Chaos continues to grip the top echelons of the U.S. government as more senior Trump administration officials and their aides have tested positive for the coronavirus. On Tuesday, President Trump’s anti-immigrant senior adviser Stephen Miller became the latest high-level official to announce a positive test. White House press aide Jalen Drummond also tested positive, joining Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and two other deputies with COVID-19.
At the Pentagon, all but one member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are quarantining at home, after Admiral Charles Ray of the Coast Guard tested positive for the coronavirus.
The White House reportedly rejected an offer by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help with contact tracing, and many people put at risk say they have not been contacted.
Fears are rising over residence staff workers employed at Washington, D.C.’s largest coronavirus hot spot — the White House. Ai-jen Poo, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, said in a statement, “The outbreak of coronavirus at our highest level of government highlights the urgent need to provide essential worker protections and comprehensive COVID relief for all of us.”
The United States reported another 43,000 new coronavirus infections over the last 24 hours, pushing the U.S. death toll to nearly 211,000 — the highest in the world by far. Six states are reporting record numbers of hospitalizations: Montana, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Wyoming and Wisconsin.
The stock market tumbled on Tuesday shortly after President Trump announced an abrupt end to negotiations over a COVID-19 stimulus bill until after the election. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden slammed Trump’s decision, tweeting, “Make no mistake: if you are out of work, if your business is closed, if your child’s school is shut down, if you are seeing layoffs in your community, Donald Trump decided today that none of that matters to him.” Trump’s announcement came shortly after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned of “tragic” results if the government doesn’t do more to boost the economy, which is facing its biggest crisis in decades. In a bizarre move, Trump then retweeted an article explaining why Powell feels a stimulus is needed.
After widespread criticism, Trump then tweeted on Tuesday night that he would be open to signing a stand-alone bill solely designed to provide a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks. On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi openly questioned if Trump’s decision-making ability has been impacted by the steroids he is taking for COVID-19.
Facebook deleted a post by President Trump Tuesday falsely claiming that COVID-19 is “less lethal” than the seasonal flu, even though the virus has killed more than 210,000 people in the United States. Twitter similarly hid Trump’s tweet, with a warning that the president’s post contains “misleading and potentially harmful information” about the coronavirus. Trump’s false claim directly contradicts his private comments to journalist Bob Woodward, recorded in early February.
President Donald Trump: “It’s also more deadly than your — you know, your — even your strenuous flus. … This is more deadly. This is 5 per — you know, this is 5% versus 1% and less than 1%. You know, so this is deadly stuff.”
The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday published safety guidelines requiring vaccine makers to monitor clinical trial participants for at least two months to rule out any side effects before the approval of any vaccine. The FDA’s rules were published over the objections of the White House, which was seeking to allow emergency use authorizations of vaccines ahead of the November 3 election.
Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris are set to square off this evening in a vice-presidential debate, despite concerns that Pence may be infected with the coronavirus. Pence’s team says the vice president continues to test negative, and claims he doesn’t need to quarantine since his recent contacts with the president and other infected government officials weren’t “close contact” as defined by the CDC.
On Tuesday, Pence’s team dropped its opposition to having a plexiglass barrier erected next to him at tonight’s debate. Earlier this week, Pence’s top aide, Katie Miller, mocked Kamala Harris for trying to build a “fortress” around herself by demanding a plexiglass shield. Katie Miller’s husband, Stephen Miller, has since tested positive for the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, President Trump tweeted from the White House Tuesday that he looks forward to debating Joe Biden next Thursday in Miami — even though he’s still sick with COVID-19 and likely highly infectious. On Tuesday, Joe Biden said he’ll debate Trump, but only if medical experts say the president is no longer contagious.
Joe Biden: “I think if he still has COVID, we shouldn’t have a debate.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Tuesday, where he called for national unity and healing from one of the most famous battlefields of the Civil War. During his 22-minute address, Biden appealed to Americans to listen to scientists and to wear masks in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He also acknowledged centuries of racial injustice in the U.S., even as he rejected calls by the Movement for Black Lives to dismantle or defund the police.
Joe Biden: “I believe in law and order. I’ve never supported defunding the police. But I also believe injustice is real. It’s a product of a history that goes back 400 years, to the moment when Black men, women and children first were brought here in chains.”
More details have emerged about Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s involvement in the secretive, highly patriarchal religious group People of Praise. Members of the group pledge a lifelong loyalty oath assigning each member a personal adviser, known as “heads” for men and, until recently, “handmaids” for women. Evidence has emerged that both Barrett and her mother have served as handmaids within the group. Meanwhile, The Guardian has revealed that Barrett once lived in the home of the co-founder of People of Praise while she was in law school at Notre Dame. Barrett’s confirmation hearing is set to begin on October 12.
In other Supreme Court news, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have come out strongly against same-sex marriage and indicated the court’s 2015 decision legalizing it should be overturned. They issued the statement on Monday when the court turned down an appeal by a Kentucky county clerk who was sued after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
In the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Delta strengthened rapidly prior to making landfall this morning just south of Cancun as a Category 3 storm. Forecasters warned of life-threatening storm surges and sustained 120-mile-per-hour winds. Delta is forecast to move back over open water and will likely strengthen ahead of a second landfall late Friday on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The governors of Louisiana and Alabama have declared states of emergency. The 2020 hurricane season is already the second most active on record, with 28 named storms. Meteorologists are now naming storms after letters in the Greek alphabet after they ran out of letters for regular names.
The United Nations says seasonal flooding in East Africa has impacted 6 million people this year — with a million and a half people forced from their homes. Nearly every state in Sudan has been affected, and much of South Sudan, too, with parts of the region recording the heaviest rainfall in a century.
Kyrgyzstan is in a state of political chaos. The nation’s electoral commission annulled the result of Sunday’s disputed parliamentary elections. On Tuesday, Kyrgyzstan’s prime minister and the speaker of the parliament resigned after protesters stormed government offices. The parliament then appointed an acting prime minister, picking a prominent opposition leader who had just been released from prison by protesters hours earlier.
A group of Senate Democrats are urging the State Department to halt military aid to Azerbaijan, blaming the nation for instigating the ongoing fighting with its neighbor Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. The U.S. lawmakers are also calling for freezing arms sales to Turkey, which is backing Azerbaijan. Earlier today, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that the conflict could turn into a regional war. Armenia’s president criticized Turkey and Azerbaijan, saying, “To me there is no doubt that this is a policy of continuing the Armenian genocide and a policy of reinstating the Turkish empire.”
A grand jury in Missouri has indicted a wealthy white St. Louis couple who brandished guns at Black Lives Matter protesters who marched by their home in June. Mark and Patricia McCloskey were charged with unlawful use of a weapon and evidence tampering — both felonies. In August, the couple spoke at the Republican National Convention.
A new Department of Homeland Security report finds white supremacists are the “most persistent and lethal threat in the homeland.” Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf writes in the report, “I am particularly concerned about white supremacist violent extremists who have been exceptionally lethal in their abhorrent, targeted attacks in recent years.”
Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are facing accusations by House Democrats of engaging in anti-competitive, monopoly-style tactics. On Tuesday, the House’s top antitrust panel released a 450-page report urging that the Big Tech firms be broken up and calling for the rewriting of antitrust laws.
In other tech news, Facebook has announced it will ban all accounts and pages connected to QAnon, a Pro-Trump conspiracy theory.
The New York Times is reporting former Attorney General Jeff Sessions once defended the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant families by saying, “We need to take away children.” Sessions reputedly said those words during a 2018 meeting with federal prosecutors who worked along the U.S.-Mexico border. Prosecutors were told by then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that it did not matter how young the children were. The Times reports Rosenstein said that government lawyers should not have refused to prosecute two cases simply because the children were barely more than infants.