Trump will avoid town hall questions; McConnell said he hasn’t been to White House because of lax COVID rules

The next presidential debate has been moved to a virtual format, but President Donald Trump says he will not participate and has asked that the next two debates be delayed a week instead.

Who won VP debate? Vice President Pence and Sen. Harris squared off



The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday that the Oct. 15 town hall debate (in which voters ask the questions) would be remote to “protect the health and safety of all involved” amid the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis. 

While Trump said he wouldn’t take part (he called the virtual debate a “joke”), the Biden campaign, however, said they would. But did not agree to delays. 

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“Donald Trump doesn’t make the debate schedule; the Debate Commission does,” said Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager and communications director for the Biden campaign. “Trump’s erratic behavior does not allow him to rewrite the calendar, and pick new dates of his choosing. We look forward to participating in the final debate, scheduled for October 22, which already is tied for the latest debate date in 40 years. Donald Trump can show up, or he can decline again. That’s his choice.”

The news comes after the vice presidential debate on Wednesday in Salt Lake City. The debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris was less chaotic than the presidential debate and candidates were separated by 12 feet with plexiglass shields.

☕ The latest: 

  • The Trump campaign is exploring the prospect of an event on Monday in Pittsburgh, an aide said. The aide did not elaborate, saying only it would be an “event” and not a “rally” for the COVID-stricken president.
  • An unexpected moment went viral Wednesday when a fly landed on to of Pence’s head for several minutes while he debated Harris. 
  • Trump returned to the Oval Office on Wednesday, breaking quarantine by returning to the offices where the president and more than a dozen employees have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The president released another video Thursday that focused on the military after saying in a video Wednesday that the “key” to his recovery from the virus was the experimental antibody cocktail by drugmaker Regeneron.

📆 26 days until Election Day, seven days until the second presidential debate, 104 days until Inauguration Day, 85 days left in 2020.

🗳️ Voting: See USA TODAY’s Voter Guide for information on registering to vote, when your state begins voting and what the candidates think about the issues. 

We will update this article throughout the day. You can follow all of USA TODAY’s politics reporters on Twitter or subscribe to our daily On Politics newsletter. 

Pence cancels Friday appearance  in Indianapolis

Vice President Mike Pence has cancelled a Friday appearance in Indianapolis, where he planned to vote. 

His office did not provide an explanation when asked why. His office said the trip would be rescheduled soon. 

Pence spoke at a rally in Nevada for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign Thursday. He flew out from Nevada Thursday afternoon and landed just after 2 p.m. in Phoenix. He’s scheduled to speak at a rally in the suburbs this evening.

Pence had been scheduled to leave Phoenix in the morning to fly into Indianapolis before returning to Washington D.C. Friday evening. 

“Nobody’s sick. There’s no positive tests,” Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley said. “The VP is planning on travelling on Saturday and Monday. We’ll have more information on the vice president’s schedule next week soon.”

– Chris Sikich (Indianapolis Star) and John Fritze

McConnell said he hasn’t visited White House because of lax COVID rules

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday said he hasn’t visited the White House in two months because of what he saw as lax coronavirus practices.

“My impression was their approach to how to handle this (pandemic) was different from mine and what I insisted we do in the Senate, which was to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” McConnell said during an appearance in Northern Kentucky.

McConnell said he maintains regular phone contact with Trump and that the president “seems perfectly fine.”

But McConnell said he doesn’t have first-hand knowledge of the president’s health condition because he hasn’t visited the White House since Aug. 6. McConnell was not at the Sept.  26 event in the Rose Garden announcing Trump’s Supreme Court nominee – which may have become a “superspreader” event.

– Randy Tucker (Cincinnati Enquirer)

McConnell: Mitch McConnell says he hasn’t visited White House since August because of lax COVID rules

Pelosi: No aid for airlines without a comprehensive COVID-19 stimulus

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she would not support a standalone relief bill for airlines without acting on a comprehensive COVID-19 relief package.

“I have been very open to having a standalone bill for the airlines or as part of a bigger bill,” she said, but added, “there is no standalone bill without a bigger bill.”

Negotiations on a comprehensive stimulus package collapsed earlier this week after President Donald Trump said he rejected Democrats’ latest offer and would wait until after the election to restart negotiations. Since then, however, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, one of the lead White House representatives, and Pelosi have continued conversations about an airline relief bill. Airlines, which have been hammered by coronavirus-related drops in travel, have warned of mass furloughs and layoffs as their federal payroll supports expired.

Stock markets have been buoyed by the possibility of a standalone stimulus bill for airlines after Trump signaled his support on Twitter and in an interview on Fox Business on Thursday morning.

A relief package passed by House Democrats last week included relief for airlines, though the Republican-controlled Senate has declined to act on it. Democrats also tried to pass a separate airline relief bill last week under rules that would have required unanimous approval from lawmakers, though House Republicans blocked its passage.  

 – Nicholas Wu

Trump releases more videos from White House

Trump released two videos Thursday, the latest in a series, this time touting his efforts to expand a U.S. military that he asserted has “never been stronger” and attacking Biden.

Trump has not been seen in person since he returned from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday where doctors administered several drugs for coronavirus. Instead, he has issued a series of short videos on a near daily basis.

Thursday’s message, shot on the South Lawn, sounded many of the same themes he has articulated on the campaign trail about his administration’s military spending. It was posted minutes after Trump conducted a phone-in interview on Fox Business Network in which he announced he would not take part in the next debate after it was moved to a virtual format.  

Trump posted another video hours later with a decidedly more political bent. He said of Biden, “he just talks,” and said that Americans would have access to the same COVID-19 drugs he did at Walter Reed.

Trump said the video message was aimed at seniors, “my favorite people in the world,” and he poked fun at his own age, 74.

The videos, which started off as a display to the world that Trump was not incapacitated by his bout with the virus, have increasingly embraced the kind of rhetoric Trump used at his campaign rallies.

– John Fritze

Who won the vice presidential debate? There’s no ‘winner’ but here’s what you missed

While there’s no “winner” of the debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, it was much different than the presidential debate last week: Name calling and insults were largely absent and at one point, Pence congratulated Harris on making history.

But there were plenty of skirmishes between the two candidates who were separated by plexiglass barriers and seated 12 feet apart because of coronavirus precautions. Harris, in particular, chastised Pence for interrupting her several times. 

Among the highlights:

  • Pence defended the administration’s refusal to follow CDC guidelines, like mask wearing, at the White House event with Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett.
  • Harris dodged questions on expanding the Supreme Court. 
  • Harris told Pence she would “not be lectured … on what it means to enforce the laws of our country,” when responding to a question about the Breonna Taylor case. 
  • Pence congratulated Harris on making history as the first Black woman and first Asian American woman on a major party’s presidential ticket
  • Harris and Pence had a sharp exchange over climate change. Pence charged that Biden would ban fracking, which Harris denied. 

Read more here.

– Deirdre Shesgreen, Phillip M. Bailey and Caren Bohan

Trump, trailing by double digits: ‘I don’t believe the polls’

As new polls show Joe Biden building a double-digit lead over President Donald Trump, the president has a ready response: Rejection.

“I don’t believe the polls,” Trump told Fox Business Network on Thursday morning. “The polls are rigged just like the media is rigged.”

Some new polls have given Biden leads of more than 10 percentage points in the week-and-half since the first Trump-Biden debate and the president’s positive test for COVID-19. The Real Clear Politics average of recent polls put Biden at 51.6% and Trump at 41.9% – a difference of 9.7 percentage points.

Trump and aides are quick to point out that he trailed in the polls four years ago against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“We know that polling is notoriously wrong,” campaign spokeswoman Erin Perrine said on Fox Business.

– David Jackson

Trump says he won’t take part in virtual debate

President Donald Trump said Thursday he would not take part in the next presidential debate on Oct. 15 after it was moved to a virtual format due to COVID-19 safety concerns. 

“I’m not going to waste my time doing a virtual debate,” he told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo.

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday morning the next presidential debate would be remote to “protect the health and safety of all involved” amid the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis. 

The town hall format will feature debate moderator Steve Scully, C-SPAN’s Senior executive producer and political editor, with participants based in Miami, but former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump will participate in “separate remote locations,” the Commission said. Read more here.

– Nicholas Wu

Susan Page: Debates are designed to help voters

Susan Page believes debates are designed to help voters. To her, they aren’t for the news media or the candidates. By that standard, last week’s presidential debate didn’t make for a particularly good viewing experience.

Page, USA TODAY’s Washington Bureau chief, presided over Wednesday’s vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris in Salt Lake City. Leading up to the debate, Page said she sought ways to create a different kind of conversation. 

That task required a more aggressive moderation than she’d planned to allow equal speaking time for both candidates, and she had to cut a planned segment on immigration. Still, Page was hopeful the debate was useful for voters.

“I didn’t get answers to all the questions I had hoped to get,” she told USA TODAY Editor-In-Chief Nicole Carroll after the debate. “I think sometimes I got prepared speeches instead of spontaneous responses — that shouldn’t be a surprise.”

An analysis from CNN reported Harris and Pence were given nearly identical speaking time, with the Democratic senator from California clocking in at 36 minutes and 24 seconds and the Republican vice president speaking for just three seconds more. Read more here. 

– Jordan Culver 

Susan Page, moderator of the only vice presidential debate this year, talks about her role



Will Trump hold a rally on Monday? 

Trump’s aides are working to satisfy his desire to get back out on the campaign trail as soon as possible – perhaps early next week.

The campaign is exploring the prospect of an event on Monday in Pittsburgh, an aide said. The aide did not elaborate, saying only it would be an “event” and not a “rally” for the COVID-stricken president.

– David Jackson

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Election updates: Trump will avoid town hall questions; McConnell said he hasn’t been to White House because of lax COVID rules

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