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Trump news – live: Drug taken by president linked to increased risk of death, as poll shows 60 per cent of Americans disapprove of coronavirus response

Follow the latest updates

Trump says he did not want press to see him wearing mask

Donald Trump today declared churches, synagogues and mosques as essential and ordered governors to reopen them immediately, comparing them to liquor stores and abortion clinics that have been considered essential businesses during the coronavirus lockdowns.

The president said if governors don't do it, here would override them so houses of worship could operate over the Memorial Day weekend. Trump's coronavirus taskforce, meanwhile, said people could go outside and hike or visit the beach to enjoy the long weekend so long as social distancing remained in place.

Going into the weekend, Trump finished up his two-week course of hydroxychloroquine as new research linked the anti-malaria drug to an increased risk of death.

And while his feud with Fox News continued after the network revealed polling that showed Joe Biden ahead by eight points in a nationwide match-up, tensions warmed somewhat as both the president and the cable network revealed in the criticism of the former vice president's viral comments that if you don't vote democrat, "you ain't black".

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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.

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Trump removes face mask at Ford factory visit to spite press

Donald Trump visited a Ford manufacturing plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on Thursday and declined to wear a face mask in the presence of the press, despite the state’s attorney general warning that doing so was both a company policy and a legal requirement in the territory.

Trump toured the Rawsonville plant, which has been recast to produce ventilators and personal protective equipment because of the coronavirus pandemic, and held a roundtable discussion with African-American leaders concerning vulnerable populations hit by the disease.

The hydroxychloroquine-huffing president did not wear a mask during any of his public events at the facility even though Ford reiterated on Tuesday that its policy remained that all visitors must wear them.

Trump has consistently disregarded guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urging people to wear masks in close company to try to curb the spread of the virus.

Surrounded by Ford executives wearing masks, Trump told reporters he had put one on out of the view of cameras. "I had one on before. I wore one in the back area. I didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it," he said.

When asked if Trump was told it was acceptable not to wear a mask in the plant, Ford executive chairman Bill Ford said, "It's up to him."

The company later said in a statement that the chairman had "encouraged" Trump to wear a mask when he arrived, adding that the president had obliged during a private viewing of three two-seater Ford GT sports cars.

In an interview with CNN, Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel said there would be a "very serious conversation" with Ford for permitting the president to violate state governor Gretchen Whitmer's executive order on masks.

 

That order specifies that any person who is medically able must wear a mask in enclosed public spaces.

"They knew exactly what the order was and if they permitted anyone, even the president of the United States, to defy that order, I think it has serious health consequences potentially to their workers," Nessel, a Democrat, said.

Trump told Nessel on Twitter she shouldn't be taking her anger out on Ford.

"Not their fault, & I did put on a mask. No wonder many auto companies left Michigan, until I came along!"

This was her stinging response.

Here’s John T Bennett’s report.

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President praises Ford's 'good bloodlines' despite antisemitism record

Trump also created a stir by praising the “good bloodlines” of the company’s founder Henry Ford, a notorious antisemite admired by Adolf Hitler, during a taxpayer-funded tour he treated like one of his aborted arena campaign rallies with supporters - even hammering out rock tracks by Journey and the Rolling Stones.

"The company founded by a man named Henry Ford - good bloodlines, good bloodlines. If you believe in that stuff?" the president said, addressing Bill Ford, the great-grandson of the automotive industry pioneer: "You got good blood."

The remark had the nasty whiff of eugenics about it, given Henry Ford’s outspoken hatred of “the imperial Jew”, which attracted the admiration of the Third Reich in the 1930s.

Here’s Alex Woodward on the controversy.

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Trump says no new shutdown if second wave of coronavirus strikes

Another of Trump's worrying proclamations yesterday was that there would be no second national lockdown in the event that a fresh outbreak of Covid-19 struck later in the year.

  “People say that’s a very distinct possibility,” the president said when the question was raised. “It’s standard, and we’re gonna put out the fires. We’re not gonna close the country, we’re gonna put out the fires. Whether it’s an ember or a flame, we’re gonna put it out. But we’re not closing our country.”

This from the man who said on Wednesday he would do "nothing" differently, even with 95,000 Americans dead.

Here's Andrew Naughtie's report.

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President jokes Fords are too expensive

On a lighter note, the president managed to get in a decent crack about the cost of the company's automobiles ("I went to buy one, then I heard the price and said 'forget it’") and again lied that he was once named Michigan’s Man of the Year.

He has made this same claim on at least seven previous occasions but no such honour exists so this could, quite simply, never have happend. 

Also, who stands like this??

One Twitter commentator had it right when they suggested the president's forward-titled posture resembles a centaur that has lost its hind legs.

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Flags to be flown at half-mast to honour US coronavirus dead

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer wrote to Trump yesterday urging him to fly the Stars-and-Stripes at half-mast to mark the country passing the grim milestone of 100,000 Covid-19 deaths.

The move was both a solemn tribute and a sly political manouvre to force the president to take responsibility for the tragedy still unfolding on his watch.

Prior to his petulant spat with Michigan's AG, he announced that precisely such a gesture had been on his mind all along and would take place over the Memorial Day weekend.

Gino Spocchia has more on this.

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Trump rages at Fox News for 'doing nothing to help' re-election effort after network broadcasts damning Biden poll

In another brace of tweets, the president lashed out at Fox News last night after it published a poll placing him eight points behind his probable election rival Joe Biden.

"Some real 'garbage' littered all over the network," he frothed, naming - among others - "Niel Cavuto" (sic), who had had the audacity to warn viewers earlier this week that following Trump's example and taking hydroxychloroquine "will kill you". 

This poll though..

Here's Justin Vallejo's report.

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President cheers ‘big day for JUSTICE’ as Senate confirms ally as new intelligence chief, others not so sure

Despite significant concerns that Texas congressman John Ratcliffe was eminently under-qualified for the post (concerns that were significant enough for his earlier nomination to the role to be scrapped last year), the Republican-held Senate yesterday voted to make him the new US director of national intelligence (DNI), voting 49-44 in favour.

By comparison, the last permanent DNI, Dan Coats, was nominated 85-12 to a position created 17 years ago in the aftermath of 9/11.

Ratcliffe had served only six months on the House Intelligence Committee and was its most junior member when Trump first tapped him for the position and now improbably finds himself replacing acting DNI Richard Grenell anyway.

Trump was, naturally, delighted:

And that’s all we’ll be getting from the Senate for the moment, after its members took a week off for Memorial Day without agreeing any further coronavirus relief package to bailout a nation with 38m and counting unemployed.

Having dismissed the Democrats’ latest $3trn (£2.4rn) proposal, majority leader Mitch McConnell said vaguely yesterday that a new bill was “highly likely” and “not too far off”.

Here’s Griffin Connolly on Ratcliffe.

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President baffles world by saying he 'tested positively toward negative'

Before jetting out for Michigan yesterday, Trump indulged himself with one of his “Chopper Chats” with the press corps alongside Marine One, which always makes him feel special even though his words are frequently drowned out by the whirring of helicopter blades.

He revealed he is considering attending the launch of a Space X rocket in Florida next week and joked about how much he’d like to fire some of the assembled reporters into space.

The session was also notable for this extremely garbled answer to a question on his own health: “I tested very positively in another sense. I tested positively toward negative. I tested perfectly this morning, meaning I tested negative.”

John T Bennett was as perplexed as the rest of us.

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Trump backtracks on mail-in voting after false election fraud accusations

Also during his White House lawn Q&A, the president started to walk back his comments on mail voting being “ripe for fraud” and vulnerable to “illegality” - but still didn’t offer any foundation for what we might generously call his “concern” about election tampering.

Trump said yesterday that mail ballots are acceptable to him if the sender has a good “reason” like, er, being president of the United States.

John T Bennett has this report.

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