Trump doubles down on encouraging supporters to vote twice, which is illegal
LATROBE, Pa. — President Donald Trump doubled down on the notion that his supporters should vote twice in the November election, promoting voter fraud while stoking unfounded fear about the validity of the presidential election results at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania Thursday night.
“These mail-in ballots are a disgrace and they know it. Sign your mail-in ballot. Sign it and send it in and then you have to follow it. And if on Election Day or early voting, that is not tabulated and counted, you go vote,” Trump said, reiterating a similar message he had for voters in North Carolina a day earlier.
Trump appeared to justify his call to vote twice by telling rally attendees that if their mail-in ballot came in after they had voted in-person, then it would not get counted. It is illegal to vote twice.
“They are not going to be able to tabulate it because you will have voted. You have to make sure your vote counts. The only way they are going to beat us is by doing that kind of stuff.”
Pennsylvania requires mail-in ballots to be received by county election offices by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Voters in the state can track their mail-in ballot’s progress online and are able to see when their country receives their completed ballot.
“I want to see the results of the election on November 3rd. It could go on forever,” Trump said.
Trump also made light of coronavirus guidelines, as he held a campaign event that violated state orders aimed at reducing the spread of the virus.
“Did you ever see a man that likes a mask as much as him?,” Trump said of Democratic nominee Joe Biden. “It gives him a feeling of security. If I were a psychiatrist I would say this guy has got some big issues.”
Trump has offered Americans an overly optimistic picture of the coronavirus in recent weeks, holding large in-person campaign events around the country and glossing over the more than 187,000 dead and a still-crippled economy.
„He always gets up and is like ‘COVID-19, COVID-19,’” Trump said, mocking Biden.
Trump has hosted a series of rallies on airport tarmacs in the past few weeks with Air Force One serving as a backdrop, as the president works to accommodate the realities of campaigning during a pandemic. Hundreds of attendees gathered in the semi-open airport hangar Thursday evening, sitting on folding plastic chairs not spaced at a social distance.
Supporters were given disposable gloves, hand sanitizer and face masks before entering the venue.“Do we have to keep these on inside?,” one supporter, pulling at his “MAGA” face mask, asked a campaign volunteer who was directing people into the hangar.
“It depends on where you’re sitting and where these guys are,” said the volunteer, pointing to reporters.
Pennsylvania restricts indoor gatherings to 25 people and outdoor to 250 to slow the spread of the virus. Trump’s rally violated those health rules, as there is no exception for political events. Trump has consistently made light of state coronavirus rules, joking that his campaign rallies are “peaceful protests” and should be granted the same slack as recent Black Lives Matter protests.
White House press secretary Kalyeigh McAnany tweeted a picture that appears to show quite a bit more than 250 people in an outdoor overflow area.
The campaign was giving out Trump 2020 signs Thursday that read “This Is a Peaceful Protest.”
Trump held an indoor campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June, but the event was lightly attended and received significant blowback from health experts who said Trump was putting the local area at risk to the virus. Multiple Trump staffers in Tulsa tested positive for the coronavirus.
“We’re doing the hangar thing now cause the arenas, you can’t do it,” Trump said.
Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 by less than 1 percentage point — or 44,000 votes. As President, Trump has visited Pennsylvania nearly 20 times opting to go to smaller cities and rural areas that helped deliver him the state.
In August, Trump campaigned in Old Forge, just outside of Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s hometown of Scranton.
With 20 Electoral College votes, Pennsylvania is critical in the presidential race. Only California, Texas, Florida, and New York offer more electoral votes.
A poll of registered Pennsylvania voters released Wednesday by Monmouth University showed the race tightening, with 49 percent backing Biden compared to 45 for Trump. The president had yet to lead in any statewide Pennsylvania poll since the spring.“
Donald Trump basically won because his turnout in rural and small-town Pennsylvania went up,” said Terry Madonna, a professor and the director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. “Trump’s going to Latrobe because he’s not doing as well.”
While Trump is still more popular than Biden in places like Latrobe, Madonna said, he has fallen off from his 2016 support when he won southwest counties in the throes of the old mining and mill towns by upwards of 20 percentage points.
With Biden expected to draw a significant amount of votes from the Philadelphia area where roughly half the state’s population is concentrated, Trump cannot afford to lose any of his support here.
WASHINGTON — For much of his life, President Donald Trump has promoted himself as a virtual superman who has endless energy, needs little sleep, rarely gets sick and excelled at sports in his youth. As he once dictated in a statement put out in the name of an agreeable doctor, he is “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
So as Trump seeks to become the oldest individual ever elected to the office for a second term, recent questions about his mental and physical condition have sent him into paroxysms of pique. They have complicated his own efforts to question the health of his challenger and fellow septuagenarian, former Vice President Joe Biden.
The president elevated the issue this week by taking the bait of a critic’s tweet and denying that he had “mini-strokes” last year around the time of a mysterious trip to the hospital. But Trump only raised more questions when he could not keep his explanations for that hospital visit straight. He wrote that it “was to complete my yearly physical” — contrary to how he explained it at the time, when he said it was “phase one of my yearly physical” to be completed later.
The matter comes up a couple of months after Trump’s appearance at a commencement ceremony at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point provoked speculation because he had trouble lifting a water glass to his lips, requiring him to use two hands, and he seemed especially tentative walking down a ramp as if afraid he might fall. He bristled at the talk and ridiculed the idea that he had any trouble that day. He has since boasted that he has aced a dementia test showing that “I’m cognitively there.”
Just last week, in an interview with The New York Times, Trump volunteered without being asked that he was in strong shape. “I feel good,” he said. “I think I feel better than I did four years ago.”
The question of presidential health has sometimes played an important role in election contests, but rarely has it seemed more acute than this year as Trump, 74, squares off against Biden, 77, who would be the oldest person ever elected president and has sometimes verbally stumbled.
The president has repeatedly suggested that Biden suffers from some form of decline like dementia without using the word and twice in the past week falsely asserted without any evidence whatsoever that the former vice president was on drugs. It was a repeat of a similar tactic Trump used against Hillary Clinton in their campaign four years ago.
“He’s on some kind of an enhancement, in my opinion,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News that aired Tuesday night, contending that he and Biden should both take drug tests before their debates this fall, just as he challenged Clinton to do in 2016. Like Clinton, Biden has ignored the proposal.
The president’s trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland in November remains the subject of questions. In a new book, “Donald Trump v. the United States,” Michael S. Schmidt, a Times reporter, writes that word went out that day for Vice President Mike Pence to be on standby in case the president underwent a procedure requiring anesthesia.
Reports on the book prompted Joe Lockhart, a White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton, to pose a question this week on Twitter: “Did @realDonaldTrump have a stroke which he is hiding from the American public?”
Trump first saw the reports about Pence on “standby” leading newscasts in the morning, and at some point someone gave him an article or a series of tweets that included Lockhart’s. Angered, the president complained to aides that he really had been going for a physical and that the story about Pence was not true. He blasted out a tweet denying that he had “a series of mini-strokes” — oddly disputing something a little different from the stroke Lockhart asked about — and instructed the White House physician to follow with a statement confirming it.
Trump’s campaign then followed with a statement calling on CNN to fire Lockhart as a contributor for “knowingly pushing a conspiracy theory about President Trump’s health.” In the same statement, the campaign pushed its own conspiracy theory about Biden’s health, describing him as “somebody who truly has lost a step.” Late Tuesday night, Trump returned to Twitter to declare that “Mike Pence was never put on standby.”
Asked on Fox News on Tuesday whether he had been standing by in case Trump was anesthetized, Pence initially ducked the question, saying that Trump “is in excellent health” and as vice president “I’m always informed of the president’s movements.”
Pressed by anchor Bret Baier, Pence did not deny the report but pleaded no memory of it. “I don’t recall being told to be on standby,” he said. “I was informed that the president had a doctor’s appointment.” He added, “Part of this job is you’re always on standby.”
Trump, weighing in last spring at 244 pounds, is overweight and by his own account prefers cheeseburgers to healthier food. Other than golf, he scorns exercise on the theory that it depletes a person’s finite energy. A coronary calcium CT scan in 2018 recorded a score of 133, meaning that he has a form of heart disease common to men in their 70s that is normally treatable with cholesterol-reducing medication and better diet.
By various accounts, he does not need as much sleep as most people, and often remains awake past midnight and then is up again by dawn. But aides say he generally works from the White House residence in the morning and occasionally sleeps in after a nighttime rally. His brother Robert Trump, three years younger, died last month and the White House has not disclosed the cause, although a family friend said he had experienced brain bleeds, which began after a recent fall.
The president’s Saturday afternoon trip to Walter Reed on Nov. 16 was not on his public schedule and seemed out of the normal schedule for an annual checkup. At the time, White House officials said that it was “to begin portions of his routine annual physical exam” and that he had “a quick exam and labs,” without disclosing any specifics.
Aides pointed out that it was hardly a secret, though, since he brought his usual pool of journalists, who reported the fact of it if not any details, and they noted that he was seen getting into his motorcade at the time without assistance. They also noted that he later did return for a comprehensive physical exam in April and a summary reporting that “the president remains healthy” was released in June.
“For almost four years, the media, online conspiracy theorists and even some left-wing politicians have irresponsibly speculated that the president is not well — a disgusting assumption that has no basis in fact or reality — and it needs to stop,” Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said in a statement Wednesday. “President Trump has more energy, stamina and vigor than any person of his age I’ve ever met, and the American people can rest assured that he’s more than up to the task of serving as president.”
Deere’s statement did not explain why the president said on Twitter on Tuesday that the November trip “was to complete my yearly physical” when at the time both he and his staff called it the beginning of his annual checkup.
Lockhart, for one, was not convinced. “I think they still have not answered the question of why he took an unannounced visit to the hospital and seem incredibly afraid of a simple question,” he said Wednesday.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
© 2020 The New York Times Company
The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, citing multiple anonymous sources who had firsthand knowledge of the conversations, reported Thursday on the president’s comments.
Associated Press reporter James LaPorta later corroborated Goldberg’s article, saying a senior Defense Department official had confirmed the information.
According to Goldberg, Trump uttered the belittling remarks about the American war dead while in France in 2018.
During that trip, the president nixed a planned visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery ― a World War I cemetery in Belleau, France, near the site of the Battle of Belleau Wood. Trump blamed rain for the cancellation at the time.
Goldberg said, however, that Trump had actually “rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead.”
In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.
Goldberg said later in the article that Trump had also referred separately to John McCain, the late senator and war veteran, as a “fucking loser.”
Trump has previously been criticized for denigrating McCain, who was held for 5½ years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said in 2015 of McCain. “I like people who weren’t captured.”
The White House has not responded to HuffPost’s request for comment.
A Trump spokesperson told Goldberg that his report was “false.” White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere also denied the alleged remarks.
HuffPost’s S.V. Dáte reported earlier this week that Trump had refused for two years to go to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to receive the bodies of U.S. soldiers ― despite his insistence that he’s paid his respects to “many, many” U.S. soldiers killed in the line of duty.
A former White House aide told Dáte that Trump had stopped going to the base after Bill Owens, the father of a slain Navy SEAL, refused to shake the president’s hand at a 2017 meeting and lambasted Trump for his incompetence.
“He refused to go back for two years, he was so rattled,” the aide said of the president.
Trump never served in the military. He received five military deferments, including one for alleged bone spurs in his feet and four for education, during the Vietnam War.
The White House denied a blistering report published Thursday that claimed President Donald Trump called dead American soldiers „losers” and „suckers.”
“Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,” Trump allegedly told aides after he scrapped a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 to honor the dead soldiers, according to The Atlantic, which cited four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion. Trump, on the same trip, later referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives in the Battle of Belleau in France as “suckers” for getting killed, the magazine reported.
The comments are in stark contrast with the president’s public persona as a champion of the U.S. military and a fighter for veterans. The Battle of Belleau, which lasted 20 days in June 1918 and soundly defeated German forces, was a defining moment in World War I for the U.S. Marine Corps.
The White House denied the report.
“This report is false. President Trump holds the military in the highest regard. He’s demonstrated his commitment to them at every turn: delivering on his promise to give our troops a much-needed pay raise, increasing military spending, signing critical veterans reforms, and supporting military spouses. This has no basis in fact,” White House communications director Alyssa Farah told NBC News in a statement.
White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere also denied the report in a tweet, calling it „anonymously sourced story.” The Atlantic said it spoke with multiple sources on the condition of anonymity. The Associated Press said they confirmed some details in the Atlantic report. NBC News has not independently verified the report.
In 2018, the White House claimed Trump canceled the trip because a rainy forecast for the city made it too risky for him to safely fly there.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, criticized Trump in a statement Thursday.
„If the revelations in today’s Atlantic article are true, then they are yet another marker of how deeply President Trump and I disagree about the role of the President of the United States,” Biden said, adding, „And if I have the honor of serving as the next commander in chief, I will ensure that our American heroes know that I will have their back and honor their sacrifice — always.”
This is not the first time Trump’s boasting of the military has been at odds with his statements.
He lashed out at the late Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war. “He’s not a war hero,” then-candidate Trump said in 2015. “I like people who weren’t captured.” As a candidate, he also attacked Khizr and Ghazala Khan, a Gold Star family whose son Humayun Khan was killed in Iraq in 2004 while serving as an Army captain.
The magazine also reported Thursday that when McCain died in August 2018, Trump told his aides, “We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,” citing three sources with direct knowledge of the remark.
The magazine also said Trump, who was not invited to McCain’s funeral, became furious when he saw flags lowered to half-staff to honor McCain, citing witnesses to the event.
“What the f— are we doing that for? Guy was a f—–g loser,” the president said, according to The Atlantic.
Meghan McCain, the late senator’s daughter, said in a pair of tweets on Thursday that she was hurt by the reported remarks.
„No one is more acutely aware of how vile and disgusting Trump has been to my family, it is still hard to understand – America knows who this man is…,” she wrote, adding, „This never stops being incredibly painful, triggering, and it rips off new layers of grief that wreak havoc on my life. I wouldn’t wish any of it on my worst enemy. I truly pray for peace for my family, our grief, and for this country.”
China’s national security law for Hong Kong poses a serious risk to the city’s freedoms and breaches international legal obligations, UN special rapporteurs on human rights have warned.
Beijing has faced a groundswell of criticism over the law, which was imposed in late June after pro-democracy protests rocked the semi-autonomous city last year.
The law, which criminalises secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces, has intimidated and silenced many protesters.
In the letter made public Friday the UN advisors warned parts of the legislation „appear to criminalise freedom of expression or any form of criticism” of China.
„The National Security Law… poses a serious risk that those fundamental freedoms and due process protections may be infringed upon,” the rapporteurs said.
The letter warned the legislation may „impinge impermissibly on the rights to freedom of opinion, expression and of peaceful assembly.”
It called for a fully independent reviewer of the law to be appointed to make sure it complies with China’s human rights obligations.
Critics believe the security law has ended the key liberties and autonomy that Beijing promised Hong Kong could keep after its 1997 handover by Britain.
The broadly worded law criminalised certain political speech overnight, such as advocating sanctions, and greater autonomy or independence for Hong Kong.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s army said on Thursday it had found 4.35 tonnes of ammonium nitrate near the entrance to Beirut port, the site of a huge blast last month caused by a large stockpile of the same highly explosive chemical.
Army engineers were „dealing with it,” according to an army statement carried by the state news agency NNA. The statement said the chemicals were found outside entrance nine to the port.
The catastrophic explosion on Aug. 4 that ripped through the city killed about 190 people. The authorities said it was caused by about 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stacked in unsafe conditions in a port warehouse for years.
The blast smashed entire neighbourhoods, gutting buildings and injuring 6,000 people.
Lebanon’s government quit amid public anger in a nation already brought to its knees by an economic crisis. The public remains anxious that more hazardous materials are being stored badly, putting them at risk.
Earlier on Thursday, President Michel Aoun ordered repairs to be made to old refuelling infrastructure at Beirut airport and called for an investigation into a report that thousands of litres of fuel had leaked from the system.
Beirut airport head Fadi el-Hassan told a news conference that a leak of 84,000 litres of fuel had occurred in March 2019 and repairs were completed in two months. He said international investigators had described the repairs as „satisfactory”.
News of the leak added to concerns about public safety. „No explosion is awaiting us,” Hassan told the news conference.
(Reporting by Raya Jalabi; Editing by Edmund Blair)