As it happenedended1584054524

Trump news: President will not take coronavirus test despite dining with infected official as New York City declares state of emergency

White House says president will not be tested after Brazilian press secretary who dined at Mar-a-Lago infected

Alex Woodward
New York
,Chris Riotta,Joe Sommerlad
Thursday 12 March 2020 21:36
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EU commission spokesperson criticises Trump travel ban

The EU has hit back at Donald Trump after the president addressed the nation from the Oval Office on Wednesday night to announce a 30-day emergency travel restriction on 26 European nations because of the coronavirus, with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen condemning a decision made “unilaterally and without consultation”.

US commentators were quick to express concern about the “militaristic, nationalistic” tone of the president’s drastic decree, with Barack Obama staffers Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes and David Litt all taking to Twitter to voice their fears. “He’s gonna get us all killed,” wrote Litt, not entirely joking.

Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders each offered their own course of action following Trump's address.

The former vice president and Vermont senator pleaded for "compassion" as the virus spreads, standing in stark contrast to the president's tonally bleak remarks.

Mr Sanders said: "If there ever was a time in the modern history of our country when we are all in this together, this is that moment."

Slamming the president's assessment of Covid-19 as a "foreign virus" as "falling back on xenophobia", Mr Biden called the lack of a comprehensive federal paid sick leave policy a "national disgrace" as millions of American workers could face cut hours or layoffs and quarantines that could significantly impact their incomes.

He unveiled his campaign's multi-pronged approach to the crisis, offering it up to the White House for consideration.

As the press secretary of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro reportedly tested positive for the virus days of meeting Trump, the White House has cancelled St Patrick’s Day celebrations with Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar and Trump 2020 events in Colorado, Nevada and Wisconsin in the interest of safeguarding the public.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grishman said the president and Mike Pence have no plans to get tested, despite their likely exposure to the virus.

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Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration and the coronavirus crisis.

Joe Sommerlad12 March 2020 10:30
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Trump restricts European travel to US in drastic escalation of virus response

Donald Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office on Wednesday night to announce a 30-day emergency travel restriction on 26 European nations - with the UK and Ireland exempted - because of the coronavirus.

“We made a lifesaving move with early action on China,” he said. “Now we must take the same action with Europe.”

 In only his second presidential address from the Oval Office in three years, Trump called for national unity as he laid out a number of steps he is taking or asking Congress to take to defeat Covid-19.

Describing the disease as a "foreign virus",  Trump announced a halt on all travel from the nations making up the Schengen open borders area of the EU, starting from 20 March. 

Lauding his own "early, intense action", including the decision to ban all travel from China, the president boasted that the US has “fewer cases than in Europe”.

“The EU failed to take the same precautions,” he said. 

Here's John T Bennett's report.

Joe Sommerlad12 March 2020 10:40
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Decision met with shock and confusion as pundits warn of 'dystopian nightmare'

Commentators were quick to express concern about the “militaristic, nationalistic” tone of the president’s drastic decree, with Obama staff Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes and David Litt all taking to Twitter to voice their fears.

“He’s gonna get us all killed,” wrote Litt, not entirely joking.

 

 

 

Richard Hall has this round-up of the reaction.

Joe Sommerlad12 March 2020 10:55
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'Oh f***': Trump caught on hot mic before announcing unprecedented travel ban

In dark times, you have to be thankful for the little moments of levity.

Just before making his announcement on live TV, the president was picked up swearing in frustration at what appeared to be a stain on his white shirt.

At the close, the cameras kept rolling and picked him up sitting back and exhaling: "Okaaaaaaaay."

Alex Woodward has more on these gaffes from a man who is not exactly short of TV experience given his long stint on The Apprentice.

Joe Sommerlad12 March 2020 11:10
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Key 2020 events cancelled as outbreak hinders election campaigning

The White House has cancelled St Patrick’s Day celebrations with Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar and Trump 2020 events in Colorado, Nevada and Wisconsin, while Democratic front-runner Joe Biden has been forced to abandon Chicago rallies and fundraising events in the run-up to the forthcoming Illinois primary.

The decision to drop the annual St Patrick's reception follows the decision to cancel parades in cities across the US from Boston to Chicago and Philadelphia, with New York's not going ahead for the first time in its 258-year history.

That parade, honouring Irish heritage, dates back longer than the United States and draws tens of thousands of marchers and throngs of spectators to Manhattan's Fifth Avenue each year.

The White House reception includes a shamrock ceremony and takes place every year ahead on 17 March. The taoiseach arrived in Washington DC on Wednesday - a day later than planned due to contending with Covid-19 in Ireland - where he addressed the Ireland Funds gala dinner at the National Building Museum.

The White House said the St Patrick's event, would not be going ahead "out of an abundance of caution".

However, Varadkar remains scheduled to visit the White House on Wednesday morning where he is expected to meet with President Trump and take part in an "extended bilateral" discussion.

As for Biden, his campaign issued a statement on Wednesday declaring: “The health and safety of the public is our number one priority.

"We have been and will continue to consult with relevant officials, including our recently announced Public Health Advisory Committee, regarding steps the campaign should take to minimise health risks for staff and supporters.”

Here's Andrew Naughtie on fifes falling silent on the streets of the Big Apple.

Joe Sommerlad12 March 2020 11:25
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Trump dismisses CNN reporter's perfectly legitimate question about mixed messaging on crisis as cabinet sniggers

Before his big announcement last night, the president further failed to inspire confidence during a meeting on the coronavirus in the Cabinet Room yesterday when he again fell out with a journalist.

“What do you say to Americans who are concerned that you’re not taking this seriously enough and that some of your statements don’t match what your health experts are saying?” asked Jim Acosta.

“That’s CNN, fake news,” was the president's unimpressive response, before the press corps were dismissed, with some cabinet members including Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin caught sniggering.

Trump and Acosta have sparred before, once over an incident in 2018 that saw him be ejected from a White House press briefing and have his press pass revoked after being accused of shoving a staffer and, more recently, in New Dehli when Trump said his network "have the worst record in the history of broadcasting" and the reporter responded that CNN's “record on delivering the truth is better than yours sometimes”.

Joe Sommerlad12 March 2020 11:40
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Brazilian official who met Trump being checked out as Senate staffer tests positive

A Brazilian government official who attended an official meeting at Donald Trump's resort in Florida on Saturday and posted a photo of himself standing next to the US president is being tested for coronavirus, the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper said on Wednesday.

Fabio Wajngarten is Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro's communications secretary and he accompanied the far-right leader on a visit to Florida that included dinner with Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

In response to the article, Wajngarten wrote on Twitter that he is healthy. However, he did not deny that he tested for the virus after returning to Brazil.

In the column by journalist Monica Bergamo, the newspaper said Wajngarten was tested for coronavirus at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo on Wednesday and the result would be ready on Thursday.

"Despite what the rotten media have already said about my religion, my family and my company, now they are talking about my health. But I am well," Wajngarten tweeted. In the photo he posted on Instagram, Wajngarten is standing next to Trump wearing a "Make Brazil great again" cap. Vice President Mike Pence was next to Trump.

Brazil's Health Ministry has so far reported 52 confirmed cases of the virus that the World Health Organisation has now labelled a pandemic, but has not had any deaths.

Meanwhile, in DC, a staffer in the office of Washington senator Maria Cantwell has tested positive for coronavirus and been isolated.

"The individual who tested positive for Covid-19 has had no known contact with the senator or other members of Congress. The senator is requesting that testing be done on any other staffers who have been in contact with the individual and show symptoms," her office said in a statement.

Tours of the Capitol are expected to be stopped imminently by the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms, one source told The Hill, with DC currently operating in a state of emergency because of Covid-19.

Joe Sommerlad12 March 2020 11:55
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EU hits back over Trump's European travel bam

The EU has hit back at Donald Trump after the president addressed the nation from the Oval Office on Wednesday night to announce a 30-day emergency travel restriction on 26 European nations because of the coronavirus, with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Council president Charles Michel condemning a decision made “unilaterally and without consultation”.

"The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action," the pair said in a statement. "The European Union disapproves of the fact that the US decision to improve a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation."

They added that the EU is taking "strong" measures to limit the spread of the virus.

A number of European ambassadors in Washington have meanwhile told CNN they didn’t know the development was in the works, despite having been in contact with the administration over the past few days.

One ambassador said there was “no indication” Trump would go to the lengths he has, while another spokesperson said German officials had no advanced warning this was coming.

“We knew something was coming on travel from Europe but not this drastic," the Belgian ambassador told CNN. "What is not understandable is the exception for the UK and the lack of national measures.”

Here's more from Jon Stone.

Joe Sommerlad12 March 2020 12:15
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Ex-presidential candidate Marianne Williamson’s 'coronavirus meditation' goes viral

Remember the Texan author and spiritual guru's short-lived presidential campaign?

A genuinely unique voice in the race, Williamson has sadly long since dropped out but has now resurfaced on YouTube to offer a meditation session in an attempt to put the public at ease over the coronavirus.

The trouble is, internet wags have circulated a heavily edited version of her quasi-sermon, and it's that that people are watching.

Williamson though is seeing the funny side:

Joe Sommerlad12 March 2020 12:35
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Sarah Palin appears on The Masked Singer as rapping bear

If you thought that was odd, check out the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate and former Alaska governor making a fool of herself on reality TV below.

Fox having to cut away from this surreal spectacle to Bret Baier introducing Trump's travel ban address was a truly iconic moment.

Here's Greg Evans to pick over the ruins of civilisation as we know it for Indy100.

  

Joe Sommerlad12 March 2020 12:55

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