As it happenedended1605923362

Don Jr tests positive, as his father dodges media questions

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Gino Spocchia,Danielle Zoellner
Saturday 21 November 2020 01:49
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Trump refuses to take questions after prescription drugs presser

Donald Trump held a press conference on Friday to discuss prescription drug prices, but the moment also included him falsely claiming “he won” the 2020 election while accusing Moderna and Pfizer of working to stop his re-election efforts. The two pharmaceutical companies announced their coronavirus vaccines were 90 per cent or more effective against the novel virus following the election. 

The press conference was actually not a press conference because the president took no questions. His decision not to take questions potentially came after White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany held her press briefing since 1 October on Friday. 

Ms McEnany, who defended Mr Trump’s refusal to concede the election, was heckled by one reporter during the briefing over her inability to accept the election results. She also entered into a verbal spat with a CNN reporter, whom she called an “activist”, after refusing to answer more questions. 

This comes after Mr Trump was told to to move aside by Republican senator Lamar Alexander, who said on Friday that the US president should allow the transition to a Biden administration to take place after more than two weeks of delay. Sources close to the president suggested that his refusal to concede was, in part, an act of revenge on Democrats who investigated Russian interference in his 2016 win over Hillary Clinton. 

And later in the day it was confirmed that the president’s son, Don Jr, had tested positive for coronavirus and was quarantining.

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Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.

Joe Sommerlad17 November 2020 08:00
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Trump ‘considered bombing Iranian nuclear facilities’

Donald Trump sought “options” for attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities but was dissuaded by advisers warning it could escalate into a larger conflict, according to The New York Times.

The president was reportedly told by vice president Mike Pence and secretary of state Mike Pompeo that such action could jeopardise the final weeks of his presidency, the subject apparently raised after international inspectors reported a large increase in the rogue state’s stockpile of nuclear material.

“A range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike,” The NYT reported.

Oh boy.

Graeme Massie has this report.

Trump asked advisers last week for ‘options’ to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, says report

President’s request supposedly came after reports of Iran stockpiling nuclear materials

Joe Sommerlad17 November 2020 08:20
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Biden warns ‘people will die’ if president refuses to start transition process

President-elect Joe Biden has warned that the United States is heading into a “very dark winter” as new coronavirus cases break records each day in many states.  

Biden sharply criticised the Trump administration and GOP governors over their declining to wear masks even as the country suffers its third major spike in Covid-19 cases. “Does anyone understand why a governor would turn this into a political statement?” he said, holding up a mask. “It’s about being patriotic.”

“There's nothing macho about not wearing a mask,” he said.

Asked about a member of the Trump task force calling on the people of Michigan to “rise up” against tough new social restrictions to contain the virus, the president-elect gave this brilliant answer:

He also argued that Trump’s refusal to concede the election and greenlight the usual transition process is making the pandemic and its death toll worse.

“More people may die if we don’t coordinate," he said of the outgoing administration and the incoming one. "It’s important that there be coordination now.”

Our Washington bureau chief John T Bennett reports.

Biden warns 'more people will die' from coronavirus if Trump refuses to start transition process

'There's nothing macho about not wearing a mask,' president-elect says

Joe Sommerlad17 November 2020 08:40
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President-elect ‘wouldn’t hesitate’ to take coronavirus vaccines

Biden welcomed the news of Moderna’s new coronvirus vacine on Monday and said he “wouldn’t hesitate to get the vaccine” while demanding cooperation from the Trump White House.

“I wouldn't hesitate to get the vaccine,” the president-elect told reporters, qualifying the statement slightly by saying: “If Fauci, Moderna and Pfizer conclude it's safe and able to be done.”

"The only reason people question the vaccine now is because of Donald Trump," he added.

Biden’s message was reinforced this morning by Ted Kaufman, the man tasked with heading up his so-far-thwarted transition team, who appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to encourage Americans that their next president is a man who “believes in science” in marked contrast to the current occupant of the Oval Office.

Chris Riotta has more from his latest press conference.

Biden says he ‘wouldn’t hesitate’ to get Pfizer or Moderna coronavirus vaccines

President-elect says he will get the vaccine without hesitation 'if Fauci, Moderna and Pfizer conclude it's safe and able to be done’

Joe Sommerlad17 November 2020 09:00
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Pompeo rows back troubling transition remark

In addition to playing his part in talking Trump down from bombing Iran (this president having come alarmingly close to starting a fresh war in the Middle East at least twice before), the US secretary of state said yesterday that he has full faith in the US constitution and expects that “the transition process will work” in what appeared to be a concession that Biden would be in the White House from 20 January.

Mike Pompeo, in Paris for the start of a 10-day, seven-nation tour, told French newspaper Le Figaro that America’s allies need not be alarmed.

"I am entirely confident that the coming days and weeks will show how much we are attached to the constitutional frame of this election," he said.

"The transition process will work and honour our internal and external obligations."

Pompeo sparked widespread anger last week when he was asked about the transition and replied that he was confident there would be “a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”

Harriet Alexander has this report.

Mike Pompeo tells French newspaper ‘the transition process will work’

Secretary of State last week said he was confident of a peaceful transition ‘to a second Trump administration’

Joe Sommerlad17 November 2020 09:20
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Obama: Biden’s election win won’t end ‘truth decay’ in America

The 44th president, continuing to promote his new memoir A Promised Land, has given an interview to the BBC and historian David Olusoga in which he says “crazy conspiracy theories” and an ever-more fragmented media environment “turbocharged” by Twitter and Facebook are to blame for “truth decay” and political polarisation in the United States.

"It'll take more than one election to reverse those trends," Obama says in the film, airing tonight.

Democracy depends on people listening to one another and agreeing on a "common set of facts", he argues, saying this apparently simple process has been warped by the likes of Donald Trump, Republican populists and Fox News for the purpose of capitalising on pre-existing divisions for political ends.

"We are very divided right now, certainly more than we were when I first ran for office in 2007 and won the presidency in 2008," the former president says, diagnosing a troubling prevalence of the idea that "facts don't matter".

"There are millions of people who subscribed to the notion that Joe Biden is a socialist, who subscribed to the notion that Hillary Clinton was part of an evil cabal that was involved in paedophile rings," he says, alluding to the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Obama does go on to express optimism, however, saying he has "great hope" in the "sophisticated" attitudes of the next generation.

He urges young voters to "cultivate that cautious optimism that the world can change" and "to be a part of that change".

Joe Sommerlad17 November 2020 09:40
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McConnell rebukes Trump’s planned troop withdrawal in Afghanistan and warns of renewed ‘attacks against America’

In a very rare rebuke of this president, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has warned that the outgoing administration’s planned drawdown of troops in Afghanistan would “hand a weakened and scattered al-Qaeda a big, big propaganda victory and a renewed safe haven for plotting attacks against America.”

McConnell couched his warnings in more general praise for Trump’s foreign policy achievements over the last four years. 

But the recently re-elected Kentucky senator’s comments fit a larger pattern of pushing back - mildly - against the president’s generally more anti-interventionist instincts in the Middle East (Iran aside, that is).

“A disorganised retreat would jeopardise the track record of major successes this administration has worked hard to compile”, McConnell said on Monday.

But if he’s so concerned with threats to national security, the “Grim Reaper” really ought to denounce Trump for undermining the integrity of a democratic election and call on him to end this alarming moment of uncertainty by supporting the Biden transition.

Griffin Connolly has this report.

McConnell rebukes Trump’s Afghanistan troop withdrawal, warning of renewed ‘attacks against America’

‘A disorganized retreat would jeopardize the track record of major successes this administration has worked hard to compile’ in the Middle East, Senate Republican leader says

Joe Sommerlad17 November 2020 10:00
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Trump administration races to auction off drilling sites in Arctic wildlife refuge

Apparently in the interests of squeezing in as much evil as possible before they leave office on 20 January, US government officials are racing to push through leases for oil and gas drilling sites in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

On Tuesday, a notice will be posted to the Federal Register asking developers to submit requests for their preferred drilling sites across the refuge’s 1.6 million-acre coastal plain in Alaska.

The ANWR is a breeding ground for endangered polar bears and home to grey wolves, musk oxen and caribou, along with migratory birds from around the world.

Louise Boyle has the full story.

Trump administration races to auction off drilling sites before Biden enters White House

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a breeding ground for endangered polar bears and home to gray wolves, musk oxen and caribou

Joe Sommerlad17 November 2020 10:20
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Georgia’s secretary of state says Republicans asked him to throw out ballots to help Trump win

The manual recount of ballots cast in the presidential race in the Peach State is proving every bit as contentious as feared, with moderators turning up 2,500 votes for Trump that previously went uncounted.

While that is certainly a concern, their inclusion is not enough to stop the state turning a fetching shade of Biden blue and a development of perhaps greater consequence is the state’s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger coming forward to denounce Trumpist Republicans like South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham for pressuring him into questioning the validity of legally cast absentee ballots.

Trump meanwhile continues to discredit the whole process since it’s not going his way.

Here’s the latest.

Georgia official says Republicans asked him to throw out ballots ‘to help Trump win’

Election officials say the state’s recount will not change the initial results

Joe Sommerlad17 November 2020 10:40
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President-elect’s aide says Boris Johnson ‘very smart’ to call Joe Biden early

As I mentioned earlier, Biden’s transition chief Ted Kaufman was on the Today programme earlier and sought to ease British tensions over the state of the “special relationship" (which may only exist in the imagination of those on this side of the Atlantic).

The incoming president is known to disapprove of Brexit and, in particular, the threat it could pose to the Good Friday Agreement, an important issue to him given his Irish ancestry.

But Kaufman says we have nothing to worry about with regard to a future trade deal, saying that although Biden has little in common with Boris Johnson personally, he never bears a grudge and will appreciate the British PM’s early call to congratulate him on his resounding election win.

Sam Hancock has more on what he had to say.

Boris Johnson was ‘very smart’ to call Joe Biden early, president-elect’s aide says

Biden’s close friend also confirmed UK is very important to incoming president

Joe Sommerlad17 November 2020 11:00

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