Trump Leaves White House, Skipping Biden’s Inauguration

Outgoing US President Donald Trump waves as he boards Marine One at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

 

President Donald Trump left the White House for the last time on Wednesday, skipping the inauguration of successor Joe Biden as the 46th US president in an extraordinary break with tradition.

Drawing a curtain on the most tumultuous administration of modern times, Trump is being ousted by a polar opposite with the Democrat Biden intent on charting a new course to tackle Covid-19 and unite a splintered nation.

A small crowd waved goodbye as Trump, 74, and First Lady Melania Trump walked a short red carpet and boarded the Marine One helicopter shortly after 8:15 am (1315 GMT), for the short flight to the air base where they will continue to Florida on board Air Force One.

“I just want to say goodbye,” Trump told the gathering, calling his time in office “the honor of a lifetime.”

Trump will be at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida when Biden, a 78-year-old former vice president, is sworn in at noon on the US Capitol’s western front.

 

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania make their way to board Marine One before departing from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on January 20, 2021. –  (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

 

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will take the oath of office at the very spot where pro-Trump rioters clashed with police two weeks ago before storming Congress in a deadly insurrection.

While a transition of power will occur much as it has for more than two centuries, this inauguration is unlike any other.

READ ALSO: Biden Plans Immediate Orders On Immigration, COVID-19, Environment

Official Washington has taken on the dystopian look of an armed camp, protected by some 25,000 National Guard troops tasked with preventing any repeat of this month’s attack.

And with the pandemic raging, the general public is essentially barred from attending the swearing-in, leading to the unprecedented sight of an empty National Mall on Inauguration Day.

 

Ivanka Trump (C), husband Jared Kushner (C-L), their children, Eric (R) and Donald Jr. (2nd R), Tiffany Trump (L) and Trump family members stand on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland as they arrive for US President Donald Trump’s departure on January 20, 2021. (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN / AFP)

 

With the death toll soaring past 400,000, Biden on Tuesday led a powerful tribute to victims of Covid-19 as he arrived in Washington.

“It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation,” Biden said in somber remarks in front of the Lincoln Memorial, once more stressing the need to unite the country after Trump’s chaos.

– Trump snub –

On the Mall’s grassy expanse, some 200,000 flags have been planted to represent the absent crowds at the inauguration.

Trump broke days of silence Tuesday with a pre-recorded farewell video address in which — for the first time — he asked Americans to “pray” for the success of the incoming administration.

But Trump has yet to personally congratulate Biden, who first ran for president in 1987, on his win, and the 11th-hour message followed months spent persuading his Republican followers that Democrat cheated his way to election victory.

In one of his last acts before departing the White House, Trump issued scores of pardons to people convicted of crimes or facing charges, including several key allies.

Influential former Trump aide Steve Bannon — charged with defrauding people over funds raised to build the Mexico border wall, a flagship Trump policy — was among 73 people on a list released by the White House.

 

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 20: President Donald Trump boards Marine One as he departs the White House on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Eric Thayer/Getty Images/AFP

 

However, neither Trump nor his relatives were listed, amid speculation he could use the legally dubious tactic of a preemptive pardon to fend off future charges.

Former Trump fund-raiser Elliott Broidy was similarly pardoned, after pleading guilty last year to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws.

The rapper Lil Wayne, who last month pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon, and faced 10 years in jail, also made the list.

Tensions have soared on Capitol Hill, where the Senate is expected to put Trump on trial soon following his record second impeachment by the House of Representatives over the Capitol riot.

The spectacle will clash with the opening days of Biden’s tenure, as the new president seeks to swiftly confirm his Cabinet picks and push through ambitious legislation — including a $1.9 trillion rescue package.

– ‘I’ll get right to work’ –

“We don’t have a second to waste when it comes to tackling the crises we face as a nation,” Biden tweeted late Tuesday.

“That’s why after being sworn in tomorrow, I’ll get right to work.”

He plans to kick off his tenure by rejoining the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization, according to aides, who said Biden would sign 17 orders and actions just hours after being sworn in, setting new paths on immigration, the environment, Covid-19 and the economy.

 

Outgoing US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump walk from Marine One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on January 20, 2021. (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN / AFP)

 

In first-day moves, he will end Trump’s much-assailed ban on visitors from several majority-Muslim countries and halt construction of the wall that Trump ordered on the US-Mexico border to stem illegal immigration, the aides said.

To symbolize the new spirit of unity, Biden has invited the two top senators — Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican Mitch McConnell — and other congressional leaders to attend a church service with him Wednesday before the inauguration.

Overseas leaders weighed in to mark the end of a presidency which has deviated from orthodox American foreign policy.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani hailed the White House departure of “tyrant” Trump, saying “the ball is in America’s court” to return to a landmark nuclear deal and lift sanctions on Tehran.

And Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said the inauguration would “be a demonstration of the resilience of American democracy,” as well as “the resounding proof that, once again, after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.”

One Month After Losing To Biden, Trump Mulls Running For Presidency In 2024

US President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on September 16, 2020, in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN / AFP
File photo: US President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on September 16, 2020, in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

Still irate and bitter one month after his election defeat to Joe Biden, Donald Trump is openly musing about a second run at the US presidency in 2024.

Refusing to accept defeat, Trump’s lawyers and supporters continued Wednesday to file lawsuits and even call for extraordinary intervention, such as martial law, to force a new vote.

And Trump released an extraordinary 46-minute video in which he again claimed that he was robbed of victory in a “rigged” election.

But at a White House Christmas party on Tuesday, the president suggested he might have lost this battle, but would not retire quietly as a one-term president.

READ ALSO: France Mourns Ex-President Giscard d’Estaing

“It’s been an amazing four years. We are trying to do another four years. Otherwise, I’ll see you in four years,” he told guests.

The comment was perhaps the closest the 74-year-old Trump has come to admitting his quixotic, month-long quest to reverse Biden’s win has failed.

All six contested states have now certified their tallies, and the national count gives Biden nearly seven million more votes than Trump, an insurmountable four percentage-point margin.

On Tuesday Attorney General Bill Barr declared that the Justice Department had found no significant evidence of fraud in the election.

Biden meanwhile continued to prepared for taking office on January 20, telling The New York Times in an interview how he plans to revive the economy.

“I want to make sure we’re going to fight like hell by investing in America first,” Biden said.

– ‘So much evidence’ –
Trump still refuses to publicly concede his defeat on November 3, forcing him from office after one term.

He has remained shuttered in the White House, limiting his public appearances, and apparently holding few official meetings, while issuing furious tweets about alleged election fraud.

But according to media reports he is preparing his exit, holding discussions about issuing preemptive pardons for his three adult children — Don Jr, Eric and Ivanka — for Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner, and his own personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

 

In this file photo taken on March 04, 2019, US First Lady Melania Trump boards a plane at Andrews Air Force Base for a three-state overnight trip in Maryland. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

On Wednesday he released on Twitter a formal address on the election.

“This may be the most important speech I’ve ever made,” he began.

He recited a litany of complaints about the election, saying the Democrats used the Covid-19 crisis to force widespread use of mailed ballots, which he said were fraudulently manipulated to support Biden.

“This election was rigged, everybody knows it,” he said.

“It is statistically impossible that the person, me, who led the charge, lost.”

“We have so much evidence,” Trump said.

Supporters continued to fight against the results. Giuliani appeared before Michigan’s state legislature Wednesday to present his claims of irregularities.

In Georgia, another lawyer tied to the Trump campaign, Sidney Powell, spoke to a rally of supporters claiming their votes were not counted.

But Barr’s statement, in a break with the president, Tuesday went far to undermine their claims.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” he said.

– Someone’s going to get shot’ –
The campaign to delay and litigate the election results, though, was turning in discomfiting directions.

In Georgia, which still faces another vote on two hotly-contested US Senate seats in early January, officials said Trump’s rhetoric was dangerous, stoking potential violence against officials.

“Someone’s going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed. It’s not right,” voting system manager Gabriel Sterling said Tuesday.

And two prominent retired three-star generals, including Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn, chillingly called for Trump to declare martial law and have the military supervise a new election.

– Trump headed to Georgia –
Trump’s immediate plans were to head to Georgia on Saturday to campaign beside the two Republican Senate candidates, key to the party retaining control of the US Senate.

But beyond that, when he might openly accept his loss, or map out his post-presidency plans, remained unknown.

According to NBC News, Trump has discussed the possibility with his close aides of launching his 2024 campaign on January 20, the day Biden is to be inaugurated as president.

 

US 'Not Concerned' With Short Term Dollar Value, Says Mnuchin
File photo: US President Donald Trump flanked by daughter Ivanka and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (L) speaks during a tour of the H&K Equipment Company in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania on January 18, 2018. Mandel NGAN / AFP

 

In theory, nothing prevents another run. The US Constitution restricts presidents to two four-year terms, but does not require they be consecutive.

But only one president did so: Grover Cleveland, in the late 19th century.

The real estate tycoon faces the challenge of losing the center of attention, and his grip on the Republican Party, as Washington turns to the Biden administration.

Yet he retains strong support among voters, who could continue to rally behind him and make him a continuing force in Republican politics.

AFP

Trump Finally Agrees To Biden Transition, But Still Not Conceding

(L-R) Joe Biden and Donald Trump

 

President Donald Trump came his closest yet to admitting election defeat Monday after the government agency meant to ease Joe Biden’s transition into the White House said it was finally lifting its unprecedented block on assistance.

Trump acknowledged it was time for the General Services Administration to “do what needs to be done.”

In the same tweet he insisted that he was still refusing to concede, saying: “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!”

But for the Republican to sign off on the GSA’s decision to work with the Biden transition team signaled that even he sees the writing on the wall after three weeks of evidence-free claims that the November 3 election was stolen from him.

This means that Biden’s team will now have access to funds, office space and the ability to meet with federal officials.

Biden’s office, which hours earlier announced a highly experienced group to be nominated for top US foreign policy and security posts, said the GSA would now allow “support necessary to carry out a smooth and peaceful transfer of power.”

“In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests, and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies,” Biden’s transition director Yohannes Abraham said in a statement.

The sudden break in Trump’s dogged attempt to deny Biden’s win came after Michigan became the latest state to certify its results and more powerful Trump supporters came out demanding that the impasse end.

Biden To Shift Diplomacy

Earlier, Biden announced a foreign policy and national security team crammed with veterans from the Barack Obama years, teeing up an end to the upheaval under Trump and a return to traditional US diplomacy.

Top of the list was former State Department number two Antony Blinken, tapped for secretary of state.

Biden also named the first female head of intelligence, the first Latino chief of Homeland Security, the first woman as treasury secretary, and a heavyweight pointman on climate issues — Obama-era top diplomat John Kerry.

The list put out by Biden’s team ahead of a formal announcement Tuesday demonstrated a push to bring back the US role of leader in multilateral alliances, in contrast to Trump’s “America first” regime.

“They will rally the world to take on our challenges like no other — challenges that no one nation can face alone,” Biden tweeted. “It’s time to restore American leadership.”

Blinken, a longtime advisor to Biden, will spearhead a fast-paced dismantling of Trump’s go-it-alone policies, including rejoining the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organization and resurrecting the Obama-crafted Iran nuclear deal.

Biden named the first woman, Avril Haines, as director of national intelligence, and Cuban-born Alejandro Mayorkas to head the Department of Homeland Security, the agency whose policing of tough immigration restrictions under Trump was a frequent source of controversy.

Signaling the Democratic president-elect’s campaign promise to raise the profile of global warming threats, he named Kerry as a new special envoy on climate issues.

And in a further message of US reengagement with the international community, Biden named career diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador.

Jake Sullivan, who also advised Biden when he was vice president under Obama, was named national security advisor.

Picked to manage the world’s biggest economy as Treasury secretary was Janet Yellen, who will make history as the first woman in the job if confirmed. The 74-year-old was confirmed as Federal Reserve chairwoman under Obama in 2014 and replaced by Trump four years later.

The picks underline an emphasis on professionals whom Biden already knows well, in contrast to the Trump White House where officials were often picked without having traditional background for the job or proved incompatible and departed in acrimony.

Dwindling Options

The president, meanwhile, has largely halted at least his public work duties, while heading out to a golf course he owns in Virginia half a dozen times since the election.

He has also not taken questions from reporters since the election — a previously unimaginable silence from a president who for most of his time in office sparred near daily with the press.

His options for overturning the election, however, are dwindling rapidly in the face of repeated court defeats.

With Biden having won a comfortable victory, Trump’s last card is to disrupt the normally routine process of state-by-state certification of results, followed by the formal December 14 vote by the Electoral College. However, that too is bearing little fruit.

More cracks appeared in the facade of Republican unity on Monday when Senator Rob Portman said it was “time to expeditiously resolve any outstanding questions and move forward.”

Senator Lamar Alexander, a senior Republican and close ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said “it seems apparent that Joe Biden will be the president-elect.”

“My hope is that President Trump will take pride in his considerable accomplishments, put the country first and have a prompt and orderly transition to help the new administration succeed,” he said after having issued a similar if less forthright statement a few days earlier.

There was also a push from Trump’s highest profile Wall Street backer, Stephen Schwarzman, head of the Blackstone private equity group, who told Axios “the country should move on.”

Biden Appoints Campaign Aides To Key White House Positions

US President-elect Joe Biden answers questions from the press at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on November 16, 2020.   ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP
US President-elect Joe Biden answers questions from the press at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware on November 16, 2020. ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP

 

US President-elect Joe Biden announced Tuesday he has appointed nine close campaign aides to key White House positions as he fleshes out a diverse leadership team less than a week after naming his chief of staff.

“America faces great challenges, and they bring diverse perspectives and a shared commitment to tackling these challenges and emerging on the other side a stronger, more united nation,” Biden said in a statement.

The new appointees — some of the first among hundreds that Biden will name to the White House in the coming months — include his 2020 campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon being named deputy chief of staff.

The 44-year-old will serve under White House chief of staff Ron Klain, whom Biden appointed last week.

A veteran of seven presidential campaigns, O’Malley Dillon served as deputy campaign manager for Barack Obama’s successful 2012 reelection effort.

Campaign co-chair Cedric Richmond, a House Democrat from Louisiana, was named senior advisor to the president.

The African-American lawmaker, 47, will leave his seat in Congress to take his White House job when Biden is inaugurated on January 20.

Biden also named Mike Donilon, a chief strategist for his campaign and a veteran Democratic tactician, to serve as senior advisor to the president.

“The team we have already started to assemble will enable us to meet the challenges facing our country on day one,” Klain said in the statement.

Other appointments include the chief of staff and senior advisor to incoming First Lady Jill Biden, a counsel to the president and a director of Oval Office operations.

The appointments come as President Donald Trump continues to challenge the results of the November 3 election and refuses to concede the race to Biden, and as his administration has declined to formally cooperate with Biden’s transition team.

 

AFP

Trump, Biden Battle For Florida On Same Day As Race Nears End

FILES) In this file photo taken on September 29, 2020 US President Donald Trump (L) and Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden exchange arguments during the first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. The presidential debate between Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden and US President Donald Trump scheduled for October 15 has been cancelled by the Commission on Presidential Debates, US media reported on October 9, 2020.
Jim WATSON / AFP

 

President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden will rally voters just hours apart in the Florida city of Tampa on Thursday, their campaign paths crossing for the first time as the rivals’ fight for the White House enters its frenetic final days.

Florida is a must-win prize, and polls show the candidates in a dead heat in America’s third-largest state, which has sided with the winner in every presidential election since 1964, with one exception.

The candidates’ events are sure to be a study in contrasts, with Trump’s largely mask-less and densely packed supporters gathering in the afternoon, and Biden holding a socially distanced drive-in meeting later in the evening.

A day prior, Trump was stumping in Arizona, while Biden voted in his home state of Delaware and met with health experts, as he fine-tuned his pandemic response plan, seeking to reassure voters that he would use science to fight the contagion.

The virus has killed more than 227,000 people in the US and forced millions out of work in the world’s largest economy as a resurgent wave of cases was reaching record levels.

“I’m not running on a false promise of being able to end this pandemic by flipping a switch,” said the 77-year-old former vice president, who has a strong lead in opinion polls.

“But what I can promise you is this: We’ll start on Day 1 by doing the right thing. We’ll let science guide our decisions.”

On Saturday, Biden is to get some star power when he is joined on the stump in Michigan by Barack Obama, whom he served as vice president.

It will be their first joint in-person appearance of the 2020 race, though Obama has been delivering strategically timed broadsides at Trump throughout.

Trump, by contrast, is finishing his campaign in an extreme test of endurance, with a final attempt to catch up both in swing states and also states that he won in 2016 but now has to defend.

After rallying supporters in three states Tuesday, Trump, 74, overnighted in a fourth — Nevada — and then flew to Arizona for two more rallies.

On an airport tarmac in Bullhead City, Arizona, Trump all but ignored the Covid-19 crisis, and many supporters did not bother with masks as they cheered his defiant insistence on a landslide victory November 3.

“It’s going to be a great, great red wave,” he boomed, referring to the Republican color.

“We love you! We love you!” the enthusiastic crowd chanted back.

At another rally, in Goodyear, Arizona, Trump predicted he’d repeat his 2016 upset, saying: “We’re going to have an even bigger surprise in six days.”

– Under shadow of Covid –
The pandemic has upended all aspects of American life and overshadowed the election, with polls showing it may well be the president’s undoing as cases hit record levels in the US.

With many Americans fearing the risk of voting in crowded polling stations, a remarkable 74.7 million people have already cast their ballots.

Some 57.4 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s coronavirus response, while 39.8 percent approve, according to a poll average compiled by tracker FiveThirtyEight.com.

Biden has seized on that to build an impressive advantage in polls heading into the final week and is looking to expand his state-by-state path to victory.

On Tuesday, Biden visited Georgia, traditionally Republican territory, and he has said he will travel to Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan in the race’s closing days.

All are states that Trump won in 2016 but that are up for grabs this year.

On Wednesday, Trump kept up his scorn for Biden’s focus on health safety, saying that the Democrat would destroy the country through more lockdowns.

“If you vote for Biden, it means no kids in school, no graduation, no Christmas and no Fourth of July together. Other than that, you’ll have a wonderful life.”

But Trump’s own chief infectious disease specialist, Anthony Fauci, warned Wednesday that even if a Covid-19 vaccine is released this year, it will take to “the end of 2021 and perhaps even into the next year” to reach “some semblances of normality.”

Top Aide To Pence Tests Positive For COVID-19

In this file photo taken on January 15, 2020 Chief of Staff to the Vice President Marc Short (L) is seen before the signing of a trade agreement between the US and China during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

US Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday, a spokesman said, the latest in a list of figures connected to Donald Trump’s administration to do so.

Marc Short began quarantine and was assisting in the contract tracing process, Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement.

“Vice President Pence and Mrs. Pence both tested negative for Covid-19 today, and remain in good health,” he added.

Pence, who has been campaigning ahead of the November 3 election, will maintain his current schedule in consultation with White House doctors, said the spokesman.

A surge in Covid-19 cases led to the United States reaching a record number of daily infections for a second day running on Saturday, with nearly 89,000 new cases.

A list of people connected to the White House have contracted the virus, including President Trump, who was hospitalized before recovering.

Trump has downplayed the seriousness of the virus, calling for businesses to reopen so the economy can recover.

Joe Biden, his Democratic opponent in the upcoming polls, has repeatedly criticized Trump’s handling of the health crisis.

The virus has claimed more than 224,000 American lives.

AFP

Biden Faces US Voters At Town Hall, Trump Heads Back To Wisconsin

WILMINGTON, DE – SEPTEMBER 16: Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden waves as he leaves the Hotel Dupont after having internal campaign meetings on September 16, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Earlier in the day, Biden participated in a briefing with medical professionals about the coronavirus vaccine. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

 

White House hopeful Joe Biden on Thursday holds his first extended face-to-face with voters since winning the Democratic nomination, a town hall where he will likely savage President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

With less than seven weeks before Election Day, Biden has ramped up his public appearances after spending large chunks of time at his Delaware home, even as Trump repeatedly barnstorms swing states.

Now both candidates are hitting the physical campaign trail in earnest, although still in very different ways.

Trump returns to Wisconsin Thursday for a public rally fueled by his signature bravado — a contrast to Biden’s quieter style of connecting with blue collar and everyday voters.

Ahead of his departure, Trump railed on Twitter against the move by many states to encourage voters to mail in their ballots, thereby avoiding possible coronavirus risks in polling stations.

The shift, which is popular with Democrats, will promote “ELECTION MAYHEM,” he tweeted, claiming that the results of the November 3 vote “may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED.”

He offered no evidence for his claims, and mail-in voting, which has been regularly used in previous elections, has never been tied to any wide-scale fraud.

Biden is attempting to project a calming alternative to Trump’s fury.

At the CNN town hall, he will take questions from a live, socially distanced audience on what could be described as his home turf — Scranton, the scrappy Pennsylvania city where he was born.

But the town hall event carries risks for a candidate who has done few unscripted encounters in the last months.

The 77-year-old former vice president has largely kept close to his home in Delaware during the pandemic, which has so far killed nearly 200,000 Americans. His go-to events have been speeches, with reporters rarely able to ask questions.

He has traveled to swing states like Wisconsin, Florida and Pennsylvania, but has dodged crowds and engages with voters only in small, controlled settings.

Trump has badgered his rival for remaining cloistered in his “basement” and declining to engage in more traditional campaign events.

Local officials briefed on the town hall plans told US media that it will take place in a stadium parking lot, and that pre-approved attendees will drive in and park near the stage.

CNN said it will adhere to Pennsylvania pandemic guidelines, which limit gatherings to less than 250 people.

– Growing animosity –

The dueling events come one day after each candidate homed in on the pandemic as a campaign issue — and offered dramatically different views of how the Trump administration has responded.

Biden delivered a scathing speech in which he said “I don’t trust Donald Trump” to provide a vaccine free from any political interference.

The Republican incumbent meanwhile insisted a vaccine could be ready this year, directly contradicting the timeline offered by a top government health official.

Trump said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield, one of the most prominent experts overseeing US pandemic response, “made a mistake” and “was confused” when he testified to lawmakers Wednesday that a safe and effective vaccine would not be widely available until mid-2021.

Trump also criticized Redfield for renewing his call for Americans to wear face masks as their best defense against spreading Covid-19.

Biden routinely appears at functions wearing a mask. Trump almost never does, and he mocks Biden for doing so.

Biden’s town hall comes two days after Trump appeared in a similar setting, also in Pennsylvania — in Philadelphia.

Critics panned the president’s performance, including his insistence that he had not downplayed the coronavirus threat, even though he acknowledged doing just that in a taped interview with journalist Bob Woodward.

The animosity has ramped up between Trump and Biden ahead of their first debate, scheduled for September 29 in Ohio.

Biden has consistently led Trump in national polls.

He is also ahead in several key battlegrounds like Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — all states won by Trump in his shock 2016 election victory — although by dwindling margins.

AFP

Trump’s Aide, Kellyanne Conway Steps Down

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 06, 2020 Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, talks to reporters outside the White House, in Washington, DC. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

 

Kellyanne Conway, a long-serving advisor to President Donald Trump known for sparring with reporters, announced Sunday she will step down to focus on her family.

Conway, 53, has been at Trump’s side since day one, managing his 2016 campaign that catapulted the reality TV star into the world’s most powerful office.

But the past four years of singular loyalty to Trump, including defending him on TV and with informal “gaggles” with the press, have taken a toll on the combative spin doctor who coined the phrase “alternative facts.”

While she made a name for herself as one of Trump’s sharpest defenders, her husband, prominent Washington lawyer George Conway, is a strident critic of the president, repeatedly and loudly questioning his mental fitness for office.

“I will be transitioning from the White House at the end of this month,” she said in a statement.

“George is also making changes. We disagree about plenty but we are united on what matters most: the kids.”

White House Senior Counselor Kellyanne Conway (C) speaks during a briefing on the opioid crisis at the White House in Washington, DC.    NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP

 

She said their four children would be starting the new academic year remotely.

“As millions of parents nationwide know, kids ‘doing school from home’ requires a level of attention and vigilance that is as unusual as these times,” she said.

“For now, and for my beloved children, it will be less drama, more mama.”

Her announcement came a day after her 15-year-old daughter Claudia tweeted that she was “devastated” that her mother would speak at the Republican convention, and pledged to seek legal emancipation “due to years of childhood trauma and abuse.”

 ‘Alternative facts’ 

Separately, George Conway said he would be stepping back from the Lincoln Project, a group of anti-Trump Republicans he co-founded, and taking a break from Twitter, which he frequently used to assail the president.

The dislike was mutual, with Trump calling him the “husband from hell.”

Kellyanne Conway came to prominence just days after Trump took office for coining the term “alternative facts” while defending the debunked White House claim that the 45th president’s inauguration crowd was larger than Obama’s.

In 2017 she referred to a non-existent terrorist attack, “the Bowling Green massacre,” to defend Trump’s immigration ban.

During Trump’s term she was both famous and notorious for sparring with the media, often by finding a way to change the topic, turn the question back on the reporter, or merely complain.

She did all of it with a flamboyant fashion sense — snake-skin pattern dress one day, a bright red one the next — standing out in an often-gray city.

Her work led her at one point to be depicted on the long-running US comedy show Saturday Night Live as “Kellywise”, a spoof of the murderous, sewer-dwelling clown from horror novel and film “It”.

A lawyer and pollster by training, she also stuck out her White House role while a parade of other aides was forced out, quit or left in humiliation.

In her statement, Conway described her time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as “heady” and “humbling” and said her departure was her call.

“This is completely my choice and my voice. In time, I will announce future plans.”

AFP

Trump Ushered From Briefing After Shots Fired Near White House

US President Donald Trump is being removed by a member of the secret service from the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 10, 2020. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

 

Secret Service guards shot a person, who was apparently armed, outside the White House on Monday, President Donald Trump said just after being briefly evacuated in the middle of a press conference.

The president was abruptly ushered out of the press event and black-clad secret service agents with automatic rifles rushed across the lawn north of the White House.

Minutes later, Trump reappeared at the press conference, where journalists had been locked in, and announced that someone had been shot outside the White House grounds.

 

 Trump said he knew nothing about the identity or motives of the person shot, but when asked if the person had been armed, answered: “From what I understand, the answer is yes.” (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

The Secret Service tweeted that it “can confirm there has been an officer involved shooting at 17th Street and Pennsylvania Ave.”

“Law enforcement shot someone, it seems to be, the suspect. And the suspect is on the way to the hospital,” he said.

Trump said he knew nothing about the identity or motives of the person shot, but when asked if the person had been armed, he answered: “From what I understand, the answer is yes.”

“It might not have had anything to do with me,” Trump added, saying the incident took place “on the outside” of the White House perimeter.

“I don’t believe anything was breached, they were relatively far away,” he added.

 

Police activity at the entrance to Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House shortly after Secret Service guards shot a person who was apparently armed, outside the White House on August 10, 2020 while US President Donald Trump was speaking to the press in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC.(Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

Outside the White House, the situation was calm, but a portion of the surrounding streets had been blocked off, with a number of police and other official vehicles converging towards the corner of 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Philipos Melaku, a protester who has been camping in front of the White House for years, said he had heard a shot fired at around 5:50 pm (2150 GMT).

“I heard a gunshot and before that I heard screaming,” he told AFP.

“It was a male voice,” he said. “After that immediately, pointing their AR-15s, at least eight or nine men came in running.”

 

Police cars block the entrance to Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House shortly after Secret Service guards shot a person who was apparently armed, outside the White House on August 10, 2020 while US President Donald Trump was speaking to the press in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC.(Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

Following the security scare, Trump returned almost immediately to the White House podium where he resumed his scheduled press conference.

Asked if he was rattled by the incident, he replied: “The world’s always been a dangerous place. It’s not something that’s unique.”

Trump went onto praise the Secret Service as “fantastic people, the best of the best.”

“I feel very safe with Secret Service,” he said. “A lot of terrific looking people ready to go if something was necessary.”

 

A US Secret Service uniform officer’s bike is seen laying on the sidewalk on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House in Washington, DC, on August 10, 2020. (Photo by Eric BARADAT / AFP)

 

-AFP

Twitter Flags President Trump’s Tweet For ‘Glorifying Violence’, White House Responds

In this photo illustration, a Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile phone with President Trump's Twitter page shown in the background on May 27, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia.  Olivier DOULIERY / AFP
In this photo illustration, a Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile phone with President Trump’s Twitter page shown in the background on May 27, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

Social media platform, Twitter, on Friday flagged US President Donald Trump’s tweet about the protests and violence in Minneapolis, Minnesota for “glorifying violence,” leading to a response from the American White House.

Trump had tweeted about the protests which followed the death of a black man, George Floyd who was filmed saying he could not breathe as a white police officer used his knee to pin him down.

“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” Trump had tweeted. “Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

According to Twitter, the company flagged the tweet in what it tagged a “public interest notice.”

The implication is that the tweet will not be taken out of the social media platform but hidden under a notice reading: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence.”

Twitter, has, however, said, “As is standard with this notice, engagements with the Tweet will be limited. People will be able to Retweet with Comment, but will not be able to Like, Reply or Retweet it.”

In response, the official White House account called Twitter’s bluff by retweeting the same post. This time, Twitter responded by saying that while it violated its rules, the company “determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”

The White House later defended Trump’s tweet, saying, “The President did not glorify violence. He clearly condemned it.”

And Trump’s social media director and Twitter feed manager, Dan Scavino, had his own response.

“Twitter is full of shit — more and more people are beginning to get it,” he wrote on Twitter.

The latest spat came a day after Trump signed an executive order in the Oval Office seeking to transform the way social media companies are regulated. That followed Trump’s fury over Twitter tagging two of his tweets with fact checks, which was also an unprecedented measure.

Executive Order

On Thursday, Trump had issued an executive order seeking to strip social media giants like Twitter of legal immunity for content posted by users.

If this was enacted, the likes of Twitter and Facebook would become open to lawsuits and greatly increased government regulation.

Trump — angered this week after Twitter tagged one of his tweets for the first time with a fact-check notice — said regulation was needed because the companies are no longer neutral forums but engaging in “political activism.”

According to Trump, such platforms have “unchecked power to censor, restrict… virtually any form of communication between private citizens.”

“We can’t let that happen,” he said, “especially when they go about doing what they’re doing because they’re doing things incorrectly, they have points of view.”

Trump Signs Executive Order To Keep Meat Processing Plants Open

In this file photo US President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during a "Keep America Great" campaign rally at Wildwoods Convention Center in Wildwood, New Jersey, January 28, 2020.
In this file photo, US President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up during a “Keep America Great” campaign rally at Wildwoods Convention Center in Wildwood, New Jersey, January 28, 2020.

 

President Donald Trump will sign an executive order compelling meat packing plants to stay open, despite a string of coronavirus deaths, in a bid to secure US food supplies, the White House said Tuesday.

“President Trump is signing an Executive Order providing the authority to ensure the continued supply of beef, pork, and poultry to the American people,” the White House said in a statement.

“Under the order, the Department of Agriculture is directed to ensure America’s meat and poultry processors continue operations uninterrupted to the maximum extent possible.”

The statement added that the processing plants will be fully compliant with the CDC guidelines on health and safety during the pandemic.

Trump had said earlier in the White House that the details of order were being drawn up for signing but gave no specifics.

The facilities, where animals are slaughtered and processed into food sold in shops, have long struggled with safety and sanitary issues.

Facing alarming rates of the novel coronavirus among workers in the often tightly packed work spaces, some suppliers have closed down.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Trump Speaks With Buhari, ‘To Send Ventilators’ – Lai Mohammed

As warnings mount that stores will run out, Trump will invoke the Defense Production Act to compel the meatpacking businesses to keep working.

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the nation’s largest meatpacking union, said more safety precautions were needed.

“At least 20 meatpacking workers have tragically died from coronavirus while more than 5,000 workers have been hospitalized or are showing symptoms,” UFCW President Marc Perrone said in a statement.

“While we share the concern over the food supply, today’s executive order to force meatpacking plants to stay open must put the safety of our country’s meatpacking workers first,” he added.

“Simply put, we cannot have a secure food supply without the safety of these workers.”

Last week, meatpacking giant Tyson Foods announced the temporary closure of its plant in Pasco, Washington state, which it says usually produces enough beef in a day for four million people.

A big pork plant in South Dakota run by Smithfield Foods and two JBS cattle slaughterhouses are among the others to have shut their doors.

AFP

White House To Take Temperature Of All Visitors, Staff

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media in the press briefing room at the White House on March 15, 2020, in Washington, DC. PHOTO: TASOS KATOPODIS / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

Anyone entering the White House will have their temperature taken, an official said on Sunday, tightening preventive measures against the coronavirus one day after US President Donald Trump tested negative.

Fever is a symptom of COVID-19, the new disease that has killed more than 6,400 people worldwide and which the United States is scrambling to contain.

Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said the checks would be carried out from Monday morning on anyone who comes into the White House complex — including officials, advisors, and journalists.

“As was announced over the weekend, additional temperature checks will be conducted on individuals who are in close contact with the president and vice president throughout the day,” he added.

Trump, 73, was tested for the virus after coming in contact with several members of a Brazilian presidential delegation visiting his Florida resort who have since tested positive.

His physician said Saturday that the result was negative and the president was symptom-free.

Over the weekend, the White House began checking the temperature of people in close contact with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence as a precaution.

AFP