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Trump and Biden clash over national Covid mask mandate – US politics live

Another video doing the rounds on social media this morning is CNN journalist Daniel Dale’s attempt to cram in as much fact-checking as possible of Donald Trump’s TV appearance into the two minute slot allocated to him.

Josh Campbell

Another tour de force from @ddale8 fact-checking a torrent of lies pic.twitter.com/xDxKI32ef8

September 16, 2020

Dale described the appearance as “a fire hose of lying from the president.”

If you fancy fact-checking it yourself, or even just having a read through to remind yourself of all the things that Donald Trump asserted last night in Philadelphia, they’ve published a full transcript.

Kenya Evelyn has been in Milwaukee for us, where she found leaders and activists warning Democrats not to take the Black vote for granted in November. She writes:

Just like the national party, local Democratic leaders aren’t on the same page about the path forward. Milwaukee’s progressive youth activists often face roadblocks from their moderate elders. For Democratic state representative David Bowen, an unprecedented pandemic and uprising is “a wake up call” to Democrats to “tap into the energy” of a youth-led movement for justice.

“This is righteous anger that young people are engaging in all over the country,” he said. “It’s this amazing synergy that says ‘if you don’t tap into this, you’re going to lose us.’ So they have to do it”.

Bowen’s the only state lawmaker to show up for The People’s Revolution at nearly every night of protests. We can’t piecemeal our way out of the problems that have accumulated over decades. There is an opportunity for the vice-president and senator to be champions on the issues that are driving people to not give up every day.”

“People are fighting for change. That opportunity is incumbent upon Democrats rising to the occasion.”

Read it here: ‘Don’t take Black voters for granted’: Milwaukee leaders and activists warn Democrats

Pompeo criticises Iran over execution of Navid Afkari, continued detention of Siamak Namazi

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo has this morning been tweeting about Iran’s treatment of US citizen Siamak Namazi, and the execution at the weekend of Navid Afkari.

Secretary Pompeo

There must be consequences for the Iranian regime’s barbarity. World leaders have taken an important first step and canceled Zarif’s visits. They should not be rescheduled until Iran releases Navid’s brothers from prison and returns all wrongfully detained foreigners.

September 16, 2020

Secretary Pompeo

U.S. citizen Siamak Namazi just celebrated his 49th birthday in the notorious Evin Prison. Yesterday marked 1,800 days since the Iranian regime arrested him on fake charges. Siamak’s father, Baquer, and Morad Tahbaz remain innocent victims. Iran must release them immediately.

September 16, 2020

Namazi was taken into custody by Iranian security forces in October 2015.

The House committee on transport and infrastructure has issued a damning report this morning on the failures of Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over the development of the company’s 737 Max aircraft. The manufacturer was forced to ground its bestselling plane after two fatal crashes. My colleague Jasper Jolly reports:

The committee said there had been “repeated and serious failures” by Boeing and its regulator, the FAA, in allowing the faulty aircraft to carry passengers.

The committee’s chair, the Democratic representative Peter DeFazio, said Boeing and the regulator “gambled with public safety in the critical time period between the two crashes”.

DeFazio said the committee found a “broken safety culture at Boeing” and “gaps in the regulatory system at the FAA that allowed this fatally flawed plane into service”.

Read it here: Boeing ‘gambled with public safety’ in run-up to two deadly crashes

Trump shares manipulated video of Joe Biden to imply he played NWA anti-police protest song at campaign event

Overnight Donald Trump has shared a manipulated video of Joe Biden which makes it appear that Biden was playing NWA’s Fuck tha Police at a campaign event. Posting the clip Trump asked “What is this all about?”

Donald J. Trump

What is this all about? https://t.co/AAmBGgHhyR

September 16, 2020

The original and correct video footage is from Biden’s appearance yesterday in Florida, where he started by stating “I have just one thing to say … hang on here” and then played Luis Fonsi’s international Latino smash hit Despacito from his cellphone.

Sarah Mucha

After being introduced by Luis Fonsi, Joe Biden pulled out his phone and started playing Despacito ahead of his remarks kicking off Hispanic Heritage Month in Kissimmee, FL. pic.twitter.com/7R6hUZgLW1

September 16, 2020

Biden’s actions had already prompted social media users to make many memes and jokes about it.

It is unclear from Trump’s tweet whether he was aware that the video had been manipulated. However, the Trump campaign have repeatedly attempted to link Joe Biden with calls to defund the police, a policy which he has stated he does not support. NWA’s protest song about police brutality first appeared on their 1988 album Straight Outta Compton.

Twitter has subsequently labelled the video as ‘Manipulated media’. The social media network has had to labeled videos shared by Trump and his campaign as “manipulated” on several occasions, and sometimes removed content after the president has retweeted it.

Yesterday the president retweeted a message that labelled his opponent in November’s election as #PedoBiden.


US to announce charges and arrests related to Chinese government ‘computer intrusion campaigns’

A quick snap from Reuters here that US authorities are set to announce charges and arrests on Wednesday “related to computer intrusion campaigns tied to the Chinese government”.

The Department of Justice said in a statement that deputy attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, along with FBI officials and others, will announce the legal action at a news conference at 11am ET.

Republican associated with QAnon wins primary race in Delaware

There were primaries in Delaware yesterday, and Lauren Witzke has chalked up another Republican victory for the new wave of younger activists sweeping into the party.

Randall Chase for Associated Press reports that she has tried to distance herself from accusations that she supports the far-right anti-semitic QAnon conspiracy theory. She beat the party’s endorsed candidate James DeMartino. Witzke’s policy centerpiece is a 10-year moratorium on all immigration.

Lauren Witzke for U.S. Senate

America First beat the GOP establishment tonight! Lets get ready take it to Chris Coons next!!

Thank you all so much for your support!

Let’s Make America Great Again! 🇺🇲 pic.twitter.com/RqUYjWgfL9

September 16, 2020

Witzke told the Associated Press in January that she had stopped promoting QAnon months earlier, dismissing it as mainstream psy-ops to get people to trust the plan and not do anything. QAnon followers often encourage each other to trust the plan. “I certainly think its more hype than substance”, she said.

But Witzke has been photographed wearing a QAnon t-shirt, and as recently as August was using the QAnon associated #SaveTheChildren hashtag in her Twitter postings.

Lauren Witzke for U.S. Senate

While the Democrats are holding the wackiest DNC in American History-

We held a #savethechildren rally in front of the Biden institute.

We spent our evening taking a stand against human trafficking & pedophillia. #netde #SaveOurChildrenWorldwide #SAVEOURCHILDEN #AmericaFirst pic.twitter.com/p71Ung6Nok

August 18, 2020

Her former campaign manager, Michael Sisco, was fired last year from his job as a field director for a Republican congressional candidate in Iowa after inviting far-right activist Nicholas Fuentes to speak at an immigration forum. Fuentes has been accused of being a white nationalist and anti-Semite.

Witzke joins the ranks of other recent QAnon-associated insurgents into the party. Colorado restaurant owner and gun rights advocate Lauren Boebert, who upset a five-term congressman in her primary is a heavy favorite against her Democratic opponent in November. In Georgia, businesswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has expressed support for QAnon in the past, is virtually guaranteed a US House seat after she won the Republican primary and her Democratic opponent dropped out of the race for personal reasons.

In November, Witzke will challenge incumbent Sen. Chris Coons, who, despite a push from progressive candidate Jessica Scarane, won the Democratic primary.

Hurricane Sally has made landfall as a Category 2 storm

Hurricane Sally has finally made landfall this morning near Gulf Shores, Alabama, as a Category 2 storm, pushing a surge of ocean water onto the coast and dumping torrential rain that forecasters said would cause dangerous flooding from the Florida Panhandle to Mississippi and well inland in the days ahead.

The parking lot adjacent to the Jones Park Lighthouse in Gulfport, Miss., floods from the waters from the Gulf of Mexico cresting before Hurricane Sally reaches land.

The parking lot adjacent to the Jones Park Lighthouse in Gulfport, Miss., floods from the waters from the Gulf of Mexico cresting before Hurricane Sally reaches land. Photograph: Hunter Dawkins/AP

The storm has been moving at an agonizingly slow 3 mph, report the Associated Press, and finally came ashore at 4:45 a.m. local time, with top winds of 105 mph (165 kmh).

Sally’s northern eyewall had raked the Gulf Coast with hurricane-force winds and rain from Pensacola Beach, Florida, westward to Dauphin Island, Alabama, for hours before its center finally hit land.

Nearly 400,000 homes and businesses are without power, according to the utility tracker poweroutage.us, as the winds and rain down power lines and flood streets and homes.

Trump congratulates new Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga

The president’s press secretary has just issued a statement congratulating and welcoming Japan’s new prime minister Yoshihide Suga. The statement says:

The United States congratulates Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on securing an overwhelming majority in the presidential election of his Liberal Democratic Party and his subsequent election as Prime Minister by the Japanese Diet. President Donald J. Trump is ready to continue pursuing the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific that he and former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe forged, including by further strengthening the United States-Japan Alliance and advancing our shared goals. The relationship between the United States and Japan has never been stronger, and President Trump looks forward to working with Prime Minister Suga to make it even stronger.

One of the president’s overnight retweets was the slightly cantankerous claim that “Trump had a historic event for world peace today, and the only thing the media reported on was who was wearing masks.”

It’s patently untrue. The New York Times ran with “Israel, UAE and Bahrain sign accords, with an eager Trump playing host”, the Washington Post went with “Israel signs deal establishing formal ties with two Arab states at the White House”. CNN this morning have “Two Gulf nations recognized Israel at the White House. Here’s what’s in it for all sides” and also had a separate piece and interview with Jared Kushner which opened the interviewer offering him congratulations on helping to broker the deal.

Our own Julian Borger has written his analysis too, and I’ve just checked with CTRL+F and it doesn’t mention masks once.

The agreements signed in Washington on Tuesday were titled the Abraham Accords, implying a epochal reconciliation between Judaism, Islam and Christianity, three faiths with shared Middle East ancestry.

Benjamin Netanyahu had brought the rhetoric to match, with lines for the occasion seemingly borrowed from a biblical blockbuster.

“This day is a pivot of history. It heralds a new dawn of peace,” the Israeli prime minister declared.

Read it here: Historical bluster glosses over realities of Trump’s Middle East diplomacy show

As well as CDC officials appearing about the administration’s coronavirus responses, top aides to secretary of state Mike Pompeo will also testify to members of Congress today. In this case the hearing will be about the firing of the former State Department inspector general, months after Democratic-led committees launched an investigation into his dismissal.

President Donald Trump abruptly fired Steve Linick from his position as the State watchdog in May, as he investigated the administration’s decision to pursue billions of dollars in military sales to Saudi Arabia despite congressional opposition.

His firing was one of a series of Trump’s dismissals of officials responsible for preventing fraud and abuse at government agencies, Reuters report. The firings prompted concern among members of Congress, including some of Trump’s fellow Republicans, over whether Trump was interfering with legitimate oversight.

Linick was also investigating allegations that Pompeo and his wife Susan had misused government resources by having department staff handle personal matters.

Today three top Pompeo aides – Brian Bulatao, under secretary for management, acting legal adviser Marik String and Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary for political-military affairs – will appear before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees.

Underscoring tensions between Congress and the administration over Linick’s firing amid the investigations, Bulatao and String agreed to testify only after the panels announced subpoenas.

“All the facts that we know suggest that there is an aversion to accountability,” a committee aide said.

Congress had requested an investigation into the Trump administration’s May 2019 decision to push ahead with $8 billion in military sales to Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries by declaring a “national emergency” over tensions with Iran, in order to sidestep congressional objections to the sales.

Lawmakers had been blocking many of the sales for months out of concern the equipment might contribute to the human catastrophe in Yemen, where bombings by a Saudi-led coalition have caused heavy civilian casualties.

A report issued by the State Inspector General’s office in August found that State did not fully evaluate the risks to civilians in Yemen when it pushed through the huge precision-guided munitions sale, although it did not violate the law.

We have a first-person piece today from Portland’s Erica Barry, on how in fire-stricken Oregon, her old way of life is already gone.

Early last week, my smoke alarms began going off a few times a day. I began to move around my basement apartment in Portland, Oregon, with a scowl, noise-canceling headphones swinging around my neck. On the one hand, because there were no fires nearby, the alarms were not doing their job. The system was too sensitive, the boy was crying on wolf. On the other hand, the alarms were working just fine: there was smoke. It was everywhere.

The color of the midday sky as it streamed across the bathroom floor was tangerine, and the air quality outside my window ranked worse than any other city in the world. Meanwhile, the wildfires that had already burned a million acres in Oregon and devoured hundreds of homes were now moving in an ugly rash toward my home town.

Read it here: Erica Barry – Here in fire-stricken Oregon, an old way of life is gone

On the other coast it is the ongoing wildfires that are the climate crisis. James Anderson and Matthew Brown have been talking to some of the firefighters involved in the battle for the Associated Press, and have found them absolutely exhausted.

Justin Silvera, a 43-year-old battalion chief with Cal Fire, California’s state firefighting agency, said he’s lost track of the blazes he’s fought this year. He and his crew have sometimes been on duty for 64 hours at a stretch, their only rest coming in 20-minute catnaps.

“I’ve been at this 23 years, and by far this is the worst I’ve seen,” Silvera said before bunking down at a motel for 24 hours. After working in Santa Cruz County, his next assignment was to head north to attack wildfires near the Oregon border.

Signs displayed outside the Ben Lomond Volunteer Fire Department in Santa Cruz County, California.

Signs displayed outside the Ben Lomond Volunteer Fire Department in Santa Cruz County, California. Photograph: Chris Tuite/ImageSPACE/REX/Shutterstock

“There’s never enough resources,” said Silvera, one of nearly 17,000 firefighters in California. “Typically with Cal Fire we’re able to attack air tankers, choppers, dozers. We’re good at doing that. But these conditions in the field, the drought, the wind, this stuff is just taking off. We can’t contain one before another erupts.”

Washington State Forester George Geissler says there are hundreds of unfulfilled requests for help throughout the West. Agencies are constantly seeking firefighters, aircraft, engines and support personnel.

Fire crews have been summoned from at least nine states and other countries, including Canada and Israel. Hundreds of agreements for agencies to offer mutual assistance have been maxed out at the federal, state and local levels, he said.

People watch as the Bobcat Fire burns on hillsides behind homes in Monrovia, California on September 15, 2020.

People watch as the Bobcat Fire burns on hillsides behind homes in Monrovia, California on September 15, 2020. Photograph: Ringo Chiu/AFP/Getty Images

Tim Edwards, president of the union for Cal Fire, the nation’s second largest firefighting agency said “We’re battle-hardened, but it seems year after year, it gets tougher, and at some point in time we won’t be able to cope. We’ll reach a breaking point.”

The immediate dangers of the fires are compounded by worries about Covid in camp and at home. Firefighters “see all this destruction and the fatigue, and then they’re getting those calls from home, where their families are dealing with school and child care because of COVID. It’s stressing them out, and we have to keep their heads in the game,” the 25-year veteran said.

An aerial view shows properties destroyed by the Almeda Fire in Talent, Oregon, September 15, 2020.

An aerial view shows properties destroyed by the Almeda Fire in Talent, Oregon, September 15, 2020. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Aside from the human toll, the fires also have economic implications. California alone has spent $529 million since July 1 on wildfires, said Daniel Berlant, assistant deputy director of Cal Fire. By comparison, the state spent $691 million the entire fiscal year that ended June 30. The US government will reimburse most state costs for the biggest disasters.

Forecast of “catastrophic and life threatening” rainfall as Hurricane Sally continues to batter Gulf coast

Here’s the latest on Hurricane Sally which is battering the Gulf coast this morning. Stacy Stewart, a senior specialist with the National Hurricane Center says the storm could strengthen further before the entire eyewall moves inland and the center of the hurricane crosses the Gulf coast between 6 and 7am EST.

He says the hurricane will bring “catastrophic and life threatening” rainfall over portions of the Gulf Coast, Florida panhandle and southeastern Alabama through Wednesday night.

The hazards associated with the hurricane are going to continue after it makes landfall, with the storm producing heavy rainfall Wednesday night and Thursday over portions of central and southern Georgia, Stewart said.

A pavilion is flooded in New Orleans, Louisiana.

A pavilion is flooded in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

The Associated Press report that Hurricane Sally has been pummelling the Florida Panhandle and south Alabama with sideways rain, beach-covering storm surges, strong winds and power outages early Wednesday, moving toward shore at an agonizingly slow pace that promised a drawn out drenching and possible record floods.

This RAMMB/NOAA satellite image shows Hurricane Sally off the US Gulf Coast on September 15, 2020, at 12:00 UTC.

This RAMMB/NOAA satellite image shows Hurricane Sally off the US Gulf Coast on September 15, 2020, at 12:00 UTC. Photograph: RAMMB/NOAA/NESDIS/AFP/Getty Images

Some 150,000 homes and businesses had lost electricity by early Wednesday, according to the poweroutage.us site. A curfew was called in the coastal Alabama city of Gulf Shores due to life-threatening conditions. In the Panhandle’s Escambia County, Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Chip Simmons vowed to keep deputies out with residents as long as physically possible. The county includes Pensacola, one of the largest cities on the Gulf Coast.

People play in a flooded parking lot Pensacola Beach, Florida.

People play in a flooded parking lot Pensacola Beach, Florida. Photograph: Gerald Herbert/AP

“The sheriff’s office will be there until we can no longer safely be out there, and then and only then will we pull our deputies in,” Simmons said at a storm briefing late last night.

This for a storm that, during the weekend, appeared to be headed for New Orleans. “Obviously this shows what we’ve known for a long time with storms – they are unpredictable,” Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson IV said.

In more evidence of the administration not taking the coronavirus threat seriously, The Hill are touting an exclusive this morning saying they have obtained behind-the-scenes documents showing how concerned health officials were in Oklahoma as Trump planned to stage his Tulsa rally there in June. “How strongly do I speak out?” asked one epidemiologist working for the state in an email.

“I am concerned that the mass indoor gathering in Tulsa of 19,000 people will directly lead to deaths in Oklahoma,” Aaron Wendelboe stated in the email, which has not previously been reported. “As the state epidemiologist, I feel I have a responsibility to speak out and warn of the estimated risk.”

In an internal risk analysis, Wendelboe, who left the department after his contract expired this summer, estimated that the event would likely lead to “at least 2 deaths and probably closer to 10.”

Five days before the event, in a separate email to Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart, Wendelboe wrote: “I’m not sure of any instance where we would hold a public event and say, ‘…and by the way, there is a chance that attending this could lead to a minimum of two deaths.’”

Wendelboe referred questions about his warnings to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

In the event the Tulsa rally saw a much lower attendance than organisers had been boasting of in advance, leading to the president making changes at the top of his campaign team.

Read it here: The Hill – Internal documents show officials waved red flags before Trump’s Tulsa rally

Trump and Biden clash over national Covid mask mandate

Donald Trump appeared at an ABC town hall event last night, a rare non-Fox News TV appearance for the president. He was asked by a member of the audience “Why don’t you support a mandate from national mask wearing and why don’t you wear a mask more often?”

To this, Trump replied:

Well, I do wear them when I have to, and when I’m in hospitals and other locations. But I will say this, they said at the Democratic Convention, they’re going to do a national mandate. They never did it. Because they’ve checked out and they didn’t do it. And a good question is you ask like Joe Biden, they said, we’re going to do a national mandate on masks. He didn’t do. I mean, he never did it.

Overnight Joe Biden has retorted to the assertion, pointing out that he, unlike Trump, is not currently the president.

Joe Biden

To be clear: I am not currently president. But if you chip in now, we can change that in November: https://t.co/eFS4tDfHEx https://t.co/ciqFcIGLHB

September 16, 2020

Yesterday, prestigious US journal Scientific American broke with tradition to back Biden in its first ever presidiential endorsement, saying Trump has damaged the US ‘because he rejects evidence and science’.

Good morning, and here is Wednesday’s live coverage of US politics for you. Here’s a catch-up on what happened yesterday, and a little of what we can look forward to today, as the country continues to wrestle with coronavirus, wildfires on the west coast and the impact of Hurricane Sally on the east coast.

  • Firefighters made progress against west coast blazes as smoke spread across the US. Smoke clouds have grown so large that they are “obscuring the sun” and cooling temperatures as far away as the east coast.
  • Hurricane Sally is forecast to continue battering the Gulf coast and then move inland this morning.
  • There were 1,287 new coronavirus deaths and 39,223 new cases of Covid-19 reported yesterday. That’s around 10% fewer cases than we were seeing a fortnight ago, but some individual states including North Dakota, Missouri, Wisconsin and Oklahoma are seeing an up-tick.
  • The total for the nation, according to the Johns Hopkins university, now stands at 6,606,293 cases and 195,937 deaths. Trump claimed yesterday that a coronavirus vaccine would be available “within weeks”, contradicting experts. He then later contradicted his own previous admission that he downplayed the Covid pandemic.
  • The Senate Appropriations subcommittee on coronavirus response meets this morning and will hear testimony from CDC officials.
  • Overnight Joe Biden and Donald Trump have exchanged tweets after Trump, who is president, said that Joe Biden, who is not, had failed to implement a national mask mandate.
  • Louisville, Kentucky, has reached a $12m settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor after her fatal shooting by police inside her apartment.
  • The US Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into whether John Bolton mishandled classified information when he published his book.
  • Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed historic agreements to establish formal relations at the White House.
  • Trump will take part today in a High Holy Days Call with Jewish leaders, have lunch with vice president Mike Pence, and later on is talking at a fund-raising dinner in DC.
  • Joe Biden is getting a coronavirus vaccine briefing in the morning, and will make remarks about it.

I’m Martin Belam and I’ll be with you for the next couple of hours, you can give me a shout here: martin.belam@theguardian.com


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