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US stands with India in efforts to defend its sovereignty

NEW DELHI, Oct 27: India on Tuesday announced a deepening of ties across the spectrum with the US but stopped short of a formal alliance with Washington as both sides signed a key strategic pact allowing the sharing of satellite gathered real time intelligence.

A joint statement released after the third India-US 2+2 talks – between the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries -- spoke of reinforcing ties in health against the backdrop of the covid-19 pandemic, supply chain resilience, in the maintenance of a free and open Indo-Pacific, defence and defence innovation, counter terrorism, energy, space, cyber security and education.

‘The Ministers looked forward to the conclusion of an overarching MoU between India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including their component agencies and departments, to enhance health cooperation, including on health emergencies and pandemics, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of communicable and non-communicable diseases, and biomedical research and innovation," the statement said.

On the “Quad" that brings together India, US, Australia and Japan, the statement said that four ministers “welcomed the fact that these consultations would now be held annually. They expressed their support for further strengthening Quad cooperation through expanded activities, including initiating a dialogue among the development organizations of partner countries," it said.

The centerpiece of the visit was however the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) that will allow sharing of high-end military technology, geospatial maps and classified satellite data between Indian and US militaries. The data will allow India to map precise enemy positions during any potential border conflict, say analysts.

The pact comes as India is engaged in a tense military standoff with China. That US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark Esper traveled to New Delhi in person at the time of the covid-19 pandemic and amid India’s military standoff with China for the 2+2 talks is seen as a signal of the warmth New Delhi now shares with Washington.

In his remarks at the end of the talks, foreign minister S. Jaishankar underlined the growing convergences between New Delhi and Washington.

“The 2+2 dialogue has a pol-mil (political-military) agenda that underlines our close bilateral relationship. Our national security convergences have obviously grown in a more multi-polar world. We meet today to not only advance our own interests but to ensure that our bilateral cooperation makes a positive contribution in the world arena," Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar said in his remarks at the end of the 2+2 talks.

In a not-so-subtle message to China, Jaishankar said: “the Indo-Pacific region was a particular focus of our talks."

“We reiterated the importance of peace, stability and prosperity for all countries in this region," he said in a possible reference to tensions triggered by China’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, East China Sea and the Taiwan Straits besides India’s own border standoff with China. “As Raksha Mantri (Defence Minister Rajnath Singh) stated, this is possible only by upholding the rules based international order, ensuring the freedom of navigation in the international seas, promoting open connectivity and respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states," he said. “A multi-polar world must have a multi-polar Asia as its basis," Jaishankar added pointedly, seen as a sign that New Delhi would not accept Chinese hegemony or aggression.

Pompeo and Esper named China in their comments with the former referring to the violent clash between Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh on 15 June. “The US will stand with India as they confront threats to their sovereignty and to their liberty," Pompeo said.

“The challenge of the pandemic that came from Wuhan also fed into discussions about the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)," he said."Our leaders and our citizens see with increasing clarity that the CCP is no friend to democracy, the rule of law, transparency, the freedom of navigation and free open and prosperous Indo-Pacific," Pompeo added.

Esper in his comments said that the US India partnership was more important in the context of a world that was confronted by a global pandemic and growing security challenges.

“Based on our shared values and common interest, we stand shoulder to shoulder in support of a free and open Indo Pacific for all. Particularly in the face of increasing aggression and destabilising activities by China," he said.

Singh on his part noted that India and the US had agreed to station Indian officers in the US Central Command overseeing operations in the Central Asia and Pakistan as well as the US Africa Command besides increasing the scope and complexities of bilateral military exercises.

“In today's meeting we also explored probable capacity building and other joint cooperation activities in third countries, including our neighbourhood and beyond. We have convergence of views on a number of such proposals and will take those forward," Singh added.

Stage set for third presidential debate between Trump and Biden

NASHVILLE, Oct 20: The third and final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden will be conducted on October 22 at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. The debate will be moderated by NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker.

The first presidential debate was conducted on September 29 after which President Trump was criticised for interrupting Biden several times. The second debate was supposed to be held on October 15 but was called off as Trump refused to take part in the same. As Trump tested positive for coronavirus, the Commission on Presidential Debates had decided that the second debate would be conducted virtually but the Trump campaign refused to participate in the debate and Trump called the idea of a virtual debate “a waste of time”.

The Commission on Presidential Debates has also come up with new rules for the third and final debate. The 90-minute debate will be divided into 15-minute segments. At the start of each new topic, each candidate will have two minutes of uninterrupted time during which the opponent’s microphone will be off. The rest of the time will be for open discussion for remarks by both the candidates on each other’s statements during which the microphones of both the candidates will not be muted. As has been done before, the moderator will ensure that roughly equal amounts of time are given to both the speakers over the course of 90 minutes.

The debate is crucial for both Trump and Biden as even though Biden has a significant lead in the national polls, the gap between him and Trump is reducing in the battleground states. As the coronavirus pandemic has changed the campaigning style for the candidates, debates have become even more significant than ever. Both the campaigns have agreed to the two-minute uninterrupted rule for the debate.

Foreign secretary Shringla, US deputy secretary discuss upcoming 2+2 dialogue

NEW DELHI, Oct 13: Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and US deputy secretary of state Stephen Biegun on Tuesday discussed the upcoming 2+2 ministerial dialogue between the two countries and reviewed bilateral ties, including expanding cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

The two officials also discussed ways to strengthen cooperation at the United Nations, especially during India’s stint as a non-permanent member of the Security Council during 2021-22, external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava tweeted.

The “priorities” for the upcoming India-US 2+2 dialogue between the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries and “expanding our partnership in support of a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific” also figured in the discussions, the US embassy said in a tweet.

The 2+2 dialogue is expected to be held in New Delhi during October 26-27, though both countries are yet to make a formal announcement regarding the event. It will follow external affairs minister S Jaishankar’s recent meeting with US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on the margins of a meeting of foreign ministers of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue in Tokyo earlier this month.

Srivastava also said in his tweets that Shringla and Biegun reviewed the “status & progress of our diverse & growing bilateral relationship” during their bilateral consultations on a diverse range of issues.

The two officials also highlighted “convergences & shared interests” between the two sides and reiterated their commitment to the Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership between India and the US, he added.

Beigun’s visit has coincided with a push by the US to institutionalise cooperation with India in the Indo-Pacific, primarily to counter China’s aggressive activities across the region. During his visit to Tokyo, Pompeo had spoken about institutionalising the Quad, currently an informal grouping, and expanding it to include more like-minded countries.

While delivering an address on Monday night, Beigun had said India and the US “have been too cautious” while developing the Quad, though the recent ministerial meeting of the grouping in Tokyo had made the US confident that efforts had begun to create more “strategic linkages”.

Beigun also described China as “an elephant in the room” as India and the US work towards an “organic and deeper partnership” based on a “fundamental alignment along shared security and geopolitical goals, shared interests and shared values”.

White House moves forward on three arms sales to Taiwan: Report

WASHINGTON, Oct 13: The White House is moving forward with three sales of advanced weaponry to Taiwan, sending in recent days a notification of the deals to Congress for approval, five sources said on Monday, while China threatened retaliation.

The move in the run-up to the Nov. 3 U.S. election is likely to anger China, which considers Taiwan a wayward province that it has vowed to reunite with the mainland, by force if necessary.

It may be mentioned that as many as seven major weapons systems were making their way through the U.S. export process as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on China.

Leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees were notified that three of the planned weapons sales had been approved by the U.S. State Department which oversees foreign military sales, said the sources, who are familiar with the situation but declined to be identified.

The informal notifications were for a truck-based rocket launcher made by Lockheed Martin Corp called a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), long-range air-to-ground missiles made by Boeing Co called SLAM-ER, and external sensor pods for F-16 jets that allow the real-time transmission of imagery and data from the aircraft back to ground stations.

Notifications for the sale of other weapons systems, including large, sophisticated aerial drones, land-based Harpoon anti-ship missiles and underwater mines, to deter amphibious landings, have yet to reach Capitol Hill, but these were expected soon, the sources said.

A State Department spokesman said: “As a matter of policy, the United States does not confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until they are formally notified to Congress.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said U.S. arms sales to Taiwan severely damaged China’s sovereignty and security interests, urging Washington to clearly recognize the harm they caused and immediately cancel them.

“China will make a legitimate and necessary response according to how the situation develops,” Zhao told reporters in Beijing, without elaborating.

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees have the right to review, and block, weapons sales under an informal review process before the State Department sends its formal notification to the legislative branch.

Lawmakers, who are generally wary of what they perceive as Chinese aggression and supportive of Taiwan, were not expected to object to the Taiwan sales.

Taiwan’s defense ministry said it would comment only when there was formal notification of any arms sale. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said the government had not yet been formally notified.

“China continues to use military provocation to undermine cross-strait and regional stability, highlighting the importance of Taiwan’s strengthening of self-defense capabilities,” Ou said.

News that new arms sales were moving forward came after senior U.S. officials last week repeated calls for Taiwan to spend more on its own defense and to carry out military reforms to make clear to China the risks of attempting to invade.

It comes at a time when China has significantly stepped up military activity near Taiwan and as U.S.-China relations have plunged to the lowest point in decades as the U.S. election nears. President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, have both sought to appear tough in their approach to Beijing.

Speaking on Wednesday, the U.S. national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, warned against any attempt to retake Taiwan by force, saying amphibious landings were notoriously difficult and there was a lot of ambiguity about how the United States would respond.

The United States is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but it has not made clear whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack, something that would likely lead to a much broader conflict with Beijing.

Trump says ‘seems like I’m immune’ from Covid-19

WASHINGTON, Oct 11: US president Donald Trump said in a Fox News interview on Sunday he no longer has Covid-19 and is not a transmission risk for the virus, as he prepares to hit the campaign trail on Monday with a return to big rallies.

Trump said tests showed he would be able to return to campaigning with no risk to others. His doctor said on Saturday the president was not a transmission risk but did not address whether he tested negative for the virus.

“I passed the highest test, the highest standards, and I’m in great shape,” Trump said on Fox News Channel. “It seems like I’m immune. I can go way out of the basement.”

Trump to hold rallies in Florida, Pennsylvania and Iowa

WASHINGTON, Oct 10: President Donald Trump will hold two more campaign rallies next week, his campaign said Saturday, despite concerns over whether he may still be contagious after contracting Covid-19.

After a first rally in Florida on Monday, Trump will hold rallies Tuesday in Pennsylvania, a battleground state key to his reelection hopes, and in Iowa on Wednesday, the campaign announced.

Trump refuses second virtual debate

WASHINGTON, Oct 8: President Donald Trump said on Thursday he will not participate in the second debate with Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger, shortly after the organising body announced that the October 15 event would be held virtually.

The two campaigns were trying to rescue the debates in an ongoing exchange of statements.

“I am not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump, who is convalescing from Covid-19, said in an interview to Fox Business. “I am not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate, that is ridiculous.”

The Trump campaign then suggested two in-person debates: a delayed second debate on October 22, when the third and final debate was to take place, and pushing the third debate to October 29.

The Biden campaign, which agreed to the virtual debate on October 15, also consented to it being shifted to October 22 and be held in-person. But it rejected the suggestion to hold the third debate on October 29, saying, “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 Commission on Presidential Debates, an independent body that has conducted presidential and vice-president debates for decades, announced on Thursday morning that “in order to protect the health and safety of all involved”, the second presidential debate scheduled for October 15 “will take the form of a town meeting, in which the candidates would participate from separate remote locations”.

The third debate is scheduled for October 22, less than a fortnight before the close of voting on November 3, as per the original calendar.

The commission did not cite specifics but there were concerns that President Trump might have been already infected at the first debate, which was held on September 29. He and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the disease on October 1, which was confirmed by a more elaborate test the next day.

Calls for changing the next debates, including for vice-president, to virtual events, peaked after the president’s hospitalisation.

He has since returned to the White House to recover, but has been eager to get out, claiming he is no longer contagious. “I’m back because I’m a perfect physical specimen,” he said in the fox interview.

The president also went on to call Senator Kamala Harris a “monster”, a “communist” and “unlikeable” for her remarks at the debate with vice-president Mike Pence on Wednesday night.

The vice-presidential debate on Wednesday night was in-person but Pence and Harris were separated by plexiglass to minimise chances of Covid exposure.

Pence has tested negative but the White House has turned into a “hot-spot” with increasing infections.

The Trump administration’s handling of the deadliest health crisis in more than 100 years dominated the vice-presidential debate, with Harris, further cementing her place in US history as the first woman of colour and Indian-American of either gender to participate in such an event, landing the first punch.

“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” Harris said, in response to a question in the first segment of the debate, held at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“I want the American people to know that from the very first day, President Donald Trump has put the health of America first,” said Pence, defending Trump and himself as head of the White House task force appointed by the president to lead the fight against the pandemic.

Despite the underlying tensions, Harris and Pence debated calmly, unlike their respective ticket leads Biden and Trump whose debate had devolved into name-calling.

With 210,000 dead, more than 7 million infections and President Trump, the first lady and a growing number of people in their circle testing positive, Covid-19 was the top issue at the debate. They clashed also on Covid-19 vaccine, climate change, trade war with China, economy, racism, healthcare, Supreme Court, women’s right to abortion and religion.

As the running mate on a ticket that’s leading in national polls by a wide margin, Harris was expected to play it safe and not hand the Trump campaign a lifeline. She did just that, overlooking many opportunities to attack Pence, to the disappointment of supporters who had expected to see flashes of her prosecutorial skills.

“The debate was civil and constructive as compared to the Presidential debate,” said MR Rangaswami, founder of Indiaspora, a leading Indian-American advocacy group. “Kamala and Pence delivered their positions passionately and we now have 27 days to decide.”

Jaishankar, Pompeo to Meet Again in Delhi This Month

NEW DELHI, Oct 7: After a bilateral meeting in Tokyo between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the two are set to meet again in New Delhi later this month. The two will meet in the last week of October as Pompeo travels to New Delhi for the 2+2 dialogue.

Two meetings in a span of 20 days and Pompeo travelling half way across the globe both times during a pandemic for an in-person engagement gives a sense of urgency of discussion, especially with regards to at least one issue.

China has emerged as a fulcrum between India and US under the current circumstances. While India has been dealing with the Line of Actual Control (LAC) friction for the last five months, China has been made an election issue by US President Donald Trump after the ongoing trade war leading to a full-blown diplomatic tussle during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Indo-Pacific strategy, too, is quite clearly evolving between the Quad countries keeping China at the centre of it all. If there was any doubt left, that was put to rest by a senior US State Department official who briefed the media after the ministerial meeting of the Quad in Tokyo. "There's no avoiding the fact that it is China and its actions in the region that make the Quad actually matter and function this time around," said the official.

On the sidelines of the Quad engagement was when Jaishankar also held a bilateral meeting with Pompeo in Tokyo. While the Indian press release just made a mention of the meeting having taken place amidst other engagements, the US State Department put out a separate press statement. It said that the two "asserted the need to work together to advance peace, prosperity, and security in the Indo-Pacific and around the globe".

Since the Trump administration took over, trade issues between India and US have dominated the engagement between the two sides. Trump's tirade against India over what he believed were unfair tariffs took over the discourse. Issues related to sanctions on Iran and reducing oil imports to zero from Tehran, terrorism emanating from Pakistan, waiver on CAATSA sanctions on Russia and defence equipment purchases as well as the Afghan peace process figured in discussions over the last few years. However, China's aggression this time is likely to be the dominant theme.

The US has been alluding to the LAC situation as well in various briefings to press the point about the dangers the Chinese Communist Party's moves pose in the region. The US State Department official also said, "I mean, if you look at the conflict in the Himalayas between China and India, something that has been in the past handled according to unspoken or unwritten rules in the past to prevent these things from getting out of control, and then you look at what happened here recently, where you've got actually people beating each other to death – no. We – it’s not – I mean, if you look at the single thing that’s driving all this, it’s a sudden turn toward gross aggression by the Chinese government in its entire periphery."

Pompeo's India visit will come just a week ahead of the US presidential election on November 3. The fact that despite the pandemic the Americans have chosen not to have a virtual engagement and travel for the 2+2 dialogue is also a reflection of perhaps their curiosity to access the situation more closely. A senior US official recently said that they are keeping a close watch on the situation as both sides make contesting claims. So, even though it appears that the anti-China narrative suits the US right now, they still want to make their own assessment sitting across the table in New Delhi.

Trump reports ‘no symptoms’ of Covid-19: White House doctor

WASHINGTON, Oct 6: President Donald Trump’s physician says the president is experiencing “no symptoms” of COVID-19 after returning home from the hospital Monday night.

His physician, Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley, says in a new memo released by the White House that the president’s medical team met with him in the residence Tuesday morning.

He says that Trump had a “restful first night at home” and that his vital signs remain stable, including his blood oxygen level.

The doctor did not provide any details on what medications the president is currently taking, including whether he has been administered additional steroids.

But he says, “Overall he continued to do extremely well.”

Trump halts Covid-19 relief talks until after election

WASHINGTON, Oct 6: President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he has instructed aides to stop negotiating on another round of Covid-19 relief until after the election.

Trump tweeted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was “not negotiating in good faith” and said he’s asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to direct all his focus before the election into confirming his U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.

“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” Trump tweeted.

Last week, the White House said it was backing a $400 per week pandemic jobless benefit and dangled the possibility of a Covid-19 relief bill of $1.6 trillion. But that offer was rejected by Pelosi.

White House press secretary and two aides have tested positive for coronavirus

WASHINGTON, Oct 5: White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has tested positive for Covid-19, she tweeted in a statement Monday morning. McEnany emphasized that she had previously tested negatively "consistently" and is experiencing no symptoms.

McEnany is the latest White House staffer to test positive for the virus, adding to questions about how widespread the West Wing outbreak will become.

McEnany's diagnosis is a stark reminder that the administration has flouted science and best practices before and even after the President tested positive. She continued to publicly shirk mask usage in the days since President Donald Trump and other staffers and outside advisers tested positive for the virus.

She was scheduled to appear on Fox News on Monday morning but the appearance was cancelled. The press secretary later shared she was positive for the virus.

Two of McEnany's deputies, Chad Gilmartin and Karoline Leavitt, have also tested positive for coronavirus, said two sources. White House press staff are working remotely, an official said, but some essential workers are still at the White House.

McEnany also wrote Monday that she will "begin the quarantine process," meaning that she will isolate.

When the White House was doing contact tracing in the aftermath of top Trump adviser Hope Hicks' diagnosis, McEnany was told that she had been a close contact of Hicks, and was pulled off the President's fundraising trip to New Jersey. She wasn't told until later that afternoon that Hicks tested positive, reaffiriming in her statement Monday that she "definitively had no knowledge" of that prior to the briefing. McEnany said she had tested negative "every day since Thursday."

She did not, however, take any steps to isolate herself given her known close contact with Hicks.

McEnany last briefed reporters in the briefing room on Thursday morning, hours before news of the President's diagnosis. On Friday, she appeared on Fox News and removed her mask to speak with reporters on the White House driveway. She spoke with reporters again on Sunday night, and did not wear a mask.

McEnany told reporters Sunday that the White House would not be releasing the number of West Wing staffers who tested positive, citing privacy concerns. She also declined to provide a specific timeline of when the President was tested when pressed repeatedly.

In addition to the President and first lady Melania Trump, there are several known positive cases of coronavirus at or near the White House, including Hicks, Trump body man Nick Luna, an unnamed press staffer, former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson.

McEnany, Trump's fourth press secretary, assumed the role amid the pandemic in early April after serving as the Trump 2020 campaign's press secretary. A Harvard Law School graduate, McEnany rose to national prominence -- and also captured then-candidate Trump's attention -- during the 2016 presidential election, when she was frequently on air as a paid CNN political commentator. After the election, she joined the Republican National Committee as a spokeswoman before joining the campaign.

Since April, she has held press briefings, largely on a weekly basis, and frequently spoken on behalf of the administration on Fox News.

Trump’s blood oxygen level dropped twice recently

WASHINGTON, Oct 4: President Donald Trump’s blood oxygen level dropped suddenly twice in recent days, but he “has continued to improve” since then, the White House physician said Sunday, adding a new layer of confusion to the president’s fight with COVID-19 even while suggesting he could be discharged from the hospital as early as Monday.

Trump’s doctors, speaking on the steps of the military hospital where he was being treated for a third consecutive day, refused to disclose the specific timing of the president’s dip in oxygen or whether lung scans showed any damage.

Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley acknowledged he was trying to downplay the severity of the president’s condition the day before.

“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude of the team, that the president, that his course of illness has had. Didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction,” Conley said. “And in doing so, came off like we’re trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true. The fact of the matter is that he’s doing really well.”

Conley said the president had a “high fever” and a blood oxygen level below 94% on Friday and during “another episode” on Saturday. He was evasive when asked whether Trump’s level had dropped below 90%: “We don’t have any recordings here on that.”

The level currently stands at 98%, Trump’s medical team said.

Trump offered his own assessment of his status the night before in a video from his hospital suite, saying he was beginning to feel better and hoped to “be back soon.” And he was back on social media early Sunday morning, sharing a video of flag-waving supporters, most not wearing masks, gathered outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The changing, and at times contradictory, accounts created a credibility crisis for the White House at a crucial moment, with the president’s health and the nation’s leadership on the line. Moreover, the president’s health represents a national security issue of paramount importance not only to the functions of the U.S. government but also to countries around the world, friendly and otherwise.

Trump’s Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, pulled his attack ads off the air during Trump’s hospitalization, and on Sunday, he dispatched senior aides to deliver a largely friendly message.

“We are sincerely hoping that the president makes a very quick recovery, and we can see him back out on the campaign trail very soon,” Biden adviser Symone Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

She added: “This is a glaring reminder that the virus is real.”

Biden was at home in Wilmington, Delaware, on Sunday with no plans for in-person campaigning or other public appearances. Having already tested negative, he is expected to release the results of a new coronavirus test later in the day, and the campaign has pledged to disclose those results and all other future test results for the 77-year-old candidate.

On Saturday, chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters outside the hospital, “We’re still not on a clear path yet to a full recovery.” In an update Saturday night, Trump’s chief doctor expressed cautious optimism but added that the president was “not yet out of the woods.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s handling of the pandemic and his own health faced new scrutiny.

Trump’s medical care is far superior to the average American’s, with around-the-clock attention and experimental treatments. In the hospital video, he defended his decision to continue campaigning and holding large events during a pandemic.

“I had no choice,” said Trump, who refused to abide by basic public health recommendations, including mask-wearing. “I had to be out front. … I can’t be locked up in a room upstairs and totally safe. … As a leader, you have to confront problems.”

Trump is 74 years old and clinically obese, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has infected more than 7 million people nationwide and killed more than 209,000 people in the U.S.

First lady Melania Trump remained at the White House to recover from her own bout with the virus.

Trump’s administration has been less than transparent with the public throughout the pandemic, both about the president’s health and the virus’s spread inside the White House. The first word that a close aide to Trump had been infected came from the media, not the White House. And aides have repeatedly declined to share basic health information, including a full accounting of the president’s symptoms, what tests he’s undertaken and the results.

Conley declined to say when Trump had last been tested before he was confirmed to have COVID-19 late Thursday. He initially suggested that Trump was 72 hours into the diagnosis — which would mean that he was confirmed infected Wednesday. Conley later clarified that Trump was administered an accurate test for the virus on Thursday afternoon.

The White House has said Trump was expected to stay at the hospital for “a few days” and would continue to work from its presidential suite, which is equipped to allow him to keep up his official duties.

Trump tests Corona positive; shifted to military hospital

WASHINGTON, Oct 3: A feverish and fatigued President Donald Trump was spending the weekend at a military hospital for treatment of Covid-19, as new cases emerged among some of his top advisers and allies. Attention focused in particular on last Saturday’s White House event introducing Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, with several attendees announcing they had tested positive for the virus.

Among them: former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, the president of the University of Notre Dame, and at least two Republican lawmakers — Utah Sen. Mike Lee and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis. Though the ceremony announcing Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination was held outdoors, attendees sat closely together and few wore masks. Some also mingled at a smaller event inside the White House.

The White House said Trump’s expected stay of “a few days” at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center was precautionary and he would continue to work from the hospital’s presidential suite, which is equipped to allow him to keep up his official duties. The White House physician said he was being treated with remdesivir, an antiviral medication, after taking another experimental drug at the White House.

The decision for the president to leave the White House for the hospital capped a day of whipsaw events in Washington Friday. The president, who has spent months playing down the threat of the virus, was forced to cancel all campaign events a month before the election as he fought a virus that has killed more than 205,000 Americans and is hitting others in his orbit as well.

Trump walked out of the White House on Friday evening wearing a mask and gave a thumbs-up to reporters but did not speak before boarding Marine One. Members of the aircrew, Secret Service agents and White House staff wore face coverings to protect themselves from the president onboard the helicopter.

In a video taped before leaving for Walter Reed, Trump said, “I think I’m doing very well, but we’re going to make sure that things work out.” He remained fully president, all authority intact.

“Going welI, I think! Thank you to all. LOVE!!!” he wrote in his first tweet from the hospital Friday night.

Trump first revealed that he had tested positive in a tweet about 1 a.m. Friday — hours after he returned from a Thursday afternoon political fundraiser. He had gone ahead to the event, saying nothing to the crowd though knowing he had been exposed to an aide with the disease that has infected millions in America and killed more than 1 million people worldwide.

First lady Melania Trump also tested positive and has said she has mild symptoms. She is believed to be isolating at the White House.

Also testing positive: Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien. Campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Stepien received a diagnosis Friday and is experiencing “mild flu-like symptoms.” Stepien, who joined Trump at Tuesday’s first presidential debate, plans to quarantine until he recovers.

Trump’s diagnosis came during an already turbulent period in Washington and around the world, with the US gripped in a heated presidential election and the pandemic taking a heavy human and economic toll. Trump’s immediate campaign events were all canceled, and his next debate with Democrat Joe Biden, scheduled for Oct. 15, is now in question.

Trump has been trying all year — and as recently as Wednesday — to convince the American public that the worst of the pandemic is past, and he has consistently played down concerns about being personally vulnerable. He has mostly refused to abide by basic public health guidelines — including those issued by his own administration — such as wearing face coverings in public and practicing social distancing. Until he tested positive, he continued to hold campaign rallies that drew thousands of often maskless supporters.

“I felt no vulnerability whatsoever,” he told reporters back in May. With the election coming up in a month, he is urging states and cities to “reopen” and reduce or eliminate shutdown rules despite continuing virus outbreaks.

The White House tried to maintain an atmosphere of business-as-usual on Friday.

“President Trump remains in good spirts, has mild symptoms, and has been working throughout the day,” said press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. “Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the president will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days.”

The president’s physician said in a memo that Trump received a dose of an experimental antibody combination by Regeneron that is in clinical trials. Navy Commander Dr. Sean Conley said Trump “remains fatigued but in good spirits” and that a team of experts was evaluating both the president and first lady in regard to next steps.

Late Friday, Conley issued an update that said Trump is “doing very well” and is “not requiring any supplemental oxygen.” But he said that, “in consultation with specialists we have elected to initiate remdesivir therapy,” an antiviral medication.

“He has completed his first dose and is resting comfortably,” the doctor wrote.

The first lady, who is 50, has a “mild cough and headache,” Conley reported, and the remainder of the first family, including the Trumps’ son Barron, who lives at the White House, tested negative.

Trump is 74 years old and clinically obese, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has infected more than 7 million people nationwide.

Both Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris have tested negative, their campaign said. Vice President Mike Pence tested negative for the virus Friday morning and “remains in good health,” his spokesman said. Pence was to resume his campaign schedule after his test.

Barrett, who was with Trump and many others on Saturday and has been on a Capitol Hill meeting with lawmakers, also tested negative, the White House said. It was confirmed that she had a mild case of COVID earlier this year and has now recovered.

Many White House and senior administration officials were undergoing tests,, but the full scale of the outbreak around the president may not be known for some time as it can take days for an infection to be detectable by a test. Officials with the White House Medical Unit were tracing the president’s contacts.

Trump’s handling of the pandemic has already been a flashpoint in his race against Biden, who spent much of the summer off the campaign trail and at his home in Delaware, citing concern about the virus. Biden has since resumed a more active campaign schedule, but with small, socially distanced crowds. He also regularly wears a mask in public, something Trump mocked him for at Tuesday night’s debate.

“I don’t wear masks like him,” Trump said. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from me, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”





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