The President and First Lady Have Coronavirus.

By Terrance Turner

Oct. 1, 2020 (UPDATED Oct. 2)

The President of the United States has tested positive for COVID-19. He announced just before midnight that both he and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive:

This development poses a risk not only to the president’s reelection campaign, but also to his health. He is a 74-year-old-man of considerable girth; older Americans are more likely to face complications from COVID-19. Houston affiliate ABC 13 cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in writing that “people in the 65-74 age range face a five times greater risk of hospitalization and a 90 times greater risk of death from Covid-19 compared to young adults between the ages of 18-29.”

Excess weight is also likely to cause complications from the virus; CNN reported in June that Trump weighed 244 pounds and is 6 feet 3 inches tall. “That gives him a body mass index of 30.5, making him technically, if mildly, obese,” ABC 13 added. Obesity triples the risk of hospitalization from Covid-19, according to the CDC. These factors would appear to place the president in particular peril.

Accordingly, his schedule has been adjusted. According to the New York Times, “The White House did not say how long Mr. Trump would have to remain isolated, but it canceled his plans to fly to Florida for a campaign rally on Friday, stripping his public schedule for the day of everything except a midday telephone call ‘on Covid-19 support to vulnerable seniors’.” If the president remains in quarantine for the recommended 14 days, he would have to miss a second debate with Joe Biden, scheduled for Oct. 15.

Hope Hicks — one of the president’s closest advisers — tested positive for COVID-19 last night. Hicks flew with the President on Air Force One, both to and from the debate on Tuesday night. Then she flew to Minnesota with him on Wednesday for a rally (!). Bloomberg News reporter Jennifer Jacobs delivered the news last night:

According to the Associated Press, Hicks began having symptoms while on the plane ride home on Wednesday. “Hicks began feeling mild symptoms during the plane ride home from a rally in Minnesota Wednesday evening, according to an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private information. She was quarantined away from others on the plane and her diagnosis was confirmed Thursday,” wrote Zeke Miller and Jill Colvin in their AP column.

The president and first lady entered quarantine within hours. Trump tweeted last night that he and First Lady Melania Trump were awaiting results from a COVID-19 test. “In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process,” he wrote on Twitter. “Whether we quarantine or whether we have it, I don’t know,” Trump said during a call-in interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity last night. “I just went for a test, and we’ll see what happens.”

Now we know what happened. The President has tested positive.

It is a stunning reversal for a man who routinely downplayed the severity of the pandemic. Jokingly referring to it as the “Kung Flu”, Trump blamed China for the virus. He mocked people for wearing masks (he did that just yesterday, the New York Times says). And he once claimed that it would disappear, “like a miracle”, from our shores.

The question now is how the president (and first lady) became infected. If the president’s exposure to COVID-19 was days ago, a positive test is still possible in the future. “If it was even five days ago, and he tests negative now, he still may end up testing positive tomorrow,” said Dr. Leana Wen. “And so this is why that quarantine period is so important,” she explained on “CNN Tonight” last night. The program aired footage of Hope Hicks and other advisers boarding the plane Marine One

During the broadcast, host Don Lemon pointed out that no one in the group was six feet apart OR wearing masks. Hicks was reportedly maskless during her flights with the president. White House spokesman Judd Deere stated that the White House will “incorporate current CDC guidance and best practices for COVID-19 “to the greatest extent possible”. But nobody on Marine One was wearing masks.

Interestingly, both Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence have tested negative, per CNBC. “As has been routine for months, Vice President Pence is tested for COVID-19 every day,” said Devin O’Malley, the vice president’s press secretary, in a tweet. “Vice President Pence remains in good health and wishes the Trumps well in their recovery,” he said.

UPDATE: Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, have both tested negative for the coronavirus. ABC News announced the news in a “Breaking News” update roughly an hour ago; the news has been confirmed by MSNBC.

UPDATE (5:10 pm, Oct. 2): The president is now being flown to Walter Reed Medical Center. He will be flown there aboard his Marine One helicopter, which is standard procedure (according to CNN). “Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the President will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said. 

The New York Times quoted two sources who said the president has been experiencing a low-grade fever, nasal congestion, and a cough. His doctor issued a memo, cited by the Times, that said Mr. Trump remains “fatigued but in good spirits”. The memo also revealed that Trump is receiving an experimental drug — an antibody cocktail developed by the biotech company Regeneron.

The president just boarded Marine One, according to NBC News.

UPDATE (10/5/2020): The President has left the hospital and returned to the White House. According to the Associated Press, “Trump gingerly climbed the South Portico steps, removed his mask and declared, “I feel good.” After putting the mask in his pocket, Trump “gave a double thumbs-up to the departing helicopter from the portico terrace, where aides had arranged American flags for the sunset occasion. He entered the White House, where aides were visible milling about the Blue Room, without wearing a face covering.” Just yesterday, Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s doctor, said that he was still contagious and not “fully out of the woods” yet. But here he is, back at the White House.

This is a developing story. Please watch this space for further updates.

Joe Biden Chooses Kamala Harris As Running Mate

By Terrance Turner

August 11, 2020 (updated Aug. 12)

Democratic presidential frontrunner and former Vice President Joe Biden has chosen Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) as his running mate. Biden announced his VP pick on Twitter. In an email to supporters, he wrote:  “I need someone working alongside me who is smart, tough, and ready to lead. Kamala is that person.” Harris is the first Black woman AND first Indian-American on a Democratic presidential ticket. (Or any major-party ticket, for that matter.)

It is the latest of many firsts for Harris, 55. The daughter of an Indian scientist mother and a Jamaican economist father, she is the first person in her family born in the United States, according to ABC News reporter Terry Moran. Harris was the first woman to be elected as district attorney for San Francisco in 2003. She later became the first Black person and first woman to serve as California Attorney General in 2010. (Harris won re-election in 2014 with 57% of the vote.)

When she was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016, Harris was only the second African-American* woman to serve in that house. As a member of both the Senate Intelligence and Senate Judiciary Committees, Harris earned attention for her tough, probing style of questioning, underscoring her record as a prosecutor. Those skills were on special display during the contentious confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Though she is the fourth woman on a presidential ticket (Clinton, Palin, Ferraro), Harris is the first non-white woman, according to The Sunday Times. Now, Kamala Harris could become the first Black woman (and first South Asian) to serve as Vice President of the United States of America.

Moran said today that Biden and Harris will appear together tomorrow in Wilmington (in Biden’s home state of Delaware). It is the first step in what once appeared to be an unlikely partnership. At a Democratic debate last year (in Miami), Harris went after Biden for waxing poetic about working with segregationist senators. “It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country,” she said.

But Harris also went after Biden for his stance opposing federal funding for desegregated busing. Under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the federal government could withhold funding from districts that refused to integrate blacks and whites — integration including school busing. Biden opposed that approach, arguing that it would lead to racial unrest. He teamed up with segregationist Sen. Jesse Helms for a failed anti-busing amendment in 1975. The next year, Biden moved to bar the Justice Department from pursuing busing-related cases. The New York Times revealed that between 1975 and 1982, Biden introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at limiting courts and the feds from mandating busing.

Harris took Biden to task for that — and for working with senators like Helms. “And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing. And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was a part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day,” she said, growing emotional. “And that little girl was me.”

Biden, apparently blindsided by the comment, argued Harris had mischaracterized his position. His wife, Dr. Jill Biden, was also hurt, saying that Harris’ attack was a “punch to the gut”. But Harris endorsed Biden in March. And just two weeks ago, at a speech in Wilmington, Biden offered a telling clue. As he approached the podium, Biden’s handwritten notes were snapped by an Associated Press photographer. Sen. Kamala Harris’ name was scrawled across the top. Right under her name, Biden had written: “Do not hold grudges.”

Biden’s notes were captured by an AP photographer at a speech in Wilmington on July 28. (Photo via AP.)

Today (Aug. 12), the two made their first joint appearance as running mates in Delaware; both shed some light on what brought them together.

One key factor in Biden choosing Harris was her friendship with his son Beau Biden (who died of brain cancer in 2015). Harris and Beau Biden were attorneys general during the same time period. “They took on the same big fights together. Kamala in California. Beau here in Delaware — big fights that helped change the entire country,” Joe Biden said today. “I know how much Beau respected Kamala and her work, and that mattered a lot to me, to be honest with you, as I made this decision.”

“Beau and I spoke on the phone practically every day — sometimes multiple times a day,” Harris said in her remarks this afternoon. “Beau was the kind of guy who inspired people to be a better version of themselves. He really was the best of us. And when I would ask him, ‘Where’d you get that? Where did this come from?’ He’d always talk about his dad. And I will tell you, the love that they shared was incredible to watch.” 

Beyond their heart-tugging memories of Beau, the two bonded over mutual goals and mutual admiration. Biden praised Harris as smart, tough, and experienced. “She knows how to govern,” Biden said, “and she’s ready to do the job on day one.” Harris in turn praised Biden as warm and compassionate. “His empathy, his compassion, his sense of duty to care for others is why I am so proud to be on this ticket,” Harris said.

But they both also saw this election in dramatic, game-changing terms. Biden reiterated that the 2020 election is “a battle for the soul of the nation”. Harris was similarly sweeping: “This is a moment of real consequence for America,” she said. “Everything we care about — our economy, our health, our children, the kind of country we live in — it’s all on the line.”

And, of course, they both took aim at Donald Trump. Biden called out Trump for his low-blow attacks on Harris (he called her “nasty”, “phony”, and “disrespectful” yesterday). “Is anyone surprised that Donald Trump has a problem with strong women?” Biden said. He added some jabs at the president’s work with the economy, too: “Trump is on track to leave office with the worst jobs record of any American president in modern history.”

Harris, too, lacerated Trump’s economic record. “The President’s mismanagement of the pandemic has plunging us into the worst economic crisis since the great depression,” Harris said. “He inherited the longest economic expansion in history from Barack Obama and Joe Biden. And then, like everything else he inherited, he ran it straight into the ground.”

“This is what happens when we elect a guy who just isn’t up for the job,” Harris said. “Our country ends in tatters and so does our reputation around the world.”

Of course, they both discussed the topic of race. Harris said that “we are experiencing a moral reckoning with racism and systemic injustice that has brought a new coalition of conscience to the streets of our country.” Biden noted that today is the third anniversary of the Charlottesville rally, which featured Nazis, Klansmen and white supremacists marching down streets of Virginia. The event led to racially charged violence: a group of white nationalists beat up a black University of Virginia student and then sued him for assault. (Trump famously defended the white supremacists as “very fine people”.) That moment, which spurred Biden to enter the race, came into sharp relief today.

But Biden cited Harris’ presence as a racial balm. He painted her momentous VP nod as an opportunity for Black women. “And this morning, all across the nation, little girls woke up, especially little Black and Brown girls, who so often feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities, but today — today, just maybe — they’re seeing themselves for the first time in a new way, as the stuff of presidents and vice presidents,” Biden said. 

“As a child of immigrants, [Harris] knows personally how immigrant families enrich our country, as well as the challenges of what it means to grow up Black and Indian-American in the United States of America,” said Biden. “Her story is America’s story.”  

Born in Oakland, California in 1964, Harris was the daughter of immigrants. Her mother was a breast cancer scientist; her father was an economics professor. What brought them together, Harris said today, was the civil rights movement. “And that’s how they met, as students in the streets of Oakland,” she said today, “marching and shouting for this thing called justice, in a struggle that continues today. And I was part of it.”

Harris grew up in Berkeley. She was in kindergarten when the second year of integrated busing began there in 1969. Berkeley undertook its busing program voluntarily, requiring both white and black families to travel into unfamiliar neighborhoods, per the Los Angeles Times.

Harris entered more unfamiliar territory when her family moved to Montreal in the seventies. She graduated from high school in Westmount High School, near the Canadian city. Her Westmount high school classmate Hugh Kwok remembered:  “She was a sweet, kind person. Very happy, very social.” Indeed, a survey of her Westmount colleagues in the Toronto Star revealed warm memories. “They remember the California senator, now 54, as an assured, cheery teenager who thrived both in school and on the dance floor,” wrote Washington bureau chief Daniel Dale in 2018. He wrote that Harris maintained popularity across a diverse student body, in spite of her presence in a brand-new country.

She entered new territory again by going to Howard University in Washington, D.C. She double-majored in political science and economics there. Before graduating from the historically black college, Harris was on the debate team and joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She was even elected to the liberal arts student council. “Running a campaign at Howard was tough!” NBC News quotes her as saying. “I remember walking up to strangers, asking them to vote for me.”

Harris earned her juris doctorate from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Then she launched her career as a deputy district attorney (part of a D.A.’s team of prosecutors). It was just the start of what would be a star-making career. Now, she has a chance to not only advance her career but alter the course of history

*Carol Moseley-Braun was the first, in 1992.

Shooting Outside White House Interrupts Press Briefing

Police vehicles at the site of today’s shooting. Photo from Patrick Semansky (AP).

By Terrance Turner

August 10, 2020

There’s been a shooting outside the White House.

The AP quoted two sources as saying that the shooting took place near 17th St. and Pennsylvania Avenue — just blocks from the White House. (Google Maps states that this area is a four-minute drive from the White House.) The shooting interrupted a press briefing that was just beginning; reporters were placed on lockdown, per Senior White House Correspondent Jonathan Datoc.

The D.C. fire department was dispatched outside the White House at 5:55 p.m. ET after the Secret Service called to report that they had shot a person in his upper body, D.C. fire spokesman Doug Buchanan said. The Washington Post cited Buchanan, adding that a Secret Service checkpoint is near the site of the shooting. The Secret Service later confirmed the events.

The President was in the middle of a news briefing when he was abruptly ushered out by officials. According to CNN, he was midsentence when security came in and asked him to leave. “We’re going to have to step outside,” the agent said.

“Excuse me?” Trump asked.

“Step outside,” the agent told him. (Trump complied.) The President had been “briefing for all of maybe two or three minutes”, Reuters reporter Jeff Mason told Anderson Cooper tonight. He added that the Secret Service locked the doors, keeping all of the press inside.

When he returned, Trump told reporters that law enforcement had shot a suspect. The incident appeared to have been an active shooter situation. ABC News has learned that the suspect opened fire on a civilian, and a Secret Service officer returned fire. The suspect was shot. That adult male suspect was taken to the hospital with a gunshot wound, their source told ABC News.

UPDATE: The Secret Service confirmed at around 7 pm CST (8:07 ET) that both the suspect and a Secret Service agent were taken to a local hospital. The Secret Service stated that the White House complex was never breached. At no time was the president in danger, according to the USSS.

That sentiment was reflected in the president’s comments upon his return. “I feel very safe with the Secret Service. They’re fantastic people. They’re the best of the best,” Trump told reporters. “They’re highly trained.”

Supreme Court Upholds DACA in 5-4 Verdict

By Terrance Turner

The Supreme Court today blocked the Trump administration’s plan to end DACA, a program that protects immigrants brought to the United States as children. In a 5-4 ruling, the Court found that the administration’s attempt to end DACA in 2017 was “arbitrary and capricious”.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was created in 2012 under then-President Barack Obama. Under the program, immigrants brought to the U.S. as children could stay in the States temporarily. They could apply and file for a two-year “forbearance” that would shield them from deportation. They have to be within 15 and 30 years of age, with no felony convictions. They must also pass a background check. According to NPR, DACA recipients must also be currently in school, a high school graduate, or honorably discharged from the military. The fee to renew and apply is $495.

Obama was moved to create the program after activists staged sit-ins in congressional offices and protested outside the White House. It was launched after the DREAM Act, which had similar protections, failed to pass Congress. (It was blocked in the Senate by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Texas Senator John Cornyn.) The current president moved to end the program in 2017, after winning office on an anti-immigrant platform. But the Supreme Court today handed Trump his second defeat of the week, ruling that his administration acted capriciously in trying to dismantle the program.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion. He was joined by the Court’s left-leaning justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Clarence Thomas wrote the majority dissent, joined by Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh. (According to the AP, the latter two wrote dissents of their own.)

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote. “We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. Here the agency failed.”

The agency in question is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to the text of the Court’s decision, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked then-acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke to rescind the policy. “The next day, Duke acted on that advice. Taking into consideration the Fifth Circuit and Supreme Court rulings and the Attorney General’s letter, Duke decided to terminate the program. She explained that DHS would no longer accept new applications, but that existing DACA recipients whose benefits were set to expire within six months could apply for a two-year renewal. For all other DACA recipients, previously issued grants of relief would expire on their own terms, with no prospect for renewal.”

The result was a number of lawsuits by those who argued that the administration had violated the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. One of those plaintiffs was the NAACP, which said that the administration unlawfully reneged on a promise to protect young, undocumented immigrants of color. “NAACP, whose membership includes DACA registrants across the United States, is filing this lawsuit to protect the hundreds of thousands of Mexican, Caribbean and African immigrants,” NAACP General Counsel Janette M. Louard said. (NAACP’s website says that while over 80% of DACA recipients are Mexican, 36,000 Africans are also eligible for the program.)

The text of the Court’s decision (DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY ET AL. v. REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA ET AL.) says the NAACP suit was in D.C.’s District Court. The District Court granted partial summary judgment to the NAACP; today’s verdict upheld that ruling. NAACP President Derrick Johnson called the decision “a tremendous victory for America”.

“Today’s decision is completely monumental,” said Krissia Rivera, a 27-year-old DACA recipient and fourth-year medical school student at Brown University. “This decision means that I will be able to apply to residency programs and hopefully achieve my dream of becoming a surgeon,” Rivera told ABC. The decision is a major victory for thousands of immigrants: an estimated 800,000 people have enrolled in the program. DACA shielded them from deportation while they graduated, started businesses, became doctors or nurses, bought homes, even married and had children.

Some of them are working for major companies. According to ABC News, 200 major corporations filed briefs in the Supreme Court supporting the DACA recipients. Among them Microsoft, which was a plaintiff in one of the cases that made it to the Supreme Court, and Microsoft President Brad Smith. “There are more than 30,000 DACA registrants working in the health space alone. We’ve never needed these people more than we do today,” he said. “Every time I meet with them, I have the same reaction. We are lucky as a country to have them.”

Former vice president Joe Biden praised the ruling, writing: “The Supreme Court’s ruling today is a victory made possible by the courage and resilience of hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients…As President, I will immediately work to make it permanent.”

Calls Mount for End to White House Briefings After Trump’s Tantrum

By Terrance Turner

The President of the United States held a press briefing on Thursday to update the public on the coronavirus. During the briefing, he touted the drug hydroxychloroquine, used to treat malaria and arthritis, as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Preliminary tests had shown promise for the drug. Trump called it a “game-changer” that could help thousands. He added that the drug would be made available “almost immediately” with a prescription. Trump even said people would have access to the drug “literally within a few days.” But the Food and Drug Administration begged to differ. That same day, the FDA released a statement saying that “there are no FDA-approved therapeutics or drugs to treat, prevent, or cure COVID-19”.

The next day, at another briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci (the head of the White House coronavirus task force) was asked if hydroxychloroquine could be used as a “prophylaxis” against the virus. “The answer is no,” Fauci said plainly. “The evidence you’re talking about, John, is anecdotal evidence,” he continued, addressing the reporter by name. “But the information that you’re referring to specifically is anecdotal. It was not done in a controlled, clinical trial.”

Trump stepped to the mic, conceding that “what the doctor said is 100% correct.” He added. “We’ll see. We’re going to know soon.”

NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander pointed out that the president’s own words had painted a different picture. “Yesterday, Mr. President, you said that they were for, quote, ‘immediate delivery’.”

“Yes, we have millions of units ordered,” the president responded. “I am a man that comes from a very positive school when it comes to — in particular — one of these drugs. And we’ll see how it works out, Peter. I’m not saying it will, but I think people may be surprised. By the way, that would be a game-changer.”

“Dr. Fauci said that there’s no magic drug for coronavirus right now, which you would agree—”

“Well, I think we only disagree a little bit”, the president interrupted. (Crosstalk ensued.) “I disagree,” he said. Maybe, and maybe not. Maybe there is; maybe there isn’t. We’ll have to see.”

“Is it possible that your impulse to put a positive spin on things may be giving Americans a false sense of hope?” Alexander asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” Trump answered. “Such a lovely question,” he said sarcastically. “Look — it may work, and it may not work. And I agree with the doctor, what he said. . .. I feel good about it. That’s all it is, just a feeling. I’m, you know, a smart guy.”

Alexander’s next question set off a powder keg. “What do you say to the people who are scared, though? Nearly 200 dead. 14,000 who are sick [in the U.S.]. Millions, as you’ve witnessed, who are scared right now? What do you say to Americans, who are watching you right now, who are scared?”

“I say that you’re a terrible reporter, that’s what I say,” Trump fumed. “I think that’s a very nasty question and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope. And you’re doing sensationalism and the same with NBC and Comcast. I don’t call it Comcast, I call it ‘Concast.’” He wasn’t done: “That’s really bad reporting, you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism. Let’s see if it works. It might and it might not. I happen to feel good about it, but who knows? I’ve been right a lot.”

Watch the full exchange below:

This morning, the White House held another briefing. While Trump was talking about unity in our “beautiful, big American family”, his campaign was sending emails to supporters that further attacked Alexander. The Hill reported earlier today on the email’s contents: “President Trump was in the middle of delivering a positive, uplifting message to Americans who may be afraid, and Peter Alexander was triggered by it,” the email claims. “Perhaps if Alexander hadn’t been so determined to undermine the President’s message, he would have heard it.”

As for the briefing itself? This time, things unfolded rather smoothly, with the president deferring to experts and generally behaving himself. But the damage was already done. After yesterday’s exchange, many called for networks to end live coverage of Trump’s briefings. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow explicitly called for the practice to end last night on The Rachel Maddow Show.

She has been joined by a chorus of voices who say that the president lies so frequently that it does a disservice to viewers: