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Trump news – live: President says he would have done ‘nothing’ differently to stop pandemic as death toll nears 94,000 and will soon stop taking hydroxychloroquine

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Joe Sommerlad,Justin Vallejo
Thursday 21 May 2020 09:19 EDT
Donald Trump says he would have done 'nothing' differently to stop coronavirus

Donald Trump travelled to Michigan to tour a Ford factory making ventilators for the coronavirus pandemic. He said he wore a mask in the back room, but didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing him wear it, even though it looked very nice on him. Even better than without a mask.

Michigan's attorney general Dana Nessel says Trump is not welcome back to the state after refusing to wear the mask, and she threatened Ford with legal action for allowing him to do so.

Trump may hold back federal funding from the state, which has suffered catastrophic flooding after two dams broke. He has tied unspecified funding to mail-in voting, which he says leads to mass voter fraud.

Trump has said he would have done "nothing" differently to stop the spread of the coronavirus - even as a new Columbia University model indicates that going into lockdown two weeks earlier would have saved 36,000 American lives. The country's death toll is currently approaching 94,000.

Internationally and interplanetary, Trump confirmed that the US has pulled out of the Open Skies weapons treaty with Russia while saying he might attend the NASA SpaceX launch of two Americans to the International Space Station next week.

He also revealed that he will stop taking the controversial anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine "in two days", which he has been heavily criticised for by his usual cheerleaders over at Fox News.

The president's day ended with a Twitter rant lamenting that Fox News was littered with garbage because they were doing nothing to help him get re-elected in November, while his former fixer Michael Cohen was released from prison early with the ominous comment that "there is so much I want to say".

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Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the coronavirus outbreak in the US and the Donald Trump administration's response to it.

Joe Sommerlad21 May 2020 09:50

Trump says he would have done 'nothing' differently to stop pandemic

Donald Trump has said he would have done “nothing” differently to stop the coronavirus - even as a new Columbia University model indicates that going into lockdown two weeks earlier - on 1 March - would have saved 36,000 American lives by making it much harder for the disease to spread.

The country’s death toll is currently approaching 94,000 and the president's comments follow him saying a day earlier that it is a "badge of honour" for the US to lead the world in the number of total coronavirus cases (currently around 1.58m) as it is an indication that itthe country is doing more testing for the virus than any other.

Yesterday, despite widespread criticism at home and abroad, Trump insisted his administration was doing "amazingly well" and continued his campaign to pressure states to reopen for business and kickstart the stagnating economy, despite evidence that doing so prematurely could prove disastrous.

Here's a little more on the Columbia study.

Joe Sommerlad21 May 2020 10:05

President ending hydroxychloroquine regime 'in two days'

Trump also revealed that he will stop taking the controversial anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine “in two days” after his announcement that he was taking it provoked an outcry around the world.

The drug is not recommended by his own Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and has been shown to have no impact on Covid-19 in studies while actually causing fatal heart arrhythmia in certain cases.

Yesterday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) - brutally defunded by Trump as he sought a scapegoat for the crisis - voiced its own concern about his recklessness.

"Every sovereign nation, particularly those with effective regulatory authorities, is in a position to advise its own citizens regarding the use of any drug," said Dr Michael Ryan, the WHO's emergencies chief.

"I would point out however that at this stage [neither] hydroxychloroquine nor chloroquine have been as yet found to be effective in the treatment of Covid-19 or in the prophylaxis against coming down with the disease," he said.

"In fact, the opposite - in that warnings have been issued by many authorities regarding the potential side effects of the drug."

"As WHO, we would advise that for COVID-19 these drugs be reserved for use within trials," Dr Ryan concluded.

Here’s John T Bennett’s report.

Joe Sommerlad21 May 2020 10:25

Trump lashes out at states that allow postal voting but cannot explain problem

The president spent much of Wednesday attacking the election battleground states of Michigan and Nevada for allowing postal voting, which he insisted promotes “a lot of illegality” but was unable to explain how when quizzed by reporters about his contention at the White House.

He had already struck an eerily authoritarian note in that same session by declaring that “voting is an honour” (it may well be, but it’s also a basic right guaranteed to every citizen in any healthy democracy).

Earlier on Twitter, the president had panned Michigan secretary of state Jocelyn Benson while falsely contending that absentee ballots had been sent out to 7.7m voters in the state, which Trump is visiting later today and needs to keep in his column to win a second term.

“This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!" he threatened, copying treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House budget chief Russell Vought into the message.

Only the Michiganites in question had not been sent absentee ballots at all, merely application forms to acquire them, prompting the president to hastily delete and reword his menacing tweet.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany later told reporters the president's dispatch was "meant to alert" Mnuchin and Vought that any voter fraud would cause him to try withholding aid, a gesture she said was typical of his “unprecedented transparency”.

Which reminds me: whatever happened to those tax returns he’s been promising us?

John T Bennett has more on Trump’s disingenuous alarm-sounding over “voter fraud”, apparently being whipped up to smear Democrats (see also: “Obamagate”) and encourage a low turnout in November, which he believes to be to his advantage.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend postal voting as the safest option during the pandemic, incidentally.

Joe Sommerlad21 May 2020 10:45

White House resumes war of words with China over coronavirus

Trump also renewed his war of words with Beijing on Twitter overnight, accusing it of engaging in a “massive disinformation campaign” over Covid-19 and causing “panic and carnage” around the world, his remarks coinciding with the release of a new White House report reaching similar conclusions.

The 20-page report did not signal a shift in US policy but reportedly expands on Trump's get-tough rhetoric that he hopes will resonate with voters angry about China's handling of the disease outbreak that has left tens of millions of Americans out of work.

"The media's focus on the current pandemic risks missing the bigger picture of the challenge that's presented by the Chinese Communist Party," secretary of state Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday before the White House released its report.

"China's been ruled by a brutal, authoritarian regime, a communist regime since 1949. For several decades, we thought the regime would become more like us - through trade, scientific exchanges, diplomatic outreach, letting them in the World Trade Organization as a developing nation. That didn't happen," he said. "We greatly underestimated the degree to which Beijing is ideologically and politically hostile to free nations. The whole world is waking up to that fact."

Later in the day, the State Department announced that it had approved the sale of advanced torpedoes to the Taiwanese military, a move sure to draw a rebuke from Beijing, which regards the island as a renegade province. The department said it had informed Congress of the $180m (£147m) sale of heavy-weight torpedoes, spare parts, support and testing equipment, which "will help improve the security of Taiwan and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region."

While pushing back on China, Trump has sometimes uttered contradictory statements. 

He has talked about having a great personal relationship with Chinese president Xi Jinping, yet has repeatedly denounced China for not doing more to stop the virus from spreading across the world. He'll criticise China, then say he wants Beijing to sign Phase II of a trade deal and join the United States and Russia in a three-way nuclear arms control treaty.

Joe Sommerlad21 May 2020 11:05

Trump to lose 2020 election in landslide defeat, model predicts

A national election model has predicted that Trump will suffer a “historic defeat” in November’s election due to the coronavirus economic recession.

The forecast by Oxford Economics uses unemployment, disposable income and inflation to forecast election results to predict the outcome of November’s crucial presidential election and it sees Trump capturing just 35 per cent of the popular vote.

The same model has predicted the winner of the popular vote in 16 of the past 18 elections and its latest prediction marks a complete reversal of what it was predicting before the coronavirus outbreak hit the US.

Louise Hall has more details.

Joe Sommerlad21 May 2020 11:25

Seth Meyers: 'Trump’s doctors either are letting him take hydroxychloroquine or lying about it. Which is worse?'

Here's the latest from the late night host, offering a rare midweek edition of his "Closer Look" segment to examine the president's worrisome habit of ignoring the experts - even when it comes to his own health.

Joe Sommerlad21 May 2020 11:45

Trump again falsely claims to have been named Michigan's 'Man of the Year'

Touting his visit to a Ford vehicle components plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, today, the president yesterday repeated one of his favourite claims: that the people of the state once named him their "Man of the Year".

He's said this at least six times before but, according to CNN's ace fact-checker Daniel Dale, it is completely untrue - and appears to stem from Trump being invited to give an after-dinner speech in the state in 2013 by then-congressman Dave Trott, at which no such honour was given out.

Joe Sommerlad21 May 2020 12:05

Republicans subpoena documents from company in Hunter Biden probe - but it says it's already co-operating

Senate Republicans escalated their spurious investigations into Trump's political rivals on Wednesday when the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee voted along party lines, 8-6, to subpoena a company that retained Ukrainian energy giant Burisma as a client when Joe Biden's son Hunter was serving on its board.

But the company in question, Blue Star Strategies, wrote in a letter to Homeland Security chairman Ron Johnson that it has already "eagerly cooperated to date" with the panel's probe into whether the former vice president wielded his political influence in Ukraine to help his son's financial position within Burisma, a theory that so far has not been substantiated despite intense right-wing media and political scrutiny.

Griffin Connolly has this report.

Joe Sommerlad21 May 2020 12:25

Supreme Court temporarily blocks release of full Mueller report

Alex Woodward this on another hammer blow to Kayleigh McEnany's contention that the administration is devoted to "transparency".

We've still never seen the full version of Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election hacking and the Trump camp's alleged efforts to collude in it, only attorney general William Barr's redacted cut. 

Joe Sommerlad21 May 2020 12:45

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