushed to hospitals immediately after their rescues.
The overall death toll in Friday's quake reached 85 on Monday after teams found more bodies overnight amid toppled buildings in Izmir, Turkey's third-largest city.
Close to 1,000 people were injured, mostly in Turkey, by the quake that was centered in the Aegean Sea northeast of the Greek island of Samos. It killed two teenagers on Samos and injured at least 19 other people on the island.
There was some debate over the quake's magnitude. The U.S. Geological Survey rated it 7.0, while Istanbul's Kandilli Institute put it at 6.9 and Turkey's emergency management agency said it measured 6.6.