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Trump news: President claims US doing ‘sooo much better on testing’ than any other country as coronavirus cases pass 1m and death toll surpasses Vietnam War

White House pushes for meatpacking plants to reopen as Covid-19 deaths reach another grim milestone

Joe Sommerlad,Danielle Zoellner,Alex Woodward
Wednesday 29 April 2020 14:37 BST
Donald Trump says accusation he would try to move the general election is 'propaganda'

Donald Trump declared, without evidence, that the US is “doing sooo much better than any other country in the world” in testing for coronavirus after pledging at the White House that America would “soon” have the capacity to test 5m people per day.

But on Wednesday, less than 24 hours later, he falsely claimed that he never said the US would be testing at that rate.

The president’s optimism came despite the country passing 1m cases of Covid-19 and 60,000 deaths, a grim marker that officials initially said the US wouldn't reach until August.

Within four months of the outbreak, the nation's death toll has surpassed the total deaths from conflicts leading up to and during the Vietnam War over two decades.

Mr Trump has meanwhile invoked the Defense Production Act to keep American meatpacking plants open, despite declining to do so for the sake of ventilators or personal protective equipment, as his vice president Mike Pence finds himself in hot water for refusing to wear a mask during an official visit to the Mayo Clinic medical facility in Minnesota on Tuesday.

For the third day in a row, the president met with business leaders to discuss the coronavirus response and reopening plans as states begin to preparations to "reopen" against the warnings of health officials and epidemiologists.

He also claimed that coronavirus is "going to leave" despite, even without a vaccine.

"It's gonna be eradicated," he said. "It might take longer, it might be in smaller sections. It won't be what we had."

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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 Sommerlad29 April 2020 09:45

Trump boasts about US Covid-19 testing prowess and touts blue state quid pro quo

Donald Trump has taken to Twitter to declare (without evidence) that the US is “doing sooo much better than any other country in the world” in testing for coronavirus after pledging at the White House that America would “soon” have the capacity to test 5m people per day.

The president made that claim in the East Room - a departure from the familiar venue for his daily conference on the virus, the James S Brady Press Briefing Room - despite the current rate of Covid-19 testing being closer to the 200,000 per day mark, meaning it would take a remarkable acceleration to match his pledge.

He also attempted to explain away the administration’s shortfall on testing to this point by saying his team had “inherited broken tests”, despite the virus only coming into existence in his third year in office.

Trump offered more blithe positivity, saying of the virus and the possibility of reopening states: “I think what happens is it's going to go away.”

Flanked at the podium by treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin and his daughter Ivanka Trump, the president flattered her by making another false claim, repeating his contention that her vanity business initiatives had resulted in the creation of a whopping 15m American jobs, which is just a fantasy.

Perhaps Trump's most disturbing suggestion though was that Democratic-run states may have to rein in their sanctuary city commitments protecting asylum seekers if they expect to receive federal bailout money to support their recovery from the national shutdown. 

Which sounded an awful lot like another quid pro quo to many, with some reminded of Stanford Law professor Pamela Karlan’s remarks during last November’s House impeachment hearings.

Here’s John T Bennett’s report.

Joe Sommerlad29 April 2020 10:05

More Americans killed by coronavirus than Vietnam War

The president’s optimism yesterday came despite the country passing 1m cases of Covid-19 and 58,000 deaths, meaning it has now killed more people than died over the entire course of the Vietnam War.

Alex Woodward has this report.

Joe Sommerlad29 April 2020 10:25

President invokes Defense Production Act to keep meat plants open

Trump has meanwhile invoked the Defense Production Act to keep American meatpacking plants open, despite declining to do so for the sake of ventilators or personal protective equipment.

At least 22 plants have closed across the US after workers tested positive for Covid-19, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, as concerns about the immediate future of the supply chain begin to spread.

Interest groups including the National Chicken Council have already moved to tell the president they are "grateful" for the executive order.

Danielle Zoellner has more on this one.

Joe Sommerlad29 April 2020 10:45

Mike Pence under fire for not wearing mask on hospital visit

The vice president finds himself in hot water this morning for refusing to wear a mask during an official visit to the Mayo Clinic medical facility in Rochester, Minnesota, where he he was filmed meeting with patients and staff and was the only one present failing to adhere to his own advice.


James Crump has this report.

Joe Sommerlad29 April 2020 11:05

Florida governor meets with Trump at White House to discuss reopening

Yesterday, as the Navy Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds soared over New York City, Newark and Philadelphia to salute the frontline medical staff and essential workers saving lives in those cities...

...the president was meeting with Ron DeSantis, controversial governor of the Sunshine State, to discuss his plans for joining other southern states by ending stay-at-home orders and reopening, neither man apparently bothered by that climbing death toll.

Speaking to reporters with Trump in the Oval Office, DeSantis said he would announce a plan on Wednesday for a "phase one" loosening of restrictions on economic activity.

Declining to give details, he called the plan a "small step," adding, "we're going to approach it in a very measured, thoughtful and data-driven way."

Despite a high proportion of elderly residents, who are especially vulnerable to the virus, and having waited until early April to lock down its economy to accommodate Spring Break beach parties, Florida has averted the worst of the health crisis seen in other states such as New York and New Jersey. But the state has nevertheless tallied 32,846 cases of Covid-19 so far and 1,171 deaths.

DeSantis has drawn sharp criticism of his handling of the crisis from Democrats in Florida, a key electoral swing state in Trump's re-election bid this November.

"Apparently Trump and DeSantis find it appropriate to slap each other on the back while Floridians struggle to stay safe during this pandemic and navigate a broken unemployment system," Florida Democratic Party chair Terrie Rizzo said yesterday.

The president is having Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards over this morning for a similar chat.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious diseases expert, was speaking on CNN last night to offer reassurance on the president's testing pledges and used his platform to urge co-operation between the states and the federal government.

Joe Sommerlad29 April 2020 11:25

Republican ex-senator backs Joe Biden and calls for Trump's 'sound defeat'

Jeff Flake is that man and he thinks victory for the former veep is the only remedy to restore the GOP after it sold its soul to Trump for a bucket of KFC and a discount golf club membership.

Griffin Connolly has more on what else he has to say.

Joe Sommerlad29 April 2020 11:45

Hillary Clinton endorses Joe Biden as possible VP pick defends him against sexual assault allegation

Also belatedly throwing her support behind the nominee-in-waiting is the beaten 2016 Democratic nominee, joining the likes of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, the rest of the 2020 field and, er, Howard Stern.

Meanwhile, the question of which female running mate he will pick to take on the Trump-Pence ticket is complicated by the emergence of a sexual assault allegation against him dating back to 1993, with the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris staying silent on the issue so far.

But one contender, Georgia's Stacy Abrams, weighed in to tell CNN's Don Lemon last night that she believes the candidate's protestation of innocence.

In other Biden news, it transpires he won Ohio's mail-in primary after in-person voting was cancelled because of the coronavirus shutdown.

Not that he had any serious competition left but a win is a win.

Here's Alex Woodward on Hillary.

Joe Sommerlad29 April 2020 12:05

Independent congressman Justin Amash weighing up third-party presidential bid

Trump and Biden could have one final new opponent after Republican escapee Justin Amash announced on Tuesday night that he would explore running for president as a Libertarian, the strongest sign yet that he will run as a third-party candidate.

The gentleman from Michigan's long-shot bid comes as the presidential campaign has been upended by the coronavirus pandemic

Amash, a 40-year-old conservative lawmaker who has been a member of Congress since 2011 and had helped found the House Freedom Caucus, left the Republican Party last July after his criticisms of Trump alienated him from his former allies.

He joined with Democrats to vote to impeach Trump, but on most policy issues still votes as a straight-line Republican.

Here's more from Andrew Naughtie.

Joe Sommerlad29 April 2020 12:25

Turkey sends medical supplies to US to help in coronavirus fight

The country's authoritarian president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised to stand in solidarity with the United States in its struggle against the coronavirus pandemic and as it recovers from the outbreak.

In a letter sent to Trump, Erdogan also said he was following "with appreciation" the US president's efforts to control the outbreak - his latest attempt to butter Trump up like a bread roll.

The letter was sent on Tuesday along with a planeload of personal protective equipment that Turkey donated to the United States. It was made public on Wednesday.

"I am very pleased to observe that, thanks to your measures, America has taken the first steps towards normalisation by achieving a downward trend in the number of new cases," Erdogan wrote.

"You can be sure, as a reliable and strong partner of the US, we will continue to demonstrate solidarity in every way possible."

Turkey sent 500,000 surgical masks, 4,000 overalls, 2,000 litres of disinfectant (not for drinking, Donny Boy), 1,500 goggles, 400 N-95 masks and 500 face shields.

It has sent similar medical equipment aid to a total of 55 countries - including Britain, Italy and Spain.

Joe Sommerlad29 April 2020 12:45

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