Trump points the finger at others for his own miscalculations — again.
As the heat wave spreads from the Midwest to the Northeast, President Trump engaged in some revisionist history in a Fox News interview on Sunday when he said that “everybody” had believed the coronavirus would disappear in warm weather but “they” had been wrong.
“Everybody” didn’t believe that — but Mr. Trump seemed to. In remarks this winter and spring, he pushed the possibility that the virus “goes away” with heat and light, one of several rationales he has used to assert that the virus would disappear at some point.
While some administration officials had cited a study indicating that heat could be detrimental to Covid-19, no one had a bigger megaphone to amplify this scenario than Mr. Trump. When he said that “they” had been wrong, he didn’t point the finger at himself, though. Katie Rogers has more on the striking Fox News interview below.
Here’s what we do know: It’s very hot right now in much of the country, and Covid-19 cases have been surging, particularly in some of the hottest and sunniest states.
And we also know that Mr. Trump has lost more ground in polling to Joe Biden, his Democratic opponent, in which candidate is seen as better equipped to handle the pandemic. Even Republican officials are starting to part ways with Mr. Trump on the virus; more on the polls and that Republican divergence below too.
It’s hard to avoid the takeaway that the heat is now on Mr. Trump on a number of fronts. He is trying to do something about that — installing a new, battle-tested campaign manager and attacking Mr. Biden more aggressively and frequently. Many incumbents — Presidents Obama, Clinton, and Bush 41 and 43 — stuck to a so-called Rose Garden re-election strategy by and large, trying to stay above the political fray, but Mr. Trump is acting more like the underdog he appears to be.
As for the presumptive Democratic nominee, Mr. Biden said recently that the background checks on his possible vice-presidential candidates are expected to conclude this week, after which he would narrow down the list and conduct interviews with contenders. He’s expected to announce his V.P. nominee as early as August 1.
All of which is to say that the Trump campaign, struggling to define Mr. Biden negatively, will soon be taking intense aim at the Democratic ticket. It will likely use the V.P. pick, the August conventions, the three presidential debates and one running mate debate, any misstep by Mr. Biden and his team and every division within Democratic Party to try to win the campaign.
Not even 72 hours after the death of Representative John Lewis, the civil rights giant and 17-term congressman, the Georgia Democrats will select his replacement Monday afternoon.
Since Georgia’s primary elections took place last month, top state party officials will on Monday select a replacement nominee for the November general election. (The seat will remain vacant until the winner is sworn in until January.)
The five finalists being considered for the nomination are Park Cannon, a state representative who became the youngest member of the General Assembly when she was sworn in four years ago, at the age of 24; Andre Dickens, who serves on the Atlanta City Council; Robert M. Franklin Jr., a scholar of theology who served as the president of Morehouse College, one of the most prestigious historically Black higher education institutions in the country; Nikema Williams, a state senator who is also the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party; and James Woodall, the president of the Georgia N.A.A.C.P. and, at 26, one of the youngest leaders in the organization.
Being the Democratic candidate in Georgia’s Fifth District is tantamount to a ticket to Congress: Mr. Lewis won with at least 70 percent of the vote in all but one of his re-election bids; Hillary Clinton won 85 percent against Mr. Trump in the district during the 2016 presidential race.
After putting out a call for applicants Saturday, 131 people wrote the Democratic Party of Georgia to say that they wanted to represent the district, which covers parts of Atlanta and seeps into suburban DeKalb and Clayton counties.
A nominating committee of seven local dignitaries — including the party’s last two gubernatorial nominees, Stacey Abrams and Jason Carter, along with Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta — narrowed the list to five people and released it this morning.
The state party’s 44-member executive committee will then meet on a noon Zoom call to debate and discuss the appointment.
It wouldn’t be a Democratic appointment without some drama. Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote Sunday that the clubhouse leader to replace Mr. Lewis is Ms. Williams, who represents the Atlanta portion of the district in the State Senate. But there has been a push from many Democrats, including Mr. Lewis’s longtime aide Tharon Johnson, to appoint a place-holder nominee who plans to resign the seat upon being sworn in to allow for a special election to be decided by the district’s voters in 2021.
Many senior Republicans are increasingly doubtful that Mr. Trump will ever play a constructive role in addressing the coronavirus crisis, given his failure to contain the outbreak and his refusal to promote clear public-health guidelines. Some have concluded that they need to work around the president and ignore or even contradict his statements.
“The president got bored with it,” David Carney, an adviser to the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, a Republican, said of the pandemic. He said that Mr. Abbott directs his requests to Vice President Mike Pence, who has echoed Mr. Trump publicly but is seen by governors as far more attentive to the continuing disaster.
Once-reticent Republican governors are now issuing orders on mask-wearing and business restrictions that run counter to Mr. Trump’s demands. Some of those governors have been holding late-night phone calls among themselves to trade ideas and grievances.
In addition, Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, recently broke with Mr. Trump on nearly every major issue related to the virus, stressing the importance of mask-wearing and expressing “total” confidence in Dr. Anthony S. Fauci. “The straight talk here that everyone needs to understand is: This is not going away until we get a vaccine,” Mr. McConnell said last week.
But some of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers insist that the best way forward is to downplay the dangers of the disease. Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, has been particularly forceful in his view that the White House should avoid drawing attention to the virus, according to people familiar with the discussions.
The president’s false claims are scrutinized by Chris Wallace on Fox News.
Mr. Trump offered a string of combative and often dubious assertions in an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” defending his handling of the coronavirus with misleading evidence, attacking his own health experts and disputing polls showing him trailing in his re-election race.
The host, Chris Wallace, tried to fact-check him, leading to several clashes:
The president made a litany of false claims about his administration’s handling of the virus, including that the United States had “one of the lowest mortality rates in the world.”
“That’s not true, sir,” Mr. Wallace said. Indeed, The United States has the eighth-worst fatality rate among reported coronavirus cases in the world, and the death rate per 100,000 people — 42.83 — ranks it third-worst, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
After calling current polling showing him trailing Mr. Biden “fake,” Mr. Trump suggested that he might not accept the election results if he loses. Mr. Wallace noted that Mr. Trump had said the same thing in 2016.
“You don’t know until you see,” Mr. Trump said. “It depends. I think mail-in voting is going to rig the election. I really do.”
Mr. Trump, who has voted by mail, has repeatedly warned, without evidence, that mail elections would involve robbed mailboxes and forged signatures.
Race and Policing
Mr. Trump claimed that Mr. Biden wanted to defund the police, suggesting this was evidenced by his work with more progressive Democrats to create a charter pledging to work together on matters including changes to policing.
“It says nothing about defunding the police,” Mr. Wallace said of that document.
Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri condemned closings of schools and local youth athletic complexes while arguing that there is little risk to children who contract the coronavirus.
Mr. Parson, a Republican who is up for re-election in November and will face Nicole Galloway, a Democrat who is Missouri’s state auditor, said during a Friday interview with a St. Louis conservative talk radio host that the priority should be restarting activities for children.
“These kids have got to get back to school,” he said in the interview, which was reported on by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “They’re at the lowest risk possible. And if they do get Covid-19, which they will, and they will when they go to school. They’re not going to the hospitals. They’re not going to have to sit in doctors’ offices, they’re going to go home and they’re going to get over it and most of it all proves to be that way. And if you look at the sciences of it, we’ve got to get real with that and realize that we’ve got to move forward.”
The science, in fact, has shown that while children are indeed less likely to become ill from the coronavirus, some older children spread the virus just as efficiently as do adults. There have been more than 35,000 cases of coronavirus in Missouri as of Monday morning, according to a New York Times database, with 1,158 deaths in the state.
In the last week Missouri has seen a spike in cases, with six of the state’s seven highest numbers of positive tests coming since July 14.
Ms. Galloway, in a tweet, called Mr. Parson’s remark “stunning ignorance.”
“He admitted that he’s OK with your kids (and your families) getting the deadly disease when he sends them back to school,” she wrote. “Does he not realize multiple American kids have died after being infected?”
Mr. Parson also said it was not his place as governor to dictate to Missourians that they should wear masks.
“I don’t want anybody to think I’m anti-mask, because that’s not the case,” he said. “But what I am is I just don’t think it’s government’s place to be telling everybody to do that.”
In the same interview, Mr. Parson said he would theoretically pardon Mark T. McCloskey and Patricia N. McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who pointed guns at peaceful protesters outside their home last month, video of which was subsequently retweeted by President Trump. The couple have not been charged with a crime, but speaking of a possible prosecution and conviction, Mr. Parson said, “if that scenario ever happened I don’t think they’re going to spend any time in jail.”
National security leaders urge federal funding for election security.
A bipartisan group of former national security officials is urging Congress to provide more funding for states to shore up election security as the country faces the threat of hostile foreign actors seeking to undermine confidence in the electoral process and as it prepares to hold the November elections amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The group of 34 national security leaders, including Chuck Hagel, Tom Ridge, Susan Rice, John Kerry, Michael Chertoff, Leon Panetta and Madeleine Albright, argue in a letter sent to Congress on Monday that the funding provided in the most recent coronavirus aide package, the CARES act, “has not been enough” to help states cover the costs of expanding mail-in ballots and providing protective equipment for in-person voting.
“To cover some of the shortfall, state election officials have redirected federal funds that were intended for election security improvements,” the letter states. “Local election officials from both parties have expressed the need for more resources to ensure that voters can participate safely in elections this year, and urged Congress to provide more funding in the next coronavirus stimulus package.”
The letter comes two days before the Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on election preparedness.
On Friday, Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, indicated that he had begun receiving intelligence briefings, and issued a stark warning about foreign interference in the election based on the reports he was receiving.
“We know from before and I guarantee you I know now because now I get briefings again, the Russians are still engaged in trying to delegitimize our electoral process,” Mr. Biden said at a fund-raiser, according to a pool report. He cited China and Russia specifically in his remarks.
In March, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University estimated that it would cost an additional $2 billion to shore up the electoral system amid the coronavirus pandemic. But after watching states like Wisconsin hold elections amid the pandemic that were marked by long lines and overwhelmed elections officials, the Brennan Center has since increased its estimate, now saying that it will take $4 billion to properly secure the elections in November.
Numerous Democratic senators have been pushing to direct more resources toward safer voting. In April, Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Ron Wyden of Oregon introduced a bill to expand early voting and mail-in voting around the country as part of the coronavirus aid package. Senator Kamala Harris of California introduced a similar bill in April, calling for $5 billion in election funding.
Two new polls show more grim news for Trump.
Two polls released on Sunday showed how badly Mr. Trump’s virus response has dented his re-election prospects.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll found that by 20 percentage points, Americans said they trusted Mr. Biden over Mr. Trump to handle the pandemic.
Back in March, the country was roughly split on that question, according to an ABC/Post poll at the time.
Mr. Trump’s overall job approval rating sank to 39 percent in this weekend’s poll, his lowest score of the year. In a head-to-head matchup, Mr. Biden led Mr. Trump among registered voters, 55 to 40 percent, the former vice president’s widest advantage since becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee.
In a Fox News poll also released Sunday, 56 percent of voters disapproved of Mr. Trump’s handling of the pandemic. That marks his worst rating yet in five consecutive months of Fox polling on the issue. By more than two to one, voters who told Fox that the virus was the No. 1 issue confronting the nation preferred Mr. Biden over Mr. Trump.
Mr. Biden still trails Mr. Trump in the realm of voter enthusiasm. While 69 percent of Trump supporters said in the ABC/Post poll that they were very passionate about voting for him, just 39 percent of Mr. Biden’s voters said the same about him.
Yet this may not be a fatal flaw for the Democratic candidate: Most of his voters said in the poll that it was their passion for defeating Trump, not for their own candidate, that would drive them to the polls in November.
Biden’s playing it safe. Democrats in states like Wisconsin are just fine with that.
If Mr. Biden hopes to maintain his advantage nationally and in swing states like Wisconsin as November draws near, Democrats in the state have some advice, akin to the medical principle of “do no harm”: Keep it boring.
The former vice president’s campaign strategy — designed to bring together moderates, seniors, working-class voters across races and former supporters of Mr. Trump — has helped him jump out to an early lead in polling, including in Wisconsin, which the president narrowly won in 2016.
It has also helped Mr. Biden fend off attacks from Mr. Trump, who has sought to cast his opponent as a radical progressive despite his lengthy career as a moderate lawmaker.
Which is why Mr. Biden’s allies in Wisconsin think that being politically milquetoast is part of his appeal. They say it’s driving his ability to attract progressives in Milwaukee, moderates in suburbs like Waukesha and more rural voters in places like Adams County, one of the 22 counties in the state that voted for Mr. Trump after backing President Barack Obama in 2012.
They don’t lament that Mr. Biden is not a historic candidate like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, or that he lacks bumper-sticker progressive policies like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — they’re grateful for it.
“Biden comes across as someone who’s moderate and has experience on both sides of the aisle,” said Nate Zimdars, a Democratic candidate for the Wisconsin State Assembly. “My close family and friends, who are a little more on the Republican side of the fence, said if Biden became the nominee they would vote for him.”
Republican donors shift their focus to saving the Senate.
Talk is intensifying among Republican donors and strategists about redirecting money to protect their narrow Senate Republican majority amid growing fear of complete Democratic control of Washington in 2021.
Almost no one is talking openly about abandoning Mr. Trump at this point. A total collapse at the top of the ticket, Republican strategists and donors agree, would only make holding the Senate harder.
But maintaining the Senate is an urgent imperative for the G.O.P.: A Democratic Senate could offer a glide path for liberal Supreme Court nominees from a President Biden, or block Mr. Trump’s judges if he won a second term. And right now, Senate Republican incumbents and candidates are losing badly in the money chase not just in the top Senate battlegrounds — states like Maine, Arizona, Colorado and North Carolina — but also in deep red states, such as Montana, where seats are now increasingly up for grabs.
Five of the most endangered Republican senators up for re-election were out-raised by a combined $18.5 million in the second quarter by their Democratic challengers, recent campaign filings show.
The private discussions about whether to shift resources toward imperiled Republican Senate candidates reflect a mix of factors: a lack of confidence that Mr. Trump will beat Mr. Biden; fear that the president is already a drag on down-ballot candidates; desire to maintain a G.O.P. “firewall” on Capitol Hill if Mr. Biden prevails; and the belief that money is not among Mr. Trump’s myriad problems.
Reporting was contributed by Alexander Burns, Nick Corasaniti, Reid J. Epstein, Shane Goldmacher, Maggie Haberman, Patrick Healy, Astead W. Herndon, Jonathan Martin, Katie Rogers, Rick Rojas and Giovanni Russonello.