President Trump faced tough questions from undecided voters during a wide-ranging town hall Tuesday night on ABC in which he was pressed to defend his responses to the coronavirus pandemic, racial justice protests and health care.

Trump often praised his own performance and said problems were the fault of others.

He said he would not do anything differently with regard to his response to the pandemic, despite nearly 200,000 Americans having died from the outbreak. He blamed China for the pandemic and said he saved many lives by “closing up the country.” His claim he could not have done more to slow the deadly virus has been rebutted by a number of epidemiologists.

Trump blamed cities and states run by Democrats for any problems with the response to coronavirus, as well as for any crime or violence in the country, not accepting responsibility for problems that he sees as happening under political rivals.

He also promised sweeping health-care and immigration plans, after four years of not introducing a comprehensive plan on either despite promises to do so.

Earlier in the day, Trump showcased diplomatic breakthroughs in the Middle East with a White House signing ceremony in which Israel established formal ties with two Arab states.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden spent the day in Florida with hopes of bolstering his standing among Latino voters, a group with which polls show the Republican incumbent making inroads.

With 49 days until Election Day …
September 15, 2020 at 10:42 PM EDT

Trump says he couldn’t have slowed coronavirus, though experts have said he could

By Josh Dawsey

Trump said at the Tuesday night town hall that he could not have done more to slow the coronavirus — a claim that has been rebutted by a number of epidemiologists and even privately among some in his own administration, with almost 200,000 deaths in the United States.

“I don’t think so. I think what I did by closing up the country, I think I saved two, maybe two and a half, maybe more than that, lives. I really don’t think so. I think we did a very good job,” Trump said.

The president has been regularly reluctant to accept any blame for the handling of the pandemic — even as voters see it otherwise — and instead argues that his administration has done far more than he has been credited for.

September 15, 2020 at 10:35 PM EDT

Trump may do more town halls

By Josh Dawsey

The president and a number of his advisers and allies are highlighting that the president is willing to take so many questions from voters, in a bid to attack Biden for his more limited travel schedule and his fewer public appearances.

Advisers say he is likely to do more town halls in upcoming weeks as he seeks to close a polling gap with Biden.

“The energy, substantive responses, ability to effectively answer rapid fire Q&A of @realDonaldTrump is in STARK contrast to the endless teleprompter scripting of Joe Biden who hasn’t answered any tough questions from anyone in months!” Rep. Elise Stefanik wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night.

Biden and his campaign say they have been careful to avoid such large settings because of the coronavirus, and critics note that Trump made a number of false statements or promises on Tuesday night that are unlikely to come to fruition.

September 15, 2020 at 10:29 PM EDT

Trump again promises major plans that he has so far not delivered

By Josh Dawsey

Trump has promised both sweeping health-care and immigration plans at this town hall tonight, after four years of being unable to pass a systematic measure on either front.

The president told a voter he would offer an immigration plan soon.

“We’re working on something very hard right now. And in a very short time we’re going to be announcing it,” he said.

The president, GOP senators and his advisers have been riven over what to offer in terms of immigration throughout his presidency.

When he told a voter earlier in the night that he had a health-care plan ready to go, Stephanopoulos noted it had been “three and a half years” without one passing.

The president has previously promised plans on both fronts that did not seem to immediately materialize.

September 15, 2020 at 10:25 PM EDT

QAnon believer wins Delaware GOP Senate primary

By Colby Itkowitz

Lauren Witzke won the GOP Senate primary in Delaware with 57 percent of the vote, making her the latest QAnon-supporting candidate to advance to the general election.

While dozens who have directly espoused or at least flirted with the fringe right-wing conspiracy group’s beliefs have been on the ballot this year, only a handful have won their primaries, and just a few are expected to win their race in November. She is the second, along with Oregon’s Jo Rae Perkins, to be the Republican’s nominee for Senate.

Witzke has been photographed wearing a QAnon shirt that said “We Are Q” and has tweeted using hashtags affiliated with the conspiracy theorists. Delaware Republicans backed Jim DeMartino, an attorney, but Witzke prevailed.

Unlike some other QAnon supporters who won House primaries in conservative districts, Witzke is unlikely to make it to the Senate. She’ll be up against incumbent Democratic Sen. Christopher A. Coons in a blue state that happens to be the home of the presidential candidate at the top of the Democratic ticket.

September 15, 2020 at 10:22 PM EDT
Aaron Blake: Trump added an important addendum to his 2016 and 2017 pledges to bring an end to crime and violence across America: saying that he just hasn’t done that in “Democrat-run cities.” Trump didn’t provide such a qualifier to his promise back then. He said at the 2016 GOP convention, “I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end.” He added upon his inauguration, “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”
Aaron Blake, Senior political reporter, writing for The Fix
September 15, 2020 at 10:15 PM EDT

Trump blames ‘Democratic states and Democratic cities’ for problems

By Josh Dawsey

Trump said “Democratic states and Democratic cities” are the problem for much of the coronavirus negotiations, with Democrats wanting financial help.

Stephanopoulos pressed the president: “Why do you keep talking about Democrat states, Democrat states? They’re American states.”

But Trump reiterated that “Democrat-run states are the ones that are doing badly.”

Trump has privately viewed running against Democratic-run cities and states as a key electoral strategy, advisers said. Observers have long noted that Trump seems to prefer Republican-run cities and states.

Trump returned to blaming Democratic cities when talking about violence — even when pressed by the moderator again about why he was referring to American cities as Democratic or Republican cities.

“Where ever you have a Democrat city — not in all cases, but if you look at the really troubled cities in our country, they’re Democrat-run and that’s Biden. They’re weak, they’re in effective,” Trump said.

September 15, 2020 at 10:07 PM EDT
Josh Dawsey: In some ways, Trump admitted that his gambit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has not gone as well as he hoped. “We’re getting along with him. I get along with Kim Jong Un. That was supposed to be a war,” he said. But Trump has not been able to get the dictator to give up his nuclear weapons, even after several high-profile summits, and after what Trump described as “love letters” were exchanged between the two men.
Josh Dawsey, Reporter covering the White House
September 15, 2020 at 10:02 PM EDT
Josh Dawsey: The president is particularly defensive about former aides and military leaders who have been critical of him, including Jim Mattis, John Bolton and John F. Kelly. “These are people that I let go. These are disgruntled former employees,” Trump said. It’s unusual for so many former officials to come out against the current administration — and for the president to attack them so vigorously — and some current aides expect more to come forward.
Josh Dawsey, Reporter covering the White House
September 15, 2020 at 9:59 PM EDT

Trump struggles to explain how ‘Make America Great Again’ applies to Black Americans

By Colby Itkowitz

A Black voter asked Trump how the president’s slogan “Make America Great Again” relates to the Black experience because “that pushes us back to a time in which we cannot identify with such greatness.”

The voter asked Trump if he knew how “tone deaf” his slogan comes off to the African American community. Trump claimed that before the coronavirus hit “that was the best single moment in the history of the African-American people in this country, I think — I would say.”

The man told the president that he has yet “to address or acknowledge there’s a race problem in America.”

“I hope there’s not a race problem. I can tell you there’s none with me because I have great respect for all races — this country is great because of it,” Trump said.

Trump touted how low the unemployment rate among African Americans was under his presidency until the pandemic hit. The voter challenged Trump on the distinction between having a job and a job that pays a livable wage.

Trump claimed income inequality was worse under President Barack Obama; told that it’s actually worse now, Trump again blamed the coronavirus.

September 15, 2020 at 9:58 PM EDT
Ashley Parker: Trump was asked by someone who voted for him in 2016 what he plans to do to be more presidential and unify the nation. He basically explained that he has no plans to change his tone. “Sometimes you don’t have time to be, as you would say, totally ‘presidential,’ ” the president quipped.
Ashley Parker, White House reporter
September 15, 2020 at 9:50 PM EDT
Josh Dawsey: During the president’s town hall, he is tweeting out clips of former independent counsel Ken Starr on Fox News, questioning the Mueller team and their handling of the Russia investigation. Trump often tweets out clips that he believes are positive for him. He has yet to tweet out anything from the town hall.
Josh Dawsey, Reporter covering the White House
September 15, 2020 at 9:47 PM EDT
Josh Dawsey: Trump has repeatedly promised a health-care plan and has not delivered one — and is getting pressed on it at the town hall. RNC and campaign surveys have repeatedly shown that voters trust Biden more on health care, and Trump has tried to close the gap with executive orders in recent weeks — and promises that he will protect those with preexisting conditions, even as his administration has sued to strike down Obamacare.
Josh Dawsey, Reporter covering the White House
September 15, 2020 at 9:43 PM EDT

Fact Checker: Trump’s traffic jam of false claims on preexisting conditions

By Glenn Kessler

President Trump has falsely claimed many times that he has sought to protect patients with preexisting conditions through his various efforts to eliminate the Affordable Care Act.

Before the ACA, insurance companies could consider a person’s health status when determining premiums, sometimes making coverage unaffordable or even unavailable if a person was already sick with a problem that required expensive treatment. The ACA prohibited that.

September 15, 2020 at 9:39 PM EDT

Coons wins Democratic Senate primary in Delaware

By David Weigel

WILMINGTON, Del. — Delaware Sen. Christopher A. Coons fended off a left-wing challenge on Tuesday, defeating activist Jessica Scarane to win the Democratic nomination for a second full term.

Coons, elected in 2010 to the seat once held by former vice president Joe Biden, has cut a moderate profile in Washington — one that Scarane, a digital strategist and member of Democratic Socialists of America, ran hard against. She endorsed Medicare-for-all and a Green New Deal, suggesting that a suburb-heavy state that has trended toward Democrats could have more liberal representation in Washington.

September 15, 2020 at 9:35 PM EDT
Josh Dawsey: These are consistently tough questions — the kind of grilling the president does not often receive in public — as he is usually around supportive crowds or doing interviews with friendlier questioners. So far, he has been challenged on income inequality, racial unrest, why he has not been supportive of masks, his hobbled response to the coronavirus pandemic and other topics ... in the first 30 minutes. Trump advisers hope these kinds of events will prepare him for the debates against Biden.
Josh Dawsey, Reporter covering the White House
September 15, 2020 at 9:29 PM EDT
Josh Dawsey: Trump is taking a stridently pro-police position in the town hall, saying police are scared in the streets of many cities. “The police in this country have done a great job,” he said. Trump has repeatedly praised the police in recent weeks amid unrest over police brutality and has highlighted the violence in cities, hoping that will win over suburban voters.
Josh Dawsey, Reporter covering the White House
September 15, 2020 at 9:23 PM EDT
Ashley Parker: Trump reiterated a false dichotomy on coronavirus — the idea that he either had to terrify the nation by shouting “DEATH! DEATH! DEATH!” or that he had to mislead the American public about the threat of the virus, by downplaying its severity. He had a third option: to act as a more traditional president, simultaneously being open and transparent with the country, while offering calm, steady leadership.
Ashley Parker, White House reporter
September 15, 2020 at 9:22 PM EDT
Josh Dawsey: The president and his advisers have repeatedly argued that he does not believe in herd immunity. But Trump argued against on Tuesday night that the coronavirus would go away in time, even without a vaccine. “You’ll develop like a herd mentality,” Trump said. He then referenced Scott Atlas, his newest coronavirus adviser, who has promoted such a theory.
Josh Dawsey, Reporter covering the White House
September 15, 2020 at 9:15 PM EDT
Aaron Blake: While responding to a voter question, Trump pulled out a test from Abbott Laboratories from his pocket. The moment recalled early in the outbreak when Trump hyped another Abbott test — one taking just five to 13 minutes — but the test wound up being dogged by false results, according to studies. The Food and Drug Administration wound up issuing a rare warning about the test.
Aaron Blake, Senior political reporter, writing for The Fix
September 15, 2020 at 9:10 PM EDT
Josh Dawsey: The president launched the town hall by saying the administration would have a vaccine soon. Administration officials have sought to keep politics out of the vaccine, arguing they are following all procedures. However, Trump and his campaign advisers see having a vaccine by election day as key to his reelection, and the president is regularly pushing an expeditious vaccine.
Josh Dawsey, Reporter covering the White House