Here’s a rundown of Sunday’s events. We’ll be back tomorrow for all Monday’s news.
- Coronavirus: Trump authorizes plasma treatment amid attacks on FDA. After expressing frustration at the slow pace of approval for coronavirus treatments, and causing controversy by publicly linking the Food and Drug Administration to the “deep state” conspiracy theory, the US president on Sunday announced the emergency authorization of convalescent plasma, a method which has been used to treat flu and measles, for Covid-19 patients.
- ‘Donald is cruel’: Trump sister criticises president in bombshell secret tapes. Donald Trump’s older sister, a former federal judge, can be heard sharply criticizing her brother in a series of recordings released on Saturday, at one point saying of the president: “He has no principles.”
- White House says Trump doesn’t know of QAnon, despite his tacit endorsement. Donald Trump does not know what QAnon is, chief of staff Mark Meadows told Fox News Sunday – despite the president having tacitly endorsed it in the White House briefing room this week.
- James Comey says ex-Trump adviser Steve Bannon ‘in a world of trouble’. The former FBI director has said Steve Bannon is “in a world of trouble”, after the former Trump campaign manager and White House adviser was arrested on a charge of skimming donations from a fundraising campaign for a wall on the border with Mexico.
- California wildfires: more storms feared as huge blazes burn on. Firefighters in California prepared on Sunday for high winds and thunderstorms that threatened to spark new blazes and further spread existing fires, as officials warned capacity was stretched to levels “not seen in recent history”.
- Hurricane Marco and Tropical Storm Laura bear down on Louisiana. Residents in low-lying coastal areas of Louisiana and Cuba were evacuating on Sunday, while roads turned to rivers in Haiti’s capital city, as twin hurricanes threatened the Caribbean and US Gulf Coast.
- Louisiana shooting: police killing of Black man sparks outrage and protests. The mother of a man shot dead by Louisiana police on Friday night said her son was intelligent, shy and had sought therapy for social anxiety. Her lawyers said they plan to sue over the death of Trayford Pellerin, who police said had a knife and was trying to enter a convenience store.
- Biden indicates he could run for second term if he beats Trump in November. Joe Biden, who will be the oldest US president ever inaugurated if he beats Donald Trump in November, has indicated he could run for a second term.
More a campaign-style press announcement than traditional news conference, Trump abruptly ends the proceedings after taking only three questions, including one from One America News Network.
The US president insisted today’s announcement, which comes one day after he accused “the deep state, or whoever, over at” the FDA of deliberately slowing coronavirus vaccine and therapy development, “has nothing to do with politics” despite its conspicuous timing on the eve of the Republican national convention.
CNN notes that convalescent plasma has already been used in the treatment of more than 60,000 Covid-19 patients and while “promising signs” have resulted from some studies, “there is not yet randomized clinical trial data on convalescent plasma to treat Covid-19”.
Trump announces emergency authorization for coronavirus plasma treatment
As Donald Trump took the podium for tonight’s news conference in the James S Brady Briefing Room, the FDA sent out a press release saying it has said it issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for investigational convalescent plasma for the treatment of Covid-19 in hospitalized patients as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to fight Covid-19.
Trump hails the 100-year-old treatment strategy as a “historic breakthrough”.
“This is a powerful therapy that transfuses very, very strong antibodies from the blood of recovered patients to help treat patients battling a current infection. It’s had an incredible rate of success.”
The US has crossed the threshold of 176,000 confirmed deaths from Covid-19, just seven months after the first cases were diagnosed in China and with the outbreak far from under control.
The American death toll is the highest in the world by a significant margin and reached 176,645 on Sunday, according to the Johns Hopkins University world coronavirus tracker.
The total includes cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases.
But a CBS News/YouGov poll released Sunday found Americans view the severity of the pandemic and the effectiveness of the government’s response through a partisan lens.
According to the poll, a 57% majority of registered Republican voters consider the number of coronavirus fatalities “acceptable” when “evaluating the US efforts against the coronavirus pandemic”, compared with 31% of voters overall. That’s in stark contrast with the 90% of Democrats and 67% of independents who said the death toll was “unacceptable”.
Top Democrats and Republicans blamed each other for stalled talks on coronavirus aid legislation, a day after the House of Representatives approved $25bn in new funds for the US Postal Service.
But Saturday’s vote failed to shift a stalemate over the next phase of coronavirus aid since 6 August, when talks between the White House and Democratic congressional leaders broke down over funding levels and unemployment benefits.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said the Republican-controlled chamber would “absolutely not pass” the postal bill.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Sunday criticized the Democratic vote as “a largely messaging bill” and blamed house speaker Nancy Pelosi for failing to agree on broader legislation that included supplemental unemployment benefits.
“And Trump gives bread and circuses without the bread. So we’ll see the circus this week with his convention.”
“I haven’t heard from the speaker yet. I am going to make a phone call to her today,” Meadows said on ABC’s This Week.
“My challenge to the speaker this morning would be this: If we agree on five or six things, let’s go ahead and pass those.”
Pelosi shot back on CNN’s State of the Union, saying Trump was stalling needed coronavirus relief for cities and children for political gain, signaling that negotiations were likely to make little progress during the Republican national convention, which gets underway this week.
“This is like ancient Rome. Trump fiddles while Rome burns, while America burns,” she said.
One of the only Democrats on the list of speakers for the Republican national convention is Georgia state representative Vernon Jones, whom the Atlanta Journal-Constitution described as “a polarizing figure in Georgia politics”.
Jones endorsed Donald Trump in April, prompting other Democrats in the state to call him an “embarrassment” and “traitor”.
Jones told the newspaper he endorsed Trump because the president‘s policies helped black voters, veterans and farmers. In response to backlash against the endorsement, Jones said he would resign. A day later, he said he would not resign.
Jones posted social media messages supportive of Trump in the past and has leaned Republican on many issues through his career. Jones champions increased access to guns, more aggressive immigration restrictions and limited government. In 2004, he endorsed Republican George W Bush for president.
In 2008, Jones backed Barack Obama and attempted to use the president’s image in his own race for the state senate that year. Jones’s campaign sent a campaign mailer featuring a photo edited to make it look like he and Obama attended an event together. The Obama campaign had to clarify it had not endorsed Jones’s candidacy in the race, which he ultimately lost.
After the RNC announced Jones would be speaking at the convention, Georgia state representative Scott Holcomb, a Democrat, said Jones’s political weight was not equivalent to that of the many Republicans who turned out to support Joe Biden at the Democratic national convention last week.
“The Democratic convention included heavyweight Republicans who support Joe Biden out of principle and love for country,” Holcomb told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The Republicans have a washed-up state representative who yields no influence in his home state. Good luck with that.”
Donald Trump will announce the emergency authorization of convalescent plasma for Covid-19, a treatment that already has been given to more than 70,000 patients, the Washington Post has reported, citing officials familiar with the decision.
The action will be highlighted at a news conference later on Sunday afternoon, the newspaper said.
According to the Post:
Many scientists and physicians believe that convalescent plasma might provide some benefit but is far from a breakthrough. It is rich in antibodies that could be helpful in fighting the coronavirus, but the evidence so far has not been conclusive about whether it works, when to administer it and what dose is needed. On CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the blood product – derived from patients who have survived Covid-19 – is “probably beneficial” for covid-19 patients. The issuance of an emergency authorization would make it easier to get in some settings. But he also said it already is widely available, so the change would be “incremental”.
The announcement comes as Trump has put extraordinary pressure on federal agencies to test and approve treatments and, especially, a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, which has already killed more than 170,000 Americans. The president’s political advisers believe that having a vaccine by Election Day is key to his prospects for winning.
Donald Trump is back at the White House after spending the morning at his private golf club in Sterling, Virginia.
As has become customary for Trump’s regular weekend trips to the Loudoun county property, groups of supporters and protesters gathered outside the entrance awaiting his departure.
A White House pool report described the scene:
As pool was holding just outside the club prior to departure a short pro-Trump parade of three Jeeps and a pickup was driving back and forth repeatedly, flying American flags and Trump 2020 banners with slogans such as “Latinos for Trump” and “Women for Trump.” Several had “Trump National Rapid Response Team” signs attached to them as well. A big rig (without trailer) seemed to be part of the group and would blow its horn as it passed by.
A string of pro-Trump and pro-Biden folks were on foot along the sidewalks near the entrance of the club expressing their various opinions as well.
Since arriving at the White House at 1.45pm, America’s most prominent media critic has turned his Twitter fingers toward Fox News anchor Chris Wallace:
Today marked Trump’s 274th day he’s spent at a golf course he owns in the 1,312 days since he’s taken office.
The Trump administration is considering fast-tracking an experimental Covid-19 vaccine for use in the US ahead of the 3 November elections, according to the Financial Times.
One option being explored would involve the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) awarding “emergency use authorisation” in October to the potential vaccine, which was developed by Oxford University and licensed to AstraZeneca, the newspaper reported.
The AstraZeneca study has enrolled 10,000 volunteers, whereas the US government’s scientific agencies have said that a vaccine would need to be studied in 30,000 people to pass the threshold for authorisation. AstraZeneca is also conducting a larger study with 30,000 volunteers, although the results from that will come after the smaller trial.
Making a vaccine available before the election could allow US president Donald Trump to claim he has turned the tide on a virus that has killed more than 170,000 Americans following widespread criticism of his handling of the pandemic. In his convention speech on Thursday night, Joe Biden, Mr Trump’s Democratic opponent, said that the US response to the virus was the “worst performance of any nation”.
However, if the Trump administration does rush through emergency authorisation ahead of the election by skirting normal government guidelines, it could dent already shaky public confidence in the safety of vaccines ahead of one of the largest mass-immunisation programmes in US history.
Trump coronavirus presser on the way – possibly
Donald Trump has been to his golf club in Virginia today but not long ago, according to the White House pool report, he left it.
In the words of the same report: “The president’s schedule shows no public events today but Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted last night to expect a 6pm press conference with the president, ‘concerning a major therapeutic breakthrough on the China Virus’.
“She indicated health secretary Alex Azar and Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr Stephen Hahn will attend.”
On Saturday, Trump caused predictable consternation by tweeting that “the deep state or whoever over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics. They’re hoping to delay the answer until after 3 November. Most- must focus on speed.”
Chief of staff Mark Meadows backed the president up on the Sunday shows, of course, while on CBS’s Face the Nation, a former FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, was asked about Trump’s remark.
“Well, I’m not sure exactly what he’s talking about,” he said, speaking for the nation, before defending the FDA’s honour.
Gottlieb also said he thought Trump’s tweet may have been “about plasma … I think the president scoped into that tweet a comment on vaccines” and said of the trailed announcement on Sunday: “I would guess it’s the emergency use authorization for plasma.”
He expanded: “What plasma is is basically taking the antibodies from people who’ve recovered, so it’s a blood product, and infusing them in people who are sick. And if you use it early enough in the course of the disease, there is some precedent for it being beneficial in the treatment of viruses. And so it is a good therapeutic to have in the overall armamentarium.
“But the bottom line is it’s widely available right now, patients are getting it. The EUA, the emergency use authorization, will enable probably easier access in certain settings, but it’s incremental, and you know, incremental gains are important here.”