Briefs: White House says Donald Trump will continue working 'without disruption'

People walk past a screen showing the news report that President Donald Trump has tested positive for the coronavirus, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, in Tokyo. President Trump said Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus, just a month before the presidential election and after having spent much of the last year largely downplaying the threat of the virus. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Associated Press

News for October 2, 2020

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is experiencing "mild symptoms" of COVID-19 after revealing Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus, a stunning announcement that plunges the country deeper into uncertainty just a month before the presidential election. 

Trump, who has spent much of the year downplaying the threat of a virus that has killed more than 205,000 Americans, said he and Mrs. Trump were quarantining. The White House physician said the president is expected to continue carrying out his duties "without disruption" while recovering. A White House official said Friday morning that the president was experiencing mild symptoms but was working from the White House residence.

Trump's diagnosis was sure to have a destabilizing effect in Washington and around the world, raising questions about how far the virus had spread through the highest levels of the U.S. government. Hours before Trump announced he had contracted the virus, the White House said a top aide who had traveled with him during the week had tested positive.

"Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately," Trump tweeted just before 1 a.m. "We will get through this TOGETHER!" 

Vice President Mike Pence tested negative for the virus on Friday morning and "remains in good health," his spokesman said.

It is unclear where the Trumps and Hicks may have caught the virus, but in his Fox interview, Trump seemed to suggest it may have been spread by someone in the military or law enforcement.

"It's very, very hard when you are with people from the military or from law enforcement, and they come over to you, and they want to hug you, and they want to kiss you," he said, "because we really have done a good job for them. And you get close. And things happen."

Several members of Trump's Cabinet were undergoing testing for COVID-19 Friday. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the fourth in line to the presidency, tested negative shortly before he landed in Croatia. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also tested negative, while Attorney General William Barr was to undergo a test Friday morning.

The White House began instituting a daily testing regimen for the president's senior aides after earlier positive cases close to the president. Anyone in close proximity to the president or vice president is also tested every day, including reporters.

Yet since the early days of the pandemic, experts have questioned the health and safety protocols at the White House and asked why more wasn't being done to protect the commander in chief. Trump continued to shake hands with visitors long after public health officials were warning against it, and he initially resisted being tested. 

Trump is far from the first world leader to test positive for the virus, which previously infected Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent a week in the hospital, including three nights in intensive care. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was hospitalized last month while fighting what he called a "hellish" case of COVID-19.

While there is currently no indication that Trump is seriously ill, the positive test raises questions about what would happen if he were to become incapacitated due to illness.

The Constitution's 25th Amendment spells out the procedures under which the president can declare himself "unable to discharge the powers and duties" of the presidency. If he were to make that call, Trump would transmit a written note to the Senate president pro tempore, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Pence would serve as acting president until Trump transmitted "a written declaration to the contrary."

The vice president and a majority of either the Cabinet or another body established by law can also declare the president unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, in which case Pence would "immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President" until Trump could provide a written declaration to the contrary.

Joe Biden tweets he's praying for Donald Trump

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Friday that he and his wife Jill "send our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a swift recovery" after they tested positive for the coronavirus.

In a Friday morning tweet, he added, "We will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family."

It was not immediately clear whether the former vice president had been tested since appearing at Tuesday's presidential debate with Trump or whether he was taking any additional safety protocols. Trump and Biden did not shake hands during the debate but stood without masks about 10 feet apart for the 90-minute event.

Court nominee adds to election debate

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's stark expectation that the Supreme Court will intervene to "look at the ballots" in what he calls a rigged election casts new questions Wednesday on the Senate's rush to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the vacant seat before Nov. 3.

Barrett was on Capitol Hill for a second day meeting with senators ahead of confirmation hearings as lawmakers of both parties brace for the potential of delayed election night results or a disputed presidential election that lands before the high court. 

Rather than lead Americans to uphold voting traditions, Trump is sowing seeds of doubt by insisting throughout the first presidential debate with Joe Biden that the election will be fraudulent if he is not re-elected, even though voter fraud is rare in the United States. One analysis found Americans were more likely to be struck by lightning.

"I'm counting on them to look at the ballots, definitely," Trump said about the Supreme Court. 

The rush by Trump to fill the Supreme Court seat is already drawing fierce objections from Democrats, the first time in U.S. history a nominee will be voted on so close to a presidential election, with early voting already underway in half the states. 

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said the reason for the quick confirmation of Trump's nominee is clear: "He wants that 9th person to be his nominee. That's what we face."

At a campaign stop Wednesday in Ohio, Biden said it was "interesting" that the Senate found time for a hearing on the Supreme Court nomination but "no time" to work on additional legislation to help Americans during the COVID-19 crisis.

Biden says the winner of the presidency should choose the nominee to fill the vacancy for the seat held by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died at 87, was buried this week at Arlington National Cemetery. 

But without the votes to stop her confirmation, Democrats want Barrett to recuse herself from election cases. Veteran GOP election lawyer Ben Ginsberg said the president's comment linking his nominee "to his own personal election puts Republican senators in an uncomfortable position."

 A conservative judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, Barrett is giving no indication she would sit out election cases that come before the court, as some Democrats want. 

Instead, she said she would recuse herself in cases in which her husband and sister, both practicing attorneys, had participated, as well as cases involving her alma mater Notre Dame University, according to filings to the Senate Judiciary Committee ahead of her confirmation hearings.

Barrett also indicated no one at the White House or the campaign had any discussions with her seeking assurances of her views on any legal issues, according to the nearly 70-page filing. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday it's "ridiculous" to suggest Barrett should recuse herself from election cases. Democrats "are grasping at straws," he said.

"She has given nobody at the White House any hints or any assurances about any kinds of cases, real of hypothetical," McConnell said in the Senate.

The Senate is racing to confirm Barrett to fill the nine-justice court at an unusually quick pace. Hearings set to begin Oct. 12 at the Judiciary Committee, and a full vote in the Senate planned for the end of October.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on MSNBC that Trump's comments suggest "he wants to cause chaos, take it to the courts."

Democrats are confronting the limits of their power as they fight against the nomination. As Barrett conducts the traditional meet-and-greet sessions with senators, some Democrats have said they won't meet with her.

With Republicans holding a 53-47 Senate majority, and just two GOP senators opposing a quick vote, Barrett appears to have enough support for confirmation. 

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer acknowledged it will be an "uphill fight" to stop Trump's nominee. But he said Americans are on Democrats' side in preferring to wait until after the election so the winner can choose the next justice. He is among those refusing to meet with Barrett, calling the process "illegitimate," and said her conservative views on health care, abortion and other issues are "far outside" the mainstream.

Unable to block Trump's pick on their own, Democrats are arguing that Barrett's nomination threatens the protections of the Affordable Care Act. The court will hear a case challenging the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's health care law just after the election, adding to the urgency of the issue.

"This is not a joke to the American people," Schumer said Wednesday. "This is not a joke to the 20 million Americans who could lose their health insurance if the ACA is struck down."

Shock, sympathy, mockery: World reacts to Trump infection

TOKYO — News of the infection of the most powerful man in the world with the most notorious disease in the world drew instant reactions of shock, sympathy, undisguised glee and, of course, the ever-present outrage and curiosity that follow much of what Donald Trump does, even from 10,000 miles away. 

Trump's announcement Friday, on Twitter, that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus, and the deep uncertainty that accompanied it, permeated the global news cycle, upending countless plans and sparking comment everywhere from presidential offices to the thousands looking to weigh in on social media. 

The positive test reading for the leader of the world's largest economy adds more uncertainty to investors' worries, including, most prominently, how the infection might affect the Nov. 3 election between Trump, a Republican, and Democrat Joe Biden. U.S. stock futures and Asian shares fell in the wake of the news. The future contracts for both the S&P 500 and the Dow industrials lost 1.9%. Oil prices also slipped. Stock prices in Japan and Australia tumbled.

"To say this potentially could be a big deal is an understatement," Rabobank said in a commentary. "Anyway, everything now takes a backseat to the latest incredible twist in this U.S. election campaign."

World leaders and officials were quick to weigh in, and there was both sympathy and something approaching schadenfreude. 

Trump joins growing list of virus-infected world leaders

JOHANNESBURG — President Donald Trump has tested positive for the coronavirus, joining a small group of world leaders who have been infected. Trump is 74, putting him at higher risk of serious complications. Here's a look at other leaders who have had the virus. Some are sending Trump their wishes for a speedy recovery.

BORIS JOHNSON

The British prime minister was the first major world leader confirmed to have COVID-19, after facing criticism for downplaying the pandemic. He was moved to intensive care in April after his symptoms dramatically worsened a day after he was hospitalized for what were called routine tests. He was given oxygen but did not need a ventilator, officials said. He later expressed his gratitude to National Health Service staff for saving his life when his treatment could have "gone either way." Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, also tested positive in March and showed mild symptoms.

JAIR BOLSONARO

The Brazilian president announced his illness in July and used it to publicly extol hydroxychloroquine, the unproven malaria drug that he'd been promoting as a treatment for COVID-19 and was taking himself. For months he had flirted with the virus, calling it a "little flu," as he flouted social distancing at lively demonstrations and encouraged crowds during outings from the presidential residence, often without a mask. 

One Chicago community endures virus, violence and turmoil

CHICAGO — In harrowing moments, in the sobs of grieving mourners and the incessant wail of sirens, the crises of 2020 have played out painfully within a single Chicago community:

Patricia Frieson posted a hopeful Facebook message in late February when a mysterious new disease invaded her neighborhood: "May the world recover from coronavirus soon. May all be well and happy." 

Less than three weeks later, she was gone.

Ron Cashaw is a shopkeeper who has devoted 17 years to building his business. A community mainstay, he plays Santa every year. Alerted one horrible weekend that looters were smashing the windows of his clothing store, he rushed to confront them.

Would he be wiped out?

Breonna Taylor grand jury recording slated to be released

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — An audio recording of grand jury proceedings that ended with no criminal charges against police officers for the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor was slated to be released Friday. 

A court in Louisville ruled that the content of the proceedings, typically kept secret, should be made public by noontime. 

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, whose office led the investigation into police actions in the Taylor shooting, did not object to the file's release. On Wednesday, his office asked for a week's extension to redact personal information from the recording before it is heard by the public. The judge gave him two days. 

Cameron, a Republican and the state's first African American attorney general, has been criticized since announcing last week that the grand jury did not charge the officers for killing Taylor. The officers used a narcotics warrant to enter Taylor's Louisville apartment on March 13 and shot her after Taylor's boyfriend fired a shot at them. The 26-year-old emergency medical worker was shot five times. Police found no drugs there.

Cameron said two officers who fired their guns, hitting Taylor, were justified because Taylor's boyfriend had fired at them first. The boyfriend had said he thought someone was breaking in. 

Trump debate comment pushing Black Americans, others to vote

DETROIT — When President Donald Trump refused to outright condemn white nationalists in this week's presidential debate and urged his supporters to monitor polling sites, Portia Roberson was reminded of earlier eras when Black Americans were intimidated at the polls to deter them from voting.

Roberson, a 51-year-old Black woman who lives in Detroit, found the comments chilling — but also felt a renewed resolve to vote.

For many Black Americans and other people of color, Trump's comments in his debate with Democratic challenger Joe Biden were a harsh reminder that the nation has yet to fully grapple with systemic racism laid bare this year by protests against police killings of Black people, the coronavirus pandemic, and the resulting economic fallout. 

But they were also a call to action.

"I hope that we take some of that frustration, anger and sadness that we've all been feeling for the better part of 2020, and use it to motivate ourselves to go to the polls and make sure we vote and vote for candidates who really reflect what Black folks need in this country," said Roberson, CEO of the Detroit nonprofit Focus: Hope. 

US hiring likely slowed in September for 3rd straight month

WASHINGTON — A critical snapshot of the job market and the economy to be released Friday is expected to show a further slowdown in hiring as the nation's viral caseload creeps higher and as government financial aid has faded. 

When the Labor Department issues its September jobs report, economists predict it will show a gain of 850,000, according to a survey by data provider FactSet. That would mark a third straight monthly slowdown, after June's 4.8 million job gain, July's 1.7 million and August's 1.4 million. 

If the forecast for September proves accurate, it would mean that the economy has regained only slightly more than half the 22 million jobs that vanished when the pandemic flattened the economy in early spring. Should job gains continue to remain below 1 million a month, it would take until late 2021 or 2022 to recoup them all. 

This will be the last jobs monthly report before the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 3. Polls consistently show that the economy is a key issue for voters.

So far, hiring has rebounded quickly compared with previous recessions. The gains have mainly reflected millions of temporarily laid-off Americans who were called back to work when retailers, restaurants, medical offices and other businesses reopened, at least partly, from their pandemic-induced shutdowns. 

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