Trump offers boasts and insults at CDC press conference on coronavirus – as it happened

Last modified: 01: 48 AM GMT+0
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Live political reporting continues in Monday’s blog:

Summary

We’re ending our live coverage for the day, thanks for following along. Some highlights and links:

Some more on Mark Meadows, who Trump just announced as his new chief of staff: The conservative four-term congressman from North Carolina previously chaired the Freedom Caucus and has long been a close ally to the president. He’s also been a staunch proponent of Trump’s border wall in Congress.

He replaces Mick Mulvaney, who was acting chief, and who will now become the US special envoy for Northern Ireland, Trump said in his Friday evening tweet:

....I want to thank Acting Chief Mick Mulvaney for having served the Administration so well. He will become the United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland. Thank you!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 7, 2020

Mulvaney was a key figure during the impeachment proceedings.

Trump announces Mark Meadows as chief of staff

Trump has just announced Congressman Mark Meadows as his new chief of staff, replacing Mick Mulvaney:

I am pleased to announce that Congressman Mark Meadows will become White House Chief of Staff. I have long known and worked with Mark, and the relationship is a very good one....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 7, 2020

Some commentators are calling Trump’s CDC coronavirus press conference today one of his “most frightening” and “disturbing” appearances in recent memory, given his political rants, misinformation, bizarre boasting and callousness:

The CDC presser was among the most frightening Trump appearances I’ve ever seen, on the level of Charlottesville — a horrifying and surprising (even for him!) callousness in the face of death and suffering, an inability to see anything through a lens other than his own ratings

— Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) March 6, 2020

Ok, the CDC appearance was the most disturbing one yet from Trump. He literally said experts were telling him to take sick Americans off a cruise ship but he doesn't want to do it because it WILL MAKE THE NUMBERS GO UP and it "wasn't our fault." Holy Jesus.

— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) March 6, 2020

Tough to decide what the worst part of Trumps CDC visit was

- Saying he wanted to keep sick people on a ship to fudge the numbers
- lashing out at the gov of the worst hit state
- being preoccupied w/ the ratings he got on Fox
- or saying anyone can get tested when they can't

— Sam Stein (@samstein) March 7, 2020

He used the press event as an opportunity to attack Democrats, praise his own intelligence, slam CNN and spread false and misleading information about the status of the coronavirus outbreak.

While wearing his red “Keep America Great” re-election campaign hat, the president went on a rant criticizing Washington state governor Jay Inslee as a “snake” and saying he disagreed with his vice president’s complimentary remarks toward the Democratic governor. Inslee, who ran for president last year, is overseeing the most serious outbreak in the US.

In a moment that has sparked intense scrutiny, the president also said he would prefer that cruise ship passengers exposed to the virus be left abroad so that they don’t add to the number of total infections in the US.

“I like the numbers being where they are,” said Trump, who appeared to be explicitly acknowledging his political concerns about the outbreak: “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.”

The president further implied that the coronavirus test was available to anyone who needs it, even though his own administration has acknowledged that there is currently a shortage among US health care providers. He called the test “perfect”.

More on the latest here:

The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), the pro-Israel lobby group, has confirmed that two attendees at their major conference have now tested positive for coronavirus.

As reporter Ryan Grim noted, there were 18,000 people in attendance, including two-thirds of Congress, and many of attendees also visited offices on the Hill:

AIPAC confirms that two conference attendees have now tested positive for coronavirus. I reported 2 days ago this was likely. There were 18,000 people there, including 2/3rds of Congress. On Tuesday, thousands of conference goers visited Hill offices. https://t.co/pWeQQx2Gp0

— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) March 6, 2020

From 2 days ago. https://t.co/rLFIWlVKE5 https://t.co/8vDMX4SXS7

— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) March 6, 2020

Jay Inslee responds to Trump's attacks

Washington state governor Jay Inslee, who is currently overseeing the most serious coronavirus outbreak in the US, has responded to the president’s personal insults and attacks, which Trump made during a rambling tangent at a CDC press conference earlier:

My single focus is and will continue to be the health and well-being of Washingtonians.

It's important for leaders to speak with one voice. I just wish the president and vice president could get on the same page. https://t.co/VAzB9nkcRX

— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) March 6, 2020

The president also said he disagreed with his vice president’s complimentary remarks toward the Democratic governor. Inslee just tweeted:

We appreciate the vice president's visit and our teams are working well together.

— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) March 6, 2020

Outside of the CDC, an update on the Biden v Sanders race today:

-Sanders has directly criticized Biden over recent attacks against Nina Turner, the Sanders campaign co-chair:

.@JoeBiden must accept responsibility for his surrogate telling our campaign co-chair Senator @NinaTurner that she doesn't have standing to invoke the words of Dr. King. That is unacceptable and Joe must apologize to Nina and all the people of color supporting our campaign.

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 6, 2020

Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist and Biden supporter, has faced intense backlash and was forced to apologize after she told Turner, a black woman: “Don’t use Martin Luther King against Joe Biden. You don’t have that stand.”

Biden has not tweeted about the dispute, but he did condemn an antisemitic attack against Sanders after a man unfurled a Nazi flag at one of his rallies:

I don't care who you're supporting, attacks like this against a man who could be the first Jewish President are disgusting and beyond the pale. Hatred and bigotry have no place in America — and it's up to all of us to root out these evils wherever they're found. https://t.co/Q1Pz3hRUDS

— Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330) (@JoeBiden) March 6, 2020

Trump says he wants passengers to stay on cruise: "I don't need the numbers to double"

To recap what just happened at this Trump CDC press conference on coronavirus:

  • The president wore his re-election campaign hat and interrupted the event to ask a Fox News reporter if his town hall on the network had good ratings.
  • He attacked CNN.
  • He called the governor of Washington state, the epicenter of a major outbreak, a “snake” and “not a good governor”, and said he disagreed with his own vice president saying nice things about the governor while visiting the state.
  • Trump said he has not considered canceling his rallies and is not worried about risks.
  • He made false and exaggerated claims about the availability of coronavirus tests, ignoring the reality that his vice president has acknowledged, which is that there is a shortage among US healthcare providers right now.
  • He said he would prefer if people on the Grand Princess cruise remained on the ship so that US numbers would not go up.
  • He gloated about his “natural ability” to understand the epidemic.

Trump is visiting the CDC lab where materials that go into diagnostic tests are generated. (The lab he’s currently standing in was totally empty before he arrived but he says there are folks down the hall working) pic.twitter.com/CelatKHjjG

— Kevin Liptak (@Kevinliptakcnn) March 6, 2020

The president took a break from sharing false and misleading information at his CDC coronavirus press conference to attack the Democratic governor of Washington state, Jay Inslee, who previously was running for president:

Trump on Inslee: "I told Mike not to be complimentary of that Gov because that Gov is a snake...Let me just tell you we have a lot of problems with the Gov and the Gov of WA, that's where you have many of your problems, OK? So Mike may be happy with him but I'm not OK?"

— Meridith McGraw (@meridithmcgraw) March 6, 2020

He’s also using the event as an opportunity to praise himself:

Trump proclaims that the doctors around him wonder "how do you know so much about this?" "Maybe I have a natural ability" he says.

— Jackson Proskow (@JProskowGlobal) March 6, 2020

Trump makes false statements about coronavirus tests

Trump is continuing to speak at the CDC about coronavirus, and just said, “Anyone who wants a test can get a test.” There is, in fact, a test kit shortage across the country, as US health care providers have repeatedly reported. Trump’s own vice president has said there are not enough tests to meed the demand.

FALSE: @realDonaldTrump, while visiting CDC, just said, “Anyone who wants a test can get a test.” That’s the govt guidance, but across US health care providers say they don’t have tests to administer. VP Pence said yesterday there are not enough tests to meet demand. #coronavirus

— Paula Reid (@PaulaReidCBS) March 6, 2020

The president is also speaking with characteristic hyperbole, calling the coronavirus tests “perfect” and “beautiful”:

Trump just said at the CDC that the coronavirus tests are perfect just like the transcript of his phone call with the president of Ukraine, but actually not as perfect as that transcript.

(It was not a perfect transcript. And: ...)

— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) March 6, 2020

AZAR tries to explain that more tests are coming, but Trump waves him off to jump in.

TRUMP: “Anybody that needs a test gets a test…. the tests are all perfect like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect. Right? This was not as perfect as that but pretty good.” pic.twitter.com/A3hgYOJLUt

— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) March 6, 2020

The president has repeatedly pushed false statements attempting to blame the Obama administration for current coronavirus testing problems:

NEW:@realDonaldTrump wrongly blames @BarackObama for limits on coronavirus testing. The policy predated Obama.https://t.co/mnLhnfGxxR pic.twitter.com/e1TYY7nds8

— PolitiFact (@PolitiFact) March 6, 2020

Here’s recent reporting from the Guardian on what this shortage looks like on the ground from the perspective of US nurses:

Trump downplays coronavirus threat

Trump is again attempting to downplay the threat of the coronavirus outbreak while also going on a tangent about TV ratings and Fox News at the CDC:

https://twitter.com/atrupar/status/1236051629654388736

Asked about coronavirus, he started talking about flu deaths: “Last year, we had approximately 36,000 deaths due to what’s called the flu. When I first heard this four, five, six weeks ago ... I was shocked to hear it.” Before finishing his thought, he praised Fox News and asked a reporter about ratings: “How was the show last night, did it get good ratings by the way?”

He then said he would prefer that the passengers of the Grand Princess stay on the ship, so that the number of coronavirus cases in the US don’t increase:

Trump says he'd rather the passengers of the Grand Princess stay on the ship, because he doesn't want the number of cases in the US to increase.

"I don't need to have the numbers double," Trump told reporters at @CDCgov.

— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) March 6, 2020

The quote:

I’d rather have the people stay ... I like the numbers being where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault. It wasn’t the fault of the people on the ship either ... I’d rather have them stay on, personally.

"I like the numbers being where they are. I don't need to have the numbers double because of one ship" -- Trump explains that he doesn't want to let people off the Grand Princess cruise ship because he doesn't want the number of coronavirus cases in the country to go up pic.twitter.com/ELhZDjiZW9

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 6, 2020

Hello - Sam Levin in Los Angeles here, taking over our live coverage for the rest of the day. The president is currently touring the CDC, talking with officials while wearing his “Keep America Great” re-election campaign hat:

"First I want to thank you, for your decisive leadership ... I also want to thank you for coming here today ... I think that's the most important thing I want to say" --CDC Director Redfield slathers Dear Leader-style praise on Trump during his tour of CDC headquarters pic.twitter.com/erxQxbYh1x

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 6, 2020

CDC’s direct Robert Redfield began his public comments with praise for Trump’s leadership. Trump is also using this time that was supposed to be a public health update as an opportunity to again insult CNN:

"Who are you from by the way? I don't watch CNN. That's why I don't recognize you. I don't watch CNN because CNN is fake news" -- Trump insults a CNN reporter pic.twitter.com/0pADjTCLtV

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 6, 2020

Late afternoon summary

The president had arrived at the CDC in the last 20 minutes and is beginning his visit there to be briefed on US efforts to test for and combat the coronavirus outbreak. He hasn’t said anything publicly yet. I’m handing over to my west coast colleague Sam Levin now, to take you through the next few hours in US politics.

Here are some of the latest key events:

  • Air Force One disgorges the president in Georgia to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard won’t make the next Democratic debate despite hanging on in the 2020 race for the nomination. It’s down to two, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
  • Joe Biden picked up the endorsements of leading Democratic party figures Lori Lightfoot, Dick Durbin and Deval Patrick this afternoon.
  • The Trump re-election campaign has filed an audacious (and likely extremely long shot) libel lawsuit against CNN over an opinion piece relating to Russian interference to support Trump in the election(s).
  • Bernie Sanders slammed the waving of a swastika flag by a protester at his rally in Phoenix last night as “beyond disgusting”

Trump arrives at CDC

The president arrived at the main campus of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in Atlanta, Georgia, in the motorcade just moments ago.

The reporters’ pool traveling with Donald Trump’s party reported that, on the way there was a mix of well-wishers and protestors along route.

One sign said: “Welcome chief idiot.” Another read: “Have faith in science.”

Donald Trump alighting from Air Force One at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia, earlier this afternoon, en route to the CDC HQ.
Donald Trump alighting from Air Force One at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia, earlier this afternoon, en route to the CDC HQ. Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters

Another said: “We need a vaccine against Trump.”

Of course, as Trump fails to grasp, even if there was such a thing as a vaccine against him or his ideology it wouldn’t be ready before the election....(cheat sheet: amid public health concerns, Trump has mentioned incorrectly that a vaccine for the Covid-19 coronavirus was close to ready and has appeared reluctant to grasp that such a thing is 12 - 18 months away. And that the seasonal influenza vaccine won’t work on coronavirus).

Biden vs Sanders at next debate

Hey Democrats, are you Joe a-Biden or feeling the Bern? It’s make your mind up time. The Guardian’s Lauren Gambino indicates that the next primary season debate in Phoenix, Arizona, on March 15, will be a two person affair.

Yep, Tulsi Gabbard IS still in the race, but she’s not IN the race.

So let’s see how two shouty, tetchy white guys in their late seventies will do, before one of them goes toe-to-toe with their similarly-bracketed but Republican nemesis in the man cave/White House.

mano-a-mano: a Phoenix debate pic.twitter.com/3VY103yqWQ

— Lauren Gambino (@laurenegambino) March 6, 2020

Updated

Another boost for Biden

Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts, who ran a very brief campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination to be president, has just endorsed Joe Biden.

He will appear with the former vice president at a rally in Jackson, Mississippi, on Sunday, the Boston Globe reports.

Biden’s main remaining rival, Bernie Sanders, just pulled out of a rally in Mississippi that was scheduled for today, seemingly being forced to give up on the southern vote to race to Michigan in a last-ditch attempt to grab a mid-western state, as Sanders’ campaign is suddenly ‘Berning out’.

Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts.
Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts. Photograph: Charlie Neibergall/AP

Massachusetts’s first Black governor, Patrick adds to the growing list of one-time candidates to endorse Biden, and offers him a prominent surrogate in Mississippi, where nearly 40 percent of residents are African-American, the Globe writes.

Shortly after Cory Booker dropped out of the 2020 race, in January, and Patrick did not cross the party’s threshold to be included in the Democratic primary debates, he said at the time, the Guardian reported:

“America will not see herself in full” when the seventh Democratic debate takes place in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday night, Deval Patrick said, citing an absence of candidates of colour.

Patrick entered late and remains well off the pace in both poll results and donations, criteria used by the Democratic National Committee to determine debate qualification.

On Monday, he responded to Booker’s departure by tweeting: “Whether it’s behind closed doors or screaming it from the rooftops – every candidate in this race needs to say it out loud: women and people of colour can win. To say otherwise expresses a lack of faith in the American people who deserve more from their leaders.”

Campaign legal action slammed as “lawsuit spree”

The lawsuit filed by the Trump re-election campaign against CNN earlier is the third such in two weeks against media outlets the president frequently criticizes himself - the cable news network, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Here’s what some influential folks and outlets are saying about this on Twitter:

Trump Campaign Lawsuit Spree Continues with Defamation Case Against CNN https://t.co/8dsALuhVON pic.twitter.com/dYKg9znMkR

— Law & Crime (@lawcrimenews) March 6, 2020

Literary and free expression advocates PEN America.

"Who will be next? MSNBC? Saturday Night Live? [President Trump's] relentless battle to silence critics should put his supporters and enablers to shame." Our @SuzanneNossel on Trump's libel lawsuit against @CNN. https://t.co/nG5seZ0VO1

— PEN America (@PENamerica) March 6, 2020

This guy:

Subpoena Trump's deposition as soon as humanly possible. This lawsuit will go nowhere. It will be withdrawn as soon as Trump has to actually do anything relating to it. It's just so he can spew nonsense about suing CNN to his rabid base.

— Chris Wallace (@cdub777) March 6, 2020

Oof, that’s a gut-punch to the Trump campaign’s efforts to sue media outlets it doesn’t like over some articles......but not others....

Yet another Trump lawsuit against a news organization, but still no action against the NYT for story that accused Trump in so many words of the crime of tax fraud. That’s beginning to look like a confession, isn’t it? https://t.co/RJep7HRhIC

— David Frum (@davidfrum) March 6, 2020

When Donald Trump attacked the NYT in October, 2018, over its investigation into his financial affairs headlined “Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Scheme as He Reaped Riches From His Father”, the NYT was swift to note at the time that:

Mr. Trump did not offer an outright denial of the facts in the report, such as that the money he made during his decades in real estate came from tax schemes of dubious legality, the existence of records of deception in documenting the family’s financial assets, and that the beginning of the president’s so-called self-made fortune dates back to his toddler years when, by the time he was 3 years old, Mr. Trump earned $200,000 a year in today’s dollars from his father.

CNN-er hits back

CNN’s media expert Brian Stelter says libel lawsuits like the one Donald Trump’s re-election campaign just filed against CNN, and prior suits vs the New York Times and the Washington Post won’t succeed and are just a political strategy.

Others are weighing in:

Trump‘s war on the media enters the “performative lawsuit” phase—just in time for 2020. https://t.co/xmrNTzefJA

— McKay Coppins (@mckaycoppins) March 6, 2020

Stelter points out that there is no official comment from his employer, CNN, at this point, which the Fox News report also noted.

Here’s a useful take from Axios, pointing out that:

It’s the latest of a series of libel suits by the campaign aimed at media outlets’ opinion articles on issues linked to Russia. Over the last few weeks, the campaign has also sued the New York Times and the Washington Post, alleging similar motives.

  • While President Trump has often threatened to sue news organizations for libel, he has rarely followed through.
  • The efforts face a relatively high bar for proof compared to most lawsuits. In order for a public official to successfully sue for libel, they must be able to prove that the defendant acted with “actual malice.”

The article named in the suit, written by CNN contributor Larry Noble and published in June, states that “the Trump campaign assessed the potential risks and benefits of again seeking Russia’s help in 2020 and has decided to leave that option on the table.”

  • That assertion is backed up earlier in the piece by citing a Trump interview last year with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, where Trump said he’d “want to hear” information offered on political opponents by a foreign government. His statement in that interview was also used to support an argument in one of the Post pieces that resulted in a lawsuit.
  • The CNN piece also cites an “Axios on HBO” interview with White House adviser Jared Kushner, who said that he doesn’t know whether he’d call the FBI if he were to receive another email like the one before the campaign’s Trump Tower meeting, which had the subject line: “Re: Russia - Clinton - private and confidential.”

Updated

Lightfoot, Durbin endorse Biden

Illinois Democratic heavyweights Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago, and Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the US Senate (after minority leader Chuck Schumer), have just endorsed frontrunner Joe Biden for the party nomination to take on Donald Trump in November.

Illinois voters go to the polls in the state’s Democratic primary on March 17. Bernie Sanders is desperate to win something in the midwest but is struggling, heading to Detroit as we write in a frantic attempt to snatch Michigan out of the path of Biden’s new South Carolina/Super Tuesday juggernaut.

Hoops at the hoops, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot and rap star Cardi B at a basketball game.
Hoops at the hoops, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot and rap star Cardi B at a basketball game. Photograph: Nuccio Dinuzzo/EPA

Lightfoot has reportedly been a Sanders critic.

NEWS: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot endorses Joe Biden for president. So does Sen. Dick Durbin, the #2 Democrat in the Senate.

No shock: She’s criticized Bernie Sanders for not talking to her when he came to town for @CTULocal1 pre-strike rally and her politics are more moderate. pic.twitter.com/1jE03IcJSm

— Gregory Pratt (@royalpratt) March 6, 2020

Michigan votes this Tuesday.

Trump campaign sues CNN

Donald Trump re-election campaign filed a libel lawsuit against CNN on Friday for publishing “false and defamatory” statements about seeking Russia’s help in the 2020 election, Fox News reports.

“The complaint alleges CNN was aware of the falsity at the time it published them but did so for the intentional purpose of hurting the campaign while misleading its own readers in the process... the campaign filed this lawsuit against CNN and the preceding suits against The New York Times and The Washington Post to hold the publishers accountable for their reckless false reporting and also to establish the truth,” Senior Legal Adviser to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. Jenna Ellis told Fox News.

Fox News obtained the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia where CNN is located. It states in part that CNN claimed Trump’s campaign “assessed the potential risks and benefits of again seeking Russia’s help in 2020 and has decided to leave that option on the table.”

The complaint said that CNN was well aware the statements were false “because there was an extensive record of statements from the Campaign and the administration expressly disavowing any intention to seek Russian assistance” but promoted the claim anyway.

The complaint said that Trump’s legal team sent CNN a request to retract and apologize last month but CNN executives refused. The Trump campaign now seeks “millions of dollars” through litigation.

Updated

Sanders slams swastika at rally: "beyond disgusting"

Bernie Sanders spoke a little earlier about an awful incident at his rally in Phoenix, Arizona, last night, where a man unfurled a Nazi swastika flag and shouted anti-Jewish slurs at the 2020 candidate.

The interloper was quickly kicked out of the event and Sanders denounced his actions, while noting that he had not noticed the flag or the incident himself and did not learn the details until later.

“I heard people booing but I didn’t realise [what happened] until I left the stage,” he said this morning.

“I speak not only as a Jewish American but on behalf of the US troops who died fighting Nazism. It’s horrific, it’s beyond disgusting to see, in the United States of America, that people would show the emblem of Hitler and I was shocked to hear that later,” he said.

He pointed out that there is sometimes disruption at his campaign events “with Trump people”, but added: “This was something different” to “have someone bringing forth the most detestable symbol in modern history.”

He congratulated the Phoenix police for dealing with the incident and said he had not felt unsafe.

Afternoon summary

US politics news so far today has been dominated by the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak and the state of the 2020 race for Democrats.

There’s plenty more action and drama to come - not least of which, Bernie Sanders is on his way to campaign in Michigan as he tries to save his nomination chances, and Donald Trump is on his way to visit the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia, after visiting tornado damage in Tennessee, so do stay tuned.

Here are some of the key events so far today:

  • Bernie Sanders has reiterated that, despite divisions, he believes his rival for the Democratic 2020 nomination, Joe Biden, can beat White House incumbent and Republican Donald Trump.
  • Sanders is heading to Detroit after canceling a planned rally in Jackson, Mississippi, today, figuring he has more chance of overcoming Biden in Michigan than the south.
  • The US Congress will hold a hearing next week into Donald Trump’s handling of America’s response to the coronavirus outbreak (botched, according to one member of the committee that will question health officials next Tuesday).
  • Donald Trump will visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this afternoon, after his plans to visit were initially canceled this morning, then reinstated. The CDC is the primary federal public health agency.
  • The president signed an $8.3bn emergency spending bill passed by Congress yesterday to help fund the US response to coronavirus. The signing occurred in the White House.

Biden can beat Trump - Sanders

Bernie Sanders, speaking to the press in Phoenix, Arizona, moments ago before heading to Detroit for a make-or-break weekend of campaigning ahead of the Michigan primary on Tuesday, reiterated a message he said he has asserted since “Day One” of his 2020 campaign - that he believes Joe Biden can beat Donald Trump in November, if his rival becomes the Democratic nominee.

Asked straight out, can Joe Biden beat Donald Trump, Sanders said, simply: “Yes, he can.”

Quintessential Sanders stance: Bernie taking q’s from reporters in Arizona moments ago.
Quintessential Sanders stance: Bernie taking q’s from reporters in Arizona moments ago. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

“Joe Biden is my friend,” Sanders said. He gave a laundry list of ways in which their track records and their campaign appeals differ, and we’ll get on that in the next couple of posts - as well as that flag incident, where a swastika was waved at his rally in Phoenix last night.

First the vital points that Sanders emphasizes that ousting Trump from the White House is the overarching goal for any Democrat right now.

He points out that attacking Joe Biden is part of democracy. Then adds:

“I’ve said from Day One I will support the Democratic nominee. The American people and democracy are entitled to a serious debate on our campaigns to decide who is the best to beat Donald Trump but at the end of the day, 98 to 99% of Democrats...are going to come together.

“These differences are minimal compared with Trump.”

He adds that the challenge is to get disillusioned voters to the polls. “We have is to energize those Americans who say [of politicians] ‘they all stink’.”

Sanders on his way to Michigan

Bernie Sanders is heading today to campaign in Michigan, canceling a rally he had planned to hold in Jackson, Mississippi.

The ultra-progressive is suddenly once again in the fight of his career after moderate Joe Biden roared past him to snatch frontrunner status on Super Tuesday, turbo-charged by the support of 2020 drop-outs Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke, and the pivotal endorsement of South Carolina grandee James Clyburn, to make his great comeback.

I'm speaking to the media before heading to Michigan for a big rally in Detroit. Join us live: https://t.co/fyA26GDm2e

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 6, 2020

It seems Sanders has no choice this weekend but to focus on the midwest, where Missouri and Michigan vote in their primaries next Tuesday, March 10, and abandon Mississippi, which also votes that day.

Berning out? Sanders at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, last night. Az votes for the Democratic nominee on March 17.
Berning out? Sanders at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, last night. Az votes for the Democratic nominee on March 17. Photograph: Caitlin O’Hara/Getty Images

After Joe Biden swept the southern states on Super Tuesday this week, starting with surprisingly quick projections of victory in Virginia and South Carolina just moments after the polls closed, Sanders desperately needs a win in the midwest.

His efforts are not being helped by the fact that Michigan’s popular Democratic party governor, Gretchen Whitmer, endorsed Biden yesterday.

“All roads to the White House lead through my state, and I want to make sure that we’ve got a strong ability to help impact where we are headed as a nation,” she told MSNBC.

Sanders campaigned for Whitmer’s primary challenger in 2018....

Michigan awards three times more pledged delegates (who invariably anoint the nominee) than Mississippi.

Updated

Dilemma over cruise ship off California

After Donald Trump played down the seriousness for the US of the coronavirus outbreak, in a press Q & A at the White House this morning, he immediately expressed concern about the cruise ship anchored near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The ship is under strict quarantine conditions.

“In terms of [US] cases, it’s very, very few...but then we have a ship with many, many Americans on it. We have to make a decision and we are talking to the governor of California about that,” the president said.

Spoke to Governor @GavinNewsom early this morning about the cruise ship quarantined off the California Coast. CoronaVirus test kits have been delivered, testing is taking place now. pic.twitter.com/Pqda00HVCC

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 6, 2020

The Guardian’s Viv Ho reports:

Passengers on a Grand Princess cruise ship linked to the first death from coronavirus in California remained off the coast on Thursday as the first two cases were confirmed in San Francisco.

A coast guard helicopter was delivering test kits to the cruise ship waiting to dock in the port of San Francisco before flying them back to a laboratory. While the ship has 2,422 passengers and 1,111 crew onboard, according to the cruise line, fewer than 100 have thus far been identified for testing.

“The ship will not come on shore until we appropriately assess the passengers,” said Gavin Newsom, California’s governor, in a news conference Wednesday.

The death of a 71-year-old man on Wednesday was the first US fatality reported outside of Washington state.

The US death toll is now at 14. Obviously in itself this is a very low figure in a population of more than 325 million. But justified concerns grow over adequate testing and the fact that there is no specialized treatment, cure or preventive vaccine for Covid-19, and the lethality rate is relatively high, especially for vulnerable populations. To say nothing of the Trump administration’s patchy and confusing response so far.

Our dedicated global coronavirus live blog can be followed here, by the way.

Our business blog, which is keeping an eye on how coronavirus worries are affecting financial markets (Wall Street is tumbling), as well as other economic news, can be followed here.

Updated

Testing for coronavirus in US “so botched”

Illinois congressman and House oversight committee member Raja Krishnamoorthi just hopped onto CNN to talk about the upcoming hearing next week. The committee will meet on Tuesday afternoon and hear sworn testimony from health officials.

Contrary to Donald Trump’s blasé assertions this morning that the coronavirus outbreak has been “shut down” in the US and is going to “go away”, Krishnamoorthi has concerns.

He said that the Trump administration seems to be “trying to prevent the public from knowing the scale of the outbreak.”

He added: “They don’t want to tell you where the confirmed cases are, they don’t want to tell you how many people have been tested or how many people” have the novel, pneumonia-like illness that has a relatively high lethality rate for those contracting the virus (between two and 3.4% lethality compared with seasonal influenza which typically kills 0.1% of those who catch it).

Krishnamoorthi said that while China, where the outbreak started, is testing 10,000 people a day, the US has “conducted 500 tests total across the country.”

“The whole testing issue has been so botched,” he said.

Vice president Mike Pence admitted last night - in a blunt statement that was actually refreshingly devoid of spin - that the US does not have enough coronovirus testing kits to meet demand right now.

The oversight committee will seek testimony and answers under oath from public health officials next Tuesday, which the congressman said should elicit answers to important questions and will “send a signal” to the administration of what needs to be done.

“We are worried,” he said.

Krishnamoorthi won Tammy Duckworth’s Illinois House seat after she was elected to the US Senate in 2016.

It takes a lot of La Croix. Raja Krishnamoorthi takes notes during a recess at a House intelligence committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry in Washington. He also sits on the House committee on oversight and reform.
It takes a lot of La Croix. Raja Krishnamoorthi takes notes during a recess at a House intelligence committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry in Washington. He also sits on the House committee on oversight and reform. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

The hearing on Tuesday begins at 2pm ET on Capitol Hill. The US death toll from coronavirus has now risen to 14.

Updated

Stop cruising?

The United States is considering ways to discourage US travelers from taking cruises as part of a broader Trump administration effort to limit the spread of coronavirus, according to four officials familiar with the situation, Reuters reports.
The officials, who asked to remain anonymous, said no decision has been made.

The discussions are taking place ahead of a meeting between Vice President Mike Pence, who is in charge of leading the US response to the coronavirus, and the cruise industry this weekend.

The administration could advise some or all US travelers to avoid taking cruises in the face of a growing number of coronavirus cases on cruise ships, officials said.

More on the quarantined cruise ship anchored off California in a moment...

Spoke to Governor @GavinNewsom early this morning about the cruise ship quarantined off the California Coast. CoronaVirus test kits have been delivered, testing is taking place now. pic.twitter.com/Pqda00HVCC

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 6, 2020

The cruise industry had an economic impact of more than $52.7bn to the United States in 2018, according to a study commissioned by Cruise Lines International Association. This was an increase of more than 10% since 2016.

Congress to hold hearing over coronavirus next week

The House oversight committee plans to hold a hearing in Washington next week to question officials from the Department of Health and Human Service and the federal public health agency the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Trump will visit CDC

The president’s visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, is confirmed as back on, the White House says.

Trump’s visit was abruptly canceled this morning, then he mentioned that it might be back on. Now there’s been a briefing for journalists accompanying the president on Air Force One (he’s on his way to Tennessee to tour areas damaged by Tuesday’s tornado and will then go to Georgia to the CDC).

Pool report:

Stephanie Grisham came back during flight to say the CDC visit is back on. There will “probably be a tour” she said when asked what would be on the itinerary.

Explaining the on-off nature of the trip she: “What the president said is true.” [Based on his statements at the White House prior to his departure this morning.]

A CDC member of staff was suspected to have contracted coronavirus and they did not think they would get the test results in time before president’s trip so “out of an abundance of caution”, she said, it was postponed for the safety of everyone involved and to allow the CDC to prevent any further spread.

“Thankfully she’s negative, the person,” tested negative.

Itinerary is now to visit Nashville and then go to Atlanta.

Updated

Trump to meet Bolsonaro this weekend

The president is heading to his private resort club Mar-a-Lago in West Palm Beach, Florida, later today and is holding a fundraiser this evening.

But Donald Trump revealed this morning that he is also meeting with Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro at the club this weekend.

Mini me: Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro holds a doll depicting him riding a toy buffalo during a ceremony in Brasilia on March 3.
Mini me: Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro holds a doll depicting him riding a toy buffalo during a ceremony in Brasilia on March 3. Photograph: Adriano Machado/Reuters

A visit had been talked about, but details were not public.

Reuters reports:

Trump announced the meeting while speaking to reporters at the White House [on Friday morning], saying the two leaders would have dinner at Mar-a-Lago. Trump did not offer any other details.

Sources had earlier said the meeting was in the works, and one person familiar with the matter earlier told Reuters that Bolsonaro said he was “called” by Trump.

“He wanted to have dinner,” Trump told reporters.
The meeting is expected to be closed to the press without any public statements, two others sources said.

A preliminary schedule for Bolsonaro’s US visit had shown the Brazilian conservative president would be in Florida from Saturday to Tuesday, including a meeting with a senior US military official, an investor seminar and visit to a plant run by Brazilian plane-maker Embraer.

Since becoming president of Brazil, the conservative Bolsonaro has caused shockwaves among supporters of democracy, the environment, a free press, LGBTQ and women’s rights, indigenous rights and..one could go on and on, ending in a primeval scream from the Amazonian rainforest as the logging trucks rumble by.

Trump calls Warren mean

The Guardian’s David Smith also just asked Donald Trump at the White House what he thought of Elizabeth Warren dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination yesterday, after a very disappointing performance in the Super Tuesday primaries across 14 states (she did not win any and came third in her home state of Massachusetts).

Boom! Like taking a doctor’s hammer on the knee, those misogynistic Trumpian reflexes shot up.

“I think lack of talent was her problem,” he said, of one of the most talented figures in the Democratic party and the US Senate.

Senator Elizabeth Warren in Cambridge, Massachusetts, yesterday announcing the end of her campaign for the presidency.
Senator Elizabeth Warren in Cambridge, Massachusetts, yesterday announcing the end of her campaign for the presidency.
Photograph: Cj Gunther/EPA

Then he paid her a back-handed compliment, for slaying his New York frenemy-turned-arch enemy Mike Bloomberg.

“She was a tremendous debater, she destroyed Mike Bloomberg very quickly,” he said, of Bloomberg’s first debate with his Democratic rivals, earlier this year, when Warren skewered him on his track record of discrimination lawsuits from women employees and sexist jokes, leaving the former New York mayor and billionaire gasping.

But of course the irony is that there’s nothing Trump loathes more, is viscerally repelled by, than a strong debating female.....

He went on: “But people don’t like her. She is a mean person. They like a person like me that’s not mean.”

Warren wants to up taxes on billionaires. Trump policies put kids in cages at the US-Mexico border and rip families apart with his anti-Muslim travel ban while his rhetoric appears to be inspiring a surge of racist bullying in schools.

Trump claims Biden could be more left-wing than Sanders

Donald Trump just lit into Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden almost in a single breath, in one of his free-wheeling Q & As with gathered media at the White House earlier this morning.

The Guardian’s Washington bureau chief David Smith is on pool duty today in the capital today. He was at the press session in the Diplomatic Room and got in a series of questions probing for the president’s latest thoughts on the Democratic race for the 2020 party nomination. We’ll come on to what he said about Warren in the next post.

Meanwhile, Super Tuesday’s tumultuous events catapulted Joe Biden back from the brink of 2020 failure to a strong position as national frontrunner, while pushing Warren and former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg out of the contest in short order. Sanders now finds himself desperately chasing Biden and looking increasingly doomed, when a week ago it was precisely the other way around.

The Guardian’s inimitable Steve Bell and his always-irreverent take - this time on Joe Biden swaggering/stumbling towards the nomination to take down the Trump-Pence ticket this November.
The Guardian’s inimitable Steve Bell and his always-irreverent take - this time on Joe Biden swaggering/stumbling towards the nomination to take down the Trump-Pence ticket this November. Illustration: Steve Bell/The Guardian

Smith asked Trump what he thought of Biden’s comeback and received this rather surprising response.

Joe Biden? He’s leftwing. In many ways he is worse than Bernie,” he said, referring to Sanders’s self-declared longtime label of Democratic socialist v Biden’s stance as a leading moderate in the Democratic party.

“He wants to put Beto in charge of guns,” he said. Former Texas congressman and ex-candidate for 2020 Beto O’Rourke endorsed Biden on the eve of Super Tuesday.

And his most famous line from the Democratic debates while he was still in the campaign, and not long after a horrendous, seemingly anti-immigrant-driven mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, in west Texas, last year, was a strong call for federal gun control in America, especially a ban on military-style assault weapons.

“Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15s,” he shouted.

Trump then seemingly took a dig at Biden’s mental acuity (the 73-year-old Trump taunting the 77-year-old Biden), saying: “If he gets in they will be running the government, he has people who are further left than Bernie, he’s going to raise taxes more than Bernie, he will destroy everything that’s been built.”

Updated

President says coronavirus "will go away"

Trump just reiterated his lack of worry about the spread of the novel illness in the US. Perhaps problematic, though is that, to many, he’s coming across as casually dismissive and posturing, not measured, and reassuringly presidential.

“You have to be calm,” he said, at the White House this morning before departing to tour the tornado damage in Tennessee and just after signing an $8.3 billion emergency spending bill to deal with the virus.

“It will go away,” he said. “We have very low numbers [of confirmed cases] compared to many countries throughout the world, our numbers are lower than almost anyone...deaths, is it 11?” It is.

“In terms of cases, it’s very very few because we have been very strong at the borders.”

He also said he thinks the financial markets will “really bounce back” from the see-sawing of recent days over concerns that the virus is spreading and on governments’ abilities to contain it.

JUST IN: Stocks are opening sharply lower on Wall Street and bond yields are sinking to more record lows, as investors fear that economic damage from the spreading coronavirus outbreak will be longer than previously thought. https://t.co/qms564ns2O pic.twitter.com/MDGzBavwx0

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) March 6, 2020

“This came unexpectedly, it came out of China, we closed it down, we stopped it, it was a very early shut down,” he added.

There has been no official evidence provided to date that the novel coronavirus illness COVID-19 has been “shut down” in the US.

President tells America not to panic over coronavirus

The president signed the Congressional emergency funding bill in side the White House and put some characteristic spin on the fact that he’d originally assessed that only about a quarter of the funds that have just been approved would be needed to combat the spread of the disease in the US.

Signing the bill in the Diplomatic Room at the White House, he said, according to the Guardian’s David Smith, who is part of the media pool covering the president in Washington today: “We’ve signed the $8.3 billion. I asked for two and a half and I got 8.3 and I’ll take it.”

He also said his CDC trip today had been cancelled because of a suspected coronavirus case at the CDC itself - but that this turned out to be negative, so he may visit after all.

“So I may be going. We’re going to see if they can turn it around.”

Tight-lipped George Washington and health secretary Alex Azar in the White House watch over the president holding up the $8.3 billion bill he just signed to fund US efforts o fight the coronavirus outbreak.
Tight-lipped George Washington and health secretary Alex Azar in the White House watch over the president holding up the $8.3 billion bill he just signed to fund US efforts o fight the coronavirus outbreak. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Trump took questions for 12 minutes from the press and reiterated his message that the public should not panic over the coronavirus - and that it would have been worse but for his early actions.

We’ll have fuller quotes for you shortly. But given the mixed messages the president has been putting out about the risks of the virus, including contradicting health officials about the lethality of the illness and confusing the public by talking about people with the virus going to work, when his own health experts recommend not doing that, what is normally considered audacious now sounds closer to dangerous.

Trump may visit CDC after all

Upon leaving the White House en route for Tennessee moments ago, the president confirmed he had signed the emergency spending bill to fund the US response to the coronavirus outbreak.

He also signaled that his visit to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta this afternoon, a trip that was abruptly canceled this morning, may be back on.

The CDC is the frontline federal agency dealing with public health for the nation.

Asked about cancelling visit today to the @CDCgov, Pres Trump says he may now be going there. He said "there was a problem with CDC with somebody who had the virus,” but the person was tested and it came out negative. As a result, he said, "I may be going."

— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) March 6, 2020

Updated

President signs coronavirus bill

Donald Trump has signed the $8.3B special spending bill to combat coronavirus outbreak in US.

The bill was passed in Congress yesterday almost with close to bipartisan unanimity. It is a much higher amount than the president originally suggested would be enough to deal with the novel illness.

White House to lose another key figure - report

A top communications official is set to leave the White House later this month, it appears, as the president continues to muddle through not just his administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak but its messaging, too.

Adam Kennedy, a deputy communications director, is on his way out, according to Politico, which reports that he was:

Also a deputy assistant to the president, has overseen a team of 11 communications staffers and also worked on building out messaging materials for various White House policy rollouts, including tax reform. A top research official at the Republican National Committee during 2016, he has worked in the White House since the first day of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Kennedy led the White House’s rapid response efforts on impeachment and other crises, including Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle, is leaving the government later this month, according to two White House officials.

Power to the....PresidentDonald Trump greets supporters following a Fox News Town Hall event in Scranton, Pennsylvania, last night.
Power to the....President
Donald Trump greets supporters following a Fox News Town Hall event in Scranton, Pennsylvania, last night.
Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

And here’s the sting in the tail - right-wing BREITBART:

Kennedy will be replaced by Julia Hahn, a former Breitbart writer who is currently director of rapid response and surrogate operations for the White House, according to one of the White House officials. Hahn will report to White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham.

Donald Trump is heading to Nashville this morning to visit areas hit by the deadly nighttime tornado that tore through Tennessee before dawn on Tuesday, killing 25, injuring at least 150 and destroying or damaging almost 600 homes with winds that reached 175mph.

The president will be departing the White House soon, so let’s watch out for any comments on the lawn, aka “chopper talk” before he boards the Marine One helicopter to take him to Air Force One and thence the south.

He was originally scheduled to go to Atlanta this afternoon, to visit the CDC, which is at the core of US medical efforts to address the coronavirus outbreak. But that trip was abruptly canceled by the White House this morning.

The president has been making up statistics on a personal hunch about how deadly the disease is and last night vice president Mike Pence, whom Trump has put in charge of his administration’s task force to tackle the novel virus that’s spreading globally, said the US does not yet have enough equipment to meet testing demands.

Pence was in Washington State yesterday, where the worst local outbreak yet in the US is occurring.

This is Pence making sure not to shake hands when greeting a woman at the Washington State Emergency Operations Center during a tour with state governor Jay Inslee near Tacoma, Washington state, yesterday.
This is Pence making sure not to shake hands when greeting a woman at the Washington State Emergency Operations Center during a tour with state governor Jay Inslee near Tacoma, Washington state, yesterday. Photograph: David Ryder/Reuters

We’ll bring you selected US coronavirus news here, but for all the details of global developments, including US news on the illness, do follow our dedicated live blog, here.

And to keep track of how coronavirus concerns are affecting the financial markets, and the latest US jobs figures, there is quick and clear news in our dedicated business live blog, here.

Updated

Coronavirus latest: Trump's visit to CDC canceled

Good morning, live blog readers! It’s Friday and there’s still a lot of action before the political week in Washington is out and another weekend of 2020 campaigning begins for those remaining in the Democratic race for the nomination. Joanna Walters here in New York to take you through today’s developments.

Here’s what’s afoot:

Breaking news: the White House has unexpectedly canceled a trip by Donald Trump to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today, the federal agency in charge of national public health in the United States, under the umbrella of the health department. The president was due to visit amid the coronavirus outbreak. There’s no official explanation for the cancellation yet.

NEW: WH says Trump will not travel to @CDCgov today, as had been announced earlier this week. An aide says Trump “does not want to interfere” with the agency’s mission by visiting today.

— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) March 6, 2020

Meanwhile, the race for the Democratic presidential nomination has narrowed to just three contenders: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and long-shot candidate Tulsi Gabbard.

Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden at their Super Tuesday celebrations.
Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden at their Super Tuesday celebrations. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP via Getty Images

With Elizabeth Warren’s announcement yesterday that she would suspend her presidential campaign, the nominating contest is coming down to a face-off between Biden and Sanders.

Biden has momentum on his side after his strong performance on Super Tuesday, when he notched 10 state victories to Sanders’ four.

But Sanders is hoping he can pull ahead by winning over a high number of Warren’s former supporters.

His first test will come on Tuesday, when six states hold primaries. Those contests will give Sanders the chance to recapture the delegate lead, but if Biden can secure more victories on Tuesday, this primary may be over sooner than expected.

Updated

Contributors

Sam Levin in Los Angeles (now) and Joanna Walters New York (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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