On the mend, and on defense
President Donald Trump’s physician declared over the weekend that the coronavirus-infected commander in chief "is no longer considered a transmission risk to others."
Plans for Trump to reemerge on the campaign trail were in the works long before the White House physician, Dr. Sean Conley, dispatched his memo on Saturday night. Earlier that day, as the president spoke for 18 minutes to supporters gathered on the South Lawn, an adhesive bandage on top of his right hand was a reminder of the treatments and infusions he had received over the previous week.
On Monday, the president is scheduled to campaign in Sanford, Florida, followed by a stop in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday and Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday — a three-day sprint that comes as Joe Biden continues to widen his polling lead against Trump.
Trump, whose treatment included a top-line experimental antibody drug and steroids typically given to the most severe coronavirus cases, told Fox’s Maria Bartiromo on Sunday: "It seems like I’m immune."
"It looks like I'm immune for maybe a long time, it may be a short time, it could be a lifetime, nobody really knows, so the president is in very good shape to fight the battle," Trump said.
However, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "the immune response, including duration of immunity, to SARS-CoV-2 infection is not yet understood," reports Newsday’s Scott Eidler.
Leonard Schleifer, CEO of Regeneron, the maker of the experimental antibody cocktail used by Trump, told CBS’ "Face the Nation" it was too soon to discuss Trump’s immunity, adding that Trump was an ideal candidate for the therapeutic drug because "he was elderly, he had some risk factors and didn't have his own immune system in gear when he was sick."
Confirmation hearings commence
Senate Republicans are charging ahead with confirmation hearings for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett this week, over the protests of Democrats who have argued in part that the process should be delayed due to the spread of the coronavirus among GOP lawmakers.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump loyalist who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Fox's Bartiromo, despite the concerns raised about the coronavirus: "We're going to do what every American has to do come Monday — go to work safely."
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on Barrett, a federal appellate judge, to agree at the hearings to recuse herself from any cases surrounding the 2020 election or Trump-backed efforts to invalidate the Obama-era Affordable Care Act.
Barrett is expected to say Monday that she believes the courts "should not try" to establish policy, a job that belongs to lawmakers. (See her prepared opening statement, which was released Sunday.)
The pandemic already has caused some major changes to the hearings — some of the committee members, Democrats and Republicans, will participate remotely, including Sen. Thom Tills (R-N.C.) and possibly Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), both of whom are recovering from COVID-19. Vice-presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) also will attend the hearing remotely.
For the first time in years, members of the public will not be allowed in the hearing room. So advocates for and against the nominee will not be present, meaning there will not be the spectacle of chanting protesters being dragged out, Newsday’s Tom Brune reports in a piece laying out expectations for the hearings.
Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action, a conservative advocacy group, told Brune that this close to the election, "you're going to see some fiery statements on either side."
Rare Fauci rebuke
Dr. Anthony Fauci has been cautious to not deliver overly critical remarks about Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis, but on Sunday, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert sought to set the record straight on a misleading Trump 2020 ad featuring Fauci.
The TV ad asserts that Trump has "tackled" the pandemic, followed by a clip of Fauci stating: "I can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more." But as The Washington Post pointed out, Fauci was not speaking about Trump in that statement.
Fauci, in a March interview with Fox News, was speaking about the entire White House coronavirus task force.
"I have been devoting almost full time on this — almost full time," Fauci said then. "I’m down at the White House virtually every day with the task force. I’m connected by phone throughout the day and into the night, and when I say night, I’m talking twelve, one, two in the morning. I’m not the only one. There’s a whole group of us that are doing that. It’s every single day. So I can’t imagine that under any circumstances that anybody could be doing more."
Fauci, in a statement to CNN on Sunday, said, "In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate. The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials."
Debates over the debate
Trump scion Eric Trump told ABC News’ "This Week" that his father was prepared to participate in a since-canceled Oct. 15 debate against Biden, but only if it was in person.
The bipartisan Commission on Presidential debates last Friday canceled what would have been the second presidential debate of the season after both sides failed to reach an agreement on a virtual debate. The panel moved to make the Miami showdown virtual after Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19, but Trump balked at the change in format.
"My father wants to stand on the stage with his opponent," Eric Trump said. "That's how debates have been handled in America for the last 200 years. You’ve stood there and you’ve debated somebody, and my father doesn't want to do a glorified conference call. He wants to stand on the stage, look somebody in the eyes and Biden’s not willing to do that."
Of note: In a 1960 televised presidential debate, John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon faced off from opposite ends of the country, Nixon in California and Kennedy in New York, while the moderator and a panel of reporters were in Chicago.
But Trump is scheduled to hold a campaign event on that date, and the former Democratic vice president will appear at a town hall forum hosted by ABC News.
"We had every intention of showing up on the 15th," Biden's deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told CNN’s "State of the Union." "He, Donald Trump, refused to participate in a virtual town hall [debate], so we instead scheduled a national network town hall so Joe Biden can take questions from voters."
Janison: The Swamp lives on
Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis has overshadowed new corruption allegations against a big Republican fundraiser — Elliott Broidy, who played a role in a major New York State corruption scandal years ago, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
Once again the Foreign Agents Registration Act comes into play. With prosecutors citing the law's provisions, Broidy is charged with conspiring to act illegally as a foreign agent while lobbying the Trump administration on behalf of Malaysian and Chinese government interests. The seldom-enforced act had been a tool used by former special counsel Robert Mueller during his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Broidy, based in Los Angeles, admitted in 2009 to making nearly $1 million in gifts to New York State pension fund officials in a "pay to play" scheme, but he ultimately was spared jail time. Despite that, he became deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2017 to 2018.
Trump’s hospitality business has profited off dozens of companies and foreign interests looking to curry favor with the president by doing business with his chain of hotels and golf resorts, according to the latest report on Trump’s finances by The New York Times.
According to the report, which cites tax documents obtained by the newspaper but not made public by Trump: "60 customers with interests at stake before the Trump administration brought his family business nearly $12 million during the first two years of his presidency. Almost all saw their interests advanced, in some fashion, by Mr. Trump or his government."
Eric Trump, on "This Week," pushed back when asked about the report, saying: "We've lost a fortune. My father lost a fortune running for president. He doesn't care. He wanted to do what was right. The last thing I can tell you Donald Trump needs in the world is this job."
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond, written by Newsday's Jesse Coburn with Matthew Chayes. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- A caravan of vehicles with Trump 2020 flags waving and horns honking traveled through the South Shore of Long Island on Saturday, reported Newsday’s David Olson.
- As Trump trails in the polls, his campaign continues to discount them, noting they were incorrect in predicting the winner in 2016. National pollsters are downplaying the notion of "shy Trump supporters" somehow skewing the results, reports Newsday's Brune.
- After Trump threw stimulus negotiations into disarray last week — first calling them off, then reversing course — the White House continued to reach out to congressional leaders over the weekend, hoping to reach a deal that would provide relief to small businesses, according to The Washington Post.